Masked Seduction – Mel's Birthday One Shot

Marissa Cooper was about to do something bad…something very bad, and she couldn't wait. It had been three long years of college, cramming credits and taking classes during her summer break while she worked to help pay for her own tuition, but it was all finally over. Determined to make something of herself and not be dependent upon a man to take care of her, she had worked hard while in college, finishing a year early to save cost. As she sat getting ready to go out, a smile constantly dancing across her glowing face, she relished the fact that she had finished her last course, taken her last final, organized the details of her graduation, and had a job waiting for her when she went back home.

Despite everything that had happened to her and her family in Newport, Julie had managed to stay in the town, marrying well for a second time while Marissa was in high school, and even with all their faults, Newport was still home and Julie was still her family. So, wanting to settle where she was from, Marissa had applied for and been accepted as a teacher at Harbor where she would teach the journalism and yearbook classes. However, her job did not start in the fall; she reported a week after commencement to reorganize and structure her courses to better fit her skills and the needs of her students. Not only was she excited, but she was also proud of herself. Without any help from another person, she would be twenty-one, living alone, and supporting herself, and she knew few people her age could claim that same fact.

That was her future though. Living in the moment, she was finally going to her first college party, an annual costume, end of the year celebration that one of the college's sororities always threw, and she just wanted to let go, have fun, do something wild and crazy, and stop thinking. After growing up in Newport, the idea of ragers, keg parties, and beach bonfires had quickly lost its appeal, and that combined with the fact that she could not risk getting an underage while in the education department had made her steer clear of the typical college entertainment. Instead, she focused on her grades, worked hard, and lived a rather sheltered social life. On her final night as a student though, she was throwing caution to the wind, meeting a blind date at the party, and hoping she ended up slightly tipsy in a corner making out with a cute guy, one last hurrah for her youth.

Standing up from her dressing table, she took a second glance at her appearance to make sure she was happy with how she looked. She had decided to be rather morbid and disguise herself as the black widow. Wearing a tight, very short, open backed, black dress, she accented her outfit with thigh high, black, leather boots, elbow length black, satin gloves, and a black wide brimmed hat with a black veil to complete the prerequisite of a mask. Even Marissa had to admit that she looked hot, mysterious, and slightly dangerous, a combination of attributes that she hoped led to a very bad time. Reapplying her deep red lipstick, she smacked her plump lips together one last time, slipping her cell phone, cab fair, and apartment key down the front of her dress to rest in her ample cleavage, and left her apartment for the party. Her date was going to be dressed as Zorro; that was the only piece of information she had to go on to find him. She could only hope her date was as adventurous and intriguing as the inspiration for his costume was.

"I can't believe that Ryan Atwood, the guy who refused to wear a festive sweater for Chrismukkah, the man who mocked me for my red, white, and blue attire every Fourth of July, my brother who dismissed Halloween and trashed the mask I bought him to wear, is going to a masked, costume party….for a sorority," Seth mocked Ryan while they were talking on speaker phone and playing each other on the XBOX 360 online at the same time. Ryan, though he was thousands of miles away from his curly haired brother, could picture the smirk on the other man's face. Why he had told Seth in the first place about the party, he wasn't sure, but there was no one else he knew who had a ready collection of costumes and masks just sitting in their dorm room ready to be mailed out at the slightest notice.

"Hey," he finally responded, eager to excuse his unconventional behavior, "when you're going to be working on an internship for the next entire year, you take advantage of every last situation that comes your way."

"Meaning you know that there will be lots of easy chicks there, and you're hoping to get laid?"

"Well it is the end of the semester," Ryan returned, grinning at the idea, "so if my date doesn't turn out the way I planned, there will be plenty of other opportunities."

Curious, Seth pushed. "How many other times have you gone out with this….what did you say her name was?"

"We went out once before," he answered, "but I can't remember her name."

"So basically you're using her for sex?"

