Fire & Ice

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Chapter 7

The train ride to the Rivera area is just over thirty minutes so I’m not exactly thrilled to be dragging myself there once again. I manage to find a seat for the ride and force myself to ignore my anxiety, though, because this is my job. I could have declined Scofield’s request to put me on this mission, but here I am instead. The ability to compartmentalize is important in undercover work which is luckily something I have a great deal of experience with. Salem looked mildly pleased when I told her that and Max just looked kind of sick to his stomach.

I stand out on the porch of the Rivera house for a few minutes and wonder whether I should knock or just walk in. Is it normal to knock on the door of what is basically a drug house? I decide against it and hope I don’t offend someone as I open the door.

Chris is sitting on the couch watching what looks like Law & Order on the flat screen which is ironic in so many ways. I look a bit farther to the left and catch sight of Rowan sitting at the kitchen table across from another man I’ve never seen before. I decided that it’s best to not wear my counterpart necklace when I’m working on this operation anymore so seeing Rowan so suddenly is a bit of a shock.

Chris looks entirely unbothered with my presence.

“Lakey, boy,” he calls from the couch to my right. “You do your magical selling thing again? It’s hardly been a week.”

“Yeah, well, the semester just ended. Finals week makes people antsy and the summer is three months, so a bunch stocked up,” I ramble with a practice indifferent expression. I’ve always been quite good at masking my true emotions and this mission is slowly improving those skills.

“Might as well give it straight to the boss, then,” Chris shrugs before pointing in the direction of the kitchen table.

I look back to my left. The man sitting across from Rowan is eyeing my curiously and this time I recognize the resemblance between him and Rowan. They have the same brown hair and upper lip. Their noses are exact copies. Rowan is Alexander Rivera’s son.

Jesus christ. I thought the “Rowan situation” was bad enough as it is. There was a small possibility of Rowan forgiving me for playing the biggest hand in destroying the Rivera gang, but that’s just disintegrated into dust. He’ll never be able to get over me getting his father and quite likely him himself arrested.

“How much?” Alexander drawls before he holds out an open palm

I sling my backpack around to chest by one strap and unzip the large pocket to fish out the white envelope at the bottom.

“Fifteen and three quarters,” I say quietly as I place the envelope gingerly in the man’s waiting palm.

The man gives an impressed hum as he sits back in his seat and opens the envelope. I swallow thickly and put my arm back through the other strap of my bag. He dumps the cash out onto the table before him and I jam my hands into the front pockets of my jeans to keep them from wringing together with anxiety. I didn’t think I’d meet Alexander so early on in this operation so I really wasn’t prepared to see him today.

“We have you at ten percent?” he asks.

“Yeah.”

“Hm,” he hums again. “Chris, we’re gonna bump him up to fifteen.” He says as he fans out the stack of bills and starts counting out what must be my new cut of the deal. He hands me around twenty-three grand which I shove loosely into my backpack like a total idiot.

“You’re doing great, kid,” he says before tucking the remaining money into his jacket. It’s kind of strange that he’s wearing a jacket in May, but I’m not about to question a drug lord. Besides, the air conditioning in here is actually pretty good for what looks like such a run down looking house to the outside.

“Hope so,” I say, trying to sound like the earnest college kid I’m pretending to be. “Got one more year of school and my parents are dead, so gotta make that money somehow.”

Alexander squints at me.

“Scholarships?”

“Do I look underprivileged or incredibly intelligent to you?” I quip back, shocking myself with the ability to make such an easy joke at a time like this. It startles a loud laugh of the large man.

“Chris, where’d you find this kid?” he nearly howls. “Shit, he’s actually funny!”

Chris rolls his eyes but laughs as well.

“Sit down, lend a hand,” Alexander requests before gesturing to the seat beside Rowan. Great. However long Alexander decides to keep me will be spent fidgeting beside a guy I can barely even look at, let alone hold a normal conversation with.

I sit down and place my backpack at my feet. There’s a large cardboard box full of the tiny baggies on my end of the table and a pile of larger plastic bags on the other.

“We’re wrapping into bags of fifty,” the man explains. “Simple enough, yeah?”

“Yup.”

I sit beside Rowan and try to ignore the way my skin immediately starts tingling from the proximity. The task at hand is actually pretty simply and mind numbing. I grab a fistful of baby baggies, count them, and then shove them into a larger plastic bag. Then I move onto the next batch.

