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Logan Echolls is religious about personal hygiene. He scrubs and exfoliates, highlights and moisturizes, trims and deodorizes and dabs with cologne. It’s not that he’s vain, though he pretends to be (because, come on, he’s eighteen, and his level of grooming is excessive). It’s because his body is the only thing in his entire life that he’s consistently able to keep clean.

Logan tilts his head back beneath the scalding spray, rinses away the scents and fluids of mediocre sex; and reflects on the irony that fucking a twenty-five year old former Laker Girl with a preference for anal has become boring. The fact that he’s reached this state of jadedness before even graduating high school adds an extra fillip of ridiculousness. His life is a circus. He’s one witness shy of an ankle tracker, and boasts a murderer dad and suicide mom. His sister’s lawyers and his are battling to either hide or find money in the Caymans. And the love of his life is dating his former best friend; who, as far as Logan can tell, once raped her while she was unconscious.

Apparently, dubious blackout sex with a side of perceived incest is as nothing, compared to the crime of burning a vacant public pool.

Jesus, it’s 10:30 in the morning, and he needs a fucking drink.

He climbs out, towels off, gazes at his red-eyed hungover face in the mirror. Decides screw it, he’s not shaving. Winds the bath sheet around his waist, grabs a cloth to dry his hair, and heads out for another glorious day of shit-faced video games.

Unfortunately, Veronica Mars has infiltrated his bedroom. She’s straightening lamps and fretting, wearing the clench-jawed sour-pickle expression that never means anything good.

He sighs. No matter how much she claims to hate him, she’s always in angry orbit, punching to disguise her urge to caress. And while nobody can take a punch and give back attitude like Logan Echolls, he really doesn’t have it in him today. He’s dealt with angry psychosexual machinations all morning, game face firmly in place. Now he wants peace and quiet, since clearly nobody will give him tenderness.

“I love what you’ve done with the place,” she says, sarcasm set to kill, and her nostrils actually FLARE as she meets his eyes. He wants to smile. Veronica won’t admit it, because she never admits anything, but she ADORES the way he smells.

“Now you know what you’ve been missing,” he retorts, with an eyebrow bob and ta-da gesture, because theatrics piss her off. “So, to what do I owe the honor of this illegal and frighteningly intrusive—not to say stalkery—visit?”

“If you hate company so much, you should lock your doors.” She spits the words like bullets, her gaze fixed firmly on the join of his abdomen and toweling. She turns away with a jerk, takes an exaggerated sniff, and God damn it, she’s so freaking adorable when pissed. “But I don’t need to be a detective to know you’ve already HAD a visitor this morning. Your room REEKS of bimbo.”

He gives in and laughs. Does some dramatic sniffing himself. “Mmmm,” he says, rolling the word around his mouth like bourbon, which makes her go even MORE rigid. “You know, it DOES.”

“You won’t think this is funny when Big Dick shows up with his Dirty Harry gun,” she accuses. Gets up in his face, pointing a finger like a sword. Her pissed-off blue glare is feline, her lower lip trembles with the force of tooth-gritting, and he can smell HER now; the white-flower-and-musk scent of Promises, the burnt sugar under-layer of body wash, the warm-sunshine tang of her skin. A wave of longing rolls through him, and he struggles to cling to the argument’s thread.

“If Big Dick knew how to USE his Dirty Harry, his wife wouldn’t come crying to me,” Logan snaps, and yeah, that lights the fuse. He’s officially made her so angry she’ll throw caution to the wind.

She advances on him, and he refuses to retreat before her five feet of incandescent rage; she’s actually kind of scary, which elicits the expected boner. Nothing on Earth turns him on like fighting with Veronica Mars. He knows it’s sick, but who cares? Anyone who thinks he’s free of issues hasn’t been paying attention.

“You LIKE it, don’t you?” she demands, and he finds himself stooping so she can get in his face better, her breath fanning, fierce and minty, across his skin. “You love the thrill of the dangerous and wrong, and you don’t care if it KILLS you someday!”

It’s not so much that he WANTS to die as that he knows his odds aren’t good, and he’s not interested in living scared. He considers telling her this, but he likes her provoked, not pitying. So instead he says, “Guilty. And no matter how much you deny, I’ve got this WEIRD feeling I’m not alone. So what do you say, Veronica? Feel like taking a walk on the wild side? I’ll be your adrenaline overdose, and I’ll never tell a soul. Let’s go down in flames together, behaving really, REALLY badly.”

He spreads his arms in mocking invitation. And that’s when the towel, loosened by the twin forces of outsized movements and his raging hard-on, falls to the floor.

They both look down at the definitive proof of his non-indifference. Veronica turns bright red and spins away, but seems rooted to the spot.

Logan smiles.

He steps forward, tucks her bangs behind her ear, and whispers into it, “You know you want to, Veronica.”

She does a full-body shudder, breath coming in rapid pants—then, before he can parse what’s happening, she’s shoved him back against the wall, and she’s kissing him like the world’s about to end.

She climbs him, her very own Mount Everest. He unsnaps her jeans and shoves his hands down the back, cupping her ass in his palms, grinding them together. The denim seam chafes, but he does not care, because VERONICA MARS wants to fuck his brains out. He’s not the least bit bored anymore.

He shoves her shirt and blazer up over her head, and she’s not wearing a bra. The gorgeous, rose pink nipples on which he lavished so much summer backseat attention are hard enough to cut steel.

He fumbles behind him as she loses interest in his mouth and bites his throat, manages to yank her boots off. Then he works her jeans down enough to get his hand into the front. His middle finger slides across her clit. Her eyes glaze over, and her head falls back, like it’s suddenly too heavy to hold upright.

Logan carries her across the room--Jesus, she weighs almost nothing--sets her on the edge of the desk; sweeps he doesn’t give a fuck what off the surface with an impatient shove. Strips her jeans down her legs, while she stares at him with half-mast eyes and kiss-swollen lips. Bobs his eyebrows at her, and sinks to his knees.

The soft gasp she gives as he sucks her sex makes his dick jerk, in a way none of Kendall’s coy posturing managed. She tastes musky and clean, drenched and creamy, and he wants inside her pussy like he wants to be free. So instead he draws things out. Taunts her, makes her shove forward for the contact she needs, lets her moan and whimper and beg. He tests her tightness with a careful finger, then a second…he’s seen Duncan in gym class, and the guy’s best asset is clearly his wallet.

She rubs herself furiously against his tongue and comes with a thin cry. Logan’s more turned on right this minute, with his face between Veronica’s legs, than he can ever remember being.

He slides up her body, still thrusting with his fingers, gives each of her nipples a suck, and then remembers. The condoms are in the drawer of his nightstand, and he hasn’t changed the sheets on the bed. And he KNOWS Veronica—if he gives her time to think, or reminds her why they’re fighting, she’ll come to her senses and run.

That’s the last thing he wants. He’d like to fuck her every way he can think of, at least twice, and then MAYBE they can break for food, rest, and prayers of thanks.

He explores inside her, watching her face, until he locates what’s clearly her g-spot, and then he plays with that, circling her clit with his thumb. He stares into her eyes the whole time, and she stares back, unblinking. He smirks when she comes, works a third finger in as the contractions ease. She growls, throat convulsing, and grabs his wrist, nails digging deep.

“You know what I’d like to do?” he asks conversationally, nibbling the rim of her ear. “Fuck you everywhere I’ve imagined in my fantasies, over the years. All the locations, all the activities. Like a Greatest Hits Tour of Logan Echolls’ Rotation, featuring frequent guest star, Veronica Mars. I want to spend all DAY fucking you, from one end of this town to the other. And I want you to enjoy every pervy moment as much as you do in my dreams.”

He’s been playing with her cunt throughout his speech; she’s so wet and delicious he can’t leave it alone. She’s managing three fingers easily now, undulating against his hand; he kisses her gently and decides to leave her wanting more. “Twice in ten minutes,” he murmurs against her cheek, easing his fingers free. “Just imagine how good it will feel when we REALLY get started.”

She gives him a look like a triple-dog-dare and says, “You talk big, but I’d like to see you prove it.” Then she shoves him backwards and gets up to dress, tugging at her clothes like she’s mad and not eager. With one last searing glance that kills him dead, she says, “I’ll wait in the car.”

He yanks on clothes as she sails out, battling the urge to race after. Locates a box of condoms and a brand new bottle of lube in the nightstand, shoves them in his pockets. Hides all the bedding in the closet, figuring the housekeeper will get the hint.

Logan shivers, just a little, as the front door slams, both nervous and deeply excited, and ponders which fantasy to indulge.

XXXXX

She snaps her phone shut as he climbs into the car—no doubt she’s been telling her clueless boyfriend lies—and asks where they’re going. Because of course she does. She’s Veronica Mars, compulsive about the details.

“Patience is a virtue,” he murmurs, virtuously, shifting gears. Driving’s another thing Logan loves. It takes skill, concentration and precision timing, and nobody can ‘help’ and fuck it up.

