I stepped out of the front door at the sight of Ella’s truck lights. The night air nipped at my skin with teeth made of frost. I took a deep breath in and my lungs nearly froze. Our local news station had warned that temperatures were going to plummet over the next few days as a polar vortex roared down from Canada. They had a name for it up here: killing cold.
Ella pulled into the golden nimbus spread over the top of my driveway by the floodlights. The engine cut off and she opened her door and hopped out of the truck. I took the stairs down to her.
She turned to point at me as I approached. “I am wearing the world’s ugliest underwear.”
I stopped in my tracks. What the fuck?
She dropped her hand, breath misting the air in front of her face. “I thought I would go ahead and throw that out there now, since you said yesterday that you don’t think, uh…” she paused, looked at me, shifted her gaze toward the vicinity of my belt, and then gestured back and forth between us several times, her hand at crotch level, “that this is a good idea.”
I started to smile, but ended up biting my lip when I realized that she was dead serious.
I will not laugh. I will not laugh.
Ella opened the back door of her truck. “Anyway, I felt like there was some tension at Jane’s earlier, maybe, and after everything you just talked about, I’m not sure if you’re emotionally vulnerable right now, and I don’t want to take advantage of that or anything.”
I wasn’t emotionally vulnerable, but it was sweet of her to care so much about my mental state that she was trying to sabotage herself with the mention of hideous panties. And yet, somehow, it made me want her even more. How to tell her that her plan was backfiring?
She unbuckled the dogs. They jumped down, gave me sniff in greeting, and then raced out into the night, crashing through the snow.
“Is your underwear supposed to be a deterrent then?” I asked her, unable to keep the teasing edge from my tone.
She shut the truck door and turned to me. “Yes. Or, they would be, if you saw them.” Her eyes squeezed shut for a second. She looked like she might be wincing. “They’re, like, Great Aunt Muriel level ugly.”
I ambled over and smiled down at her. “I don’t have a Great Aunt Muriel.”
“Then picture the largest, plainest pair of threadbare women’s underwear you possibly can.” She held out her hands to demonstrate their size. Impressive. “Now cover them in paint stains – long story, please don’t ask.” I wanted to ask. So bad. “And imagine them on the oldest woman you know.”
I Couldn’t do that. My head was too full of her to think of anyone else. “And you’re wearing them because?”
“I found them in the way back of my underwear drawer. They were the last clean pair. It was either them or nothing.”
My mind came to a screeching halt. I suddenly hated these underwear with the fiery wrath of a dying star about to turn supernova.
If not for them…
“I really don’t like doing laundry,” she continued, unaware of my internal struggle. “You should know that about me. Like, if we stay friends for long enough, I will eventually try to lure you over to my house with the promise of tasty treats and then withhold them until I can convince you to wash my clothes for me.”
“Tasty treats?” I asked, my gaze roaming over her. My mind was stuck in the gutter. All I could think of is what could have been if not for these allegedly hideous undies. “Are we talking food, or something else?”
She looked up at me, eyes wide. “Food?”
“You sure?” I asked her, taking a step closer.
The dogs came barreling back into the spotlight, squeezing between us, doing their damnedest to ruin the mood with their whining and panting.
“We’d better go in,” Ella said, breaking eye contact and stepping back so she could lean down to pet Fred. “I swear I heard howling at Jane’s when I left.”
I decided to drop it. For now. “Really?” I asked, turning to lead the way.
“Yeah. One of Dave’s friends is a ranger, and he says the wolves are back.”
I stopped at the door to look down at her. She was close, really close, like she was trying to hide behind me. Those blues eyes of hers shifted from right to left searching the darkness beyond the safety of the porch. “Not a fan of wolves?” I asked.
She shook her head. “They’re right up there with bears when it comes to predators I’d least like to meet in person.”
“I saw a grizzly from a car once. Damn thing was nearly as big as the vehicle.”
“We don’t have them here. Ours are smaller. But they’re even better at climbing trees because of their size, and they can run faster than a human could ever hope to.” She looked up at me, expression grim. “Plus, razor claws of doom and machete teeth.”
“Thanks so much for the nightmare ammunition.”
“Just trying to share the misery.”
“Right. We need puppies.”
