Hot Buns, Honey Buns
SUMMARY: Katniss Everdeen has hired a baker whose buns are tempting everyone, mostly herself.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own The Hunger Games. The Trilogy of course belongs to Suzanne Collins. This is purely a work done for leisure and not for profit and no copyright infringement is intended in the use of these characters, their setting, or their situation. No copyright infringement is intended for any music referenced within either.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This was written for Everlark recs DD Week 4 challenge (May/December romance). And, yes, I decided to use the May/December aspect in a figurative as well as a more literal sense. Also, there's more schmoopy in this than I had originally intended but I'm still fairly pleased I think. Hope you enjoy it!
He was so happy to have gotten the job. He needed a good foot-in-the-door kind of job. It certainly wasn't that he didn't have some experience working with his family's businesses over the years, but he wanted to make his way into the business on his own, have a fresh start outside of his family's influence. Ms. Everdeen's cafe seemed like a great fit for him right now. It was a small establishment set in a respectable downtown district...respectable, not snooty. It was popular with a variety of crowds, from nearby university students to families to business folk to tourists. While the food was good, he suspected that the location and the atmosphere played a large part in the cafe's success. It wasn't just a cafe after all; it was an eating establishment with indoor and outdoor seating but it also had an attached book and gift shop. It had been one of his favorite places to go while in culinary school, which is why he was thrilled when he'd seen the posting for the baker position.
And it really didn't hurt that he'd been drooling over its owner for the past two years.
He really was quite good. She'd been initially skeptical though he'd come with great recommendations from his instructors at the culinary school. He'd just seemed so young. 20. She'd seen him coming to the cafe over the past couple years, alone and pulling out his books to study or purchasing a gift here and there from the shop, or with friends, laughing over a meal. She hadn't been sure he wasn't kidding when he'd approached her about the job. But when he'd very professionally handed her his resume along with several containers, samples of his tasty creations, she'd allowed him the benefit of the doubt. When she'd later tasted the goodies he had brought, she'd placed his name into her more serious pool of candidates. And after having several very full of themselves pastry chefs and cupcake artists flutter through her kitchen, his passionate but unassuming in-house demonstration had won her over...that and the tastegasms his additional samples had produced, just like those he had initially brought her. So, she'd figured "what the hell?" She needed someone she could actually stand having in her employ, someone Sae, her main chef could work with as well.
And it didn't hurt that he was charming as all get out and pretty easy on the eyes. There was no harm in looking, right?
35. That's how old she was. Or, rather, that was her age; there was nothing old about her. He had always enjoyed what he had seen of her physically as well as the interactions with other people that he had witnessed before. But now he was one of those people and everything he got to see just solidified the fact that she was perfect ...or perhaps just imperfect in ways that were perfect for him. Like the way she made stupid faces to make fun of herself when she forgot something, miscounted something, or just generally made some error, and then how the act of making the face sometimes made her crack up. Or how she'd start swaying her hips, moving her head, moving her torso minimally and/or mouthing words to a good song as it played over the sound system. Or how she looked away in immediate reaction to any compliment before offering either a simple thank you or some form of denial or both. Or how she didn't take any sugar in her hot tea either.
His cinnamon buns were flying off the baked goods case shelf. The cafe was serving up a fair-sized brunch crowd that Sunday. She was very pleased by the success they'd continued to see. When she'd begun this endeavor after her divorce from Gale, her family had been less than confident and supportive in her decision. Now, they sat at a table, laughing and enjoying their strawberry-banana crepes, another Peeta contribution to the menu that had proven a crowd favorite. She would go join them soon, but first, her counter girl Sara was plating the last bits of cinnamon heaven still available up front. She nodded reassurance to Sara and pushed through the doors to the kitchen, moving toward the back corner that the blonde baker had made his own. He was currently turned away from her, bent over what looked like a fresh batch of just the item she needed.
"Everyone loves your buns!"
He froze, stood up straight, and then turned slowly, cocking an eyebrow at her with questioning amusement.
Katniss' eyes grew wide with realization of what she'd just said and she clapped her hands over her mouth as if to push the words back in and start over. But it was too late for that. At least he looked amused.
"Your cinnamon buns. I need more for out front. Everyone's buying them up."
Peeta nodded and smiled. "Here's some more," he said, handing her a plate of a half dozen that had already been iced. His fingers brushed hers as she accepted the plate and she almost dropped it from the pleasurable jolt that slight touch sent through her body. "I'll bring these other ones out as soon as I finish icing them."
"Um, thanks Peeta."
"Of course. Glad folks are enjoying them."
She turned and took the plate out to Sara and told her more were on the way. Then, she grabbed a cinnamon bun for herself, made her way over to the table where her parents, younger sister and brother-in-law were seated, and lowered herself into the big booth to join them for a bit.
"Take a load off, sweetheart," her father said kindly.
"Yes, Katniss, you look all flushed. You must be rushing around too much," her mother added.
She looked down, dug her fork into the hot, gooey mass in front of her and brought a substantial piece to her mouth. She closed her eyes briefly as she let the sweet, buttery flavor melt on her tongue. It really was to die for. A noise pulled her from her silent moment of enjoyment. Her eyes were drawn to the baked goods counter and to the smooth, smiling cheeks of her favorite employee. He was joking with Sara and handing her two new plates of items, the promised cinnamon buns and some assorted danish. She found the way Sara couldn't tear her eyes away from his face very irritating.
"Is that it, Katniss?" Prim murmured.
"Is that the reason you're so flushed?"
"What? No! Don't be silly."
"Uh huh," her sister replied under her breath, not convinced. "And I shall be silly...life is really lived within the silly."
Katniss made a face at her younger sibling.
