Salty

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25

S L O A N

Sloan awoke on Christmas morning to the unmistakable scent of bacon and maple. When she turned her aching body, she saw that the bed was void of a certain chef that had spent the night with her. There was still an indent in the pillow beside hers where his head had rested. Was his absence a good thing or a bad sign, she wondered. She swallowed down the worry that Ollie was regretting what had happened last night and completely drowned the thought in her head that she was, herself, regretting it. The sex they had before was nothing like what had occurred last night.

That was...not just sex.

Sloan groaned and dragged her hands down her tired face. She knew that when she got home, she would overthink everything from this weekend, but for now she was embracing that she had never felt so at peace. When she was here with Ollie, her worried mind could rest and embrace parts of herself she had forgotten existed—like happy Sloan. Where the hell had she been hiding, and for how long?

The space between her legs ached in the best way, still able to feel where Ollie had penetrated her repeatedly during the night. The muscles of her arms and legs, however, she knew ached from sledding.

Sloan wasn’t ready to get out of bed yet, but that damn smell of bacon and maple was summoning her to her favorite place in this house. She located her discarded pajamas from the floor and dressed quickly, tossing her hair into a messy bun atop her head to look a little less of a hot mess. Her duffle bag was sitting on the floor with a certain gray sleeve sticking out of the unzipped opening. She bit her cheek at the sight of Steve’s sweatshirt and only bent down briefly to tuck it back into the bag. She was cold enough to wear it, but for now that needed to stay exactly where it was. Any other time it was comforting, and maybe she thought she was going to need it at some point while here, but right now it was mocking her.

Before leaving the bedroom, Sloan made sure to finally turn her phone back on. There were a couple text messages from Hallie. The first few explained that Sloan was loved and that if she needed anything that Hallie was still only a call away. The last one wished her a Merry Christmas and asked how she was handling a holiday alone. Sloan wasn’t quite ready to explain that she’d left Chicago for the holiday weekend, feeling like that was a discussion that needed to be had in person. Who knew where her mental state would be by then, especially after this trip? She thought she was confused before, but now, confused was an understatement.

Multiple voices, more than the number of people that were in this house last night, could be heard as Sloan opened the door of the guest room. Her stomach began to twist, and she felt her footsteps become slower, suddenly more wary about last night. How was she supposed to act around Ollie now? Especially in front of his ex that she had just informed the day before that she was not dating Ollie?

With the sound of Ollie’s laughter mixed with that of another unknown female’s voice leading her forward, she finally entered the large kitchen. Ollie stood in front of the oven with a set of tongs in his hand, carefully turning the bacon with a short, brunette woman beside him slowly whisking a bowl of eggs. She was wearing a matching pair of plaid pajama pants to Sloan’s.

“Whisk the shit out of them!” Ollie attempted to steal the wire whisk from the woman’s hand. “We don’t need watered down eggs for breakfast! They need air!”

“I know how to make eggs, Ollie! You don’t need to be a goddamn chef to make scrambled eggs!”

Ollie tossed the tongs down to the counter, allowing the bacon to continue their sizzling, and grabbed the whisk from who Sloan was now assuming was Mikah and Ollie’s sister. He seemed damn proud of himself as the woman attempted to jump and take her utensil back. It was no use. No matter how high she tried to jump, Ollie’s outstretched arm was no match for her. The grin on his face was priceless as she continued her attempts.

“MOM!” she smacked Ollie in the stomach with the back of her hand before struggling with another jump. “Ollie is being an asshole in the kitchen again!”

“Tattletale!” Ollie’s laughter filled the room. It wasn’t until his sapphire eyes lifted away from his sister and to Sloan that he gave up and gave the whisk a toss to the countertop beside the tongs. “Watch the bacon.”

“Oh, now I have to make the eggs and the bacon? I thought you were doing all the cooking today. I have a kid that needs my tit. MOM!”

Not caring that his sister was now manning the entire breakfast situation, Ollie moved around the breakfast bar until Sloan was within his reach. He pulled her to him by the drawstring of her pajama pants, until she was close enough that her palms were on his firm chest.

