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To Refuse - In order to feel like you can consent, you also need to feel like you are allowed to refuse. It isn’t a matter of only saying “No”, but also “Not now,” “Not yet,” and “Not like this.” Give yourself permission to tell a friend, “I’m not ready to talk about that yet,” or, “I’ve got too much on my plate right now.” To tell your lover, “I’m not comfortable with that,” or, “Let’s try something else.” Saying no and establishing boundaries is an essential dimension in a relationship.

“Twenty minutes ‘til housekeeping. C’mon!”

Giggling girlishly, she darted inside the shabby motel room after him. Showed him the dream-catcher the previous occupants had left behind. Delighted herself in the amusement she saw in his warm brown eyes.

“Anywhere you want to go, babe. Pick a point on the map or else we’ll just keep driving until we find a home.”

She looked down at the map he dropped on the bed in front of her and felt his arms wrap around her waist, the warmth of his body soaking into her back.

“Are you sure that’s what you want?”

Her breath hitched at the way his hand dipped dangerously low on her abdomen. “I want you, Emma. Just you.”

She wanted to look into his eyes to see the truth of his words shining back at her, but his hands began to roam her body, his tongue tantalizing the delicate skin behind her ear. She knew she should stop him, but every sensation was so new, so exciting. It felt so good to be wanted, but…

Emma furrowed her brow in confusion. His hands- they didn’t feel like she remembered. His voice was softer now. A different timbre. Her heart began to race. She couldn’t see him. She needed to see him. This was different, this wasn’t how it went.

She tried to turn in his arms, but found herself lying on her back on a couch, her head cradled on someone’s arm, hot breath on her neck. She turned her head as he raised his and saw not brown eyes, but startling crystal blue…


Emma’s eyes sprang open and she sat bolt upright in bed with a gasp, struggling to control her breathing. A dream. It was just a dream. The covers pooled around her waist, leaving her shivering as the sheen of sweat covering her body began to cool in the night air.

What the hell?

Her brain loved to torment her with her last good memory of Neal, that part was familiar enough. Her first time. The first time she ever felt free and happy and wanted. The only time she ever said ‘I love you’ to a man. The last time she let a man lie to her.

The dream always started with the good stuff and ended with her getting loaded into the back of a squad car. Funny how it sort of blurred over the little details. Like Neal stepping out to see if he can swipe a pack of cigs from the gas station on the corner and never coming back. Like the knock at the door that wasn’t him, but the police. Like the watches stashed in her bag. Emma slid her hands up over her face and into her hair, scratching at her scalp as if she could scrape the images from her head.

She huffed a sigh. As it usually did, the dream left her beating herself up with the same old questions. Were the signs there and she ignored them? Was he just that good of a liar? Maybe.

Emma flopped back down against her pillow and pulled the covers up to her chin. She’d told him about her superpower. How she could always tell when someone was lying to her if she was looking them in the eye. He’d rolled his eyes about it at the time, used to tease her about believing in magic shit like that. Funny, though, how he got less and less inclined to look her in the eye.

But what the fuck was up with tonight? Why would her sleeping mind change the ending? She rolled onto her side burrowing further under the blanket. Oh, she could think of a reason.

She sighed heavily remembering the way Killian had held her, kissed her. The way he’d looked at her afterwards. Neal had looked at her that way once. Graham, too. As much as she hated that dream, she’s glad in a way. It was a good reminder to her. Not to trust anyone. Not to get too close to anyone. They let you down or let you go. A home is for other people, not her. Emma didn’t regret last night. She just needed to remember not to let Killian get under her skin, as much for his sake as for hers. How hard could that be?

Emma glanced at the clock on her nightstand, cringing at the glowing green numbers. Too early to get up, but too late to go back to sleep. She flopped onto her side, facing away from the clock again in a childish attempt to ignore it and get at least a little bit more shut-eye, but restlessness pulled at her. Despite the softness of her bed, she couldn’t get comfortable, mentally or physically. She struggled against herself. Her mind yelled at her to shore up her defenses. Stop thinking about Killian, or at the very least remember that she’d be leaving soon. That whatever she did with him had an expiration date.

Her body, however, had other ideas. Her skin flushed at the memory of Killian’s calloused hands caressing her. Her nipples tightened at the thought of his lips and tongue pulling and teasing them. Emma allowed her fingers to trail down her stomach and slip inside her underwear, heat pooling between her legs as she indulged the fantasy. She was embarrassingly wet just from the memory of how he’d made her body feel, legs shaking even though her own hand was a poor substitute for his touch. She bit down on her lip to keep from crying out his name as she came all too quickly.

By sunup, Emma was… well, freaking out might’ve been an overstatement, but not by much. She called Snow, hoping to catch her before she left for work.

As soon as Snow greeted her with a far too cheerful hello for 7:00 am, Emma launched right in. “I hooked up with Killian.”

There was a muffled coughing sound and Emma briefly wondered if she’d actually made her friend choke on her tea. “ Oh! Um… why?

“I don’t know. It’s been awhile? I was feeling good? Or actually, not good. I was kind of mad at him? But then he was all smirky and ‘you couldn’t handle it’ and I don’t know…”

Did it mean anything?

“No! I mean, he’s my boss and we’re friends. I guess. Sort of. It was just a hookup. Like third base, tops.”

Okay… well, have you talked to him about it since it happened?

“It just happened last night. And I was hoping to avoid the whole talking about it thing.”

Uh huh. But you were hoping it would happen again.”

“Maybe. It was pretty damn great.” Emma groaned in frustration. “I don’t know.”

Emma, you need to talk to him otherwise things are going to get weirder and weirder between you. Not to mention he’s your boss. That makes it more complicated. He could get the wrong idea about what services he’s paying you to do.”

God, that had never even occurred to Emma, but no. Killian wasn’t that guy. She wasn’t sure why she was so certain about it, but she knew it in her bones.

“No. No, it’s definitely not like that. He’s not like that.”

You still need to talk about it like adults to make sure everyone is on the same page .”

Emma relented with a sigh. “Yeah, I guess so. Thanks for being my mom-friend.”

My pleasure. And Emma? It’s okay if it did mean something. You know that right?

“Aaaannnddd then you go and ruin the moment. Talk to you later.”


Emma took a little more time than usual getting dressed after that, still turning over everything Snow had said in her mind. Her friend was just so annoyingly rational sometimes. Always trying to insist that Emma be an actual grown up. Ugh. Adulting sucked.

When she’d brushed her teeth so thoroughly her gums nearly bled and had braided and unbraided her hair four times, she couldn’t stall any longer. Emma wandered down the stairs to the kitchen hoping that maybe Killian would already be out in the barn getting ready for morning chores, but no such luck. He sat at the breakfast table, a picture of domestic tranquility complete with a half-drunk cup of coffee at his elbow and his phone in his hand, thumbing at the screen. He looked up when he heard her approach, and her step faltered.

He was wearing that t-shirt she hated. The one that had probably been navy at some point, but now was the soft grey-blue of a storm cloud. She hated the way it pulled taut across his well-toned shoulders. Hated the way it set off his eyes, the golden ring around his pupils nearly glowing against his blue irises like the sun bursting through after the rain. Hated most of all the way she wanted to rip the shirt off of him and slam his arrogant ass against a wall and find out exactly what that cluster of freckles on his neck tasted like and…

Okay, yeah. Maybe Snow has a point.

Emma didn’t even bother fixing herself a cup of coffee. She sat right down across from him at the table. Better to get this over with quickly.

She took a deep breath. “SnowsaysIhavetotalktoyou.”

Killian cocked his head to the side and set his phone down on the table. “Come again?”

Aaaand isn't that just the issue. Fuck my life. “Snow says we have to talk about the thing. That we did. That thing.”

It would have all been so much easier if his eyes didn’t twinkle at her like that.

“Ah, so you told your friend about me?” A grin tilted the corner of his mouth deepening the dimple just beside it.

“Shut up. But yes, I told my friend and she made me promise that I’d talk to you, so… yeah.”

