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You behave

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She knew she shouldn’t have done that.

That morning, weeks ago, when it was hot and clammy and she woke up in a Saturday at 5 AM because her room was an oven, opened all the windows, stripped down to her underwear and went back to bed, just to check her phone and see a text from Frank that she hadn’t realize he sent last night.

“You behave.”

He was talking about a story she wanted to write, about the leader of a cult that made young people kill themselves in group ceremonies. He had been arrested two days ago, and she wanted to visit him in prison and interview him. Frank was against it. She said it was just an idea, he said she should drop it. He finished the conversation by telling her to not do anything until he saw her again and they could talk about it (as if he had some say in what stories she picked or not) and behave (as in “don’t do things I don’t want you to do”), but she fell asleep before she saw it.

And, reading it now, that one message out of context, when she was too hot and naked in bed, it sounded… Different. Charged.

She pressed her lips together and blinked when she imagined his voice, deep and low, right there by her ear, telling her to behave while his hands roamed her skin.

Karen had tried to shake those thoughts away. They had fallen in such a nice thing, her and Frank. A weird thing, sure, more than mere friends but not a couple, just two people who really enjoyed each other’s company and worried and cared for one another in a way she couldn’t really explain.

She saw him looking at her, sometimes. Was pretty sure he saw her looks, too. There have been some smiles, some lingering touches, here and there, but nothing more.

And she really didn’t want to ruin what they had, or risk driving him away. Maria hadn’t died that long ago, after all. She could see how much he still missed her. And she never, ever, wanted to step on that.

But, then again, there were those moments. When he would make a joke, or get her hand to guide her across the street when she was on the phone, that big hand of his on the small of her back when they were walking somewhere crowded, the mean comment about someone on her ear, just to make her laugh, the groceries he never let her carry, the time she caught a cold and he came over every day to check and cook and make sure she was taking her meds.

Those looks, here and there, that made her swallow dry.

Still. She kept herself in check. Best not to complicate things and have him vanishing again.

That text would not leave her alone, though.

You behave.

And opening the windows didn’t help at all, it was still too fucking hot, and she lied on her belly, hugging a pillow to her chest. She could feel herself sweating.

Karen.

With a deep breath, she closed her eyes and, immediately, there he was, and she fought it, shook him away again and again, but he would come back every time, and she really needed to sleep, she was meeting him in a few hours to pick a couch for him, she just…

Behave.

And it had been a mistake, indulging those kind of  thoughts, letting her hands run around her body as if they belonged to someone else, to Frank, because now she couldn’t not think about it every time she looked at him.

It had been a mistake. A big, huge mistake. It had been two months and she was about to go crazy.

.:.

Dating didn’t help.

It’s not like it had been easy, after Matt, to go back to seeing people. What she had with him had been brief, but intense, and then so much shit had happened, how could she even entertain the idea of going on normal dates, with normal guys? It seemed a bit absurd.

Until Frank walked back into her life, that is.

But, since that was not an option, she tried. Let Lila set her up with her “really amazing” friend from college, Arthur, and sure, he was nice enough, but she didn’t even want him to walk her home after dinner. Boring. Good, sweet guy, but oh my God. So boring.

Edward had been a disaster. Conceited and so full of himself, kept calling her “babe” all night.

And then Josh. She really thought that Josh would be the guy that would maybe fix her problem. Handsome. Incredibly handsome, charming, tall, looked her in the eyes and payed attention to what she said. Insisted on paying the bill, made a deal that she would pay for coffee when she protested. Opened the cab door for her and kissed her goodnight. Called her later that same night to tell her he had a good time, that he hoped they could do it again, he was good at this.

Yes, she liked Josh.

The second date had been fun, too. She didn’t even think about Frank once, which was a huge improvement, and she even became excited about seeing him again, the very next day, when he would take her sailing on his boat and she would teach him how to fish.

“I’m sorry”, he had said, with an exasperated hand over his face and a side smile while the sun set and she told him about sinkers over a glass of the wine he bought just for her. “You’re just too pretty, I’m having a hard time focusing. Go on.”

Karen had looked at him and decided that, even if that was a line, he managed to make it sound sincere, and the lighting was very good, the wine was very good, he looked very, very good, she was on a boat, what the hell.

Karen all but purred when he kissed her. They had kissed before, but not like this, when they were alone, and it could really lead to something else. He was good at this.

She was topless and on top of him when he moved his hand inside her shorts and gripped her butt, big hand squeezing nicely, and let out a groan in her ear.

Which sounded just like Frank.

You behave.

At the same time that she tried to take that image out of her mind, Karen felt herself sinking into it, into him, Josh, it was Josh, but then it was Frank, full of scars and bullet wounds, many of which he had taken in an effort to save her life, Frank, it was him, she tried not to say it out loud, but Frank-

They were in a boat, surrounded by water, but Karen kept biting her lips and closing her eyes, to keep from saying the wrong name and to avoid looking at Josh’s face, because she did not want to ruin that moment, maybe she could pretend, just for a moment, that it was him.

