When they searched the private residences, Daryl had been happy to find that there was no shortage of wine in "Yuptopia." He had not, however, been able to make heads or tails out of most of the food he and Carol had gathered. Along with cans of shredded chicken, there were more kinds of olives than he knew existed. And Carol had insisted on taking a bunch of spices he'd never heard of. He bit his tongue when she grabbed a canister labeled "Minced Prunes."
But when he tasted the dish she'd concocted on the gas stove, he accidentally moaned.
"What?" he glared at everyone when he realized they were all staring.
"I thought we'd say the blessing," Hershel said.
"Well say it to Carol. J.C. didn't make this. And say it quick. Whatever the hell it is, this shit is good!"
"You've never had Moroccan chicken?" Carl laughed.
"Carl!" Rick warned sternly.
"It's a'right," Daryl surprised Rick by smiling. "Guess world cuisine never made it to my part o' Georgia."
Hershel recited a mercifully short grace and they all dug in.
After dinner, Lori was helping Carol clean up. She noticed Carol was trying to surreptitiously pack a tote bag with various items: cans of fruit and nuts, a jar of Nutella, tin of crackers, etc. She wasn't going to say anything until Carol slipped in a corkscrew and two bottles of cabernet.
"So," she said. "Looks like somebody's going to have a more fun night than I am."
"What?" Carol blushed.
"Sorry," Lori said. "It's just weird being the only one totally sober. But I do get to notice more things."
"What things?" Carol asked.
"Like the way Daryl was looking at you all through dinner."
"Looking at me like what?"
"Like you were a big ol' helping of Moroccan chicken," Lori laughed.
"No, Daryl's not like that," Carol replied.
"Well, what is he like?"
"Don't know yet."
"I bet you'll be able to tell me tomorrow," Lori winked.
"You okay?" she asked as he sat on the settee and took off his boots. She was trying to ask if he had recovered from his earlier freak out.
"Take more'n two glasses of wine to get me drunk, if that's what you mean," he said.
"No. I know that. That's why I snatched two bottles," she gestured with her flashlight toward the tote bag.
"You're good," he smirked.
As she got the fireplace going, they were bombarded with the sound of ice pellets hitting the roof.
"Looks like we made it just in time," she said. "Here, take the flashlight. There's a big jug of water in the bathroom if you want to get cleaned up."
"Sure you don't wanna go first?" he asked. "Them soaps look way too fancy for me."
"You just go on now," she said. She had to be last if she wanted to make an entrance.
When he came out ten minutes later, she was lighting the last of the candles. "You smell good," she said. "My turn."
After rummaging through the tote bag, Daryl sat down at the foot of the bed and opened one of the bottles. Ten minutes passed. Then twenty. Then twenty five.
Finally, the bathroom door slowly swung open.
"I tried to go easy on this bottle, but you were takin' forev—" The sound stopped coming out, but his mouth didn't close.
She stood in the doorway afraid to move. Speechless was good, right? But maybe it was horror he was feeling. Oh, crap.
They'd been rummaging through one of the houses when she'd stopped to flip through a two-year desk calendar. She realized it had to be somewhere around Valentine's Day. So when she'd found the red outfit—her mother used to call such things a "penoir"—she couldn't resist taking it.
"Is this—is this okay?" she asked. She could only guess at what he was thinking since he had so far not regained the power of speech. "Look, Daryl, I—" she stammered. "I mean—I'm not asking you to play house or anything. Just—just keeping me from freezing to death would be fine."
She couldn't bear it any longer. "Say something!"
"Turn around," he finally whispered.
Nervously, she turned and heard his breath catch. The back was cut so low, she'd been afraid her whole rear end was going to hang out. But when she'd checked in the bathroom mirror, the shiny red fabric draped just so, dipping slightly below the small of her back.
"Look," she began, her back still to him. "God, I feel like some evil queen who's trapped you in a tower of ice to take advantage of you."
"Hey, uh—I'm not real experienced," he said, "But if you're into role playin', I'll give it a shot." He chuckled.
"Stop," she laughed.
"Much as I'd like to stare at your ass all night, you should prob'ly turn around and come 'ere."
He handed her a quarter-filled wine bottle. Since he wasn't jumping out of his skin anymore, it must have done the trick for him. She realized she could actually use a little courage herself and downed it quickly.
"You didn't have to do that, ya know," he said.
He reached out and lightly placed a hand on her hip, caressing the silky fabric. "This."
"Oh. It's Valentine's Day. I think. I mean—it could be."
"I didn't get you nothin'," he said.
"Yes you did," she replied. "You got me this place."
"Ain't no big deal," he muttered. "You deserve more."
She knelt down in front of him and rested her palm against his face. "You've given me so much, Daryl. You have no idea."
He surprised her by leaning in first, capturing her lips with his own. The kiss was timid at first, his mouth barely brushing hers. The she flicked her tongue across his bottom lip and felt him grab the back of her head. His lips parted and his tongue slid against hers.
He suddenly broke away.
"Don't get your hopes up," he said. "I'm prob'ly not so good at this."
"Lucky for you," she smiled, "I am."
She left a trail of kisses down his neck and across his collarbone as she unbuttoned his flannel shirt. Still on her knees, she unsnapped his jeans and started on his zipper.
