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Deal With It (Let's make this interesting)

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Emma hates this place. Over her years of hustling poker, she’s become accustomed to the bleeps, dings and 8-bit digital “music” (sarcastic quotation marks very much intended) that make up the constant, mind-numbing background noise in a casino. She can handle the smell of stale cigarette smoke and human bodies that could use a break from gambling to, you know, actually shower or something. Even the watered down cocktails don't bother her. Hell, those are probably a blessing in disguise - keeps her mind sharp without her having to order something non-alcoholic which might tip off her marks.

But this piddly-dink river casino hotel on the outskirts of Nowheresville, Louisiana? Really bringing her down. Maybe it’s the general air of despair and decay. Maybe it’s the humidity. She’s already regretting not putting her hair up. It’s starting to do that weird wavy thing it does sometimes, a few tendrils sticking to her neck. Not to mention her skinny jeans - great for attracting a mark, but not exactly comfort wear - are clinging unpleasantly to her legs, making her want to squirm.  Or maybe she's just still pissed that she nearly broke the heel off of her favorite pair of fuck-me pumps on a ripped spot in the tacky patterned carpet. It’s all just so irritating and depressing.

She could’ve gone someplace nicer, true. Then she’d be spending too much of the money she’s trying to win off these poor bastards to pay for her lodgings. Or she could sleep in her car. Again. On this wet, drizzling mess of a night. Yeah, no. Fuck that.

Oh. Hey, look. She won again.

That’s why I keep coming to places like this, Emma reminds herself. The pickings are almost too easy.

Emma smiles sweetly, fluttering her heavily mascaraed eyelashes at the man to her right - the one with the thick eyebrows and currently dour expression. It had been a stroke of much needed luck picking up the pair of Brits at the bar upstairs. The younger, dark-haired one with the eyebrows was flush with cash from a big win at the roulette table, and the slightly older, scruffy one with the kind eyes had just had some luck shooting craps.  A little flirting and preening later, and they’d happily agreed to teach her a thing or two about five-card draw. Suckers.

“Wow, I’m really on a roll tonight! Gosh, I never win anything. Must be beginners luck!”

The bubbly, air-headed act is her bread and butter, but sometimes she can’t stand the sound of her own voice while she’s at it. She’s a professional, though, so she keeps the cringing on the inside and a big smile on the outside as she reaches for the pot.

Thunk!

Emma pauses raking in her winnings as a thick leather wallet lands on the table next to her.

“Sorry, don’t mean to interrupt.”

Her eyes pan upward toward the intruding voice and in striking contrast to the silken accent of the speaker, she finds more leather in the form of a black vest pulling taut over a lean torso. Above that, a dark patterned shirt reveals a swath of chest hair and the glint of a silver chain dipping down beneath the barely-buttoned fabric, but above that … Emma blinks as her eyes lock with the bluest pair she’s ever seen.

The man quirks a cheeky grin, and laughs to himself. “Actually, yes I do,” he continues, those blue eyes drifting unsubtly downward, practically caressing the lines of Emma’s cheek, throat, and decolletage. “Is this seat taken, love?”

Handsome, money to burn, and he’s already taken the bait? Jackpot . Emma returns his grin with a nearly predatory one of her own, and gestures to the empty chair beside her. “It is now.”

The man inclines his head politely, the motion reminiscent of a courtly bow. “My thanks, lass.”

Before the newcomer can sit down, the guy with the eyebrows pipes up. “I like the game the way it is.”

Emma shoots him a dirty look, remembering at the last second to color it a bit more pouty and pleading. What was his name again? Will Something-or-other. Hardly caring anymore now that a much juicier mark has appeared, she’s about to tell Will to stuff it when the newcomer speaks again.

“Now, I’ll have you know I bring all sorts of plusses to the table. I’m a firm believer in good form. I hardly ever bluff and I never, ever cheat. Nothing up my sleeve, but this old thing here.” At that, he raises his left arm brandishing a hook-like prosthetic where his hand would have been.

Emma keeps her face arranged in a mask of amused interest, but that hook sets off a warning bell in the back of her mind. She’s heard some talk about a gambler that people refer to as “Hook,” but surely it’s not him. That’d be a pretty damn on-the-nose nickname, and besides, what would some up and coming hotshot be doing in a dump like this?

“Sounds like a load of rubbish to me, mate,” Will grumbles, but the other man only laughs again.

