Emma drowsily climbed down the stairs to the kitchen, placing one reluctant foot after the other. She couldn't help but sigh. No fire alarm blaring in the morning from Mira's burnt toast. No breakfast eggs glued to the non-stick skillet. Sure, the place was cleaner after her friend left to go live with the love of her life, and yes, her insurance rates had gone down, but was it really worth it?
After breakfast, she found her stomach churning, but it wasn't because of the thirteen pancakes (with maple syrup), seven slices of bacon, two glasses of milk, plate of hash browns, and toasted sesame bagel. No, it was because he was coming. She glanced at the clock—ten minutes to one, and she hadn't even done her hair. Not that she cared how she looked in front of him.
Just in case a passing mailman saw her, however, she made sure to brush out her hair. She considered using makeup, staring at the drawer which still contained Mira's half-used mascara and shades of lipstick. In the end, she couldn't stand the thought of him commenting on how she looked.
As she expected, the doorbell didn't ring until thirty minutes after he said he'd arrive. Typical.
She counted under her breath before swinging the door open, making sure to position a scowl on her face.
"Hello, Jeff," she snarled, looking away from him. This was a helpful tactic—not only did it make her look cold, but it let her avoid the blush that would otherwise creep onto her face if she looked at him in the eyes. Those bold, brown eyes.
He grinned and stepped inside, uninvited. "You've been cooking, Ems? And you didn't even make something for me."
"Don't call me Ems!" She let the door slam shut and marched inside. "Listen, you're only here because I need help planning Mira's faux-bachelorette party! And as much as I hate to admit it, you know her very well! In ways that I will never know (and never want to know)!"
Jeff's carefree attitude infuriated her. Everything from his shirt, which looked as though it had been shrink-wrapped onto his body, to his hair, which was brown, set her off just by being near him.
He approached her, coming close enough for her to smell his cologne, eau de douche or whatever it was that he wore. "That was a good excuse at first, Ems. But now… we have the location, the date, and all the strippers booked. What more could we need to do?"
Emma took a step backward, glancing away from him. The intensity of his stare caused her small frame to tremble. "We… we need to order the penis cake," she managed to say, gasping slightly.
Another step. "We decided on cock lollipops, remember? But I knew Mira would want a cake, too, so I put in an order for that. I've thought of everything."
"How about sashes and a tiara? I've heard that girls do that," Emma stammered, desperately trying to think of something that would distract him.
"We decided on getting coordinating outfits from her boutique. How could you be this forgetful? Do you need me to whisper the rest of the plans in your ear?" With this, Emma felt her back against something cold, and Jeff approached her, pressing his body onto hers. He placed a hand on her waist, running his hand along her side. With the other, he carefully tilted her chin up, gently caressing her lower lip with his thumb.
Emma shuddered and breathed in deeply, and—and sniffed again. With a cry, she pushed him off her and whipped around, realizing that she had been pressed up against the fridge. Grateful that the proximity of food had broken his spell, she leaned inside to decide what she would snack on.
With her torso leaning into the fridge, however, her rear was on full appearance. "It's free real estate," Jeff murmured under his breath, admiring the view. He lifted his hand high into the air, delivering one firm smack.
Emma shot out of the fridge like someone had just stolen her last chocolate bar. "You nearly made me drop my pickles!" she howled, fury plain on her face. No sweet words or handsome face could sway her heart at this point—Jeff had threatened her supply of food, and for that, he deserved death.
The sound of the door opening was the only thing that stopped Emma from obliterating Jeff where he stood.
"Ems!" Mira's voice called as she (and her two most prized features) bounced around the corner, tossing her keys on the counter. "Surprise!" Her face turned cold the moment she saw Jeff. "What's he doing here?"
Emma glanced at Jeff in a panic, forgetting her momentary rage. "He's… uh…"
Mira narrowed her eyes at him. "I'm going to go to the washroom, but when I come back, there'd better be a good explanation. If you touch a hair on her body, Jeff, you're dead."
The moment Mira disappeared around the corner, Emma grabbed Jeff's arms in alarm. "What do we do? I can't think of a single reason you'd be here!"
Jeff smirked. "I can think of a good excuse. I'll say it on one condition…"
"What? What's the condition?"
"That you kiss me." He leaned his face closer to Emma's, close enough that she could see just how brown his brown eyes were.
"Never," she scowled.
"Fine. Then I'll tell her all about the party. Unlike you, she and I aren't exactly friends."
"Wait! Please, something else!"
Jeff shook his head and rolled his eyes. "Yeah, right. A kiss or no deal."
The toilet flushed and Emma could hear Mira washing her hands. "Fine," Emma said. She leaned forward and placed a peck on Jeff's cheek, pulling away just in time as Mira turned the corner.
Mira tilted her head at the two of them, squaring her hands on her hips. "What happened now? Emma, you're absolutely flushed. And Jeff, you look dizzy. Someone had better explain something or Emma will have to help me cover up a homicide."
Jeff plastered a smile on his face, instantly regaining his usual cockiness. "Oh, you get so worked up, don't you? I always found that so hot about you. Mm, yes, you used to be so intense whenever I—"
"Cut to the chase."
"Fine. There's this girl I want to impress, so I asked your friend to teach me how to cook. Emma said she'd do it if I stopped trying to interfere with you and your husband."
Mira cocked an eyebrow. "Wow, Emma. I'm sorry to hear this. I'm also surprised that Jeff is actually trying to impress a girl. Usually the point is to leave emotions out of it."
Jeff shrugged. "Oh, no, trust me, it's still all about the sex. But this one just gets ravenous whenever we indulge ourselves, so this is to keep her appetite at bay. The better fed she is, the better she is in bed. Weird, but true."
