He doesn't go into the office on Monday afternoon. This is nothing new, of course, he can work easily from home and often does when he's not seeing clients in-house. This afternoon, though, he's got other things on his mind, and they don't involve talking a nervous client through the difference between actual total loss and constructive total loss. This afternoon, his head is full of the 5'5" blonde who has left him feeling as though he's been blindsided by a perfumed sucker punch, and he's not quite sure exactly what he's going to do about her.
He'd added her cell number to his contacts while he was waiting for his flight this morning, and he's already lost count of the number of times his thumb has hovered over the 'call' button. She'd made it painfully clear she wasn't interested in anything long-distance, but he also sensed something else behind her words, sensed a possibility for negotiation. While he's not one to brag (except when he is), but negotiation is something at which he greatly excels.
He dumps the contents of his suitcase onto his bed, half-heartedly sorting clean from worn with the vague notion of doing laundry, then stops as the smell of Emma Swan teases his nose. He picks up the shirt and vest he'd worn on Saturday night and yes, her perfume is all over them and yes, he brings them up to his face to double-check he's not imagining it and is thiswhat he's been reduced to?
Abandoning his feeble attempt at domesticity, he liberates a beer from the refrigerator and tries to find solace in familiar surroundings, otherwise known as his couch and ridiculously large television. And, because he still has some semblance of a work ethic, his laptop open on the coffee table in front of him.
He steadily works his way through the pile of emails, keeping a disinteresting eye on the news channel, feeling as though he's on auto-pilot. Perhaps he should have gone into the office, after all, let himself be distracted by people and conversation and numerous barista-crafted cups of coffee. Finally, after calling his secretary and making sure that none of his clients have threatened to set themselves or their belongings alight during his absence, he calls it a day around six o'clock. He feels as though he's been awake for days instead of twelve hours, and he knows exactly at whose dainty feet to lay the blame.
Fuck, what a revelation she'd been, and how much he wishes she was here with him instead of hundreds of miles away. She'd look good on his couch, he thinks, and even better in his bed. Then he grits his teeth and goes to get another beer, because just the thought of Emma Swan in his bed has made him as hard as a rock.
They'd spent many hours together over the last few days, both in bed and out of it, but he still feels cheated. He wanted so much more of her. More conversation, more time spent hearing her laugh, more everything. And yes, more sex, because he's quite certain he could spend the next hundred years making love with her and never cease to be enthralled.
He stops at three beers, then vaguely considers the prospect of food. He can't seem to summon enthusiasm for the most basic of tasks today, and he can hardly blame it on jetlag. Even his apartment feels different, strangely empty perhaps, even though he's lived here alone since he and Milah had separated.
God, Milah. His life with her was a lifetime ago, but in some ways, her memory was still so fresh, so raw. They'd spent three enjoyably tumultuous years together, reluctantly parting ways when it became painfully obvious that they'd wanted very different things. When she'd died five years ago, he hadn't spoken to her in over three months, and yet her passing had been like a hot knife slicing his heart in two.
Since then, he's been in the kind of unconscious mourning that turns inwards on itself, seeking not to grieve and heal but to cling and fester, making it impossible to imagine a time when life might return to something simpler. Something better. When he'd met Emma Swan last Friday afternoon, he'd had a glimpse of that elusive something for the first time in five fucking years, and he is not going to let it slip through his fingers, not when he knows that she felt it too.
As far as he sees it, he has two choices. He can accept her decision and make no effort to convince her that they've got something worth exploring, or he can do what he does best - negotiate his way to a solution that makes the most sense, even if the other parties take a great deal of persuasion. Of course, he'll respect her wishes and give her some space this week, because even though she willingly gave him her phone number, that doesn't automatically mean she wants him to call her. It's the decent thing to do, and he likes to think he's a decent man.
Then again, decency can be greatly overrated.
Emma isn't given to dramatics, but she can say with absolute certainty that this week has felt like the longest week of her life. To add insult to injury, it's only Wednesday.
She's kept herself as busy as possible, which isn't hard with her current caseload, as well as dodging Ruby's constant invitations to lunch and drinks after work, because she knows exactly that that means, and she's not at all ready to discuss Killian Jones, even with one of her closest friends. She knows that Ruby will also drag out her beloved 'not every guy is like Neal' argument, and that's not a road Emma wants to go down, not anymore. She's given her ex-boyfriend enough space in her heart these last five years. It's long past time to change the locks.