"He looks like someone who might be able to agree with me. Maybe you should introduce us," she teased.
"Maybe you should remind me when Rory, your husband, gets back into town."
"Eat your crepes." It didn't matter that they were now both in their thirties. She knew Prim was still strongly fighting the urge to stick her tongue out at her and she was fighting the urge to pull her hair. When she looked away from her sister, she could see that her parents were just smiling slyly at her. It was annoying. But theirs wasn't the only smile being directed at her at that moment. She felt it before she saw it, but when she did, she dared to smile back. It was just the friendly, encouraging boss thing to do, after all.
He was not imagining it. He caught her watching him from time to time and the lovely tinge of pink on her cheeks right before she turned away made it seem like she was doing more than just appraising his work. He loved it. It didn't matter that she should be more mature than him, and in many ways she truly was. He could still make her blush and it made him feel proud. It gave him hope.
They were working a busy shift together. Sae had had to leave unexpectedly when her granddaughter had taken a fall and needed to be examined at the hospital. So, Katniss had surprisingly stepped in to get them through their remaining checks for the night. He guessed he shouldn't have been surprised. It's not that there was any particular reason for him to think she couldn't cook. He just hadn't seen it before. He was impressed and he told her so.
"Oh, thanks! Well, I've learned a lot from Sae," she downplayed the compliment.
"I'll bet this isn't all Sae though."
"Well, not entirely. I liked to collect herbs from the woods behind our house when I was younger, so then I figured out different ways to use them. I used to hunt a lot with my dad too, so I learned a bit about various meats and their handling too."
"We still go sometimes. We're just both busier these days."
It was the most personal information she'd shared in four months. He wanted more but servers and line cooks were still bustling about, leaving, preparing, and retrieving orders. A while later, he was pleased to hear her voice directed at him once again.
"Peeta, hot buns, need more of your hot buns!"
He nearly choked on the sip of water he had just allowed himself. He coughed to try to cover up that reaction. He turned to see her blushing furiously but persevering.
She slapped her palm to her face. "The honey drizzled buns...rolls...you're offering tonight." He was tempted to make a comment about how he would offer her any buns she wanted that night but knew that would be taking it too far. "Oh God. I'm not...don't sue me for sexual harassment. Words are just always against me. I don't mean to keep putting my foot in my mouth," she offered with an apologetic shrug.
He remembered a similar incident about a week ago. He remembered it fondly. "I wouldn't sue you." Not even close. He paused a moment wondering if she might understand that he would welcome her attentions. "And the words...kind of a hazard with my line of work," he joked. "Others have much worse hazards, right?"
She eyed him with a bit of relief and maybe something else...curiosity? "Yes, I guess."
"So, how many more tables need rolls?"
"Okay. I'll have more baskets ready in a few."
When the last patrons had exited the cafe and Katniss had locked the front and side doors and the gate to the outdoor seating area, Peeta watched as she ran through the kitchen closing motions of clean up and prep for tomorrow. He worked on his own closing tasks and eventually, as the servers and other kitchen staff finished up theirs, they cleared out and he found himself alone in the restaurant with the object of his affections.
She was bustling around, slightly out of breath and, he thought, maybe trying to ignore the fact that it was just the two of them now.
"Hey," he tried, "is there anything I can help you with?"
"Umm, rewind a couple hours and find a niche of time in which I might have actually eaten dinner?"
He chuckled as her stomach growled just then to punctuate her thought. "While I don't yet have time-manipulating powers..."
"Yet?" she asked, amused.
"I aspire to it. I'll keep wishing on stars, eyelashes, you name it...it'll happen someday."
"Well, I hope you're still around when it does because that would be pretty useful."
"I hope I am too."
He was either making her uncomfortable in a bad way or a good one but one way or the other, she was getting that his words held more than surface meaning. She looked like she was currently holding her breath and was trying to decide if she should walk away now. He didn't want that.
"Anyway, what I do have are leftover buns, rolls, whatever. I was going to have some. Interested? They'll go to waste otherwise."
The corners of her lips curved slightly and he saw the interest in her eyes. He didn't know why folks always said the way to a man's heart was through his stomach. At least he didn't know why they singled men out. In his experience, albeit only 20 years of it, it seemed women's stomachs were also well-connected to their hearts and their heads. And it was currently the top way he could think of to get her to spend more time with him.
She seemed to consider for a moment. "I am a fan of minimizing our kitchen's waste."
He smiled. "Good. Come, sit." He motioned to two stools in his working area and sat down once she had, pulling the leftover basket between them on the counter. "Ladies first."
She grinned and reached over, plucking a moist roll from the top of the basket. Peeta followed suit and watched as she bit into hers, holding her other hand out beneath it to catch the few flaky crumbs that fell as she did so. He licked his lips and took a bite of his own roll. They really were decadent. He was glad he had gotten the honey butter combination just right, with just a hint of cinnamon, vanilla, and orange zest. Her lashes dusted her cheeks for a moment as she closed her eyes in enjoyment. "You may be the king of carbs."
He laughed. "That is the title I prefer."
"Fine then. These shall henceforth be known as 'His Majesty's buns.' That should get even more orders for them, huh?"
"It might. We could vary the listing each time. 'His Majesty's honey buns,' 'His Majesty's sweet buns,' 'His Majesty's sticky buns,' 'His Majesty's hot buns'…"
Katniss was laughing and shaking her head at him.
"No, really. It could be the cafe's new marketing technique. 'Come check out our buns! You won't be able to stop grabbing them!' Why are you laughing? You should be in awe of my marketing genius."
"Peeta…" Katniss wheezed. "You…are never…taking over marketing."
