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Dear Queen B,

I'm writing because I need advice about how to handle a delicate situation. You see, my sister and roommate (who I love dearly) has decided to take up a musical instrument that she has absolutely no talent for. While I admire her desire to try new things, she is driving me crazy with the practicing. Not even her new romance with one of Hastings alumni can part her long from her flute.

Please tell me what to do: tell her the truth or invest in industrial strength ear plugs.

Yours,

A Very Blue Little Sister

Dear Blue,

I suspect that if you told your sister that she was terrible, you wouldn't be telling her anything she doesn't already know. The flute is her new quest and she seems like the kind of person who is not easily deterred from something once she's set her mind to it.

But, before you buy out Amazon's supply of earplugs, maybe you could talk to your sister about a practice schedule? If you share a space, you also have a right to a flute-free space--within reason.

Compromise, Blue. It makes the world go around.

Queen B

~ Excerpted from Question Time with Queen B, The Daily Hastings

"You have to tell me who Queen B is," Colin said.

He was standing in the kitchen of his sister's apartment, washing dishes with her fiance and his rival newspaper editor. Daphne believed in a firm division of labor and if she was cooking, she was not doing the cleaning up. Since Colin was not one to ever turn down free food, he lived with it.

Simon snorted and passed him another pan to dry. "Not on your life."

"I have to know," Colin said. "She's killing my paper, Simon. Hastings is one of the few colleges left that have two daily papers and if she keeps stealing all of Clyvedon's readers, we're not long for this world."

Simon looked up from the soapy water, with a grave look. "It's that bad?"

Colin sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, to try to ward off another headache. He'd been doing that a lot lately since the ramifications of the decline in readership numbers had begun to sink in. "Yes," he said simply. "And I know she's your columnist and I know that if I were in your shoes I would do exactly what you're doing. But I have to do something. Help me out."

"Have you considered adding your own advice columnist?"

Colin snorted. "And be accused of copying you? Besides, no one would read it. They love Queen B too much."

"It's true!" called Daphne from the other room.

"Nice show of sisterly loyalty, Daph," Colin retorted.

Daphne came back into the kitchen with an empty glass. She set it on the counter and looked at Colin, weighing her hands as if they were opposite sides of a scale. "Hm, brother or future husband?" The side representing Simon went up. "Sorry, Colin. You're still my favorite brother."

She turned to open the refrigerator and Colin snapped the towel at her in revenge.

"Hey!" she cried out. She turned back, rubbing at her back. "Simon, Colin is being mean to me."

"You deserved it," Colin said.

"I'm just standing here doing the dishes," said Simon. "I know better than to interfere in a Bridgerton family squabble."

"I'll remember this," said Daphne in a way that promised later retribution.

Colin wasn't sure if it was meant for him or for Simon. Either way he didn't want to find out.

He dried the last dish and tucked it into the cupboard. "Well, that's that done. I should get back home. I've got a paper due in my geography seminar this week."

"What? No," Daphne objected. "You can't leave without seeing Eloise."

Colin laughed. "I'm sure Eloise doesn't feel the same. And besides, I'll be back to mooch more food off you later this week. Thanks for dinner, Daph." He nodded at Simon. "Basset."

"Bridgerton."

Colin gathered his coat and his bag from the living room, Daphne trailing along behind him.

"You're sure you won't stay?" Daphne asked. "I'm sure that Eloise and Penelope--"

"Oh," said Colin. The penny dropped and he looked at his sister with exasperation. "That's what this is about."

"Wanting you to see your sister is a crime now?" Daphne asked. She wore the mildly panicked look she always had when she was caught in a lie. "I'm sure mom will be happy to hear that you view visiting your family as a burden, Colin."

"It's not going to happen, Daff," he said firmly. "I'm sure that Penelope--"

The door opened, and in tumbled Penelope and Eloise, out of breath and with flushed cheeks. It might have been from the cold, but Colin had a horrible suspicion that Penelope had guessed what he was about to say.