Killian leaned back in his chair almost too casually. “There’s nothing really to talk about, love. We’re both consenting adults. We obviously have a certain chemistry. You're a red-blooded woman with needs, and I was more than happy to lend a hand as it were. Despite the well-intentioned moralizing of our best mates, I don't see anything wrong with us having a bit of fun from time to time. Do you?”

He stood, taking his mug with him, and raised a teasing eyebrow at Emma as he passed her on the way to the sink. She rolled her eyes in return, then stood and followed him. She noticed he’d used the plural ‘mates’ and the implication it carried that David had said something, too, but she couldn't even begin to deal with that thought right now. Better to stay on message.

“So you don't think it's weird at all to, you know, have sex with your boss?”

Killian placed his mug in the sink and turned to face her hitching a thumb on his belt. “Swan, if you think that was sex then the American educational system really is as questionable as they say.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Aye, that I do, and I don't mean to play word games with you, so let me be clear.” He stepped toward her looking her squarely in the eyes. “I enjoyed our dalliance very much and I’m rather certain you did, too. As I said, I think the two of us can have a lot of fun together. The other night was just a taste, and when I finally take you-”

“When?” Emma scoffed. The nerve of this guy. The gall. The-

“Yes, when . When I do, I want to take my time with you. I want to touch every inch of that creamy skin until I’ve mapped out each place that makes you moan, and oh, shall you moan , darlin’. I want to hear it.” With another swaggering step, he edged into her personal space. “I want every sigh and curse and keening until you shout my name as you come around my fingers again. Want to feel the way you squeeze me, all hot and tight and wet. But I won’t be done with you. Not by a mile.”

Emma’s breathing sped up as she swayed involuntary toward to him, the velvet purr of his voice going straight between her legs. She should stop him. Tell him to fuck off or call him an arrogant bastard or shit, do something besides lick her lips and-

“What next?” she asked, a hitch in her voice. He raised a dark eyebrow at the sound, but she pretended to ignore it.

“Next as you lay quivering, I would kiss my way down your stomach, perhaps a bite here and there. Leave my mark under one of those perfect breasts, or maybe...” One last step and they stood face to face, her feet between his. He rested his hands low on her waist, thumbs sneaking beneath the waistband of her jeans to caress the sensitive skin near the jut of her hips. “Right here. Somewhere no one else can see.”

Emma swallowed hard, fighting the urge to cant her pelvis into his touch, but he just kept talking.

“I wouldn’t taste you, not right away. I’d place a hand on each of your lovely thighs-” at this he trailed a hand down, delicately stroking her jean clad leg with the back of his fingers. “And gently work the tension out of them while spreading you wide, so I can take in the beauty of your womanhood. I bet you’ve got a gorgeous cunt, Swan, though I hardly got a proper look last night. Once I’ve looked my fill and you’re nice and relaxed, then I shall taste you. I’ll suck that sweet rosebud of a clit between my lips, and lick and nip and delve into the center of you until you’re a glorious writhing mess again and I won’t stop until you’re pulling my hair and begging me to fuck you. To fill you up over and over until I know you'll be feeling it hours later and thinking about it even longer. Those clever little fingers of yours just twitching to touch yourself at the very memory of me inside you.”

It was almost as if he knew exactly what she’d been up to in the wee hours of that very morning. Emma could feel the crimson flush extending from her hairline down her throat to her decolletage. His eyes followed it, lingering momentarily on the curve of her breasts visible at her neckline before returning his smirking gaze to her face. He paused, seeming to take a certain amount of male pride in the obvious effect his words had wrought on her. He could be as smug as he wanted, but if he bothered to check his reflection in that moment, he might have noticed that his own pupils were blown wide, eyes nearly black with desire.

Emma tried not to move under his heated stare, only carefully shifting her stance enough to give herself a teensy bit of the friction she deeply needed. This was ridiculous. At this rate they'd be literally rolling in the hay by lunchtime. But would that be so bad?

Emma stepped back far enough to get out of his reach, trying to shake herself out of the daze, but still… the man did kinda have a point. They were both grown-ass adults, perfectly capable of enjoying each other’s company without things going sideways. Well… maybe literally sideways, but that’d be something else altogether.

She crossed her arms under her breasts, taking no small amount of pleasure from the way his eyes dropped straight to her cleavage again for a moment. Guys can be so easy . She eyed him appraisingly. “Just a little fun, huh?”

He shrugged and offered her a cavalier smile. “Just a little fun.”

“There would have to be ground rules.”

Killian huffed a laugh and leaned back against the counter. “Sounding less fun now, but alright.”

“No strings. No expectations. No spending the night together afterwards.”

Killian nodded his agreement. “Fair enough. And I’ll add one more, because as you astutely pointed out, I am your boss and I don’t want there to be any question on this point. No one does anything they don’t 100% want to do.”

That was just what she needed to hear. This was definitely going to work. They were definitely on the same page. No problem. Emma smiled at him wickedly.

“So, hypothetically, what if what I want to do isn’t all that stuff you said a minute ago? What if all I want is a good hard fuck against the barn door?”

The smile that slowly spread across his face was all white teeth and dark intent - a pirate’s smile - and it sent a little thrill of anticipation through her. “Then, hypothetically , I’m at your service.”


If Emma thought there had been tension between the two of them before, it was nothing compared to the energy sizzling in the air as they went through the motions of their regular chores over the next few days. The question had changed. No more will they, won't they. The only thing left to answer was when, where and how. It felt to Emma almost like a stand-off. Neither one of them seemed to want to be the one to initiate, as if there was an implied admission in being the eager one, the one who wanted it more. Talking about wanting sex in the abstract, even sex with each other, was one thing. Actually being the first to grab onto the other and say, “I want you ,” came with a certain amount of vulnerability.

What if he changes his mind? What if he doesn’t want me? What if he wants more than I can offer him? What will happen when I leave? What if-

“Swan! Shut that gate, will you?”

Emma snapped out of it and realized she’d been standing there like an idiot holding the pasture gate open long after the horses had trotted past her. She swung it closed, slamming the rusty bolt home with more force than necessary, then looked over to see Killian ( and when did he become ‘Killian’ and not ‘Jones’? ) swaggering up to her with that damn smirk on his face.

“Something on your mind, darlin’?”

It was easier to tease him back than admit the real cause of her distraction, so she cocked an eyebrow and put some huskiness in her voice. “Oh, you know. Just kinda tired. Someone kept me up late last night.” And there. There was the swipe of his tongue across his teeth that she was going for.

Killian ducked his head in semblance of a bow. “You’re welcome.” He turned and walked away from her, leaving Emma to roll her eyes at his back, and yeah, okay, maybe sneak a quick peek at his ass. “Now, come along, Swan. We’ve got salt licks to put out.”

With some measure of reluctance, Emma clambered into the cab of the faded blue-green Dodge. If working side-by-side this morning had her skin tingling and her mind spinning, she didn’t want to think about what sitting two feet away from him on the big broad bench seat in his pickup would do to her. Snark seemed like her best option.

“Are you sure this thing can make it off-road to where we need to go? It’s gotta be like 300.”

Cranking the ignition, Killian kept facing forward, but cut his eyes in her direction. “She’s a fair sight younger than your geriatric yellow Beetle.”

“Your truck is a ‘she’?”

“All automobiles are ‘she’s’, Swan.”

Emma crossed her arms and stared out the window. “My Beetle is non-binary, thank you very much.”

He was quiet for a minute as the truck heaved forward and began bumping along the ranch road, but soon Emma could feel his eyes on her.


“It’s got a name, doesn’t it? Your non-binary Beetle.”

Shit. Emma kept her gaze fixed out the window and mumbled something under her breath. It wasn’t that she was embarrassed that she cared about her car. Hell, that thing had been the only home she’d had for years. It was just that this all felt a little too-

“What was that, love?”

