Veronica didn't allow herself any more time to wallow. One: wallowing was for losers, and two: it was several rungs up Maslow's hierarchy than her current base-level needs. Not that she wouldn't rather spend her Saturday with Logan, but past-due bills and empty refrigerators did not allow for mental health days or hissy fits.
She flipped through files on her desk, looking for the Morales case. Insurance fraud. Not her favorite, but beggars can't be choosers. She formed her plan of attack for disproving the man's disability claim. She'd need a short skirt, midriff-baring top, and some heels. Play a flirty, ditzy damsel-in-distress requiring assistance from a big, strong man to lift a heavy box into her car. Piece of cake.
She opened another case file as her cell phone rang. Checking the caller id, she said, "Hi," aiming for upbeat.
"Hey." His voice was warm and low, scratchy from waking. She pictured his porcupine-esque morning hair and grinned. "So. How are you feeling about things today?"
"Oh, like I could use a year to process everything. But as far as Duncan's bombshell, I'm dealing." As the dust settled, she felt somewhat relieved knowing it had been Duncan. It wasn't as if she hadn't imagined having sex with him back in the day. Some of her worst fears about the incident were put to rest. He hadn't gossiped about her, hadn't posed her naked body and taken pictures to share with his friends or post online. And he didn't have any STD's, Veronica being his first. If it had to be anyone, she supposed he was the best option.
It was Logan's news that kept her up all night. She knew he was downplaying it, not wanting to appear weak. Her heart ached as she recalled his stories over the years about surfing accidents and illnesses and impromptu vacations that she now knew he fabricated while recuperating in bed at home, alone, waiting for his body to heal.
She'd witnessed Aaron Echolls' temper firsthand once. One time, when he'd thought Logan was by himself, he came out to the pool, screaming about something Logan had spilled on the carpet. When he saw Veronica and Lilly, he'd immediately stopped and retreated, telling Logan they would discuss it later. Logan used to make vague references to his dad's anger, but Veronica always assumed it was just yelling and grounding.
But now that I know, Aaron Echolls is going to pay for what he's done.
"Do you need to work today or can we hang out?"
"I'm at the office now. Sorry, I need to work all day. All our time in detention has put me behind."
"Oh." His disappointment came through loud and clear. It sounded like he was brooding and that was a problem. She knew from past history that a brooding Logan was a destructive Logan. It led to mind-altering substances and an overabundance of bad decisions. She couldn't blame him, his mood was probably due to her own revelations.
"Aren't you going to the big football game tonight? It's not every day Neptune is in the state championship."
"Yeah. I guess. I was just hoping we could hang out. Maybe get a do-over on our first date."
"Our first date was amazing. We do not need a do-over."
His voice turned cold. "I generally don't like my dates to include hours of heartbreak and desperation. Not to mention fearing for my girlfriend's life."
Nope. Not today. Today, she needed a reprieve from the heavy. And he did, too, judging by his tone.
She plastered on a smile that she wanted him to feel through the phone. "But then we had the whole emotional truth-telling at the end so… yay, us!"
"Aren't you feeling unexpectedly chipper this morning?" Softening, he asked, "Is it because you know what happened at Shelly's?"
She checked to make sure her dad's office door was closed. This was not a conversation she wanted him to overhear. "Closure feels good, I guess."
"I guess," he said, sullenly.
And yeah, he obviously didn't feel her smile through the phone. Time to change tacks. "Know what else feels good?"
"I'll show you tonight, after work."
She counted three beats of silence, then, "Sounds like something I should skip the game for." Success. Goodbye emo Logan. She tried to match his tone.
"I could make it worth your while. But I don't want to keep you from the game if you want to go. We can catch up tomorrow."
"Not a chance. A night with you trumps football any day."
She smiled. "I'll call you when I'm done."
It was dark when she drove to his house. The Morales case went according to plan but she didn't have as much luck on the next one. Three hours spent camped out in the lobby of the Neptune Grand for a picture of a corporate exec with his intern led to bupkis, so she took matters into her own hands and pulled the fire alarm on the fifth floor in frustration. She got the picture as the two fled their love nest in fluffy-white bathrobes, giggling like schoolgirls as they jogged down the hall to the stairwell.