"It's not as if I've led her on," Ryan defended his behavior. "She knows exactly what I want from her. Look," he suddenly got defensive, "I'm 21 and in college. I'm not supposed to be looking for a meaningful relationship. All I want to do is have a little fun. You can say what you want, but you're not going to make me feel bad about that."

"Hey buddy, the more power to you," Seth laughed. "I wish I could attract the ladies like you do. When I get one that shows even partial interest in me though, I have to work to get anything. And don't worry. I'll keep this little masked costume party thing between you and me, because we both know if my Dad ever found out about it, you'd never live it down. By the way, what did you end up picking for your costume?"


"Ryan, Ryan, Ryan, could you have picked anything less creative? I sent you several options, ones that no one else would run the risk of using, too, but now you'll probably just be one of many Zorro's."

"Let's hope not, because that's how my date is going to know it's me. If I can't remember her name, how the hell am I supposed to remember what she looks like," Ryan pointed out. "I've got to go though, Seth. I'm already running late."

"Alright, man, but keep the secret Cohen three C's in mind: cold beer, compliments, and condoms."

Shaking his head in amusement at the idea that Seth was actually giving him sex advice, Ryan clicked his phone off, tossing it aside to get ready. Glancing at his watch as he switched off his TV, he realized just how late he was running and hoped his date wouldn't skip out of the party before he got there believing him to have stood her up. With that in mind, he hurried towards the bathroom to take his shower and get dressed, thoughts about how the night better be worth his effort running through his mind the entire time.

So far, her hope that the evening would turn out to be very bad was taunting her. Marissa couldn't argue with the fact that the party, for her up to that point, had been bad….in an 'I've been stood up by a blind date and I know not a soul in the entire room' type of way, but what made it even worse was that she just felt out of place. Perhaps it had been too long since she had attempted to enjoy herself at a party, while, at the same time, maybe it was because in the three years she had been in college, she had lost her forward, outgoing nature that had helped her be the center of attention at a party in high school. Whatever the reason, she was miserable, lonely, and annoyed. Determined to give her date only five more minutes to show up, she weaved her way around the various sweaty bodies on the dance floor and stood in a secluded corner, watching the door for a man in a black mask and cape.

Just as she went to give up, pulling her cell phone out of her dress to call a cab, he showed up; a man dressed as Zorro, presumably her date, passed confidently through the entrance, his eyes immediately searching the party for someone he was obviously meeting. Not even her frustration at the fact that he was late could wipe the smile off Marissa's face. Gliding effortlessly towards him, she, without a word said between them, took his hand in hers, pulling him back to her deserted corner, immediately throwing her arms around his broad shoulders and swaying to the music.

"And what if I don't dance," the stranger asked her. She could hear the deep laughter in his tone.

"What if I don't care," she returned flirtatiously, moving seductively around his body, her hips swaying the entire time while his eyes followed her every move obviously interested. "You were late…very late. I thought I was being stood up. You owe me this dance...and much more."

"Yeah, sorry about that," he apologized for his tardiness, "I was on the phone with my brother who goes to school on the east coast, and I lost track of time."

"That's kind of cute," she teased him as she continued to move to the music while he basically stood and let her dance around and against him. "Older or younger brother?"

"Well he's older by a couple of months," the man answered her. At her puzzled expression, he explained further. "I was adopted. What about you?"

"I have a younger sister," Marissa admitted, her smile falling off her face at the thought of Caitlyn, "but we're not that close. I haven't seen or talked to her since Christmas."

"Well my little dominatrix," the stranger taunted her, "what do you say to the idea that I go and grab us both a beer while you keep our spot? I'm thirsty, and I think we both have something better in mind for the evening besides exchanging personal information."

"A beer sounds great, but I'm not a dominatrix." Holding up her arms, she motioned for him to take a closer look at her costume. "See, no whips. I'm the black widow."

Chuckling, he responded, "comforting," before leaning in and placing a soft, teasing kiss on her lips. "I'll be right back." And, just like that, he disappeared into the crowd, leaving a dazed and confused Marissa behind.

