Belle French wasn't somebody to steal, but Rumford Gold made her feel like a thief when she pressed her lips against his, cradling his cheek in her hand. A stolen split second of human contact, a stolen kiss.
Today had been the worst. The city had send her a letter, telling her that once again the funding had been cut and if Belle's calculations had been correct (they always were), the library would have to close next month.
Only her hope to see Rum after closing had held her upright. For the last month he had guarded her on her way home, the two steps from the doors to her library to the door to her apartment, and he had been so sweet. From all the people she had to meet during her days, he was the kindest. He was gentle. And he always smelled good. Belle had wondered how he would taste. So she had kissed him.
She pulled back a little, still caressing his face, to look in his eyes. He stared at her. She had hoped to find something warm in his gaze. Something that meant more than friendship. She was hoping he would steal the next kiss from her. But instead he just gave a short nod before he left.
Belle nibbled at her bottom lip while she watched him leave, before she turned around and locked down the library.
Maybe she had misread him. Maybe she shouldn't have kissed him.
But why else would he been waiting for her outside the library every night for almost a month if he wasn't interested in her?
Maybe he had heard the the library was in financial trouble and looking for an investment.
She felt like such a fool.
Belle wouldn't waste one more second obsessing about Rumford Gold. About his scent, his taste. And why he hadn't called after she had kissed him. She had wasted eight days missing him. Eight days without so much as a peep from him. But she could take a hint. He wasn't interested in her like that. No big deal, really. It didn't bother her at all. She was fine. She wore her favorite dress, the blue one with the small shoulder straps and she had the greatest friends. Really, she was okay. Better yet, she was busy. She had a library to save. So now Belle was busy selling her kisses to save her beloved library.
"For you, my love, I would read Tschaikowsky," Whale said as he handed Belle the required five dollar bill.
Belle put the bill in the red, book-shaped savings box on her table. "Tschaikowsky?"
He caught her hand in his and pulled it over the table to place a dry kiss on her knuckles. "Didn't he write War and Peace?"
"That was Tolstoj," Belle explained with a chuckle, "Tschaikowsky is a composer of classical music."
"Well then," Whale smirked and kissed her knuckle again, "For you I would listen to Tschaikowsky whilst reading Tolstoj."
Behind him Leroy groaned impatiently. "Stop schmoozing and kiss her, medicine man," he said. "People are waiting here!"
Belle laughed and freed her hand just to cradle Whale's face with it. She leaned over the table and planted a hasty kiss on his lips before she pulled away.
Whale sighed. "You have beautiful eyes," he said dreamily.
"Oh, go away," Leroy interjected again. "My turn!"
Whale gave her a longing look and blew her a kiss. "Goodbye, my love," he said and stood up just to get in line in front of Ruby's table.
Shaking his head, Leroy sat down. "You believe that guy?" he asked while he sat down, putting a five dollar bill directly into the savings box.
Her arms crossed on the table, Belle leaned forward. "I'm not believing one word out of his mouth."
Leroy grinned. "Smart girl."
"I'm the librarian, it's part of my job description." Belle winked. "Now hold still, my friend, so I can kiss you."
"Ready when you are," Leroy said and puckered his lips, making Belle giggle. she took his face in both hands and planted a big, fat smack on his lips.
"What is going on here?" a familiar voice snarled.
Belle let go of Leroy's gruffy face and turned around to find Rumford Gold standing sideways at her table, leaning on his cane and glaring at her. So now he had the nerve to show up again. Brilliant, just brilliant!
Belle forced a smile. "We're saving the Library from closing."
She gestured at the banner over her head. "Saved by a Kiss. See?" she asked cheery-voiced, sounding faker than a Teletubby to her own ears. "Well, it's more like a thousand kisses. Willing to spent five dollars on a kiss and do a good deed at the same time?"
He scrutinized her with narrowed eyebrows. "And finally things make sense again," he growled. Pressing his lips together while he reached inside his suit jacket and pulled out his wallet. His eyes stayed on hers as he placed a bundle of money on the table.
"Here. 1000 dollars," he added.
Belle looked at the money and found President Franklin looking back at her. Gold wasn't kidding.
Belle shook her head. "Are you …" insane to carry so much money around? Belle bit her lip. She had to stop worrying about that man, she had to stop caring. Inhaling deeply she straightened herself up and adjusted the fake smile on her face. "The library thanks you."
Everybody was staring at them. The men behind Leroy that were waiting for their turn, the men in Ruby's line. Whale was staring at them. Ruby was staring at them. Widow Lukas who had been so kind to sponsor this event with drinks and cake was staring at them. Even Archie Hopper stared at them, though it was his turn to kiss Ruby.
Gold didn't even seem to notice. He just had eyes for her. How dare he? She had waited days for a sign from him, any sign and he chose to ignore her. But now he came to her and gave her a thousand dollars for her kisses?
"Well, somebody's greedy," Leroy said and squeezed Belle's hand.
Gold turned his glare to him. "Don't you have places to be?"
Leroy squeezed Belle's hand again and leaned into her. "I can punch him out while you run with the money, sister " he whispered.
