Asher had avoided being alone with Mike for weeks. He’d cited work and a social life for reasons he couldn’t hang out or even babysit Cole, and he answered every call of veiled concern with a text reassuring Mike he was fine and not entrapped by some monster. (Not that Mike ever asked, but Asher knew that fear was going to be behind every contact.) The only time he couldn’t avoid him was the weekly dinners, and even then Asher always ducked out early for carefully timed shifts at the bar.
Which was why tonight he told Mike to sit his ass down and let him do the dishes alone, since he’d bailed on him so many weeks. His heart pounded unnecessarily hard as he worked, and when he was finished, he grabbed a couple of beers, met Mike’s eyes across the living room, and nodded towards the porch. He heard his brother briefly excuse himself and a quick verbal inquiry from Erika, but the door barely closed behind him before Mike was behind him, looking equal parts jilted and concerned.
“So you’re talking to me now?”
“Not if that’s what you call talking,” Asher said, his mouth tightening as he sat on the swing. “If you want you can go back inside and I’ll have two beers for myself.”
Mike swiped one of the beers out of his hand before he could object, then sat and took a hard pull out of it before scowling. He said nothing as the tension grew in the space between them.
Asher ran a hand over his hair, still a habit even though it was now shorn close to his head. It was band-aid pulling time. He took a deep drink before saying, “I’m moving to Vegas in two weeks.”
Mike let out a bitter laugh, then shook his head and stared down at his knees, already peeling back the label on the bottle.
“Why am I not surprised.”
Asher stared at him, then quickly took another drink. “To be honest, I thought you would be.”
“You haven’t said more than three words to me in two weeks, you’ve been avoiding me, and you cut all your damn hair off. It was either Vegas, or you were joining the military, and I knew you weren’t gonna do military.”
“Why? Don’t think I could handle that either?” Asher practically spat the words. Mike didn’t answer immediately. Instead he took a steadying drink from the bottle, eyes staring out toward the empty street, his expression pained before swallowing hard.
“No. Because I know you wouldn’t like the idea of not being able to see Mom whenever you wanted.” There was obviously more to it than that, but he didn’t say anything else.
“Not like I can swing by every weekend from Vegas,” Asher said heatedly.
“You mean, not that you will.”
Fire raced through Asher as he glared at Mike. “It’ll take all the money I have just getting there, so no, I can’t.”
“Why even bother telling me you’re goin’, Ash?” Mike said, avoiding his eye and still staring down the street. His voice was flat and hard. “Why not just go in the middle of the night?”
“Why are you being such a prick?!” Asher pushed to his feet, standing in front of Mike’s gaze. “You wanna say something, say it, and stop playing the guilt game.”
“What’s the point?” Mike countered, his head tipping back in order to look up at him. “Nothin’ I say is gonna matter, in the end. I told you to leave it alone back in high school and you didn’t. It doesn’t matter that nearly dyin’ three times because of this stuff happened either. So why bother tellin’ me you’re leavin’?”
“Because you’re my fucking brother and I’m going to miss you even though you’re a prick,” Asher snapped. “And because I’m not ashamed of what I’m doing. Why the hell should I be?”
“Because you’re being kind of a fucking hypocrite,” Mike said, scowling again. “You yelled at my wife about how she’s a horrible mother for leaving her son at home while she puts her life in jeopardy, and you’re tryin’ to do the same.”
“I don’t have a child. And I didn’t mean to yell at Erika; I wanted to yell at you.”
“Just because you don’t have a kid doesn’t mean you don’t have people who love you and worry about you, asshole,” Mike interjected, clearly ignoring the last part.
“It’s not the same thing!” Asher said, a mix of a snarl and a laugh. “You’re supposed to be there for your child, to protect them, because you’re the only thing they’ve got. And you can’t do that if you’re dead.”
“Is that how you think about Dad, too?” Mike countered, holding the beer bottle so hard the veins in his hand were visible.
Asher stood there in heavy silence before sitting next to him again. It took him a couple tries before he finally spoke. “First thing I remember about Dad is Mom pointing to him in a picture and saying, ‘That’s your daddy. He’s a hero.’ People were always saying that to me. When I understood what that meant, I felt proud. But when I got older, I hated hearing it. I started wondering why those people mattered to him more than me. It’s selfish as fuck, but I didn’t care. I didn’t want him to be a hero. I just wanted him to be there.”
“The last thing I remember about Dad,” Mike said, his voice quiet and gritty. “Was him tellin’ me to take care of you and Mom. That was my one job.”
“You did. You’ve always taken care of me. But I shouldn’t be your job anymore. Cole should.” Asher swallowed hard, guilt settling in his stomach as he said, “And it’s four times I nearly died. I didn’t tell you about one of them, because Cole almost got hurt, too.”
The silence that fell between them was deadening. He could practically feel Michael’s eyes boring holes into the side of his face before it turned and he brought the bottle mechanically up to his mouth to drink from it. When it was empty he put it on the ground.
Asher would take a drink if his hands weren’t shaking. “A couple months ago, with that ghost sending herself through email. She imitated Luke on messenger and I got the video. She got me pinned and Cole was crying and I was fucking useless. I realized that if you died, I could never step up like you did for Dad. I could never protect Cole like you can. I should be the one out there because I’m not risking much.” He looked at Mike, his gaze steady. “You should be home protecting your son.”
