Getting to Know One Another

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The note in her inbox threw her world off its axis. Unable to focus on her emails, Lanie spun in her office chair, watching Ben in the kitchen through the open door. She needed a break, anyway, or she might go after Haines with all the fury that had built up inside of her.

He’d sent her a picture of the missing andalusite necklace. Shall I leave this in Ben’s apartment? I know how important it was to him. Wouldn’t want worry to interfere with his recovery.

Bel was working on arranging protection for Mickey and Emma while they prepared to take over the governance of the Towers and keep collecting names to fill in leadership positions. It was stressful and perilous, and she had to keep striking down some of their suggestions, because she knew things that they didn’t know. Her network was an insidious cancer which surprised even her with its voracity and breadth.

He’ll be dead soon, she reminded herself. She had no idea whether he was toying with her, or trying to provoke her, or simply seeing what would happen if he defied her.

She couldn’t deny the fact that she ached to have the artefact back in her own hands. It was a precious family treasure, and she’d only given her last one to Ben to ensure that he didn’t get tangled up with Haines again. Had her effort been in vain?

Ben had come over for the first time days to make lunch for them. She hadn’t been able to handle having him over since his revelation. She just couldn’t believe that after all of her back and forth, and build up, and then finally deciding to give in to the passion between them and deal with the consequences later, she’d hit this wall.

She nibbled absently on a snap pea from a plate he had brought her. They were two sides of the same coin. If one of them was up, the other had to be down. As much as she liked having him around to feed her and look after the house, he was a big distraction.

He rummaged in the pantry for a few minutes, then emerged with what looked like a box of pasta. Disappearing behind the stairs, he went to the sink to fill a pot. Unable to resist, she abandoned her work and glided into the entryway, leaning on the bar. His mighty hands gripped the pot as it filled steadily with water. Some of it splashed onto his skin, sparkling and tracking paths along his veins and tendons. When the pot was full, he placed it on the already-heating stove.

His light grey polo shirt rode up, exposing his back above his jeans as he reached for a glass in the cupboard above his head. She wanted to knead the small of his back, which she knew got sore sometimes, from the accident as well as general sedentary living. The sensation of his uneven flesh was fascinating, as long as she didn’t think too hard about how he had gotten the scars. How did any man have the right to be that beautiful, despite the marks? Even the airbrushed modelling photos she’d seen in his apartment didn’t do him justice. His vitality and virility were written into his motions and his manner of speech. He was a living testament to his own beauty.

Her breathing quickened as she imagined sliding her fingers under his shirt, making a dip into the dimples at his waistband before moving up to his strong shoulders. She wanted to trace the ridges of his scapulae and vertebrae. She’d kiss the nape of his neck, that particularly sensitive spot that drove him crazy. She’d inhale the scent of his shampoo. 

But nothing would come of it. That was the thing that she kept reminding herself. Was the frustration worth it? She didn’t want to marry him. She didn’t want to marry anyone. Not right now. She just wanted him to have sex with her. Bring her to that place of ecstasy and peace that she craved, and then move on.

Maybe she should try and go back to Jake. Or find someone else. She’d burst soon. And she didn’t particularly want to get blood on her hands right now. She needed to lay low as they prepared to assassinate Gabriel Haines.

However, she didn’t particularly want to find a new hookup, either. She’d never been in this position before. Usually, she only wanted men who wanted her back. But she had also never wanted anyone as badly as she wanted Ben. Probably because he was resisting her.

“You’re staring,” Ben remarked. He still hadn’t turned around, continuing to slice vegetables into strips while a skillet heated on another burner. “Whatever it is, why don’t you just spit it out so I can focus on my allumettes.”

She moved just a little closer. “You must be playing hard to get,” she mused, captivated by the subtle, skillful motion of his wrist as he manoeuvred the knife. The ripple of his arms, his contented expression. It reminded her of how she felt, when she was skinning a man alive. Everything he did with his hands was a work of art. She could only imagine….

Unoffended, he chuckled. “You must be punishing me by keeping your distance for the last few days.”

“I just don’t like to start something I can’t finish.”

“I feel the same way. Hence why I’ll be keeping it in my pants.” 

She crept up beside him, snatching a piece of pepper from under the knife just as he was about to bring it down. He raised his eyebrows and stilled the knife for a moment, but refused to look at her. Leaning a hip against the counter, she watched his face. “I think I could break you,” she decided. “I’ve got excellent powers of persuasion.”

“Oh, believe me, I know.” He scraped the cutting board off into the pan, making the oil sizzle and a delicious fragrance burst into the air.

“You probably just want me to take some initiative. Get creative. Dominate you.”

Now, he cocked his head at her. The light grey of his shirt tamped down the brightness of his eyes, darkening them to rainclouds.  They were dilating now, and widened with surprised curiosity. “Do you think I’d submit to you?”

“You wouldn’t be able to stop yourself,” she simpered. She’d been this close to breaking Jake before things had gotten rocky. She could tell that he was falling. Loosening his hold.

“Right. Because you’ve always been able to get me to listen to you.”

Scowling, she leaned her hands back on the counter. “Alright, I’ve been off my game. But I’ve had plenty of time to study you.”

She gasped as he cinched her back, jerking her closer to him.

His other hand came up to the side of her face, and she inhaled again at the wet coldness that touched the corner of her jaw, right under her ear. He’d concealed a piece of pepper in his fingers, and drew a trail of juicy moisture down the side of her neck, into the dip of her throat. When he bent his mouth to her jaw and sucked gently at the wetness, the tip of his tongue grazed her skin. Her wordless cry made his fingers tighten at her back, and she bared her throat for him as he followed the path of juice with his lips. His hair tickled her neck when he reached the juncture of her clavicles, right above the border of her tee-shirt.

Her whole body felt like a quivering mass of jelly. “Open your mouth,” he whispered in her ear.

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~ Romans 15:13

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