Emma finally turned to glare at Killian, daring him to laugh. “Buttercup. It’s name is Buttercup.” Emma uncrossed her arms and gestured matter-of-factly with her left hand. “It’s yellow and I like flowers, so…”

He reached out and caught her wrist with his right hand, turning it to run his thumb over the little flower tattooed in black ink there. “So I see. Does it mean anything? Your tattoo?”

Emma gave a small laugh. Well, at least this had a safe answer even if the way he was still caressing the pulse point of her wrist felt anything but.

“Yeah, it means I was a dumb fourteen-year-old who liked flowers.”

Killian grinned as he released her wrist, and she relaxed, grinning back.

“Such rebellion in one so young.”

Emma shrugged with a wry smile. “Well, at the time it seemed like a good way to give my foster mom the finger, so…”

Emma’s smile faded as she realized what she just revealed. How the hell had that come out of her mouth? Her heart pounded and she started to retreat into herself, but Killian seemed completely unfazed by her admission.

“S’alright, Swan. I may have engaged in a bit of rebellious behavior in my youth as well.” And then he winked at her, or at least tried to wink. More sort of a semi-blink with sass, but close enough. The simple acceptance inherent in the gesture had the tension melting out of Emma’s body again.

She looked down at his hand where it curled around the the gear shift, his thumb tapping against the knob in time with some twangy country song on the radio, and for the first time she really took note of the swirls of black and red ink extending up the inside of his forearm. She’d seen the mark or part of it before, but never paid it much attention. Now she could see it was a heart with a dagger piercing it, the name “Milah” scrolled across the middle.

“Rebellious behavior, huh?” Emma tapped two fingers against Killian’s tattoo, and cracked a half smile. “Is that how you got this?”

She wasn’t sure what exactly she expected, but the sudden flash of pain and darkness that crossed his features wasn’t it.

“Aye. Something like that.” There was no rudeness to his brusque answer, but everything about his tone and body language communicated that this subject was off limits.

Emma nodded and didn’t press. If anyone could understand about having a past you didn’t want to discuss, it was her. Still, it somehow knocked a brick or two loose in her defenses that they’d now both (intentionally or otherwise) let the other peek through the keyhole in their walls. What a strange and foreign idea, that there might be someone else out there who got it.

They drove in silence for a while after that, stopping here and there to drop off a salt lick or for Emma to hop out and open a gate. It could have been uncomfortable, but it wasn’t. An unspoken understanding had formed that they each needed a little space, and Emma could sense Killian was as grateful for it as she was.

One more gate led them into the field where they’d released the horses that morning, but as Killian drove over the cattle guard and Emma closed the fence behind him, the truck made a sickly spluttering sound and wisps of smoke snaked out from beneath the hood. He cut the engine and jumped out of the cab.

“SHIT!” Even from several yards away, Emma could hear his tirade clear as a bell. “No. No no no no no. Don’t you do this to me, godammit.”

By the time Emma made it to his side, Killian had the hood open and was angrily swiping at his forehead with the heel of his hand. “What happened?”

“A hose blew out and sprayed coolant all over the place. Bloody hell, this is a clusterfuck.” He slammed the hood closed with a snarl.

Well, shit. Emma knew enough about engines to know that this couldn’t be fixed in the middle of a freaking pasture. She needed to get Killian focused on problem solving instead of just being pissed. “So, what do we do? I’m guessing a tow truck isn’t coming all the way out here.”

Killian roughly tugged his fingers through his hair and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly to calm himself. “No, I’ll call Dave. Perhaps he can get out here with his dually and pull us into town. There’s a repair shop just down the street from Granny’s.”

“Okay. You call him, I’ll start walking. Someone’s gonna have to let him in the gate when he gets here.”

She turned to go, but quickly felt a hand on her arm spinning her back around. “Now hold on a minute, Swan. I’ll call him, sure, but I think I’ve got a better idea than walking.”

“Oh really? What, you’ve got a magic carpet in your pickup bed?”

“Darlin’, I could show you some magic in that truck bed, but that wasn’t what I had in mind. How do you feel about riding bareback?”

“Is that some kind of euphemism?”

“Do you want it to be?”

Emma rolled her eyes at him, then looked around seeing nothing but open field up to the tree line. “Wouldn’t we need a horse for that?”

In response, Killian placed the thumb and middle finger of his right hand into his mouth and blew an ear-splitting whistle.

Emma flinched at the piercing noise. “Jesus, Jones. Could you warn a person before-”

But then she heard it, a distant thrumming growing rapidly louder. The unmistakeable sound of hoofbeats approaching. She whirled around in time to see Roger break past the tree line, barreling toward them.

Killian smirked. “You were saying?”

Emma favored him with a half smile, tilting her head in acknowledgement. “Yeah, yeah. That was actually kinda cool.”

Roger slowed his pace as he got closer, finally coming to a stop next to the tailgate. Killian opened up the diamond plate steel toolbox taking up the first quarter of the bed, and retrieved a small bucket of horse treats. Roger seemed to perk up at the sight of it, but Killian held out a hand to tell him to stay put.

“Want to feed him one, Swan?”

It sunk in that Emma was about to have to crawl up on top of the large animal and hope to God he didn’t toss her off into a cow patty in just a minute. So, as much as those big blunt teeth and heavy hooves concerned her-

“Yeah. Anything to get on his good side.”

Killian held out the bucket and she gingerly picked up one of the odd-smelling nuggets.

“Just place it right in the middle of your palm and keep your hand flat.”

Emma did as instructed, slowly approaching Roger who gave her a couple of sniffs, then lowered his muzzle to her hand. He snuffled and nibbled far more gently than she would have ever guessed, and it was a strange and but not unpleasant feeling.

As Roger finished his treat, she glanced back at Killian to find him leaning against the side of the bed watching her intently. “Can I give him another?”

Killian smiled warmly at her and extended the bucket again. She took another treat and offered it to Roger. This time she expected his warm breath and tickly lips, but not-

“He’s licking me!”

Killian laughed and waggled his eyebrows suggestively. “Can’t say as I blame him. So, now that you two are bosom friends, what say we take a ride?”

Killian put the treat bucket back in the toolbox and grabbed an extra set of reins, clipping them onto Roger’s halter. He then pulled out his phone and made a quick call to David.

While he was busy with that, Emma wandered over to Roger’s side, petting his neck and withers. She marveled at the softness of his coat and the warmth and strength of the muscles just beneath, but soon she felt another warm body behind her. Before she could protest, Killian’s hands were at her waist, boosting her up onto Roger’s back.

She took the offered reins from his hand with a scowl. “I could’ve just used the truck’s bumper as a step.”

Probably to irritate her further, Killian did exactly that, stepping up on the bumper while holding on to the edge of the bed, then throwing a leg over Roger to seat himself right behind her.

“Aye. You could’ve, but where would be the fun in that?”

He settled in close to her, his body wrapping around hers, and Emma… had not thought this through. Killian scooted forward incrementally and gave Roger a nudge with his heels to get moving. She threaded her fingers loosely through the coarse strands of Roger’s mane to give herself something to grip. Now her ass was pressed to Killian’s groin, his chest inches from her back. Right hand on her hip, left arm circled around her to hold the reins, and just… Emma had really, really not thought this through.

If the growing tension in his body was anything to go by, Killian hadn’t either. All the energy from earlier that had dissipated in the wake of personal revelations and broken-down trucks, came rushing back. Something about the slow rolling gait of the horse beneath them and how it practically had her grinding between Killian’s legs. Something about the heat of him against her back, or the way his hand was gradually inching from her hip to splay across her abdomen. It made Emma’s pulse accelerate and her breathing shallow, a flicker of heat igniting inside her.

For a moment, Killian shifted back away from her, his hand suddenly absent from her side. It took a second to click in her mind what he was doing. She had a quick flash of insecurity before, oh… okay. Well, that was interesting. Pressed intimately together once more, she now very obviously felt the proof of her effect on him. With a little self-satisfied smile, she leaned back rocking her hips into his lap to feel his hardening length against her ass.

“Careful there, love. A man could suffocate in all that blond hair of yours.”

