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A small, black, velvet box sits in the middle of the table next to the remnants of half-eaten pizza and empty drink glasses. Remnants of lunch litter the surface of the pizza joint’s Formica table top. His eyes dart around the inconspicuous items, feigning interest as he picks up each of the usual trappings, in turn, to study it carefully; doing anything to avoid looking at the compact object that contains the end to all his hopes and dreams.

“I’m going to do it,” Yoosung declares nervously, wiping his palms on the fabric of his jeans.

“Do what?” Luciel inquires, doing his best to stall for time. His heart is in his throat, panic making his hands tremble. It’s not as if this comes as a surprise to him. MC has been dating Yoosung for years now and everyone knew marriage was inevitable. So what if she and Luciel spent many nights together goofing off? Designated movie night had become a thing a year ago when they both discovered their taste in flicks was the same. Horror movies were something Yoosung could not tolerate, so she and the horror fanatic would spend one night a week at his place, cramming in as many features as possible until their eyes drooped in exhaustion. Hell, she had even ended up crashing on his couch more times than he could count.

Those nights were the best of his life. Unable to sleep with her in the next room, he would sit in the large armchair situated across from the sofa and watch as she slumbered. Always careful, his eyes would observe her; how peacefully her chest rose and fell, and how a lovely smile would grace her lips at whatever dream she was having. Of course, he knew this was creepy behavior, but he couldn’t seem to help himself. After doing this for the third time, he had to admit to himself that he loves her. Not in a friendly, brotherly way, but in a head over heels, would lay down his life to keep her safe kind of way. He dared tell no one his feelings, not even her; especially not her. At least not yet.

Yoosung is his best friend and loves her more than life itself. Can Luciel really try to steal away the one thing that’s managed to make his friend turn his life around? On the other hand, can he really sit back and watch his friend bind himself permanently to the only woman Luciel has ever loved; ever will love? If she marries his best friend, can Luciel really continue to live the life he’s worked so hard to build here?

“I’m finally going to ask MC to marry me,” Yoosung breathes, leaning forward the slightest bit. He reaches out and opens the small box, nudging it closer to his friend. “I’m almost done with school and soon will be able to provide for her as I should. Already, I’ve received a job offer with a small clinic in the next town; as long as I pass the final test that is,” he chuckles, adjusting his red-framed spectacles.

Luciel says nothing as he picks up the light box and examines the ring nestled in its pillow of velvet. He dare not touch the delicate piece of jewelry but twists the box around in his hand to peer at it from all angles. There is no doubt that it’s a beautiful ring. The medium sized diamond is set in a rose gold setting of a flower by the same name, while smaller stones line each side in a slight curve.

Yes, the ring is perfect, but not for MC. Luciel knows she will hate it the moment she lays eyes on it. Her words echo in his memory. Yellow or rose gold is so...gaudy. Give me white gold or platinum any day...better yet, silver! Who needs to spend a fortune on diamonds when cubic zirconia looks exactly the same?

He can’t remember what started the conversation about jewelry, but he’s always kept that snippet of her preferences filed away in her own personal folder in his head. How did I let this get so far without saying anything? Because he’s a secret agent unallowed to forge any meaningful connections with people; much less even dream of taking a wife. Already, he can hear Vanderwood’s lecture. God knows he’s heard it enough. Finally, to save the older man’s breath, Seven built a robotic parrot to recite the supervisor’s spiel on demand, controlled remotely by Seven himself. Sadly, Vanderwood didn’t appreciate his efforts but since the metal bird also flies, there’s not much he can do to destroy it.

But what if? Luciel allows himself to wonder. What if I could get away from the agency? I have the ways and means to keep us hidden and safe. If push came to shove, I could just sell my babies. That should keep us flush for years. Instead, he sets the box back down on the table’s surface and musters a smile. “Congrats, man! When are you planning to pop the question?”

Yoosung licks his dry lips, his already big eyes growing larger. “Well, that’s where you come in.”

“You want me to ask her for you? What are we; in middle school?”

