Authors: Lauren Blakely
et me be perfectly clear
. The subway is not an aphrodisiac.
But Josie is.
The whole ride uptown, we talk. About the class. About food. About what might happen on the next season of
. She slides her hand into my hair and absently plays with the ends as we talk.
And this, right here, on the noisy, dirty, grimy subway is the true turn-on. Me and my girl, heading home. As the train slaloms past Fourteenth Street, she drops her hand and reaches for mine.
My breath hitches as she squeezes my fingers. That's all it takes. Her holding my hand. I let my head fall back, hitting the window behind us.
“Are you okay?” she asks.
Perfectly ruined for anyone else.
I take our joined hands and press a kiss to her knuckles, wondering what the hell I'm supposed to do about the fact that she's not out of my system. Not even close. Not one single bit.
She rests her head on my shoulder.
We aren't hand-holders. We aren't daters. We aren't affectionate.
At least, not in public.
And in private, we're usually naked.
But tonight on the train, she's been playing with my hair, snuggling against me, looping her fingers through mine. It doesn't take a genius to figure out this is couple behavior, and it's coming from a woman who made it crystal clear she wanted to be roomies-with-benefits only. Has something changed for her?
A wild idea descends on me. Could she want . . .
I can't let myself think that. It's crazy, and beyond the realm of expected outcomes.
Even so, my heart skips a beat. My skin heats up. And something like hope makes landfall in my chest. It feels like a wild, crazy possibility, but it's one I desperately want right nowâto simply slide from this phase to the next one without a hitch. To be the exception. To pull this whole crazy thing off.
I hold that thought close as we walk home.
When we reach our building, the mustached doorman gives a quick hello, then points to the elevators. “The main elevator is out of commission. We're having some work done to it. The service elevator is working, but it's a bit slow. It should return to the lobby in a few minutes.”
“We'll take the stairs,” Josie says to him with a smile. “We have strong hearts and good endurance.”
He adjusts his green blazer. “Oh, and Ms. Hammer. The postman delivered something for you. Would you like me to get it from the mail storage room?”
She shakes her head. “I'll grab it tomorrow. I'm sure it's the rolling pin I ordered.”
We head to the stairwell, and I open the door, letting her go ahead of me.
As she walks, I enjoy the view of her legs, her ass, her skirt. At the first landing, I grab her hand and pull her back, her chest pressed to me. “You're the enticing appetizer.”
She sighs sexily and brings her hands to my chest. “So are you.”
Her lips part, and my God, what the fuck am I supposed to do?
But kiss her.
And hold her.
And have her.
And want her.
It's a slow, sensual kiss at first. A tease. The start of something. And when she murmurs against my mouth, all bets are off. I band my arm around her waist and tug her close, sealing her body to mine. “I'm seriously considering fucking you in the stairwell,” I tell her.
She lowers her hand to the front of my jeans, rubbing the outline of my cock. “Love that idea. But I want to be naked with you.”
I groan and smack her ass. “Upstairs,” I growl. “As fast as you can. Get that dress off and then get on me.”
She scurries up the next set of stairs, then the next. When we near the fourth floor, she sneaks a glance back. “Peekaboo,” she says, then lifts up the back of her skirt, flashing me her panties.
Her red lace, see-through panties.
Heat roars through me, and instinct takes over. I reach for her, and when my shoe hits the landing, the ankle rolls out, and my foot turns in.
An instant, searing pain rips along my right calf and straight into my ankle, a shot of misery.
“Fuck,” I curse, as my ankle yelps.
Josie flies down the steps in a flurry. “Oh no. Are you okay?”
I wince. “Yeah,” I bite out, bending over to grip my ankle.
Her hand runs up my back, a reassuring pat. “Babe, are you okay? You're worrying me.”
“Fine,” I mumble.
I straighten, because I can't be that guy. The helpless guy.
“Let me help you,” she says, moving to my side and draping her arm around me.
“You're not. Let me help you.” Her voice is firm.
“I swear I'm okay.”
“Stop being such a macho man.”
She wins the battle and walks with me the rest of the way up the stairs as I try not to limp. “It was my butt's fault,” she says, contrition in her tone. “My cheeks distracted you.”
I dart a hand down to squeeze one. “Your butt is worth a twisted ankle.”
When we reach the apartment, the pain shoots through me once more, and I pretty much limp inside, Josie holding open the door.
“Go sit,” she directs, pointing. “On the diddle couch.”
I do, plopping down on the soft cushions. I'm grateful to be surrounded by all these pillows. I lift my right ankle onto the coffee table as Josie sets her hands on my shoulders. “Tell me what you need. Ice, I presume?”
I nod. “Ice and ibuprofen, too. And elevation. But I took care of that part.”
She marches to the bathroom and returns quickly with two pills and a cup of water. I down the ibuprofen. She rounds the corner into the kitchen and reappears seconds later with a hand towel and an ice pack. She wraps the towel over the pack, takes off my shoes and socks, and pushes up the bottom of my pant leg. She parks herself on the table and presses the pack gently to my ankle.
“Ouch! It's freezing.”
She rolls her eyes. “It's supposed to be frozen. It's ice.”
“It's so cold.”
“Has anyone ever told you that you're a terrible patient?”
