A/N: So, this chapter is back to switching between POVs, so hopefully it's obvious what is going on. If that ever gets confusing, please do let me know in the reviews.
As usual, thank you for all the wonderful reviews. They really make my day to hear what you guys like about the story. Plus, getting your feedback helps me formulate the coming chapters a little bit. I hope you'll keep coming back and reading this and my other fic, "Something New for Us Both." Please recommend them on your blogs, Tumblrs, etc! Thanks, readers.
After quickly showering, separately, Brittany and I had gotten dressed, dried our hair, and were ready to go in record time. She had texted Quinn back, letting her know that Puck and I were joining, and Puck was all too eager to see me with a girl the day after. I needed to find some time to get him alone though.
He can't let slip about our bet.
I didn't know why, but I didn't want Brittany to know about Puck and I's bet. I was even willing to just give it up, and not hold Puck to it, if it meant she didn't find out. For some reason, I just thought she'd think less of me.
Or less of herself.
I wasn't sure what was worse. I couldn't bear the thought of her thinking the only reason I had approached her and initially hit on her was for a few lousy free beers. Truth is, I would have approached her even if it meant I had to pay Puck money. She was that magnetic.
We walked out the front door and she surprised me as she stopped by the driver's side door and opened it for me. I couldn't help by smile, and gave her a kiss on the cheek as I slid into the seat and nodded at her to close the door. She skipped around to the passenger's side and got in.
"Do you know where The Bean is?"
"Yeah, definitely. I've never been, but my gym is across the street so I see it all the time."
"I should have known you were a gym rat. You don't get that body without a little work." She winked.
I could feel heat rise up through my body, undoubtedly settling into my cheeks in a blush.
"Yeah, well, Ms. Abs-a-lot, you're pretty damn fit yourself."
She giggled a little, "Thanks, it's from dancing, mainly."
She had told me all about her dancing and cheerleading days over breakfast, and I had already figured that out, but the confirmation was good, too.
And I didn't mind being reminded of her body.
I pulled out of the driveway and towards the coffee shop, mindlessly singing along with whatever Top 40 station was on the radio when I caught Brittany's gaze.
"Hah, did I do something? Why are you staring at me?"
"You have a really great singing voice. You know that, right?"
"Well I know I'm not tone-deaf, if that's what you mean. But I'm definitely no pro."
"No, Santana, I'm serious. You have a really good voice. It's really raspy and soulful. And sexy."
I glanced over for a moment to gauge her sincerity, and her eyes told me that she fully believed what she was saying.
"Yeah, really. Has no one ever told you that before?"
"Huh. I don't know if I've ever sung for anyone before."
"You know, you're pretty greedy," Brittany said, abruptly.
"Wha?" Did she just say that?
"I mean, you're a great cook, an amazing singer, and so, so super sweet, but you keep all of that to yourself. It seems like you've never really shared yourself with anyone else. That makes me sad."
She finished her thought as I pulled into a parking spot at The Bean, and I shifted the car into park, turning towards her as I did. She was looking at me again, but I couldn't quite place the expression on her face. Sadness? Pity?
Good God, please say she doesn't pity me.
"Yeah, well… I'm just a private person, I guess."
"But you're sharing these things with me, and we just met last night."
She looked so confused, and I didn't have an answer for her.
Why am I doing all this for her? I didn't even get laid last night. I just took her home to win a bet with Puck.
I knew it wasn't true. I knew there were a million reasons why this girl was different, and I couldn't really deny the electricity between us. It was something I had never felt before, and I wasn't sure what it meant, but I knew I needed to have it. I couldn't let it go. But it terrified me that I was opening up to her so easily.
I need to slow this down. Walls up, Lopez. You don't know her intentions.
"Hello? Earth to Santana." I looked up at her face, "Where'd you just go? Did I say something wrong?"
"Uh, no, no, it's nothing." I lied. "Let's go inside and meet our friends. That's Puckerman's car over there, so he's already here."
With that, I flung open the car door a little too quickly, and leapt out of the car. I was suffocating on my own confusion, and I needed fresh air where I couldn't smell her intoxicating smell. I needed to clear my brain. We met at the front of the car and approached the coffee shop door together. She reached for the handle and stepped aside, holding the door open for me. As I passed her, I was hit with the flowery scent of her shampoo and perfume tangling together in the air around her. I couldn't breathe again. I stopped just short of the threshold of the coffee shop, held the door open from the inside and turned to her.
