“Just stay the hell out of my life!”
Tobin looked up sharply from her sketchbook and peered in the direction of the sound.
A young woman, about her age and height, but with slightly darker skin and wild curly hair was storming out of the neighbor’s house.
Tobin froze, watching carefully as the woman came to a stop at the road, put her hand on her hips, looked around, harrumphed, then ran her hand through her hair. She didn’t spot Tobin. Then again, so few people bothered to look up, Tobin had found.
Now did not exactly seem like a good time to hop down and introduce herself, either.
The woman ran a hand through her hair, pushing it back away from her face and revealing a sharp jawline and high cheekbones that caught the glow of the setting sun so perfectly that it took Tobin’s breath away.
A moment later, the banging of a door jolted Tobin’s attention back to the house from which the woman had emerged.
“You’re going to miss me!” A man emerged, two bags clenched in whitened fists, face red in anger. “You’re going to regret this!”
“Go sing it somewhere else,” the woman spat in his direction, her eyes narrowed.
Tobin felt suddenly like she was intruding on something that she definitely shouldn’t be, but there was no way for her to get down from the top of the moving truck without attracting attention to herself and revealing that she’d been there all along.
“I mean it, Chris! I’m not coming back to you if I leave!”
The woman, Chris, presumably, seemed unimpressed by the threat. She gave a little shooing wave. “Well, get going, then!”
Tobin managed to smother her snort. Whoever Chris was, she was fire and the man who stood before her clearly didn’t know how to handle her. He stood there, face turning almost purple, mouth opening and closing like a codfish, as he attempted to come up with some sort of response.
Chris looked at him expectantly. “Go on!” she shooed again.
“Fucking bitch!” the man muttered, then he regripped his bags, turned away from both of them and walked away.
“Tell Shawna good luck dealing with your bullshit!” Chris called after him.
Tobin raised an eyebrow. The plot thickens, she thought.
The man attempted to flip Chris off, but in doing so his grip on one of the bags failed and it fell to the ground, splitting open and spilling clothes all over the sidewalk.
Tobin couldn’t repress her laugh at that.
Chris looked up sharply, the amused grin on her face falling into a scowl as she spotted Tobin.
“Creep,” Chris sneered loud enough so Tobin could hear.
Tobin stopped laughing and sighed.
Chris marched back into what was presumably her house, not bothering to watch the man continue to struggle to gather his belongings further up the sidewalk.
“So much for a good first impression,” Tobin muttered under her breath. And then she climbed down off of the moving truck and began to carry the last of her boxes inside.
It was two weeks later the next time she saw Chris more than in passing. Two weeks before she got to properly introduce herself as something besides the creep who watched her breakup with her boyfriend. Two weeks passed before she got a chance to make a second first impression.
And it didn’t go well.
“You can do a lot better.”
Why? Why were those the first words that left her mouth? Why was THAT what she was able to come up with?
Okay, sure, she’d been working late into the night for the past few nights to try to finish some pieces and then she’d had to be up early this morning to meet with the gallery manager, so maybe she was a little bleary-eyed, but she could have come up with SOMETHING better. Right? Like a basic introduction?
Chris looked up from where she was pruning a rose bush in her yard with a confused expression.
“Than that guy,” Tobin mumbled, her cheeks flushing in embarrassment. She really needed to make more of an effort to not get quite so wrapped up in her art that she forgot how to interact with people. “The one who left the other week? When I was moving in?”
Chris still looked bewildered. “Yeah. I know. That’s why I dumped him.”
“Right. Yeah.” Tobin kicked at the sidewalk with the toe of her shoe, ignoring the way it scuffed the leather. She lifted her hand behind her neck and rubbed at the skin there, trying to think of how to fix this. “Um, anyway, I didn’t mean to overhear or whatever. When that happened. I was just...taking a break from moving my stuff in.”
“On top of the moving truck,” Chris accused.
Tobin blushed harder. “Yeah, well, I like to get up high. Gives me a better, um, view. Like a different angle. I was...sketching...anyway, sorry. For overhearing.”
Chris’s demeanor shifted slightly, the tension in her shoulders draining just a little. “Probably half the neighborhood heard,” she acknowledged. “You’re just the only one who was openly staring.”
That did nothing to help Tobin’s blush. New line of conversation. Quick. “I’m Tobin, by the way.” She stepped forward with her hand out, careful not to actually cross the boundary onto Chris’s property.
Chris seemed to study her for a moment, eyes dragging over her as if appraising her worth as a recipient of a proper introduction. Then she tugged off a gardening glove and extended her own hand to Tobin. “Christen,” she replied.
Tobin made the mental correction. Christen, not Chris.
“Nice to meet you.”
Her hand was surprisingly soft, Tobin thought. Or maybe it was just that Tobin’s hands were so rough and calloused, always coated in paint here and there. She looked down and noticed a telltale smear of pthalo blue streaked up her arm.
“That’s a nice bush,” Tobin said.
Christen’s eyebrows raised at her, and Tobin immediately regretted her choice in wording. Again.
“The rosebush,” she clarified, nodding towards the plant in question while her cheeks once again burned with a blush. “It’s pretty. I was...it was what I was sketching when… It’s...I was thinking of painting it sometime after it blooms.”
There was a hint of a smirk tugging at the corner of Christen’s lips, as if she was somehow enjoying watching Tobin struggle to communicate properly like this. “Paint it?” Christen echoed.
“If that’s okay. I don’t want to seem like...a creep.” She let the word that Christen had spoken to her after her breakup fall between them, and she saw a slight flash of remorse pass across Christen’s face before the smirk took up residence more clearly.
“Well, since you’re asking, it makes you slightly less creepy,” Christen teased.
Tobin felt her shoulders relax a little and she cracked a grin. “Only slightly, huh?”
“Would help if you let go of my hand eventually,” Christen replied.
“Oh shit!” Tobin dropped Christen’s hand as if it had burned her. How had she not realized she was still holding it? What an awkwardly long handshake? What was wrong with her?
An obvious answer sprang to mind: sleep. She needed sleep. Much more sleep.
“Sorry,” she mumbled.
Christen smirked at her more. “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”
Tobin again rubbed at the back of her neck, a nervous habit she’d tried and failed to shake one time after her publicity agent had pointed out that she had a bad tendency to do that when she was being interviewed.
“Um, anyway, I had kind of an early morning. And a late night. And I should — Um...It was really nice to meet you.”
She stumbled towards her own house, only tripping slightly on the gravel in the driveway, waving towards Christen as if she could somehow erase all of her fumbling with a wave.
