Chapter 24 – Day 7 – Heat Wave
According to Lemon, Wade's feud with Todd Gainey Jr. had mostly been a war of words, although on more than one occasion, things had escalated to punches.
Veronica listened with half her attention, the remainder occupied by Logan, their overall predicament, Logan, the melting heat, and Logan.
Parched, she downed the rest of her drink – more melted than frozen now – and set down the glass with a loud clunk.
"Oops," she giggled when Lemon paused in her speech. "My bad."
Need to work on the hand-eye coordination thing.
Logan has nice hands.
And pretty eyes.
And coordination. That's always a good thing.
Lemon laughed. "You might want to slow down on those drinks," she suggested, even as she refilled Veronica's glass with more delicious lime margarita.
Veronica attempted to arrange her face into some semblance of contrition.
"So anyway…" Lemon continued, "We need to try to keep Wade from noticing him. Normally, I wouldn't worry, but being that it's the heat wave…"
"Quiet! He's coming back," George said, and Lemon instantly silenced.
"Why the long faces?" Wade asked, spinning the chair between the two girls and straddling it. "Something wrong?" Of course, he happened to choose the seat that put Todd Gainey Jr. and his gang right in his sightline – were he only to look that far.
"Don't be ridiculous," Lemon answered, a little too vehemently. "Why would anything be wrong? It's Homecoming weekend."
"That's what I'm sayin', baby!" he said, giving high fives all around. "So what were y'all talking about?"
"I was just telling Victoria how Delia Anne's 'Margaret Mitchell' won the Annual Bluebell Turtle Race for the fifth year in a row." Lemon said, adding as an aside, "…although rumors say it's not even the original turtle."
"Hundred bucks, and I could get to the bottom of that," Veronica offered.
"Bottom of what?"
"Exposing the imposter racing turtle," Veronica said, as if it were obvious. At Lemon and Wade's confused expressions, she backpedaled. "Never mind. I have no idea why I said that."
"What are you saying? You some kind of psychic?" Wade asked.
I wish. Then I would know what Logan was thinking half the time.
"No. Let's just say I'm good at uncovering the truth."
Wade looked as if he were about to press her further, but then something George said caught his attention. "Oh no you don't!" he shouted. "You can't take credit for that win. Everybody knows I had a miracle catch."
Lemon winced at his outburst. "Wade Kinsella! Didn't your daddy ever teach you it's rude to shout around somebody?" She glanced out to the dance floor where Crazy Earl was still dancing to the music in his head. "Never mind, just trade seats with me."
Wade tried to argue, but one lift from Lemon's well-shaped eyebrow, and he vacated his chair, grumbling and gesturing dramatically for her to take a seat.
Now on Veronica's immediate right, Lemon leaned closer and lowered her voice. "Thank goodness, I don't know how he didn't notice those guys, but who's complaining?"
"So how's the bet going?"
"I think I'm losing." Veronica sighed in annoyance, glancing over at Logan. "He hasn't shown the slightest sign of jealousy. Although…he said something to Wade earlier that caused him to storm off."
"It doesn't take much," Lemon said.
"Me, on the other hand…" Veronica exhaled. "First there were your two friends, Cricket and Betty, then that singer, then the three mean girls, and now…her." She made a dismissive gesture.
"Tansy Truitt," Veronica repeated, distastefully. "He's not even trying. He just plops his cute little ass on a bar stool, and they all flock to him."
Lemon offered a sympathetic smile.
"I can't believe I'm sharing. I don't share. I don't do girl talk."
Lemon patted her hand, comfortingly. "Margaritas will do that, hon."
"Is he wearing an 'open for business sign' that everybody can see but me? What draws all of these girls to him?"
Guess this disproves his theory that girls only like him for his father.
"He's your fiancé. Why do you think girls are drawn to him?"
Veronica paused to formulate her thoughts. "He has this presence. Charisma, I guess. You could put him fully dressed in a room full of the world's most gorgeous male underwear models, and eyes would still keep returning to him. It's as if he's more…alive than the rest. Or maybe he just vibrates at a different frequency or something."
"Well then, you answered your own question," Lemon said, her eyes currently focused across the bar on Lavon Hayes.
"Even when I hated him, he always commanded my attention. Even when I wanted to punch him in his smug little mouth, I couldn't imagine my life without him in it."
The room is spinning, and this conversation isn't even close to being about the cover story.
"He's just…smart and funny and brave…"
And looks at you in that way that makes you want to drop your panties.
Lemon was staring at Lavon Hayes again.
Not that he isn't quite the fine specimen of manhood, but that looks a lot like a crush to me.
Although of a possessive nature, Lemon looked at George as if he were a favorite pet. She was obviously deeply fond of him, but Veronica could not discern any grand passion in their relationship. Lemon had mentioned they'd been together since high school – had been each other's first loves – but Veronica wondered if they stayed together out habit rather than any kind of great love.
Would Duncan and I have ended up like this if we'd stayed together? Holding on for nostalgia's sake while I watched another man across the room? His best friend?
"Maybe things worked out the way they were supposed to."
She lowered her voice so Duncan couldn't hear. "Just thinking about my first love, and how devastated I was when he dumped me. But if he hadn't, I never would have experienced the kind of…passion I have with Nolan."
And there. The slightest flicker in Lemon's eyes confirmed Veronica's suspicions. She'd put the idea out there, it was up to Lemon to examine herself more closely.
"Pansy needs to go away."
Veronica angled her chin at the blonde whispering something in Logan's ear. Whatever it was, it made him laugh aloud.
"Tansy? I don't think you need to worry. She's one of Wade's girls."
"Wade's girls? Is that a club of some type?"
"You'd think so. I mean the handful of girls that usually go for him. Tansy and those girls." She pointed to Kelsey's group. "The Belles are supposed to stay away from him, but I know some of them sneak around, too."
"Well, it looks like she's gotten over Wade," Veronica said, pointing to where Tansy was running her fingers along Logan's arm.
"At least Tansy Truitt is better than Kelsey."
"It doesn't really matter who's worse, they're all hanging all over my fiancé."
"But you're allowing it."
Veronica didn't have an answer ready for that.
"Just call off the bet. What do you have to lose?"
Damn the alcohol, because that's starting to seem more like a win.
With a half-formulated plan to get rid of Tansy, Veronica pushed her chair back, but before she could stand, Wade returned to sit at the head of the table on her left.
"Where do you think you're going?" he asked.
To make a big mistake?
"I finally have time to talk; you can't walk away now."
"So talk." She scooted her chair back in.
The band began playing Melissa Etheridge's 'The Only One', and Veronica's eyes met Logan's. He was still chatting with Tansy, but he smirked and wiggled his beer at her.
"You're cute," Wade was saying. "Have I ever mentioned how much I like petite girls?"
Only about four times already.
"You do?" Veronica giggled and twirled her hair at him. "Well then I'm glad I never had that growth spurt my mom promised me."
"You're just about perfect the way you are."
Wish other people felt that way.
"Thank you. So are you. You must work out a lot to have all of those muscles."
"Work out? No way!" Wade puffed his chest out in a gesture of pure cockiness, "These all come from hard physical labor."
He flexed his bicep, holding it up for her inspection. "Wanna touch?"
"Can I?" she asked breathlessly, squeezing the offered limb. "It's so big! And hard!"
Wade grinned, pleased that she approved of his body, but she found herself waiting for a double entendre that never came. Logan never would have missed the opportunity for a lewd joke.
And when did that start falling into the plus column rather than minus?
But I'm the only one who'd walk across the fire for you.
And I'm the only one who'd drown in my desire for you.
When her eyes found Logan's again, he was locked onto her. Her breath caught at his intense stare, and butterflies took flight in her belly.
