Authors: Lauren Blakely
“Only if I can call the shower your Whack Zone.”
I let my jaw fall open in a shocked expression. “Fine, call it the Whack Zone. Just answer the question.”
“Okay,” she says, taking a breath and squaring her shoulders. “I like male-male porn.”
I'm taken aback for a moment. “You do?”
“I do,” she says with a nod, owning it. “Does that bother you? You seem surprised.”
“I was surprised. But it doesn't bother me. To each her own.”
“Your turn,” she says, lifting her chin. “What do you like?”
The answer is easy. “I like videos of girls getting themselves off.”
Her eyes widen, and I see a hint of desire in them. “Yeah?”
“Why?” she asks, her voice soft but eager. Curiosity drips from her tone.
I shift, as if that'll relieve the pressure in my jeans. But it doesn't. My dick is trying to hit a new record for hardness right now, as if it's competing in the Erection Olympics. But I can't fault my dick. It's impossible to be anything but turned on during this conversation.
The tequila is helping my Honest Abe attitude this evening. Or maybe just living in close proximity to her is. For some reason, I don't feel like holding back tonight. “Because . . . there's something about the image of a woman all alone, so turned on she needs to take care of the business herself. No one else has to do a thing for her. She's just wildly aroused from her mind, her imagination. She closes her eyes. Her hand drifts down. She creates a fantasy in her head.”
Josie draws a sharp breath. “That is hot,” she whispers, and her voice sounds different. Aroused.
I stretch my arm across the back of the couch and paint with more words, loving this whole new direction of tonight's conversation. “I love seeing how wet she gets. Before she even takes off her panties. That really fucking turns me on.”
I meet her eyes, and the green irises shine with unmistakable desire. I'm not hiding mine, either. Whether it's us momentarily lusting for each other, or just getting aroused by the conversation, I don't know. I don't care, either. I can't separate anything right now. I'm hard, and I bet she's wet.
“It's fun being wet,” she says in a husky, smoky tone that seeps into my bones like a shot of pure, liquid lust. “I can see why you'd like watching that.”
“And then it turns me the fuck on to watch a gorgeous woman spread her legs, touch herself, and then make herself come.”
She blinks, then blows out a long stream of air and waves her hand in front of her face. “Wow. Those seven-layer bars baked on high in the oven. It is hot in here.”
I tap her arm. Her breath hitches. “Your turn. Why do you like guy on guy?”
Her answer comes swiftly. “Because I like guys.”
“Yeah?” I ask, remembering her comment about types. “But why that kind specifically?”
She brushes a strand of hair behind her ear and draws a deep breath. Maybe she's seeking courage, or maybe the liquid has already given it to her, because her answer is bold and hot. “I like what makes men
, and seeing two of them together turns me on even more. Look, I'm totally hetero. But that's why I like it,” she says, and she reaches out a hand to my hair. “I like everything that makes a man a man. The hair.”
She drags her hand through mine, and my eyes float closed. I savor her touch and the way desire shoots through my body from that simple act of her touching my hair.
“I like a masculine jawline,” she says. She drags her thumb across mine, and lust curls like hot flames inside me.
I open my eyes and swallow harshly. I don't say a word. I don't have to. She's crafting a soliloquy to the male form, and I'm her muse right now. “I love stubble,” she continues as she touches my face, demonstrating all her likes. Then her hand drifts to my arm. “And strong arms and muscles.”
Her hand darts to my belly. Her eyes twinkle with mischief. She drops her voice to a sexy whisper. “I love a little happy trail, too.”
And the fire goes wild. It torches my blood. It fucking consumes me. I'm not sure I'll ever cool off.
“That's why I like watching two guys,” she finishes, as if she's summing up an answer to an exam question. “Men just turn me on. But I don't want to be in a threesome.”
“What do you want?”
She juts up her shoulder. “One guy who wants me the way I want him.”
Fuck this roommate situation. Fuck New York City housing. Fuck the horrors of finding four walls. I want to be that guy so badly.
“You should be worshipped. You deserve it,” I say, my voice thick with lust I can't hide. “You're perfect.”
Her lips part, and soft words fall from them. “So are you.”
Here we are on the diddle couch, talking about what turns us on. I don't know how I ever thought I could cordon off sex from friendship and lust from emotion, but with Josie staring at me with heat in her green eyes, I have to exercise every ounce of my self-control.