“It was nice to meet you too, Tobin!” Christen called after her.
Tobin’s cheeks were still flushed when she made it to her door.
Interactions with people were great, they really were, and Tobin was by no means a loner. She LIKED having people around her. It was just that when she got sucked into her art she had tunnel vision. It made her a great artist, able to focus solely on the canvas or the wood or whatever medium she was exploring that week without distraction, but it also made her kind of a shitty friend at times (and maybe not the best at taking care of herself as well).
Texts would go unanswered. Phone calls would be ignored unless it was her publicist or a gallery owner and even then half the time she only registered that her phone was ringing on the last ring and had to call back. Shopping trips would get put off. Showers would be neglected.
And cute neighbors that she’d made dubious second impressions on were relegated to the odd wave as she hurried out for more supplies.
That was until Friday…
Shit. Had she lost a whole day? Her watch seemed to indicate that was the case.
Saturday evening Tobin was carried outside by the enticing smell of barbecue wafting through her open window and the growling of her stomach.
Her hair was up in a messy bun, paint streaked through it, her baggy overalls were more splattered with paint than they were denim at this point, she had an entire patch of white on her forearm where she’d accidentally leaned against the piece for leverage to do some detail work before one section had properly dried, and beneath the overalls she was clad in nothing but a sports bra. She didn’t even have shoes on, as the jagged rocks that made up the gravel of her driveway reminded her. Yet there she was, standing outside, peering into her neighbor’s yard like some kind of...well, creep, she supposed.
Her mouth watered as the delicious smells intensified. Was that steak? And...veggies? She was sure there was a hint of cooking onion in there at least.
God, when was the last time she’d stopped to eat?
She couldn’t exactly remember.
Friday morning maybe? Afternoon? Or had it been Thursday? No, surely it hadn’t been that long.
She’d gone to the fridge for a snack and there had been…
Tobin groaned. She’d eaten the last yoghurt. Apart from a box of wheat thins in the cupboard, that was all she’d had. Which meant now she had even less.
Loud voices carried from Christen’s backyard, but she was already being creepy enough just looking into the front yard, she knew. She couldn’t exactly invite herself over and crash a barbecue, even if she suddenly realized just how much she actually felt like socializing right now. Christen was having a party, from the sounds of it, and if she had wanted to invite Tobin, she would have.
And why would she? She still didn’t know Tobin.
Tobin sighed and was about to head back inside to locate some shoes and maybe a shirt so that she could go to the store, or at the very least to grab her phone so that she could find someplace to deliver food, when Christen rounded the side of the house, laughing, a large black trash bag, clearly full to the brim, in her hands. “Be right back!”
She stopped in her tracks when she saw Tobin lurking by the road.
After a moment, a small smile spread across her hips. “Hi, creep! Nice to see you living up to your nickname.”
Tobin grinned. The words might’ve been a little harsh, but Christen’s tone wasn’t.
“Can’t seem to shake it,” Tobin admitted. Her eyes drifted past Christen towards the backyard. “You having a party?”
Christen shook her head. “No, more of a girl’s night. Sorry, are we being too loud?”
Tobin shook her head.
What was she even doing? Trying to get herself invited? Why was she still standing by Christen’s property instead of doing something about the hunger ache in her stomach?
Christen started walking again, approaching where Tobin stood, lifting up the lid of the large red trash can that would be rolled to the street come trash day and depositing the trash bag inside.
Just as she was closing the lid, Tobin’s stomach took the opportunity to growl loudly.
Christen looked at her sharply and she coughed as if that would somehow cover it up.
“Was that you?” Christen asked.
Tobin felt a blush tinge her cheeks in what now felt like a familiar way when Christen was around. “Um…” She considered her options. Outright lying might be worse than the truth. She rubbed at the back of her neck and smiled apologetically. “Yeah. Sorry. Just...haven’t eaten recently. I got a little carried away with my work. I’ve been —”
“Painting?” Christen interrupted with a smirk.
Tobin frowned. “Yeah. How did you —?”
“In case the paint on your overalls wasn’t enough of an indicator, you have a big smear across your forehead,” Christen replied, pointing.
Tobin reached up to touch her face and sure enough felt the roughness of dried paint. She closed her eyes and cringed internally. Great third impression, Tobin.
“Oh, um...right. Well, I’ll be…” Tobin faded out and gestured towards her house just as her stomach let out another grumble.
“When’s the last time you ate?”
Tobin shrugged. Saying “I don’t know” didn’t seem like a good answer, but she didn’t exactly have another one.
Christen raised an eyebrow at her. “Why don’t you come have some food? We have plenty and you can tell us about your art and meet some people.”
She should say no. She should say no and walk back into her house and figure out where to order from and take a shower and clean up. “Really?”
Christen shrugged. “Yeah. Why not? Besides,” she added, starting back towards the back yard, “it’s probably a good idea for my friends to meet my creep of a neighbor. Unless I mysteriously disappear or something.”
Tobin halted midstep, looking unsurely up at Christen, but the smirk she was met with made her grin back. She was being teased. Again.
“Oof, guess I have to change my plans then,” Tobin replied and Christen laughed.
She followed Christen around the side of her house and into the backyard. The backyard with a pool, though nobody was in it. The backyard with a pool and a large patio complete with an expensive-looking grill. The backyard, currently occupied by five other women, all laughing and talking.
All five of them went quiet when they realized Christen wasn’t alone.
Tobin hung back by the edge of the patio as Christen continued on, plopping herself down on an outdoor couch with turquoise seat cushions in between a woman with a bright, if curious, smile and large dimples who looked like she might be part Asian and a white woman with piercing brown eyes that were sizing her up calculatively. The other three women were hovering near the grill, staring at her just as appraisingly. The shortest of the three was wearing a wide-brimmed hat and wielding a set of metal tongs. The tallest seemed as if she was hovering protectively beside her.
“Ladies, meet my neighbor, Tobin,” Christen said, gesturing towards her.
Tobin was suddenly even more aware of the inadequacies of her current attire. Paint splattered overalls over a sports bra? Paint on her face? And she thought NOW was a good time to meet new people?
“THE new neighbor?” the one with the dimples asked Christen.
Tobin wondered what THAT meant.
“Tobin, these are the girls. Marta is the one doing all the grilling. She’s vegan but our grill-master.”
The one in the hat, tipped her hat slightly towards her and snapped the tongs for effect.
“And that’s her fiancée Toni next to her,” Christen continued, gesturing to the tallest of the group.
