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The Fantasy Files

Friends & Lovers

© 2003 by Girl Friday

Have you ever had one of those days? You know the kind I mean. The day where everything goes wrong and you wish you'd stayed in bed? String several hundred of those days together and you have my life.


It's always something. I can't remember the last day I had where I didn't forget something, lose something, ruin something, or put my foot in my mouth in a most embarrassing manner. Today's crisis was my cell phone -- and the current lack thereof. I pawed frantically through my purse, stirring the contents in the vain hope my small, red phone would magically appear. My hair kept obscuring my vision so I grabbed an elastic band that churned to the surface and pulled my curly, brown locks up into a ponytail. My phone, sadly, was still nowhere in sight.

"Just what are you looking for in there?"

I was too distracted to pay much attention to the person asking the question, but it sounded like someone behind me. I didn't pause in my frantic search to look at the man I could now feel peering over my shoulder.

"My cell phone. It was here yesterday and now I can't find it. I've got to call Jen and let her know I can't make it."

My frantic search ended as a sudden vision of my phone, sitting on the coffee table at home, floated to the surface of my memory. I groaned at the realization that, once again, my day was going straight into the dumper.

"Here, use mine."

A large hand, rough and callused, appeared in my field of vision. I took the cell phone he offered, shot him a grateful smile and quickly called Jen. I was supposed to meet her an hour ago for lunch. Needless to say, I wasn't going to make it. After explaining the situation and listening to her laugh at me for a full minute, I hung up and returned the phone to the man standing there beside me.

He was grinning like a buffoon, looking at me expectantly. Something about him was vaguely familiar but I couldn't seem to put my finger on it. No time today for mysteries, say thanks and move on.

"I've got to go. Thanks for letting me use your phone." I turned to continue on my way. If I hurried I might have enough time to grab a slice of pizza before heading to the dry cleaners.

"Lindsey! You're not just going to walk away from me, are you?"

I turned in exasperation and stopped dead in my tracks. Wait a minute, he knew my name. How did he know my name? I looked at the man who was smiling at me and actually saw him for the first time. He was tall, maybe 6'4", dark black hair, beautiful olive skin, with the most incredible brown eyes, very Mediterranean looking. It was the eyes that drew me in -- and that smile. I knew that smile, I was sure of it. Damn it, why couldn't I make my brain work?

"I know it's been a long time, Lin, but surely you haven't forgotten me?" His smile changed to a scowl, one eyebrow quirked much higher than the other. It was the eyebrow that did it. Something in my head clicked and suddenly I knew who I was looking at.

"Josh? Is it really you?"

His answering smile was all the confirmation I needed. With a yelp, I launched myself into his arms. He caught me and swung me around as I laughed in delight.

"It's about time, Lindsey. I've been standing here for ten minutes. I didn't think you were ever going to recognize me!"

"Jesus, Josh, you've grown at least eight inches since the last time I saw you, not to mention the weight you lost. You don't look like my Josh anymore."

"I had a growth spurt in college. I didn't lose any weight, just grew into it I guess. I'm not the only one who's changed. I almost didn't recognize you with shorter hair and boobs."

"Very long hair is a pain in the ass and you're not the only one who had a growth spurt."

I pulled, rather self-consciously, on my tight tee shirt. Normally I was kind of proud of my boobs, but I wasn't sure I wanted Josh scrutinizing them. Having a guy you think of as your brother checking out your chest is just a little icky.

"So how the heck are you? It's been what -- four, five years since the last time I saw you?"

Quickly, I thought back to the last time I had seen Josh. It must have been the summer after sophomore year in college; we'd been out of school three years now. Oh my god, it really had been five years.

"I'm okay, Josh. Busy. You know how it is. I would love to catch up with you but I'm late as usual and I have to get these errands run today. Do you have an email address or something you can give me and maybe we can get together later?"

"Same old Lindsey -- always on the run. Do you have anything scheduled for this evening?" I quickly thought about my schedule and shook my head no.

"Then let's have dinner tonight, okay? I'll order in a bunch of our favorites and we can eat at my place. Seven work for you?"

I agreed and we went about exchanging phone numbers and email addresses. He gave me a card with his home address on it, told me jeans were fine, and to bring my appetite. I gave him a quick hug and promised to be on time. His skeptical smile mocked my promise of punctuality as I hurried on my way to the dry cleaners.

I spent the rest of that Saturday scurrying around, trying to get my "To Do" list down to a reasonable size again. Josh was never far from my thoughts. It was strange running into him after so long. He had changed so much from the Josh I remembered.

Josh and I had met in junior high. He had attended the local Catholic school for elementary school, but transferred to the public school for junior high and high school. We met in homeroom that first day of seventh grade and became friends pretty quickly. How could we not, when we shared almost every single class and were seated in alphabetical order. Joshua Horton and Lindsey James were right next to each other on every teacher's roster.

It was more than that though. We were friends because we were kindred spirits. We shared the same sense of humor, loved the same types of books and music, and neither one of us fit in with the really popular group. Josh had always been average looking and awkward, where I was tall for a girl, completely undeveloped in the chest area, and did my best to remain unnoticed by the rest of the world. It wasn't long before we were best friends. We told each other everything and spent every free moment together. It was never romantic and whenever one of our other friends made such a suggestion, we both grimaced. It would be like kissing my brother -- completely gross.

Our friendship was the most important thing to both of us. Our romantic relationships with others never seemed to last. We were more interested in talking with each other than with whom we were dating. It was sad but true. It was during college that we started to grow apart. We went to different schools in different states. Busy schedules, limited funds, and limited time always seemed to make phone calls impossible. During our junior year in college, Josh's family had moved out of town. Even our summer reunions were a thing of the past after that and our friendship became a casualty of distance and neglect.

That evening, I was running late, as usual. Thankfully, both of my roommates were out, so I could rush around our tiny apartment without disturbing anyone. Determined to keep my promise and arrive on time, I pulled on a clean pair of jeans, my favorite cardigan, and hurried into the bathroom. I checked my face in the mirror and decided I just didn't have time for the war paint. Josh would remember that I hated wearing make-up anyway, so why bother? My shoulder length, dark brown hair only needed a little fluffing for the soft, loose curls to perk up. Same hazel eyes as always, never the true green I yearned for. It was time to go if I was going to be there by seven. After flicking out the lights, I headed downstairs to catch a cab for the ride across town.

I dug the card Josh had given me out of my purse and gave the address to the driver. As the cab moved across the city I studied Josh's card: JWH Designs, Custom Woodworking and Restoration.

Woodworking? Josh? He had always messed around with tools and wood as a teenager. I remembered the time when Josh had drafted me into helping him strip the oak trim in his parents' dining room. For me, it had been a miserable weekend of sweaty, backbreaking labor. Josh loved it, every single minute of it. I shook my head, hardly surprised he had made a career of it.

The cab pulled up in front of a huge warehouse near the waterfront. This area of the city was undergoing a transformation as individuals and businesses bought up the old warehouses and converted them into lofts and storefronts. Josh had always been two steps ahead of the pack: it made sense that he was living here. The warehouse looked to be still in the process of refurbishment, but the potential was there. I paid the cab driver and made my way to the door. Before I could put my finger on the buzzer, the door swung open and I was engulfed in a huge bear hug.

"Lindsey! I was half afraid you were going to cancel on me. I can't tell you how happy I was to see that cab pull up." I swear he was trying to squish me to death.

"Josh, let go. My ribs can't take anymore."

Finally, the pressure on my ribs eased as Josh stepped back from me. His hands didn't release me. Instead they slid to my shoulders as he bent and dropped a kiss on my lips. Okay, what the heck was that all about? Josh never kissed me on the lips. Cheek, yes -- lips, no. Before I could decide what was going on, Josh released me and started pulling me towards the stairs.

"C'mon, dinner's getting cold and I'm hungry."

"You never change. My mom used to shudder when she heard you were coming over. You always managed to empty the fridge."

"Hey, I was a growing boy. What did she expect? At least I got rid of the leftovers."

The stairs were killing me and Josh just kept climbing like some energizer bunny on steroids.

"Hey, how about a tour?"

Maybe he would stop and give me a chance to breathe. Josh was not fooled for an instant.

"Food first, tour later. It's only a few more flights."

At my groan, he scooped me up into his arms and continued bounding up the stairs. I'm ashamed to say I shrieked like a girl.

"Joshua Horton! Put me down this instant!"

Josh just laughed at my demand and continued climbing. I lost count of how many sets of steps he climbed but it wasn't long before he set me down outside a huge steel door.

Geez, he wasn't even winded. Just how strong was he? I looked at his lean form and marveled at the strength he had just exhibited. Gone were the days of ordinary, awkward, Josh. The man standing in front of me was completely unexpected and I was unsettled at the difference. He caught me looking and grinned as he opened the door. The grin did it. That was the Josh I knew, and I relaxed as he led me inside.

"You know that an elevator would be useful ..."

My voice trailed off as I stepped through the door and into Josh's loft. It was, in a word, stunning. Rooted in place, I turned to look at the enormous, open interior. Pale oak floors, mixed with gleaming stainless steel accents and warm, rich colors combined to make Josh's loft worthy of some fancy magazine. The view of the waterfront from the wall of windows was just as amazing as the loft itself.

"The old elevator was dangerous. The new one is due to be installed any time now."

"Your place is amazing, Josh, truly amazing."

"Thanks. I did most of the work myself. It took me a long time. I did our old smorgasbord thing for dinner. I hope that's okay."

Josh pointed to a low table in front of the sofa. Chinese food, pepperoni pizza, and hot wings, all of our old favorites were there. My stomach rumbled audibly and Josh laughed.

"Sit. I'll go get us a couple of beers and we can dig in."

We spent the next couple of hours eating and talking, catching up on the years we had missed together. After dinner, Josh gave me a tour of his loft and the one directly across from it. The one across the hall was mostly unfinished, encompassing his workroom and office, while the loft he lived in was a completely finished three-bedroom, two-bath work of art.

