The Tomas branch had been giving the Madrigals grief as usual, and Amy was the one who had to deal with them. The Tomas made her more anxious than any other branch – at least with the Lucians she only had to deal with Ian, whom she got along with, even if he was an egotistical twit. It seemed like the Tomas liked to involve all high-ranking members in their meetings, not just their leader.
The chat had ended with her almost in tears and wishing Fiske wasn’t in Switzerland so she wouldn’t have to deal with this by herself.
And that was just the beginning of a bad day.
When she got home, the only thing in the fridge that even remotely looked like food turned out to be the amygdala of an orangutan’s brain – courtesy of Sinead’s aggression studies. Then, she found out that Dan hadn’t cleaned up the living room like she’d asked, so she was forced to pick up the most disgusting things imaginable while the teenager who made the mess was God knows where.
By the time the party – luckily, professionally decorated and catered – was in full swing, she was exhausted and had already downed two glasses of champagne. She was tired of everyone asking her how the meeting had gone. She was so stressed she even yelled at Hamilton, who was only trying to help her feel better. She ran from that awkward situation, only to find herself in another one: staring at her 18-year-old brother while he felt up Natalie Kabra. Suddenly, she felt nauseated, and egressed before the odd couple saw her.
And that’s how she came to be lying in the grass at the end of their property, willing the awful day to be over and the party to come to an end. Not too much to ask, right?
She’d just closed her eyes and let the world dissolve away, when the light crunch of approaching footsteps reached her ears.
“Dan,” She grunted, “go back to snogging the Queen of England, why don’t you?”
“I didn’t think Her Highness was at this party.” Ian Kabra’s voice floated down to her and she groaned inwardly.
“Go away,” she shut her eyes again, “My day has already been horrible without you interfering.”
“Why would I do that?” She could practically hear the smirk in his voice as he sat down next to her.
Maybe if I ignore him, he’ll leave, she thought.
“I brought you this,” he said and she opened one eye to see him holding out a blanket, “I saw you walk out here and I thought you might get cold.”
“Oh, really?” She sat up, “stop acting like you care, Kabra.”
“I’m wounded,” he put his hand on his heart in feigned hurt, “here I am trying to do something nice for you and all you do is insult me.”
He grinned at her rolling eyes and she shoved his shoulder lightly.
“Thanks,” She took the blanket and draped it across her legs, “I was kind of chilly.”
He nodded, “do you mind if I share?”
“I knew this was somehow selfish.” She sighed, “if you’re still trying to get me to fall into bed with you, it’s not working.”
She lifted a corner of the blanket for him, “But I will let you under the blanket.”
“Now we’re getting somewhere.” He scooted over and spread the blanket over the both of them. Then, he slipped his arm around her waist. She jumped slightly.
“Ok, love?” He smirked down at her.
“Fine. Just ticklish.” She told him, “But it’s still not working.”
“Why must you be so bloody stubborn?”
“Why can’t you just ask me on a date like a normal person?”
“Because you’d reject me immediately,” he gave her a knowing look, “besides, we’ve been through too much together.”
“Yeah,” She laughed bitterly, “betrayal, heartbreak…”
“Sharks, psychotic mothers...” He grimaced.
“Hey!” she tried to glare at him but her mouth curled into a smile instead, “Evan was and is a wonderful person, thank you.”
“That doesn’t mean he wasn’t a stalker, too.”
“Oh, stop!” She laughed, and stole a glance at Ian. He was smiling at her. No smug smirk, no teasing grin—genuinely smiling.
“Wow,” she smiled back, “I’m actually enjoying being with you.”
“Who would have thought?” He said, “Well, I did, but you never listened.”
She rolled her eyes, “I’m just teasing you.”
“Really?” His eyes widened in mock-surprise, “I had no idea.”
She smiled again and watched as his lips curved into a familiar form. His eyes seemed softer than she remembered, or maybe that was just the lack of bright lighting. Either way, she wasn’t lying when she said she was having a good time talking with him. Why couldn’t he be nice more often?
He was Ian Kabra. All business since he could speak. Trained to baffle, manipulate, and condescend—not to offer blankets and heartmelting smiles.
Yet, currently, he was gazing at her almost shyly—almost.
He lifted his hand and brushed his index finger across her cheek, “You had an eyelash…”
“Oh…um,” She ducked her head to hide her reddening cheeks, “thanks.”
Once again they sat in silence, only this time they were deliberately looking away from one another.
Amy watched as Hamilton and Jonah pretended to tango to the loud music coming from the backyard, but their antics weren’t as funny as they usually were.
Ian looked down at his hands, thinking forlornly about the girl next to him, and blew the eyelash into the night.
She glanced over at him when he was turning back to her and covered it up by looking at her watch.
“I think Sinead and her brothers are starting the fireworks soon.” She said.
“I hope they didn’t let Daniel help…” he frowned, “Remember last year?”
“How could I forget?” She shuddered, recalling the damage, “I think half the guests ended up being treated for second-degree burns.”
He laughed, “It was really bad.”
“You know,” she picked at a thread on the blanket, “you should do that more often.”
