Casey’s nerves tingled. Her hands fluttered uselessly in her lap, first fiddling with the strap of her purse then gripping the handle of the car door fiercely. Biting her lip, she spared a glance at the driver, prodding, “At least give me a hint.”
“No can do, Space Case.” Derek’s voice was light and teasing.
Casey watched as Derek steered the Prince with his captivating inborn confidence. There were several beats before Casey remembered to respond, her voice unsteady, “Why not?”
He gave her a meaningful look. “Do I ever show my hand before the betting is over?”
“No.” Casey pursed her lips, staring out her window, “But there’s a first time for everything.”
Derek’s chuckle filled the Prince in deep alluring waves. “You’re the blind bet this round, Princess. Her majesty has to wait.”
A pout sprang up before she could smother it. “You know I don’t understand all the poker references. But regardless, I’d act surprised even if you told me where you’re taking me.”
He sent her a cheeky smirk. “Nice try, but remember? No faking. And that goes for—" He raised his eyebrows up and down, saucily. “Everything. No worries, Case, you won’t need to fake it with me. I’m not like other guys.” Derek gave her a pointed look. “I’ve got your back… and your front… and everything in between.” With a wink, Derek turned back to the road.
Her face scorched as he referenced her last failed relationship and then because of his implications, but all Casey could do was gape at him. Unwillingly, images of Derek in that situation stirred inside her. Derek over her, his face filled with ecstasy as she bucked underneath him, meeting his thrusts—
Derek’s smirk grew as fresh flames fanned across Casey’s cheeks. Turning away from him, Casey squeezed her eyes shut, breathing deeply as she reluctantly acknowledged that in all reality… she believed Derek. He could get her to the point all her boyfriends failed to accomplish.
Snapping her out of her thoughts, Derek taunted with a challenging leer, “You gonna give me a call or is the keener folding?”
Casey squeaked, grasping desperately for a comeback.
“What’s that, Case? Didn’t hear ya.”
With a sigh, Casey replied, “I’ll call.” The glare she sent him was half-hearted. “But this better be good.”
They traveled in relative silence, Derek humming merrily even as Casey’s pointer finger tapped an anxious rhythm against her knee.
Casey mulled over the first part of their… outing, still putting mental skids on the word date. But looking back, everything so far had been rather enjoyable and admittingly not entirely different than the nights they usually spent together. Except…
Derek held her hand.
Casey liked it.
Butterflies erupted in her stomach as she recalled the tremors that had coursed through her body at the contact. And the fact that Derek had initiated it was almost too much for Casey to take. After all, he was the one that always pushed her away. Struggling to process this uncharted area, Casey mentally prepared a bulleted list of explanations.
- Understandably, living with Derek made her incredibly aware of his hygiene habits, or rather, his lack of thereof. Her body was naturally repulsed by his body contact, which would explain the full body shudders as Derek’s skin brushed hers.
Derek shifted in his seat, adjusting the heater. A wave of his masculine body spray lofted over her. Okay, so he was anything but repulsive. Try again, Casey.
- It was only reasonable that she reacted to his caress because Derek never allowed her to hug him. Therefore, when he did express affection, Casey’s thudding heart was easily justified.
There, now that was logical and totally understandable. Casey waited ages for her feel-good family moment with Derek. The subject of her thoughts reached over into her space and thumped his forefinger against the top of her thigh in time to the beat of his humming. Derek calmly withdrew his hand, tossing her a panty-dropping smirk. No. No, this did not feel like a feel-good family moment. Next?
- The third possibility was hard for Casey to admit. Maybe she turned a blind eye on their relationship all those years ago and never acknowledged it again. What if the friction between her and Derek was actually chemistry? Chemistry that had been brewing barely under the surface. And now, that they were exploring their untapped potential, it threatened to explode around them. Maybe they were on the cusp of something—
Casey pulled out of her thoughts as Derek parked the car in front of a familiar cement building. “We’re going to a movie?”
“No, I thought we’d look at the parking lot and leave.” Derek rolled his eyes, a small grin graced his face. “Can’t get anything by you, Spacey.”