So she goes to work and she goes to the gym and she does all the usual things that make up her life but, despite all her efforts, nothing keeps the thought of him at bay. All it takes is the smell of her coffee each morning or catching a glimpse of the fading red marks on her throat and chest to remind her that she had quite the weekend, and that she would give anything to be back in that hotel room again.
So, there it is. Only Wednesday and it's already a tortuous slog through a mutually agreed radio silence that is getting harder to maintain with each passing hour. Every time she checks her phone and inbox and there's no message from her former roommate, she has to deal with both the disappointment and the unhappy knowledge that she was the one who insisted a long-distance thing couldn't possibly work.
She almost wishes it had been just sex. This would be so much easier if it were. Yes, the sex had been amazing - like, off the charts amazing - but it had been a lot more than that, and that both thrills and frightens her. She'd only just scratched the surface of him and what made him tick, but what she'd learned only made her want to know more. Had he left England only because Milah had died or was there another reason? If he missed his family as much as he clearly did, why hadn't he gone home? She has way too many questions for it to be just sex, and the thought that she might never learn the answers makes her feel strangely hollowed out, almost empty.
She's one of the first in her workgroup to arrive this morning, and she appreciates the relative quiet as she flicks on her office light and puts her purse and coffee on her desk. In an hour or so, phones will be ringing, photocopiers will be groaning and people will have their usual lack of awareness of how far sound travels. All in all, a typical day.
Or maybe not, she thinks as she stares at her inbox a few minutes later, because she seems to have received an email from a Killian Jones in the Boston office. There's no subject heading, which gives her no choice but to reach out and click on it with a suddenly shaky hand.
What's the weather like where you are, ? I'm thinking of catching a plane somewhere warm this weekend.
Emma stares at her computer screen, her pulse doing an odd little jig. She hadn't given him her email address on that scrappy card, so he'd obviously gone looking for it on the firm's website. So much for just in case, she thinks dazedly.
His office phone number is clearly listed in his email signature and if he's emailing from the office, she could pick up the phone and be speaking to him within seconds. The thought sends a flurry of butterflies swooping through her belly. Swallowing down the urge to call, (she can't bear the thought of a possibly stilted conversation filled with awkward silences) she manages to make herself wait a whole ten minutes before sending back an email telling him that it's Chicago and it's not exactly summer, so of course it's stupidly cold, where does he think she lives, Tahiti? It's a short reply, light and bright and breezy and giving nothing away, least of all the fact that she's thought about him constantly, every single damned day, since she left him at the airport.
His answer bounces back with a speed that has her admiring his typing skills. Warm, cold, Chicago, Boston, what's the difference? Is there the slightest chance you might be free for breakfast, lunch or dinner this weekend? Hopefully all three? Also hopefully, all weekend?
"Seriously?" She glares at her computer screen. "Who the hell do you think you are, Jones, asking me to be available at the drop of a hat?" She mutters to herself for the next ten minutes as she works half-heartedly on various file notes, composing several versions of 'sorry, but remember we talked about this, I'm not interested in being an out-of-state booty call' replies, then reaches for her phone.
Of course she's free.
He lasts until Wednesday morning and, in hindsight, he's amazed he laststhat long.
After yet another restless night's sleep, permeated by lurid dreams of doing unspeakably wonderful things to a naked and panting Emma Swan, he goes for a run before heading into the office, hoping to clear his head. He's got a breakfast meeting with the CEO, and the last thing he needs is to be misty-eyed when he should be discussing targets and budgets.
"I have some good news for you, Killian." Douglas comes straight to the point, cutting short the usual small talk before Killian's even had the chance to take his first sip of coffee. "The board is going to offer you a full partnership at the partner's meeting next week."
Not completely unexpected, but still a surprise, and he doesn't have to feign his elation. "That is indeed good news.'"
"You've earned it, and the board's vote was unanimous." After a quick and bruising congratulatory handshake, Douglas starts on his poached eggs. "We should head out on Friday night for a few drinks to celebrate."
Killian grins. He's been out for 'a few drinks' with Douglas many a time, and knows very well that he'd be wiped out for the entire weekend. "Ordinarily I would love to, Douglas, but I'm going to be out of town this weekend." He gives the other man an apologetic smile, because there are only two people he has in mind with which to celebrate this particular milestone. His brother is half a world away, but the other person is much closer. "Perhaps the weekend after?"