“Do what you have to do,” Mike said, no longer looking at him. “I can’t stop you.”
Staring at him long and hard, Asher willed him to say something else. When the silence stretched on, he finally got up and went inside, saying quick, quiet good-byes to Mom, Erika, and Cole before walking out past Mike and to his car. As he started driving off, he could see Erika coming out onto the porch to check on Mike before embracing him. They stayed that way even after he could barely make out their shapes in the rearview mirror anymore.
Cole was asleep. It was one of the few times they had ever used the crib, and only as part of a test to see if he could make it through the night without too much trouble. It had been a long day, with a lot of bouncing around and laughing. He was out like a light. Mike was grateful for that, if only because it gave him one less thing to worry extensively about as he sat on the couch in the living room, halfway through a bottle of whiskey as he stared at the television screen.
He maybe pulled out the home videos twice a year, and never quite got through to the end without turning it off, but it was on its second play-through that evening. The sound was barely audible, but the camera operator’s voice -- being closer to the mic -- was louder than the little boys currently on the screen. Two hands came down over the sofa, rubbing his shoulders a moment before Erika walked around, curling up next to him.
“I’d ask if you’re okay, but we both know the answer to that,” she said quietly. He took another swig straight from the bottle, his arm looping around her hip so naturally he didn’t even realize he had done it until he felt the cloth beneath his hand. Somewhere under the dense fog of inebriation, he knew he should feel guilty that he was allowing her to see him in his current state. He also knew that the one time he’d come home from being out drinking all night, she’d given him a black eye and screamed at him. Better to be home where I can watch your back.
“I hate myself,” came his low reply.
She ran a hand into his hair, massaging gently. “Why?” She kept her voice quiet and calm, and his eyes fell closed.
“Because I couldn’t stop it. All I’ve ever tried to do is keep him safe.”
“You have,” she said firmly. “I know you have trouble realizing it, but Asher is full grown. He is smart and strong and capable, and it’s hard to blame him for wanting to be like you.”
Mike barely held back the sob bubbling in his chest. Another swig did the trick. “I don’t want him to be like me. Hell, most of the time, I don’t even wanna be me.”
Erika let out a long breath but didn’t take it personally. Mike would say just about anything when he got like this. “It is hard sometimes.”
“At least he finished school and got to live his life a little,” Mike mumbled, staring at the screen. The camera was settled on the end of a table and his father reappeared, picking the two of them up from the ground and spinning them around in a circle. Laughter filtered out from the speakers, small and distant.
She kissed his cheek. “If it makes you feel better, I don’t think he agrees that that was a good thing. I think he envies everything about you.”
“The only good thing about my life ‘sides him and Mom is you and Cole,” Mike said quietly. “Everyone thought I was crazy before you. Even... even Mom did.” His mother still didn’t know what he and Erika were doing when they were out ‘on tour’ or ‘scouting locations.’ And with Asher moving to Vegas -- likely with Luke, because why else would he have chosen Vegas -- what would she think? Had Asher even told her yet? Michael quelled the thought with another deep pull from the bottle.
She frowned. “I know, baby. I can’t even imagine what that must have been like.”
Mike put the bottle down, pulling his arm free from her for a moment as he did so. Once it was safely out of reach he reached for her, tugging her across his lap before burying his face against her neck and holding on tightly. She hugged him close, running her hand over his hair and kissing his forehead.
“Should I tell him I’ll train him if he stays?” he asked against her neck. “Or should I let him try’n figure this shit out for himself?”
She gave a sigh. “It’s hard to tell what would be best. Maybe you could let him know that you would be open to training him, and letting him choose.”
It wasn’t a question worth finding the answer to in his current state. He knew he was drunk. It was only a matter of time before he passed out. But for a few moments it was just him and Erika -- nobody needed saving and their son was safe in his bed. He didn’t want to think anymore. Pulling back, he leaned his neck against the couch in order to look up at her.
“Do you wanna have another kid?”
She raised an eyebrow. “Like, right this second?”
“You’d have to grow ‘em first, so obviously...”
She gave a breath of a laugh. “Yes, I remember that bit. My vagina is still recovering from that bit.”
“But do you want to?”
“I think so. It hasn’t been easy, but I think it’s worth it.”
Asher’s words filtered in through the fog, about how he should be protecting his family and not fighting a war that would likely never end. Michael brought one hand up to Erika’s face, cupping her cheek and stroking his thumb over her lips.
“When you know so, lemme know,” he said gently. “We won’t until you know so.”
“So you are certain about wanting another one? As soon as possible?” she asked, kissing his thumb.
“Might need to get something with a bit more income than the hotel work,” he said solemnly.
“True,” she said. Then she frowned slightly. “Is what Asher said getting to you?”
“Li’l bit,” he admitted, his eyes dropping from hers to settle somewhere around her throat.
Her hand slid under his chin, lifting it up. “Don’t. He’s dealing with his own issues. My parents were hunters and I turned out brilliantly, if I do say so myself. We can do this.”
Michael sighed quietly, staring up into her eyes. With Erika’s parents and siblings on the sidelines, ready to play back-up in any situation they needed, along with the many other friends they’d made part of their network, he knew deep down that she was right. They weren’t alone. Whatever they couldn’t handle, someone would be there to help them. The only thing standing in the way of that was pride, and pride got a person killed. He knew that first hand.