Tobin tried not to register surprise at the word fiancée, but she couldn’t help the hint of excitement she felt at knowing that this new neighbor was LGBTQ+ friendly.
“Nice to meet you,” Tobin offered in response to Toni’s slight wave.
“And that’s Syd with them. And I’m in an Ali sandwich,” Christen finished off the introductions, throwing her arm around the brunette with the piercing brown eyes still staring Tobin down.
“An Ali sandwich?” Tobin echoed unsurely.
“I’m Ali Riley and that’s Ali Krieger,” the Ali with the dimples explained. “But you can call us Riley and Kriegs for ease.”
“Tobin has been painting nonstop for too long and forgot to eat,” Christen piped up. “So she’s gonna join Ladies’ Night.”
Tobin offered another small, awkward wave, feeling increasingly self-conscious.
“What’ve you been painting?” Riley asked, sitting forward and looking genuinely interested.
Tobin glanced at Christen, who offered a small smile and a nod of encouragement.
“Um, I have a showing next month at a gallery downtown. So I’ve been working on a few new pieces for it.”
“A showing at a gallery? So you’re like a legit artist then?” Syd asked, moving to a wicker chair with cushions that matched the couch.
Suddenly all of the women seemed a little more interested.
Tobin rubbed at the back of her neck. “Um, yeah, I mean. It’s what I do for a living. It’s...a lot less glamorous than it sounds.”
“Have you had other shows elsewhere?”
“Are you from around here?”
“What’d you say your name was again? Would we know any of your work?”
Questions peppered her from all sides and she felt her blush grow even deeper at the attention.
Christen locked eyes with her from her spot on the couch and raised an eyebrow. She wanted to know too, Tobin realized.
Toni indicated Tobin should take a chair and Marta stayed by the grill while everyone else engaged Tobin in conversation, but as Tobin spoke, she found herself watching sea green eyes for a reaction.
She couldn’t help wondering if she’d ever be able to match that shade.
With her stomach full and her cheeks aching from smiling, Tobin felt like a whole new woman. Christen’s friends were funny. They were warm and welcoming after their initial standoffishness. They joked and teased each other and were a little crude from time to time. And they were openly affectionate in a way that made Tobin miss her friends from North Carolina. She had settled there for a while after college, but as her art had gotten bigger, it had been her publicist’s idea to move to Orlando. Bigger market, she said. Closer to South America where her art was unexpectedly popular, which had been proven when Marta, who turned out to be Brazilian, was the only one of the group who had actually heard of her by her artist name: The Pluralist.
(It was silly, she knew, but it afforded her more privacy than she might otherwise get.)
And then, two hours into hanging out, they dropped a bomb on her.
“Wait...all of you?” Tobin sat there slack jawed, her eyes darting between all of these women, now taking in the muscular calves, the toned bodies with a new sense of awareness.
Christen wrinkled up her nose and shrugged. “Guilty.”
“You’re all pro soccer players?”
“Yep!” Riley confirmed.
Tobin shook her head in disbelief. She remembered playing in Jersey as a kid, the joy she’d felt running around a field with a ball at her feet. But then she’d gotten more serious about art in high school and when she’d applied for art school...Well, there hadn’t been time for anything like sports when she was pulling together a portfolio and pouring her time into project after project. She’d loved watching games before her life had become all art all the time, even after she’d stopped playing. And here she was next door neighbors with a pro.
“Wow. I didn’t even know there was a pro team in Orlando.”
“Must not be much of a fan, then,” Kriegs said.
Tobin shook her head. “No. That’s not true. I — I mean, I used to be.”
“Well, then we’ll have to get you out to a game!” Toni declared.
The women all murmured in agreement, except for Christen, Tobin noticed.
Christen pursed her lips, her eyes gazing towards her pool and away from Tobin. It made Tobin feel like she didn’t agree, like she didn’t want her at a game. But...she’d invited her into her backyard. So why —
“Be honest. My steak is the best you’ve ever tasted, yes?” Marta interrupted her train of thought with her infectious, wide grin.
Tobin chuckled. “Definitely. Pro soccer player AND grill master.”
Marta gave a little bow and Toni wrapped her arm tighter around her, pressing a kiss to her temple and smiling proudly at her.
“Thanks for, like, letting me crash the party tonight. I haven’t really gotten to meet many gays— girls— women — PEOPLE,” Tobin corrected, her cheeks once again flushing in a blush. She hadn’t meant to say gays. It had just been seeing Marta and Toni act so couple-y had given her a slight ache in her chest, a hint of loneliness.
“Nice save,” Ali teased.
Tobin blushed harder. “I’ve only really met Ashlyn, the gallery owner where my show is going to be. And Christen. Otherwise, I’ve been so buried in artwork that it hasn’t left much time for being social or meeting people. So, thanks. This was a really nice break.”
“You’re welcome,” Christen’s voice was soft and when Tobin looked to her she was relieved to see that she was once again meeting her gaze. “It’d look bad if I let my new neighbor starve to death anyway,” Christen added with a small smirk.
Tobin grinned back at her, and then her smile was interrupted by a yawn. She wondered, briefly, how long it had been since she’d slept. Suddenly her eyelids felt incredibly heavy.
She yawned again, mumbling an apology as she covered it.
“I should probably call it a night. I need to do more work on the painting tomorrow.”
“Do we get a sneak peak?” Sydney asked hopefully.
Tobin bit her lip. Normally she didn’t let anyone see an unfinished piece. Not even family. “I, um…”
“Don’t rush her,” Christen cut in. “Go to the gallery and support her when her show opens.”
“Oh!” Tobin perked up at that. “Yes! I could — I mean, if you want to, I could certainly get you invited to the opening. It’s — I mean, it’s not going to be that huge or anything, but the first night is invite only. My publicist said it was better for, like, investors or whatever. Makes them feel special to have special access.” Tobin waved the idea away. She wasn’t a fan of the business side of art. She just wanted to create.
“That would actually be awesome,” Kriegs replied approvingly.
There was a chorus of agreement.
“Okay, yeah, just have Christen give me your names and I’ll make sure you’re on the list,” Tobin replied with a smile, getting to her feet and stretching. Only then did she once again remember how poorly clothed she was. “Swear I won’t be quite so paint-stained there.”
“I dunno, the sports bra look kinda works for you,” Riley replied with a grin.
“It’s what we live in normally, anyway,” Sydney muttered.
“What do you think, Chris? Should she dress up or stick to paint and sports bras?” Riley asked, elbowing Christen in the side.
