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Little Miss Communication

[ready for an all-nighter? hope you’re drinking your fluids]

Elaine Little blinked at the text that popped up on her phone, trying to make sense of it. She carefully set her paperback copy of Water for Elephants on the counter, picked up her mobile, and read it again. It felt dangerous to get a text like that, even if it was a mistake. She buzzed a little. Nice girls like her weren’t supposed to get these kinds of messages.

Then she checked who’d sent it and that buzz turned nauseous. Hayden Beck. The Hayden Beck who’d been trespassing in her dreams so much. The one sitting at the other end of the counter.

“Really?” Elaine asked, tilting her head enough to feel the brush of her dark blonde ponytail on her shoulder.

Hayden looked over. He had a heavy brow that was currently as furrowed as her own. Of course he’d never send her a text like that. She just wasn’t his type. The disappointment crushed her. “What?” he asked. Hayden had a scratchy way of talking that always made Elaine want to clear her own throat or offer him a glass of water. Coupled with his long, unkempt hair and he could have been the lead singer for a grunge band that had formed 20 years too late.

Elaine held up her phone. “We doing a distance run tonight after closing?” She put on the same indifferent face she’d been wearing for the past few months.

Hayden looked confused for a moment. Then his face fell. “Shit.” He raked his fingers through his tangled hair, trying to cover his blush. At least he felt bad about it. “That wasn’t meant for you.”

Ouch. Ego bruised, she stumbled on, briefly considering asking why it wasn’t. But she didn’t ask questions like that. “Clearly,” she said, flattening her tone. “Well, points for knowing the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re.'”

“Four years of college.” He smiled, the blush replaced by that cocky grin that she wanted to hate but couldn’t. He had such beautiful eyes—slate blue and fringed with thick lashes. Eyes she could get lost in if he’d stop letting them wander off to the nearest piece of spandex clad ass. Even as she thought it, his gaze trailed away to the front doors of the gym, where a couple of tight-bodied coeds were breezing through the opening. “Hey, Hayd,” one of them flirted as she scanned her membership card across the sensor he manned. The other just wiggled her fingers at him, scanning in silence.

Elaine did the quick comparison—there was no stopping it. They were both taller than her. Bustier. There was no getting past that. And they had long hair, whereas hers just kissed her shoulders. But her body was tighter than either of theirs, toned like a cat’s. And more flexible too, she knew, from the level two yoga class she taught and they attended. And, she secretly admitted, she had a better ass.

“Hey, Liz. Christie.” His eyes followed them until they rounded the corner.

“Hey, Beck,” Elaine snapped, drawing him back.

He blinked. “Yes?”

“Is it one of them?” She held up her phone when he gave her a blank look.

“Oh. No.” He laughed. “Honestly, I don’t even know who they are.”

“You knew their names?”

He gestured to the computer that sat before him. Their names and faces would have popped up on screen as soon as they scanned their cards. “Wonders of technology.”

Elaine rolled her eyes, but there wasn’t much conviction behind her annoyance. He didn’t even know them and yet they commanded more attention than she did. At the risk of being melodramatic, this was kind of the story of her life. Always the bridesmaid and all that B.S. A good friend had once explained it to her: she had the looks—blonde hair, compact body, peaches and cream complexion—but she lacked the “‘tude.”

It’s not that she minded being seen as the nice girl. She was, in fact, a nice girl. It’s just that every once in awhile, she’d wonder what it would be like to be seen differently. To be different. That errant text had her wondering.

“So does she work here?”

“She does,” he said slowly. “Little, why do you care?” She hated that he used her last name when talking to her, but didn’t have the guts to tell him. It was the latest development in a cascade of events that were solidifying her status in his eyes as BFF.

She’d been working at City Fitness for the past couple months. At first, she’d done it just to have a little extra cash—law school was expensive and her student loans barely covered cost of living. They needed a yoga instructor, she qualified; it was close to campus and was only part-time. Seemed perfect.

She’d thought Hayden was cute the moment she saw him; he had this quiet charm about him that reminded her of a boy she once crushed on in high school. Or maybe it was the way his broad shoulders filled out his electric blue City Fitness polo. He wasn’t the typical boy she went for—and in fact kind of hated the cliché of it all—but fuck it, she thought they had some nice chemistry.

So when they went out for some drinks after her first full day at work, she thought it was promising— until she realized it wasn’t just the two of them. No, Hayden spent most of the night flirting with Meredith, the statuesque spin teacher who was pursuing a degree in Sports Medicine. Elaine watched from the sidelines while Hayden chatted her up, making polite conversation with Natalie, her only other friend there.

