They slipped out of the bench, making their way to the door; he kept a hand against her upper back as if to guide her, even though she hardly needed guiding. He helped her into her coat then slipped on his own, and with that, they were out on the pavement. The cold of the air was a shock compared to the cosy warmth inside. He put his hands into his coat pockets.
"Do you need driving home?"
She nodded. "If it's no trouble," she said. "Are you okay to drive?"
"Yes," he said.
"I mean, I would feel terrible causing you to get nabbed for drink driving—"
"It's fine," he said. "Come on, I'll show you were my car is."
He hadn't parked very far away; together they walked, side by side, saying not a word. He opened the door for her, and after she was settled in he went around and took the driver's seat. After engaging the engine, he scrolled back on the satnav and brought up her address.
"Hm?" He looked toward her.
"Is it all right that I kissed you?"
In retrospect he realised she was not using the past tense at all, but asking permission; it was the only explanation for why she suddenly leant forward and pressed her lips to his, catching him somewhat off-guard.
Not for long.
He leaned forward, too, to make it easier to make that connection, reaching to place a hand on her cheek for what he expected to be a brief, chaste kiss. But then he felt the roughness of her tongue sweep along his lower lip, which took him by surprise again. His reaction was instinctive, and he parted his lips to welcome the deepening of the kiss; the taste of the residual honey on her lips sparked a desire that took him quite by surprise.
When they pulled apart, Mark realised they had been kissing long enough to steam up the windows. "Sorry," she murmured, sitting back into her seat.
"Don't apologise," he said, more curtly than he intended. "Sorry," he added, then smiled, then chuckled at the absurdity of it.
She smiled, too. "Sorry," she said again.
They had to wait a few moments for the ventilation to defog the windows, and then they were off. The silence in the car was different than previous. There was a slight crackle in the air, something that felt very close to anticipation. He vowed to not accept an offer to come up to her flat, though, should she make one. It was only the first date (well, their third time out together, but only the first proper date), and it would have been too tempting to go further should they kiss again.
The traffic was light for that time of night for London, and they arrived in a very short amount of time. As he pulled into a spot at the kerb, she asked, "Would you… like to come up for a bit? I'm still worried you might be too pissed to be driving safely."
The concern on her face was genuine. Had he driven unsafely, or put them at risk? He was suddenly worried that he had misjudged the strength of the drinks. "If you think that's best," he said, "maybe I should."
Her relief was visible. "Yes," she said. "You should."
He got out then went around to get the door for her. He offered a hand to help her get to her feet. She dug her keys out of her bag as he closed the car door. She waited for him at the building's open door, then proceeded him up the stairs.
As she climbed the stairs in front of him, he watched her backside move. He realised belatedly that his resolve could use some work.
"I'm not going to promise the flat is at all clean," she said, pushing her key into the door. "I wasn't expecting company."
"It's all right."
They stepped inside and she turned on the light. He looked around, taking everything in; the mismatched furniture, the quirky art decorations, the ambient lighting, the fairy lights draped across the arch into the place. "Home sweet home," she said, then turned to face him. "Would you like something? Tea? I have sparkling water…."
"Perhaps some water, thanks."
"Okay," she said with a smile. "I'll get that, if you want to make yourself comfortable…"
He slipped out of his coat then suit jacket. Before he took a seat on her sofa, he glanced out of the window; it wasn't the greatest view, and in fact, the train line seemed to pass directly by the window. But he had to admit that overall, the flat was charming, welcoming, and warm.
"Here you are," came her voice, and he turned to see her holding one glass of sparkling water out to him, and another closer to her for herself. He took it from her with a quiet thanks. She took a seat next to him on the couch, and offered a smile before she sipped at her glass.
He figured he wouldn't need to spend more than an hour to feel a little more sober. He would drink the sparkling water, and then say goodnight before returning to his car and then driving home. Excellent plan. Prudent.
He took a long sip. "Just what I needed," he said quietly. He drank from his glass again, and she, from hers. She finished before he did, and set her glass on the table. Once he finished his drink, he set the empty glass down next to hers. Their gazes met again, and she smiled.
It had barely been ten minutes. He couldn't possibly be sobered up enough yet.