Wade is charming. And pretty. So are thousands of other guys in the world.
But only Logan would risk his life for me.
And I would for him.
Wade was saying something to her.
"I'm sorry, can you repeat that?"
Wade lowered his voice and leaned in towards her ear. "I understand. Kinda hard to concentrate when you're having eye-sex with your cousin."
Veronica pulled back and stared at him in surprise. She grasped for a reasonable explanation, but ended up lapsing into giggles. "I'm so sorry. I have a confession to make. Nolan isn't really my cousin."
"Ya don't say," Wade drawled. "Kinda got that impression from JT over there." he jerked his chin at Logan.
Oh. The hat.
"What kind of game are you and your boyfriend playing?" Wade asked.
"He's not my boyfriend."
"Then what is he?"
Less than a boyfriend. Much more than a friend.
Veronica sighed. "My fiancé."
"So I repeat, what game are you and your fiancé playing?"
"Jealousy bet," Veronica said, looking down at the tabletop guiltily. "Whoever acts jealous, loses."
"You should have just told me."
"Because something about that guy just irks the hell out of me."
He gave her a lazy smile, and leaned way too close. Right into her personal space. "I could have helped."
"By sitting really really close?"
"Does that bother you?"
"Surprisingly, not as much as I would expect."
I must be getting better.
Or he must be harmless.
Or I'm drunk.
He scooted even closer. Flung an arm across the back of her chair. "So how soon is the wedding?"
"Is that a question? You don't know when your own wedding is?"
"Well, Lo—" she stopped herself. "NoLo likes to do all the wedding planning. I'll just show up when and where he tells me."
"You sure he's not gay?"
"Well you're not married yet." He flashed her a toothy grin. "So how do you want to go about making him jealous?"
His fingers traced her jaw, and the way he was staring at her lips made Veronica's heart speed up.
Sure, it was obvious what kind of guy he was, but she was super buzzed and he was still incredibly hot with those abs and dimples. And abs. She couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to kiss him.
"Whatcha doin, cousin?" Logan reached around her to set his beer down loudly on the table.
"Nothing!" She jumped back, flustered and guilty.
"Mind scooting over, dude?" Logan asked Wade, stretching to reach for a chair from a nearby table.
Wade, looking annoyed by the interruption, rolled his eyes and pushed back from the table. "Take my seat, dude," he said, standing and making the same dramatic gesture he'd given Lemon earlier. "There's a guy I need to talk to, anyway."
Logan's eyes followed Wade. "Wow, every I come near, that guy stalks off in a tantrum."
He turned his head to watch Wade walk away, mostly in order to hide his pissed off expression. He couldn't believe Billy Bob Studly had been seconds from kissing Veronica.
Onstage, Chessie and her band played Sheryl Crow's 'My Favorite Mistake'.
Wonder how many girls think of me when they hear this song?
Maybe Caitlin, who hadn't found him dangerous enough? Or Carrie, who'd insisted he choose between her and his vendetta against Veronica? Definitely Lilly, who'd flat-out admitted she'd made a mistake.
Does Veronica still regret kissing me?
His gut clenched, but he composed his features into a pleasant mask before bonelessly flopping into the vacant seat.
He glanced at Veronica. "Hey."
"Hi," she answered, her voice husky, and a large grin spreading across her face. A grin so sweet and sincere, his breath caught.
Surprised at her warm greeting, he hesitated before responding with the super original (and repeated) "Hey."
He nearly jumped when she touched his thigh under the table. His eyes widened as she felt tentatively around his leg.
Is this her response to Chessie putting her hand on my thigh? Did she even see that?
She ducked her head to the left, peeking under the table to tug his hand from where it gripped the side of his chair.
Oh. So that's what she was looking for.
She sandwiched his hand between her own warm hands, entwining their fingers together.
"What? You miss me or something?"
She shrugged and turned her face away as if embarrassed to admit it.
"You could've fooled me. Looked like you were about to make out with Wide."
"Wade," she corrected. "Was not."
"He was staring at your mouth. Two more seconds and he would have leaned in."
"Nope. Just wondering what you would have done if I hadn't shown up."
Her eyes flashed with irritation. "You're the one who makes out with anything with a pulse. You know I've only kissed Duncan. And…" She trailed off, her cheeks beginning to flush.
"And who, V?" His stare drilled into her. For some reason, he needed to hear her validate what had happened between them at the convenience store. "Say it."
Her mouth set in an obstinate line, and he was positive she would refuse, but instead, she rose from her seat, and moved to stand beside him. He slung an arm around her back when she leaned down to whisper in his ear. "I. Kissed. You." She puckered up and gave him a loud kiss on his cheek. "Happy?"
"Am now." He couldn't help but grin up at her. "You should do it again some time."
"Be a good boy, and I just might," she said, dropping heavily onto his lap. It had to be the alcohol, because she was rarely this overtly flirtatious. Plus, she was close enough he could smell the lime on her breath.
But I'd rather taste it on her tongue.
"When does the judging period begin, because I've been on my best behavior for a good..." He checked his nonexistent watch, "…three minutes now. I didn't even make fun of Wade when I could have."
"How very adult of you. I'll include that in my evaluation."
He examined her eyes. Glassy.
Let's see if we can get some truth out of you.
"Do you regret kissing me the other day?" he asked in a lowered voice. "Do you think it was a mistake?"
Before she had the chance to speak, he noticed Duncan several feet behind her, standing and staring at them with an inscrutable expression on his face.
Logan held up a hand to stop her from answering.
"Drunk!" he mouthed to his best friend and Veronica proved his point by snuggling her cheek against his shoulder.
Duncan nodded in acknowledgement. It was a known fact back in the Fab Four glory days that a little alcohol made Veronica a whole lot of affectionate.
Still, we shouldn't rub it in his face.
"Duncan's watching us," he whispered.
"Is he mad?"
"That his ex-girlfriend totally wants to make out with me? No, he's ecstatic."
"Fine," she sighed, standing and returning to her own chair. Leaving a cold spot on his legs.
Fucking Duncan. I was enjoying that.
And she forgot to argue about wanting to make out with me.
"I told Annabeth I'd walk her home," Duncan said. "Is V going to be okay?"
"Yeah," Logan answered. "I'll get her back to the room safely."
Duncan nodded again. "Catch you in the morning." His hand rested on Annabeth's lower back as they walked away.
DK manning up? Whadya know?
On stage, Chessie winked at him before launching into Sophie B. Hawkins' 'Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover'.
Why am I not surprised? A Lilly favorite for a Lilly reincarnation.
"So, where'd Tansy go?" Veronica asked, not paying any attention to the band.
"Tansy?" Between Veronica's surprising flirtation and Chessie's blatant invitation, he had to pause to remember the girl he'd been chatting with mere minutes ago. "She mentioned something about her loser brothers being here. How do you know who Tansy is?"
"Lemon told me."
"Oh…were you checking up on your dear cousin?"
"Why would I do that?"
"More like relief," Veronica teased. "That somebody might be willing to take you off my hands."
"Oh. Well she'd take me off your hands." Logan pointed to Chessie on stage who was unabashedly singing straight to him. "She'd rock me till' the daylight comes, and make sure I am smiling and warm."
He grinned smugly when she sang the same lyrics at him moments later.
Yeah, no mistaking her intentions. She's singing right to me.
Used to the coy signals of trophy wives (and the stepdaughters who hated them), Chessie's flagrant invitation was a refreshing change.
And a complete turn on.
Both women wore predatory gazes - Chessie's aimed at Logan, while Veronica's was fixated on the singer.
She's looking for weakness.
God, that's hot.
She leaned over to whisper to Lemon, who coolly examined both Chessie and Logan in turn before whispering back to Veronica.
