What was that kiss?
I’ve been kissed before—enjoyed it too—but Dionysos’ kiss… It was out of this world. His lips were made for kissing. The man knows how to rock the perfect balance of yielding and demanding when it comes to using his mouth. And his hands. I mean, he didn’t touch a lot, but the body parts he did come into contact with still buzz with the memory of his large, callused palms.
If he didn’t stop, I’d have gladly gone down on my knees for him. I’d have let him take me where we stood. Screw the job and screw growing up and screw being mature, if I get to screw Dionysos. Which I’m not gonna. Because he stopped and apologized, and what am I supposed to do with that?
Wipe the tables once more, close up, have a quick bite, and turn in. Maybe take a shower first and get rid of the sexual frustration tightening in my belly.
I wolf down a chicken-salad sandwich, and then do a hell of a job, cleaning every horizontal surface. By the time I’m done, my fingertips are soggy and my back hurts. I may not need to take the edge off in the shower after all. Just wash away the grime and go to bed, where I can proceed to think of Dionysos like I’ve done most of the day. The man was irresistible before I’d tasted his lips. Now… Ugh.
I take a towel and a fresh pair of panties from the hold-all that’s been masquerading as a shopping bag, lock the door and punch in the code to the alarm, then pad to the bathroom to the repeating sound of blips while it arms.
The water temperature is perfect—a step above scalding—when I step under the jet, and I let it soothe away the aches and pains that come with basically being on my feet for eight hours. I work the shower gel into a lather and massage it quickly into my tight muscles, only fleetingly imagining Dionysos’ fingers doing the job instead of mine. To shake off the thought, I stick my head under the water. Steam rises around me, to fog the glass, and I greedily inhale the pine scent of the body gel. It smells like Dionysos. Damn it.
Why why why can’t I control my libido around this man? I mean, I do have hormones, and I occasionally remember to exercise them, but I’ve never felt this uncontrollable attraction—this need to become one with the other person. To meld with him.
I rinse off, twist most of the water off my hair, and exit the stall. Will need to figure out how to work the dehumidifier, and where on earth it’s located, to dry up the room and the towel I wrap around myself. Or I can dry it up in my room. Heat’s strong enough. I tie my curls in a tight bun, to keep them from dripping, slip my feet in my flats, and throw open the bathroom door.
A screeching sound has me covering my ears with both hands and almost dropping the towel. The alarm? Why is it blaring? And how the fuck do I turn it off? I all but run to the door, my shoes slapping the wooden floor. My finger trembles as I press the buttons. One-two-one-nine. But does the fucker stop? No. I press Away. Nothing. I press the numbers again, and is it me, or is the sound getting louder?
A phone rings. I can’t get it; I need to switch off the alarm before the cops show up.
A rattle at the door, and then it’s flung inward, and Dionysos stands at the opening, gaping.
His shoelaces are undone, and he’s shirtless again, dark locks tumbling down his bare shoulders. His jeans aren’t done all the way up and ride low on his hips, allowing me a glimpse at a thatch of curls.
I can’t move, frozen in place by both my obvious guilt and the desire surging inside and making every square centimeter of bare skin tingle.
Dionysos snaps into action first, tapping the right keys to finally make the alarm stop. The phone rings again. No, it’s a different sound. He pulls out his cell from his back pocket, takes the call and spits out something I can’t make out with my ears still buzzing. He pockets the phone again, crosses his arms over that glorious expanse of chiseled chest, and looks at me expectantly.
I should explain why I’m dripping wet and wearing only a towel, shouldn’t I?
I sputter. “I got some grease on my clothes, and I—”
“Decided to take a shower. And happened to have a large towel with. And you’d locked up and set the alarm first.” He arches a dark eyebrow, but his lips twitch.
My cheeks burn at the memory of how those lips made me feel earlier. I try again. “I… I…” Can’t string ten words together, obviously.
He kicks the door shut and leans against it. “You wanted me to find you like this? Is this a weird way of evening the score for this morning?”
I hear the question clearly through the din in my head, but his lips don’t move. Did the siren sound burst a vessel in my brain? Am I hallucinating voices? Is hallucinating even the correct word?
“Well?” There’s the arched eyebrow again.
I can’t tell him I’m staying here because I don’t have a place to live. I shake my head, in answer to the question he didn’t ask. When he doesn’t speak, I say, “I didn’t want you to find me.”
“Then what is this?” He indicates all of me with a slow tilt of his head. His nostrils flare, and his irises are dilated, only a slim silver ring visible. He’s not unaffected by what he’s seeing, only determined to do nothing about it. Why? Just because I work for him?
Or maybe because I’m the psycho pussyfooting around his bar in the middle of the night, wearing only a towel? Eh, I’m screwed anyway. May as well fess up. “Kneeing that asswipe in the balls yesterday got me homeless, as well as jobless. I was renting an apartment from him, and he kicked me out. So I crashed here till I found a new apartment. I know it’s wrong, and I’m so sorry, and I understand that you can never trust me again.”
Dionysos arches both brows, and to my dismay, buttons his jeans the rest of the way up. “You know the law is with the renter, right?”
