a/n: Here it is, the sequel to "The Education of Peeta Mellark." I originally wasn't going to write this, but I really started to miss this universe and specifically this Peeta so I had to give it a shot. I don't know what my updating schedule will be like, but hopefully I'll post regularly. I will be alternating between both Katniss' and Peeta's POVs just because TEOPM!Peeta is too fun not to get into his head!
Major thanks to annieoakley1 for helping me with research on this chapter (and probably going forward). Science is not my strong suit, so hopefully I won't flub something up too badly :) Hope you guys enjoy the story!
It was the smell of bacon that greeted Katniss when she awoke, her nostrils flaring as she inhaled deeply. The fog of slumber cleared as her eyes fluttered open against the rheum plastering her lashes together, and her confusion gave way to understanding once she remembered where she was.
Peeta's apartment. Where he was apparently making breakfast. And where they'd had sex all night, after they'd left Finnick and Annie's wedding.
Katniss stretched languidly, issuing a small squeak as all the muscles in her body tightened and then released. She rolled onto her back, the sheets slipping off her naked body, but she grunted in mild discomfort when she settled on her ass and immediately rolled back over. "Ow," she whispered groggily, reaching a hand down to gingerly rub the tender skin of her bottom; it was still sore from the attention Peeta's belt had given it the previous night.
Her fingers ghosted over a particularly sore area, a small thrill ratcheting up her spine as she recalled the events of the night before. That had been a whole new side to Peeta she hadn't expected. In college, the sex between them had been great, but he had always been tentative, green, eager to let her take the reins in bed. And she liked that, she really did. But in the six years since then, she'd learned that she really liked someone else to take over sometimes, too, to take charge and completely dominate her. In all her previous dating, she'd yet to find a man really interested in exploring the possibilities with her.
How had Peeta figured that out?
And who had taught him all these new tricks?
Shaking her head to mentally dislodge the thought, Katniss sat up in bed despite the protest of her sensitive flesh and snatched Peeta's discarded dress shirt off the floor. Shrugging it on, she hastily fastened a few of the buttons and then shook her hair out; she cringed as her fingers caught on a few knots, and she tousled the locks a couple times before she strode to the door, creaking it open. She padded down the hallway and paused in the entryway of the kitchen, watching Peeta from behind as he hovered over the stove.
He was shirtless, clad only in a pair of pajama pants. His curls were as disheveled as her own hair was, clearly the work of her eager fingers from the night before—when he'd finally released her hands from their restraint, that was. She sucked her bottom lip between her teeth, fighting a smirk as she watched the muscles in his back flex with the movements of his arms; he'd filled out more since college, too. He must have been lifting some weights in addition to the running he still clearly did. It was a laughable cliche, but he really was like a piece of art; in her hazy state of sleepy satiation, she found herself just staring at him, drinking in the sight of him.
She finally became aware of the crackle of the bacon slabs in the grease on the stove, her reverie shattering, and she moved closer, quietly, sure to not alert him until she slid her arms around his waist to pull him into a hug. Peeta jumped, startled by her appearance.
"Jesus, I forgot how stealthily you move," he greeted with a nervous chuckle, releasing the handle of the pan, but his other hand still gripped the fork. His voice was gruff, raw with sleep, so he must not have gotten up that long before her.
With a smile, she pressed her mouth between his shoulder blades. "You didn't get a reminder last night?" she murmured teasingly, and he chuckled again, poking at the bacon. He was quiet for a brief moment before he cleared his throat.
"I, uh, think you were a little too tied up to fully remind me," he said quietly, and though she couldn't see his face, she could almost hear the blush and the boyish smile in his voice. What a stark contrast from last night.
Laughing lightly, Katniss flattened her palms against his bare abdomen and stood up on her toes to peer over his shoulder. "Isn't it a little unsafe to cook shirtless around hot oil?" she asked, and he shrugged as he scooped the bacon out onto a plate atop a couple sheets of paper towels.
"I've built up a tolerance, I guess."