"Josh, how can you afford this? It's huge and your workroom is the same."

"My grandfather owns the building. He doesn't want anything to do with it and was going to tear it down. I explained about the growth in this area and convinced him to keep it. I agreed to move in and oversee the renovations in exchange for the top floor. When it's done and ready for tenants, a full time manager will be hired to take care of the rental section, but I hold clear title to these two lofts."

"Do you have any idea how lucky you are? My apartment would fit in a corner of this place and I have two roommates. Not to mention the view you have -- I'm so jealous."

"I know how lucky I am. Thank god the zoning allows me to have my workroom here too. I don't even want to think how much rent I'd be paying for that space somewhere else."

I continued to grumble about his good fortune as he showed me around his loft. After spending a few more hours talking about his work, my pitiful job, and our lives in general, I called a cab to take me home. Josh walked me down to the cab. Before I could climb inside, Josh enfolded me in a warm hug and rested his chin on the top of my head.

"Hey, Lindsey? You know I'm not losing you again, right?" The soft question brought a smile to my face.

"I'm not going anywhere, Josh. I've missed you too much to let you go twice."

"I'm glad that's settled. I'll call you tomorrow."

He drew away and dropped another kiss on my lips before helping me into the cab. The whole way home I tried to decide why I could still feel his lips on mine. After all, Josh was just my friend -- right?

Yes, Josh called the next day-- and the day after. Then I called him. Soon it was as if we'd never lost track of each other. We talked on the phone everyday and saw each other every few days. Josh would have to leave the city every so often on business, but he always made sure I knew where he was going and when he'd be back. My roommates teased me about my new "boyfriend" and Jen wanted to know when she was going to meet him. My explanation of "we're just friends" was mostly ignored by my roommates and by Josh. He never failed to hold my hand during our outings and he continued his new habit of dropping kisses on my mouth unexpectedly. He didn't push the matter and I came to expect this new habit of his, though I still didn't think of him as my boyfriend.

Josh was due home from another of his business trips, so after work I headed to his place. After picking up his mail and ordering dinner for the two of us, I curled up on his couch to wait. I have no idea how long I slept before Josh shook me awake.

"Hey sleepyhead, wake up. Dinner's here." Josh tousled my hair and pulled me to my feet to help with dinner.

"When did you get here?" I didn't remember him coming home or the food delivery. Just how long had I been out?

"About 20 minutes ago. It's a good thing because the delivery guy was getting a little upset."

I groaned at my lapse. "Josh, I'm sorry. I don't know what happened. I sat down to wait for the food and the next thing I know, you're waking me up. One of my co-workers has been out with the flu, so I've been working late trying to keep everything caught up."

"Lindsey, why do you work in that cube farm? I'll never understand how someone with your creativity and talent ended up in one of those terrible places."

"It pays the rent. How else am I supposed to earn a living?"

"If I remember correctly, you're a gifted writer, an amazing photographer, and the quilts you used to make belong in a gallery. Take your pick."

The laugh bubbled out of me before I could stop it. "You can't be serious. Josh, I haven't done any of those things since college. The last time I picked up a camera was for one of my classes. There's no way for me to make a living doing that."

Josh tossed me a look of disbelief before he walked to a group of photos he had hung on the wall. He pulled one down and brought it to me.

"Look at that and tell me what you see."

Puzzled, I looked at him in confusion before looking at the picture in my hands. It was a portrait of Josh, his brother, Mark, and his sister, Pam. I had taken the picture outside of their parents' house after completing my first photography class.

"My parents treasure that picture, Lindsey. They took it to a lab and had it blown up. It hangs over their fireplace. They had copies made for my grandparents and all of my relatives. It's one of the few things they took with them when their house caught fire last year. Look at it and see it for what it is. It's not just a picture you took. It's an incredible portrait of us that reflects our individuality, yet expresses our bond as a family. Do you realize how rare it is for a photographer to capture that?"

I looked from the picture to Josh in amazement. His eyes bored into mine, alight with the fire he generally reserved for his own work.

"You need to get back to this, Lindsey. I know you love it. It was your major, for crying out loud. Why not pursue it and do something you love, rather than killing yourself in that dead-end job?"

"There wasn't exactly a flood of job openings for a photographer when I graduated. I took the job in the cube farm to tide me over until something better came along. I never did find something better and it pays the bills, so I've stayed."

"Then don't work for someone else, open your own studio and freelance. You could move in here, God knows I've got the room. There's plenty of unused space in the other loft for you to put in a studio and darkroom. You wouldn't even have to pay rent."

I know my mouth was hanging open. My own studio? I hadn't ever allowed myself that dream.

"Promise me you'll think about it, Lindsey. You deserve better than that boring data entry job."

It was the easiest promise I ever made.

Think about it, I did. Constantly. Obsessively. I bought equipment catalogs and made lists of material and supplies I would need. I ran startup cost projections by the dozens. I researched the market and tried to decide whether I could really do it. Most importantly, I dug my cameras out and started using them again.

I couldn't believe how good the weight of the camera felt in my hands, how beautiful the world looked through that viewfinder. My technique was rusty but the joy photography gave me came through clearly in the shots I took. Josh was right; I needed to do this. But how? I still wasn't sure I could make it work.

A couple of weeks after that conversation with Josh, one of my roommates announced she needed to talk to Jen and me.

Jen, Barb, and I had all been living together since we graduated from college. Barb and Jen were both blonde and beautiful. I always felt mousy around them. Barb had been dating her boyfriend, Andrew, for about a year. Jen, always something of a flirt, had a new guy each week. As different as we were, we got along well and had very few problems in the years we had been living together. I knew instinctively something was up. Jen was as antsy as I was. We exchanged a significant look as we settled on the sofa in front of Barb.

Barb didn't keep us waiting. Her news was wonderful and it burst from her immediately. She was moving in with Andrew when our lease was up next month. Jen and I jumped up and down, excited beyond measure and so happy for Barb. Andrew was perfect for her. It wasn't until later that it hit us both. With Barb gone, we would have to pick up her share of the rent or consider moving ourselves. After talking about it some, we decided to think on it for a few days before making a decision.

The next day, I mentioned Barb's news to Josh during our daily phone conversation. Needless to say, I was a little surprised at his reaction. I've never heard someone whoop with delight over the phone before.

"Just what is so great about this?"

I could not keep the ice from my tone. Personally, I was less than happy at the prospect of trying to find a new roommate, or worse yet, having to move.

"Don't you get it, Lindsey? This is your chance. Move in with me. We'll build you a studio and a darkroom in the other loft. You can use all the money you'll save on rent and utilities for equipment. Start packing. You're moving in here at the end of the month."

"No Josh. I will not sponge off you."

"Fine, you can pay for groceries if it makes you feel better. You're over here all the time anyway. You already have a key. It makes perfect sense. I'm not taking no for an answer, Lin."

We fought about it for a while longer, but the more we talked, the clearer it became. Josh was right. This was my chance to do something with my life. After getting him to agree to split some of the other expenses, I agreed to move in. Now I just had to tell Jen.

She took it pretty well. She didn't scream. She didn't yell. A look of sheer terror crossed over her face at the thought of trying to find two new roommates or a new apartment in less than two months. Other than that, Jen held it together pretty well. I could see the panic lurking behind her eyes and I felt awful to be the cause of it. I called Josh and gave him the report.

I was in my bedroom, talking quietly to Josh. I was hoping to keep Jen from hearing and possibly upsetting her further. No such luck. Have I mentioned I can't ever do anything right? Jen heard me. She came charging into my bedroom, her temper at full boil.

"Is that Josh? Are you talking to him right now?"

Holy crap, was Jen mad! Her blue eyes flashed and her normally cheerful tone was completely replaced with anger and frustration. Startled, and a little frightened of her in that moment, I admitted I was indeed talking to Josh. She strode over to the bed and ripped the phone out of my hand.

"Hello Josh, this is Jennifer. Since you've managed to deprive me of my only remaining roommate and my best friend all at the same time, the least you can do is meet me for a beer. Be at The Bullfrog in a half an hour."

She didn't even give him a chance to reply, just threw the phone back at me and said, "We're leaving in ten minutes. You're buying."

I watched as she stormed out of my room, slamming the door behind her.

"Josh? Are you okay with this?"

"I think I'd better be. She didn't give me a choice."

The Bullfrog was a popular bar and brewery in town. Jen and I would go there every few weeks; more for the fantastic food than the brews. Don't get me wrong, the beer was great-- but they served the best hot wings on the planet. It was Friday night and the place was packed as Jen and I made our way along the bar. I could see Josh sitting about halfway down, placing an order with Roy, the head bartender. Jen and I knew Roy casually and I breathed a sigh of relief. Roy always made sure that everyone had a good time. Josh glanced up and beckoned us down to where he had managed to grab three seats together.

"Well, is he here?" Jen was calmer now, but there was still an edge to her tone.

"Yeah. C'mon, I'll introduce you."

We waded through the mass of people and finally managed to grab the seats Josh had saved us. Josh dropped his customary hello kiss on my lips before I had a chance to introduce him.

"Jen, this is Josh. Josh, this is Jen."

They studied each other long enough that I began to worry. Josh looked as though he had been working. Sawdust sprinkled his hair and his clothes had seen better days. Jen took her sweet time looking him over. Finally, she broke the silence between them.

"It's nice to meet you. I hate your guts, but it's nice to meet you."

Jen's poker face was pretty good, only the small glint in her eye gave her away. Yes, she was upset but she wasn't above teasing him too. Josh, ever observant, caught on immediately and decided to play along.

"You hate my guts? Why?"

"First you stole my best friend. Lindsey and I used to do everything together, tell each other everything. Now she's always at your place and she doesn't tell me anything about what's going on with you two. Today you stole my last remaining roommate, too. It was bad enough that my shopping buddy was MIA, but now I won't ever get to see her."

"Tell you what -- I promise to grant you visitation rights, but only if you promise to stop hating me."

She appeared to consider his words. "Visitation rights are good, but what about shopping privileges?"