As the music pulsated around her, the beat of the base matching the steady, elevated rhythm of her heart, the sweaty, gyrating bodies of the other dancers radiating heat and passion to only intensify the waves of warmth cascading through her tingling body, she was plunged into a deep, haunting pool of memories. The scent of her blind date assaulted her senses; the taste of his salty, slightly chapped lips reminding her of a time, of a boy from her past. It had been years since she had last seen him. Though his eyes sometimes still came to her in her dreams, his wounded, pleading, enchanting eyes of deep blue, she rarely let herself think of the vulnerable, scared boy who had so captivated her the moment she had met him. They had only known each other a few weeks, but the connection she had felt to him was more powerful than any other she had experienced in her life. Shaking off her recollections, Marissa excused her sentimental thoughts as mere fantasy. There was no way her blind date could be that same boy from her childhood, because life never gave you second chances like that…no matter how much you wanted them.

Taking a drink of his beer as he carefully, slowly made his way back to his date, Ryan couldn't help but think about how different she seemed than the last time he gone out with her. Though he couldn't remember details, he had the impression that she had been shorter before, slightly heavier, and definitely not as….familiar. However, he was not one to argue with luck. Whether or not the girl was just better looking than his mind had recollected or he was with a different girl on accident, Ryan was just going to go with it. Not only was the woman's body gorgeous and tempting, the perfect combination of soft curves and lean muscle, but he could tell that beneath her veil, her face was just as perfect. Plus, she seemed affectionate, eager, and even willing to be with him, everything he had been hoping for, but, despite all her positive attributes, there was something about her he hadn't been expecting, something that made him curious to know more about her.

For some reason, she seemed familiar…as if he already somehow knew her. Of course, he had met her before if she was the date he was supposed to meet, but he had never talked to that girl, gotten to know her in the first place. With the woman he was going back to, Ryan felt as if he had known her deepest secrets at one point, that she had known his. Whenever she touched him, a shiver of desire shot through his entire body, awakening feelings inside of him he had deeply buried all those years before. There was only one person who had ever made him feel that way, but it was impossible that the untouchable fantasy from his past had reappeared in his present. Shaking off his memories as being sentimental and implausible, he decided to just accept and embrace the feelings the woman was inspiring in him. After all, even though it couldn't possibly be her, the reaction could only make the evening that much better.

"Finally," the black widow teased him as he rejoined her side and handed her a bottle of beer. "I was starting to think you'd decided to stand me up after all."

"Nah," Ryan dismissed, taking another drink. "You know how these parties are, liquor is a hot commodity. Waiting in line for a drink takes even longer than it does to get to use the bathroom."

Pouting playfully, she held her bottle back out towards him. "Would you mind," she asked sweetly. Holding up her hand, she explained, "I really don't want to break my nails. It would ruin the total effect of the costume."

"And a very pleasing effect it is," Ryan admitted admiringly. As he took the beer from her, opening it easily, he couldn't help but think how he would love to feel her nails digging slightly into his back as their bodies moved together as one while they had sex. Merely looking at her told him she would not only be fun in bed but maybe even a little wild, too. Shaking the visions away, he smirked at her while she took a long, refreshing drink of the frothy beverage. "Slow down there," he advised, "it's no fun when you're drunk."

He didn't have to expand upon his statement; she didn't have to ask what he meant. It was explicitly implied and understood by both of them, and neither had any objections. Offering him a mischievous grin, the woman whom he was positive as time went on was not his date slung her arms around his neck, pulling his body closely to hers as she, once again, started moving to the music, the cool of her beer bottle occasionally brushing against the back of his neck as she held it easily in one of her hands. And, just like that, they both became lost in the music, lost in the crowds as they simply enjoyed the feeling of the others body pressed up against theirs, neither of them noticing a disgruntled and forlorn man, slightly taller and less built than Ryan, moving his way through the party as he searched in vain for his blind date. Neither of them would regret not noticing him either.