He flashed her a knowing smirk when their eyes met again.
"We're Bayou Circus, and we'll be back in twenty minutes," Chessie said as the song ended. She nodded at Logan, jerked her head towards the bar, and walked away.
Veronica put her hand on Logan's knee. She was about to say something, when the silence was broken by the jukebox turning back on. Squeals erupted at the table for the opening notes of Britney Spears' 'Toxic'.
"I can't escape this song," Veronica mumbled under her breath. "Your theme song," she clarified, when her eyes met Logan's again.
"'Bout time you admitted you're addicted to me." He smirked.
She quirked her lips, obviously about to reply with something witty, when Lemon, Cricket and Betty surrounded her, grabbing her hand and insisting that she join them on the dance floor.
A drink was waiting for him when he slipped onto the barstool next to Chessie.
"Took you long enough," she said.
If he were smart, he would have ignored her summons. Veronica had seemed on the verge of saying something back at the table. Before those squealing magpies dragged her away to dance.
But you don't piss off a woman who knows your identity and could have you arrested.
He studied her while they conversed – when he wasn't watching Veronica, that is. Chessie's animated features danced as she spoke, brows rising and falling, nose scrunching in amusement, teeth flashing spontaneous grins.
Although their conversation consisted of mundane small talk, her sparkling green eyes made her intentions clear.
Finally, she chose to go the blunt route. "Have you ever been with an older woman?"
Logan rolled his eyes. "What do you think?"
She nodded, as if his answer was what she'd expected. "I have another hour in my set."
He waited her out.
She touched his knee. "I'm in room 32 at the Bluebird Inn. Care to join me?"
"What do you have in mind?"
"Oh you know, a rousing game of checkers." She tossed her hair behind her shoulder. "Or we could just fuck."
Fuck. That's hot.
He broke out in a grin. "You women. Always playing coy."
His eyes swept the room, locating Veronica on the dance floor looking adorable. "I appreciate the offer, but I made a promise to V that we'd leave here together. She's not used to drinking in public."
"You fucking her?" Chessie asked.
"But you want to."
He shrugged noncommittally. "Maybe."
"How does she feel about the matter?"
"Deny, deny, deny." Logan laughed wryly. "In her defense, I was a complete fuckhead to her for the past year."
"She didn't seem to be in denial when she was sitting on your lap a few minutes ago."
"Nah. She's an affectionate drunk. Always has been."
"So she has no claim upon you?"
"So if you were to walk her back to your room, get her settled, and then join me afterwards, what would she do?"
"Wish me a good time and pretend not to care."
Then spend the next month freezing me out.
"So what do you have to lose?"
Logan paused to consider. He couldn't deny that he was super attracted to this woman. But was it really her? Or just the way she channeled Lilly?
I actually could meet her later. It's not as if Veronica would ever admit to caring.
He looked Chessie up and down. Light auburn curls, ample chest, generous thighs. Sparkling mischievous eyes.
This woman could teach me things I've never even imagined.
I need this, dammit!
For seven days, he'd been balanced on a knife's edge of adrenaline. Fearing for Duncan's life. Fearing for Veronica's. Bruised and battered from Fitzpatricks and Mexican bikers and over-eager fangirls. Car chases. Foot chases. And several cases of blue balls. He was fucking exhausted.
And that didn't even take into account the emotional roller coaster. The real possibility that Duncan might choose to stay behind. That he might lose the one person he'd been closest to since the age of five. That he might lose him anyway if and when his feelings for Veronica came out. And the intensity of those feelings! Tempted to strangle her one moment, and to walk through fire for her the next. Nobody could make him feel like Veronica. Whether that was a positive or a negative depended on the day.
The pressure from all sides was overwhelming.
All his life, Logan had three methods for relieving stress – alcohol, fighting and sex. Getting wasted was off the table. He needed to remain constantly vigilant in case Liam found them. Even his current minor buzz was a risk he shouldn't have taken. Fighting was out of the question. He couldn't afford to call any attention to them.
But how nice it would be to bury himself between this girl's thighs for a while. Just to take the edge off. A no-strings hookup to clear his mind and help him focus.
"It's just sex," she laughed, as if reading his mind. "Not a lifetime commitment."
"You know that. And I know that. But I have a feeling she wouldn't see it that way." He pointed at Veronica on the dance floor.
He couldn't help the sinking feeling that fucking Chessie would be like cheating on Veronica.
It's not cheating if she's outright told me that nothing will ever happen between us.
But her actions say otherwise.
Who was to say that he wasn't misinterpreting, though? So she liked to cuddle in bed. It might mean she had feelings for him. Or…she could just be a girl who'd suffered trauma at the hands of an attempted rapist, taking comfort where she could find it.
And their kiss…even better than he'd ever imagined – and he'd imagined it hundreds of times – but he knew better than anyone that a physical connection did not necessarily equal an emotional connection. And he wouldn't settle for less. Not from Veronica.
She had said nothing to encourage him, nothing to make him think that she wanted anything more from him than friendship (and maybe an occasional kiss). So why shouldn't he meet Chessie at her motel?
But he couldn't help feeling that this was, once again, coming down to a Lilly vs. Veronica choice, and he was still reeling from the last time he'd made that choice.
"You're considering it," Chessie said.
"Perhaps." He smirked at her. "Why me? There are dozens of guys around here. You a star-fucker or something?"
"Why? You think you're a star?"
"So it's the experience of hooking up with a fugitive that turns you on? "
"What can I say? I'm a sucker for a guy in a hat."
And I'm a sucker for a girl who goes after what she wants.
"Or maybe I just like the way you move," she continued.
"Well then you'd really like the way I'd move on top of you." He waggled his eyebrows in an exaggeratedly corny manner.
She flashed him Lilly's devilish smile. "So that's a yes?"
He was giving her offer consideration when 'Toxic' ended on the jukebox, replaced by the opening notes of a Spanish guitar.
He laughed aloud.
This song – by Jay Z and Beyoncé – had been playing on a loop in his head for days. Ever since Veronica had first said the words 'Ronnie and Clyde' after their encounter with Chardo.
He pushed back his bar stool.
"Where are you going?" Chessie asked.
He pointed to the speaker above their head. "Hear that?"
"That's the sign I was looking for."
"What kind of sign?"
"A sign that maybe I should try taking things on faith." On a whim, he leaned over and kissed her cheek. "I am truly flattered by your offer. Any guy would be lucky to sleep with you."
"But you've got it bad for Super Blondie."
Logan grinned and gave an embarrassed shrug. "Only since I was twelve years old."
"Go on, then," Chessie shoved him away with a laugh. "But I hope for your sake that you two don't suffer the same fate as the real Bonnie and Clyde."
Veronica hadn't been dancing for almost a year. Two weeks before her death, Lilly had dragged her to a club in San Diego where she'd known the bartender. 'The best way to get over one boy is to grind up on another, Veronica Mars.' she'd said, demonstrating on a nearby towhead just days out of Idaho. They'd danced to the brink of exhaustion, until they'd both been covered in a sheen of perspiration. Until the bartenders called out 'Last Call' and the lights came on. She'd given fake phone numbers to three guys – much to Lilly's disappointment. 'You have to get back in the saddle. Duncan was never worthy of your awesomeness, Ron.'Lilly had complained on the walk back to the car. 'Duncan, who?' Veronica had answered with mock seriousness.
She'd forgotten how amazing it felt to let her body take over, answering only to the music. The Britney song ended way too soon, and all three of her companions looked tired. Too hot for dancing.
Cricket and Betty headed back to the table, but Lemon, noticing her hesitation, remained on the dance floor like a trooper. Veronica was about to suck it up and suggest they go sit, when a body pressed against her from behind.