“Morning,” he beamed at her, causing her stomach to swirl and her lady parts to happily ache. “How did you sleep?”

“Apparently better than you,” she observed. “What time did you wake up?”

“I don’t sleep well,” he reminded her. “So, I’ve been waiting hours to do this...”

A strong arm wrapped around her, and his free hand lifted her chin to press his lips to hers. Her eyes pressed shut, and she lifted herself to her tip toes to stay right here. There was so much relief stemming from this single kiss. Yesterday wasn’t in her imagination. Last night was not a dream. Those feelings she had felt the night of the Christmas party had now multiplied ten times over again.

“Mmm, you taste like maple syrup,” she whispered against his smile, then seductively licked his lower lip.

“I may have already snuck a pancake.” His soft lips pressed to hers again, holding her as close to him as they could possibly be.

“Whoa, this is new! Oliver not only came home, but he brought a girl with him? And she’s so far out of your league!” the female’s voice sounded off behind him.

Ollie withdrew his lips from Sloan’s and pressed his forehead against hers with a sigh. “That’s my sister, Kit.”

“And thank god, she’s not blonde! Crazy is yet to be determined. She is here with you, after all.”

Sloan giggled, pecking Ollie’s lips one last time before pulling herself free of his hold. This wasn’t awkward at all, meeting the third and final owner of your place of employment. What was odd was that Sloan had never once seen this girl in her life. After months of working at Mulligan’s, she thought that at some point she would have, at the very least, seen her boss.

“Kit, this is Sloan. Sloan, Kit is the brat of this family. Literally and figuratively.”

Upon introduction, Kit abandoned breakfast altogether to approach Sloan. She was immediately engulfed into a hug by the third Mulligan child, giving her a squeeze that she knew meant more than a nice to meet you.

“Thank you for bringing him home,” Kit whispered. “You have no idea how badly everyone needed to know that he’s okay. I haven’t seen him laugh in so long.”

Seeing that Ollie had now taken over breakfast, she couldn’t help but to frown in his direction. She didn’t understand how anyone could blame Ollie for not wanting to be around here when the girl he loved was in love with his brother. But Sloan knew from yesterday that this wasn’t entirely the case either. Shelby might love Mikah, but she was also still in love with Ollie. Those lustful looks she gave him yesterday were enough to give Sloan a stomachache.

As Kit released her hold of Sloan, she tucked her hair behind her ear and gazed over her shoulder to make sure her brother wasn’t listening. “Have you met Shelby?” she questioned carefully.

"Mmmhmm,” Sloan had never forced a smile so hard in her life.

“And?” Kit whispered, eyebrows raising.

Sloan’s smile immediately fell, telling Ollie’s sister exactly how she felt about that situation. Shelby could choke on a dick, and Sloan wouldn’t call 911—if that mood was a look, that was what she was offering Kit. It would be stupid to start their first conversation with a lie.

Kit cackled loudly. “We are going to be such good friends!”

Before Sloan could agree with that, already getting the impression that Hallie would love Kit too, the room swarmed with more bodies. This kitchen may have been massive, but now with the addition of Mikah, Shelby, and Penelope with a crying baby in her arms, it began to feel a little claustrophobic.

“I’ve got her,” Kit quickly went to the aid of her mother, offering out both hands to take the baby. She quickly began bouncing the baby girl on her hip while everyone else took their seats at the table.

“Ollie,” Shelby cooed as she took her place beside Mikah. “It’s almost eleven. I’m surprised you don’t have breakfast done yet. I mean, isn’t this all you do?”

"Shelby,” Mikah hushed her.

Ollie smiled tiredly, piling a mound of bacon onto a plate and not bothering to turn around. He seemed unfazed by this comment, like it was typical. “Not anymore.”