Two hours later, the party was in full swing. The lights had been dimmed turning the mood from an upbeat, celebratory ambiance into one of ambiguity, yearning, and fascination; the music had becomes lower, more sensual, intimate, the perfect soundtrack for two strangers completely lost in one another. Their inhibitions were gone, forgotten with the collection of various beer bottles laying discarded carelessly on the floor beside their barely moving bodies. His hands were placed possessively on her hips, his fingers squeezing her firm derrière whenever he felt the urge to pull her closer to his body; her arms were wrapped tightly around his waist, her head resting contently on his strong, protective chest. Neither said a word for they were unneeded. Instead, they simply enjoyed the moment, lost in one another and the desire their movements were inspiring within them.

Lifting her head, Marissa boldly leaned into his body, letting her tongue dip into the hollow of his neck as she granted herself a long, lingering taste of his tanned flesh. They had restrained themselves all evening, merely sharing subtle kisses and touches, nothing too forward or overtly sexual, letting their dancing convey their lust instead. However, she was sick of the party, of the other people there, of the restrictive constraints of their costumes; she wanted to see what was behind his mask and, for some reason beyond her knowledge, she wanted to let him see what was beneath hers.

"What do you say we get out of here," she offered him, blushing. Despite all of her bravado, Marissa was slightly nervous, excited, but still nervous. The combination of the two emotions for her though was exhilarating. She hadn't felt that way since….him.

Without even waiting for him to reply, she turned around and started walking towards the front door of the house, knowing he was right behind her the whole time. There had been no doubt since the moment they had first touched that their night would end with them leaving together. Just as she reached the entrance hall, she felt the strangers hand rest possessively against her bare back, his fingers dipping down to tickle the glistening skin being hidden from his wandering sight by the clinging confines of her dress.

"Your place or mine," he finally asked as they stepped outside into the cooler night air. Neither knew what time it was; neither of them cared. All that mattered was that there were plenty of hours left before daylight for them to enjoy each others bodies, to lose themselves in their unknown partner before leaving their youth behind forever.

"Mine," Marissa answered, reaching for her cab money again, but stopped her, his hand lingering against her chest longer than necessary to make her stop and stand still.

"I drove here," he explained. "I'll drive us."

Without another word, they moved slowly towards his small car, a car she was happy to see was not pretentious or an obvious gift from his rich parents, and disappeared into the murky evening together, the moon and stars hidden behind billowing clouds, leaving them masked in darkness and anonymity.

As soon as they stepped foot in her apartment building, her stranger had immediately joined their mouths together in an endless, frenzied embrace, his lips almost bruising in nature he was so insistent, his tongue virtually unrelenting as he explored every crevice of her palette. Never had anyone ever kissed her so intensely, so passionately, as if he was searching to find the real her, and the knowledge of his desire not only made her feel empowered but also beautiful. It….he was utterly addicting.

Marissa was thankful that there was an elevator in her building, because she knew it would have been impossible for them to stop their actions long enough to climb the multiple flights of stairs to reach her fourth floor flat. Tripping out of the lift, his hands holding her tightly by the waist, she blindly guided them down the hall towards her door, walking backwards the entire time, never once breaking her contact with the man she was so physically taken with. Frustrated when they reached her room for they had to separate briefly for her to unlock her door, Marissa turned her back to her date and hastily pushed her key into the lock as he ran his hands up and down the expanse of her abdomen while his lips traveled leisurely down her back, sucking on her creamy skin in a dangerously alluring manner.

Just as the door finally clicked open, she pushed her way hastily into the apartment, pulling him behind her. Without looking, she dropped her key onto the floor and turned around in the stranger's arms, taking his mouth in hers once again, not caring, in that moment, if she ever breathed again. Kissing him was like ecstasy, a mixture of lust, contentment, bliss, and peace, a combination of emotions she had never felt with a man before. It didn't matter to her that she knew nothing of the date she had brought home, because it felt as if she had known him for years. No matter what she did, Marissa could not shake the feeling that she was reuniting with a person from her past. Finally, after several more moments of intense kissing, she couldn't take the suspicion of not seeing his face, of not being able to look into his eyes a second longer, so, without warning, she lifted her hands to his jaw, sliding her silky smooth fingers against the five o'clock shadow on his face until she reached his mask.

