The sound of the spin cycle mingled with the buzz of the florescent lights overhead, one of the bulbs flickered in that way that was barely imperceptible but the moment you noticed; it was all you could see.
Were there better places to do her laundry than this dive of a laundry mat? Yes. But this place worked with Rey’s schedule and was cheap and she had the place to herself and it had free wifi; what more could a girl ask for? The woman who worked night shifts tended to just watch the security cameras in the back and really only made herself known if you hit the buzzer. Other than that, it was empty at two in the morning on a Friday.
Or it had been empty, besides her, until 2:03 am. That’s when an actual mountain size of a man pushed open the tinkering door, at the same time he went about pulling off his black shirt revealing a broad muscular chest and throwing his shirt in the nearest open machine. His hands moved down to the waist of his jeans, and Rey quickly diverted her attention back to tablet and her latest sketch.
Though, without her permission, her eyes darted back up to the fucking redwood of a man just as he bent slightly to push down his jeans.
She shouldn’t stare. She should not ogle this man.
Yes – he was stripping in the middle of a 24-hour laundry mat, without a care, but she should not take in the absolute tree trunks he called thighs. Or the faint sprinkling of dark hair on them. Or the way the cotton fabric of his underwear stretched across his arse.
Her hand itched, she wanted to draw him. Wanted to capture the pure chaotic masculine energy that rolled off of him in waves.
Okay, maybe that wasn’t all her hand wanted to do…
“Fuck.” He growled out in a low voice which instantly had her wishing that she was sitting on the edge of one of the machines on a high spin cycle.
The man dipped out of sight, and then she heard loud thuds of something being thrown into the machine.
What the hell dude?
What the fuck was this man doing?
Okay, hot guy aside, this was weird – right?
Like even by city standards, this wasn’t normal?
Some man coming in and stripping off his clothes in a laundromat, wasn’t a daily occurrence?
And wait – he popped back up, and she noticed drops of red on the pale column of his throat, and on his hands – oh fuck. Was that blood?
Was he trying to clean off his clothing because they were bloody? Because he killed someone?
What was she supposed to do in a situation like this?
Probably call the cops – and do what, tell them there is a man who may or may not be washing blood off of his clothing because he may or may not have killed someone?
“Do you have quarters?” That low voice. Was it possible for your ovaries to swoon over the sound of a man’s voice? You know, asking for a friend.
Was he talking to her? Had someone else come in?
Rey lifted her head, with an expression that must have been a pulled into some sort of look of confusion because he just narrowed his eyes. Dark eyes, dark hair, pale skin – her had such an interesting face, his nose was too strong and his lips too full, too soft; it was a mess of contradictions that made her yearn to try and capture them on paper. He was the type that would have inspired writers of old to write fanciful dark poetry, or for folk singers to compose of song that likened him to the pull of the moon to the tide and that he was everything a night sky wished to be, but they all would miss the torrent of energy that sizzled the air when she met his eyes.
Even in the florescent lighting, with the darkened cityscape contrasting his broad spans of pale skin – she wanted to trail her fingers across his imperfections that came together in such a captivating way.
Fuck – she’d been staring too long at his lips.
Shaking her head, she tried to escape her wayward thoughts, and fixed a bland smile that didn’t invite further discourse, “Excuse me?”
“Quarters.” He ran his hand through his hair, tugging slightly at the strands causing his biceps to contract in a mesmerizing way that really was fucking with her brain processes. This man clearly had to know what he was doing and how her body was react.
The feral gremlin portion wanted him to come and show she just how large and strong he was. Maybe have her get off on the edge of a machine on a heavy spin cycle. Commanding her to look at him the entire time. Capturing her hands and holding them captive so she just had to go along for the ride. His eyes skating appreciatively over her legs and arse as she bent over to get her laundry out of the dyer – his fingers skimming along the back of her thighs, running over the seam of her jeans, his fingers would feel the heat of her through the well worn denim. He would press harder, rubbing her through the material, the seam adding extra pressure as she arched into his touch.
Bloody fucking hell. This was not the time nor the place. Apparently, freaking the fuck out was linked to horniness in her brain – this was good to know.
Plus, she was fairly certain he was insane. And yes; that was definitely red splatter just under his jaw and on his fingers.
She needed to be cautious.