“No!” the mildly juvenile man denies then chuckles nervously as he glances around at the other patrons. “There’s a special place I want to ask her but I’ll need you to pick her up and bring her there. My night vision isn’t the greatest and I don’t want to take the chance that I mess this up.”

The intensity of Luciel’s heartbeat almost drowns out his friend’s words. Not only is he losing her to his best friend, but now has to be a participant to his own heartbreak? His hands begin shredding the abundance of greasy, balled up napkins littering the table, his mind trying to think of something, anything, to get him out of this situation. He’s been infatuated with her ever since she appeared in their private chat room so long ago and most definitely in love with her since he met her at the first RFA party she attended. Grainy CCTV footage and the occasional phone call could have never prepared him for the reality of just how lovely she was in person.

Laying eyes on her laughing face made him think that maybe it was possible to escape the dangerous life he led. For her, he could find a way.

But Yoosung stepped up from the very beginning. Getting past his obsession with the cousin he worshipped and transferring that unhealthy affliction to MC. Sure, Luciel wanted them both to be happy, but at what cost? Not many had witnessed the anger and jealousy Yoosung keeps so well hidden. Could she be the one to soothe that demon inside him?

“Dude, I would love to help you out; I really would, but I am buried in work with Vanderwood up my ass every minute of the day. I was only able to sneak out now because he fell asleep on my couch. Why don’t you ask her while the sun is still out if your vision is the only obstacle?”

“It has to be tonight,” Yoosung insists, setting his elbows on the table. “It’s the anniversary of the night I asked her to be my girlfriend. I’ve planned everything down to the exact minute we became a couple. Tonight is that movie thing you guys do right? I know you always pick her up around seven so just do that but bring her to me instead of your house.”

Luciel’s brows furrow in confusion. That’s not until tomorrow night. We always do movies on Friday. Wait… He pulls out his phone and checks the date. Sure enough, he’s managed to lose a day. Suddenly, he recalls the forty-eight hour stretch of time he worked almost non-stop to ensure he would have this very night free to spend with her. His days must have become confused after the deep slumber those two days caused.

“Come on, Seven, please,” his close friend pleads, his widened stare conveying his desperation. “You’re the only one I trust with her.”

You wouldn’t if you knew how often I jerk off to her. Luciel’s guilt at the attraction he’s powerless to subdue eats at him as his friend silently implores him. No matter which way he looks at this situation, he’s screwed. Whatever loyalty he has left to Yoosung compels him to agree, even though that drive makes his chest ache in misery. The only thing she’s ever going to be is a fantasy to you, Luciel. Get your shit together.

Heaving a sigh, Luciel rubs his tired eyes, displacing his spectacles in the process. “So you need me to pick her up and take her where, exactly?”

Seeing victory in sight, Yoosung leans forward in excitement. “You know that park near the university?” At his friend’s nod, he continues. “In the very back, there’s a picnic table almost completely concealed by trees and hedges. It’s kind of hard to find if you don’t know where to look, but I’ll be standing in the open so you can see me.”

“Why there?” Luciel questions, baffled at the specificity of the location. Yoosung blushes, his gaze dropping to the dotted Formica and he suddenly understands. Jesus, can this get any worse? “Seriously? Your first time was in a public park?”

The younger of the two clears his throat awkwardly and shifts in his seat. “It...well...things just got...out of hand,” the conscience-stricken man mumbles, tripping over his words. His eyes dart up to the front door and the color in his face deepens. He snatches the ring box and shoves it into his satchel, his hands fumbling with nerves. “Don’t say anything,” he whispers with urgency, “about... anything .”

Luciel turns to see MC pushing through the restaurant’s glass door, a broad smile decorating her face. His eyes inconspicuously travel the length of her body. He admires the fullness of her breasts that strain against the buttons of the sleeveless blouse she wears and the gentle sway of her hips as she makes her way to their table. There isn’t one thing about her appearance that doesn’t drive a bolt of lust through him. Visions of wrapping her long ponytail around his fist to hold her in place as he kisses her until they’re both breathless and wanting flash in his mind. Blood rushes to his groin and he swiftly turns away, pretending nonchalance as she ruffles his hair in greeting.Leaning down she gives Yoosung a peck on the lips.

