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Sliding Into Third

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If Beth hears Old Town Road one more time, she’s going to set her neighbour’s house on fire. Actually.

Take me down to the -

She shrieks and tosses her pencil at the wall. That’s it. She has reached the end of her tether. This is her snapping. Shoving her feet into Ruby’s boots, she yanks open the front door. She remembers to slam it shut behind her, but it’s a close call. At least Annie’s not around to witness this breakdown.

The music gets louder as she crosses the road towards the A-frame where a bunch of goddamn jocks moved in. This is the fifth Friday in a row that they’ve had a party and Beth is ready to commit a murder.

Stomping up onto the front porch, Beth pounds her fist against the door. They probably won’t hear it over the music, but she doesn’t want to actually go in or anything. She’s seen the kind of things that the girls at these parties wore and her Friday night comfy study outfit was not it.

She pounds on the door again, gritting her teeth.

Someone pulls the door open, mid-laugh.

“You’re not pizza,” a young woman says to Beth, looking confused.

“No, I’m not,” Beth agrees.

The girl turns around. “Rio, there’s somebody at the door but it isn’t pizza.”

Someone comes up behind the girl and pulls the door open further and Beth finds herself face to chest with one of her neighbours. It’s the one that Ruby has been calling “Mr. Sexy” for months now, dragging Beth to the window to watch him do his post run stretches on the front porch.

“Yeah, she don’t look like pizza,” he agrees, looking Beth up and down.

The girl giggles, but Mr. Sexy - Rio doesn’t.

“Can I help you?”

It takes Beth a second to realize that he’s talking to her. “You could turn down your music,” she snaps.

The girl’s eyes widen and she backs up into the house, disappearing.

“What?” Rio looks down at her.

Beth grits her teeth, wishing she’d at least taken her hair out of the double braids that would make her look like she’s 14 if it weren’t for her chest. Which she’s currently hiding in a XXL sweater.

“I live across the street,” she says as she jerks her thumb over her shoulder.

“I know,” he says, leaning against the door frame.

“And your music is really fucking loud,” she goes on. Wait, he knows who she is?

Rio chuckles. “It’s a party.”

“It’s midterms,” Beth settles back into her - righteous, dammit - anger. “Have you ever tried going to someone else’s party?”

“Why? You inviting me to yours?” he asks, grin widening.

Beth wants to jab him in his perfect chest, but she’d probably break her finger. “I’m saying that you have parties every week. Every week! Some of us have to pass our classes without help from the sports admin.”

His eyebrow goes up. “You saying I can’t pass my classes on my own, sweetheart?”

“Don’t call me sweetheart!”

“What else am I gonna call you?” he asks, cocking his head to the side.

“My name is Beth,” she snaps.

“That short for Elizabeth?” he asks, taking a sip from a water bottle.

“Yes, what’s that got to do with -“

He smiles. “Well, Elizabeth,” he says, “I’m Rio.”

“Congratulations. I have midterms this week,” she tells him, starting to debate her chances if she makes a run for the stereo and just pulls it out of the wall.

He leans against the doorframe, like he can sense what she’s thinking. “You can’t study all the time, Elizabeth.” He says it like he’s chastising her and it makes Beth shiver.

“You’re right, I can’t. But I had work,” she finds herself telling him, “and then crisis management for my little sister. So I need to study now.”

Rio’s face softens when she mentions work and Annie. He looks over his shoulder, then back to her. Sighs. “Alright, I’ll get them on the move. It won’t happen right away, so I can’t promise miracles, but I’ll turn down the music too.”

Beth slumps in relief. “Thank you.”

He nods. “Good luck with your studying, yeah?” It’s not really a question, but he steps back so that he can close the door and hopefully get started on kicking people out.

Beth makes herself some tea, puttering around the kitchen and making a grocery list as the water boils. The exodus starts almost as soon as she drops the tea bag into her favourite mug. For all that Rio said he couldn’t promise miracles, he can certainly make people move when he wants to.

It’s blessedly quiet when Beth returns to her chem notes.

———————

“Hey!”

Beth turns to see Rio jogging across the street towards her in a pair of sweats and a hoodie, backpack hanging off one shoulder and a bagel in his mouth.

She rolls her eyes and keeps walking in the direction of campus, but she doesn’t try to speed up or anything. It’s not like he couldn’t catch up with her. He’s an athlete after all.

“How you doin’ this fine morning, Elizabeth?” he asks after chewing his bagel, gripping the hanging backpack strap and tugging it over his shoulder.

“I’m fine,” she says.

Rio laughs softly. “I’m good too, thanks for asking. Slept in yesterday, had a nice run.”

“Why are you talking to me?” she asks, turning to look at him.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” he shoots back, taking another bite out of his bagel. “What do you have now?”

“I have a chem midterm, if you must know.”

He nods. “With Crowley?”

Beth tilts her head in surprise. Nods.

“Had him back in the spring,” Rio says. “Did you do the prep tests?”

“Yeah.”

“Then you’ll be fine. He’s got a pool of questions and just picks a hundred of ‘em for the multiple choice. If you’ve done a couple of the prep tests, you’ll be just fine.”

“What year are you in?” Beth asks. She hadn’t thought that he was older than her, though she’s not the best judge of ages.

“I’m a junior,” Rio answers. “Same as you. Wasn’t anything else I really wanted to take and I needed it anyways. Figured I’d get it done.”

“What’s your major?”

“Baseball and fooling around,” Rio drawls. He’s teasing her and Beth flushes at the reminder of what she’d said to him. “Nah, I’m in engineering.”

“Really?” Beth can’t hide her surprise. That’s a serious degree, competitive.

He chuckles. “Let me guess. You’re in…” he turns around so he’s walking backwards in front of her. “Gen Ed. Gonna be a teacher.”

Beth gawks at him. “How did you -“

“Your roommate mentioned it to my roommate when we moved in.” He shrugs.

“And you remembered?”

Rio nods. “I remember all kinds of things,” he says.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Beth asks.

He’s biting his lip against laughter. “I remember you in that sweater dress a couple weeks ago, although I’m not sure it was a dress.”

Beth immediately reddens. She had gone over to Stan’s with Ruby for dinner, only to wind up with half a bottle of red wine on her pants. Stan had been kind enough to lend her clothes, but in the end, she’d just gone with borrowing one of his sweaters to get the few blocks home.

“It belong to your boyfriend?” he asks it casually, but it still startles her. Why does he care?

“No,” Beth replies, “my roommate’s boyfriend. Wine mishap.”

Rio nods. “It was a good look.”

Beth rolls her eyes. They’re almost at the building she’s writing her midterm in and he seems to realize it too.

“What are your post midterm plans?”

“Work. Then sleep.” She can’t wait. She’s got a shift at the library, then she’s done for the day. For the week, really.

“Come on, really?” He shakes his head. “That’s it? Not gonna do anything fun?”

“Sleep is fun,” Beth tells him.

“Depends who you’re doing it with,” Rio shoots back without pausing. She looks up at him to see him grinning. “I meant along the lines of going out, blowing off steam, that kind of thing.”

“Not my scene.”

“Nothing outside of sleep, work, and school is your scene?” Rio’s finished his bagel at some point and now he’s got his hands shoved in his pockets. “Movies? TV shows? Hobbies?”

“Why do you want to know?” Beth asks, stopping in front of the building.

He shrugs those shoulders, surprisingly broad for how lean he is. “Maybe I want to get into those big ass sweaters of yours,” Rio says.

Beth stares at him.

“Not right away,” he goes on. “The plan is to get you to go out with me.”

She blinks. “What?”

“I’m asking you out, Elizabeth,” Rio says, looking up at the sky, then back down at her.

“I -“ she stares at him. “Why?”

His brows pull together. “Because I want to get to know you better?” He says it like it’s a question, then shakes his head. “Why you surprised?”

“Because guys aren’t interested in me.”

Rio starts to laugh only to stop after a beat. “Oh, wait you serious?” He gives her a look. “You blind or something? Because I can tell you right now, guys are interested. But you don’t need to worry about them. Just me.” He grins.

“So how about it?” Rio asks after she doesn’t say anything. “You go on a date with me. Tonight.”

“Okay,” she finds herself saying.

His grin changes into something a little softer, warmer, holds out his hand. Beth looks at him, his hand, then back up at him. “Phone,” he says. Beth hands him her phone. “You gotta unlock it, Elizabeth, if I’m gonna add my number.”

“Oh!” Beth’s cheeks start to burn as she takes her phone back and unlocks it, pulling up her contacts and passing it back over. He taps around for a minute, then pulls his phone out right as it vibrates.

“I sent myself a text,” he says, returning her phone. “How about I pick you up at 6:30?”

Beth looks at her screen and flushes when she sees that he’s entered himself as “Very Handsome Neighbour”. When she glances back up at him, he’s just grinning at her.

“What?”

“Nothing,” Beth says, shoving the phone back into her pocket. “Where are you taking me?”

He shakes his head. “Can’t tell you. But, since I’ve got a couple of sisters, I know you’re trying to figure out what to wear. Dress down. Don’t worry about impressing me or anything.”

Beth raises her eyebrow, but he just looks at her. “That’s it?” she presses.

“Yup. Now go ace that midterm, tiger,” he drawls. “Give it a hundred and ten percent.”

She rolls her eyes, but murmurs, “Thank you,” at him as she ducks into the building.

———————

Ruby’s clapping. “Yes!”

“Will you calm down?” Beth shoves clothes this way and that in her closet.

“No,” Ruby says back. “I will not. You’re going on a date!”

“Shhh!” Beth hisses. Annie’s doing homework and the last thing she needs is another person teasing her and trying to offer opinions.

Ruby pouts, but she lowers her voice. “Not only are you going on a date, you’re going on a date with a Man. With a capital ‘m’ and everything.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Beth asks.

Ruby kicks her feet up on Beth’s desk. “It means that Rio’s basically the Golden Snitch.”

Beth turns to Ruby and puts her hands on her hips. “Stop talking in analogies.”

“He’s hot, but not known for being a jerk. He dates, but doesn’t have a reputation for breaking hearts. At least not on purpose. I saw him walking an old lady to her car at the grocery store.”

“When?” Beth demands. Ruby’s never told her that.

Ruby laughs. “Oh, wouldn’t you like to know?”

“Yes, and I’ll sit on you if I have to,” Beth threatens. “I’ll even get Annie to put her feet in your face.”

Ruby fakes a retch. “I dunno, a couple weeks ago?”

“And you didn’t tell me?”

“I didn’t realize that you were interested,” Ruby says. “But I’ll be sure to share from now on.”

Beth tosses a cute floral button-up onto the bed. She could throw a sweater on over it in case this date involved the outdoors.

“Cute,” Ruby comments, picking it up. “When did you get this?”

“Over the summer. You were there, remember? It had long sleeves.”

Ruby blinks, then whistles. “You did a great job. Did you tailor it too?”

Beth nods.

“Wear that blue bra,” Ruby suggests.

“I don’t have underwear that matches it,” Beth replies as she yanks her underwear drawer open.

Ruby just laughs. “Oh honey, he’s not gonna care if it doesn’t match. But the blue one does amazing things for your boobs.”

Beth pulls out the bra in question and sighs. It’s pretty. Downright gorgeous, really. It’s the most expensive piece of clothing that Beth owns - based on retail price. She’d managed to get it at an end of year sale at the upscale boutique that she drools over every time she passes it by. She reaches into the drawer and pulls out a pair of black lacy panties.

When Ruby goes, “Bow chica wow wow,” Beth gives her the finger and sticks out her tongue.

She glances at her clock. She needs to start getting ready. She strips off her oversized sweater and utilitarian bra.

“I’m not having sex with him,” she tells Ruby.

“Of course,” Ruby agrees. “You’re just preparing in case your clothes get stuck in a fence and he has to pull them off you to get you free. It’s cool. We’ve all been there.”

Beth has to laugh at Ruby’s teasing voice.

“But if you’re having a sleep-over, please message me, or I’m gonna wake up in the morning, assume you’ve been sacrificed to some baseball gods or something, and stomp over there to beat up ya boy.” Ruby stands up. “Make him use a condom.”

“Ruby!”

“Don’t let him pressure you into anything you don’t want to do. Stan’ll be over later, so if you need a rescue, just run out into the street yelling bloody murder, okay?” Ruby walks out of Beth’s bedroom, sounding far too pleased with herself.

“At least I have Stan to have my back,” Beth calls after her.

“Yeah,” Ruby shouts, “because I’ve got the rest of you!”

—————————

Beth looks at Rio. “Really, the batting cages?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” He hands her a bat. “Try swinging it.” She does. He takes it away and passes her a different one.