“So’s honesty,” she retorts, and he laughs. It’s such a rare and fleeting thing, to have Veronica exactly where he wants her.

“Nobody’s perfect,” he says, sailing around a corner in a pristine arc, gently increasing speed. “Lucky for you, I have other talents.”

She says nothing, nor does she look at him, but her averted cheek flushes an enticing pale pink. Logan’s half-deflated erection returns.

When he pulls into the deserted Neptune High lot, she gets that look on her face, the one that means she’s nearing exasperation meltdown. He smiles inwardly, tamping down excitement. Tries to keep the inciting smirk off his face, but GOD. Taunting her into a passion is his favorite pastime.

“Logan,” she says, eminently over-reasonable to disguise her lack of true rationality, “why are we at school?”

“My first fantasy, remember? You said you were up for it. You claimed, and I quote, ‘anything goes’?” He waves a dramatic arm; the smirk makes a fleeting appearance, despite his best efforts. “Well, this is my ‘anything’.”

“I am NOT doing it in the girl’s bathroom,” she says. “That’s only for make-outs with CLOTHES.”

“No, the girl’s bathroom was a recurrent JUNIOR year fetish,” he says. “But my FIRST fantasy pre-dates that. Come on, it’s easier just to show you.”

He hops from the car, extends a flourishing hand to help her down. She eyes him, takes it, scoots across the seat, and he lifts her gently. Logan would never tell her this, but he enjoys the disparity between her light, delicate shape and her balls-out aggro personality, constantly striving to knock him down a peg. The ferocity behind her prettiness is his kink, he feels. He loves never knowing what she’ll try next.

They walk side by side to the building, gilded by late-afternoon sun. He holds her hand, she allows it, which makes the thrum of excitement in his gut double. He glances pointedly at her bag, when they stop by a service door; she stares back for a moment, sighs, and extracts a ring of keys. Uses one to unlock the school, and they ease inside.

It’s silent and dark, track lights along the baseboard the only illumination, but he knows the way to the girl’s gym. He leads her, and when they’re safely inside, he hits the overhead. Fluorescence floods through, and yeah, this is just like he imagined.

“So back when you used to be a cheerleader,” he starts, and she groans.

“REALLY, Logan? A cheerleader fantasy? Could you BE any more hackneyed?”

“Back when VERONICA MARS WAS A CHEERLEADER,” he continues, “AND on the pep squad, AND a member of dance team, AND could do the splits, which she used to practice at Lilly’s house in ways that drove me CRAZY…”

“My splits drove you crazy?” she asks, seeming pleased, because she’s slightly evil.

“You have no idea,” he says. “Flexibility is an important feature of cheerleader fantasies. Anyway, back when you were the personification of pep, I would wait for you with Duncan outside the gym, after practice. You had to shower, because Pink Veronica Mars was ALWAYS squeaky clean. And I’d imagine that one day, you asked me to wait, but Duncan wasn’t around.

“My fantasy was, I’d lurk, you wouldn’t show, so I’d knock on the locker room door. No answer. I’d peek inside. Deserted. I’d tiptoe in, worried. Did something happen? Were you hurt?

“But unh-uh. You were in the shower, having fun with the soap. Making yourself all sweet-smelling and clean. And when you saw me, you’d finish up, and smile, and wrap yourself in a towel. Approach all pink and scrubbed, and say, “I need your help”.

“I’d say, ‘You know I’ll help with anything’, and you’d say, ‘I have this problem. Duncan wants to do it for the first time, after prom this year, and I don’t know HOW’.”

She snorts, and he shushes her. “I’d say, ‘This sounds like YOUR problem, not mine’ and you’d say, ‘Logan, I know you can do this. You can make it feel good instead of hurt, and you can teach me how to please him. You can show me what boys really want’.

“So I’d guide you down onto that bench, right there.” He points, pulse throbbing; his dick’s twitching at the memory, not to mention the considering way she’s watching. “I’d give a step-by-step, VERY thorough tutorial. I’d make you come for the first time with a dick inside you. And in the process, I’d make you forget all about HIM.”

“This is why you got Duncan so drunk on Schnapps, during freshman prom,” she surmises, with typical astuteness. “Lilly told you he had a whole seduction planned.”

Logan shrugs, affecting easiness, but feels a little exposed. “I didn’t get my fantasy,” he says. “But neither did he.”

“Well, I finally played out his, back at the Neptune Grand,” she says, turning away so he can’t see her face. She removes her bag, then her jacket, and he can feel his pulse thrumming in his wrists. “Maybe it’s time to even things up.”

Her shirt comes off, her pale skin washed paler in the greenish light--she toes off her boots. Her hands reach back, steady and sure, detach the clasp of her bra. She looks back at him over her shoulder as it slips down her arms, and shimmies free of her jeans.

The boner he’s been suffering for forty-five minutes comes back full force as she turns on the spray, tests it with one delicate hand. She’s watching him, sly; considering ways she can use this newfound power to torment him. He ought to be scared, but Jesus. He wants her to try them all.

She squirts soap into her hand from the dispenser on the wall, begins, idly, to massage her breasts, humming sweet, clear soprano notes in a way calculated to drive him insane. She turns her face up to the water, smiling. Trails her soapy hands down her belly, around to her ass. Stops.

“You know, I had a bath this morning,” she says, and she’s for sure torturing him now, because her hands stay splayed out flat. She’s doing her best not to smile. “Can we move on? This just feels….silly and unnecessary.”

“My fantasy, my rules,” he tells her. “You’re SWEATY from cheerleading practice and you need to BATHE.”

She rolls her eyes, dispenses more soap, and makes a production of washing beneath her arms. “It’s so WEIRD,” she says, in that fake Amber voice she uses to con unsuspecting saps. “But suddenly I feel really DIRTY!”

He fights back a smile and folds his arms, while she rinses with typical meticulousness, bends to take a towel from the shelf. She approaches, pink and scrubbed, barely covered with thin greying terry from collarbones to hips. Her hair clings to her neck in damp skeins, and she smells like lemon dish detergent. He swallows. “You wanted to speak to me?” he asks, gazing down her cleavage.

“I have this problem,” she says, voice gone husky, carefully watching. For clues, he realizes, as to how she’ll make him unravel. “You know I’m a…” she takes a deep breath, glances away. Looks back, determined, and he realizes this is more to her than just a game. “I’m a virgin. And I want to enjoy myself in bed—I want to please my guy—but I don’t know how. When we…I’ve….tried. But I get uptight, and can’t relax. You could help me, though, Logan. I’m sure of that. You know EXACTLY what to do.”

He feels locked with her, somehow, like it’s impossible to look away. He didn’t think, he NEVER thinks, about the undertones of this request. And yet….it’s perfect. He CAN help her, if she’s willing to let him. Which it seems like, remarkably, she IS.

“I shouldn’t,” he says, voice soft. “Because Duncan’s my best friend. But I can’t say no to you, when you look at me that way.” He touches fingertips to her temple, draws them down her cheek. Her skin is soft, velvety, and she watches while he touches her like she’ll never look away. “Just tell me what you want. I’m game.”

“I want to come with you inside me,” she says. “I want to know what that feels like, while I look into your eyes.”

He nods. “It’s going to take a while. Are you sore?”

She shakes her head, and he says, “Then let’s start slow. Because this particular variation is all about lubrication, and you won’t get wet if you’re not relaxed. Or properly warmed up.”

Logan extends a hand, and she takes it, curling her dainty fingers through his. He grabs a handful of towels from the rack and cushions the bench, helps her have a seat. Goes off to search out a stopper; shoves it under the door, so they won’t be interrupted by some overzealous janitor, making the rounds. She sits primly, hands folded in her lap, watching. When he returns, he kneels at her feet.

“First things first,” he says. “We lose the towel. And then we kiss, until you warm up and get comfortable. There’s no rush, and there’s nothing you can do that’s wrong, so just…give me a sign, when I touch you in a way you like.”

“You know how to touch me,” she says, and he wonders how much she’s still playing a game, here.

“I’ve never been inside you, Veronica,” he says. “But I really, really want to be. Not until you’re ready, though. Not until you crave it as much as I do.”

He kisses her cheek, and she sighs, eyes fluttering shut. He kisses her mouth. She opens for him, soft and pliant, not passive exactly (because come on, she’s Veronica) but expectant. Waiting for his next move. He curves his palm around her throat and strokes her tongue with his, hand planted on the bench beside her. His hips twitch, but he refrains from grinding them against her primly shut shins.

His palm smooths down as he kisses her chin, her jaw, thumb tracing her collarbone. So delicate and fragile, so feminine and sweet. He runs his tongue over the spot beneath her ear, and she moans, knees falling open. He caresses it with his teeth, and tugs apart the towel.