She ghosted her fingers over his stomach, her fingers sliding through the dusting of hair there as she felt for any hot grease scars, but he jerked against her with a gasp, nearly dropping the plate. "Stop," he laughed gruffly. Setting the fork aside, he twisted in her arms to face her. Her smile immediately widened at the sight of his eyes, crinkled at the corners from mirth, and his shy grin. They stared at each other for a moment, and she felt a warmth settle in her chest, flushing her neck and heating her cheeks. Was she blushing? It was a distinct possibility, but she wasn't sure why, especially after last night.
"Good morning," he finally murmured, resting his hands on her shoulders. She tightened her arms around him, pressing her chest to his.
"Sleep okay?" he asked softly, his thumbs brushing up the curves of her neck. Her lips twisted into a smirk.
"What little I got, sure."
His cheeks turned pink, and he lifted a hand to scratch his nose. "I, uh, I assume you don't have work today, right?" he asked. "It's Sunday, but I wasn't sure."
She shook her head. "Nope. I'm all yours," she said but almost immediately regretted it. That was too forward. She couldn't just assume he planned, or even wanted, to spend the day with her. Or even see her after this. Maybe this was just a one-night stand for him.
Her stomach twisted at the thought, but she knew she couldn't get upset. They hadn't established any ground rules last night—beyond what she would and wouldn't allow him to do to her in bed, anyway. They hadn't talked about what any of this meant. She didn't think he was the type to hook up with her and then discard her, but she couldn't say she really knew who he was now, all these years later. Still, she didn't think she was wrong about the connection they had, the chemistry. It had been palpable at the wedding, the heat between them finally combusting in a flurry of limbs and sweat and pent-up aggression and lust.
Fuck, she was getting wet just thinking about it—and the way he was staring at her wasn't helping, his blue eyes a shade darker. She tried to swallow discreetly, wondering what he was thinking about, but then he licked his lips and broke the stare, his eyes darting around anxiously. She smiled to herself; that was the guy she remembered. Even with all his new-found sexual bravado, the same sweet, shy Peeta was still in there.
And that was what she had been most attracted to in college.
"Well, I made you breakfast," he said, pushing on her shoulders gently to untangle himself from her arms. He turned around and slid an oven mitt onto his hand, opening the oven door to pull out a couple slices of toast. Katniss sniffed the air and smiled.
Turning off the oven, Peeta nodded and turned back to her. "Um, I would have made you something more elaborate, but I still need to go grocery shopping. I just got busy with all the wedding stuff."
She shrugged, pulling him back into a hug. She was never going to get sick of touching him. He seemed a little more unsure than her, his hands once again settling on her shoulders awkwardly, but she smiled at him encouragingly. "This is plenty, thank you. Most mornings I just eat some oatmeal, so bacon is a real treat," she said as she nuzzled his neck, his beard scruffing her forehead. She shivered deliciously as she recalled how it had felt against her breasts and her stomach the night before. She trailed her palms up and down the path of his spine, her fingers teasingly dipping under the waistband of his pants before retreating.
A few more passes of her hands over his back and Peeta relaxed against her, wrapping his arms around her fully to engulf her in his embrace. He was so warm. He dipped his head to press the side of his face against hers, his fingers fanning through her hair to palm the crown of her head. This was nice, she thought. As great as the sex was, she just enjoyed his proximity. She hadn't realized how much she had missed him until she'd laid eyes on him at the wedding rehearsal. He'd always been a thought in the back of her mind most days since college, but his appearance brought it all racing back.
She felt him nudge her chin with his, like he was beckoning her in for a kiss, and she started to turn her head until she realized how dry and stale her mouth tasted. Wrinkling her nose, she pulled back slightly. "Morning breath," she explained apologetically, reaching behind him to grab a piece of bacon. She tore off a bite and quickly ate it while he waited patiently. "Mmm, s'good," she complimented sincerely before swallowing, then she smiled at him, angling her face back toward his. "Bacon breath, much better."
Peeta chuckled lowly, the puffs of air ghosting over her lips before his mouth grazed hers. The kiss was hesitant at first, as if they hadn't spent the night making each other come repeatedly, but soon she coaxed him into ready acquiescence, her tongue brushing against his in invitation; he swept his tongue into her mouth to taste her, making her sigh against his lips as he explored her with renewed enthusiasm.
