Salty

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17

O L L I E

Beams.

Beams that hovered high above hay bales and the old, red Massey—the one whose wheel had broken off and left it useless years before. There was buzzing from a beehive hidden somewhere near the barn door. The wasps always got riled up when the door slammed shut.

The dream always went this far. No matter how hard Ollie tried to wake up, the door always slammed behind him. The smell of the barn would fill his nose, and then there was no escape. No way to close eyes that were already closed. The tire swing was now on the ground—not its normal placement. Something was different this time though, the bees were buzzing louder than normal. Ollie made his dream-self turn, not finding the stubborn nest within view. The noise didn’t stop and instead grew louder and louder as if they were swarming him until...

Ollie gasped as he jolted upright, clutching his chest and breathing erratically. His shirt was soaked in sweat even though it was freezing in the apartment. His warm breath made a brief fog before dissipating and returning with his next. The dream was over, but the buzzing remained. Somewhere beneath the covers, a barely charged cell phone was ringing and set to vibrate. Agitated, like he was almost every morning, both hands began slapping the covers to find it. Finally, he found it beneath the unused pillow beside him. Even though the first call had stopped, another quickly followed.

“Fuck!” he groaned before swiping the screen. He didn’t bother looking at who was calling. “WHAT?”

“You don’t sound sick.”

Shelby.

It was amazing how a girl that once made his stomach swirl was now the one that made it sink. Heavy eyes landed on the clock beside the bed. He’d been asleep all of two hours, but it was nearly eight in the morning. Shelby was the last person he thought would be the one to wake him, with his mother being the first.

“Ollie?”

“Yeah,” he pressed his fingers to his eyes in an attempt to wake up. His mouth was dry and yearning for a cigarette.

“You’re sick, huh?”

Sighing deeply, Ollie dropped back into the bed that smelled of sweat from his nightmare. Perhaps Shelby’s intentions with this call were noble ones. Maybe she heard that he’d fallen ill and worried about the man she once loved. After all, he was rarely sick, and if he was, he’d never let on to it. Unfortunately for him, Shelby being concerned was no more than wishful thinking. Years of ignorance proved that much. He could wish that it was her idea to make this call, but it wasn’t.

“Your mom is heartbroken.”

Bingo.

There were two possible culprits behind this call, one being his mother and the other his brother. If Ollie had been awake enough to comprehend the true sincerity of this call, he would have come to the correct conclusion eventually. His mother would want him at the family lunch. Mikah wouldn’t. Having your son’s ex-girlfriend do your dirty work is a damn cold move.

“She called me twice already this morning. You should go to Thanksgiving. You should be there.”

He tried to imagine the blonde, sitting at the phone in their old kitchen. She’d still have on her silky pajamas. Her fingers would be twirled in the phone cord—a stupid habit that made her refuse to get rid of a phone that was still attached to a wall. He once found it sexy.

His stomach lurched, head pounding. Perhaps it was the memory of her in their home, but he had a nagging suspicion that two bottles of wine were catching up with him.

“I’m sick,” he groaned, truthfully referring to the hangover that was rearing its ugly head.

“You’re a liar. It’s a holiday, Oliver.”

“I’m aware that it’s a holiday, Shelby.”

“Holidays are the loneliest days of the year for people who are alone! They hurt!”

No shit?

His ex fell silent, causing him to swallow harshly. Shelby immediately bit her tongue after that comment. She meant his mother, but they both know that sentence also covered his own situation. She had a special way of constantly throwing this in his face. He’s alone and it’s his own fault. He deserved to be alone and lonely on a holiday—thus, she won’t be apologizing for it.

“I didn’t,” she paused, clearly backpedaling from her slip. “I wasn’t referring to you...”

“Yeah,” his voice croaked, betraying him.

“It’s just, she’s a widow, Ollie. Holidays are hard. I’m sor...”

He ended the call before he could listen to an apology that wasn’t sincere. She meant his mom, but fuck if she couldn’t have thought that comment through. His mother had Mikah and Kit too, in addition to a granddaughter that was sure to keep everyone smiling today. His mom wasn’t going to be alone during a holiday, lonely and widowed. However, someone else he knew more than met that definition.