"Logan…" she exhaled, pressing back into him. She didn't need to see his face. After a week of snuggling in beds and mop closets - first accidentally and later on purpose – she would recognize his body anywhere.
Couldn't say the same about Duncan. Even after a year of dating.
Lemon gave her a 'you're-in-good-hands' hand signal and exited the dance floor.
"They're playing our song, Ronnie," Logan leaned down to whisper in her ear.
But today, I got my thoroughest girl with me
I'm mashin the gas, she's grabbin the wheel,
it's trippy how hard she rides with me
She laughed, "No sappy ballads for Veronica and Logan, huh?"
"Logan and Veronica." He corrected. "And what are you talking about? This is sappy. You should hear the other candidates."
"You'll have to play them for me some time."
"I'll make you a mix tape," he said with a chuckle. "We can call it 'Love/Hate and Other Dysfunctional Contradictions'." He pressed his lips to the top of her head, to soften his words.
She recognized this song. It had come out the year before, and although she didn't dislike it, she'd never paid it much attention. Never noticed its inherent sensuality.
Or maybe it was just Logan - his large hands guiding her hips in a loose figure-eight pattern. His body setting the rhythm, hers attached like static cling.
I think I drank too much, because this feels like floating.
His mouth near her ear, whispered lyrics - or his own version of them - "Cause Ronnie's a rider and I'm a roller. Put us together, how they gonna stop both us"
She laughed softly and covered his hands with her own. Exerting more pressure.
In response, his fingertips curled, digging into her flesh. Gathering handfuls of fabric. The scratch and scrape of the stiff tulle underskirt against the skin of her outer thighs made her tingle on the inside, and she reached a hand up to the back of his neck to anchor herself.
"The '04 Bonnie and Clyde - Lo and V, holla." He laughed into her ear. She was pretty sure those weren't the original lyrics.
Her head fell heavily back against his chest, allowing her to look up at his face. "Hi," she said.
"Hi," he smiled down at her.
It would be so easy to pull his mouth down to mine.
What's stopping me?
Something in her eyes must have telegraphed her lusty thoughts, because Logan's breath hitched and his hands began travelling. Tracing the outline of her body. Thighs. Hips. Waist. Ribs. When his thumbs brushed along the sides of her breasts, her eyes flew closed and she dragged a ragged breath through her lungs.
"Sorry," he said, sliding his hands back down to the safety her hips.
Don't apologize. Just keep groping.
She sagged bonelessly against him, laughing.
"What's so funny?"
"I feel like a chocolate bar left in a hot car. I could melt all over you."
Dipping his head, he kissed her cheek. "You don't taste like chocolate."
"But I could…" she answered, with a Logan-esque waggle of the eyebrows.
Caught off guard, he seemed momentarily speechless, before swallowing and saying, "Sounds...delish...but how about we start you off with the basics before moving on to the kinks?"
"You're no fun," she pouted.
And I don't have to worry, only worry is him
She'd do anything necessary for him
And I'd do anything necessary for her
so don't let the necessary occur
Logan took a step back, twirling her around to face him. She laughed as she wobbled on her silver heels.
He steadied her and moved in, fingers gliding over her skin, raising goose bumps in their wake. From her bare shoulders down the outside of her arms, to her wrists. Lifting her hands, he pulled her closer, wrapping them around the back of his neck, and holding them in place with his own.
Veronica's eyes rose to Logan's face, where he stared with adoring eyes. "You're schmooping again."
"Should I stop?"
Logan smiled then, and her heart fluttered in response.
God, he looks good in that hat.
"So what was up with that singer?"
He glanced back at the bar. "She wants to fuck me."
Shocking. That'll make headlines.
"You tell her your bed is already occupied?" she asked, with a forced air of nonchalance.
He wouldn't meet her eyes. "But then she invited me to join her at her motel, after I drop you off."
"Oh." Veronica's belly knotted up, and the lump in her throat was so thick she had a hard time swallowing. She stared at his chest as she asked her next question. "Are you going to go?"
"Do you want me to tell her no?" He tensed, as if preparing for rejection, his neck becoming granite under her hands.
Even in her drunk, muddled state, she could tell her answer to this question was important. She slowly lifted her eyes to his face, almost knocked over by the intensity in his stare. "Yes."
Logan exhaled deeply, the tension falling away, and his eyes softening until they resembled velvet. "I already did."
Her own tension dissipated. "You? Passing up easy sex?" she asked in exaggerated surprise.
His lips curled up faintly. "Look at me, getting my priorities straight."
"But why? You're single. She's…?"
Veronica's knees went weak and she was grateful her arms were around his neck to support her weight. She turned away, afraid her emotions might be written all over her face.
His long fingers nudged her jaw, forcing her to look into his eyes. "I just…I think I should give you a little time to figure out how you feel before I do something that can't be taken back. You know?"
She would have kissed him in that moment if he hadn't pulled her flush against his body, pressing her cheek to his chest, and tightening both arms around her.
This wasn't really dancing. Their bodies continued to sway together, at a fraction of the pace of the music. But it felt too good to stop.
She was pressed up against him, drunk and relieved and overwhelmed. She swore she could see his pulse fluttering in this throat, so without overthinking, she pressed her lips to it. Logan inhaled and tightened his fingers on her hips. When she parted her lips and tentatively touched her tongue to the same spot, he let out an audible groan. She laughed softly and kissed a path across his neck like he'd done to her the day before. When she swirled her tongue over the junction of his neck and shoulder – the same spot that had turned her to jelly – his hand tangled in her hair, and he hissed "Fuck, Veronica."
I just produced a reaction like that in Logan Echolls?
Proud of herself, she did it again.
Logan pulled back from her, eyes dazed. "Cousins don't do that, Ronnie."
"I don't want to be your cousin."
He blinked, and when he spoke, his voice sounded hoarse. "Tell me what you do want."
She stared at him, unable to look away. She couldn't speak – no words existed to describe this mixture of longing and trepidation.
Beyoncé had a suggestion:
So I put this on my life
Nobody or nothing will ever come between us
And I promise I'll give my life
My love and my trust if you was my boyfriend.
Veronica looked away, embarrassed. As if she'd spoken the words herself. When she looked back up, Logan was smirking. She couldn't help but smirk back.
What the hell are we doing? No way, we can play this off as cover story.
She knew there were others on the dance floor, but it felt as if she and Logan were the only two people in the world. His gaze dropped to her lips, and she was sure he was going about to kiss her.
Just do it already, Logan. You're killing me.
"You're staring at my mouth," she said, when he didn't.
"It's okay. I'll release you from your vow to not initiate a kiss first."
Logan shook his head with a laugh and looked up at the ceiling as if asking for strength, before pressing her cheek to his chest again, severing eye contact.
Whadya know? I make him nervous.
After a moment of silence, he spoke. "You kissed my neck. So you initiated the first kiss."
"Oh, so neck kisses count?" she asked. "Because I seem to remember you initiating one at the mall while I was trying to pick that lock."
He chuckled. "Okay, fine. Neck kisses don't count. How about shoulder kisses?" He bent to press his lips to her bare skin.
"I'll allow it," Veronica said with a shiver. Often. "Although, to make things fair, you should wear something strapless."
"Or I could just take my shirt off, like your boy toy, Wade."
She giggled and nestled into his chest.
"You think Lilly would be pissed about this?" she asked.
"No…" The kiss. The cuddling. The…feelings? "Yeah. Dancing"
"Um…no." Logan let out a bitter laugh. "I'm pretty sure Lilly's ghost pressed the buttons on the jukebox to get me out here with you. We're playing right into her ghostly hands."
