I know Charlotte said six. I'm usually the kind of person that prefers to be fashionably late, anyway, but what can I say? It's been a long six days. I miss being around her, I miss her, I want to be with her, touch her, kiss her....
Ugh. I'm whipped. Moi, Maxime Talbot, suis complétement soumis. Is there anything so wrong with that, though? I don't think so. I save money, since I don't have to buy drinks for girls when I'm out at the bars. In fact, I go out to the bars less often. I don't need to impress anyone constantly. I get to be myself in a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere. I can't believe I didn't try this "relationship" thing sooner.
This feels different to what the other guys on the team seem to feel. The married guys or the guys with steady girlfriends all appear to be relieved to be back, like they're content to go home and relax with their families. I don't feel that way at all. Yes, I am happy to be back, but I'm excited moreso than relieved. I'm going to bounce right out of my skin.
It's 5:30 when I knock on her door. I know I'm early, but I just couldn't make myself wait any longer. When she throws open the door, she looks surprised to see me. "Max! What are you doing here so soon?"
What a sight for sore eyes. I can tell I caught her in the process of dolling herself up while she was cooking. Her hair's wrapped up in a towel turban-style, her lips are shiny with that vanilla-flavored glossy stuff that makes my mouth slide all over hers when I kiss her but she's wearing no other make-up yet, and she's wearing an apron over top of that black dress that puts every one of her curves on display. The crazy anticipation I was feeling now completely melts away and I'm able to catch my breath again. Now I understand the calm relief that the other guys feel: that sense of ease, like all is right with the world.
"Hey, baby. I just didn't want to wait any more." I step into her apartment and bend down to kiss her. My mouth practically aches for her. She gives me a quick peck on the lips and turns to head back into the apartment. I reach out for her arm. "Is that it? I'm gone for six days, and that's my big welcome back?"
Charlotte smiles at me. "I'm in the middle of cooking. You don't want dinner to burn, do you?"
My answer is to kiss her again, a real kiss this time. At first she holds back, but soon she relents and wraps her arms around my waist and kisses me back, and I realize that I didn't know how much I missed her until this very moment. I don't just want Charlotte, I need her. My whole body longs for her.
A buzzer goes off in the kitchen, and she pulls away again and tries to exit from my embrace. "Oh! The bread's done."
"Mmm. I don't care about the bread. I don't care about dinner," I say, grabbing her ass and pulling her against me so the lengths of our bodies touch. I move in again to take her mouth, but she leans backward and avoids me.
"Come on, Max. Stop playing. I've got to take it out of the oven."
"I'm not playing. It can wait."
Charlotte pushes against me, trying to break free, a very stern look in her eyes. "No. I'm being serious. I put a lot of effort into this, okay?"
I let go of her and follow her into the kitchen with a scowl on my face. She opens the oven and removes the garlic bread before turning her attention to the stove, where there's a boiling pot of pasta and a skillet with meatballs cooking. As she turns them, I say, "You obviously didn't miss me as much as I missed you."
She spins on her heel and glares at me. "Excuse me?"
"You're acting like you just saw me yesterday. I thought you'd be excited to see me again," I pout.
"I am, Max. But I'm cooking dinner for you, a nice dinner like I promised, to celebrate your triumphant return." She's making elaborate gestures with her hands. "I put a lot of planning into this, and I even bought whole milk cheese for you," she explains, holding up a bag of shredded mozzarella. "And regular pasta, instead of the whole wheat stuff you complain about when I cook."
"Well, I appreciate that—"
"I don't think you do."
"—but you didn't have to do that."
"I wanted to do this for you. I told you on the phone! Weren't you listening?"
"Of course I was listening! Geez, I didn't think it was that big of a deal to you," I say, trying to replay that conversation in my head. Did I miss something?
"Well, then I'm telling you now, this is a big deal. I wanted to cook you a nice, romantic dinner. I got dressed up and everything." Charlotte gestures at her black dress, which is still hidden by the apron. Then she points to the table. "I even bought candles."
I smile at her for all the thought she put into our "big reunion," but none of that matters to me. I'm dressed in jeans, a hoodie, and a ball cap, because all I wanted was to see her again. I wasn't concerned about what she was going to cook or if we ordered in or any of the other details of the night. "That's nice, baby, but you didn't have to do any of this. I was just excited to see you again. We could be eating soup out of cans, for all I care. I'm not worried about all the accoutrements. Just you."