My leg is resting right against Rowan’s the entire time. Our arms brush accidentally quite often and each time it’s like a jolt of electricity that shocks my entire system. Having to school my expression every time it happens gets tiring very quickly.

It starts to get late. When I look out the window a few hours later, the sun has somehow already goes down without me even noticing it. I look around the room as I seal another bag and place it in the provided box. Chris is still in the living room but he’s completely passed out on the couch. Isaiah appeared sometime since I got here and he has a much more alert look on his face than the last time I saw him.

“I’m gonna get going,” Alexander says before pushing his chair back and getting to his feet. It takes me a quick second to realize that he’s not talking to me. Rowan nods his head silently beside me as he grabs another handful from the cardboard box on my side of the table. “Should be in Jersey for a couple days, so make sure you check in on Bella, huh?”

Rowan nods again but still doesn’t say anything. Alexander lunges across the table and grabs him by the jaw, jerking his son around so that he’s forced to make eye contact with him.

“Okay?” the older man says, his words heavy and loud.

“Okay, yeah, I will,” Rowan huffs out. Alexander releases his hold and stands back up straight on the other side of the table. He smooths down his clothes before bending down to grab one of the sealed boxes of completed bags.

“Party favors for the meeting,” he says with a wink in my direction like it’s some kind of inside joke we share. I smile and nod back like I totally get it even though I feel like I’m going to be sick. I watch his every move until he disappears out the front door and don’t relax even a little until the door rattles shut behind him. When I look down at the table I realize that I’ve clenches my hands into fists around a pile of tiny baggies I was counting out. I relax my hands and take a long breath in an attempt to pull my shit together. Alexander Rivera reminds me a lot of my own father and that is certainly not a compliment.

A hand lands on my knee and squeezes. I’d normally jump a foot in the air and push it off, but the contact sends a surge of reassurance through my entire body. Goosebumps jump up along the bare skin of my arms.

“Relax,” Rowan says. “He likes you more than most of our dealers.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” I say with a wobble in my voice.

“Yeah,” he replies. “You’re safer than the rest of them.” Jesus christ.

I stand up suddenly and grab my backpack off of the floor by my feet. Alexander had Rowan fill it with a supply of five hundred sometime in the middle of our packaging so it’s much heavier than it was on my way here. I don’t look at Rowan as I step away from the kitchen table

“I gotta go,” I announce to the room even though I really don’t. I can’t be in this any more, at least for today.

Chris calls a goodbye as I make my way to the door and quickly disappear into the night. Once I get out of the front yard I tear down the sidewalk, trying to put as much distance between myself and the house as possible.

I don’t even make it to the end of block before I hear someone calling my name. It takes me a few moments to realize that it’s Rowan’s voice, but he’s grabbing me by the upper arm and yanking me back before I even have the chance to look back.

“You forgot this,” he says, a little out of breath from the running., before he holds out my cell phone. It must have fallen out of my back pocket when I jumped out of the chair before practically fleeing the scene. I take it back and tuck it safely back into my jeans all while carefully avoiding his eyes.

“Thanks,” I say grudgingly.

He nods and I nod back. That’s all we are for a few long moments: two idiots nodding together on a sidewalk.

“Listen, do you…” I trail off and sigh heavily, already preparing to reconsider. “Do you want to come watch the new Thor movie with me? I just, you know, got the BluRay, and my friends are all spending time with their families and stuff…” I can hear myself starting to ramble and promptly shut my mouth. There’s a long enough pause where I fully expect him to just walk away so I quickly backtrack. “I mean, never mind, it was dumb to even ask, you probably—” I begin, but he cuts me off with a soft smile.

“I’d love to,” he says before gesturing for me to lead the way.

We take the subway back to my temporary apartment and sits close together with our knees touching. He watches me fumble and fail to put the key in the lock once we get there for a good few moments too many. I practically collapse into the apartment once I finally get the damn door open.

The apartment is just as plain and boring as it was when I left it. It may be cozy but it’s also incredibly bland. There’s no personalization or familiarity so I struggle to really call the place “mine.” I suppose that’s the point of the League having certain apartments and houses that any agent in need can use. Keeping everything generic makes it easier to set up for the next agent after the previous one is gone.

Rowan follows me inside and bobs his head as he takes in the place as he closes the door behind him.

