Southern Love

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Negotiation

Kai grabbed his black button-down shirt off of the passenger seat of his truck and climbed out before pulling it on over his white tee and shutting his door. He buttoned his shirt and combed his fingers through his hair to tame it before crossing the lawn and climbing up the porch steps. The familiar smells of his mother’s cooking wafted through the house as he stepped inside, and he followed his nose into the kitchen. His mom greeted him with a smile, taking a moment to lean up and give him a hug and kiss on the cheek before going back to preparing the salad.

“Hey, honey. How are you?” His mom smiled as she watched him go to the fridge and pull out a beer.

“I’m good, Ma,” he smiled back as he popped the cap off the bottle and chucked it into the trash. “What’s for dinner?” He nodded towards the oven.

“Chicken cacciatore,” she smiled knowingly. It was one of Kai’s favorite meals. “Your dad’s been waiting for you out in the garage, I think he needs your help with something. Just try your best not to get too dirty before dinner. Besides, it’s Sunday, it’s supposed to be a day of rest,” she hinted with a smirk, and Kai let out a small laugh.

“You and I both know that the man won’t know what a day of rest is until the day he dies,” he joked back.

Kai walked through the house, stepping out into the attached garage as he heard his dad cursing under his breath. “If Mom hears you talk like that on the Lord’s day, she’ll ban you from the dinner table,” he teased.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, come over here and help me get this head gasket off,” his dad grumbled as he grabbed a rag and wiped the sweat from his face. Kai took a look down into the front end of the car before heading over to his father’s toolbox to select a torque wrench, grabbing one of the dirty rags off of his workbench on the way back. He held the rag and stabilized the head gasket while using the torque wrench to remove the nuts and bolts. “Huh, must’ve had it loosened up for you,” his dad nodded with a small smile.

“Must have,” Kai rolled his eyes. “You coming to help me out tomorrow with that diesel I told you about?”

“Might as well, I don’t have any other plans. Mom will be spending the day at the flower show with your Aunt Ginny, and God knows I don’t need to tag along for that kind of torture,” he scoffed. Both men laughed as the door to the house opened and Kai’s older and hugely pregnant sister Harper stuck her head out.

“Y’all get cleaned up. Momma’s gettin’ dinner on the table,” she stated before disappearing back into the house.

Kai followed his dad back inside, stopping to use the bathroom before he continued into the kitchen. He felt his phone vibrate in his back pocket as he was washing his hands, and he quickly dried them before pulling out his phone and looking down at the text he received. The notification let him know that the text was from Colby, and he quickly swiped the notification to open the text.

Impromptu gathering at my place tonight at 8. Beer and girls. Be there.

Kai threw his head back and laughed out loud at the text. He immediately thought of Maggie and knew this would be an opportunity to hopefully clear the air. He had thought a lot over the last week about what she had said, and seeing as though no one else had caught his interest lately he figured there was no reason not to go for it. If he was getting what he needed from her he wouldn’t have any reason to get it elsewhere anyway. He smirked as he replied to the text.

8 P.M. Got it.

He joined his family out at the kitchen table, taking a seat next to his younger sister Lyla which was the sister who worked for him part-time. His mom set the bowl of salad on the table and took a seat before they all bowed their heads as his father led them in their prayer of thanks. He caught his nephew looking around the table and playfully stuck his tongue out at him, causing him to smile and be silently scolded by his brother-in-law Hayden. His parents were fairly religious, especially his mother. His sister Harper had taken after them, getting married in the big church and giving birth to a beautiful baby boy a year later, but he and Lyla not so much. Sure, he believed in God and he went to church once in a while in addition to the holidays, but he had seen too much in Iraq to be faithfully convinced that God had a plan for everyone. He had lost too many brothers in the Army to believe that their deaths were in God’s best intentions. Lyla on the other hand, was the wild child of the three of them. He had bailed her out of the county jail more than once, thankfully for small offenses. She was starting to settle a bit as she approached her late twenties, but sometimes she still did things that were downright crazy.

Over dinner his family talked about their upcoming week, the most exciting even being Harper’s upcoming C-Section. She and her husband revealed the name they had picked out for their baby girl, and their son Jonas talked about how excited he was to be a big brother. Kai stood and cleared the plates from the table while Lyla carried the fresh apple pie over to the table. He grabbed some small plates, forks, and a knife before heading back in and taking his seat once again. Lyla served out everyone’s slice of pie, and as soon as his mother cleared her throat and looked over at him, he knew what was coming.