Her dad would be pissed when he found out. His informants at the Grand did not approve of rogue alarm-pulling tactics. They'd be able to identify her on the security camera, and her dad would have to bribe the security officer with pizza and beer to get him to erase the tape.
Good. Serves him right. She was not in a forgiving mood about the years he'd lied to her about her mom and Jake Kane. Lying by omission is still lying. Something they'd need to discuss at some point when she wasn't feeling so angry.
If only she had a super-hot boyfriend in an empty mansion who knew exactly how to make her feel better.
Logan spent the day mentally preparing.
He'd gotten back from surfing all day with Dick and Beaver, trying to atone for suggesting then bailing on the impromptu Mexico plan. With Duncan being MIA the past year, Dick was as close to a best friend as he had and he didn't want to lose him. Correction: he couldn't afford to lose him, he didn't have any friends to spare.
Logan figured the hours of surfing would've worn him out but he was all keyed up, playing video games and nursing a few beers to pass the time until Veronica came.
Up until this moment, even though they'd done everything but, sex with Veronica was more of a hazy 'someday' type of dream, details slightly out of focus, than an impending reality. Before they did the deed, he figured she would change her mind, or run off with Duncan, or become injured in some dangerous life-risking operation and any chance for romance would be thwarted. But she'd called him on her way over, safely ensconced in her car, no danger to speak of on the short drive to his house.
He knew they both wanted it. It was inevitable - the consummation of their air-crackling attraction. He was still willing to wait, but every time they were together the pull was almost unbearable. It was becoming nearly impossible to contain himself. What he wouldn't give to lose control with her, to table all the extraneous noise in their lives, all the bullshit, and just give themselves over to their baser instincts. But Veronica… he didn't know if she was ready for that. If what Duncan had told her made a difference.
He felt a certain responsibility, a heavy weight on his shoulders, to make the experience unforgettable. For all the times he'd had sex, it was disconcerting how anxious that made him. She was a virgin and that was a first for him. He'd never specifically sought out girls with experience, but those were absolutely the girls who pursued him. The innocent ones stayed away like he was a hazardous substance, effects unknown and potentially dangerous.
Well, all but one innocent one…
He'd need to let her lead. Have her set the pace. That would be the right thing to do given the circumstances.
She rang the bell and waited, taking some cleansing breaths.
This is it. Tonight's the night. Lilly, if you have any otherworldly powers - and if anyone does, it's you - grant me the magical ability to be good at sex even though I have no idea what I'm doing. And forgive me that it's with Logan.
"Well, hello there." Logan doubled bobbed his brows in greeting. She'd forgotten she was still dressed to tempt middle-aged construction workers into lifting heavy objects. "You dressed that way for little ol' me?"
She took him in. All six feet of magnificence in a long-sleeved charcoal grey shirt and jeans, smelling like a dream. She wanted to burrow her head into his neck and do nothing but breathe him in for a full five minutes. Scratch that, an hour. An hour of nothing but smelling his neck sounded about perfect.
"Not exactly." Shit, this wasn't how she wanted it to go. "You mind if I change? Um, maybe I could shower, too?"
His brow creased in confusion. "Sure. Whatever you need. You want to use my bathroom or-"
"Yeah, your bathroom is fine," she said, breezing past him.
He led her upstairs to his room and got her some fresh towels, placing them in the bathroom. "Everything you need should be in there. If not, I'll wait here." He tilted his head to indicate his bed. "Just yell."
The energy was odd between them so then she kissed him, softly at first. A kiss of reconnection after their shared secrets. A kiss full of promise and hope. He immediately pulled her against him and she felt his entire body relax into hers, giving in to the physical connection they both craved since the drama of the previous night. His hands twined through her hair and she reached under the back of his shirt, reveling in the feel of his bare skin under her fingers, his heat seeping into her palms, working its way through her whole body. It was like breathing after being submerged. Water after a drought. For her, time ceased. The same way it did every time they were together this way.