“Aye, it does, doesn’t it?”

“Get off it, Scarlett,” says the scruffy guy sitting across from her. Robin , Emma thinks. “What good’s an empty seat?”

“Indeed,” the stranger agrees. “And as an added bonus, I promise to lose for at least an hour.”

He says it with a nonchalant shrug and flourishing hand gesture as if he hasn’t a care in the world, but Emma can see the calculating glint in his eyes as he sizes up the other two men. Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a hustler. Okay. So, Hook it is. The best Emma can figure, he must be here for the same reasons she is - to get in a little practice and pad the ol’ cash reserves. She hadn’t planned on any real competition tonight, but now her skin tingles at the idea of an actual challenge. Nothing more delicious than playing a player.

“Alright then,” Will answers at length, apparently oblivious to the trap he’s just walked into. “You're bloody bonkers, but alright. I'll take your money.”

“Cheers, mate.” The man takes the seat next to Emma, and once situated, offers her his hand. “Now where are my manners? We haven’t been properly introduced. Killian Jones.”

Suddenly glad she gave Will and Robin a fake name because no way in hell does she want Killian or Hook or whoever this guy is to know her real one, Emma delicately reaches her hand toward his, palm down and wrist bent so he has to curl his fingers around hers leaving her hand on top. Come on, Casanova. Kiss my hand. You know you want to.

“I’m Anna Nolan. It’s a pleasure.”

“The pleasure’s all mine, love,” he purrs, and - yep. There it is. He’s leaning down for the hand kiss, except - Oh.

He maintains eye contact the whole time. The kiss is brief, but the contrast of soft, warm lips and harsh stubble sends goosebumps up her arm. Emma widens her eyes and giggles as she knows she should to keep character, but she has to admit to being a bit impressed. What could have been extremely cheesy, he’d managed to execute to perfection so that - yeah, okay, that was actually kind of arousing. Or maybe it’s just that the guy is really, like, really pretty. Geez. Keep it together, Swan. And by “it” I mean your legs.

Emma hears someone clear their throat. “Shall I wait until the two of you are done making eyes before I deal?” Robin asks. Emma feels the beginnings of a blush creep up her cheeks ( well, at least it’s in character) , as Hook answers.

“Sorry, mate. Let’s play some poker.”

-/-

An hour later, Emma has a healthy stack of chips in front of her. She’s thrown enough hands that Will and Robin don’t seem suspicious. Hook, though… he’s another matter. He hasn’t said anything that makes her think he’s onto her. Hasn’t broken his own character of bored-guy-on-a-business-trip. There’s just something about the way he looks at her. It’s more than the cool appraisal hidden behind an affable demeanor that he’s been using on the other men. Emma isn’t quite sure what to make of him and it’s unsettling.

She could walk away now. His promised hour of losing is over and she knows he’s about to flip the switch. She could get up and go cash in her chips and never see this guy again. That would be the smart thing to do. But…

“Gentleman and lady.” Hook nods to Emma with one dark eyebrow raised, then picks up the deck of cards. “According to the clock over there, my hour has passed.”

Hook turns his hand palm up, still holding the cards. A quick, deft movement of only his pinkie finger cuts the deck in two, his forefinger separating the halves until the soft pressure of his thumb somehow manages to glide one half into the middle of the other, uniting the cards into a single unit again. Simple, elegant, and without a doubt the hottest fucking thing Emma has ever seen.

He casts a self-satisfied smirk around the table. “Now the fun begins.”

Oh, yeah. Fun is definitely the word. No way on earth she’s leaving now. Emma meets Hook’s gaze, sinking her teeth into her lower lip with feigned innocence and relishing the way his eyes darken and his tongue darts to the corner of his lips.

Game on.

-/-

He’s good, she’ll give him that. He wasn’t lying earlier when he said he rarely bluffs, too, which is becoming a problem for Emma. She’s good at reading people, but her true talent is knowing when someone is bluffing - it’s practically her superpower - and how the hell is she supposed to call his bluff if the man never fucking bluffs ? It’s absolutely frustrating.

Speaking of frustrations… she’s had to rely on her other tactics a little more heavily than usual in order to get a leg up on him, and oh, does she ever want to get her legs up on him. Preferably on either side of his stupid, smirking face.