Trying to keep the mood light, Emma gathered her hair to one shoulder. She pulled aside her shirt collar and cast a teasing glance back at him. “Better?”

A moment of hesitation passed, another flash of oh-my-god-what-am-I-doing , but before she could laugh her implied offer off as a joke, Killian nuzzled into her neck, his warm breath making her shiver. His lips soon followed, kissing a slow, lazy path up behind her ear, each touch of his mouth tingling and stoking a growing desire within her.

Emma tightened her grip on Roger’s mane, keeping her voice as level as possible. “Eyes on the road, cowboy.” This was getting quickly out of hand, but damn if he kept kissing her like that, she might not mind if it did.

She felt Killian shrug behind her. “Roger knows where he’s going.” He traced just the tip of his tongue along the ridge of her ear making her skin prickle with goosebumps, then he leaned around to catch her eye. Her neck was immediately unhappy at the absence of his lips. “Unless you want me to stop?”

Nope. No, don’t stop. Stopping is bad. Wait, Emma. Be cool. She attempted a wry smirk. “I didn’t say that. But just…”

He resumed nibbling and sucking at her neck, not hard enough to leave a mark, but enough to make her forget why she was trying to argue with him. God, he felt good. There was nothing wrong with feeling good for a little while, was there?

Roger twitched underneath them, probably shaking off a fly, but the movement helped ground Emma to the here and now. As much as they’d agreed to the occasional ‘fun’, she had to keep her wits about her. “Is this safe?”

She felt the scratch of Killian’s stubble as he smiled against her skin. “There is nothing about you that is safe , Emma Swan.”

His words sent a shiver down her spine, and Emma forced a laugh, one last pretense that she had any kind of upper hand. Whatever. He had the hard-on first. I’m counting it as him caving.

“I meant, are we gonna fall off the horse, smartass.”

Killian tightened his arm around her in response, pulling her impossibly closer. Upper hand? Lower hand? The only hand she cared about in that moment was his on her body. She felt every lean muscle of his torso pressed to her back, the swell of his bicep against her ribs. He raised his head to whisper in her ear, his thumb grazing torturously back and forth against the underside of her breast. “You don’t think these arms can hold you? Don’t worry, darlin’, I won’t let you fall.”

Emma was glad she couldn’t see Killian’s face in that moment. It allowed her to willfully take his words at face value. No good would come of reading anything into them. Into this. Don’t think. Just let go. All she let herself think about was how much she wanted him to move his damn hand a little bit further. North or south, she didn’t care which.

As if reading her mind, he slid his hand up to fully cup her breast and at the same moment bit down sharply at the junction between her neck and shoulder. Emma moaned aloud, a spike of pleasure jolting her system, but Killian calmly shushed her. He gestured with the hand holding the reins toward Roger’s ears which were flicking back and forth.

“Now see that?” he purred in her ear, “That’s where we might get in trouble. He doesn’t care for loud noises, so I’ll need you to be nice and quiet for us.” His hand remained at her breast, alternately massaging and teasing her hardening nipple with his thumb. “Do you think you can do that, love?”

Emma pressed her lips together, stifling the dirty sounds threatening to spill from her lips, and nodded quickly. Heat swirled and bloomed at her core, and she arched her back pushing her chest into his hand, wordlessly begging for more.

Killian hummed low in the back of his throat, moving his hand to undo a couple of buttons on her shirt. “That’s a good girl.”

He slipped his rough, calloused fingers inside the placket of her shirt and under the thin cotton cup of her bra. Mmm.. yeah. Keep going , she thought over and over, softly humming in pleasure. She bit her lip hard, letting her head drop back against Killian’s shoulder as he continued to caress and knead her. He rolled the stiff peak of her nipple between his fingers, every touch going straight to her clit.

The seam of her jeans pressed too hard against her oversensitive core, the rocking movement of the horse beneath her only worsening the throbbing ache between her spread legs. This wasn’t the friction she wanted. No, needed.

“I- I need…” she breathed, tugging at his wrist to stop his ministrations. It took every ounce of her concentration to remember how to work the zipper on her jeans, distracted as she was by the way his hand now rubbed up and down her thigh. Taking him by the wrist again, she moved his hand low on her stomach, hoping he’d take the hint from there.

A deep rumble of laughter shook his chest, then slowly, one fingertip at at time, he slipped his hand into her underwear. Her hips rolled forward toward his touch, and she snaked one arm up to cup the back of his neck, needing something, anything to ground herself.

He groaned against her shoulder at the first brush of his fingers against her sex. “You’re a bloody marvel.” He murmured gently as he began to stroke her, and Emma closed her eyes, surrendering to her body’s wants. “So wet and responsive. I like you like this, Swan. All wanton and needy. Do you want to come like this, darlin’?”

Between shallow breaths, Emma nodded. “Yes.”

His fingers moved more quickly, one sliding easily inside of her. “Come on now, love, I want to hear you say it. Tell me what you want.”

Talking was the last thing on Emma’s mind and she’d probably have been furious with him if he didn’t feel so fucking good. “I want you to make me come. Right now. I need you to-”

He curled his finger inside her, hitting just the right spot and Emma was practically whining now. “I need you to keep touching me.”

“Good. So very, very good. God, you feel like heaven.” He added a second finger, stroking hard and fast and it was all Emma could do not to buck her hips and fuck herself on his fingers. “Come for me, love. I’ve got you.”

And that was all it took to send her over the edge. Emma’s world shattered and rebuilt itself as Killian slowly wound her down, her body going limp in his arms. He kissed her softly on the cheek as she came back to herself, the gesture sweet and almost chaste. Completely at odds with his dirty talk only moments ago. In fact, neither of them seemed keen on speaking, simply resting against each other. He pulled his hand back from her soaked underwear, but left it draped lightly across her lap.

Emma felt him raise his head and his back straighten. She hadn’t actually looked around since, well, since he started kissing her neck, and she was surprised to see they were almost back to the barn. As amazing and boneless as she felt (and a little awkward because holy shit I just got felt up on horseback ), there was still a pleasant buzz of arousal stirring in her veins. Twice now, Killian had taken care of her needs, and today just like before, he seemed to not ask for anything in return. She appreciated that more than she cared to express. But… maybe she wanted to do something for him.

Just before he swung himself down off Roger’s back, he leaned down to speak in her ear. “Enjoy the ride, darlin’?”

Arrogant, twinkly-eyed bastard.

Emma rolled her eyes and zipped her jeans. Okay, maybe it wasn’t only for him. Maybe twice now, she’d felt his hard length pressed against her and she wanted to see for herself what he was working with. If the cock matched the cockiness. Maybe she wanted to see if she could render that filthy mouth speechless. Something like that.

She allowed him to help her dismount, hoping the wicked ideas in her head didn’t show on her face. She looked over at the barn, particularly the sturdy metal door, and remembered the saucy comment she’d made to him that morning. Oh, she knew exactly what she wanted to do. But was there time?

“How long ago did you call David?” she asked casually.

Killian pulled his phone from his pocket and glanced at the screen. “About twenty minutes ago. No worries, Swan. He ought to be here in another fifteen.”

“That’ll work.”

Before he could so much as raise an eyebrow in question, she grabbed his hand and drug him into the barn.

“Swan, what are-”

She shoved his back against the door, enjoying the resonant clang of his body hitting the corrugated metal, and swallowed his surprised “oof” as she kissed him hard. It didn’t take him long to respond by wrapping his arms around her until her body was plastered against his. Graceless and a little rough, they scrambled to get closer, for more contact. Her fingers found their way into his hair and pulled a little harder than necessary, angling his head to deepen the kiss. She could feel his growl of approval reverberating through her own chest.

Emma broke the kiss and grinned mischievously, licking her lips to catch a last little taste of him. He already looked properly fucked, hair standing on end, lips reddened, eyes dark and a little glazed, but she wasn’t done with him yet.

His handsome features shifted into his usual smirk. “Still hungry are we?”

He began to lean back in for more, but Emma pulled away, running her hands down his chest to hold him in place. She tilted her head as her hands reached his belt. “Interesting choice of words.”