She nodded. “Only baby floofs can help us now.”
We stepped inside, toweled off the dogs, shed our winter layers, and headed toward the sitting room, where I’d corralled the puppies before she arrived. The sound of their muffled cries echoed from inside the room, and Fred and Sam took off toward the closed door and started frantically trying to sniff them underneath it. Every few seconds, Fred straightened and looked back at Ella like, “Mom! Puppies, Mom!”
“I know, bud,” she said. She stepped next to him to take his collar. “But we have to be gentle because they’re little.”
I did the same to Sam, and when they calmed down, Ella opened the door a crack, just enough so that we could all see each other. Fred and Sam lost it, pulling against their collars and whining like I’d never heard before. They worked each other up until they started howling.
Boots, on the other side of the door, plopped his butt down, tipped his head back, and let out a prolonged, answering squeak.
Fred and Sam stopped to stare at him.
“Is he…is he trying to howl?” Ella asked.
“Uh, yeah, I think he is.”
Come on, little dude. You can do it.
“This is the true test, Ben,” she told me, her face lit up by her smile.
“What test?” I asked, a little blinded by the sight of her.
“To see whether or not one can actually succumb to cuteness overload.”
Sam howled again, and Boots threw back his head and squeaked some more in response. Beside him, Doodle seemed to concentrate, really hard, and then uttered a little whine-growl as if he was testing it out before he lifted his muzzle skyward and let forth a high-pitched, “A-roo-roo-roo-roo-roo.” Boots did his best to mimic him, and soon all four dogs were howling together like their own little wolf pack.
Ella and I managed to live through it, proving that no, you cannot be killed by cuteness.
We let the dogs greet each other in stages from there. Ella had told me this wasn’t Fred and Sam’s first time meeting puppies, and they’d been good with them before, but you never knew how the puppies would behave, whether or not they’d be aggressive and cause a reaction in the older dogs you didn’t expect.
Everything went pretty well, considering their size difference. The dogs sniffed and danced around the puppies once we let them freely intermingle. At one point Fred splayed his front paws and dropped down, butt still in the air, and then sprang upward and away like he wanted Doodle to play chase with him. Doodle, surprised, ran away in sheer terror instead, cowering behind my left foot.
I scooped him up. “You’re okay,” I told him, giving his ears a ruffle.
“You’re really good with them, you know,” Ella said. “I’m glad you decided to keep them.”
“Me too. And thank you again. I feel like I owe you so much. For the dogs, and for all the help you’ve put in with the house.”
She gave me a look I’d never seen before. “You can pay me back in tasty treats.” She waggled her brows, just in case I missed the insinuation.
I nearly dropped Doodle. “Ella!” I said, setting him down.
“What? You started the flirting! Are we not doing the flirting?”
I grinned. “I thought you didn’t want to take advantage of me.”
“Who said it had to go beyond flirting?” She frowned. “Fine, I’ll stop.”
I closed the distance between us and raised my hands to cup her cheeks. Her hair was loose tonight, and my fingers slid easily into the silken strands, coming to rest at the back of her head. “Don’t stop.”
She let out a shaky breath and leaned into me. Her hands wrapped around my arms, just above my elbows, and her right one slid up until her fingers reached the edge of my tattoo. Goosebumps rose in their wake as she traced the bottom of the design.
“How far up does this go?” she asked.
“Stay the night and I’ll show you.”
Her lips parted in surprise. “I thought you didn’t think this was a good idea.”
“That was before I knew how well you could handle all my shit,” I said, stroking my thumbs over her cheeks.
She shook her head a little within my grasp. “It’s not shit.”
A well of emotion bubbled up within me. Hope. Longing. Appreciation. Desire. I liked her. I wanted to be with her. She’d heard a lot tonight. She hadn’t run away. Her light hadn’t been dimmed by my darkness. She still wanted me.
Brian thought I was ready for this. I was finally able to agree with him.
“Ella,” I said, stroking a thumb over her bottom lip. “I want this. I want you.”
She leaned in. Her hands disappeared from my elbows and came to rest on my shoulders. They bunched in the fabric of my t-shirt as she lifted herself up on her toes and pressed her lips gently against mine.