“Just for you, Princess.” Derek opened the door and paused with one leg out, turning in a way that made his head go upside down as he looked at her. “You coming? Or am I baching it?”
“I’m very tempted to leave you here and take the Prince home.”
Quickly righting himself in his seat, Derek dipped his hand into his leather jacket and flashed her two movie tickets. “Shame yours will go to waste then.” Derek faked a sigh, as he shoved the tickets back into his pocket.
“You bought tickets ahead of time?”
He gave her a serious look. “I told you I had a plan.”
“And you’ve also told me repeatedly that you’re not a planner.”
Derek bit his bottom lip, his eyes twinkling in the setting sun. “There’s an exception to every rule, eh?”
Casey sighed, her head falling back against the headrest. “You make my brain hurt, Derek.”
“And you think too much.” He gestured over his shoulder towards the building. “Can we go in now?”
Heaving another sigh, Casey followed him out of the car.
“You said no pretending, Derek! You don’t do rom-coms!” Casey hurtled herself into a plush theater seat, crossing her arms and waiting impatiently for Derek to answer.
Shaking his head as he reclined casually, Derek drawled, “It’s all in the titles, Casey.”
Her brows knitted. “Titles?” Her eyes shot to the blank screen before they darted back to him. “The movie titles?” She flopped the arm rest down between them in a huff.
“No, silly.” An unreadable look spanned his face, his voice dipping into a deeper octave. “You’re out of the step-sister box, remember?”
Casey stared at him.
A trademark Venturi smirk slid onto his face. “Congratulations, Case. You’re flying first class on Girlfriend Airlines now.” Dramatically, Derek’s arms flared out around him as he gestured around them. “Here we have all the best amenities.” Derek nodded at the screen. “Rom-coms for your viewing preference.” Reaching into his leather jacket again, Derek pulled out a box and handed them to her. “Your favorite chocolates for your selective palate.” Then Derek popped his collar, smirking at her. “And last, but most importantly, this charming guy for all your favorite features.”
“Like punching you in the face?”
He snickered, reaching up to tweak her cheek. “So violent.” He laughed to himself. “I should warn you that some of these bonuses are a little on the dangerous side, so a goody-goody like you might want to ease into them, you know, gently.” Derek gave her a lewd grin as Casey’s cheeks burned.
The lights flickered out, causing Casey to flinch and Derek to chuckle gruffly. The scent of his body spray intermingling with their leather jackets fanned around her as Derek leaned into her side. His lips brushed faintly over her cheek on the way to whisper in her ear. “Sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight, Princess.” Derek went to pull away, but stopped, leaning back in to breathe, “I’d say fasten your seatbelt, but where’s the fun in that?”
Casey fidgeted through the entirety of the previews, jumping every time another couple filed into the theater. Couple after couple joined them, holding hands, arms wrapped around each other and various looks of love adorned their faces. Suddenly, it sunk in how real this was.
Before her stuttering gasps became full-blown, Derek’s hand whipped her chocolates from her hand, shocking her into an involuntary whispered shout of “Der-rek!”
He only smiled, popping the box open and dumping out a handful and returning it to her. With a raised eyebrow, Casey took it, timidly sticking a finger into the box and extracting a piece for herself. Derek held her eyes as she popped it into her mouth, watching intently as she chewed slowly, his eyes tracing down her neck as she swallowed.
As the upbeat pop track played, the rustling in the theater quieted as the occupants turned their attention to the screen for the opening credits. With one last smirk, Derek turned away from her, but it took Casey another moment before she copied him.
Casey was just getting engrossed in the plot when Derek flipped the arm rest up, knocking into her elbow as he did so.
“Ouch!” Casey hissed, grasping at her injury and glaring over at Derek.
She was met with a lopsided smirk. “Want me to kiss it?”
Casey grunted, ignoring her blush and directed her attention back to the movie.
A couple minutes passed, then suddenly, Derek’s shoulder brushed against hers lightly. Casey fidgeted slightly, but otherwise ignored it. Without a reaction, Derek pulled away slightly until they were no longer touching.