He looked at her questioningly, and she elaborated—
“Laugh.” She grinned, “You should laugh more.”
He shook his head, “There’s not much humor in my life. Irony, yes, but nothing truly comical.”
“Hm. I know another way to get you to laugh,” she leaned in closer and whispered, “I heard from a reliable source that you’re extremely ticklish.”
For a second Ian’s entire body tensed, then, of course, he denied the allegation, but that one second was all that was needed to confirm the tip.
Amy’s fingers attacked his right side as he struggled to get away. He was smiling, but clearly trying to hide the fact judging by the way his mouth kept contorting. She was so much smaller than him, but it was still a labor to get out of her arms—especially when he didn’t particularly want to—but as soon as he’d ceased laughing enough to escape, he ran.
And, of course, she was right behind him. He rolled his eyes as he glanced back—the girl couldn’t give anything up. She wasn’t that far behind either, just a few paces, really. She’d gotten a bit tangled in the blanket and so he had the head start. He slowed down to a jog and let her catch up with him—knowing she wasn’t the type to pounce on him.
“You,” she panted, coming to an equally slow pace next to him, “are awful.”
He chuckled and started to retort when she yelled, “Race you to the lake!”
And took off down the hill, leaves spinning in her wake.
They collapsed a few feet from the lake, both runners declaring themselves the victor.
“How about a tie?” Amy asked.
“Never,” Ian shook his head, “I won fairly.”
“We’ll settle this a different way then.” She looked over the lake in front of them, “How cold do you think the water is?”
He furrowed his eyebrows, not liking where this was going at all.
“I suppose it’s around 50 degrees,” He answered, “a bit cooler than the air surrounding it.”
She nodded, “So, here’s the tie-breaker: whoever stays in longest wins.”
You have got to be kidding… he thought, but as she grinned at him in the darkness, he knew she was perfectly serious. She had probably swum in the lake many times growing up, maybe even in the fall when it had to be at least 10 degrees less than now.
But, like the fool he was, he agreed. Though he was a bit distressed by the prospect of swimming in a lake with god-knows-what lurking underneath his feet.
He helped Amy off the grass and turned toward the water once more. Here goes nothing…
“So, when are we going—What are you doing?” He interrupted himself as he watched the girl next to him begin to unbutton her shirt.
“You didn’t think we would go swimming in our clothes, did you?” She asked, looking up at him like he was the one stripping in front of her, “We have to have dry clothes to put back on, after all.”
His mouth felt suddenly dry as her shirt dropped to the grass. Even though the only light out was the full moon, he could patently see the lace of her bra and the shadows making up her cleavage. He shook his head slightly to clear it and began on his own shirt buttons. He wasn’t about to be shown up by the usually shy bookworm.
When he was down to his boxers—and bloody freezing—Amy asked him to turn around.
“What?” He glanced up, noting that her undergarments didn’t match each other. His ex-girlfriend would never have gone out of her flat without matching lingerie—even if no one was going to see it. Amy seemed not to care that her bra was lacy and white, but her knickers were black. And honestly, he didn’t care either—her undergarments could have featured dinosaurs—the fact that she was standing before him half-naked was really all he could focus on. It wasn’t that she was what one might normally call sexy—quite the contrary, actually. She was on the petite side, lightly toned from martial arts training, with small breasts and freckles across her chest, and somehow that made her all the more attractive.
“Just…just turn around please.”
He sighed and twisted around so that he was facing the house. It seemed so far away; the laughter coming from the party was now barely audible. He wondered what everyone thought they were doing, or if anyone even knew they were gone.
And, then there was a splash.
Ian spun around and stared at the pile of clothing where Amy was previously standing. In addition to a plaid shirt and denim shorts, a pair of mismatched undergarments now lay on the grass.
“Well,” Amy’s voice travelled across the water, “are you coming in?”
He chuckled to himself, and added his boxers to the pile, not even bothering to ask the girl in the lake to close her eyes—it was dark, and he really didn’t care if she did see. Though from the way she stared, seconds before she dove underwater, it was clear that she cared.
His feet touched the water and immediately he regretted making the deal—it was fucking cold. Not cool, or chilly, but icy. He had to grin and bear it, though. Having Amy of all people think he was a coward would be agony.
“So,” he waded in until the water reached his ribcage, “frozen yet?”
Amy, a few feet away in obviously deeper water, shook her head and grinned.
“I’m used to this,” She said, “Dan and I used to go polar-bearing in the winter.”
The tops of her shoulders and her head were the only parts of her that were visible. To say Ian was disappointed would be an understatement.
He swam over to where she was, coming up right beside her. He could see her blushing even in the dimness of the night, but she didn’t break his gaze.
God, how he wanted to touch her! Not even in a sensual way, just run his fingers through her hair, or trace her jaw with his thumb. What was stopping him, really? Absolutely nothing—except himself. Maybe he was a coward. No, no, he wasn’t. The women that he’d been out with before certainly didn’t think that.
Around every other girl he managed to be charming, persuasive, and arrogant—but around Amy Cahill? He was still charming, but she was never charmed. He was still persuasive, but she was never swayed. The arrogance was there, too, of course, but she was always able to tear that wall down. So what was it that made her so different?
