I’m good. I’m fine. I’m not ogling Moira. Haven’t been, since she showed up at six thirty. Most importantly, I haven’t been thinking of her since she rushed out of my place this morning. That I didn’t have one-sided conversations with her in my head.
And I’m so awesome at lying to myself, it’s become second nature.
She’s in a good mood. Showed up with her BFF—a blonde in her mid-thirties, obviously here to make sure I’m not an asshole. Hope I convinced her, because I’m not all that sure myself.
The blonde left after the employment agreement was signed, and Phaedra is running late, so I’m pretending to clean a spotless kitchen and trying not to watch how Moira’s ass jiggles as she vigorously wipes the bar bench. Its curve must be perfect for my palms. Not that I’ll be checking to make sure.
Her elbow hits a stack of four pint glasses, and the weirdest thing happens. I see them falling before they actually do. I can’t explain how, but it’s not seeing the future. It seems like time slows down, and my brain connects dots it wouldn’t usually even perceive. I see the stack fluctuating and Moira reaching for it, but her fingertips fail to find purchase and nudge them over instead. I see their trajectory. They’ll land in the metal sink. Break into shards. Maybe cut her.
Incredibly, I catch them mere centimeters before they crash.
Moira turns wide eyes from my hands to my face. “How… How did you do that? You were just in the kitchen.”
I was, and I have no idea how I moved this fast. I don’t remember crossing the distance. I was in another room, and then I was here. Did I blink? I can’t blink. Fuck. Bonding boosts our powers, but I can’t be bonding with her. I’ve barely touched her.
She remedies that as she takes the glasses from my hands. Does she feel the jolt when our fingers make contact? “I think I spaced out,” she mumbles, watching me intently. Her body leans into mine, and she pats my arm. “Thank you for coming to my rescue.” She doesn’t withdraw her hand, and her heat sears me through the thin cotton of my T-shirt.
“Anytime.” I shuffle my feet closer, drawn to her like a moth to the flame.
She licks her lips. “Good to know”—her chest heaves with quick, shallow breaths—“because I need saving often.”
Her gaze is magnetic. Inviting. I lower my head until my lips are hovering above hers, but stop short of kissing her. I can’t do this. I can’t be another asshole employer who tries to take advantage of her. I start to look away, but then her fingers are looped in my waistband and her other hand is cupping the back of my head. When she rises on her tiptoes to press her mouth to mine, I’m lost.
Her lips are plump and soft, and when she parts them to flick her tongue across mine, she tastes of cherries and cola. I rub her tongue with mine and feel her shiver. It’s all the invitation I need, to fist one hand in her silk-like curls and wrap my other arm around her waist. She presses against me, and I can feel her heart, hammering in her chest. Or it’s my heartbeat, thundering in my ears, that overtakes all other sounds.
I thrust my tongue in her mouth, and she sucks on it with a groan. She is delicious. Impossible to resist. Is this what got my brothers bonded?
Do I wanna be thinking about them right now?
Moira nibbles on my bottom lip, and I practically hear my self-restraint snap. A growl roils deep in my chest, and I skate both palms down her back, to cup her ass. I knead the perfect asscheeks that could have been—that were—made for my hands and lift her, and she curls one leg around my hip.
Erebus, I want to taste the heat radiating from her core, where it presses against my shaft. I lift, and she locks both ankles at the back of my thighs. What am I doing? Feeling. Falling.
I turn and prop her ass on the sink. She’s grinding against me, and I meet her thrust for thrust. I haven’t dry-humped since I first got laid, at sixteen, but I could do this with her forever. She’s wild, my Moira, as she pumps her hips, nails raising furrows into my forearms. She’s devouring my mouth, swallowing my breath like it’s the only thing keeping her alive.
Can’t get enough. Need more.
The thought isn’t mine, though it’s true for me too. It whispers through my brain in her sweet, throaty voice.
No. This is wrong. This is how the bonding starts. And I’m obviously curbing her defenses. She wouldn’t be all but crawling up my body—her boss’s body—if she had her wits. Fuck me and fuck my powers, but I won’t be fucking her. It’s not fair to either of us.
Though she did make the first move without my touching her skin-to-skin.
Nope. Not gonna make excuses. This can’t happen.
Then why am I still kissing her?
Because I don’t want to stop.
I dig my fingers in her hips and give her one last, bruising kiss, before breaking our lip-lock. Moira’s eyes are wild, her gaze questioning. Curls cascade around her head, and her lips are swollen with my kiss. Puckered nipples push through her T-shirt, begging me to cup her breasts, and she arches up toward me even as she drops her legs from around my hips.