"This is a lovely flat, by the way," he said, striving for small talk in an effort to take his mind off of her pouty pink lips. "Have you lived here long?"
"About a decade or so," she said. "It's not very posh, but I love it here. I bought it right before real estate prices exploded into the stratosphere. Could probably make a killing if I were to sell it." She folded and unfolded her hands nervously. "Not that I plan to move any time soon. Oh. Would you like a tour?"
The flat seemed fairly open-plan, so he wasn't sure how much more there could be to see, but he agreed, and they stood in unison.
She showed him the kitchen with its little balcony (and tell-tale signs of a smoking habit), pointed out the kitchen table that did double duty as a writing desk as well as the dining room table. "I thought about doing that insane thing people do," she said, rambling a bit, "fully setting their table with flatware and everything for show, as if a dinner party might break out at any moment… but I figured it would all get a bit dusty, so I thought I'd better not."
"I'd have thought you'd have people over all the time," he said.
"What?" she asked, clearly amused. "Why would you think that?"
"Something Una said once about having…" He trailed off. Stupid loose drunken tongue.
"Having what?" she prodded.
"She said you had millions of men taking you out," he admitted. "A very glamorous life."
She looked stunned, genuinely stunned, before she started to laugh. "I don't know what she was thinking," she said with a playful smile. "Trust me. I have the opposite of a glamorous life, Mark."
"You mentioned book launches before," he said. "That must be somewhat glamorous."
"I just end up asking Salman Rushdie where the loos are," she said. "I'm not joking. That really happened."
He couldn't help laughing a little.
"So you've seen the sitting room," she said, sweeping her hand in an arc, "and speaking of loos, mine's back there, door to the left. I keep meaning to re-do the wallpaper, but… it's not so bad that I can be arsed to take it on."
"And the door to the right?" he asked, glancing down the short hallway. "Your gothic library, I suppose?"
"Ha, no, my bedroom," she said.
The word hung in the air; their eyes met before they each looked away.
"Ah," he offered, striving to be light, "I figured there must have been one here somewhere." He cleared his throat. "Well. It really is a lovely flat."
"So you've said," she said. "Did you want to see it?" He wondered what she was implying before she added, "My room. It's actually tidy for once."
He didn't want to be rude. "Sure."
She strode forward and pushed the door open. He was close behind her. Abruptly she turned directly into him.
"Oof, sorry," she said, taking a step back.
"It's all right." He looked into the room beyond; decently sized, big windows, with more bookcases and a stack of bedside reading. He couldn't have named a single book title, or what colour the walls were painted, because she stood so close that that distinct nutty yet sweet scent again washed over him. "What is that?"
"Oh, I don't have perfume on. I forgot." She brought a hand up to touch her hair. "Is it my shampoo, maybe? I switched to an argan oil shampoo…" She leant closer, combing her fingers through.
He came close to her hair and took in a deep breath. That was exactly it. He brought up his hand, cradling the back of her head, stroking her silky hair; he closed his eyes and murmured again, "Lovely."
He heard her exhale sharply, felt her hands on his arms, felt her fingers press into him, felt her warm breath on his cheek. He heard her say in quiet exasperation, "Oh for God's sake, Mark," as she raised up on her toes then pressed her lips to his.
His plan to just sober up a little and then leave went straight out of the window. One of his arms came around her back to hold her tightly; his other hand came up to cup her face, fingers threading through her hair, as they resumed a kiss as deep as the one they'd shared in the car. She made a soft little sound as the hand he'd rested at her waist went down and over the curve of her backside. The longer they kissed, the louder he heard the warning sirens in his head—knew he should de-escalate the situation and retreat like a gentleman—but the scent of her hair, the residual honey on her lips, was fuelling something in him from which he didn't want to walk away.
But he shouldn't sleep with her. He had only just started to get to know her. He liked her a whole lot, and holy hell was he attracted to her, but to go from friendly coffee to dinner to sex seemed far too much too soon. He could not deny that he liked kissing her, that he liked the way her curves fit into the palm of his hand, the scent of her hair, the softness of her breast—
He stopped and took a deep breath, trying to allow his senses to catch up to him, pressing his forehead to hers. He had sat on the bed, and she was straddling his lap, sitting on his knees. "I got a little carried away," he managed, pulling the collar of her dress back into alignment to cover her lacy undergarment. "Sorry."