"Sure that Penelope what?" asked Eloise. "Hello, brother, leaving so soon?"

"Eloise," said Penelope chidingly. She looked at Colin. "Hello, again."

"Hi, Penelope," he said. He shot Daphne a desperate look and she merely shrugged at him and mouthed, "your problem."

"Penelope what?" Eloise repeated, eyes narrowed.

"I'm sure that Penelope doesn't want to be my critique partner for Professor Danbury's seminar," he said. It was the first thing he could think of and had the benefit of being true. "You don't, do you?"

Penelope smiled, just a little. "Actually, that would be wonderful," she said. "I was afraid of being stuck with Cressida Cowper again."

Everyone in the room shuddered.

"That's settled then," said Daphne brightly. "Colin, you were leaving?"

"Yes, I was," he said. There was a flurry of kisses to his sister's cheeks and a promise to send Penelope an email about setting up a study session, and finally, Colin was free.

Outside on the street, he shook his head, not sure what had just happened. He had just wanted dinner and maybe some inside information on the competition, and instead he'd left with just as many newspaper related problems, a critique partner he hadn't wanted, and having potentially hurt the feelings of a very nice girl whose only flaw was that everyone else in his life wanted him to date her so very badly.

He turned up his collar and headed for home. At least dinner had been excellent. At least there was that.

*

It was a week later and Colin was spending his Sunday night at the Clyvedon offices, staring glumly at spreadsheets. It was no use; no matter how many times he tried to juggle the numbers, there was no getting around it: if The Clyvedon Chronicle didn't double its readership over the rest of the semester, the college was going to pull their funding for next year.

He'd go down at the Editor-in-Chief who killed a century old paper. He'd have to ask Simon for a job.

He couldn't let that happen.

But how to stop it? Every week, more people were choosing to only pick up The Daily Hastings instead of both papers, because they wanted to spend their time reading Queen B's advice/gossip column. Before Simon had launched her into the world, the paper's had had almost even numbers. She was clearly the x-factor.

He had to stop her. He had to steal her. He had to…

What if he exposed her?

He shook his head. That was a terrible idea. An unfair one, really, it wasn't Queen B's fault that Hastings students weren't interested in enough in the type of serious journalism that he was trying to making Clyvedon known for.

But it was so tempting.

There was a knock on the door and he looked up. "Come in!" he called out.

Penelope appeared in the doorway, smiling shyly. "Hello."

"Penelope?" he said, blinking in surprise. Of all the people who might have been on the other side of that door, she was the last one he'd expected. "What are you doing here?"

She adjusted the strap of her bag over her shoulder and held up a plastic bag. "Your sisters sent leftovers. I was on my way to the library anyway, so I volunteered to drop them off."

"Well, thank you," he said. "You didn't have to."

"I know," she said. She set the bag down on the table in front of him. "I did have an ulterior motive."

He frowned. "What's that?"

"Professor Danbury's seminar?" she prompted. "Critiqued drafts due in a week? You were going to email me?"

"Fuck," he swore, scrubbing his hands across his face. "I'm sorry, Pen, this has just been an absolutely terrible week. But that's not an excuse. I gave you my word."

"You're forgiven," she said, with a smile. "Provided you give me a copy of your paper now and we make a plan to meet up later this week to go over them."

"Done," he said, with relief. He turned to his laptop and found the appropriate file and hit the print button. "That'll be just a second. Do you have--"

She held out a red folder that presumably held her own paper.

"Right," he said, taking it from her with a sheepish smile. "Of course you have a copy ready. I really am sorry." He dug around on his desk, managed to locate a mostly clean draft of his own paper and passed it to her.

"Stop apologizing," she said, slipping the stack of paper into her bag. "You'd just better have given me something to work with."

He made a face. "That won't be a problem, it's a mess. On the other hand, I expect yours is perfect, isn't it?"