Josh had been very vocal, though. And as much as that groan had sounded a lot like another man’s voice, his words didn’t, so her little private fantasy didn’t last very long.

She ended up lying on that tiny bed, feeling as the boat swayed under them, wishing she was home, in spite of the very nice man that had just tried his best to show her a good time.

So sex with other - attractive, nice, good - men obviously would not help.

And, of course, he was unaware of the whole situation, so he kept being him. Frank kept being himself, and she kept being her, and they kept being them. Them, but not them. Not like that, anyway. And on she went, trying to smother those kind of thoughts and feelings inside her, but they only seemed to grow bigger and stronger.

To her utmost distress.

.:.

She was distracted one night, picking up some grocery (bless Mr. Doelly for his 24hr market), pushing her cart towards the very back of the place so she can pick up some ice cream, when, suddenly, there he was.

“Should you be out this late?” he asked, catching up to her and stopping by her side in front of the freezers holding all the Ben and Jerrys. “It’s after midnight.”

There we go. There we go again, with the fluttering heart, the inability to not smile at him, that cozy thing that she feels every time she looks at his face.

“It’s quiet”, it’s what she offers, opening the fridge to get a cookie dough pint for herself and a chocolate chunk that was secretly for him. “What are you doing here?”

“Same reason”, he said, walking by her side, and they spent the next few minutes talking in hushed tones while she shopped and he picked absolutely nothing, which made her think that he was there solely to see her.

“So listen”, he said, carrying the bags for her, after she opened the door to her apartment. “David and Sarah are throwing this dinner party. It’s their anniversary, and Micro, the super spy, is a drama queen, he’s organizing this whole event. I’m supposed to bring wine.”

Karen smiled, putting the groceries away, and looked back at him.

“Pete has fancy friends, huh?” she teased, and he smiled at her.

“I guess”, and then. “How would you like to come with me?”

The freezer door fell shut while she looked at him, realizing they were slipping to that thing again, where they would say things and smile and maybe stand a little too close, but then he would leave or they would have to change the subject and the whole heaviness of what just might happen would float around for a bit before dissolving in reality.

Still. She would let herself slip.

“Did they invite me?”

“They might have said your name, yes.”

“So it’s not you inviting me, it’s the Lieberman’s.”

“I didn’t say that”, he said, stepping around the kitchen island, a little bit closer to her. “They… Encouraged me to ask you.”

“But it was your idea.”

“Yes, it was my idea.”

She looked at him, and her mouth was curving in a smile when she felt it, low in her belly, that warmth that would just not leave her alone anymore, so she moved to take the other things from their bags.

“When is it?” she asked, not even knowing why, she just needed something to… Deflect? Maybe?

“Next week. Friday.”

She opened the fridge again to put the milk away and maybe get a blast of cold air in her face.

“What do you say?” he went on. “Wanna be my date?”

Oh, motherfucker.

Karen turned to him and screw this. He said it first.

“Will you dress up?”

“Kinda have to.”

“Tie and everything?”

He made a face, but it was so charming she wanted to scream.

“Let’s not push it. I’ll wear a suit.”

“What do I have to wear?” she asked, walking closer and giving him the usual beer he had when he came over.

“That’s up to you.”

Come on, Frank.

“Did you have something in mind, though?”

He took the beer from her and took a sip, first watching her face, then letting his eyes drop to the rest of her body when he lowered his hand.

“Maybe a dress.”

“A dress?”

“Hmm. You look good in black.”

“Do I?”

He nodded, reaching out and curling the end of a lock of her hair between his fingers.

“It’s the blonde thing.”

She had to laugh at that.

“Heels?”

Again, he nodded, looking distracted, but then focusing on her eyes again.

“Ok”, she said, dropping her voice. He seemed to like that. “I can work with that.”

And now here she was.

Friday. One week later. Sitting on her chair at work, able to write nothing, able to focus on nothing, the image of Frank in a suit popping in her brain every twenty seconds or so.

She was in a mood. Had woken up with a text from him, reminding her of the dinner and, really, thinking about Frank first thing in the morning was not a good thing for her.

She had been on edge all day. Had responded to his little text, to which he decided to respond with a call, and she picked it up while wearing a t shirt and panties.

(“Hi” she had greeted.

“Hey. You just waking up?”

“Mm-hmm.”

“Good morning”, he offered, and she suddenly missed him there, wanted him in bed with her, on top of her, moving within her, she could almost…

Almost was not enough.)

When Karen left for work that morning, she was not in a good mood. Yes, she had bought a dress for the dinner. Yes, she had new shoes. Yes, she knew what to do with her hair. And yes, she liked the Lieberman’s. But the idea of going out with Frank, spending an evening as his date and not being able to really be his date was making her… Cranky.

She had showered, and suddenly the scratch of her favorite lilac loofah was the scratch of that two day beard. With a curse, she turned off the hot water and stepped out to get dressed.