After that disaster of a night, things only got worse. They did eventually hang out, one-on-one, but it was while they were doing laundry and she was too concerned with her dirty under things to think about flirting. They’d done that a few times, had a standing date to watch Top Chef, and Elaine knew that any day now, she’d have to suffer through the conversation that began: “So, Little, can I ask you something? I need a girl’s perspective…”

“Earth to Elaine. You there?”

“Huh?”

“Just… you were looking at me a little funny.”

A blush climbed up her pale neck and blossomed in her cheeks. She looked away and cursed herself. “It’s Meredith, isn’t it?”

Hayden laughed, staring up at the corner of the ceiling. “You think I have a chance with her?”

As if on cue, the brunette swept through the lobby on her way to her spin class, already dressed in tight black shorts and a sports bra. “Hey, Hayd. Elaine,” the perky instructor nodded to them.

“Hey, Meredith. We were just talking about you,” Elaine said. Hayden looked at her.

Meredith traced his eyes, beaming her oh-so-perfect face at the petite yoga instructor. It really wasn’t fair that the spin teacher got that body with that face with that skin. “Oh? Good things, I hope.”

Elaine gave her a catty smile that she instantly felt awful about. “Depends on your definition of ‘good,'” Hayden answered for her.

The brunette giggled and swept out of the room.

“Hey, Beck!”

“What?” He could have at least looked guilty about staring at Meredith’s butt. “What do you have against her, anyway? You two have never gotten along.”

“Bad first impression,” she muttered, thinking back to that first happy hour. Truth was, Meredith was nice enough. “She kind of scares me. Anyone who can be that perky while riding a stationary bike for an hour-and-a-half must be a sadomasochist.”

Hayden snickered. “Some would say that about your class.”

“No…” Really? “Yoga’s about relaxation of body and mind. It’s about finding inner peace. Not about techno music and sweating like a pig while the taskmistress yells at you.”

“Sounds like my kind of night,” Hayden grinned.

“Enjoy being a sweaty little pig, do you?”

He shook some hair from his eyes in a way that Elaine secretly thought was cute. “With the right girl.” Hayden cracked up as Elaine pulled a face.

“So it was Meredith you meant to text.”

Hayden really cracked up, only stopping when he noticed that Elaine wasn’t following. “Seriously? You don’t know?”

“Don’t know what?”

“Ha. OK, well, hm… You’d have more luck sending her that text than me.”

“No way! Really?” Meredith was a lesbian?

“Really. And if you didn’t realize that, you probably didn’t realize she’s been flirting with you for the past month.”

Elaine’s face warmed when she realized he wasn’t just messing with her. “No… I mean, I didn’t but…” She didn’t like the way he was looking at her. “I’m not like that, if that’s where your mind is going.”

“Already there.”

“Oh, God…”

He stood and stretched. The man really did have nice shoulders. “Look, I’m sorry about that whole… fluids thing. I hope you’re not too offended.”

Why is he apologizing? Was the first thing Elaine thought. She wasn’t that sensitive, right? So why did she still feel a little jealous? “Hey, don’t worry about it. Just make sure you stop by the Smoothie bar to drink up.”

Elaine caught the tiniest flicker of embarrassment before he doused it in bravado. Holding up his squeeze bottle, he puffed, “Already started.”

***

“Did you know Meredith was into girls?”

Natalie, one of City Fitness’s managers, was helping her fold towels in the laundry room. The single mom was a year ahead in her law program and had helped her get this job. Elaine admired the woman’s strength, but had to laugh at some of the things that came out of her mouth.

“Aren’t all women with enough alcohol?” That was the other thing about Natalie: you could never tell when she was serious. Especially when it came to sex.

“So that’s a yes?”

“Yeah, I did.”

“Hayden says she has her eye on me.”

Natalie had a boisterous laugh and unloaded it on Elaine. “Did he?”

“Why are you laughing?”

“Look, no offense, but I don’t think you’re Meredith’s type.”

“Yeah?” Was Elaine anyone’s type? Or was she doomed to always be ‘the friend’?

“You’re too stubborn to be her sub and too nice a girl to challenge her—at least on the surface. You’re like the girl she might have experimented with in high school before she knew she was a lesbian. You’re her straight, good girl friend.”

Elaine sighed. Story of my life, she thought again. “Do you think of me as a good girl?”

Natalie fixed her with her emerald irises. “El, I’m not a huge fan of labels, but that’s a pretty good summary.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. Because you are!”

“What a winning argument! No wonder you got such a fat scholarship to law school.”

“Bitch.”

“I thought I was a good girl.”