He sent her a wide grin as she caught her breath from all of her giggling. God, she was beautiful. He feigned a pout and gave a dramatic huff. "Fine. My buns and I will just have to continue to be quietly life-changing."
She opened her mouth like she wanted to respond but then shut it, laughed again, blushed slightly and brought another bite of her roll to her mouth. Smiling, he did the same.
"So, it seems to me there is only so much school can teach you. You've been making life-changing food for some time, haven't you?" she asked once they'd paused in their chewing again.
He glanced down at the basket for a moment and then met her eyes again. "You could say it runs in the family. My parents have run some successful baking businesses. So, yes, I've been at this much of my life."
"But you're not working for them now. So, you do enjoy it for yourself, don't you?"
"Oh, yeah. Definitely. I didn't mean to sound like it was something thrown on me that I didn't appreciate. I feel…right, I guess, being in a kitchen, creating and ultimately making people feel good with what I create. It's what I want to be doing. But no, I don't want to be doing it in their shadow. I don't mean that in an ungrateful way either. They've taught me a ton, obviously. I just don't want to get somewhere without earning it, you know?"
She nodded her understanding. "Yeah, I know. That's pretty admirable, Peeta."
He offered her a small smile and a quiet "thanks" before popping the final bite of his roll into his mouth. She chewed the last of hers as well, alternately looking at him and at various points around him.
When they finished, he noticed that she had a little bit of honey dripping down from one corner of her lips. He licked his own and fought the urge to lean forward and lick the liquid away before licking his way into her mouth. He shifted on his stool.
"Um, you have a little honey right there," he said, pointing his finger tentatively toward her face.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, embarrassed, before attempting to swipe at the liquid. But her fingers were wet too and she only succeeded in adding another smear to her face.
"Um, nope. That didn't help," Peeta observed with a chuckle.
"Crap," she said, sticking a finger in her mouth and trying to suck all of the honey butter from it before doing the same with another.
He sucked in a breath. That was just not fair. Some higher power somewhere hated him. Because how was his body not supposed to react to that?
"Wait a sec." He took a look at his own hands. Whereas she had torn her roll in half, thus getting both hands a bit greasy, he had only held his roll with one hand. He considered her potential rejection for just a moment before taking a chance and reaching his clean hand toward her face. Her eyes widened when she gathered his intention but she didn't move and she didn't tell him not to swipe his thumb gently under the drop of light liquid, lifting it away from her face, which is exactly what he did…slowly, savoring the delicious electricity that passed between them as he did so.
She felt it too. The way her lips parted unconsciously and her breathing quickened as he did so told him so. He brought his thumb back to his own lips and sucked the drop of honey from it, his eyes on hers. He couldn't help himself. He knew he was playing with fire. She could terminate his employment at any time for being inappropriate. But it wasn't the employment that mattered most to him. He wasn't sure if it ever had been.
He watched her eyes lower to his mouth and then rise up to meet his eyes again. He pulled his thumb away from his mouth and sent a flirty smile her way. She hesitated briefly before returning it. And for several moments, several long moments, he thought this might turn out to be the best night of his life. Because he was leaning and she was leaning and the space between their faces would soon be non-existent.
And then it was back again entirely and Katniss was on her feet, turning away from him, flustered, muttering about needing to let him go home or not wanting to keep him from his home or something of that nature. She moved to a sink and rinsed her fingers of the remnants of honey butter still on them, drying them with a paper towel she discarded in a nearby trashcan. Peeta stood, trying to get his bearings and figure out exactly what just happened. He followed her lead and rinsed the hand that he had held a roll with, choosing not to rinse the hand that had touched her face minutes ago. He watched as she gathered up her things and he turned, frowning, to do the same with his own. He took a moment though to toss the extra honey-drizzled buns in a take home box before tossing the napkin from the basket in the laundry bin and replacing the basket itself with all of the others stacked at his station.
He caught up to her at the back door, ready to let them both out and lock up behind them. He had his jacket and helmet in one hand and the box in the other. "Katniss…" He loved saying her name, even if the circumstances were not as he'd like them to be. He wished it were his special privilege but she had told all of her employees to call her by her first name because Ms. Everdeen just felt too stuffy to her. She didn't let him say whatever brilliant thing he thought he might be able to come up with anyway.
"Thank you for everything tonight, Peeta. Your service is just so solid and the quality of the food you make…and your teamwork in the kitchen, pitching in even in areas you don't normally handle…well, our patrons benefit and all of our staff do as well. I do. So, thank you."
"And for the late night carbs. Just what I needed."
Peeta studied her, trying to decide how much of a gamble he was willing to take that night. He finally shifted his weight from one foot to another, nodded, and pushed the box into her hands. "Here. Have some more for at home."
"Oh. Thank you," she responded, a bit surprised.
He slipped into his jacket and pulled his helmet onto his head, securing the strap beneath his chin. "And you're welcome, for everything. I enjoy every moment of my time here. Every moment."
She didn't respond, just watched him closely, with that conflicted look in her eyes that he'd been noticing more and more over the past couple months. He turned and walked over to his bike, climbing on and starting the engine as Katniss moved over to her car and climbed inside, doing the same.
"Have a good night, Katniss," he called over to her, just as she was reaching out to pull her door shut.
"You too, Peeta," she said before shutting it and staring at him as he turned out of the small parking lot and zoomed off down the now dark and quiet road.