"Here, you go on in, I see Puck over there in the corner. I just remembered I needed to pick up something. I'm just gonna run across the street to that drug store. I'll be back before you know it."
I painted on the best smile I could, but I could read in her eyes that she didn't believe me. Luckily, I was saved by an approaching Quinn, who strolled up behind Brittany and bumped her to the side with her shoulder.
"What's the deal, ladies? Are we just going to stand in the doorway, or are we going to get cozy inside?" She quipped.
"I was just telling Brittany that I'd be right back. You guys get comfortable with my buddy Puck over there, and I'll be back in five. I promise he won't bite."
And before they could protest or ask any questions, I turned on my heel and started practically speed walking to the drug store.
I just need a minute to think. I just need a minute away.
I could feel Brittany's stare boring into the back of my head as I looked to the side before crossing the street. And then, just as quickly, I felt it disappear, and I knew they must have finally gone inside.
Quinn gave me a quizzical look and I just shrugged my shoulders, trying to play it off. But, truthfully, I didn't understand what had just happened with Santana.
Did I say something wrong? Why was she shutting down like that?
We weaved our way through the tables until we arrived at the booth occupied by the mohawked patron.
"Hi, you're Puck, right? Brittany." I stuck out my hand towards him, and he quickly looked up from his menu and jumped up, shaking my hand and looking me in the eye.
"Hey Brittany, yeah, I recognize you from the bar last night." He looked behind me, and then towards the door. "Um, aren't you missing something?"
"Oh yeah, Santana said she had to run to the drug store or something. She'll be right back."
Again, I tried to make it sound as normal as possible, but I was pretty sure my cover was blown and the look of concern was plastered over my face.
"Oh, and this is my best friend, Quinn. Quinn, Puck. Uh, Puckerman, umm, I'm sorry, what is your real full name?"
He laughed a hearty laugh. "My real name is Noah Puckerman, but no one calls me Noah except my parents. My friends just call me Puck."
"Well, it's nice to meet you, Noah." Quinn said. I saw a half smile cross Puck's face at her use of his first name, but he didn't correct her. I knew Quinn well enough to know that she wouldn't call him Puck until she actually felt like she'd become his friend. She was weird about nicknames like that.
After the introductions, we all sat down in the booth, Quinn scooting in across from Puck, and me at her side. I kept glancing towards the window, trying to catch a glimpse of Santana crossing the street in our direction again, but the view was mostly blocked by columns and other tables.
We made small talk for a few minutes, but kept getting interrupted by Puck's cell phone buzzing as it vibrated on the table. It must have been someone important, because he kept furiously typing responses to the text messages he was receiving. It was slightly annoying, but it gave Quinn and I a chance to chat a bit, even if we couldn't exactly talk about what we both wanted to discuss: Santana.
A server came by and took our coffee orders, and Puck ordered a large black coffee, no sugar, for Santana.
"She likes her coffee like she likes her men," he started, "bitter and black."
I groaned at the overused joke, but he held a shit-eating grin like it was the funniest thing he'd ever heard, so I finally chuckled audibly. More at him than the joke itself, but he seemed content.
"So how long have you known Santana?" I finally asked, broaching the subject we had all been avoiding.
He shifted in his seat as he began. "We've known each other for about five years now. We met just before high school ended, when she transferred from her old high school to mine in New Jersey, and then we both moved into the City for college at Fordham. We actually lived together the first two years, so we're super close."
"Don't give them any kinky ideas, Puckerman. There's a line we've never crossed, and never will."
We all jerked our heads to the figure that was sliding into the booth across from me, smiling as big as she ever had.
"Well thanks for joining us," I said, a little too curtly.
"Sorry about that. I told my mom I'd pick something up for her, and I was afraid I'd forget."
"What'd ya get?" Puck asked her.
"Ummm, more, more toothpaste. She was out."
It definitely didn't sound like she was telling the truth, but after the way she wigged out earlier, I wasn't going to push her.
After a few more awkward moments, conversation started to flow, and we all were getting comfortable with one another when Quinn finally jumped the gun and went there.