“Eh, you still are, but I know you’re capable of so much more.” Elaine rolled her eyes. “OK, look. See how you’re folding those towels? How perfect each tuck is. How the corners all lined up neatly? That’s why I think you’re a good girl.”

Elaine looked from her own stack of towels to Natalie’s. The red-haired trainer’s folds weren’t sloppy, necessarily, just not as precise. “So being neat makes me a…”

“No, you’re missing the point.” Natalie tapped a finger to her lips. “How did you learn to fold the towels? Like that, right?”

“You taught me to do it this way!”

“Whatever. My point is still valid. You’re a rule-follower.” She stopped folding and looked right at Elaine. “But you know all this. You even admitted to it in your interview, in a way. Something about being a perfectionist.” Natalie snickered. “Why are you asking now?”

Because I’m tired of it? she thought. Because I’m worried that I’ll end up alone, while people like Hayden and Melissa have all the fun? She bit her lip. “I got this text. By accident.”

“A text. Wow. Riveting.”

“Racy text. A sext?” Natalie started to laugh and Elaine hurried on. “From Hayden. And when he realized he’d sent it to me…”

“He acted like there was no way it was meant for you.”

“Pretty much.”

“So now you want the bad boy and you’re all worried that you’re a good girl and this is some kind of cliché.” Natalie finished folding her last towel, set it on her imperfect pile and then leaned on it. “Don’t sweat it. You’re not a cliché. No one is.”

“Hayden is.”

Natalie shook her head. “Want to know who that text was for?”

Elaine blinked at her friend, understanding immediately but refusing to acknowledge it. “Nooo!” All Natalie did was smile and roll her eyes up and away, batting them cutely. “But he’s too… I don’t know… don’t you have a son his age?”

“Christopher is only 16!”

“And aren’t you, like, so much better than him? Single mom, working her way through school…” This wasn’t the first time Natalie had been so forthcoming about her sex life, but all those other casual relationships were with guys Elaine didn’t know.

Natalie laughed. “You act like I’m an old woman.” She cocked her hip and rested a hand on it. Elaine had to admit, where she a strong woman who’d overcome a lot of adversity, guys probably looked at the sleek-bodied redhead and saw a MILF. “I’m 38. And I’m not a stereotype. And let me tell you something, Hayden’s not either.”

“Sounds like love.” Elaine masked her jealousy with sarcasm.

“Just a little fun.” The older woman brushed it off.

“You know, I can’t believe you fell for his act. Some of the younger girls around here, sure.” Like you? “But I just thought you were smarter than this.”

“Oh, you mean that bad boy thing he’s got going on? Didn’t you get the memo, us good girls are supposed to like that sort of thing.” She sounded a little facetious, but Elaine wasn’t quite sure. “Besides,” she paused, looking at the ceiling in thought, “I seduced him. Not the other way around.”

“Natalie, you cougar!” That earned Elaine a towel in the face.

“Here’s another secret—although I hope you figured this one out by now. The bad boy thing is an act. Well, mostly, anyway. Sometimes he forgets and lets his head get to him. The boy is pretty good looking.”

Elaine’s heart sang. She’d been hoping that was true. “Yes, yes he is.”

Natalie’s phone chirped. Fishing it out of the pocket of her training pants, she smiled. Her thumbs blurred across the surface. “Excuse me while this old woman ‘sexts’ her young buck,” she snickered.

“Now who’s the bitch?” Elaine said, although she wasn’t sure Natalie even heard her. She was busy tapping out some new and probably sordid reply. Elaine shuffled a little, wondering if she should leave, wondering if she could somehow get a peek at her friend’s screen. She didn’t have to wonder for long.

“Curious, huh?” Natalie asked, cocking a brow at her.

“Na… no…”

“Oh? We’re talking about you, you know. Curious now?” She wagged the phone at her, screen out. “Go on, read away. Or maybe you’re too much of a good girl?”

“Give me that.” Her heart raced. The phone didn’t blow up in her face, or denounce her as some kind of loose woman. It was just a phone…

[little is there?]

[yeah, but she can’t see me typing / she told me you accidentally texted her]

[oh god. / she did? what did she say?]

[did you do it on purpose?]

[of course not!]

[you have a crush on el?]

[she’s cute. do you?]

This was so weird. Hearing about Natalie’s sexual escapades always made Elaine feel a little like a voyeur. This was like that, only much stronger. And more dangerous. “So I’m cute, huh?” she asked. She didn’t hand the phone back immediately.

“You’re OK.”

Elaine fingered the phone in thought before squaring it up in her hands and typing out a response.