Rio had picked her up right at 6:30, knocking on the door and then walking them across the street to his car. Beth had bitten her lip against a laugh, a fight that she’d lost when Rio opened the door for her.

“I mean,” Beth says as she swings the new bat, “you’re a college level athlete. In baseball.”

“Yeah, but I gotta impress you somehow. That looks like the right size,” he comments, choosing his own bat right away. “You just told me you’ve never been to any of the games.”

“So you’re going to show off?” Beth asks.

Rio shakes his head. “Nah,” he tells her. “The plan is to teach you how to do it. I’ve got it all planned out. You’re going to miss the first few times and then I’ll step up behind you and wrap my arms around you and guide you through the motions.”

Beth has to laugh. “Confident, are we?”

“My mama always said that you gotta believe in yourself because if you don’t, then no one else is gonna.” He passes her a helmet. Beth makes a face. “Don’t worry, your hair will still be pretty afterwards.”

She takes it and pulls it down over her hair, wincing. She must not hide it as well as she intends to, because Rio chuckles and lets her into the batting cage.

“Not gonna give me any pointers?” she asks when he retreats right away.

“Nope,” he goes to turn it on, “I’m hedging my bets.”

Beth shakes her head as she turns away from him and focuses on the machine. It’s been a while since she’s done this, but as soon as the ball is coming towards her, she swings and it makes a satisfying “thwack” against the bat as she makes contact.

“Shit,” Rio mutters after Beth makes contact with the second ball in a row.

She looks over her shoulder. “Am I spiking your game?”

“Yeah,” he calls out. “I’mma need you to start missing.”

“What, is it supposed to be hard or something?”

He groans in response. “You’re making it too easy, Elizabeth.”

Beth laughs and swings at the next ball, which she does miss. Rio cheers. When she misses the next two as well, he cheerfully steps into the cage with her.

“Gonna call me little lady while you correct whatever I’m doing wrong?” Beth teases him as he moves to stand behind her.

He makes a horrified noise. “I don’t want to die.”

“Alright,” he says, “your hands are too close together. You don’t have enough control of your swing.”

She lets him adjust the placement of her hands. He guides her through the next swing and it makes contact.

“Gotta keep your grip tight,” Rio says into her ear, “but not too tight. Loose, but not too loose.” His hands over top of hers are hot. “Get a feel for the bat.”

Beth snorts under her breath. “Are you enjoying this?” she asks.

“Yeah,” comes his answer. He’s pressing a little closer now, his chest feeling way broader when it’s swallowing her up. “Aren’t you?”

Beth takes the next swing herself, even though Rio’s hands are still on hers. She hits the ball, but it’s at a bad angle. He adjusts her stance with his foot.

They stay there for a while more, pressing closer and closer together. Eventually, he lets go of her hands and settles one of his on her belly. At first, it’s just resting over top of her shirt, but slowly, he teases the hem upwards until his pinky finger is rubbing against a strip of skin between her pants and shirt.

He breaths against the shell of her ear. “Good,” he praises her when she hits the ball herself a few times in a row. But eventually, their time is up.

The buzzer makes Beth jump, colliding with Rio, who tightens his grip on her. Feeling flustered, she practically jumps away from him and pulls off the helmet, makes a show of putting everything back and tidying her hair.

“Still looks pretty,” he teases her.

“Now what?” Beth looks up at Rio. “You’re going to dazzle me with your skills?”

He shakes his head. “Nah. Was thinking we could take a walk or something. Coach’ll kill me if I strain a muscle at the batting cages.”

Beth giggles. “That happen before?”

“To me? No,” Rio answers, leading her outside. “But when I was a freshman, I witnessed one of the seniors get torn apart for a sprain.”

“What was he doing to get that sprain?” Beth asks when he doesn’t continue.

Rio’s lips twitch. “Him and his girlfriend were participating in a wheelbarrow race. He was the wheelbarrow. Sprained his wrist.”

“No!” Beth laughs.

“Yup.” Rio leads her on a path along the water. “Swore I’d never do anything that stupid.”

“In that case,” Beth says, “are you sure we should be walking? I don’t want you to hurt yourself.”

“I’ll rest later.”

She shakes her head, but when he drapes his arm over her shoulder, she smiles to herself. She catches a whiff of his leather jacket and the slightest hint of cologne or aftershave. She hadn’t smelled it earlier when he’d been wrapped around her, helping her to set up to bat, so maybe it’s clinging to his jacket, she thinks.

On that thought, she turns her head slightly towards him and inhales.

“You do this a lot?” she asks.

“Huh?” Rio lifts a strand of her hair and starts to play with it.

“Take girls to the batting cages and show off,” Beth replies. She wants the answer to be no so badly, but she’s trying to temper her hopes.

“Nope.”

She tilts her head back to look at him. He looks down at her. “What?” he says with a laugh. “You look surprised.”

“You’re an athlete,” Beth points out. “And you’re pretty cute. I find it pretty hard to believe that you don’t have girls hanging off you all the time.”

He smirks, then lowers his head. “What makes you think I’m interested in a jock chaser?”

Beth’s head jerks back. “A what?”

“A girl - or guy - who’s looking to score an athlete. Whether it’s short term or they’re hoping for a ring,” he shrugs.

“That’s not very nice,” Beth says.

“Neither is being seen as a target,” Rio shoots back. “Fuck, I had one girl tell me once, back when I first started, that once she slept with a basketball player, she’d have every major team. Like she was collecting us.” His face darkens.

“Oh.” She doesn’t really have anything else to say to that.

“I don’t really go for the party scene,” he says eventually. “Plus, everyone’s always asking if I plan on going pro after school or if I’ll get them tickets. Shit like that.”

Beth rests her head against Rio’s side. “Well, I hope you’re prepared to be disappointed, because I’ve never even seen a baseball game. I know you’re a pitcher and that means that you throw the ball. That’s about it.”

He snorts. “It’s the All-American pastime.”

“Maybe for fathers and sons,” Beth says. “My dad wasn’t around and my mom wasn’t one for sports.”

“No?”

Beth shakes her head. “No. She was always pretty sick, even before -“ she swallows.

“When did she pass?” Rio guesses, his hand dropping from her shoulder to her lower back as he draws them to a stop.

“Two years ago,” Beth says.

“I’m sorry.” He lifts his other hand and brushes his thumb underneath her eye, making Beth realize that she’d started to cry.

“Sorry,” she swiped at her eyes, “I didn’t mean to turn this into a downer.”

Rio just shakes his head. “Don’t apologize for having emotions,” he says. “Sides, I asked. You gonna be okay?”

Beth nods, sucking her lips into her mouth and then letting them go when she remembers how ridiculous it makes her look. Rio’s just studying her carefully, waiting for something. “I will be,” she tells him.

“That’s good,” he replies, then drops his hand to take hers and squeezes it. “C’mon,” he says, tugging it, “let’s head back. It’s getting chilly.”

Beth lets him lead them back in the direction of his car and the batting cages.

“So what’s next?” Beth asks, pretty sure she’s not at risk of crying again. “You walk me to the door and kiss me goodbye?”

“If that’s what you want,” he replies. “But I was hoping you’d come back to my place,” he reaches out to adjust the front of her jacket, “so I can kiss you properly.”

Beth tilts her head. “Properly?”

“Yeah,” Rio says, leaning down. “Properly.” He covers her lips with his. It’s a soft kiss, or at least that’s how it starts out. But Rio shifts and licks the seam of her lips and she lets him in. She’s not sure if it’s the same kiss or maybe a new one, but it sends a shiver through her.

“That’s not properly?” she asks when he straightens up.

He shakes his head. “If I kiss you properly for real, we’d get arrested.” He’s grinning wickedly. “Let’s just say I don’t just want to kiss you here,” he brushes his thumb over her bottom lip as he says it.

Rio tugs her towards the car and Beth goes with him. He opens the door for her and she goes up on her toes to kiss his chin.

When she sinks back down onto her heels, he’s got a slightly goofy looking smile on his lips.

By the time he circles around the front of the car, she’s tugged out her phone to text Ruby a series of exclamation marks. She’s putting it back in her bag when Rio slides into the driver’s seat.

“Letting Ruby know you’re alive?” Rio asks as he starts the car.

Beth flushes at being caught. “Something like that.”

“That’s good,” he says, pulling out of the lot and pointing them towards home. “Having someone looking out for you.”

“That’s Ruby,” Beth agrees.

“You’ve known each other a long time,” he guesses.

Beth nods, setting her hand against the cool glass of the window. “Ever since we were kids and I drove my mom’s car into the garbage cans in front of her house.”

Rio chokes and starts to laugh. “You, joyriding?”

“I had to go to the grocery store,” Beth says, simplifying the story. He seems to realize it though and stops laughing, turns his head slightly to look at her. “Turned out she was the better driver.”

“I’m gonna want more of that story, you know,” he warns.

Beth turns her head towards him and smiles, biting her lower lip. “Just not tonight.”

He jerks his chin up and turns his attention back to the road. It doesn’t take more than a couple minutes to get them back to their neighbourhood and Rio parks in front of his house.

“So,” he says, “whatchu thinking?”

“What?” Beth laughs.

“You want to come back to mine,” he says, “or I can walk you across the street and kiss you goodnight at the door. It’s up to you.”

Beth looks at him. He seems relaxed, though it’s difficult to make out his expression in the dark.

“I think I’d like you to take me back to your place,” she tells him. His teeth flash with his smile before he gets out. She doesn’t wait for him to come let her out, she’s perfectly capable of operating a car door herself, thank you very much. But when he offers her his hand, she takes it and holds it all the way up the front steps. He pulls a set of keys from his back pocket with his free hand.

Rio unlocks the front door and steps inside. Beth follows and whatever she’d expected, it wasn’t this. He knows it too.

“Surprised?”

Beth looks at him and narrows her eyes. “Did you clean up because you knew I’d come over?”

He shakes his head. “What, just because we’re three guys, you expect us to live in a pigsty?” Beth keeps looking at him. He sighs, then opens the closet to show her that he hasn’t just shoved everything away. “Wanna see the cupboards next?”

“I believe you!” Beth says, but wanders towards the kitchen anyway. Like the hall, it’s neat. And they’ve got a dishwasher, the jerks.

Rio’s hand comes down to take hers and she stops, turns to face him. “You want the tour?” The way he asks it, Beth knows that he’ll give her a tour if that’s what she wants. He’ll show her every nook and cranny.

“Which one’s your room?”

He leads her down the hall to a room that has a whiteboard on it with all kinds of messages. Looking further down the hall, she sees that a few other doors have them too. Rio opens the door. “This is mine,” he says, leading her in.

He closes it behind them as Beth looks around. The walls are an off white and he doesn’t have much on them, but he’s got three bookshelves, a big desk with a comfortable looking rolling chair that take up one half of the room.

His laptop sits, closed, on the desk, next to some textbooks and notebooks. There’s a calendar above the desk, all kinds of things written in. She turns to look at the bed.

Olive green sheets, the bed’s made and there’s a comfy looking knit blanket folded at the bottom of it. Beth steps towards the bed and touches it.

“My mom made that,” he tells her without being asked, “when she found out I was going out of state for school.”

“She misses you,” Beth says.

He groans. “Considering she’s got my sisters at home, she should not have so much time to miss me.”

“How many sisters do you have?” she asks, sitting on the edge of the bed.

Rio drops down beside her, but rather than sitting, he falls all the way back to lie down. “There’s Carmen, she’s a year and a half younger than me, but she’s going to Michigan State and living at home this year, so Ma can still pester her. Then there’s Nina, she’s 16.”

Beth turns her head over her shoulder to look down at him. “My sister’s almost 16 too.”

“Yeah?”

She nods. She hesitates for a second, then lifts her feet and turns to face him, tucking her legs under her. “Annie. She’s a pain in the ass.”

Rio laughs. “Yeah, that’s little sisters. I got a call a couple weeks ago that Dad had caught Nina climbing out of her bedroom window to go to a party.”

Beth raises an eyebrow.

“She got stuck in the tree,” he starts to laugh halfway through saying it. “Idiot tried to do it in heels.”

She keeps looking at him.

“What? Climbing down a tree in heels?” Rio shakes his head. “Everyone knows you either carry the shoes with you or toss ‘em down first.”

“You know from experience?” Beth asks.

“I’ve helped my fair share of young ladies out of second story windows,” he says like it’s the most normal thing in the world. “Caught a couple pairs of shoes too.”

“You have not!” Beth points at him, but he uses the opening to take her hand and tug her into lying down beside him. “You have not,” she repeats.

