“Call it rent control. You could lock in the girlfriend rate for, say, a twenty-year lease, and then we could negotiate from there.” He encircled me in his arms, pressing me firmly against his chest, his lips inches from mine.
My heart pounded. This went beyond our usual banter of trying to outwit each other. We had only been together a matter of weeks and he was already thinking about the long-term? My lips parted slightly as I struggled to take a full breath. Blake’s words and his proximity made my world spin, time and again. No one had ever affected me like this, and I was gradually learning to enjoy the roller coaster.
“Nice try,” I whispered.
He growled and closed his mouth over mine. He claimed me with gentle urgency, teasing me with tiny licks of his tongue.
“You drive me crazy, Erica.”
“Oh?” I breathed, trying not to moan as the air left me.
“Yes, in every conceivable way. Let’s get out of here. Fiona can wrap up the paperwork if you’re intent on renting this dump.”
He grabbed my hips and sandwiched me between his rock hard body and the wall behind me. I didn’t know what it was about him pinning me to hard surfaces, but I fucking loved it. I slid my hands through his hair and kissed him back helplessly, so easily forgetting myself in his embrace. What time was it? Where did I need to be later? I mentally ran through every possible obstacle between me and being naked with Blake. His thigh found the space between my legs, exerting the perfect amount of pressure so the crease of my jeans rubbed me through my panties.
“I swear, if there was a clean surface in this place, I’d fuck you on it right now.”
I giggled. “You’re bad.”
His eyes went dark. “You have no idea.”
Fiona leaned into the doorway, wide-eyed.
Blake stepped back abruptly, leaving me dizzy and momentarily confused. For the first time ever, I witnessed him flush as he ran his fingers through his hair, seemingly embarrassed at having been caught making out in front of his little sister.
“If you two are finished, I got the price down another couple hundred. Can we make a decision on this, or do you want to see some more places in different parts of town?”
I straightened and stepped away from Blake to join her, knowing the farther away I was, the more clearly I could think.
“Decision’s made. Let’s do this.”
“You new to the neighborhood?”
The busty redhead serving up two steaming creme brulee lattes interrupted my train of thought as I checked through my email with obsessive care.
“Sort of. I'm renting commercial space upstairs.”
“Rock and roll. I've been here a few years. I opened the café with my parents but they retired, so it's just me and the crew now.”
“Wow, congrats. I didn't realize you were the owner.” I'd seen her several times since scouting out the neighborhood and practicing my route to work. Okay, so I was mainly over-eager to move into the office, and the compelling smells coming from Mocha lured me in regularly.
“Most people don't. They're pretty surprised when they ask for a supervisor and they're still looking at me.”
We laughed, and I held out my hand to hers. “I'm Erica.”
“Simone. These are on the house.”
“Awesome, thank you.”
“No worries.” She sauntered back to the coffee bar with curves that even I envied. Simone had a presence in the place and she made a mean latte, so she wasn't easy to forget. The patrons around me followed her with their gazes until she was safely hidden behind the counter.
Liz pushed through the door and found me at my table.
“Wow, you’re wicked tan,” I said, admiring Liz’s ability to look like a catalogue model with presumably very little effort. Somehow her perfect blond bob looked even lighter than the last time we’d met over coffee. My own hair was pulled up into a messy bun, and I was dressed in a pair of well-loved, thoroughly ripped blue jeans and a tie-dyed tank top, ready to clean up the office space before our furniture arrived.
“Thanks! Barcelona was amazing. You have to go sometime. My parents rented a villa and I basically hung out on the beach the whole time. Absolute bliss.”
“So what have you been up to?” She took a sip of her latte.
“I got my funding for the business, so I found office space and now I’m renovating and hiring.”
“Holy crap, congratulations!”
“What are you hiring for?”
“We have a couple new programmers, but I’m sort of agonizing over finding a marketing director. No one has wowed me yet, but I need someone soon. I can’t wear that hat with all the other things I have going on.”
“Oh my God, I know the perfect person.” She clapped her hands together and then started rummaging through her purse.
“My friend Risa. She's been working for a marketing company for the past few summers. She graduated with us and is on the job hunt now. She’s crazy into fashion. You would love her.”
I raised my eyebrows. Not like I especially loved fashion. Sure I ran a fashion social network, but that was business. Obsessing over fashion was Alli’s gig, but since Alli was the one I was replacing, maybe this girl would be worth talking to.
“I’m trying to replace my business partner who moved to New York for work, so she’d have to be willing to take on a lot of responsibility for meager start-up pay. Not really everyone’s dream job.”
Liz shook her head, seeming undeterred. “Sounds perfect, actually. You should talk to her. I could be wrong about what she's looking for, but connecting with her couldn’t hurt. You never know.”
I shrugged. “All right, but I can’t make any promises, okay?”
“Absolutely. She’s a friend but we’re not super close so if it doesn’t work out, no hard feelings.”
I waited for her to send me the info on her phone, and I let my mind wander to everything I had to do before we set up shop upstairs.
“I’m really glad we reconnected, Erica.” Liz smiled sweetly, bringing me back to the moment.
“I thought a lot about what you said when I was away.” Her expression changed, her features softening. “I should have been more understanding of the whole situation. I had nothing to compare it to, so I probably didn’t react the way I should have. I’m sorry I couldn’t be the one to help you through it, but I want to try to be a better friend to you now, if it’s not too late.” Her voice lowered when she spoke to me, even though the coffee shop was humming with other customers wrapped up in their own conversations.