She shakes her head. "You know, that's the perfect thing to say. And any other girl would just submit and cater to you upon hearing that. But that's not me. I just wish that you cared about the effort I put into this."
"No, you don't. And that's fine, Max. But do you think you can just suffer through it for me, though? Pretend like it matters to you?"
"It's not suffering through it. I won't do any pretending. You know that I'll enjoy anything you make or think you look gorgeous in anything you wear."
"That's not what this is about," she says, turning back to the stove and turning off the back burner as she drains the pasta. She's trying to hide the complete and utter annoyance in her voice. "I could be in sweats and cooking a store-bought pizza in the oven. But I wanted to do something special for you, so I bought food that I don't even want to eat because I did it for you. I'm wearing this damn tight dress and uncomfortable heels to look good for you."
I fidget and switch positions. I don't want her to do anything she doesn't feel comfortable with for my sake only. "But I didn't ask you to do any of those things for me."
"I know!" she cries, losing her composure and throwing her hands up into the air. "But I thought you'd like it! God, John, don't you get it?"
I feel like my heart slams against my sternum. What the fuck did she just say?! "Excuse me? What did you just call me?"
I watch as the realization of what just passed her lips dawns on her, and her eyes widen suddenly and she claps her hands over her mouth. Instantly, I'm aware that she didn't mean to say it, but the fact that she just called me by her ex-boyfriend's name, regardless of the situation, makes my blood boil.
"Oh my God. Max, I am so, so sorry." Charlotte apologizes, but I'm so angry that I'm stunned into a catatonic state, unable to speak or move. When I don't respond, she keeps going. "It was a knee-jerk reaction. We've never fought before, Max, and it just popped out on instinct. I'm just so used to saying that. I'm sorry."
I shake my head. "I can't believe you just called me by another guy's name." I'm still shocked, so I pull out one of the chairs at the table and sit, because I just don't know what to do. I'm angry, upset, and in total disbelief.
Charlotte doesn't say anything further. She goes back to cooking and finishing up the meal preparation. I sit in silence; I can see that she's upset, but I don't know what to say. Accident or not, I hate what just happened. She dishes out platefuls of pasta and meatballs, setting them down on the table, one in front of each of us. The towel's gone from her head, and so's the apron. She takes the seat across the table from mine, but she won't even look at me. I feel bad; I don't want her to be this upset, but I'm still angry. I just wish the whole thing had never occurred, or that I could rewind the night so I could be more polite and she would never have had cause to say that and this whole situation would just have been avoided completely.
My appetite's gone, but I know that if I don't eat what she cooked, specifically for me, that will only make the situation worse. I've seen that often enough between my parents to know better. While I feed myself, I watch as she pushes around the food on her plate. We continue on in this dangerous limbo. The longer I wait to say something, the worse this is going to get. But what in the world am I supposed to say?
I'm mortified, so embarrassed. The words flew out of my mouth, and I wouldn't have realized my mistake if Max hadn't have brought it to my attention. John and I had found ourselves in similar fights more often than I care to remember; I wanted to do so much for him, and he never appreciated or valued it, even if he noticed I had done something nice for him. Maybe it's a guy thing, that men never care about the little things. Or maybe they just learn to expect them, so they never bother to pay attention to it, let alone offer their thanks.
I like doing things like this for people, especially Max, and I just hoped that he'd care about the effort. Surely he could've waited an hour, waited until after dinner, to go to bed with me. Was that too much to ask?
But then, instead of getting to be the angry one, I royally fucked up and let slip my ex's name. Could I be any more stupid? Pathetic? I ruin everything. I'm such a screw-up.
It would have been easier on me if Max had just thrown a fit and left, instead of sitting there in silence. My stomach is churning with worry. I apologized; what else could I do? If he didn't tell me what I was supposed to do to make it up to him or prove to him that I didn't mean it, how else was I going to atone? He politely stays for dinner, and even eats. Because that's just how amazing he is. I screw up, and it's almost like he's rubbing it in my face. Finally, I can't take it anymore.