"I might agree to shopping, but only if you're paying and Lindsey can come along too." Josh winked at me as he waited for Jen's reaction.

"You know I meant shopping with Lindsey, not you, but you've got a deal."

Josh laughed as he shook her hand and the tension between them dissipated. I moved to sit down between them and Jen shoved me to the side. I took the hint and put Josh in the middle just as Roy served us a platter of hot wings and three beers. With a cheery wink and a wave, Roy moved on to other customers and we all sat down to eat.

Jen and Josh spent the next hour getting to know each other. She made the occasional bitter quip for the first twenty minutes or so but her normally chipper outlook eventually returned as she declared Josh an okay guy. The wings were delicious and we washed them down with plenty of beer. Jen must have thought Josh was more than okay. She was definitely flirting with him. I've seen her in action and there was no doubt about it, Jen was on the make. I didn't like the uneasy feeling I had as I watched them flirt, so I concentrated on the food.

We ordered another plate of wings and quickly devoured those too. Josh was quick to signal the barkeep when one of us needed a fresh beer and I could feel my head begin to buzz. The wings were delicious, but messy. My fingers were greasy and dripping with hot sauce. I looked around for my napkin but it was nowhere to be found. Jen pointed out my predicament.

"Hey, Josh, look at Lin. She's covered in sauce."

"It's not my fault. My napkin is lost."

Josh laughed at me. "C'mere, I'll help you out."

He wiped his own hands and plucked me off the stool. I settled in his lap with my back against the bar and my legs on either side of his. He lifted my hand, dripping with hot sauce, to his mouth. With one long stroke of his tongue, he cleaned the sauce running down the heel of my hand to my wrist. I froze in his lap as he licked my hand clean -- sucking each of my fingers into his mouth and lapping the hot sauce off. Every time his tongue touched my skin, I felt a new curl of desire in my gut.

Jen watched us avidly, licking her own lips as Josh cleaned my hand. As he picked up my other hand, Josh noticed her too. Silently, he held my hand to her lips. After flicking a questioning glance in my direction, her eyes locked on his. Jen opened her mouth and licked my hand clean. Her tongue felt different -- softer. What the hell was happening? I didn't know and the beer convinced me I didn't care.

As Jen cleaned my hand, Josh leaned in and kissed me. Not his usual peck on the lips, a honest-to-goodness boy-girl kiss. The glowing ember of desire surged into a flame as his lips moved over mine. I felt his lips open and his tongue slipped into my mouth. I moaned as our tongues danced, lost in sensation, when I felt Josh pull away. I opened my eyes and watched as Jen turned him towards her and kissed him the same way he had just kissed me. She made a purring noise in her throat as Josh kissed her and I waited impatiently for it to be my turn again. As Josh pulled back from Jen, Roy tapped me on the shoulder.

"Are ya'll here together?"

Wordlessly, I nodded. Josh and Jen turned to look at us, so I introduced Roy to Josh. After shaking hands with Josh, Roy flashed a smile of pure devilment.

"You guys up for some fun?"

Josh and Jen and I all exchanged a look. Yes, we were up for some fun.

"What do you have in mind?" Josh wanted specifics.

"If the ladies wouldn't mind, I thought we could put them up here on the bar and let everyone do some body shots."

Josh looked at us for an answer. Jen shrugged before climbing off her stool and up onto the bar.

"C'mon, Lindsey, it'll be fun. I did this once in Cancun."

Jen sounded like she knew what to expect. I hadn't ever done body shots and wasn't sure what I was getting into, but with the buzz I had going, I was game for anything. I nodded to Josh and he lifted me up on the bar.

Roy whooped and told everyone to make room, body shots coming up -- $6 a shot. The other patrons quickly cleared the bar off. Roy had us lie down, heads together, feet facing opposite directions on the bar. He told Josh to get me ready while he poured the shots. I looked at Josh in confusion. Jen was doing something but I couldn't see what.

Josh untucked my tee shirt and gently pulled it up so that everything below my bra was exposed. When he reached for the snap of my jeans, I grabbed his hand.

"What are you doing?"

"Lindsey, I have to open your jeans or they're going to get soaked. They're going to pour the tequila on your navel and lick it up. Trust me, it will be fun."

I let go of his hand and Josh opened my jeans. He pulled the fly apart and rolled the waistband down to the top of my panties. Roy set a container of lime and lemon wedges under my right hand and handed me a salt shaker. He handed Josh a shot.

"They're your girls, so you get one on the house. Show her what's going to happen."

Josh nodded and turned to me to explain, "After they pay, Roy will give them a shot of tequila. Take a wedge, hold the rind in your teeth, and hand them the salt shaker."

I put a lime wedge in my mouth and handed Josh the salt. Josh took his shot and poured it over my navel. The tequila wasn't cold but the wet tickled a little. Josh leaned over and licked me just below where the liquor was pooled on my stomach. A jolt passed though my body as his tongue made contact with my skin. He pulled away and poured some salt on the wet patch he created. After handing me the shaker, Josh licked the salt from my skin and moved to lick up the tequila pooled on my belly. I squirmed as his tongue licked the liquid from my skin, creating sensations I never thought I would feel with Josh. When he licked up the last of the tequila, Josh leaned over my face and sucked on the lime in my mouth, our lips just barely touching. With a gentle tug, he pulled the wedge from my teeth and tossed it in a convenient trash container. His brown-eyed gaze bored into me as he leaned over and kissed me passionately for the second time that evening.

"Are you okay with this?" he whispered.

"Just stay nearby, okay?"

I searched his face and saw him nod in acceptance. There was just enough room between my head and Jen's for Josh to sit on the bar between us. Roy saw him climb up and signaled his approval. I turned my head to see a line forming near Jen and a similar one near me. Roy and the other bartender were pouring shot after shot of tequila along the bar and taking money by the handfuls. Jen craned her head around to look at me and smiled. She blew Josh and me a kiss then placed a lemon wedge in her mouth and motioned for the first guy in line to step up. I took that as my cue and placed a wedge in my own teeth. With a wave, I motioned to the first guy in my line and the fun began.

Each guy was different -- some licked my wrist, some licked my ribs. Most of them licked me low on the belly, just above my panties. I even had two girls come through and do a shot on me. One guy tried to cup my breast, but Josh grabbed his hand before it could land and warned him off. He did the same for Jen whenever someone tried to get grabby with her.

I lost count of how many shots they did on me. The constant licking was driving me crazy. I could feel my own pulse throbbing in my neck. My nipples were hard and my panties were soaked with my own juices. The bar was getting uncomfortable, and my growing horniness wasn't helping. I wiggled around trying to ease the pressure on my back. Josh and the bartenders noticed. Roy called a halt as Josh helped Jen and me up off the bar. A round of applause and whistles went up as Jen and I took a bow then headed for the ladies room to clean up.

We were both a mess, sticky with saliva and salt and booze. Jen grabbed some paper towels and wet them down with soap and water. Instead of using them on herself, she moved to me and gently soaped my exposed skin. Carefully, she cleaned me, making sure to get all of the mess off. Her touch was gentle and exciting.

"Jen, what's going on with us tonight?"

"I don't know, Lindsey, but I don't want it to stop either. Can we just enjoy it -- just for tonight?"

Her face was a study of hesitation and desire. I felt the same way, confused and curious. She finished washing me and I returned the favor, soaping and rinsing her skin. Jen stretched up and placed a gentle kiss on my lips as I finished. Her lips were soft and tender as they moved over mine.

"C'mon, your boyfriend is waiting for us."

We pulled our shirts down and zipped our jeans before heading out the door. Jen held my hand in hers as we walked back to the bar. Josh and Roy smiled as we sat down.

"Here. Josh got a shot earlier but you two deserve one for being such good sports."

Roy shoved two shot glasses full of tequila over to Jen and me. With an impish smile, Jen handed a lemon wedge to Josh. Josh placed it in his teeth as Jen grabbed his wrist and licked it. She salted his wrist, licked it again and knocked back the shot before sucking the fruit Josh held in his mouth. When she was done, he looked at me and raised an eyebrow.

"Well? Your turn, Lindsey."

I handed him a lime and undid the top four buttons on his shirt. Damned if I was going to lick his wrist. Josh's chest was hard with long planes of muscle showing under his skin. I ran my hands over him before settling on a spot right next to one of his broad, flat nipples. I licked his chest and quickly shook salt over the spot. I looked into his eyes as I licked the salt from his skin, dragging my tongue over his abruptly hard nub. The shot burned all the way down my throat as I stood on tiptoe to suck the lime Josh held in his teeth. Josh wrapped one arm around me and held me tight against him. He removed the lime from his mouth and crushed me in a kiss that sent the room spinning around me. The feel of his tongue sliding against mine and his cock growing hard under my thigh only served to drive me higher. As Josh pulled away, Jen handed me a beer.

"Here, drink. He'll need a minute before we can leave."

Jen winked as she said it and started to drink her own beer. Josh groaned and released me, grabbing the beer Jen handed him and downing it with long swallows. I followed their lead and upended my bottle, savoring the cold, yeasty taste that was so different from the tequila. When my beer was gone, I handed Roy my credit card to settle our tab. He winked when he handed it back.

"Ya'll come back now, ya hear? And don't do anything tonight I wouldn't do."

The three of us grinned and made our way outside to catch a cab. Settled in the back of the cab with Josh between us, Jen and I cuddled up close and spent the short ride to his place teasing him with kisses and small caresses. Josh groaned when I rubbed the hard lump in his jeans and grabbed my hand, holding it firmly in his own.

"You're going to pay for that, you little witch, just as soon as we get home."

His whispered threat gave me shivers. Josh paid the cabbie and we all raced to the newly installed elevator, anxious to get to his loft. We burst through his door, giggling and playing grab-ass like a bunch of teenagers. Josh grabbed me and pulled me up against him as Jen looked on and laughed.

"You think you're pretty cute, don't you -- teasing me in the cab, rubbing me until I'm so damn hard it hurts. You're about to find out how it feels to be on the receiving end of that, you little witch. Don't you think she needs to learn not tease, Jen?"

