"Alex Knightley, do not say what I think you're going to say," Emma warned, raising one menacing finger to silence him.

"Oh, I'm gonna say it," he taunted, his eyes dancing.

"Don't you dare!"

Alex smiled wider. "She is doing to Jane what—"

Emma's hand shot to cover his mouth, desperate to stop the words, the words that would haunt her like they had too many times before.

He intercepted her hand, but instead of pushing it away, he kept it there, enclosed in his. In spite of herself, Emma was knocked off course for a second by the tingling sensation that his touch stirred in her. But then she remembered how insufferable he was, and how much she wanted to strangle him, not just today, but pretty much on a daily basis. Something about Alex Knightley made her blood boil (in more ways than one.) The incorrigible, stupid

"What you did to Harriet," he finished, and she gasped in outrage, slamming another hand over his mouth before he could get out another intolerable word.

Again, his hand shot up to counter hers, but this time he fumbled, unintentionally stroking the side of her hand with a caution she hadn't expected to encounter. His dark eyes bored into hers, and she found her brain seemed to momentarily shut down as she lost herself in the power of his sneering gaze.

Normally she would just ignore it, the sudden awareness that her pulse had just tripled in the past two seconds of fierce, astonishing eye contact, but for some reason this time it felt different. Emma felt like it wasn't one of those times where she lets it go, carries on with her life like there's nothing more in this world that she could ever want for herself. She started, very carefully, and yet not very consciously, to notice the bearable distance between the two of then, just begging to be stripped away. She looked at him, determined, completely forgetting whatever he was trying to say, and for the first time she felt like it was time to get up and do something.

"Emma," he continued, beaming mischievously, "she's exactly like you—"

That's when all coherent thoughts left Emma, all except for how remarkable he looked when he smiled like that, and just how much she wanted to shut him up beyond any conceivable repair. In one fatal move she grabbed the back of his neck (perhaps a little harder than she had originally anticipated) and flung her starving lips onto his.

He faltered, stumbled back a little, the words dying on his now very occupied mouth as their lips pressed together with alarming fervor. Emma's mind was swimming and her previous rage had been replaced with something beyond her control. She felt nothing but the pounding of her heart as she leaned in to deepen the kiss, not even considering the fact that her instantaneous actions could add up to the biggest mistake of her life. All of that, every single bit of that was gone now, leaving nothing but the obvious and frightening truth.

Alex Knightley kissed her back. Reflexes, probably, or even simple curiosity, but it was the most dedicated curiosity that Emma had ever seen. He responded quickly, almost hungrily, pulling her into him like she belonged there. His hands somehow found the small of her back and settled there for dear life as their mouths twisted and turned. They were fused together, stuck. He held her and she held him and they explored each other like they had never explored anything before.

Then suddenly, and without reason, it was all over. For a split second, almost too short to be dubbed a second at all, their lips came apart, and they floated there: ears ringing, chests heaving. They seemed to stay there for much longer than necessary. Her hands were still rested on his neck, and something within her would not allow them to leave.

She could be dreaming, she acknowledged, as her thoughts slowly began to untangle. After all, she could no longer remember why she'd entered the room in the first place. She had something to ask him, right? Did that question matter now? When did it suddenly stop mattering altogether?

But then a noise escaped him: a soft, monumental noise that seemed to tear down their entire existence, and force them to finally, definitively awaken. "Emma." His hand slid down her back, making her shiver a bit, and their noses brushed together in the most gradual and tender way. "Emma, I..."

"Don't," she managed to say, after a long, painful pause. "Please." She wasn't exactly sure what she was so afraid of him doing, but all she knew was that she couldn't bear it if he…she didn't want to see him…well, in all honesty she just wanted to feel the wonderful sensation of his palm planted on her waist. He hadn't yet let go, and she felt like his touch was the only thing giving her strength now. That was both terrible and incredible, because Emma Woodhouse never thought she needed the strength of somebody else.

And just then it struck her why she had come into that boring old office in the first place.

It was because of him. Because he was there, waiting for her. Alex Knightley had always been there, through thick and thin, good days and bad days, laughter and tears. And it wasn't until that moment that she finally understood how much she needed him to remain.

"O-Okay," Alex breathed, swallowing. He surprised himself sometimes when he realized how easily she could take his breath away. How easily she could consume him like that, how easy it was for him to be hers, forever and ever. His dear, beautiful, exceptional Emma. How long had he been waiting for this moment?

"Alex," Emma whispered, her voice weary and faint. He had always loved the way she said his name, but nothing could have prepared him for how breathtaking it sounded murmured into his ear.

"What?" he allowed himself to ask, being careful not to throw caution to the wind altogether and tell her all the ridiculous, amazing reasons why he had always, every second of every day, loved her with the entirety of his foolish heart.

She twisted his hair with her fingertip (he closed his eyes in blissful appreciation), and then hesitated for one moment, before answering, "Caroline Lee is nothing like me."

He grinned, and she grinned back. "Well…" he began.

"Oh, shut up," she teased, her eyes bright and full of him.

"Make me," he challenged, laughing, and so Emma Woodhouse pulled him just the tiniest bit closer and he shut up once and for all.