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“Michael Monroe, what are you doing?” Jess couldn’t help the look on her face as she crossed her arms and watched him lean his forehead against the wall.

Mike sighed. “I just got off the phone with Em. I can’t take it much more.”

He froze and turned to her. To Jess. To Emily’s best friend.

“Oh God, Jess, I didn’t mean that. I love Emily, I do. Right now, she’s just getting on my nerves. We fought. That’s all.”

Jess’ smile was mischievous. “Oh please, Michael, I’m so over that high school bullshit. I wouldn’t tell on you if I caught you in here with Mr. Washington. What you do is your business.”

Mike chuckled and watched as Jess started to circle him like a vulture. But… like a hot vulture. No, that’s weird, he thought to himself.

“So, I you came in here and I was, for some reason, getting it on with our friend’s dad, you wouldn’t even care?”

“I’m not friends with any of the Washington’s. What do I care?”

“You wouldn’t tell Em? Or Josh, who I know you’re friends with because Hannah, who I am friends with, told me you were at their house.”

Jess stilled and put on her best smile, though it was tight. “Okay, so Josh and I were friends. But still, it’s not my business.”

Mike smirked, but his face quickly soured as he started to think of Emily again.

“Em… she wants me to move to LA with her once we graduate. She got into some school there, but I don’t want to. I told her that. It didn’t go over well. Now I feel like she’s going to pop up behind me and stuff me in a trunk until moving day, then bring me with her.”

“That’s morbid.” Jess sighed, genuinely feeling sorry for him. She knew Emily could be tough. “Hey… Michael… if… never mind, forget it.”

“What?” Mike said, his interest piqued. “Now you have to tell me.” Jess shook her head, and Mike reached out and grabbed her hand. “Hey, come on. What?”

Jess felt her face blush. She actually blushed. “Well, I was just thinking about a place you might be able to relax for a minute.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah. I worked there last summer, and I think…” she said, digging through her bag. “Yep, I still have the key.”

“The key to where?” Mike asked, narrowing his eyes.

“You’ll just have to trust me. Do you?”

Mike grinned and put his hands in his pocket, shrugging. “You’re being a bit dodgy which almost makes me nervous… almost. I trust you enough to learn about this key.”

Jess beamed and held her hands out to her side, a welcoming challenge. “Alright Michael, get in my car… if you dare.”

She giggled and held open the doors that led outside and unlocked her car. Mike brushed past her slowly, his eyes locked on hers in playful distrust. But he couldn’t even hold his fake expression for long.

Jess’ smile lit up the room. Her laugh was infectious. She was genuinely happy. It was something he rarely had with Emily anymore, and it was a refreshing change. Emily would be scowling right now, stomping her feet and demanding that he listen to her, that he does what she wants to do. Jess was different. If he said he didn’t want to go, he knew Jess would back down. Or if he said he was just having a bad day, he wouldn’t hear a story about how his day was far better than hers.

Jess slid into the driver’s seat and turned on the car, immediately playing Britney Spears. Mike’s eyes slid over to her, his eyebrow raised playfully.

“What? She’s inspiring.”

He wasn’t sure that’s quite the word he’d use as “Womanizer” played. Or, maybe it was, from her perspective anyway. But Mike rolled down the window and rocked his head to the catchy tune.

“Oooh! Michael Monroe, you are jamming out to Brittney in your head, aren’t you? Are you a secret fan? You don’t strike me as a pop music guy.”

Mike scoffed. “I can appreciate pop. God knows Emily made me go to enough concerts with her. But no, I’m more of a hip-hop guy myself.”

Jess nodded. “I got you. You’re like—” she dramatically cleared her throat and held her hand up to her mouth, like a beat boxer. Out came the worst singing voice he’d ever heard: “‘Can we go back, this is the moment, Tonight is the night, we'll fight till it's over, So we put our hands up like the ceiling can't hold us, Like the ceiling can't hold us’!”

Mike cringed, but he couldn’t fight the smile that was breaking through. “Yep, that’s exactly me. You nailed it.”

Jess glanced at Mike’s face and chuckled, hitting him in the arm. “Shut up!”

After a while longer in the car, Jess pulled into a parking lot and jumped out of the car. She hurried up to the door and held her card up the reader. It beeped green and she turned the handle. “Perfect! It still works. Come on.”

Mike followed her in, looking around the small hallway. “Is this breaking and entering?”

Jess shrugged and continued forward, opening one more door. She stepped aside and let Mike in.

The room was a giant indoor swimming pool. He sniffed in the blatant smell of chlorine and bleach. Some of the lights turned on, and the pool began to ripple. Mike turned to see Jess returning to his side with a triumphant smile on her face.

“See? I told you. A quiet, peaceful place.”

Mike nodded in approval. “This could work.”

Jess tossed her bag and jacket on the ground and kicked off her shoes. “You can do what you want, but I’m going for a swim while I’m here. The water’s heated, so that’s even better.”

“A swi—”

Mike couldn’t even finish his thought before Jess had peeled her shirt off, leaving her in a yellow polka dotted bra. She quickly stepped out of her jeans, revealing a mismatching pair of sky-blue bottoms. She turned deliberately towards Mike. “Are you going to gawk at me all day, or are you coming? Because I don’t mind, but I think you should return the favor if you’re joining me.”

A wry smile spread over Mike, and he quickly undid his belt. Jess was watching him with unhidden interest as he also stepped out of his jeans and out of his shirt. She looked him over hungrily. “Boxer briefs? Emily never mentioned that.”

“She never mentioned my…” Mike scoffed. “Of course you know all about our sex life.”

Jess shrugged and sauntered over to him. “Sounds like it’s been a bit infrequent lately.”

 “I don’t want to talk about that,” he muttered.

Jess grabbed his hand and pulled him closer to the edge of the pool. “Sorry. We don’t have to talk.” She was looking up at him with wide, puppy-dog eyes, equally alluring and endearing all at once.

“That’s not what I—”

Jess grabbed him tightly and dragged him as she jumped into the pool. He flopped along with her, making a huge splash as he ungracefully crashed into the water.

Jess giggled as she surfaced, Mike quickly following her. He whipped the hair from his face and spat out some water from his mouth, but he was laughing.

“God, I haven’t laughed this much since—”

His words were cut off as Jess wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed a firm kiss on his lips. It was nothing crazy. She was testing the waters, so to speak.

So, when she pulled away and Mike was smiling rather than in a panic from her kiss, she leaned in for another, one he happily reciprocated. This time, it was aggressive and passionate. Mike realized that as much as he loved being an Alpha male, he much preferred Alpha women. And Jess certainly was that.

But he pulled away, regardless. “Oh, God… Emily. We can’t ever tell her.”

Jess ran her nose along Mike’s cheek before nibbling at his ear. Her hand was over his chest, and she could feel his racing heart.

“We’ll never tell her. It’s just you and me here. She’ll never find out, Michael. Not from me.”