* * *

S L O A N

The morning sun was unforgiving. Not only did it shed light on a blinding hangover, but with open eyes, the mess from the night prior was hard to miss. Throw pillows tossed chaotically around the living room. An extension cord used to make the cellphone’s charger longer was draped over the couch, not plugged into a phone that was surely dead, or at the very least, nearing its last electronic breath. The table beside the couch still held an emptied glass of wine, a matching empty bowl that had been used to eat way too many helpings of chicken and dumplings, and—last but not least—a limp dildo suctioned to its glass top.

Sloan stretched herself to the length of the couch. “Morning, Hulk,” she muttered to the inanimate object that was obviously mocking her.

She hadn’t used it. Hulk’s virginity remained intact. The thing was—Sloan wanted to use it. How could anyone blame a girl after having a night of too much wine, a lot of laughs, and Oliver Mulligan on the other end of a phone call that lasted hours? For the first time in a long time, Sloan had fantasized about someone else. Not just fantasies that made her want to get off with the glowing hunk of rubber, but she had memories to go off of. Visions of being used by the culinary god all over his apartment—that were dormant since their first class together—became front and center in her mind. From the kitchen counter, to his couch, to a crazy maneuver in a hallway that had landed them into his bed—hot memories. After their call had ended, her wined brain was flooded with all things Ollie and her vagina was raring to go. Hulk was pulled free from her shower with the intention of giving herself one hell of a Thanksgiving Day orgasm. It only took one small glance into her room to see an empty bed for all the pent up sexual frustration to dwindle away to nothing.

It wasn’t a complete waste of time. Even though she’d lost the want to get herself off by seeing one of the last pieces of Steve that she had left, she didn’t cry. Tears threatened to unleash and maybe the wine was there to help stop it, but there were a few deep breaths, the slapping of a dildo to the end table, and a whole lot of memories of Thanksgivings past, good and bad, that sent her off to a much needed few hours of sleep. The cellphone’s dying battery chirping became the alarm clock for the holiday. The mess in the room was practically a gift. Now she could spend the day cleaning instead of sitting here crying like originally planned. Plus, there was still a baking exam to study for.

Sloan rolled herself off of the couch, head aching and still wobbly from a night of alcohol, and began adding to the mess of pillows by tossing couch cushions beside them. Somehow, the phone had almost made it back to the floor and was nestled as deep into the seat as it could get. She was elbow deep into the back of it before she finally grasped the phone and pulled it free. Sure enough, the battery life shown on the corner of the screen was red and blinking. It was also displaying three missed calls from Hallie, and knowing her best friend all too well, was likely causing her to have panic attacks over Sloan’s mental state for the night.

She reached for the unused charger and quickly jammed it into the open port, giving the object a smidge more life, and selected Hallie’s number.

“WHAT THE HELL?” Hallie answered on the first ring without a hello. “I called you three times this morning! Why didn’t you answer? I’m in my car!”

“Turn back around,” Sloan groaned, knowing that she was causing Hallie to miss out on some much-needed family time. “I’m fine. I was just up late and slept in.”

“Slept in? It’s like noon!”

Sloan collapsed her body into the heap of floor pillows and shielded her eyes from the sun with the crook of her elbow. “Yeah. There was some wine involved. And cooking. And a whole marathon of Chopped!”

“How’s that different than any other night? Why stay up late when you can Roku that shit?”

“I was on the phone with Ollie.”

Sloan cringed as soon as the truth left her lips. That was a very stupid confession to make in this moment.

“Say what now?”

“Hal,” she began to beg. “Don’t make a big dea-”

“Ollie? As in OLIVER MULLIGAN? As in YOUR TEACHER and BOSS and FORMER LOVER?”

Another cringe. “Can we not call him that?”

“What? Oliver?”

“My lover.”

"Former lover. Or....” she could hear her friend’s smile, ”current lover?”

Another flashback of being fucked up against a wall ensued. It didn’t take long for it to be driven out by a sharp pain from her splitting headache—thankfully. She’d only had one lover, and that was Steve. Sex was a different story.

“It’s not like that.”

“Sounds like it.”