When he finally pulled away, his face was flushed, his lips red. His eyes kept darting to her mouth, and he licked his lips again before smiling slightly. "Um, breakfast is getting cold," he reminded her, and she stuffed the rest of her bacon slice into her mouth, nodding her head. Katniss released him, and he turned around to fix their plates. She crossed over to his dining table and pulled out a chair to sit in, flinching mildly. Man, she was glad she didn't have work today. Having to sit in a hard chair all day with the state her ass was currently in would be torture. "Drink?" he called to her.
"Water is fine," she replied, watching him work as he poured her some water and then carried the food to the table, balancing her plate on her cup. She smiled her gratitude, greedily diving in as she suddenly realized how famished she was.
They ate in silence for a bit, and Katniss was acutely aware of every bite and swallow between the two of them. She watched him periodically, catching his eye when he would look at her before he broke eye contact to take a bite of his food. She didn't want to push him; she remembered how abrasive and pushy she'd been when they'd dated, and she didn't want to make him uncomfortable. She'd mellowed out some since college—some. She wanted him to feel at ease with her, to steer the conversation and direction of—well, whatever they were doing now.
When he glanced at her again, she smiled around her toast, and his mouth quirked in return. Clearing his throat, he sat back in his chair. "So, uh, how are you feeling this morning?" he asked conversationally, and she couldn't stop the snort of amusement.
"Well, my ass is kind of sore," she mused, arching an eyebrow at him, and his eyes widened as color filled his cheeks.
"Oh—shit, from—?" he stuttered, and she nodded, drawing her knees up to plant her heels on the edge of the chair. He let out a heavy breath and rubbed the back of his neck. "Fuck, I'm sorry, I didn't—I mean, I guess—well, I guess I got a little—I'm so sorry, do you need some ice?"
Flustered, he started to stand up, and she laughed airily, sticking her leg out to block him and force him back into his seat. "It's okay. It's not that bad. I'm just not used to the belt. I told you last night it was fine." He winced slightly and seemed unsure how to respond further, a guilty look heavy in his eyes. She pressed the ball of her foot against his knee as if to comfort him. "Peeta...I really liked it. What you did to me. All of it," she whispered, keeping her voice low so he could understand her intent. She held his gaze for a beat before drawing her foot back, and he finally nodded in acceptance. Eating the last of her toast, she sucked the crumbs and sugar off her fingers.
"Uh, you know you're not wearing any underwear, right?"
Katniss raised her eyebrows when she realized his eyes were focused on the juncture of her thighs, though he was obviously trying not to stare so blatantly. She'd actually forgotten, but she smirked seductively at him. "What? Do you find this distracting?" she asked innocently, parting her thighs ever so slightly under his gaze. If it were possible, his eyes grew larger. She laughed heartily at his comical expression. "I'm sorry, I'm just messing with you. Am I making you uncomfortable? I'll stop."
He made a sound in the back of his throat, something between a laugh and a cough, and he shook his head to force his eyes away from her groin. "No, not uncomfortable, just—hard."
That surprised her. Her eyebrows raised, and she grinned at him, pleased with his blunt admission. Biting her lip, she took pity on him and modestly closed her thighs, moving to shift her position in the chair, but he suddenly grabbed the seat and yanked her toward him, causing her legs to fall open. "What—" she started to say, surprised, but then she gasped when his hand dipped between her thighs, his thumb barely rubbing her clit.
"Is this distracting?" he asked, his voice dropping an octave. Her mouth hung open in shock as she tried to fathom the change in his demeanor, but when he slid his thumb down to trace her slit, she arched against the back of the chair with a small moan, her hands curling around the edges of the chair.
"Ohh—god, no, it feels good," she gasped out, her eyes falling shut as his thumb slid up and down her folds, collecting the moisture seeping out of her as her body responded to his touch. With his free hand, he draped her legs over his thighs and pulled her hips forward to angle them up some, resuming his attention on her clit as he rubbed small circles over it.