“What about you, Kai? When are you going to settle down and give your father and I some more grandbabies?” She asked with a smile.

“Ma, can we not do this again?” He sighed as he dug his fork into the pie.

“He has to actually find a wife first, and no one can stand him, so that will never happen,” Lyla teased. He smirked and playfully nudged her with his elbow.

“Seriously, Kai,” Harper smiled, “you have just about everything, except a family. Don’t you get lonely?” Kai glared up at her, now getting seriously annoyed.

“I have my dog, that’s all I need in life. Women only complicate things, and I don’t even want kids, so it’s not like I’m in a rush to find ‘the one.’” He paused and took another bite, washing it down with a swig of beer. “Besides, I like having options,” he shrugged.

“Now, Kai, it’s Sunday! Don’t be vulgar!” His mom scolded.

“Then don’t be intrusive,” he shrugged again. “I told you before, I’m happy with the way things are now. If I suddenly get the urge to become a husband and have kids, you’ll be the first to know.”

“Now, why is the thought of settling down so terrible?” His mom looked at him with disappointment.

“Why do you always feel like you have to be so pushy?” He countered, and she shook her head as she ignored his question.

“Kai, be nice to your mother,” his dad looked up at him over his glasses.

“Yeah, don’t be like this on a Sunday,” Harper chimed in.

He ate the last few bites of pie in silence, looking down at his watch and seeing that it was already going on 7:30. He stood and took his plate over to the kitchen and put in in the dishwasher before going back to the table and frustratedly pushing his chair in.

“As much as I’d love to stay and be the aim of your insults, I’ve got somewhere to be,” he stated before draining his beer. He walked over to his mom, leaning down and kissing the top of her head. “Love you all,” he added before tossing his bottle in the trash and leaving the house.

He grabbed his cigarettes out of the truck, resting his arms on the side of the bed as he let the first drag of sweet smoke fill his lungs. He had learned a long time ago that if he got pissed at his mom he just had to walk away. If he said the wrong thing, she would be upset with him for weeks and it would just put an unnecessary strain on their relationship. She didn’t understand him and the reason he hadn’t followed in Harper’s footsteps, but she didn’t need to understand. He had no plans on sharing his life with anyone at this point. As long as his physical needs were satisfied, he’d be just fine.

Once he finished his cigarette he climbed into the driver’s seat of the truck and took off towards Colby’s place. It was about a 45-minute drive back towards the coast, but he was looking forward to unwinding after the weekly Sunday dinner with his family. Every Sunday it was the same routine. Dinner started out well, then at some point his mom would start on him about his bachelor lifestyle at the age of thirty, and recently his older sister started chiming in. She had told him before that he needed to set an example for his nephew, to which he replied that it wasn’t his responsibility.

He pulled into the long gravel drive about twenty after eight and he could hear the music and see the glow of the fire as soon as he approached the house. He climbed out, tucking a cigarette behind his ear and shoving his lighter in his pocket before walking around to the back of the house. Colby lived in a stone barn-styled house that was a part of Capeside’s history. He had scored a good deal during an auction when the previous owner passed, and with the help of Dee they had fixed it up so nicely it could’ve been featured on the cover of a magazine. The backyard was a relaxing oasis, containing an inground pool with a waterfall that was currently lit up with subtle blue lighting. The brick fire pit was blazing, and Dee had set up a small table filled with different snacks next to the large cooler of adult beverages. He tossed a pretzel into his mouth and grabbed a lager out of the cooler before greeting Colby and his bandmates with handshakes. He spotted Dee and Maggie with a couple of their girlfriends floating around on a large pool float that resembled a ring of seats with cupholders between them, flashing Maggie a small smile as his eyes met hers briefly before she looked away.

Maggie’s light brown, wet hair was slicked back, no doubt from her earlier dip in the water. She wasn’t wearing any makeup and she was dressed in a black bikini. The thought of having her body caged beneath his was arousing, and he was a bit shocked as he realized that it wasn’t simply the fact that she was barely clothed a turn on. He took particular notice to the curves of her hips and breasts, her petite facial features, and the fullness of her lips. The glow of the setting sun reflected off of her olive-tanned skin, and in that moment, he wanted nothing more than to taste her. He was pulled from his thoughts as his bandmate Mike asked him a question about an upcoming gig.