"Carol," he said, grasping her chin and making her look at him.
She knew what he was going to say. But hearing the way her name sounded rolling off his tongue made her want to do it all the more.
"You don't have'ta…"
"I want to."
"Oh, Jesus," he gasped, lying back as she took him in her mouth.
He reached out and threaded his fingers through the back of her hair.
"Fuck. Fuck. Fuck," he repeated as she worked up and down the length of him.
When she gripped him with one hand and used her mouth at the same time, she felt him pulling her away.
"Jesus, Carol. I can't—" he tried to catch his breath. "Come 'ere. Want this to last."
She climbed up beside him on the bed.
"You didn't need this," he said, nodding toward the nightgown as he slid down a slender, red strap and kissed her shoulder. "You're beautiful just the way you are," he murmured against her skin.
"Daryl Dixon. You were wrong," she smiled. "You are very good at this."
He pulled the filmy fabric down, releasing her breasts.
"Holy shit," he whispered.
"I didn't know."
"Didn't know I had breasts?" she giggled.
"'Course I did. Just couldn'ta imagined nothin' so perfect if I tried."
She was going to make some glib, self-deprecating remark. But his mouth closed over a nipple and her brain couldn't form the words. He gripped the hem of her gown, raising it above her hips. Then his fingers found the heat between her thighs. She inhaled sharply when one slipped inside her.
"This a'right?" he asked.
"Yes." She reached down and guided his thumb higher, showing him how to touch her.
"Like this?" he asked, his thumb circling slowly.
"Oh, yes," she replied, closing her eyes. "Yes. Yes…yes."
While his hand continued its delicate assault on her senses, his tongue snaked around her nipple, mimicking the same slow circling of his thumb. This exquisite combination made her grip the bedspread to stop her hands from trembling. She felt the pressure of his thumb increase as another finger dipped into her. Bunching the covers into her hands tighter and tighter, she felt as if she were standing on the edge of a waterfall. Then his teeth gently caught her nipple and she just let go. Tumbled over, falling and falling and falling.
"Yes," she breathed. "Yes. Yes. Yes."
He kept working his tongue on her breasts and his hand against her until her last quiver subsided.
"Did you just-?" he asked. "Was that-?"
"Yes." She struggled to find more words. "Need you. Inside me. Please."
He positioned his legs between hers. Her eyes were still closed, and she felt his breath on her ear. "You sure 'bout this?" he whispered.
"Then look at me," he said, his face now hovering over hers.
"What?" she asked, opening her eyes.
"Look at me. I want to see you."
"You mean while we—"
He was supposed to be the shy one, and yet she could not imagine anything more terrifyingly intimate.
She was suddenly, inexplicably afraid.
She was over 40. She'd been married, for God's sake. And the thought of looking into someone's eyes while they made love had never even occurred to her. Who did that? She was now the one jumping out of her skin. God, give a guy a blowjob and he loses all sense of propriety. Staring into someone's eyes while they—that would be worse than being naked. That would be like… It would be like… well, it would be like he could look right into her, see who she really was. She didn't think she could bear it.
"Daryl. I don't—"
"Hey," he said, trailing his fingers down her cheek and back up again. "We trust each other, right?"
She had waited so long to get to this point, for him to feel comfortable with her—to know that he was safe. She couldn't be the one to freak out now. And as quickly as it came, her panic melted away.
"Okay," she said.
So she watched him watching her… saw the candlelight and shadow play across his face as he rubbed against her slick folds. Saw his eyes darken when he finally pushed into her for the first time, and widen when her hips rose up to meet him. Saw his mouth open and form the words—a flurry of words: "So fuckin' good, Carol. You feel so fuckin' good. Jesus. Fuck. Wanted you for so fuckin' long. So fuckin' beautiful. So fuckin' warm. So wet. Fuck."
Saw him smile every time she said the only word she was capable of saying: "Yes. Yes. Yes." Saw him kiss each of her hands before he entwined their fingers and held them above her on the bed. Saw him gasp when she wrapped her legs around him. Saw every emotion cross his face as he climbed closer and closer to the edge. Saw how he tried so hard not to let go. Saw the look when he couldn't hold back any longer. Saw his eyes and felt herself falling into them.
The covers were so warm she almost didn't realize he wasn't pressed against her back.
"Over here. Check this out."
The blinds were up and he was standing in front of the window. She slid her arms around his waist and stared out into a frozen world sparkling in the grey dawn. Daggers of ice clung to every rooftop like strings of Christmas lights. The round patios at the back of each house had turned to white miniature ice rinks. The alley behind the garages was still black, but shimmered like a ribbon of glass.
"Feels like I'm in a snow globe," she said.
"Hey, uh—" he turned to face her. "You still up for that Evil Queen thing?" He winked.
"I should probably get dressed and start on breakfast for everybody," she said with a frown.
"Let 'em fend for themselves today," he said, leading her back to bed.
Now Carol was the one hopelessly fluffing and punching at her lumpy sleeping bag as Daryl snored softly beside her. She thought about Rick's little pep talk earlier—how they had to push a little harder. But it wasn't his words that steeled her resolve. It was the memory of what Daryl Dixon was like when he got a little privacy. Tomorrow, they were going to take that damn prison.