He was quiet while he worked her over, just her breathy moans filling the silence of the room. Her hips began to rock, trying to create more friction between his thumb and her clit, but he stopped then, slowly unbuttoning her shirt to expose her chest; he spread it open, dragging his palms over her breasts, and she pushed her chest into his hands. "Peeta," she whimpered, and her head dipped back as his hand fell between her legs again to resume his ministrations on her clit. When she felt the wet suction of his mouth on her nipple, she gasped out loud. "Fuck, that feels good. Don't stop," she pleaded, and he sucked harder, his thumb moving faster. She felt the pleasure surging quickly. "Oh god, I'm gonna come, Peeta."
"Good," he murmured around the tip of her breast, his tongue flicking over the pebbled bud before he tugged it between his teeth. That was all she needed; her thighs clamped shut around his hand, and she came, her clit pulsing as her orgasm ripped through her.
"Fuck!" she cried out as her body convulsed, squirming in her chair. The movements of his thumb became leisurely, an after-thought, and he kissed his way up her chest and her neck to her mouth as her heartbeat slowed. Dazed, she half-heartedly returned his kiss, blinking her eyes open when he pulled away. He smiled at her and sat back, looking pleased with himself, and he refastened the shirt for her.
She laughed abruptly, feeling slightly delirious. "Oh my god, you are something else these days," she panted giddily as she stared up at him. His cheeks were ruddy, and his blue eyes twinkled. Her own gaze dropped to his lap, the sight of his obvious erection drawing another smile from her, and she leaned forward to rub him through his pants. "Let me return the favor," she purred, and his eyes fluttered shut for a moment before he blinked them open, prying her hand off of him. She frowned immediately at the refusal.
"Ah, wait, Katniss. I, uh, got a little carried away, sorry, but—I really think we should...talk first. Is that okay?" His eyes were imploring; his words made her uneasy, but she relented, schooling her face into a neutral expression.
"Okay, sure. What about exactly?" she asked, demurely closing her legs and sitting up straighter in her chair.
He ran a hand through his hair, his eyes flicking around the living room. She felt nerves beginning to roil in her stomach; she wasn't normally a paranoid person, but now she couldn't help wondering if this was where Peeta was going to give her the brush-off. She tried to tell herself she'd be fine, but the dread was rising in her throat. Finally, Peeta met her eyes and quirked a nervous smile at her. "Well, I'm—I don't know where you're at, necessarily, but I'm, uh, interested in seeing...where this goes between us. If you are," he stopped to clear his throat with a slight cough. "I just, I think we should—do it the smart way. Be safe, you know, like how we, um...you know, the first time we started...having sex."
She blinked as he blushed mildly, relief flushing through her veins. "Oh." He just wanted them to get tested again. He anticipated seeing her beyond today. She laughed. "Of course. I mean, I don't even think I've had sex since my last exam—" she faltered, a little embarrassed at her admission. And her last pap smear had been almost six months ago. Work kept her busy and pretty single these days. She glanced away, brushing some hair behind her ear. "I just mean, I've still got those results, but I can always run by a clinic this week to be safe."
Peeta nodded. "Ah, yeah. I can take care of that this week, too," he said quietly. She briefly wondered when the last time was that he'd had sex but just as quickly stuffed the thought down. It was going to be a process getting used to this new lothario side to him. Smiling slightly, she leaned over and pulled herself into his lap, straddling his thighs. He raised his eyebrows, his hands coming to rest on her hips.
"So, does this mean you want to date me or have sex with me?" she asked wryly, rocking her center against his erection. It had softened some during their discussion, but she felt him responding instantly to her ministrations, and she hummed her pleasure as his cock restimulated her clit.
He groaned, his head falling back. "I—ah, are they mutually exclusive?" he asked, guiding her hips with his hands to aid her rocking. Grinning, she leaned forward to press her mouth to his.
"No, but I just didn't want anymore ambiguity this time around," she murmured, her tongue flicking against his lips as she spoke. He tasted like cinnamon sugar. She pivoted her hips harder against his, and he grunted, bucking into her. His eyes were squeezed shut, his nostrils flared as he breathed heavily.
"I—I want to date you, but I most definitely wanna fuck you right this moment," he gasped into her mouth, and she cooed softly, moving faster as she felt the pleasure funneling between her thighs.
