The Hating Game
Page 18

 Sally Thorne

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The sweet little word dissolves and I swallow.
“I’m not going to kill you. You’re so dramatic.” Then he presses his mouth lightly against mine.
Neither of us closes our eyes. We stare at each other like always, closer than we’ve ever been. His irises are ringed blue-black. His eyelashes lower and he looks at me with an expression like resentment.
His teeth catch my bottom lip in a faint bite, and goose bumps spread. My nipples pinch. My toes curl in my shoes. I accidentally touch him with my tongue when I check for damage, although it didn’t hurt. It was too soft, too careful. My brain is whirring hopelessly with explanations of what is happening, and my body begins to better its grip.
When he leans in again and begins to move his mouth against mine, softly plying it open, the penny drops.
Joshua. Templeman. Is. Kissing. Me.
For a few seconds I’m frozen solid. It seems I’ve forgotten how to kiss; it’s been so long since it’s been a daily activity. Not seeming to mind, he explains the rules with his mouth.
The Kissing Game goes like this, Shortcake. Press, retreat, tilt, breathe, repeat. Use your hands to angle just right. Loosen up until it’s a slow, wet slide. Hear the drum of blood in your own ears? Survive on tiny puffs of air. Do not stop. Don’t even think about it. Shudder a sigh, pull back, let your opponent catch you with lips or teeth and ease you back into something even deeper. Wetter. Feel your nerve endings crackle to life with each touch of tongue. Feel a new heaviness between your legs.
The aim of the game is to do this for the rest of your life. Screw human civilization and all it entails. This elevator is home now. This is what we do now.
Do not fucking stop.
He tests me and pulls back a fraction. The cardinal rule broken. I pull his mouth back to mine with my hand fisted at the scruff of his neck. I’m a quick study and he’s the perfect tutor.
He tastes like those spearmints he’s always crunching. Who chews mints? I tried it once and burned my mouth out. He does it to annoy me, flickers of amusement in his eyes at my irritated huff. I nip him now in retribution, but it urges him closer against me, body hard, warming me everywhere we connect. Our teeth chink together.
What the fuck is happening? I ask silently with my kiss.
Shut up, Shortcake. I hate you.
If we were actors in a movie we’d be bumping against walls, buttons flying, the fishnet of my stockings shredded, and my shoes falling off. Instead, this kiss is decadent. We’re leaning against a sunlit wall, dreamily licking ice cream cones, rapidly succumbing to heat stroke and nonsensical hallucinations.
Here, come a little closer, it’s all melting. Lick mine and I will definitely lick yours.
Gravity catches me by the ankle and begins to drag me off the handrail. Joshua hoists me up higher with a hand on the back of my thigh. From this tiny loss of his mouth I growl in outraged frustration. Get back here, rule breaker. He’s wise enough to obey.
The sound he makes in reply is like huh. The kind of amused sound people make when they discover something unexpected yet pleasing. That I-should-have-known sound. His lips curve and I touch his face. The first smile Joshua’s ever had in my presence is pressed against my lips. I pull back in astonishment, and in one millisecond his face has defaulted back to grave and serious, albeit flushed.
A harsh burr comes from the elevator speaker, and we both jolt when a tinny voice ahems. “Everything okay in there?”
We freeze in a tableau entitled Busted. Joshua reacts first, leaning over to press the intercom.
“Bumped the button.” He slowly sets me down onto the ground and backs away a few paces. I hook my elbow on the handrail, my legs sliding out on roller skates.
“What the fuck was that?” I wheeze with the last of my air.
“Basement, please.”
“Right-o.” The elevator slides down about three feet and the doors open. If he’d waited another half second, it would have never happened. My coat is in a crumpled mess on the floor, and he picks it up, dusting it off with surprising care.
“Come on.”
He walks off without a backward glance. My earrings are caught in my hair, tangled by his hands. I look for an exit. There are none. The elevator doors snap shut behind me. Joshua unlocks an arrogantly sporty black car and when I reach the passenger door we face each other. My eyes are big fried eggs. He has to turn away so I don’t see him laugh. I catch the reflection of his white teeth on a nearby van’s rearview mirror.
“Oh dear,” he drawls, turning back, dragging his hand over his face to wipe away the smile. “I’ve traumatized you.”
“What . . . what . . .”
“Let’s go.”
I want to sprint away but my legs won’t hold me up.
“Don’t even think about it,” he tells me.
I slide into his car and nearly fall unconscious. His scent is intensified in here perfectly, baked by summer, preserved by snow, sealed and pressurized inside glass and metal. I inhale like a professional perfumer. Top notes of mint, bitter coffee, and cotton. Mid notes of black pepper and pine. Base notes of leather and cedar. Luxurious as cashmere. If this is what his car smells like, imagine his bed. Good idea. Imagine his bed.
He gets in, tosses my coat on the backseat, and I look sideways at his lap. Holy shit. I avert my eyes. Whatever he’s got there is impressive enough to make my eyes slide back again.
“You’ve died of shock,” he chides like a schoolteacher.
My breath is shaking out of me, and he turns to look at me, eyes poison-black. He raises his hand and I flinch back. He frowns, pauses, then twists my closest earring carefully back into position.
“I thought you were going to kill me.”
“I still want to.” He reaches for the other earring, and his inner wrist is close enough to bite. Painstakingly, he tugs the caught strands of hair until my earring hangs properly again.
“I want to. So bad, you have no idea.”
He turns the car on, backs out, and drives as though nothing happened.
“We need to talk about this.” My voice is rough and dirty. His fingers flex on the steering wheel.
“It seemed like the right moment.”
“But you kissed me. Why would you do that?”
“I needed to test a theory I’ve had for a while. And you really, really kissed me back.”
I twist in my seat and the lights ahead go red. He slows to a stop and looks at my mouth and legs.