When he reaches his office, he sends a text to Liam, letting him know that his younger brother has managed to make partner, and cheerfully rolls his eyes at the long-winded and slightly emotive screed that he receives in return. That done, he decides to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak. He spends fifteen minutes composing an eighteen word email (admittedly, not his finest hour) then forces himself to go through the pile of paperwork his secretary has put in his actual inbox, because he's not going to sit and obsessively refresh his email. It's only just gone eight o'clock, and he hasn't a clue what time she normally gets into the office. Just one more thing to add to the list of things he's yet to discover about her.
At five minutes past eight, though, her name pops up in his inbox, and he takes a deep breath before clicking it open.
It's Autumn in Chicago, , so it's the kind of stupid cold that makes you think you will never be warm again. Are you confusing me with another who maybe lives in Tahiti?
He grins at the screen. "Ah, Swan, feisty as ever, I see." He taps out another reply, this time getting straight to the point and asking her if she's free on the weekend, because he's already wasted three days not trying to convince her that this could work between them, geography be damned.
When his phone rings ten minutes later, the display shows a Chicago area code. Taking another deep breath, he picks up. "Killian Jones."
"Hi, I'm looking for a good maritime lawyer."
He sits back in his chair, unable to stop himself from beaming at the sound of Emma swan's voice. "Well, you're in luck, m'lady, because we happen to have one of the finest in Boston working in this very office."
"Maybe you could put him on, then?"
"And have him steal your business away from me? Not bloody likely."
There's a pause, and this time he finds himself holding his breath. "So, you're coming to Chicago this weekend." It's a multi-layered question, and he decides to cut a swathe right through them all.
"Only if you're free."
He can hear the smile in her voice. "I guess I could clear my schedule." She clears her throat. "And I guess you could stay with me."
"That's very kind of you, Swan." It's better than he'd dared hope, and once again a flash of that elusive something swims before his eyes. "One more thing, though."
"God, what now? Is this where you tell me you're only eating a paleo diet this month or that you want to bring a date with you, because I'm telling you now, both things are deal-breakers."
"Nothing so dire," he returns, grinning. God, he's missed this. Missedher. "I need your home address, love." When she says nothing, he adds, "For the cab from the airport?"
"What, you don't trust me to pick you up?"
"I didn't want to impose."
"You'll sleep in my bed and eat my food for the weekend, but you don't want me to have to drive to the airport?"
"Well, when you put it that way-"
"Text me your flight details, you idiot, and I'll be there, uh, can you hang on?" There's a muffled sound on the other end of the phone, then she's back. "Sorry, duty calls, gotta take another call."
"Talk soon, Swan." Her goodbye is admittedly distracted, but if he were making a post-telephone conversation file note, he'd definitely make a point of recording that early negotiations were progressing smoothly. Hanging up the now silent phone, he mentally cracks his knuckles, because it was time to justify that promotion and clear a path through his caseload wide enough to allow him to escape the city for a second weekend in a row.
After he books his flight to Chicago, of course.
He's wearing a charcoal suit and tie when he walks through the arrivals gate late Friday afternoon, and the mere sight of him makes her knees quake. She makes no secret of looking him up and down, wondering if everyone in the airport can hear the freaking rumba her heart is currently doing or if it's just her. "Very corporate."
He looks down at himself, as if he's forgotten what he's wearing, then gives her a faintly sheepish smile. "I went to the airport straight from the office."
"I like it."
"Well, that's a happy coincidence, because I like you." He's suddenly right in front her, invading her personal space in the best possible way, and she can no longer pretend she is anything but delighted to see him. "Hello, Swan."
He pulls her into his arms and hugs her so tightly she might have to check her ribs afterwards, but that's okay because she's holding onto him just as hard. He exhales loudly, one hand sliding into her hair, the other splayed on the small of her back, pressing her close. "I've missed you."
She inhales deeply, filling her senses with the smell of him (spicy aftershave and warm male skin), and her heart starts to thud against her ribs in earnest. "You're so dramatic. It hasn't even been a week."
He pulls back, his bright blue gaze burning into hers, his lips twitching with a teasing smirk. "Come on, Swan, you can tell me. Did you miss me?"
She grabs hold of his tie and reels him back in, because she's been dreaming of those lips for almost a week now and seriously, she has her limits. "Maybe," she whispers, then leans forward and kisses him, a quick, hard claiming of his mouth that has him rocking back on his heels.