Penelope lifted a shoulder, tried to look modest. "Well…"

"Brat," he said, with a laugh. "Been taking lessons from Eloise, have you?"

"No," she said. She looked at him with a too serious expression. "This is just me."

Looking at her, Colin saw for the first time the Penelope Featherington that his sister's swore was perfect for him; the one that was funny and smart and braver than she knew, and a wave of guilt swept through him that he'd never seen her sooner.

"I'm seeing that," he said. He looked at her, really looked at her, standing there in her smoky blue pea coat and knee high boots, her reddish brown hair tucked messily under a black knit cap. She was so much prettier than he'd ever realized. What had been wrong with him for all these years? "I like it."

Penelope flushed, and the moment ended. This was the girl he'd always seen. But now he knew there was more there and that wasn't something he would forget.

"I should go," she said, hefting her bag over her shoulder one more time. "My study carrel is probably lonely without me."

He laughed, then glanced outside. "Are you by yourself?"

"Yes?" she said. "Is that a trick question?"

"It's dark," he said patiently. "You shouldn't walk to the library by yourself."

"It's fine," Penelope said. "It's just five minutes and it's really well lit. I've done it a million times."

"A million times that I wasn't here to offer to go with you," he said, standing up and patting his pockets for his keys and phone. "Right, let's go."

"Colin, you don't have to," she protested.

"If Eloise or Daphne showed up, I'd do exactly the same," he said. He pulled on his coat, not noticing the flash of anger that crossed her face. "Ready?"

"I'm not your sister," she said stiffly.

"I didn't say--"

But she was out the door before he could finish, and with a sigh, Colin trailed after her, out into the snowy night. "Penelope, wait."

"Go back, Colin," she called back. "I'm fine."

He ran to catch up with her. "You're not fine, you're mad."

She shook her head. "Not mad."

"Okay," he said. He had sisters. He knew how this worked. "What are you then? Because the Penelope I thought I knew wouldn't walk out on someone who was just trying to do the right thing."

She stopped in her tracks then, and he walked just past her before he realized she'd stopped.

"Pen?"

"Colin," she said. She looked straight at him, with such intensity that it made him want to step back. "Do you want to do something for me?"

"Anything," he said.

She took a deep breath, released it. "Kiss me."

Shock coursed through him. Surprise. And underneath both those things, desire.

He wanted to kiss this Penelope, the one who called him on his shit and was so pretty and who he didn't understand at all but wanted to more than he'd wanted anything that wasn't about Clyvedon in a long time. But he shouldn't. She was his sisters' friend and their roommate and if it didn't work, well, he wasn't at all sure his sisters would choose him.

"Colin?" she asked. "It's just a kiss."

"Why?" he asked.

"I want to know," she said. "Please?"

He couldn't say no to that please.

He stepped forward until they were pressed together through layers of winter clothes. He tipped her face up towards his and her eyes drifted closed.

He kissed her.

And it was...perfect.

Colin wasn't the type of man who kissed and told, but he'd had his share of first kisses throughout his twenty-two years on the earth and he wasn't sure if he'd ever had one like this. Her mouth moved beneath his, sweetly, gently, and it made him want to be tender in return. He teased her bottom lip until she parted hers, and his tongue swept inside, tasting, savoring. She trembled in his arms and he gathered her closer, wishing like hell that they were somewhere inside that didn't require 18 layers to stay warm.

"Pen," he said, drawing back just far enough to speak. He pressed kisses to her cheeks, her temple. "Come home with me."

She stiffened in his arms, stepped back. She brought her fingers up to her lips, refusing to look at him. "I shouldn't have done that."

"We should have done that ages ago," he said. "That was--"

"Yes--no." She shook her head. "I can't do this. I have to go."

She turned and ran in the direction of the library, not waiting for him to answer or for him to follow. He watched her until she disappeared into the building, still not sure what had just happened.

He would take the long way back to the Clyvedon offices, he decided. He needed to think. Then he needed to plan.