“Ready for tonight?” Her stare paralyzes Luciel, the beauty of her face rendering him temporarily speechless. “I have a list of movies that are going to make you pee your pants in fright!”

“Says the girl who was so scared last week, she wouldn’t go to the bathroom by herself,” Luciel counters with a grin, thankful to have found his voice and that it sounded normal enough. It wouldn’t do for Yoosung to get the barest hint of his feelings for her. Not if he ever wants to be near her again.

Yoosung’s brows lower in concern. “You went to the bathroom with her?”

“He stood outside the door,” MC answers quickly, laying a hand on her boyfriend’s shoulder in reassurance. “Seven was very gallant,” she comments with a soft smile.

Luciel’s face warms at her praise, his heart beating so fast he fears it may give out. As he watches, Yoosung stands and offers her his chair. He grabs another from a nearby table and crowds in beside her, sitting so close their shoulders touch. God, Yoosung, give the woman some room to breathe. She begins talking about her new job as a graphic designer, her excitement and passion for the new position eliciting a grin from Luciel. He’s never seen her so animated about anything before, and he’s thrilled that she’s found a career that she appears to enjoy immensely.

Soon he loses track of what she’s saying, too lost in the sweet cadence of her voice. It washes over him, making him imagine things he has no business thinking. His thoughts don’t consist only of what it would be like to feel her underneath him, moaning as he stretches her inch by inch until he is fully enveloped by her wet heat. While those lewd fantasies do visit him all too often, he also dreams of what it would be like to wake up in the mornings with her in his arms. To hear her greet him still half asleep, her beautiful voice low and drowsy. He yearns to know what it feels like to fall asleep next to her, the scent of her filling his senses as he drifts into more dreams of her. Every second of every day is what he wants with her and it’s something he can never have.

I bet her lips are so soft. He stares at her mouth as she continues talking, fascinated with the shape and movement of them. Thoughts of kissing her flood his mind; his curiosity about her technique overtaking his good sense. If Yoosung catches him staring at her so intently, there’s no telling how he will react. Jealousy is a given, but the seething anger that seems to control him when he feels threatened is much more of a concern to Luciel. Stop staring at her mouth. His eyes drop to her chest of their own accord and he groans inwardly.

That’s not any better! He scolds himself mercilessly, but his eyes stay fixed on the gentle swell of her breasts. A hint of cleavage can be seen peeking out of the unbuttoned portion of her blouse. Luciel’s body responds to the daydreams that glimpse fuels, but still, he cannot seem to make himself look away. ...I wonder what color her bra is? Is it sexy or cute? I bet it’s something cute...everything about her is cute...and sexy. God, she’s perfect.

His eyes flick back up to her mouth, his body beginning to overheat with the improper images that continue to assault him. She licks her lips and the brief peek of her pink tongue invokes a yearning so strong, Luciel fears he may expire by spontaneous combustion. Jesus, get it together, Luciel… But her mouth is beautiful… I wonder what it would look like wrapped around my-

“...Seven?” she’s speaking to him and his eyes instantly dart up to meet hers. “Earth to Seven,” she giggles, waving a hand slowly in front of his face. The sound of her laughter does nothing to calm the inferno threatening to turn him to ash. It feeds the flames, and his groin begins to ache with unfulfilled desire. For an instant, he can swear he sees his hunger mirrored in her gaze, but it’s gone in an instant.

“Do you have a stomach ache?” Yoosung asks, his face concerned.

“Huh? No, why?” Luciel replies, confusion and lust making his comprehension sluggish.

“You groaned like you were in pain,” the disquieted male answers.

Shit. Time to go. “Uh...no...I just remembered...I forgot to submit my reports. Vanderwood is going to kill me if I don’t get back and do that.”