“It’s not. Can we not talk about it? He just wanted to make sure I didn’t come back to his business as a depressive vegetable.”

“Mhmm,” Hallie didn’t sound like she believed that line one bit. “And?”

“And what?”

“Have you turned back into a potato? Are you doing okay? It’s okay to ask me to come home, you know?”

“I’m okay,” Sloan answered before even verifying with herself that it was a fact. Her sinking lips were determining it was a lie. She still had an entire day that she needed to convince herself of it. Holidays suck.

“It’s okay to not be.”

Sloan exhaled heavily. If only she had a dollar for every time someone had told her that. Right now, yeah, it’s okay not to be okay. But what happens if there’s not a day where that changes? What if she’s never okay again? Good days are good. That doesn’t mean that the bad ones hurt any less or that there was any sort of light at the end of the tunnel when it came to the crying fits that sprung themselves on her in the least opportune times. That was something that wasn’t okay with her. No one tells you how long what ifs are around to haunt you when it comes to being a widow in your early twenties. There was a pit in her stomach that constantly nagged her over it.

“What’s that sound?” Hallie questioned, bringing Sloan back to their conversation and out of her own headspace. “That roaring sound? Did you kill another appliance?”

“I don’t know. Probably,” Sloan groaned and listened carefully for what Hallie was referring to. It was coming from outside. Definitely a motor of some sort. “Sounds like a motorcycle.”

Sloan sprung forward as soon as the thought left her mouth, rushing to get to her knees before pulling her tired body up. The engine died out before she could even get to the door. None of her neighbors own one, that she could remember. Had she really ever paid attention to their vehicles? No. But that nagging feeling in her stomach had jolted in another direction—Ollie owns a motorcycle.

“Shit, shit, shit!” Sloan bolted for the door.

“What?” Hallie asked. “What’s going on?”

Sloan opened the door to peer to the drive but there was no need. The person she was least expecting to be at her house was currently standing on her stoop, locking eyes with her.

"Shit,” she muttered one last curse into the phone before allowing her jaw to drop open and stay there.

Ollie stood in a blue, plaid shirt—one similar to the one she’d seen him in the first day she’d ever laid eyes on him. Its sleeves were rolled up his arms, showing tattoos she’d once salivated over but had since been hidden away for professionalism. A pair of sunglasses were sitting on top of his messy hair, having not been there long—she could still see the indent on his nose where they had been sitting.

“You look like ass,” he grinned and held up a grease-stained McDonald’s bag.

“Who was that?” Hallie questioned. “OH MY GOD, SLOAN! IS THAT YOUR LOV-”

“Gotta go!” Sloan ended the call and tossed her phone over her shoulder. It hit the couch behind her. Her eyes remained wide as saucers. Ollie was here, at her home.

“Is your hangover as bad as mine?” Ollie handed off the bag of delicious-smelling food. There were definitely fries in the bag, possibly nuggets as well. “Tell me you have coffee. I couldn’t bring that with the bike.”

Before Sloan could even attempt to form an answer with words, Ollie was pushing past her and into her disheveled living room. The room was not even the main issue here, she’d just woken up and hadn’t even seen herself yet today. Quickly tugging out the rubber band from her hair that was barely holding anything anyways, she shoved it into the pocket of her sweats. Fingers were used as a quick comb before following Ollie into the house.

“What are you doing here?” Sloan’s surprise was not hidden with tone. “It’s Thanksgiving. How did you get McDonalds?”

Ollie, not answering the question, was too busy looking around the state of the small townhouse’s living quarters. “Did a bomb go off?”

Sloan dropped the bag of food to the nearby armchair and crossed her arms over her chest. “I asked questions first!”

“I’m hungover as fuck and wanted greasy food. It’s the only place open on a holiday. I recall you drank a full bottle more than me last night and you have to be hurting,” he finally turned and pointed off somewhere else. “Sloan, why is there a giant, green dick on that table?”

Her face flushed to hot pink while Ollie was grinning like a madman. Sloan dove for the table beside the couch as he began to chuckle behind her. She tugged on the Hulk without it even budging. The stupid thing really was a beast with a very unforgiving suction feature.

“It’s not mine!”