The smell of her coffee took her to that image she had of him, shirtless after waking up, coffee and eggs (he did like his eggs), and she tapped her foot on the floor, physically shaking her head to let that image go, and walked out.

When she got to work, a man she didn’t know held the door open for her.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Have a nice day, ma’am.”

And, in the elevator, she wondered if Frank ever used that term in bed. He surely was tied up in one when he called her that for the first time.

And then the wild image of herself wrapped around him in that very same elevator, only this time he wouldn’t have shrapnel coming out of his arm, a bullet wound bleeding on his head and police waiting for him outside. Maybe just the security guard that could see them through the camera, but Karen doesn’t think she would care too much about-

Shit, shit, shit, stop. Please, make it stop.

The whole day had been torture. She had squirmed on her chair and day dreamed about being pinned down against every sort of surface imaginable by one particular man, not being able to focus on work at all, snapping at people for nothing.

Ellison walked into her office a little bit after five, and was surprised to find her already packing up to go.

“Don’t tell me you’re letting go of the unhealthy obsession to follow leads. It sells a lot of paper”, he joked, and she wanted to roll her eyes at him. She didn’t.

“I have plans tonight.”

“Oh, wow. That’s news. Who’s the guy?”

‘The guy is Frank Castle, boss’, she wanted to say. ‘Yeah, remember him? The Punisher? He’s taking me to a dinner party and I spent the whole day fantasising about all the different ways he could fuck me into next week. Cool, huh? Normal.’

But she didn’t say that, of course. Instead,

“It’s not like that. Some friends are celebrating their anniversary.”

“Eesh”, said Ellison, getting up off the wall and walking away. “You’re not even married and you’re doing married couple shit. Poor kid. Well. At least there’ll be free booze. Do they have kids?”

“Uh, yeah. I think they’re gonna sleep over at some friends, though.”

“Good. You make sure to enjoy yourself. Don’t be shy about those drinks.”

And you know what? She would not.

Karen went home with a new found purpose. Sure, she was going there to celebrate the marriage of two people she learned to like a lot, but she decided that that night was gonna be about letting loose. Who knows, maybe David had another friend, maybe Sarah had one, maybe a brother, a neighbor, whatever. Maybe there’s a guy, a non-Frank guy, that could help her out of this bitch of a situation.

Even if just for a night.

Frank called her when she was done with her hair, starting on her make-up.

“Hey”, said that voice and, yep, there it was, those images and those feelings, god damn feelings. “What time should I pick you up?”

“I’ll be ready soon.”

“Ok, I should be there in half an hour. Is that ok?”

“Yeah, sure”, she said, trying to not extend the conversation, trying to make him shut up, the least she heard of that voice of his, the better.

“Right. See you soon.”

“Ok bye”, and then she hung up, breathing deep and not thinking about Frank anymore. Focus on your eyeliner, Karen.

She almost jumped out of her skin when he knocked. And ok, maybe that was her fault. Maybe she shouldn’t have spent all that time sitting on her bed wrapped in a robe, imagining how good Frank would be in bed. It wasn’t his fault that she sat there for God knows how long instead of getting into her dress and shoes.

“Shit”, she breathed out, shivers running all over. “Frank?” she called out from her bedroom door.

“Yeah”, he said from outside.

“It’s open!”

She heard as he came in and closed the door behind him.

“I’ll just be another minute!” she said, taking her robe off, not bothering to close the bedroom door. If he decided to walk in and see her naked, she didn’t really care. Hell, she would love that.

“It’s fine”, he called back. “Why was your door open?”

Karen rolled her eyes and shimmied her dress on, considering, for just a second, calling him to help with her zipper. She decided not to answer him. So she forgot to lock the door. So what.

“You know”, he went on from the living room. “You should really get used to calling me Pete.”

“Oh”, she said after zipping up and sitting down to work the little clasp of her sandals. “I guess. Sorry.” Getting up, she got her clutch, her coat, checked herself one last time in the mirror and walked out. “Ready?” she asked to his back. He was standing in the living room, and she had to actively try not to swallow her tongue when he turned around.

Son of a bitch.

She almost sighed at the sight of him. Sure, he was not wearing a tie, but, boy, he did not need one.

Karen had only seen him wearing a suit one other time, during his trial, but this was so much better, so so so much better. For starters, it fit him perfectly. He had shaved. His face was not bruised anywhere, he was wearing cufflinks and dress shoes, he looked like a sin.

And, judging by the way he stood there looking at her, she looked pretty good, too.

(She knew she did. Had put all an extra effort, and while her dress did not expose any cleavage, it was tighter and a tad shorter than her usual clothes, and it had a small slit on her thigh. So sue her.)

“Well, shit”, was all he said, and, honestly, she thought she would like that kind of reaction, but it only made her shiver for the hundredth time that day - albeit much more violently, because now he was actually there - and those damn butterflies inside her stomach start to get frisky again. “You look… Shit.”