It's over in seconds, but he looks gratifyingly dazed. "I'll take that as a yes then, shall I?"
Her whole body feels like it's glowing, tiny prickles of heat tickling her skin. "Shut up."
When they finally reach her car, he smiles indulgently at her yellow VW. "That's adorable." At her glare, he merely looks pleased with himself. "I know, shut up."
She points out various landmarks on the drive to her apartment, until she realises he's not looking at them at all but rather watching her intently, as though he's worried she's going to vanish into thin air. "Are you going to stare at me all weekend?"
He waves his hand. "Well, there will obviously be breaks for eating and sleeping, but it's highly probable, yes."
If he was anyone else, such a declaration might creep her out, but instead it sends a thrill of anticipation zinging through her, and really, what does that say about her?
He doesn't let her carry his backpack or wheel his small suitcase into her apartment building, insisting on doing it himself. After trailing in her front door after her, he stands in the middle of her narrow hallway and surveys his surroundings with apparent approval. "Well, your apartment is lovely, Swan, but I expected nothing less."
She rolls her eyes at him, more out of habit than anything else. "You can dump your bags there for now," she tells him, gesturing towards the lounge room as she turns towards her kitchen. "Is it too early for a drink?"
He hefts both backpack and suitcase to the spot she'd pointed out, then comes back to lean on her kitchen counter. "The sun's long over the yardarm, love."
"Good enough." She goes to grab a bottle of white wine from the refrigerator, then checks herself. "Wait, do you want red or white?"
He raises an eloquent eyebrow at her, and she suddenly remembers the last time they had this conversation and, even though she's still standing at the open refrigerator, she feels as though every inch of skin on her body is blushing. She shuts the refrigerator door and leans back against it, willing her pulse to stop fluttering madly. "Okay, spill. Apart from wanting to chase the sun, which was obviously a lie because this is Chicago, what's with the sudden impulse to fly east?"
He shrugs out of his suit coat, draping it over the back of one of her kitchen chairs. "You're seriously have to ask?"
"Like you said yourself last weekend, humour me."
He touches the tip of his tongue to his bottom lip, and she feels her own lips tingle. "I realised there were a few things I forgot to do the last time we met."
His gaze drops to her feet, then slowly inches upwards, taking in every curve, his eyes growing dark, his lips softly parted as his eyes finally lock with hers. "Take your clothes off, love, and I'll show you."
Every inch of skin on her body suddenly feels like she's been lying out in the sun for too long. "You really know how to charm a girl, don't you?"
He loosens his tie, his gaze still holding hers. "Perhaps you just bring out the scoundrel in me, Swan."
Maybe she should tell him to go to hell, but she doesn't, because she's speechless with admiration at his sheer gall and because she wants him as much as he wants her. She steps forward at the same time he does, and kissing him is just as good as she remembers.
They stumble and fumble their way to her bedroom, where their clothes are in a tangled heap on her bedroom floor in a manner of minutes (God, she's missed the feel of his skin against hers so much, and it's only been three days) and her bed seems almost too small with him in it. She's breathless with the need of him, from the feel of his body sliding against hers, the taste of his mouth as he kisses her again and again.
Finally, he rolls her onto her back, kisses her once more, quick and dirty, then smiles down at her. "Now lie still, there's a good girl." On the heels of this outrageous remark, he kisses his way down her belly, then his mouth is between her thighs, his clever tongue gliding over her, right where she's aching for him, and she's clutching at the sheets, her heels digging into the mattress.
Oh, God. His hands are firm on her hips as his mouth devours the heart of her, pushing her higher and higher, soft and hard, teasing and demanding, time stretching out into nothing until she's suddenly there, on the brink between pleasure and the best kind of pain before her release begins to pulse, deep and strong, making her gasp and twist against the merciless pressure of his lips and tongue until it's all too much.
Afterwards, she lies in a fuzzy stupor, one arm flung up over her eyes. "I'm almost afraid to ask what else you forgot to do last weekend."
Laughing softly, he shifts until he's lying between her legs, the silken shaft of his erection pressing hard against her thigh. "Perhaps I should have made a list."
Wriggling beneath him, she tightens her thighs around his hips, one hand fumbling for her own condom stash beside the bed. "Why don't you just show me?"
With a devilish grin, he does just that.