Pulling away, he was breathless, chest heaving, the very image of lustful yearning. She longed to take his picture, to commemorate his expression, an everlasting reminder of what desire (for her) looked like on Logan Echolls. If she were feeling braver, she'd invite him into the shower. But her nerves were getting to her and she stepped inside the bathroom with a half-smile aimed his way and closed the door, welcoming privacy as she washed the day away.
After a thorough scrubbing with Logan's outrageously expensive shower gel and shampoo, she smelled like him and found herself repeatedly sniffing her hands. Musky. Cedar. It was seriously the best smell. She supposed she should be thankful he didn't have a bunch of women's products in his bathroom. Her fragile ego did not need any reminders of other women in his shower, especially tonight. She pulled out her change of clothes and, goddammit, only found an old UCSD sweatshirt and a pair of yoga pants.
I'm terrible at this whole seductress thing. I smell like a man and look like an androgynous college student pulling an all-nighter. Definitely not the girly girls Logan prefers. I am not going out there in this outfit. Maybe we should just forget it. We haven't actually said the words, maybe I just assumed he wanted to…
She emerged in a cloud of steam, a vision of exquisiteness wrapped in white Egyptian cotton. Crap. Why did he have bath sheets instead of towels? Those six extra inches were long enough to cover her legs to mid-calf. Damn his mother and her insistence on having the best.
If Veronica didn't want to have sex, she should've put on some clothes in the bathroom. But that outfit she was wearing before? Yeah, no, that wouldn't have been an effective turn-off either. He mentally cataloged the many ways she'd teased him in outrageously sexy outfits over the last month. Hot secretary, Lara Croft, red bikini, pep squad uniform, Princess Leia, and tonight's outfit, reminiscent of a naughty schoolgirl. But tops on his list was this – Veronica, clean and wet, wrapped in a towel standing in the middle of his bedroom and looking at him like that.
His erection was comical. He didn't even try to hide it, it would be impossible. He sat still on the bed, taking small, shallow breaths, watching the droplets of water from her hair trail down her neck, across her shoulders, pooling against the towel at the top of her chest. Some of them dropping between her breasts. He wanted to lick each one from bottom to top.
Slow down. Let her decide what she wants. Do not jump her bones.
"Shower okay?" he asked, leaning back on his elbows.
"Yeah, I didn't even have to wait ten minutes for hot water."
That was just unacceptable. She deserved instantly-hot shower water, at a bare minimum. He was thinking about ways he could funnel money to her undetected. His father had a manager, maybe he could speak to him. Logan didn't have much money of his own but he definitely had enough to cover a plumber's visit to the Mars' apartment. Tell the plumber to say he was hired by the apartment manager. He'd make a note to do it on Monday.
He obviously looked troubled because she said, "Hey, it's okay." Like she should be making him feel better about her shitty existence.
"I just want your life to be better. In so many ways."
She crossed over to him, clutching the top of the towel. Close, but not enough to touch. "Um, right now, my life's looking pretty good."
He gave her a one-sided grin. "Is it?"
She eyed him appreciatively, there was no mistaking her look, the flash of pearly white teeth biting on her bottom lip.
"Ah, do you... want to watch a movie?"
UGGGH. Why the hell did I just say that?
He was very nearly certain she did not come over to watch a movie. His stupid fucking nerves needed to go away. Immediately. Because she was shutting down, her face fell, and he just blew it.
THIS IS NOT YOU. YOU ARE NOT THIS FUMBLING, TENTATIVE DOUCHE. And what kind of idiot expects a virgin to set the pace?
"Wait," he said with a shake of his head, "we're both forgetting."
He practically leaped off the bed and in one smooth motion, lifted her by her thighs, spun a full circle, and landed back on the bed with her atop him, straddling. The heat was radiating in waves between them. Years of sexual tension that he intended to resolve. Right freaking now. He ran his index finger down the side of her face, catching a drop of water and brought it to his mouth, tasting. She tasted like them. Like her and him mixed together, and he made an involuntary groan at the revelation.