Christen seemed to contemplate that for a moment and once again Tobin found herself fighting a blush.
“Could always be, how you call it, performance art? Go naked. Say it’s a statement,” Marta teased with a wink and a loud laugh that the other’s echoed, but Christen only smirked and met Tobin’s gaze.
“That’d work,” Christen said, and somehow it sounded like a challenge.
Tobin found two tickets to the game on Saturday in her mailbox the following Thursday. She was met with a thrill of excitement followed immediately by the horrible realization that she had nobody to take. She knew nobody. Still. Outside of the women that were actually going to be on the field playing, that was. The only person in town whose number she even had was —
Maybe that wasn’t the worst idea in the world, right? An excuse to bond with a local (and well-known) gallery owner?
She dialled Ashlyn’s number before she could think better of it.
“Damn, bitch, you got the hook up, huh?” Ashlyn declared as they found their seats.
The tickets, it turned out, were for right behind the Orlando bench.
“Um, yeah, well, my neighbor plays for them, so I guess she wanted to be nice.” Tobin felt herself blushing once again. Why did she do that whenever Christen was in the mix? Other than the fact that she was gorgeous and funny and obviously kind based on the meal and the tickets.
(And other than the fact that Tobin had spent the better part of the day before mixing various shades of green and blue and grey and white trying to get just that perfect balance…
Maybe she needed a touch more yellow? Or maybe —
Well, anyway, nobody needed to know about that.)
“Your neighbor is on the team? Who’s your neighbor?”
“Um...Christen?” Tobin suddenly realised, much to her embarrassment, that she hadn’t even bothered to learn Christen’s last name.
“Christen,” Ashlyn echoed. “Like Christen Press?”
Tobin smiled hopelessly and shrugged. “Yes? Maybe. I guess.”
“Holy shit, your neighbor is Christen fucking Press?”
Ashlyn was clearly impressed and Tobin was left feeling like she should have maybe tried to google the team before coming to the game. That thought was emphasized when she began to hear whispers around them.
“She’s good?” Tobin asked.
Ashlyn smacked her forehead. “Tobin, we have GOT to get you an education here. And fast. Christen Press is not only the star forward of the Orlando Pride, but she has been killing it as the lead scorer for the national team for the past two years. She was good before then, too, don’t get me wrong, but bitch has fucking hit her striiiiide! She is fire! And she’s smoking hot! I can’t believe you don’t know who she is! Do you know how many queer women play pro soccer? As a fellow gay you should really start watching.”
Tobin could only laugh, but there was an excited thrum in her chest at the thought. But then, she’d SEEN Christen break up with a boyfriend. Not that necessarily meant she was straight, but…
It didn’t matter anyway. Who had time to date?
Who said even if Christen was queer if she’d have any interest in Tobin?
She was her neighbor. She was being friendly. And really that was a lot given how awkward their initial meeting had been.
Just then the music changed and the announcer introduced the teams as they began to walk out of the tunnel.
Tobin found herself holding her breath. She spotted Marta first, then Riley. A few people back from them was Toni, then Kriegs a few people behind her.
Around her, people were cheering and shouting the names of their favorite players, but Tobin just continued to watch, her eyes glued to where she could first see the players emerging from the tunnel. Where was she? She was playing right? Surely she was a starter if she was as good as Ashlyn said. The national team? She wasn’t just a pro she was top of her game pro.
Tobin felt like an idiot. What would someone like that want with just some artist? She was being a nice neighbor, that was all.
Anyway, Tobin didn’t —
Tobin’s breath caught in her throat when she saw Christen jog out of the tunnel, a beat after everyone else had exited. Around her the yells and screams grew louder, a cacophony of sound, but Tobin barely registered it. Christen’s smile was brighter than Tobin had seen, her eyes glinted in the bright lights of the stadium. The black and purple jersey hugged her body and the shorts left her thighs on display deliciously and Tobin —
“See? Smokin’!” Ash yelled, elbowing her in the side.
Tobin nodded, a little dumbstruck.
Then Christen turned and looked right at her. She winked. Or...tried to?
Did she really?
Tobin lifted her hand in a wave, but Christen was already jogging out to join her team.
Christen wasn’t just good. She was brilliant. It was like she instinctively knew where she needed to be to get her feet on the ball. And her speed —
If she was chasing down the ball against someone else, it was no contest.
Tobin was on the edge of her seat, cheering at every touch, groaning at every foul, completely enraptured.
The halftime whistle blew and the team jogged back to the tunnel, but —
Christen’s eyes met hers. She paused her step, offered a smile and a wave.
And Tobin forgot how to breathe.
But then Riley was throwing her arm around Christen, commanding her attention, saying something Tobin couldn’t quite here but that made Christen laugh, and then Riley spotted her.
Tobin laughed. That was a new nickname on her. She offered a big wave in return, then the team was gone, back in the tunnel, and she was left with a fluttering in her stomach and several sets of curious eyes on her.
“So you know more of the team than Christen Press?” Ash prompted.
“Um, I met some of them the other day. At Christen’s house. They were having a girl’s night and I kinda...crashed it.”
“Damn, bitch! Who knew doing a show of your art at my gallery would be my hookup to the soccer world. Did Ali Krieger happen to be there?”
Tobin couldn’t keep the surprise from her face. “Kriegs? Yeah. Why?”
Ash raised her eyebrows. “Kriegs, huh? Damn. Well...think you can score me an introduction?”
Tobin’s eyes bugged out. “You like — She’s your — You —?”
“She’s hot, okay? I mean I’m not expecting magic or anything. But like...just a meeting. That’s all. A hello. Think you can help me out?”
Tobin’s eyes darted to the tunnel. “Maybe?”
Ash smacked her on the back. “Attagirl! You’re a real one Tobs!”
When the game ended with a last minute goal from Syd to put Orlando up by one, Tobin could only focus on the woman who sent in the cross, the woman who got the assist: Christen Press.
When she was on the field, Tobin couldn’t look away. She was magnetic. The way she moved, the way she smiled even when she missed a shot, the way she focussed, and then the way she handled the ball —
Tobin was a little bit in love.
Not with her, obviously.
That would be —
Well, that would be ridiculous.
She barely knew Christen.
She wasn’t in LOVE with her.
But she was a little in love with how she played soccer. And maybe she’d fallen a little bit back in love with the game as a whole, too, as she watched in the stadium, surrounded by the energy of the cheering crowd.
“What a fucking nailbiter!” Ash was declaring excitedly.