Her nipples are tight knots, her skin humid and damp. A thrill runs through him as he breathes on her shoulder, and her chest breaks out in gooseflesh. He licks between her breasts, strokes one under-curve with his nose, and she gasps. He draws a circle around her nipple with his tongue, and puts his hand between her legs.

She’s wet, Jesus, she’s DRIPPING wet, she must love this fantasy as much as he does, which doesn’t say much for Donut’s bedroom prowess. He pushes two fingers into her and caresses her clit with his thumb, sucking gently and steadily while she gasps. She spreads her legs wider, shoving her pussy against his hand. “Mmmm,” he murmurs, switching breasts, and scissors his fingers carefully apart. She squeaks, and he presses deeper, using his teeth on her nipple now, luxuriating in her soft whines.

“I have to put on a rubber,” he says, making sure to breathe on her skin, and the noise this elicits sounds like a plea. He gathers up her hand, presses it to her own cunt; she, no dummy, picks up his intent. Begins, delicate, to caress herself, pinky finger raised.

He fumbles out his wallet, so turned on after roughly an hour of foreplay that he’s not sure he can pull of this hat trick, tugs apart the condom packet with slippery hands. Shucks his cargoes to his knees, not bothering to undress. Coats himself with her lube before he rolls on the rubber, so he can feel it next to his skin.

“Hang on to the bench,” he advises, looking into her eyes; the sight of her, half-lidded, legs spread, toying with herself is almost too much. He grasps a thigh in each hand, eases gently in.

She’s incredibly tight, like she might actually BE a virgin, and his lips peel back from his teeth as he fights the urge to drive deep and luxuriate. He closes his eyes, head falling back, and thrusts slowly, shallow nudges, in and out, just the first few inches. She moans, low in her throat, so he presses harder.

She takes him, bit by bit, fingertips dancing over her clit, face and chest flushing red. He kisses her passionately, curling his hands around her ass, and uses this grip to rock them, deep and intimate but not rough.

Her eyes snap open, and she looks at him, flushed and feral, sweet and wild. He stares into them as she comes, with a full body shudder and deep hungry contractions. It’s sublime. He groans, lust gushing free, and Jesus, it’s so perfect he almost wants to weep.

Veronica’s small hand curls around his jaw, thumb stroking his cheekbone, and she smiles, just a little. “I knew you could show me,” she says.

He presses his face into her throat. And for just a moment, his masochistic need for her total attention stings less.

XXXXX

They dress awkwardly, pitchforked into a level of intimacy neither finds comfortable; he studies her in stolen glances. She seems….shell-shocked, maybe? Moving slowly, lost in thought, the way she gets on a case before she says, “I know what happened.” He wonders if she’s analyzing him, and what conclusions she’ll draw. He’s fairly certain they’ll be unexpected.

He’s buttoning his cargoes when she turns on him abruptly, reverie ended. Her face is full of resolve. “So where to next?” she demands, stalking closer. “Sorority house? Catwalk? What’s number two on Logan Echolls’ so-far-predictable list of fantasies?”

Logan feels a grin pull at his lips, converts it to a smirk at the last moment. “You want MORE?” he demands. “Why Veronica Mars! Once might be construed as a heat-of-the-moment mistake, and twice could be years of repression breaking through the dam. But when you fuck your boyfriend’s ex-BFF for the third time in a row, I think it officially qualifies as an affair.”

“He’s not my boyfriend,” she says, uncannily perceptive gaze fixed on him. “We broke up today.”

“How?” Logan demands. “Carrier pigeon? You started hang-up-calling me an hour before you showed. You must have been stalking me since bright and early.”

“I left him a voicemail,” she snaps. “While I was waiting for you in the car. After I let you…on the desk…it didn’t seem right not to end things.”

Logan imagines Duncan’s face, listening to this message, and it proves too much. He doubles over laughing, and keeps at it ‘til he wheezes.

“Alas poor Donut,” he manages finally, when his eyes stop tearing. “He stakes out your job every day for three months until he wears your defenses down, and lures you into bed. But the spine-melting rage caused by me banging someone hot was TOO MUCH for your carefully crafted love to withstand.”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” she says. “We would never have lasted. He wears tighty-whities and sleeps with a special blanket. I was at the end of my rope.”

The smile breaks through, despite his best efforts, and she ALMOST smiles back. “The Crab Shack,” he tells her.

“I beg your pardon?” She lifts both blonde eyebrows, favoring him with the bitchy, skeptical, yet also flirtatious look that’s like a match to his kerosene.

“The Crab Shack. That shitty dive bar over by the Hearst Campus. It’s the locale of my next fantasy.”

“Let me guess,” she muses, casting her eyes to the heavens, tapping her lower lip with a finger. “Bikini night?”

“Oooh, nice,” he says. “But nope. You’re fine in your t-shirt and jeans. For this one, you’re a liberal arts major who picks me up in a bar, because you want to get…experimental.”

“I am NOT doing a threesome with Bambi the Stripper,” she says, folding her arms. “My compliance depends on you picking fantasies I enjoy.”

“Not that kind of experimental,” he chides. “Sheesh, Veronica. Has the magic gone out of our liaison ALREADY? I still haven’t done all the dirty variations with YOU.”

“Which variations did you have in mind? And we can’t go to a bar, we’re not twenty-one.”

“Oh, like you don’t have forty-seven fake ID’s. And didn’t make me a bulletproof one to match, back when you still liked me. I think you should be Inga the Massage Therapist, in fact. You have MAGIC hands.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” she says, as he unstoppers the door and holds it open. She passes under his arm, into the darkened hall.

“Well first, you’ll buy me a drink,” he says. “And proposition me. Suggest very subtly that there are things you’d like to do but can’t, with an actual BOYFRIEND…because all the ‘nice guys’ you’ve dated WON’T. You’ve had your eye on me since I walked in. Not only am I INSANELY hot, but I’m obviously up for anything. And I’d do it with a smile.”

“I guess THAT doesn’t stretch the imagination,” she says, and he snorts.

“Then you take me back to your place, where I produce these,” he shows her the box of Magnums and the bottle of lube, which he’s stashed in a pocket of his cargoes. “And say, pick your poison.”

“Oh, you just HAPPEN to be carrying around extra-large rubbers and a brand new bottle of lube?” she demands.

“Ever hopeful,” he says, and she actually laughs.

“Can we skip the dive bar, and just head back to my place?” she asks. “Dad’s in San Antonio, and I’d like to use the bathroom someplace non-disgusting.”

“Done,” he says, and escorts her to the car.

XXXXX

He can’t get used to her tiny apartment.

It offends him on a primal level; not just the miniscule size and shabbiness of it, but the fact that SHE has to live here, when clearly she wants (and deserves) more. Her earnest efforts to make her room pretty, with paint, and pillows, and pictures appliqued to the walls, pulls an aching tender sensation from his heart.

If they were adults, and she gave a shit about him, he would house her somewhere worthy. Not tacky and ostentatious, like his own home, but elegant and harmonious, with room to breathe. Bright colors, he’d give her, warm woods, with a minimum of stuff, all deeply meaningful. Passionate and vivid, yet clean-lined and organized, the way she is. He’d pay whatever, and wouldn’t bat an eye.

Backup approaches, wagging furiously, and Logan kneels to shower him with affection. He’s trained this dog carefully from puppyhood to view him as friend, sneaking in premium treats, scratching all his favorite spots. For one, it ensured the dog wouldn’t bark, when he and Lilly snuck Veronica out. For another, Logan will do what it takes to earn uncomplicated love.

He and the pit bull are settled on the couch, channel surfing, when Veronica re-emerges from her bedroom. He looks up, and here comes the smile again, because she’s dressed completely in black. Her hair’s pulled back into a severe knot; she’s wearing square plastic-framed nerd glasses and red lipstick, like a parody of a beatnik.

She saunters over to the fridge, extracts two sodas, and approaches the couch. Flops beside him with studied carelessness, hands him a drink, and takes away the remote to turn off the TV.

“You fascinate me,” she says, in a vaguely German accent, solemn and pretentious, staring into his eyes. “I’m unable to tear away my gaze.”

“Do tell,” he says, amused, stretching an arm along the couch behind her. “Is it my devastating good looks? Or the hints of a dark and mysterious past, lurking behind my eyes?”

Her eyes twinkle but she’s a pro; she stays in character. “Your Byronic aura,” she corrects. “Decadent yet vulnerable. Mad, bad and dangerous to know. I would like to paint you, en dishabille. And perhaps explore with you primal Freudian urges. The beast within.”

“Funny thing about Freud,” he confides, inching closer, trailing a pinkie down her arm. “He said the things we do, consciously, are the tip of the iceberg, compared to what we’d LIKE to do, in secret.”

“Perhaps we should be undersea explorers,” she says, not quite straight-faced. “There’s a stage of development where I seem to be stuck.”

When Kendall made a similar hint this morning, he played dumb. But this suggestion out of Veronica’s mouth has an instant libidinous effect. He kisses her; her response removes all doubt she means it.

