He sees her at 8:15am every morning.
It’s the best part of his day.
Well, not precisely 8:15am, he has to admit (it is public transportation, after all) but it still earns top billing in his schedule.
He’s always had a thing for brunettes, but this one, oh, for this one he’d definitely make an exception. Long, shapely legs, a glorious mane of blonde hair, walking through the train as though she’s on a catwalk, her tailored clothing designed to both conceal and reveal a pair of lovely breasts and an outstanding arse. Thanks to her passing within two feet of him on the Friday morning of the first week she’d started catching his train, he knows that her eyes are very green, her nose is dusted with freckles, and her perfume calls to mind both the scent of Turkish delight and sex, two of his favourite things.
She gets on the train two stops after he does and, like him, she is a creature of habit, always sitting in the same row of seats. Luckily for him, her chosen seat is always directly in line with his, allowing him a solid thirty-five minutes of admiring her, five days a week. Thirty-five minutes of practising opening lines of conversation in his head that he’s never once said aloud, not even in his own company, and certainly not to her.
It’s been two months since he’d first seen her (she’d made quite the entrance, flinging herself through the doors just before they’d closed, breathless and flustered) and since then, every Monday through Friday, she’s brightened his morning to the point where he’s beginning to dread the weekend. Ridiculous state of affairs, to be honest, and every morning he tells himself he’ll do something about it.
And, every morning, he lets her alight from the carriage without speaking to her yet again, her bright fall of hair spilling over her shoulders as she walks quickly towards her favourite coffee stand, and tells himself he’s a coward of the first water.
She’d noticed him the very first morning she’d caught the train from the station closest to her new apartment. It was a Monday and she’d been running late, having spent way too much time looking for her shoes and stockings and favourite work handbag in the sea of packing boxes that lined her hallway. It was bad enough she’d had to move house on her only free weekend in months, but the fact that she was still seething about whyshe’d had to move (seriously, she’s giving up on trusting men this time) made it even worse.
Her head full of dark thoughts regarding the male of the species, the last thing she’d wanted that Monday morning was to spend the whole trip into the city willing herself not to look at the dark-haired guy sitting ten feet to her right.
Her battle was over before it had the chance to began. He was ridiculously handsome, and somehow it had seemed wrong that someone could look like that so early in the morning without the benefit of an Instagram filter. Dressed in a dark suit and tie with a white shirt, he was sporting messy dark hair, the faintest hint of a beard (designer stubble wasn’t the word for it, it seemed more accidental than by design) and the bluest eyes she’s ever seen away from her television screen.
And – here was the clincher, folks – he was watching her, too. He watched her the entire trip into the city, darting glances at her whenever he thought she wasn’t watching him. Every time their eyes met, she felt a jolt of something that couldn’t possibly be recognition, so why did it feel exactly like it?
And so began the weirdest standoff of her life and, given what she did for a living, that’s really saying something.
Her name is Emma.
He finds this out on a Friday morning when she finally takes a call during the trip into the city, answering her buzzing phone with a quiet greeting, murmuring her name discretely so as not to be overhead. Of course, for someone whose ears are deliberately pricked in her direction, it isn’t impossible to catch.
He likes it.
It suits her.
She thinks he works in the financial district but she can’t be certain. All she has to go on is the section of newspaper he sometimes reads, and the overly confident way he carries himself on the rare occasions he gets off the train before she does. She is not going to watch to see in which direction he walks once he gets off the train, because that would be stalking, and she hasn’t sunk that low, no matter how barren her love life might be at the moment.
The way things had ended with Walsh has knocked her for a six, shaken her confidence in a new and unpleasant way. In another life, she would have squared up to Old Blue Eyes that first week, asked him if the seat beside him was taken and used the next thirty-five minutes to charm the pants off him. Maybe even literally, because she used to take no prisoners when it came to sex and had a great time doing it, and now she’s shuffling in her pumps and blushing like a teenager and diving out the train carriage door as soon as possible to avoid bumping into him in the sea of humanity streaming for the exits.
Biting back a sigh, it’s yet another Monday morning when she watches as he lopes through the station on long legs, his tailored suit doing nothing to hide a great pair of shoulders and a fantastic ass, his leather satchel bumping against his hip as he walks.
This is ridiculous, she rebukes herself. Just put on your fucking big girl pants and smile at him tomorrow morning. What’s the worst that could happen?
The next morning, for the first time in two months, he’s not on the train.
You gotta appreciate the irony.
He can’t remember the last time he’d felt so ill.
Puking up his guts, sweating as though he’s on a makeshift cot in the bloody Amazon, jolting awake from dreams that wouldn’t make sense in an opium den.
When he finally drags his sorry, limp arse to the closest doctor, he’s told that it’s a twenty-four hour bug and all he can do is keep up his fluids and rest, then charged a blasted fortune for the privilege. Easy for the overpriced quack in the white coat to say, he thinks darkly, when he’s not the one who can’t keep even water down and whose dreams are filled with the most outrageous of nightmare scenarios.