She’d started out playing it straight. Emma could run probabilities in her sleep, knew her chances with any number of different hands. She already had a handle on all of Will and Robin’s tells. Usually that’s enough to give her the upper hand, but Hook has walls that go well beyond a simple poker face. She can read him well enough to sense that much, but slipping past those defenses is another matter altogether.

So, she’d tried a bit of subtle distraction: “accidentally” brushing her knee against his, crossing her legs so her toe grazed his calf, absently toying with the ends of her hair so her fingertips trailed across the top of her breast. He was affected, she could tell. Her livelihood demanded that she watch her fellow players like a hawk, taking in every subtle shift in mannerism, and he’d definitely - ahem - shifted himself a time or two. Emma had been feeling pretty damn proud of herself at one point after successfully bluffing her way into a win against him, but then…

Then the bastard had begun to return fire. A poker chip. One fucking poker chip had been his weapon of choice, flipping the thing from knuckle to knuckle like something out of an old-timey gangster movie, dextrous fingers rolling like ocean waves, over and over. A few minutes of that and she’d had to fold a hand after she’d lost track of the action on the table.

The way he’d fumbled his glass of rum later in the game when she arched her back in a catlike stretch, pulling her hair to one side and kneading at a phantom kink in her neck? Highly satisfying. But, it’d be a whole lot more satisfying if her chip stack was a little less scant. It’s starting to look like she’s going to have to sleep in her car tonight after all, and-

Oh, for fuck’s sake. He’s scratching behind his ear. He’s finally doing it.

Hook’s finally fucking bluffing and Robin just folded. Will’s already raised once, but Hook’s about to buy the pot it looks like. It’s enough money to give her a nice (so long as you don’t look at it under a blacklight) bed to sleep in tonight, and she doesn’t have the goddamn cards to do anything about it.

Emma very reluctantly folds, and Will right after her, but as Hook reaches for his winnings, Will reaches for Hook’s cards.

Emma’s eyes widen as Hook raises his hand to stop Will.

“It never pays to look, mate.” His voice remains even, but his eyes carry a warning.

Will stands and picks up the cards, his expression thunderous as he slings them back to the table where they land face up. “I thought you said you never bluffed, mate .”

Hook, to his credit, keeps his cool and sets about stacking his chips. “I said, I hardly ever bluff. That was one of the ‘hardlies’.”

Robin attempts to placate Will, but his reasonableness goes unheeded. Will rounds the table, moving between Emma and Hook and pounds his fist on the table top knocking over what’s left of Emma’s stack. Hook doesn’t flinch, doesn’t so much as spare him a glance.

“You cheated! You’ve been cheating this whole sodding game!”

Hook waits a beat, first looking down at Emma’s spilled chips then sliding his tongue to the corner of his mouth in thought. All nearby conversation has stopped, even the tired-eyed waitresses are avoiding their table, and Emma can feel the prickle of anticipation, of eyes turned their way to see what will happen now.

Hook slowly raises his eyes to Will’s face and stands with the predatory grace of a jaguar. “What exactly did you think I was doing that first hour, eh? I was learning your tells. Incidentally, your particular weakness is when you shuffle your front cards to the back and switch them all around. Looks a bit shifty.”

It’s almost funny, Hook’s flippant manner of speech, except it seems to only make Will more irate. Emma quietly slips from her chair, moving back toward Will’s recently vacated seat to give the boys some room to vent their testosterone. Robin seems to have had a similar idea, giving Emma a polite nod as he takes his winnings and heads off toward the cashier cages. She’d just sky out of there, too, if it weren’t for her chips, but there’s not a good way to grab them and run now that they’re spread over a quarter of the table.

“I just called you a cheat.” Will draws himself up to his full height, stepping into Hook’s space, but again Hook simply gives him that infuriating smirk.

“You also called me, eh… bonkers was it? But I reckoned you were only teasing.”

At that Will snaps, grabbing Hook by the front of the vest and drawing his fist back seemingly with every intention of making quite the impression on Hook’s perfect smiling teeth. But before a single punch is thrown, a mountain of a man in a casino uniform - clearly a bouncer - appears from the crowd snagging Will by the arm and shirt collar and jerking him to the side.

“Alright, that’s enough,” the man shouts. “All three of you. Cash in your chips and get the hell out.”