“I’m sorry,” I manage. “I shouldn’t have done that. You work for me. It’s not right.” In my head, I scream for her to tell me the power imbalance has nothing to do with why she yielded to my kiss with such ferocity.
It was I who yielded to her kiss.
She touches her lips and lowers her eyelashes for a brief second, before staring up at me with an expression of pure indifference. “It’s okay. Like it never happened.” She nudges me back with her fingers on my stomach, and I flex instinctively as I give her some space.
I almost reach out to help her hop down from her perch, but I shove both hands in my pocket instead.
“I really am sorry.” Why am I harping on this? “I shouldn’t have… I mean, you don’t need another asshole—”
“I said it’s okay, all right? We’re good. Leave it alone.” Her tone is more tired than snappish, as she resumes wiping the bench. The surface is perfectly clean by now.
I wince at the force behind every swipe of the rag. I should go back to my kitchen, but I hate leaving her like this when I can’t tell what she’s thinking. Or maybe I can? And that’s a hard no. I’m not even gonna try to reestablish the mental connection I tapped into while we shared the mother of all kisses. That would be a step closer to a bond I don’t want. Besides, I’d never know if she willingly gave in to me or I unwittingly compelled her to. It’d have to be something she desired, or my powers wouldn’t work on her, but there’s desire, and then there’s the will to act upon it.
With a last, longing look at her beautifully jiggling ass, I return to my grill and stay here until end of shift. I keep an eye on Moira the entire time, watching for any signs of discomfort, but she gets along fine with Phaedra and easily builds a rapport with those of my regulars who always sit at the bar.
None of my brothers show up, which is surprising, since they must all know who she is by now. Are they finally learning what personal space is, or are they preparing an intervention?
Not falling into that wormhole. I focus on making burgers and sandwiches, and maybe on counting the times Moira steals a glance at me. Twenty seven, if anyone’s interested. She maintains the disinterested look whenever our gazes meet, but her cheeks redden. It makes her eyes seem green. With maybe a hint of silver, which I try hard to ignore.
It’s only Tuesday, and the bar is empty by midnight. The chance someone may drift in for a late drink is slim, and the kitchen’s been closed for an hour, so I make my way to the front.
Phaedra gives me googly eyes. “Hey, World’s Most Amazing Boss. Is it okay if I leave early tonight? Wouldn’t mind a long bath before bed.” She waggles her eyebrows suggestively. I’d think she were hitting on me if I didn’t know how happy she is with her girlfriend.
Under normal circumstances, I’d send her off with my blessings, but do I want to be left alone with Moira? Correction—should I be left alone with Moira, considering how much I want to?
“You should go,” Moira tells Phaedra before I can answer.
She wants to be alone with me? Is it so we can talk, or maybe pick up where we left off? Can I cling to my resolve if she makes another move?
“You too,” she says to me, kicking my spiraling out of orbit. “I can stick around till two and close up, if you want.”
She just wants me out of her hair. Makes sense.
I shoo Phaedra off and mean to apologize again, profusely, but when I open my mouth to speak, Moira says, “Anything I should know about closing up? I make sure cookers are switched off and everything is clean, and then just lock up?” Her gaze and voice are steady. Businesslike. Landing like a punch to the nuts.
She doesn’t want to talk about what happened. She will have nothing to do with me, beyond our professional relationship. I can do that. It’s for the best, anyway. So what if she thinks I’m an asshole? And why does my gut churn? My gut never churns; I’m a freaking Olympian. We don’t get human afflictions, regardless of ascension status.
“I’ll show you how to balance the register and get the z-report,” I say.
She grimaces. “You’re trusting me with money?”
If Hades were here, he’d say this is an elaborate plan for her to rob me blind—especially since she put To Be Announced under Place of Residence in the employment agreement.
“I trusted you with my home keys,” I say. I hope my smile is friendly and encouraging.
Her lips curve, and for the first time since she moaned into my mouth, her expression softens. “Thank you.”
I walk her through the process, and then show her how to set the alarm. And I’m out of reasons to delay leaving her.
“Well… goodnight.” I drag my feet to the exit. “You know where I live, if you need anything.”
I get a mental image of her bent over the sink, jeans halfway down her ass, and me licking her spine. Is she projecting it, or is my self-control slipping again?
She shakes her head. “I’m good. Though I guess I should have your number?”
“Taped to the register,” I say. “Eat something before you go. You haven’t had anything in hours.” I told her to take a break for dinner, before the kitchen closed, but she said she wasn’t hungry. She must be now.
She nods. “Thanks.” She seems like she wants to say more, but we end up staring at each other across the room.
One, two, three heartbeats, and then she turns away.
Walking out the door is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.