Veronica had a feeling Logan was talking about much more than the dancing.
"Someday, when I'm awfully low, when the world is cold," Duncan sang, reaching for one of Annabeth's hands and twirling her in a circle. "I will feel a glow just thinking of you. And the way you look tonight."
Annabeth giggled. "What are you doing?"
"Serenading you in the moonlight." Duncan hopped up onto one of the railroad ties lining the deserted road, walking heel to toe, as if on a balance beam. It was still meltingly hot outside, but it had cooled off enough where he could at least breathe now.
"Nobody's ever serenaded me before."
"Well that is a travesty. You should be serenaded daily. You're beautiful."
"Thank you," Annabeth said, and even if he couldn't see her blush in the dark, she hid her face as if he could. "You sure like to sing, don't you?"
"Mostly when I drink," Duncan admitted. "Logan thoroughly detests it,"
Oh crap. "Um…Best friend back home."
"I thought Nolan was your best friend."
"He is…I have two, actually. Nolan and Logan. They're both kind of jealous of each other."
"What's Logan like?"
"A lot like Nolan, actually. Which explains why they don't get along. Where are we going anyway?"
"You'll see. We're almost there."
They'd been walking ever since they left the bar, Annabeth pointing out town landmarks, and Duncan trying not to fall in love with the place. Trying not to notice the 'For Rent' sign for the apartment above The Dixie Stop. Trying not to consider how he might make a living without any marketable skills.
Better think on it anyway. You'll still have to find a job in Florida.
"Speaking of destinations…" Annabeth was saying. "…where are the three of you headed?"
Of course, they wanted to point those searching for the Neptune Three towards Chicago. Neptune to Chicago by way of Dallas was a logical path. But their alter egos were from Seattle. How could he explain travelling from Seattle to Chicago by way of the Deep South?
Going to have to wing it.
As much as he didn't want to mention Florida, he didn't have much of a choice. Bluebell was right on the Gulf of Mexico and, the only other nearby states were to the North.
"We're heading to Tallahassee. For a wedding."
"Wouldn't it have been easier and cheaper to fly?"
"Oh, of course," Duncan said. "But my sister Victoria has an irrational fear of flying, so we thought we could do the 'Great American Road Trip'."
"How lovely. So is it family getting married?"
"No…It's my…ex-girlfriend…" What am I saying? He fumbled for a name. "Betty."
"Oh!" Annabeth grasped his forearm in sympathy. "Are you okay about it? Is it painful?"
He pasted on a stoic expression. "It's a little bittersweet, but I'm happy for her."
"Did you love her very much?"
"Once upon a time. I'm okay now."
"Who ended the relationship?"
"Actually, our parents did,' Duncan said. "Our moms made it happen."
"Why would they do a thing like that?"
"Well…" Duncan took a deep breath, searching for a story. "They hate each other. Always have."
"I don't know. Went all the way back to high school. I think it had something to do with my dad."
This is becoming a uncomfortably close to the truth about Veronica. Shake things up, Donut.
"And they forced you to break up?"
"They managed to put aside their animosity temporarily for the greater good of tricking us into breaking up."
"How could they trick you into breaking up?"
Duncan searched his mind. "Oh, the usual ways. This other girl...um...Pam…started showing interest in me. I tried to let her down easy, but she started acting crazy and stalking me and playing tricks on Betty to convince her I'd cheated on her."
Annabeth's eyes widened. "That's horrible! Was she crazy?"
"Nope, just a very good actress. Turns out, she was paid by our moms to break us up. But by then, it was too late. Betty had already moved on with her new boyfriend...Troy."
Now that I've spoiled the entire plot of 'Twisted Cravings', I can only pray she's not an Aaron Echolls fan.
Then again, if he continued with this movie plot, next would be the part after the reveal, where his character has rough hate-sex with the Pam character in an elevator, intercut with shots of the sweet Betty character hanging herself from a bell tower, taking to her grave the knowledge that she'd known all along she was in love with her own brother.
Bringing me full circle back to Veronica.
Annabeth was shocked. "Your mother paid a girl to pretend to stalk you? That's insane!"
And now she's happy I'm leaving town in the morning, so she'll never have to meet my wicked mother.
Duncan was finding more and more as the night went on, that he actually enjoyed inventing a backstory. Becoming a completely different person. He felt a trickle of excitement every time he made up a story, but he may have ventured a little far outside the edges of believability. "Yeah, I cut all contact with my mother after that. For Pam, it was just an acting job."
"I am so sorry you had it so rough," Annabeth said with sincerity. "Do you have a girl at home now?"
Nope. As lonely as I've always been. "Nobody. How about you? You dating anybody?"
Annabeth looked away shyly. "No. I dated Jake Nass for two years, but we recently broke up. He met another girl he liked better."
"Then he must have been crazy, because if you were my girlfriend, you'd be the only girl in the world."
And you could be my girlfriend.
"Aren't you just the sweetest thing?"
They stepped into a clearing where moonlight shone down onto a large pond.
"Wow," Duncan said. "This is beautiful."
"I think so." Annabeth turned her back to Duncan. "Can you unzip me?"
He swallowed thickly. Forcing his hands to remain steady, he drew the zipper down its path on her green summer dress. "Okay."
"Thanks," she said, sliding the dress off her shoulders, stepping out of it, and draping it carefully on a wooden picnic table.
Her bra and high-waisted underwear set - navy with white polka dots - resembled something from a fifties pinup calendar.
It's like the land that time forgot. In a really hot way.
"Wh-what are you doing?" Duncan asked.
"Just what everybody else around here does," she said. "But I've always had to worry about propriety and being a lady."
Duncan couldn't breathe.
"What are you waiting for?" She gestured towards his clothes with an index finger, her meaning clear.
Hesitantly, he stripped down to his boxers, placing his clothing on the table next to her dress.
If we do this, I'll never be able to leave.
Would that be such a bad thing? Maybe I'm holding Logan back. He wouldn't need to run and hide if he wasn't protecting me.
And without me around, Veronica would never have to find out we're related.
"…but tonight…" Annabeth was saying. "It's the heat wave, and for once, I don't feel like being a lady."
She reached for a thick rope tucked behind a tree branch. A massive knot secured a wooden disc to the bottom.
Wow. Did I ever misinterpret that speech?
She lifted one foot to the disc. Gripping the rope tightly, she lifted her second foot, swinging out over the pond and letting go at the highest point of its arc, dropping with a loud splash.
Duncan caught the rope on the way back.
"Come on," Annabeth called from the water. "The water's warm."
He could practically hear Celeste's disapproving commentary in his head, warning him about water-born parasites, and rusty nails and hepatitis.
Fuck you, mom.
Well Lilly, you wanted me to live a little. If this is heat wave fever, I don't want to be cured.
Duncan let out a whoop as he swung out over the pond, twisting to dive headfirst as he released the rope.
Logan had to shake himself to keep from staring at Veronica in stunned disbelief.
She kissed my fucking neck!
They'd talked some more and danced the remainder of the song, but he was unable to stop thinking about the feel of her tongue on his skin.
He didn't care about the bet anymore. He just wanted to be alone with Veronica.
He'd been about to tell her so, when the song ended. Had been about to take her by the hand to lead her out the door, when Lemon ran up to snatch her away, insisting she come settle an argument for her.
He could have just followed. He had a right to stand next to her. She was his fiancée, after all. Kind of.
Not at all.
But he was so overwhelmed by the neck kiss he couldn't think straight. Still was.
He'd gotten another beer from the bar, and now leaned against a wall watching her.
Dozens of other girls had kissed him that way, so why was this any different?
Veronica makes everything feel new again.
Back in the early days with Lilly, she'd trained him that sex was the objective. Every kiss, a means to an end. One step closer to the main event.