Maggie felt her breath hitch in her throat when Kai had stepped into the back yard. He was wearing jeans with a black buttoned-down shirt, and the sleeves were rolled up to his elbows exposing the tattoos on his left arm. Even his forearms were muscular thanks to his job which required a lot of manual labor. He cleaned up well, and Maggie started to reconsider the decision she had made about not getting involved with him. Sober Maggie had decided that he wasn’t worth the risk, knew that he was trouble. However, after having a couple of drinks, her body was urging her to change her mind.

The group stayed late into the night, a few of them hanging around until the early hours of the morning. By that point Maggie had changed out of her swimsuit and into a black sun dress. As she sat around the fire with Colby, Dee, and Kai, the last few people filtered out. It wasn’t much longer before Dee decided to call it a night with Colby right behind her. He invited Kai to stay as long as he liked, and Maggie had already decided she was going to crash in the guestroom after having more than enough drinks. Once Colby and Dee went inside, Kai looked over at her with a smirk. She rolled her eyes before staring back at the fire and taking another sip from her bottle of water.

“So, have you thought anymore about our conversation last week?” He questioned with a mischievous smile.

“Oh, you mean about my truck? When will I be getting that back, by the way?” She danced around his question.

“Maybe tomorrow if I get the last part in, but you know that’s not what I was talking about,” he answered, and she looked over at him with a sigh. She stared at him for a minute as she contemplated, her intense gaze made him shift uncomfortably.

“Yes, I’ve thought about it. No, I haven’t made a final decision,” she replied. “Besides, how can we be friends with benefits when we’re not even really friends?” She teased.

“Maybe once we get the sexual tension out of the way we’ll be able to have some normal conversations,” he laughed softly.

“I don’t know if I’m willing to take that risk,” she stood, tossing her water bottle in the trash. “Let me think about it, and I’ll get back to you,” she flashed him a flirty smile before crossing in front of him as she made her way towards the house. He startled her as he reached up and wrapped his arms around her hips, pulling her down into his lap. “What are you doing?” She gasped and threw her arm around his neck as he quickly moved his hand up under her dress, pushing her panties to the side, finding her soft labia wet and silky.

“Giving you something to think about,” he growled lowly as he moved to nip at the sensitive skin just below her ear.

“We can’t,” she clamped her legs together, “my brother and Dee are inside!” She exclaimed wide-eyed with a loud whisper.

“The windows in their bedroom face the side yard, no one is going to see us,” he assured her as he found the small nub that was already sticking out prominently and started to gently stroke it in circles, causing her to gasp softly and let her legs fall apart once again. “So turned on, already."

Maggie couldn't fight the soft moan that escaped her lips as he continued to lightly toy with her clitoris. His lips fell to her neck as he increased the pressure just slightly and she thrust against his hand needing more. He smiled against her skin, his eyes landing on the rise and fall of her breasts. He had been aching for her since he had first laid eyes on her, and her writhing around on his lap had him passed the point of no return. He was going to get her off and let her see what she was missing. While he hoped she would return the favor, he wouldn't push her.

"Have you been thinking about me tonight, baby? I know I’ve been thinking about you,” he whispered.

“I can tell,” she whispered back, rotating her hips as she grinded against the bulge in his jeans. “You got something for me, Kai?” She added as she continued to slowly move her hips.

“Only you,” he replied, catching her by surprise. She pulled back slightly and looked up into his eyes. “I’ve been thinking too, and if the only way you’ll be comfortable with this is by us only being sexually involved with each other, then I’m willing to make that deal.”

“Really?” She breathed softly.

“Really,” he stated as he massaged her clit with more pressure causing her hips to buck. “Believe it or not, I’m not the asshole you think I am. If you want me to pleasure you exclusively and in return you give your body to no one else but me, I respect that,” he added as he started using his thumb to rub the sensitive nub of tissue, two of his fingers now dancing around her opening.

“Kai,” she cried out softly, frustrated with his teasing. He quieted her with a kiss, moaning into her mouth as her hips gyrated, the friction against his denim-clad erection causing him to start seeping pre-ejaculate.

“Say it, Maggie,” he breathed, resting his forehead against hers. “Tell me what you want, and I’ll give it to you.”

“I want you to make me come,” she stated as her eyes fluttered open and she looked into his eyes once again.