Ollie’s nose lifted in disgust.

“No! Well, yes, it’s mine, but it was a gift,” she gave it another yank. This time the table jolted upwards with it, nearly sending a wine glass and bowl flying to the floor, if Ollie wouldn’t have caught them first. “I don’t use it.”

He laughed again. “Right. That’s why it’s out, sitting beside your wine from last night.”

Sloan pulled Hulk again, bringing the damn table right along with. Fuck it, she thought and dragged the table by the dildo until she could get to the coat closet. Using her knees, she pushed the whole table into the closet, knowing she’d have to explain the reason for its vanishing act to Hallie later. She pushed until it could go no further. The door just barely was able to close behind it.

This is what she got for wanting an orgasm.

Ollie’s chest was still quaking with laughter while Sloan was slapping her hand to her overheated forehead. Maybe it was embarrassment, maybe it was shock, maybe it was the damn hangover. Hoping for the latter, she went for the fries.

“That was quite...” he chuckled once more, ”limp?”

Giving up on how ridiculous the whole situation was, Sloan popped a chicken nugget into her mouth and released a little giggle before rolling her eyes. “It also glows in the dark. According to my best friend, those are,” she held up air quotes with her fingers, “bonus features.”

Ollie looked down to his crotch, back to Sloan, and smirked once more. “Well, damn. I’ve been going about it all wrong.”

His ability to make her laugh was impressive. There was still the fact that he made her cry just as often. Oliver Mulligan was a puzzle made up of so many personalities that Sloan couldn’t keep them straight. Somehow, she knew that this was the Ollie he was deep down. He was correct when he said a girl had fucked him up—made apparent by the walls he put up around the personal parts of his life. What he was doing right now, was not his norm anymore, and Sloan knew why he was branching out.

Sloan offered out the open bag of food to him. “Are you here to make sure I’m still stable?”

Ollie smiled, but it wasn’t the same as it was before when he was belly laughing. He placed the wine glass and bowl on the floor. “How’s it going today?”

“You didn’t ask if I was okay—that’s the question I get asked the most. It’s also the reason why you’re here. I’m alone on a holiday and mentally unstable. A liability for you in many ways. Correct?” she gave the bag a little shake, reminding him that there was perfectly good, unhealthy fried food within it that they both needed this morning.

Ollie grabbed a nugget and popped it into his mouth, chewed and swallowed. “I believe you’re okay. That’s why I didn’t ask.”

As nice as that was to hear, he was so off. Instead of crying about her dead husband all night, she laughed so hard she cried over a cooking show. She fantasized about another man. Now, she was standing in her disaster of a living room eating McNuggets with that same man. What about that scenario was okay? All romantic thoughts of Ollie were officially off-limits. He’s a teacher and a boss; nothing more.

“I’m not here to cradle your depressive ego. You can’t help the way you mourn. You’re standing here, not crying, hiding a massive dildo that we both know is now glowing in that closet. You’re okay.”

Sloan silently giggled.

“Maybe I’m here because I’m the one who’s not okay. Ever think of that?” he chuckled and took a handful of fries from the bag that was still extended.

Even though Ollie laughed at the end of a question that perhaps was supposed to sound absurd, it didn’t feel far off from the truth. This was a man who could be spending the holiday with his family and chose to be alone. Now he was here, with her.

“I’m joking. I felt bad about stealing your time away from studying last night. It’s the teacher in me. Let’s learn some baking.”

“Thought you hate baking, Chef?” she teased.

“I do. Let’s get this shit over with. Where’s the kitchen?”

Sloan pointed to the open archway behind him. Ollie took the lead, picking up Sloan’s backpack from the floor where she’d abandoned it the night before. She followed him with their hangover cure. The greasy food was definitely hitting the spot.

There was some slight anxiety that came with Ollie seeing a kitchen of old mismatched appliances, a sink that attempted to soak you if turned on with high water pressure, and stacks of paperwork that Sloan was avoiding from Steve’s passing. This was nothing like the multiple kitchens he got to work from daily. Thankfully, Ollie didn’t say a word about any of it. Sloan made them both coffee while he attempted to quickly familiarize himself with coursework for a subject he had no love for. She was more than capable of studying the basics of measuring on her own, but she did appreciate the help he was offering. She learned faster on nights when Hallie was home to assist.