He caught another drop from her shoulder and placed his finger to her lips. When her tongue darted out and she sucked on his finger, he was electrified. Every hair, every nerve. "How it is between us," he said, impossibly close, sharing her air. She held his gaze as she released the towel, it gathered around her hips, and then her hands were reaching for the back of his shirt, eagerly pulling. So this is how it's going to be. "Consuming," he breathed into her ear, placing a kiss on the side of her neck. "Passionate," he said into the other ear, nipping on the lobe. He whispered the rest of his thoughts for her between kisses – words like effortless and instinctual and destined.
She'd always imagined a magical fairy-tale Seventeen magazine kind of first time, complete with flowers and candles. The stuff of girlhood dreams. But she was beyond that now. Now, here, with him, was everything she needed. And she knew without asking that he felt the same. She felt it with every look and kiss and touch. So here they were, face-to-face. No costumes to hide behind, no wigs or props or alternate personas. Just the two of them, offering each other their scarred hearts, both silently hopeful the other would recognize the fragility of the gift.
He asked her for the second time if she was sure. "Yes," she said, again. She smiled at him and gave a barely perceptible nod and closed the distance between their lips. Her mind flooded with images like a mental photo album of the years they'd spent leading up to this moment.
Logan at twelve, tall and gangly with impossibly chubby cheeks. She'd called him "baby face" for a year. He'd responded by calling her "shorty." Teasing, always, to mask the attraction. They'd called a truce on nicknames at thirteen, her insistence that "shorty" being slang for kid was not cool. He'd whispered that it also meant attractive female and she'd blushed, one of many times he'd complimented her and she'd responded physically. They'd spent years flirting with their minds, their words. It was such a relief to finally use her body. To show, instead of tell, how she really felt. And who knew it'd be so much easier? Her body didn't get hung up on what it should or shouldn't be doing. It knew. Effortless.
He pulled back. "I could take us to Big Sur again, book the same place. I want to make it perfect for you."
"This is perfect for me. You're all I need."
He must've believed her because he didn't stop after that. He watched her the whole time he made her body fall apart, again and again, with a look of wonder on his face. When he finally entered her, slowly, carefully, she wanted to cry to the heavens with relief. There was no pain, (thanks, Duncan?), only pleasure. Unimaginable, life-altering pleasure.
She was spread out across his chest, sweaty cheek practically suctioned to his heart, one hand on his stomach and one loosely holding his on the pillow above her. The sound of his heartbeat was steady in her ear and with his every inhale, her head rose. The rhythmic rise and fall of his breathing lulled her to doze. She closed her eyes and half-heard him ask, "Are you okay?"
She huffed a soundless laugh and tilted to her head to look up at him. "'Okay' doesn't begin to cover it."
He smiled the way he did when he was both genuinely pleased and shy. "So no regrets?"
"Not a one."
His hand was warm on her back, fingers moving in a slightly circular route, leaving goosebumps in their wake. "Dare I ask then what's on your mind?"
She put her head back on his chest, breaking eye contact, and murmured, "Nothing."
"Veronica. I can feel the wheels turning. Just spill it."
"Just that I've been missing out…"
She turned her head to look up at him. "I don't know how people even go to work or school when they could be doing that all day."
He laughed, full-throated and delighted, and kissed her forehead. "While I agree with the sentiment, you'll find that you do eventually need to get out of bed for things."
She nodded and shifted the covers off and he immediately pulled her back into his side. "I said eventually, not now. I'm gonna do my best to keep you here as long as possible. I plan on taking care of your every need."
He rubbed her back for a while and she spoke into his ribs, "What are you thinking?"
He rolled to his side so her back was pressed into his chest and kissed the back of her neck, nuzzling. Speaking softly into her ear, he said, "Just that the girl I've had a crush on for as long as I can remember is naked in my bed."
"She must be awesome."
"Mm hmm. She's fearless and smart. Indescribably beautiful. And a lot of people are afraid of her which is, frankly, a huge turn-on."