“Practice makes perfect,” he says, when he has to surface for air. He takes off her glasses and tosses them behind the couch. “I’ll be the soul of discretion. We can explore your inner beast to your heart’s content, and I will never, ever tell.”

He’s joking, but this seems to enflame her beyond the bounds of playacting. Her intensity triples. Before he can even clock what’s happening, she’s on his lap, and her top is gone; she’s kissing the living hell out of him, grinding like she means it.

“Bedroom?” he suggests, panting, when she breaks away to strip off his shirt. “Any danger of Keith coming home and planting a shotgun between my eyes?”

“He’s in San Antonio,” she reminds him, unsnapping her bra and throwing it across the room. “But if you have a problem with Backup watching we should probably go back there anyway, and lock him out.”

“My only concern is avoiding windows,” he says. “Because if someone takes a telephoto shot of me getting busy, now that I’m a legal adult? It’ll end up published in the Star.”

“This is what intrigues me about you,” she tells him, in the fake German voice, climbing off to shimmy out of her jeans. “Your esoteric connection with the cinema. The way the light strikes the planes of your face. I would like to film you, brooding. In black and white, at sunset.”

“Can I wander through a graveyard, dressed like Death?” he asks, because he too has seen student films. She snickers, presses his palm between her legs, sinking her teeth into his earlobe with just the right amount of pressure.

“Holding flowers,” she confirms, and he picks her up. Carries her naked and red-lipsticked into the tiny bedroom at the back, kicks shut the door.

He sets her on the bed and studies her, arms crossed. She props up on her elbows, watching back, and it seems they’re at an impasse. Like they both want the same thing, but aren’t sure how to get past the awkwardness, and feelings. Logan realizes he’ll have to smooth the way--she doesn’t do social graces well.

He toys with the snap on his cargoes, thinking, and her eyes rivet there, which is entirely flattering. He teases at the zipper, flipping the tab up and down. “Tell me more about this movie you want to make. Describe the plot. My daddy always said, read the script. And don’t jump unless it’s great, or they offer eight figures.”

“First, you need to be naked,” she says, trying for the accent but not very hard. “It’s an ART film.”

He toes off his shoes, one then the other, reaches up to stretch. “And what happens next?”

“We have a long conversation about mortality while playing chess?” she ventures, and damn it, FEELINGS.

“That does not….sound primal,” he chides, shucking his khakis. He sets the condoms and lube on her bedside table, and crawls over her. Collapses to the side. Traces a finger between her breasts, down to her navel. Draws a little circle inside it, watching her.

“You touch me,” she says. “The way you did at the gym. And then you use your mouth, because if we’re channeling Freud, the first stage is…oral…”

She makes a soft sound as he slips his hand between her legs, testing sensitivity and wetness, barely skimming with fingertips. His knuckle dips down towards her ass, tracing circles, and the sighs turns to gasps that make him wholly hard. She’s into this variation. She likes the way it feels.

He kisses the tip of her nose, easing a finger, experimentally, into her ass; shifts his body down the bed so he can see better. He bends her knee, foot flush to the mattress, licks over her clit with the flat of his tongue.

“Do you have a vibrator?” he asks, using her moisture to lubricate as he probes deeper. She’s writhing, pushing towards his hand, bucking up against his tongue as he sucks at her clit. He presses his cock hard to the mattress to dampen his arousal. “Like a little one? Something appropriate for good girls who shouldn’t?”

“I…what? NO!” She looks up at him, both turned-on and outraged. He eases his finger out, back in, and she bites her lip, eyes clenching shut. “I know you’re making fun of me, but I don’t DO things like this. I don’t…”

“Shhhh,” he says, disengaging. He crawls up behind her, wraps his arms around her belly, kisses her ear. “Not making fun, deciding how best to proceed. I’m a delicate flower, and I wilt if I think I’m hurting you.”

“You’re NOT hurting me,” she says, with a sardonic undertone, and he kisses the nape of her neck. Reaches across her to the nightstand, secures the lube, and secrets a condom in his fist.

“Good,” he says, softly. “Because I don’t want to stop.” He squirts a puddle of lube into his palm and smooths it between her legs, over and around her already-drenched pussy, backwards. She moans as he circles her ass and slips two fingers in, just a little, carefully. God, every bit of her is dainty, which makes him feel like a caveman. Huge and greedy and clumsy, outside wanting oh so badly in.

He pushes one arm beneath her and flattens his palm against her cunt, caressing all around her clit without touching it as he fucks her ass with his fingers. She begins to moan in time with his thrusts, rocking backwards. He presses his cock to her left cheek, denim strangling him, and fights hard not to come. “Tell me how it feels,” he entreats, needing a free hand to get his pants off, but unwilling to stop his very enjoyable current activities. “What do you like about the things I’m doing?”

“The other way,” she whispers, “it felt good when you pushed IN. This way…” he groans because he knows where she’s going, and her hand curls around his, holding it to her sex. “Oh, God, just DO it, Logan. I’m SO ready.”

He removes his hands from her person, gets up to shuck his cargoes, and realizes his fingers are shaking. It takes him two tries to get the condom open and suit up, while she watches, nude and heavy-lidded. He can barely manage the application of lube to his dick, because he’s so turned on the slightest touch thrills.

He curves back behind her, trying to control his breathing, carefully positions himself amidst all the sticky wet. The crown of his cock penetrates, pushes slowly past resistant muscle. He closes his eyes and breathes through the bliss of it, while she makes powder soft noises and runs her fingertips, exploratory, down his length. She touches the spot where they’re joined, with a sharp exhale, and he rocks deeper. She moans, and he’s fucked. He HAS to move, he’s afraid the pleasure will kill him.

Logan puts his hand back over her cunt, begins the avoid-the-clit massage that succeeded so spectacularly a minute ago, and works his way in with greedy rolls of his hips, gripping her thigh hard. She’s saying his name now, interspersed with curse words, every time he thrusts, nails digging into his wrist. Moisture gushes out of her, drenching his hand; he loses it in great, heaving pulses, possibly the best orgasm he’s ever had. He pushes two fingers into her pussy, caressing her g-spot as she fiercely contracts. Kisses her nape, and surrenders to glorious semi-consciousness.

XXXXX

By the time he manages to rouse himself, she’s asleep, worn out by the combined force of her rages and passions.

He disengages with a wince, pinching the condom tight, studies her as he ties it off. She looks like the sweet-but-never-sugary Veronica he remembers, before all the shit between them happened. Her soft mouth is vulnerable, slightly parted--her breath pants out in quick little huffs that make him smile. She even sleeps intensely.

After a quick flush of the rubber, he uses her awful shower to clean up, wincing at the anemic lukewarm trickle. Wishes fiercely, once again, that he was allowed to take her away from all this. He wets a cloth and carries it back to the bedroom to clean her, face and lips and throat, pretty tits and belly and hot, sticky sex. She sighs under his ministrations, corners of her mouth twitching, but doesn’t wake.

He tucks the blankets up around her, locks her bedroom door just in case. Pulls his boxers on so she won’t think he’s presuming, and climbs back in behind her. He draws her body close, his forehead to her cheek. Logan sighs, breathing in her sweet and musky girl scent, and lets himself drift slowly down into peace.

XXXXX

When he wakes, it’s dark outside the curtained window, and she’s watching him.

He stares back, the moment stretching out—the intimacy feels vulnerable. She knows things about him now, things he’d never otherwise have told. He’s guessed a couple of her secrets, too. A year ago, he might have used this knowledge to keep her on a frantic edge…would he humiliate her, by telling? Could she bully or blackmail him into keeping his mouth shut?

But now, it makes his heart twist painfully that she’s trusted him…with her body, her desires. She’s let him in so eagerly, beneath the play-acting. Her faith is a delicious banquet he doesn’t deserve, and shouldn’t eat; he’s been a shit to her, in awful, life-altering ways. But he WANTS it. He craves her, curled softly into him, watching his face with knowing eyes, accepting his touch. He most desires what he’s worked tirelessly to prevent.

“Should I be worried?” he asks, voice raspy with sleep, and strokes a palm down the silky curve of her spine. “Are you plotting my downfall?”

She bares her teeth at him and he grins. “I need to eat,” she says. “Then I want to do another fantasy.”

“Come ON,” he scoffs, but she seems serious. He scrubs a hand over his face and squints at her, one-eyed, which doesn’t budge her resolve. “Veronica,” he coaxes. “You’ve GOT to be sore at this point. You’re little, and I’m…not, and we’ve done some pretty advanced stuff, for our first day of home base. I’m more than happy to pick this back up next week, when you’ve had a chance to recuperate. In fact, it would be my PLEASURE.”

“I’m FINE,” she insists. “I don’t want to wait.”

“Well you’ll have to,” he says. “Because I’m not going to hurt you in any way ever again.”