"Wait," he stopped her breathlessly, reaching up to cover her hands with his own. "Are you sure you want to do this?" When she looked at him questioningly, he continued. "I might want this….you, but I'm not going to stoop low enough to take advantage of a woman when she's drunk."

"I'm not drunk," Marissa argued, letting her fingers graze against his skin tenderly while she talked. "As for what we're doing here, I'm not sure. I just want to go with it, and we'll see where the night leads. But, first, let's take off these masks. I want to see you looking at me while I kiss you."

He smiled at her words, making a warmth spread throughout Marissa's body, as he ran his hands up her arms and over her neck until he reached her face, a silent agreement passing between them that they would remove their masks at the same time. Just as she felt the veil lift from her face, she closed her eyes, wanting to savor the moment she first saw her stranger, but as soon as she felt her hat falling to the floor, his hands dropped quickly from her cheeks as if she had set his fingers on fire, and she started to panic. Blinking her eyes open rapidly, her gaze landed on a face she had believed she would never consciously see again. Though it was slightly changed, matured and aged since she had last seen him almost six years before, those wondering orbs of blue often visited her in her dreams, forever drawing her back to the past. She had never been able to completely let go of him.

"Oh my god," she whispered, her left hand going to cover her mouth in shock while her right reached out to cup his face once again. Immediately, her eyes filled with tears of joy, surprise, and exhilaration. "Ryan?"

"Marissa," he returned, staring at her with an equally shocked expression on his face. "I didn't…….me….see each other again….." But that was as far as he got, his incoherent thoughts being swallowed as she desperately rejoined their mouths together. She felt as if she let go of him, he'd suddenly disappear from her life again without warning or notice for another long existence of regrets for lost opportunities. "Hmm…," he moaned out in pleasure as her fingers slipped underneath his shirt. Breaking away from her unrelenting lips, he danced feather light kisses against her jaw and neck, whispering between embraces and gasps for air. "Does this mean...? Are you sure….? What about the past…?" But she never answered even one of his questions. Finally, he managed to break away from her desperate grip to stare deeply in her eyes as he asked the only question either of them needed to hear. "Maybe I could stay the night?"

For a moment it was impossible for Marissa to answer, her emotions overwhelming her, but, reaching up to wipe her glistening tears away, she shook her head quickly, eagerly before managing to whisper a strangled, "yes."

As soon as the accepting word escaped her lips, she was in his arms, cradled her against his strong, protective body, as he carried her into the bedroom. Gently, he placed her down on the soft, inviting embraces of blankets, his eyes never straying once from her anticipating body. Standing above her, he carefully unzipped her boots, removing them one at a time before setting them aside. Once her legs were free of their leather shoes, he sat down on the bed between her legs, lifting her body up to rest against his. With a leg to either side of his, she straddled his lap, their lips, once again, seeking the others while their hands slowly, teasingly, removed each others clothing as they both savored the feeling of their touches.

Marissa had no idea how long he had tantalized and enticed her body before finally joining them together as one. The moment before she finally made love to Ryan Atwood were a blur; the only thing that mattered to her as she laid their in her bed afterwards was that the boy she had fallen so effortlessly for nearly six years before was now the man sleeping between her legs, his head nestled safely between her breasts. His gentle, soothing breathing was the complete opposite of how erratic his pulse had been while he had moved inside of her, his actions bringing her to the highest pinnacle of passion she had ever undergone in her lifetime, not just once, but they had made love long into the early morning hours, their sweaty, naked bodies touching, feeling, stirring, experiencing, sharing, dreaming, whispering, dancing, joining, loving, nurturing as deeply as possible. It was the most magical, beautiful moment of Marissa Cooper's life, so she fought to stay awake, fought to keep the emotions of bliss and contentment inside of her for as long as possible, because, against all odds, she and Ryan had received a second chance after such a long time apart. That was something she would always be thankful about for the rest of her existence whether it was just one night or a lifetime of evenings.