Still, he remains seated, realizing if he stands the massive erection he currently possesses will be impossible to hide. Just once, can I be around her and not react like a twelve-year-old who just hit puberty? How am I supposed to get rid of this boner when she’s staring at me with those eyes? Doesn’t she realize what she does to me? ...How is she supposed to know that, dumbass? He shifts in his chair, trying to relieve some of the pressure his jeans are inflicting. His eyes meet hers once again, and again he sees a brief flash of desire peeking through the innocence of her smile.

I’m imagining things. It’s the only plausible explanation for the fleeting looks he’s reading in her gaze. But what if I’m not? That’s the question that keeps him awake at night. This isn’t the first time he’s thought she was gazing at him with something other than platonic fondness. It has happened again and again, and it’s always so brief that he can’t be sure if it’s something that’s really there or wishful thinking. For the sake of everyone, he’s erred on the side of caution and assumed it is an invention of his own mind.

He opens his mouth to stall for time when Yoosung suddenly stands. “Shoot! I’m going to be late for class,” he explains apologetically, slinging his satchel over his head and leaning down to drop a kiss on the top of her head. “Sorry I couldn’t stay longer. Take care of my girl, Seven.”

The college student rushes from the restaurant, leaving Luciel staring at MC, his mind completely devoid of anything to say. She stares at him with a slight grin, her eyebrows raised. It’s obvious she’s waiting for him to say something but his thoughts are slippery and impossible to hold on to. In desperation, he blurts out the first coherent words he can grasp.

“I like your bra.” His eyes sink closed in mortification, his face on fire as helpless giggles begin sounding from her side of the table. That’s one way to kill my hard on. “Your blouse. I mean I like your blouse.

She leans forward and glances back and forth before whispering. “It’s black with black and white cats printed on it.” Luciel stares at her in confusion as she pulls down one of the unbuttoned ends of her blouse to reveal the edge of her bra.

I knew it...sexy and cute. Though his view was fleeting, the image of the smooth curve of her breast above the lacy trim of her undergarment is burned into his brain. Abort! Abort! Get your ass out of here before your dick gets hard again! ...But I can’t . Time alone with her once a week isn’t nearly enough. When am I going to get a chance like this again? It’s almost like we’re on a date… God, you’re pathetic, Luciel.

“Don’t tell Yoosung I just did that,” she pleads, her cheeks pink. “Even though it covers more than a bathing suit, he’d still blow a fuse if he knew you’ve seen my underwear.”

Luciel tries to smile, hoping the quivering of his lips is not noticeable. Being here with her like this is killing him. He wants to grab her hand that rests on the table’s surface and hold it tight; to run his fingertips over the soft skin on the back of that hand. “It’s our little secret,” he manages to say in a somewhat controlled voice, though he can’t disguise the thickness of it.

“Thanks, Seven,” she says gratefully and glances at her phone. “I still have a bunch of errands to run. Pick me up at the usual time?”

“I'll be there.”

“Seven at seven,” she grins, the color in her face deepening. “My favorite part of the week.”

Before he can form a reply, she’s on her feet and leaning down to give him a peck on the cheek. Her lips come dangerously close to the corner of his mouth and he forces himself to remain motionless. What he really wants to do is turn his head and capture her mouth with his; kiss her until they both forget who and where they are. Too soon it’s over and all he’s left with is the lingering whiff of her perfume.

“Smooth, mister,” a middle school aged boy smirks in Luciel’s direction. The red-headed agent glares at the young man and pulls out his wallet to toss some bills onto the table’s surface.

“Shut it,” he warns the boy then tousles his hair to take the sting out of his words. “Let that be an example of how not to talk to a girl.”

Luciel leaves the restaurant and once he’s outside, takes a deep, cleansing breath. “My favorite part of the week”... Mine too, MC...mine too.