The two worked for hours. Using previously made notecards, Ollie repeatedly went through the stack until Sloan had nearly all of them memorized. Not only was Ollie a perfectionist when it came to his kitchen, but also his teaching. The man remained serious, didn’t give away answers, and became frustrated when he didn’t even know the correct answer. In fact, Sloan was fairly certain that he was learning right along with her—constantly muttering how much he despised baking, as if she wasn’t aware.

By four in the afternoon, both of them were fried. Their hangovers had dissipated with endless cups of coffee, but their arguing and nagging at each other had not let up. The kitchen chairs had become more than uncomfortable, causing the pair to stretch and groan with their yawns. Perhaps not staying up until nearly six in the morning would have helped.

“Wrong,” his voice was gruff. His annoyance with her was beginning to annoy her. “Answer again. If it’s not right, we start over.”

Sloan’s head hit the tabletop much harder than planned. The agonizing groan that followed might have been linked to that or the fact that she was completely over their studying session. The way he was in class made him look like a saint compared to this. He’s a slave driver.

“Try again.”

“No,” she whined without lifting her head. “I’m hungry.”

“I can tell,” he laughed. “You’re getting bitchy.”

Now her head lifted, her nose scrunching. “I’m not being a bitch, Ollie! You’ve turned yourself back into my dickhead teacher. Can you pick a mood please?”

“I don’t have moods!” he argued, leaning back into the chair and tossing the stack of notecards to the table. They scattered, with some even falling to the floor with his fit.

“No?” she held her hand up to begin counting on her fingers. “I’ve met the asshole from the grocery store, the sex god from the bar, the dickhead and paranoid teacher, the depressing chef, then there was last night...”

“Hold up,” his hand lifted, stopping her from saying how sweet he had been last night. Ollie grinned. “Let’s go back to sex god.”

“Jesus,” Sloan’s eyes rolled. Her hands slapped down to the table that she stood from. The chair noisily slid backwards until it hit the cabinetry behind her. “That would be the only part you took away from that sentence.”

Hunger was getting the best of her. Other than their small lunch, she hadn’t eaten anything since last night. Reaching out for the closest edible thing on the counter top, Sloan grabbed a loaf of French bread and opened the cabinet to grab the softened butter. If he was going to force this studying session to continue, carbs were needed. Lots of them.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m going to make spaghetti and garlic bread!” she snapped.

“On Thanksgiving?”

She pivoted on one heel to glare at him. “We had chicken McNuggets for lunch. You’re going to judge me for making spaghetti for dinner?”

“Depends,” he stood from his seat. “You going to continue being a bitch if I help you make it?”

“Probably!” she countered.

His head briefly cocked, as if saying he could roll with it if she could. This could be the most hostile spaghetti experience either of them had ever encountered.

Ollie began gathering ingredients while Sloan began collecting a few pots and pans. The oven was preheated for garlic bread, leaving one wannabe chef praying that her appliances would play nice for once. It wasn’t going to be anything fancy—that was for sure. The two stayed quiet as they worked, dancing around each other like they had learned to do in the kitchen of Mulligan’s. It wasn’t until Sloan began the process of the bread that Ollie decided to pipe-in with his overly opinionated self.

“What the fuck is that?” he cringed and grabbed her wrist before she could halve the bread.

Sloan yanked her wrist back. “A bread knife! Honestly! You’re the fucking knife teacher!”

He stopped her again, this time taking the knife right out of her hand to carefully inspect it. It was quickly tossed to the side. Knife by knife, he pulled each out of the wooden block, inspecting them before giving them a toss.

“Seriously, Ollie!” she yelled. ”You are throwing knives?”

“Not like they’re going to cut anyone!” he retorted. “They’re dull. The bread knife has no teeth on it! What are you going to do, push it through the bread?”

“It works fine!” Reaching across his work area by pushing him out of the way, she took back the bread knife. She slowly began to saw the bread in half, attempting to ignore the fact that Ollie’s head was shaking in horror.