Emma worked the buckle open and dropped to her knees on the dusty floor, the bulge of his arousal now right at her eye level. It thrilled her, knowing she had done that to him. Seeing how much he wanted her. She made quick work of the button and zipper on his jeans, but then felt his hand cup her face, raising her chin to look up at him.

All amusement had gone from his eyes. “Swan, you don’t have to-”

“Do anything I don’t want to do? I know. This isn’t tit for tat, Jones.” She raised an eyebrow in imitation of his smirk. “Maybe I want to show off a little.”

That did it. The twinkle was back in his eyes. Grinning wickedly, he raised his hands in surrender. “If the lady insists.”

“The lady does,” she said with a sly smile, sliding her hands inside his open zipper and over his lean hips. “Now be a good boy and hold still a sec.”

He inclined his head in imitation of a bow. “Yes, ma’am.”

Still trying to get in the last word, huh? We’ll see about that... She hooked her fingers over the elastic waistband of his boxer briefs and lowered them along with his jeans down to mid-thigh. His cock bobbed free and Emma took a few moments to appreciate the sight. Long and thick, but not so big it’d make a girl gag. Straight and pink and hard and straining just for her. Not that she considered herself a connoisseur exactly, but damn, it was a nice dick.

She smoothed her hands up the coarse hair on his thighs, and gave his ass a playful squeeze, knowing full well the warmth of her breath was teasing his tip. He gripped the wooden crossbeam behind him to brace himself.

Emma looked up at him through her eyelashes and pursed her lips in consideration. He was nearly panting with anticipation, conspicuously silent as he stared down at her with lust blackened eyes. She pulled the hair elastic off her wrist and sat back on her heels, quickly tying her long hair back. “I figure you’re the kind of guy that likes to watch.”

She raised up again and took him in hand, licking a hot stripe up the pulsing vein all the way to the tip. The sound he made in response was absolutely obscene, if not articulate, and she watched a small tremor shake his body. Now that’s much better. Oh yeah, she could get used to this.

Gently stroking his shaft, Emma made eye contact with him again. Though she was the one about to get a mouthful, he was licking his lips, struggling to keep his eyes open as she pleasured him. She toyed with her hair using her free hand and smiled at him sweetly. “Don’t be afraid to, you know…” She tugged twice on the end of her ponytail. “ Really get into it.”

And that was the last bit of warning he got before Emma took him into her mouth.

She worked him over root to tip slowly at first, licking and sucking, a little graze of her teeth every so often. When she wasn’t using one or the other to pump his shaft, her hands roamed freely. Groping his ass, the hard muscle of his thighs, even delving up under his shirt to feel the way his abs flexed and quivered.

He rocked his pelvis toward her mouth, the small rutting movement and his white knuckled grip on the crossbeam evidence of his struggle to maintain his restraint. God, the sounds he made, though. She’d actually done it. Reduced him to nothing more than animalistic grunts and groans interspersed with steady stream of incoherent gibberish that was probably supposed to be words. The occasional ‘bloody hell’. It made her feel powerful. Alive. Not to mention more than a little aroused.

Emma pulled back slightly, keeping her fingers wrapped around his shaft and only delicately licking the head of his cock, so she could get a good look at him and evaluate her progress. “Wrecked” was a cliche, but honestly the only word for it. His face and neck were flushed and blotchy, his eyes rolled back in his head, lips parted on a pained moan. He looked vulnerable and gorgeous, completely at her mercy. His hips now bucked away from the door, pleading for her to take him in again.

When he opened his eyes to look down at her, they were crinkled at the corners with the strain of chasing an orgasm just out of reach. “Swan, you are an absolute goddess.”

She could tease him, keep him on edge a little longer, but no. She wanted to see him fall apart for her. The goddess would be merciful. One corner of her lips curled up in a wry smile.

“You’re damn right. Now show me what you like.”

She reached for his hand with her free one and placed it on the back of her head. He took her lead and grabbed hold of her ponytail, using it to angle her head as she took him once more into her mouth. She hummed around his cock, savoring the silky hardness and they both moaned. He started out tugging at her hair gently at first, but when she hollowed her cheeks and sucked hard, his control finally snapped. He set a faster pace, and she moaned around him again, his desperation for her the ultimate turn on. She kept one hand at his base to keep him from fucking her mouth too deeply, and used it to twist and squeeze his shaft whenever she had a chance.

Her eyes were closed by now, but she felt him widen his stance and she knew he was close. She hollowed her cheeks again, laving at him with each dip of her head until his whole body shuddered, and he came with a groan. Her mouth filled with his salty release, and she carefully licked him clean.

As his breathing finally slowed, he slumped back against the door, but held his hand down to help her stand. Emma took it and let him pull her up, her own legs almost as shaky as his. He was smiling at her, broad and unrestrained. Dopey, happy, sleepy, a little bashful. That was what? Four out of seven dwarves in one stupid smile? Emma had used quite a few words to describe Killian Jones over the last few months, but here in his post orgasmic haze, she had one she’d never used before. Adorable. What an odd thought.

“We should…” He gestured vaguely between them with one hand. “Dave’ll be here soon.” He hitched his pants back up and fastened his belt as Emma straightened her own clothes. Once they were both set to rights again, he reached out to her. “Come here.”

She placed her hand in his and let him draw her into him. One last kiss. Tender and gentle this time and if he tasted himself on her tongue, he sure didn’t seem to mind. In fact he looked kind of… she couldn’t think of the word. Her own insides felt a little funny, too, if she were being honest with herself, but that was probably just leftover adrenaline and arousal.

Killian opened his mouth to speak, but as if on cue, the sound of a diesel engine clattered up the driveway. They sprang apart like guilty teenagers, and Emma yanked the elastic from her ponytail, fruitlessly trying to make her hair look less ravaged. Killian’s hand found it’s usual itchy spot on the back of his neck. When he finally faced Emma again, his eyes widened.

“You’ve, erm…” He gingerly cupped her cheek, thumbing at the dimple in her chin before dropping his hand. “I seem to have scruffed you up a bit.”

Emma put a hand on her face where she could feel the traces of beard burn still tingling slightly. Shit.

“Right. Um, I’ll just…” She pointed her finger but couldn’t remember which direction the house even was at the moment. “I’ll just go freshen up. I’ll open the gate on the way to the house. You and David can pick me up before you head into town.”

At that, Emma practically ran out of the barn. She wasn’t sure if she was running from Killian or to keep their dalliance a secret from their friend, which was stupid either way because this was exactly what she and Killian had agreed to and it didn’t mean anything and David probably already knew that they had... dallied or whatever. But, it seemed really, really important that she get out of there right that second.

Back in the safety of her own private bathroom, she stared at herself in the reflection of her mirror, her fingers tracing the red patches on her chin and neck. Fuckstruck. The word she’d been searching for earlier, the word that described the look in Killian’s eyes after that last kiss. It was fuckstruck. And dammit if she didn’t look the same.


Two weeks. It had been more than two fucking weeks. No, make that two decidedly NOT fucking weeks. What the hell?

Emma half expected after their performance in the barn (and on the horse, geez she couldn’t look Roger in the eye for days), that life at the Jewel would turn into some sort of pornographic montage of her and Killian banging on every available surface. And it did… sort of. They did stuff. Really, really good stuff. They just didn’t do it.

Starting the morning Killian’s truck broke down, at least once a day one of them snapped and couldn’t keep his or her hands off the other a second longer. One minute, they’d be mucking out stalls and the next, Emma’s ass was on a square bale with Killian between her legs, grinding her into ecstasy while he whispered sweet, filthy nothings in her ear. Or he’d be innocently standing at the kitchen island pouring a bowl of cereal, and before he could reach for a spoon, Emma’s hand was down the front of his pajama pants, stroking his hardening cock until he completely forgot about breakfast. Or something as simple as him grabbing her hand and pulling her into a corner to kiss her within an inch of her life. As soon as they broke for breath, he’d walk away with smirking lips and teasing eyes, leaving her wet and wanting for hours (the rat bastard), but he always finished what he started sooner or later.