Ryan was positive there was no better way to wake up than lying on top of an exquisitely stunning woman with a face like a goddess and a heart like an angel. To feel their skin against yours, to smell the sweet, comfortingly subtle scent of their hair as you let your face bury itself in its dazzling golden tresses, to see their contentment in their gracious, simple smile while they peacefully slept on beneath you, those were the things that made him thankful for life. Resting in Marissa's arms, Ryan knew he had been waiting for that very moment his whole entire life….he just hadn't known it before.

He knew he should let her rest, that she was utterly exhausted, but the idea of not taking advantage of every second he had with her was beyond his comprehension. Letting his lips tickle her skin softly, he danced his mouth across her prefect countenance, embracing first her eye lashes than her cheek bones than her nose and chin before finally letting them rest gently on her lips, his own kissing her lightly until her gorgeous eyes of blue flashed open to stare back into his.

"Good morning," he whispered to her as he continued to memorize every nuance of her face with his tender embraces. "Are you hungry," Ryan asked her, dropping his touches to her neck while he continued to talk. "I could either make us something to eat in bed, or, if you feel up to it, maybe we could go out for breakfast." Curious as to what her answer would be, he looked up into her eyes to see them stricken with fear and panic. "Hey, hey," he said anxiously, sitting up and pulling her carefully into his lap, "what's wrong?"

"It's nothing," she dismissed his concerns. "I'm just being…. emotional. I knew it last night that we'd only have those few hours together, but, I guess, the morning has just come too soon for me. I mean, it took us years to find each other again, and this is just supposed to be it. We get one evening and then we're supposed to go back to our lives and forget each other again." Laughing self-deprecatingly, she continued. "It's just not fair. I want more."

Afraid of her answer but needing to know it nonetheless, Ryan quietly questioned, "do you regret last night? Do you regret….being with me?"

"No," Marissa responded quickly and emphatically leaving no room for him to doubt her words. "There is no way that I could ever regret what we shared last night. It was….perfect. I just don't want it to end."

As he thought for a moment, he moved to rest against her headboard, repositioning them both so that she was curled up around his body. "I don't want it to end either," he agreed with her slowly, "but we don't have to lose contact this time. We could talk….whenever you wanted to, you know, exchange email addresses and phone numbers, but I'm not going to be here much longer. I leave for a sixteen month internship in a week."

"And I graduate," she added, sniffling slightly despite her best efforts to not cry.

"I know it's not perfect," Ryan continued, "but being able to talk to one another, keep in touch, is better than nothing. I'll be able to complain about Mr. Nichol while you tell me all about what it's like having a real job."

"Wait," Marissa said sitting up and turning around to look at him, her actions suddenly animated and excited. "Did you just say Mr. Nichol as in Kirsten's father, the Newport Group? You're going to be living in Newport?"

"Yeah," he admitted unable to stop himself from laughing, "and he has no idea. I don't know what made me do it, maybe I wanted to show him that Sandy and Kirsten didn't make a mistake taking me in, but I applied for this prestigious internship that the company offers, and human resources chose me. He won't find out I was the one who got the position until the first day."

"What if he lets you go," she asked, curious. "Won't it mess up your whole schedule for graduation?"

"That's why I'm starting the program in the summer," he answered. "If he kicks me out, I'll have plenty of time to apply for another internship or sign up for classes in the fall. The only thing I'll be out of is my apartment here on campus. The Newport Group supplies my living arrangements for me while I'm interning with them." He went to say more when his words were cut off by Marissa leaning in and kissing him as deeply as she could while still smiling. When he finally pulled away, he pondered while licking the sweet taste of her mouth off his lips, "what was that for?"