“Yeah,” he murmured. “You’re right. I know you’re right. I’m just-- y’know.” He let out another little sigh, half wishing he hadn’t put the bottle down. “Y’wanna practice maybe?”
She smiled, scratching her nails through his hair. “I’d love to, but I think you might have had too much of the bottle for that to happen.”
“Me and my bright ideas,” he grumbled, though without any gusto. Leaning up, he brushed his lips against her neck, one hand moving up beneath her night shirt to stroke her back. “Could just bring the baby monitor out into the car with us and make out. Like the good old days.”
She slowly smiled, hips shifting on his lap. “Sounds like a good plan to me.”
No one could help Asher move his couch on Thursday.
He’d been packing up all week, sorting which things were coming with him and which he’d store in his old room at Mom’s. He hadn’t really planned on moving the couch that day, but he realized he was finished early and it was the biggest thing he had to get to Mom’s, so he’d spent all morning calling every friend he had. None could come. They had family and real jobs, lives and responsibilities. A lot of really great excuses.
And he couldn’t call Mike. Not after Sunday. Not now that Mike might just say no. He couldn’t handle another no.
So he’d decided to get a start on the vodka in the freezer. Wasn’t like he could bring it with him or leave it behind. After the first glass, he decided that he should just move the couch himself; it wasn’t that big, after all.
After getting the couch thoroughly wedged in the doorway and unable to move it forward or back. Asher went back for a second glass. He sat on the floor by the door, leaning on the wall and working on his third glass. Or fourth. He’d lost track.
Moving a couch. Hunting. Paying rent. Being a good brother, uncle, and son. Just one more thing on the list of what he wasn’t very good at.
“Knock knock,” a young, cheery feminine voice called out from his open door.
Asher blinked at the room, then leaned over, trying to peer around the couch. “Hello?”
The family resemblance was striking. The girl -- fresh faced and probably newly out of her final teen years -- stood about five-six, with the same auburn hair as Erika’s and dimpled, freckled cheeks when she smiled. Her hair was pulled up and back, but a few strands trailed out around her face.
“We met at the reunion,” she said by way of clarification. “Sis called and told me you needed a little help today. I’m Kim.”
Heat bloomed high on Asher’s cheeks as he scrambled to his feet, sloshing some vodka from the glass. “Shit, yeah, hi. Come in.” Then he looked at the couch blocking the way. “Er...”
Kim laughed, easily grabbing the side of the couch and diving over it. With a quick roll, she was back on her feet again on the other side.
“One of those famous Paulson Bright Ideas in the works, I take it?”
His face grew warmer. “I just... I thought I could get it through myself,” he mumbled, taking another drink.
“Hey, at least you tried,” she teased, grinning. “Unless you’re Professor X or have a dolly, that would’ve been quite a trick. So should I take the rear, or the top?”
“That’s what she said.” His eyes went wide; shit, he’d said that aloud. “I-I mean, I’m fine, you don’t have to.”
Kim laughed again, brows wagging at him. “That is what she said. I should know, I said it.” Her eyes scanned around the living room, then past him into the rest of the apartment. “What else are you moving? Or did you get most of it already?”
“Just doing the couch right now. The rest is just boxes. I’m leavin’ the bed here for the subletter,” he said, biting his lip. This was feeling strange. With a sudden thought, he turned in a slow circle, finally spotting the side table and setting the glass down. “You wanna drink? I gotta finish it before next week.”
“Can’t yet,” she replied, sitting on the armrest of the couch and crossing her ankles where they were on the floor. “Least not legally. Mom and Dad would wring my neck.”
He gave a snort. “Seriously? They let you fight monsters but you can’t drink?”
“That’s what I said,” she laughed. “But Dad just said that until they lower the age, that’s life. Doesn’t mean I haven’t taken a trip up to Canada once or twice on scouting trips, though.” That part she said with a wink. “Y’got soda or anything?”
“Um...” Asher thought to his nearly empty fridge. “No. Sorry. Beer and water.”
“And whatever it is that’s in that glass,” she said, smirking a bit. “You’re all flushed.”
“Yeah,” he said, looking down at it. “Vodka. Gotta finish it before I go. Leavin’ next week for Vegas.”
“That’s what Sis told me. You said you’re subletting though,” her head tipped a bit to the side. “That mean you’re comin’ back?”
He worried his bottom lip, eyes wandering the room aimlessly. “I dunno. Couldn’t break my lease, so I’d sublet either way.”
Kim pushed up off the couch, moving up next to him in order to force his eyes to land on her. Then she gave him a dazzling smile. “Y’know... I think I will take that beer. Just promise you won’t tell my folks.”
He couldn’t help but smile. “Yeah, you got no worries about that. I’m good at secrets.” He went to the kitchen, trying to keep his body between it and her as he snagged a can and tossed it to her. She caught it in the air with excellent form, then cracked it open and took a swig. Her face pinched a little, clearly not a fan of the taste, but she didn’t comment on it.
“You’ll have to turn the couch a little on its side to get it through the door,” she commented. “It’s wider than it is tall.”
Staring at the couch, Asher said, “Yeah, I guess that works.” He picked up his glass again, taking a sip. They stood in a moment of companionable silence before Kim moved to lean up against the archway again, watching him with a small smile that was visible between each sip from her can. He tilted his head.
She gave one slim-shouldered shrug, her smile widening. “I didn’t say anything.”