She raised her eyebrows, trying not to lick her lips. “I look like shit?”

“No, that’s not what I- Here”, he took her coat from her and motioned for her to turn around so he could help her into it. “You just might upstage the hostess”, he said in her ear and Karen wanted to cry.

He was too close, God, he was so close, it would take no effort to just-

“Well, I don’t wanna do that”, she said, taking the conversation somewhere else. “You think I should change? I have another dress.”

“No”, he said when she turned back to him. “Definitely don’t change.”

There was a red Mustang waiting for them when they exited the building and she tried not to look at him the whole way to the Liebermans’.

“We’re a little early”, he said when they were five minutes away. “I have some stuff I need to talk to David about, don’t need anybody listening. That ok?”

“Yeah, fine.”

They got there and while she checked her makeup on his rearview mirror, he got out and opened the door for her. Karen took his hand and they stared at each other for a second or two while he closed the door.

“You good?” he asked, right there in her face, putting the keys in his pocket.

“I’m good”, was her reply, fingers tight around her clutch. “You?”

“I’m good”. He dropped his eyes from hers, to her lips, to her dress, then back, all very quick. “Let’s go?”

“Hi Pete!” The girl, Leo, said, opening the door for them after they knocked.

“Hey sweetheart. How you doing?” he smiled.

She just smiled and looked at Karen. “Wow! You look awesome!”

Karen smiled and thanked her while she invited them in, yelling for her mom and dad that “Pete and Karen are here!”

“Oh, my goodness!” exclaimed David, in his own suit, walking in from the kitchen. “Look at the pair of you!”

He got to them and put his arms around Frank, a “hi buddy!” escaping him while Frank endured the hug. “Miss Page. You look majestic.”

“Thank you, David”, she said. It was the first time she was ever called that.

Sarah came down the stairs and, to Karen’s relief, she looked amazing. The last thing she wanted was steal her thunder while attempting to tease Frank.

“Oh, thank you, look at you!” she said when Karen complimented her on her dress.

“You look beautiful”, Frank said, kissing the other woman on the cheek and Karen felt her eyes almost rolling in annoyance. She curbed it in time.

“So you clean up good, huh?” Sarah was saying, taking the bottle of wine Frank gave her. “Please excuse my husband. He’s had a head start on the drinks.”

“Well, I thought your mother was coming. I had to prepare.” And, turning to them, he made a victory gesture. “She’s not!”

They took coats, someone arrived to pick up the kids and they hurried out the door excitedly, David called Frank to his office and Sarah asked if Karen would help her pick her jewelry.

“So”, she said, pouring her a glass of the rosé Frank had gotten. “How are things with the two of you?”

Karen liked Sarah. She really did. There was no bullshit with her, and she knew who Frank was, even if it was easier for her to call him Pete. She knew and she did not seem to judge him, at all.

Sighing, she took a sip of the wine and leaned on the closed door frame while Sarah went through her vanity.

“You know. The same.”

“The same?” she exclaimed while showing her a beautiful pair of diamond earrings. Karen nodded her approval. “How can it be the same? It’s been, what-”

“Oh, I’m not keeping track of time anymore”, Karen said.

Sarah had figured out pretty quickly that “friendship” was not the exact term to define them. And Karen didn’t really have anyone she could talk about Frank with, not in that way, someone that knew him, so she opened up.

“I met this guy. Josh.” She told the tale of her three dates with Josh and the sex on the boat and, in hushed voice, the way Frank haunted her every thought, not letting her enjoy what would have been a good throw around with a really, really good guy. “And then I just ended up making excuses not to go out with him anymore, and now I feel horrible. Because he’s so good, you should have seen him. But I just can’t-”

She huffed in annoyance, taking one more sip of her drink.

“I get it”, Sarah said, putting her engagement ring on. “Believe you me, I do get it. But look. I think you guys just have to… I don’t know, relax. You and Pete.”

“It’s not that simple. He has the whole thing, with his family, his wife, it’s complicated.”

“It is. But listen, I went through something similar, with David. I thought her was dead, and, after a while, I don’t know, it still hurts, that person is still there, of course, you loved them, love them, but you’re still here. You know? You’re still here, and life is happening. It is complicated, but it can also be very simple.”

Karen sighed.

“You think?”

“You’re only human, Karen. As much as it was true in the beginning, his life didn’t stop after his wife died. He kept on living, and this crazy path he chose crossed with yours, and life - kept - happening. I’ve seen the way he looks at you. David can write a book about it. Like it or not, you guys found each other, you became something important. He lectured me on that, once.”

She raised her brows.

“About me?”

“Well, he didn’t say your name. I didn’t know the whole story then, but yeah, he was talking about you. About the importance of finding something you care about, to help you go on.”

She blinked.

“He said that?”

“Oh yeah. So trust me, it’s not some… Ridiculous notion. It’s there.”