I frown. “I try to never be the patient.”
A soft smile plays on her face. “But this time, you have a nurse who offers a special brand of TLC.”
And my foot isn't cold anymore. In fact, it barely hurts at all when Josie rests the ice on my foot, cuddles up by my side, and kisses the hell out of me.
Ten minutes later, my foot is frozen, but everything else is on fire.
“You going to be okay?” she asks.
“I'll live,” I say with a pout. There's one good thing about twisted anklesâthe recovery time is quick. There's a bigger problem, though, in my pants. I cast my gaze to my hard-on. “But can you do anything about this new issue you've created?”
A grin spreads on her face. “That is my special nursing talent,” she says, standing and stripping. With each shred of clothing that comes off, I'm harder and more aroused. How that's possible, I don't know. But that's the Josie effect. She does this to me, and I help her along by unzipping my jeans and pushing them to my knees.
In her naked glory, she grabs a condom from the table and straddles me. I brush strands of pink hair from her face. “Your pink is fading,” I say, as I run a finger over her locks.
“I need to touch it up. I'll do it tomorrow morning, since I'm not working. Takes me a little while since I have to focus on putting the color in so I don't get it all over my neck,” she says as she opens the condom wrapper.
“Do you want me to help? I have steady hands.”
“You'd do that?”
“Of course,” I say, wishing I could add the full truth.
I'd do anything for you.
She drops a kiss to my lips then rolls the condom onto my dick. So much for the hair talk. All I care about now is
. She lowers herself onto me, and her wet, warm pussy hugs my cock. We groan in unison. Electricity rushes through me. Pleasure spreads to every damn molecule. I grip her hips. “Jesus, Josie.”
She rises up on my dick, then back down. “I know, right? It's so good.” Her voice sounds as if it's breaking.
I cup her cheeks as she rides me. “What am I going to do with you?”
She shakes her head, like she barely knows the answer either.
“You're so fucking good to me,” I say, then crush her lips to mine.
I don't know how to do this. Not when she owns me, not when she takes care of me, and not when she fucking wins my heart over and over.
I can't stop feeling this way. I can't stop falling. I'm so fucking in love with her, it hurts. I want to be the one who wants her, and be the one she wants, just like she asked for.
“One guy who wants me the way I want him.”
You have him, I want to say. He's right fucking here.
She breaks our kiss as she rides me harder and wilder, and it's spectacular watching her chase her pleasure. I drop my hand to her legs, rubbing her clit as she fucks me until she shudders and then breaks apart.
Her face falls next to mine, cheek to cheek, her mouth near my ear. “I don't know how to stop.”
Hell if I know how, either.
, when we're in bed, and I reassure her for the tenth time that her medicine worked and my ankle's fine, she sets her hand on my shoulder. “Did you enjoy our date?”
That last word makes my breath catch. Her voice is nervous, like she truly hopes I'll say yes.
“Loved it,” I say as I run my fingers through her hair.
“Even the kooky teacher and the class that totally wasn't our style?”
I nod. “Even that.”
“It was perfect for us,” she says softly, snuggling closer.
Our. Date. Us.
That well of hope? It springs up again. This is the turning point. This is when she says she's all in. This is us without a hitch.
She sighs and cuddles up against me. “I wish it could be like this.”
I tense. Because that doesn't sound like
. “Like what?” I ask carefully.
“Like tonight. Perfect. Even with your ankle.”
“But it can't be?”
She looks up and meets my eyes. “I don't want to lose you. You know that.”
I nod, afraid if I speak I'll ruin what we have.
Or maybe she will, given her next words. “Chase,” she says slowly, her voice sad. “What happens when this ends?”
My chest aches. My heart stings. “What do you mean?” I choke out.
She waves in the direction of my wall, my room, and draws a deep breath like it fuels her. “Do you just go back to your bed? To your room?”
“I don't know,” I say, each word like a stone in my mouth.
“I don't want this to stop,” she says, and I want to grab her, hold her, tell her it doesn't have to. “But it has to, right?”
Her voice wobbles, like she's on the cusp of tears. For a second, hope tries to jostle its way past the pragmatic reality that friends who dally too far into benefits are doomed. Because it sounds like she doesn't want this to end, either. Like she's looking for the loophole, too.
But I'm not sure it exists.
In medicine, there are risks, there are side effects. You have to weigh them and decide if the treatment is worth the cure. Taking the leap with Josie, telling her I'm crazy in love with her, isn't like popping some Advil for my ankle. It's jacking up my whole body with steroids that could do serious damage down the line.
“Right?” she asks again, like she needs me to be the one to keep the ingredients separate.
I flash back to her worries and her words the first night we slept together
“I need you to be the tough one. You need to be the doctor who rips off the Band-Aid eventually.”
I look into her eyes. She's waiting for my answer. She needs me to be strong.
. I don't want to play that role with her.
But if we're going to pull this offâthe return to FriendshiplandâI've got to.
I push past the lump in my throat. “Right.”
She sighs, and the sound is both wistful and horribly pained. “We'll be like a cake that bakes too long. You've got to know when to take it out of the oven or it'll burn.”
“I don't want to burn,” I say.
But I fear I already have.
rom the pages
of Josie's Recipe Book
An Apple a Day