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Warmth

My lover makes a mean fettucine alfredo.

I’m forced to chew slowly to avoid aggravating the cut on my face, as well as hold my fork very loosely considering how hard Jared had ripped my fingers apart.

Lucas has noticed, frowning solemnly at my battered fingers during his meal. He’s quiet—I can tell he feels guilty, but for what?

This leaves Emery to fill the silence.

“It’s okay, Maggie—”

Lucas snorts then, covering his mouth as some fettucine falls from his mouth in a mess.

“- Lucas makes much better alfredo than you, but your steaks are my favorite,” Emery reassures, sparing Lucas a confused glance.

I suppress a giggle myself as Magnus blushes, face muscles sore but not stopping the smile that spreads across my face.

Lucas looks at me, finally happy for what seems like the first time today. ”Maggie?"

Magnus glares, still flushed, while Emery frowns. “What’s wrong with Maggie? I don’t get it . . .”

Magnus sharpens his glare at Lucas, who quickly recovers. “Nothing, just . . . haven’t heard that before.”

Emery brightens with a wide smile. “Really? So I’m the only one who calls him that?” He turns to Magnus, who looks down at him fondly. “That means I’m special, right?”

Magnus sighs. “Yeah honey, you really are.”

His voice is monotonous, but not meaningless. I think he’s just a big bad dominant with a gigantic soft spot for Emery.

We all let Emery lead the conversation, until it circles back around to me.

Magnus frowns, turns to me. “You said your roommate did that to you?”

I bite my lip. “Yup.”

Magnus shakes his head. “That’s crazy. Your psycho roommate isn’t going to make a habit of this, right? What happened that led to him having to hit you?”

I swallow thickly, feeling uneasy as I lay down my fork. Lucas places a gentle hand on my knee, and I find I need the comfort so bad I lay mine down as well and intertwine our fingers together.

“He was taking money from me. Went into my room when I was sleeping to look through my wallet, but I woke up. I . . . I was stupid, should’ve just let him take it and figure it out later, but I confronted him. I was yelling, but he wasn’t taking me seriously . . . so I threatened to go to the cops. He hated that . . . backhanded me so I fell against the edge of my desk—” My voice cracks, so I take a deep, shaky breath and rub my fingers over the bandage on my face. “He took the money, smashed my phone, and left, so I called the Lyft and came here.”

Magnus nods, and Lucas speaks up. “That’s why you never answered. I was worried but I just assumed . . .”

I grip his hand with aching fingers. “It’s fine now. I’m safe here with you, right?”

He doesn’t hesitate to nod.

Emery seems a bit glum now, pouting and running his fingernail across the edge of the table. Magus hooks an arm around his neck and pulls Emery to his side to kiss him on the top of his head.

Magnus looks all business. “You have enough cause to file a restraining order. And if his drug habits are causing harm to those around him . . .”

I nod. “I’m not sure, but I think he’s been threatening our landlord so we don’t get kicked out.”

Magnus frowns, but Lucas seems to come to a realization. “Is that why you asked me for an advance? Because you’re getting evicted?”

I flush, staring down at my nearly empty place. I twirl a little bit of the now cold pasta onto the fork and chew.

“Marcus, please answer me. Yes or no?”

I put the fork down again and nod.

Magnus puts another piece of the puzzle together. “You get paid pretty well working for Lucas, even as an intern. It’s because your roommate takes your money, isn’t it?”

I chew my lip, nod again.

Magnus sits back, looking pensive. “Well we’re looking at two counts of assault and battery, one count of theft, one of possession of who knows what. He could get time, and you do have enough here to file for a restraining order.”

I raise a brow. “Are you a cop?”

Emery pipes up, shakes his head. “No, he’s a secret agent! He goes undercover and stuff!”

I squint, still confused. “Okay . . .”

But I don’t say anything else.

We finish up quietly, Magnus and Emery forcibly taking over dish duty while Lucas and I clean the table.

It’s not until I attempt to carry the large ceramic bowl, empty save for alfredo sauce, that the pain in my hand flares up.

I don’t make it to the kitchen in time—I’m forced to drop it.

I hiss, holding my hand as the bowl shatters into pieces.

Everyone rushes out to see the commotion, all of them not saying anything as they stop abruptly in the doorway with worried expressions.

“I’ll get it,” Lucas says, throws me a small smile that’s supposed to ease my guilt but doesn’t

I shouldn’t have tried to carry it anyway, should’ve just let someone else get it, but of course I’m too damn stubborn . . .

“Alright baby, don’t move, I don’t want you to step on something,” Lucas says, grabbing the broom.

I nod, sighing. I feel the frustration rapidly building inside me.

Lucas sweeps along the wooden floor, just making a path to me rather than actually cleaning. I’m barefoot, but he’s donned some grizzly bear slippers that would make me laugh if I weren’t so cranky.

He sets the broom against one of the dinner chairs, before reaching his hands out for me.

Despite my crankiness, I flush, eyes flicking over to where Magnus and Emery have retreated into the kitchen to finish the dishes, talking lowly to themselves.

I reach my own arms out, so Lucas ducks under them, and picks me up with warm hands at the back of my bare thighs. A small smile appears on my face against my will as he carries me, grizzly slippers scuffling along the hardwood. I wrap my legs around him, enjoying his firm hands holding me up, the way his back muscles noticeably ripple just a little under my own hands, folded behind him.