Oh, yeah. Each and every instance ended happily for one or both of them. It just didn’t end in sex. They sort of came and went, so to speak. Right back to business as usual. They didn’t talk about it, but they didn’t not talk about it either. They teased, they argued. He made ridiculous innuendo, and Emma rolled her eyes. Life was exactly the same as before their agreement, just with sporadic orgasms. Perfect. Simple. Never weird. Just what she wanted.

Emma was about to lose her fucking mind.

Their dalliances or trysts or whatever the hell fancy name Killian had for it happened frequently enough to take the edge off of the sexual tension between them (he was right, they did have a certain chemistry), but seriously - why hadn’t they had sex yet?

She hadn’t tried to push the issue one way or another. Neither had he. But he wanted it, right? Eventually? She wanted it. She was almost definitely sure she wanted it. In theory.

The one time she actually thought they were going to do it, fate had had other plans. That morning Emma sat at the kitchen table, watching Killian cook. God knows what he was making. Pancakes? Bacon? She didn’t care, because he looked so damn edible. Extra scruffy, extra disheveled. Wearing those sweatpants that hung off his hips and showed every flex of his ass when he shifted his weight, to say nothing of the front view. Yep, she’d get quite an eyeful if he turned around, but it wasn’t her eyes that she wanted him to fill.

Abandoning her coffee mug on the table, Emma snuck up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist, fingers creeping under the hem of his t-shirt. She pressed herself to his back, and he hummed appreciatively. Taking that as a go-ahead, she let her hands wander up the trail of hair on his stomach, coarse strands slipping through her fingers until she felt him twitch.

“Careful there, Swan, I’m a bit ticklish. You’ll make me ruin the pancakes.” If he meant his tone to be chiding, he’d failed. It sounded more like a challenge to her.

Emma extracted one hand from his shirt and reached past him to turn off the stove. “To hell with the pancakes.” He must’ve agreed because in seconds, he’d backed her against the kitchen table, plundering her mouth hungrily as if she were on the breakfast menu.

With her clinging fiercely to his shoulders, he reached beneath her thighs and lifted her onto the tabletop, never breaking their kiss and oh, God. This was it. This was finally it. Just a few thin pieces of clothing between them, none of which were doing anything to hide his arousal or hers. Her underwear were soaked. If he rutted into her any harder, they’d be testing the efficacy of cotton as a condom. It wouldn’t take much and he’d be inside her. Untie his drawstring pants, shove her ruined panties to the side and then-

“Hey, Jones! I talked to Billy at the garage this morning. Your truck will be-”

Emma froze. She hadn’t heard the door open. This was - it was - oh, shit. David looked as freaked out as she felt.

“I’m interrupting something.” Stating the obvious seemed to be all he was capable of at that moment.

Killian not so discreetly adjusted himself and glared at his friend over his shoulder. “Very perceptive, mate.”

David coughed, looking everywhere around the kitchen but at the two guilty parties at the table. “I’ll just, uh… come back later.”

Blushing redder than she’d ever felt herself blush in her life, Emma scrambled down from the table. “No, no. Don’t worry about it. I’ll, um…” she shoved her hair behind her ears. “I’ll just go take a shower.” And at that she’d scurried away with David’s embarrassed tone and Killian’s irritated one as the soundtrack of her retreat.

That was about a week ago.

Their after-dark activities had changed, too. They never fooled around at night. It kept the whole ‘sleeping over’ issue from ever arising, so that was good, she guessed. After dinner, instead of making out hot and heavy on the couch, they binge watched whatever new series had recently come out on Netflix. Who knew they had broadband streaming way the hell out in the desert?

Sometimes when they hung out in the living room after dinner, he’d sling an arm across the back of the couch and she’d kind of lean on him while they watched TV. She only did that because he was warm. Like human radiator warm. Emma had always been kind of cold natured, that was all. No big deal.

And sometimes at night, instead of taking a drink up to the widow’s walk like she used to, she’d pour two glasses of rum and sit with him in the porch swing. Why shouldn’t she? He already more or less told her he knew she was drinking his liquor, so no sense in hiding. True, the nights were getting colder as October turned to November, but it was peaceful outside and it gave her an excuse to bring her favorite old red leather jacket out of summer hiatus. The gentle rocking of the swing, Killian’s soft voice humming those old country songs, the absolute stillness that came from being so far removed from ‘civilization’… She could close her eyes and imagine that she was gliding along on ocean waves, the creaking wooden swing beneath her a ship in the middle of a vast sea. No worries, no troubles. It relaxed her. Kept the ghosts away. It’s not like she and Killian were sitting there pouring out their darkest secrets to each other. They barely spoke, really. She just slept better those nights. That’s all.

It surprised Emma, how okay she was with the friend-y type stuff. It was nice. Companionable. It seemed like a million years since she’d just hung out with a guy. Not since… anyway, it was nice. Emma loved Snow to death, but she could get a little smothery and bossy, and Killian never did that. He was simply there with a dirty joke or a casual touch. Or a less than casual touch. Not that she and Killian were friends exactly. Were they? Would it be terrible if they were?

Then morning would come and he’d look at her with the devil in his eyes and a promise in the way his tongue traced the corner of his mouth and yes. Yes, it would be terrible. They had an arrangement. The last thing either of them needed was to get… confused.

Fuck, maybe she’s already confused. Or just really, really needed for them to close the deal. Uninterrupted.

“Girl, where even are you?”

Emma blinked at the sound of Ruby’s voice and shook her head, realizing she’d been staring at a box of oatmeal for way too long to be normal. It was Saturday morning. Emma and Killian had come to town for their weekly supply run and Emma had bumped into Ruby at the grocery store. As nice as it was to have someone who wasn’t Killian to talk to, Emma couldn’t seem to keep her mind from wandering.

“What? Sorry, I kind of clocked out for a second. Guess I need another cup of coffee.”

Ruby gave her a skeptical look, but didn’t press. “Well, what I was saying before you got lost in your own head was that I think you need a break, and clearly I’m right. So, how about you meet Dorothy and me tonight at the Rabbit Hole? A little girls’ night out might do you some good.”

“Wouldn’t I be a third wheel?”

“Not at all! It’ll be fun. I promise.” Ruby paused, eyeing her appraisingly. “That is, unless you and Killian have plans?”

Emma’s eyes widened and she clamped her mouth closed to keep from gaping. “Did David tell you-”

“That he walked in on you two having breakfast ? Don’t worry, he’s not gossiping all over town. He came into the diner looking shellshocked and I wheedled it out of him.”

Emma breathed a sigh of relief as Ruby continued. “That said, I do have eyes, you know. I’ve noticed how close you and Killian seem to be getting.”

“No. No, nothing like that. We’re just…” Emma tried her best to muster a casual shrug. “Having a little fun together.”

“Then he can spare you for one night. You in?”

Emma chewed on her lip as she considered the offer. Maybe Ruby was right. Maybe she did need a break from the Jewel and Killian Jones. “I’m in.”

“Perfect. We’ll meet you at 9. Wear something you can dance in!”


Emma flopped into her seat and lifted her sweaty hair, fanning at the back of her neck with her other hand. Ruby sure as shit hadn’t been kidding about the dancing. She’d tried to heed Ruby’s advice, opting for lower-heeled boots, comfortable but form-fitting jeans and a paper thin white top. Even so, her feet were screaming and she probably looked like a hot mess. But, God it felt good to let loose for a while. ‘Girl time’ was not something her life on the road typically allowed, and tonight reminded her how much she missed it. Maybe she should call Snow tomorrow?

Dorothy sat down to Emma’s right, raising her face to accept a smacking kiss from Ruby who then took a seat across from Emma. Their waitress stopped by to take drink orders, and Emma asked for an ice water this time. She felt the perfect level of buzzed at the moment and just needed something to cool her off a little.

“So was I right, or was I right?” Ruby began without preamble.