Kai caught her lips in another heated kiss before locking his eyes on hers. He wasted no time pushing two of his long fingers into her folds, thrusting them in and out a few times before finding the bundle of nerves deep inside of her. A small surge of moisture coated his hand as he worked both her clit and her g-spot at the same time. She was so wet, so tight, and he closed his eyes and thought about how good it would feel to be buried inside of her.

“You feel so good, baby,” he growled, grinding against her as he rubbed her harder. She tensed and he watched her breasts rise and fall even more quickly with her heavy breathing. “Come for me, Maggie. I want to taste you on my fingers.”

“Fuck, I’m so close,” she cried out softly as her arm tightened around his neck.

“Let go, Maggie. I got you,” the fingers of his other hand dug into her hip. She buried her face into his neck as the fire burning inside of her exploded into a surge of pleasure. She cried out against Kai’s skin as she rode his hand wildly and he continued to work her until her body trembled with overstimulation. She went limp in his arms as he slipped his fingers out of her, and it was her turn to catch him by surprise as she reached for his hand, bringing it to her lips and sucking his fingers clean. He leaned in and kissed her greedily, the taste of her juices dancing between their tongues.

Maggie pulled away from the kiss then stood, pressing her lips to his once more before dropping down onto her knees and reaching for his belt buckle. He looked down at her with a curious smile and she bit her lip as she finished undoing his belt and made quick work of opening his jeans. He lifted his hips so she could pull them down just enough to let his heavy, engorged erection spring free, and she wasted no time before leaning in and taking him deep into her throat. His body tensed and he held his breath as he struggled not to come right away, and he tangled both hands in her hair so he could control her speed.

“Fucking hell, Mags,” he finally breathed. She pulled back and let him fall from her lips, leaning up to him for a kiss. He reached down and tucked her dress under her breasts, exposing them to the cool night air. Her nipples were already hard from her orgasm, and the cool night air only made them perter. He pinched them gently and she let out a soft gasp, smiling as he kissed her again before letting her get back to the task at hand.

She teased his soft crest with her tongue, cupping his testicles in her hand before taking him into her mouth once more. His hands tangled in her hair again, and he gently moved her head up and down, fucking her mouth like he had imagined so many times. He started to tremble as his orgasm built up, and she took him deep again just as he exploded into the back of her throat. She relentlessly sucked him, not stopping until he was completely spent. His body quivered once more as she let him slip from her lips. Their eyes met and she tried to flash him an innocent smile. Kai’s head fell back in the chair as he looked up at the sky and laughed whole-heartedly.

Maggie stood and Kai lifted his hips to pull his jeans back up, both of them taking a second to straighten out their clothing. She started to step away, but he pulled her back down into his lap, kissing her forcefully as they both laughed again. Maggie rested her head on his shoulder in her post-orgasm and alcohol induced bliss, swiftly slipping into an unconscious state. Kai instinctively pressed his lips to her forehead, closing his eyes and relaxing as he slowly dragged his fingertips up and down her forearm that was resting in her lap. His eyes shot back open as he realized that he hadn’t held a woman close like this in years. He quickly realized that he would have to watch himself with Maggie. He couldn’t let himself get too close.

“Mags,” he whispered softly, gently shaking her shoulder.

“Hm?” She mumbled softly as she nuzzled against his warmth. The fact that he had to force himself not to reciprocate surprised him even more.

“I have to get going, and you have to get to bed,” he explained. Maggie took a deep breath, sitting up and looking at him with a sated smile. He couldn’t help but smile back. “I have to get home to take care of the dog, and I want to try to get some sleep before I have to open in the morning. You kept me out too late,” he joked, and Maggie smirked.

“Point taken, too close for comfort,” she teased.

“A little bit, yeah,” Kai admitted. If they weren’t honest with each other from the get-go things could get messy fast.

Maggie stood and Kai quickly joined her. He draped his arm over her shoulders as they lazily walked towards the house. When they reached the bottom of the steps that led up to the large deck she slipped out from under his arm and smiled up at him sleepily. Without thinking he smiled back, cupping her cheek and pressing his lips to her forehead before watching her carefully climb the stairs.

Kai rubbed his hands over his face in frustration with himself when he realized that he was still smiling when he heard her open and close the door as she stepped inside. He had already broken two of his rules that night, and he knew he had to leave before he broke anymore. He never cuddled after sex, it led to a false sense of security. He also never kissed women unless it was during the pursuit of, or the act of sex itself. He was going to have to keep himself in check around her. He didn’t want a relationship, and if he led her on and broke her heart, he knew Colby would kill him.