The day they'd left California, he'd woken in the middle of the night to Veronica trying to squirm her way into his arms. She hadn't been awake, and he could have pulled away or taken her place at the foot of the bed without her ever knowing. But maybe he'd needed her as much as she'd needed him, so instead, he'd covered her up with the sheet and pulled her close, experiencing his first moment of contentment since Lilly's death. And that's how it had been ever since. Cuddling in bed wasn't going to lead to sex, and he was fine with that. It was a sort of happiness he hadn't experienced with Lilly or anybody else. He imagined this was the sort of trajectory other guys took. Guys who had to work to get laid. Guys whose first loves weren't nymphos.
He kind of preferred it this way. He imagined, were she inclined, he could spend hours just kissing her. It was nice. It was new.
Her eyes found his from across the room, and she flashed him a beautiful smile. His belly fluttered, and an answering smile stretched across his own face.
She turned back to her discussion with Lemon.
Several feet to his left, Wade chatted with George and another man. To his right, an open door led outside to a patio of sorts.
When Veronica met his eyes again, he flicked his eyes towards the patio door and back. She caught on, and smiled again, flashing him the 'one-second' sign with her finger.
He slipped outside to the patio, heart hammering in his chest.
What am I doing? What do I do once she gets out here? What do I say?
The patio was vacant, the sweltering heat keeping everyone inside with the barely-there AC and the useless ceiling fans. The parking lot and the main road weren't visible from this side of the building, only a single-lane gravel road leading away to nowhere.
From the open doorway, he heard the sounds of the band returning to the stage. Launching into an Amy Winehouse number – 'You Know That I'm No Good'.
He was bouncing off the walls with a strange sort of...energy. Excitement.
Why? It's not as if I don't sleep with her every single night.
But this is different, somehow.
"Well there you are!" a feminine voice called out.
Unless Veronica had suddenly developed a twang, it was the wrong girl. He turned around. "Tansy," he said, flatly.
"I was wondering where you'd disappeared to," she said, stepping out into the night.
"Hey, this isn't the best time."
"Tell me when Wade's looking," she said, ignoring his comment.
He sighed. "I'm kind of in the middle of something."
"Nonsense, you're standing out here all by your lonesome," Tansy teased. "This will only take a second."
Logan sighed. "Fine, but make it quick though. I'm waiting for someone."
What's taking Veronica so long?
"You have to help me." Tansy moved closer. "Wade is making me just about insane. He hasn't paid any attention to me all night. Except when I'm with you."
"Yeah, I think he sees me as a threat. He doesn't seem to like me very much."
"Is he looking?"
Logan glanced through the doorway. Wade's full attention was on George.
Just help her out and get this over with. "Yeah, he's staring out here and he looks really jeal—"
Suddenly, Tansy was molded against his body, arms tight around his neck, shoving her tongue down his throat.
What the fuck?
It took him a second to realize what was happening, and then he grasped her by the forearms and pulled away, staring at her as if she'd grown a second head.
What exactly did I say to make her think this was a good idea?
He glanced over Tansy's shoulder and froze. Veronica stood backlit in the doorway, an expression of hurt and betrayal on her face. Their eyes met, and Logan felt as if somebody had ripped out his own heart, crushing it beneath their shoe.
She spun on her heel, storming off across the room making a beeline straight for...
She thinks I lured her out here to witness that kiss. For that stupid bet.
Logan stumbled around Tansy to chase after her. "V! Wait! I didn't do it!"
Veronica didn't stop. Didn't even slow. Not until her mouth was attached to Wade's.
If Wade was surprised by Veronica's actions, he managed to rally quickly, pulling her closer and proceeding to kiss the hell out of her.
A gasp to his right told Logan that Tansy had followed him back inside.
Good. She caused this.
The burning sensation in Logan's gut felt like he'd swallowed a chunk of magma, and his jaw clenched so tightly it was a miracle he didn't break any teeth.
Breathe through it, Logan. You've taken worse hits than this.
Slightly dizzy, Veronica took a second to steady herself after Wade's lips pulled away.
Wow! The boy knows how to kiss.
Maybe it's not a jolt of electricity like with Logan, but...
Logan. Her stomach dropped.
Not technically cheating, but so much for his pretty words about not doing something that couldn't be taken back.
Turning, she searched out his face, determined to prove to him how little she actually cared. She found him soon enough, right behind her in fact, but it wasn't jealousy in his eyes. It was…misery?
Good. How do you think I felt?
Because she'd barely been able to concentrate the entire time she was saying goodbye to Lemon and the Belles. Wondering what Logan wanted. Wanting to go to him immediately.
And then to find out that he'd only wanted to make her jealous. Sure, he wanted to win the stupid bet, but after their dance, she'd thought things were different somehow. He could have won the bet without resorting to hurting her.
"I didn't kiss her back," he said, quietly. "She threw herself at me."
Her head was spinning from the alcohol, but she knew what she'd seen. Logan and Tansy kissing.
Or did I?
She replayed the scene in her mind. Tansy pressed up against Logan. Her arms around his neck. Her stupid mouth against his stupid mouth.
Where had his hands been?
They'd been at his sides, and then he'd lifted them to…
…push her away.
It took all of her willpower to be able to meet his eyes. "I think I made a mistake."
"It's okay." Logan's voice was still quiet, but his face was utterly blank. He stretched out a hand to her. "Come here."
She examined his expression. Did he mean it? Was this the Logan she'd spent the past week with? Or was it psychotic jackass Logan in sheep's clothing waiting to make her pay?
She just wanted to get out of here. Duncan was long gone. Lemon and the other Belles had left minutes ago. There was no reason to stick around.
"It's okay," Logan repeated. "We can talk about it later."
"Okay." She smiled hesitantly, and took a step towards him. She was reaching for his outstretched hand, when she was grabbed roughly by the shoulder and spun around.
"You keep your damn hands off my boyfriend," Tansy hissed, eyes narrowed in anger.
"Tansy…" Wade sighed and stepped forward. "I'm not your boyfr—"
"Who the hell do you think you are?" Veronica interrupted. "You didn't seem to care about Wade when you were all over my boyfriend outside?"
Don't look at Logan. DON'T look at Logan.
"Your cousin is your boyfriend?" Tansy released Veronica's arm as if afraid of catching something toxic. "I don't know where you're from, but around here…"
"Where have you been the last fifteen minutes? Guess you missed that little display on the dance floor?"
They were drawing a crowd. Most of the patrons of the bar had gathered near, attracted by the drama unfolding.
"She's not my cousin, Tansy," Logan said, moving closer. "If you would have just listened when I told you I was waiting for someone outside…"
Tansy spun on him. "She's not your cousin?"
"So when you told me that Wade was hitting on your cousin?"
"I lied. I mean, he was hitting on her, but she wasn't my cousin."
"You said you were trying to help me with Wade." Tansy was so angry she hardly registered that Wade was within earshot.
Logan looked guiltily at his feet.
"We weren't making Wade jealous at all, were we?"
Careful Logan, she's like a cat with a twitchy tail.
"No," Logan exhaled. "Wade couldn't care less. We were making her jealous."
Tansy threw herself into the punch, her fist connecting with Logan's face with everything she had. His head snapped back, but he remained on his feet, using his knuckles to wipe the trickle of blood away from his nose.
Without thinking about the repercussions, Veronica launched herself at Tansy.
Before she could reach the woman, Wade's forearm hooked around her abdomen and dragged her roughly off her feet.
"Let me go," Veronica shrieked, kicking her feet and trying to pry his arm off. "She hit him!"
"He kind of deserved it. He was being an asshole," Wade said in her ear. "Settle down."