"Oh yes, I agree."

"I was making tea when you called. The honey should still be there on the counter. Why don't you grab it and we can use it on the witch."

I squeaked in protest but Josh and Jen were completely deaf to my pleas. Jen grabbed the cute little bear squeeze bottle containing the honey as Josh pulled me along behind him and into his bedroom. He pulled my tee shirt over my head and opened the front clasp of my bra. Cupping my exposed breasts, he rubbed my nipples lightly with his thumbs before he slid the bra from my body and pushed me backwards onto the bed. Jen reached for the snap on my jeans and peeled them off as Josh pulled me towards the center of the bed. Once he had me settled, Josh climbed out of the bed and helped Jen to undress before removing his own clothes.

Jen crawled up beside me and uncapped the bottle of honey. She knelt over me and began dripping the honey on my breasts, creating lazy swirls and spirals in thin, sticky threads. Josh, naked and hard, climbed into the bed on my other side and settled his long length against me. Propped up on one elbow, he captured me in another room-spinning kiss as Jen set the honey aside. As Josh pulled away from me, Jen leaned over and licked the small drop of honey clinging to my left nipple. I moaned softly at the touch of her tongue as it delicately scraped over my erect bud. Ignoring my moan, Jen drew Josh towards her and traced his lips with her honey-coated tongue. I could see traces of the honey on his lips as they came together in a passionate kiss above me. The sight of my two best friends, mouths mating wildly, caused my own body to pulse and throb.

As they broke their kiss, Josh whispered something I couldn't hear and together they turned towards me. They each captured one of my hands and pulled my arms further from my body. Smiling secretively, they settled down next to me on top of my arms so that I couldn't move, couldn't touch either of them. Together they started to lick the honey from my breasts, pausing every so often to share a kiss. The feel of their tongues on my breasts was driving me crazy. My nipples began to ache and I moaned, begging for them to be sucked. Josh and Jen continued their oral assault on my breasts, careful never to touch my nipples, licking the honey from my skin until I was flushed and panting. They shared another hot kiss and then looked at me.

"Have you learned your lesson, little witch? Do you understand why it's not nice to tease?"

Josh's husky question pierced my passion-fogged senses. I would have agreed to anything at that point if only they would touch me again.

"Yes, yes, yes, I understand. I'm sorry, Josh. Please."

"Please what, Lindsey?"

"Please suck on my nipples. Please kiss me. Please let me touch you."

"Has she learned her lesson, Jen?"

Jen looked at me, pausing to consider before she nodded her head in agreement. Moving as one, they leaned down and each sucked one of my nipples into their mouths. The sensation was exquisite. Someone was fondling my damp mound and I spread my legs to allow a soft, smooth finger to caress me. As Jen's finger circled my clit, Josh rubbed two of his rough, calloused fingers up and down my dripping slit before sliding them inside me. I moaned and bucked against their fingers as they drove me over the edge. I could feel Jen bite down on my nipple as my pussy began to spasm around Josh's thrusting fingers. Mindlessly, I moaned and yelped as my orgasm crashed over me, leaving me panting and shuddering in its wake.

Josh rolled over onto me and drove his cock deep inside my dripping pussy. I wiggled in surprise as Josh asked Jen to let my arm go. She moved off me as Josh started thrusting into me. It felt fabulous. I started lifting my hips to meet his, urging him to go deeper.

"Sweet Lindsey, you drive me crazy."

Josh's voice was rough with passion. His mouth covered mine as he rolled us over so that I was on top. His lips teased mine, nibbling and licking before sliding his tongue into my mouth. He tasted of beer and honey, an exotic combination. I moaned against him and moved to sit up, driving his cock in me to the root.

"Jennifer, come here."

Josh grabbed Jen's hand and dragged her up to his head. He kissed her too and then had her straddle his face. With a groan, she settled over his mouth. I could see his tongue go to work on her damp mound. Watching them was almost as wonderful as riding up and down on Josh's thick, hard cock. My eyes traveled up Jen's body and locked on hers. She was flushed and panting as she moved against Josh's tongue and chin. Instinctively, we leaned toward each other and started kissing. Her breasts were small and firm under my fingers as I tweaked her nipples gently. Josh's cock was grinding against my clit, sending waves of pleasure through my body. Once again, I could feel my orgasm building and I released Jen to concentrate on my own pleasure.

Increasing the pace, I started slamming myself up and down on the shaft that impaled me. I could hear Josh groan as I started clamping my muscles on him in time with my downward motion. He started moving with me, thrusting upwards into my wet interior. Jen started shrieking and moaning, telling us both that she was reaching her own peak. Her cries excited me, pushing me closer to my own release. Hot spurts started firing inside me as Josh bucked against me, groaning as his cock flooded me. Twisting and bouncing, I ground him inside me as my orgasm ripped through me. Sweaty and limp, I collapsed beside Josh and tried to catch my breath. Jen lifted her head to smile at me and I knew that the night held a lot more in store for us.

My eyes felt gritty and I had the most vile taste in my mouth. My head was throbbing as I tried to figure out where I was. The weak morning light filtering through the curtains was almost unbearable. I lay there in a tangle of bodies and tried to decide how I was going to get out of bed. Josh was wrapped around my left side and Jen around my right, arms and legs thrown over me, all of us naked. I tugged gently, which only increased the throbbing in my head. In frustration and growing urgency, I pulled myself free of them and crawled to the end of the bed. Stumbling over the footboard, I quickly made my way to bathroom where my stomach heaved its contents into the first available receptacle.

I stood leaning over the sink when Josh came into the bathroom. Gently, he rubbed my back and held my head as I finished.

"Let's get you into the shower. It'll make you feel better."

I didn't want a shower. I wanted the pounding in my head to stop. As if reading my mind, Josh handed me two Tylenol and a small glass of water. I rinsed my mouth and swallowed the aspirin while Josh started the shower. It was huge, with multiple shower heads and a large, overhead rainfall. The hot water was soothing as it cascaded over my body. I stood there and tried to will away the nausea and the headache. Strong arms wrapped around my waist as Josh joined me under the spray. I leaned back against him and remembered more bits and pieces of the night before: Jen and I licking Josh's cock together, taking turns sucking on it until he erupted -- then licking the cum off each other; Josh taking Jen from behind as she licked me to another gentle orgasm; sharing long, slow, wet kisses with Josh until we fell asleep wrapped around each other.

Did we really do all of that? Oh, what a mess. I groaned at the extent of my own debauchery. How in the hell was I going to fix this? The Lindsey James curse strikes again: "how to screw up your life with beer and tequila, part one". Josh heard my groan and had no problem identifying the reason.

"After Jen wakes up, Lindsey. There's no point worrying about it just yet."

With a soft kiss on my neck, Josh released me and reached for the soap. Tenderly, he washed me, careful not to jostle me and aggravate my hangover. The Tylenol must have been helping because my nausea was almost gone. Never again, I vowed. I will never get drunk again.

Yeah, right.

Josh was washing my hair. His fingers gently massaged my scalp, helping to sooth my pounding head. With a gentle push, he put me back under the spray and rinsed me off.

"Go get dressed. I'll make up some breakfast when I'm done."

Numbly I nodded and stepped out of the shower. After drying off, I went in search of my clothes. Faugh, what a stench: beer, tequila, and cigarette smoke. Resolutely, I clamped my jaw, refusing to give in to the fresh wave of nausea. There was no way I was putting those back on. I grabbed all the clothes from the large pile next to Josh's bed and headed for his washing machine. Josh, fresh from the shower and drying off, watched me start the load and pointed out the clean clothes sitting on the dryer. It would all be huge on me but it was better than nothing. I pulled on a pair of his boxers and rolled the waist to fit on my hips, then pulled one of his tee shirts over my head. After knotting it at the waist, I went in search of a hairbrush.

Jen was awake and staring at the ceiling in Josh's bedroom. I padded in and sat on the edge of the bed.

"Good morning." Her soft voice was infused with the pain that matched my own throbbing head.

"Hey. Are you okay?" My own voice was rough with disuse.

"No, I am not okay. My head is splitting apart, I seduced my best friend and her boyfriend last night, and she's moving out on me to boot. I am most definitely not okay."

"Jen, Josh is not my boyfriend. Last night was the first time he and I have ever done anything more than kiss hello or goodbye. Last night happened because we all wanted it to. I could have said no. Yes, I was buzzed, but I knew what I was doing. I've always been a little curious about -- you know, and last night I got to find out what it was all about."

"So you're not mad at me?"

"No. Why should I be? I'm not sure I want it to become a regular thing, but I had fun. I just wish I hadn't drunk so much beer."

Jen laughed ruefully. "I'll go along with that."

"We may not be living together any more, Jen, but we'll always be friends."

"Yeah, I know that. I guess I just got scared that I was losing you and then seeing how much Josh is in love with you -- well, it threw me for a loop. I guess I wanted to know what it would be like to be part of that."

I froze at her words. Josh? In love with me? No. Not possible. He's my best friend. He can't be in love with me.

"What are you talking about? Josh doesn't love me."

She looked at me in disbelief and disgust. "Yes, Lindsey, he does. Don't you pay attention? For him, last night was all about you. Your hands were sticky. You were the one he watched over on the bar. Yes, he helped me out from time to time, but every time I looked at him, he was watching you. Even in bed last night, he made love to you. He didn't even try to put his dick in me until you told him to.

"Josh loves you, Lindsey. If you won't believe me, then take a damn picture. Maybe then you'll see what's right in front of you."

Jen threw back the covers and climbed out of bed. Watching her make her way to the shower, I felt like she had kicked me in the gut. Could she be right?

Breakfast was a joke. Jen and I were both hung over and preoccupied. Josh ended up eating most of it and tossing the rest in the trash.

"All right you two, spit it out. What's wrong?"

Josh looked at us expectantly, one eyebrow raised. Jen and I exchanged a look and shrugged.

"Are we all still friends?"

Another look passed between us. We both nodded yes.

