Chapter Thirteen


I feel Astrid roll out of bed before me when the coffee maker hisses to life the next morning. I’m honestly surprised she spent the whole night in my bed, so I give her a few minutes head start. I’m not sure how this is going to go. What is she thinking?

You could ask her.

I could. I will.

I roll over and pull the blanket over my head and give myself a few minutes to enjoy the delicious ache between my legs, first.

When I pull on my t-shirt and shorts and make my way to the kitchen, I find her in her usual spot next to the coffee maker.

“Good morning,” she says softly as I reach past her for a coffee cup.

“She speaks before the coffee has kicked in,” I tease, leaning in to kiss her neck. “I was wondering if you ever said that.”

“I do,” she murmurs. “On rare occasion.”

“I’m honored.” I grab a muffin and hop onto the counter as I slowly have my breakfast. Ask. Her. Right. “So…last night was fun.”

She blushes and takes another big sip of coffee. “Yes.”

“I don’t want to assume anything about you, but I’d like to do it again.” Now, for example. Later. Now and later.

I get a nod in response. “Me, too.” She finishes her coffee and refills her mug before looking over at me. “You’re welcome to stay with me for a while in Vancouver, too.” She frowns. “There’s a lot of work to be done in prepping for a show. I have one next month, the Four Seasons show, but I’m hoping I can find a space to host Climb a Mountain sooner than later. A test installation, so to speak, before I shop it around to formal galleries. It’s not normally how things are done, but I won’t be sure about the impact until I actually do it. So there’s lots of work if you…”

She trails off as I shake my head. “I appreciate the offer, but I’ve made a commitment to the winter adventure camp. They’re expecting me to start next week.” I don’t want to work for her. I want to fuck her. Those two things are mutually exclusive in my books. “But it would be great to keep in touch.”

“Sure,” she says, a little too carefully. “Of course.”

I finish my muffin in two quick bites, then hop off the counter and snuggle up against her side. I wiggle my fingers under her shirt and stroke the soft flat of her belly. “I don’t want this to just be one night, although if that’s what you want, I’ll understand.”

She clears her throat. “That would be the smart thing to do.” 

“It’s not what we’re going to do, though, right?” I run my nose over the soft skin of her neck. “Because there’s a lot you still need to show me.”

That gets me a groan, and I grin with glee.

“My flight out is day after tomorrow. Let’s cram as much sex as we can in before that, and then worry about future hook-ups later. We’ll keep it easy and simple.”

“In my experience, extended affairs are rarely either of those.” She says it gently, but it still stings a bit.

“I know. I’ve had my share of relationships.”

“How about heartbreak?”

I lean back so I can see her face. “Less of that.”

She gives me a half-smile. “Lucky girl.”

“You won’t break my heart, Astrid.”

She laughs at that and cups my face. “I know. But you could break mine.”

I feel my eyes widen. “Oh.” My heart catches in my throat, but before I can respond, she’s tugged me close for a kiss.

“Don’t worry about that,” she says against my lips. “I know what this is, and what it isn’t.”

Does she? Great. Because I have no clue.

But her heart isn’t the only one that’s on the line. As heat swirls around us, as we make-out against the counter until the floor is littered with clothes and I’m riding her hand, I think, I just lied to you. I didn’t mean to…

And then thinking is over for a while.


We arrive back in Vancouver in the late afternoon. Astrid unloads her photography gear and I offer to do the copious laundry we’ve brought back with us.

Two hours later she finds me in her utility room—which is nicer than my last three bathrooms, all shiny tile, with an old-fashioned porcelain sink in between the washer and dryer, and a separate counter for folding clothes.

“How goes the laundry battle?” she asks, leaning against the doorframe. Her hair is loose and damp, and her eyes are bright. She looks relaxed and happy, a totally different woman than the one who picked me up at the airport.

Did I do that?

Was it the time in the mountains?

Maybe both. Maybe it’s all a very good, very hot combination.

“Almost done. Last load is in the dryer now.” I pat the top of the warm machine, vibrating productively under my hand.

“Good. What do you want for dinner?”

It’s such an ordinary, delightfully mundane question. Also the first time she’s actually asked me, rather than just fetching food she hopes I’ll tolerate, no pineapple in sight.

But it’s not the real question that hangs in the air between us. Are we on a dinner countdown? Do we need to make this special because it might not happen again? I’ve been thinking about that all day.