"Then you should do that right now because I'm about to come," she moaned, gasping in delight when he stood up abruptly and hoisted her into his arms. Her legs tightened around his waist, and their mouths bumped together frantically as they kissed, Peeta steering them into his bedroom. He set her down on the bed and forced her onto her hands and knees before he crossed to the nightstand to grab a condom. Biting her lip, she hiked the shirt up to her waist and slumped forward, reaching between her thighs to absently rub her swollen clit. A soft moan tumbled from her lips, drawing his attention as he hastily moved to sheath himself with the prophylactic.
"Stop that," he chastised, rolling the condom down his cock and stepping out of his pants. She smiled wickedly at him, deliberately ignoring his command.
"No, you got me so close," she effected a pathetic whine as he knelt down on the bed behind her. She pouted when he jerked her hand away, pinning it behind her.
"Yeah, and I'm gonna finish you, just not yet," he said sternly, and she had to fight another smile as he positioned her ass in front of him, the head of his cock sliding against the tender flesh of her bottom. She really liked this confident side of Peeta. He released her hand, and she fisted both of her hands in the sheets around her, already arching back to meet him. "Do you need lube?" he asked, holding his cock in hand as he slid the tip up and down her slick folds to tease her.
She cringed, knowing how sore she already was from the previous night, but she didn't want to stop to bother with the lube now. "No. I need you to fuck me, Peet-ahh!" The last syllable hitched in a gasp when he pushed into her. "Shit!" she cried as he stretched her with a few more quick, shallow thrusts, her fingers tightening in the sheets. He was so big, filling her completely and then some—she didn't know if she would ever get used to the feeling. Not that she wanted to. The pain of the initial intrusion each time was oddly exhilarating; once she adjusted, she never felt more full. It satisfied something primal inside her.
Burying her face in the mattress, she muffled her increasingly shrill cries, her body already going slack with his forceful thrusts. She whimpered when he stopped momentarily to reposition their bodies, pinning her legs between his instead of kneeling between hers, and she cried out when he pushed into her again with a grunt. "Fuck, that—god, you're so big, Peeta," she choked out, the angle tightening her walls around him, making the fit of him inside her even more snug.
"And you're, so, fucking, tight," he gasped, his thrusts punctuated by each word. She wasn't sure what was louder: her moans or the sound of their bodies colliding rhythmically. Peeta suddenly slumped down on top of her, trapping her body underneath his, but he didn't stop thrusting, wedging his hand under her pelvis to find her clit. She arched her head back to moan in relief, gyrating against his hand to spur her orgasm on. He was heavy on top of her, but she didn't care; she was too delirious with pleasure to care about anything beyond the way his cock slid in and out of her as his fingers stroked her clit. He pressed the side of his face against hers, panting in her ear.
"I can't—I can't wait to go down on you," he gasped, his hips curving against her ass frantically as he fucked her. He palmed the side of her face to turn her head toward his some, sloppily pushing her hair off her sticky skin. "I wonder—if your pussy still tastes the same."
She moaned pathetically, trying to buck back against him, but his weight prevented most movement. His fingers moved faster, desperate to get her off. "I want your dick in my mouth so bad, Peeta," she whimpered. "I want—ah!—I wanna suck you off and make you come so hard."
He made a pitiful, whining sound, the force of his thrusts now actually sliding her up and down the mattress some. That was giving her the extra friction on her clit that she craved, and she shouted into the mattress, every muscle in her body tightening as the pleasure snapped through her. Peeta groaned as her walls fluttered around his cock, encouraging his own orgasm.
"Fuck, fuck," he chanted, thrusting roughly. "I'm gonna come just thinking about your mouth on my dick, Katniss—fuck." His words died on a throaty grunt, and he stilled on top of her as he spilled into the condom, his hips undulating just barely until he stopped moving. His breaths were hot on the back of her neck, and she could feel his heartbeat through her back, syncing with her own racing heart. She felt dazed, unable to open her eyes or move while she gathered her bearings. When he finally moved off her to lie down beside her, she stretched her legs out, flattening out onto her stomach. Peeta just lay on his back, still breathing hard as he stared at the ceiling. He didn't even bother to take the condom off yet.