“Stop, stop, oh dear god, stop!” his hand rested on hers to halt her.

Again, he took the knife from her, this time holding it up in front of her face. His thumb and pointer finger wrapped around the blade and he slowly lifted. She was watching the blade rock back and forth within the wooden handle it should have been more attached to.

“I’m not trying to be an ass,” he sighed heavily. “This is really unsafe, even for a knife that’s dull, and I’d like for you to keep your fingers intact. I have a thing for them.”

Her eyes lifted above the blade to a pair that looked surprised by his own sentence. “My fingers?” she bit her lip, stifling a giggle. “That your kink, chef?”

“Not like that,” he gave the knife a toss again. “They just hold a blade nicely. Some people don’t have the knack for that. You do.”

That was probably one of the nicer compliments he’d ever bestowed on her. Coming from the knife teacher, that is. When it came to school work, he definitely had it out for her. Finally, something she had done right was brought to light.

“I’ll do the bread,” Ollie pushed her aside with his hip, causing them both to laugh. “You finish the sauce. It needs to be seasoned.”

Maybe this wasn’t the worst way to spend the holiday. Yes, they got on each other’s last nerves, but they were also laughing as much as they were arguing. Compared to how the day was set to go, this was good. Cooking usually put her in a better mindset anyways.

Sloan took her time, selecting spices to add to the dish. She lined them up, wishing that what she had on hand was fresh and not in a plastic container from the store. Ollie didn’t appear to mind. He did his thing as she did hers, making no comments about the ingredients she kept on hand.

“You can take your time on the knives” he began small talk while buttering the loaf. “For class, I mean.”

Sloan’s hand hovered with oregano above the simmering pot of sauce. She nodded. “Thank you.”

His throat cleared. He turned back to the bread. “Yeah.”

She really did prefer sweet Ollie. Extra time for those was needed and there was no way of telling him that without discussing how financially drained she currently was. Although, the stack of bills in the corner was probably a giveaway in that direction.

Sloan gave the oregano a few heavy shakes, before picking up the salt shaker.

“Uhhh,” his hand quickly wrapped around her wrist for the second time today. “Let’s take it easy on the salt today. Shall we?”

“Ollie,” she huffed, “the mood shit is getting old.”

His lips formed a hard line before yanking the shaker from her hold. The lid was twisted off and set to the side. Turning the shaker just a smidge, he allowed a teaspoon or so to fall into his open palm.

“I don’t know what your fascination is with salt, Sloan, but I’m telling you honestly, you overuse it.” His open hand appeared before her, offering her the salt. “I want you to take one pinch of salt, add it to your dish, and then taste.”

“It needs more than a pinch!” she argued, taking the biggest pinch she could.

He immediately slapped her hand and the salt fell back into his palm. “Ah, ah, ah,” he muttered, head shaking. “I said a pinch. Then taste. If it needs more, you add another pinch. Salt is meant to enhance the flavor, not become the flavor.”

Finally, Ollie was teaching her the way she needed to be taught. Doing as he said, she took a pinch of the salt and slowly sprinkled it over the red sauce. Ollie took the lead and gave it a few good swirls into the dish with a wooden spoon.

“Okay,” Sloan watched as Ollie dipped the tip of his pinky finger into the sauce. He withdrew it and held it up to her lips. “Now try.”

They shared a look, one that had Ollie giving a nod, telling her it was okay. Sloan’s lips briefly wrapped around his finger, tasting the sweetness of the tomatoes, the spiciness of the oregano and red pepper flakes, with a hint of salt. It was good. Yet, her mind went quickly from their dish, to the kitchen feeling like the temp had risen twenty degrees in a single second. Similar to this morning, Sloan found herself conflicted—why one moment could she be so annoyed with this man and the next want him all over her? This was hot—spaghetti sauce off his finger... hot? What was wrong with her?

Ollie’s chest expanded as they shared a heavy look. “How was it?” he asked, breathily, taking a step closer to her.