Much later, lying in a boneless tangled heap, he brushes a kiss against her temple, his answer murmured against her skin. "The firm's offered me a full partnership."
"So you really do have the substance to back up that ego of yours." She squeezes his hand, knowing he will know she's only teasing. "Congratulations, that's great."
He doesn't let go of her hand. "Thank you."
Emma closes her eyes, her heart sinking despite his good news. If he's being made a partner, that either means he'll have more freedom to orchestrate his time as he sees fit, or he'll be chained to his desk for the next few years to show he's worthy of their trust. She twirls one fingernail through the whorls of dark hair on his chest, already hating the thought of him leaving on Sunday. "How is this going to work?" She hates that her voice sounds so small and sad, but she's not going to pretend, not with him. "We can't just keep jumping on a plane every other weekend."
"Perhaps not." He props himself up on one elbow, threading his fingers tightly through hers. "But I think we've got something worth exploring here."
"You make me sound like unchartered waters."
He lifts her hand to his lips. "Oh, but you are, love." He kisses her palm, then the inside of her wrist, slowly tracing a warm path up her arm, lingering in the crook of her elbow just long enough to make her shiver, then bowing his head to the curve of her breast. "Deep and mysterious, a challenge to be relished, rather than conquered."
Her heart flips over. God, who talks like this? Killian Jones, obviously. She slides her hands into his tousled mop of hair, pulling back his head with a gentle tug so she can see his face. "What are you saying?"
"I'm saying I don't care how bloody difficult it is. I don't care that geographically it's a bit of a nightmare." He cups her face in his hand. "I want to see you, Emma, and I don't care how many miles I need to travel in order to do it."
It's everything she's ever wanted to hear, a declaration that someone is putting her first, but her throat feels hot and scratchy, almost as if she's coming down with a cold. Her words are stuck behind her tongue, choked by fear. "We hardly know each other."
His smile is soft, almost gentle. "I know enough, Swan, and I think you do, too."
His eyes are searching hers, and part of her wants to look away, but she sees the truth of his words in his face. He's right. He's right and she's doesn't want to be afraid anymore. Not when something so much better is right in front of her. "You know, my birth parents in Maine would like me to visit them more often."
She actually feels the tension leave his body like a silent sigh. "Well, isn't that another happy coincidence?" He runs his hand up the length of her arm, fingernails lightly scratching her skin in a maddeningly teasing caress. "Maine is quite close to Boston, I believe."
"You don't say." Rising up on her knees to straddle him, she kisses his chest, his throat, then finally his mouth, tasting mint and wine and him, and each kiss feels like coming home. "Maybe we can work something out after all."
Three months later, sitting amongst the packing boxes in her apartment, she dials her parents' number. It's a Sunday night, and she knows they'll be home, but even so, she has to smile when the phone is answered on the first ring. "Hi, David?"
"Emma!" Even though she'd only just visited the weekend before, her father (God, that's still so weird) sounds delighted to hear her voice. But then, he always does. "Everything okay?"
"Why wouldn't it be?"
"Well, it feels like we only said goodbye to you yesterday. Not that I'm complaining, it's been so great that you've been to visit us so often lately."
Her conscience prickles, and she does her best to squelch the feeling. Yes, she's had extra incentive for visiting Maine lately (overnight stops in Boston on the way, thanks very much), but that doesn't mean she doesn't love spending time with them. "Actually, that's why I'm calling." She takes a deep breath, because here goes nothing. "If it's okay with you and Mary Margaret, I was thinking I might bring someone with me next time I visit."
"Sure, that would be great. Do we know them?"
"No, you don't. He's a friend, well, he's more than a friend, uh, we're dating, I guess." God, she's a blushing, stammering mess. Twenty-nine years old and she's blushing like a teenager telling her overprotective father about her first boyfriend. "His name is Killian Jones, and he works in our Boston office." And you need to meet him because I'm moving to Boston to live with him and oh yeah, I'm also leaving my job, but it's okay because I'm starting at the Boston office as a senior associate, she thinks with faint hysteria, and I need him to be there when I tell you all this because I think you and Mary Margaret might just blow a gasket.
"Killian?" She can almost hear David's frown over the phone, and she grins. At least the overprotective part is accurate, she thinks. "That's unusual. Sounds more like a woman's name."
"Yeah," she says, her grin widening. Even though she knows David's just trying to come up with a reason why someone might not be good enough for his little girl, you really have to appreciate the irony. "I thought that once, too."