“You’re thinking something, I can tell.”
“What,” she countered, grinning. “A girl can’t smile? Or are you Professor X now?”
He grinned back. “Naw. Always been more of a Nightcrawler man.”
“Yeah, I bet,” she mused, smirking as she took another drink.
Asher narrowed his eyes, studying her, before letting it slide by. He finished off the drink, setting the glass aside. “Well, wish I could offer you a seat. But I’ll get on it,” he said, moving forward and grabbing the couch’s arm and pulling up, trying to position it like Kim said.
“We can sit for a bit. No rush,” she replied, bumping her hip against his as she passed him and settled on the couch again. Her knees opened up and she leaned back against it, with the air of someone who knew exactly what kind of image they were presenting.
Asher stared at her, his mouth going lax. Then he straightened, licking his lips. “What exactly did Erika say when she sent you here?”
“That you had a lot of stuff going on right now and you could use an extra set of hands and legs.” Her smile leaned into one cheek. “Everything else is self-interpretive.”
“Oh.” He wasn’t sure what to do or how to move, so he just stood there, his thoughts swimming. “I’m... Sorry, that wasn’t my first glass. I’m not exactly thinking clear.”
“Probably a good thing,” she said, sitting up and catching one of his hands to give it a little tug toward her. “Lord knows, you’re blushing like a virgin as it is.”
Asher swallowed hard, looking down at her hand. This was...complicated. Not nearly so much as the djinn dream, but definitely not what he was expecting for today. “You...you seem pretty quick,” he stammered.
“If that’s a problem, I can slow it down a little,” she said, leaning forward to brush her lips over the back of his hand, down across the knuckles.
A shiver ran up his arm, and he unconsciously stepped forward. “No, no, it’s just...a lot’s been happening. Been confused lately. Not been myself. Haven’t had a woman...act like this for a while.”
“You’re used to being the star player and not having girls take charge with you?” she asked, turning his hand in hers so she could press a kiss to his palm. He could feel the faint dart of her tongue, just for a moment, before she pressed her cheek into it. “Dunno if I can pretend to be some demure girl-next-door sweetheart, honey. I’m used to getting what I’m after.”
“No, girls take charge with me,” he breathed, stepping even closer. “I like it when they take charge.” His thumb ran along her cheek, his groin tightening. He licked his lips again. “I just...I dunno. This feels surreal.”
“How ‘bout you just kiss me first,” she suggested, looking up at him through impossibly long eyelashes. “And we’ll see where things go from there?”
Letting out a long breath, Asher leaned down, hesitant, as though she might disappear. But her cheek was still there under his hand, and he let himself meet her lips. She made this little, barely-there noise in the back of her throat as she leaned into it, bringing one hand to thread over his scalp and along his shorn hair before trailing down his cheek. Her lips parted beneath his and again there was that little dart of tongue, questioning and insistent against his lower lip. His mouth parted to it, his hand sliding behind her neck and holding her in place as his tongue thrust into her mouth eagerly.
That little tangle of tongue was enough to pull a real noise from her, high and needy, her arms shifting to circle around him and pull him down to rest between her knees. The moment he complied she pressed flush against him, scooting to the edge of the couch as her hands gripped his shoulders. He gave a groan, his hips rolling forward. His hand slid into her hair - perfect, silky - and to her waist, his fingers gripping her hard.
He felt one of her hands drop to cover his, leading it up beneath her shirt, never breaking the kiss. Her other hand shifted down to his ass, gripping tight through the denim and encouraging him to grind up against her with another little moan. Asher broke the kiss with a gasp, his hand instinctively cupping her warm breast but his eye darting to the hallway. “We...we should probably...”
“Close the door?” she offered, cracking a playful smile.
He swallowed, nodding. Her lips grazed against his, her nose nuzzling down the side of his as well.
“How ‘bout we move to that bedroom of yours?”
“Yes. Yes, sounds good,” he said, hand tightening. Again her lips pressed against his, but she didn’t move just yet.
“Hey,” she said gently, bringing one hand up to stroke his cheek. “No need to be anxious. It’s just necking, right? And maybe a little groping.”
“Yeah, yeah I know,” he breathed. “Just, I dunno, is it... I mean, my brother, your sister...”
“Are not you and me,” she told him between kisses, her tongue trailing over his lower lip again before she nipped it. “And this isn’t their business.”
She was right. So right. This was his life, and he could do whatever he wanted with it. He took her mouth again, wrapping his arms around her as he stood and shifted them both towards the bedroom. She followed in perfect step, like her body had been made to press against his, and as they moved she slid her hands past the waistband of his pants, grabbing his ass. With a growl, Asher turned and pinned her against his bedroom wall. His hands tugged her shirt up, gripping her breast over her bra, and she gasped in response, grinding against him.
“Knew you had it in you,” she praised, moving one hand up along his scalp once more. “Don’t stop.”
He nipped his way down her neck as his hands pulled her breasts free atop her bra. Then he dipped lower, pulling her nipple between his lips. Kim let out a whimper, grinding against him hard, her hands moving down between them to find his button-fly and work it open. Asher gasped, his whole world tilting, but wanting it more desperately than before.
“Want every inch of you,” he groaned, nipping at her breast. Her lips dropped to his temple as her hand slid between the fabric and skin. She took hold of him and gave him one long stroke, pulling a whimper from him.