She lifts her brows at this, and he glances away, abashed. Someday maybe he’ll learn to keep his mouth shut, at critical moments. “Logan,” she says, softly, and it’s the coaxing voice he dreads. He knows it will be accompanied by the calculating gaze, which he finds hard to resist; or worse, by the limpid stare, which turns him to jelly.

“Logan,” she says again, into his ear, resting a palm on his belly. The warm breath combined with her cool, stroking fingers makes him groan. “I need to hear the rest of the story. I want to know what you’ve been thinking about me, when you’re turned on and alone.”

Crap, he realizes, I made it a mystery. The Secret Of Logan’s True Feelings. His natural defensive evasiveness comes into play; he wants to deflect her and wiggle free. But she’s toying with the hair just below his navel, and he knows, oh God he knows, that he’ll end up doing whatever she wants. Because stupid and futile as it is, he loves her. And some masochistic part of him wants her to guess.

“All right, Uncle,” he says, as her hand creeps lower. “One more. But no penetration until I’m sure you’re a hundred percent. And I’m picking a scenario that involves food, so you don’t faint.”

“You can CHOOSE?” she asks, fascinated. “Just how many fantasies ARE there?”

“Of you?” he asks, lifting his brows. “Come on, Veronica. I jerk off every day, pretty much, whether I’m getting laid or not. I got high marks in kindergarten for my vivid imagination. And no matter how easy it is for you to dismiss our summer fling, I fell in love. That kind of connection doesn’t just…spring up overnight.”

She looks down at her hand, flattens it against his belly. “Breaking up with you wasn’t easy,” she says.

“I beg your pardon?” he asks, even though he REALLY doesn’t want to talk about this. Like, he’d rather get punched repeatedly in the face. “It sure SEEMED easy. Not as easy as dumping Duncan, apparently, because you had the courtesy to ditch me to my face, but it’s not like you PINED.”

“Oh, and you did?” she demands, rearing back. “You proved today you can hop out of one girl’s bed and into another’s in the space of an HOUR. There’s no way in hell I could beat that record, no matter how flip and shallow you think I am.”

“Technically it was my bed,” he says, because no way can she expect to go there and come out unscathed. “And in Kendall’s defense, SHE was invited.”

He disentangles, grabs his cargoes off the floor, yanks them on in preparation to getting the fuck out. Then he makes the mistake of looking at her, kneeling up nude on the bed. He takes in her angry face and wounded eyes, and his fury fades. She’s let him inside in so many significant ways today. She dumped Duncan so she could be with him; then stayed, although he’s a bad-choice-making dumbass who can’t keep it in his pants. And he does love her, even when she hurts him. He does.

He extends his hand along the mattress, palm up. She stares for a minute, and then lays hers on top. Their fingers twine. “I’m an asshole,” he says. “But I’m glad to be here. I’m sorry.”

She looks down at the place they’re joined, swallows. “I wanted life to be like the teen movies,” she says. “You know? I felt I’d earned my happily ever after, by solving Lilly’s murder. But you wouldn’t play along. You dove headfirst into destroying yourself. And I was….I had feelings for you, too, and I couldn’t stand to WATCH…”

Her jaw juts up and her face turns, a typical Veronica move to keep the tears in check. He leans forward and kisses her between the eyes. “I’m an asshole,” he repeats. “You were right to leave, and I’m lucky you’re even talking to me, much less….all this. I just…don’t have a lot of experience with normal, Veronica. And I spent too long pretending to be something I’m not, while cameras flashed.”

She shakes her head. “You have SO MANY good qualities, when you’re just being yourself,” she says, under her breath. “But I doubt you even recognize that. You certainly don’t cultivate them.”

“Why haven’t you kicked me out?” he asks, abruptly tired of games. “Why are you so insistent on another fantasy? What’s your angle?”

“Can’t it be enough that I want to spend time with you?” she asks. “Do I really need to explain?”

He studies her for a moment, her carefully shuttered expression, her intent blue eyes, and thinks maybe he understands. This is intimacy without intimacy. It’s a game of make-believe, where she can pretend, for a little while, that their problems don’t exist. It’s a variation of her ‘normal’ fantasy, only he doesn’t have to play-act Duncan. Instead, she gets to stop pretending she’s good. And enjoy herself, for a change.

He can’t deny her that. And he’s too selfish to deny himself.

“All right, next game. You’re a foreign exchange student who’s living in my house for a year. In my fantasy, you’re from Sweden, but if you want to change the country, I won’t mind. The important thing is, you’re uninhibited, and fun, and we love to hang out. We click. You live life to the fullest, say what you think… you’re honest. You enjoy a good laugh.

“And most of all….you LOVE to fuck in public. Right out of view, fast and furious. Where ANYONE might walk up and see.”

A spark of humor, and also interest, brightens her eyes. He can see the gears begin to turn as she dreams up a persona. He smiles, because Jesus; when she’s plotting mayhem, she’s so fucking beautiful. “Where are we eating?” she asks.

“Somewhere, expensive, delicious and casual,” he says. “And you’re a hedonist, so you’ll enjoy it. Wear whatever you want. The less the better.”

He bobs his eyebrows and leers, and something about him acting perverted makes her expression turn yearning. She gazes at him for a moment, intention gathering….then launches into his arms. Grabs his jaw in both hands, and kisses him hard.

Logan takes it, giving back ardency, used to gentling these abrupt starts. He strokes a palm down her throat, curves it around her breast. Circles her nipple with his thumb as they kiss, loving the way her flesh molds to his hand. Adoring her soft, flat belly, her small hands kneading his nape…the way she gives herself wholly to the kiss, utterly committed.

And she calms, under his stroking hands, accepting his affection. She sweetens and relaxes, with the pleasure of being touched.

Finally she breaks away, flashes a radiant smile, eyes half-shut. “You are the BEST kisser,” she says, dreamy-voiced.

Then she scampers off into her closet, presumably to fashion a disguise. He smiles after her, bemused, and whistling, reaches for his shirt.

XXXXX

He’s watching Jeopardy in the living room with the dog, powering through a bag of pretzels, when she emerges. He glances up, prepared to appreciate her ingenuity, and spills his snack all over the floor.

Veronica’s gone full bohemian with the disguise, but in a way he never would have predicted. She’s wearing a black Louise Brooks bobbed wig, a giant bronze necklace with a green palmistry pendant, and very little else.

Her purple cotton halter v’s all the way down to the band, which hits mid-ribcage; it’s tied behind her neck in a neat bow. Her flowered, tiered peasant skirt is gauzy/opaque, and hits above her knees. He can just make out purple panties beneath, likely the only undergarment she’s wearing. She’s got rings on every finger, Cleopatra eyeliner, a belled ankle bracelet above flat sandals; there’s a thin gold chain around her waist that must have been a gift from Lilly. All the skin on display shimmers, somehow, and she smells like exotic spices from folktales.

She smiles crookedly as he continues to stare, and says, “I guess this IS what you had in mind. And here I thought you were all about the prom queens.”

“My tastes are flexible,” he says, setting the bowl on the side table and surging to his feet. He moves to stand over her, and Jesus. The magnetic pull between them is well-nigh irresistible, now that he knows what it’s like to be inside her. He bends to her throat, inhaling the resinous, unfamiliar perfume, and says, “If you keep dressing up in costumes this hot, we’re never going to make it out the door.”

He curls his palm around her breast—he feels possessive, bad sign—tests the nipple with his thumb, bites down gently. She sighs, melting into his grip, then snaps, “NO, Backup!” making him jerk away.

The dog freezes mid-lunge, quivering inches from spilled food, and she disengages to scoop it up. She grabs the bag, carries it into the kitchen; he hears the trash can slam. When she returns, she looks up at him, challenging, says, “Feed me, Seymour,” and hands him his keys.

He kisses her soft, shiny, purple-painted mouth, delving deep, tasting the crevices. He kisses her some more. Never wants to stop. But she’s hungry, he’s trying not to be an asshole, and besides, there’s the whole public tryst scenario, looming. He imagines her in this getup, moaning against a brick alley wall while he pounds her, and suddenly doesn’t mind the delay.

XXXXX

Veronica, it turns out, is brilliant at contemptuously roleplaying morons….but spectacularly shitty at acting laid-back.

She’s loose and relaxed when he’s kissing her, when they’re twined together in bed. But as soon as they’re in transit, she gets nervous about the skimpy/translucent nature of her outfit, and the way she’s not supposed to mind. Her banter grows more forced, her bright smile edges towards a grimace, and she keeps trying to twitch fabric that doesn’t exist over the exposed swath of cleavage.

Logan knows better than to offer her booze; but the vulnerability revealed by her panicked good-girl fidgeting twinges his previously-hardened heart. He remembers their ninth grade Lynn ‘chaperoned’ trip to LA, for the Britney Toxic concert, and what it took to loosen Veronica up that time…and decides to risk a lecture.