I nearly groaned into her mouth.
One of the puppies started yipping like a maniac, and we broke apart to see Doodle running circles around Fred, who spun in place, trying to keep the puppy in sight while Doodle attempted to leap up and grab his tail.
“That won’t end well for you,” Ella said, stepping away to scoop Doodle up.
I stared at her profile, my gaze lingering on her freckles before moving down, tracing the outline of her breasts, the narrowing of her waist, the swell of her hips.
“Stay,” I said.
Her focus remained on the puppy, her fingers scratching under his chin. “Okay,” she answered, softly.
The word ricocheted through me. I wanted to pick her up, fireman style, and sprint up the stairs with her. Instead, we calmly separated the dogs, careful not to touch each other on the off chance that it set off some unstoppable chain reaction. I told her where the puppy food and spare bowls were. She took Fred and Sam across the hallway into the library to get them settled, while I stayed with Boots and Doodle.
We met at the bottom of the stairs a few minutes later. I took her hand and wordlessly led her up them, forcing myself to keep a normal pace. My pulse thrummed, adrenaline and lust gathering in my limbs. I turned left at the top of the stairs, opened my bedroom door, and let go of her hand so she could go in first.
She paused just inside, inspecting the room. I shut the door and went to her, wishing she was wearing leggings instead of jeans.
“This is nice,” she said.
“You’re nice,” I told her.
She laughed, the sound nervous, and started to turn.
I put my hands on her hips to stop her, thinking back to the fantasy I’d dreamt up last night and wanting to experience it for real. She stilled in my grip, and I pulled her backward to wrap my arms around her waist and drop my lips to her neck. This wasn’t a fantasy, though, so of course her hair was in the way. She impatiently pushed it aside, exposing a long line of creamy skin.
I brushed my lips over it.
She jerked away in response, snorting. “Your beard.”
“Are you ticklish, Ella?” I asked, angling my chin toward her and wiggling my jaw as I leaned in.
“Yes!” She tried to squirm out of my grasp.
I let her go and gave up on replaying that fantasy. This was more fun anyway.
She came to a stop near the foot of the bed, her hair disheveled, the neck of her shirt pulled sideways, her chest rising and falling as she sucked in heavy breaths. Her eyes were wild when they met mine, pupils blown out from lust.
I walked over to her, picked her up under the armpits, and tossed her onto the bed.
She shrieked mid-air, then laughed when she bounced off the mattress. Her hands went to the hem of her shirt and she sat up so she could tug it up and off. The bra she was wearing was beige and entirely unremarkable. I was thankful for that, because I didn’t want anything to distract me away from the sight of her toned stomach, her defined shoulders, that long, swan-like neck.
I put a knee on the edge of the mattress and crawled toward her on all fours. She remained sitting, her blue eyes dancing as she watched me come. I got within touching distance, and she grabbed my shirt and pulled me closer. I had to brace my hands on either side of her thighs as I leaned in to kiss her. She met me halfway, covering my mouth with her own. Her lips parted almost immediately, tongue brushing against my still closed ones, seeking access.
She was taking the lead, and it turned me the fuck on. There was nothing sexier than a woman who knew what she wanted and perused it with such single-minded intensity.
I opened my mouth and let her in. Our tongues brushed across each other. She moaned into my mouth, hooked an arm around my shoulders, and dragged me down on top of her. I rested my weight on my forearms to keep from smothering her. Beneath me, her legs spread as wide as her skinny jeans would allow, our hips pressing together as her tongue continued to ply mine with expert precision. My dick strained against the constraints of my boxers and jeans. I shifted my pelvis forward, so she could feel how much I wanted her.
She broke off the kiss, gasping. “Too many clothes.”
I sat up, leaning back on my knees so I could tug my shirt off. The hem wasn’t even halfway up my stomach before Ella scrambled up to sitting and pressed her hands against my abs to push it up further, like I hadn’t been moving fast enough for her. I ripped the shirt the rest of the way off and tossed it to the floor. The open hunger on her face as she took in the lines of my muscles made every sit-up and bicep curl I’d ever done more than worth it.
