Frolic Presents: ‘That Festive Feeling’ Chapter Four By Talia Hibbert
By Talia Hibbert
[Note From Frolic: We are so excited to announce our Festive Four Stories! Every week in December we will have a new short holiday story from 4 of your favorite authors. This week we have the amazing Talia Hibbert. Take it away Talia!]
[CW: Story Contains Explicit Sexual Content]
He didn’t kiss her back, at first.
She was wedged between his thighs, twisting awkwardly to reach him, cupping his rough jaw. His mouth was soft but still, and she couldn’t feel him breathing anymore. Uncertainty sunk its claws into her. Embarrassment quickly followed. She had to stop.
But then he moved. Oh, did he move. One hand palmed her backside, lifting her until she straddled him fully. His other hand held hers and their fingers intertwined. They were so close, she swore she could feel his heartbeat against her chest. He pulled back and studied her for a moment with the darkest eyes she’d ever seen. Then he cupped her nape and drew her mouth gently back to his. This time, their lips made the kind of glancing, barely-there contact that felt more intense than a direct touch. The whisper of friction made everything about Reagan melt. She was, in a single instant, absolutely screwed. Ruined. By a kiss that was barely a kiss.
Her mouth opened on a silent moan and just like that, everything changed. His movements became almost hungry, his tongue hot and insistent. She was wound-up and greedy and desperate, grabbing fistfuls of his shirt and rocking against him, sensation arcing through her.
He groaned. “Oh, Christ, Reagan. Reagan.” He ran his lips over her jaw, down her neck. He sucked at the base of her throat until she whimpered. For a moment, her rhythm faltered—but his hips jerked up to meet hers, his breaths growing ragged. He was hard. So, so hard, and perfectly positioned to alleviate the pressure between her thighs. She moaned low as her pleasure spiked, her thoughts scattering, her pulse thumping so hard she could hear it. She might come like this, she realised. Somehow, she might. And God, it would be so good—
“Wait a sec,” he panted, pulling away suddenly. “Wait, baby, stop.”
She stopped. Blinked. Her lustful haze faded. She’d been dry humping Daniel Palmer and sucking his face off like a Hoover and he’d just asked her to stop. Oh dear. What in the hell was she doing?
“Oh my God,” she spluttered. “I’m so sorry.” When she tried to scramble away, he held her tighter.
“No. No. Don’t be sorry.” His voice was deep and slightly hoarse. “You have no idea how much I wanted that.”
Red-hot mortification receded, just a little bit. “Um. Oh.”
“Yeah. But this…” He winced. “This is not what I came to do. Tell me something.” His voice grew quieter, his tone almost hesitant. “If I asked you out, would you say yes?”
Asked me out? She considered the prospect and drew a blank. Reagan didn’t go on dates. She didn’t go anywhere, except Sunday brunch with her girlfriends when their schedules aligned, which happened possibly once a month. So she answered truthfully. “I don’t know.”
In an instant, she felt something in him shrink away from her. And she realised that he’d taken her answer all wrong.
“I mean,” she said quickly, “I’m so busy. You know I’m always working.”
“Yeah,” he said softly. “I know, honey.” He lifted her off him and stood. She felt cold and uncomfortable, even though cushions were objectively softer than rock-hard thighs. “It’s getting late.” He ran a hand over his hair.
“You should go to bed.”
“I should?” Apparently, she had lost all brain power. Probably because he’d just given her severe blue balls. And she didn’t technically have balls, so that was quite a feat. “Listen, Daniel…”
“Don’t worry,” he said. “Forget it.” He should’ve sounded dismissive, but the words were gentle, as if to comfort her. “Are you alright?”
No. Yes. No. But I have to say… “Yeah.”
“Good. I’m gonna go now, okay?”
It wasn’t okay at all, actually. But he clearly wanted to. He’d wanted to stop, and now he wanted to go, and really, what could she say to that?
She walked him to the door.
“For God’s sake.” Dan stared in disgust at the saucer he’d dropped on the floor. Gleaming, ceramic shards winked up at him while All I Want for Christmas blared mockingly from the café’s speakers.
“Damn, boss. You’re edgy today,” Ally chuckled from over by the cash register. Dan’s youngest employee was a great fan of stating the obvious. She fiddled with her ponytail and made no move to help him clean-up, which was absolutely fair, since this was the third thing he’d smashed in as many hours.
He grunted something unintelligible in her direction and trudged off to get the sweeping brush. Which, of course, involved walking past the café’s clock. The clock he was trying not to look at.
Reagan wasn’t coming.
It was Friday, and he hadn’t seen her all week. Usually she’d march in every morning, already looking exhausted, and demand an espresso before marching out again. She was the exact opposite of morning person, but those glimpses kept him going until their Friday evenings. He’d get to see her, and smile at her grumpiness.
Without her, he’d barely smiled at all this week.
God knew, he should’ve been grinning from ear to ear. She’d kissed him. It was glorious. It was everything. But then his goddamn brain had gotten involved and started asking difficult questions, and he’d opened his mouth and let those questions free, and… well. He hadn’t liked the answers. And apparently, she didn’t like guys who came over, made out with her, then stormed off because their delicate feelings were hurt. Not for the first time, Dan closed his eyes and muttered to himself, “Stupid, stupid, stupid.”
The words were still echoing in his mind when he returned to counter and found Reagan in her usual spot.
Her laptop was already open in front of her. Her fingers flew over the keyboard. She was wearing her wire-framed glasses instead of contacts, which meant she was really tired, and today her suit was pale grey—as opposed to her charcoal, black, or navy.