Yeah, about that— “Only if you have a contract. We had a gentlemen’s agreement. Only neither of us was a gentleman, so…” I shrug.
He lets out a long-suffering sigh. “Come on. Get your things.”
He’s gonna kick me to the curb too? Seriously? “It’s the middle of the night. Let me stay here till morning, and I’ll be out of your hair for good at the crack of dawn. Swear. You don’t even have to fire me; I quit.” I hate this squeaky quality to my voice. Hate that I need to ask him for a favor, on top of taking advantage of his kindness.
He recoils as if I slapped him. “I’m taking you to a hotel, woman. My brother has a thousand of them, remember? You can stay there till you find a place. I’ll arrange it with Sei.”
My brain creaks with the effort to come up with an appropriate response, but I blink mutely for more than a couple heartbeats, before I finally whisper, “Why? Why would you do that?” Is he that nice, or is he expecting something in return? Fuck. Nobody is that nice, and as happy as I am to have sex with him for fun, the thought of doing so for accommodation sours the chicken salad in my stomach.
Dionysos raises his face to the ceiling. “Because you need help and I can provide it? Because you’re in a shitty situation that’s not your fault?” He throws me a glance I bet was meant as impatient but that looks fiery instead. “Do you plan to get dressed at some point?”
I look down my front, where the towel has dropped a couple centimeters, and then meet his gaze. He offered to set me up at the hotel till I move on, but I can’t take him up on it for longer than tonight, and since I lost this job too and won’t be returning here, I may as well make the most of the time I have with him.
I should be heading to the backroom, to put some clothes on. Instead, I stalk closer to him, holding his gaze. It’s now or never. “Why did you kiss me earlier?”
His Adam’s apple bobs. “Because I wanted to.” His eyes hold a challenge I’m more than up for.
“And why did you stop?” My face is mere centimeters from his. One tug on the towel, and I can be pressed against him, naked.
His hands come up to my shoulders, but don’t touch. Is it to pull me closer, or hold me in place? “Because of our… power imbalance. I shouldn’t take advantage of it. Of you.” He squeezes his eyes shut, inhales deeply, and when he opens them again, drops his hands to his sides. His irises don’t look silver; they are silver. Mesmerizing. Impossible.
There’s too much about him that doesn’t make sense, but I don’t want to think. I want to feel. “I’m not working for you anymore. I quit. No power imbalance now.” Not that there was one before. Getting this job was a win on a bad day, but I wouldn’t starve without it. I could swallow my pride and turn to my parents for help, if push came to shove.
Then why work here? Why stay here?
The questions in my head are asked in his gruff voice. The answer is simple—because I wanted to be near him.
Dionysos rocks back on the heels, as if thrown off balance. He’s still not making a move, but I can taste his desire. Plus, the evidence is poking me in the stomach. So I do what I’ve wanted to do since we kissed this afternoon. I splay my palms on his hard chest, tease my fingers along the sprinkle of dark hairs, and arch up to timidly brush my lips against his. That hint of friction produces enough electricity to spark along my skin. And then it’s gone, as he steps back, eyes wild.
He felt it too. I know he did.
Dionysos shakes his head. “Can’t,” he mutters. “Shouldn’t.”
Or maybe I think I heard him, because my ears are still buzzing, and he spoke so low.
He squares his shoulders and cracks his neck. He seems about to go into battle. When he says, “Here goes nothing,” I expect him to throw me over his shoulder and splay me atop the nearest table. Can’t say the thought doesn’t make me shiver in anticipation.
Rather than going caveman on me, he licks his lips and asks, “How about that chocolate soufflé?”
Is he fucking kidding me? My nipples are acting as coat pegs for the towel, and I’m wetter than I was under the shower, and he wants to talk dessert? “No.” Did I sound as incredulous as I feel? Hope so.
He ghosts his fingers across my cheek, and doesn’t pull away when I lean into his touch. “Are you sure?” He watches my face. “Think of that gooey chocolate decadence coating your tongue.” This seems to be really important to him. Does he have a food fetish?
I can work with that. I practically taste the sweet, dark flavor melting in my mouth. Any other time, I’d say yes, please. But not now. Can’t wait however long it takes for him to prepare that soufflé, when I need to feel more of his skin against mine this very moment.
“Sounds incredible,” I say, “but I have other indulgences in mind. Unless you don’t want to.”
“Can’t remember ever wanting anything more.” His lips don’t move, but this time I’m sure about what I heard. I feel it tightening in my belly.
“Then why are we talking about chocolate?” My question rides on a wave of frustration.
“Because I need to be sure.”
That he wants me? If he still doubts that, there’s nothing I can do but give up. “Guess chocolate is a good alternative, then.”
Dionysos’ expression falls, and he hangs his head. What’s the matter with this guy? Does he get a kick out of my rejecting his offers?
If that’s the case, I’ll oblige him. “But not at this hour. It’s really late.”
The most beatific smile splits his face, and his arms come up around me, locking me in a steely prison. One I wouldn’t mind spending hours in.
“So you like me saying no to afterhours baking, huh?” I joke, because I need something to distract me from the silver irises swirling above me.
Then he slants his mouth over mine, and I’m pretty fucking distracted.