“How about this,” he suggests. “Later, I’ll let you go on Facebook and ask Jenna who wound up catching her when she ran out of drainpipe in 11th grade.”

Beth laughs, curling her fingers around his.

“I’m gonna kiss you now,” he tells her, moving a little closer.

Beth nods, her eyes fluttering closed when his lips get ever closer. He starts the kiss slow, just brushing his lips over hers as he keeps coming until he’s over top of her. Then he kisses her for real and Beth gets what he meant by getting banned for kissing her properly because he’s practically tongue fucking her.

She shivers and returns the kiss.

Rio’s weight on top of her is driving Beth crazy. She wants him to stop holding himself up, so she tugs at the front of his shirt. Instead of dropping down, Rio rears up, breaking their kiss.

Beth whines, but his hand goes behind his head to grab his shirt and he yanks it off.

She takes him in. She’s seen him shirtless before - he has a habit of taking off his shirt when he’s done with his run before he starts to stretch. But it’s different up close. His chest is solid and the slight ridges of his abs jump when she runs her fingers over them.

“Like what you see?” Rio asks.

She lifts her eyes to him. “Not bad.”

He grins and lowers himself back down to kiss her again. The movement flattens her hand between them, but Beth isn’t bothered. She just keeps rubbing her fingers against his solid chest.

His hands are dancing along the hem of her shirt, which has risen up to just above the waistband of her jeans. Beth pulls her hand away from his chest and goes to the buttons at the top of her shirt. Rio doesn’t stop kissing her, although he does slip one hand beneath the cotton of her shirt while the other cradles her ass.

“You’re gorgeous,” he says when he breaks the kiss. He pushes the hem of her shirt up until she has to lift herself up so that he can get it off. He freezes at the sight of her bra, then his lips slowly pull up in a smile. “Well fuck.”

Beth giggles, can’t help herself, but it turns into a gasp when he drops back down to kiss over the swell of her breasts. His tongue runs along the edge of the lace, making the skin that presses out over top of it feel sensitive.

“This is pretty,” he comments, “but I don’t want to wreck it, so we should probably get it out of the way.”

The earnest look on his face makes Beth bite her lip, but she lifts up and reaches back to undo it. He helps lead it down her arms and tosses it aside.

Beth is self-conscious about her chest, but it’s like Rio can hear her thoughts because he just goes back to kissing her. This time, his big hands start to tease the sides of her breasts.

He kisses her as he takes one in his hand and squeezes softly with a moan. He kisses her as he pinches her nipple and switches sides, as he undoes the button on her pants and leads them down her legs. By the time she’s down to just her panties, Beth is holding his face to hers. She can feel him, hard in his jeans, pressed up against her core and he groans when she rubs herself against him.

He reels back and tugs the sides of her panties down. They disappear in the same direction that she thinks her shirt did earlier, then he’s gripping her thighs and tugging her a little further down the bed.

This time, he doesn’t kiss her.

“Oh god,” Beth squeals when he drops to his belly. Rio laughs between her legs. “You really don’t have to -“ she loses the ability to speak when he sucks on her clit lightly.

That’s apparently that, because he doesn’t pull away to dignify her words with a response. Instead, his hands massage the insides of her thighs as he holds them up and open.

Beth cranes her neck to stare down at him, panting. He’s sealed his mouth over her cunt and she can see his cheeks hollowing and filling as he fucks her with his tongue. His eyes are shut, but he must sense her watching because his lashes flutter as he opens them to meet her gaze.

It’s too much, so she drops her head back onto the cushions to stare at the ceiling as Rio eats her out.

He’s slow and methodical, exploring what makes her squirm or gasp. She can hear music through the wall and knows that at least one of his roommates is probably home. She slaps her hand over her mouth when she starts to cry out as he settles on a rhythm.

Biting the heel of her hand, Beth lifts her hips against his mouth. He rides the motion, pressing even closer. She has to stop herself from shouting out her climax and Rio keeps licking her through it, making each wave all the more intense.

When he pulls away, his face is wet and Beth covers her eyes as she feels her cunt twitch around nothing.

He wipes his mouth on his sheet and then rises to lie next to her. Letting her hand fall away, Beth can see the line of his cock in his jeans. There’s no way that it can be comfortable, but he doesn’t make a move to undress.

She looks at him.

“It’s up to you,” he says.

Beth reaches over and settles her hand on his bare chest, then trails it down. She circles his belly button, enjoying the way that his stomach jumps at the touch. She cups him through the denim, but makes no other move. The skin around his eyes tightens, but he still doesn’t do anything.

“That can’t be comfortable,” she comments.

He shrugs a shoulder. “Worse things than blue balls.”

Beth smiles and rolls so she’d pressed against his side. She kisses him as she moves to undo his pants. He kisses her back with enthusiasm, only fumbling a little when she takes his cock out. He recovers quickly, grips the back of her head to hold her face to his as she just rubs her thumb back and forth along the underside.

He’s thick and Beth shivers at the thought of him inside of her. His head falls back onto the pillow.

Once she has her hand on him, he falls quiet, all his bravado from before evaporating. Beth’s self conscious of what she’s doing and she clears her throat. “Am I - what do you -“

“Feels good,” he says, turning his head towards her. His hips shift a little. “You can grip me harder, I’m not gonna break, sweetheart.” He smiles. Beth tightens her grip.

He talks her through it like that. Faster. There, sweetheart. Little tighter, Elizabeth. He instructs her as his speech gets a little rougher, as his hips start thrusting up into her fist.

Then he groans, head going back and his neck stretching out. Beth keeps stroking him as he starts to spill. Beth bites her lip as she watches his cum stripe his belly. He moans and she keeps touching him until he practically whimpers. Then she takes her hand away and - after a brief hesitation - wipes it on his sheet.

He shifts, leaning over to grab a tissue from his bedside and wipes off his belly, tossing it off to the side. He must catch Beth’s face, because he laughs. “Don’t worry. It’s gonna go in the garbage and I’m gonna wash the sheets. I’m not a complete troglodyte.”

“I never called you a troglodyte!” Beth sits up.

Laughing, he pulls her back down. “I’m just teasing.”

She starts to get antsy after a moment.

“I should head home,” she says, wiggling out of his arms.

He nods and gets out of bed. “I’ll walk you home.”

“I live across the street, Rio,” she tells him.

He grabs a pair of sweats and pulls them on. “It’s a dangerous neighbourhood. Didn’t you hear about the athletes that moved in? Real partiers.” There’s a grave expression on his face as he shakes his head, then grabs a hoodie, which he zips up over his bare chest. “Better safe than sorry.”

He helps her find the various items of clothing that are hers and doesn’t pay too close attention to her as she dresses.

“I guess if I forget something, it’s pretty easy to swing by and get it back,” she says, putting her shoes on.

Rio helps her balance when she nearly falls putting the second one on. “What makes you think I’d let you have it back? Whatever it was that you might theoretically leave behind.”

“That’s theft, Rio.”

He lets them out, taking her hand again for the walk across the street. “Good luck proving it,” he retorts. “So do I rate a second date?”

She looks at him in surprise. “I thought we were supposed to wait for 48 hours or something.”

“That’s stupid,” he says as they reach her porch. “If you want to wait 48 hours before answering, I guess we could negotiate that, but I’m telling you now, that’s 48 hours from when the date started, not from now.”

Beth laughs. “I don’t have a ton of free time,” she admits.

“Me either,” he replies. “But I like hanging out with you. Maybe we won’t be able to be taking the time to go to fancy restaurants, but fuck, we’re students anyway. We can’t afford those.”

Beth smiles. “What are you suggesting?”

“We loosen up the definition of dates. No reason we can’t meet up between classes and have lunch or walk to class together. Study at the library.” He shrugs. “Shit, it sounds like we’re in high school when I say it like that.”

He looks slightly uncomfortable and it makes Beth bite her lip as he shifts his weight from side to side.

“I’d like that,” Beth says.

His discomfort melts away, replaced by a smile. He ducks to kiss her. “Night, Elizabeth.”

“Sleep well,” she tells him, letting go of his hand to walk up the steps to the door. “Wash your sheets.”

He laughs as he backs up. “Aye aye, captain.”

Beth unlocks the door and makes herself shut it right behind her, locking it.

Ruby’s head pops up from the couch, followed by Annie’s. She groans, right as the two of them say, “Spill!”

———————————

Rio’s pretty sure that he’s gonna die before they actually get to fuck. It’s been a couple of weeks since their first date at the batting cage. They’ve fooled around some, obviously. He’s had his tongue inside of her. And his fingers. She’s had him in her hand. The night before, she’d come over after she finished her homework and sucked him off. He’d gone off like a rocket, coming on her tits and then staring at the sight for a moment as her cheeks got redder and redder.

He’d tried to coax her into bed, just to stay the night, not to get in her panties. But she’d kissed him good night and gone back across the street. Ever a masochist, he’d walked her home, then kissed her a little longer.

Scratching his belly, he wanders out into the kitchen and yawns.

“Yo,” Bullet grunts.

“Morning.”

Bullet’s already finishing up his breakfast, which is practically a six course meal, so he must have been up for ages already.

“How’s the girlfriend thing going?” Bullet asks.

Rio blinks in surprise. Bullet’s never commented on a girl that Rio’s brought to their place before. But then again, he hasn’t exactly had repeats and definitely not one who lives across the road.

“She’s good,” Rio says.

“I know that,” Bullet says with a roll of his eyes. “I asked how the girlfriend thing is going.”

“It’s good.” Rio shrugs.

Bullet snorts. “You gonna be on your game still?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Rio scowls at Bullet, pretty sure where this is going.

Bullet shrugs. “You know. Some guys get girlfriends and it’s like they forget what they’re here for.”

“Not everything is about baseball,” Rio snaps. “Some of us want to have lives after this.”

“That’s what I mean,” Bullet mutters. “Just don’t let it get in your way on the field.”

“I suggest you keep your mouth shut,” Rio tells his teammate. “Have I missed practice or work out or anything? No. So maybe instead of assuming the worst, you should just mind your own business.”

“Whatever,” Bullet says, getting out of the chair and carting his dishes to the sink.

Rio glares after him, but gets his own breakfast and eats it mechanically. Bullet’s not the only one thinking it, Rio knows. The whole team tends to get antsy when one of them starts to see someone.

“You never know who someone’s gonna turn into when they’re seeing someone,” one of the upper years had told Rio when he first started playing here. “Guy might be the most level headed, dedicated person until he gets a girlfriend and all of a sudden he’s doing macho bullshit.”

He’d seen it firsthand. Guys getting into relationships with girls who thought it was fun to play games, make their boyfriends jealous, constantly unsure of where they stood.

But Beth isn’t like that, Rio knows. She’s not playing any kind of game. At the thought, he smiles to himself. Beth’s too earnest for that by far and Rio likes that about her. She’s honest, not in that hurtful way that someone uses as a defence when they’re called out for being cruel though. It’s a kind honesty, thoughtful.

His phone buzzes.

It’s Nina.

“Yeah?” he answers it with his mouth full.

She makes a noise of disgust. “That’s gross,” his little sister tells him.

“That’s what you get for interrupting my breakfast.”

“Whatever,” Nina says. “You need to run interference.”

“On who?” Rio takes a bite of banana.

“Mom and Dad!” He can picture her throwing her hands up in the air and gesturing wildly. “They’re being Puritans.”

“Bout what?”

“Homecoming,” she says. “They’re saying that I can’t go with Jack.”

Rio pauses, mouth open to take another bite. He puts down the banana. “Yeah, I’m on their side.”

“Rio!” Nina whines. “Come on, please.”

“You want to go to homecoming with a guy who calls himself Mr. Cisco, Nina.”

“That was ages ago!” she protests. “Why does everyone keep coming back to that?”

“Because it was last year,” Rio drawls. “They actually say you can’t go with him?”

Nina huffs. “They said I can go to homecoming but that I can’t go to the party after. Rio, the afterparty is the whole point!”

Rio’s got enough fond, slightly hazy, memories of the homecoming afterparty to not want Nina going.

“Remind them that I went every year,” he tells her, “and that nothing happened. Wait, fuck, don’t say that. Shit definitely happened. Tell ‘em that I came home safe because they taught us how to be responsible.”

“Oh, that’s good,” Nina says.

Rio finishes the banana and gets up to dispose of the peel. “Anything else?”

“Who’s the girlfriend?”

“Bye, Nina,” he responds, ending the call. She texts him a minute later, Mom knows about her too.

He groans. Last thing he needs is his mother trying to get a look at Beth and then dropping pointed hints that she was just a year older than Rio when she had him.