“You live here alone?” he asks.

“Yeah, but I don’t spend much time here during the semester. This is my first week back,” I lie smoothly. Lying to the guy that’s supposed to be my counterpart doesn’t exactly feel right, but I’m lying about pretty much everything about myself as well, so. In for a penny.

“That why there’s, like, nothing here?” he says jokingly, but I can tell he’s being mostly serious.

“Yeah,” I laugh as I drop my keys in the decorative bowl by the front door. I slip my shoes off and leave them on the floor beside the table.

“So, Thor?” he says, and it takes me an embarrassing minute to remember what he’s even talking about.

“Oh, right.” I laugh lightly before turning around to find the DVD. There’s are a couple shelves mounted under the flat screen on the wall in the living room. A bunch of them were already there when I go here but they’re all at least three years old. Any of the BluRays are the ones I brought here myself.

I pull out the disc and pop it into the player. Something tells me that we’re not going to be watching much of the actual movie. I’m finally completely alone with my counterpart for the first time in my life. All I really want to do is kiss him, but that didn’t feel like the right thing to say to him to get him to come with me.

We sit on the couch together and make it maybe five minutes into the movie until we’ve moved so close together that I’m basically sitting on his lap. That’s totally fine with me, too, because being close to him but not being able to touch him was kind of killing back at the Rivera house. This is the reason most counterparts choose to Bond immediately after finding each other. The Bond settles all the extreme emotions and reactions down considerably. Until then, it’ll be hard to keep our hands off of each other. Our situation is strange, though, and it’s clear that both of us can recognize that. Even if he wanted to jump straight into a Bond with me the second our eyes met for the first time, I would have declined. I would never lure him into a Bond when he doesn’t even know the truth about who I really am.

The Bond is permanent. I’m the last person who will ever force something on someone that they don’t want.

“I have a confession to make,” I announce dramatically a quarter way into the movie.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah,” I say with a nod before craning my neck to look back at him. “I’ve already seen this movie. Twice.”

His lips stretch into a grin.

“I had my suspicions,” he replies. “But that’s okay. I’ve been planning a way to get you alone since I first laid eyes on you. Guess you beat me to it.”

I squirm and twist around until I’m sitting with my thighs on either sides of his lap, now seated face to face. This finally gives me the opportunity to really see him. He has these beautiful brown eyes that are so light they’re basically gold. His hair is a dark, tangled mess that has only a small semblance of order in the front. There’s a dent of light brown skin right at the top of the bridge of his nose and another smaller one on the side of his cheek. When I touch the one on his cheek, his mouth spreads into a smile.

“What happened here?” I murmur, eyes darting up to meet his once more.

“I slipped off a chair in the kitchen and split it open on a corner of the table when I was, like, two,” he laughs lightly.

“And here?” I say, poking gently at the one between his eyes.

This time he laughs louder than before.

“I tried to do a back flip off a dock and bashed my face into the edge instead.” This startles a laugh out of me as well. What a spaz.

It feels like just the right time to kiss him. I don’t wait any longer and take my chance, pressing my lips to his and hoping that he doesn’t freak out. He kisses back, hands coming down to rest on my hips. His grip on my hips tighten as he tries to pull me closer and I slide a hand into his hair.

It’s great. It’s everything I thought kissing my counterpart for the first time would be like. He pulls away for a second and just looks at me, eyes flicking back and forth all over my face. Then, he kisses me again and it’s just as good as the first one. He doesn’t try to jam his tongue down my throat but he also doesn’t just sit there frozen like an awkward thirteen year old.

His hands glide slowly from my hips to my thighs and then under my shirt. The touch to my stomach brings me back to reality. I gasp and move back, breaking our lips apart and looking down at him like I’m in a daze. My cautious mindset went away for a little while but it’s back and encasing me like armor.

This is the son of the biggest Valiant drug lord on the east coast. Alexander Rivera can have me killed with just a word to any one of his friends. I also can’t forget that everything Rowan thinks he knows about me is false. This apartment is fabricated and my reactions to almost everything are stifled.

“Sorry,” I say breathlessly. “I didn’t...I can’t.”

“Can’t what?”

“The shirt, I can’t, it’s my chest…” I trail off and avoid his eyes. “We shouldn’t even be doing this anyway.”

“What about the shirt?” he says, brushing my hair off of my my forehead with a hand that’s somehow gentler than Danny’s has ever been. “Hm?”

