This story picks up a month after Little Miss Communication. While the original story is not a necessary read, I'd highly suggest it for a fuller picture of who Elaine and Hayden are and how they got together.
Can one plus one sometimes equal three?
"I'll see you later, El." Hayden Beck raked his fingers through his long, unkempt hair. He had cultured a lazy, bad boy mash-up and Elaine hated herself a little for thinking it cute. To Natalie and Rebecca, he nodded. "Ladies..."
"Bye." Elaine Little watched the span of his shoulders all the way to the door. That's when she heard their snickers. "What?"
"So how long have you two been hooking up?" It was Rebecca asking, looking from the closing doors to Elaine.
"I don't know what you're talking about." She risked a glance at Natalie, who was the only other person that knew about her and Hayden. Natalie's quick shake of the head wasn't missed.
"So you're in on this, too?" Rebecca accused, turning on the oldest of the three women and raising a dark eyebrow.
Natalie raised her hands and took a step back. "I don't even know what that term means to you young kids. Is a 'hook up' making out? Or a date? Or more like--"
"Save it, Natalie. You've probably done more hooking up since your divorce than either of us combined." Focus shifted back to Elaine and Natalie mouthed an I'm sorry.
"So how long?" Rebecca worked the juice bar at City Fitness, the gym where Natalie and Hayden were trainers and Elaine taught yoga. "I'll see you later, El? I didn't realize that you and Hayden were so friendly."
"We work together." Elaine touched her neck, almost surprised when her skin didn't burn her fingertips. "And he was saying goodbye to all of us."
"Uh, huh. So when did he start calling you 'El'? I thought you were 'Little' to him."
Natalie barked a laugh, but didn't say a word.
"OK, fine. About a month. But it's not serious." Hayden and Elaine were an unlikely pair. He was the moody slacker with a reputation for sleeping around. She was the hard working over-achiever putting herself through law school by working part time at the gym. But when they were together and alone -- and naked -- it just worked.
"Elaine, I didn't know you had it in you."
Elaine looked away under Rebecca's reappraisal. "Guess I'm not as innocent as everyone thinks." She glanced at Natalie. Really, she kind of was. It wasn't that she had problems getting boyfriends. It was that they were just that, boyfriends. And they were never guys like Hayden.
"He's definitely a hottie. Good for you." Pride mixed with the little bit of embarrassment she still felt whenever she thought about her situation. Rebecca was beautiful -- Colombian American with large eyes and long, dark hair -- and she looked a little envious.
"Seriously, it's not a big deal." Except that it really, really was.
"It's bigger than average." Natalie's comment drew both sets of eyes and the redhead burst out laughing. "What?"
Rebecca was the first to respond. "Am I the only one at the gym who hasn't slept with him?"
It had been Natalie who'd set Elaine and Hayden up. The older woman (and technically, the boss) had been hooking up with Hayden afterhours, and when Elaine discovered it, Natalie hatched a bait-and-switch plan that matched up her two younger employees and lost her favorite boy-toy in the process.
Elaine was happy to let the conversation carry on between Natalie and Rebecca. "Pretty sure Meredith hasn't." Meredith, the lesbian. "Besides, don't you have a boyfriend?"
"Sure, but he'd be cool with it."
"I'm sorry?" The words just tumbled out of Elaine's mouth.
Rebecca shrugged. "We've actually been talking about a threesome with another guy. Hayden would be perfect." Even Natalie was speechless.
"Um..." Elaine felt the hairs on the back of her neck go up. That wasn't jealousy she was feeling, right? Couldn't be.
"I mean, if you don't mind me borrowing him for the night." Like Hayden was a purse that would go well with Rebecca's outfit. It didn't sit well with Elaine.
"Sounds a little gross."
The Latina didn't answer immediately and Elaine felt shamed by the judgment. "I guess that's one way to look at it." She just used up any cred she'd built-up with her friends-with-benefits confession. "I mean, I don't even know your boyfriend--"
"You've met him a couple times."
She had, hadn't she? "Waving hello when he picks you up doesn't quite count." And he'd been pretty yummy, too. Like a Bollywood movie star. Crisp shirts and matching ties. Designer sunglasses pushed up into his dark, metrosexual hair.