 

********

Six hours later Luciel parks in front of the small duplex where MC resides and taps the horn twice in quick succession. She pops outside so quickly, he has to wonder if she wasn’t waiting for his arrival with her hand on the doorknob. In the time since she left him at the pizza place, he’s given himself numerous pep talks. However, no matter how convincing he sounded, safe at home, everything he’s managed to persuade himself into believing flies right out the window when he sets eyes on her.

It’s apparent, even from a distance, that she’s taken extra time with her appearance tonight. Instead of the usual jeans and t-shirts used to seeing her in on these nights together, he’s surprised to see the short black skater skirt that floats around the top of her thighs. The blush pink crop top with white leaf print she sports reveals a sliver of bare skin below it. She turns to lock the front door, and the flesh revealed by the criss-cross tie back makes his mouth dry.

There’s no way she’s wearing a bra with that. He swallows hard at the thought, his eyes falling to her chest as she finally skips down the steps. The slight bounce of her breasts as she lands on the walkway and makes her way towards him confirms his suspicion. I’m so fucked.

“Hi!” she greets him with enthusiasm as she slides into the bucket seat of the expensive car.

The smell of her body wash tickles his nose, the light scent of coconut provoking images of her lying on the beach. His mind dresses her in the skimpiest bikini it can conjure, and he averts his eyes in an attempt to stem the rapid flow of blood to his crotch. It does no good, however, and his cock begins to harden as his fantasy takes on a life of its own. His imagination turns her to her stomach, her hands reaching back to untie the scrap of material. She smiles at him over her shoulder in invitation, and his hands, slick with sunscreen, glide over the surface of her smooth back.

Shit! Think of something else. In desperation, he casts around his jumbled brain for something, anything , to take his mind off the phantom feel of her body beneath his wandering hands. The Moon! That’s safe. Let’s see….twelve men have walked on the moon. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Pete Conrad, Alan Bean, Ala-

“Seven,” MC prods, and he realizes he’s been sitting in silence for the past few minutes, fingers gripping the steering wheel with enough force to make his knuckles go white. “Are you...okay?”

“What? Who? Me?” Luciel lets out an awkward laugh, uncurling his digits and dropping his hands to his lap. “I feel a little underdressed,” he quips lamely, doing his best to be discreet as he pulls the ends of his hoodie closed to hide his erection.

“Oh,” she replies, her mouth forming a small “O”. Obscene images of how that ‘O’ would look wrapped around his cock makes him avert his gaze. The gloss on her lips has changed their usual petal pink to a deeper rose color. It takes everything in him not to bring his heated stare back to the alluring image of her mouth. In his current state of mind, he doesn’t trust himself not to give away the attraction he’s feeling for her. She glances down at her ensemble then looks back up with a shrug. “I guess...I just felt like being girly tonight,” she pauses and makes a motion towards the compact building. “I can go change-”

“No,” Luciel interrupts quickly, his hand reaching out to land on her bare knee. He jerks his hand back as if burned, his eyes darting up to lock with hers. Heat flickers in her bright orbs and disappears in a flash as her gaze drops to her hands resting atop her thighs. He clears his throat and starts the car. “You look...pretty,” he says softly, putting the car into drive and pulling away from the curb.  

“Thank you.” Her shy response prompts him to glance in her direction. The blush that stains her cheeks makes him smile.

Beautiful; I should have said she’s beautiful. Gorgeous...dazzling...fuckable. Jesus, why can’t I think about anything but sex when I’m around her? Lost in his thoughts, Luciel makes the turn to leave the city, forgetting the promise he’s made his friend. Maybe I should go get laid? I don’t have Zen’s looks, but I’m not an ogre. There’s that new agent that started last week. She’s really flirty; maybe she’d be up for a fling? No...that could get messy. Besides...she’s not MC. He steals another look at her then mentally shakes his head. No, being with anyone else feels...wrong; empty even. Most of all it would feel like I was betraying MC.

As the lights of the city fade behind him, he suddenly recalls where he’s supposed to be taking her. Thinking of the question that awaits her, his heart begins to ache. Not yet. If I make up some kind of excuse about why we’re late, Yoosung will buy it. I just need a little more time with her before she’s his completely.