Sloan flushed red, not knowing if he meant for that comment to refer to the fact that he was doing her, or if he meant that he now had other hobbies that Shelby did not stick around for. Either way, it sounded dirty. However, the icing on the cake was watching Kit stand behind the blonde, glaring while out of her eyesight. Kit released one hand from her child to flip the back of Shelby’s head the bird, mouthing FUCK YOU so no one would hear. But when Kit’s glare turned into a pair of very wide eyes, Sloan couldn’t help to follow their path. As Shelby lifted the carafe of orange juice, a sparkle caught Sloan’s eye—a sparkle stemming from a certain ring finger. Shelby had not been wearing that ring yesterday.

By the time Sloan’s unease registered enough to look back to Ollie, Kit was already at his side. The baby in her arms was wiggling every way she could to escape her mother’s hold, but Kit paid no mind to this. Instead, she watched her brother carefully.

“Did you see it?” she heard Kit ask Ollie. Her concern was apparent.

“Yep.”

“And are you okay?”

“Yep.”

“I already know you wouldn’t tell me if you weren’t,” she concluded with a frown. “I wish you’d talk to someone.”

The sigh that came from Ollie was the heaviest one Sloan had heard from him yet.

***

Ollie seemed to know the shower well, just as he had mentioned. Sloan couldn’t quite seem to master it herself, and needed some wisdom that only came with living here the first eighteen years of your life. With one hand under the water, he used the opposite hand to turn the faucet until it didn’t sound like the pipes would break through the shower wall. This was accompanied by a few embarrassed mutterings about how an exact forty-five-degree angle was needed to get the water to warm and not scalding hot, which Sloan found cute as she pushed herself into a seated position on top of the large vanity.

“Do you want to talk me about it?”

“About what?” Ollie asked, giving the nozzle another slight turn.

“About how your ex is wearing an engagement ring this morning?”

Ollie’s lips formed a straight line, which eventually gave way to a heavy exhale. He took a step back from the shower and gave his hand a little shake to free it of droplets. Sloan handed him a hand towel, frowning for the both of them. His brother was marrying the woman he’s in love with. That had to hurt, even if he had told Kit that it didn’t. The announcement of it had been even more awkward. Sloan wasn’t sure if she felt worse for Ollie, or for Penelope, who had to act excited for one son and hurt for another.

“I hoped that I hadn’t made it that obvious,” he admitted.

"You didn’t.”

Ollie’s head bobbed, understanding that it was Shelby that more than gave it away. “I’m more okay than I thought I would be,” he shrugged in a way that said there’s nothing more he can do about it. “Probably sounds like a complete line of bull, but I found out last night, and it honestly didn’t faze me.”

Last night?

She couldn’t help but to feel a little hurt by him admitting that. Her eyebrows sagged as she stared at nothing but the tiled floor that her feet were dangling over. Was last night just about Shelby moving on with someone else?

“Sloan,” Ollie’s eyes appeared to widen when he realized how that sounded. He moved towards her, placing himself directly in front of her and lifting her chin with a single finger. ”After,” he clarified. “It was after we...”

“We what?” Sloan whispered, searching his facial expression for the answer.

Last night had been so many things to her, and yet she was more confused than she had ever been. They thought they couldn’t complicate this any further; they sure managed it. Sloan knew she had feelings for Ollie and that they were growing faster than she could make sense of them, but she had no clue that he shared those feelings up until that kiss. He was her one-night stand turned teacher, turned boss, turned friend, turned...what, exactly?

Ollie didn’t seem to have that answer either.

His features softened as he dropped his head to hers and wrapped his arms around her. No feeling compared to strong arms wrapping around you without any words being said, and Ollie’s firm chest brought her comfort after a morning of unease. Her heart beat hard within her own chest as she took the initiative to kiss him. Their tongues swirled with tiny moans as the room filled with steam from the hot shower beside them. For the second time in twenty-four hours, she was being stripped of her new pajamas. Her pants hit the floor first, soon followed by her underwear.

“I need to shower,” she giggled and held her hands high over her head for him to remove her shirt.

Ollie seemed to like that answer, lifting her shirt with a grin that would have made her knees weak if she had been standing. She wrapped her naked body into his and squealed with giggles as he lifted her from the vanity.

“I do too.”

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