Katniss stared at him, observing his profile, the slight sheen of sweat on his forehead. And then she laughed, an involuntary giggle bursting from her lungs. He blinked and turned to look at her. "What?" he asked, confused.
She shook her head. "I don't know," she gasped out. "That was—I just—I mean, shit. You just keep surprising me." She guessed she could add dirty talking to the list of his newly acquired skills in the bedroom. Pushing herself up onto her shaky arms, she reached a hand down and peeled the condom off for him. He watched her tie it off and stand up, wobble slightly, and then cross to the bathroom. She left the door open as she discarded the used condom in the trash with all the ones from the night before and rinsed herself off. When she returned, he was sitting up and reaching for his pants, but she pushed him back down to the bed and crawled on top of him. "Nuh uh."
He looked surprised, but a shy smile teased the corners of his mouth. "What do you mean, 'nuh uh'?" he asked as she pinned his shoulders to the bed. "You can't possibly expect me to be ready to go again already—"
She laughed, shaking her head. "Relax, Mellark. I don't think my vagina can take much more of that just yet." He looked like he was about to apologize, so she interrupted him, stretching out on top of him and resting her head on his chest. "I just want to nap. I'm sleepy." As if to emphasize her point, she yawned. Two orgasms really took it out of her.
"Oh," he chuckled softly, wrapping his arms around her. Their skin was slick and sweaty but cooling rapidly, and it was comforting having his flesh pressed against hers. His breathing had evened out finally, his chest pitching only mildly with his soft wheezing. "And, uh, I can't put pants on for that?"
She frowned, tilting her face up to nuzzle his beard. "And have to waste time taking them off again when we wake up?" she teased, smiling when his chest rumbled with amusement.
When she heard the doorbell, Katniss hopped off the couch and crossed to the front door, flinging it open. She grinned immediately at the sight of her sister, Prim, on the other side. "Hey!" she greeted enthusiastically, pulling the younger woman into a hug.
Prim squeezed her back. "Whoa, hey, that's a really enthusiastic greeting for just returning your dress," she said with a laugh, pulling back to thrust the red garment into her sister's hands. Katniss shrugged and led her inside, unable to fight the smile on her face. Prim had borrowed one of her dresses for a med school function over the weekend; she'd recently finished college and had been accepted to the UNC School of Medicine. "Thanks, by the way. It worked perfectly."
"You're welcome. And what, can't I be happy to see my baby sister?" she hummed as Prim shut the door. Katniss threw the dress over the back of a dining room chair and turned to face Prim, who was regarding her suspiciously.
"Maybe if we didn't see each other regularly," she said, tapping her chin with her finger as she studied her. Then her face broke into a sly grin. "You got laid, didn't you?"
Katniss' jaw dropped. "What?!" She flushed, realizing she couldn't really deny the truth. "No, that's not why—"
Prim's eyebrows shot up. "So you did get laid!" she crowed, and Katniss rolled her eyes, cursing the blush that revealed her. Now that her little sister was older and with a sex life of her own, they swapped stories of their escapades pretty regularly. But it still embarrassed Katniss, just a little.
"Okay, so maybe I did," she admitted, picking at a nonexistent pill on the dress.
"Well, tell me! Oooh, was it someone at the wedding? Who was he?" Prim pried, plopping down on the couch to make herself comfortable.
Katniss leaned against the table, clearing her throat. "Well...actually, it was Peeta." She watched her sister's face as Prim stared at her blankly for a split second before recognition dawned on her. Her mouth puckered into the shape of an O, her eyes widening with both excitement and incredulity.
"Peeta? As in, the guy you dated in college, that Peeta?" she asked in disbelief. Katniss pursed her mouth, nodding her head. "What the hell?! How did that happen? I'm so lost! I didn't even know you two kept in touch!"
Katniss shrugged. "We didn't. We hadn't talked since we broke up. Until the rehearsal dinner the other night."
Prim just shook her head, flabbergasted. "I'm still so confused. Fill me in!"
Biting her lip, Katniss shuffled over to the couch and sat down next to Prim, who pulled her legs up to curl them underneath her. "I don't know, when I saw him, I just...I remembered why I'd liked him so much in college. I don't know. It was exciting. And, god, he's just so attractive, Prim," she whined, making her sister laugh.
