*

            Sitting next to Max in the booth had been a bad idea.

            Would have been much better to sit across from him and next to Maria.  Alex could have handled the close proximity much better than she was at the moment. 

            Each time one of them reached for their Cokes, their arms brushed.  They were sharing a book and swapping pencils, and the frequent contact was distracting them both.  They had lost Maria back on logarithms and were currently wrapped up in their own world, exchanging quick glances and secret smiles.

            A bell dinged to mark the arrival of a new customer, jerking Liz back to reality.  Instinctively she turned and half-rose to her feet before remembering that she was off that day.

            Too late. Her eyes had already landed on the entering figure, and she stilled, gaze captured and legs frozen.

            Somewhere in the background she heard Alex say her name, but she could barely make out his words.  A round of giggles erupted from the counter, and as the figure sauntered through the maze of tables, females of all ages paused their conversations to watch his progress appreciatively. 

            April came hot in New Mexico, hot as Florida in July, Liz knew, from her childhood visits to her aunt.  Which was why most of their group had taken refuge in the blissfully air-conditioned Crashdown. Some, however, had not been as fortunate.

            The rent of Michael's apartment had increased dramatically over the past months, and he had been forced to take a second job at the downtown garage, putting in hours there as often as Liz's father could spare him from the kitchen. 

            Her stomach flipped as she realized he was making his way towards them. 

            Clad in a thin white shirt, smudged with grease and sweat, that moved snugly over the smooth plane of his chest and across the broad expanse of his shoulders, his hair damp and matted down with perspiration, and his smooth skin bronzed, Michael was enough to cause a girl's jaw to drop, and Liz was no exception to the rule, despite her attachment to his friend.

            Positively fantasy-inducing, however, were his pants.  Why anyone in their right minds would wear leather on a day pushing 96 was beyond her, especially when you were planning on spending your time working on cars, but she sure wasn't complaining.

            In fact, she wasn't saying much of anything.

            Her eyes dropped quickly as he approached, flickering back to her friends.  Max and Maria were bent over a piece of graph paper, talking to each other, oblivious to her distraction, while Alex, having repeated his previous question to no avail, simply looked perplexed. 

            "Hey." 

            Maria and Alex looked up then, but Liz kept her head down, fiddling with a french fry, determined to avoid his gaze. 

            "Hey, Michael," Max responded, still absorbed in a particularly challenging problem.  Finally he glanced up.  "How was your-" He paused as his brow knit in confusion, then amusement.  "What are you wearing?"

            Michael's face clouded quickly, and Liz watched as a slow, self-satisfied smile spread across Maria's face. 

            "None of your business Maxwell.  Got a problem with that?"

            Max just shook his head slowly, a smile playing at his lips as he turned back to his algebra textbook.  "No, no problem."

            Michael's glare remained fixed on his friend for a moment, then, to Liz's dismay, shifted to herself. 

            "Does your dad have next week's schedule worked out yet?" He addressed her curtly. 

            Forced to face him, her mouth went dry for a second, but she collected herself enough to say,

             "Yeah. Um…It's posted in the backroom.  Lemme get it for you."

            Cautiously rising from her seat, she turned her back quickly, unwilling to embarrass herself with further gawking. 

            She stepped quickly away from the table, but no sooner had she escaped into the kitchen then the doors swung open once more, revealing Michael, who then proceeded to lean against the wall facing her, tapping his fingers against a nearby shelf in impatience as she searched for the schedule.

            Unnerved, Liz nevertheless willed her hands to stop shaking as she pawed through a stack of files, annoyed that her dad hadn't taped the sheet to its usual spot.

            A few minutes passed with no words between them, the only sounds the shuffling of papers as she searched and the irritating drumming of his fingers on metal.

            Taking a deep breath, Liz paused, considering whether to call her dad on his cell phone.  Then she cocked her head, realizing that the room had gone completely quiet.

             "Find it?"

            Liz jumped, whirling around to find Michael inches behind her, his voice low and his eyes dark. 

             "N-no, no, not yet…Just let me call my dad. He's running errands, but I think he has his phone with him and-"

            He moved closer then, and Liz gasped slightly, frustrated that her back was against the file cabinet, allowing her no escape. 

             "Nervous?" he breathed.

            Recovering slightly, she replied, "Why-why would you think I was nervous?" then cursed inwardly as her voice caught on the last word. 

            He smirked, then, to her horror, brushed his hand across her cheek lightly as he said, "You were babbling.  You sounded like Maria for a second there."