“Hey!” Natalie protested, reaching for it. Elaine twisted away and hit send.

[i think el is hot!]

“Thanks for that,” Natalie said, reading the text over Elaine’s shoulder. “Now I’m really not going to get the threesome fantasy out of his head.”

[too bad she’d never join us. we could have some real fun in the sauna tonight!!!]

“See, there you go.” Natalie tossed her hands up and paced away.

“Someone’s a fan of exclamation points,” Elaine mused.

“What are you typing now?”

“Trying to dispel a stereotype.”

[oh, never say never. maybe i could convince her…]

[!!!]

Elaine laughed. “So the sauna, huh? How long’s this been going on?”

“Couple weeks.” Natalie had stopped trying to look, giving Elaine full reign of her phone. “Don’t do that.”

“What?”

“Judge. If I were a man, this would be perfectly acceptable. But because I’m a woman, I must be a slut.”

“Of course not.” Of course she felt that way. And that made her feel a little ashamed.

“It’s no big deal, anyway. We’re not exclusive and both of us know we’re just having fun.”

“I don’t get that. I don’t think I could get into a guy if I didn’t feel some kind of connection.”

“Ever tried?” A vision of a shirtless Hayden danced before her eyes, his skin glistening with sweat like the centerfold of a beefcake magazine Elaine would never dream of ever picking up…

“You know the answer to that.” She imagined the way Hayden moved, his muscles shifting beneath his slender body. A bead of sweat trickled around his pecs, riding the ripples of his abs before skirting the V of his pelvis into his shorts. Elaine almost licked her lips.

“You’re thinking about him now.”

“Am not.” In reality, she was almost drunk on the thought. “Is he good?” Her heart was auditioning for The Little Engine That Could. “You know, in bed?” she added needlessly.

“You could find out. I’m sure he’d be willing to give you a live demonstration.”

I think I can, I think I can…

[u there?]

Hayden’s shorthand annoyed her, but didn’t come close to overruling her rabid curiosity.

“If it makes a difference, he likes you.”

There wasn’t a whole lot of attitude behind her snort. “Hayden likes everyone with two legs and… breasts.” She’d meant to say ‘tits’ but the words just didn’t come out. “And unfortunately, I’m pretty sure I’m the exception. Even lesbians seem to get more attention than me.”

“No, you’re not getting me. He really likes you. Like, wouldn’t mind something more than fun with you. Go on, ask him.” She nodded at the phone, which Elaine was still holding.

At first, the little blonde didn’t think she could do it. Pretending to be Natalie to embarrass the woman was one thing. But this was just scary. Felt like a betrayal. Her fingers even shook a little when she typed it out, figuring that if she didn’t, Natalie probably would. She handed it back without hitting send. The older woman did it for her.

[you never answered my question. do you have a crush on el?]

Natalie’s lips cracked in a half-grin. “Want to see?”

Elaine could hear her heart chugging in her ears. I think I can… She looked.

[yes]

Everything was dry.

“This is so sweet. Like high school or something.” Natalie’s green eyes went wide. “Maybe he’ll ask you to homecoming!” she squealed.

“You really are a bitch.” Elaine felt a little out of it.

“Would a bitch be willing to share?”

“Um… I don’t know about having a threesome…” Some level of curiosity was normal, right? But really, she couldn’t—

Natalie laughed. “Well, I do. You’re cute and all, but I’m not into women. No offense.”

“None taken.”

“But you could surprise him tonight. In my place.”

The suggestion sent a shiver through her. Her first thought was: no way. But she wasn’t entirely behind that first thought, either. And her heart kept pumping away. I think I can… “I don’t know,” she said.

“Think about it,” the older woman said. She looked down at her phone and smiled, holding it up to share.

[i was kidding about the threesome, btw.]

“See, he really likes you.”

***

Elaine thought about it. She didn’t want to, but then she found herself back at the front desk, greeting patrons with a smile or a nod when all she could think about was Hayden and the heat of the saunas and how he’d look walking in with just a white towel around his waist…

Natalie and Hayden were discreet, that was for sure. If she hadn’t been privy to the texts, she’d have no idea. They’d pass each other with barely a nod, and when they talked, their tones were all business. “Hayden, I need you to take over the training session for Mrs. Blake.” “Ooo, gladly.” No playful winks. No friendly flirtations.

Elaine began to wonder if she’d imagined the whole towel folding episode. Then she’d bump into Natalie, who flashed her a mischievous smile—all bug-eyed and suggestive—and she’d remember that it had. And that she had a decision to make.