"Do either of you regret what happened last night?"

Jen raised her eyebrows at me in question and I shook my head no. So did she.

"Then what's the problem?"

We both shrugged. I didn't feel like talking about it. Josh made a noise of exasperation and tried a different tack.

"Jen, would you like a tour? You didn't really get to see the place last night."

She agreed and they decided to start in the loft across the hall. I begged off to check on the laundry and they went without me. They were gone for a long time and I found myself wondering what they were doing across the hall. Was he kissing her? Was she touching him? It was none of my business. I had no claim on Josh; he was free to do as he pleased. So why did I feel like I wanted to throw up again? My headache was mostly gone, so it wasn't the hangover.

When they finally showed up, they were both happy and laughing. Josh started to show her around his living space and I wondered if he still wanted me to move in. I trailed along behind them, listening to Josh explain the work he'd done and what was left to do. We looked into the spare bedrooms, which were still empty. Josh hadn't had a chance to paint or furnish them yet. This was my chance.

"Josh, which one of these will be mine?"

With a firm, determined look, he grabbed my hand and pulled me out into the hall. Jen followed us out with a bemused expression.

"We'll be right back, Jen."

She laughed and flapped her hand at Josh in a "carry on" gesture as she turned back for the great room. My hand still firmly captured in his, Josh tugged me down the hall to his bedroom and closed the door behind us.

"This is your room, Lindsey. I thought after last night you understood that."

"What are you talking about, Josh? Last night was just one of those things. I thought we agreed this morning we were all friends."

"We are friends. We're also lovers. I don't want that to change. When you move in, I want you to sleep here, with me."

"What about Jen? She's your lover too."

"Jen and I had a talk while we were across the hall. We agreed that it was fun but that we're going to be just friends. Neither one of us is interested in continuing an intimate relationship."

"But you still want me?"

He pulled me against him and kissed me until my knees gave out and I had to cling to him for support.

"Does that answer your question?" His husky query sent shivers down my spine.

"Josh, why me and not Jen? I don't understand."

"You're my best friend, Lindsey. You have been since I was 13 years old. You're beautiful, smart, sexy, and talented. I just met Jen. She's nice and I think we'll be good friends, but she's not you.

"I have feelings for you, Lin. I have for a while now. I've wanted to tell you, but I didn't know how. Last night was the opportunity I've been waiting for."

"I don't know, Josh. It's too soon. I need time to get used to the idea. Your friendship is too important to me to screw up. Can I please just use one of the other rooms for awhile? I'm not saying no. I just need some time to think."

Josh was clearly unhappy. He studied me for a minute, hurt lurking in his eyes, before replying.

"All right, Lindsey. We'll do it your way. Take all the time you need, but you are going to have to come to me. You know how I feel. The next move is yours."

Jen and I spent the next few evenings painting my new bedroom and getting it ready to move into. Josh joined us almost every evening for dinner and helped us with the painting. Things had been awkward for Josh and me at first but we managed to work through it. Jen and Josh, however, settled into an easy friendship and their constant banter made the work go quickly. Determined to convince me that we could be friends *and* lovers, Josh was more touchy-feely with me than he used to be. It was a little unsettling to have him unexpectedly plant a kiss on the back of my neck, but I was learning to like it. My big worry was Jen. She was having trouble finding an apartment she could afford. She made jokes about it but I knew she was worried and so was I.

I was loading the dishwasher one night when Josh came to help. He rinsed plates and handed them to me as Jen went back to work in the bedroom.

"Lindsey, Jen hasn't found a place to live yet, has she?"

"No. I feel bad about it, kind of like it's my fault she's in this situation."

"I do to, but I have an idea I want to discuss with you."

"What is it?"

"How would you feel about Jen moving in here? It wouldn't take much to finish off that third bedroom."

"Really, Josh?"

"Yeah. I like Jen and we get along well. It's been nice having you guys over here each night. The place is too quiet with just me in it. I think it would be nice to have her here with us, if you agree."

"Why does it matter what I think? It's your place."

"No, Lin, it's our place and you have a say in it."

A small part of me was worried. What if they get together again? I still wasn't sure what my feelings were for Josh, but I didn't want to watch him and Jen going at it either. A wave of shame passed over me at my jealous thoughts and I decided to trust my friends.

"Then let's go ask her."

His grin matched my own and he drew me against him for a quick kiss before we went to find Jen.

Jen was thrilled that we asked her to move in, but she put some conditions on her acceptance. We weren't to consider her a permanent roommate because she was going to continue to hunt for her own place. If at any time any of us were unhappy with the arrangement, we were to say so immediately. She insisted on paying rent. Josh laughingly agreed and the move was on.

After a hectic 10 days, Jen and I moved in. The bulk of the move happened over the weekend and we were just now beginning to get unpacked and settled in. Jen and I had lived together for years, so sharing the small bathroom that connected our rooms was no big deal. Josh volunteered his huge shower and soaking tub for our use if we agreed to leave his razor alone. Sharing an impish smile, Jen and I agreed. Josh had a few things to learn about living with women. All razors were fair game -- he'd learn that one soon enough.

Construction on my studio would wait for a week or two while Josh finished up a custom project for an important client. Not minding the delay, I was planning to use the time to carefully plan the exact setup I wanted and start ordering some basic equipment. Most photography was digital now so I could work without a studio for a while without being at a serious disadvantage. I decided to keep plodding along in the cube farm and save most of the money I earned there for construction costs and the more expensive equipment I would need later.

Exhausted after a long day of lugging boxes, we ordered some Chinese food and sank into the soft squishy couches to eat. All three of us were wearing the same tired but content expression as we enjoyed the food and talked quietly about what else needed to be done. Jen had just asked me to pass the egg rolls when Josh suddenly sat straight up and started looking around. I looked at Jen quizzically and she shrugged in response. Since neither of us knew what the problem was, I decided to ask.

"Uh, Josh? What's wrong?"

"Did we let the cat out by accident? Where's the cat?"

Alarmed now, I shot a quick look at Jen before continuing. "What cat, Josh?"

"Your cat. You always have a cat. Where is it?"

"I don't have a cat."

Josh stopped and turned to me. His look clearly said I had lost my mind. Personally, I was beginning to think he had lost his.

"You don't have a cat?"


"You've always had a cat. We had a very long talk about this when we first met. You said you could never live anywhere without a cat."

The laughter bubbled out of me. He looked so serious and so upset that I couldn't help it. He frowned as I giggled. Jen started to giggle too, infected by my own contagious laugh. This seemed to upset Josh even more.

"What is so damn funny?"

"Josh, we were all of 13 when we had that conversation. I can't believe you remember it, let alone wonder where my cat is. There's no way to take a cat to college, the dorms don't allow pets and you know it. I haven't had a cat since I moved away from home."

"You don't have a cat?" Disbelief was still evident on his face.


Muttering something under his breath that I couldn't quite understand, Josh grabbed the pepper steak and went back to eating as Jen and I teased him unmercifully about the missing cat.

It wasn't long before the missing cat became a standing joke. If Josh left the door open to run over to his workshop, Jen teased him about letting the cat out. If he got groceries, I asked where the cat food was. Josh took it with good grace but every once in a while I would catch him staring at me with a secretive expression. He looked at me like that quite a bit these days and it always made me wonder just what it was he was thinking. If I asked, he grinned and refused to answer. Typical Josh -- he'd always been good at keeping secrets.

Two things about Josh changed. The first was surprising. Josh became a flirt. Jen was a bad influence on him and the two teased each other and flirted constantly. Suggestive phrases, a pinch on the rear end -- it never seemed to end. Josh would grab Jen and make loud growling sounds while nibbling on her neck. Jen would offer him a "quicky" between her dates. He always had some smart comeback about needing a rain check. They didn't seem to take it seriously, but it never failed to create a strange sensation in the pit of my stomach. I couldn't help wondering if there was more to it than what I saw. It didn't make dealing with Josh's second behavior change any easier.

Josh started asking me out on dates. The first time it happened, I was taken completely by surprise. I was making coffee one morning, still blurry with sleep, when Josh snuggled up behind me. Pulling me backwards into his arms, he dropped a quick kiss on my temple before resting his chin on my shoulder.

"Morning, beautiful."

Too sleepy to worry about him holding me, I rested the back of my head on his chest and answered, "Morning."

"Did you want to catch a movie tonight, maybe grab some dinner after?"

"Yeah sure. You want me to run it by Jen, see if she's up for it?"

"No, Lindsey," his lips trailed a line of tiny, feather light kisses up my neck to my ear, "I want to go with you. Alone. Just you and me -- on a date."

He nibbled on my earlobe while my heart skipped a beat. Josh and me on a date? His lips were doing incredible things to my pulse that made it hard to think clearly. The sex had been great. We were still friends. But what about Jen and the constant flirting? And what exactly were the feelings Josh had for me? 'I want to have sex with you' feelings or 'I want you to be my girlfriend' feelings? I was so confused and Josh's lips on my neck were not helping.

"Just say yes, Lindsey. Give me a chance."

I closed my eyes and made a wish. Please, if this doesn't work out, don't let me lose Josh's friendship. I opened my eyes and took a deep breath before replying.


It went well. The movie was great. Dinner was wonderful. Josh held my hand and bought me a rose. When we got home, he kissed me at the door and asked me out again. Each time I said yes. Every date was wonderful. He always kissed me at the door. The kisses got longer and hotter each day, and just when I started moaning for more, he would push me away gently and open the door. It was driving me crazy!

After yet another wonderful, frustrating goodnight kiss from Josh, I flung myself onto my bed and tried to figure out what the hell was going on. I punched my pillow in frustration just as Jen walked into my room.

"Lindsey, what the hell is going on with you and Josh?"

I sat up and leaned against the headboard of my bed. Jen came over and sat next to me while I thought about my answer. Might as well be honest with her.

"That's what I'm trying to figure out. Why?"

"You guys have been out every night this week. The two of you get home; you come in here and Josh heads over to the workshop. He spends half the night over there and you're so closed up anymore that you barely say hello to me. So I repeat -- what the hell is going on?"