Because if Penelope thought that was going to be the end of it, well, then she didn't know Colin Bridgerton nearly as well as she thought she did.

*

Six days later, Colin knocked on the door of the apartment that his sisters shared with Penelope. She wasn't expecting him, but after a week of the silent treatment, he was ready for more aggressive action and besides he was out of food at his apartment. Even if Penelope didn't want anything to do with him--maybe especially if she didn't--he could always count on his sisters to feed him.

When no one answered, he knocked again. After that, he used his emergency key and let himself in. It wasn't technically an emergency, but he wasn't in the mood to quibble.

"Hello?" he called out, dropping his bag on the couch. "Eloise? Daph?" He wandered down the hall to the bedrooms, finding the door to the room that Eloise and Penelope shared open, and Penelope stretched out on her bed with a textbook on her lap and earbuds in her ears.

He knocked on the doorframe.

She almost jumped out of her skin, dropping her highlighter to the floor and her book on the bed. Her hand pressed to her chest, she glared at him.

He tapped his ears, and she dragged the earbuds out.

"What the hell?"

"You don't call, you don't write," he said, stepping into the bedroom and making himself at home in Eloise's desk chair. "I figured it was time for more drastic measures."

"And giving me a heart attack was part of your plan?" She bent to gather her things from the floor, stacking them neatly on the nightstand.

He did not stare at the very interesting gap this left between her v-neck sweater and her skin. Well, not very much anyway. He was only human.

"No," he said. "That just sort of happened."

She crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him. "What do you want, Colin?"

"Not what you think," he said. He stopped, corrected himself. "Well, yes, I do want that, but I believe we have some unfinished business?"

Penelope stared at him blankly.

"Professor Danbury?" he prompted. "I have your critique done, do you have mine?"

Her face cleared. "Oh, yes. Sorry."

"No problem," he said easily. "Do you have time to go over them now?"

She nodded. "Sure. Just let me grab it and I'll meet you in the kitchen."

"No reason we can't work right here," he said. "Just let me get my bag from the other room and I'll be right back." He left before she could voice an objection to this plan and was back almost before she'd located his paper. "Ready?"

"I really think we'd be--" Penelope started.

He dropped down on her bed and patted the spot next to him. "No reason we can't be comfortable while we tear each other's work apart, right? And I've sat at that kitchen table, Penelope. It's anything but comfortable."

Her mouth twitched up into a reluctant smile. "Eloise picked it out."

"Never let my sister choose furniture," he said solemnly. "Ask our mother about the great ottoman crisis of 2006 sometime."

Her smile got broader. "You're making that up."

He crossed his heart with his right hand. "Swear on my mother's life." He dug in his pocket for his phone, got it out to dial. "We can call her right now if you want."

Penelope laughed and sat down next to him. "Fine. But I will ask her later. Don't think that I won't."

"I hope you will," he said.

She eyed him warily. "Really?"

"It's in my brother contract to want my siblings to look as stupid as possible as often as I can manage it," he said.

Penelope shook her head, laughed again. "I envy you all that. My sisters--" her face went grim "--Well, it's not like that."

"I'm sorry," he said.

"It is what it is," she said. "Anyway. Let's talk about comparative literature, shall we?"

And knowing when to retreat, Colin agreed and they did.

They argued about application of theories and proper attribution of sources, and Colin watched her face grow more and more animated as she defended her points. Her hair came loose from the bun she'd tucked it up into and pieces fell around her face. Colin wanted to stroke her cheek, to tuck them back behind her ear. Through some Herculean act of restraint, he didn't.

In the middle of her rant about formalism versus postmodernism, Penelope finally noticed that he was staring at her. "You weren't listening, were you."

Colin shook his head apologetically. "I'm sorry."

The corners of her mouth turned up. "No you're not."

"No," he said deliberately. "I'm not."

He leaned forward. She leaned forward.