"I know! But you don't hit my jackass right in front of me." She tried biting Wade on the arm, but the flexed muscle was like granite and hurt her teeth. "Let go. You're hurting me."
Then Logan was there. "Get your fucking hands off her." His tone was deceptively calm.
Too calm. He's about to blow.
Wade set her down, and pushed her to the side. "What are you going to do about it NoLo? Challenge me to a dance-off?" He smirked and puffed his chest out in a show of male bravado.
Not his sweet grin, or his sexy grin, or his ironic grin.
Nope, this was the ugly grin.
He turned his body slightly, as if to walk away.
Things are about to get…unpleasant.
And then planted a fist in the middle of Wade's face.
Wade went down, catching himself with a palm to the floor.
Logan's attention turned back to Veronica. "You okay? How bad did he hurt you?"
He didn't see Wade getting back up. Didn't see him pull back a fist and let fly.
"LOGAN!" Veronica yelled.
She had to hand it to him, Logan had catlike reflexes. He ducked just in time, and the punch connected with the face of the guy standing behind him.
Todd Gainey Jr.
Within minutes, the conflict escalated into a full-fledged bar fight. Todd Gainey Jr's gang of friends from Fillmore were quick to jump in, as were Wade's friends.
Those who weren't fighting quickly got the hell out of the way, pulling back to corners, ducking behind tables, or running out the door. Veronica, trapped in the middle of the action found herself buffeted from all sides by hips and elbows. Separating her further from Logan.
She could just make out his profile across the room, about to be struck in the head by one of the guys from the Gainey gang. Before she could scream to warn him, Logan's friend, the singer, clubbed the man with the bottom of her mic stand. The guy dropped to the floor, and Logan had only a moment to peer over the crowd, before he was swallowed up again.
On the far side of the bar, Veronica could see Tansy and that mean girl Kelsey in a hair-pulling match, but whether over Wade or Logan, she couldn't say.
Surrounded by swinging arms and grunting bodies, she couldn't locate Logan, and was beginning to panic. She took a George Tucker butt to her abdomen and went down hard. Crawling under a nearby table, she dug through her purse for Mr. Sparky.
"Logan!" she yelled.
Fuck! Wrong name!
Suddenly, he was there, crouched down and reaching for her. "Are you okay?"
She nodded. "Just a little banged up."
"Okay, we have to get out of here." He helped her up and pulled her through the crowd at a crouch, shielding her from flying fists with his body. Still, she had to taser three guys on their way across the room.
Right before they made it through the patio door, a voice yelled. "Hey! Where the hell you think you're going? You started all of this!" It sounded a lot like Wade.
Logan clutched her hand and they took off at a run, nearly knocking over a round black man wearing a bowtie and a straw panama hat, who'd chosen that exact moment to step out onto the patio for a cigar.
"Heat wave fever," he said, shaking his head sadly as they ran past. "Happens every year."
Even with her wet hair slicked back into a low ponytail, Annabeth was still one of the prettiest girls Duncan had ever met.
They'd had a great time splashing and swimming in the moonlit pond. Afterwards, they'd air-dried on an old wooden picnic table, talking and staring at the stars.
Now, walking slowly down the main drag of the town, she hesitantly reached for his hand. "Do you think…?" Annabeth began. "If you were sticking around town…?"
"Yeah," Duncan said. There was something about this girl. Soft and feminine, genteel and whimsical. Ladylike, with an underlying strength of character. But fun at the same time. She was nothing like the girls back in Neptune - Shelly, Pam, Madison, and the gang. If anything, she reminded him of Veronica. His version of Veronica. Before she'd become hard and brittle.
He could fall hard for this girl if given the chance. He had the sense that she could be not only a girlfriend, but a good friend as well.
It doesn't have to be a missed opportunity.
"Yeah," he repeated. "If we were sticking around, I would take you out on proper dates, and get to know your family, and root for your turtle in the turtle races. I wish that I could."
I still can. It's not too late.
She flashed a sad little smile. "Well I guess we're here."
"Your B&B," she said, pointing at the Victorian they were standing in front of.
Suddenly, Duncan was not ready for the night to end. "Are you in a big hurry to get home?"
They'd been running down the gravel road for nearly three minutes when Logan identified the noises coming from Veronica as hysterical laughter. He skidded to a halt, bending over with his hands on his knees to catch his breath.
"What's so funny?"
"I don't know. It's just…we keep running – the wrong way – but nobody's chasing us, and we just started a bar fight. And I tried to punch somebody. Over you! The guy who just happened to smash my headlights two weeks ago."
Logan could acknowledge the humor in the situation. "You forgot the part where you gnawed on your new boyfriend's arm."
"That wasn't an arm. It was a block of marble. And only because your new girlfriend started it."
He straightened, and when he turned to face Veronica, and she flung herself into his arms, feet dangling inches off the ground. "And I feel so good," she said, kissing the tip of his nose.
Laughing, he spun her around in a circle several times, causing her legs to wrap around his waist for stability while she clutched his neck in a death grip.
"Logan! You're going to make me puke!" she cried out.
He stumbled dizzily to a nearby tree pressing his palm against it for support. Veronica wiggled to avoid slipping, and his free hand came up to support her weight. Belatedly, he realized his hand was under her dress, and he was holding her up by one smooth, bare thigh.
He groaned and took two steps forward, pinning her between his body and the tree.
Logan cut her off, nudging her head to the left before assaulting her neck. Her ragged breathing urged him on, as he covered every inch of her throat with wet kisses. She whimpered as he dragged his teeth across the top of her shoulder, and fucking moaned when he ran his tongue along the edge of her strapless neckline. The fedora lay abandoned on the ground, and her hands roughly tangled in his hair, dragging him closer. His forearm was pressing the outside of her breast, deepening her cleavage, before he realized where they were and what they were doing.
He dragged his mouth away. "That's for what you did on the dance floor." He said with a strained laugh.
Leaning over her left shoulder, he pressed his forehead to the tree, concentrating on getting his breathing under control.
What the fuck am I doing? Not tonight!
Any other night, but not when she's drunk.
Veronica wiggled in his arms. "More," she demanded, arching her neck back.
"No more tonight."
"So are you saying this is a game of one-up now?"
"Not sure you can one-up that without clothes coming off, Ronnie."
"Keep dreaming, buddy."
He must have telegraphed his intention to set her down on the ground, because her arms and legs tightened around his body.
She's not going anywhere.
Logan chuckled, and pressed his cheek to hers. "So are we okay?"
Veronica's sigh ghosted across his skin. "I think I misunderstood. I thought you lured me out there to win the bet"
"I knew what you were thinking." Logan pulled back enough to where he could see Veronica. "I'm sorry you were hurt. I would never do that to you on purpose."
"This week," Veronica said. "Last week you would've."
He closed his eyes and pressed his forehead to hers in a gesture meant to communicate his regret.
"Last week you wouldn't have cared who I was kissing."
"Actually, seeing you draped all over Caitlin was nausea inducing. You could do so much better."
He pressed his cheek to hers again, afraid that if he kept staring at her, he'd have to kiss her.
She took so long to answer that he thought she might have changed her mind about whatever she wanted to say.
He pulled back again to look at her. "What, Ronnie?"
She looked uncomfortable, but then exhaled and spoke. "As long as I've known you, all the girls have wanted you."
"Not all of them."
"Enough of them. It's always been obvious."
"Okay?" He wasn't sure if she was trying to make a point or just drunk rambling.
"It's just…you really don't have to point it out to me at every opportunity."
He kept his thoughts to himself and waited her out.
"I know the kind of girls you're used to. How they only want what everybody else wants."