"So, Santana, help me out with something here." She paused and gave me a mischievous grin while looking at me in her peripheral, "You two slept together last night, right?"
"QUINN!" I yelled and smacked her upper arm with the back of my hand, causing her to pull her other hand over to rub it.
I was mortified.
Puck was dying laughing, and Santana had a big grin on her face before reaching across the table and taking my hand in hers. Her touch burned slowly, travelling up the length of my arm to my face, causing my cheeks to burn and an involuntary smile to cross my face, even though I was furious with Quinn for asking that in front of her.
"Well, if you want to get technical, we did sleep together last night. But since I know you're asking me whether we had sex or not, no, we did not. I'm a lady, after all."
Puck snorted and almost spit his coffee out at that statement, to which Santana gave him a mock offended look and we all laughed.
"Damnit, Britt, how were you able to contain yourself? I mean, look at her! She's hot. I'd have sex with her."
"Ummm, no you would not," I said, all too quickly.
This last outburst caused everyone to look over at me suddenly, Santana's one eyebrow arching up with curiosity.
"I mean, umm, well, you don't like girls. So, you wouldn't."
"Don't worry, Britt. A little possessiveness and jealousy is hot," Santana said as she winked at me.
I knew I was blushing again, but I couldn't help it. Whatever weirdness has occurred earlier had vanished and Santana was back to being sexy and flirty, and totally, completely natural with me.
After the wink, conversation slowly went back to the usual, and we all told the others what we were doing in Hoboken, New Jersey, so close, yet so far away from Manhattan. Santana was working at a marketing firm in a job that she hated in the suburbs of Jersey, but she was considering applying to law school as well; Puck was a high school gym and football coach at a school in a bad part of Newark, which is supposedly how he gets away with his ridiculous haircut as an adult. They have a hard time retaining teachers at that school, and he's good at what he does, so they let him basically do as he pleases. Quinn was living in Jersey City and getting her masters in journalism at New York University and was interning three nights a week at New York's CBS affiliate news station, which of course, I already knew. And so then I began telling the group about the dance studio I was teaching at while bartending on weekends, trying to earn the money to open my own studio. The story was really just for Puck's benefit, as Santana had heard it earlier this morning over breakfast, but she was listening just as intently as she had the first time.
"I have the space I want to rent picked out. It's in the Lower East Side and it's kind of an oddly shaped space, but I think I could use that to my advantage, and block different areas off for different purposes, with the main floor in the middle of the studio. Plus, I could move into the City, then, which I've always wanted to do."
They all nodded in agreement and the conversation fell silent for a moment before Santana spoke.
"I'd love to go see the space with you sometime." She smiled sweetly across the table.
"Oh yeah? Well, maybe we could check it out on Tuesday? I've got classes to teach all day tomorrow and then I picked up a shift tomorrow night at the bar for a girl who needed off for her Dad's birthday. But on Tuesday I'm pretty free in the late afternoon."
"Yeah, that sounds perfect." Almost simultaneously to the use of the word "perfect" I felt Santana tracing her foot up the inside of my leg, from my ankle to the halfway point on my calf. It was sending chills down my spine, and the look on her face said she knew exactly what she was doing to me. As if sensing that this was about to go somewhere completely different, Quinn piped up from my left.
"Oh, shit! I didn't realize it had gotten so late. I have to be at the news station in 45 minutes, and it's all the way in midtown. I better get a move-on."
"Yeah, Q, you're probably right. I haven't done anything productive, well, anything I should have done all day, thanks to this one over here," I nodded my head at Santana, and she chuckled a little bit.
"Are you complaining about that? Because we don't have to…"
"No! No, Santana, I'm definitely not complaining." This time I was the one to flash a mischievous grin her way.
"Alright then, well, I guess this had to come to an end at some point. Are we all settled with the server?" Puck asked.
"Yeah, we all threw our money in a while ago, so we should be set." Quinn provided.
We got up from the booth and all made our way outside when I realized that I didn't have my car since I had left it at the bar after leaving with Santana. Quinn had to go immediately to her job, so I turned to Santana about to ask her a question when she beat me to the punch.
"Need a ride?" She smiled that million-watt smile again.
"Uh, yeah. Sorry, I didn't think about that. My car is still at the bar."
"Not a problem at all!" She nodded her head towards her car as she unlocked her car with her key remote, and we both settled into the seats.