It was no use. She had been trying to keep her distance, not so much physically as you could only keep so much distance in the small square footage the cafe occupied, but also mentally and emotionally. She tried not to enjoy his laugh or his easygoing manner as she continued to observe both in passing through the kitchen or seeing him chat with other staff or with customers up at the baked goods display. She tried not to give more thought to the innovative ideas he brought to the establishment's menu or kitchen processes other than to evaluate them from the business standpoint and recognize them as she would had they come from anyone else. And she tried not to notice that he had been calling her over more often to taste test some of these new ideas or that everything she tasted seemed to somehow be some re-creation of something she already loved. Or that she more often than not apparently got a bit of whatever she'd tasted somewhere else on her face and he was very efficient in wiping it off for her. Or that other times when he called her name, she had her hands full such that he was kind enough to just hold whatever she was tasting right up to her mouth. She tried not to notice but she did. She noticed everything. She noticed how his eyes sparkled as he told her about his latest creation and how they changed color with his mood or the time of day or the surrounding atmosphere. She noticed that he had different ways of saying "yes," from a lighter, quicker "yes" to requests or simple questions from his co-workers in the kitchen, to a more drawn out "yes" in a lower tone of voice if he was humored or exasperated by the person or question being asked, to a more breathy "yes," which she had only heard when she'd caught him heavily involved in what he was making or rushing back to his station, but which she also heard in her dreams at night. She wanted to hear that breathy "yes" more and she didn't want it to have anything to do with work.
And that was the problem. He worked for her. At work relationships were not the best idea. She could imagine too many ways in which one could go sour. And then there was the whole fact that she could have babysat him in the past. That was a little hard to ignore. But…it was also becoming a little hard to remember too.
She would only let him so far but he was still as happy as he could ever remember being. He liked just being in her presence. Loved, not liked. It was her shy smile and the one she wore when she poked fun at herself. It was the books she recommended for him when he asked. It was the way he'd catch her humming the tune of a song he'd told her about. It was the way she let him touch her face when she tasted his foods. It was the way his name sounded on her lips. And she was speaking it again.
"Peeta, thanks for working right up to the holiday. We could've run off your recipes or just served up limited offerings."
"It's fine. My parents decided to fly to Europe to visit my oldest brother and his family there. Rye, my other older brother, is just doing dinner with his in-laws. I wasn't keen on joining either this year when they asked, so really, I don't plan to do much more than parade watch, sports watch and make myself something to get my tryptophan high on."
"Oh." She turned to hang a clean pan back up on the rack and he admired the arc of her back and the little sliver of olive skin he saw at the bottom of it as she stretched and her shirt rose up. He averted his eyes as she turned back around.
"Is that...I mean, I understand the joy in quiet solitude at times but, um...well, if you did feel like hanging around other people, my family's getting together for the parade and food prep in the a.m. before eating our tryptophan-filled lunch. Football will undoubtedly follow. You're welcome to join us...if you want."
He hadn't been expecting that. He had genuinely planned on spending the day alone since he just hadn't felt like dealing with the drama of his family and their expectations this year. But to have the chance to spend it with Katniss' family? Albeit, it wasn't "come over to my place tonight and in the morning we can watch the parade together" but it was still an invitation into a day in her life. Even if it was a pity ask, he wanted the opportunity.
"You're sure your family wouldn't mind?"
Katniss looked nervous momentarily but then smiled reassuringly. "I'm sure. They've been enamored with your food for months. They'll probably feel honored to have his majesty, the king of carbs joining us."
He grinned at her reference to the night they'd shared his honey butter rolls - the night they'd almost shared more than that. He'd been trying to be patient, trying to give her time to be okay with what he felt they could have. He thought it just might be working. He really hoped it was.
"Well, as long as I get to wear my crown."
"Feel free...as long as it's an invisible one."
"But, of course."
"My parents' house is in the country. It's a little tricky to find. If you want, I can pick you up and drive us."
"That'd be great."
The whole day had been great. Peeta sat in the passenger seat thinking back on it as Katniss drove him back to his place. That morning, she had picked him up out front of his apartment and they had driven outside of town and down the winding country roads that led to the Everdeen residence. Her family had been very welcoming and they had fawned over the pies and cookies he had brought for dessert. He was glad he had stayed up late making them, even though Katniss had told him he hadn't needed to work to be part of their gathering. He'd assured her he was glad to do it, that he would probably have done more work feeding himself that day if he hadn't been lucky enough to get to join her family.
He had enjoyed seeing her in different surroundings. He had enjoyed the way her sister, Prim, seemed to be teasing her about him, in a good way. Prim seemed to like him. They all did. No one had treated him like he was any particular age, just like he was Peeta, Katniss' friend. And Katniss had seemed to follow suit, joking more easily with him, talking about anything that came up, asking him more about his interests, his time in school, his work experiences. It had been great.
They pulled up outside of his apartment and he inwardly gave himself a strong push forward.
"Do you wanna come in? I'll make you that tiramisu hot chocolate I was talking about earlier."
"Would love to, Peeta. Thanks for asking."
She closed her mouth and looked to be fighting a smile. "Okay."
"That answer is acceptable as well," he teased with a grin.
He led her up to his apartment and she seemed impressed by how well he kept it. She sat down at his dining room table and talked with him as he worked in the adjacent kitchen. When he was done, he carried the mugs into his living room and motioned for her to join him.
They sat down on his sofa. He took out his phone and turned a playlist on his Sonos system on before pushing it back in his pocket. Katniss blew on and then took a careful sip of her cocoa.
"Oh my God, this is good," she assessed, shutting her eyes with the pleasure of it.
He smirked and took a sip from his own mug. "Not like I told you or anything."
"Hey," she fake warned.
They grinned at each other and sipped their drinks further.
"Under the Bridge" began playing on the speakers and Katniss shot him a look of surprise.
"You listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers? This came out the year you were born or something."