Shit. I can’t get kicked out now! I haven’t won nearly enough money. Emma puts on her best smile and saunters over to the bouncer, who has just released his hold on a red-faced Will. “Excuse me,” she begins sweetly, glancing at the golden plastic name tag on his jacket. “Anton. Did I just hear you say all three of us have to leave? Because I didn’t-”

Anton cuts her off with a heavy sigh and long-suffering expression. “I’m sorry ma’am, but you’re out, too. You’re just going to have to find another game.”

-/-

‘Another game,’ he says. Like it isn’t past midnight and I’m not out in the boondocks. Nope. Go find another game. Emma continues her internal grumbling all the way to the cashier’s cage. She accepts her meager winnings and decides since she can’t afford both a room for the night AND have enough left to be worth squirreling away for her entry fee, she can at least go up a level to the bar - the real one - and have a drink with a solid amount of alcohol in it.

She sits down and orders her standard gin and tonic, when she hears a familiar accent. Turning her head slowly, she sees Will Scarlett sitting at a table of rough looking dudes who maybe have a full set of teeth between the bunch of them ( and honestly what the hell is with all the Brits in this place? Is there a Rugby tournament in town or something?) . He’s going on and on about this ‘poncy twat’ who hustled him with the help of some ‘little blonde tart’ and suddenly Emma has an idea of exactly the new game she intends to play. She just hopes he hasn’t left the hotel yet.

Emma finishes her drink and slips from the bar. A few drunken giggles and she’s managed to convince the desk clerk she’s lost her room key, and can she please get a spare? It’s under the name Jones. Yes, Killian Jones. More giggling and the assurance that the clerk is an absolute lifesaver and she’s on her way.

When she reaches Hook’s door, though, she hesitates. She knows she’s rusty. She hasn’t used that skill set in a while, relying mainly these days on her prowess at the poker table,  but petty larceny has got to be like riding a bicycle, right? Besides, the money is just too good to resist. So shoulders squared, hair fluffed, and neckline lowered, she knocks twice.

“Who is it?” The smooth tenor of Hook’s voice is muffled by the door between them, but it still manages to send a shiver up her spine.

Emma takes a deep breath, smiling even though he can’t see her just to get the right tone to her voice. “It’s Anna. Anna Nolan from our game earlier?”

“One moment, love.”

The click of a lock sounds and he opens the door, leaning a shoulder casually against the jamb. She’s struck again by his appearance, the lean muscled frame, artfully mussed dark hair and well-formed facial features that may as well have been carved out of marble. He’s carefully still, clearly waiting on her, but even in his stillness his eyes dance and his tongue, well… the things that tongue can do. Geez, she can only imagine the things that tongue can do.

Emma bats her eyelashes, letting a touch of breathiness into her voice. “I probably shouldn't be doing this.”

He grins at her, his eyes roving over her face. “You’re simply standing in the hallway, love, I believe that's legal in this state.”

“I mean getting involved.” She looks down shyly, twirling a lock of her hair before letting herself meet his eyes again. “But here's the thing - I overheard Will Scarlett downstairs. He was shooting his mouth off about you.”

He tilts his head in confusion. “Again, darling, while I appreciate the concern, besting someone at cards isn't illegal either-”

“Yeah, but cheating is. That's what he's going on about. He even implied that…” Emma looks down again, sinking her teeth into her lower lip as if she thinks she’s about to say too much. She’s really afraid she may be overselling this, but then his fingers gently curl beneath her chin, raising her gaze back to his and she’s sure it’s working.

“Implied what?” He ducks his head just a smidge, encouraging her to go on.

“That I was your accomplice.” Emma shakes her head, stepping back. “I probably shouldn't be around you. I don't want to get in trouble, but I had to warn you.” Her eyes bore into his, and he’s there. Right where she wants him. Target locked, time to go in. “I didn't- I mean I just couldn't-”

Emma grips the lapels of Hook’s jacket with both hands, half dragging his mouth to hers, half tackling him into the wall beside the door at the same time. For two seconds, she’s in complete control, relishing her victory as his initial shock wears off, and yeah those lips of his feel even better against her mouth than they did on the back of her hand earlier, but she’s got this. She’s got him.

Until she doesn’t. Until he’s kissing her back with a knee-melting, toe-curling passion, not bothering to break for air, but rather stealing her breath as his lips - those gorgeous, firm yet supple lips - have her almost forgetting what she’s supposed to be doing right now. Okay, so maybe she does forget for a second, but someone was moaning and someone’s hand was in the other’s hair, maybe tugging just a little and - Get a grip, Swan. No, not that kind of grip. Focus, dammit.