“There’s...scars. They’re not like yours,” I say, thinking about how faded and barely visible his are. “They’re ugly and horrible. I’ve always been weird about it.” Jude was probably the one to drive home the idea that they’re disgusting back in high school. I wasn’t particularly thrilled about the thick jagged lines carved into my chest back then, either, but I didn’t conceal them like as vigorously do now. When Jude started telling me how horrible they were every chance he got, however, I starting hiding them like the dirty secret that they are. Jude couldn’t be bothered with how shy I was and I put up with his pushy behavior because he was around during a time in my life when I had lost all my self worth.

Danny was sweet about it. Both of his arms are covered in a sleeve of tattoos, the left of a forest and the right of a phoenix, that he designed himself to cover dozens of old burn scars. He told me in a hushed whisper the first time we snuck away to his bed that he used to burn himself with cigarettes. He gave me a sad smile at the end of the story and that’s probably when I started to fall for him if I really put some thought into it. It makes meeting Rowan bittersweet in a way. In a different world, Danny and I would be it for each other. In this one, however, Danny is already smitten with the counterpart he still has yet to meet and Rowan has somehow already managed to worm his way near my heart. I have to let Danny go, and I think I may have already started doing so.

“I’m sure they’re not,” Rowan says quietly, and his words drag me back down to planet earth. “Nothing about you could possibly be ugly.” His words make my eyes burn.

“Okay,” I croak. “I’m sorry.”

“Nah, don’t be sorry,” he says, smiling and pecking me sweetly on the forehead. “It’s no big.” I slide closer until we’re chest to chest and then wrap my arms around his neck in an incredibly octopus-like hug. It just feels like the right thing to do in this situation and from what I’ve heard about counterparts, going with my gut is usually best.

He squeezes me back just as securely and then helps me carefully slide off of his lap. We finish watching Thor as more of an afterthought than anything. I walk him to the front door not long after with a dangerously comfortable feeling settling in my stomach. Being around him already feels so easy which just means that once this mission is over, it’ll be even harder to be without him.

“Before I go…” he begins halfway to the door before trailing off awkwardly. “Could I maybe get your number? I mean, I’d like to talk to you when you aren’t just around to pick up drugs and drop off dirty money.”

I laugh and agree, reading out the number of the phone I was giving specifically for this undercover operation. My personal cell phone is in the bedside drawer of my bedroom all the way back in the tower for obvious safety and security reasons. I’m not too worried about Rowan not having my number since he’ll probably both want nothing to do with me and also be in jail by the end of the mission.

“I’m gonna text you,” he says after inputting the number into his phone. “Be prepared.”

I roll my eyes, opening the front door and hanging onto the side of it.

“I’ll be waiting,” I reply.

He steps out in the hallway and turns back around, planting a kiss on my lips on second thought, before actually walking away.

“Night!” he calls over his shoulder. His cheeks are flushed and his lips are curled into a goofy grin. I don’t know him well enough to know for sure, but something tells me he isn’t easily flustered.


Rowan texts me the next afternoon just like he promised. He asks me on a date and it is definitely not what I was expecting when he asked for my number last night. I agree, of course, because I’m not a total idiot. I might as well enjoy Rowan while I still have him. People whose counterparts have abandoned them are typically referred to as Halfless. I may have to become more familiar with that name sometime soon, because I have a feeling betrayal isn’t something that a Rivera forgives easily.

The simple question itself sends a surge of warmth through my stomach. Unlike most other people my age, I have never been asked out on a date before. Danny and I were never like that. Things with him and I were already complicated enough without dates thrown into the mix. Jude wasn’t concerned with my safety or happiness so asking me out to dinner was obviously never his top priority.

I very reluctantly agree. My heart was screaming to say yes the second the text came through, but my head was rational enough to think critically about it. At this point, whatever time I can have with him will be worth the hurt of losing him.

We decide to meet up at a nice little diner in Manhattan. I fuss over what to wear for a good twenty minutes until I decide on what I normally wear, a plain t-shirt and some jeans, because it’s not like he’s going to ask me to marry him. He’s already sitting at a booth when I get to the restaurant. There’s a plate of steaming onion rings on the table before him but they appear entirely untouched. He luckily must not have been waiting for very long.

“Hi,” I say quietly as I slide into the booth across from him. He smiles widely and reciprocates the greeting.

