I’d been fending Jay off for– god, nearly a week now. It was Thursday, he’d been a tool since I’d gotten back Sunday night. I just wanted him to leave me alone. It had become increasingly clear that we were in desperate need of space.
Luckily for me, I was supposed to take Val home after work. Except that I’d also been given the option to go to Dakota’s and– as Kimmy now referred to it– sacrifice chickens. Either way, I had plans, and Jay was not a part of them.
The dilemma came up however, when Val asked at intermission what my plan was.
“So, are you going to go hang out with Dakota or take me home? Because I need to know if I’m taking the bus or not.”
I sipped at the cup of water I’d been holding onto, mulling it over while the cast prepped for the second act. “I hadn’t decided. Would you be upset if I made you take the bus?”
“Not really, but I’ll be sure to tell Jay to go fuck himself if he sees me.”
“He got off at four so there’s no way you’ll see him. He has a brand new baby to go home to anyway.”
Val coughed. “He what?”
I smirked. “Didn’t I tell you? His ex wife had their second child.”
“I thought it wasn’t his!”
“So did he, but apparently he was wrong.” I was straight up grinning now, still sipping my water. “I’m so smug about this. I should really look into my petty tendencies.”
Val had her hand over her mouth, staring at me like she’d just heard the best news of his life. “He fucking deserves it.”
“I know.” I couldn’t speak without laughing, so I chugged the last of my water to maintain composure.
“So go get some nice Dakota D and tell me how it goes.”
I choked. “Sorry– what?”
Val winked, then turned away to go help a lead into her corset, leaving me to gape after her, wondering just how much she’d put together. Shit. I thought I was being careful. Having a crush on him and flirting and just being an annoyance at work, to me, didn’t read as actively being with him– but maybe Val figured this would be the night I finally was. She was a perceptive person, not in the quietly critical way Cait was, and not in the analytical way Dakota was. She just knew things. It was so blase when she mentioned things I hadn’t talked to her about, or admitted to in general. That part of her was, by far, one of the more disconcerting.
The show finished smoothly. When we’d finished our work for the day, I walked Val to the door and gave her a hug. “Get home safely.”
“I will,” she promised, and then turned her head so her lips nearly met my ear. “Get him, girlie.” With that, she sashayed away with a wink and a kiss on the cheek. I snorted and shook my head, then quietly ducked back to the labyrinth of hallways downstairs to wait for Dakota.
He arrived as he always did– basketball shorts, black tee shirt (this one with a show poster printed on the front from Chance’s run of Fiddler on the Roof), his backpack slung over his shoulder. I fell into step with him on the way out the back door to the bus, the usual questions bubbling from my lips– how he was, how the last show had gone. Other performers chatted with us both as well, all the way to our parking lot, where a good amount of them were also parked. The sun had long since set, the stars sparkling above us, streetlights filling our path with a hazy white glow.
“So you coming over?” Dakota smirked at me as we reached our cars, parked only a couple of rows apart.
“If the invitation is still open.” I looked to him for confirmation, and he shrugged.
“It’s your call.”
I stared at him, trying to read him and– as usual– finding myself unable to. He wouldn’t have invited me if he didn’t want me there, I told myself, and smiled. “I’ll see you at your house, then.”
He drove like a madman, speeding away through the parking lot light as it turned yellow. I caught up to him, almost, twice, on the way to his house, but never managed to actually stay with him as I drove. When I finally got to his house, I grinned at the Christmas tree cheerfully blinking– actually, no, that fucker was like strobe light, a seizure waiting to happen.
He hadn’t turned on any lights when I came in, the room only illuminated by the brightly flashing pine.
“I like your tree,” I said casually, waving at it as I closed the door.
“It’s a rave tree,” Dakota said flatly. I snorted, then bent to greet Wade as he came purring to wind around my legs.
I had barely righted myself when Dakota seized me by the arms and yanked me up to him, our lips meeting in a jarring flash of heat. I grabbed his shirt, thrown off balance, my eyes falling shut. My mind went utterly blank, leaving me speechless as he pulled away. “Wanna go upstairs?”
“Sure,” I breathed, wondering if I looked as flustered as I felt.
I followed Dakota upstairs, wincing as he turned on a light. He looked over at me and immediately turned it back off, leaving us in near pitch darkness. The only lights came from the gaming consoles in the cabinet under his TV, bright blue and green, giving us just enough light.
At Wade’s amiable chirp, I sat on the ground, running my hands over his fluffy fur. He’d gotten bigger since I saw him, but was still tiny, and barely weighed anything. I scooped him up and buried my face in his fur, scratching behind his ears and earning a contented purr.
There was something hauntingly intimate about sitting in Dakota’s house in the dark, alone with him. It was a feeling I’d never forget, this blindness, the sounds of the road outside and the cat’s purring, the gentle hum of the fan above us, the faded scents of sage incense and dust cleaning spray.
I let Wade wander away as Dakota sat down beside me and then pulled me onto his lap. I wound my arms around his neck and started pressing kisses to his cheeks and forehead. “How are you?”
“I’m good,” he said, squeezing my waist. “How are you?”