Emma slowly moves one hand from his lapel to his chest, allowing herself a much deserved detour through his thatch of chest hair before continuing down his ribs and around to his back. Mmmmm… He feels so tight and compact beneath her greedy fingers, she really hopes she’s going to find what she’s looking for in his pants, but then the bulge she’s seeking hits the back of her wrist. The familiar swell of a thick billfold protruding from the inside pocket of his jacket. Gotcha.

She doesn't pull away immediately. No, that would be too obvious and she doesn't want to tip him off. ( Yeah, that's it. ) So, she takes a slightly ragged breath, her forehead pressed to his and dives back in for another go. As his tongue slips past her lips and he swallows her moan (oh, it was definitely her this time), she can feel the way their bodies sway and rock in sync, almost like they're dancing, almost like she better put an end to this right now.

She forces herself to pull back, taking his lower lip with her before she breaks the kiss completely. She knows her chest is still heaving. His hair is a glorious mess from her handiwork, his lips red and a little swollen, and he looks so beautifully wrecked, so perfectly fuckable that she definitely, definitely needs to get her ass out of here.

Hook speaks between panting breaths, his eyes dark as midnight. “That was-”

She stops him with a finger to his lips, and gives him the big sad eyes. “A one-time thing.” She drops her hand and turns to walk away, her face the picture of longing and regret, and damned if she doesn't actually feel it. “I better go before-”

“Wait!” She feels his hook on her arm and only has a split second to think Oh, shit, before he’s spinning her around.

“How-” He pulls her close to him, his voice low and rasping.

“Could I possibly-” He wraps his arm around her waist, his eyes darting back and forth between hers.

“Go on-” He’s leaning in, his breath against her lips and Emma’s heart is racing. Whether with excitement or fear, she isn’t sure.

“Without-” Before his lips touch hers, he turns his face to the side. His beard scrapes her cheek as his mouth ghosts against the shell of her ear.

My wallet. ” Emma’s heart stops dead at the words and Hook pulls back, fixing her with a hard stare. “If you don't give me back my money, I shall have your shapely arse arrested.”

“Dammit!” She pushes hard against his chest, breaking herself out of the intimate (and trapped, she realizes) posture she’d let him pull her into. Hook has the gall to laugh heartily, which only makes her that much angrier. At him, at herself, at the world in general. Whatever. She pulls the wallet out of her jacket and smacks him on the arm with it.

He chuckles as he takes it from her hand. “I think your anger is misdirected, love. It's not my fault you're a miserable thief.”

He’s still grinning, the asshole, so she scowls at him wanting to wipe that grin off his stupid face with either her fist or her lips… Damn that had been a good kiss. Not the point.

Not your love. And I'm an excellent thief, buddy. I'm just having some bad luck is all.”

“I do know something about bad luck. Though, I must say your act could use a little work. What's with the giggling and hair-tossing? Anyone who's even barely paying attention could see you're no bimbo.”

Emma sucks on her teeth as she debates her answer, but there's really no point to bullshitting now. “People tend to see what they expect to see. A pretty girl in a low-cut top? They expect dumb blonde. They never see me coming.”

“More’s the pity for them. I imagine seeing you come would be a life-altering experience.”

The fact that her breath doesn't hitch at the innuendo is a testament to her years of practicing her poker face. “You imagine, do you?”

His eyes focus on her mouth and that damn tongue of his swipes into the corner of his own as he considers his response.

Vividly .”

The word is over articulated and practically obscene and Emma has to steer this conversation away from herself before she does something unhelpful like shove him against the wall again. She narrows her eyes.

“Hmm. And what about your act, huh? That accent’s a bit much.  All the ‘ayes’ and ‘mates’. You're one ‘shiver me timbers’ away from sounding like a pirate. Besides, most men enjoy my bubbly demeanor.”

There’s a flicker of humor in his eyes and a wry grin. “Well, that's not in dispute. And-” He pauses as if he’s just realized what she said, an indignant furrow forming between his brows. “The accent is real , I’ll have you know. But were I a betting man, and we both know I am, I'd wager there is no Anna Nolan, is there? Just who are you, love?”

Emma smirks at him. “Wouldn't you like to know.”