Mira made a face. "Well, there's no reason for you to stick around. I haven't seen Emma in a while, so I want to spend time with her."
Jeff opened his mouth to reply, but Mira's phone rang.
"I'm sorry, I have to take this."
Jeff and Emma fell silent as Mira talked on the phone. Emma couldn't figure out how she felt. She was almost… disappointed when Mira asked him to leave. Maybe it was because Jeff had been talking about food?
Mira hung up abruptly and ran over to give Emma a hug. "I'm so sorry, Ems, but there's an issue with Rayner. I'm coming back tomorrow though, so make sure you're here!" She glanced at Jeff. "And make sure you're not."
Jeff held his arms open. "Aw, no hug for me?"
Mira flipped him the bird as she ran out the door.
The room fell silent once more. Emma dared to glance at Jeff, only to find him staring at her. "What are you looking at?"
Jeff smiled, and unlike usual, it wasn't a smirk. "You know, when I said 'kiss', before, I didn't mean a peck on the cheek."
Emma pouted. "Yeah, well, you didn't specify. A kiss is a kiss."
Jeff tilted his head, his face growing serious. "Is it? Then why don't I show you how it's meant to be done."
Without another word, Jeff pulled her into his arms—and, though she didn't want to admit it, she stepped into them, grabbing his shirt to pull him tighter. She let out a breath as his lips melded with hers. He laced his hand into her hair, gently tugging it to send shivers rushing down her spine. She moaned as his tongue worked its way into her mouth, nearly melting when she tasted chocolate. Seeking a deeper taste, she pressed herself closer to his body, heat seeping through her skin.
They were entangled like this for minutes, before the sound of the door opening caused them to leap apart, a string of saliva lacing their mouths together still. Mira stared at them, horror-stricken.
"I… forgot my keys," she managed, before screaming bloody murder and charging at Jeff.
Emma leaped in front of him, holding her arms out in front of her. "Stop, Mira! He wasn't harassing me."
"Hey!" Jeff cried, "I would never do that!"
Mira panted heavily, her face red with rage. "EXPLAIN."
Emma glanced at Jeff, blushing slightly, before turning back to Mira. "I like how he tastes…" Mira's face of surprised mirrored Jeff's, causing Emma to hasten her words. "That's not what I meant! I mean, I do, Mira, you never told me he tastes like chocolate!"
Mira frowned. "He never did while we were sleeping together."
Jeff grinned. "Yeah, well, I made sure to eat chocolate and Nutella before coming here. A man with a plan!"
"You… you fiend!" Mira cried. "Trying to seduce my sweet, innocent Emma! Besides, it was always your goal to have friends with benefits, or hell, acquaintances with benefits, I guess. You know Emma isn't like that."
Jeff wrapped his arms around Emma, placing his chin on top of her head. "I know. I mean, I sure wouldn't say no to spending a night with her, but seeing you fall in love and get married has changed something in me. Emma is special to me. She's not what I usually go for—flirty, bold, and with a great rack—"
Emma glanced down at herself.
"But that's because I can see that she's just more than a collection of traits. Emma and I have spent a lot of time together, recently, Mira. Planning—er, planning recipes and cooking. Her snappish wit, pig-headedness, and unbiased honesty makes her so engaging to talk to. I never thought I'd enjoy talking to someone as much as I do with her."
Mira rolled her eyes. "You certainly had no reservations about chatting while you were with me."
Jeff smiled patiently. "That's different. With Emma… I feel like we could talk for hours. Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely attracted to her, and I get horny just thinking about how feisty she'd be in bed—"
"Don't think about it," Mira and Emma said in unison.
"But unlike with most women… I don't feel like our conversations are just working up to something. What we have feels complete, just on its own."
"Then leave it at that!" Mira yelled.
Jeff frowned. "Mira, don't you feel that way about your husband? That you could talk with him for hours and be content? But of course, you still love him and want a relationship with him?"
"Well, yes, but you can't tell me you love her—" Mira started.
"No. Not yet. We still don't know each other that well. But I know that what I'm feeling is different from what I've ever felt before. So please, let me pursue this."
Mira eyed him up and down, her features softened. "You certainly sound genuine. But it's not up to me. Emma, what's your mind in all of this?"
Emma's face was bright red, and she was glad Jeff was holding her, otherwise she was sure to fall down. "I… I had no idea he felt this way about me. Mira, you've told me so much about him, and after all the ordeal with your husband, I was certain that he was scum. But these past weeks I've spent with him, one-on-one, have changed my mind bit by bit. I'm not entirely convinced of anything yet. But please, let me give him a chance."
Mira sighed. "I just don't want you getting hurt."
Jeff tightened his grip around Emma. "I would never do anything to hurt her."
"Damn the sincerity in your brown eyes! It's infuriating." Mira let out the longest, most exasperated sigh she could manage as she stared at their pleading faces. "Fine. But if you set one toe out of line, Jeff, just remember that I'll be there to cut your balls off and shove them down your throat."
Jeff raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, I never did understand why you were into that."
Mira rolled her eyes and grabbed her keys from the counter. "I want to stay longer, but I've already wasted too much time. Rayner is going to kill me."
Mira, Jeff, and Emma all looked uncomfortable as they considered the notion.
After Mira left, Emma guided Jeff to the door as well. "I need some time to think things over. I'll get your cell number from Mira and text you when I'm ready to meet again."
Jeff nodded, placing a kiss on her forehead. She watched him until his brown hair disappeared around the corner.
She sank to the floor, breathing heavily. She had mentioned that he had tasted like chocolate. What she hadn't mentioned was the electricity that trembled over each place he touched, or the way that his soft gazes caused her knees to weaken.
Jeff was a dangerous, delicious man. And she couldn't wait to see him again.