I kissed down the strong line of his jaw, the cord of his neck. “I’m good.”
“You sure?” He murmured, tilting his head. “I’ve read plenty of your Facebook posts that would suggest otherwise.”
“Oh?” I leaned back, smiling despite the darkness. “You’re keeping tabs on me, then?”
He shrugged. “Your stuff comes up and I read it. It’s almost like you put some things on there specifically with me in mind.”
Which I totally was, but he didn’t have to know that. “And what have you learned from my Facebook? What great insights have you gathered?”
He rearranged me slightly, so that I could wrap my legs around his waist, sitting in the cradle of his legs as he sat pretzel style. “You look for a specific kind of attention– like validation, almost. You care about other people’s opinions of you, probably more than you should. You’re opinionated yourself.”
“That’s… apt,” I decided, resting my head on his shoulder. “Anything else?”
“That’s about it. Now,” He grabbed my hips and rocked forward, earning a gasp from me as I sat up to look down at him. “What have you learned about me?”
My brain stalled, completely focused on what he was doing between my legs. “Um…” I grasped his shoulders and shifted, not sure if I was aiming for more friction or less, but stilling above him so I could concentrate on my words. “Uh… you like your privacy. You’re very guarded. You don’t show a lot of your emotions as openly as I do.” I arched back, gasping again as he surged underneath me again.
“Keep moving while you talk.”
Easier said than done. I shifted against him, trying not to work myself up too much so I could think relatively clearly. “Ah… you like making people happy. Cheering them up, distracting them…” That was as far as I got before he leaned forward and bit my neck I cried out, dragging him closer, completely forgetting what we’d been talking about or that we’d even been talking. Sliding my hands through his hair, I pulled his head back and fixed my lips on his, rocking against him wantonly.
The intimacy of this darkness, of blindly trusting him, hit me with a force that stole my breath. I trusted this man with my body, with my life, and– most terrifying of all– with my heart. I had given him a power I hadn’t given anyone, truly, in years. It was scary and exciting, it was awful and wonderful all at once, it was… it was…
Oh, my god, I was in love with him. I had fallen in love with Dakota. And for some strange, unknown reason, I was completely okay with that.
He pushed me back, and I went willingly, adjusting myself to accept his weight over me. Again he bit me, and I almost purred, dragging my nails down his back with delight. His hands ghosted over my breasts and down my body, one pulling my leg up over his hip. I locked my legs around him to pull him closer, closer, wanting more and more and never wanting to let go.
Dakota drew back. “Do you want to keep going?”
I frowned, though I knew he couldn’t see me. “Only if you do.”
“I’d be rough,” he admitted, and I felt a chill of delight go down my spine.
“Oh?” My tone was suggestive, maybe a little sultry, but definitely consenting.
“I’d be taking out a lot of stuff on you,” he continued, staying at arms length even as I reached for him.
“Oh.” Another chill, this one decidedly less delighted– something wary, something nervous. I thought for a moment, trying to decide if the (probably incredible) sex was worth the emotional backlash that would come with it.
In that moment, I created one of my biggest regrets. I would look back on that night for the rest of my life and ask myself, “Why? Why was that the choice you made? What drove you to that decision?” And in the end, the answer would always and forever be consent.
“It wouldn’t be fair to either of us if you weren’t really emotionally involved,” I told him, pushing him so that I could sit up. “If you don’t really want to, then I don’t.”
I felt more than saw him shrug. “Okay.”
Feeling, inexplicably, as though I’d disappointed him, I reached over to my purse and pulled out my phone to check the time. At the sight of the single text I’d gotten, I felt my heart stop dead in my chest.
Jay had texted me.
If you didn’t want to spend time with me you should have just said so.
My mind scattered in every direction possible, contentment replaced with blind panic. Had he seen me with Dakota? How could he have, if he had gone home nearly three hours before I’d left for the day? It wasn’t possible. It couldn’t be possible.
“I have to go,” I murmured, trying not to let my voice shake. I was suddenly beyond grateful Dakota couldn’t see me, and the pure fear on my face.
“I’ll walk you out.”
He helped me stand, and squeezed my hand. It helped, having him there, steady and strong. Would he protect me, if I asked him to? I wanted to say yes. I wanted to believe that he felt that way about me, felt strongly enough to come to my aid should I ask him to.
We went down the stairs hand in hand, and at the door, I turned to kiss him goodbye, aiming for just a gentle peck on the lips.
He blindsided me, as he usually did. In a burst of movement I found myself hauled up, my legs wrapping around his waist as he slammed me into the wall and kissed me more fiercely, more possessively, than he’d ever kissed me before. If I could have fallen harder in love with him, I did in that moment, lit by the strobe light tree, the cat winding around Dakota’s ankles in an oblivious demand for attention, and Dakota downright claiming me as his own.
When I started to slide down, he carefully set me back on the ground, giving me one more kiss.
“You make it so hard to leave,” I told him, putting on a faux pout. “See you at work.”
“Bye, Nerd.” I waved as I headed to my car, dread starting to pool in my stomach again. I really didn’t want to deal with Jay tonight.