We drove the mile or so in silence except for the radio. When an Amy Winehouse song, "Back to Black," came on, Santana seemed to not be able to help herself, and she began singing again. At first, it was so softly that I wasn't sure if she was singing or just mouthing the words, but gradually, she got louder, and soon her entrancing voice filled the car as readily as Amy's did.
And I took a troubled track
My odds are stacked
I go back to black
We only said goodbye with words
I died a hundred times
You go back to her and
I go back to, I go back to, us
I loved you much
She sang most of the second chorus, totally in her own world, before remembering that she had company in the car and quickly halting the singing and glancing over towards me in the passenger's seat.
"Oh please don't stop, Santana."
She paused for a beat.
"Why couldn't you have said that last night?" She inquired with a Cheshire cat grin on her face.
"Oh, stop it. Just stop it." I joked.
"Yep. That's more along the lines of what I heard."
She was laughing with a full, hearty, gravelly laugh, and I gave her a playful shove into her door.
"Seriously, I mean it! Your voice sounds perfect on that song. That's really your wheelhouse." I paused. "Hah, Winehouse is your wheelhouse." I chuckled to myself.
God, she really is adorable. Especially when she laughs.
I smiled at her joke and exaggeratedly rolled my eyes. Finally, I pulled into the bar parking lot, and instantly knew the light blue VW bug had to be Brittany's. I parked next to it and she looked at me funny.
"You're kind of predictable, Brittany." She laughed and nodded.
"Well, you got it right. Happy?"
"Not so much. You're about to leave me."
"Well aren't you cute?" She leaned across the center console and kissed me lightly, letting her lips linger on mine, tracing her fingertips down the side of my arm.
"I've had a really great time spending the day with you, Santana."
"Me too, Britt."
We looked at each other, and for the first time all day, it was a bit awkward. After all the talk today, we didn't know how to say goodbye to each other now.
"Here, give me your phone." Brittany commanded.
I reached into my pocket and handed her my phone, watching her dial in a number. Moments later, a phone rang, which she pulled from her purse and silenced. I started to reach for my phone, but she started typing into it, so I waited. When she was done, she smiled a huge smile my way, handed me the phone, and said, "Call me tomorrow so we can meet up on Tuesday and check out the studio."
She leaned over and planted another quick kiss on my lips, and I savored the taste, knowing it was our last kiss for the day.
She pulled away and then opened the door, leaning back in briefly with a confused look on her face.
"Did I what, Britt?"
"Nothing, nevermind," she plastered a half-hearted smile, waved with two fingers, closed the door, and walked to her car.
What was that odd taste on her lips?
I had only been kissing this girl for less than 24 hours, but I felt like all of my senses had already memorized her: her taste, her smell, the sounds of her laugh and moans, the scalding chill from her touch. These sensations were already engrained in my brain, but those last two kisses were different. They tasted different. She smelled different.
Had she been smoking?
"Hey, Puck, yeah, I just dropped her off. Thanks for being so chill at the coffee shop. I really don't want her to find out about the bet." I explained into my phone.
"What's the big deal, Lopez? So you first went for her to win a bet. So what?"
"I don't know, it just feels so, so wrong. I just don't want her to know. I want her to feel like she's special and wonderful and perfect, because she is. Good God, Puck, she really is."
"So that's why you freaked out and went to the drug store to buy a pack of smokes for the first time in over two years?"
"Wha… How did you…?"
"Give me some credit, here. We both quit at the same time, but I still remember all the tricks we used to use to keep from smelling like it. I saw your gloves in your back pocket and you were chewing gum when you walked in. You forgot to put your hair up in a hat, though. It still reeked."
"Shit, I hope she didn't notice."
"What, blondie's got a rule against smoking?"
"No, I mean, I don't know. I just assume she'd hate it. She's really into dance, and…"
"Whoa, wait, she's a dancer? Geez, San, don't let this one get away. I'm sure her moves in bed are…"
"Watch it, Puckerman. Watch your mouth. She's not blondie, she's Brittany. And her moves in bed are none of your business."
There was an uncomfortable silence for a beat before Puck responded again.
"You really like her, don't you? I have never seen you like this."
I exhaled a breath I didn't know I was keeping in.
"Yeah, I guess I do."
Now if I could only let myself like her this way.