The make-out scene on the screen intensified, causing Casey to awkwardly rub at her arm. As clothes shed onscreen, Derek’s warm knee pressed against hers. Casey’s eyes snapped his way, but Derek remained focused on the movie, the beginnings of a grin pulling at the corners of his mouth.
Now blushing, Casey focused back on the scene. His leg nudged her gently, but Casey refused to look again. After a few seconds, he did it again. Casey snuck a look at him, only to find him smiling mischievously at her. Hurriedly, she twisted away. Repeatedly, Derek knocked into her as the movie characters took their activities to the bedroom.
As the brunette onscreen was tossed onto the bed and her dark-haired lover descended over her, Casey’s knee prodded Derek’s.
The surprise showed on his face, but Derek returned the bump.
They exchanged nudges until it became so frequent that they were pushing against each other constantly. The electricity crackled around them as the small contact of their knees expanded into thighs… hips…
Onscreen, the man thrusted into the main character as she passionately cried out.
Derek leaned closer, fusing their sides together, their shoulders brushing.
Suddenly, Derek’s hand trailed up her leg, coming to a rest on her denim-clad thigh. His strong fingers began to tap tantalizing patterns into her flesh.
The love scene faded out on the big screen, but the tension remained around Casey. As indiscreetly as she could, she managed to create a little distance between their bodies, but Derek’s drumming against her thigh continued.
Slowly, Casey reached down, squeezing his offending digits tightly in her fist. She felt rather than heard Derek chuckle.
He allowed her grip for several beats before he easily slid out, his fingers trailing along her palm as he pressed her own arm into her thigh. He drew elaborate designs against her soft skin as he tapped his way up and down her arm.
Casey gulped, her body jerking under Derek’s wandering digits. Accidently, her leg pressed into his, causing Derek’s movements to still. His eyes never left the screen as his movements switched to a tender stroke of his pointer finger, tracing a path from her wrist, circling each finger before brushing down her forearm.
Goosebumps erupted unwillingly as Casey tried to ease her rapidly beating heart, especially as the movie characters furiously ripped at each other’s, falling into bed… again.
Her breathing hitched as Derek’s pointer finger drooped lower, trailing ever so softly against the top of her thigh as his other fingers continued their journey along her wrist.
As the characters onscreen passionately made love, Derek’s caresses intensified. Derek smirked proudly when Casey’s thighs snapped together, squeezing tightly as she swallowed hard.
Derek teased her lightly, their shoulders knocking together as they strolled to the Prince. Derek’s hands tucked safely into the pockets of his jacket. “Well, as far as rom-coms go, that wasn’t too painful.”
“I saw you laughing, Derek. You liked it.”
“That guy reminded me of good old Ralphie.” Derek tittered. “Some heartthrob!”
Casey smothered a smile. “Derek! Be nice! Ralph is… charming… in his own way.”
Derek chortled as Casey whacked him. “Sure, sure.” Derek rubbed his sore arm. “But I remember a time when Ralph liked Casey and Derek had to jump in to save her.”
“Don’t remind me.”
“You didn’t seem too keen on Ralph’s charm then.”
“Just because I said he was charming, doesn’t mean he’s my type.”
The air thickened as Derek studied her, his hands dug deep in his pockets.
“What? You don’t go for charming guys?”
Casey hummed noncommittally, but Derek pursued the subject. “I guess you haven’t had much experience since Sam isn’t exactly charming. And Max failed. And God knows Truman didn’t even try. And don’t get me started on your university dudes.”
“My relationships haven’t been that bad!”
Derek inclined his head to her, a teasing smirk playing at his lips. “You’re blind, Space Case.” He shoved her gently with his shoulder, causing her to sway slightly before she recovered. Derek laughed, casually opening the Prince door for her, not waiting or her to get in before he sauntered around the vehicle.
As Casey sunk into the familiar upholstery, it hit her with astounding clarity… maybe she really had been blinded all this time.