“Far be it from me to chastise an actor about character interpretation,” he says, pulling the car onto a leaf-lined empty lot, screened from the road by trees. “But peaches, you’re white-knuckle wringing your hands over there, and fear-panting. That’s not EXACTLY the scenario I had in mind.”

“I can’t go in a restaurant like this,” she says, shooting him an anguished look. “I thought I could, after all the stuff we’ve been doing…I thought, what’s the harm in dressing to kill? But Logan, what if someone I KNOW is in there? What if they tell my DAD?”

He can’t help it; he laughs, a snort of humor at her plight he tries to suppress. She growls frustration, flops back against the seat. After a minute, she laughs, too. “I guess I’m not cut out to be a femme fatale.”

“You’ve had me at your mercy all evening,” he says, and SHE snorts, one blonde brow arching in that bitchy way he loves. “You HAVE. But in my opinion, you need to relax. I can help with that, if you’ll let me.”

“You’ve helped four times already,” she says. “I practically exploded, back at the apartment. If THAT didn’t mellow me out, nothing will.”

“Let’s get high,” he suggests gently, doing his best not to sound peer-pressuring. “Like we did that time at the Britney concert. You were scared then, too, as I recall. But three tiny, non-inhaling hits later, you abruptly became the life of the party.”

“Logan, I spent the entire evening giggling. And demanding you and Duncan give me piggy-back rides. Is that really the way you want your fantasy to unfold?”

“Veronica,” he says, caressing. “As I think I’ve proved already, I’ll give you any kind of ride your heart desires.”

She rolls her eyes, looks down at her hands. Twiddles her thumbs. “Fine,” she says finally, in a barely-there voice. Then, jaw firming, shoots him a determined almost-glare. “I’m game. It wouldn’t be my first step off the path of moral righteousness today. Or even my seventh.”

He digs in his pocket, finds the lube, hands it to her for safekeeping. Watches her read the label while he digs deeper, pulls out a small metal case. He trades her that to play with, while he tosses the lube in the glove box; she slides open the largest compartment, and sniffs the contents.

“What is this thing?” she asks, looking at him sideways.

“A bat.” He upends the box, spilling the pipe into his hand. Holds it up for her inspection. “Cleverly disguised as a cigarette. Slide the weed compartment open and push this in, tip down.” He demonstrates. “The tube’s packed when you twist. Then you light the tip and smoke the usual way.” He detaches the lighter clipped to one side, flicks it gently to make a flame. Enjoys a deep drag before handing the bat over; watches her, breath held, through the haze.

She wrinkles her nose, but takes a quick hit, choking as she pulls smoke into her lungs. Air explodes out of her, little puffs from her nostrils like she’s a small, ill-tempered dragon. He lets loose and laughs, and God does laughter feel good.

Frowning, she tries again, determined to sin correctly--passes the bat back. “Hold the smoke in as long as you can,” he advises, taking one more drag. Then taps the rest out into the ash tray--he wants her mellow, not baked. Intoxication would ruin his plan to take advantage.

She complies. When she releases, it’s with a sigh, and her tension seems to flow out on the smoke. She slumps in the seat, stretches her legs. Rotates her toes in circles, watching intently. Turns to him with a lazy smile, which he feels in both groin and heart.

“This is the nicest sensation,” she says, and shifts her gaze back up to the ceiling. “Kind of floaty, and I’m not thinking about ANYTHING. I have to admit, Logan. I’m enjoying being bad.”

“Mmmm.” He bends a knee, rests his chin on it. “There’s a reason few people try to be good.”

“I’m hungry again,” she muses, which makes Logan laugh. She follows suit, and they giggle helplessly in the hazy car for what seems like hours. When his snickers trail off, and he tucks a strand of hair out of her smiling, shining eyes, he almost says it…”GOD, I love you.”

He doesn’t; he holds the words in, like he did the smoke. But he’s not sure how well he keeps the sentiment hidden.

“I’ve got a…thing you can wear, in back,” he says instead, gesturing with his thumb. Shy, suddenly, about meeting her eyes (and seriously, has he EVER been shy with ANYONE but Veronica?) “To cover your scandalous get-up. Come on, let’s find it and feed you.”

He climbs out, lifts the hatchback; rummages among sandy towels and beer bottles, detritus of the weekend’s surf-bonfire. Uncovers a damp and gritty blue hoodie, which he brushes off and hands over.

After giving it a fastidious, wrinkled-nose shake, she zips herself in; it hangs almost to her knees, hiding everything she’s wearing. He smirks, flops the hood over her head. She narrows her eyes, making him snicker.

“Get a move on, Smurfette,” he says, gesturing with his thumb at the restaurant. “Let’s spoon some manicotti into you stat, before you do something drastic.”

XXXXX

The place is Italian, but not the candles-in-wine-bottles kind she favors--no red-checked tablecloths, or slabs of pasta and cheese. He gives the greeter a fifty and gets a table by the window, looking out over a cliff that fades down into sand and spray. Trees strung with twinkle lights rustle just outside, and the space between them is bedecked by crystal and red flowers.

He orders fritti misti with artichokes and a bottle of white, because he knows it comes quickly, and doesn’t want her to pull an Audrey. Then he sits back and watches her peruse the menu; she takes her meal selection seriously, because food is this girl’s religion.

“You get to order two, you know,” he tells her, with an inviting arch of brows. “First appetizers, then the Primi, that’s like a bowl of pasta as a warm-up. Then you choose a second plate with meat and vegetables, then coffee and dessert. Or if you prefer, some sweet, sticky booze. They have this wild boar ragu, kind of like Italian carnitas, it’s amazing.”

“Well, all my inhibitions just went up in a puff of smoke,” she says, half-assing an accent that sounds Castilian. She can be whatever she wants, though, as long as she keeps being entertaining. “So let’s order everything that looks good, and share.”

“You can SHARE?” he asks, faking shock. “Don’t think I’ve ever observed this phenomenon. Especially not when PASTA’S involved.”

She sticks her tongue out. “Of course,” she says. “I’ll eat all the carbs and cheese, and you can have the salad. I noticed you were looking a little pudgy earlier, you should probably cut back.”

“Oh WAS I?” He smiles, twirling his spoon in circles with one finger. Remembering the way she and Lilly used to sneak their lettuce and tomato onto his burger when he wasn’t looking, and then giggle while he ate. “Good thing I’ve got another bout of exercise planned, then, for after the meal.”

He wiggles his eyebrows at her and she mock-scowls. He makes kissy lips, and she snickers. “Next come the piggy back rides,” he murmurs, and her laughter spills out, a series of delicious rills like liquid sunshine. She snorts at the end, and he chokes on his sip of water.

The waiter sets down the fried seafood, and gives Logan a sample of wine, smiling indulgently at Veronica, because who doesn’t love a happy, pretty tiny girl? He sips, like he has any fucking clue about vintages or quality, then waves a magnanimous hand. It’s bubbly and lemony enough to appeal to V, and really, he just wants to watch her enjoy things. He feels lazy, and baked, and content, and awesome, and cares less about food than just basking in the moment.

She sips, smacks her lips experimentally, sips again. Her hand around the glass is delicate and precise, and he remembers how soft it felt against his skin. He rests his chin in his palm and sinks into reverie, fantasy. Watches her separate the squid from everything else with a faint smile.

“The tentacles are for YOU,” she informs him, shoving the little pile his direction. “I don’t eat things with arms still attached.”

He lifts the biggest, Cthulu-est one and dips it in aioli, tears in with relish, while she tries to control her lip curl. Damn, it’s DELICIOUS, and he closes his eyes, enjoying the taste. “Mmmm, nameless terrors of the deep,” he pronounces, chewing. “Breaded.”

She pours herbed oil onto her appetizer plate and smears a slice of focaccia through it…lifts the slab, dripping, to her lips. “Oh GOD,” she says, around a bite the size of her fist. “You have to try this, Logan! It’s crunchy at the edges and the inside just…melts.”

He opens obediently and sinks in his teeth, while she smiles approval. Grease drips down his chin, and he wipes it with the back of his hand. “Wait, did you just give me carbs? Isn’t that against the rules?”

She wraps her napkin around her finger and rubs it across his jaw. “Like you said. You’re going to work it all off, later.”

“I don’t believe that’s why, Veronica,” he chides. “I think you liiiike me. You fed me your favorite food, ipso facto, you want me bad. And I will just state for the record that I’m fully on board with that.”

“Pssht,” she says. “Bread’s not my favorite food. If I gave you a bite of my chocolate CAKE, then you might have grounds for this assumption. When it comes to cake, I’m extremely territorial.”

“In fact,” he says, widening his eyes goadingly as he eats another squid, “I have the fork tine scars to prove it.”

He holds up his hand in demonstration; she makes the mouth-wide face of outrage he hasn’t seen since junior high. “EXCUSE ME, I did NOT stab you that hard! It was a PLAYFUL jab! And you ate my cake ANYWAY!”