"Good looking, right?"
"Yes," Natalie answered for her. Elaine felt her control slipping away.
"Shouldn't he and Hayden at least meet?" Somehow, she'd gone from walking in the door of the dealership to negotiating a price without remembering when she'd decided to buy a car.
"Mm, yeah, I suppose so. You going to Saturday's happy hour thing?" Rebecca's excitement was apparent all the way from her pointed chin to those big brown eyes.
"I was planning on studying for my finals, but I suppose I could meet you guys for a drink." Her heart leapt. The fantasy of the experience and the real possibility of it were two very different things.
"Fantastic. Then it's a date."
"Great." God, could her face get any hotter? "I have a yoga class in ... I have to prepare for..."
Rebecca and Natalie were laughing as she turned away to hide her face. "Oh, and did I mention he's got a great cock?" Rebecca called after. What had she just agreed to?
"OH GOD!" Elaine screamed over the shower spray, her hands gripping Hayden's long, wet hair. The shower wall was cold on her back where he had her pinned, yet the water was hot, almost burning her skin. She dug her heels deeper into Hayden's back and flexed, bouncing along the full length of him.
Dropping one hand to the base of his neck, she marveled as she felt his muscles ripple, alive beneath his wet skin. "OH YES!" Hayden clawed her ass as he held her up. She felt his lips and tongue walk along the side of her neck. A shiver passed across her body. His mouth found her soft earlobe. Her nipples tightened. God, he felt good.
Fingers splayed, she ran them down his back. Felt his ass muscles work with each heavy thrust. Every breath was a fight to draw. Every drive of his cock had her reeling. She tipped her head back, feeling the hot water strike her exposed neck. She shrieked something that could have been another "Oh God!" as her climax powered through her body.
Elaine grabbed Hayden's face, pulling it up to hers and smothering his lips in a wet, sloppy kiss. She felt his cock jerk. She rolled her hips against him, feeling his trimmed pubes scrape against her clean-shaven mound. His heat exploded, deep inside, as his orgasm tore a gurgling cry from her throat. Her whole body trembled, weightless, in the come-down.
Hayden placed her carefully onto the tiled shower floor, his arms trembling from the exertion of holding her, despite her slight build. She ran her fingers through her wet hair and looked around. Most of the lights were off in the women's shower room at City Fitness. It was their idea of "mood lighting."
"One day, we're going to have to do that somewhere more traditional," Elaine laughed.
Their kiss felt tropical, mouths still wet from the shower spray, loose and lazy. "The decline bench press not traditional enough for you?" Elaine rolled her eyes, but couldn't help stirring at the memory: draped backwards on the sloped bench, a knee looped in one leg restraint as Hayden fucked her from above -- she came with a head rush, curling up against his lean nudity and nearly passing out.
Hayden conceded. "OK, I suppose that was a bit much, even by our standards." Their standards. She thought of her conversation with Rebecca earlier and hesitated. Hayden saw it. "What?"
"You know that thing we talked about?"
"Threesome." Did her heart make that audible thunk?
"Still interested in that?"
She'd been busy looking everywhere but at Hayden, but she risked a glance then. Elaine wasn't sure what it was about him, but she challenged herself when they were together. She hadn't even really admitted her threesome fantasy to herself, but when he asked about things she'd like to try, the confession had come easily.
"Yeah." More than interested. How to tell him that she'd pimped him out? "So what do you think of Rebecca?"
"Juice bar Rebecca? Colombian with the giant, um ... eyes?"
Don't be jealous. Don't be jealous. "She's technically American."
Hayden pulled back and eyed her. "What's this about, El?" Even before he'd finished the sentence, his mind went down the obvious path. She felt his reaction in the sudden stirring against her thigh as much as she saw it in his smile.
"Is she who you were thinking of? I thought you wanted two guys, but this works--"
"No, no. I do want two guys. She just came up with a solution--" Fuck, she'd somehow crossed the point of no return without realizing it. "She offered up her boyfriend if I was interested. But there's a catch. You'd need to return the favor."