She was, for all intents and purposes, alone at two in the morning at a laundry mat with a massive naked stranger, who may or may not have blood on him.
“I’ll venmo you the dollar something this is going to take.” He bit out.
Okay – rude.
Apparently, she had taken too long to respond. Arsehole.
That helped center her – she needed to keep her wits about her.
“Are you planning on coming over here and taking them?” Pushing the posh as much as she could into her voice, she arched an eyebrow at him – okay, it also brought out the sass. She probably shouldn’t sass given her current situation. “Or I can throw them at you. It really was a rather poor strip show, but I guess it was worth a few quarters.”
Or she could just really lean into the sass.
He tilted his head back looking up to the ceiling as if he were asking for divine intervention, before locking his eyes on hers. He worked his jaw while scrubbing a hand over his face (which had a lovely pink shade blooming across his cheeks), then he took several large steps back, moving to the opposite end away from her, still hidden for the majority by machines.
He nodded to the machine from this far away distance, “Would you mind?”
This was WEIRD.
The man came in, stripping like a mad person, demanding quarters, and was now blushing, standing as far away from her as possible while still being hidden – as though it had finally dawned that he was naked in a public place.
Rey felt the power shift. Pushing herself up and off her seat, she moved over the machine with a slow swagger in her step, her attention glued as the man moved in conjunction with her, keeping the distance between them.
“Feel like I should ask – why,” she waved in his direction, “before I put this load on.”
Her cell was in her hands, and she was now right near the entrance. She could sprint and scream raising the dead if she needed now. And figured she could get a fair bit away before he might catch her.
“I was in the right place at the wrong time. Seems like a lover’s tiff – which resulted in one dumping a can of paint out of their window in attempts to cover the other in red paint, which I’m assuming was fitting to whatever ‘crime’ they had committed. Only for it to splatter on me, as I was leaving a friend’s house.”
“And heaven forbid you go home?”
“I needed to get out of the clothing, and I live on the opposite side of town.”
“Heaven forbid you go back to your friend’s?”
“For fuck’s sake – open up the machine if you don’t believe me. It’s fucking paint.”
“It was a tinder date, wasn’t it? You were slinking out in the middle of the night and couldn’t dare to go back.”
He stood staring at her. She’d gotten him.
And now her stomach was going to churn – because he was one of ‘those guys’. But not a murder.
So, yay to him not murdering someone in this instance.
“Couldn’t exactly call an Uber covered in paint. My rating would take a hit.”
“Oh no.” She said in mock horror, “Not your Uber passenger rating. You’re right, better to strip at a laundry mat and then harass a stranger for quarters. Regretting your decision yet?”
He was silent though his face was nearly screaming his internal thoughts.
Why was this so fun?
He looked thunderous and embarrassed – and in no part did he frighten her. She took the smallest step toward him, and as though he was an opposite magnet he moved further away. And he was curling his shoulders, like that would somehow take away some of his bulk.
Double checking that it was paint - and not letting her mind linger on how massive his sneakers were - she moved to get her laundry products to put in, and then inserted her quarters.
“Can’t guarantee that this will get the paint out.”
“I just need it clean enough that I can get into a cab and not end up paying an arm and a leg for detailing after.” He grumbled, looking tired.
She should take pity on him. Not like she could give him a pair of her leggings and a tee, she half doubted he could fit an arm in her leggings. Alright, that might not be correct, but the man was like three of her, and in a really good way.
Glancing down at her phone, she looked back to the dryer she had going, “If you can hang in for like twenty minutes, I might be kind and give you a towel to wrap around yourself. Not everyone would be as excepting of your birthday suit, as I am.”
“Didn’t realize you were here – or I wouldn’-“
She cut him off with a teasing smile, “Just want someone always wants to hear, that they went unnoticed.”
“If you didn’t notice, I was preoccupied. Otherwise, you clearly would have pulled my attention.”
That was it. He said it like it was an indisputable fact. The sky was blue, the Earth revolved around the Sun, and she was stunning.
She need to diffuse the heat that was flooding her system.
“I’m sure you say that to every girl who catches you naked in a laundry mat.” And then Rey watched as she gave a breath of laughter, shaking his head as a fresh blush colored his cheeks. The pink contrasted boldly with his pale skin and dark features. “I’m Rey, by the way.”
Those dark eyes flicked to meet hers, those lips of his parted in a ghost of a smile, “Ben.”