Karen took a breath and then explained to her that, while that may be - she does know she’s important to Frank, knows he cares for her deeply, as she does for him -, the most practical part of it all was still very hard to deal with.

“I don’t know the steps I can take, you know? I don’t know how far can I push. Am I being too intrusive? Am I pushing too hard, or mixing things?”

“Do you think you are? Mixing things?”

A shrug of her shoulder.

“No? But, it’s like… I don’t know, we’re frozen.”

“Well. Figure out a way to unfreeze it.”

“Hmm. And while I don’t?”

Sarah lifted her brows and offered her a smile.

“That’s why they make wine.”

.:.

Only wine doesn’t help. At all. On the contrary.

Wine makes her horny.

The guests started arriving, David closed his office and they all moved downstairs, Karen was introduced to family friends, to relatives, to neighbors and college friends. Frank - Pete - was not recognized as Frank, and she watched as he stood there talking to David and this woman - Monica, or something - in that navy blue suit, hand in his pocket, the other one holding a glass of wine, looking fine, fine, fine.

There was a guy talking to her, and she really should be paying attention, he was a good candidate to maybe help take her mind off Frank Castle and his whole person, but she was not paying attention, at all. Frank found her eyes on him, sustained her look and she felt the urge to shift on her feet.

“Oh, would you excuse me just a moment?” the guy said - she didn’t have a clue of his name.

“Sure”, she smiled, taking her eyes off Frank for a second, but when she looked back, Monica’s - Maggie’s? - hand was on his arm, and he was saying something that made her laugh.

Suppressing the urge to roll her eyes yet again, Karen took a deep breath and moved, to maybe talk to someone else, find something to nibble on, anything. Just take her eyes off Frank for a second.

It worked for a few minutes. That guy found her again and offered to refill her glass, which she accepted, foolishly.

They were, her and Frank, staring at each other from across the room again when David called everyone’s attention. Time for dinner.

There were a lot of people, more than they could fit in their dining room, and it was a pleasant evening, so they all moved outside to the back yard, to this beautiful table they had set on the deck.

She sat down next to the guy, who had pulled a chair for her, and Frank sat on the other side of the table, a little to her right, next to whoever, she didn’t really notice. Every time she caught his eyes, she let them linger a little bit, every time musing on how good he looked, and then looked away.

David made this beautiful toast about Sarah being the love of his life, about one more year together, thanked them all for being there, and then they were all eating, talking among and over each other, and she was trying her best not to stare at the way she could see a bit of Frank’s chest, because he didn’t button up all the way, she could definitely see it, under that crisp white shirt, where did he even get that shirt, his skin looked warm inside it.  

The guy’s name was Brandon. He was… Ok. Predictable jokes, a hand that was creeping closer and closer to her knee.

“I’ll get this one”, she told Sarah when they ran out of wine on the table, taking advantage that Brandon was distracted talking to the person sitting on his other side.

Feeling a little lightheaded, she walked back inside, where it was silent, the conversation a distant noise once she crossed the kitchen door.

Opening the fridge, Karen lifted her brows at the many, many bottles of wine waiting to be opened.

She took two, careful not to knock anything over, and turned around to place them on the counter before coming back for more.

Just in time so look out the window and see Frank getting up from his chair and move towards the house.

He looked like something out of a catalogue, walking towards her. She shook herself before he walked in and closed the fridge.

“Hey”, he called and she looked over to acknowledge him. “You need help?”

“Could you open these?” she asked, motioning to the bottles, working on one herself.

He opened his bottles pretty fast, moving to get the one she was supposed to open, too, if she hadn’t been paying attention at him working.

God, please send help.

“You want me to…” he pointed to the one she was still working on.

“It’s ok, I got it.”

And then he leaned on the counter and crossed his arms, watching as she tried to open the damned thing. Pressing her lips together, she looked at him.

“What, are you evaluating me or something?”

With a barely suppressed smirk, he shook his head.

“No, just… Looking.”

Blinking, she let out a breath and went back to it. When the cork popped off, he got up again and reached for the dish rag on her other side.

“Atta girl”, he said, his mouth right there, and then not, and why does his praise feel so good? She had opened countless bottles of wine in her life without his supervision, thank you very much. “You ok?”

“I’m fine”, she said, too quickly.

“Yeah?”

“Mm-hmm. Let’s go.”

.:.

Dinner was over and dessert was served. She was eating chocolate truffles with lavender ice cream, letting it melt in her mouth and washing each bite away with rosé, staring at Frank, draped there on his chair, talking with people.

Brandon was talking. So was Angelica, this woman sitting on her other side, they were all talking, but she was staring at Frank. And he was staring right back at her.

The cute thing was that the guys were supposed to take the dishes out back into the kitchen while the ladies did as they pleased.

And, since it was a very pleasant night, they all remained on the lawn, smoking and drinking and talking and whatnot, while the men worked on clearing the table.

“Hey”, she whispered to Sarah. “Do you mind if I run upstairs real quick, I need to check my phone.”