They were so close that they were breathing the same air, but just before they would have been kissing, Penelope jerked back. She jumped off the bed. "I'll be right back."

He straightened on the bed. "Now?"

"Yes," she said. "I'm sorry. Make yourself at home. Check your email. One minute."

She bolted from the room, and Colin shook his head. He didn't know what he was going to do with Penelope but he hoped to god he'd be able to do it soon.

He stood up and stretched and spying her laptop on the desk, he crossed the room to use it, because he actually did need to check his email. With things being so precarious at the Clyvedon, he was practically sleeping with his email. And his phone had always gotten shitty service in this apartment.

He woke the laptop up and pulled up the browser. Penelope was still signed in to her student email, so he went to sign her out so that he could sign in to his own account. He went to tap the button when he saw it, Simon's name in the sender's column and a subject of "success of long-term pseudonymous journalism."

He didn't open it.

When Penelope came back, he was still sitting there in her desk chair, staring at those same six words.

"Bad news?" she asked.

He looked up at her, gestured towards the screen with his chin. She bent lower over his shoulder and followed his line of sight.

"Oh," she whispered, her face gone white.

"I'm not wrong, am I?" he asked.

She shook her head. "I should have told you, Colin, I'm--"

"YOU'RE QUEEN B!" he roared, and Penelope winced.

"Yes," she said.

He looked at her, shook his head, and walked out of the room.

She chased after him. "Colin!"

"I don't want to talk about this right now, Penelope," he said flatly. "You don't want to talk to me about this right now."

She got in front of him, between him and the door. "You're wrong. It's not what you think."

He raised an eyebrow at that. "You're not the one that's going to put my paper out of business?"

"It wasn't supposed to be like this!" she cried. "You didn't want me. I've pitched this column to Clyvedon twice and no one on your staff ever got back to me. I took it to Simon and he thought it would work. None of this was meant to hurt you."

There was a long pause, while she stared at him and he stared at her. He saw the turmoil on her face, the regret in her eyes for having hurt him. He believed her that none of this had been intentional, knew she wouldn't lie about that. But none of that changed the outcome.

"I believe you," he said finally. "But that doesn't change anything. I'm still going to lose my paper."

She stepped forward, invading his space until her body was next to his. "Maybe. Maybe not."

"Penelope."

She gripped at the front of his shirt with her hands. "Ask for my help, Colin."

His head swam with the scent of her. "What?"

"Ask me to help. I want to help."

He looked down at her, her eager face turned up to his. Sincerity warred with naked longing in her eyes, and he couldn't do anything but what she wanted. "Please."

"I thought you'd never ask," she said, and she pulled his head down to hers.

*

Before Colin knew it, they were on the couch, Penelope beneath him. His shirt was off and so was her sweater and his hands were beneath her the silky fabric of her tank top.

She let out a gasp, then a moan. He sucked on her neck, not even caring he was acting like a fourteen year old boy getting to second base for the first time. She arched her back, pressing her breast more firmly into his hand. He preened.

Penelope tugged on his head, pulling his mouth back up to hers. They kissed, more urgently before, and he felt her hands fall to the button on his jeans.

Yay, said his dick.

Her hands stilled. She tore her mouth away, gasping.

"What's wrong?" he asked immediately.

"Don't you hear that?" she said.

"No," he said, and tried to kiss her again.

She let him, moving into the kiss with an eagerness that was gratifying. Her hands moved towards the button again, slid beneath, and--

"My eyes!" cried Eloise.

"Get a room," said Daphne.

"I'm going to make coffee," said Simon. "Far, far away from here."

Colin looked down at Penelope who was bright red. "I'm sorry," he said.

"I knew I heard something," she said. She pushed at his chest and with more than a little reluctance, he sat up, letting her scramble out from underneath him. She grabbed her sweater from the coffee table and bolted for the bathroom, rushing past Eloise and Daphne's surprised faces.

Colin reached for his shirt, shooting his sisters the dirtiest of dirty looks. "I hate you both."