"Oh my God, don't apologise," she said, trying to catch her own breath, pushing her hair out of her face. She put one hand on his face; her palm seemed hot. "Was rather enjoying you getting carried away," she said, moving her thumb in a small arc, "in case you couldn't tell by the fact that I am sat on you like this."
He met her gaze and she held it; he had to admit he quite liked her in her present position, and she was quite obviously more than happy to be there. Maybe he was being too cautious. Carpe diem, he thought, as he grasped her hips, pulled her closer to him, and kissed her again.
He liked the feeling of her against his chest, of her fingernails raking through his hair. He liked how her head fell back when he kissed her chin. His hands moved from her hips to her thighs; he could feel the heat of her skin through the dress.
Her words got his attention, and he paused in his ministrations. "Pardon?"
She tipped her head aside with a sigh. "So many layers," she said.
He chuckled lightly. He pulled his hands back towards her knees until he found the hem of her dress… then slipped his hands up her legs again between the dress and her stockings. She made a soft sound. "Maybe I should…" she began, moving away from him.
He stopped moving his hands, then withdrew them. "I'm sorry," he said. "Maybe I shouldn't have done that."
"No, it's not that," she said with a smile. "It's just… the bloody layers. I should probably lose them."
"Ah." He helped her to her feet. "I can step out, if you'd like the privacy."
She nodded, blushing pink. "Seems silly, doesn't it? I mean… considering."
"Not at all." He stood up. "Let me know when you're ready."
He stepped out of the bedroom, and as he waited it in the hall he unclasped his cufflinks and placed them in the pocket, loosened and removed his tie, then unfastened the top button of his shirt. He stepped out of his shoes, placing them near the front door, before returning to the hall outside of the room.
"Mark," he heard her say, "are you still there?"
He opened the door to see she had slipped beneath the sheets, the covers pulled up to and revealing only bare shoulders. "Yes, of course," he said. "I was just taking my shoes off."
"Oh." She smiled. She had switched on a small lamp on the bedside, instead of the brighter overhead light. The atmosphere was a warm, pleasant one. On the bedside table, next to the stack of books, he noticed something that hadn't been there before: a few condom packets.
He had given her total privacy, but now found himself under the scrutiny of her gaze. As if realising this inequality, she brought a hand up to cover her eyes. As she did, he undid the buttons and slipped out of his shirt, undershirt, trousers, boxers, and socks.
"You folding everything up?" she teased.
"Of course," he volleyed back immediately.
He moved around to the edge of the bed, to where she had folded back the corner for him. As he slipped in next to her, she took her hand away.
As he turned to her, she said, "I have a confession."
"Oh?" He brushed her hair out of her face, then rested a hand on her cheek.
He waited a beat, then said, "I'll forgive you," before leaning down to kiss her.
What his gaze had not seen, his hands soon explored and filled the gaps in within his mind's eye. He revelled in the softness of her skin as his hands slipped over the curves of her body; his passion flared at the feel of her nails raking along his skin. They had turned and shifted enough that she was mostly beneath him, moving against one another, and it was becoming ever obvious that he was going to be needing the condom very soon. He paused in kissing her to reach over to grab a packet.
"Hope they're all right," she said hesitantly. "The right size, I mean. It's all I've got." He pulled open the packet. "I'm always a bit paranoid that they're going to be too small, or too big…"
"It's fine, darling," he said low in his throat, turning back over to her, covering her mouth with his own, moving so that she was beneath him again. He used one arm to brace himself up, and the other to caress her, cup her breast, guide her knee aside, touched her inner thigh, stroked between her legs.
A deep and throaty moan filled his ear; he felt her arch up into his touch, and he knew she was ready for him. He shifted again. With a groan of his own he drove forward and into her, eliciting a cry from her mouth. With every thrust, her fingers pressed into his back, her nails pricked at his skin, her heels dug into the backs of his thighs. She excited him more than he had ever anticipated with her throaty vocalisations and eager participation; he felt his culmination building along with hers, and he did everything he could to hasten hers. It seemed only right. Gentlemanly.