To his surprise, she doesn’t call him until after dinner and it takes her a whole five minutes to ask about it.

“I hear you have a girlfriend,” his mother says, tone pointed.

Rio hums.

“Why do I have to hear about it from Kate Barton’s mother?”

And shit, he hadn’t even thought about Kate Barton being in Beth’s chem class. Which he had walked her to, more than once.

“It’s early days,” he tells his mother.

“Who is she?”

Rio leans back in his chair to look up at the ceiling. “Her name’s Elizabeth,” he says. “She lives across the street with her friend and her sister.”

“Is she in school?” Apparently, it’s time for the inquisition.

Rio fights a laugh. His mother probably won’t appreciate it. “Yeah, she wants to be a teacher.”

His mother’s voice is a little softer after that bit of knowledge, but she still wants to know everything he’s willing to tell her about Beth, which isn’t much. Finally, he gets her off the phone, although he has to promise that when his parents visit, “Elizabeth the teacher will come to dinner with us.”

Feeling too restless to do any of his readings for the week, he looks out his window to Beth’s house. The lights are on, although the curtains on the front rooms are closed.

He gets up and shoves his feet into a pair of running shoes, grabs a hoodie from the hook.

Their street is quiet at night and tonight’s no exception as he strolls across to Beth’s front door. He climbs the steps and raps on the door.

Beth must be nearby because it only takes her a handful of seconds to open the door. If she’s surprised by his unannounced arrival, it doesn’t show on her face.

“Hi,” Beth says, fiddling with the charm on her necklace, sliding it back and forth.

“Hi,” Rio says back. “I was wondering if -“

A younger girl’s voice comes from somewhere behind Beth. “Who is it?”

“Should I go?” he offers.

“Uh,” she glances over her shoulder, “no, you can come in. Rio, this is my little sister, Annie. Annie, this is Rio.”

Rio follows Beth into the kitchen where her books are spread out next to Annie’s homework.

“You live across the street,” Annie says, eyeing him up and down.

Rio nods.

“Are you and my sister dating?”

Rio freezes, not sure how Beth wants to play this.

“Yes, we are,” Beth answers for them.

“I saw your poster at the athletic centre,” Annie says. “You play baseball.”

Rio nods. “I do. You like baseball?”

“No,” Annie replies. “It’s almost as bad as golf. Beth doesn’t like it either.”

Beth groans softly and when he looks in her direction, she’s got her hand over her face and she’s shaking her head.

“Although you’re the second baseball player she’s dated so -“

“Annie!” Beth cuts her sister off. “I think that’s enough for now.”

Rio watches Annie narrow her eyes, then her face smooths over again. “Just keep your door open,” Annie tells them, “so I can make sure that there’s no shenanigans going on between the two of you.”

He chokes on his laugh, trying - and probably failing - to cover it up with a cough. Beth is turning red, but Rio’s not particularly upset by Annie’s declaration and if Beth starts chastising her now, they won’t have much time to hang out.

“Come on,” he says, taking her hand. “Want to sit on the porch for a bit?”

“It’s cold,” Beth says.

Rio looks at her. “You telling me you don’t have eighteen million blankets on your couch and your bed? I’ll help keep you warm too.”

He’s pretty sure that she’s red for a different reason as she grabs a blanket from the couch.

“No eavesdropping,” she tells her sister as she heads towards the front door with Rio.

“Whatever,” Annie says with a dismissive wave. “Just don’t be loud and I won’t feel the need to listen.”

Rio smiles to himself as he lets them out of the house. Beth unfolds the blanket and holds out one end to him. He takes the whole thing.

“Hey!” Beth protests.

“I got this,” Rio says, moving Beth towards the steps. He wraps the blanket around his shoulders, then pulls Beth under his arm and takes a seat.

“Second baseball player, huh?”

Beth groans and burrows a little closer to him. “Something like that,” she says when she pulls her face out of his armpit.

Rio hums.

“It was in first year,” she says after a minute. “I went away to school. I dated a guy on the team, a few years older than me. Then my mom got sick and I moved back home. We broke up. The end.”

“Wasn’t meant to be?” Rio asks.

“Something like that.”

He shakes his head. “You keep saying that.”

“I don’t really -“ Beth hesitates. “Dean and I weren’t a good couple. We probably should have broken up before I left, but we didn’t. I don’t want to be in a spot like that again.”

Rio tenses as she talks. “He hurt you?” He tries to keep his voice casual as he says it, but he’s pretty sure he fails miserably. Beth tilts her head back to meet his eyes. She sets her hand on top of his thigh.

“Not like that,” she tells him. “He could be a bit of a controlling jackass though.”

Rio rubs his thumb against her skin. “Well, if I start being a controlling jackass, you should kick my ass.”

Beth laughs. “Will do. You’ll have to bend down though, so I can reach.”

He smiles at her and bends slightly so he can kiss her.

“Annie’s sleeping over at a friend’s house on Saturday.”

The change in topic throws Rio. “What?”

“And Ruby normally goes to Stan’s on the weekends. So…” she trails off, biting her lip as it dawns on Rio what she’s talking about.

“So you’re gonna be all alone in this big old house?” Rio guesses. “And you’re looking for someone to come keep you company.”

“Something like that,” she says. He narrows his eyes at her. “Was thinking more along the lines of you and me in a bed.”

Rio’s gaze drops to her lips, then back to her eyes. “Oh?”

She nods.

“In that case,” he lowers his head, “I’d be happy to come keep you company.”

“How kind of you,” Beth retorts, but tilts her head back so that he can kiss her without bending further, which he does.

A dog barking breaks them apart, although they stay close until Beth has to go in and finish her homework.

—————————

Rio must have been waiting for her to text, because he’s at her door almost as soon as she’s sent the message. When she opens the door, he’s leaning a hand against her doorframe, looking absurdly handsome in just short sleeves despite the chill.

“Hi.”

Beth smiles at him. “Hi,” she replies back.

He doesn’t make a move until she steps back. “Come on in,” she says. He follows her in and shuts the door. Beth steps towards him and tilting her head back to look right at him, steps even closer. Her mouth falls open slightly. His eyes are fixed on her lips, but at the click of the lock, he blinks.

“Don’t want anyone joining us,” Beth says, lowering her hand again only for him to catch it in his.

Rio nods even as he starts to bend down towards her. The hand not clutching hers comes to rest on her ass and he practically lifts her up to meet his lips.

Beth smiles against his mouth as he walks her backward until they’re pressed against the wall. He rolls his hips against her centre.

“You wet for me?” His voice is rough. Beth nods. He slides his hand down the front of her jeans to rub over her. He bites her lower lip. “Show me.”

Trembling slightly, Beth undoes the button and zipper. Shifting his hand, Rio pushes his hand inside of her panties. His breath in her ear is harsh as he curls his fingers and rubs the tip of a finger against her cunt.

“Yeah,” he says. He pushes one finger inside of her and when Beth moans, he buries his face in her neck. “Fuck, sweetheart, you been thinking about this?”

She nods.

“Good.” He nips the curve of her neck, then straightens up, pulls his hand out of her panties and smiles when she whimpers quietly. “Come on, we’ll go to your room.”

She lets him lead the way to her room, but once they’re there, she shimmies her pants off. “Yours too,” she tells him.

Rio doesn’t argue, pushing his pants and underwear - if he was wearing any - to the floor and stepping out of them as he pulls his shirt off. He steps towards her to pull hers off too and once it’s off, he goes back to kissing her, hands sliding under the cotton of her panties to cup her ass.

Beth moans into Rio’s mouth, letting go of him to reach behind her back and undo her bra. Dropping that to the ground, she pushes Rio back towards her bed.

He laughs, but pulls her with him as he falls onto it. The hands he’s got inside of her underwear push them off and he starts to tease his fingers against her entrance. When he slides two of them inside of her, he kisses her chin.

“You want my cock?”

Beth shivers, nodding.

He presses their mouths together, licking Beth’s open as he rolls her onto her back. The pace of his fingers picks up.

“You gotta come for me first, okay, sweetheart,” he instructs, putting his thumb against her clit. Beth grabs her comforter and moans as he rubs. “Need you to loosen up for me, Elizabeth.”

She’s lifting her hips against his hand, more than okay with coming for him. “Yeah,” she says.

The third finger is a stretch, but a welcome one that has her lifting her chest to rub against his and gasping. “Rio,” she breathes.

He nods, lips brushing hers. “Come on, almost there.”

It takes a few more rubs of his thumb and thrusts of his fingers and then her vision whites out. She tries to shut her thighs closed, but Rio’s body is holding them open. She’s moaning his name and she can hear him saying something but it doesn’t make sense, might not even be words.

She squeezes herself around his fingers and then falls back flat on the bed, panting. “Want you,” she tells him, reaching up to run her hands over his shoulders.

He swallows, throat bobbing. Nods.

“Condoms on the nightstand.”

He grins, kissing her nose. “You expecting something from me, Elizabeth?”

“Uh huh,” she replies, wiggling her hips. “Want you.”

He reaches out towards the nightstand, lips finding hers again. It’s a slow kiss, sweeter than the circumstances would suggest.

Rio grabs a condom and opens it, unrolling it down his length as Beth waits, the anticipation slowly driving her crazy. She feels antsy, too big for her skin and the idea of Rio putting his cock inside of her…she nearly groans.

Condom on, Rio strokes himself a couple of times. “You ready?” he asks, moving a little closer to the apex of her thighs, directing the head of his cock towards her opening. Beth nods. “Hold onto me,” he says.

Beth doesn’t consider not doing it, just lifts her hands - one to grab onto the back of his neck and the other to slip around his waist, resting just above his ass. He smiles.

It’s been a while for Beth - freshman year, in fact. The first press of Rio against her makes her tense.

“Shhh,” he murmurs, just rubbing the tip up and down through her wetness. He does that again and again until Beth’s lifting her hips for him. Only then does he start pushing into her.

It’s a stretch to accommodate him and Beth’s eyes flutter shut as she wiggles her hips.

With a hiss, Rio grabs onto her thigh. “Jesus fuckin’ Christ,” he says. Beth stops moving. “You’re really fucking tight, sweetheart,” he tells her. “Am I hurting you?” She shakes her head. “Would you tell me if I was?” She nods.

He ducks down to kiss her, then lifts to hold himself up on his hands.

He gives small nudging thrusts, not withdrawing much. Just enough to rock back in all the way and make her feel so fucking full.

Beth moans, her hands curling against his skin. He keeps going like that until he’s all the way in. Beth swallows, throat dry.

“You good?” He nudges her jaw with his nose. Beth nods. He pulls out, then pushes back in with a slap of his hips. And it feels good. Really fucking good. Part of it might be that she’s riding the high of her earlier orgasm and the nerves that his cock is rubbing over, but part of it might be the way that he’s looking at her face as he starts to fuck her.

“Rio,” she gasps, mouth falling open. He stops holding himself up, bending so that he can kiss her deeply as he moves. Beth returns the kiss, lifting her hips to meet his.

She thinks she can come again, so she moves her hand to her clit and starts to move her fingers frantically. He must feel her tighten around his cock because he groans into her mouth and starts to move faster. He breaks the kiss, pressing their foreheads together.

“Again?” he asks.

Beth nods and he knocks her hand away to take over. He doesn’t follow the same rhythm she had set, but it’s similar, just a fraction harder.

“Oh fuck,” she cries out. She’s pretty sure that her eyes must roll back into her head as Rio curses under his breath and his pace turns erratic. He groans as he pushes all the way in and grinds against her, his shoulders slumping as he comes.

————————

Rio’s asleep, head on her chest. Every so often, he makes a little noise and shifts. Beth can’t sleep, so she contents herself with stroking the back of his head and staring at the ceiling.

He’s…unexpectedly sweet like this. She’s already realized how nice, how genuine he is. But one thing that he wasn’t was sweet. He teased too much for that description. But asleep, slack jawed and relaxed? She honestly just wants to kiss his nose or something ridiculous like that.

She’s becoming a sap.

She trails her fingers down his neck, then across his shoulders. He nuzzles against her chest. Beth smiles, until he moves his head towards her breast and bites her nipple.

“Why you awake?” He’s mumbling, but she can understand what he’s saying. “Go to sleep.”

“It’s 7pm, Rio.”

He nods, the short bristles of his hair abrading her skin.

“I can’t go to sleep now.”

“Nap,” he says. “Then we wake up, we fuck again, and I take you to dinner.” He pauses. “And then we fuck again,” he adds.

Beth pinches his side lightly, making him yelp and squirm. “I’m not going to sleep.”

He groans and rolls off of her. “I need my beauty rest,” he pouts. “We can’t all look perfect like you, mami.”

