Standard Disclaimers Apply

Chapter One

Sometimes, when she woke, even after all this time in Seattle, she would know a brief moment of displacement. So she'd stay still for a moment, eyes closed, while her body took in the unfamiliar lumps of the mattress, the light streaming in from a window she did not have back home, and the chill that never seemed to go away in their apartment. That way, when her lids lifted, she was not disappointed, not surprised. Just prepared.

But when she woke up that morning, there was no question as to where she was. There was no realization as to whose room she was in, whose bed she was sharing, because 'realization' implied there being a moment of unawareness. And she was nothing if not aware. Aware of the ridiculously fluffy pillows beneath her hair, the kind only hotels seemed to stock. Aware of the bedspread barely hanging onto one corner of the bed after being unceremoniously shoved aside by him, or her, or them. Aware of who occupied the other half of the bed, or rather, most of it, since Mark Sloan didn't seem to respect the concept of personal space.

She had slept on her back, an unusual occurrence, and half his body pinned her to the mattress. One leg draped across both of hers served as an effective weight; his arm around her upper chest felt much heavier than any limb had a right to feel. And his facial hair tickled the curve of her neck with each steady breath.

Taking care not to wake him, she maneuvered her arms out and over him to cover her face. She couldn't help the slight moan that escaped her when she thought of how awkward this was going to be. And not just in the immediate future, but for every other 36-hour shift she worked, until the mortification finally just killed her.

Spreading her fingers wide, she let triangles of light peak through her hands. She twisted her head in slow increments, trying in vain to see him, but his head near her neck stopped her movements. Perhaps she should be grateful. Seeing someone naked was one thing; seeing them sleep was an entirely different form of intimacy.

Edging toward the nightstand, she remained flat on her back, wiggling sideways. Every few seconds, she'd freeze, make sure his breathing pattern hadn't changed, and then continue the horizontal dance toward freedom. He unwittingly helped her halfway through, when his leg shifted to give her shins reprieve. Unfortunately, she wasn't prepared for the sudden release and fell to the floor in a tumble of limbs. Suddenly aware of her nudity, she kept her knees to her chest as she lifted her head so that her line of sight was level with the mattress. She waited with bated breath until she heard his rhythmic exhale. Still asleep.

That was good, very good. Very convenient. She stayed low as she circled the bed, finding articles of clothing on the ground and collecting them on as she went. She hoped they were all hers; she wasn't really examining them. Arms full and still crouching, she turned to change direction. It was as she was headed for the bathroom that she realized there was no more even breathing.

When she looked at the headboard from her vantage point at the foot of the bed, he was waiting for her. Amusement detailed on every one of his features, he readjusted himself, the sheet slipping down to his bare waist.

"I—I'm…" She swallowed and tried again. "I'm getting dressed."

His eyes dropped down to the bundle of clothing sandwiched between her chest and knees. There was not much to be grateful for in this situation, but Lexie considered herself an optimist and if there ever was a silver lining, it was that there could have been nothing between his eyes and her naked, crouched body. Her grip on the clothes tightened at the thought.

"Down there?"

"This is where the clothes are." As if to prove it, she pointed to a scrap of cloth by the nightstand. Then she realized it was her underwear. "Oh God."

Following her gaze, he saw the garment. Then he leaned over to pick it up, causing the sheet to drop even lower. Lexie looked up at the ceiling until he began twirling the lace on his index finger. She noticed he didn't bother to fix the sheet. Not very surprising; nothing about the man exactly screamed shy.

Later, she would be very proud of the way she managed to slowly stand with the clothes covering the essentials. Proud of how her hand did not shake as she held it out for her underwear. He made a show of handing it over before promptly pulling it out of her reach. Lexie made a quick assessment of her priorities. Should she fight for her right to her panties, she'd probably lose her armor of swaddled clothes and end up naked. Favorite pair or no favorite pair, the panties lost.

"Keep them," she said, trying to inject frost in her voice.


She stiffened. If she had any sense, she'd give him the finger, then her back as she walked to the bathroom and then out of his hotel room. Unfortunately, her backside was as naked as the front. So she walked backward, and not nearly with as much dignity as she would have liked.

"I've seen you naked, you know."

"I'm aware." How far away was the damn bathroom? She looked over her shoulder to make certain she wouldn't run into the sofa. The last thing she needed was to topple naked over a couch.

"So there's no mystery as to what you've got underneath that."

"I know."

"And there's the fact that I'm a doctor. I've seen all the parts."

Her hand made contact with the doorknob. She turned it and escaped inside, making sure to twist the lock. He heard. "Where's the trust?" he called from outside.

Clothes on in record time, sans panties, she scrubbed her face with water, avoiding the mirror. When she came out, he had her underwear in his hand and a pleased smile on his face. She scowled. Hand extended, she walked closer to him, making certain she stopped at the foot of the bed.

"I thought these were a gift."

She bared her teeth into a smile, the gesture holding no humor. "You really want them? I didn't know cross-dressing was your style."

His eyes narrowed, and he didn't look nearly as pleased anymore. "Don't do sarcastic. It doesn't suit you."

Then he stared at her for a long moment, his gaze thoughtful, before letting the material slip through his fingers and form a flimsy puddle on the pillow next to him. Her pillow—correction: her rented pillow; Mark Sloan didn't share pillows with the same woman more than once, if gossip was anything to go by. "All yours."

She let out her breath in a low whooshing sound. Planting her hands on her hips, she glared. "This isn't how it's going to be."

He cocked his head to the side. "That sentence is missing a lot of nouns."

"I mean it." Her hands fluttered in front of her as she gestured to the space between their bodies. "You're not going to be all flirty and inappropriate and naked."

"I'm not." It was not a question, it was not a statement. Rather, it was a careful repetition.

"No. You're not. And I'm not going to be coy and giggly and—and—"

"Naked?" he offered helpfully.

"Yes. I mean, no." She shook her head as if to clear it. "No naked. There will be no naked. No one will be naked."

"That doesn't sound like much fun."

She stomped over to what had been her side of the bed and bent to take her underwear. But he was too quick and, before she knew it, the garment was swallowed by his palm.

"You could always come and get them from me, you know."

Yes, she was bright. Yes, she went to Harvard. Yes, she had a photographic memory. But it didn't take a genius to figure out where wrestling with a naked Mark Sloan got a girl. She opened her mouth to reply. Then snapped it shut when she couldn't think of anything witty to say. "I'm going to work." As far as comebacks went, it was sorely lacking. But it was something professional and dismissive, and it gave her an exit.

So it came as a letdown when he managed to squeeze in the last word as she closed the hotel door behind her.

"Running away, Little Grey?"