The moment I caught sight of Alex, my heart did its usual flip. I missed her. It’s not like the ones you see in the movies where the girl jumps on the guy because they finally see each other after a long time—no. Alex simply scanned the crowd, saw my face, and gave me the most dazzling smile. It’s not an understatement to say her smile can light up a room because she definitely just did.
I clear a path for myself, making my way to her. When I got out of the thick crowd, her eyes scan my outfit, and a smirk forms on her lips. “You’ve taken quite a liking to my hoodie.”
I bite my lip. I’ve actually been wearing it every night in Japan because it smells like her. I’m almost tempted to give it back to her, have her wash it, then give it back to me so her smell wouldn’t go away. “Like I said, it’s comfy.”
She chuckles and gives me a bone-crushing hug. “I missed you.”
“I missed you too.”
“So, how was Japan?”
During the first few minutes of the ride home, I shared in detail what places I visited while in the country. Although the main reason I went with my dad was for a conference, I couldn’t just waste an opportunity to explore Nippon. Of course, I didn’t fail to mention how disciplined the Japanese are and how clean the streets were.
I could tell she was interested in my experience, but I can’t help but feel like she’s distracted. Maybe she’s just tired? She did have training before fetching me.
“You can sleep,” Alex suggests. “You must be tired.”
“It’s okay,” I say, glancing at her. “You might accidentally get us in a ditch again.”
“Hey! I also got us out of that ditch. Give me some credit.”
I chuckle. “Whatever you say. I’m not that sleepy.” I lean my head against the window and feel the cold surface. Okay, maybe I am sleepy. I don’t remember closing my eyes, but the next time I open them, we were already in front of my house.
“Not sleepy, huh?” She grins at me.
I roll my eyes at her as a reply.
Alex puts down my baggage in the living room just as my dogs greet me with love. “Babies!” I bend down and gather them all in a hug and kiss them on their snouts one by one. I have no qualms about leaving them here because I know Linda, our caretaker, treats them well.
“I should get going,” Alex says. “You need to get some rest.”
Surprised, I stand up and raise an eyebrow at her. “Aren’t you staying over?”
“Oh.” Alex rubs the nape of her neck. “I wasn’t sure whether you’d want me to stay or not.”
“You really think I’m going to let you go home at this hour after driving for six hours just to pick me up?” I pull out my phone. “I’ll message Isa to let her know you’re staying over.” Alex just stares sheepishly at me until I hit send. “Let’s go to my room.”
“Go on ahead, I’ll just go get my things,” Alex says and heads to her car.
I make my way to my room and go inside the bathroom. Usually, I take a shower before going to bed, but exhaustion is slowly getting to my bones, so I decided to just wash my body instead.
“Baby?” I hear Alex’s voice from the other side of the door.
“In here,” I answer instinctively.
When I get out of the bathroom, Alex is sitting on the couch and has already changed into boxer shorts and a shirt. She smirks when she sees me. Again, her eyes travel along the length of my body—only this time, it was laced with a hint of something else. I don’t stay in the room long enough to find out and go inside my walk-in closet to change into pink pajamas.
Alex grins when I walk out. “You look cute.”
“I like these. Stop teasing.” I walk over to the other side of the room to turn off the lights. “Get on the bed.”
“Ooh, I like the sound of that. Say it again.”
“Alvarrez,” I say in warning.
She chuckles. “Fine, fine.” The bed puffs as she jumps on it.
I turn the lights off and head to the windows to open the curtains, giving a perfect view of a crescent moon. The sky is clear tonight, the stars twinkling brightly. I never tire of this view. It’s a good thing there are no properties located around this side of the house.
I turn around to see Alex, her features illuminated by the night sky, staring at me, seemingly enchanted. “Beautiful.” She lets out a breath.
My feet take me to the bed where Alex makes space for me. I slip under the covers and find myself seeking her warmth. We had the same thought in mind.
Alex snakes an arm under my neck carefully and pulls me closer. My head rests on her shoulder while her other arm rests on my waist. “So,” she lets the word hang for a second. “Did anything else interesting happen while you were away?”
I knew it. I first noticed it at the airport, for just a brief moment. I saw how her eyebrows creased and her lips thinned before I made my way to her. It was quick—almost unnoticeable—but I swear she looked worried. You know when a dog winks and you question yourself whether he really winked or was it just your imagination? It felt like that.
I never pegged her for the jealous type, but I guess even she will feel bothered when she finds out that the girl she loves is on another continent with her ex.