He dropped the sweeping brush and was leaning on the counter in front of her a second later.
Slowly, she looked up. Since she rarely noticed anything when she was working, the acknowledgement made him suspicious. Where was her usual hyper-focus? Had she been concentrating at all? Or had she been sitting there, waiting for him the way he’d spent all week waiting for her?
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi,” she said.
The most awkward pause in the history of awkward pauses ensued.
She had deep, dark circles under her eyes and she was wearing lipstick. He had figured out, over the last two years, that she only ever wore lipstick to disguise the fact that she felt like shit. He decided to ignore the elephantine issue of his undying affection and focus on what she’d presumably come for. “Triple?”
She nodded, seeming relieved. “Triple.”
He made her favourite with extra cinnamon and gave her two marshmallows. She almost smiled at him, her lips twitching and her eyes warming. The sight made his heart skitter around his chest like a puppy sliding over wood floors. Then she went back to work, for real this time. The minutes ticked by and she barely noticed when he replaced her empty mug with chamomile tea. Or when the last customers left and the front doors were locked. Or when the machines were turned off, the music turned down, and the other staff sent home.
But when he sat beside her at the counter, she stopped typing immediately. Her head came up and her laptop snapped shut. She looked at him. She took off her glasses and chewed off the last of her lipstick.
“Daniel,” she said. “We should talk.”
Well, that was never good. He sighed. “Do you want to forget it ever happened?”
“What? No—I—do you?”
That was… better. The dread in his chest lightened a little. What felt like his first smile in a week tugged at the corners of his lips. “No. Definitely not. Absolutely not.”
“So you aren’t… upset with me?” she asked.
He caught her hand in his. Twined their fingers together and remembered doing the same as they’d kissed.
God, that kiss.
Her hand was cold compared to his, her fingers small. “No, Reagan,” he whispered. “I’m never upset with you.”
She gave him the sweetest smile he’d ever seen. “Okay. Here’s me being as straightforward as possible: I like you. A lot. But I’m terrible at dating.”
Pure joy blossomed in his chest, warm and light and full. His grin felt wider than the Trent. That but probably should’ve tempered his happiness, but it didn’t. It felt like nothing could. She liked him. A lot. She liked him a lot. He could deal with any issue, any barrier she erected, as long as she felt something for him. Even the tiniest something would do.
“Terrible at dating,” he repeated, trying to keep his voice calm. Which was probably a waste of time, since he knew how he must look right now: ecstatic. “Why’s that, Trouble?”
She snorted. “Guess. I mean, coming to this café is my only hobby. Outside of work, I see you more than anyone.”
“Perfect. We’re already on the right track.”
Her laughter blew up his heart like a balloon. “Come on, Palmer. You don’t want to date a woman who spends 80% of her time drafting contracts.”
“I do,” he said quietly. “I absolutely do. But only if it’s you.”
She ran her free hand over her face. “Daniel. I don’t… everyone I’ve ever been with has ended up resenting me, you know.”
“Reagan. For the last two years, slinging hot drinks at you while you type has been the highlight of my week. I can’t lie; I do have a devious plan designed to make you relax on the weekends. At least on Sundays. But I’m not trying to get in the way of your career, ever. You’d resent me for that. And you’d be unhappy, I think.” He squeezed her hand. “I want you happy.”
Maybe it was wishful thinking, but the worry in her expression seemed to fade with each of his words. “You want me happy, hmm?”
“And you have plans.”
She grinned. “And you’re holding my hand.”
“I realise that. In case you hadn’t noticed, I like holding your hand.”
“Daniel Palmer, I think you like me.”
“You think? Apparently, I haven’t been clear enough.” Happiness swelling inside him, he tugged her forwards until she slid off her stool and came to stand between his thighs. His free hand eased under her suit jacket to stroke her side. “How are the injuries?”
“Better,” she said, slightly breathless. He watched the steady rise and fall of her chest, hypnotised. “Completely better.”
“So I can do this?” He squeezed her hip.
“Oh, yeah. You can do that.”
“Good. I like your hips.” He leaned forward and—finally, after months of daydreaming about it—kissed her nose. “I like your face.” Then, softly, he pressed his lips to hers. He could feel her smiling. He whispered against her, “I like the way you taste.”
“Because you’re a coffee snob,” she whispered back, “and I only drink excellent coffee.”
“Maybe that’s why. Or maybe, Trouble, it’s because I adore you.”
Her hands caught the front of his T-shirt, fisting the fabric. She kissed his jaw almost absently, as if the action were something she simply had to do. And God, that felt good. Her breath tickling his cheek, she asked, “Does this mean we’re dating?”
“I suppose it does.”
“Will you take me to the 24 hour McDonald’s drive thru after work?”
“Is that what you want?”
“God, yeah. I always need a cheeseburger after work.”
“Then that’s what I’ll do. Will you let me come over when you’re working?”
“Will you bug me?”
“Do I ever bug you?”
“No,” she smiled. “But maybe you could, sometimes. Just a little bit. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.”
His grin widened. “I see.”
“And maybe I’ll try to… to only work when it’s necessary. But it might be difficult to get into the habit.”
“I could help you get into the habit.”
“I suppose you could,” she murmured, her smile growing. “Now, Daniel.”
“Don’t take this the wrong way…”
“I’ll try not to.”
“But, since we’re dating… And since I haven’t had sex in a century and you’re excruciatingly hot… It would be really, really great if we could maybe, possibly, screw each other senseless.”
If it weren’t for his A-grade health rating, he’d have done it right there on the counter. But he couldn’t. So he dragged her home instead.