Maggie was up early the next morning so she could head home and wouldn’t be a nuisance to her brother and Dee. Her original plan was to jump in the shower and relax as soon as she got home, but it was a gorgeous morning outside, so she decided on a run instead. She was curious as to whether or not she would be getting her truck back that day, so she had calculated the distance between home and Kai’s garage to be about two miles. She figured she would run to the shop to check on her truck, and then walk back as her cool down. She changed into a pair of running shorts, a sports bra, and a relaxed tank top before finding her earbuds and heading out of the house.

She smiled at the feeling of the fresh summer breeze blowing across her skin as she started down the long gravel drive. She had missed the peacefulness of the south when she was living in New York. In the city she only ran if she was with a group of friends, and even her earbuds on blast couldn’t keep the sounds of the city out, let alone the smells. Had she not been listening to her cardio playlist, she would have heard nothing but the sounds of the birds and the crickets, along with an occasional passing vehicle.

Her jog slowed into a walk as she approached the garage. She caught her breath and pulled out her earbuds as she walked through the parking lot towards the customer entrance. The door chimed as she walked in, and Kai called out that he would be up in a second. She took a look around at her surroundings and realized for the first time that there was different Army memorabilia stationed around the walls of the waiting area. She spotted a picture of five men in their desert fatigues, covered in dust with different weapons at their sides. A younger, thinner version of Kai was in the middle of the group, holding onto the longest rifle.

“That picture was taken about ten years ago in Iraq,” he spoke softly as he crossed through the room, startling her slightly.

“How many tours did you do?” Maggie asked curiously. She turned her head to look up at him as he used an old rag to wipe grease from his hands. He was shirtless once again, and he had a grease smear across his muscular abdomen.

“Four tours in four years,” he shared as he joined her, looking at the photo nostalgically. “Came home from my first tour and found out my world had been flipped upside down. They offered incentives for me to deploy more frequently than what I was slated to, and I took them. I was young and didn’t have much for me at home, so I banked all my combat pay, not that it was very much,” he shrugged.

“What did you need all that money for if you were never home?” Maggie teased with a smirk before her eyes fell back on the photograph.

“I had an endgame,” he smiled weakly. “You’re standing in it,” he added as he looked around at the shop. “I grew up working on cars with my dad, signed up for another four-year stint in the Army and changed my MOS to diesel mechanic. Got out of the Army when I was 26, spent the next year becoming a certified Master Mechanic. I’ve been open for three years and I get more business than I can handle. So, I bring in the kids from the Vo-Tech and my dad comes to help out a few days a week.”

“Who knew you had such an interesting story?” Maggie smiled, looking up at him once again.

“I don’t know that I would call it interesting,” he scoffed.

“Sure it is,” she laughed. “You’ve been halfway around the world, fought a war, and lived to tell about it.”

“I killed more people than I can count, it’s a great bedtime story,” he mumbled sarcastically as he started back towards the work area. Maggie turned and followed him.

“Is that why you’re so closed off?” She questioned. At first, he thought she was just taking a jab at him, but when he turned to look at her again the look on her face was sincere.

“Somewhat.”

Kai glared at her briefly, and Maggie realized she had touched a nerve. He started walking further back into the shop and realized that he was headed for her truck. He stepped up onto a small wooden block, leaning down and twisting something off. He tossed it towards the trashcan unsuccessfully. Maggie folded her arms and rested them on the top of the fender as she watched him do the same thing more than a dozen more times. The room was filled with silence with the exception to the occasional clanking of the old spark plugs into the trash, or the higher pitched pinging when they bounced off of the cement floor.

“If you’re going to stand there, at least make yourself useful and hand me that bag of new plugs,” he pointed towards a plastic bag that was sitting on top of an open toolbox. When Maggie returned with it, he was smiling impishly.

“What?” She questioned, watching him skeptically.

“Did you seriously run here?” He teased as she passed him the bag.

“Had to burn off all those beer calories somehow,” she laughed softly. Kai bit his lip and a shiver ran up her spine as he looked her up and down, his eyes pausing for a minute on her breasts.

“I can think of a few ways,” he wagged his eyebrows. Maggie felt her cheeks blush and she looked away shyly. “Don’t get bashful on me now, you sure as hell weren’t shy last night,” he chuckled.