"Well, that's unexpected." He mulled it over, the curl of his lips suggesting that it was acceptable, too. Of course it would be. She'd caught him eyeing the curvy brunette more than once. "And you're sure about this?"
"Well, don't get too excited about it."
He grew serious, although like always, Elaine couldn't tell if he was fucking with her. "Well, let's just think about this a sec. Could be a bad idea, us working with her and all."
How was Hayden the voice of reason here? "But don't you think that it's kind of the ideal situation?"
"Have you even met this Thomas?"
"Yes. I mean kind of. The real point is that they have each other. There's no risk of developing feelings for us, you know?"
Hayden stared at her with a thought on his tongue, but when he spoke, all he said was, "Uh huh." He pushed up to his feet and stood over her, shadows dancing over his lean muscles, and offered her his hand. She glanced at his cock, swinging soft but still a little engorged, and felt like a slut for wondering how quickly she could get him hard again. Instead, she took his hand and stood.
The gym was eerily quiet now that it was closed. A shiver passed up her spine as he led her to the dark of the locker room. Neither of them liked the glaring fluorescence in here, so they kept all but the emergency lights off, but deep shadows brought the little girl out in her.
She caught her reflection in the mirror, her nearly dry, nude body trailing the equally naked Hayden. You're not that girl anymore.
They stopped before the bench where they'd left their clothes. Hayden took a seat and drew Elaine down to her. "What are you really worried about?"
She brushed his face. It was smooth today. He'd shaved. She'd noticed he started doing that when there was a possibility they'd be getting together. She rolled her eyes and tipped her head back. "I guess messing up a good thing."
He kissed her neck. "So I'm a good thing? Aren't you always going on about how I'm a bad thing for you?"
"Oh, just shut up." Elaine kissed him hard before he could make some witty comeback. She traced the topography of his chest. The ripple of his abs. She found him erect. Ready. She pushed him onto his back, the wooden bench nestled between his shoulder blades, and climbed on top.
Even after their frenzied session in the showers, she still gasped as he entered her. She stretched around the paradox of hard and soft flesh and curled her toes on the rubberized matting of the locker room floor.
They settled into a slow, luxurious rhythm. The bench offered some unique positions and in the past month, Hayden and Elaine had explored most of them. Her favorite, though, was this one -- straddling his prone body, her feet flat on the floor, giving her a full range of motion with her legs. She controlled the pace -- hard when she needed it, but mostly long and slow -- and she teased herself, pushing herself to the brink before slowing things down again.
It also allowed her to steal not so subtle glances at Hayden. "Go on and look," he said, folding his arms behind his head. The posture caused his muscles to flex and grow. She laughed, but admired as well. He had nice, thick arms and muscular shoulders she loved sinking her nails into.
His ego flexed more than his muscles. "You look good. You been working out?"
Hayden laughed. "Just enough to catch the eye of the ladies."
Elaine rolled her eyes. "Of course. Never forget the sluts."
"Now, now. Let's not be judgmental." He ran his thumb across her smooth mound and traced her tattoo with his fingertips. "Some would say this is pretty slutty."
"Haaa..." His thumb made contact with her clit and scrambled her thoughts. She regrouped, one hand on his chest. "It's a yoga thing. Tree of li--aee--ife..."
He stroked her lengthwise with the soft pad of his thumb tip, just hard enough to make everything constrict. "I meant this. Casual sex with a coworker. And at work, too." He strummed her faster and her hips bucked to keep up. "Is that not slutty?"
"Just shu ... just..." Just shut up and fuck me. She couldn't compose the words. Her throat was too busy forcing out a moan as she crashed through another orgasm.
The last of the night was tender. Locked gazes. Entwined hands. Strained breathing. This was the feeling she kept returning for. She'd come for the excitement of public sex and stayed for the blissful relaxation.
Elaine didn't cum when Hayden expanded inside her, but she was still riding out the last one. She was content to rock forward and feel him fill her with his liquid heat.
"That was fun."
"Always is." He made no move to get up. "You don't have to worry about messing this up. And if you are, we shouldn't go there."