“Are you sure he won’t mind? I mean, he’s expecting you—” Elaine couldn’t believe she was having this conversation. She’d meant to go at it as if it were a hypothetical, but by the time she worked up her nerves, she’d forgotten all about the what-if.

“Trust me, he won’t mind.” Natalie’s face was aglow. Now that the older woman had been cast in a new light, Elaine had to admit she was quite attractive. It was weird how that happened. One moment, she was a mother and source of good advice, the next she was all cheekbones and bee-stung lips and glossy, red hair. Elaine shook her head, clearing it. “I just wish I could be there to see his face.”

Elaine thought of Hayden’s threesome fantasy and balked before Natalie could rescue her. “Oh no, not like that. I mean, you know, just… I think it would be funny.” Now it was Natalie’s turn to blush.

Natalie went on to explain how this would work. Elaine let her, although she wanted to think that she was still in the decision making process. For the most dramatic entrance, Elaine would wait for Hayden in the sauna sporting a towel and a smile. Hayden usually locks up, so Natalie could easily slip out before then and do the switch.

Elaine started getting really nervous half-way through the plan when she realized that she was going to do this. Thing was, every time she felt like chickening out, she thought of Hayden accusing her of being a good girl and it strengthened her resolve.

“Now I want you to listen, OK? After the initial shock, Hayden’s going to expect the girl who neatly folds the towels. I want you to show him that’s not all you are.”

“I’m not.” Elaine was getting tired of this.

“Oh, I know. But Hayden’s going to need some convincing.

***

Both the men’s and women’s changing rooms had sizable saunas near the showers. Hayden usually met Natalie in the women’s—at the redhead’s insistence—so when the employees began to clock out and all the patrons were gone, she slipped into the woman’s locker room to prepare.

First order, a shower. She’d taught a couple classes of advanced yoga and Pilates that day, in addition to a few personal training sessions, and no matter what kind of reinvention of self she was trying to achieve, she held herself to certain standards of personal hygiene.

She worked efficiently, stripping as the shower heated up. She’d done the lock-up before and knew she had time. The steaming spray felt good. She stepped out not necessarily a new woman, but a fresher one. One that was about to have fun in a way she’d not thought she was capable of.

White terry cloth never felt so wicked. She wasn’t a tall person and while she had dresses that covered less leg than the wrapped towel did—well, one dress that did—she still felt exposed. She checked herself on the way to the sauna room, letting her loose, wet locks of dark blonde hair drape around her bare shoulders. Pink skinned and bright eyed, she was as ready as she could be without throwing back an alcoholic beverage.

The wait in the sauna felt like an eternity. She was never a huge fan of the heat rooms and after about five minutes, she realized that she needn’t have bothered with the shower. She was sweatier than a couple yoga classes could have possibly have made her.

Literally left to stew, doubts started to creep in. She liked the guy, but this was pretty extreme by anyone’s standards. How had Natalie convinced her that this was a good idea?

Sweat beaded on her face and dripped down her neck before getting absorbed in the knot of towel nestled in her cleavage. She didn’t do heat well. It made her light-headed. Was this even the sexiest way to seduce him? She thought of her own sauna/Hayden fantasies and admitted that it probably was.

If you come onto him like this, would he respect you in the morning? It was the one question she’d been trying not to ask herself. When she’d emptied the bottle of water she’d brought in here with her, she decided she’d waited long enough.

Just as she started to rise, she saw him through the fogged-up porthole window. He shoved it open without peering in, but stopped short of coming inside.

“Little!” he yelped, a deliciously toned arm holding the wood-paneled door open. She frowned a little at the name, but couldn’t maintain the disapproval. Not when it looked like something invisible had exploded in his face—eyebrows up, mouth frozen in mid-gasp.

“Hey, Hayd,” she giggled, imitating Liz and Christie at the desk earlier.

“What are you doing here?”

Elaine held up her empty water bottle. “Drinking my fluids.” She meant for it to come out strong yet suggestive, but the effect was ruined by her blush that she was pretty sure stood up even in the sauna.

Screwing up her courage, she slid off the platform and sauntered up to him. “So you have a crush on me?”

Elaine watched him flinch as he realized what she was talking about, the expression eerily similar to when he discovered he’d sent her the errant text. Just as before, he raked his fingers through his tangled hair, something that looked even better when done shirtless, and once again, Elaine liked that blush.

It gave her the confidence to insinuate herself inside his personal space and slip her fingers up his sleek muscles. He had a few curls of hair dappling his chest like scrub grass on otherwise golden, rolling hills. It was beautiful. She felt his breath catch beneath her fingertips.

“El…” he questioned, unsure if this was real or some kind of elaborate trick.