"Anyway, we talked at the wedding, got caught up a little, hashed out the breakup some. It felt good. Things were going well, and we just...we went back to his place and had sex. A lot."
"Oh my god," Prim squealed under her breath. "This sounds like a movie." She leaned closer, arching an eyebrow. "How was the sex?"
Katniss caught the corner of her lip between her teeth, trying and failing to stop the smile. "Prim...it was amazing. The best sex I've ever had. The six years did him good."
Prim laughed again, shaking her head. "Wow, that's so crazy, Katniss. So what happens now? Are you two dating?"
"Well, we talked about it this morning, and I think that's what we both want," Katniss explained, folding her legs underneath her to mirror her sister's posture. "He wants to make me dinner tomorrow night so we can talk some more about things."
Prim squinted at her, grinning deviously. "And have more sex, I presume."
Katniss laughed, feeling her face heat up. She couldn't deny it, though. "God, I hope so."
"Good. You know, I always liked Peeta," her sister said, nodding in approval. "Well, before y'all broke up. I was really sad about it, and then I hated him for a little while for your sake. But I'm glad he realized the errors of his ways." Prim sniffed with an air of faux haughtiness, and Katniss rolled her eyes. "He was stupid to break up with you, and he knows it. Now, tell me more about Peeta. I want to know what's got you so smitten by him again!"
After knocking on the door to Peeta's apartment, Katniss unnecessarily smoothed her dress down and tousled her hair, running her finger tip under her eyes to wipe away any errant eyeliner smudges. When she heard the doorknob turning, she straightened up, a wide smile immediately slipping into place as Peeta appeared in the doorway. God, he was attractive. It was almost painful.
"Hey," she said, and he smiled at her, almost shyly, as he opened the door wider.
"Hey, um, you look great," he replied, his eyes sweeping down her form. She didn't miss the way his gaze lingered on her exposed legs. "Beautiful, I mean."
Her grin widened, and she stepped over the threshold, pushing up on her toes to press a kiss to his lips in greeting. Only when she pulled back slightly and caught the surprise in his eyes did she rethink the gesture. "Too much?" she asked, mildly apologetic—she always forgot how less affectionate he was than her.
But he shook his head. "No—it's fine. It's not too much, I mean," he said, his hand coming up to rest on her hip as his other hand closed the door behind her. He was effectively holding her in place, so she was curious to see what he was doing; she lifted her eyebrows slightly when he cupped her cheek, lowering his face to hers. His eyes seemed to be searching hers before he captured her lips in another, more thorough kiss, his tongue parting her lips and probing her mouth. She pressed against him and loosely gripped his wrist, eagerly returning his searching kiss. Kissing him was another thing she would never tire of.
A loud beep disturbed the moment, and Peeta turned his head to glance into the kitchen. When he looked back down at her, his eyes glassy, he smiled sheepishly. "Sorry, I should—I gotta get back to the food," he explained, releasing her.
Katniss licked her lips of his lingering taste and coyly returned his smile. "Okay," she agreed as he stepped away and crossed into the kitchen. She set her purse down and slipped her flats off near the door before wandering toward the bar. "Can I help you with anything?" she offered, watching as he pulled a couple steaks out of the oven.
He set the pan down and removed his oven mitt, shaking his head. "No, I'm almost done. Just need to saute the spinach, and then dinner will be ready," he said and flipped the oven off, then he dumped a bowl of the greens into a heated skillet. His gaze flickered back to her. "Um, you can go ahead and open the bottle of wine if you want, actually. You still like Cabernet Sauvignon, right?"
With a smile, Katniss circled the bar to pad into the kitchen, picking up the bottle he left on the counter. "Yeah, you remembered?"
"Well, it was the only wine I can remember you mentioning you liked when we—uh, before," he said to her over his shoulder, stirring the spinach leaves and the oil in the skillet. "And it goes well with steak."
Locating a corkscrew in a drawer, Katniss quickly uncorked the wine and poured some into the glasses he'd set out. "I'm touched," she told him, swirling the wine in the glass before taking a sip. Then she hoisted herself up onto the counter to watch him cook. "So, what are we having tonight?" she asked, sniffing the air. She smelled garlic and beef and something else—rosemary, she thought it was.