Emma smiled. “You were right. I needed this. I can’t remember the last time I had a Girls’ Night Out.”

“Well that’s a shame. Are you from one of those little Bible belt towns where dancing is illegal or something?” Dorothy said it as a joke, but something in Emma’s expression must’ve given her pause. She furrowed her brow. “Wait, you’re not, are you?”

Ruby leaned forward, loosely crossing her arms on the table. “Yeah, where are you from, Emma? I feel like I don’t know much about you besides your dancing skills and the fact that you’ve managed to wrap Killian Jones around your little finger.”

Emma felt her face immediately go red. “I do not have Kil-”

Ruby waved a hand to interrupt Emma’s stammering answer. “Nevermind. Forget about him for now. Tell us about you. What’s your story?”

Emma huffed an awkward laugh. This subject wasn’t any better, but from years of practice she had plenty of non-answers at the ready. “Well, I’m not a character from Footloose , that’s for sure.” That got a laugh from Dorothy and Ruby, and Emma relaxed slightly. “I just travel around a lot. I like the freedom of life on the road. Seeing the world and all that.”

Dorothy raised an eyebrow. “Most people who want to see the world end up in Rome or Paris, not Storybrooke.”

Emma smiled ruefully. “Yeah, well, that would require two things I don’t have: money and a passport.”

Ruby nodded. “I hear ya. I actually did some road-tripping myself for a while. I’d never been anywhere outside Storybrooke and Granny is kind of overprotective and one day I just snapped. I had to get out. I only made it as far as Kansas before I ran out of money.”

Dorothy smiled warmly and reached out to lace her fingers through Ruby’s. “And am I ever glad you did. I found this leggy brunette stranded on the side of the road, lipstick as red as her broken down Mustang and I haven’t had a quiet moment since.”

Ruby swatted at her girlfriend’s arm. “Shut up. You love me.”

“Never said I didn’t.”

“So that’s how you guys met. How’d you end up back here?” Emma asked, genuinely curious. “You’re obviously not in Kansas anymore.”

Ruby and Dorothy shared a look, then both turned back to Emma. “Well, it took her awhile, but Dorothy finally convinced me there’s no place like home.”

“I’d lost my Auntie Em to a tornado a year or so before Ruby showed up, and I’d never really felt like I fit into that town. But Ruby, she had her Granny and a family business and friends - well, everything I wished I had. She’d had a pretty big fight with Granny before she left. All I did was talk her into calling Granny. Ruby’s heart knew where it’s home was.” Dorothy turned to look Ruby in the eyes. “So did mine.” She ended the story with a soft kiss to Ruby’s lips.

Ruby pulled back, thumbing discreetly under her eyes. “Now stop. You know you’re not allowed to mess up my makeup until we get home later.”

“Okay, now I’m feeling like the third wheel, you guys,” Emma teased, her smile lingering. They were so sweet together. She was happy for them, of course, but somehow watching the couple filled her with a longing she couldn’t explain. She took a deep breath and wiggled her toes under the table. “I think my feet have recovered for now. How about some more dancing?”

About half a dozen songs later, Emma excused herself to go to the ladies’ room, and Ruby tagged along after her. As Emma stood in front of the mirror trying to scrape her hair into some kind of updo to keep it off her neck, she noticed Ruby giving her a side-eye.


“So you and Killian...”

“We’re just having some fun.”

“So you’ve said. A couple of times now.”

Emma scrunched up her face. This was not a conversation she wanted to have ever, much less in a public bathroom. “Ruby...”

“I mean, I get it. There’s not much to do in this town for fun besides drink and fuck.”

The thought popped into Emma’s mind - not for the first time - and the words came out of her mouth before she could stop them. “Have you guys ever- I mean, have you and Killian-”

“Done the do? No.” Ruby shook her head. “Can’t say I’ve never thought about it, but no. Killian was with someone when I met him, then after that…” Ruby paused, searching for the right word. “ ended , he wasn’t interested in much of anything for a long time. Somewhere in there I met Dorothy, and she’s the love of my life. But Emma? Be careful with Killian. I like you. I really do, but he’s probably my best friend in the world besides Dorothy and if you hurt him, I’ll have to rip your throat out.”

Emma raised her eyebrows in confusion. Why on earth was Ruby giving her the protective best friend speech? “You say that like he’s delicate or something.”

Ruby laughed, her posture relaxing a little. “Delicate is not the word I would use. He’s just had it rough. But…” She pursed her lips, eyeing Emma appraisingly. “Something tells me you have, too. Hell, maybe you’ll be good for each other. Shake each other up a little bit. Get him to stop hiding out on that damn ranch.”

That caught Emma’s attention. “Hiding?” She remembered the tattoo on Killian’s arm. How it seemed to be a memento of a painful past. “Ruby, what happened to him?”

Ruby sighed. “That’s not my story to tell. It’s just- it’s good to see him opening up to someone again. Now come on. Enough serious talk. One more dance before last call.”


By the time Emma climbed into her Bug to drive home, the buzz of a few whiskey sours had long since faded. Her ears still rang a little bit from the combined decibel level of a raucous crowd and blaring music, but it wasn’t enough to keep the silence of the drive home from pressing in on her. It was easier at the bar not to think, to stay distracted. Here alone in the dark, her mind kept replaying the things Ruby told her.

Hiding out on that damn ranch… He’s had it rough… He was with someone when we met, but after that ended…

His tattoo. Milah. It had to be what Ruby was talking about. Emma knew Killian had ghosts of his own. She still didn’t know his story, but she was beginning to understand. Ever since she met him, she’d felt some kind of connection to him. She spent a lot of time and energy trying to convince herself it was only a physical attraction, but there was exactly enough whiskey left in her system for her to call out her own bullshit. To be honest enough to admit to herself that the connection ran deeper than that.

... the fact that you’ve managed to wrap Killian Jones around your little finger…

Nope. That was too much. Too far. Even if Emma believed that, she wasn’t ready to think about it. But maybe she could admit that she and Killian had a something . That they understood each other. That was enough honesty for tonight.

Emma parked her car behind the house. Killian had kept the porch lights on for her, and she smiled to herself at the little act of thoughtfulness. She opened the door as quietly as possible assuming he must be in bed already, and she had every intention of sneaking straight up to her own room, but somehow that wasn’t where her feet took her. This is terrible idea. Worst idea I’ve ever had. Completely insane.

She knocked on his bedroom door.

Killian called out for her to come in, his voice sounding ragged and weary even muffled by the wooden door, but she knew she hadn’t woken him. He’d answered too quickly. She hadn’t knocked that loudly.

She turned the knob and the door gave way without a sound. He lay on his side facing her, one arm tucked beneath his head and the covers draped at his waist. He seemed to be keeping his body intentionally still and his expression blank. She couldn’t tell what color his t-shirt was, couldn’t make out the pattern of his quilt. But the shadows and plains of his face, the way the moonlight cast him in shades of blue and grey, the spark of something in his eyes - carefully restrained but still there. He was beautiful, heart-stoppingly beautiful and Emma couldn’t fight the pull toward him any more than she could fight gravity.

As she approached, he raised himself up and leaned back against the headboard. Watching her. No questions. No what-the-hell-are-you-doing-here . Just waiting for her.

Emma sat on the edge of the bed next to him, their bodies close, but not touching. Tentatively she carded her fingers through his hair, pushing the messy fringe off his forehead. He reached out and placed his right hand on her thigh, but she stopped him, gently taking his wrist and turning his arm over. Even in the darkened room, she could see him flinch as she traced her fingers over the dagger and heart on his forearm, but he didn’t pull away. She placed her hand in his and he held it tightly.

“Who’s Milah?”

Killian kept his eyes down, focused on their joined hands resting against her leg. She had about decided he wasn’t going to answer, but then-

“Someone from long ago.”

“Someone you lost.”

“Aye.” His voice was rough, his eyes dark when he finally met her gaze.

“Someone you loved.”

His expression softened into a sad smile. “Aye. Have you ever been in love?” It wasn’t a question, anymore than hers had been. They knew the answers. They each knew why the other was asking these things, but they both seemed to need the confirmation that everything they’d sensed about the other was true.