“Still me.” Flattening her hands on his chest, she stretched out onto her tip toes, tilting her head as if to kiss him. She watched his beautiful mouth part, his tongue lurking inside with all its promise. Almost kissed him. Almost. “Did I ever tell you I hate it when you call me by my last name?”

She backed off, returning her heels to the warmed sauna floor. Hayden caught her before she could retreat further, his fingers digging into her towel. The cinch released a fraction, and more than just her covering loosened.

“Didn’t know that. Let me make it up to you.”

Elaine thought of what Natalie had said, about Hayden being shocked, and then taking the upper hand. And as thrilling as that submission felt, she knew she couldn’t begin this phase of their relationship like that. So she clucked her tongue, gazed up at him through her lashes, and said, “Yes, you do owe me. And not just for that.”

Reaching between them, she pulled the cinch from between her breasts and opened the towel. The damp terry cloth fell heavily past her breasts before catching where Hayden still held her. His grasp faltered. She twisted backwards. The towel hit the floor wetly.

God, she felt like this was the first time in her 22 years that a boy had seen her naked.

“You can start by apologizing for never looking at me like that before.” If she was feeling like an adolescent, Hayden was just hitting puberty. He scanned her nudity with boyish wonder dipped in teenage lust as she did the same. Her yoga outfits left little mystery to the shape of her body, but did her small, coral pink nipples live up to his imagination? Was he surprised by the glyphic tree tattoo she had etched on her left hip, just below her waistline? Or maybe he was just shocked that the good girl he’d constructed in his mind kept herself completely bare…

Something changed between them; she could feel it dance across the humidity.

Taking advantage of his dazed pause, the diminutive blonde dragged her thumb down a stomach that was as toned as she’d fantasized, stopping only when her finger met his kilt-like towel. She watched her hand’s descent like it wasn’t her own, sucking in a slow breath when she saw him rise.

“Oh, I noticed you,” he said in that vintage record voice of his, scratched and imperfect and oh so sexy. She looked up at him. His eyes couldn’t to rise from her tight nipples. “I just didn’t think you were the type who liked to show it off.”

Elaine batted her lashes, something she did rarely enough that she had to consciously do it. “With the right boys, I don’t mind.”

A wave of self-consciousness broke over her. She stepped right up against him until their skin met, wet and hot. Instinctively, he wrapped his arms around her neck. She could feel his heartbeat beneath her breast—almost as fast as her own—and she delighted in the rough swell of him through the towel. It was somehow more intimate, yet safer, standing right up against him. She felt less naked wearing his husky frame like a halter dress.

“So how should I start to—”

Elaine cut him off, pushing off on her toes to launch herself against his mouth. They swayed backwards, drifting against the sauna door that must have closed at some point. And when they settled, Elaine pushed her tongue between his lips and felt herself swoon. He was good. Really good.

He didn’t just accept the kiss—of course not. He challenged her, sparring and slicing and sliding. Doing all those yummy things that made Elaine wonder why she hadn’t done this before—and more wickedly, what else could he do?

Hayden pulled her to him, not just with his hands and that kiss, but with sheer force of will. It was like magnetism. She wanted to remember this embrace forever. Not just the bridesmaid…

Again calling to mind Natalie’s advice, she pulled out of the nosedive kiss before it was too late. Licking her smiling lips, she rested her head on his shoulder and looked down between their bodies as she released the last barrier between them. He swung thickly between his thighs, somewhere in that limbo between soft and hard. As she took it into her hand, she felt it come alive.

Shooting a glance up at him, she nearly giggled at his boyish eagerness. She half-turned and pulled him by the cock to the wooden seating. He followed obediently, watching the perfection of her heart-shaped ass.

They played Adam and Eve on the bench, comfortable in their nudity in the warmed air. They made out and explored their bodies with an almost lazy curiosity. Elaine couldn’t keep her hands off his taut anatomy. He seemed to be constructed of tawny skin, bones, and sinuous muscle. She kissed his neck as her fingers felt his upper back flex and tighten at her touch. Her other hand, braced on his ribs, made its slow and inevitable descent.

A hiss escaped Hayden’s clenched teeth as she wrapped him up in her little hand. This time, he was full and erect and her brain was already contemplating how it would feel to have all that girth inside of her. What a little slut, the ever-present voice of prudence chided. A groaned “Oh, El,” from her one-time crush shut that voice up.

Elaine licked along Hayden’s jugular, trying to lose herself in the briny taste of his sweat and the sand paper roughness of his five o’clock shadow, when all she really wanted was to concentrate on the hard cock in her hand.