They were all on their feet, clapping and cheering, but still Tobin couldn’t tear her eyes from Christen.
And then Christen was walking her way and Tobin felt suddenly unsteady on her feet. Surely Christen was just coming over to sign some autographs for some of the adoring fans that were screaming her name. She wasn’t coming over to — She wouldn’t really —
“Can you hang after the game?”
Tobin could barely make out the words over the cries of “CHRISTEN! CHRISTEN OVER HERE!” She must have misheard.
“Can you stay until people clear out?” Christen tried again, cupping her hands around her mouth to be louder. “Your friend too!”
“Say yes!” Ash said, elbowing her in the side.
“Um, yeah! Sure!”
Christen smiled broadly. “Great! Stay right there!”
After the initial rush for the exits, it took a while for what Tobin mentally dubbed the “hardcore fans” to start to filter out. Eventually security started looking impatient and people headed out with autographs firmly in hand, some of them looking truly starstruck.
Tobin could relate.
And then Christen returned with Riley and Marta at her side. Christen beckoned over a security guard before she’d even reached Tobin and Ash and before Tobin knew it she was being escorted onto the field.
“Is this okay? Am I gonna get in trouble?”
Christen laughed. “What part of security escorting you down here makes you think you’re gonna get in trouble?”
And then Christen was pulling her into a loose hug. Her jersey was wet with sweat, but Tobin found she didn’t mind, even as she apologized as she was pulling away. Instead, her body was left humming, and she didn’t miss the look that Ash was sending her way either.
Riley threw an equally sweaty arm around her (which somehow she minded a little more), and gestured to Ash. “Who’s your friend, Tobin? I thought we were your only friends in town?”
Tobin felt a blush color her cheeks as she made the introductions, Christen politely extending a hand with a quiet, “Nice to meet you.”
Then Riley was dragging both of them over to the other teammates that were still lingering on the field, talking amongst themselves. Including —
“Hey, Tobin,” Kriegs said with a nod, and then her eyes drifted over to Ash.
Was there — Did Tobin see — Was that a spark of interest?
“Kriegs, meet Ash. She runs the gallery my show will be at.”
“Don’t gush now, Tobs. You’ll flatter me too much,” Ash cut in. “We’re also friends, I think we can say after today.”
Tobin grinned. “She’s great. And Ash, this is —”
“Ali Krieger. Hi,” Ash interrupted, stepping in front of Tobin and holding out her hand. Tobin didn’t miss the blush on her cheeks as she did so.
Ali raised an eyebrow at her, but her smile was genuine as she took the hand and shook it. Was it Tobin’s imagination, or did the handshake linger?
Before she could think on it, Riley was pulling her away, introducing her to more of the team, Christen lingering close by.
“What’d you think of the game?” Christen finally managed to ask after Riley had introduced Tobin to everyone she could get her hands on.
“It was — Wow! Congrats! On the win. You were —” Tobin faded out, feeling her own blush return. “I mean, I didn’t know you were so — Ash said you play on the national team too?”
Christen dropped her gaze and shifted her weight before looking back up at Tobin. “You have this way of knowing things about me before I tell them to you.”
“The breakup was just overheard, I’d like to point out.”
Christen laughed, a light, musical sound that carried in the almost empty stadium. Her eyes seemed especially green against the grass. “Because you were lurking on top of a truck,” she countered.
Tobin nodded. “Okay, I can’t argue that. But this time it was Ash’s fault.”
Christen laughed again and Tobin felt the urge to keep making that happen. She loved seeing the wrinkles at the corners of her eyes, the lines that appeared around her mouth when she smiled, the way the stadium lights glinted off of her black hair.
“So you’re not as much of a creep as I keep trying to say you are?” Christen asked with a hint of a smirk.
Tobin shrugged. “I hope not, at least.”
Another laugh from Christen and Tobin felt a flutter in her stomach.
“Do you have to get back to painting? Or can you and Ash come out with the team for celebratory drinks?”
Tobin glanced over to where Ash was still talking to Kriegs. She was DEFINITELY flirting. The way she was subtly flexing her arm muscles with her hand on her hip, the tilt of her head, the way she was laughing at everything Kriegs said? There was no doubt about it. “I think we can come.”
Christen followed her gaze and let out a surprised gasp. “Oh! Well...That’s...huh…”
“Yeah. I think Ash has a bit of a crush.”
“Well, Kriegs is single and amazing, so understandable.”
Tobin thought about what Ash had said about women’s soccer being full of queer women and she started to say, “Are you —” but she cut herself off just in time. She’d put her foot in her mouth more than enough with Christen already. Christen’s sexuality was absolutely none of her business. It was enough for Tobin to know that she’d be accepted for her own. Except now the first two words were out there, and she had no follow up.
“Am I….?” Christen prompted.
“Um, uh, gonna need to, like, shower first?”
Christen tilted her head to the side and narrowed her eyes. “Are you trying to tell me I smell?”
Tobin’s eyes went wide. “No! No. I mean yes. You smell good. I mean, I haven’t smelled you. But you don’t — You just played a whole game. Amazingly. I just thought —”
Christen burst out laughing and Tobin realized she’d been baited. She closed her eyes, feeling the blush burning her cheeks, and managed a smile.
“At least I’m not covered in paint,” Christen teased, her hand warm where it touched Tobin’s elbow.
Tobin opened her eyes again. “Hey, me neither. Today.”
Christen raised an eyebrow, then reached for Tobin’s hand, lacing their fingers together as she brought their hands up between them.
Tobin’s heart sped up and her breathing grew shallower, and then she saw why Christen had lifted her hand. There was a nice streak of green down her forearm. She’d missed a spot.
“Mostly I’m paint-free,” Tobin corrected, her blush growing even deeper.
“I think the paint adds a certain something,” Christen replied, her grin growing wider. “And yes, I’m gonna hit the locker rooms before we go to the bar. I can text you the address?”
Tobin nodded eagerly. (Maybe a little too eagerly.)
“Okay, great. Catch you in a bit, creep! Can’t wait to hear more about how amazingly I played!” Christen called over her shoulder as she headed to the tunnel.
Tobin could only watch her go.
“So tell us about your art show!”
Tobin shook her head, felt her cheeks flush at the way that everyone seemed to join in encouraging her. “No this is not about me. You guys just won a game! Let’s talk about that!”
Her last words were muffled as Ash put her hand over Tobin’s mouth. “It’s going to be brilliant. Bitch has so much talent she doesn’t know what to do with it all. You should come. Bring your friends! Bring your families!”