“I was wondering when you were going to bring it up.” I tilt my head to look at her, green eyes meeting me halfway. “You don’t have to worry about anything, Al. Jan and I are done.”
A crease appears on her forehead. She looks worried, almost scared. “But you shared a room with her.”
“What?” I pull myself up, supporting my weight with my elbow. Anger leaks into my voice. “Did she tell you that?”
That little shit. I forgave her when she apologized for badmouthing Alex. She told me her emotions got the better of her that night. Not even twenty-four hours has passed after her apology, and she already goes and does something stupid again.
Wait. Does that mean Alex spent a day thinking that we shared the same room? And she only brought it up now? My God. I set aside the inkling of rage building inside me. That is not what Alex needs right now.
“That’s not true.” I shake my head furiously. “We didn’t share a room. That morning when you called, she just came to my room to tell me the itinerary for the day.”
Alex lets out a breath. “Okay.” Relief washes across her features. “Okay,” she says once again, and this time, a hint of a smile plays at the edge of her lips. “That’s good to know.”
“No, don’t be.” She gently gathers me in her arms and I allow my head to fall on her shoulder again. Her fingers lightly trail down my back, resting at the bottom. The movement is slow, as if she’s doing it absent-mindedly. It’s calming.
Alex starts combing my hair with her free hand.
“What are you doing to me, Al?” I snake an arm around her torso.
I can hear her smile when she answers. “Making you fall asleep.”
I slap her stomach lightly. “You know that’s not what I mean.”
She manages to chuckle. “Do you not like it?”
“The playing with my hair thing or the things you make me feel?”
“The latter. Everyone loves it when people play with their hair.”
“I’m happy. And I’ve never felt this happy in a while.” I look up and hold her gaze. My hands cup her face. “So, thank you.” I plant a soft kiss on her lips.
Alex grins, her perfect teeth showing. “You’re always welcome,” she says and returns a kiss on my forehead.
I let myself relax in the comfort of her arms. I focus on the gentle rise and fall of her chest and match them with my own until sleep claims me.
The first thought I have when I wake up the next morning? Since when did Toffee have green eyes?
I blink, rubbing the sleep off my eyes, and realize that it’s actually Alex grinning at me and not my golden retriever. Her smile is so bright it could replace the sun scorching my skin from behind me.
“Good morning, baby.” She plants a lingering kiss on my temple.
I never smiled so hard so early in the morning. “Good morning, baby.”
“I made breakfast,” she says excitedly and helps me sit up on the bed.
“That explains the burning smell.”
I meant that as a joke, but Alex looks sheepishly at me. “Hey, I only burned one, and I already ate it.”
I raise a curious eyebrow at her. “I was kidding, but that’s good to know.” I throw my feet off the bed and head to the bathroom. “I’ll be down shortly. Don’t burn anything else.”
“Roger that.” Alex offers a mock salute and saunters away.
After cleaning myself up and making myself look more presentable, I head downstairs and get in time to see Alex placing a plate full of freshly cooked pancakes on the kitchen island. Her hair is tied up in a ponytail keeping the messy brown locks out of her face.
Only when I tear my gaze from her do I notice the small arrangement she did. Two sets of utensils are placed neatly on opposite sides. “What’s this?” I ask, not bothering to hide the amusement in my voice.
“A breakfast date,” she beams. “I hope you don’t mind me ransacking your kitchen.”
I take my time walking towards her. “I would’ve pegged you for a dinner date kind of person.”
“Dinner dates are overrated.” Alex pulls the bar stool out for me to sit. “And I just remembered that we didn’t eat last night. You were probably too tired.”
This particular situation is new to me. Ever since the twins left for college, I always felt the need to do things myself. I had no one else to rely on. However, being with Alex has made me a little lax. She’s too considerate. She makes me feel like she really cares about me.
Alex offers me a hand to help me sit. Before taking her own, she goes over to the counter and does something I can’t see. Her body is blocking my view. Is she making something?
She turns around with a mug in her hand. “Breakfast wouldn’t be complete without your coffee, would it?”
She places my coffee on the table and after taking a peek, I look at her in surprise. “How’d you know I like it black?” I take a sip. It’s perfect.
Alex shrugs. “I’ve seen you make your coffee a million times,” she says as if it’s no big deal, but it is to me. It’s the little things that count.
I get a piece of pancake and put a bit of syrup before taking a bite. Alex looks at me with anticipation. “It’s delicious. You could give IHOP a run for their money.”
She rolls her eyes at my comment. “You didn’t spit it out, so I guess it’s fine.”
“No, seriously, it’s good.” I urge her to take a bite by pointing at her plate.