“Well. Nice to meet you Ben.” She scrunched her nose at him, the stylus she used to sketch on her tablet spinning and dancing as she played with it in her fingers. The movement must have caught his attention, and she saw the question before he had the chance to voice it. Really, the man just projected his thoughts.
“I was doodling before your grand entrance.”
“I do comics, art commissions, you know, doodles.” Giving him a smile and roll of her eyes she tried to brush it off. It was odd, this thing that she loved, it was always something she acted like it was no big thing. Some of it surely was from being told for years that she couldn’t make a life off of it, but then there was also that part where she put so much time and effort – if people didn’t know how much of her focus was on this, if they laughed or quipped, she could shrug it off with a smile still in place. Not that is hurt any less. But it was all how people perceived her, and she was anything but weak, so she wouldn’t let people see how their words could cut.
“I’m a graphic and website designer – I know a fair share about doodles.”
She did not see that coming.
Ben was leaning back against one of the machines, his arms crossed over his chest, as he hunched somewhat, all his focus on her, like she was someone worth being the center of attention. And he had said she was stunning, and he was naked, and the energy that rolled off of him was like a gravitational pull, she wanted to close the distance, to run her fingers over his skin as they spoke.
Maybe it was good that he was keeping his distance, because Rey was certain that if they were in touching distance that she might not be able to string sentences together. She’d be too focused on memorizing the simple complexity of his features, and how they were organized in a way that the longer she looked at him, the more captivating he became.
“So, you know the plight of people expecting you to do things for free. Or for baked goods. Or something else that won’t help pay the bills.” Rey put her palms down on either side of her hips, causing her chest to push out and it was a near physical caress the way his eyes followed the movement, his nostrils flaring the barest of increments.
Was to getting warmer?
Touching her tongue to her top lip, she tried to slip one of her placid expressions into place. This man was naked because he had slipped out of someone’s house who he had hooked up with and gotten hit by paint. This was going to be nothing more than a brilliant story come the sunlight. And so what if she might use his image when she went home to her vibrator?
It wasn’t as if anything real was going to happen with this man.
She had liked the way his name felt on her lips.
And she really wanted him to say her name in that low voice of his – so she could imagine in huskier, breathier, against her ear as he powered into her.
“Yes.” Ben said on what one could call a laugh, “Also, being told off that my prices are unreasonable – that one’s always fun.”
“I don’t work well with others.” His hand went back to his hair. She wanted to bat it aside and take over – the strands looked thick and soft, falling in perfect waves.
Rey could easily see him not working well with others. But that didn’t mean he wouldn’t work well with her.
That was a bad thought.
That made it seem like she had some sort of intention to see him again.
She was going to use sass, sass would get her through this night, “You? No? The man who demanded quarters, doesn’t work well with other?”
“Not my finest moment. I’m sorry. I’ll pay you back and then some.” Ben said, and of course the gremlin in her mind latched on to the ‘and then some’ – was he willing to take requests? He continued on, “You should have just told me to ‘fuck off’.”
“You’re right. Me, as a woman alone in a rundown laundry mat, should have told the hulking angry buffalo of a man, to fuck off.”
And there he was rolling his shoulders in, was he self-conscious of his size?
She probably shouldn’t had called him a buffalo.
But it’s not like she could tell this near stranger that she really liked everything she saw about him. And more than that, she’d really like to know what that body felt like pressed against hers.
“Point made. Would you like to tell me to fuck off now?”
“Why would I do that?” Rey asked as she moved to place her tablet back in her backpack, along with her laundry supplies.
“I deserve it.” He’s tone held a hard edge. He was mad at himself.
“You’ve had a rough enough night.” She flicked her gaze over to him and the hint of a smile that pulled at his lips, had her biting her bottom one. He zeroed in on it, and she watched transfixed as his lips parted on an exhale. “Can I keep it in reserve?”
“Planning on calling me on my shit?”
The buzzer went on her machine. She got up with her basket in tow, and made her way over, pointedly ignoring Ben, who she could feel moving to give her a wide enough berth. Opening the machine, she bent in and pulled out her warm laundry rummaging for the yellow towel and pulling it free.
“Ben.” Rey said as she turned and threw him the towel which he could wrap around himself. He deftly caught it with one hand, and she quickly turned back to her task of pulling out and folding her laundry.