"Josh goes to his workshop when we get home?"

Jen was clearly exasperated with me. She flipped her long, blonde hair over her shoulder and made a face at me before answering.

"Yes! He's over there right now sanding the crap out of something and snarled at me to put some safety gear on before entering the shop area. So I come back over here and you're sulking in your room and punching a pillow. Now spill."

I didn't make a conscious decision to tell her anything. I just opened my mouth and it all came pouring out of me: the doubt, the fear, my insecurity -- all of it.

"I don't know what's going on with us. We go out every night and it's wonderful. He kisses me at the door and gets me all worked up and then pushes me away. He flirts with you all the time and he never flirts with me. He said a while ago that he has feelings for me but never bothered to say what feelings. Does he like me, or does he just want to be friends with benefits? I think I may have feelings for him too, but I'm afraid to take a chance and mess it up. I'm so frustrated and horny and confused I could scream."

"Okay, first things first, Lin. Number one, Josh and I are just friends, nothing more. We've never done anything together since that once. Personally, I think he flirts with me because it makes you jealous and he knows I'm safe. I'm not going to actually take him up on it. Josh is great and under other circumstances I would fuck him silly, but I'm your friend, Lindsey. I'm not going to make a move on Josh and mess up my friendship with you.

"Number two, you told him you needed time. Yes, he told me what you two talked about in his bedroom that day. I think he's trying to give you the time you asked for. Maybe he's trying to get you used to the idea of being with him as a man, instead of looking at him and only seeing him as your best friend. I think he wants you to trust him not to hurt you. He told you that you would have to come to him. Maybe it's time you considered doing just that.

"Last but not least, Josh loves you. You love Josh. Jesus, it shines out of both of you so bright, it's like looking into the sun. How the two of you can be so blind about how the other feels is beyond me. Look at Josh, Lindsey, really look at him. The way you would right before you take a picture. You won't be able to miss how he feels about you, I promise. Take the chance, go to him. You won't regret it."

Giving me a saucy wink, Jen strolled out of my room and left me to think about everything she just said. It was a long, long time before I fell asleep that night.

When my alarm went off the next morning, I was remarkably clear-headed. I decided Jen was right and I should just let Josh know I was ready to be his lover. Even if things didn't work out, I was confident we would be able to maintain our friendship. I had nothing to lose by trying to make it work. After a quick shower, I pulled on my favorite tartan mini-skirt and blue v-neck cardigan before heading out to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. I was trying to decide how to tell Josh about my decision when he rushed out of his room carrying a necktie in his hand and wearing a suit.

"Can you help me with this? I can't get the damn thing tied right."

I couldn't help but smile at Josh's snarl of frustration. Taking the tie from his hand, I worked it under his collar and looped it into a Windsor knot.

"What are you wearing a suit for? I haven't seen you in anything other than jeans or chinos since graduation."

"I have a meeting with my grandfather this morning. He wants an update on the repairs and renovations for the rental units in the building. Then we're going to interview some applicants for the property manager position. I have to wear this get-up according to Grandfather to make a good impression during the interviews."

I stepped back to get a good look at him. The dark gray suit set off his olive skin to perfection while the cut of the jacket emphasized his broad shoulders and narrow, tapered waist. Josh looked amazing.

"You're making a hell of an impression on me. Yummy." I stepped close and pulled him down for a teasing kiss. He groaned as we separated, pushing me back from him a little.

"Lindsey, why must you tease me? You're standing there in that short little plaid skirt that reminds me of a schoolgirl, you smell absolutely divine, and if you keep kissing me like that I'm going to be very, very late. Be a good girl please, or I'm going to have to spank you. I can't be late this morning."

Josh's tone was firm and brooked no argument as he gathered up his files and keys before heading out the door. I grinned as I watched him depart. Josh had just given me a very wicked idea.

I hurried home from work that afternoon, desperate to get there before Josh, and put my plan in motion. I had already talked with Jen earlier in the day and she had graciously agreed to give us a little privacy. Fumbling in my haste, I quickly pulled off my shoes and stockings, replacing them with white ankle socks and white canvas sneakers. Next to go were my bra and my panties. The skirt I was wearing, while short, wasn't quite short enough so I rolled the waistband to expose another inch of long, lean thigh. I unbuttoned the top two buttons on my cardigan sweater and studied the effect in the mirror. Perfect. After pulling my hair into a ponytail and tying it off with a white ribbon, I hurried to grab the note I had prepared earlier and one of the straight-backed chairs from the dining area. I dragged the chair into the hall that separated the two lofts and placed it outside the door to Josh's workshop and office. Just as I sat down in the chair, note clenched tightly in my hand, the elevator doors opened with a soft ping and Josh stepped out.

"Lindsey, what in the hell are you doing sitting out here in the hall?"

"Principal Horton, sir, my English teacher, Mr. Lewis, sent me here for discipline, sir."

Josh halted in mid-stride, his mouth hanging open. I could see his eyes drift from my face to my outfit and on down to my long, bare legs. His eyes flicked back up to lock on mine and I saw comprehension dawn in the brown depths. Josh visibly straightened and took on an air of authority before coming to stand next to me.

"Well then, Miss James, why don't we go into my office to discuss your infraction."

Josh opened the door and led me over to the small office area he had set up. An antique oak desk dominated the center of the room. After setting his files down near the computer on the other table, Josh sat behind his tidy desk and gestured for me to hand him the note I was holding. I shifted nervously as he read it.

"Stop fidgeting, Miss James. It says here that you are to be disciplined for 'dress code violations.' Now I can see for myself that you are not wearing a bra, Miss James. Is that your only violation of the school dress code?"

Answering in my best shy, schoolgirl voice, I replied, "No sir, it's not."

Josh moved from his chair and came to sit casually on the front corner of the desk. He crossed his arms and studied me again.

"Well your skirt appears to be much too short, is there anything else you care to tell me about?"

"Please, Principal Horton, don't make me tell you. It's so embarrassing to be caught, sir."

"Miss James, you are aware that dress code violations earn you five swats, correct?"

I nodded.

"Then I suggest you tell me before you earn another five swats for insubordination."

"Yes, sir. I'm not wearing any panties and Mr. Lewis saw my bottom when I bent over to pick up my pencil, sir."

"Show me."

Josh's command was firm and it sent shivers up my spine. Slowly, I reached for the hem of my tartan skirt and lifted it to my waist. His nostrils flared slightly as he took in the view of my bare pussy.

"Turn around, Miss James."

Obeying his command, I turned and showed him the firm, bare globes of my posterior. I could feel Josh as he came to stand beside me. His hand drifted across my bare butt as he whispered in my ear.

"What did Mr. Lewis see, Miss James? Was it your lovely ass?" He stroked my rear again, "Or was it this beautiful, damp little slit of yours?"

Josh's warm breath on my neck as he asked his soft question was nothing compared to the feel of his fingers drifting over my mound, teasing my neatly trimmed curls.

"Just the rear, sir. I would never show Mr. Lewis my slit, sir."

"But it's such a lovely slit, I can't seem to keep myself from touching it."

Josh's finger slid between my legs and briefly stroked my damp slit, before trailing up to toy with the buttons on the front of my sweater.

"What about your breasts, Miss James? Are they just as lovely?"

"I'm not sure, sir."

"Well let's just take a look then, shall we?"

One by one, Josh tugged the buttons on my sweater until it hung open, clinging to my breasts. Pushing open first one side of my sweater, then the other, Josh bared my breasts to his gaze. My skin prickled under his scrutiny and I could feel my nipples start to tighten. Josh caressed each of them in turn before stepping away from me.

"Yes, they are beautiful but there is still the small matter of your punishment. Five swats for each violation of the dress code and you have three violations: no bra, no panties, and your much-too-short skirt. I believe that makes fifteen swats, Miss James."

I felt a moment of panic; I hadn't counted on a lengthy spanking and Josh seemed intent on administering it.

"Y-yes, sir." Josh noticed the hesitation in my tone.

"Tell you what, Miss James. Why don't we do five and then perhaps we can negotiate an alternative punishment to cover the other ten. Now brace yourself on the side of my desk and bend over."

I dropped the hem of my skirt, covering my bare ass and walked past him to the side of the desk. Bracing my palms against the edge I shifted my feet until I was bent over, my pert rear sticking out. Josh came to stand beside me and flipped my skirt up onto my back.

"I want you to count each swat, Miss James. Is that understood?"

"Yes, Principal Horton."

Josh caressed my left cheek before letting fly with the first swat. It stung just enough to make me wince.


Smack! Josh's hand landed on my other cheek.


Smack! Ouch, that one hurt! I jumped and yelped as it landed.


Smack! My ass was really burning now. Josh was casually twisting one of my nipples and the mixture of pleasure and pain was exquisite.


Smack! The last one; I sighed in relief that it was over.


Josh rubbed my stinging ass gently before sliding two fingers into my drenched pussy from behind. His other hand continued to play with my breasts as I remained in my bent over position.

"You seem to have enjoyed this, Miss James. Shall we continue with the spanking or would you care to discuss an alternative now?"

"Please, sir, no more spanking. I don't think my bottom can take much more."

"Very well, stand up." Josh removed his hands from my body as I pushed myself to a standing position.

"So what are we going to do with you, Miss James? You still have ten swats to work off."

"If I may be so bold, sir, it looks as though you have a lump in your pants."

"And what would a naughty girl such as yourself do with that lump in my pants?"

Josh was looking at me speculatively. I blushed under his scrutiny.

"Well, sir, I could lick it. I could suck it until you explode in my mouth. Or, you could bend me over the desk and ram it into me from behind, sir."

His eyes darkened as he loosened and removed his tie. Jerking me against him, Josh replied, "Now those all sound like fine ideas, Miss James, but first I want to find out if those lips of yours taste as good as they look."