“Mami?” Beth’s head jerks.

“Relax,” he puts his fingers over her lips. “Term of endearment. I’m not saying you look like my mother or that I see you as a mother figure or anything like that.”

Beth settles back down, but she’s still too jazzed to nap, something that Rio picks up on.

“Fine,” he grumbles. “I’ll take you to dinner now.”

She laughs. “I can feed us, you know,” she tells him.

“If you’ve got enough energy to cook,” he drawls as he stands up, “then I didn’t do right by you.”

Beth bites her lip, trying not to giggle at the expression on his face.

“Not even pasta?”

He shakes his head. “The only excuse I’ll accept is that you don’t wanna get dressed, so we need to order in. Actually, scratch that, we’re ordering in.” He drops back into bed beside her. “Pizza sound good?”

Beth nods. “Are you even allowed to eat pizza?” she asks, putting her hand on his toned stomach.

He shrugs. “Not every day. But I’m not about to ruin my day by eating something I don’t want.” He groans and gets up again, but comes back with his phone and unlocks it.

Beth slides out of the bed to go to the washroom and when she comes back out, he’s hanging up.

“It’ll be here in forty,” he says.

Beth starts to walk towards the bed when his stomach lets out a loud rumble. “You going to last that long?” she teases him, bending to pick up her panties.

“I wouldn’t turn down a snack.”

“You’re in luck,” she says, pulling them on, then going to grab one of her too big sweaters. “I have snacks.”

He grins, pushing himself up and puts his boxer-briefs and sweatpants on to follow her out into the kitchen. Beth’s already uncovered the crumb cake she’d thrown together while studying for chem and cutting him a slice.

“Sit down or you’ll get it all over,” she tells him, passing him the cake. He takes it and does as told before taking a big bite.

“Fuck,” Rio says, getting crumbs all over the table, “I’m gonna wife you.”

Beth looks at him. “What?”

“You can bake like this,” he holds up the piece of cake, “make those sweaters look sexy as fuck, suck cock like it’s your job and -“

Beth screeches, but makes the mistake of being close enough for him to tug her towards him and then she’s straddling his lap as he finishes the cake.

“Don’t be crude,” she tells him.

“Yes Miss Marks,” he says, widening his eyes a little. “Am I hurting the delicate ears of the rest of the class with my foul language?”

“You’re being a prick.”

“Because I told you the truth?” Rio shakes his head, lifting his hand to run his fingers over her lips. “That mouth of yours,” he tuts, “could get us into all kinds of trouble.” He follows that up by kissing her, licking into her mouth. Beth makes a show of protesting, but it’s not very effective because she starts squirming on his lap.

“I think it’s your mouth that’s the real concern, Rio,” Beth tells him, rubbing herself against him. He’s in sweats, which aren’t doing much to hide the fact that he’s getting hard.

For her. Because of her.

“Don’t start that,” she scolds. “The pizza will be here soon.”

“Not that soon,” he says, pulling her back down for another kiss.

————————

It’s a shock to Beth, how easy it is to be with Rio. He can be a bit of a brat sometimes, demanding her attention, but he knows when she really needs to buckle down and work. Then he’ll leave her alone or go to the library with her and study next to her.

Their dates are haphazard, like he had said that they would be, but Beth likes that too. There’s no pressure to drop money on expensive dinners or to plan anything elaborate. He shows up at the end of her shifts to take her out to dinner sometimes, but it’s always somewhere casual and incredibly delicious.

She’s gone to a couple of his games to cheer him on, dragging Annie and Ruby with her. The only one happy about it is Stan, who actually enjoys baseball.

The weirdest is when he’s got away games sometimes and leaves for a few days. Every time that he comes back, it’s like he hasn’t seen her in weeks and he jumps her, fucking her long and hard until she’s practically crying. Or actually crying, like had happened the night before.

Beth blushes at the thought as she washes her hands, then pats them dry.

She goes back into the bedroom to find that Rio’s awake. He’s reclined against his navy blue sheets, bare chested and glorious, watching her shut the door.

“Turn around,” he says.

Beth stops halfway to the bed.

“Want the full picture.” Rio shifts so that his hands are behind his head. “I think I like you in my shirt,” he drawls. “Tug it up for me, darlin’.”

Blushing, Beth tugs it up so that he can see the curve of her hip.

“Uh uh. Want to see if you’re wearing any panties,” he says with a grin.

She isn’t and he knows it because they’re currently hanging off his ceiling fan. And Jesus, how the fuck had they even managed that?

She turns so that her back is to him, then she pulls up the back of his shirt so that he can see her bare ass. Looking over her shoulder, she watches him bite his lower lip. She drops the material. “Now you know,” she says, sounding far more saucy than she means.

“C’mere,” he says, voice husky. Beth walks to the bed and he lifts his head, slides his hands out and reaches for her. He directs her onto his lap. “Mmm, yeah, definitely not wearing any panties,” he says as he runs his fingers between her legs. He situates her so that she’s got her legs spread on either side of his waist. His cock is nudging her ass, but he doesn’t seem concerned.

“Touch yourself, Elizabeth.”

Beth stops breathing.

He takes one of her hands and brings it down between her legs.

“Fuck yourself for me, yeah?” Rio lets go of her hand to rest his hands on her thighs. “I’m gonna be gone for a few days. And know what I’m gonna do?”

She shakes her head.

“I’m gonna call you after my game,” he tells her, starting to massage little circles in her thighs, “and you’re gonna do this for me. You’re gonna work those little fingers inside of yourself and moan for me even though I’m not there. But I want to know what that looks like, Elizabeth. See, my imagination’s not too good and I want to make sure I’ve got an accurate image of what you’re looking like while I jerk off.”

Beth’s breathing is heavy now and she’s moving her hips back and forth against Rio’s belly.

“Your imagination is just fine,” Beth says.

Rio shakes his head. “I’m just a dumb jock, remember?”

She scowls.

“If I thought you’d let me take a picture, I’d ask for that,” he says. “But I don’t want to risk that - anybody else seeing you. C’mon, touch yourself. For me?”

He pouts, but his eyes are saying something else.

So Beth gives him what he says he wants and leans back onto one of her hands, spreading her legs a little wider and reaching down to tease herself. Tease him.

Rio puts his hands behind his head and settles in to watch. She’d half-expected him to look smug, but mostly he just looks focused.

She starts the way that she normally does, just lazily rubbing over herself, exerting just the tiniest amount of pressure.

Beth slides her finger inside of herself, shutting her eyes as she does. She’s still feeling Rio inside of her, so she quickly adds another. It’s not enough to replicate the feeling of him, but it’s a start. She rubs her palm against her clit as best as she can.

She can feel herself getting wetter as she goes. Hell, she’s probably leaving a wet spot on his belly. She shifts her hips a little at the thought.

“That’s it.” Rio’s voice is hoarse and scratchy. It makes her open her eyes to find that his eyes are glued to her hand. “Keep going,” he says.

“What makes you think I’m listening to you,” Beth deadpans, although her voice hitches a little in the middle as she brushes her thumb over her clit.

His smile is lazy. “If you aren’t, then I guess you can stop,” he says. “Maybe we should go to the library, get some studying done. I’ve got errands to run.”

Beth slides a third finger inside of herself and moans. “I’m busy.”

“I can see that, sweetheart.” She jumps when one of his hands settles on top of her thigh. “Need some help?”

She shakes her head. “No. I’m good.”

He chuckles. “Alright. Let me know if you change your mind.” His thumb strokes back and forth on her thigh. “I’m here.”

“Uh huh,” Beth gasps, pulling her fingers out to circle her clit. “Oh!” She hunches over.

“There we go,” Rio purrs. “Come on, Elizabeth.”

Beth bites her lower lip. She slips her middle finger back down and in.

“Whatchu need?” Rio asks. “Tell me, baby. You need me?” Beth shakes her head. “No, I bet you don’t. You’re a boss bitch.”

Beth tilts her head downwards to glare at him briefly, but he’s grinning up at her.

Her hips shift restlessly, hunting for a bit more pressure against her clit, but Beth doesn’t want to come yet. She’s enjoying herself and she wants to tease him for once. She takes her hand away from her cunt and sets her fingers against his mouth.

Rio opens his lips the second she touches him and sucks on her fingertips. Beth keeps rubbing herself back and forth on his belly, eyes on his. He sucks her fingers deeper and works his tongue over them.

It’s enough to send her over the last hurdle and she starts moving faster, moaning softly. She can’t keep her eyes open and doesn’t even try.

She hears Rio utter a soft “fuck” after letting her fingers fall from his mouth and then he’s rolling them. With his left hand, he undoes a few more buttons at the bottom of the shirt to reveal her belly. His right hand is already curling around his cock and stroking.

Panting softly, Beth runs her hands against her stomach. “You’re gonna ruin your shirt,” she tells him.

“Don’t give a fuck,” he replies, bending to mouth at her breast through the shirt. He bites her nipple and Beth hisses at the pain of it, but it quickly melts into the pleasure that’s still burning through her body.

“It’ll be worth it,” he says, nosing at the skin of her chest. There’s really just two buttons holding the shirt closed, so Beth moves her hands upwards and undoes those too. He takes advantage of it right away, sliding the shirt off her breast with his nose and lips.

His hand is brushing against her belly as he works his length and his tongue is hot as it swipes over her nipple. He groans.

“Are you waiting for me to offer you a hand?” Beth teases.

He laughs, but doesn’t stop what he’s doing, just switches sides.

“Did I give you enough material to work with?”

That gets his head up.

“No,” he answers.

Beth’s head jerks back.

“Don’t think I’ll ever have enough when it comes to you,” he goes on. “But it’s a start.”

“What are you thinking about?” Beth asks.

His lips twitch. “Oh baby, I’m not doing much thinking at all right now.” He kisses her quickly, then pulls away. The hand not on his cock settles on her chest, between her breasts. He licks his lips, looking her up and down. “But if I were, I’d be thinking about coming all over you.”

“I thought that was the plan,” she says, lifting her hands to run up his sides.

He shakes his head. “Oh, I’m gonna come on you,” he says, face twisting as he gets closer to his peak. “Right here, on your belly. But I’m talking about all over. On your tits, your ass, pussy, your neck.”

Beth squirms slightly at the promise in his voice.

“Oh fuck,” Rio curses, his hips fucking into his fist. His eyes slide partway shut as he starts to come. She jumps slightly at the sensation of his cum hitting her belly.

Rio groans.

——————————

Beth toys with the idea for well over a week, every time that she sees one of the shirts that Rio’s left over at her place. Thinks about the way that he’d looked at her while she was wearing his clothes.

So when he’s on the road and texts to ask her to move some leftovers that he’d forgotten to the freezer and Beth finds his home jersey sitting on the end of his bed, it seems like kismet.

His roommates are gone, on the road with him, but she still shuts his bedroom door to change. Like all of Rio’s clothes, the shirt’s too big, hangs down around her thighs.

It takes her a while to figure out how to pose and it feels so awkward as she stands in front of his bathroom mirror, half turned so that the back is in the shot too. She tugs up the hem so that it shows just a hint of her ass.

Beth takes the photo and sends it to Rio, then promptly changes back into her own clothes and runs back home to bake something to take her mind off the fact that she just took a risqué photo of herself wearing her boyfriend’s baseball shirt. Jersey. Whatever.

When she finally looks at her phone again, there’s a string of messages from Rio.

Fuck Elizabeth, you trying to kill me?

Jesus.

You wearing panties? I bet you’re not.

I’m pretty sure I could use my dick as a bat at this point.

Fuck. Wish I were there right now. I’d get you to open up those gorgeous thighs of yours.

Or maybe not. Maybe I’d give it to you from behind so I can see my name on your back.

Fuckfuckfuck. I gotta play a game but I’m gonna be thinking about you. Keep your phone on, I’ll call you once I’m back at the hotel.

She flushes. So he’d liked the photo then.

Beth checks the clock. The game has started. She pulls up the team’s website and smiles when she sees that they’re up. There’s a link to a feed and Beth is tempted to watch, but she closes the tab before she can do it. The whole thing is way too stressful.

She searched Rio once on social media. He doesn’t have his own accounts, but a bunch of his teammates do and he shows up on them from time to time. The majority of the posts had been game-related, but there had been a pretty big portion of what Annie had called “thirst tweets”.

Ruby had hastily shut her down. “Don’t do it,” she had said, leaning over Beth’s shoulder to shut the window. “Don’t do that to yourself, girl.”

“What?” Beth had batted her hand away.