We go up the stairs again, Lucas taking his time.

He sets me down on the bed so that my legs hang over the edge, going as far to kneel before me and lift them to inspect my feet. I laugh softly through my nose. “I didn’t step on anything,” I reassure, although I can’t say I don’t love the way he seems to be so concerned for my safety.

He smirks. “Just making sure.”

He stands and holds the covers back so I can tuck my legs under them. I know he doesn’t miss the way his button-up rides up on me as I get comfortable.

I bite my lip, flattered, but not really in the mood to do anything sexy. “Thank you, Lucas.”

He smiles, gives me a chaste peck on the lips before heading for the door again. “You’re tired, I can tell. Get some sleep, I’ll be up in a little while.”

I want to ask how long a little while is, but he turns off the lights and closes the door. I curl into his bed, his bed that smells like him, like the subtle cologne he wears for work.

I grab his pillow from the other side of the bed and wrap myself around it, waiting for the cool blankets to warm up and lull me to sleep.

But even still, as the blankets warm and the house quiets, as my eyes grow heavy and my muscles relax into the mattress, I find myself awake.

He eventually returns, opening and closing the door silently, removing his shirt and slippers by his closet before trying to make his way into the bed gently to assure I stay asleep.

“I’m awake,” I mumble.

He hums in response, getting comfortable before removing his pillow from my grasp.

“Mm . . .”

He mocks my irritated, sleep moan, before taking the place of his pillow.

It’s amazing how much better I feel when I can lean my forehead against his chest, how easily I fall asleep when I can feel him breathing peacefully beside me.

. . .

In the morning, we spend hours in bed, just talking.

“How are you feeling?” he asks. His voice is groggy and quiet and deep, the epitome of sexy morning voice.

I smile. “Better.”

It’s true. Although my face hurts like a bitch, I feel lighter this morning.

“You?”

He smiles slightly, but I notice the silence before he speaks. “I feel good.”

I bite my lip. “You hesitated,” I whisper.

He smiles wider, rolling his eyes and pulling me closer to him. “Ever the perceptive one,” he compliments, and once again he hesitates.

I wait.

“I can’t get my father out of my head,” he admits, laughs a bit like it’s silly, but I can still see how much it weighs on him. “And I’m trying to figure out how I can be a good dominant to you if I’m having this weird, like—internal conflict I guess, I don’t know.”

His voice gets just a bit more frantic as he goes on.

“And don’t get me wrong, I want this so bad . . . you’re like everything I never thought I would have. You . . .”

He looks down at my nose. “I what?” I ask softly. At his hesitation, I continue. “Lucas, I don’t know how this kind of thing between us usually goes—”

He scoffs. “Sure you don’t.”

I smile, but continue. “I don’t know how it usually goes, but I need you to know that the way I see it, this whole dom-sub thing is a two-way street. You take care of me and I take care of you. And . . . you don’t always have to be a dom . . . not with me.”

I chew my lip, hope that makes sense as he stares at me with an intensity I barely expect.

After a while of this, it gets embarrassing. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

He shakes his head, the motion funny since he’s laying down. “Because I’ve never felt like . . . like . . . fuck, I don’t know, like you hung the fucking sun just so I could look out my window every day and be warm.”

I smirk. “Language,” I admonish, but I’m just trying to hide the way my heart swells in my chest, the way it’s suddenly hard to breathe.

He shakes his head again, creating creases in the sheet under him.

I bite my lip, still reeling from his words. “What do you like about me?”

He raises a brow, not really surprised, just probably unprepared for the question. “Well, I’ll start with your awkward yet endearing confidence. Your demanding quips when you’re horny? Ah . . . the way you look at me, I guess . . .” That one makes him blush. “Also a plus; you don’t see me as a hardass dom whose only interests are whips and chains . . . I guess . . .”

I smile. “No one else does that?”

He scowls. “I swear I show an ounce of emotion and the subs are running around telling everyone I’m a lousy dom.”

I scrunch my nose. What kind of people . . . “That’s bull.”

He raises his brows in agreement. Then, uses the arm under me to pull me on top of him, so that we’re chest to chest. My smile is permanent, immovable, even as I wish it would go away because it hurts.

He smiles up at me cheekily, skimming the backs of my thighs with his fingertips until I squirm.

“That tickles,” I protest, smiling so wide it hurts. ”Sto-op—”

He hums again, his chest vibrating beneath me, as he purses his lips like a goofball as indication of his desires.

I obey, kissing him lazily, ignoring our questionable morning breath in favor of the intimacy I crave. I don’t stop though, enjoying myself far too much to stop, moving his hands up to my brief-clad butt and squeeze.

He laughs at me, squeezes but not as hard as I did.

“What?” I ask playfully. “Don’t like it rough?”

He smiles, but it fades as he lifts one hand to caress the other side of my face, eyeing the bandage. “No.”

I sigh—he’s so damn pure. Fucking cinnamon roll.

I smile, just because.

He smiles too.

I laugh. “What? Why are you looking at me that way?”

He laughs, striking green eyes soft with joy. “Your smile is infectious.”

I shake my head. “You’re too much for me,” I say.

He shakes his head, still smiling. “Well, you’re perfect for me.”

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