She watched her fingers idle on his branching collarbone and wondered if she could get away without saying anything. She thought she'd dodged this conversation with the sex. So she dragged her eyes back up to his. "I'm just being selfish. I want my fun and not letting you have yours." She kissed him, more firmly this time. "And what kind of friend would I be then? All benefits--"
"And no friend."
Elaine searched 12 Steps Down from its dingy entrance. At 8:30, the basement bar was stuck in the twilight between the dinner crowd and the nighttime one, so it was easy to see that she was the first to arrive. She relaxed the death grip on her suede clutch purse, pulled the door closed behind her, and headed for the booth in the corner.
The gym closed early on Saturday evenings, making it a convenient day for the employees at City Fitness to attend something resembling a happy hour. This was her first time out with everyone since she and Hayden had started hooking up and she had to remind herself to be cool.
"What can I get you tonight, hon," the lone server asked.
"A pitcher of Coors Light and a vodka tonic."
"A girl who can hold her booze. I like it."
Elaine didn't bother correcting her. She was too busy thinking about that other thing, about being cool. Not that it was a big deal. People did this sort of thing all the time. It was just sex, after all. They were having fun. No one was getting hurt. Just ... be cool.
"Look at you, all prompt and proper." It was Natalie, arriving with the first wave. No sign of Hayden, but that was as unusual as Elaine showing up on time. "How's the studying going?"
"Pretty well." Studying was like yoga for Elaine. She could focus on it until nothing else could creep in. No doubts. No nervousness. So because of this, she'd been doing a lot of it. "You?"
"I've been squeezing it in when I can. In fact, I'm only here for a drink, then I'm meeting up with my study group."
"I don't know how you do it. Law school plus a kid plus a full-time job..."
Natalie laughed and poured herself a drink off the pitcher. "I don't know, either. I try not to think about the how of it and concentrate on just doing it. It all works out, one way or another."
Natalie's words stayed with her. They always did, turning over and over like flotsam stuck in an eddy. She wished she could be like that.
But she wasn't. She needed more order than that. Things needed to be planned. To follow a set of rules that she could depend on. It's what attracted her to the law. And to yoga. And to the men she brought into her life. All of them except Hayden.
As if summoned, her scruffy lover pushed his way through the thickening crowd. It was odd seeing him out of his electric blue City Fitness polo and track pants. Like running into a professor at the grocery store, marshalling his kids around in cargo shorts. He looked good, though. Really good. The worn jeans and untucked flannel shirt suited him better than his gym attire. It was going to be a challenge not to stare the whole night.
As the gathering grew, Elaine blended into the background. She let the more boisterous personalities drive the conversation. Hayden. Natalie. Rebecca, when she arrived. That came later -- fashionably later with heavy emphasis on the fashionably. She felt the urge to reach out and squeeze Hayden's hand and was glad he wasn't sitting right next to her. How could she compete?
Rebecca had exchanged her spandex for a pair of tight jeans that tapered into tall, ankle-high boots, and a clingy black turtleneck sweater that buttoned down one shoulder. Even her hair seemed perfect, Elaine thought with despair, all curly and thick around her shoulders. Elaine glanced at Hayden, who was doing his best to be cool while still drinking in her glossy beauty. Was that jealousy she tasted?
"Fuck, it's cold out there." Rebecca shivered as she tossed her coat onto the pile with the rest. "I think most of you have met Thomas, but if you haven't, meet Thomas!" That was said as she looked right at Elaine.
"Hey, guys." He moved like a running back beneath his tailored dress shirt and pressed slacks. Handsome. Pulled-together. He was grace packaged in a bundle of muscles. This was her ideal guy. The one she could never get a date with.
Hayden half-stood and offered his hand, underlining the contrast. "Hey, Thomas." He was rougher around the edges, a reminder that more masculine doesn't always mean more mature.
"You must be Hayden." Thomas didn't show signs of a budding rivalry. "It's nice to meet you."
And then Thomas's exotic eyes were on her. "And you must be Elaine." No poorly veiled innuendos. No winks. Not even a particularly suggestive smile. His eyes stayed on her face the whole time. But she was being undressed, nevertheless, and he liked what he saw. She took a deep breath. Here goes.