“NINE stitches,” he corrects, a bald-faced lie, pointing at a nonexistent scar below his knuckles. “There were flecks of buttercream lodged in the wound.”

She throws her napkin at him and says, “Don’t think I can’t see what you’re doing. You were JUST like this at the Britney concert. You and Lilly spent the WHOLE EVENING making me giggle, amusing yourselves at my expense.”

“Well, your whole face squinches up,” he explains, helpfully. “And your gums show, and you make this hilarious snorting noise. It’s extremely entertaining.”

“I do not snort!” she protests, then ruins it with more giggling. “I am hard and cold and dangerous! The whole world flees in terror when I stalk by.”

“You ARE,” he agrees, obliging, offering her another slice of bread. “And I’m LOVING it. You see, Veronica, the problem is, I’m too HIGH right now. And I can’t come down. In fact, I’m losing my head….spinning round and….”

“Oh my GOD, STOP!” she protests, attracting the attention of other diners. She hides her face in her hands, laughing, then emerges and points. “You will NOT make me giggle with this puerile tactic!”

“Oooh, is that a DARE?” He shakes his head. “It’s too late, Veronica. To give you up, that is. I took a sip, from my devil’s cup, and slowly….” he grabs her hand theatrically between both of his, presses it to his heart, “….it’s taking over me….”

She cocks her head, studying him, that penetrating look he occasionally fears; it’s softened by the lingering curve of her lips. He realizes he’s saying something he MEANS, but didn’t intend to verbalize. Then DID, because he’s slightly baked, and he loves the way she laughs. The funny thing is…she doesn’t seem to mind.

“Come on, Justin.” Her voice is soft, just a little bit breathy. “Let’s blow this popsicle stand. I’m full of bread and Marianas Trench hell-beasts. I think it’s time we head out to the alley, and you can show me why guys like you should wear a warning.”

He smirks, reaching into his back pocket for his wallet. “You gonna wear the Smurf hoodie the whole time we fool around?”

She arches a brow. “Why? Is that another one of your fantasies?”

“If you’re modeling it,” he says, tossing down a handful of bills, “I’m excited.”

She smiles, holds out a hand. He twines his fingers through hers, pushes up from the table--lets her lead him out the back door to his hotly anticipated doom.

XXXXX

They wind around behind the shopping complex until they reach a dark corner, which hides an old air conditioner with moss growing around the base. The night is warm and humid, and he turns his face up to it, embracing the heat.

She removes the hoodie, ties the sleeves around the strap of her bag, which she tucks carefully against the wall. Crosses her arms beneath her breasts. Studies him like she’s interested in the next move, but not sure how to make it. In the dim gloom she looks not just pale but ethereal, the glow of health on her skin like a faint, cool, visible inner fire. He’s drawn to it, wants to pull that heat to the surface of her skin. He always did have a fascination for flames.

He kisses the spot beside her eye where there’s a dab of oil smeared, runs his tongue over the fine-grained flesh. She makes a soft noise that goes straight to his dick. “You had food on your face,” he explains, kissing down her jaw, licking the spot beneath her ear. “I was afraid if I didn’t take action, you’d go BLIND.”

“My hero,” she sighs, as he keeps kissing downward, into the deep V of her halter. He licks the soft side of her breast, notes the uptick of her breathing; the illicit, voyeuristic possibilities of this make-out are almost unbearably exciting. He eases her skirt up with one hand, palms her center and finds her underpants wet. Jesus, he could almost come while fingering her, like he’s a virgin all over again.

He curls a thumb into one bikini strap and edges it down her thigh, a few inches at a time, gazing into her eyes. She smiles, mouth open, eyes bright and wild, and the corner of his mouth quirks in response. He can’t even control it, with Veronica. She smiles and he falls. He adores her.

“You ready?” he asks, and his voice sounds husky. “Whatever you do, don’t make noise. Someone might HEAR, and come to investigate.”

She curls her fingers into the brick behind her, breathing harder, and he kneels, watching her flushed face. Flicks her skirt over his head with a flourish, tugs her panties down past her knees. She moans before his mouth even touches her, she’s that hot, and he laughs a little as he licks up into the soft, warm crease. If he’d known how uninhibited and greedy he could make her, during these last months of estrangement, no way would he have managed to keep his distance.

He’s gentle with her clit and pussy, she HAS to be raw by now, but she’s deliciously responsive, fucking up against his face with quick, frantic grinds, her pants and gasps loud in the relative quiet. He sucks her clit slowly, like she’s a lollipop, then pushes his tongue in deep, and she makes a string of sobbing noises as she comes. He keeps licking into her, she tastes delicious, and she starts saying his name.

Over and over, a caress. Loganloganlogan. It undoes him. He has to unfasten his pants, because they’re so tight now they HURT.

He stands and kisses her soft, trembling mouth…both her little hands dive beneath his fly, curl around his dick. Gripping tight. “Sit on the air conditioner,” she says, not opening her eyes. “Spread your legs. You’re too tall for me to kneel, and I want to make you come.”

He lays his jacket over the metal because it’s kind of rusty and then does what she asks, wrestling his pants down out of the way. She opens her big blue cat eyes and stalks forward, and the look in them promises both great pleasure and zero mercy. Logan swallows.

She curls one hand around the base of his dick, the other just above it, gives him a considering, and slightly evil, crooked grin. “Let’s see how quiet YOU can be,” she challenges, and wraps her beautiful lips around the head.

If Logan has ever seen anything hotter than Veronica Mars sort-of-smiling, while her purple-painted mouth makes his dick play symphonies? He’s blocked it out. She has no idea what she’s doing but her instincts are fantastic, and somehow that makes it even sexier. Because she only wants to try this with him. Because she’s paying attention to his responses, and pleasurably adjusting to each one. He wants to play this cool, wants to seem experienced and suave, but Jesus, it’s so good.

She makes a little ‘mmmm’ noise in the back of her throat and that’s it, he’s done. He comes, shuddering and panting—sprawls backwards while his brain implodes. She straightens, smirking and wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, and he will love her forever and ever, the end, amen. No other girl could compare to this. It’s just not happening.

“Ungh,” he manages, gazing up at the stars. She laughs, a bright, tinkling happy sound he hasn’t heard in years.

“You all right, there, cowboy?” she asks. He manages to focus on her, while she locates her panties around one ankle and pulls them up. “You look like you’re about to pass out.”

“Come here and kiss me,” he says, not moving. “I need you.”

She approaches. Plants her palms on the jacket on either side of him, turns her mouth up to his. He explores it carefully, tastes his own come. Shivers. Kisses her more.

Her arms slide up around his shoulders, and he curls his hands around her delicate waist, keeping her in place. Kisses her temple and cheekbone and ear. Kisses her chin. He wants to say all the words he’s feeling, but in his experience, women get antsy when he waxes rhapsodic. So he tells her with the softness and fervency of his kisses. And she smiles and curves closer, like she’s getting the message.

XXXXX

Afterwards, he carries her back to the car, buckles her in and just drives. He knows where he’s going, but doesn’t want to tell her, so he just hums softly and moves through the star-spattered night. She gazes out at the moon, and holds his hand, caught in the same dreamy spell.

Eventually she dozes off, slightly snoring, peaceful and serene. Then wakes with a start, when the car jerks as he parks.

“We’re at the Neptune Grand,” she says flatly, assessing the garage. “Are we just…done for the evening? Your plan is what? Rent the penthouse suite? Fall asleep? Watch TV?”

“Last fantasy,” he says softly, looking her in the eye. Because why not? He doesn’t have any protective skin left, after that last encounter. Might as well go for broke. “Providing you’re game.”

“All right,” she says, quiet. She’s watching him in the dim light, focused the way only Veronica gets. Her fierce intelligence shifting through his defensive layers, seeing EVERYTHING he tries to hide. “Lay it on me.”

“I’m having a secret affair with the girl I love,” he says. Takes her hand, rubbing his thumb gently over her knuckles. “She’s not dating anyone anymore, but you know, I’m not…the most wholesome character. We’re keeping it hidden because it would be bad for her, if people knew. Embarrassing, inviting ridicule. Because she’s a good person, and I’m less so. Because I got mad at her once, and treated her horribly; and she’s not the kind of girl who takes a guy like that back.

“Anyway, I rent a room, here, and she shows up. She’s enthusiastic, we’re kissing on the bed, and she tells me…she doesn’t want to hide anymore. She loves me, and could care less if everyone knows. She’s sure, and she says it over and over, while I worship her with my body. And when we’re done, we fall asleep. Nobody has to leave.”

“Logan, that’s…” she tries, then stops. She can’t seem to make herself speak.

“I know,” he says. “It’s why I’m telling you here. This is the only fantasy I’m still willing to do, after everything that’s happened. But if you don’t want to, if you can’t, it’s okay. I’ll take you home, and we’ll just…remember the first three fondly.”