“Spoken like a true gallery owner,” Tobin mumbled, attempting to hide her blush behind her beer as she took a long cold swig.
“We were asking her for tickets to the opening. She didn’t tell you?” Syd cut in.
Ash shot Tobin a surprised look. “Well, of course I’ll get you all on the list. I’ll need your names and numbers, though,” Ash replied, looking straight at Kriegs.
“Subtle,” Tobin coughed and Ash elbowed her in the side.
Across the table, green eyes caught hers.
Christen raised an eyebrow at her. “What kind of paintings do you do?”
Tobin always hated that question. The truth was she did a lot of different types of paintings. And paintings weren’t the only type of art she did. She liked to mess around, to figure out new mediums and styles, to play with size and shape. Nothing was more satisfying than taking what someone thought they knew about art or about her and blowing it up with something that defied norms. “Mostly abstract, I guess. Not always.”
“You haven’t seen any of her work?” Ash cut in again.
Christen shook her head but her eyes stayed fixed on Tobin. “She hasn’t invited me in to see her studio,” Christen replied.
It felt like a challenge and the gaze holding her felt like fire as it touched her. She took another big gulp of her beer.
“I googled her,” Riley admitted.
Tobin shot her a surprised look, and she wasn’t the only one.
“What? I was curious! Anyway it’s really cool.”
“Did you see the installation in Buffalo?” Ash asked.
“Which one was that?” Riley replied, scrunching up her brows as she thought.
“The massive waterfall one?”
Riley’s eyes lit up and Tobin knew that she had indeed seen it.
“It was by Niagara Falls,” Tobin mumbled. She glanced back at Christen and found her eyes still looking at her curiously. The heat on her cheeks increased.
“It was so cool! It was like…3D,” Riley enthused.
“She took pipes and welded them so that they stuck out off of the wall and came down, then she painted them seamlessly with the wall behind and she used almost like bead doors but crystals to fill in other places so you can literally walk through the falls, and then on the sidewalk inside the falls there’s more painting,” Ash described it.
“It took me a few months,” Tobin mumbled.
“It’s been a bigger attraction than Niagara,” Ash boasted.
Christen raised an eyebrow again.
Tobin shook her head. “It’s not.”
“So what do you have planned for this show?” Christen asked.
It felt like she couldn’t look away, like she had to keep meeting Christen’s gaze even as her stomach flipped and her cheeks burned. “Um, uh, some different stuff. Not as much 3D, although I’m doing some stuff with wood on canvas, but nothing so...interactive.”
The words played dangerously at the edge of her mind. “A painting trying to match the color of your eyes.”
She bit her lip instead of letting them out, and shrugged. “Guess you’ll have to come and see?”
“What if we peer through your windows?” Riley asked and everyone laughed.
“Hey, how about that game? Remember that one you just won?” Tobin attempted to divert the conversation. This time they let her.
But Christen’s eyes held hers a while longer, and when she finally looked away to engage with somebody else, Tobin felt like she could breathe for the first time in ages.
“Do you have any sugar?”
Tobin blinked hard, glanced over her shoulder towards her kitchen that she was 80% sure did not have any sugar in it, looked down at her paint-stained sweats, at her complete lack of shirt, at the sweat beading around her paint streaked stomach, at the smear of bright red on her sports bra right over her nipple. She pushed her glasses up her nose and ran a hand through her hair, cringing as she felt it sticking up at odd angles, then cringing again when she remembered the wet paint on her hand that was now, undoubtedly, streaking her hair. “Uh...I don’t... think so? Maybe. Let me check.”
Christen Press, looking flawless with her hair down and straight, large hoop earrings, a cute grey crop top, and shorts on, smirked in her doorway.
“Sorry to interrupt your work.” She wrinkled up her nose in a way that could only be called adorable.
“Oh, um, I needed a break anyway. Probably. I think.”
“Are you okay?” Christen asked.
Tobin nodded, stepping further back and heading towards the kitchen. She rummaged through a few cupboards before turning around empty handed. “Sorry, no sugar.”
And then she realized that Christen was in her house.
She’d only taken a few steps inside, but she was looking around curiously.
Tobin had to fight the urge to rush and cover her paintings.
It was stupid, she knew, but she didn’t like people to see them until they were ready, until they were done.
“You wanna come in?”
Christen looked sheepishly in her direction, as if she’d been caught doing something she shouldn’t. “I don’t want to intrude.”
“No, it’s...apparently it’s like three hours past when I planned to break for some food, so...come on in. Thanks, actually. For the interruption.” She tried a smile, but she felt like she probably just looked dazed.
“You sure?” Christen bit her lower lip and Tobin stepped closer.
“Well, apparently I’m not making brownies because I’m out of sugar. It’s my cheat day, so I figured chocolatey goodness, but —” Christen shrugged. “I need another plan.”
“We could order in? Pizza? Cinnamon sticks?” What was she doing? Why was she offering? That was— A break did not mean a social engagement! She had things to do! The opening was next week and she still hadn’t finished —
“That sounds kind of amazing,” Christen admitted with a grin that sent a thrill through Tobin. “Are you asking me to dinner?”
There’s a raised eyebrow and a hint of a smirk and a cadence to her voice that makes Tobin think, for a moment, that maybe —
But she’s not. She wouldn’t. She’s just teasing. She’s good at teasing Tobin, and Tobin is good at walking into it.
“If you’re hungry. I mean, I’m hungry. And you’re here. And cinnamon sticks are always good. So —”
Christen took a step towards her. “You’re cute when you’re flustered. What do you like on your pizza?”
Cute. The word stuck in her mind. She was cute? Like a puppy? Or like…
But it didn’t matter. She had work to finish. They’d finish the pizza and have some dessert and then she’d politely ask Christen to leave so she could get back to painting. It’d be fine.
“So what were you working on? When I interrupted, I mean?” Christen interrupted her train of thoughts.
She glanced down and remembered that she was actually in a clean T-shirt. She’d run to get one as soon as they’d ordered the pizza, realizing far too late that she was still just hanging out in her sports bra. The tell-tale marks on her arms, though, served as explanation enough. She held one arm up. “A painting.”
Christen laughed. “I figured. But of what?”
“If you want to share,” Christen added hurriedly.
“Um, it was actually...your bush.”
Christen choked on her bite of pizza, and Tobin realized, too late, that she’d managed to make the same mistake twice in the course of knowing this woman.