The hours slipped by without the tension or awkwardness that Elaine had been prepared for. She watched Rebecca and Thomas, catching the little touches they shared, the looks, the smiles. They were so into one another and so unafraid to show it. Elaine looked at Hayden. Her hand twitched. No. She wouldn't. She couldn't.
The group dwindled until it was only Elaine, Rebecca, Hayden, and Thomas, and they could finally talk about the thing that had been on their minds all evening. But first, Elaine excused herself for the restroom. Rebecca accompanied her after a long kiss with Thomas that left a smile on her face all the way to the women's room. "Having fun?" Rebecca asked when they were alone.
"Yeah." Elaine watched Rebecca reapply her pink lipstick in the mirror and thought about those lips kissing Hayden's. The image stung.
"I'm not going to steal Hayden from you, if you're worried about that." She wasn't, right? "I mean, I like him and think he's really hot. And if we were both single, I'd probably go for him, but..."
"You love Thomas."
"I do." There was that smile again, welling up from some place inside. "But I also think you and Hayden make a cute couple."
"We're not a couple." It was Elaine's auto-response.
"Right. Well, my point is that if you have a problem with any of this, then we can call it off. Just say the word and I'll back you up."
Looking back on things, this is when matters left her control. When the buzzing had begun, like wind whipping in her ears. In the jittery moment, she'd felt relief. She didn't need to worry about Rebecca and Hayden. She didn't need to worry about Rebecca at all. This was a game to her, just like what Elaine and Hayden had.
Things started moving after that -- after she returned to the booth and snuggled in next to Hayden. It felt exhilarating at first. This was happening and there was no stopping them now.
There was no stopping them. No stopping.
"So you're cool with loaning out your boyfriend?" Hayden did the talking. The negotiating. Elaine had lost her voice in the bathroom and could only watch.
"We have an understanding." Rebecca's dark eyes didn't waver from Hayden's, her pink tongue flicking out at the corner of her lips. "Let's just say he owes me one."
Thomas and Elaine seemed to be in competition for who could blush the deepest, and with that comment, Thomas took the lead, despite his dark complexion.
"Aren't they cute?" Rebecca smirked. "All red-faced and bright-eyed..."
"Very," Hayden agreed.
"So you two are good?" She looked between Hayden and Elaine. "It's been a few years since middle school for me, but I still know what a crush looks like."
"No, we're just having fun." It felt like the right thing to say in Elaine's head, but sounded all wrong when it came out.
"Oh, that's right. I forgot. You're not supposed to have fun when you have a crush." Rebecca rolled her eyes and continued. "You two are definitely cool with this? Because threesomes and, well, any kind of '-some' can really fuck things up if you have any doubts."
"Seriously, we're just friends." She clung to that cliché because it had brought order to what was impulsive and let her wrap her brain around the mischief she was up to.
Rebecca looked at Hayden, who'd been watching Elaine. "Sure, as long as you don't expect anything between me and Tom."
"Are all guys this homophobic? No, as hot as I think that would be, Thomas isn't into that, either. Elaine and I will just have to receive all your attention..."
They squared away the logistics like they were picking the best night to go to the movies. Rebecca would go first because of her schedule and Elaine would follow two days later.
"A night off for the guys. That seems like a good idea."
Hayden and Elaine lingered after the other two left, although Hayden stayed on her side of the booth. "So you're sure you're sure?"
"Why does everyone keep asking me that?"
"Probably because we suspect you're not."
Last chance to slam on the brakes. But if she did that, would she lose it all? Would she go back to being referred to as "Little," who read books at the front desk and folded her towels exactly how she was taught to? She didn't want that. She was unsure of many things, but of that, she was certain.
They settled the bill and made their way out into the biting cold. "You know, I've never been this type of girl. I over-think everything and usually end up doing nothing."
Hayden pulled her against him by the lapels of her pea coat. Their breath billowed around them. "That's not the girl I see."