Emma swallowed and glanced down at their joined hands. The way his thumb ran back and forth over her knuckles. “Maybe I was once.”

Killian was silent for a long moment. Emma felt his eyes searching her, reading her. When she finally met his eyes she found his expression more open than she’d ever seen it, and it scared her.

“Emma, I-”

She shook her head. “Don’t.” He let go of her hand and began to turn away. Emma could see him closing himself off, retreating into himself and no. That’s not what she meant, not what she wanted, so she cupped his jaw turning him to face her again. To make him see .

“Whatever the story is, whatever you were about to say, don’t tell me tonight. Just- can you just be kissing me right now?”

Emma wasn’t sure if it was a trick of the moonlight, but she’d swear she saw a flicker of light in his eyes just for a split second as they crinkled at the corners and he leaned toward her. His whispered, “As you wish,” the last thing she heard before he pulled her into his arms and into his bed.

They kissed for ages, chest to chest, legs tangled together. Slowly, painstakingly as though trying to learn to speak with the other’s tongue. Completely wrapped up in each other and their little cocoon of sheets. When such silly things as clothing or blankets became an impediment or nuisance, these were cast aside with little fuss or ceremony.

Emma felt as though she were underwater, completely submerged in this moment with this man. Her usual fears and baggage and anxieties, everything that made her run, those were far away. As long as she stayed under, stayed in the moment, she could drift through the waves and ripples of pleasure washing over her entire body. She could feel warm and perfect and alive and wanted .

And Killian was right there with her, surrounding her. His breath on her face, his fingers slipping through her hair, trailing down her back, digging into her hip, guiding her leg up and around his waist until she felt his hardened cock sliding gracelessly against her sex. Felt him shudder at the sensation of her lush and ready and willing.

But his lips grew restless against hers and began to wander. First down the column of her throat, then taking a detour for his tongue to map the contours of her clavicle before proceeding lower to the valley between her breasts. He pressed his body against her, rolling her onto her back and she complied, her head falling back against his pillow and eyes drifting shut. She focused on nothing but the way he made her feel. Like a queen. Like a goddess.

He continued his worship of her body, cupping her breasts, kneading and suckling. The contrast of his rough hands and soft lips coaxing needy whimpers from her. Her back arched, her hips rutted against his stomach where he lay between her spread legs, and he raised up only enough to look at her. When their eyes met, she expected him to look smug, but there was no teasing in his gaze, only raw emotion and desire and for once, she didn’t look away. He seemed to be waiting for her, asking for permission and there was only one answer she could give. She nodded. He smiled.

Killian resumed kissing a path down her stomach with renewed vigor, dipping his tongue playfully in her belly button just to get her to twitch. He shifted himself further down the bed, his lips never leaving her skin, and just when the anticipation had gotten to be almost too much for Emma to bear, he stopped. Just above the blonde curls covering her womanhood.

Tense as a bowstring, she was about to scream with frustration when she met his eyes again. Open, clear and blue as a summer sky, they pleaded with her to trust him. And in this moment, she let herself. Watched as his dark head dipped down again. His mouth found a spot just inside her hipbone and sucked hard, while his strong hands held her hips in place. Marking her. Claiming her. The sharp sting of feeling him so close to where she wanted him was infuriating, maddening, amazing.

He sat back on his heels, inspecting his handiwork and placed a hand on each of her thighs. He took a few long moments to squeeze and massage the tense muscles there, all the while, his eyes raked over her, spread as she was before him. No one in her life had ever looked at her like that. The softness in his gaze something utterly new and foreign.

“So beautiful,” he whispered and she wasn’t sure if he knew he’d even said it out loud. Because this wasn’t the man who used his words as a shield. Humor and innuendo and dirty promises to cover a heart that life had treated cruelly. This was just the two of them, alone together in the dark, souls as bare for each other as their bodies, if only for this moment.

Killian lazily stroked his straining cock, using his thumb to swipe a bead of arousal from the tip and Emma licked her lips at the sight, but before she could reach for him, he resumed his place at the foot of the bed. Emma nearly cried in relief when his lips found her clit and he began to suck and lave her in earnest. That mouth of his. She suspected he had certain talents and he’d demonstrated as much on other parts of her body, but this? Could a person actually die from pleasure?

“God, Swan,” he mumbled against her between licks and kisses, the scrape of his stubbled beard against her folds heightening the sensation. “Ambrosia.” He dipped his tongue inside her and she cried his name aloud. “Could have you for every meal.”

He must’ve meant it for all Emma could tell through her lust-filled haze. He tasted her like a man half-starved, desperate, yet still wanting to savor. The bed shook and Emma wasn’t sure if it was her bucking hips or his rutting against the mattress seeking friction of his own. Words were far beyond her capacity, so she praised him with keening and moans and whispers that sounded like his name. Her release was just within reach, she knew it, could feel it tingling under her skin, but she also knew she didn’t want to fall alone.

She sank her fingers into his hair and tugged until he looked up at her. His eyes were dazed and nearly black, his mouth and chin covered in her arousal, and she knew the image would haunt her dreams in days ahead. But right now-

“Come here.” She reached over and pulled on his hand. “Come with me. Need you inside.”

And then he was with her, his body a welcome and strangely comforting weight on top of her. He kissed her or she kissed him, and he tasted like her and he felt like home. And when he finally pressed inside her, sinking to the hilt in one slow thrust, they both took in a sharp breath not because anything was wrong but because everything was right.

Emma’s world contracted, all her focus narrowing to the point where she and Killian were joined. To the quickly building pleasure within her as with each thrust and grind of his hips, he drove her closer to the edge.

“Emma.” His voice, thin with strain, made her open her eyes. “Emma look at me.”

She could not refuse him. Their eyes locked, and it seemed as if time both stopped and raced ahead all at once, and then she was coming, first his name and then his kiss on her lips as he tumbled after her. Wave after wave of pleasure washed over her, the force of it shaking her to the marrow of her bones. Did she even have bones anymore? Who knew. All she knew was this moment and this bed and this man curled up beside her with his warm breath tickling her neck and his coarse chest hair tickling her arm.

He kissed her shoulder and got out of bed. He said something about getting a cloth or cleaning up or whatever, but Emma wasn’t listening anymore. Because the second he flipped on the bathroom light, reality had rushed back to her. Their moment had ended.

Now she had to deal with the fact that she had just fucked- No. Emma knew fucking and that wasn’t fucking. That was...It was... She couldn’t say it. Couldn’t think the words. She sat up abruptly, scanning the floor for her discarded clothing. All the fears she kept at bay came screaming back, riding rough-shod over whatever truths she’d admitted to herself only hours ago. She could feel her entire body tensing, and swung her legs over the side of the bed. Her fingers gripped the edge of the mattress since she couldn’t seem to get a grip on her thoughts. This was nothing. This had to be nothing. There were rules. There was an agreement.

When Killian returned he noticed the change in her immediately and slowed his step. “Swan, are you alright?”

Emma looked at him standing there framed by the light from the doorway. Bare-chested still, but he’d pulled on a pair of plaid pajama bottoms that hung low on his hips. Everything in her had 100% wanted to do what they just did, and even now, everything in her 100% wanted to stay right here with him. That was exactly why she needed to go.

She grabbed her clothes from the floor, put her underwear back on and yanked her shirt over her head. “I’m fine.” With her jeans, bra and shoes bundled in her arms, she headed for the bedroom door. “I’m just going to head on upstairs and-”

Killian caught her arm, turning her to face him. “Swan, please stay.” His eyes spoke the rest of the words for him. Don’t run from me. Don’t run from this.

“I can’t,” Emma insisted. “You know the rules.”

Killian’s eyes bore into hers and she thought he was about to argue with her, but he simply released her arm, raising the hand that had held her to scratch at the back of his neck. “Aye, that I do.” He gestured toward the door. “Goodnight, Swan.”

“Goodnight, Killian.”