“Then take it,” she breathed, her tongue tracing the shell of his ear. “Any way you want.”
“Want you to ride me.” His hips snapped towards her touch. “Want to watch and touch those beautiful breasts as you take my cock.”
She might have looked young, but the way she looked at him now spoke of much more experience. Everything about the way she moved, the noises she made, spoke of someone who knew how to get the best response.
Pulling her hand free from him, she paused just long enough to pull her shirt off over her head and unsnap her bra. Then she was dropping down on her knees, the wall behind her head and his hips in front of him as she opened his pants, yanked both them and his boxers down, then slid her lips over the head of his cock.
“Oh god,” he groaned, his hand bracing against the wall. “God, you can’t be real.”
That only got a little giggle from her as she rolled her tongue across the hypersensitive skin, down the slit and along the ridges, then pulled back and ran her tongue down the side. She made a show of dragging her tongue back up again along the underside, pressing a wet kiss to the tip before driving her mouth down deep. His body broke out in shivers, his mouth slack as he gasped for breath.
“Please, Kim, I’m not--I’m not going to last. Want you, now.”
Her mouth left him and she stood to her full height again, dragging the bottom of her foot against the back of his calf.
“Take me to bed then, pretty boy,” she told him, giving him another slow smile.
He slid his arms around her glorious body, holding her tight to him as he walked backwards until the back of his knees hit the bed. He sprawled back, shifting up the bed before grabbing her hand and pulling her on top of him. She pressed close, her mouth finding his as her hand slid between them. In a matter of seconds he was sliding in deep, barely meeting any resistance. She moaned into his mouth, rocking down against him as her arms circled his neck. Asher’s back arched desperately, his fingers digging into her back as he thrust up into her. Then he dragged a hand between them, roughly massaging her breast and pulling a high, keening noise from her.
She broke the kiss and nipped hard at his neck, then his clavicle, rolling her hips deep against him before finally leaning back. Her hands slid to rest on his thighs and she arched her back, rocking shallow and fast, the snap of their skin colliding filling the space between her little mewling gasps. Asher’s eyes were fixed on her, his hips rocking desperately.
“God. Fucking god, oh god,” he moaned in litany, both hands reaching to grab her beautiful breasts, thumbs running across her nipples. Everything inside him lurched, his back arching hard as he came with a yell.
Kim leaned over him again, still rocking through it, her mouth pressing to his as her hands slid up into his hair. Asher gasped as he came down, his whole body shaking. And then he felt heat rising to his face. What was that, five seconds?
“Sorry,” he breathed into her mouth.
“Don’t apologize,” she said, still grinding against him. “Happens to the best of ‘em. Just fix it.”
He nodded, twisting a hand in her hair. “You want to ride my tongue?”
She nodded, smiling widely. “You okay with tasting yourself on me?”
He smiled back. “I’ll live. It’ll be worth it to make you writhe.”
“Good answer,” she said, taking his mouth in a deep kiss and rolling her hips against his one last time, before adding, “Fuck, but you feel so good filling me up.”
Asher licked his lips again. “Maybe I could do it again sometime.”
Her tongue darted out, catching against his before she finally pulled back, inching up his chest. “I sure hope so.”
His hands slid down her thigh then around under her ass, guiding her up until she was finally straddling his head. His stomach flipped as he leaned up, running a tongue along her clit. He could hear Kim reach for the headboard and grab it, her breath hitching in her chest as her thighs gave a little shudder.
“That all you got?” she said down at him, her voice a little breathless. “C’mon. I got you off in less than a minute. You’re gonna have to do better than that.”
“That wasn’t all I have in me,” he said, a smile in his voice. Then he tugged her down, thrusting into her, his hands running up the insides of her thighs. The taste was unsettling but he didn’t stop, trying to drive for the heart of her.
Kim let out a little gasp, her head tipping back as she cried out toward the ceiling. Her hips began to rock down against his mouth.
“Oh yeah, baby, like that,” she moaned. “That’s it, that’s it, that’s it, yes.”
He drove deeper before pulling back, sucking her clit between his lips and then diving in again. The space between her little whimpering cries grew shorter as they grew longer, her thighs shaking against his cheeks, until finally she squeezed her thighs around his head. Her whole body arched against him and he tasted a flood of their mingled taste on his tongue.
“Oh god, oh my god, oh god yes Asher yes--!”
He tried to ride her wave as long as he could, finally running his tongue along the length of her before he pulled back. His chest heaved with long breaths, though he turned and kissed her inner thigh. “That fix it?”
“Merit badge for you, sir,” Kim panted, looking down at him with a glazed-over smile and shimmying partway down his chest. She ran both hands over his head, then leaned down to kiss him thoroughly.
“Feeling any better?”
The warm, soft foam that had enveloped Asher’s brain drained away. “Well, I was,” he said, brows furrowing. “Did you just pity fuck me?”
“No,” she replied, kissing the underside of his chin before trailing her lips down his neck. “Nothing about that was done out of pity, honey. Believe me. I wanted you, and I was gonna pull out every trick I had to get what I wanted. You seemed a bit tense before, is all.”
His mind still wasn’t at rest. “Why? Why now?”
Kim pushed up on her hips so she hovered over him, her ponytail hanging down over her shoulder to pool on his chest. “Why not now?” she countered, bringing one hand up to stroke his face.