She had left her purse on the master bedroom while Sarah finished getting ready.

“No, of course not, go ahead.”

Again, she made her way inside and up the stairs, her feet starting to complain the high heels of her sandals.

She was walking inside the bathroom at the hallway to wash her hands when she felt rather than heard him, Frank, behind her, hand on her lower back, pushing her in and closing the door behind him.

“Ok”, he said while her heart started to beat fast and hard in her chest. “What’s up?”

He’s so serious. So big and serious, she might melt right here.

“What do you mean?” she tried, staring at his neck, that open collar driving her crazy. “Nothing’s up.”

“Don’t. First you’re pisseed about something, you barely said a word to me on the way here. And then you-” he let out a short breath. “Then you keep looking at me like that.”

His eyes, boring down on hers, and she grips the fabric of something hanging on the hook on the wall behind her.

“Like what?”

Like that, Karen, the way you’re looking at me right now.”

Her tongue darting out a bit to lick at the corner of her lips before she can stop it, she rolled her head and let her eyes wander from his face, down his body, to his feet and then back up, the world starting to spin pleasantly around her.

“Ok,” she let out, barely above a whisper, her voice gone, suddenly. “I’ll stop.” And then with a deep, deep breath that pushed her chest out a bit, letting it hit his face when she exhaled, she blinked and tugged on the edge of his jacket, inspecting the way that his jaw muscles were moving pleasantly. “Sorry.”

It was his turn to breathe out, touching his forehead to hers again, just like that time, but now the rest of him touched her, too, chest to chest, she was trapped between him and the wall in the most pleasant way.

“Shit”, he breathed against her lips, almost, almost touching, the tips of his fingers finding her hips and rising to her waist. “What are you doing?”

“Nothing.” Karen shook her head, bumping her nose on his, touching her mouth to his face. “Nothing, I’m not doing anything.” The hand that had tugged on his jacket rose to his neck while he pressed against her, already so good. “And it’s driving me crazy.”

His mouth descended on hers with a hunger that matched her own. Karen clawed at him while he held her to him, that kiss alone threatening to tip her over the edge that she has been chasing for a while now. She moaned inside his mouth and he pressed her to him, kissing her so good, open and without restraint, just like she had wanted, just like she had needed, so good.

She was melting and he was lifting the hem of her dress up, when there was a bark of laughter from outside, coming in from the open bathroom window.

“Frank, Frank, Frank”, she called, and he made a noise that he was listening, but kept on kissing her, letting go of her dress to sneak his hand behind her and there was nothing she wanted more than to let it go, forget herself, the people outside and just enjoy him, finally, let him undress her and undress him.

But there were people. And she was pretty sure this was Leo and Zach’s bathroom.

She was not about to have sex with Frank for the first time in a children’s bathroom.

“Frank”, she called again and he lifted his face, holding her head with both hands, breathing against her. “Not here.”

“I know”, he said, with a kiss, one more kiss. “I know, I know, I know.”

Even while he said it, she started melting again, leaning towards him, hands on his sides, inside his jacket, lifting a leg to rub against his, as much as her dress would allow.

God, his kisses felt so good.

“Half an hour”, he said, after getting a hold of her wrist, to stop her from teasing the waist of his pants. “And then we’ll go.”

She chuckled, a little crazed, not really thinking straight, thinking about all the ways she wanted him.

“We’ll be the first to leave.”

“I don’t give a fuck”, he said, tugging on the high collar of her dress that hid her neck from him. “I just need to get you out of here.”

“Ok”, she agreed, pulling him back to her mouth, and they made out for another four or five minutes before she groaned and pushed him away from her, breathing hard and hands shaking. “I’ll go first.”

She left him in the bathroom and, her legs wobbling a bit, made her way back to the master bedroom, to fix the lipstick she was sure had vanished from her lips.

She was smiling at something someone was saying in the kitchen about indulging in too much dessert when he appeared again, looking as if nothing had happened. With a quick glance towards him, Karen sipped on her water.

“I’ll just take these, then”, said the woman, getting the bowl full of cherries and turning around. “Oh, hey Pete. Want some?”

“I’m good, thank you.”

There were people everywhere when he walked to her, getting a glass of water for himself, staring at her like he wanted a bite.

“Oh, there you are!” David was saying, suddenly there at the door. “So sorry, buddy, I’m gonna steal her for one second, ok? I need to tell the story about the non-car chase.”

He pulled her away and she spent what felt like hours and hours trying to talk to other people, act normal and not stare at him from across the room.

She was standing by the dinner table, considering another truffle, when he walked over and leaned on one of the chairs, too casually, and stared at her until she felt like squirming again.

Holding his gaze, she reached for the bowl of chocolate covered cherries and, blindly, picked one up and plopped it into her mouth. She needed something to do or she was gonna spontaneously combust.

Lucky her, the stem came twisted in a knot. With a smile to him, she twirled it around her tongue and felt that heat simmer up in her lower belly when his face got serious and he stared at her mouth.