His reward was almost immediate. She arched up into him as she came. He was determined to keep her feeling good as long as he could; he pressed his lips to her throat to deliver open-mouthed kisses, nipping her earlobe, feeling her pulse under his tongue, feeling her thrumming around him.
He could hold back no longer, and with each thrust groaned in pleasure. She seemed keen to return the favour, and the feel of her fingers on his backside definitely spurred him on until he was completely spent.
He let out a long sigh as he settled to one side, drawing her over with him, stroking her hair to smooth it down where it had gone a bit mad from their activity. "More than fine," she murmured, tracing her fingers lazily in an arc over his chest, and sighed, too. "I should have got us more water. I'm parched now."
He was too, but he was loathe to move. "It's all right."
"No, no, I'll get some," she said, pulling back from him. "Just… close your eyes until I get on my robe."
He did not say he would, because he had every intention of looking at her. And he liked what he saw. Very much. The light played on her skin, over her curves, the smooth skin over which he had only just run his hands, upon which he had only just lavished kisses. But then she slipped on her robe and began to turn back to him, so he closed his eyes until he heard her footfalls going down the hall to the kitchen. He removed then discarded the condom, then leaned back to rest against the pillow, waiting for her to return.
When she did, he said, "I have a confession. I peeked."
Her initial look of shock quickly resulted in a laugh, though her cheeks flushed pink with embarrassment. She handed him a glass of water, then sat down on the bed.
"Come back under the sheets?" he asked.
"Promise not to peek this time."
"I'll do no such thing," he said, holding her gaze. "You have nothing you need to hide."
She dropped her gaze.
"Besides, I've as good as seen you by touch alone."
She smiled a little, looking up at him again. "And you're not…" she began, trailing off, pulling a face. He knew what she meant: You're not put off?
"Quite the opposite," he said. He drew back the covers to invite her back in.
She stood, set the glass down, then untied the robe and slipped it off of her shoulders. Mark was glad for the glass of water, because his mouth went dry. He took a sip, then set down the glass. She slipped in next to him; he reached for her hip and pulled her close to kiss her again. He thought it unnecessary to say anything else. She certainly seemed satisfied that he'd meant what he'd said.
It was so easy to fall into her lushness again. The feel of her skin under his fingers, her lips on his, her body against his… it electrified him. He was grateful for the additional condom stash; he would put them to use.
He was reaching for another when her own hand swatted it away; she picked one up and opened the packet, making it very clear that she was intending on applying it herself. She held it in one hand, and with the other she reached over and touched him.
He groaned at the delicate feel of her fingertips bringing him even further to attention. Light strokes became slightly more aggressive tugs, and he grasped the bedsheets, feeling urgently like he might come. "Darling, get on with it," he managed.
Mercifully, she did, and slipped the condom on before straddling his thighs, taking him by surprise. With another swift motion and a quick intake of breath, they were connected again. It was bliss.
And then she began to move, undulating back and forth. The stimulation was more than he could maintain control over, and with a jolt he arched up, placed his hands on her hips, and came.
She continued to swirl her hips in a circular pattern; her breath quickly grew stuttered. Through bleary eyes he saw her take her lower lip between her teeth, her brows furrowed, as she made distinct sounds of pleasure in her efforts. To help spur her on, he reached down to touch where their bodies met, sparking a moan from her, and her cries grew louder as he continued to caress her, gently increasing the pressure.
The waves of her climax rippled around him. She dropped down to kiss him again, still moving atop him, before breaking away with a long sigh. He felt her fingers comb through his hair, her warm breath on his cheek.
"Oh, that was nice," she murmured. Quite possibly the understatement of the century. He laughed a little, holding her tight to him.
His mobile buzzed with a text message, but he wasn't even going to be tempted to check it until he was parked in front of his house. He was already somewhat distracted by a slight drowsiness and a pleasant ache in his body from the late night spent with a beautiful woman, and the oblique morning light pricked at his eyes most uncomfortably.
When he finally arrived at home, he drew out his mobile and could not suppress a smile at the message that greeted him:
You still have my muffler xx