Peeta scoffed. "So what and yes, I listen to it. Enjoyable music's still enjoyable no matter what decade it is."
She shrugged. "Okay, okay. True. I just didn't expect that."
"Do I want to know what you did expect?"
"Um, maybe not," she said guiltily.
That made him chuckle. "Well, stick around, kid. There's much to learn."
She looked bemused and intrigued and maybe a bit nervous.
"I should learn this recipe."
"Nope?" She raised an eyebrow at him questioningly.
He pursed his lips and he noticed it drew her eyes to them. "Maybe not nope entirely. But it'll cost you."
"What exactly?" She asked, narrowing her eyes in suspicion.
He narrowed his eyes right back at her, considered the various ways he could answer that and then decided on one that might surprise her most. "Information...and a dance. I'll take the dance first." He set his mug down swiftly on the coffee table and stood up.
"Up. Come on. The cocoa's worth it."
She paused a moment as the opening notes to the song he had just programmed from his phone came on. And then she burst out laughing, set her mug down and stood uncertainly.
"You want me...to do the Macarena?"
"No. I want us to do the Macarena. Get ready." He grinned devilishly at her and she shook her head incredulously, moving around the table as he had done to stand in a more open section of the room between the table and the tv.
She laughed again as the familiar chorus began and her arms somehow remembered how they were supposed to move. She knew the color was rising to her cheeks when they got to the part where they were touching their asses but the second time they did the routine when she dared to look at him, it cracked her up completely seeing him making a show of those moves. She realized he was being nothing but silly and just purely having fun and it made her want to just do so too. They danced the rest of the song getting more and more exaggerated with their movements and laughing at one another and themselves. When it ended, they moved back to the sofa and collapsed back onto it, exhilarated and still laughing.
"What song did you think I wanted you to dance to?"
"I...don't know. Something slow I guess."
"And you feared so strongly that I'd step on your toes that you were trying to figure a way out of it?" he teased.
"Mmmaybe," she evaded.
"Hmm. Okay, so the information component of my price." He watched her shift nervously, pulling one of her legs up under her. "What's your favorite color?"
She laughed with relief. He'd caught her off guard again. "That's the information you seek?"
"Not all of it."
"Thought so. You wear it a lot. A good choice. It's fresh, inspiring...like you."
Would her cheeks ever get to be their normal shade around him? She didn't know why he affected her so. She wasn't some blushing school girl. When she was in school, she hadn't been some blushing school girl. Gale, her ex, who had also been her high school boyfriend, would laugh his ass off at the idea. Gale...he would also laugh or scoff or both if he could see her sitting here so cozily with a 20 year old baker who also happened to be in her employ.
"And now you're frowning. Why?"
Shit. She'd gotten caught up in her thoughts. "I'm not. I mean, the question just made me think of my ex."
It was Peeta's turn to frown. "He wasn't a fan of green?"
"Something like that."
"What happened between you? I mean, if you don't mind my asking...since you mentioned him."
"It's complicated. Or, I don't know, maybe it's not. Suffice it to say we tried for too long to be people we just weren't and, in the end, we just wanted different things."
"Okay," he let it go at that for now, not wanting to talk about her ex-husband anyway but still hoping she might confide in him further down the road, just so he could know her needs and dreams and desires more. But for now he really just wanted to know about one desire. "What are you thankful for?"
That one made her think for a moment. "A lot of things. I'm alive and well so that's up there of course. I have a good family whom I love very much. I have a successful business, a home I enjoy...soon a delicious hot chocolate recipe..."
Her smile made him rethink his next question but he wanted to know where they stood. He needed to.
"Why did you really not want to slow dance with me?"
She blanched and he saw her drawn out swallow as she processed the question and the ramifications of her answer.
"It didn't seem like a good idea. Listen, I should probably get going..."
She started to rise but he grabbed hold of her arm. "Why?"
"Because it's getting late and it's been a long day."
"No, why didn't it seem like a good idea?"
She sighed and looked away, worrying her lip as she did so. He waited, heard the shaky breaths she took as she considered her answer. Just about the time he thought she might not answer at all, she spoke quietly.
"Because I knew I'd like it."
He felt his heart thump loudly in his chest. "Let's find out for sure."
She turned and looked at him as he selected a song quickly and then stood, reaching out his hand.
She stared at it for a long moment before slipping her own into it and rising. They moved around their respective ends of the table and then stepped closer to each other.
As "No Other Love" by John Legend began to play, they inched ever closer to each other until his hand rested at the small of her back, his other still holding her hand between his upper chest and her own. Their legs moved them along with the slow beat, their bodies swaying with the melody, naturally drifting through it together.
She didn't like it. Like was not an adequate word for what moving like this with him made her feel.
He looked at her eyes but she was staring at his shoulder.
He looked at her hair. She looked at his chin.
He looked at her lips. She parted them slightly.
He looked at their hands. She looked at his cheek.
He looked to her eyes again. She was looking into his. He searched hers and she didn't look away.
"I want to kiss you," he said huskily, hoping fervently that she wouldn't reject him.
He felt her chest rise and fall more heavily against him. He saw her bite her lip for a moment and then give the slightest nod. He released her hand and brought his up to her cheek, giving it a gentle stroke with his thumb. Then, he moved the hand on her back up too so that he was fully cupping her face. Her eyes were wide as they watched his but they fluttered shut as he drew her face nearer to his and captured her lips with his own.
They took it slowly, getting used to the feel of it-how it felt between them, then melting bit by bit, getting lost in the headiness.
Katniss pulled away. "We shouldn't...shouldn't do this."
Peeta stared intently into her eyes, not letting go of her. "I disagree. I'll do what you want, Katniss. I'll respect your wishes. But I really want this and I think you do too."