Hayden’s playful hands weren’t much help, either. He was beyond teenage exploration. He touched with purpose, reminding her that he was the one with all the experience. His fingers played a ribald minuet up and down her back, one hand working the octaves of her spine as the other set the pace on a cluster of nerves just above her tailbone that she didn’t know she had.

She returned her mouth to his, but had to break away as a moan tore through her. She was on the brink and he hadn’t even touched her naughtier parts.

And then he did.

“Oh, Hayd…” She stuttered out the ‘d’ as his tongue swirled around her nipple and his right hand sank fingers-first down her tight stomach.

“Your body is incredible, El,” he whispered into her décolletage. She watched him watch her. Slate blue saturated her brain. She so wanted to be…

Fucked! His fingers alighted on her balmy sex. She shifted her hips across the bench but Hayden didn’t take the bait. He teased her first, stroking the supple skin with aching precision. Like his hands on her spine, he knew just what to do to bring her to the edge—a nudge against her clit, a soft swipe just outside her needy furrow, a flirtation further down to her unmentionable…

“Time for me to start my apology,” he smiled, breaking his lock on her breasts. And then he sank down between her thighs and demonstrated that until now, she hadn’t had a clue what “the brink” really was, and how fucking awesome it was to tip-toe along it.

“Oh, Hayd!” she cried, looping a leg over his shoulder and digging her toes into her back. His tongue coiled around her clitoris like an electron cloud, supercharging the rest of her body, as he twisted two fingers in and out of her. She felt tight and girlish, skewered there, but good lord it felt good. She melted back into the bench, liquefied by the heat and the dream come true and the things this man did to her.

Her vision receded, like the world decided to pick up and move 30 feet down a long, shadow hallway. Even her hearing left her, leaving her alone with her echoes. She blinked in slow motion. Someone was saying something. It was reassuring. A touch on her face. Something cool at her lips. “Drink… drink up, El.” Hayden was there, bottle in hand. She pushed up onto her elbows as Hayden brushed her damp bangs from her forehead.

“Didn’t I tell you to drink your fluids?”

Elaine felt embarrassed. She wasn’t a trainer, but understood the basics of dehydration. Apparently fooling around in the sauna came with its own set of unique hazards. “No, I believe you texted that you hope I was drinking my fluids.”

Hayden grinned, the concern leaving his face. How sweet.

“That was some apology.”

His grin was different than the ones she’d watched him share with girls like Liz and Christie. It was still layered with that irritating swagger, but this felt somehow more ingenuous. He wasn’t trying to impress her. In fact, she suddenly realized that he was never trying anything with her. She thought about what Natalie had said, that thing about his bad boy act.

Reaching up, she pulled Hayden into a deep kiss. She’d never tire of doing that. “Thanks for the water,” she smiled, leveraging herself back to a sitting position with his help.

He just shook his head, staring at her as if trying to disbelieve an illusion. “I should thank Natalie for this, I guess?” he asked. He looked away and chortled. “She’s been trying to play match-maker for weeks now.”

That surprised Elaine. “Really? Aren’t you two…”

“Yeah,” he said slowly. “But it’s not anything serious.” He suddenly glanced at her, worried that she’d take it the wrong way. “God, you must think I’m some kind of male slut.”

That made Elaine laugh. “Yeah, kind of.” This time, she reached up and wiped his wet hair out of his face. His tanned skin took to the heat of the room well. “Hope I’m not going to be another notch.” Well, that was pretty presumptuous. “I mean, not that…”

“Relax. I know what you mean.” He kissed her sweetly. “Don’t worry, I don’t even have a bedpost to mark.” She bumped him with her hip. “And no, you’re—different.”

“You really know how to make a girl feel good.” She faced forward, at the door, but kept looking at him out of the corner of her eyes.

He shifted, raking his fingers through his hair. Had she always thought that grove where triceps and biceps met were so sexy? She even liked the dark brush of underarm hair. “I mean that in a good way. You make me feel different.”

“Differently.” He blinked at her correction. “Nevermind. So you think I can tame the mighty man-slut?”

“Mm… let’s find out.”

Hydrated, they picked up right where they left off, tongues swarming and hands caressing. She circled his steely hard cock in hand and pumped it. She loved the way it danced in her palm, mixing sweat with pre-cum.

They reclined on the hot bench with Hayden on top. He half-stood over her, planting one foot on the floor as he set himself against her slippery pussy. Their bodies were beyond a mere sheen. They glistened. They sparkled with beaded droplets. Hayden looked magnificent as he lowered his body onto hers.