“Do you really want to read all kinds of stuff about how other girls want to fuck your man?” Ruby’s sigh had been loud. “Honey Bee, people are going to say a lot of stuff. Your boyfriend is a minor celebrity on campus and he’s hot as fuck. I’m more than happy with Stan and I can see that. And with that, there’s bound to be some jealousy. Do you want to find a tweet saying you’re a ugly bitch just for dating him?”

Beth had shut her laptop. “It’s probably not that bad.”

“Maybe not,” Ruby agreed. “But do you want to risk it?”

Beth has been operating on that piece of advice for weeks. But she’s got hours to wait until Rio calls her.

She shuts her laptop and rolls over onto her stomach so she can groan into her pillow.

A knock on her door makes her lift her head. “Yeah?”

“It’s me,” Annie says.

Beth sits up. “Come in.”

Annie opens the door and comes in, holding a brownie. “Can I eat this?”

Beth gives her a look. “You got your hands on it, so yeah, I guess you can.”

Annie grins and takes a big bite as she comes into Beth’s room and climbs onto the bed. “Delicious,” she says through a full mouth. Beth makes a face.

“Gross,” Beth mutters.

“Pining for Rio?” Annie asks once she finishes chewing.

“No!” Beth shoves at her sister’s shoulder. “Just resting.”

“Uh huh.” Annie clearly doesn’t buy it. “I’m going to the movies with Gregg later.”

Beth lifts a brow, but Annie isn’t bothered.

“Movies,” Beth repeats with a snort.

Annie sticks out her tongue, which still has little bits of brownie on it, then takes another bite of the brownie.

“Just don’t get pregnant,” Beth tells her. “I’m too young to be an aunt.”

Her little sister giggles. “Nothing about me being too young to be a mom?”

“I’m trying to be non-judgemental,” Beth replies.

Annie just rolls her eyes. “You went with me to get birth control,” she says, like Beth would have forgotten that slightly awkward event. “And we use condoms.”

“Good,” Beth says.

“Is now the point when I tell you that I’m too young to be an aunt too?” Annie asks, finishing off the last of her brownie. Beth’s cheeks redden. “Does Rio wrap up?”

Beth pokes Annie with her foot. “None of your business,” she mutters.

“Hypocrite,” Annie drawls, falling onto her back.

“I’m the big sister,” Beth says. “I’m allowed to be a hypocrite.”

Annie jabs her in the side. “Lame.”

“You’re lame.” Beth shoves Annie towards the edge of the bed. “Now go do your homework.”

——————

Annie’s gone to the movies with Gregg and Ruby is somewhere with Stan when Rio calls a couple of hours later, Beth’s phone chirping from atop her nightstand. She rolls across her bed to snatch it up.

Beth picks up. “Hi,” she says softly. He doesn’t say anything, so she goes on. “What are you up to?”

He laughs, hoarse. “What do you think I’m doing, Elizabeth?”

Is that a trick question?

She must hesitate too long for Rio.

“I’ve got my hand on my cock and this fucking picture of you in my jersey pulled up.” He grunts. “You still wearing it?”

“No, I was making brownies and I didn’t want to get it all messy,” she tells him honestly.

“You gonna save some for me?”

“Uh huh.” She smiles, feeling a little frazzled by the hot feeling that’s pooling in her belly.

“So were you wearing panties?”

“No.”

He groans. “Baby, no fair. I’m a three hour flight away and I can’t -“ he makes a noise of frustration.

“You’ll be back,” Beth says.

Rio hisses. “Whatchu wearing now?”

“The t-shirt you left at my place,” Beth says, tugging at the hem and biting her lip. “That’s it.”

“Yeah? Which one was that?” He asks.

“The grey v-neck,” she says.

He hums. “How’s it doing with your tits? You stretching it out?”

Beth rolls her eyes. “No, I’m not. It’s big. Soft.”

“Feel good?”

“Not as good as you,” Beth says, glancing down at her breasts.

Rio swallows audibly. “Yeah, you love when I get my mouth on you, suck your nipples, bite ‘em.”

Beth shivers, sliding the hem of the shirt up and setting her hand on her bare belly.

“When I put my hands all over you,” he keeps going. “On your belly, even though it makes you squirm at first because you’re self conscious.” Beth flushes. “You don’t gotta be,” he tells her, his voice going firm in comparison to the lazy way he’s been talking.

Beth circles her belly button with her middle finger.

“Those hips.” He softens again. “I love grabbing your hips when I’m inside of you, watching your ass bounce. Fuck, it gets me hard, if I’m not already, to think about it. Still with me?”

Beth swallows. “Yeah,” she says, barely getting the word out.

He laughs, but it’s not a mean laugh, it’s an indulgent one. One that says he’s laughing with her.

“Because you haven’t been talking, Elizabeth. Not keeping up your end of this conversation,” he teases.

“I can’t get a word in edgewise with you,” Beth replies. “Always chattering on and on.”

Rio’s laugh gets louder, then cuts off. “Fuck off!” he shouts, slightly muffled.

Beth opens her mouth.

“Not you,” he says. “Some dumbasses were knocking on my door even though I told ‘em I didn’t want to go out.”

She instantly feels guilty. “You should go out with them. I don’t want to keep you from -“

“Elizabeth,” he interrupts her, “if I wanted to be out partying, I would be out partying. I don’t want to be. I want to be in my bed with you and since I can’t have that, I’m taking the second best option.”

The guilt lingers a little, but Beth smiles to herself. “Yeah?”

“Uh huh,” he says. “You doing what you showed me the other day?”

She wrinkles her nose. “Huh?”

“When you put those little fingers of yours inside of yourself for me.”

“Oh. No.”

“Been thinking about it,” Rio tells her. “You doing that, wearing my jersey. Would you do that for me?”

“Now?” Beth asks.

“No, I wanna watch that,” he answers. “When I come back. Maybe for my birthday.”

“Maybe I had plans for your birthday,” Beth teases him. She doesn’t really, not beyond baking him a cake. But she could.

“I can have more than one present,” Rio says. He groans, a low, drawn out noise.

“You almost there?” she asks. “You gonna come?”

“Yeah,” he replies.

She shivers.

“Wish it was with you,” he says. “On you. In you.”

Beth’s mind flashes back to her earlier conversation with Annie. “One day.”

“Uh huh.” Rio moans and Beth’s pretty sure that it’s the one that says he’s coming, which he confirms with another. She swallows, still just rubbing her fingers over her belly. She’s tempted to touch herself, but the soft burn low in her belly is pleasant and she just wants to let it simmer for a while.

“I broke a record today.”

Beth shifts. “What did you say?”

Rio hums. She can imagine him in his hotel room. He’s probably wiping himself off, then tossing the tissue or cloth to the side to deal with later, like an absolute -

“I broke a record for number of strikeouts,” he says.

“Seriously? That’s amazing!”

He chuckles. “Know what that means? I’m gonna need you to send me pictures like that before every game, sweetheart.”

Beth laughs. “Dream on, Rio.”

“Oh, I will,” he tells her. “Don’t you worry about that.”

Their conversation turns towards their plans for the long weekend coming up and they talk until Beth finds herself dozing off.

“I’ll let you go,” Rio says, amused. “Don’t want you to stay up past your bedtime.”

“Oh screw you,” Beth retorts. “I’m staying up until Annie gets home anyway.”

He hums. “She still going out with that nerd?”

Beth bites her lip at that. “He’s nice!” she protests.

“I’m just repeating what you said,” Rio says.

She had called Gregg a nerd. To be fair, he was one.”Yes, they’re still dating. And sexually active, so I don’t want to think about it.”

Rio laughs. “Annie and Gregg, sitting in a tree,” he starts to say.

“I’ll hang up on you!”

He stops singing. “If you hang up, you can’t tell me to have a good night. Then I’m gonna sleep terrible and when I get home, I’ll have to take a nap instead of coming over to your place.”

Beth smiles to herself. “That would be a real shame.”

“It would,” Rio agrees. “Wanna kiss you.”

“That’s it?” Beth teases.

“It’s what I want the most.” His voice goes a little softer. “Wanna sleep in bed with you too.”

“Yeah?”

“Uh huh. Hotel beds suck. And it feels too big.”

Beth’s smile gets bigger. “You’re a bed hog, so you should like that. You can stretch out.”

“I’m not a bed hog,” Rio protests. “I just like being where you are.”

She laughs. There’s a car door closing outside that makes her sit up and pull her curtain aside. “Annie’s home.”

Rio hums in acknowledgement. “Go to sleep,” he tells her. “I’ll be back tomorrow. You around?”

“Class finishes at 2 and then I’m free.”

“Then I’ll see you when I get in,” Rio says. “Sleep well, baby.”

“Good night, Rio.”

————————

Beth gets update texts from Rio all morning.

Airport.

Plane sitting on the tarmac. :(

Airport.

So she’s ready when he knocks on the door and jumps up from the couch to let him in.

Rio comes into the house and immediately hoists her up against the door and shoves his tongue in her mouth. “Ruby home?” he asks.

Beth shakes her head and he spins her so that she’s facing the door and shoves her leggings down.

“I need you,” he says, “now, baby.”

Beth moans as he uses his fingers to get her wet.

“Condom,” she says.

“I grabbed one,” he says, “dropped my bag off at home.”

Beth nods and looks over her shoulder at him as he takes his hand away. It’s quick work for him to shove his pants down and unroll the condom down his length.

“Brace yourself,” he demands, leaning down to kiss her as he holds her in place. Beth braces herself against the door as he pushes in. “Oh shit,” he says, breaking the kiss to groan. “Been dreaming about this.”

“You were gone for two days,” Beth pants.

“Two days too long,” Rio says. “Spent the whole time thinking about coming inside of you. Bare. Thought about how much I want that, what it’ll look like.”

Beth gasps. She’s never - no one’s ever -

“One day, we’re gonna do that,” he kisses her ear, “and I’m gonna fill you up.”

He keeps one hand on her hip, but the other comes up to the neck of her shirt to tug it down so he can touch her breast. He cups her softly, then squeezes and pinches. He’s overwhelming her with the sensations and his words.

“One day,” he says into her hair, “when I’ve put my ring on your finger,” Beth moans as he presses a hand between her legs, “I’m gonna put a baby in you.”

Beth had never thought of that particular phrase as anything sexy, but coming from Rio…she sobs out a “Yes.”

It doesn’t take long for him to make her come and he follows after. He kisses the back of her neck as they regain their footing.

“Fuck,” he says. Beth shivers at how wrecked he sounds.

——————

The further he gets into the year, the more sure Rio is that what he’d jokingly said to Beth one day in her kitchen was true. He really is going to wife her. Not yet, of course. But he’s got plans.

Plans his dad picks up on about five minutes into family dinner with Beth. He gives Rio an amused look and pats him on the back when they leave.

“You’re just like me,” he says with a laugh. “I knew I was going to marry your mother as soon as I met her.”

“Mom tells it different,” Rio retorts.

His dad just makes a noise and shakes his head. “Your mother likes to pretend that she played hard to get and I let her. Wait until you finish school though, alright?”

Rio can’t fight his smile. “I’m not in a rush,” he tells his dad.

“Good.”

“Besides, Elizabeth is doing teacher’s college too, so we’ll see where we end up.” Rio kicks a rock and watches it skip across the pavement. “Maybe she won’t feel the same way.”

“Oh don’t be modest,” his dad scolds, “it doesn’t suit you. That girl is head over heels for you, just like your mother was for me.”

Rio bites the inside of his cheek to fight a laugh, but at that moment, Beth and his mother catch up with them. “What are you two conspiring about?” his mother asks.

“Rio’s starting an underground boxing ring,” his dad replies without pause, “and I’m giving him advice from my days as a boxer.”

“A boxer? You were never a boxer. You threw one punch in your life.”

“But it landed, didn’t it?”

Rio takes Beth’s hand as his parents start to tease each other.

“They’re always like this,” he tells her. “Sorry.”

She smiles up at him and squeezes his hand. “I like it. It’s really sweet. They love each other a lot.”

“They do,” Rio agrees, walking towards the cars.

They part ways with his parents after he promises to take them to lunch the next day and he holds her hand all the way home.

“Stay over tonight?” Beth asks. “I don’t want to leave Annie home alone.”

Rio nods, bending down to kiss the corner of her mouth. “I assume I gotta sleep in something if your sister’s around.”

Beth laughs as she nods.

“In that case,” he steps back, “I’m gonna grab some stuff from my place and be right over.”

“I’ll leave the kitchen door unlocked,” she tells him. “See you in a few.”

Rio doesn’t exactly run to the house to grab his shit, but he does walk fast. Once he’s inside, he grabs one of the spare gym bags that sponsors keep giving them and starts to shove clean clothes and his toiletries in.