She looked down and away, her blonde bangs falling across her face. Hayden pushed the silky hair back and drew her eyes to his. "It's different with you." Here would be the part where she'd tell him that she loved him, were this a love story. She giggled at that. She wasn't even sure Hayden was capable of love. "And I'm having a lot of fun. So while I might not be sure, I know I want this." She kissed him on the side of the lips. "I'll see you around."
Going home together, Elaine reasoned, wouldn't exactly reinforce the casual nature of their relationship.
For the first time since she met him, Hayden hesitated. "Right. See you around."
Elaine almost changed her mind. Almost invited him back to her place. Hayden turned and walked away before she could. She watched him stuff his hands in the pockets of his coat and melt into the night. Just friends, she heard herself explaining to Rebecca. Just friends...
That night, she dreamt that she was a crash-test dummy, strapped into a car that was accelerating toward a distant wall, striped yellow and black. Wind zipped around her plastic skull and her plastic joints clacked as the car picked up speed. She could hear a shriek. Could hear nothing else. She thought it was the engine. Or the car along its metal tracks. Just before she hit the wall, she figured it out: she was laughing.
She didn't know what to make of the dream when she woke up, and as with all dreams, it faded by midday. It wasn't until the end of the week, when it was time for Hayden to fulfill his end of the bargain, that she realized just how much she'd miscalculated her feelings for him.
Elaine was thankful for finals. It gave her mind something to sink its teeth into that didn't involve Hayden or threesomes or that buzz in her ears. In her first semester of law school, it felt good to worry about a test that counted for half of her grade rather than whether she had just ruined a good thing before it began.
Hayden didn't call, although he never did before. She thought about texting him but didn't. It felt too casual and calling herself was too desperate, although that almost didn't stop her. When pressure built, she got horny, and with everything going on, she felt like Captain Nemo beneath the ocean with a giant kraken coiled around her.
By the time finals were over and she was back at work Thursday -- the Thursday night -- she was on the ragged edge. He was with her. With them. Worse, he was with them and she was here.
December was already a low attendance month. Coupled with the fact that winter break had begun for most of the college students, the gym was nearly empty on Thursday night. Natalie had sent most of the employees home.
Natalie didn't even need to say a thing. Elaine could feel the judgment in the way she looked at her, turning her head without swiveling her body. Or the way she opened a Ziploc bag of baby carrots and offered one to Elaine.
"Stop looking at me like that."
"Like what?" Natalie had a furrow squeezed between her green eyes and worry lines around her mouth.
"Like my mom."
"Sorry. It's kind of a habit."
"I made a mistake, didn't I?"
"If you're asking yourself that, then probably." She reached out and touched Elaine's shoulder. "What I don't understand is why you don't call it off."
She would have, if he'd called her, or if they'd run into one another in the grocery store, or at Target, or the metro -- or anywhere. She would have said something. But... "I can't."
"So you don't want to go through with it, you have the power to stop it, but you're not going to do a thing about it?" Natalie frowned. "I'm starting to lose sympathy here."
"Oversimplify much? It's that first part I'm struggling with. Part of me wants to do it, I think." She could have wrestled back control, yes, but so much of the fun for the past month with Hayden was that she didn't have it. Her relationship was showing all the signs of addiction: an all-consuming thirst for something she couldn't stop, but would destroy her if she didn't. "I had this clear vision of what my life would be like in ten years, right? Working mom at a law firm. A house in the suburbs and a husband who could support me but would never suggest I give up my career."
"But now that you've met Hayden, you don't know about that stuff anymore."
"Right. I mean, I still want it. It's just that I don't see Hayden settling down like that. He has no ambition beyond right now. I asked him the other day how long he thought he'd be working here and he said, 'Until they fire me for doing it in the locker rooms.'"
Natalie burst out laughing. "Well, Hayden might not take the traditional route, but don't discount him. If there's one thing you can't deny, it's that he's full of surprises."
It was true, but he wasn't in the plan. Elaine felt the shame of the thought so thoroughly that she didn't give voice to it. He made her happy, he challenged her, but was it enough?