Fortunately, she stands up and saves me from me. She smacks her forehead. “Totally forgot. I need to wash my hair.” She nods. “I think I got some seven-layer bar in it.”
“Yeah. You should wash the seven layers from your hair.”
She turns the corner and heads to the bathroom.
This time I know she's not retreating. She's not crying. She's not sad. She's turned on.
, the water cranks on, the beat of the shower stream pounding against the tile. I close my eyes, my breath already coming hard, and I picture her naked. In my fantasy, I stand there, watching her. Her hands slide over her full breasts then slip between her legs. She doesn't even need her toy right now, she's so worked up.
And so the fuck am I. My dick is going to punish me if I don't deal with these epic levels of arousal right now.
I can't stand this anymore. I've got to do something about this roommate situation. She's safely in the shower, and I'm safely in the living room. I unzip my jeans, slide my hand into my boxers and take my cock in my fist.
As the shower becomes my soundtrack, I stroke my dick, long, lingering strokes from the base to the tip. I run my other hand over my balls, which feel so fucking heavy. With lust for her. With absolutely inappropriate desire for my roommate, my good friend, my best friend's sister.
But what's a man to do?
Mere feet away from me, the woman of my dirty dreams is naked and playing with herself. That's my greatest fantasy. Josie is so turned on right now, she had to take care of business. God help me. I have no choice.
“Fuck,” I mutter, because her pussy must be so slick and wet right now. So goddamn slippery.
I grip harder, sliding a bead of liquid over the head of my dick then down the shaft. It eases my solo flight. There's no time for buildup. No time to let this one last. I've got one mission and I'm on a fast track, headed for some much-needed relief.
She's probably nearly there herself, leaning against the shower wall under the stream, that lucky fucking water sliding all over her body.
With that glorious vision in my mind, I sink deeper into the couch and stroke. Longer, faster, rougher strokes. My fist curls tighter as I grip my dick and imagine the scene nearby. Her fingers fly. She doesn't take her time at all. She grabs her finger vibe, slides it on, and rubs her throbbing clit in a frenzy. Because she's desperate, just like me. She's hungry for an orgasm.
I hiss out a breath. I bet waves of pleasure are rolling down her body as her hair grows damp, as her skin heats up, as she rubs that magical device over her aching clit.
The things I could do to help her . . .
Jerking harder, panting faster, I imagine walking into the bathroom right now, stripping off my clothes, and getting under the water. Taking that finger toy and working it on her. Letting her body melt against mine as I get her off, as she begs me to give it to her.
“Chase, it feels so good.”
“Chase, I'm dying for you.”
“I'm begging you to make me come.”
My dick is iron now, and my breath tumbles out in harsh pants as I jack harder and cycle through all the ways I'd make her soar. I'd take over for that vibrator and stroke her sweet clit while I fucked her with my fingers. She'd shatter in my arms.
Tension winds up in my legs, and my quads tighten as I imagine getting her off again, this time with my mouth, feeling her go wild under my tongue. And then I'd push her hands to the tile, slide into that hot, sweet pussy, and play with her magnificent tits as I fucked her until she came again.
Like I'm about to. Holy fuck. I'm about to come so fucking hard because I want that. I want to be the one who turns her inside out with pleasure. I want to be the man she wants fiercely. I'm dying to be the one she gets off to.
A sharp, powerful climax thunders down my spine, lighting me up as I come hard in my hand.
I breathe like a man sprinting, as if I've ridden my bike harder than I ever have. When I open my eyes, I thank the Lord that Josie's paper dedication extends from toilet paper all the way to tissues, because there's a box of Kleenex next to me. I grab some and clean up, then head to the kitchen to wash my hands and readjust my dick.
When the shower turns off, the images haven't stopped. All I can see is her naked, wet, and hungry for me. And I can't stop fucking her in my mind. I can't take my hands off her.
Five minutes later she emerges, her wet hair in a twisty bun. She wears light blue pajama bottoms and a pink tank top. She claps her hands together. “Those seven-layer bars should be ready to eat now,” she says, all sweet and innocent.
Soon, we sit down with our glasses of milk and her treats, like a good boy and girl.
As I watch her nibble on a chocolate-chip-covered corner of a bar, I wonder if she was thinking about two unknown guys in the shower.