“Where you going?” Bullet asks, standing in the doorway and eating a bowl of cereal.

“Elizabeth’s,” Rio answers.

Bullet, who has come around to Beth now that they’ve been together a while, laughs, then makes the noise of a whip. “You’re whipped, man.”

“And?” Rio retorts, trying to remember if there are any condoms left in Beth’s bedroom. He can’t remember, so he grabs the unopened box he’d picked up a few days earlier and tosses it on top of his bag.

“Nah,” Bullet just shakes his head and keeps eating, “it’s cute. When’s the wedding?”

“Like three years from now,” Rio says, zipping up the bag. “Depends on timing.”

Bullet, if he’s surprised, doesn’t look phased. “I better be invited. I practically introduced you two.”

Rio rolls his eyes. “No, you played your fucking music too loud.”

“And it got her over here, didn’t it?” Bullet grins. “You gotta name your firstborn after me. That’s the rule.”

“I’m not naming my kid Bullet,” Rio says with a snort.

Bullet considers. “Yeah, if your kid’s anything like you, no way they’ll run fast enough for the name. Guess you could go with Dante.”

“I’m not naming my fucking kid after you.” Rio grabs his bag and slings it over his shoulder. “So don’t hold your breath for that.”

Bullet’s still laughing as Rio shuts the front door behind himself. He crosses to the other side and ducks into the backyard so he can get to the kitchen door.

Annie’s sitting at the kitchen table, homework spread out. She looks up when he opens the door, then jerks her thumb over her shoulder. “She’s in her room.”

Rio nods, taking off his shoes. “Whatcha working on?”

“Trig,” Annie says with a hint of disgust in her voice.

“Need help?” Rio offers, taking a look at her homework over her shoulder.

She tilts her head back. “Will you yell at me if I get it wrong?”

“No.”

Her mouth moves as she considers. “Okay.”

When Beth comes out a few minutes later, Rio’s made her get a new sheet of paper and has started from the beginning.

“Sorry,” he says to her, “I’ll be right there.”

Beth just shakes her head, disappears, and comes back with a textbook, which she plunks on the table next to them and starts to read.

“I asked my sister how the future in-laws were, but she just blushed,” Annie says when they’ve gotten through the first few problems. “So how’d it go?”

Rio sets down the pencil he’s been using to draw diagrams for her. “It was good. My dad likes her. Haven’t had a chance to talk to my mom yet, but I think your sister made a convert of her too.”

“Good,” Annie says. “Beth is amazing and if your parents are jerks to her, I would take it out on you.”

He smiles at Annie, who looks like she’s very serious. His smile fades as he tilts his head to the side in consideration. He’s got bits and pieces about Beth’s ex, but he gets a feeling that he’s just found out one more detail about him. Annie meets his eyes and, seeming to understand the conclusions he’s coming to, nods once.

“They were lovely,” Beth tells her sister. “They even invited you to come out with us next time.”

Annie puts her head back down, but she’s pleased. Rio lifts his foot and reaches across the space beneath the table to touch Beth’s. She jolts slightly, eyes flicking to him, then back to her book. Slides her foot a little bit closer to him.

“Alright,” Rio picks the pencil back up, “so this is where you’ve been going wrong on this kind of problem.”

They pass the rest of the evening like that, Rio going through Annie’s homework with her while Beth alternates between reading, pretending to read while playing footsie, and watching the two of them with such an obvious look of affection on her face that Rio wants to kiss her.

But he waits until they reach the end of Annie’s assignment and she goes to get ready for bed. He slides into the chair beside Beth and smiles. “Hi.”

“Hi,” she says back. “Thank you.”

Rio shakes his head. “Didn’t do it for you.”

“But I’m still grateful,” Beth says, shifting so that she can lean towards him and kiss him lightly. “I’ve tried helping her, but she gets stubborn with me.”

He hums. “You can teach me later, if you want,” he offers.

“Teach you what?” Beth laughs. “I’m pretty sure you know more about trig than I ever did.”

“Not trig,” he lowers his voice as he leans down. “Although if you want to play math tutor sometime, I’m down.” He kisses her as her laughter grows. “C’mon. Let’s go to bed.”

—————————

A few days later, Rio’s on his way back towards the bus after an away game when someone calls his name. He grimaces, but turns, ready to have a polite conversation with someone.

“Yeah?”

The guy who called after him is tall, broad, a few years older. He doesn’t say anything.

Rio stares the guy down.

“What?” he asks, just wanting to get on the bus and go home. Beth’s probably going to be asleep by the time he gets home, but maybe if he messages her now, she’ll leave a key at his place.

The guy’s jaw hardens. “She’s moving down in the world, huh.”

Rio tilts his head. “Excuse me?”

“Beth.”

Rio straightens up, hand fisting. “What about Elizabeth?” he says it in a tone designed to warn. But the guy ignores it.

“She must be getting desperate for cock,” the guy says, stepping closer, “since I broke her in.”

Rio doesn’t think. He just swings his fist.

———————

Beth’s waiting on the porch at Rio’s when he gets home hours later. He looks away.

“Stan told me,” she says. “Apparently it’s been all over Twitter that you got in a fight.”

“The name Dean Boland mean anything to you?” Rio asks, still not looking at her.

“Yes. I didn’t warn you about it because I didn’t even think he’d know,” Beth goes on. “I was hoping that he’d forgotten about me.”

“Well, he didn’t,” Rio snaps, almost instantly regretting how harsh that sounds. He finally drops his gaze to Beth and sighs, takes a seat next to her on the steps.

“What did he say?” Beth asks, taking his hand and lifting it to her mouth to kiss his bruises. “Why’d you punch him?”

“He said,” Rio’s jaw is tight, “and I quote, “She must be getting desperate for cock since I broke her in.” I didn’t think, I just -“

She drops her head against his shoulder. “Rio,” she says gently, “he’s just a bad memory.”

“He sees it different.”

Beth squeezes his hand. “He can see it however he likes. He’s nobody to me. You, you’re….”

“I’m what?” Rio asks.

“You’re everything,” Beth tells him. She kisses his knuckles again. “Now let’s go inside,” she says, “and you can make love to me.”

She feels him shiver. She stands first and tugs him up, leading him into the house. The other guys are gone and it’s quiet as she leads him through the house.

Even though the house is empty, she shuts the door behind them before she starts to undress - first herself, then him. Rio lets her take the lead, though once she takes off her bra, he reaches up to cup her, play with her breasts while she strips him.

He isn’t all the way hard when she takes him out of his underwear, but he gets there quickly enough once she takes him in her hand and strokes him a few times. He breaks then, leaning down to kiss her.

It’s less slow from there. He lifts her up to carry her to the bed, but when he goes to get a condom from the nightstand, she grabs his hand.

“Are you sure?” Rio asks. Beth nods. “Fuck,” he curses, but takes himself in hand and presses his bare cock to her entrance. In theory, it doesn’t feel all that different, but it does.

Whether it’s the emotions of the day or the absence of a barrier between them, Beth comes fast, whimpering and crying out. Rio doesn’t last much longer.

Rio stays pressed close against her as he peaks. She feels him inside of her, spilling his cum. She shivers at the sensation and he wraps himself a little closer with a whine.

It’s a few long minutes before he pulls out. He does it slowly, kissing every inch of skin in reach as he does it.

Rio looks down between her legs. Beth starts to close them, but he hooks his hands behind her knees and presses them apart. She bites her lip.

“Rio,” she says.

He shakes his head. “Shh, I’m taking a photograph of this moment in my head.”

She squirms a little. “I need to clean up.”

He shakes his head again. “Uh uh.”

She can feel him start to trickle out of her and it’s enough to make her flush even harder. Only then Rio’s finger is catching the drop and sliding up and in and -

“Oh,” Beth moans, her head falling back. “I love you,” she gasps and he stills.

She tilts her chin down so that she can see the expression on his face and she’s glad that she did because he’s looking at her like she’s the most precious thing in the world.

“I love you,” he says, bending down to kiss her.

Beth puts her hands on Rio’s cheeks, stroking his cheekbones. Her heart feels like it’s about to burst from happiness and when he lifts his head, she realizes she’s crying. He kisses the tears, repeating it over and over.

“I love you. I love you. I love you.”

—————————————

Rio’s waiting at the end of the ceremony, Annie at his side. Ruby’s also there somewhere, but she’s wearing a robe and getting hugs and kisses from her family. Beth gives Annie a hug first, then turns to Rio.

“Hey,” he says after he gives her a quick kiss. “Proud of you.”

Almost absentmindedly, he takes her left hand and starts to twist the ring he’d put on her finger a few months ago. Literally. She’d woken up one morning with it on, not realizing until she’d been pouring cereal into a bowl. She had shrieked, which had brought him running. Naked. When he’d realized what she was screaming about, he’d lifted her onto the kitchen table and made love to her there as Beth just said “Yes” over and over.

“I’m proud of me too,” Beth says. “I’m officially a qualified teacher.”

She’s got some interviews lined up, starting in a couple of weeks, after they get back from vacation.

“We might not be able to take a honeymoon,” Rio had said. “Depending on when the wedding is. And I want to relax on a beach with you. Nothing but eating and swimming, sleeping and fucking you.” Beth hadn’t been able to argue with that logic.

“So,” he says, tucking her hair behind her ear now that the cap’s off, “my family’s here.”

Beth’s eyes widen. Rio’s family is basically what she’d always dreamed about as a kid, but they’re a lot and Rio’s mother has opinions about everything. Rio, as only boy of the family, is at the top of the list of things those opinions are about. She’s lovely and Beth adores her, but she has a feeling that if Yolanda could have made Beth lie back and pop out a couple of grandbabies over the past couple of years, she would have.

Rio just laughs. “They wanted to take you to dinner to celebrate. They’ll be here for a few days, but Nina’s got a college tour they’re gonna go to, so don’t worry about them invading.”

She smiles, shaking her head. “I wasn’t worried about that.”

“You were,” Rio says, slinging his arm around her shoulder. It’s then that Beth realizes that Annie’s practically vibrating with excitement. Beyond what she should be for Beth’s graduation. It’s not that exciting.

“I have a suggestion.” He looks slightly unsure, but he pushes on. “Courthouse wedding.”

“What?” Beth stares at him. “But you - I thought you wanted -“

“Elizabeth,” he says, taking her chin in his hand and shaking it, “I just want to be married to you. Do you want the whole big thing? The ceremony, the party. Because if you do, I’ll give it to you, you know that.”

The thing is…she doesn’t. And he knows it. Has ever since the topic of marriage came up the very first time.

“I think we both know that it would make us miserable,” he smiles, “and would probably drive us mad. So here’s my suggestion. At dinner tonight, we don’t say anything. I already told my mother no wedding talk. This is your day. But maybe tomorrow, you and Ruby and Annie go shopping, get some dresses. Friday, we fill out the paperwork and tell my family. We go in Saturday and get married.”

“Rio,” Beth sighs.

“There’s maybe a reservation at that restaurant you like for their back room for lunch,” he goes on. “Which, I mean, we’ll do that either way. But it could be our party.”

“You’re serious.”

He nods.

“You’re actually serious. You want to get married,” Beth says.

Rio just holds up her hand. “Why do you think I gave you this?” he asks, like he can’t quite believe her. “Did you think it was just for fun or something?”

“No, but I -“ Beth falters. “I just assumed it would take time for us to get there.”

“You want it to take us time? You gotta tell me if you do.”

She thinks about it for a moment, bites her lip, and smiles.

———————

“You’re doing what?” Rio’s mother gasps. His father is quick to put his hand out and rest it on his wife’s shoulder. “A courthouse?”

Nina’s laughing into her hand.

“Yes,” Rio confirms.

“But -“ his mother starts to say.

“Congratulations,” Rio’s dad says. Yolanda turns to look at him and she sighs. “What? We thought something like this would happen.”

“You did?” Beth can’t stop herself from asking.

Phillip nods. “Ever since Rio told us he was going to propose,” he says, getting up to circle the table and offer her a hug. “I kept expecting a phone call from Las Vegas or something saying that you had tied the knot. We’re glad to be invited.”

Beth laughs into his shoulder and by the time he lets go, Yolanda is up too, tugging Beth into a hug of her own.

“Welcome to the family,” Nina mutters when she hugs Beth. “You can’t escape now.”

Carmen’s hug is longer and she squeezes tighter. Beth likes both of Rio’s sisters, but Carmen’s that much closer to her own age and more mature. She’s easy to talk to and understands the frustrations of having a semi-wild younger sister.

“Thanks for making him happy,” Carmen says.