If she gives me the same supply and demand lecture I gave Tansy…
"I'm not like them, Logan. I've never been that girl who wants something just because everybody else does. That's not a selling point for me."
"Do I have any selling points?"
"So many," she said, quietly. "But not that."
He couldn't help himself. His lips brushed softly across hers, not lingering, too soft to deepen into a real kiss.
Can't do this.
He felt as if they'd come a long way tonight. She may not have outright articulated it, but her behavior proved without a doubt that his feelings were at least partially reciprocated. Now, he could play it safe, or he could risk ruining everything.
Thing is, the way she was hitting on him was out of character for her. Her interest appeared to be genuine, but her bravado could only be attributed to the alcohol. Or the magical heat wave fever.
When she woke up tomorrow and tried to backtrack - and she would try to backtrack - he'd at least be able to say he hadn't done anything tonight that might jeopardize their future relationship.
The last thing he wanted was the silent treatment.
Before she dated Duncan, even before that day they'd woken up alone in his bed, there'd been the party at Dick's house.
Flashback – June, 2002 – Casablancas Estate
Logan is kicking Beaver's ass at a new video game, and Veronica is squeezed between himself and the arm of the couch, practically in his lap. He's seen her drunk a few times, and it's common knowledge that alcohol amplifies her sweet, affectionate nature. So between turns, he drapes his arm around her and massages her shoulder.
They can't be together, but the innocent touches are a common occurrence. Trying to maintain some kind of connection, he supposes.
Somebody shouts from the doorway that Dick is about to do a keg stand, and the room clears out. For the most part. Logan remains. One Dick keg stand is much like any other.
"Alone at last," he teases Veronica with a waggle of his eyebrows, and she flashes him a shy smile.
That's when she tries to kiss him. She doesn't throw herself at him; she simply closes her eyes and puckers her lips.
He stares for a moment in incomprehension, nearly laughing when she tries to peek through one cracked eyelid. She is utterly adorable. And he's single. Again.
What could it hurt to kiss her just once? One fleeting touch of his lips to hers. It'll be over as quickly as it starts.
He's lifting a hand to her cheek when he catches sight of Lilly across the room, a triumphant expression on her face.
His hand drops heavily. "It's not going to happen, Ronnie."
Her eyes open, looking confused. And a little hurt.
"I know damn well that Lilly put you up to this."
She opens her mouth as if to protest, and then looks away guiltily. "How'd you know?"
"Because I know Lilly, and I'm not going to play into her little schemes."
"It's not a scheme," Veronica protests. "She said that you should be my first kiss. Because you would do it right, and then I'd know how to tell a good kisser from a bad one."
"That's the truth."
"So she dared me to kiss you tonight."
And he's tempted to do it. Because he wants her to win her dare. And he simply wants her. But he still believes she's too good for him, and he won't give that bitch the satisfaction.
He helps her stand and delivers her to Lilly. "I believe this belongs to you. Make sure she gets home safely."
"I can't believe you screwed that up, Logan." Lilly whispers in his ear.
He leans over to whisper back. "Fuck you!"
He hears her tinkling laughter as he stalks away.
He fucks Ashley that night, specifically because she's not a blonde.
It doesn't help. It never does.
Veronica spends the next two weeks avoiding him and refusing to look him in the eye. He feels like crap because he can't even explain himself.
He didn't want to risk that again – the possibility that tonight's drunk, affectionate Veronica would turn into sober, not-speaking-to-him, Veronica in the morning.
It had been just one of many instances of Lilly's campaign to get him and Veronica together. Two months later, he'd almost slipped up when he'd woken up with Veronica in his arms. Later, Lilly admitted to setting that one up too.
He brushed her hair off her face. "I should have been your first kiss."
"Well, you had plenty of opportunities. Before I dated Duncan."
He shook his head ruefully. "I'm so stupid."
"You said it. So this is what you look like at eye-level," she said, changing the subject.
"Fishing for compliments, Logan?" She cupped his cheek. "You know how pretty you are."
Logan grinned. "And you know you lost our bet. When you made out with Wide."
"You kissed Tansy first."
"You mean Tansy mauled me first. And then off you ran like a jealous little girlfriend to pay me back by sticking your tongue in Wide's mouth."
"Wade. And you're right."
He pulled back, eyes wide. "And…hell has frozen over. Did I just hear what I thought I heard?
"You're right," Veronica said, leaning in close to his ear. "I was a Very. Very. Jealous. Girl." She punctuated each word with a soft kiss along his jawline.
He gulped. "I know you were."
"So you win. Take your kiss." Her voice said she was making a great sacrifice, but her eyes glittered with excitement.
Veronica pulled back in surprise. "What?"
"I said, nope. I think I'll save it."
He almost laughed at her outrage. "I think I'll save it for when I really need it. Make it my 'Get out of jail free kiss'."
Her eyes narrowed. "You were jealous, too."
"Not really. But just to show you what a great guy I can be, I'll give you a massage anyway. Name the time and place."
She tilted her head, curious. "Why weren't you jealous?"
"Because I knew you'd rather be kissing me."
Veronica snorted. "Somebody's full of himself tonight. For your information, it was a very good kiss. Wade's a great kisser."
"Better than me?"
I should have hit him harder. Much harder.
"But it was missing all the tingles and electricity and stuff."
Logan grinned. You haven't yet begun to see electricity.
"…and I remembered my name," she said, in barely more than a whisper.
"Fuck, you're making this hard," Logan groaned.
"Then do it. Take your kiss. You won it."
Veronica sighed. "If a girl wants something done…" She gripped his face between both of her small hands, but he pulled away.
"Uh-uh." He shook his head.
"Aren't you the one always trying to convince me to kiss you?"
Logan smirked. "I'm confident you'll try again."
"I won't." She shook her head stubbornly. "This was your one and only chance."
Logan dipped his face closer so that their lips were centimeters apart, pulling back when she tried to kiss him again. "Mmm…I see that."
"Unless we were to find ourselves in another cop situation and needed a distraction."
Logan laughed. "See? You're already making exceptions."
"Shut up." Veronica's eyes flashed. "You make me so…"
"FUCK!" he tugged her earlobe between his teeth. "You're trying to kill me."
"Why don't you want to kiss me?" She sounded genuinely curious.
"Trust me, I've never wanted anything more."
"Then why not?" She tried to catch his lips by stealth, but he lifted his chin out of the way.
"Two reasons too many."
"One, if anything were to happen between us right now, it would be because of alcohol and hormones, and I want you to pick me with your head. With a clear head."
"Pick you over whom?"
"Just pick me."
"What's number two?"
"Two, your mouth is full of Wide cooties."
"Wade. And I thought people over third grade were immune to cooties."
"You learn something new every day. You'll need to brush and gargle for at least three minutes before you get your tongue in my mouth again."
"Real mature, Logan."
"I'm not known for my maturity." Logan heard a noise, and glanced over his right shoulder for a moment, and then back at Veronica. "And three…"
"You said there were only two reasons."
"Well now there are three reasons."
"Three." He held up three fingers. "We're about to be eaten by a giant alligator."
A/N: So that took a week longer than I promised. In my defense, the chapter did increase by an extra 2000 words.
A/N: Shoutout to my beta ShanghaiLily. You're the best ever.
A/N: I hope the Logan/Veronica progress made up for the corny song. I could not resist. I've been imagining that scene since last July.
A/N: Want to know my progress? Check my Tumblr (the link is on my ff profile). From my Tumblr blog, click the Veronica Mars link on the right side to go to my tags page, and then click 'fanfic status updates' to see the latest. Try checking there before PMing me for a status. Not that I mind PM's in the least, (because I don't) but sometimes I get the same questions multiple times in a 2-3 day period. I always tag my fanfic asks as SilverFics.
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