"Colin," said Eloise slowly, "were you making out with Penelope?"

"What, like that's so strange?"

Eloise and Daphne traded looks and came to sit on either side of him on the couch.

"Colin," said Daphne, with exaggerated patience. "We've been trying to get you to go out with Penelope for ages."

"I'm aware," he said.

"I think what Daphne is trying to ask is, what's changed?" asked Eloise. "Because you might be my brother, but Penelope is my best friend, and if a choice has to be made, I am not choosing you."

"What Eloise is trying to say," Daphne said, with a look at her younger sister, "is that if you break Penelope's heart, we'll break your face. Capiche?"

"Is this what you think of me?" he asked, a little hurt, but also glad that Penelope had such fierce protectors. She deserved them, since god knew her family was a nightmare. "Am I that bad?"

Daphne and Eloise traded another look.

He held up a hand. "Don't answer that."

"Should we summon Simon in to ask you if your intentions are serious?" Daphne asked. "He does threatening better than we do. I suspect that it's a size thing."

Eloise burst out laughing.

"Not that kind of size thing," Daphne said witheringly. "Still--"

"I do not need to know," said Colin. "Please."

"Then I suggest you answer the question," Eloise said, doing her best to look menacing. "Are your intentions serious?"

"I'd like to know the answer to that myself," said Penelope, newly returned to the room and looking far more put together than Colin felt. She stared down at him, and even though it was from across the room, Colin swore he could see her heart in her eyes.

She was the bravest woman that he knew.

He stood, crossed the room to her side. He took her hand in his, and looked at her with all the hope that was in his heart. "Penelope Featherington," he started.

Her mouth started to curve up into a smile that he wanted to kiss. "Yes?"

"Will you go out with me?"

A chorus of boos sounded from the couch, but his eyes didn't leave hers.

"Well?" he prompted, when she didn't answer promptly enough.

A fully-fledged smile crossed her face, and she said, "Didn't you know? All you ever had to do was ask."

The boos turned to cheers and Colin pulled her into his arms to kiss her as thoroughly as he dared with his sisters sitting less than ten feet away.

"Let's get out of here," he whispered against her mouth.

Penelope nodded. "Please."

*

Six months later

Colin leaned against the door of what was no longer his office, watching Penelope settle her things on what was now her desk. She looked right there. "Hey there, beautiful."

She started, spinning around towards the door. "Colin!"

He laughed and came into the office, shutting the door behind him. "I couldn't resist."

"Try," said Penelope dryly.

Colin winked at her and settled himself in one of the guest chairs. "How's it feel?"

Penelope titled her head to the side, considering, as she ran her hands over the desk. It wasn't at all a sexual gesture, but still it gave Colin ideas. But then, Penelope breathing gave him ideas most days. He was man enough to admit that.

"Pretty damn good," she finally admitted. "I wasn't sure that we'd get here."

He hadn't been sure either, something that he'd admitted to her on more than one occasion. It had been a humbling experience, to tell the College that he wanted to take Clyvedon digital only. He wasn't sure if he was hastening the demise of the paper or if he was saving it from a certain fate. And that was before Cressida Cowper had decided to try to out Penelope as Queen B, just as she was trying to gracefully retire the column to come work for Clyvedon instead.

But so far it all seemed to be working.

Page views were up. Penelope was the new Editor-In-Chief. He was going to grad school in the same city. And he and Penelope were still going strong.

It was hard to know which of those things Colin was most proud of, but he knew that all put together, they made him a pretty goddamn lucky man.

Still, there was no reason he couldn't be luckier.

"Get on the desk," he said.

Penelope's eyes went wide. "What? No."

He nodded and stood. "Get on the desk, Penelope. You know you want to."

She licked at her lips and eyed the door. "You locked it?"

He shrugged. He started to circle the desk. "Does it matter?"

He saw the war within her. The side of her that was practical and shy fighting with the part of her that was brave and adventurous. He saw the moment that side won.