“The ROSE bush!” she practically shouted as Christen tapped at her chest, trying to stifle her coughing. “Oh my God, did I kill you? Please don’t die. Do you need a drink?”
Christen croaked the word “water” and Tobin scrambled to get her a glass. She took it gladly when Tobin returned, and Tobin hovered until it was clear that she was going to get the coughing under control.
“Sorry,” Tobin mumbled, her cheeks flushing.
“I was gonna ask how you knew what it looked like,” Christen replied with a hint of a smirk, and a huskiness to her voice from choking that sent a shiver of excitement down Tobin’s spine.
Her words hit Tobin’s brain a moment later.
“What? I don’t! I didn’t! I mean, I’ve seen ones, but not yours, obviously. I mean, you know that, of course, because you’d have had to have been there, and like conscious because consent is sexy, and I don’t even know if you like girls, and oh my GOD, I need to shut up.”
Tobin buried her face in her hands as Christen giggled.
“I hate you just a little bit,” Tobin mumbled from her hands, fully aware that Christen had been teasing her AGAIN. And she’d fallen for it.
“Sorry! I couldn’t resist!”
Tobin peered through her fingers, doing her best to glare while her cheeks burned.
“Can I see the painting?”
“Not now!” Tobin declared.
Christen batted her eyes at her. “Pretty please?”
Tobin dropped her hands from her face, fully aware that she was still blushing profusely. “Nope. No way. You blew it, Press.”
Christen sighed heavily for effect. “Fiiiine. I’ll wait til the opening, even if it’s MY bush you’re painting.”
Tobin felt her blush renew with a fervor as her mind went somewhere it definitely shouldn’t in Christen’s presence. “It’ll look better when it’s finished anyway,” she mumbled, shoving some more pizza into her mouth and trying to regain control of her blush and her mind.
“Well, I can’t wait,” Christen replied. “Even if I don’t have anyone to bring.”
Tobin almost opened her mouth to ask if she’d like to come as the artist’s date, but she’d put her foot in her mouth far too much already that night. She stopped herself just in time.
“I am, by the way,” Christen said a moment later.
“Into girls, too.”
Tobin almost choked too.
It had been almost three days since she’d had contact with anyone. She’d ignored calls from her publicist, she’d barely responded to a text from Ash promising she would deliver the last piece on time. She hadn’t even peered out of her window to see if maybe Christen was around and wanted to hang out.
She’d eaten. Recently. She thought. Maybe. She was pretty sure, anyway.
She’d slept...probably in the last 24 hours. Sometime.
The important thing was, though, that she’d finished. She’d finished and she had a few hours to spare.
She called Ash and arranged for her guys to pick up the last piece and explained where she wanted it in the exhibit, then she hopped into the shower and scrubbed herself clean of all of the paint and the big chunk of glue that had gotten stuck on her elbow that she hadn’t noticed. She rinsed the sawdust out of her hair and off of her skin and she let the water wash over her, making her feel human again.
She toweled off and checked the time. She could get a nap. Probably. An hour at least. After the guys got there for the piece she could afford a little time.
She ate something while she waited, disappointed, once again, on her available food, and then —
Her phone buzzed.
She went to the door, assuming it was the guys letting her know they were there, but her driveway was empty. Only then did she look at the phone.
“Opening night! Can’t wait to see you there! xx”
Tobin checked the name at the top of the chain of messages four times before she believed it was actually from Christen. Her heart fluttered and her stomach flipped. She considered texting back, but she wasn’t sure what to say. She needed rest.
Three hours later she felt a little more refreshed and she certainly looked it. She’d run a straightening iron through her hair in an attempt to keep it down and manageable in the Florida humidity. Then she’d donned a black button-down and black slacks and put on minimal makeup. She wasn’t necessarily the best at presenting herself like this, but it came with the job. She’d slipped on some heels and put slides in her bag before calling for the limo. It was at her publicist’s insistence. She’d have been fine to drive herself.
This was her “big introduction to the Orlando culture scene” though. It wasn’t worth the fight.
As a last touch she added white suspenders and unbuttoned her top one...two buttons. She took a long last look in the mirror and decided it was good enough.
She only remembered that Christen was going to be there once she was already in the back of the limo.
Ash was beaming. The investors were pleased. The hors d'oeuvres were suitably tasty (if a little on the fancy side). And five of Tobin’s pieces had been purchased within the first hour. Not that they’d be claimed until after the exhibit was done. Tobin smiled and nodded at all the right people. The night was going perfectly.
Except Christen wasn’t there yet.
None of the team was, actually.
Not that that was a problem. It was fine. Even if they didn’t come it’d be fine. It didn’t matter what the knot in the pit of her stomach said.
She was explaining the process behind the multilevel rainbow piece that was meant to represent disparities among the lgbtq+ community when it came to intersectionality and had been pieced together from wood cut to different lengths then painted and fixed to a black and white background when she caught sight of her and stopped mid-sentence.
Her hair was loosely pulled half back, half down, left in its natural curls. She was dressed in a cream dress that accentuated her darker skin tone gorgeously and hugged her curves in all the right ways, and she had heels on that made her calves look…
Tobin snapped her eyes back up as she approached, took in the hoop earrings, the eyeliner highlighting those stunning green eyes, and pink lipstick on a perfect smile.
“Excuse me,” she murmured, walking away from the man she was sure she’d been supposed to impress. Right now, though, she couldn’t be bothered.
“Wow,” she breathed out as she reached Christen who was smiling broadly at her.
“You look amazing, Tobs!”
Tobin couldn’t tear her eyes away from Christen, though she was vaguely aware that there were other people who had arrived with her. “That’s my line,” Tobin replied. Then she felt her blush coming on. “I mean, you’re…”
“A work of art?” Christen prompted with a wink and a giggle.
“Truly,” Tobin replied.
“Well, can I get the artist to show me her work?”
Tobin held out her arm and Christen looped her hand into it.
“Hello to you, too!” Tobin heard Riley call after them. She managed a quick wave, but didn’t look back.
She was nervous. She was often nervous before revealing her pieces to the world, but she’d worked her nerves out about this event earlier. Now she was nervous because it was Christen on her arm, getting her first look at her work.
But Christen followed along, listening with rapt attention as Tobin explained piece after piece. Her jaw grew slack as she examined the artwork, and when they reached the painting of her rose bush, Christen gasped. “Wow! I didn’t think —”
“The tissue paper just gave it more dimension. It created an interesting texture.”
“But how did you get the depth of the color on it? Like if I tried to do this it would look like a kindergarten art project!”