Natalie interrupted her thoughts. "I think I know what you're thinking. Just stop. Take my advice: sometimes what you think you want turns out to be a disaster. If you had told me when I was your age--" She stopped and rolled her eyes. "Did I really just say that? Anyway, when I was younger, and someone said I'd be divorced, managing a gym, and pursuing my law degree part time, I would have laughed. In many ways, I had what you wanted -- minus the working mom thing. And you know what? I'm happier now than I've ever been in years." She picked a baby carrot and snapped it in half with her teeth, waving the stub at Elaine. "Also, let's not forget that you were kind of the one who agreed to this whole threesome. Hayden was just going along like a supportive boyfriend."
"He's not my--" She stopped when Natalie gave her the evil eye. "OK, OK. Yes, I'm upset about something I set up, but he should know better!" Both women burst out laughing at the absurdity of this conversation. "I should call him, shouldn't I?"
Natalie opened her mouth to shout, "Yes!" when something over Elaine's shoulder distracted her. "Looks like you won't have to."
This must be what it feels like when a soul exhales.
"Hayden! What are you doing here?!" She'd never been so happy to see him, unkempt hair and cocky grin and all. She practically bowled him over, crushing him in the tightest hug she could muster.
"Whoa, whoa, it's good to see you, too, Little."
She pulled back, torn between her witty comeback and a kiss. She decided on the kiss, pulling his face down to hers with both hands as her tongue pressed between his lips. They melted into one another and he held her there, his fingers clutching her narrow waist.
Their lips parted with a wet peel. Slow. Reluctant. Elaine looked up at Hayden through her lashes, half surprised by the blur of tears. Hayden sucked a breath in through his teeth. "Sorry if I blew your chances for that threesome, but it didn't feel right."
Elaine touched his chest. He couldn't know how much that meant to her, could he? "Sorry for treating you like a piece of meat."
He rolled his eyes to Natalie. "Isn't that kind of how this whole thing started anyway?"
Natalie bit into another carrot. "I never apologized for that, did I?"
He waited until he realized that she wasn't going to, and went on. "Anyway, that's not why I left. I was sitting at the bar with Rebecca -- who looked gorgeous and really fuckable, I should add -- and just wasn't feeling it. There was something missing."
Lordy, Lordy, Hayden had such beautiful eyes. And when he looked at her like that, she forgot all about those plans for the kids and the suburbs and the uber-successful-yet-supportive husband. She threaded her fingers into Hayden's. "Mind if I take off early?"
"Would it matter if I said no?" Natalie crumpled the plastic baggy and tossed it into a wastebasket. "You kids have fun, and I'll see you tomorrow."
They stepped out into the urban night, streets flooded with yellow and windshields already showing signs of frost. Unlike last Saturday, Elaine had no plans to let him go home alone. "Come on. My roommates have already left for their breaks."
Hayden cracked a smile. "Lead on."
They had never done it outside the gym and there was a tiny part of Elaine that worried that maybe their relationship existed on the danger of workplace sex. But Hayden abolished that fear when he entered her in the comfort of her bed, her hair arrayed about her like a golden halo. Her body bowed in acceptance, arms digging into those oh-so-familiar pillows of hers. Hayden's musk mingled with the comforts of home, his hard body juxtaposed against her wrought-iron bed frame. And like every other aspect of their implausible relationship, it just worked.
Unlike their encounters in the hot interiors of the gym, their sweat quickly cooled on their bodies in Elaine's drafty apartment. They snuggled under her quilted covers and Hayden made the keen observation that this was more comfortable than the shower floor.
"Agreed. I'm thinking that maybe beds aren't so overrated, after all."
"Mm. Well, they're no incline bench press, but I suppose they do have their merits." They eyed one another before breaking out into laughter. "I'm sorry you won't get what you wanted."
Elaine could still muster up a blush. "It's OK. I didn't want it like that, anyway. It felt too ... I don't know, calculated or something."
"Taking turns with another woman for their men. Yeah, that does seem pretty calculated."
"Kind of gross, huh?" She fidgeted on him. "I'm sorry."
"But I should probably make it up to you."
She liked the way he grinned at her when he knew something sexually exciting was about to happen. "Probably."
Elaine kissed him on the neck and began pecking down his taut torso. Her hand scouted ahead and found him semi-stiff. "Let's start here." Her head disappeared beneath the quilt and his faux anger was washed from his mind.