I need to go, if only to give myself some time to be clear on what I want. But also because I asked for a job, and I made a commitment, and I can’t be selfish twice in one year.

“I don’t know what to do for dinner. Or with my life, either,” I admit. “The last bit is a total over-share, sorry.”

“Has that been on your mind?” She crosses to me and holds out her arms.

I fold against her and soak up the warmth of her embrace. “I guess so. Enough that I just blurted it out.”

“I have a crazy idea,” she says as she tugs on my hair, like she wants to hold on tight but she’s not going to let herself.

Hold on tight. Do it. I can’t tell her that yet, but I will, one day. “I like crazy.”

“Go and don’t think twice about it.”

“That is crazy.”

She shakes her head. “You said it yourself. You have things you need to do. Go and do them, and figure out whatever is troubling you. Plus, this is new for you. I’m…different.”

“Do you mean difficult?” I tease her. “Because that is a change-up from the people I’ve dated before.”

She fights back a smile. “And how many of them have been women?”

“Are we counting the girl I kissed in seventh grade?”

“No.” Her eyes soften. “But that’s adorable.”

I sigh. “Okay.”

“It’s not just that. I’ve clung too tightly in the past.” She presses her lips together, into a firm, white little line. Then she blows out a quick, resolved breath. “I want you to find your own joy. And if it’s anywhere near a mountain, you let me know, and I’ll come visit.”

“I will. But I’m not gone yet. I’m going to enjoy the last couple of days here with you.”


I grin as I nudge her back until she bumps into the dryer. “And I know exactly what I want to eat for dinner.”

“What’s that?”

I press against her and brush my lips along her jaw. “You.” 

She smells like simple, clean soap, and the faint scent of lemons and thyme from her fancy laundry detergent surrounds us. How did I manage to get to twenty-three before realizing that going down on Astrid surrounded by clean laundry was my hottest fantasy ever?

“Hop up,” I whisper as I push her sweatpants over her hips and fill my palms with the soft round curves of her bare ass.

She sets her hands on the dryer and jumps, squeaking as her bottom hits the vibrating metal.

Yes. Amazing. I strip her pants fully away from her legs, then lift them up so her heels are right on the edge.

“Whoa,” she says, laughing, as she leans back. The dryer beeps at her in protest.

But this is perfect. Her legs spread for me, revealing the wet, slick seam of her pussy. My own sex pulses as l reach out and stroke between her curls. I’ve touched her already, but I haven’t kissed her there, and for a second, my head swims with the prospect of it.

This is different than giving a guy head.

Way better. Like, no comparison. I’ve never wanted to crawl out of my skin in excitement at the thought of dick in my mouth. But warm, soft pussy?

Maybe Astrid is right to think of me as an overgrown puppy. It’s like I’m a hormone-laden teenager all over again. But this time I’ve found exactly the right person to discover hot sex with.

I kiss her thigh first. I don’t mind if she knows I’m a little nervous, so I linger there, licking and sucking at her skin as I breathe in her scent.

It turns me on. Astrid turns me on, I already know that with full confidence, but this is something else, something more primal and elemental I’ve never experienced before. I nose closer, sliding my arms around her hips until we’re tangled together on top of the dryer and my mouth is against her pussy lips.

Without any conscious thought, my lips part and my tongue slides out. The first taste of her wetness makes me gasp. I vaguely hear Astrid say something like good or gentle, and I agree on both points.

This is good, and I promise to be gentle. 

I lick again, the unique flavour of her making my mouth water. More licks, over and over again, until my face is buried between her legs and she’s writhing hard. I explore every frill and fold, each plump lip and then deeper, her slick entrance.

I remember her question from last night. I lift my head and find her gaze hot and piercing as she watches me from beneath hooded eyelids.

“Do you like a finger?”

She smiles. “One or two. Not too deep.”

Got it. I dive back in, teasing her hole with my tongue before gently circling the same spot with my fingertips.

Need curls up hard inside me. Need to make her come, to please her, to make a memory that will last us both through a long, cold winter.

I’m coming back to you, I promise. This isn’t the end. It’s too soon to say that out loud. And I might be lust-drunk. That’s a serious possibility.

But as her thighs tighten around my head, as I lick up every drop of her climax on top of her dryer, I don’t care if this is fantasy or reality.


Keep reading in chapter 14

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