She stabs at her food and pops a piece in her mouth. “Hm. Pwede na."
The words automatically translate in my brain. If I’m not mistaken, it means somewhat acceptable. My online classes have been paying off.
Alex stares at me for a moment, then her eyes drag downwards and stop on my chest area. She smirks. “I bet you taste better.”
She really has the talent to make anything sexual. I weigh whether to brush it off or play the game with her. It’s always fifty-fifty when I go along with her stunts. It’s either she will stop or reply with something else. I’m in the mood this morning, so I retort back, “You bet I do.”
Alex almost chokes on her pancakes. She gulps down her water and, with a smile, bites back, “Sorry, but I’ve always been skeptical about the things I don’t see for myself. Or, in this case, taste. Was that an invitation, Gray?”
Electricity sparks down my spine at the way she says my name, teasing. I take another bite out of my food, but this time, I chew it slowly and let the fork trace the edges of my bottom lip. I merely shrug. “Who knows.”
I watch in satisfaction as Alex’s Adam’s apple bobs up and down in her throat. She licks her lips. “I’ll take that as a yes.” She stands up from her stool, a predatory look in her eyes. “I seem to remember you telling me you’re for any time of the day. I was thinking maybe we could start with breakfast.”
Okay, going with it might not be the best course of action. I drop from the stool. “I was—”
“Then lunch.” She walks towards me at a leisurely pace. For every step she takes, I take a step back.
“And dinner too, of course, just to compare how you taste at different times of the day.”
“Al!” I have no doubt my face is beet red now.
It’s when she cracks that trademark troublemaker smile that my instincts tell me to run. I dash to the living room as fast as I can.
“Come here!” Alex laughs as she chases after me.
I protect myself by making use of the sofa between us, circling it in the opposite direction she tries to chase me from. But a sofa can only do so much when this damned athlete decides to catch me for real.
Alex hurdles from the sofa’s back with startling speed and lands next to me. I barely had the time to turn around as she snakes her arms around my stomach. “Caught you.” She chuckles, her tall frame pressing against my back.
“You’re so unfair.” I groan and pretend to struggle against her grip. Our laughter echoes in the vast space of the living room.
Then she starts to poke at my sides. I jerk violently to one side and shriek. Oh my God. This time, I try to break free for real. I hate being tickled.
We both fall on the sofa as Alex loses her balance. I take my chance to escape from her arms. Once free from her grip, I pounce on her, straddling her by the waist. “Ha! Payback time.”
I launch my counterattack on Alex relentlessly as squirms under me, begging me to stop. Her eyes are getting teary of laughter. “Julia, please,” she begs in between breaths. By the time I stop with my revenge, we were both panting.
Once Alex’s breathing evens, she places a hand under her head and smirks. “I like you on top.”
It was only then that I realize our position. I scramble to get on my feet, but Alex pulls me towards her. I end up lying literally on top of her. And If I’m being honest, I don’t really mind. I can hear the slightly fast beating of her heart and smell her scent mixed with a trace of sweat.
Alex plays with my hair. We stay like that for a while, until she breaks the silence. “Janelle told me I would never be enough for you.” I try to stand up upon hearing the words, but Alex keeps me pressed against her. “She told me I know I don’t deserve you.”
“You know that’s not—”
“It’s true.” She gets up, lifting me along with her. I’m still straddling her, so I end up sitting in her lap. She meets my eyes. “I don’t deserve you. You’re too... good for me.”
I hear the sincerity in her voice, and it’s breaking my heart. Is this the part where she says she doesn’t want to do this anymore? I don’t want that. I was about to tell her that I don’t care, that she doesn’t get to decide what I deserve and what I don’t, but she puts a finger over my lips.
“I don’t deserve you, Julia,” she says again. “But I’m willing to spend my life proving that I am.” Hastily, she adds, “If you’ll let me.”
Something breaks inside me. Is this happiness? A tear streaks down my cheek. I look at her through blurry eyes and strike her lightly on the shoulder with the side of my fist, “You idiot.”
Alex’s face scrunches in confusion. “Did I say something wrong?” Worry clouds her expression. “Why are you—”
I kiss her. It’s all I could do to keep myself sane after hearing those words. Alex kisses me back briefly and then pulls back. “Baby, I really need to know your—”
“You don’t need to prove anything to me. God, I thought you were going to leave me.” I wipe my eyes with the back of my hand. “You’re perfect, and you’re mine, you understand?” I grab the back of her head and pull her close before claiming her lips. “You’re mine, Alvarrez.”