“Maybe it was a moment of weakness,” she shot back, getting her wits back again.

“Maybe it was,” he shrugged before going back to his task at hand. “Tell me you’re not curious about taking things further and I just might believe you,” he added as he started to replace one of the spark plugs. Maggie rolled her eyes as she stepped back and leaned against a small table.

“If I said maybe you’re right?” She hinted with a seductive smile. Kai lifted his head and looked over at her as he rested his hands on the front edge of her truck.

“I’ll be over with your truck tonight. I’m about done playing games with you, Mags. Ball’s in your court, babe. Either make your move or get out of the way.”

Maggie looked at him in disbelief and he ignored her glare and went back to work. She stood there speechless for a moment before an older man who looked similar to Kai came shuffling in. The man looked at her curiously. Kai noticed and cleared his throat.

“Dad, this is Maggie. She’s Colby’s sister,” he stated, nodding towards her. “Maggie, this is my dad Merle,” he nodded back towards his father.

“Maggie,” Merle smiled, offering her his hand. “Your brother’s got a nice place there, down by the beach.”

“Sure does, Sir,” Maggie agreed with a smile. “Well,” she sighed as she looked back over to Kai, “I’ll leave you to it so I can have my truck back later today.”

“Are you working tonight? I can bring it by the bar,” he offered.

“Not tonight. Mondays are my regular days off,” she replied. “I can come back later with the loaner if that’s easier for you,” she suggested.

“No need. I’ll bring it by your place this evening,” Kai answered as he went back to replacing her spark plugs once again.

Maggie bid them both farewell before heading back out into the summer sun. It was starting to get warmer, but now that she found herself tense from the conversation that she had with Kai she decided to run about half-way home before cooling down and walking the rest of the way. Once she got inside, she headed into the kitchen and filled a glass with filtered water from the fridge. She leaned back against the counter as she contemplated what Kai had said earlier. Either she gave into her desires and ignored the rational part of her brain, or she faced a lifetime of unsatisfied sexual frustration.


Once everyone else had left for the day, Kai finished up in the shop before locking it up and heading up to the apartment to take a shower. He served Duchess a bowl of kibble with some gravy mixed in before stripping out of his work clothes and heading for the bathroom. Once he showered, he pulled on a pair of black jeans over his boxer-briefs along with a fitted white tee. He wasn’t sure how the scenario with Maggie was going to play out, but if nothing got pursued, he wasn’t in the mood to go hang out at the bar. He’d just come back home and heat up a slice of lasagna from the freezer.

He slowly drove up Maggie’s driveway and parked her truck right next to his. He made sure both doors were locked as he climbed out, and that he had her key in his pocket. He leaned back against his truck and smoked a cigarette before heading for the house. Once he knocked on the door, it took a minute before Maggie answered.

Maggie saw the lights of the truck reflecting in the windows as Kai drove up the driveway as she finished cooking the pasta. She downed the remainder of wine in her glass and refilled it before stepping into the small half bath downstairs to check herself over in the mirror. She was wearing denim shorts with a loosely-fitted, draping tank and she had her hair down in a relaxed style. She wasn’t completely sure of how the night would end, but after contemplating her options nearly all day she had decided that being friends with benefits wouldn’t be so bad. They were both consenting adults, neither of them was in a relationship, and whatever happened would stay between the two of them. She took a deep breath when she heard the knock at the door, looking at herself in the mirror and telling herself that whatever happened would be accepted.

When Maggie opened the door, Kai felt his stomach do a somersault. He ignored the feeling, greeting her with a smile as he nodded to her truck.

“All good to go. At least the thing is roadworthy now,” he teased. Maggie rolled her eyes with a small laugh.

“Thanks, Kai,” she replied softly. The way his name rolled off of her tongue sent a chill up his spine. “Do you want to come in? I just made a pot of spaghetti,” she stepped to the side and gestured for him to come in. “It’s a lot for one person,” she rationalized.

“Sure, why not,” he shrugged, joining her in the house. Maggie shut the door behind him, flipping the lock out of habit.

“I can come by and settle my bill tomorrow,” she offered, walking back towards the kitchen at the back of the house.

“Whenever,” Kai agreed, following behind her. He looked around at the décor as he made his way through the house. He noticed that she had done some painting since the last time he had been there, and she had put up some beach-themed artwork.