He bit his lip, studying her face. “I dunno. I had someone doing a pretty good job of convincing me this life was a psychotic dream. This doesn’t seem like reality right now.”
Kim frowned a little, her hand going still. “The djinn?”
Asher swallowed. “Erika told you?”
“I might’ve eavesdropped while she was telling our mom,” Kim said, her voice touched with a little guilt.
“She told your mom. Great.” Just how many hunters were going to know he was a fuck up? He closed his eyes. “Jesus, sorry, I’m being an ass. Guess I need more vodka.”
“Hey,” Kim said, her voice gentle as she brought her other hand up to his other cheek. “Don’t. Don’t talk like that. Everyone makes mistakes. You think we’re just born out of the womb knowing exactly what to do?”
“Yeah? How many times you almost get your family killed?”
Kim brushed her lips against his. “One time too many,” she said.
His body relaxed a little and he pressed briefly into the kiss. “Why me?” he asked, quieter this time.
“Because the older one was taken,” she teased, then immediate kissed him a little deeper. “Give yourself a little credit, yeah? You’re hella smart, and gutsy, not to mention hot. What’s not to like?”
“But you never... I mean, I never saw you hitting on me before.”
“Maybe because you weren’t looking at me,” she replied, bumping her nose against his. “Or maybe because I had my own hang-ups. Or maybe it wasn’t the right time.”
He let out a breath of a laugh. “Yeah, a week before I move across country is the perfect time,” he said, sliding a hand along her arm.
“Vegas isn’t that far,” she said. “Only two days, if you red-line it.” Her lips quirked in a smile. “That mean you’re interested in doing more than just this with me?”
And there went his face again, erupting in heat. “I...I mean, if you want to. Wasn’t sure if this was, y’know, something or just a, a once something.”
“That’d be why you’re all concerned about my not speaking up and this being a pity fuck and all that other stuff,” she pointed out, grinning at him and nipping at his lower lip.
“I’ve just never had a woman jump in bed with me like that,” he blurted. “There’s normally like a date or something first.”
“You offered me a drink,” she pointed out, her eyes bright with restrained laughter. “I’m helping you move. That could be a date.”
He gave a laugh. “I swear I’m smarter when I’m sober. I really do.” He closed his eyes, tiredness sweeping over him. He had a shift tonight, too. Not a good sign.
“Don’t cheapen the moment, Paulson,” she said, nipping his clavicle again and giving a little wiggle of her hips against his. “I seduced you. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.”
“Mmm, I’m good with that. I’ll be sure to tell everyone of your conquest,” he said, mouth quirking in a smile.
“Don’t sleep,” she whined, moving to dig her fingers into his sides. “You gotta get used to operating on four hours of sleep or less, mister!”
His whole body jerked, his hands grabbing her wrists. “Holy fuck, why?”
“You think monsters and demons take naps?” she countered, slipping out from his grip easily and going at him again. Her knees tightened against his sides, showing a surprising amount of strength.
“Jesus fuck!” he squeaked, squirming and bucking uselessly under her. He dug his heels into the mattress, trying to roll her over and nearly succeeding, but she took advantage of his momentum to flip him back onto his back again. Her high, musical laughter filled his ears.
“C’mon, greenie! Show me whatcha got! If you can’t get me off you, how’re ya gonna get a banshee or a werewolf off?”
“I’d have a f-fucking weapon!” he gasped between the forced laughs.
He knew in his head that this was play, that everything was fine. But his gut was starting to panic, remembering glowing blue eyes and a hand pressing through his back. He jerked violently to the side again, sending them tumbling off the bed. They landed in a pile of limbs and blankets on the floor, and Kim let out a little yelp of surprise, her hands going still immediately. Their panted breathing filled the silence that fell between them.
“Sorry,” she breathed. “I’m sorry. That was-- I’m sorry.”
“No--that, that was my fault,” Asher said, not sure how to move without putting more pressure on her. “You...okay?”
“Yeah,” she said, bringing both hands up to his face. He managed to end up on top in the falling, and her flushed face peered up at him with equal parts concern and empathy. “I didn’t mean to trigger you. I wasn’t thinking.”
“Don’t,” he said firmly, his legs squirming in the tangle of blankets, trying to get off of her. “I was just being stupid.”
“You’re not stupid,” she said, grabbing him at his forearms and twisting one leg up to latch behind his knee. “You’re not, okay?”
He gave a snort. “You hardly know me; you don’t know how dumb I am.”
“There’s a difference,” she pointed out, her voice just as firm, “between stupid and dumb. Dumb is forgetting to flip the safety back on your gun and shooting yourself in the foot. Stupid is not listening to your instincts when they’re telling you to go where you need to go. Stupid is freaking out the cute boy by making him remember how he was some djinn bitch’s juicebox for three days because you wanted him to keep kissing you. You’re not stupid.”
He closed his eyes, feeling so small. “Please don’t. I can handle it.”
Kim slid her hand behind his neck and pulled him down, kissing him again, with the tenderness of a long-time lover and not just an unexpected tumble in the hay. Her other arm circled around his back, hugging him against her. She made that little noise in the back of her throat again, just like earlier when they’d first kissed, and she kept kissing him until the tension in his body started to ease. Asher found everything melting away from the two of them, his thoughts centering on her mouth, her body. He found himself kissing a trail down her neck, then his nose brushed the hollow of her clavicle. He turned his head, resting it against her chest, hearing the deep thrum of her heart. They couldn’t stay that way long; it couldn’t be comfortable for her. But for now he let himself sag in relief. It had been so long since he’d been held.