"Peeta," she whispered, thoughts and feelings still obviously warring within her.
"What are you afraid of? We're both adults. It's a legal designation as well as a conscious decision to do responsible things...hold a job, take care of a home, be respectful of others and know how to balance their needs with your own. It doesn't matter that you got there first. We're both there. And the cafe...I love it there but my reason for that has become more and more about you. So, I'd leave the job to gain the chance with you, if you felt it was best. I just want to try, Katniss. Please."
She swallowed and brought her hands up to his face too, considering its youth but also its strong lines. It was set. He was set on all he'd just said. He felt a conviction about it and he was sincere. One could be hard-pressed to find another who felt that way, who had such determination for you, in someone of any age. He wasn't a kid. He knew his own mind and his own heart and both wanted her. And she wanted to try.
She slid her fingers into his hair, sighed softly and tilted her head back toward his, the first to touch her lips to his this time.
Their kiss went further than before. He darted his tongue out only to find hers searching as well, her mouth opening to him. He groaned his pleasure and moved his hands down to her waist, pulling her closer to him as they tasted one another, teased, communicated desire. She pulled back again and he steeled himself, unnecessarily it turned out.
"Why are you so...?" she began, a mix of happy, exasperated and incredulous.
"Irresistable?" he supplied, giving her a flirty wink and making her laugh. "I don't know, but I think you should devote a substantial amount of time to researching that."
"You do, huh?"
"Classy Girls" by the Lumineers began to play and he smiled at her before pulling her back over to the couch and down into his lap. Their lips found each other again and after a while, their hands began to wander. She slid her hands down over his chest and his slid over her hips as he repositioned them so that she was reclining against a throw pillow at the end of the couch and he was hovering over her. He dragged his lips from hers so he could place kisses along her jaw and back to her earlobe and an area behind her ear she seemed to respond really well to. Her soft moan and the way she clutched at his body spurred him on and he continued his trail of kisses down to her neck and over her collar bone. She kicked her shoes off and drew one knee up against the back cushion of the sofa, bringing her hips that much closer to his. He kissed the other side of her face and neck and she pulled the weight of his body more fully against her.
"Katniss," Peeta said, pulling back to look into her eyes, "I'm thankful...for you."
She studied his face, his sincerity clear, and then said "I'm thankful for you too, Peeta." They stared at each other for several moments more, both smiling softly. Then Katniss joked, "Do I get that cocoa recipe now?"
Peeta chuckled and placed a quick kiss on her lips. "I'll think about it." He brushed his lips over hers again. "I still need more information."
She held her breath and stared up into his eyes, waiting for and silently encouraging him to say more.
"I'd like to know..." He paused, nervous, trying to put his thoughts into words. "Will you stay the night?"
Several breaths and a score of heartbeats passed between them before she answered. "Yes. I'll stay."
His grin was ear-splitting. "Great, because I'd really like to see how you'd do at the Electric Slide."
"You don't want to challenge me on that. You'd be toast."
"Hmm. And the Tootsie Roll?"
"Toast there too. Come 'ere."
She pulled on his shirt and brought his smiling lips back down to hers. This time, as they were kissing, she moved her fingers deftly over each of the buttons on his shirt, unbuttoning them one by one before sliding the shirt down over his broad shoulders. He shifted his torso, helping her to remove the garment from him. He felt her hands on his bare back and slid his own under the hem of her shirt over her back, her sides and her abdomen. He felt her shiver beneath him and pulled back to see her face. It showed longing. Not surprising - they had been building up to this since the moment he first set foot in her cafe, whether they knew it or not. She sat up slightly and he watched as she reached down and pulled her shirt up over her head. The heat shot straight to his groin.
But he wasn't going to rush this. He wasn't going to hesitate either, because he didn't want her to change her mind, didn't want her to over think and get scared and run. He moved his hands up her sides until his thumbs lightly caressed the outer curves of her breasts. He brought his mouth back to her neck and her collar bone before teasing kisses down along the outline of her bra, lingering with teasing licks between her orbs before following the line back up the other side. Her soft pants of anticipation only spurred him on further. She needed to know that, while he was young, he wasn't inexperienced and while he was most certainly excited, he was still in control. He wasn't about to disappoint her.
With this in mind, he found her lips again and then wetly, hotly, and achingly steadily plundered her mouth with his tongue as he found her nipples with his fingers. She gasped and moaned into his mouth and arched into his touch, entwining her calves with his and grinding her hips upwards with abandon. Shit, she was hot! He allowed himself the non-relieving relief of grinding his hardening length into the juncture between her thighs a few times before making himself separate from her and rise from the couch. She looked up at him through lust-fogged eyes and he took hold of her hands, tugging her up into a standing position as well. He inclined his head toward the hallway and she seemed to understand, nodding slightly and following him as he led her back to his bedroom.
Once there, they stood just inside the room and he turned from her briefly to find a lighter and light the few candles he had in the room. Then, he stood in front of her again and moved his arms behind her, holding her gaze as he unfastened the hooks of her bra and then hooked his index fingers beneath the shoulder straps, sliding it away from her body and dropping it to the floor. She sucked in a breath as he brought his hands back and drug his thumbs down each exposed slope, grazing the erect nubs at the ends of each before moving his touch along the undersides of each swell. "You're beautiful, Katniss. Perfect."