Maybe stopping him would have been the right thing to do. Maybe stepping out of his pathway would have been smart. Neither happened—instead, Sloan dipped her own finger into the sauce, feeling just how hot that flame beneath it had caused it to become. It didn’t matter. She lifted her finger to his lips and waited. Again, Ollie’s chest expanded before he took her finger delicately between two soft lips. His tongue slowly—agonizingly slow—swirled around her, with a pair of sapphire eyes not leaving her own. His hand took hers, popping her finger free from his mouth and holding it as he took another step closer, landing his chest against hers.

“Now, I have a real thing for these fingers,” he whispered.

They weren’t looking away from each other. Similar to their night in the bar, things were escalating quickly while happening in slow motion. Ollie turned only to dip his finger once again into the spaghetti sauce. This time, it wasn’t her lips as a destination point. Ollie took his time, dragging the finger from her jaw, down her neck, to the collarbone that was visible through the V-neck of her shirt. The sauce was hot, but everywhere he touched left a cool flood of goosebumps on her skin. Locking their stares again, he waited for Sloan to object—a move that was not going to happen because she was frozen in place with a mind racing in a million and one directions. One of those directions was that she really was beginning to like his fingers too.

His head dipped beside her face. She tilted her neck just enough. Lips touched her bare skin first, followed by one hell of a tongue. God, he was frustrating. Why did he have to be so good at this?

Sloan moaned loudly. Ollie’s hands yanked her hips towards his, unwilling to disconnect his mouth from her flesh. One hand latched into his hair, keeping him in place, while the other fisted his plaid shirt—searching for buttons to begin unfastening. He began palming her ass through pants—ones that were about to be on the floor.

“Honey, I’m home!” Hallie’s voice rang out—halting the two from making any further movements. The sound of simmering spaghetti, panting chefs, and the front door shutting were the only sounds within the townhouse. “Where’s the end table?”

“Shit!” Sloan dived away from Ollie to the stove.

Ollie picked up a bread knife that he refused to let Sloan use and began cutting bread that was already cut in half. Both of their faces were still red from a heated moment together as Hallie rounded the corner with a plate of Thanksgiving leftovers in hand.

The blonde’s smile widened when she saw that her best friend was not alone. “Ha! I was so right. It was your lo..”

“How was your holiday, Hal?” Sloan cut her off and pulled the plate from her hands.

A hand waved her off before giggling. “Forget about my day. How was yours?”

Sloan shared a brief glance with Ollie. “Fine.”

“Fine, eh?” Hallie visibly bit her tongue before pointing to Sloan’s neck. “Ya got a little something there.”

Sloan’s hand slapped her own neck to hide whatever was still there. Sauce...saliva...a hickey...who knew? None of it looked good. As much as it sucked, Hallie walking in was a goddamn blessing. Another shared look between herself and Ollie knew they both agreed on that. They were about to make a very stupid mistake. Teacher, she reminded herself. Employer.

“I uh,” Ollie reached for the keys to his bike that were still on the table from their study session. “I should get going.”

Hallie pulled open a jar from the counter top, offering it to Ollie. “Toothpick for the road?”

“You have no idea,” Ollie muttered and pulled one free, immediately sticking it between two lips. Like it always did, it rolled to the right side, where it remained in the crease of his mouth like a cigarette. He then lifted a finger, asking for them to pause for a moment, before moving himself to the fridge. He opened the appliance, scanned the contents, pulled a brown bottle free of it, and shut the door again.

“Ass!” Sloan scoffed, watching Ollie leave with her only bottle of Worcestershire. She hurried after him through the—still disheveled—living room. “That is mine, Ollie!”

“Finders keepers,” he saluted and winked before walking out the front door.

Hallie’s overly excited and very questioning expression awaited Sloan when she turned back to her friend. There was a lot of explaining to be done and absolutely nowhere to begin. That was not where she saw this day going, even with the dirty thoughts she’d had this morning. That was fantasy. What the hell had just happened in that kitchen?

Clearly seeing the sexual frustration on Sloan’s face, Hallie offered out the glass jar once more. “For real though, where’s the end table?”

Sloan accepted a toothpick, quickly biting down on it. She supposed the state of their living room would be a good place to start her story. It would give her time to ease into what had just went down in the kitchen.

Sloan sighed again and motioned to the empty space beside the couch. “Hulk ate it.”

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