He felt bigger than she’d imagined when he was in her hand. He kept filling her up and up and oh baby right there! She let out a stifled cry when she felt his balls brush the lower curve of her ass. Opening her eyes, she found him right above her, watching her.

They kissed as he eased out and back in. They kissed as he began to thrust a little harder. Then harder still. The sauna wood creaked beneath them. It felt naughty. It reminded her who she was with and where she was.

In the cleansing heat, she came again. It helped her refocus her mushy senses. Time to take a little control back.

Looping one leg around Hayden’s back and then lifting the other onto the second level of benches, she hoisted herself up against Hayden’s solid frame. She flexed her core, working muscles she’d been conditioning for years, and started fucking him from beneath.

“God, baby, that’s good…” Hayden heaved. He clutched her slim hips, digging his fingers into her hard buttocks as they coordinated the athletic position like they’d been doing it for years. She rolled her hips until his cock passed directly across her g-spot. Her third orgasm was quick, and if they kept this up, her fourth wouldn’t be long. But she wanted to share that one with Hayd.

Coming off her high, she lounged back, stretching her arms up over her head. Letting Hayden grope her with his eyes. The way he looked at her made her believe in herself. She squeezed his cock with her muscles in silent thanks, smiling when his eyelids fluttered.

They repositioned a final time. Hayden sat upright on the lower bench and Elaine straddled his lap. She wanted to feel his skin all over her. She wanted to be able to look at him and kiss him whenever she felt like it.

Once again, she called on her yoga and Pilates training. With a knee on either side of his legs, she undulated over him, flexing and relaxing and flexing again. She felt purified in the heat and in Hayden’s arms. They were at work and hardly knew each other, but it felt right. Spiritual.

And Christ did it feel good.

“Hayd, you close?” Her voice was strained from the effort it took to hold back.

His clipped reply was delivered in the same way. “Yes.”

Elaine couldn’t wait any longer. The anticipation was too much. She squeezed him with the inner walls of her pussy, redirecting the last stores of energy to getting him there, and let go.

“Oh…” she groaned, long and guttural. “Oh!” Things got sharp and wet as he joined her. She felt him shiver deep inside and suddenly, the heat was too much to bear. Reality was receding down that hallway again and this time, she didn’t think she could stop it. She held onto the tenuous grasp of consciousness for as long as possible. She wanted to keep feeling. To keep experiencing. She was delirious. This was rapture.

****

When she came to, she felt the pin pricks of colder water across her scalp and shoulders and realized she’d passed out longer than before. Hayden had moved her into a shower stall to cool her off.

When she opened her eyes, he was there, squatting naked beside her with another bottle at the ready. She took it and downed half before pulling away. “God, you must think I’m some kind of amateur.”

“You kidding?” He took the bottle back and sipped. “That was one of the best moments of my life.”

He shook his hair and added, “And I’ve had a lot of pretty good moments.”

Hayden helped her to her feet and handed her a couple fresh towels. She swaddled one around her head, and without thinking too much about it, just wrapped the other around her waist.

Seeming to worry about staring at her exposed breasts too much and killing the mood—which was nearly impossible—Hayden enveloped her in his arms. He stared down at her, studying her with oscillating slate blue eyes. Even after all they’d already done—and the aches were just beginning—she found herself wanting him again. She felt it in the heat between her thighs and the pitter-patter of her heart.

Elaine broke his gaze and flattened herself against his chest, idly tracing his collarbone. “I like you.” Did she just hear his heartbeat quicken?

“I like you, too. El. I really like you.” Christ, that was titillating to hear.

“I’ve never done…” she looked around, encompassing the whole scene, “this before. One night stands or whatever.”

“Then let’s not make it one.”

Elaine laughed. It was the perfect thing to say, but she was also beyond worrying about that. “No, not what I meant. I mean, good, because I’d like to see you again.” Deep breath. “But… you challenge me.” It was scary and exhilarating all at once. She’d never met a man like this. Scarier still to be admitting it to him. He could break you… “With you, I feel comfortable doing things I’d never thought I would. At least, you know, in theory.”

“Oh? Like what?”

“Well, like meet you naked in the sauna room at work, for starters.” She bit her lip. “I don’t know. I don’t have anything in particular, I guess.”

“Bullshit.” He pulled back and looked down into her eyes. She felt his cock stir against her. “Tell me.” She knew then that she would. She’d tell him anything he wanted. But first, he had to lose some of the “‘tude.”

“Ask me please and maybe I will.”

“Please?” That felt good.

“Well, now that you mention it, I was thinking…”

The end (for now?)

[Read the sequel, Little Miss Calculation]