“I wasn’t sure what you’d like, but…” he trails off, gesturing lazily to the plate.

“No, no, I like,” I reply and emphasize my claim by plucking a ring off the top of the pile and biting right into it. It’s crispy and fresh unlike the soggy ones served in the dining hall at school. He must take this as the cue to start eating as well because he grabs one himself and digs in.

The waitress eventually comes by to take our order. After a bit of fumbling, he and I decide on sharing a strawberry milkshake. We each get a basket of chicken fingers, as well, because apparently we’re both a grand total of three years old.

“So, I don’t really know how this works if I’m being honest,” he says after the waitress leaves, casting a meaningful gaze across the table.

“What thing?”

“The date thing,” he replies before looking down awkwardly at his hands. I laugh and his gaze snaps back up to meet mine.

“Neither do I,” I say. “Don’t make it weird, then. We can play, like, twenty questions, or something like it. Ask away.”

He grins back and the anxiety that had begun hunching his shoulders to his ears quickly dissipates.

“Where do you go to school?”

“Columbia,” I reply with a smirk as I pull the outer shell of an onion ring off, “for creative writing.”

He makes an impressed noise as he sits back in the booth.

“A writer,” he hums. “Interesting.”

“Where’d you grow up?” I ask.

“The Bronx,” he replies. “You?”

“Queens,” I say, furrowing my brow. “I always wondered why I had never felt the damn necklace warm up or anything.”

A sad smile appears on his face as I grope for the necklace that I realize I’m not actually wearing. He’s wearing his, however, and he pulls it out of shirt so I can see. It’s the exact opposite of mine as I suspected it would be with the puzzle pieces cut into the sides of the triangles to fit into mine. I reach across the table and, against my better judgment, touch it. The metal is cool between my fingers which sets off a bit of distress somewhere in the recesses of my brain but the rational part of me knows it’s only because my half isn’t around.

“Sorry for, you know, not wearing mine and all,” I say as I let the charm go and settle back into my seat, “I didn’t want anyone asking questions. Not that I’m not glad I’ve finally found you. It’s just, well, you know.”

He nods in understanding and I let out a silent breath of relief.

“I get it,” he replies. “I’m actually glad you hid it when you first came around. My dad can be...he’s a lot. He abuses just about any information he can get his hands on. Me working for him isn’t exactly...ideal. I’d honestly leave if I could.”

This surprises me quite a bit. From the way Salem explained the entire dynamic of the Rivera family, all of them are easily willing to die for one another. Alexander Rivera practically has the words “blood is thicker than water around here” tattooed on his forehead.

“You would leave?” I parrot even though I’m trying not to sound as dumbfounded as I feel.

“Yes,” he replies. “I see what Valerie does to people and what it makes them do. The stuff my dad does to other people to get his way, too, jesus christ. He doesn’t even have to be high for it. My sister Bella, though. He uses her as leverage against me. My mom died right after he had her so I’m the only one who really gives a damn about her. As long as I’m the perfect pet son, he doesn’t sell her off or worse.”

Before I can get a word out, the waitress is back with our food and milkshake. I thank her once she’s done settling it all onto our table and she smiles warmly before walking away. Rowan and I exchange a look before we jump right in. He puts some ketchup into his basket of chicken and fries while I open the two straws the lady gave us and pop them right into the tall glass. It’s one of those milkshake glasses you normally only see in pictures from the fifties.

It sounds like my odds of forgiveness for destroying his father’s drug empire are now better than I previously thought they ever could be. I was nearly convinced that Rowan subscribed to his father’s brutal philosophy of business but if he’s telling the truth right now, then maybe things won’t be as bad as I’ve been predicting they’ll be.

“If you could take her away, you’d leave?” I ask before biting into a chicken strip. I just have to be sure.

“In a heartbeat,” he confirms with a very serious expression. “How about your family, then?” I nearly choke on the chewed chicken as it goes down in surprise.

“My family? Oh, well, my parents have been dead since I was in high school. My older brother raised me, though, after that and even before. Our parents were shit. Kinda hard to even call them that, really.”

He looks a little surprised at how blunt I’m being but I’ve never been one to paint a pretty picture about my mother and father. Atlas and I have practically been friends since diapers so he’s known they were abusive for a while. I never went into details with him, but he knew. I was just as blunt with Maggie and she took it a little harder but we eventually moved past it. I don’t see the point in lying about people who were so horrible to me. It’s not like they deserve it.