Or if she's like me, and got off to her roommate.
rom the pages
of Josie's Recipe Book
Josie's Magic Amnesiac Seven-Layer Bars
Â½ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 Â½ cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup finely chopped pecans (can substitute walnuts)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Â½ cup butterscotch chips
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
you really need to take your mind off someone, I highly recommend seven-layer bars. The taste is so intoxicatingly delicious that it is quite possibly the closest substitute for . . . Well, lookâlet's just say these bars are some kind of sublimation.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and butter; mix well. Press crumb mixture firmly on bottom of baking pan.
Pressing firmly makes me focus all my energy on cooking. Not on how much I'm looking forward to Chase coming home. Not on how much I'm enjoying living with him. Not on how much I liked rubbing his shoulders the other week. Gah. I messed up the recipe. Be right back.
2. Layer in remaining ingredients; press firmly with fork. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumb mixture.
Baking is therapy. It soothes me. The times when dating in New York City has been weird and frustrating and disappointing, at least there's something I can do well. I can mix and create, and turn ingredients into something tasty. Something that makes people happy. Honestly, I suppose that's all I really want in life. To make someone happy. Even better if that someone makes me feel that way, too.
3. Bake twenty-five minutes or until lightly browned. Cool. Cut into bars.
Serve to your roommate with a straight face as if you didn't just imagine him grabbing you, touching you, sliding into you, and pounding you hard under the hot stream of water in your shower. No, I swear I didn't fantasize about every naked inch of him, and he's not the reason I had to bite my lip to keep from screaming out his name.
4. Have a second helping.
Well, I did say the bars were sublimation.
he red line flattens
. Anguish floods my bones. Sorrow drowns my blood.
The patient is gone.
We lost him, a thirty-four-year-old man named Blake Treehorn.
All the medicine, all the paddles, all the speeding ambulances, all the nurses and doctors here at Mercy, and we couldn't save his life.
I exhale heavily. One of the nurses makes the sign of the cross. Another runs her hand gently along the patient's arm. I look at my watch and confirm the time of death.
“One thirty-five p.m.,” I say, and the nurse records the information in his chart. I scrub a hand over my jaw as a profound sense of both sadness and failure digs deep into my flesh. I'll be signing his death certificate shortly.
David, another ER doc who worked to save him too, claps me on the back. “We did our best,” he mumbles.
That's the thing. We did. The paramedics barreled in fifteen minutes ago with a man who worked at an office building ten blocks away. During a routine Wednesday afternoon meeting, Blake clutched his chest and complained of pain. He collapsed seconds later, and his coworkers called 911. He'd been fading when he arrived, and we'd fought like hell to save the guy. Thirty minutes later, he's dead in his early thirties on a hospital bed in an emergency room in the middle of Manhattan.
“Life is short, man,” David says, his tone heavy.
“It sure is,” I say with a sigh.
I've lost patients before. Every doctor has. Last year in Africa, we said good-bye to more people than I wanted to count. It's part of the job. I get that, and I can live with it. It's what I signed up for.
But I'm only human, and I'm not as steel as I pretend to be. This one hits me hard. Blake was young and healthy. I heard one of his coworkers say he'd gone running with him the other morning.
There's no time to sit with these churning emotions, though. When the charge nurse informs me there are multiple gunshot wounds coming in, I have to pretend I'm Teflon.
That's how the rest of the afternoon unfurls. Like a parade of pain and heartache. No sex wounds, no amusing tales, no naughty moments that make for funny stories with friends. It's all too fucking real. One of the gunshot victims dies from blood loss. A patient who seemed to be improving after coming in yesterday with a stroke passes on.
By the time my shift finally ends, I sink down on the bench in the locker room, so ready to be done with the Grim Reaper today. But I just sit. I can't move yet. A leaden weight has settled deep in my gut. I drop my forehead to my hand and let the gloom spread through me. Sometimes I am good at separating work from my emotions. But sometimes work is emotional. As much as I pride myself on the ability to wear blinders, the fact is my business is one of life and death.
And death sucks.
The door creaks open and David trudges in. “Want to get a beer?”
I raise my face. “Pretty sure you meant whiskey.”
A small smile cracks on his tired face. “Make it a double.”