In the end, he misses three days of work. Twenty-four hours, my arse.Three days of fielding calls and emails from his manager and anxious clients and (just as importantly, if he’s completely honest) three business days that he doesn’t see her. It should concern him that these things are on an even keel in his head, but perhaps it’s merely the universe slapping him on the back of the head and telling him that there’s more to life than work and sleep. Whatever it is, he’s dithered long enough, and if it turns out that she’s married or gay or completely uninterested in him, then he’ll get over it. Or perhaps catch the earlier train.
When he finally returns to the real world on Friday morning, he’s back to his usual good form and in possession of a devil may care attitude that has him choosing a seat very close to where lovely Emma always sits. His stomach in knots, he checks his watch a dozen times between his stop and hers, wondering exactly when he’d reverted to his sixteen year-old self. As the train pulls into her station, he grabs the folded newspaper from his satchel (he’s old school, as his brother so often tells him, and one of the only people he knows who still likes the smell of newsprint) and crosses his legs. By the time the automatic doors open, he’s nonchalantly reading the sports section.
At least, he hopes that’s what it looks like.
Sadly, it’s all for nothing, because the doors open and close, the train moving out of the station without any sign of her boarding, and he’s forced to admit that he just might have missed his chance.
When her mother had first asked if she’d wanted to come for dinner and stay the night at their place, Emma had hesitated. She’d only just gotten used to her new morning routine, and she’d have to catch yet a different train if she stayed over at her parents. Then two morning commutes pass without any sign of Blue Eyes, and she comes to her senses with a jolt. Seriously, you were putting off an invitation from your parents because of a stranger on the train. Pull yourself together, Swan.
So she crashes at her parents’ house after a night of tacos and gossip about the extended family (and her father’s wide-eyed fanboy questions about her bail bonds work, God love him), and her trip into the city the next morning is uneventful and completely devoid of handsome strangers giving her doe eyes and yearning looks over the top of their newspapers.
It’s pretty damned depressing, to be honest.
She alights at Central, almost at the same time that her normal train would arrive, and decides to grab a coffee from her usual place. Her mother’s early morning coffee-making efforts had been appreciated, but Emma needs more than a rushed cup of instant with Sweet-and-Low.
The barista gives her a nod of recognition when she reaches the cart, and soon steam is rising from his endeavours. Emma leans against the small wooden shelf where the stirrers and packets of sugar and creamer are lined up, wondering exactly when buying a coffee became the pinnacle of her morning. Probably three mornings ago, when her train buddy mysteriously vanished into thin air, she thinks morosely.
Lost in thought, she doesn’t notice she’s not the only customer until someone clears their throat beside her. “Sorry, love, but could I trouble you for a packet of sugar?”
The voice is male and delightfully accented, but she’s not in the mood to waitress this morning. Sighing, she turns to disabuse the guy of the assumption that she’s there to help him make his coffee and promptly freezes, her mouth open like a damned codfish, because it’s him.
He grins at her, then gestures towards the shelf behind her, the one she’s blocking from view. “Sorry, but I’m just not manly enough to go without sugar in my coffee.” His bright eyes lock with hers. “One of my many failings.”
Her heart pounding, she stares at him for a few more seconds, then shakes her head. “Uh, sure.” Her fingers have never felt so clumsy, and she can feel him watching her as she finally manages to grab two packets of sugar and a wooden stirrer. When she goes to pass them to him, he cups his palm, making it easier for her to hand them over.
“Thanks so much.” He’s English, she decides, his clipped way of speaking incredibly attractive and just another tick in another box as far as she’s concerned. He slips the sugar packets into the pocket of his suit coat packet at the same time she notices that he’s not actually holding a takeaway coffee.
She frowns at his empty hands and he gives her a faintly sheepish smile. “It was the only thing I could think of on the spot, I’m afraid.” He rubs the back of his neck with his fingers, and she swears she sees a hint of a blush on his high cheekbones. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here-” He breaks off, looking horrified at his words, and Emma feels her own mouth curve in a grin. Somewhere deep inside her, the old Emma is kicking down a door and demanding to be set free, and she couldn’t have come at a better time.
“I’m sorry,” she says playfully as she takes her coffee from the barista, “but do I know you?”
He raises one dark eyebrow at her. “I believe we catch the same train every morning.” He leans towards her, close enough for her to catch the scent of his aftershave. “As you well know, lass.”
Emma’s face grows hot, but she can’t blame the steam from the espresso machine. They’ve started moving away from the coffee cart as if by silent agreement, moving out of the way of the waiting caffeine addicts. Taking a deep breath, she tells herself it’s time to rejoin the land of the living. “In that case, I’m Emma. Emma Swan.”
“Killian Jones.” He holds out his hand for her to shake, and she takes it without a second’s hesitation, her heartbeat stuttering at the feel of his warm palm against hers. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Emma.” He looks at the coffee in her hand, then up at her, and again she feels that weird jolt of recognition. “I suppose it’s too late to offer to buy you a coffee?”
