Nolan had somehow maneuvered himself such that my head was resting on his lap. I was surprised because I hadn’t even heard him come in.
“Time to pay up,” he said, looking down at me.
"Excuse me,” I said threateningly.
I pushed myself up, glaring at him. He grabbed my arms, pulling me up by my elbows, and brought me up against him. I felt his hand slowly work its way down my open back and seize my thigh, helping me swing my leg across him and making me sit on his lap.
“You lost,” he said.
“And I told you I wasn’t fucking paying you,” I threw back at him.
“Well, I’m here to collect,” he said as he moved his hand down my back and under my underwear, “hmmm… the lady dost protest too much.”
“Okay, Shakespeare,” I said, rolling my eyes and pushing against him to get up.
“No,” he said sternly. “I dare you to take off your clothes.”
“Could we just mention that you come up with the worst dares? A dare should be imaginative, and oh... I don’t know... something actually daring,” I said as I stood up.
I could feel his eyes on me as I reached up to untie the top. I couldn’t wear a bra with this because of the low cut on the back, so I turned around to shield myself.
“Turn around,” he said darkly.
“You didn’t specify that I had to face you,” I said, smiling back at him as I stepped out of my pants. “There.”
“Nope, you have one thing left,” Nolan said as he hooked thumbs into my underwear and brought me back toward him.
His hand slid between my folds, and I arched against him, moaning as he teased me. I ground into his hand, and he withdrew it immediately. A growl rose within me as he pushed me back up, but I saw that he was undressing.
He pressed his lips against mine, and I pushed him back on the couch. He looked up at me greedily as I put his length inside of me; I took in his size slowly and built up his frustration.
“Get up,” he ordered, and I obeyed. “Turn around.”
He pulled me down against him, and I held onto his thighs for support. I hadn’t been this way before, and I was quickly unwinding before him.
He didn’t slow.
He began moving faster, and I felt the heat building inside of me. I felt like I was swimming in the air, looking for breath. My body shook as I felt him pour into me.
“Fuck Zoey,” he said breathlessly against my neck as he pulled me toward him. I began to inch away, but he caught me, “not yet.”
He helped me up, and I went to the bathroom and turned on the shower. I moved to close the door and saw him for a moment with his back turned toward me.
His hand lay on the back of his neck, and I memorized the grooves of his spine. I couldn’t tell what Nolan was thinking, but in the darkness of the room and the stillness of the air, it seemed liked he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Nolan looked so small for such a large man. The objects in the room only created more of a contrast to show how alone he was.
I closed the door softly and stepped in the shower hoping the water would quell the feeling I had building within me. I wanted to reach out to him, but I didn’t. I knew what this was. It was just a moment. He didn’t even ask if I was on birth control- thankfully, I was.
I wasn’t going to fool myself into thinking that this was more than a fling. Nolan didn’t really care, and he was helping out of obligation. I reminded myself of the woman he had over the other day. Hannah. That was definitely a mess that I didn’t want to wade into.
When I got out of the shower, I noticed that he was gone. I slipped into my bed and thought of tomorrow. I started listing things that I had to do in the morning.
Morning came quickly, and I jumped out of bed. I grabbed an outfit, curled my hair, made breakfast for Nolan, grabbed some toast, and headed out the door. We had too much to do today for me to dawdle. In two weeks, it would be Halloween, and I had to make sure that everything was in order.
At some point in the middle of the night, I came up with the idea that I wanted to pitch to Nico, so I ran over to Fierce Thyme. Nico was more than surprised to see me. I rarely went to the restaurant, and I never had gone over to knock on his door.
“Have you come over to try the new recipe?” Nico asked, “You were right, by the way. It did taste better when I changed the sauce. So I’m adding the lamb shank on the menu this week.”
“I didn’t come by for that, but I’m glad that the sauce worked out,” I breathed in some confidence, “I actually came by because I had an idea that I want to pitch you.”
“Okay… shoot,” he said.
“Alright, well, Halloween is around the corner, and everything will be shut down for the Block Party that Nolan put together… what if we put together a food truck? I know it might be your only day off, but I thought maybe we could do a whole different menu for the truck.”
“It sounds interesting,” he said smiling, “I’ll give you that.”
“I could help put together the menu with you, and maybe we could invite other restaurants to join. We could supply the trucks, bring their food, have a little competition, and drive up marketing. What do you think?”
“Now, I definitely couldn’t say no to that. Did you already talk to Nolan about it?” He asked.
“No, I thought I’d see how you felt about it first and see if it was something you want to do. I’m sure I can arrange everything else,” I smiled, “plus we’ll already have so much coverage for the party that I’m sure it’ll be easy to get people to also cover the competition.”
Nico agreed and started calling Chef’s that he thought would be interested in participating. I ran over to the office and pulled Jan into her office.
“What’s up? What’s going on?” She said as I closed the door behind us, “what’s with all the secrecy? Also, thank god you’re not wearing that sweatshirt outfit. I thought you were turning a corner at Girls Night, but I was corrected when I saw that horrible outfit yesterday.”
“I need your help,” I said quickly, “I have an idea.”
I pitched her my idea and explained that Nico was absolutely on board. He was already calling people and building up his competition. However, I knew I would need her help marketing this idea and organizing it, so I needed to make sure she was on board.
“Count me in! I think it’s a good idea. Have you pitched it to Nolan yet?” Jan asked.
“No. I was kind of hoping you would pitch it,” I said softly.
“Zoey, it’s your idea. You have been working like crazy over here, and this is only your second week… barely… and I think you should put yourself out there. Pitch the idea,” she said.
“You’d have to help me learn how to do all of this anyway, and I only just thought of it. So it’s not that big of a deal. Besides, I know how much Nolan respects your ideas, and it would mean a lot to me if you pitched it to him.”
“Is Nolan not respecting your ideas?” She asked.
“No, it’s not that. It’s that I’m new, and I don’t know if he’d take me seriously,” I said.
She nodded silently, and I left the room. I didn’t know how much everyone knew about my relationship with Nolan. I doubted that they knew that I was staying with him, but when you added all the weirdness between him and me… I just wasn’t sure if he’d support anything I would come up with.
Thankfully Jan pitched the idea for me, and Nolan absolutely loved it. He ran up to her and picked her up in a full embrace, then dashed to the phone wildly dialing up contacts. Jan glanced apologetically at me, but I gave her a big smile and a thumbs up.