BYOP

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Scared

Nobody’s working today.

We’re all stuck behind our desks, desks that are draped in sparkling pink garland, decorated with little candy hearts.

Usually, Valentine’s Day is spent pretending I’m not lonely, possibly a night with my ex if I’m feeling super desperate, but this year?

The anxiety pooled in my stomach the minute I woke up this morning and hasn’t left since.

What do I get Lucas? Do I even get him anything? Technically we aren’t dating, I think. What exactly is Valentine’s protocol for probably a thing but not an official thing? Do fuck buddies give each other Valentine’s gifts?

"Please tell me you got him something?”

Tamara sits on the edge of my desk as I nervously swivel in my chair. “Of course I did, but I shouldn’t have! It’s so stupid, Mare. I’ll bet you anything he didn’t get me something.”

She gives me a wide-eyed, appalled look. “Uh, I think the fuck not. A gift is a gift, anyway. Stop freaking out about it. Do you know how many people buy him mysterious Valentine’s gifts? He has at least five ‘secret admirers’—it’s almost funny.”

I gape. “Excuse me, five secret admirers?”

She smirks. “Awe, are you jealous?”

“No.”

She laughs, looking down at her watch as it beeps. “I don’t believe you.”

I shrug in response, know what the beep means. “Later, Tamara.”

“Later, Marcus.”

I huff as she leaves me to an empty office. Fuck Valentine’s Day.

I got Lucas flowers again—which is so dumb, but I couldn’t think of any other gift, and I didn’t want to go over the top just in case we aren’t at that level yet. I can’t wait for today to be over.

But that’s not entirely true, because I’m also secretly hoping he got me something, at least made some plans for us, even though I’m trying not to get my hopes up in case he doesn’t.

I try to make myself breathe as the same guy from downstairs delivers my flower bouquet begrudgingly. Poor guy needs someone to send him flowers.

Lucas’ bouquet is made of roses; some white and pure, some dyed a mix of brilliant red and a softer pink, some budded and some blooming. Accompanying his bouquet is his beloved cappuccino, in a cute Valentine’s cup from Hearth Cafe, my first initial in sharpie with a lopsided heart drawn around it.

Fuck my life.

This is going to be so embarrassing.

After exactly point-two seconds, I can’t take it anymore, standing abruptly from my swivel chair and whisking myself away to the bathrooms. I enter the gender-neutral bathroom in the middle and lock myself in.

I look at myself in the mirror—messy.

I do a couple jumping jacks to get rid of my pent up, nervous energy.

I manage fifty before I have to stop, look in the mirror again.

Great—now I’m messy and sweaty.

I huff in irritation, try to fix myself up the best I can before I face the office again.

After a few deep breaths, I manage to look like a normal human being, and leave to return to my office space.

When I get there, I immediately notice a note on my desk.

My heart goes wild, the jumping jacks from before completely pointless as I open it. It’s on pretty paper with a cute little design on it.

‘Happy Valentine’s, baby cakes. I’m picking you up at six, so be ready. BYOP’

I fight back the unbearable urge to squeal in excitement, swinging my legs all around and jumping up and down in my chair.

There’s an afterthought, written in blue ink instead of black.

‘P.S. Love the flowers, love the cappuccino. You’re cute.’

I bite my lip, let my forehead fall onto the cold wood of my desk as I kick my legs again.

Yay!

My new phone buzzes: a snap from Tamara.

She’s frowning excessively, and over her shoulder, one of the couples in our office making out. ‘#foreveralone amiright’

I smile, send a reply with me hiding a still-flushed face behind Lucas’ note. ‘I can no longer relate to your Valentine’s woes, sorry not sorry’

I’ve only just put my phone down as it buzzes again. Captionless, she flips me off.

I laugh to myself, smile a permanent fixture on my face. ”Pfft . . . rude.”

I read my handwritten note over again, enraptured with it. Particularly, the four consecutive letters at the end.

BYOP.

. . .

Lucas helped me find this place.

A nicer, albeit smaller apartment, in a nicer area, with a much nicer roommate.

The room even seems brighter as I walk in, bright white light coming in from the open windows.

I’m hoping to surprise him tonight—bought a bright red pair of panties especially for Valentine’s Day. I want to see him fucking lose it.

I hear a honk outside, followed by my phone vibrating. I don’t bother answering, just rush out the door.

The car is recognizable as the sporty, cherry red car I’ve seen sitting in his garage. I laugh as he gets up out of the car, comes toward me to meet me halfway down my tiny front yard. I can’t wipe the smile off my face, hope he doesn’t realize I’m way too excited for this.

“Hey sweetness, you got my note?”

I flush, smile harder if it’s possible. “Yes, you romantic son of a butt.”

He smiles wider too, green eyes shining as he pulls me closer by the pockets of my jacket.

He gives me a chaste kiss on the lips, inviting the excitement bubble up inside me.

“Ready to go? Your new apartment treating you well?” He caresses the fading scar on my cheekbone.

I nod, lean into his hand. “Really well . . . I have you to thank for that.”

He smirks. “I’m not sure just how thankful you are. I guess you’ll just have to show me later.”

I laugh, step away—he’s too much.

I look him up and down, as I get the chance. His hair is styled to perfection, brown hair highlighted with gold in the sun. He wears casual, a white tee and a jean jacket, with black jeans that look criminally good on him.

He grins at me again, only one corner of his mouth lifting. “A picture will last longer.”

I grin, cheeks hurting as I stick my tongue out at him. He laughs, stepping back to open the passenger door for me. “You look hot, Lucas,” I say. “But not picture worthy.”

He gapes in feigned surprise as I duck into the car.