Tobin chuckled. “Practice, I guess. Same as what you do on the field. This is my field.”
“You’re amazing!” Christen declared.
Tobin stood up a little taller, her chest welling with pride at Christen’s words even as butterflies fluttered in her stomach.
But she wasn’t done, and there was one painting that she was more nervous about Christen seeing than all the rest. Would she know? Would she recognize? Would it be obvious? It was abstract, but —
Tobin came to a stop in front of it and held her breath. She watched, rubbing at the back of her neck nervously and biting her lip, as Christen took it in.
“Is this —”
“It’s a lot of greens,” Tobin mumbled.
“Is it us?”
“What?” Tobin’s heart beat faster in her chest. She hadn’t meant — Had she put herself in there? It wasn’t —
“It’s the story of us, right? That’s my ex leaving? And this is when you came over for the barbecue? And the game?”
When she said it like that, Tobin understood what she meant. It wasn’t Christen. It was Christen when Tobin had encountered her. It was the story of them.
“Um, I mean...yeah. I guess. I — Your eyes are really beautiful and I kept trying to match the color because I’ve never quite seen it and then it just...turned into —”
“Are you allowed to have a date for this event?” Christen turned to face her, a faint smile on her lips, eyes twinkling in the gallery lights.
“What?” Tobin found herself completely thrown by the change of subjects.
“I wanted to ask the other night, but I chickened out, but you just — You painted this and you’re not afraid to show the world, so I think maybe I can suck it up and ask you out,” Christen replied.
Tobin stood there for a moment, dumbfounded, trying to process Christen’s words. “You’re asking me out?”
“Yeah. I mean, you only meet a cute, not-actually-so-creepy, bumbling, hilarious, sweet, and insanely talented neighbor once in a blue moon. I feel like I should maybe jump at the opportunity.” There was the hint of a smirk on Christen’s lips now.
“Are you just teasing?” Tobin asked, feeling the need to be sure before she put her foot in her mouth yet again.
Christen turned back to the painting, then looked back at Tobin. She leaned in closer, hesitating, waiting for Tobin to respond, to move in.
“Oh,” Tobin breathed out, and then she closed the gap, slowly, tentatively.
Christen pulled away. “So can you have a date to your gallery opening?”
“Yes she can!” Ash exclaimed from over Tobin’s shoulder. “Very much yes! Say yes, Tobin.”
“Yes!” Tobin echoed. She grinned shyly. “I can.”
Christen smiled back. “Great. Because I kind of already told Syd you were giving me a ride home.”
“Tobin, not to kill the vibe here, but you do still have to talk to people that are not your soccer-star date,” Ash reminded her.
“Date,” Tobin echoed.
“You broke her, you buy her,” Ash said to Christen, who chuckled.
“Come on, Tobs. Let’s go make everyone else fall in love with your art.”
“So, that went well.”
Tobin was grinning ear to ear. The night had been better than she’d ever imagined. And on top of that, Christen had been her date. Her actual date. She nodded her agreement.
Christen hesitated, glancing towards her own house then looking back at Tobin’s. “Any chance I can get the hottest new artist in Orlando to invite me in for a nightcap?”
Tobin’s eyes went a little wide. “Yes! Yes. Please. Come in.”
She led her in and cracked open a bottle of whiskey that Ash had given her. Tomorrow she’d go shopping and restock on everything else, but for tonight, she at least had whiskey and ice and Christen.
“Want to know my favorite piece?”
“The story of us?” Tobin guessed as she poured the whiskey over the ice.
“Besides that one,” Christen replied.
“What?” Tobin asked, returning with the drinks and settling next to Christen on her couch.
“The one of my bush.”
Tobin choked, the alcohol burning as it snorted out of her nose.
“Oh my God, I’m so sorry!” Christen’s hands were warm as they patted her on the back, and with a little wincing and a lot of burning, Tobin was able to get control of her coughing.
“Ow,” Tobin whined.
“Sorry! I was going to make an offer...It was supposed to be sexy. It wasn’t supposed to almost kill you.”
“I’m pretty sure you’ve been almost killing me since we met,” Tobin replied, her voice hoarse.
“I’ve almost died of embarrassment almost every conversation.”
Christen chuckled. “Well, I guess it’s only fair that it’s my turn.”
“Wait, sexy?” Tobin prompted, her brain catching up to her ears.
She caught the blush on Christen’s cheeks. “I was going to ask if you wanted to paint the other one. It’s a lot stupider now I say it aloud,” she mumbled.
Tobin’s eyes went wide as the implication set in. “You were — You want — With me? And —”
Christen kissed her, a little shy, a little needy, her hand warm on Tobin’s cheek, and her tongue tasting of whiskey. “I mean, if you wanted. I was hoping…”
Tobin kissed her back. “I think I’m done with art for the day, but I have something else in mind.”
Christen chuckled into her mouth. “Well, I already know you’re talented with your hands.”
Tobin wrapped her hands around Christen, sliding them down to cup her ass and lifting her into her lap, their drinks forgotten. “Oh, Chris, you have no idea.”
She woke up early the next morning. It had been a late night, but she wasn’t tired. She felt alive. She felt inspired.
She lay there for a while, listening to the soft snores from Christen, a broad smile plastered on her face, feeling the warmth from where Christen’s body still pressed to hers, but eventually she made her way out of bed.
She made some coffee and had a piece of toast that was maybe slightly stale, and then she made her way back to her bedroom. Christen was still asleep, on her side facing the doorway. The sheet had fallen away so that after it hugged her hip it left her top completely bare. Her skin was bathed in soft morning light creeping in from around the edges of Tobin’s shades, her hair splayed across Tobin’s pillow.
She couldn’t resist. The sight was too beautiful not to commit it to paper. She grabbed her sketchbook and a pencil and settled cross-legged in the doorway.
It was only about fifteen minutes later when Christen began to stir. She opened one eye, then the other, and hummed a contented sigh. “Morning.”
God, as if she wasn’t sexy in general, the way her voice husked first thing in the morning was next level.
“Morning,” Tobin echoed, pausing the movement of her pencil over the paper.
“Are you watching me sleep?” Christen asked, a smile spreading across her lips.
Tobin blushed. “Maybe?”
Christen flopped onto her back and let out a chuckle. “Creep,” she accused, her tone playful.
Tobin abandoned her sketchbook on the floor, stood, stretched, and climbed back into bed.
“I think you like that,” she replied against Christen’s lips.
Christen laughed again. “Only if the creep is you.”