Looking at Rio, who’s getting a hug from his mother even as she scolds him, Beth smiles. He’s the one that makes her happy, she wants to argue, but she knows that neither of those statements is entirely right. Or both of them are. They make each other happy.

—————

Beth loves it like this, when Rio fucks her slowly from behind in the morning. Still under the covers, warm and still a little hazy from sleep. He lifts her knee so he can put his cock inside of her, then grinds against her for a moment.

Beth’s mouth falls open on a moan. “Rio,” she whines as she buries her head in the pillow. She might still be the tiniest bit drunk.

“Mrs. Mendez,” he says into her ear, biting the lobe. Beth feels a thrill at hearing that - her name now.

She wriggles against him and he rolls them so she’s on her belly.

“Jesus,” Beth groans as she grips the pillow tighter. “Trying to break me?”

“Actually,” Rio says, the charm and chain of his necklace moving over her skin as his hips slap against hers, “the plan is to put a baby in you.”

Beth gasps, tightening around him. They’ve talked about it. He yanks her hips up so that she’s kneeling.

“Yeah, sweetheart,” he groans, “you want that don’t you?” His hand comes up off the bed to briefly cup her stomach and she knows that he’s picturing it, what she’ll look like.

She nods, gasping as his cock hits a particularly nice angle. Rio keeps it up until she’s a sobbing mess and when he finally comes, she’s truly starting to wake up.

Rio pulls out and moves to the side so he can curl around her.

Beth rubs her face in the pillows and groans. It takes her a moment to realize that the doors are open.

“How long have you been awake?” she asks, turning onto her side so that she’s facing him.

“Not long.” He kisses her. “I came in to wake you up to watch the sunrise.”

Beth pouts. “I don’t wanna move.”

Rio just pats her ass, then rolls over to sit up. “Come on. First sunrise as a married woman, you don’t wanna see it?”

“There was a sunrise yesterday,” she reminds him.

Rio shakes his head. “Nope, we slept through it, so it doesn’t count.”

Beth covers her face with a pillow.

Rio pulls it off. “There’s no one around. You don’t even have to get dressed. You can just wrap yourself in this sheet or something.”

Beth blinks at him. “I hate you.”

Rio yanks the sheet off and tugs at her leg. “Elizabeth,” he says.

Still pouting, Beth sits up, groaning at how sensitive she feels. Rather than wrapping herself in the sheet though, she stumbles to her suitcase and unzips it. It doesn’t take long for her to find one of the floaty robes that Ruby had helped her pick out for the honeymoon. For all the TV shows and movies about how hard it was to find a wedding dress, Beth had bought the second one she tried on and it had been perfect.

She had promptly sent Annie to a friend’s house and gone lingerie shopping with Ruby. “There are things that my sister does not need to know about me,” Beth had told Ruby.

She slips her arms into the sleeves and ties it loosely at her waist before realizing that Rio’s still sitting on the bed, watching her. “What?”

“Debating whether or not I should just let you get back in bed so I can take that off you,” he says, voice smooth.

Beth pulls her hair out of the neck of the robe. “Nope. I’m up now. First sunrise as a married woman and all that.”

Laughing, Rio rises up off the bed, the sheet falling away until he’s completely nude as he walks towards her. He bends, kissing her.

“Put something on,” Beth says, touching his bare hip. “We’re going outside.”

“Private area,” Rio tries, but Beth shakes her head. It’s his turn to pout, but he tugs on a pair of basketball shorts that hang low on his hips.

They’ve been married for two days now, depending on how you account for the time zone change.

“Ready?” she asks, holding out her hand to him. He takes it and lets her tug him out of the bungalow with a laugh.

—————————

Beth lies on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. “What if it’s not -“

Rio squeezes her hand. “Then we keep trying. Trust me, it’s not a hardship.”

She laughs and lets her head fall towards him.

He bridges the distance between them and kisses her. Soft, but lingering. Then a little more deeply. Then he’s rolling so that he’s on top of her and he’s shoving down their lounge pants.

Beth pants against his mouth as he slides his cock into her. She registers the beeping of her phone timer going off, but Rio just shakes his head. “Ignore it,” he says before ducking his head down to mouth at her nipple through her - his - shirt.

“But we -“

“Shhhh,” he hushes her. “I wanna make love to my wife, okay? You want that?”

She nods.

“Then forget about the other stuff sweetheart. Just focus on this,” he rocks his hips, “on us.” He leads her hand down between her legs and leaves it there for her to feel where they’re connected.

Beth’s head falls back as she explores, her fingers brushing the skin at the base of his cock.

Rio groans. “Yeah, like that,” he says, kissing her and preventing her from responding. If she’d been able to respond anyways. He’s not fucking around, drawing it out for either of them. It might all be a distraction technique, but Beth’s pretty sure he’s just as eager to look at the test as she is. After years together, he knows her, knows where she likes him to touch, knows what drives her wild and Beth knows just as much about him. She bites his bottom lip and rubs her clit.

It’s pretty quick and Rio comes almost right as her orgasm ends. He kisses her a bit longer, some on her mouth, others all over her face and neck as Beth giggles.

Eventually though, he pulls out with a soft hiss and gets out of bed. Beth starts to get up, but he puts a hand on her chest. “Stay here,” he commands.

She gives him a look to let him know what she thinks of that, but settles in against the pillows.

Rio goes into the washroom and when he doesn’t come back out right away, she sits up. “Rio?”

He comes back with the test in his hand and stands naked in the doorway, staring down at it.

“What is it?” she asks, just wanting to know already.

He stops starting at the test and comes back to bed, sets it down on the nightstand, but stops Beth from rolling towards it. “Congratulations, mami,” he says into her ear.

Beth shrieks, scrambling to grab it to confirm what Rio’s just told her. She looks at the results, then back at him, then tosses the test away and pulls him down on top of her with a laugh.

—————————

Rio rubs lotion over the steadily growing bump as Beth relaxes in bed.

“We’re not naming our child Lil Nas X, Rio,” she snaps.

He makes a noise. “We gotta honour why we met, sweetheart.” Beth growls in the back of her throat. “Besides, that’s dumb. We’d just name him Nas. Then it does double duty.”

Beth opens one eye to glare at him. “Then the next one is Billy Ray. You can’t tell me that you want a child named Billy Ray.”

Rio’s face twists. “Fine, we’ll compromise. Nas as a middle name.”

Beth laughs. ”Dream on.”

“Bullet said he expects us to name our first born after him too,” he says, kissing her belly.

“Bullet Mendez is almost as bad as Lil Nas X Mendez,” Beth says.

Rio slides up the bed to lie next to her, keeping his hand on the bump. It makes Beth smile, how he always wants to be close.

“His parents didn’t name him Bullet,” Rio says with a shake of the head. “His name’s Dante.”

“Dante Mendez,” Beth says, then scrunches up her nose. “It’s cute, but I’m not sure I’m keen on the idea of naming our child after Bullet.”

Rio chuckles. “Not even if he’s the reason we met?”

Beth rolls onto her side towards him. “Not even then.”

“Hear that, panini?” Rio ducks back down to talk to the bump as Beth rolls her eyes at his nickname for the baby. “One day, you’ll ask us why we picked your name and I’ll say I tried to get your mama to go for Bullet or Nas, but she insisted on a boring one.”

“We’re not giving him a boring name!” Beth insists. “What would you do if we named him Bullet and he was a slow runner? Do you want him to be teased?”

Rio scowls, giving her belly another rub. “He’s not gonna get teased.”

Beth runs her hand over his head, wondering if she should bother reminding him that kids can be little assholes, but decides not to bother. He knows.

———————————

“He’s your son,” Beth groans into her pillow.

Rio’s breathing, open mouthed, against her back, half crushing her into the mattress. “I dunno, mami, I remember us both being involved in makin’ him.” He rubs his nose across her shoulder and tugs her a little closer with the arm he’s got wrapped around her waist.

Beth tries to kick him, but he’s faster and grabs her leg, hoisting it awkwardly over his hip.

“You ask nice, I’ll get him,” Rio says, stroking the crease of her hip.

“Please go get him,” Beth replies.

He laughs at how insincere she sounds, but he rolls away and she can hear him pull some clothes on, then his footsteps on the hallway floor.

She’s floating in a state of maybe going back to sleep when she hears Rio’s voice as he approaches their bedroom.

“You gotta give me and your mama a break sometimes, little man,” he’s saying, “or your ma’s gonna make sure I can’t give you any brothers or sisters. You may not want them now, but you probably will and we should leave that option open.”

He comes into the bedroom and Beth rolls onto her back in time to see him kiss Marcus’ head as their son squirms around in his arms. Rio grins at her.

“There’s mama,” he coos. “I changed him, but he’s hungry.”

Beth yawns and sits up, taking Marcus and tugging her shirt - Rio’s shirt - open enough that she can feed him. Marcus babbles for a few seconds, waving his arms around, but latches on quickly after that.

Rio climbs back into bed beside her, setting a hand on Marcus’ back and kissing her bare shoulder.

-------------------

“Ready to go back to work?” Rio asks, running his fingers up and down her arm as they lie side by side in bed, Marcus between them.

Beth bites her lip. She is and she isn’t, something that she and Rio have discussed at length.

“Nervous,” she answers. “I’ve got freshmen classes this semester.”

“Minor niners,” Rio jokes. “It’s just a couple of hours,” he strokes her arm, “and remember what we talked about. If it’s too much, then you don’t go back right away, we delay this a bit longer.”

Beth smiles over at him. “I know.”

But she does feel like the time is right, so they slowly get out of bed. Rio showers while she gets started on feeding Marcus, just in case he gets messy.

“No.”

Beth looks at Marcus, who’s glaring at her. “Baby, you need to eat,” she tells him, offering the spoon again.

“No!” he shouts.

She sees Rio come in and he’s shaking his head. “He’s your son,” he teases her, bending to kiss the top of her head, then taking the spoon from her hand. “Alright, Marcus, let’s do this.”

Beth slides off the chair, letting Rio take her spot as she gets her morning coffee and scarfs down a banana.

“Nana!” Marcus says when she walks through his field of vision. He knocks the spoon that Rio’s trying to get into his mouth aside. “Nana!”

Rio looks at her. “I think he’s got a request.”

Rolling her eyes - just yesterday, Marcus had refused to even touch banana - Beth grabs another one and passes it to Rio. He peels it and cuts off a piece, handing it to Marcus, who happily shoves it in his mouth and chews.

“Nana,” he repeats, holding out his hand for more. Rio feeds him like that, alternating between a piece for Marcus, a piece for himself, until Marcus just starts squishing it between his fingers and babbling. “Nana nana,” he singsongs, clapping his hands together and smashing the banana around.

Rio groans, but waves Beth away. “Go shower and get ready,” he tells her. “I can handle the little hurricane here.”

“Nana!” Marcus slaps his hands down on the tray of his high chair as Beth escapes.

She’d put all of her clothes out the night before in a bit of a frenzy until Rio had practically tied her to the bed to get her to relax. Then he’d spent an inordinate amount of time with his mouth between her thighs before fucking her to sleep.

So she’s pretty much ready. She sticks to minimal make-up, just enough to make it look like she does occasionally get some sleep. Standing in front of the mirror, she tugs her shirt to lay flat and leaves the bathroom to find Rio and Marcus in the living room.

Rio’s cleaned Marcus up and they both look over at her when she comes into view. Rio whistles.

“Damn, mami,” he says with a leer. “You sure you’re going to school?”

Beth sticks her tongue out at him. “Just because you’re hot for teacher doesn’t mean that everyone is,” she mutters to him as she goes to the front door.

“Oh they will be,” he teases, his hand brushing against her ass when she passes him. “Wanna tell your mama how pretty she looks today?”

Marcus makes some noises, then claps his hands, making Beth laugh as she slips her shoes on.

“Me and panini will be good,” Rio tells her, hoisting Marcus up high and making a “whoosh” noise. Marcus giggles and waves his arms around. “Tell your mama that you and me are gonna be just fine on our own.”

Beth sniffs and Rio looks over at her.

“But we always like it better when she’s here,” he adds, lowering Marcus and stepping close to Beth. “It’s gonna be fine, baby. And you’re gonna come home this afternoon and then we’ll go to the park together, yeah?”

Beth likes going to the park, even if Marcus is still too little to do much more than people watch and play with a few toys. She nods.

“Then we’ll come home,” Rio keeps going, “and we’ll make dinner, put pop to bed,” he drops his forehead against hers, “and then we’ll have a little party of our own.” He grins. “Practice for when we wanna make another one.”

She pokes him in the belly.

“What?” he says. “I’m an athlete. Practice makes perfect, Elizabeth.”