With that, Josh lowered his lips to mine and kissed me thoroughly. His hands moved underneath my sweater to caress the bare skin of my back before moving lower to slide up under my skirt and fondle my still-warm butt. Moving of their own volition, my hands reached up and unbuttoned Josh's shirt, opening it to expose the hard muscles covered in skin that felt like silk under my fingertips.

Trailing a line of kisses along his jaw and down his neck, I felt Josh shudder as I scraped his nipples with my fingernails. Shoving him back against the desk, I unfastened his suit pants and slid them from his lean hips. Pulling his boxers down revealed that Josh was more than ready for a continuation of our activities. I knelt between his feet and caressed his jutting member.

"Permission to continue with my punishment, Principal Horton?"

"By all means, please proceed Miss James."

I took his hard cock into my mouth, swallowing him in one smooth gulp. Sucking hard, I started to slide his cock in and out of my mouth, swirling my tongue around his glans with each stroke. Josh groaned and leaned heavily on the edge of the desk, his knees quivering under my hands.

"Lindsey, stop." Josh tugged gently on my ponytail to get my attention. "I need to be inside you."

Pulling me to my feet, he turned and sat me on the edge of the desk. Taking my face between his hands, Josh traced my lips with his tongue before kissing me passionately. Pushing me back, he laid me on the desk and positioned himself between my hips. Looking into my eyes, Josh hesitated briefly. I reached up to touch his face, letting my fingers play over his cheekbone and along his jaw.

"This is what I want, Josh. I've waited long enough."

He captured my hand in his and kissed my palm as he slid his shaft into my body. I wrapped my legs around his waist as he plunged in and out of me. Josh placed one of his hands on my smooth belly and began to circle my clit with his thumb, while his other hand teased and pinched my nipples. Every time he tweaked one of them, I could feel the jolt run through my body straight to my clit. Continuing his smooth, steady thrusts, Josh set up a pattern of tweaking my nipple, rubbing my clit, and burying his cock to the root inside me. The sensations he created were incredible and I could feel my body begin to tighten, all of my muscles clenching as my orgasm began. I looked up into Josh's eyes to find him watching me intently as he relentlessly drove me toward release. My gaze locked on his as my world exploded.


I wailed his name as I came. Josh gripped my hips with both hands and started slamming himself into me furiously as my pussy spasmed around his cock. His pubic bone beating on my pulsing clit sent me into another devastating orgasm. Josh roared as his climax hit and he poured himself into me, pounding his cock against my cervix as he drove as deep as my body would allow. I could feel him spewing his seed inside me and watched him as he slowly stopped thrusting.

He put his hands on the desk, leaning on them heavily as he recovered. It took a few moments before either one of us was capable of moving. Josh shook his head slightly as he came to his senses. He sat me up and wrapped his arms around me, pulling me tight against his chest. With effortless grace, he picked me up and turned around, seating himself on the desktop and settling me in his lap, his softening cock still embedded in me. His breathing was still somewhat ragged as I nestled my head on his shoulder.

"Now would you care to tell me what brought that on?" His voice was a low rumble right above my ear.

"You did."

Josh pulled back and looked at me intently. "How so?"

"I've been so darn frustrated lately. You kiss me at the door, get me all excited, then push me away. This morning you made that comment about my outfit and spanking me; I decided enough already."

"Thank god! I was going out of my mind with wanting you, Lindsey. After every date, I would go to my workshop and spend half the night working until I was too exhausted to even think about making love to you. I knew you needed time but the waiting was driving me crazy. I hoped by sending you off to bed frustrated, you might make a decision a little quicker."

I grinned at him in response. "Well, it worked."

"Are you sure this is what you want? I don't want to pressure you into a hasty decision."

The concern in his eyes touched something deep within me. I couldn't put my finger on it but in that moment something changed and suddenly Josh wasn't just my best friend, he was my lover. I lifted my lips to his and kissed him, a whisper of contact that became a tentative caress and deepened further to a dizzying rush of emotion.

Breathless from the heady exchange, I pulled away and whispered, "Does that answer your question?"

Josh looked more than a little dazed and I could feel his limp cock begin to twitch.

"Uh, yeah. I think that about covers it."

My impish giggle snapped him back to full awareness.

"Little witch, you wouldn't be laughing at me, would you?"

"Oh, no sir. I would never do that, sir."

"I should hope not. Now, how about we get cleaned up and continue this someplace a bit more comfortable?"

I nodded my agreement, my ponytail bobbing with the motion. Josh reached behind me and deftly pulled the ribbon and the elastic from my hair. As it spilled around my shoulders, he smiled.

"That's so much better. Now hop down."

Carefully, I turned and slid from his lap. On wobbling legs, I helped Josh refasten his pants for the trip across the hall. Checking the hall quickly for any unexpected visitors, Josh grabbed the chair and we sprinted over to our apartment. Once inside, Josh and I hurried to his shower, shedding our clothes as we went. Laughing as he pulled me into the hot, misty spray, he nibbled noisily on my neck. I squirmed with delight as we tickled and stroked each other. Picking up the shower gel and the scrunchie sponge I kept in his shower, Josh methodically covered my body with a layer of soap bubbles. Blocking most of the sprays with his body, he pulled me up against him for a slippery kiss.

"Mmmm, I've wanted to do this ever since that morning after our first time. You were so hung over that day that I didn't dare, but now I've got you right where I want you."

"Oh? And what do you plan on doing with me?"

His eyes darkened as he looked me over from head to toe.

"Let's get the soap off and I'll show you."

After soaping and rinsing my pussy completely, he pushed me down onto the tiled bench that ran along one wall. Kneeling in front of me, Josh pushed my knees apart and started running his fingers over my slit. Sliding first one, then a second finger into me, he gently pumped them in and out. I moaned and spread my legs further, allowing him to thrust deeper. Josh leaned down and started licking my outer lips, slowly working his tongue between them. I yelped when he dragged his tongue over my clit the first time and hissed when he did it again.

He kept at it, circling my clit and then dragging his tongue over it until I was pleading with him to make me cum. He pulled it between his lips and scraped it lightly with his teeth before sucking on it hard. It felt like I had been hit by a bolt of lightning. Every muscle in my body stiffened, my back arched, and my ass lifted off the bench and as a sound of pure animal pleasure poured out of me. Josh grabbed my hips and held my writhing pelvis still as he continued to tongue my clit. Wave after wave of pleasure crashed over me as my orgasm surged through my system. When I could take no more, I reached down and pushed Josh away from my hypersensitive nub.

Grinning like a kid on Christmas morning, Josh sat next to me on the bench and waited patiently until my breathing returned to normal.

"You are so beautiful when you cum."

I flicked a glance at him, still not sure I could speak clearly. His cock was completely erect, jutting upward from his lap. I reached for the soap and carefully lathered my hands until they overflowed with soap and bubbles. Turning sideways on the bench, I wrapped both hands around Josh's cock and began to stroke him. The bubbly lather created a wonderful suction effect as I moved my hands up and down his shaft. Josh groaned as my hands slid over him and started to hump his hips in time with my hands.

I leaned over and whispered in his ear, "Do you like this, Josh?"

"Oh god, yes."

"Would you like me to keep doing this? Or would you like me to push my tits together so you can fuck them? Maybe you'd like me to climb into your lap so you can shove your hard cock into my tight, wet pussy. What would you like me to do, Josh? Tell me."

"Option D, all of the above."

Josh picked up the soap from the bench and began soaping my breasts as I continued to stroke his cock with a slow, steady motion. He rolled my nipples between his fingers, bringing them to full erection before he tugged me off the bench. I moved between his legs and squeezed my breasts together on either side of slippery shaft. Josh continued to play with my nipples as I slid my tits up and down on his cock, both of us watching the head of his cock disappear repeatedly into my soft mounds.

"Shit, Lin, that looks so damn hot, but I need more friction baby. Let's rinse and go to the third option."

I backed off and pulled a hand sprayer from the wall bracket. Quickly, I rinsed both of us off and replaced the sprayer. Giving silent thanks for Josh's foresight, I picked up the hand towels from just outside the shower and placed one on each side of his hips before straddling his lap. Sinking down on his hard cock felt incredible. I moaned as Josh gripped my hips and began to move me up and down on his hard shaft. Capturing one of my nipples in his mouth, Josh sucked and nibbled on it as I bounced on his lap. Twisting my hips slightly with each thrust brought Josh's cock into full contact with my g-spot on every stroke. Panting and yelping as he stroked into me, I started squeezing his cock with my pussy.

"Lindsey," he groaned through gritted teeth, "I'm not going to last much longer."

"Me ... either," I panted, grinding myself against him harder. Josh increased our pace, almost pulling me off him with each stroke before driving my hips back down. My orgasm hit with sudden and ferocious intensity, causing my pussy to tighten and spasm around Josh's cock. Pulling me down for passionate kiss, he stroked into me twice more before I could feel him start to cum inside me. Still shaking with the aftereffects of my own orgasm, I collapsed against Josh's chest as he slumped against the wall. I could feel his heart pounding underneath mine as we both struggled to recover.

I pushed away from him slightly and kissed him tenderly, cupping his face in my hands. My fingers felt funny on his skin and I glanced at them as I ended the kiss. The tips were completely wrinkled from the water. I showed them to Josh and grinned wryly.

"I think we need to get out of the shower now."

Josh laughed and helped me off his lap. My legs felt like rubber as we quickly cleaned up before stepping out of the oversized enclosure. Each of us picked up a large fluffy towel and started to dry the other. It wasn't necessarily the most effective way to get dry but we laughed and played as we toweled each other dry. I wrapped a towel around me and admired the view of Josh's naked backside as I followed him into his bedroom. He went to the bed and sat down as I continued on out the door to my own room.

"Where are you going?"

I stuck my tongue out at him over my shoulder. "To get my comb silly, I'll be right back."

Once in my room, I picked up my comb and turned to head back down the hall to Josh. Sitting there on my dresser was the new camera I had just purchased a few days ago. Without pausing to question why, I picked up the camera, and took it along with me. Josh was sitting with his back against the headboard of his bed, the blankets tucked around his waist. He pulled the covers back and patted the bed beside him before he saw the camera in my hands. I set it down on the nightstand as I dropped my towel and climbed into bed next to him. Josh eyed it warily.