Belle smiled. "It's okay. Just go."
Leroy eyed Gold and got up. "You better behave, rich guy."
Gold raised an eyebrow, looking almost amused now. "Is that a threat?"
"Friendly advice." Leroy said. He brushed his hand over Belle's. "See you later, sis." And with that, he left.
"It isn't even Gold's turn," Belle heard Tom Clark whisper.
Gold turned around. "I don't mind waiting my turn if you don't mind explaining to me why you're late on rent."
Tom hunched his shoulders and duck his head, very quiet all of a sudden.
"Thought to," said Gold. In this moment, Belle didn't like him very much.
Poor Tom. He stood next in line after Leroy and now that Gold and his thousand dollars had cut in, he would have to wait two hundred more kisses, before it was his turn. Two hundred kisses.
Hope stirred up inside her. Two hundred kisses. If he was willing to pay that much, maybe he wasn't as immune to her as she thought. Maybe, just maybe those two hundred kisses could lead to a thousand more. And as mad as she was with him for everything, for being a jerk, for ignoring her, for breaking her heart by leaving, she wanted those kisses. She still wanted him.
Belle swallowed hard and looked at Gold. He was still standing sideways next to her table, both hands on the knob on his cane. He looked like he was ready to run. He looked like he was ready to fight someone.
"Aren't you sitting down?" she asked him.
Gold shook his head. "I'll better leave."
That man was insane! All this and now he didn't even want to stay for the kissing? Belle felt her eyes burning. But she held back her tears. She wouldn't cry in front of everybody just because Rumford Gold had rejected her again. She was stronger than that. The crying could wait until she was alone. So she lifted her head.
"Fine," she said coldly. Then she smiled at Tom. "Next, please!" At least he looked happy.
In an instant, Gold had moved in front of her table, the tip of his cane resting on the chair and blocking Tom from sitting there. Tom threw his head back and sighed, but said nothing. Probably better that way. Gold looked really angry now. He looked jealous.
"Miss French," he growled lowly, "what are you doing?"
Miss French. Before her kiss, he had called her Belle. This man was just causing her pain today.
"Since you don't want to collect your kisses," she explained calmly. "I see no reason to let the others wait for theirs."
"Have it your way then," he snarled between gritted teeth and sat down.
His position forced Belle to stand up and lean over the table, her hands pressed against the wooden plate, so she could reach his lips with hers.
She kissed him three times while he pressed his lips together, his whole body tensed up like he had to suffer through torture.
Belle pulled away. "Enough." she said sternly.
"Nope, still 197 to go. Do the math." He didn't even blink saying that. Bastard.
She glared. "If you could follow me into my office for a second, Mr. Gold?" she asked. He better would, otherwise she would pull him there by his freaking hair. Placing a smile on her face she looked at the line of men behind him. "Please excuse us, gentlemen," she said sweetly. And then she walked right to her office.
Fortunate for him, she could hear the sound of his cane as he followed her. She knew she was walking to fast for him but somehow it brought her pleasure to know that for once he was the one stumbling after her and not the other way around.
She held the door open until he hobbled past her, then she closed it quietly, proud of her behavior, especially since every fiber in her body felt like smacking the door shut.
But as soon as the door was closed, she swirled around to face him, her hands placed firmly on her hips. "Explain yourself, mister!"
He snorted. "I should explain? You are the one selling your kisses."
She took two steps towards him until she was close enough to slap him, should the situation call for it. Right now the chances were quite high. "When you're so disgusted by it then why did you buy two hundred of them?" she hissed.
Gold shook his head. "Why didn't you just tell me, you needed the money?"
"You know, there are tons of men out there willing to kiss me. Longing to kiss me!"
"Of course there are!"
"Then why are you behaving like I'm pulling out your teeth?"
He placed his hands on her arms. "Because –" he stopped himself. For a moment she thought he would finish his sentence with a kiss. But instead he let go of her and shook his head. "First I didn't understand why you kissed me that night. I just wish you would've told me then."
"You think I kissed you because of this?" she asked, her eyes burning again. How could he even think that of her?
"You can't tell me otherwise."
"You're an idiot!"
"Just old enough to be realistic."
Helplessly she threw her hands in the air. "I don't know why I even bother with you!"
"So why do you?" He lifted his chin, challenging her and she couldn't hold back any longer.
"Because I'm in love with you!"
And then he kissed her. No, not kissed, consumed her. His lips moved over her mouth, his tongue traced the seam of her lips, demanding entrance. She opened up to him with a moan.
Tasting him was bliss and she felt like burning up. Like she was starving. His cane fell to the ground with a loud thud while he took her by the shoulders and pushed her until her back was pressed against the office door. He captured her face with one hand while he explored her body with the other, massaging her breast, gliding over her stomach, her side, down her thigh and under the fabric of her skirt.
"Tell me to stop," he begged but nibbled on her lip.
She answered him by tracing the lines of his lips with her tongue.