And that's how I find myself at Speakeasy in Midtown at five p.m. We trade war stories and talk sports, and it eases some of the day from my shoulders.
When we finish, David tips his chin and pushes his glasses up higher on the bridge of his nose. “And on that note, I should head home to the woman.”
I clasp his hand in a good-bye shake, and when I leave, that last word resonates with me. There's one woman I want to see.
Josie closes late on Wednesdays so I catch the subway and exit at Seventy-Second. When I walk along the block where she works, the early evening crowds thickening around me, I swear I can feel the clouds lift and my heart start to lighten just from knowing I'll see her. Josie is my sunshine in this rain-soaked day.
As the smooth, intelligent voice of the audiobook narrator in my ears delves into the physics of perpetual motion, I pass a flower shop, spotting a bouquet of daisies. For the briefest of seconds, an idea takes hold. But I smash it, scoffing at myself. I'm only going to say hi to her. Bringing her flowers would be something one of her cheeseball dates would do. I'm not dating her. I don't have to worry if she'll be in my life tomorrow, or the next day, or the next year. She
in my life because she's my friend, and that's why I'm the one who gets to see her, who gets to stop by her work, who gets to hang out with her. The rest of the assholes aren't good enough to even get past a first date.
But she does like flowers.
I stop, turn around, and buy the daisies from her friend Lily's shop. I haven't met Lily before, but the brunette who helps me is sweet and outgoing, so I assume she must be Josie's friend. And I hope she sorts out the situation with her dickhead boyfriend, because whoever he is, he needs to treat her better.
“The flowers are beautiful. Have a great evening,” I say, since the least I can do is be a considerate customer.
“You, too,” she says with a friendly wave.
I leave the store.
As I near Josie's bakery, a whole squadron of nerves launches in my chest. My heart speeds up. This doesn't just feel like nerves from the day. This feels like something else entirely. Something I haven't felt in a long time. Something that's good, but terribly dangerous at the same damn time.
Gripping the bouquet tighter, I push open the yellow door to the Sunshine Bakery. Josie works alone, bending to take a huge slice of chocolate cake from the glass counter. She stands, sets it in a white bakery box, and hands it to the customer, a thin redhead wearing jeans and heels. The customer rubs her hands together. “I can't wait. This is my favorite cake in all of New York City.”
Josie tilts her head and flashes the woman a wide, genuine smile. “I'm so happy to hear that. You deserve a slice today,” she says, then tells her the amount.
Josie's hair is swept back in a pink-checked bandana, her bangs showing. Her T-shirt is orange, with the cheery sun logo of her store. Bangles slip and slide on her wrist. When the customer leaves, Josie's eyes find mine, and they light up.
“Hey you!” she calls out and slinks around the counter to give me a hug. We don't usually hug when we see each other, but maybe her arms are around me because I don't stop by her work that often. Or maybe she senses that I need it.
“Hey,” I say, then I steal a quick inhale. Today she is cake. She is frosting. She is sugar and everything good in the world, and all those strange sensations descend on me once more as my heart beats weirdly faster.
When we separate, she arches an eyebrow. “What brings you to these environs, stranger? I'm about to close up.”
I clear my throat and thrust the flowers at her.
Her smile grows even bigger. She dips her nose to the petals and inhales. “I love them. My favorite.”
“I'm going to take them home. To make our place cheery,” she says as she heads to the door, locks it, and flips the sign to say “Closed.”
When she turns around to meet my gaze, I sink down at one of the tables and drag a hand through my hair.
“Uh-oh,” she says, joining me and setting down the bouquet. “Bad day at work?”
She brings her chair even closer. “I'm guessing that means a real bad day, not a bad day like someone-at-the-hospital-ate-your-tuna-fish-sandwich-in-the-break-room-fridge bad day?”
“I hate tuna fish sandwiches.”
She laughs. “Me, too.” She takes a beat. “Tell me what happened.”
So I do.
And when I'm done, I feel a hell of a lot better, and lighter, and happier than I did after having drinks with David. No disrespect to the dude. He's a cool cat.
But he's not Josie, and she's quickly become the person I want to talk to.
Scratch that. She's been that person for a long time.
Especially since she's a great listener, and she has access to much better medicine than I do some days. The strawberry shortcake cupcake I eat as we walk home can cure almost any sadness.
, I lie awake in bed.