She pushed her chair back and perched herself on the edge of her desk. He smiled when he saw what she was wearing, a flippy little skirt with her tank top and cardigan. It was like she had known, it was so perfect for what he had in mind.

He came to a stop before her, his hands dropping to the hem of her skirt. He kissed her jaw, her throat. "Naughty girl," he said. "Did you know?"

She gasped, clutched at his back. "That you'd want to fuck me on my desk? Nope, can't say I did."

He laughed and kissed her. "Would you kiss your mother with that mouth?"

She made a disgusted face. "Do you really want to talk about my mother right now?"

"Good point," Colin said. He kissed her one more time and dropped to his knees. "Let's just see what we have here, shall we?"

He pushed her skirt up, forcing her to hold it up over his head. He traced along the edge of her panties, teasing her with his fingertips, but making no move to dip beneath. "Are you wet?"

There was no answer. He looked up, saw her pink cheeks. It was charming, really, the way she could go from talking about him fucking her on a desk to being unable to admit how turned on she was. But he wanted to hear her say it.

"USe your words, love," he said. "Aren't you supposed to be some sort of big-time newspaper editor now?"

Her cheeks turned pinker still, but she said,"Yes. I'm wet."

"That's my girl," Colin murmured, pressing a kiss to the cloth still covering her. "Let's just see how wet, shall we?"

He slid one finger underneath the cotton and made an approving noise. He withdrew and tugged on the sides, until they fell to her knees. He helped her step out of them, stroking his hand along her legs as he did.

"Now then," he said. "Try to enjoy yourself."

He didn't dive straight in, but licked at her gently, in the way that he knew Penelope liked. When she moaned his name and tilted her hips towards his face, he took that for the sign that it was. He slipped one finger inside her, then two. He alternated the thrust of his fingers, with laps of his tongue against her clit.

The moaning intensified. A hand landed on his head, holding him closer.

Colin grinned against her and twisted his fingers on the next thrust.

She bucked against his hand, panting his name.

"Are you close?" he asked, knowing the answer to his question.

"Yes," she managed to sob out. "Yes."

"Tell me what you need."

She laughed, the sound strangled. "Colin!"

"Ask and you shall receive," he said. "You know the rules."

A full body shiver, and he knew that his words had hit the mark. He stilled, waiting for orders.

"Your tongue," she gasped. "More. Fuller. Please."

He complied, thrusting his fingers back inside her and rubbing at her clit with both his thumb and his tongue. The moaning came back, louder and breathier, and he gave her more still until it was finally enough.

When Penelope came, she was gasping and cursing his name, and Colin was sure that it had never sounded better or dirtier.

He kissed her through the aftershocks, more gently now, stroking at the smooth skin of her legs. Despire the fact that his dick felt like it was going to burst out of his pants, this was almost as good, the knowing that she'd trusted him to do this, here, where she had to be in control one hundred percent of the time or risk failure. That was worth a goddamn lot.

When she finally looked down at him, it was with well-satisfied eyes. "Do I say thank you or…"

He laughed and took her skirt from her hands, smoothing it back down over her thighs. "No, thank you."

She raised an eyebrow at him as he stood, wincing a little. She reached one hand out, trailing a finger along his dick. "Really? I'm pretty sure that's wrong."

He batted her hand away. "None of that. I'm trying to be a gentleman here."

Penelope laughed and wrapped her arms around his neck, pressing herself up against him. "Eating me out at my desk but not letting me return the favor is being a gentleman now?"

"Yes," he said loftily. "Now let me think about cricket for a minute and we can go meet the rest of your new staff for dinner."

Penelope laughed again and rested her head against his chest. "Colin?"

He pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "Yeah?"

"I love you."

"Well, I'd certainly hope you wouldn't let just anyone do that to you," Colin said.

She thumped him on the chest, laughing once more.

He smiled into her hair. "I love you, too."