She clung to his shoulders as she let her tongue dance with his. Wetness was already pooling between her legs. This was escalating to quickly and yet she had no intention of holding back. His erection pressed against her thigh. She desired him, she loved him, she needed him. Now.
His fingers graced against the cotton of her panties. By now her skirt was ruffled around her hips, probably crinkling the silky material but Belle didn't care. Not when he was stroking her through her panties with his thumb, just applying the right kind of pressure to her clit. Sweet heavens. She keened his name and he swallowed every sound she made.
"Shush," he whispered, smug all of the sudden, "Wouldn't want the town to know what I'm doing with you." He sucked in her bottom lip and nibbled on it gently before he stroked her tongue with his again.
His fingers pulled her panties aside and stroked over her now exposed, wet flesh. He muffled her keen with a kiss when he slipped one finger into her wet pussy. He moved it, gently at first, then he added a second finger and thrusted them inside her more forcefully with every stroke, bending his fingers just enough to hit that perfect spot inside her. His thumb kept brushing over her clit, circling it with gentle pressure while his mouth trailed kisses from her chin to her throat, down to the curve of her neck where he sucked on her skin.
She bit her lip to keep herself from screaming as she came apart. He kept stroking her, allowing her to ride out her high. He peppered her throat with kisses, her jaw line, her chin, her cheeks. Her mouth.
She felt his hard erection twitch, pressing against her flesh, his warmth radiating to her through the fabric of his trousers. And yet he was so gentle with her.
"I love you," he whispered. "You never know how much."
Her arms wrapped around his neck and she kissed him sweetly. She hadn't even known how much she had needed to hear him say that until now.
"I love you too," she said. "So, so much." She kissed him again. He groaned and bucked his hips against her. His fingers moved inside her, sending a new flash of desire through her body. She let go of his shoulders and moved her hands between their bodies to free his throbbing erection from his pants. Clumsily she fumbled with his zipper for a few seconds, before he pulled his fingers from inside her, making her moan with loss, then his hands joined her. She could feel her juices on his hand, she could smell her own desire. He groaned when she wrapped her hands around his cock. She wanted to taste him. She wanted him to fuck her. She wanted to bring him pleasure and see it written all over his face.
"Condom," she breathed, stroking his shaft.
He reached for his wallet again which reminded her that they seriously needed to get rid of his suit jacket. And of his shirt. She just needed to get him naked, basically. But maybe that could wait until they were somewhere more private. For now it felt right to fuck him in her office with all their clothes on. Dirty and forbidden and perfect.
He took a condom out of his wallet and dropped the wallet to the floor, a few bills fell out of it. Such a careless man. He kissed her. Or a man with just the right priorities. Gosh, he tasted delicious. She could kiss him all day. He trembled a little, unsteady on his legs and she remembered his trashed ankle. Accident, he had told her cryptically. Maybe soon he would tell her more. she wanted to know everything about him. She wanted to kiss all his scars.
For now she pulled him to the floor with her. He dropped the condom when she rolled him on his back and straddled him. She grabbed it from the floor and ripped the package open. When she reached for his cock to put it on, he stopped her.
"Too much," he panted. So she lifted herself up a little and pulled aside her panties, baring herself to his sight and watched him as he put the condom on.
"You are so sexy," he groaned. He held his cock with one hand and grabbed her hip with the other. She kept hold on her panties, a little annoyed with the fabric, but everything was good when he finally slipped inside her pussy. They both sighed and she captured both his hands, pulling them up and behind his head. She entwined her fingers with his and pressed his hands against the floor as she bend forward to kiss him.
She rode him hard, licking, nibbling, sucking at this mouth while she did so. He was hers and she wouldn't allow him to run off again. He came before she could reach her second climax, but feeling his hot seed spilling inside of her brought her over the edge again.
She collapsed on top of him, releasing his hands to play with his hair. And they just breathed together.
Then they heard steps coming towards the door. Belle realized that they hadn't locked her office when the door opened.
"Whale says he pays ten bucks if we kiss each …" Ruby didn't finish her sentence. "Did you just …?" Thankfully, she didn't finish that sentence either.
He was still buried inside her. It was hysterical. Unable to come up with a reply, Belle just stared at her friend.
"Well," Ruby raised a brow. "I just tell Whale you're busy doing … other things. She eyed Rum. Subtle as ever, her friend. Ruby looked at her again. "You should lock the door, you know."
"Next time we will," Rum growled without so much as lifting his head from the floor.
Chuckling, Ruby closed the door behind her.
"You're not buying me the library," she breathed after Ruby had left. Silly thing to say but she needed to make this clear before he got the wrong idea again. She lifted her head so she could look into his eyes.
"Hm?" Rum kissed the tip of her nose.
"You're not allowed to buy me expensive things until I'm convinced you know that my love for you has nothing to do with money," she specified.
He raised his hands from the floor and placed them on her shoulders, his thumbs drew lacy circles on the exposed skin between the straps of her dress.
"You love me," he repeated happily and kissed her nose again. "I love you too."
Somehow Belle felt like he was missing the point but she could clarify that later. For now it felt perfect to lay in his arms a little longer.