“I suppose it is.” When he releases her hand with obvious reluctance, she lifts the cup to her lips and takes a long, slow sip, her throat tightening at the way he watches her, his eyes darkening. Licking the foam from her lips (God, how she’s missed this game) she smiles at him. “But I wouldn’t say no to a drink after work. In a public place. With no expectations,” she adds, because infatuated she may be, an idiot she is not.
Despite all her caveats, his expression is that of a man who’s just been handed the winning lottery ticket. “What a marvellous idea, Emma Swan. It is Friday, after all.” His phone is in his hand before she can blink, and he’s smiling at her in a way that warms her more than the overpriced coffee she’s just bought ever could. “We should exchange numbers, in that case.”
“You’re pretty on the ball for someone who doesn’t drink coffee,” she shoots back, and his grin verges on mischievous.
“What can I say, love?” He hands her a business card that tells her that yes, he does work in finance, not that it matters, not when that smile is commodity enough as far as she’s concerned. “I’m extremely motivated.”
One drink turns into two, then drinks become a quick bite to eat, then food becomes coffee. It’s a strange feeling, getting to know someone you’ve watched from afar for months, but at least they’re both in the same boat. Slowly, their mutual stalking comes out – he admits he’s known her first name for several weeks now, while she confesses to her reluctance to miss her usual train after visiting her parents in case she missed him. When he tells her that he’d missed work due to being sick, an odd tenderness sweeps over her, something that shouldn’t happen on a first date surely, but then again, the usual rules don’t seem to be applying here.
They’ve ended up in her favourite coffeehouse (he’d picked the sushi place where they’d eaten) and the familiar surroundings make being with him even more surreal. All evening, he’s taken every opportunity to touch her, whether it’s a hand on the small of her back as they crossed the street, or long fingers tapping her arm as he makes a particular point in the story he’s telling her. She doesn’t mind in the slightest, because she’s doing exactly the same to him, loving the flicker of attraction that sparks in his eyes every time she does. As the clock creeps forward (and flying past at the same time) she knows there is no point in pretending she doesn’t want to fast track this date.
She sits beside him in her favourite back booth (she’s usually reading when she’s sitting here enjoying its privacy, but this is much more fun) rather than across from him, and decides to let fortune favour the brave.
He inhales a sharp, startled breath when she kisses him (he’d been in the middle of telling her a joke, after all) but then his hand slides into her hair, his fingers kneading her scalp as he tilts her head back, his mouth hot and firm, his tongue sliding against hers in a delicate caress that has her crossing her legs in a vain attempt to contain the sudden pulsing warmth deep in her groin. God, how she’s missed this feeling, but she knows it’s not abstinence that’s fuelling her hunger. It’s him, it’s all him, and they need to leave now, before she can never show her face here again.
She kisses him that first night, taking him by surprise just before nine o’clock to the sound of Motown blaring from the speakers above their heads, curled up in a back booth in her favourite coffeehouse. Curling his hand around the nape of her neck, he follows where she leads, the soft kiss quickly becoming something more, something hot and carnal in the space of a heartbeat. The slender hand on his thigh burns an imprint on his skin through his suit trousers, and when he skims his own hand up her side, his palm ghosting over the curve of her breast, her quiet gasp tells them both that it’s long past time to go. Faintly embarrassed that his chest is heaving as though he’s just finished the New York marathon, he rests his forehead against hers. “I’m so glad I caught the 8:15 this morning.”
She laughs at that, a breathy lilt of delight, her breath warm against his skin, and he feels it in every inch of his body, spreading out like ripples on a pond. “So am I, but maybe we could splurge on a cab home?”
They’re in her bed by ten o’clock. His head would be spinning at the speed of it all if she wasn’t anchoring him in the best possible way, pulling him into her, pulling him over the edge of the crazy kind of pleasure he’d forgotten was possible. She whispers his name when she comes, her hands threaded tightly though his as the hot clasp of her body flutters around him, coaxing and teasing and breaking him, making him fall harder than he has in a long time.
Afterwards, when his brain has returned to his boneless body, he reluctantly makes the polite noises required in this particular scenario. It’s the last thing he wants to do, but he doesn’t want her to feel as though she owes him a bed for the night. “Should I -?”
"No." Her answer is firm and decisive, something he’s already learned is fairly true to form for her. She presses a kiss to his shoulder, her arm already draping itself around his waist. “Stay?”
Smiling, he does as the lady wishes. He’s a gentleman, after all.
On Monday morning, they once again catch the same 8:15 train.
This time, though, they both get on at her stop.
She reads his paper over his shoulder and lets him buy her coffee at her usual cart. Before she leaves him, she kisses him soundly on the mouth, wiping away lipstick with her thumb. “See you on the 6:10 tonight, Jones?”
Grabbing her coffee-free hand, he kisses her palm, smiling when he sees the trace of lipstick he’s left. He licks his bottom lip, knowing he’ll be tasting her in his mouth all day, lipstick or not, and that very much works for him. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world, Swan.”