Her hands continued to rove over him, smoothing along his back. “You’re gonna be okay, all right?” she said gently. “It’s good, what you’re doing. Don’t let anyone tell you anything else, okay? Being a hunter is a thankless job, but the people who can do it and save people? It’s the best feeling in the world. And you don’t have to be alone in it. There’s other people who can and will help you. I mean, you’re Mr. Hunter’s Hub, right? You could find dozens of hunters willing to help you out and teach you. And...” She swallowed. “I’ll help you, too. If you want.”
Warmth washed over him, his hand sliding up her torso. “I thought if my own brother didn’t think I could do it, no one would. But if you don’t think you’d be wasting your time,” he said, shifting up so he could look down at her, “I’d like that.”
“I don’t think it’s because he doesn’t think you could do it,” Kim said gently. “He’s just bein’ a big brother. You think me, being the youngest girl, didn’t get a whole bunch of crap about how I didn’t need to hunt because everyone else in my family did, yadda yadda yadda? Even Sis hesitated. They wanted to make sure I didn’t get hurt or die. Both those things happen. They have happened, to members of our family.”
He shifted carefully, his side hitting the blanketed floor. “But that’s stupid, zeroing in on one person over another. I don’t want Mike to get hurt or die either, but that never stopped him.”
“That’s family for ya,” she said, turning on her side to face him and trailing a hand up his arm. “Self-sacrificing. I would gladly jump in front of a bullet for any of my family to keep them alive, but supposedly it’s never my job being the youngest girl. I’m s’posed to just sit there and watch them die and avenge them.”
Her voice was equal parts bitter and fond, but her eyes had settled around his throat, unfocused and far-away. The expression was so much like everything he felt inside that he couldn’t help leaning forward, taking her mouth in a slow kiss. When he pulled back, his lips still brushed hers.
“Fuck that. We’ll do what we want.”
Kim let out a little breath of a laugh, smiling against his mouth and pressing another soft kiss to his lips.
“I wish I’d talked to you sooner. I feel kinda dumb now.”
“I wish I’d had a clue. Didn’t know shit until you jumped me; that’s kinda embarrassing, y’know.”
That caused her to laugh again. “For who? You, or me?”
“Me. I’m supposed to be going around and assuming every girl wants to bang me,” he said with a grin. “And I missed my sister-in-law’s sister checking me out.”
“Oblivious Asher,” Kim replied playfully, climbing on top of him again. “Clueless Asher. Poor Sense of Judgment Asher.”
“Hey,” he said, pouting slightly. Kim leaned down and nipped at his lower lip, tugging it with her teeth and grinning around it as she rolled her hips against his.
He gave a whimper, his hands sliding to her hips. “You...you don’t have to be mean,” he whined though there was an airless quality to it.
“You don’t have to be sensitive,” she countered, pressing down into him again.
“S-suppose not,” he said, his rolling up. “Fuck, you’re so sexy.”
“Y’gonna punish me for being so mean, daddy?” she teased again, rocking much more deliberately.
His mind and body split in exact opposite directions. He slid a hand to her ass, giving it a firm swat, which caused her to let out a surprisingly suggestive noise. “I’m not that old.”
Kim continued to grind down against him, her lower lip between her teeth as her hair continued to escape her ponytail around her face. With a huff she reached one hand up behind her head to pull the rubber band free, sending it cascading around her shoulders in wispy waves. He could only stare in awe, reaching a hand up to run into her hair.
His other hand came up to cup her breast, running a thumb across her nipple. Her eyes fell closed and her head tipped back as she arched into the touch, letting out another little whine.
“Want you,” she breathed.
“Yeah. Yeah,” he said swallowing, his brow furrowing slightly. “I know it’s a little late... But you’re...covered, right?”
She hummed in affirmation, turning her lips into his wrist. “Lesson one: always be prepared. I’ve had my bases covered since puberty.”
He let out a breath, pushing himself to sit up. “Good,” he said, breath hot on her lips. “Because I want to fuck you so bad.”
Kim moaned in response, leaning into his chest and nipping at his lower lip. “Gimme your best shot, baby.”
He was already pressing hard against her, need pulsing through him. He gripped her waist, lifting her just enough to press to her entrance. Her head tipped back and she let out a high, breathless little noise, her hips rolling against his.
“Yeah, oh god, you’re so fucking big,” she whined, clutching his shoulders. “Bury yourself in that tight little pussy.”
He gave in to impulse, swatting her ass again and rewarded by another whimpering cry. “Such a dirty girl,” he groaned, plunging her deeper onto him.
“Yes,” she gasped. “Oh god, yes, yes, so deep. So fucking deep. I’m so wet, oh god, Asher--”
“Love it when you say my name.” He thrust up, nipping at her lip.
“Ash!” she cried, her nails digging into the meat of his shoulder. “Oh my god, oh god, fuck me, fuck me, fuck me.”
His mouth ran down her neck as he built up a rhythm. His hands gripped her hard, pulling her to him with every thrust, the sound of skin to skin slapping in his ears.
“So perfect, so tight.”
Her hips ground down hard to meet his thrusts. “Mark me up,” she gasped. “So everyone knows. Please, please, Ash, please.”