"I'm going home, too," she revealed, snuggling back against his body, "to Newport." As his eyes lit up, she continued. "I actually got a job working at Harbor, so we're going to somewhat be neighbors again."

"And I'll be able to see you whenever I want?"

"Well," she teased, letting her hands stray down his bare chest to rest suggestively low on his torso, "I'm not sure about that. Perhaps we could even do better."

Between kisses, he asked, "just what exactly do you have in mind?"

Instead of answering though, she pulled away slightly embarrassed and went to get up out of the bed. "Never mind, it was a crazy idea. What were you saying earlier about breakfast?"

"Marissa," he playfully chided as he brought her back into his arms. "What were you going to say? I promise not to laugh or tease you no matter how cute you are."

Shrugging her shoulders self consciously, she tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear, her face blushing, before she spoke. "I was just thinking maybe…and, please, do not say yes just to make me feel better, because a pity acceptance would be worse than being turned down, but what if we, I don't know, tried the whole roommate approach. I already have a place lined up, and, between the two of us, I'm sure we'll have enough furniture. You'll just have to talk to the Newport Group to arrange the details with them, but I'm sure it would be fine." Shocked and not unpleasantly, Ryan stared at the astonishingly beautiful woman sitting in his lap unable to speak. "See, it's a stupid idea. You hate it. I shouldn't have said anything,"

"I think it's a great idea."

"I'm probably scaring you away so quickly right now," she lamented, too lost in her humiliation to comprehend what he had just said.

"You're stuck with me now; I'm not going anywhere but to Newport with you."

"You'll probably even give me your fake email address and phone number. Stay away from the senseless psycho," she mocked herself, "or she'll try to make you her instant boyfriend."

"Is that what you want, for me to be your boyfriend?"

"I can't believe I did this," Marissa lamented. "I've waited years to see you again, and within hours I freak you out and ruin everything."

He could see she was not going to listen to reason. So, giving up on the idea of talking sense into her, he did the only thing he could to shut her up. He kissed her, the intense embrace attempting to convey to her everything he was feeling without words. After what felt like an endless, dreaming moment, he pulled away, resting his head against her forehead.

"Are you finished overreacting now so I can say a few things?" She nodded her head in agreement. "For one, I would love to live with you." Winking at her, he added, "I think it could be fun. Secondly, if we're really going to do this, I'd hope I was already your boyfriend, especially after the night we just shared together."

"Are you saying you've never slept with a woman before without being in a relationship with her first," Marissa taunted him, obviously, once again, under control. The simple quirk of his eyebrow and a sudden scarlet tinge to his ears let her know she was right. "I thought so."

"I've never been with someone before though when it's been so….real, so meaningful."

"Good answer," she agreed with him as she turned around to rest her body against his. Lacing their hands together, she played with their fingers, joining and releasing them as she talked. "Did you ever imagine this would happen," she asked contemplatively. "I mean, think about it. It's been almost six years since we've seen each other. One minute you're this boy whom I've already fallen for who lives next door to me, a boy I was eagerly waiting to see at Caleb's birthday party, and the next thing I know, the party is cancelled and you and the Cohens moved away without a word, without any notice, without even a goodbye. Don't get me wrong," she interrupted her own story, "I understood. We heard about what had happened, how Kirsten had quit her job and how she and Sandy had just told you and Seth both to pack a bag, because you were all going away. Then, the next thing I know, you're living in Berkeley, and you're never coming back. I thought I'd never see you again, but then last night….we got our second chance."

"And the last chance we'll ever need," Ryan added, tilting her head up to his for another kiss. Breakfast would be forgotten; their commitments for the day disappearing into thin air as they finally got to be together. After all the costumes were stripped away, the only thing left behind was their feelings for one another, feelings that had survived and flourished over time, feelings that would never go away. A night of masked seduction had turned into a lifetime of intimacy, love, commitment, and passion.