She was going to focus on this. And only this.
Not the fact that the towel she used to dry her body after bathing was now wrapped around a very naked Ben. Why was this striking her as something supremely intimate?
It was. On some level.
“Thank you.” His voice was a bit closer.
Glancing over, she saw him leaning back against a machine, still a fair bit away, but he wasn’t hidden completely by machines, now he was in view of her. The towel low on his hips.
Was it just her, or did it look like it was being held up by the grace of god?
He was magnificent – even from just a purely artistic standpoint.
But from her standpoint – she wanted to eat him. Which was insane. Completely insane. But he looked like he would taste good. And she had never been one to find pleasure in going to her knees for a man, but fuck. She wanted to for him.
For his hand to tangle in her hair, while his other gripped the edge of the machine till his knuckles went white, telling her how good she was as she took him in hand, in her mouth and possibly down her throat.
Fuck she was staring again, “The color suits you.”
He gave her a smile that made her feel like he knew where her mind had gone.
The heat of her blush had her turning to obscure her face as she continued her task. The task that had her bent over, arse in the air.
Hope he enjoyed the view.
“Can I help?”
And of course, he would sound like he actually wanted to help.
“Fuck off. Not going to get your hands on my panties on our first date.”
FUCK. Her whole body stiffened, her head in the machine, and she had to fight against the urge to bang her head.
Now why, why had she said that.
Maybe she should just crawl into the drum.
“You’re right. Should probably woo you a bit before that. Not demand small change.”
And what was she supposed to say to that.
“You did strip. Which was the highlight of my night.”
That sealed it. She had no control over her mouth anymore.
She was going to crawl into the drum. That was where she was going to live until he left.
“Really?” Ben asked sounding disbelievingly.
She popped out of the machine to give him a look that loudly conveyed ‘of fucking course’. He was closer, a respectable distance away but close enough that the sheer size of him was very apparent, and he was watching her with a curious expression. There was absolutely no way this man couldn’t know how ridiculously attractive he was.
“I mean, yes, I thought you were insane as you came in, in a near whirlwind with clothing coming off. But I mean, look at you. Now, I wouldn’t recommend making a habit of this.”
“Yes. Wouldn’t want to get arrested for indecent exposure.”
“Would make it difficult for you to woo me.”
“We can’t have that, can we?”
He smiled. Her knees went weak.
That smile. That smile was dangerous.
Pulling out her last piece she threw it into her basket and shut the drum, her gaze focused on his. The air seemed to shift as she walked over to him with an extra sway in her hips. He didn’t move away. He stood still, though his arms moved away from his chest and were resting on the dryer behind him, giving her the control of the situation. She stopped at where her feet met his, her head tilted back to meet his gaze. He should be intimidating, she should feel some sort of unease, at just the height and breadth of him if not his intense gaze.
His gaze that kept flicking from her eyes down to her lips. She refused to let her gaze move down his body, she didn’t want to see if her proximity had any affect on him. Didn’t want to see just how tented the towel was. Part of her wish he had parted his legs so she could step between them and be closer to him, then she would have felt him against her abdomen.
Leaning a bit further into his space, she watched as his eyes became half lidded, his lips parting, but he made no move to touch her.
“Rey.” He said her name like it was a prayer, like he was near pleading. It was a breath of sound and she felt it heat her body as she canted toward him. The sound of her name coming from him, was decadent. She wanted to hear him say her name like that as they were tangled in sheets, as he discovered her body and found all the ways that would cause her to cry out his name. Her hand came out and skimmed the taut muscle of his bicep, and she would have sworn that he shivered, his head bending down to close this distance between them. The sound of metal hitting metal caused him to stop his descent.
“For the dyer.” She said with too much breath in her tone. He didn’t move back. Those warm whiskey eyes of his locked on hers. He was so close, that all she would need to do was press up on her toes and to claim his lips, “And I’m going to want that towel back.”
He gave a slow dip of his head, “Should probably give me your number then.”
Oh, what the hell. Yeah, okay. She could do that.
“Wait, you have a freestanding washer in your actual condo?”
“Yeah sweetheart. What’s running through your mind?”
“Remember that night we met?”
She watched as he took in her face and she knew he accurately read her thoughts as a devilish smile pulled at his lips. Well, Rey knew where she was going to do her laundry from now on.