“Sorry,” he says softly.

“Don’t be,” I reply before plastering a smile on my face. “Not your fault, anyway.”

We chat about other random things like high school and movies that are coming out until we’re done eating. He insists on paying but I fight until he at least lets me split it with him. I flash him a mischievous look as I put down a few small bills for the nice lady’s tip. He follows me down the block until we reach the stairs for the subway where I make a split second decision.

“Come with me,” I offer, and the words are easier than the first time I suggested the idea. “We can watch trashy late night TV and eat microwave popcorn.”

“Well, when you say it like that,” he replies with a cheeky smile.

We get back to my apartment at around ten at night. My hands don’t shake when I try to put the key in the lock this time. I put the bag of popcorn in the microwave while he clicks around on the flat screen to find something to watch. I drag the fleece blanket out from the bedroom while the bag pops in the microwave and chuck the entire blanket right at his head. I run off to get the popcorn, snickering as I go, while he splutters in surprise at the sudden attack.

The microwave beeps and I dump the boiling hot popcorn into one of the bowls that came with the apartment. When I go back to the living room, I see that Rowan had decided on a rerun of CatDog, the old cartoon from the nineties. I place the bowl of steaming popcorn on the coffee table and crawl under the blanket that he’s draped over himself.

He doesn’t even say anything when I curl up into his side like we’ve known each other far longer than the week or so that we actually have. Being around him is easier than it has any right to be. Sitting so close makes it easy for him to turn and kiss me which he does multiple times throughout the episode until I somehow end up on my back with him hovering over me. His knees are planted firmly on either side of my hips and a smirk is hanging on his lips as I stare back up in awe. How the hell did I get so lucky?

“Are you okay with hickies?” he nearly purrs. I don’t even have to think about it, nodding quickly. Then his mouth is on the side of my neck and I’m way more okay with it then I thought I would be. My hands fist into his hair when he bites and then we’re kissing again. It’s just as good as last time and it gets even better when he doesn’t even reach for the hem of my shirt. He lets me slip my hands under his and pet his abs just fine but doesn’t try to do the same.

We easily shift from making out to watching TV a good few times. We must fall asleep at some point because I wake up the next morning with sunlight streaming through the blinds. I look around, but I can’t move my neck much since I’m tangled in a set of arms. Rowan. I fell asleep against him. He’s still asleep, face slack and smooth. I really don’t want to wake him up, but he’s most likely a pretty busy guy. I don’t want to find out what happens when he disappears for the night without telling anyone.

“Rowan,” I whisper, poking him on the cheek, “Row.” I poke his nose and watch the bridge of it crinkle up before his eyes slide open. A smile spreads across his face when he realizes it’s me.

“Lake,” he murmurs, voice scratchy and deep from sleep. The sound makes me bite my lip hard. He has one of those morning voices that is sexy enough to be illegal. Jesus. Did I really just think that?

“We fell asleep,” I tell him in case he hasn’t already realized. “It’s nine thirty.”

He looks around the living room in surprise before humming quietly. He doesn’t seen as worried as I was afraid he would be. I take this moment to lean down and kiss him softly. He kisses back and when we pull apart he looks so adorably sweet soft that I nearly melt on the spot.

We eventually get up and I throw together some eggs and toast while he takes a shower. He’s not rushing around or anything so we take our time eating breakfast together.

“I wish I could stay longer,” he says and sighs as I grab our plates and put them in the sink. “But you know, gotta take care of some business. Or else.” He laughs but it comes out dry and humorless.

“Nah, I get it,” I reply with a shrug. I’m careful not to take the time to think about what kind of “business” he’s been charged with doing. The answer will more than likely do nothing but break my heart for him. “I’ve got some business, too.”

“Oh, yeah?” he says. A smile makes its way back onto his lips. “What kind?”

“Not really business, but training of sorts,” I reply. “Gotta go on a run and stuff. I...run track for school. Can’t let myself get floppy, ya know.”

He smirks before reaching forward and poking me on the bicep.

“I don’t think floppy will ever be the right word to describe you.”

“Aw, you know just the right things to say,” I say, rolling my eyes dramatically.

I see him off all the way down to the lobby of my apartment building and even dare to kiss him goodbye in broad daylight.

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