Darkness has fallen over our home. Moonlight cuts through the blinds, casting stripes of light over the navy bedspread. Outside, a horn bleats and a garbage truck slogs along the avenue, lifting and dumping, lifting and dumping.
I flip to my side, the sheets slipping to my waist.
The green lights on the clock flash 11:55 at me.
But I can't fall asleep easily like I usually do. I can't blame the events at Mercy. I've had to let them go. Tomorrow is another day, and I need to be sharp for whatever comes my way. I'm not a superstitious man, but bad news comes in waves, so I need to be girded for a possible roulette wheel of destruction tomorrow.
So it's not the patientsâmay Blake, and the gunshot guy, too, rest in peaceâthat I'm thinking of anymore.
It's the woman on the other side of this wall. What's keeping me up is the part of me that insisted on seeing her at the end of the day. The part that demanded I go to Sunshine Bakery, that I buy her flowers, that I tell her what happened.
I squeeze my eyes closed, imagining a patient is presenting with the same symptoms I have. What would I conclude?
I list them in my headâheart beating faster unexpectedly, nerves appearing incon-fucking-veniently, desire to see the woman after a shitty day.
When I get to the last one, I stop. On
. Because there's the embodiment of it in my doorway.
In shadows, she stands. She raises her hand and waves. “Hey,” she says softly.
“No. I'm sound asleep.”
She laughs and leans her shoulder against the doorframe. She's in her usual asleep attire. Boy shorts, like the kind you'd find in a Victoria's Secret catalogue. Material as thin as a spider web, and just as wispy. She pairs them with a loose pink scoop-neck shirt. No bra.
I'm so fucking screwed.
I prop my head in my hand. “I thought you were the queen sleeper. What's the story there? Insomnia visiting you?”
She quirks her lips. Holds out her hands. “Lot on my mind.”
I push up higher. “Yeah?”
She fidgets with the hem of her shirt. “I keep thinking about your day.” Then she rolls her eyes. “You know me. Everything is all mushed together.”
“Like cake batter, huh?”
She nods. “I'm all blended,” she says, then mimes mixing up some goodies.
“Do you want to . . . talk?”
“I don't want to keep you up.”
“I'm already up.”
Her eyes drift to my bed. My breath escapes my body. Shit. Fuck. Hell. Heaven. There's no excuse for what I'm about to do. But I do it anyway.
I pat my bed.
A small lift of her lips is her answer.
Then a step forward. Her bare feet pad across my floor. Every moment is a chance to turn back. But every moment she comes closer.
And now she lowers herself to my bed. She's barely wearing anything. I'm only in briefs. She lies on top of the sheets. I'm under them. But she's inches away.
Technically, I can play my mind games with myself. I can rationalize this choice in a simple, logical way. We're still dressed. A sheet separates us. She lies on her back. I'm propped on my side.
But the moonlight, and the hour, and this aching in my chest won't let me lie to myself anymore.
I'm totally fucking tipsy on the possibility. We've hugged, we've touched, we've been like two middle-schoolers tapping shoulders and tickling waists.
Tonight, we're adults in bed.
“I was thinking about your patient tonight.” Her tone is introspective. “You said Blake was thirty-four. And the heart attack was out of the blue. I'm only twenty-eight.”
“You're not going to have a heart attack, Josie.”
“Right. I know. I mean, I think I won't. I don't eat too many treats,” she says with a twinkle in her eyes. Her hand drifts to her belly, and she pats it. “I mean, maybe a few more than I should.”
“Stop it. You're beautiful,” I say before I can think better of it.
She arches a brow. “Really?”
“I could lose five pounds. Maybe ten.”
I roll my eyes. “If you lost five pounds, you wouldn't be you. You're a baker. No one wants a skinny baker. And trust me, wherever these five or ten pounds are that you want to lose, I don't want to see them gone.”
She smiles. “Thank you. The funny thing is, I think I'd regret not tasting and sampling the things I make more than I'd enjoy being five pounds lighter. So, honestly, I'm happy with my five or ten extra, I suppose. I feel like at the end of my life, whether it's at age thirty-four or ninety or twenty-nine, I won't be saying, âI wish I ate less cake.' Or âI wish I had fewer seven-layer bars.' And I don't think I'll be saying, âI should have spent more time on Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat,' either