“Wine?” Maggie offered as they entered the kitchen. “It’s Chianti,” she added as she picked up the bottle.

“Sure,” he nodded. He wasn’t much of a wine drinker, but he felt like he would need it tonight. He wasn’t sure why, but all of a sudden he was a bit nervous about being there. Maggie grabbed a glass out of the cabinet and filled it halfway with the burgundy spirit. She pushed the glass over to him and picked up her own. He held his glass out to her in a toast. “To friends,” he suggested with a devilish smirk.

“Friends,” Maggie smirked back before they touched their glasses, and each took a sip.

She took two plates out of the cabinet and set them on the small kitchen island before scooping out pasta on both dishes. She placed a fork on each plate before they both carried their plates to the table. Kai sat across from her, taking another sip from his glass before digging into his plate ravenously. Maggie laughed to herself before taking a few bites and washing them down with her wine. By the time she had swallowed the mouthful of rich liquid, Kai had cleaned half of his plate.

“I take it you haven’t eaten since yesterday,” she teased with a smirk.

Kai looked up as he took another bite of pasta and then drained his glass before clearing his throat.

“I don’t get home cooking that often. I live off of frozen leftovers from my mom and sisters, bar food, and delivery,” he shared. “Fun fact number one: I will never turn down food, especially if it’s homemade.”

“Good to know,” Maggie smiled amusedly. “So, exactly how many fun facts are there that I need to learn?”

“That depends,” he shrugged with a smile, “are we talking about in general?”

“As opposed to what? Pleasure-related?” She laughed again, and he looked at her with a smirk. “I much prefer to experience those instead of just being told about them,” she hinted, subconsciously biting her lip.

“Does that mean that we have a deal, then?” He questioned before taking his last bite of pasta.

“Only if we set some ground rules,” she countered.

Kai looked at her curiously, getting up to get the bottle of wine and refill both of their glasses before taking a seat.

“Agreed. We need ground rules,” he nodded. “Ladies first,” he gestured to her with his hands.

Maggie finished off her dinner before collecting their plates and setting them in the sink and then sitting back down.

“I know it was mentioned before, but if either of us wants to get involved with anyone else we tell each other and break it off. Despite the impression you may have gotten from our previous encounters, I’m not a promiscuous person. I don’t want to have to worry about contracting anything.” She took a few gulps of wine. This was happening. They were now negotiating. Kai nodded in agreement.

“Fair enough. Along those same lines, we always have to use a condom. I trust that you’re clean, as am I, but I don’t want to have to worry about failure of birth control,” he added. “I have no desire to father a child, especially from a purely sex-based relationship.”

“Agreed,” Maggie nodded. “I think it goes without being said, but this stays between us. My brother would kill you and disown me if he knew this was happening.”

“Yeah, I like breathing,” he sighed with a chuckle. “To help support the whole idea of no one knowing, and to prevent unnecessary questions about the status of our relationship, I suggest no sleepovers. Cuddling is also off the table.”

“So, you’re a wham, bam, thank you Mam kind of guy?” Maggie joked, and they both laughed.

“I’m not saying I’m going to come and run, but I don’t do relationships,” he clarified, still smiling. “It’s nothing personal, but similar to not having a desire to have kids, I don’t have the desire to settle down in a relationship.”

Maggie sighed with a weak smile. She couldn’t help but wonder who had hurt him in the past and made him this way. You don’t decide you don’t ever want to be in a relationship unless you’ve been burned.

“Understood,” Maggie nodded. “However, if either of us do start to develop questionable feelings, we break it off.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” he answered, all too honestly.

Maggie picked up that he not only didn’t want to be in a relationship, but she was pretty sure he hated the idea of love altogether.

“Anything else?” She asked, standing up and going over to the bowl of remaining spaghetti, covering it and sticking it in the fridge. She startled as she turned around and nearly ran into Kai. He was sneakier than a ninja. “So, how do we go about this?” She questioned, stepping to the side and draining her wine glass before leaning back against the island.

Kai set his empty glass next to hers and moved up against her, resting his left hand on her right hip. She could feel his erection through his jeans as it pressed against her lower stomach.

“Something like this,” he replied softly with a half-smile.

Maggie didn’t even have time to process what was happening before he had his right hand tangled in her hair, cupping the base of her neck and pulling her to him for a hard, hungry kiss.

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