His smile makes my heart skip a beat as he leans down to buckle my seatbelt. “I have no witty retort for that, but why would you stare if I didn’t look good?”

He teases me, circling around the front of the car to take his own seat.

As we pull away, a soft, happy melody plays on the radio, quiet enough so that I can’t tell what it is, but I find it perfect for the moment.

I don’t answer him, instead look out the window and try to calm down before I embarrass myself.

It’s the minute we pull off the highway exit that I know exactly where we’re going.

I bite my lip hard, trying not to smile, because not only am I going to let Lucas surprise me, but my cheeks still hurt.

As we climb higher and higher, Lucas reaches over into the glove compartment and pulls out a simple black cloth.

He looks over at me. “Put it on,” he orders.

I take it from him, put it up to my eyes. “A blindfold? Kinky,” I say excitedly.

He laughs to himself. “We’re almost there. Don’t look,” he says.

I laugh. “I do what I want,” I joke, tie the blindfold around my head and hope I’m not messing up my hair.

And then his hand grips my face, squeezes it so that I imagine I look a bit funny. “You’ll do whatever I tell you to,” he demands, sounding as if his teeth are gritted.

I smile, no doubt making myself look even more laughable. “Yes, Sir,” I chirp happily.

He releases my face, but only after turning my head for another chaste kiss on the lips. “You’re such a good boy,” he allows.

I can’t help it, too fucking excited, jump in my seat a little. “Thank you Sir!”

He laughs. “Alright, calm down Marcus, don’t hurt yourself.”

I bite my lip, still jumping around a little in my seat.

It takes a little longer than I expected for us to get there, but when he parks the car, my fingers are immediately at my blindfold, ready to rip it off. Lucas is so cute.

“No, no, no, I don’t think so—that’s staying on,” he rushes, laying a warm hand above mine over my eyes.

I sigh impatiently, forced to wait and listen until he comes around my side of the car.

As he helps me out, I’m hit with a heavy gust of wind. ”Fuck—my hair—” I complain.

He pulls me backward into him, my back to his chest. I feel a tug against the knot at the back of my head, and then—

It’s beautiful—stunning, ethereal even.

Luke went the whole nine yards: a cheesy picnic setup, with a thick blanket lain across the grass, atop it a large, woven picnic basket left open to display the silverware. There are fairy lights, everywhere—small, golden, blinking on and off to mimic lightning bugs.

And the view—the entire city can be seen from the drop off, still glowing with life even at the sky grows steadily darker.

I barely have time to shiver when Lucas wraps a huge, thick blanket around me, shielding me from the cold like he always does.

I was never one who cried out of happiness, but I find myself speechless and tearing up a little as I step forward.

I ease closer to the drop off, the crooked, worn wooden fence adorned with the blinking, golden lights, and behind it, the view. I was wrong—I hadn’t known where we were going. Sure, it’s the drop off, but we’re in a different, more secluded area. There’s only one picnic table off to the side, and no one to keep us company but the crickets.

“I know it’s . . . cold, but . . . is this okay?”

I bite my lip, will the tears in my eyes to go away so he doesn’t panic as I turn around, wrap the blanket tighter around my shoulders.

He holds a single red tulip in both hands, smiling softly, nervously.

I shake my head. “I love it, really, I . . . I guess you’ll have to keep me warm, then, right?”

He smiles, and I have to notice how the corners of his eyes crinkle, and his dimples reveal themselves, how he looks down at his shoes for a moment before looking up again with new confidence.

I step closer, take the bright red tulip from his hands, hold it to me as I walk into him. He guides me with an arm around me to the picnic blanket laid out for us.

I laugh, feeling the overwhelming giddiness bubble up inside me and fight the urge to jump up and down. “Oh god, what did you pack for dinner?”

It turns out, he packed a simple (but seriously yummy) pasta, some grapes, cantaloupe cubes, and strawberries. He also brought along a fancy red wine, and as he’s pulling it out of the basket, I’m sticking my face in it.

He laughs. “Why are you more amazed by the picnic basket than the food?”

I flush, but laugh. “The food looks great, but the pasta is still warm—this is totally insulated right? It’s so cute!”

He rolls his eyes, but smiles along with me.

By the next two hours, my stomach has been stuffed with an abundance of my favorite food. He even ended it with a rich dark chocolate cake. I’ve talked and talked and talked, and I’ve never known how some people can hold conversation this long but with him it’s just so easy.

I laugh, crawl toward him until I’ve comfortably seated myself onto his lap, and hold up a fork of the chocolate cake. He takes it with no questions asked, eager to play my little game, hands stretched out behind his body to support our weight.

“Do you like me?”

He nods, without hesitation. “Yeah. I do, you know that.”

I bite my lip, fighting back a smile. “How much?”

He takes the chocolate cake into his mouth, and shakes his head. He swallows, and after looking me over with soft eyes, answers. “So much it scares me,” he admits quietly.

I smile wide, feel my chest tighten with emotion. “So much that you’d be my boyfriend?”

Lucas’ jaw goes slack, and I quickly realize I’ve shocked him.

I barely have time to panic—“You . . .” he stutters. “I . . . you weren’t supposed to—I was going to ask you out! You beat me to it!” he complains, but the grin on his face tells me he’s not really upset.

I laugh, feel the anxiety leave with my exhale. “Is that a yes, Money Bags?”

He cringes. “That’s stud muffin to you, boyfriend,” he demands, and leans back so that I fall forward and sit above him.

I fist my hands in his shirt and jokingly shake him around. ”Lu-u-uke . . . give me a real answer.”

He rolls his eyes, his hands finding mine and holding them in his. He glances at me almost fondly.

“That’s a yes.”

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