She tensed and put her hand on top of his which was wound around her belly. "Are you afraid of her?"
"No but I'm afraid for her, sometimes. She gets herself into some dangerous situations and doesn't always prioritize safety. And I'm afraid for me, too."
"That someday she'll realize she's too good for me and I'll be crushed."
"Shh. So I was saying, I've liked her for a long time. When we were younger, she was innocent and trusting. But even under her Strawberry Shortcake pink cardigans, there was a spark between us. Some sort of deeper-level connection, we just got each other. But I had to try to pretend not to notice and I'm not sure she even realized it."
She snorted. "If you got her naked in your bed, she must've realized it at some point."
"Ah, but at what point? That's the question."
"Wait," he said into her ear, "you're interrupting my story. So, I had to act like a platonic friend since she was dating my best friend.
"I think you're forgetting that you were dat-"
"MY story. As I was saying, she was dating my best friend and I had to watch their sweet young kisses, the rosy-cheeked blush of first love, and pretend it didn't bother me. Then some really bad things happened and she wasn't innocent or trusting anymore. And the spark grew. Because I've never been exactly innocent, myself. And I liked that she didn't trust me. I practically dared her not to. I taunted and teased and tormented to test her limits."
"Why did you do that?"
"Cause I'm an asshole. And I guess I wanted to see how strong she was."
"And she fought back, hard, like I figured she would. Occasionally, she gave worse than she got, which was insanely hot. It got to a point where she was all I thought about and eventually, I stopped testing her limits and just wanted her to notice me as a viable romantic option. So I did the equivalent of pulling her pigtails."
"Marshmallows in her car?"
"Exactly. After that, I would catch her looking at me sometimes like she wanted to see what was under my clothes. Not that I can blame her, I look spectacular naked."
"Jackass," she elbowed him in the ribs.
He laughed. "So I pulled those pigtails harder. Then by some stroke of luck we were forced to spend time together every day in close quarters, just the two of us. And I found her frequently looking at me like she wanted to see what was under my clothes."
"You're such a romantic," she said with a faux-sigh.
"I'm getting to that part, missy, if you'd just listen. SO, she was giving me the lusty eyes and didn't even realize it so I decided to kiss her. The most amazing, mind-blowing kiss of my life. It involved barely-there badass costumes, fake weaponry, and acres of naked skin to taste. So. Fucking. Hot." He punctuated each word with a kiss to her neck. "Then she freaked and dumped me and broke my heart. BUT, soon thereafter, she got jealous that some gymnast wanted me. So she made me read X-rated emails in her bedroom while acting indifferent to my raging hard-on and followed that up by hopping onto my lap at the beach and making out with me for a glorious hour."
She laughed at his memory of events. "Is that really how you think we got together? The story of us?"
"Shush. Then one day we were together in the school garden and I was watching her in the sun, all angelic-looking, radiating light per usual, while I pulled petals off daisies, and I realized that I love her." He pushed on her hip so she fell back to the mattress and he leaned over her. "You don't have to say it back. That's not why I said it. It's just, you've basically turned my life around so you should know how I feel about you. I'm in love with you, Veronica." His eyes were bottomless. She could jump in and swim around in them.
She longed to be fearless and tell him how she felt. But her mouth couldn't form the words. Not yet, but she promised herself she would tell him someday. Because he deserved to hear them and because they were true. She sensed in the deepest, most secret part of her they would always be true. But for now she said, simply, "Show me."
He ducked his head and kissed her. Achingly tender and passionate, both. How it always was with them.
She rolled to her stomach and he kissed the fading tattoo between her shoulder blades. His fingers traced over her back. "The daisy's still here," he said into her skin, kissing it. Each press of his lips against her skin was like a brand. Mine.
And she wanted him to brand him, too. She wanted him to know he belonged to her, belonged with her, Mine. So she spent all night trying to show him with her body what she couldn't with her words.
She wasn't sure if he received the message.
A/N: Sorry for the delay in posting. I was going to make the last chapter one long one but it was too much for one chapter so I split it up. So there's still one more chapter to go. Thank you, thank you for reading!