             "Michael, what are you-"

             "Shh," he spoke. Then, without giving her time to react, he clamped his lips over hers. 

            Liz whimpered for a moment and brought her hands to his chest to push him away.  Before she had the chance, however, he grabbed her wrists and gently lowered her arms as he leaned forward even farther to deepen the kiss. 

            His figure pressed against her, and she was lost.  Lost in his scent, his lips, the sensation of his body meshed into hers.  Through his thin shirt and close-fitting pants Liz could feel the contours of his form and boldly traced them with her fingers as his hand slid beneath her blouse. 

            Though his hands were warm, hot even, as they traced patterns across her skin, she shivered as they wound their way up her abdomen to cup her breasts. Her head fell back and she shut her eyes, allowing the pleasure to overwhelm her senses as he brought his mouth to her nipples and dropped her blouse to the floor, lifting her atop the file cabinet as he did so.

            Her eyes fluttered open as he leaned away for a moment, and they widened further as he shed his own shirt, exposing the taut muscle beneath.  She stilled for a moment of unabashed admiration before extending her hands to cautiously explore his chest, caressing lower and lower as she went, until his desire was evident even to her own inexperienced eyes. 

            Michael's gaze was hot, and when she raised her head to face him, their mouths met fiercely. As their tongues teased each other, he shoved her skirt up around her waist and was inside her moments later, after having assured himself that she was ready.

            She inhaled sharply, whimpering his name and clutching at his hair. 

            "Michael…Michael…"

             "Hey Parker! I don't have all day here!"

            Her head shot up from the stack of papers that had creased and folded in her tight grasp.  Immediately flushing, she cringed inwardly, praying desperately that she hadn't spoken aloud in the past few minutes. 

            Finally locating the missing schedule, she twirled around quickly, unable to meet Michael's gaze as her blush spread. 

            He took it from her hand without a word and scanned it, his lips pursed.  She turned away quickly.

            'Whatever you do, don't think of his lips,' she coached herself.

            The doors swung open then, breaking what Liz perceived to be an awkward silence. 

            Upon sighting Maria, her chagrin increased, and clouds of guilt swirled her mind.  How could she? Not only her boyfriend's best friend, but her best friend's boyfriend! What kind of person was she to even think it?

            Liz distanced herself from the couple, moving to the opposite side of the room, ostensibly to organize the paperwork she had dug through.  Still, she couldn't help but overhear their conversation.

            "I can't believe you wore them!  I'm so proud of you, Spaceboy!" She heard Maria squeal, the smile evident in her voice. 

            A moment passed and, though her back was turned, Liz could only surmise that they were kissing.

            Michael spoke next.  "Yeah, it was damn hot out there too.  You better hold up your end of the bargain, Maria, or I'm blasting them."

            "Oh, that won't be necessary, babe," Maria whispered, so softly that Liz could barely make out the words.  "I'll make it up to you tonight…"

            He muttered something too low for Liz to hear, then turned to leave.  Neither girl could help admiring the view his leather pants provided, though Liz hid her gaze as best she could.

            When he was gone, Maria turned towards her, a wide grin spread across her face. 

            "Liz.  Can you believe he wore those things? Just goes to show you a woman's power."

            Liz smiled, hoping her expression didn't betray her thoughts.  "Where'd he get them anyway?  Don't tell me you found them in his closet."

            Maria laughed.  "Oh no, chica.  I bought them for him at a lovely little store on Grove Street.   Didn't think he'd actually follow through with it though."

            Liz giggled, then said,  "Well, I better get back out there.  Are Max and Alex still studying?"

            "Yep, they are."

            "Okay," She paused for a second.  "Are you leaving now?"

            Maria smiled wickedly.  "Yeah…Got a little appointment at Michael's.  I'll see you later, okay?"

            "Sure." Liz shook her head as she watched Maria leave.  Then, after giving herself a moment to regain her composure and clear her thoughts, she exited the kitchen.

            'Max. Think of Max.  Think of Max.'

            Max…As she approached the booth, an idea occurred to her, and she grinned slowly as she slid into the seat next to him.

            "Almost done?" She asked, stroking his shoulder innocently. 

            "Yeah," he answered, "I'll just be a minute more, I think.  This test shouldn't be that bad."

            "Good, because I have a few errands to run, if you'd like to tag along."

            His gaze swung to her, and he nodded, smiling brightly.  "Sure.  Where do you have to go?"

            "Well, I need to get some supplies we're running low on from Gray's, but after that I'd thought we'd take a little detour.  I know this great place on Grove…"

*

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