He meant it. She was everything he had imagined so far and more. The look she sent him made his heart expand in his chest and his cock leap within his pants. Supporting her with one hand behind her back, he cupped one breast and bent to it, taking the nipple into his mouth and suckling it. He switched hands and repeated the same with her other breast. He was purposefully gentle, leaving her wanting more. Releasing her moistened peak, he swept his front arm beneath her legs and picked her up, cradling her body as he carried her over to his bed. She looked up at him with surprise and then clung to him until he pulled back his bedding and set her down on smooth, cool sheets. Then, resting one knee on the bed, he reached down and unbuttoned and unzipped her pants, moving slowly enough that she could stop him if she wanted to but swiftly enough that she could read his desire clearly. She lifted her hips as he eased the pants from her body. She watched as he pulled off his shoes and socks and removed his pants before joining her on the bed.
They lay only in their underwear and Peeta felt overtaken by his need to kiss and touch her everywhere, to show her all he'd been longing to do with her for the past, well, few years really. He moved his body over hers, pressed himself to the vee between her legs, teased them both. He pushed her arms up above her head and kissed her from the top of her head on down her face, neck and chest. He alternately lashed and laved her nipples with his tongue and placed little love bites all over her breasts and her stomach on a determined path southward. She cooed and crowed, gasped and growled, showing all the beautiful contrasts of her pleasure. He pushed her panties to the side and might've nearly sent her reeling off the bed had he not been holding one thigh as he plunged his tongue into her depths.
"Fuck! Peeta!" she rasped as he licked her relentlessly.
He flicked his tongue over her clit as he slid a finger inside her. He pumped her with it, added another, and then pumped her with both as he sucked on her most sensitive flesh. She raked his hair with her fingers and dug her heels into his back as she built to and found her climax, shuddering against his generous mouth and crying out something unintelligible. He waited until she could open her eyes to look at him again before sliding up next to her and kissing her, sharing her own sweet taste with her. She wrapped her legs around his and held him to her as she kissed him and ran her hands all over his body, her fingers grazing his nipples, her palms pressing into his back and squeezing his ass. With a lustful feminine growl, she pushed him away just long enough to flip him onto his back and straddle him. He pulled her head back down to his and tugged on her lower lip with his teeth. She panted her approval and slid her hand down over his ripped abs, grasping his erection through his boxer briefs. He let out a long, low moan as she began to stroke him from base to tip and then back again. She kissed her way across his chest as she continued her motions, also stretching her hand out over the fullness of his balls and lightly fondling them as well. She slipped her hand inside his underwear and pulled him from it through the front opening and they both wondered if the whimper that accompanied this action had escaped from him or from her. The skin on skin contact felt amazing and Peeta uttered her name as he pressed himself even further into her palm.
Soon, Katniss seemed to grow impatient with their position and inched herself backward until she had the waistband of his boxers gripped by her fingers. She gave him a truly seductive look and divested him of them swiftly but smoothly. Her eyes dropped to his throbbing member, enjoying the full view of him straining before her. An appreciative smile took up residence on her face before she lowered it, her tongue darting out to lick his tip teasingly. She grasped him once more in her hand and held him firmly as she twirled her tongue around the head of his penis before sucking it into her mouth. She focused only at the top for a minute or so, suckling the bulbous head, placing her lips right at its underside and sucking there, moving along the sensitive nerve there as though she were playing a harmonica. Peeta let his head drop back, his eyes shut tightly. The pleasure from her actions was intense.
"Shit, that feels good," he breathed.
"Good," she whispered back, repeating her ministrations a few more times before taking his entirety into her mouth. He let out a strangled moan and sunk his fingers into her hair as she easily found a rhythm, bobbing her head up and down his shaft. Her hands massaged his upper thighs, his sac and his ass and he fought not to lose his load down her throat because the sight of her there, enjoying him so thoroughly...it was almost too much.
He tugged roughly at her arms and she released him, allowed him to pull her up next to him and to kiss her hard. He tasted the saltiness of himself on her tongue, felt her bare breasts pressed against him, felt her hand on his hip. He needed her…badly. He released her lips and reached over to his nightstand drawer to retrieve a condom. Tearing the wrapper hastily and tossing it aside, he rolled the thin layer down over his length, then moved his body atop hers, positioned his hips between her thighs and pressed his engorged head to her opening.
"God, I've wanted this for so long, Katniss," he dared to say, holding her eyes as he pushed himself inside her. Enveloped by her heat, he took a moment to just breathe and enjoy the sensation. Her eyes were heavily lidded and her mouth was parted from the breath she had panted out as he had filled her. She brought a hand up to his cheek and pulled his mouth down to hers for another kiss as her other hand caressed his back. She wrapped her legs around him as he began to move, giving her long, slow strokes to begin with and kissing every part of her he could reach as he did so. "You're so wet," he rasped with admiration. Then he teased them both with short, shallow thrusts, sliding his hands down along the fronts and backs of her thighs before positioning her legs against his chest, her ankles over his shoulders. She seemed pleased by this. Especially when he ceased the shallow thrusts and sunk fully into her. He loved hearing her cry out with pleasure, so he pulled back out almost the entire way and then buried himself to the hilt again.
He leaned further forward over her, stretching her but her body seemed flexible enough to handle it. He thrust deep and hard and was rewarded with her wildly thrashing below him, her fingers digging into the flesh on his arms.
"Shit…right there," she gasped as he thrust again. His cock was so engorged it was almost painful…but it was the best kind of pain.
He drove into her again.
His balls tingled as they slapped against her ass.
He had no intention of it. This ride wasn't stopping until they both reached their destination.
He picked up his pace, roughly palmed one breast, rubbing his thumb over her erect nipple.
His lips met hers for a moment and then his rhythm continued.