Making a split second decision, he turns right onto a well-worn dirt road. “What’s going on?” she asks, trying to peer into the darkness outside her window. “This isn’t the way to your place.”

“There’s somewhere I want to show you,” he answers, praying the nervousness he feels doesn’t make his voice shake. “It’s not far.”

“Well, if it’s a place you like, I’m sure it’s worth seeing,” she replies. When he chances a glance in her direction, her smile makes his heart jump.

For the love of God, please stop being so nice to me. It’s only going to make this harder.

The low car bumps along the old dirt road and Luciel tries, he really tries, to not glance at her bouncing breasts as the road appears to go on endlessly. It’s a losing battle, however, and he can’t help the covert looks he throws her way, enjoying the sight with more than a little guilt.

His eyes are on her when her face splits into a beaming smile, her eyes lighting up.

“It’s beautiful!” she exclaims, straining against her seatbelt to look up into the cloudless sky where millions of silver stars twinkle.

Yes, you are. Yoosung doesn’t deserve someone like you. And you do, Luciel? Shut up.

He brings the sports car to a stop at the beginning of a long pier that reaches out into the middle of a still lake. The full moon reflects off the water’s surface and he can see the way the beauty of it enthralls her.

“What is this place?” she asks in a breathless voice, her eyes taking in the area illuminated blue by the moon.

After clearing his throat to ensure his emotions are under control, he speaks. “Just a place I come to for freshwater fishing,” Luciel answers. He runs an index finger down his nose in embarrassment before continuing. “The old man who lives here doesn’t have any family. I made sure he was connected to the internet, for free, and do some home repairs when I have the time. In payment, he lets me catch whatever I can.”

MC’s attention turns to him and Luciel is surprised to see her eyes glossy with unshed tears. “You’re such a good guy, Luciel.”

“You say that to the guy who is supplying him with illegal internet access.”

She shrugs with indifference. “Well, it’s the thought that counts, right?”

God help me, can she be any more perfect?

“Can we dip our feet in the water?” she asks, already removing her platform sandals. “The water looks too inviting not to.”

Not waiting for an answer, she tosses her shoes to the side and gives him a mischievous grin. “First one there gets a wish of their choice granted.”

In a flash, she’s out of the car and halfway down the pier before Luciel can even comprehend what she’s said. When the words finally sink in, he groans loudly. “Son of a bitch!” He flings open the car door but discovers he can’t exit. “Fuck! Seatbelt!”

Swiftly he extracts himself and tumbles from the car. Instantly he is on his feet to race after her, but with how much distance she’s already covered, he knows he hasn’t a chance of catching up with her.

As he approaches, she plops down onto the damp wooden pier and plunges her feet into the cool water. Releasing a sigh, she leans back to rest her weight on her hands.

He takes up the space beside her, folding his legs and shaking his head at her triumphant smile.

“I win!”

“Yeah, yeah,” he grumbles. “I’d have had you if my dumbass had remembered to unlatch my seatbelt.”

Her amused laughter shoots straight to his crotch and he shifts his weight in hopes of concealing it. “Alright,” he concedes in mock dismay. “You won, what’s your wish, my lady?”

Sitting upright, MC’s stare drops to her fingers fidgeting with the pleats in her skirt. A few moments of silence pass and a shiver passes through her body. “It’s colder than I thought by the water,” she remarks, gaze still on her lap.

Luciel removes his hoodie and drapes it over her shoulders, his heart stuttering at the smile of thanks she gives him. He stares out across the expanse of black water, attempting to calm his nerves. She still hasn’t answered his question and he’s beginning to suspect it’s a doozy. “Are...I mean….are you going to claim your prize?”

She chuckles and waves a hand in dismissal. “You know what? This was stupid. I shouldn’t have even made it a competition in the first place.

Yep, it’s a doozy, alright.

“A deal’s a deal,” Luciel declares, clapping her on the back, shocked at the way she starts violently at his touch. “Come on, tell me,” he coaxes in a smaller voice, his heart beginning to pound furiously.