He was so engrossed in his internal argument that he failed to notice the sudden impish gleam in the jade irises he was staring into. A glacial wave of water hit him in the chest, forcing him to come back to the present.
“Did you just splash me?” He asked, even though the answer was quite obvious.
Amy shrugged playfully and started to deny it, but Ian had already begun to take revenge. A big splash of water rolled over her head and she sputtered angrily.
“It’s only fair, love.”
He grinned and watched as she came closer to him, her eyes still shining wickedly. She stopped wading directly in front of him, her nose level with his shoulders. He gazed down at her, mirroring her mischievous expression. His pulse jumped when he discovered that the tops of her breasts were now visible, but he resisted the urge to stare. She lifted her arm out of the water, holding her hand parallel to his cheek, as if she intended to pull him to her for a kiss.
For second, Ian thought that was what she was, in fact, going to do. Then, he realized that she would never be so forward. Unfortunately, this observation came too late and before he could prevent it, he was dunked underwater.
When he came up, coughing up a bit of water, Amy was waving to him from the shore.
As soon as his feet touched the grass again, he found his clothing being shoved at him. Amy, looking away, pushed his trousers into his hands mumbling something about him being indecent.
He rolled his eyes, but complied nonetheless. He sat down on the blanket she’d dragged with her during their little game of tag and noticed what she was wearing—
“That’s my shirt.”
She ducked her head, “Mine got a little wet…”
He shrugged. He certainly wasn’t about to tell her she couldn’t wear it. Especially since looking at her right now was like seeing one of his teenage fantasies come to life—her wet hair dripping onto the white cotton, making it apparent that she hadn’t put back on her bra; her naked legs stretched out in front of her, her thighs disappearing underneath the Oxford-cloth…
It was mesmerizing. Yet, so ordinary.
He scooted closer to her, noting that she didn’t move away at all this time, and decided to be upfront for once. After all, she had just bared everything, even if most of it was never fully visible—honesty was only fair.
“What are you doing tomorrow night?” He asked, leaning in to her.
She raised her eyebrows, “Nothing. Why?”
“I have tickets to this exhibit at the Met,” He said, grinning at her, “it’s on the Australopithecus species.”
She looked at him, expression turning from intrigued to puzzled, “Why would you want to go see that?”
“I wouldn’t,” He smirked, “but you would.”
She blinked a few times before spitting out, “But—what do you mean ‘I would’?”
He sighed. What was so hard to get?
“Look,” he said, eyes locking with hers, “I got them for you. Do you understand?”
She frowned at him, narrowing her eyes, “I’m not an idiot, Ian…”
“I just…” She looked down at her hands, and then glanced back up, “why did you do it?”
He watched her hands fidget in her lap for a few moments before reaching over and lacing his fingers through hers.
“I can’t just do something nice for you?”
She shook her head, but didn’t remove her hand from his, “You always have an ulterior motive.”
“Fine. You’re right.” He rubbed his thumb on the inside of her wrist, “Do you know what my motivation is?”
“Behind getting tickets for an exhibition on a long-extinct humanoid race?” She cocked an eyebrow, “You must really want to sleep with me.”
“A bit full of yourself, aren’t you?”
“N-no! That’s just what you’ve been trying for since we were seventeen…”
“Actually, I’ve wanted to shag you since my sixteenth birthday,” he smiled, “but that’s a little irrelevant at the moment.”
He let go of her hand and placed his palm on her jaw instead, tilting her face toward his, “I’m trying to ask you on a date, like a normal person.”
“O-oh?” Her voice softened, “I suppose that might be nice…”
“Is that a yes, then?” His other arm had found its way around her back when she wasn’t paying attention, and her face was now mere inches away from him.
She nodded, “Yes, I’d like that.”
Before he could celebrate, however, her eyes narrowed again—
“I still think you have some sort of pretense.”
“I do,” the mischievous glint resurfaced, “but it isn’t what you think.”
“What is it then?”
He smirked, and leaned in to fill those extra few inches.
Her lips still felt the way they did when he’d stolen her first kiss at age fourteen—hesitant and slightly chapped—only this time, the kiss proceeded beyond .4 seconds.
Amy ceased her reluctance rather quickly and responded by pressing one hand against his chest and the other on the back of his neck, tugging gingerly on his hair. There was something so innocent about the gesture, as if it was simply the only thing she knew to do with her hands at that juncture. Whatever her motivation, he took it as a chance to intensify the kiss and pulled her into his lap. A small squeak came out of her mouth at the sudden movement, but she didn’t protest the change in position. Relished it, rather, as she adjusted herself to straddling his thighs.
“Have you done this before?” He asked, breaking the kiss momentarily.
She shook her head, “I mean, I’ve kissed guys before obviously—”
She glared at him playfully, then bit her lip, “but n-not like this…”
“Well,” he brushed his fingers across her cheek, “you seem to be quite the natural then.”
She mumbled as she leaned to continue kissing him, “Maybe I’m just good at pleasing people…”