"Um, I've made beef tenderloin steaks topped with Gorgonzola, baby red potatoes with rosemary and sauteed spinach with garlic. Sound okay?"
She smiled at his back. "Sounds wonderful, Peeta." After another sip of her wine, she set it down and hopped off the counter, snatching up his glass to carry it to him. She wedged herself beside him next to the stove, offering him the glass. He glanced helplessly between the wine and the pan, his hands occupied, and she grinned at him, raising the glass to his lips. Understanding flashed across his face, and he parted his mouth slightly so she could tip the cup and pour some of the wine into his mouth. She pulled it away, and he swallowed, offering her a grateful smile.
"Thank you," he murmured, and she just winked at him, squeezing his forearm before she backed away, grabbing her glass and taking the two cups to the dining table. "You can sit down. I'll bring the food out in a moment."
Katniss picked the chair she had sat in her first morning at his place, smiling when she recalled what he'd done to her in it, and she placed their wine glasses down, crossing her legs to wait patiently. A moment later, Peeta emerged from the kitchen with two plates. Sliding one in front of her, he grabbed the seat next to her and sat down.
"This all looks and smells so wonderful, Peeta," she gushed as she took in the full plate of food, inhaling deeply. He seemed to blush at her compliment, ducking his head to take another sip of his wine.
"Uh, thank you. I have a lot of time to kill these days while I wait to start my residency, so I figured I should put that free time to good use," he explained, and she picked up her glass, holding it out toward him to initiate a toast. Blinking in surprise, he raised his cup as well.
"Well, thank you, again, for cooking dinner for me, Peeta. Here's to," she paused only briefly as she searched for the right words and then smiled at him, "a fresh start." He echoed the words softly, quirking a smile at her as they tapped glasses, and then they both took a sip. Swallowing the wine, she set her glass down and picked up her fork and knife. "I hope you didn't spend all day cooking for me," she teased as she cut into her steak, and he smiled.
"Ah, no. The cooking actually didn't take that long, but I had to plan it out and buy the ingredients," he said quietly, mimicking her actions with his own silverware. "I've been helping at my parents' bakery in my time off, so I was over there for most of the day."
"That's fun," she quipped, popping the piece of steak into her mouth. Chewing a few times, she moaned as the taste exploded on her tongue. "Oh my god, this is heavenly," she gushed around her mouthful, her manners completely forgotten. It was perfectly tender and juicy. He smiled in gratitude, biting into his own steak.
"Thank you," he said after he'd swallowed. "Um, glad you like it."
He'd never made anything she didn't like. She was silent as she sampled everything else on her plate, and then she sighed happily. "So good," she muttered as she ate.
Peeta cleared his throat, setting his fork down to sip his wine, and then he ruffled his curls. "Um, so how was your day? How was work?" he asked, and she shrugged, smiling at him.
"It was good, kind of stressful today. At the moment, I'm leading a research project on studying the antibodies in the human body to the dengue virus."
His brow furrowed. "Oh, wow. Sounds intense. How is that coming?"
She shrugged and twirled her fork between her fingers. "It's coming along. We're mapping out all the monoclonal antibodies in the human body right now. We get to do some cryo-EM soon, which should be really interesting, and then we'll eventually get to do some tests on the mouse model, too," she said, scooping some spinach into her mouth. She glanced up at Peeta, who was watching her with keen, genuine interest, his head nodding just slightly as she talked. A smile spread across her face, unbidden. It was such a relief talking about her job as a research scientist with someone who understood, or at least had a working knowledge of her field and what she did. Many of her boyfriends in the past hadn't, and their eyes often glazed over when she would talk about her day or work. Her last boyfriend, Mark Gloss, had been a software engineer. She hadn't much understood his job, either.
Katniss divulged more about her work while they ate, and Peeta watched her, his blue eyes shining with interest. He got up at one point to retrieve the wine bottle, and they gradually drained it as they continued to swap stories about work and school for the next couple of hours.
She couldn't remember the last time she had enjoyed just talking with a guy so much.
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