Waking up next to a slumbering, naked Hayden put a smile on her face. That elation carried her through the first part of her shift, helping deal with the nagging dread she had for when Rebecca would arrive. Was she going to be angry? Disappointed? Would she think less of Elaine?
Every time her thoughts started heading down that path, she thought about how she should get Hayden his own toothbrush for when he slept over. Or all the days they had ahead of them before her roommates returned.
When Rebecca finally arrived, as fresh and vibrant as ever, the meeting was pretty anti-climactic. "So now will you admit that you're more than just friends?" There was no anger, just good old natured I-told-you-so attitude.
"Fine, I suppose you're right."
"Elaine has a boy-friend. Elaine has a boy-friend."
"What are we, in third grade?"
"Not the last time I checked. Do third graders regularly arrange group sex with their friends?"
"About that. I'm sorry I kind of F'ed up your threesome."
"Who said that?" Rebecca's eyes flared. Elaine gaped.
"But Hayden ... he came here ... he said--"
"Oh, Hayden wasn't my only option. Just the most convenient at the time."
"Went with my back-up plan. Yes." She touched Elaine's shoulder. "Look, no offense, but after last Saturday, I kind of had my doubts about you two, and, like I said, Thomas owes me."
Elaine blinked, unsure of what to say. She was reminded that despite the new-found puppy love, her threesome fantasy was still alive and well. "So you're not mad?"
"After last night, I think you could have told me you burned my house down and I'd have a hard time getting mad. I'm glad this job requires me to stand most of the time, because I'm pretty sure I couldn't handle sitting for long periods of time."
Elaine blushed as her mind filled in the gaps. "Well, good. Um ... I'm happy for you."
Late in the afternoon, Hayden came in to take his shift. He walked right up to Elaine, who was sitting at the front desk, and kissed her before everyone. The heat that rose up her neck turned her skin a furious pink, deepening when Natalie walked by with Rebecca, clapping.
"Hey, Becky." She rolled her eyes at the nickname, but held her tongue. "You sleep well?" Elaine was feeling a little awkward about the whole situation once again, but kind of loved how indifferent Hayden was. It felt pretty good to be chosen over a girl like Rebecca.
"I would have slept better if you'd stuck around."
"I'm pretty sure that's not true." His smile was good-natured, and despite the overt flirting, Elaine didn't feel any jealousy.
"I can vouch for that," she added, squeezing his hand.
Rebecca's dark eyes shifted from Hayden to Elaine. "OK, so maybe I should be a little mad at you." To Hayden: "And maybe I should have left Thomas at the bar and joined up with the two of you."
Of course Hayden liked how this conversation was going. "There's always tonight."
Elaine met Rebecca's eyes and felt embarrassed by where her imagination was going. She averted her eyes, focusing on Hayden and his pretty, yet very masculine, face. "Hey now, if we're going to do the threesome, I get my version first."
"You're absolutely right, dear." He turned to Rebecca and solemnly added, "How does tomorrow night sound?"
Elaine rolled her eyes, but giggled. "Come on, let's move this show along. Don't you have personal training to prepare for?"
When they were out of earshot of anyone else, he whispered, "I know what kind of personal training I'd really like to prepare for."
Their kiss was loose. Familiar. "After work, you can swing by my place and prepare all night if you'd like."
He collected her in his arms. She felt tiny there and loved how tall he was. "I have a better idea. Come back here and meet me. I'm supposed to close up." He bounced his brows. Elaine laughed.
"I like where this is headed, as long as it doesn't involve any saunas." As sexy as that initial encounter had been, it had been literally too hot. She'd nearly passed out twice and had felt thirsty for the week following.
"I was thinking a skinny dip in the pool."
"Mmm, we've never done that."
"Meet me down there a quarter after close? I'll leave the back door open, just lock it behind you."
She shivered with excitement. "Feels clandestine."
"You and your words."
"I'll see you tonight."
Elaine paused before the mirror, tube of lip gloss in her hand, and announced to no one in particular, "This feels suspiciously like a date." And then she had to wait out her smile before continuing with the glossy application.