“No, don’t-” he started, but shut up when she put the knotted stem between her teeth, making it move with her tongue.

Frank got up to his full height again, leaned in and picked it up with his own teeth, making her grin and hold a chuckle in.

“Let’s go”, he decided, moving, she assumed, to go and get their coats.

“I didn’t really do it”, she confessed, unable to contain both the truth and that smile.

“I don’t care. Let’s go.”

He got their coats and they said their goodbyes. David was hugging Frank tighter than she knew he would like when Sarah looked at her and raised her brows in question.

“Thank you guys for coming. I love you, man”, David was saying when Karen gave a little shrug and raised her own brows, which made Sarah nod and wink. “Drive safe.”

“Alright”, Frank said. “You can let go now.”

“Ok. Hey! Are you- Like, are you ok to drive?”

“Yeah, only had the one glass.”

“Good. Good man. You get my favorite reporter home safely”, he said, laughing at his own joke while Frank kissed Sarah’s cheek again.

He closed the car door for her and she let out a heavy breath.

“Buckle up”, he said before taking off fast, making her jump a little on her seat.

At around one thirty in the morning, there was no traffic, and he drove way faster than she thought was legal. She turned her head to look at him and he glanced at her.

“Don’t look at me like that”, he asked. “I’m gonna crash this car.”

“Ok”, she breathed out, turning back forward, crossing and uncrossing her legs, because the car was vibrating under her, his hand was right there on the gear stick, he was going very fast. “Sorry.”

They were in a long avenue when she saw, way ahead, a green light. But, by the time they got there, it would be red for sure, so she tugged on her seat belt, turned to her left and reached out her hand, her fingers on the nape of his neck, making their way up his hair, her lips on his face, placing slow kisses under his ear, on his jaw, pressing a tiny portion of skin between her teeth, the engine roaring loudly.

“Karen”, he started, turning his face a tiny bit towards her, letting go of the gear stick to squeeze her thigh.

Like she predicted, he had to slow down, because the sign turned red, and he stopped the car, turned to her and caught her mouth on his, kissing her like he had before, letting go of the steering wheel to hold her face, his own fingers going inside her hair, and she leaned further into him, getting off her seat and on her knee, the seat belt pulling on her, his hand going from her leg to her waist, threatening to pull her to him but not actually doing it.

He stepped on the gas and the car roared, making her jump, and he moved to make her sit back.

“Sit back down”, he said against her face and she did it, feeling light as a feather, hot and mellow and oh my God, she wanted him so bad. “And let me drive.”

He changed gears and the car started moving again. They were flying past streets when his hand reached and landed back on her thigh, high above her knee, kneading on flesh and she held his forearm with her left hand, the right one on top of his, pressing her own leg with him.

“Karen”, he warned, not taking his eyes off the street. “Behave.”

Taking a deep breath, she squeezed her eyes shut and arch off the seat, pressing her lips together, tightening her hold on his hand and, consequently, her own leg.

It was everything. The wine, the night, the car, his kisses, his hand, his voice telling her to behave, her own body that had been building up that tension since she woke up that morning. She was so turned on it made her dizzy.

Finally, he slowed down and navigated through the streets, still a little too fast, still making the tires screech against the pavement, but parking in the lot half a block away from her building.

At this hour, there was no one there. She clicked her seatbelt off and moved to climb on top of him while he killed the engine.

Her plan had been to just get a few more kisses and a few more grips of his hands on her and then get out so they could go back to her apartment and use her bed for something other than sleeping and angry staring at the ceiling, for a change.

But it felt so good there, sitting on top of him in the dark, confined space of his car - where did this car come from? -, his face tilted up to kiss her while his hands pressed their way from her thighs up, taking her dress up along with them, his hips moving up while he pressed hers down against him, her own hands on his arms and his chest, this felt so much better than the boat, fuck that boat, she would pick this with Frank any day.

He shushed her silent when she let out a cry, the fingers that had found their way into her underwear threatening to rub her into an open flame.

“You have to be quiet”, he whispered, not at all helping her in that mission, kissing her face and dragging his lips around, holding her hips with one hand while the other tried to make her see a star or two.

“God, Frank”, she whispered against his mouth, breathing hard, crying out again when he pressed the heel of his hand.

“Hey”, he called again, mouth down her neck when she looked up. “I need you be quiet, hmm? Or we stop. Right now.”

Her mouth pressed against his, she hummed, rolling her hips.

“Can you do that for me? Hmm?”

“Depends on what you’re gonna do for me”, she replied, smiling with him, kissing him slow and sweet, pressing her lips together when he slowed down.

“The thing is”, with his free hand, he lifted her dress until it bunched up around her waist, and then moved a few strands of hair that had fallen from her neat and elegant do when he tugged on it earlier. “I can’t do what I wanna do in here. There’s no room. So we’re gonna go.”

