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Another Achlivan Cycle Kiss



“Are you sure you don’t want—” Timber called from the couch. He stopped mid thought at my glare. He was starting to learn. I don’t care if he’s the cooking expert, and I burn water. When I say I’m going to do something like cook dinner, I’m going to do it. The end. He earned a break, and I’d been taking a few classes while he pranced around with Paul all day.

Not like my dinner was anything wild. I had some asparagus in the oven, and some noodles on the stove. Multitasking in the kitchen was something I was still getting used to. So far, the experiment was going well. I didn’t need his help.

“What time is Lara coming back?” he asked. Must have needed to talk. He did that a lot. Talked just for the sake of talking. I tolerated it most of the time. There were days I wanted to slap him and tell him to shut up. I didn’t, because I’m a nice person.

I exhaled slowly, keeping my irritation at the interruption under control. “She’s having a sleep over tonight. Just you and me. I’m sure that’s a huge disappointment.”

“Hardly.” He sounded close.

I turned to go to the refrigerator and he was right there. “You’re supposed to be kicking back Mr. Busypants. Aren’t you always whining about how tired and sore you are?”

“Trying to see if I can milk some sympathy from you and maybe a back massage,” he teased.

When Timber said things like that, I never knew what was going on in his head. There’d always been a small amount of flirtation in our relationship. Kept the mood light, and I got the impression he charmed everyone he met. Didn’t mean anything. Lately, he’d been coming on a lot stronger. Like he might actually…like me…like…that.

I swallowed. “The last thing you want is for me to give you a massage. One, I don’t know how. Two, I—”

“If you’re going to say anything negative about your appearance, I’m not going to allow you to finish.”

Challenge accepted. “Two, I’ll probably crush y—”

The only crushing that happened was between our lips. He pressed his tight against mine, and other than the one time I’d “marked my territory”, so to speak, in front of Rumor, I didn’t have any other kissing experience. So this one only got a little bit better in performance on my end. Why was he kissing me?

“Relax,” he whispered when we parted. “Just…relax and let it flow.” He leaned in to kiss me again.

“What about Talia?” I had to ask. I couldn’t keep a clear conscience without addressing his girlfriend? Ex-girlfriend? Girl-whatever, that was still back on Earth, waiting to be told about the catastrophic event that would annihilate all living creatures.

He lowered his gaze. “She’s not here.”

There it was. I was a replacement. Someone to ease the pain and the loneliness. I’m sure his hormones were going wild too. If I was starting to feel a little randy, then he must have been clawing at the walls. We could easily hop into bed, and I’m sure it’d be wonderful, and there might not even be regrets. I wasn’t ready to be the back-up girlfriend yet. Maybe once the final nail in the coffin sealing his fate to mine was in place I’d sing a different tune. That day wasn’t today.

Timber stroked my cheek. “You’re right, I need to end things with her first.”

“Yeah,” I managed, sounding more bitter than I probably should have.

“Paul is arranging a meeting for us, so I’ll do it then.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Look, if you’d rather be with her, you can. I’ll be okay. There is bound to be another guy on the ship the Achlivans can conveniently pair me up with. You’ve got it good with Paul, so they’ll find a spot for her on board.”

“She’s already got a place if she wants it,” he said. “It won’t be with me.”

“Don’t you love her?” I frowned. He’d always spoken of her with so much affection in the past. What changed?

He sat on the back counter. The only one I wasn’t using in my cooking adventure. “I’m starting to learn more about what love is and isn’t these days. For what our relationship was, yeah, I love her. But it’s a lot different than what we have.”

“Now you’re saying you love me?” I shouldn’t have laughed, but I did. “See her again before you even dare so those words. Make sure it’s not just because you’ve got a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome.”

He rolled his eyes. “Fair enough. Because it wouldn’t be right to say that to you when she’s still in the picture.”

“What if she wasn’t? I mean, what if you weren’t going to get any closure with her?” I asked quietly.

“We could have a bonfire where we burn her CD in a dramatic send off.”

I winced. “What a waste of a good CD.”

This time, Timber laughed, and I do love that sound. It’s so pure. “The liner, then.”

“Not like it matters. You’re getting your closure. Still, don’t make any hasty decisions until you spend some time together.” We both needed him to be positive I was a consolation prize sparked by my convenience.

“It’s the right thing,” he agreed. “But you’ll see. I’m not blowing smoke here.” He paused. “Your pot, however, is.”

I spun to check on my pasta. Sure enough, the pot was boiling over and making a huge mess. I cursed. A lot. Timber started laughing again. I glared. “Don’t. Say. Anything.”

He held up his hands and walked out of the room. He did say something, but it wasn’t a something I got to hear.
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