Her bright eyes finally meet his amber ones and she blinks, all amusement gone from her stare. “I can ask for...anything? And you’ll do it?”

“That’s the nature of a wish,” he grins.

Eyes closed, she takes a deep breath and finally blurts out her request. “I want a kiss.”

Luciel’s body heats to the point where he’s certain he’ll burst into flames at any second. There’s a vice squeezing his chest, making it almost impossible to breathe. His dick is rock hard and he prays the darkness hides his shame. He tries to force out a laugh that sounds more like a wheeze than anything else.

“You...wait, you want me to kiss you on the cheek, right?” As much as it kills him, he’s trying to give her an out. If this happens, things are going to change; things he can’t even comprehend at this moment will implode and their lives will be irrevocably different.

“No,” she whispers, shaking her head. “I’m a horrible person and an even worse girlfriend. Luciel, I’ve liked you for years; ever since the apartment. My heart would race every time I saw you in a chat room, and when you called, my fingers would fumble not to hit the wrong button. Hearing your voice made my days bearable, and I should have never let Yoosung believe I cared more than I do...did. After what he did for me, I felt like it was too late to say anything. I’m sorry, I know this complicates everything between you and me and you and Yoosung and me and Yoosung and I’m so-”

“Shut up,” Luciel whispers right before pressing his lips to hers.

Her lips are so much softer than he imagined and he can’t get enough of them. His hand rises to rest just below her ear, his thumb grazing her jaw as he finally gives in to the temptation that has been plaguing him for years. Every voice in his head screaming that this is a terrible idea is ignored in favor of the soft moan she emits at his gentle touch. He can smell the combination of her scent mixed with his wafting from the hoodie surrounding her, and his head clouds with lust.

He pauses, retreating only a hair’s breadth away to search her gaze. Trepidation, nervousness, and yearning are all reflected back at him. Returning to her mouth is as inevitable as the tides, and he once again captures her lips, this time making the hesitant move of running the tip of his tongue along their seam. She opens for him immediately and he groans. His arms move to embrace and gently lower her to the wooden planks below.

The original intention to bring her to his personal haven is lost somewhere in the haze of greediness as he straddles her hips. His palms cup her cheeks as his tongue slips tenderly into her mouth. To his surprise, she meets his with enthusiasm, instantaneously swirling around his with all the pent-up attraction he has been holding back all this time.

Her arms slide around his neck to pull him closer, her body arching up in search of contact. Slim fingers slide into his hair as she tilts her head, seeking greater access to his mouth.

Luciel’s hand caresses her bare midriff, his long digits gliding up and under the edge of her blouse. They graze the underside of one breast and he freezes, his common sense returning like a cold bucket of water being dumped over his head.

What the fuck am I doing?

He stands quickly, chest heaving as he stares down at her confused features. “This… That,” he pauses and clears his throat, turning his back to stare the moon’s reflection on the water. “That didn’t mean anything.”

“Luciel,” she prompts in a tiny voice. He can hear the wooden planks groan quietly as she sits and gains her feet. “That… How can you say that meant nothing? You don’t kiss someone that way without some kind of feeling motivating it.”

He steels himself for what he’s about to do, his eyes already burning. Turning, he grins and shrugs a shoulder. “Sure you can, I do it all the time.”

“I-I….I didn’t know you had a...girlfriend.”

“I don’t,” he says and forces a laugh. “I may be an agent but I’m no monk.” Liar.   “Do you know how many women throw themselves at you when you tell them you’re a secret agent? It’s like they think you’re James Bond or something.”

MC wraps his jacket around her slender frame, the moonlight reflecting the unshed tears in her usually bright eyes. “You’re lying,” she whispers.

“Well, I am a liar, but I happen to be telling the truth this time. Hell, I was with a girl last night with tits as huge as-
“Stop,” she demands with a broken voice. The pain in her inflection causes him to halt his demonstration of how large said woman’s breasts were and drops his hands to his sides.  “I’ve heard enough. I get it; you don’t care anything for me. I should have never told you the things I did. Pl-please forget I-I said an-anything. I’m sorry.” Eyes downcast, she turns and runs back down the length of the pier.