When her walls contracted around him, his name passing through her lips, he couldn't hold back any longer. His hips bucked wildly of their own accord for several moments as he came. He breathed harshly and his heart pounded in his ears and the relief was blissful. He carefully moved her legs aside and slid down onto the bed next to her, one hand resting against her hip as he caught his breath. When he did, he removed and threw the condom into a nearby wastebasket and then turned onto his side. She turned onto hers to face him and they kissed for several minutes, comfortably intertwining their fingers and legs as they did so.
"What?" Her first words after they stopped kissing confused him momentarily.
"In my sleep…a little…sometimes."
He smiled sleepily at her. He found her admission adorable and decided to offer one of his own. "I snore…sometimes on my back…but if you poke me in the side, I should stop."
"And you can drool all you want wherever you want."
She was smiling back at him. Her cheeks were bright and rosy but he knew most of the color in them was still from the pleasure she'd just experienced and not so much from embarrassment over their minor confessions. "You're very accommodating."
"I aim to please…you."
She leaned over and pressed a lingering kiss to his jaw. "You're good at that."
He gave her a slow grin and then pulled her closer to him. She wrapped her body around his and nuzzled her chin into his chest. He pulled the covers up over them and wrapped his arms around her as they fell asleep. For a while anyway.
Giggling. She was giggling. He had that effect on her and Katniss still didn't quite know what to make of that. But she knew she liked what he said and what he did. She liked knowing what he thought about things and hearing his plans. She liked feeling his hand at the small of her back and she liked feeling his lips at the back of her neck. Or the front of it. Or anywhere, really. Currently, they were at her ear and what he was suggesting was…very inappropriate. And the whole kitchen already knew how very inappropriate they were now with each other. Thankfully, no one really cared. Several were pretty supportive in fact. She hoped they would be self-sufficient too for fifteen minutes. Because Peeta was already headed toward the farthest walk-in fridge and she was trying not to stare at his ass as he walked, trying not to look too conspicuous. She gave a glance at the pending orders and at the staff moving around, working together like a well-oiled machine. She bit her lip and then moved as nonchalantly as she could in the direction Peeta had gone, pausing to readjust a fire exit sign on the bulletin board and to replace an extra clean pot on a rack before tugging open the heavy metal door and slipping inside the small, chilly room.
He had her pressed against the cool steel as soon as the pressure seal took hold. "Wait!" she implored him, stopping his kisses and pushing on his chest. "Back there."
He moved in the direction she had pointed, pulling her with him hastily. Once behind a shelf at the back of the fridge, he pinned her against the cold wall there, his mouth on her neck, one hand inside her blouse and the other under her skirt. "God, I have wanted to fuck you since you bent to pick up those damn menus." He was referring to hours earlier when one of their rookie waitresses had knocked over a whole stack of new menus in her office. She'd bent over to help pick them up before sending the waitress back out to the dining area, assuring her it was fine. Peeta had been walking by at the time. Katniss had not been unaware.
"Do you want me to bend over and retrieve anything at the moment?" she asked huskily.
He sunk two fingers into her and grunted with pleasure, she presumed at how she felt in addition to her tempting question. "Yes, but no, because I wanna take you up against this wall right now."
"So, do it."
His tongue was in her mouth as she felt him undoing his pants. She helped him and pumped his hard cock with her hand for just a few moments before he yanked her skirt up and her panties down and hoisted her up, balancing her between the wall and his hips. And then he slammed into her and she bit into her lip hard to keep from crying out too loudly. He muffled his own moan in her neck and then brought his lips up to her ear. "You…are the best boss ever." She smacked him playfully on the back and he just chuckled, thrusting into her again. "And I love…working…for you." She gasped into his hair, one arm slung over his shoulder, holding to him, and the other flung out to the side, her hand gripping the metal shelf next to them tightly. He was fucking her hard and fast, pressing her repeatedly into the cold wall. They could hear the bustle of the kitchen just outside the small space they occupied. The thrill of possibly getting caught in here doing what they were doing or even somehow being overheard was enough to up the intensity of the encounter by several degrees. She was close, teetering on the brink and she knew he knew it. It had only been a month but he knew her body so well already. He knew her well. And she enjoyed that immensely. Shifting so that he was supporting her with one arm, he moved his hand between them and his thumb to her clit. "And I love…making you…come." He flicked and pressed and circled. He still thrust. And he covered her mouth with his, drinking in her unstoppable moans. She shuddered around him and he emptied himself inside of her. In the time since their first joining, they had established that she was on the pill and they were both clear of anything infectious.
He kissed her, pulled back from her and let her legs drift back down until her feet were once again on the ground. They retrieved her underwear and she hastily put it back on, knowing she'd need to get herself to the restroom directly. She tugged her skirt back down and fixed her blouse as he tucked away his not yet flaccid penis and zipped up his pants. She sent him a look of utter satisfaction and he grinned widely. They made each other happy. She knew this. And it wasn't just physically like this. They were happy taking walks, telling each other stupid stories, going dancing, Christmas shopping together, watching tv, reading to each other, making food together, eating, sleeping. She knew she looked forward to kissing him the next night at midnight, though she couldn't know what the year ahead would hold for them. She knew that she was willing to find out though...excited to, even. Because Peeta made life more exciting and more content and more complete.
"I guess I'll go first again," he said in a low, conspiratorial tone and she nodded, kissing him once more before he turned and walked toward the door.
Just as he reached it, she called out softly for him to stop and watched him turn and quirk a curious eyebrow at her.
"Mr. Mellark," she said playfully. "I just wanted to give you a heads up. I may want some more hot buns later."
He let out a light laugh. "Certainly, Ms. Everdeen. Certainly."
A/N: Undoubtedly, they'll deal with folks who are less than supportive but did you really want to read about that or just stick with the happy and hot? ) Imagine what you will for their future. Perhaps hot cross buns (made with currants by the way)… ;)