“Uh, Kara, is it supposed to be this color?”
“Yes.” She nodded confidently, even though she was anything but.
“It looks… very… red.”
Lee leaned closer, peering over her shoulder, one hand falling casually on her hip, and Kara took a breath. He’d been close—too close—all godsdamned day and it was frakking with her concentration. She frowned at the monstrosity in front of her. Maybe she was only supposed to add a couple drops of food coloring, not a tablespoon.
“Frak.” She sighed. “It looks like roadkill.”
He snorted softly and warm coffee-scented breath washed over her ear. She closed her eyes for just a second, waiting till the tingle shooting up her spine disappeared. Lee must’ve seen it though because he uttered a soft ,“Hey,” and she felt his hand slide up to her waist and tighten briefly in a half squeeze. “It’s not that bad. Besides, it’s the thought that counts. Zak’s gonna love it.”
She opened her eyes and stared at the facsimile of a cake. Even though she hardly ever cooked, Kara had wanted to make it as a congratulations for finishing all his exams. He only had the final flight test tomorrow and then he’d be done with school, an official pilot finally. Unfortunately, the cake looked anything but festive. It was lopsided, dipping low on one side of the circle, and the frosting, a garish blood red, was smeared over the top and sides in uneven streaks. She scooped a glop of excess that was trickling down one side with her finger and frowned at it.
“Just think of it this way. It’s not nearly as bad as the time you decided to make us breakfast.”
Kara turned towards Lee, one eyebrow raised.
“I almost chipped a tooth on those pancakes.”
“That’s funny, because I seem to remember you eating three of them.”
His eyes crinkled at the corners in one of those slow grins that always somehow managed to simultaneously make him look like a little kid and turn her insides to jelly. “Well, you kept waving that knife around.” He gestured little stabbing motions with his hand. “I feared for my life, you know. Though I wasn’t quite sure what would be worse: death by stabbing or… by St-Starbuck’s c-cooking.” He was nearly choking with laughter trying to get the words out.
“Oh, frak you, alright?” Kara said, but she couldn’t help but laugh too. Lee was turning red he was guffawing so hard. On impulse, she reached up and dragged the finger with the frosting right down his nose.
“Kara!” She cackled at his outraged face, and he reached behind her, swiping at the cake and dragging two fingers coated in the frosting down her cheek.
“Oh, you want a war? Alright! You are going down, Apollo!” Kara shrieked, shoving a hand into the bowl of extra frosting and grabbing a scoop. She reached up but Lee caught her hand and she twisted her wrist, trying to get free, smearing the frosting into his palm in the process. Unphased, he just twined his fingers with hers, the sticky glaze coating their hands, and pushed them behind her back, trapping her between his body and the counter.
Lee leaned in close, his eyes narrowed dangerously, smirk firmly affixed. “I don’t think so,” and reached over her shoulder for the bowl.
Kara squirmed, laughing, and grabbed at his arm with her free hand, but it was like hitting at a brick wall and then his hand was at her mouth, smashing the frosting across her parted lips. “Mmph!” Her protest was muffled by Lee’s palm and she whipped her head back and forth to shake his hand off as the overly sweet confectionary—must have added too much sugar, she realized—coated her tongue.
“Oh gods, that’s terrible,” she wheezed, laughing even as she scraped her teeth over her tongue.”Ugh.” Kara was so focused on the awful taste that she was startled when Lee’s fingers closed around her other hand. She lifted her head to find him watching her with an intensity that made her breath skip, the laughter dying on her lips as her body tensed. Lee shifted, his arm slowly bending hers back, linked hands brushing linked hands against the small of her back. Fingers slick with frosting tightened on hers, and he leaned into her body, knees nudging her thighs, hips pressing hers, chest rising and falling against her own.
Her pulse raced and she couldn’t look away from his eyes, full of heat and hunger—the same hunger she knew was mirrored in her own gaze. If this had been the first time, Kara might have laughed it off, considered it a fluke but, it was far from the first time and she felt that same dizzy, powerless pull on her that she always did in these moments. Instinctively she lifted her chin, lips already parting. Lee bent his head closer, closer, and she watched his eyes grow dark, almost as dark as Zak’s….Zak. Oh Gods.
Alarm spiked through her and Kara jerked her hands out of his slick grip and twisted away, turning her back to Lee and gripping the counter with white knuckles as she sucked in a hard breath.
She blurted out the first thing—the only thing—in her mind because she didn’t want to hear what Lee might say. This would stop it, she thought grimly, fleetingly, before she opened her mouth. This would stop all of it.
“He asked me to marry him.”
The immediate silence was like a vacuum, sucking up the air in the room. Not a sound came from behind her. Lee wasn’t touching her at all, but she could still feel him like he was pressed against her back, breathing down her neck. Waiting. Her mouth opened and closed soundlessly a few times, until finally she pushed out the rest, her voice hardly shaking at all. “I said yes.”
The words sounded unnaturally loud and Kara took a deep breath. But even as she inhaled raggedly, his hand closed on her bicep like a clamp, pulling her around roughly, and before she could blink, his mouth was crashing down hard over hers.
She didn’t understand what was happening. Kara had thought that telling him would make him back off and instead it’d been like throwing a match into a tylium well. His fingers were digging into her arms, gripping her so tightly she thought she might have bruises tomorrow. His lips were hot, crushing hers and pushing her mouth open wider, his tongue thrusting into her, and desire crashed through Kara like a wave. She grabbed on to Lee’s shirt, dirty fingers clenching the cotton covering his chest and groaned into his mouth. Her lips slid hard against his, tongues tangling, the friction of their skin fueling the desire she felt. The kiss was brutal and endless and it left her aching when he finally pulled away, panting hard. Lee was watching her with furious eyes, and he leaned in, his voice pure gravel. “You want me, but you’ll marry him?”
Fury and frustration flooded her, and only the hurt she could see warring with the anger on Lee’s face stopped her from striking out or saying something biting and bitter.
That, and the sound of the door slamming open.
Lee lurched away, as footsteps pounded down the stairs, breathing hard and trying to pull himself together. Kara did the same swiping an arm across her stinging eyes and gripping the cake platter.
“Hey, Kara, I did it! I’m done!” Zak swung around the foot of the stairs and took quick steps toward the kitchen. “Oh great, you’re both he—” his words died away as he looked from her to Lee, his brow creasing. Half-heartedly Kara slid the cake plate forward. “Surprise.” The word fell quietly, awkwardly from her lips.
Zak’s eyes flicked back and forth, back and forth between her and his brother, and Kara felt a sick churning at the pit of her stomach. She didn’t dare look at Lee. Finally his gaze dropped to the haphazard cake, staring like he had no idea what it was. “I, uh, made you a cake.”
Slowly he looked up, cold eyes meeting Kara’s and she shuddered. Did he suspect? No, how could he—“You had some trouble with the frosting, huh?”
She pasted on a fake overly bright smile, and said, “A little bit, it didn’t want to stay put.”
He raised an eyebrow, “I can tell.” His voice was even, too even. “You have some on your lips.”
Kara reached up, fingers touching her mouth, her mind already churning as Zak turned toward his brother, eyes hardening. “Both of you.”
Something twisted inside and she couldn’t help it, her gaze flew to Lee frantically. In a second, she saw what Zak must have: his brother with skin flushed almost as bright as the frosting smeared on his mouth and guilt written all over his face.
On his shirt, bold as blood, were two red handprints.