With a growl, Asher bit down where her neck and shoulder met, sucking hard to the sound of her well-earned gasps of pleasure. His head was already spinning and he tried to think of anything else, determined not to come up short again.
“Oh baby, yes,” she keened. “So fucking hot. Bruise me, scratch me, fuck me harder, oh god, I love it, feels so fuckin’ good.”
“Oh god,” he gasped against her skin, feeling himself tighten. He tried to distract himself but she was hot and perfect and everywhere. Digging his nails into her hips, he came.
Kim let out a whine against his neck, grinding against him harder. “No, no, no, not yet, I’m not--” One hand slid between them to where they were joined, rubbing furiously against her clit. It was that little bit of stimulation that finally threw her over the edge and she cried against his neck, clenching tight around him. He gulped down air, pressing close to her. Then he reached a hand between them, working at her clit.
“‘m sorry, baby. Wanna make you feel good.”
Pulling her hand out from beneath his, she continued to rock against his hand and his cock, trembling with every rush of pleasure.
“Fuck,” she whimpered. “Oh god.”
“That’s my girl, that’s my girl,” he moaned against her neck before biting down again. Her back arched as she cried out again, louder than the first time, her thighs tightening around his hips.
“Yes! Oh god! Oh my-- oh god oh fuck yes yes--” The words dissolved into formless little whimpers until at last she sagged against him. Letting out a sigh, Asher kissed every inch of skin he could reach, settling his hands on her thighs.
“It’s been a while,” he said sheepishly. Her arms moved to circle under his, hugging him close as she buried her face into his neck. She smelled like gun powder and some sort of flowers. It was a strangely comforting combination.
“Shut up, you’re lying,” she panted. “You’re way too hot to have gone that long without sex.”
He felt his face growing warm. “I don’t get out much,” he mumbled. “Only women I was around were drunk ones at the bar, and they always hit on me for free drinks.”
Her face pulled back to look at him, and that close her eyes almost looked gray instead of blue. The pupils were still dilated and her cheeks flushed, but she looked surprised.
“And you never took anyone home?”
He shrugged. “It was work; wouldn’t feel right. Besides, I wasn’t about to sleep with someone who was that drunk.”
“Then you are way too good for me, Asher Paulson,” she said, nosing against his cheek. “Or maybe the girls at your bar are just fucking idiots, because I would have easily offered to suck you off during your break if it meant getting you to come home with me.”
He smiled. “I would have said no. Work is one thing; home is another.”
Kim let out a little laugh. “Maybe you’re the crazy one, then. Turning down blowjobs.”
“Who said I was sane? I never said that,” he said grinning wider and giving her a quick kiss. “I want to be a hunter, after all.”
“Excuse you, I am the picture of perfect sanity,” she said with an air of fake haughtiness, reaching between them to give his left pec a tweak.
“Oh yes, of course, my mistake.” He couldn’t stop smiling at her. He didn’t know what this was, but he wanted to find out. ...In the one week they had. The smile faltered. “Wish we’d talked a month ago.”
Her lips brushed against his again before she moved her hands up to stroke his cheeks. “Would it have made a difference?” she asked, her voice gentle.
“Maybe. I don’t know. It would have been nice to have the chance,” he said wistfully.
“I don’t have to stay here, you know,” she told him. “I only live with my folks because it’s easier. When I’m on the job, I’m not here. I’m out there.”
He perked up slightly. “I’m going to be staying on a friend’s couch. Might be room for one more.”
“On a couch?” she said, pushing up on her elbows to hover over him. “And how do you suggest we do that? I sleep on top of you every night?”
He gave a laugh. “That could work. Or I could sleep on the floor.”
“You’re not sleeping on the floor, geek,” Kim said flatly, bumping noses before kissing him. “I’ll just bring my camping cot.”
“Probably more comfortable than the couch,” he admitted with a smile. His hand slid along her arm as he gaze turned thoughtful. “You’re at least twenty, right?”
Her brows lifted and she smirked down at him. “Why? Feel like you’re robbing the cradle?”
He winced. “Oh god. Please don’t tell me you’re a teenager. That makes it sounds so much worse.”
“My birthday was three months ago,” she told him, still smirking. “Newly twenty. You’re safe.”
That didn’t actually make him feel any better. He let his head fall back, hitting the floor. “God, I’m old. And with the sexual prowess of a sixteen-year-old, apparently.” He rolled his eyes. “Sure you don’t want to have a night to think it over before we start talking camping cots?”
Kim laughed, shifting above him so they were chest to chest and she could smile against his mouth.
“You having second thoughts, Mister Hunter?” she asked. “I’m very mature for my age, I hope you know.”
“Honestly haven’t had much time for first thoughts. I’ve done more the last month than in the last ten years.” His stupid mind stepped in and did the math; she’d still been in elementary school ten years ago. “Fuck.”
“Only if you’re ready for a third round,” she quipped, nipping at his lower lip. “Seriously, relax. You know how much older than the girls most guys are in pornos? Don’t hurt yourself thinking so hard.”
“Unless you’re hiding a camera crew somewhere, I don’t think the porn comparison really applies,” he said wryly, his hands running down her back. He pressed his lips together. “My shift starts in a couple hours.”
“You want me to go?” she asked, her brows knitting together faintly.
What a complicated question. “Not especially. Wouldn’t say no to helping me move the couch, though,” he said with a small smile.