"How did I know at some point you would bring a camera into this?"

"Because you know me so well."

"Not possible. Here let me do that."

Josh took the comb from my hand and turned me so that he could work on my hair. It was comforting to have him gently work the tangles from my wet curls. By the time he finished, I was completely relaxed and half asleep. Josh pulled my still damp hair off my neck and nibbled just below my ear.

"How about you and I get a little nap? We can have some dinner later, make a little love. What do you think?"

I turned and kissed him, my lips drifting over his in lazy indulgence. When the kiss ended, Josh pulled away and smiled that secret smile I'd caught him wearing from time to time. I reached for the camera and quickly changed the settings, adjusting for light and exposure. On an impulse, I programmed it for black and white. Josh watched me with one eyebrow raised.

"Does this mean no nap?"

"Shush. I want one picture and then we can nap all you want."

I reached over and drew him to me again. Kissing him with long, slow desire, I waited until I felt him relax against me then drew slowly away. As expected, Josh favored me with that special smile again. I quickly focused and triggered the shutter before his expression could change. I replaced the camera on the nightstand and climbed back into the bed. Josh pulled me into his arms, tucking my body against his as we drifted off to sleep.

The next morning I woke up alone, Josh's alarm making an incredibly annoying din. I reached over to turn it off and found a short note propped up against it.


I'm working out of town today and will be home late. Don't wait up, but I hope to find you right where you are now.


Humming a happy tune, I picked up my camera from the nightstand and went to get ready for work.

Work was busy and we were incredibly backed up. I called Jen and then left a message on Josh's voice mail to let them know that I was going to stay late at the office. After enduring Jen's good-natured teasing about my night with Josh, I hung up the phone and went to lunch.

I returned with 15 minutes to spare and pulled out the mini-CDR from my new camera. Putting the disc in my computer, I looked over the pictures I had taken with a critical eye. The last picture, the one I took of Josh, was perfect. I printed it out and even though the printer and the paper were clearly inferior to photo quality, the picture took my breath away.

Jen was right.

Josh's love for me was written all over his face. I felt my breath catch just looking at the raw emotion I had captured. Looking at the love in his eyes and the sweet, sexy smile on his face allowed me to admit what I had been fighting all along. I don't know when it happened, but I knew it was true. My heart belonged to Josh.

"I love Josh."

I said the words quietly to myself, savoring the taste of them, giddy with the feeling behind them. I couldn't wait to tell him.

I sailed through the rest of my day. Work was never easier and the extra hours I put in that day flew by. I arrived home a little after eight, eager to see Josh and tell him how I felt. I opened the large steel door and stepped into the apartment.

My body came to an abrupt halt as my brain processed the scene in front of me.

A man and a woman were on the sofa. The woman was Jen. She was naked, her face clearly showing her mounting pleasure as she straddled a man whose face I could not see.

A man with short black hair, beautiful olive skin, and broad, strong shoulders.

My man.


I couldn't take my eyes off the sight of them. Head thrown back, blonde hair streaming down behind her, Jen was moving up and down on him in an act I didn't have to see to recognize. They moved as one; thrusting, moaning, writhing in pleasure. My stomach lurched and I gagged in response. Inside my head I could hear a voice screaming to get away from the sight of their betrayal. The picture in my hand fluttered to the floor, the image before me replacing it in my mind as I turned and fled.

I didn't know where to go. All of my instincts were telling me to run. I'm not really sure how I got there, but I found myself standing outside of The Bullfrog. The place was quiet, only a few people scattered here and there. I sat down in a corner booth and asked the waitress to bring me some water. I didn't think my stomach would accept anything stronger.

The image of Jen riding on Josh was burned into my brain. I didn't see the bar, didn't see the other patrons. All I saw was them. How could they? Jen swore she wouldn't touch Josh. Josh said he didn't want Jen that way. How could he look at me with love in his eyes and then screw Jen the very next day?

I had everything I ever wanted within my grasp: a beautiful home, my own business, a man I hoped to spend the rest of my life with; and now it was all in ruins. The Lindsey James curse, part two: how to screw up your life by trusting your friends. My eyes filled with tears as the pain of Josh's betrayal set in.

Someone slid into the booth across from me. I blinked and quickly wiped the tears away before I looked to see who had joined me. It was Roy, the head bartender. He sat a glass of water in front of me, a look of concern touching his handsome face.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

I shook my head, unable to find my voice. Roy looked at me sympathetically before he stood to leave.

"You stay here as long as you like. We aren't busy tonight. I'll make sure you aren't disturbed."

I smiled at him weakly in thanks and he left me alone. I sat there for hours, trying to make sense of the whole rotten situation. My cell phone started ringing around 11:00 p.m. It was Josh. I turned my phone off and tossed it back in my purse. Damned if I was going to speak to him before I was good and ready. I had too many other things to decide first, like where I would find an apartment I could afford on such short notice.

Memories of the evening the three of us spent together in this bar haunted me. This is where it all started and now this is where it was ending. My stomach couldn't handle that realization. I just barely made it to the Ladies Room in time. When my stomach finally stopped heaving, I rinsed my face and headed back out to the bar. I rounded the corner next to my booth only to find Josh standing there waiting for me. The sight of him was a physical shock that rooted me in place. Josh was wearing a haggard, pleading expression.

"Lindsey, it wasn't me. I swear to God it wasn't me. It was Dickhead over here." Josh jerked his head at the man standing next to him.

"Dickhead" looked enough like Josh that he could have been his twin. He was the same height, had the same dark hair, and his skin was the same olive tone as Josh's. His facial features were a little different and it took me a minute to realize I knew who "Dickhead" was. It was Mark, Josh's older brother.

Mark was wearing a sheepish expression. "It's true, Lindsey. It was me. I dropped in for a surprise visit and found Jen at the apartment having lunch. She took the rest of the day off to show me around and, well ... you know the rest."

I looked from Mark to Josh, my thoughts whirling with the implications of Mark's admission. Finally my throat opened up enough for me to speak.

"It wasn't you? You and Jen didn't ...?"

Josh took two long strides and gathered me into his arms as the tears began to flow freely down my face.

"Oh god no, Lindsey. I love you. I would never do that to you, to us. When I got home, I saw that picture lying on the floor and couldn't find you anywhere. Jen and the dickhead were in her room, doing the same thing you walked in on. I put two and two together and realized you must have seen them and thought it was me. We've been looking everywhere for you since then."

Josh loves me. It wasn't him. Josh loves me. It wasn't him. Those two thoughts kept pounding in my head as Josh lowered his lips to mine and kissed me tenderly. I was never so glad to be wrong in all of my life.

"C'mon, let's go home." Josh leveled a dark look at Mark. "Call Jen and let her know we found Lin and we're on our way home."

"Josh, you're not ever going to forgive me are you? I said I was sorry man."

"You almost cost me the woman I love, be happy I haven't beaten the shit out of you yet."

Josh tucked me under his arm and led us out of the bar. He never released me the whole way home. Jen met us at the door of the apartment and hugged me tight. It was obvious she had been crying.

"Lindsey, I'm so sorry. I didn't think about you walking in and seeing us. I know it must have looked bad, but you have to know I wouldn't do that to you."

"I'm sorry too, Jen. I'm sorry I jumped to conclusions and didn't trust you. It'll never happen again, I swear."

"Let's just call it even, okay?"

"Deal," I sniffled and returned her fierce hug.

A thin, high-pitched mewing noise cut though the air. I released Jen and turned to look at Josh.

"What was that?"

Josh sighed and shook his head. "That was your surprise. Hang on while I go get it."

I shot a questioning look at Jen and Mark, but they both just grinned in response. Josh went to the kitchen and picked up a box that was a little larger that a shoe box. It had holes punched in the sides and the top was held on with a bright red ribbon. Josh sat the box on the dining room table and motioned me over.

"I've been planning this for a while now, Lin. It was supposed to be more romantic with candles and flowers, but I realized today I couldn't wait any longer. Go ahead and open it."

The bow was a simple affair and came off easily. I lifted the lid to find a tiny kitten, not more than three months old inside. He was a beautiful yellow tiger kitten and he was wearing a bright red ribbon around his neck. He was so adorable! I know the smile on my face was huge as I lifted the kitten out of the box and cuddled him against my chest.

"Oh Josh, you shouldn't have! He's so cute. I love him. Thank you."

I grabbed the front of Josh's shirt and pulled him to me for a kiss, the kitten mewing between us. Josh kissed me until my knees were weak before pulling away.

"That's not all, Lin. Look at the ribbon he's wearing."

I carefully examined the kitten, paying special attention to his ribbon. There, tied in the knot of the bow, was a stunning diamond ring. I stared at it in shock as Josh sank to one knee in front of me.

"Lindsey James, I love you. We've always been friends and now we're lovers, but I want more. I want you to be my wife. Will you marry me?"

I looked into Josh eyes. The love shining out of them was unmistakable. I couldn't believe what a fool I had been to doubt him. I reached down and tugged him to his feet.

"Joshua Horton, I love you too. Of course I'll marry you."

Josh let out a whoop of joy, scooped me into his arms, and swung me around in dizzying circles. I could hear Jen and Mark laughing and yelling congratulations as Josh set me on my feet and kissed me senseless. His hands trembled slightly as he untied the bow and slipped the ring on my finger.

Jen hugged us both as she cried tears of joy. I know my own cheeks were wet as I hugged her and Mark. Jen and I laughed as we wiped the tears from each others faces. Mark looked at the kitten cuddled against my chest.

"So what are you going to name him, Lindsey?"

I looked at the small yellow kitten and grinned. There was only one name I could give him, considering the occasion.

"I would think that's obvious, Mark. His name is Cupid."

Mark and Jen both laughed but I didn't care what they thought. Josh wrapped me in his arms and whispered, "It's perfect." Cupid, snuggled against my neck, was purring loudly in agreement.


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