Her hands stilled on my stomach as her gaze rose, taking in the tattoo that climbed up my left bicep, whorled over my shoulder, and snaked down to cover both of my pecs in a series of stylized enatas, tikis, ocean waves, spearheads, and shark fins, the spaces in between swathed in bands of black.
“It’s beautiful,” she whispered, her tone reverent.
“You’re beautiful,” I answered.
Her gaze moved from my chest, back toward my stomach. “You could do my laundry on these things,” she told me, tracing the outline of an ab with her finger.
“In exchange for tasty treats?”
She grinned, nodding. Then her nimble fingers slid down, nails tracing over my skin in a way that made me shudder, before finally coming to rest on my belt. I watched as one hand paused to undo it, while the other kept going, lower, coming to rest on the bulge beneath. Her palm rubbed down my length, then back up again.
I needed these pants off. Now. Hers too.
I reached out and fumbled at the button on her jeans, my fingers trembling a little. Her hands disappeared from my waist and clamped onto my wrists, stopping me. I froze.
“Sorry. Too fast?” I asked.
She looked up at me in horror. “I forgot about the underwear.”
Holy shit, she’d been telling the truth.
I laughed before I could stop myself. “I thought you were kidding about them.”
“I wish.” Her tone was grim. “Ben, they are so bad.”
“Okay, now I really have to see them.”
She closed her eyes in resignation and released me. I got her top button undone with a flick of my fingers and then started to slide her zipper down, curiosity making strange bedfellows with the lust still coursing through me. More of her skin was exposed, and while I could have spent hours staring at it, or dropping kisses on it to find out just how ticklish she was, I was distracted by the frayed elastic band of her underwear.
I kept unzipping. They were cotton, the fabric a mottled taupe that leaned more toward brown in the darker areas.
What the hell?
I moved the zipper lower, and a splotch of orange was revealed. Lower still. A dab of blue-green-gray that reminded me of drowned things. I reached the end of the line, then spread the sides of her pants open. A Rorschach-style kaleidoscope of colors stared back at me.
“How the fuck did you even do this?”
She groaned and covered her eyes with her hands. “I used a folded-up rag to wipe up paint one day, and the underwear was stuck inside it from static. I tossed them in the wash with the rest of my paint rags and they came out looking like this. I was going to throw them away, but then I had a vague idea of doing something with them, making some sort of artistic statement full of ennui and existential angst.” She pulled her hands away and looked up at me. “You know, because I’m so dark and moody. I threw them into my underwear drawer afterward so I wouldn’t forget about them, and then promptly forgot about them. Until today.”
I stared at her. “You’re going to need more than an ugly pair of panties to make me not want to sleep with you.”
Her mouth popped open in response. Then her eyes darkened and her lips lifted in a downright indecent grin before she straight up launched herself at me. I caught her out of the air and spun us, one arm around her back, the other braced on the bed so I could lay her down on the comforter. Our mouths crashed together, almost violently.
I dragged myself away from her and gripped the band of her underwear and pants. I paused then, looking up at her.
“Take them off,” she said.
Yes, ma’am. I dragged them down her legs. She squirmed out of them, arching her back at the same time so she could reach behind herself and unhook her bra. It came off a second later, leaving her gloriously naked before me.
“I want to trace your tattoo with my tongue,” she said, her gaze running up my left arm.
I looked down at her. “Funny. I was just thinking about doing the same to your vagina.”
She barked a laugh, and then spread her legs, exposing herself to me, just as unselfconscious as I had hoped she would be.
I dropped to my knees, hooked my elbows beneath her legs, and tugged her to the edge of the bed. Her pubic hair was a few shades darker than the hair on her head, trimmed so that I had an unobstructed view of the delicate folds of her sex, of the moisture that already glistened there.
She slid her legs up to rest her calves on my shoulders, then chuckled darkly.
I paused to look at her.
“My legs fit into the divots in your shoulder muscles exactly like I imagined they would.”
“You imagined this?” I asked, turning my head so that I could kiss the inside of her knee.
She let out a shaky breath. “Yes.” I should have taken my time, traced my way up her leg, licked and kissed and bit the inside of her thighs until she was begging for it. But I did none of those things. Instead, I spread her wider and leaned forward to suck her clit into my mouth.
Copyright © 2019 by Navessa Allen
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.