She takes a deep breath. “You’re demanding all or nothing.”

“Yeah,” he says. “I don’t expect you to guarantee me a happy ending, Veronica. But I have too many feelings to be your secret fling.”

He studies her, but she still won’t produce words. So he sighs, and lays his keys on the dash. “Tell you what,” he says. “I’ll go inside and rent a room. I’ll leave a key for you at the front desk. If you want to join me, great. If not, take my car and go. That way you don’t have to think up a way to let me down easy. And I won’t have to watch you panic while you try.”

He kisses her forehead. “And I’m sorry,” he adds, as he opens the door. “For last summer, for sophomore year. For my dad. I know I’m a mess right now, my whole life has fallen apart, beyond which I don’t…really have much experience with love. But the tenderness you showed me today, the way you let me in…I needed it, a lot. So thank you.”

He puts his hands in his pockets and walks away. He doesn’t look back.

He rents a room with a stocked mini-bar, so when she inevitably ditches him he can get good and trashed.

XXXXX

He’s sprawled on the king sized bed of room 1204, chugging a tiny bottle of vodka and watching a Gilligan’s Island marathon, when the door beeps and swings open.

Logan jerks, not expecting the intrusion, spills booze all over his shirt as she walks inside. She slaps the key card down on the desk and stands there staring, like she’s working up the nerve to yell. He sits up, swiping at the damp spot, and sets the bottle on the table. For some reason, this galvanizes her into motion.

She yanks the halter off over her head and throws it, paying zero attention to where it lands…wiggles the skirt down past her hips and steps right out. Approaches him in nothing but her tiny purple underwear and wig and jangly, artsy jewelry, while his heart tries to pound right out of his chest.

“Take your shirt off,” she says, pausing by the foot of the bed. She folds her arms across her chest, pushing her boobs up distractingly; he can’t see her foot, but he’s pretty sure it’s tapping. “It’s wet, and I bet it stinks. I HATE it when you smell like booze.”

He removes the offending article and throws it across the room. He can’t speak; he couldn’t if someone offered him Aaron in prison for life, a high-performance convertible and an open road. He just stares at her while she climbs onto the bed and then over HIM, winds her arms around his neck, and presses her lips to his cheek.

She’s awkward and stiff—she clearly expects rejection, or snark, or demands to discuss feelings. Maybe the kind of good-offense attack that makes her poker up and bristle. But she listened to his ultimatum and CAME, and the elation he feels is so sharp it’s almost pain.

With a surge of nervous energy and muscle he hoists her off the bed, spinning and spinning her, fiercely exulting. He presses her against the wall and kisses with all the appetite in him, tugging the thin mesh panties down her legs. Leaving her open to whatever (everything) he wants to do.

They kiss until she can’t breathe and breaks away panting, fumbling at his fly with a clumsy hand, eyes squeezed shut. Because she doesn’t want to see this avalanche she’s wrought? Because she feels too much? He doesn’t know, and that scares him. But she’s here, she’s HERE, after he said he was done pretending.

He fishes in his pocket for condoms and secures one, kicks his cargoes down and off. They tangle on his shoes. He leans heavily against her as he fights free, sucking at the join of her neck and shoulder, clumsy and frantic. Her scent is dense, concentrated, with a nervous-sweat tang that’s endearing, and her legs and fingers cling. He undulates against her center, enjoying the sticky slickness as it spreads down her thighs, the moans she makes. Her nipples tighten and go cherry red as she flushes. He lifts and spins her again, settles her on her back on the bed, and strokes her very gently until she comes.

When she unclenches and opens her eyes, he asks, “Can you manage one more time? If I go slow?”

“Are you kidding?” she asks, lazily. “I’m not as delicate as you think.” She sits up, hooks her heels around his calves and tugs; he lands on his knees on the bed, looking down at her. She gives him a shove, and he lets himself fall, sprawling arms spread onto his back. He bounces, settles, and she climbs atop.

Her arm extends, palm up, and he curls her fingers around the condom. She suits him and mounts like there’s no place else she’d rather be, engulfing him completely in one mind-blowing sinuous slide. Jesus, she’s bliss, hot and wet and he’s-not-even-sure-how-it’s-working tight, all the best adjectives. He’s going to come embarrassingly fast no matter what she does. The fact that she plants her hands on his belly, then writhes with exquisite slowness until she gets herself off, is just frosting.

Girls seem to like his dick—even before he knew how to wield it with finesse, it won positive attention—but VERONICA enjoys it more than most. So he focuses on her sweet spots, and uses it to please her.

He flips her so he has more control, watching her beautiful face as he tests out paces and pressures. When her mouth opens into an o and her thighs twitch wider, he increases his speed, long, smooth strokes that plumb her depths. Fuck, it’s exquisite, being this far inside the girl he loves. She’s not trying for theater. Her wrists are crossed loosely behind his head, fingers gripping his hair, her calves curled around his thighs; but she’s fully with him, flesh stretching against flesh, making faint, eager noises as each thrust bottoms out.

Logan traces random patterns around her clit with his thumb, luxuriates in her soft, tight heat and Jesus, it’s abruptly too good. He pulls almost all the way out and stills above her, shaking, struggling not to come. Because then it’s over. Then this game is done.

“Don’t stop,” she says, eyes opening, blue and unfocused, feral in the golden light. He thrusts deep and she moans, long, slow, unrestrained. He pulls back again, and this time she writhes up against him, resisting. He retreats against her advance, then abruptly fills her, teasing her clit with intent. She makes a strangled noise and comes, luxurious contractions like waves. He shudders at the pleasure.

He resumes fucking her in earnest, slow and deep, every sensation magnified. Her arms and legs around him grip tight and the contractions spread to her center, clenching faster and stronger as she gasps with each stroke. He begins to pant and spills inside her, an orgasm that lasts forever. It blurs his vision grey.

She kisses him while he hovers over her, clinging to consciousness, her mouth ardent and messy, uncontrolled. Shoves at his chest. He collapses to the side, taking her with him. She buries her face in the hollow of his throat, and he can feel her smile.

“We forgot to yell cheesy words,” she says, after a long, blissed-out silence. Then in a near-perfect imitation of Kendall that makes him wince, “Ooh baby, harder. Oh GOD I’m coming. FUCK ME!”

“There are no words,” he manages, curling his arms around her. Wishing he could protect her retroactively from the shitty ways he behaved, when he needed her like oxygen and she wasn’t there. “This was the best sex I have ever had, ever. Possibly the best sex ANYONE’S ever had.”

“The cheesy-word-shouting sex sounded pretty good,” she says, quietly. And part of him can’t believe she’s going there, while he’s still experiencing aftershocks. But part of him thinks, of course she would. Veronica’s devoid of fear, as long as she’s on the offensive.

“It was MEANT to sound good,” he tells her. “I had a score to settle. And I may be a selfish bastard, but not in bed. My cruelty has limits.”

“True,” she agrees. She presses her face between his pecs and inhales, and he cradles her hips close and memorizes this moment. So he can torture himself with it later…salt and sweet, love and pain. Perfect, yet containing the seed of its own destruction. “You’re not selfish at all in bed.”

“So where does this leave us?” he asks, picking the scab. That old self-destructive urge to prove he can take anything, by deliberately worsening the wound. “Now that you’ve obliged me in my fantasy, and had your say?”

She looks at him for a minute. “I assumed you understood,” she says, toppling him onto his back with a finger to the sternum, resting her chin on her folded arms. “I thought the whole purpose of this scenario was so I could declare myself without having to say the words.”

“It was a fantasy,” he protests, and she shakes her head.

“No,” she says. “It was a GAME. But everything I’ve told you today was true. You did hurt me, Logan…and you scared me, when you got so out of control. I’m realizing, though, that behind the front you put up, you were in pain as well. And maybe I don’t want you to feel that way. Because maybe I fell in love last summer, too.”

He surges up and kisses her soft, willing mouth, fingers tangling in her silky, snarled hair. She curves her small hand around the hinge of his jaw and they lie that way, communicating without words for a long time.

“Besides,” she says, when they break apart, mouth quirking in her irresistible crooked grin. “You’re my adrenaline overload, right? And I get antsy and start to jones, without my daily dose.”

“That sounds like an extremely serious, possibly life-threatening condition,” he says—he tries for concerned, but the smug can’t be suppressed. “Luckily I’ve got hundreds more fantasies I can deploy, to keep it under control. Plus, as I said…incredibly vivid imagination. Which is at your service, Veronica, whenever you feel the slightest need.”

“Aw Logan,” she says. “You know the thing I love about you most? You’re SUCH a giver.”

“True,” he says, tucking her head beneath his chin. Then yawns, because the day has taken its toll. “And my generosity, as regards you, is endless.”

They drift off, in the dim light, curled together beneath the damp sheet, replete.

And when he wakes the next morning she’s still there; sprawled across his chest, smiling in her sleep.