She was breathing long and deep, trying to calm down, because she liked the idea of riding him right there, but he kinda had a point. But then he let go of her face and put his fingers inside his mouth for a second, wetting them and then changing hands inside her underwear, making her gasp and rise on her knees a bit.

“But I want you to come for me first”, he said, fingers working, his back off the seat a little, giving her a new angle, and Karen let out a cry, gripping his shirt, rolling her hips, and he shushed her again. “Quietly.”

It didn’t take very long. She was already tip toeing on that edge and he was not stingy, coaching her through it, shushing her when she let out any sound louder than what he deemed acceptable.

Her hands were shaking when he got her there, and she whined in his kiss while he sat back again.

Frank let her kiss him for a moment before he moved to pull her dress down again.

“Let’s go.”

She had to close her eyes and take deep breaths to collect herself, moving back to her own seat, shimming her dress down her hips when he opened his door and got out.

He opened her door for her and offered her his hand, pulling her against him for a moment, kissing her again, taking her hand and pulling her away, towards the exit, his stride wider than hers, she was almost skipping when they got to the door, her heels clicking against the concrete.

She had to keep a fast pace to keep up with him, holding his hand, her coat flying around her while he guided her to her building, looking around, as he would, always.

The elevator door opened and he pressed her against the wall, just like he had done back at the Liebermans’, kissing her deep, groaning when she lifted her hands and started undoing his shirt, button by button. When the doors opened again, she was on the last one, but he pulled her away and towards her apartment.

The door closed behind them and she turned away from his kiss, pulling him by the hand until they got to her bedroom, turning back around to him and shedding her coat in a hurry while he did the same with his.

He only had time to toe his shoes off while she zipped her dress down and off herself, moving to get his shirt from inside his pants when she was standing there on her bra, panties and high heels.

Frank let her push him down and straddle him just until she got his belt undone, time he used to run his hands on her, eyes fierce but with a hint of something that had her feeling as if she was some sort of supernatural being.

“You couldn’t look normal, could you?”, he said, lifting his hips to help her pull his pants off him. “Had to be this gorgeous and haunt me every day.”

With a swift move, he turned them around and settled on top of her, expertly and quickly removing her underwear, watching as she arched again, gripping her leg and lifting it to his hip.

“Fucking- Christ”, he sighed when he sank into her, while she moaned out loud at that feeling, finally, finally, how many times had she- “Shit. Karen.”

After five seconds, she could tell he was going to be so good at this. They were. He moved and she moved with him, opening her mouth to his kiss, moaning out loud when he sped up, complaining when he slowed down.

“Do I have to be quiet again?” she asked when he shushed her yet one more time.

“Depends on how loud you’re planning to get.”

She got loud. Louder than she intended, louder than she normally was. And she blamed him, the wine and that suit, plus the things he was doing, the way he was moving, the things he was whispering in her ear, praises and encouragement and comments on how good she looks, how he can’t stop thinking about her, how he wants her all the time.

She’s riding him when he does something, something with his hips and his hands, something that takes him deep and she lets out a shout to the ceiling, to which he sits up and wraps his hand around her jaw, telling her “not so loud”, but she sees the smirk, feels he likes it, so she doesn’t bother, if he wants her quiet, let him make her quiet.

To her surprise, he does.

Frank flipped them around again, quickly, and her head landed by a pillow instead of on it.

“You’re gonna wake the whole fucking building if you keep that up”, he said in her ear, thrusting down, breathing hard, shit, he looked so good there, on top of her, just like she pictured that morning and so many others, just like she pictured during dinner, but better, actually having him here was better.

“I don’t care”, she said, biting on the fleshy part of his palm when he raised his hand to cover her mouth.

“Then go ahead and be loud”, he allowed. “But just for me.”

And she did. Biting on his hand, she screwed her eyes shut when he went harder, a tad faster, breathing on her ear while she let out groans and cries that his palm muffled.

She was coming again when he kissed her, his own teeth on her lower lip, turning them sideways and he was right there, right after her, and fuck, fuck, fuck, she was so in love with him. Loved the way he was panting against her neck, how his hands pressed and caressed and tugged on the hair she had let down at some point, loved her lipstick smeared all over him, loved his breathing, heavy and hot, loved the slow, the slow movements of calming down, she loved him.

Against her own good judgement, she loved him, all of her, all of him.

“Frank”, she called when he moved to lie on top of her again, gasping when he moved off her, kisses on her neck, chest, between her breasts, hands pulling down the straps of the bra she still wore.

Tossing it away, he moved up again, face above hers, looking down, eyes sweet and she smiled, lifting her hands to try and wipe the red stains of her lipstick on his face, neck, shoulders.

“Should have done that a while ago”, he said, low and slow, and she nodded, moving to kiss him again.

“Yeah”, she said, caressing him wherever she could reach. “We should have.”

She only remembered she was still wearing her sandals when he moved to remove them, and she stared at her ceiling, feeling his fingers around her ankles, his skin against hers.

It was much better than what she had pictured while reading that text of his.