“You know,” he begins, stroking the stubble on his jaw for effect. “I believe I can guess. Gorgeous blonde, brilliant card player, violent tendencies… you must be Emma Swan.”

Emma blinks in shock, and her voice when she regains the ability to use it is embarrassingly squeaky. “You've heard of me?”

“Aye- I mean, yes, I have. You're making something of a name for yourself as a player, which I assume is why you've stopped using your real one.”

She hadn’t planned on letting him know that she knew who he was, but he looks so irritatingly smug. She raises an eyebrow and crosses her arms over her chest.

“You're one to talk Hook.

“Ah, that would be my more colorful moniker. Fair point, Swan.” He grins then, little crinkles forming at the corners of his eyes. “You know I quite like that name. It suits you. Swans are lovely creatures after all. Elegant, inclined to bite...”

She flashes him a quick, tight, smile and punctuates her words by poking him in the chest with her index finger. “You ain't seen nothing yet, buddy.”

“Oh, you're a tough lass, aren't you?”

Emma cants her head to the side, surprised to see that he actually looks impressed. She sighs, shoving her hands in her back pockets and raising her chin defiantly. “So what do we do now? Are you going to turn me in?”

Hook only shrugs. “I suppose as I've got my money back there's no harm done. Not to mention this has been the most fun I've had in ages. We'll call it square, yeah?”

“Okay. We're square. This-” she allows herself to relax her stance slightly. “This was pretty fun for me, too. You know, up until you busted me stealing your wallet. You're a hell of a poker player.”

“As are you, Swan.”

He smiles at her then, and it seems so genuine she can’t help but smile back. Damn, it’s not fair. He should not be allowed to be that talented and that sexy and still be… what’s the word? Likeable. He’s fucking likeable. It makes her almost feel guilty for what she’s about to do. Almost.

“You know, I wasn’t lying about Will shooting his mouth off down at the bar. We really shouldn’t be seen together.”

This time it's his turn to sigh, a hint of regret crossing his features. “Aye. Probably best.”

She moves a bit closer. “And since we’ll probably never see each other again…”

His eyes dart between hers then down to her lips. “Aye?”

“I was thinking…” She hooks a finger between the buttons on his vest and tugs him toward her, letting her gaze linger on his mouth for a moment. “Maybe just one more?”

He tries to laugh, but it comes out kind of gruff and throaty and Emma's smile spreads.

“I thought that was a one-time thing?” Even as he speaks the words, he's swaying closer until they're toe-to-toe, his hand and hook settling low on her waist.

She lets go of his vest, sliding her hands up his chest until her fingers lace behind his neck, her thumbs tracing his jaw. “Let's just say it's for luck.”

Hook tilts his head and whispers against her lips, “Who am I to argue with Lady Luck?” And then he's kissing her again, smooth and slow and deep.

Emma savors it, savors him, drinking in every drop of him she can before she has to let him go, but let him go she must. With a supreme act of will power, she finally pulls away and turns to leave without another word. As she walks off, she makes sure to keep her steps slow and measured, a bit of sway in her hips to give him a properly distracting parting view.

She knows the second he realizes she's robbed him again - the bellow of “SWAN!” that echoes down the stairwell is hard to miss. It's a particular point of pride just how long it took him to notice, and she smiles to herself picturing him there in the hallway, licking his lips to hang on to the taste of her (just as she’s doing right now).

She steps out of her heels, scooping them up quickly with one hand and runs across the parking lot, not caring a lick that the rain has picked up and she’s getting soaked to the skin. Hook bursts through the side exit just as Emma cranks her old yellow Beetle to life, his continuing shouts of her name muted by the roaring (okay, sputtering ) engine.

She grins at him as she drives away into the night, a little wave of her fingers as she passes him, and damned if he doesn’t make an appealing picture standing there in the rain. His clothes cling to his body, dark hair plastered to his forehead and his chest heaving from a mixture of anger and the exertion of chasing after her. But she's surprised to see the way his face changes as she watches him in her rearview mirror. The initial rage falls away, replaced by a wide grin, his teeth flashing white under the parking lot flood lights and he seems to be laughing. He wags a scolding finger in her direction, and in her mind the phantom of his voice murmurs, “I’ll get you next time, love,” the challenge clear despite the growing distance between them.

There he goes again being all likeable . Emma rolls her eyes as she drives. At herself, at him, at all of this. She wishes she'd never met him. But she can't wait to run into him again.