Fuck you, Luciel. Fuck you and everything about you. Was breaking her that bad so important? Was it really that fucking important to make her cry? How could you say that shit?

Hating himself, he watches as she retrieves her sandals from the car and sits to slip them on. She tosses his jacket onto the dashboard and slams the expensive car’s door. To his dismay, she begins to disappear into the dark night in the direction they’d arrived and he takes off at a run to catch up with her.

By the time he’s back at the car, she is nowhere to be seen. He calls out her name, and receiving no reply, does it again at a loud yell.

“Leave me alone!” comes her tearful, terse response and the vice around his chest loosens. She can hear him; she’s not far.

Being unfamiliar with the area, he knows she’ll most likely follow the road back to the main street. Hurrying, he slides into the small car and pushes the start button, relishing the purr of the engine even in his haste. Not bothering with his seat belt, he makes a three-point turn, accelerating quick enough to make the wheels spit dirt and gravel in their wake.

It doesn’t take him long to find her. Walking in platform heels across unfamiliar terrain can’t be easy, but still he heaves a sigh of relief at the sight of her hunched back. She walks as quickly as she can manage, her arms crossed over her middle. Even from here, he can see her body shivering with cold.

He carefully pulls up beside her, rolling down his window to call out to her. “Come on, MC, get in the car. Those shoes aren’t made for walking and I can tell you’re freezing.”

Pausing, she turns to glare at him and holds out a hand. “Give me your jacket,” she demands, then as an afterthought, continues, “and your sneakers.”

Luciel gapes at her in disbelief. Is she really going to walk all the way back home? “Come on, don’t be ridiculous. Get in the car. I’m sorry for what I said.”

She remains mute, trembling hand held out in demand even as a single tear zigzags down her cheek.

Jesus, Luciel, you’ve really done it this time. You couldn’t just let her down easy, could you? Or...you know...maybe accept what she was offering. It’s only the thing you’ve been hoping and dreaming about since you met her.

Shoving the car into park, he grumbles as he snatches the hoodie and tosses it at her, projecting the anger at himself onto her. Awkwardly, he removes his sneakers and also tosses them out the window, giving her a look with raised eyebrows.

“Do you expect me to thank you?” she scoffs and slips out of the impractical sandals and shoves her feet into his shoes. Once they are tied securely as she can make them, she shrugs on the hoodie and turns to walk away without a word, shuffling slightly in the oversized sneakers. If the situation weren’t so fucked up, Luciel might have laughed.  

“Where are you going?” Luciel calls out after her, not expecting an answer but getting one anyway.

“Away from you!”

To his consternation, she leaves the dirt road and ventures into the undergrowth, leaving him helpless to follow. Still, he jumps from the car and attempts to follow, shouting her name in desperation.

“MC, please!” he yells, tripping over an exposed tree branch and banging his knee on the hard ground.

“Stop following me,” she hisses and he startles, not realizing she was so close. Damn if she wouldn’t make an excellent agent. “If you cared anything about me or my well-being, you wouldn’t have kissed me the way you did then act like I’m just another whore.”

“That’s not what-”

“People have feelings!” MC shouts, her hands clenched into fists in her fury. “ I have feelings! I’m not a program you’ve coded or a robot you’ve built. I’m flesh and blood, with a heart and a mind and....and…” Unable to continue, she swipes the back of her hand across her red, dripping nose.

“I’m sorry,” Luciel whispers the only words he can think of.

“Sorry doesn’t change anything,” she answers, doing her best to gain control of her emotions though her shoulders still jerk with silent sobs. “Sorry only makes the one who fucked up feel better. Just..stay away from me, Seven.”

I can’t. I love you too much.

Instead of telling her the words that might repair what he’s broken, he sits motionless as she turns away from him once again and disappears into the thick foliage.