"Jesus, Max, I can't do this," I say, standing from my seated position at the table. I grab my plate, dump all of its uneaten contents into the trash, and walk to the sink. I begin to rinse it as I tell him over my shoulder, still not really looking at him, "I am sorry. If you hate me now, that's fine. Don't make me feel worse about this than I already feel. Just go."
He sighs. "I don't want to go. I just.... God, Charlotte. How could you do that?"
I'm so close to just bursting in sobs, but I try to keep myself in check. "He and I used to fight about stuff like this all the time, and it's like I'm programmed to say that exact sentence with his name in it and all. And you and I had never had a fight before, let alone about something along these lines. It was just so automatic."
"Don't you realize how that makes me feel? You tell me about this jerk, and then you call me by his name like I'm just like him. How do you expect me to react?"
I feel the hot tears, and I wipe them away frantically. "You are like him, Max, in some ways. But you aren't him, not at all and not even close, and I didn't mean to imply that you're a jerk or anything. I told you, it just... popped out."
"Do I have to worry about you comparing me to him all the time? Are you constantly measuring my worth against his?"
"No!" The word comes out with such force that it wows me. It's a visceral reaction that even makes me turn around him to tell him so, even though I had no intention of facing him. But I see that even he's surprised by the strength of my rebuttal. "I told you. It's just an automatic thing for me to say. I just haven't unlearned it yet."
"Maybe if you had told me about him, and this kind of stuff you went through, I would know better." Poor Max looks so genuine. How can he be so nice about this? I just gave him the worst insult I could possibly have given him, and he's trying to comfort me.
I turn back to the sink and busy my hands by starting to wash the dirty dishes. "I don't want to talk about him, or what happened. I'm blocking it all from my memory, and I certainly don't want to relive it by bringing it up again."
For a second, I don't hear a response from him. I'm worried about what he's going to say next, until I feel his arms wrap around me as he presses his front to my back. I want so badly just to let down my guard and melt in his arms, let go of these crazy emotions and pretend the past half hour never happened at all. However, I maintain the little composure—and dignity—I still have left.
"I'm sorry if I gave you the impression that I didn't, or don't, appreciate the things you do for me. I do, even if I forget to thank you for it. So thank you for cooking an amazing dinner, and thank you for dressing so sexy for me, too. Because I truly do appreciate it." His hands start at the front of my thighs and graze the hem of the dress, next running those rough hands up to my hips, along my sides, before he finally brings them back to my front and cups each of my breasts in his hands.
I want to give in to the new feelings he's making me experience. But what an about-face this night has taken, yet again. How can he just let that go? If he had called me by another girl's name, I'd be devastated. "Why aren't you still mad at me?"
"You're sorry, right?" he asks, and I nod. "You'll never do it again, will you?" I shake my head. "Do I need to worry about you calling his name when I'm fucking you now?"
"No," I promise him, not even fully realizing what he just said. I just want to assure Max that he is ten times the man—and lover—than my ex ever was. "That is something you'll never have to worry about. I'd swear it on my life."
"Good," he says, sweeping my hair over my left shoulder, which allows him to simultaneously kiss my bare neck and unzip the back of my dress just enough to allow the straps to fall down my shoulders and my breasts to be unsheathed. His hands come back around to my front, caressing and softly squeezing them, pinching my hardening nipples between his fingers and thumbs.
I moan and roll my head back, wanting him to kiss me. Max knows what I want; his mouth is on top of mine without having to ask, searing hot and branding me. I place my hands on the counter and arch my back, pressing my butt into his pelvis, feeling him get hard for me, which turns me on just as much as his touch.
"Merde, you're such a tease," he says, rubbing his growing erection against my ass. I close my eyes as his right hand moves from my chest and reaches down past the hem of my dress, hiking it up and feeling between my legs. Max says with a bit of happy surprise, "Mmm, no panties. And you're so wet for me. You want me, don't you? You've been thinking about and planning this all day, haven't you?"
"Yes," I whisper, using the counter as leverage as I swivel my hips to both press against his body and move against his hand. Max is biting my shoulder and massaging my clit, so painstakingly slowly. "Please, Max, faster."
"Don't you want to wait until after dessert?" he asks. Fuck, he's taunting me. Just like I wanted him to wait until after dinner.
"And you call me a tease."
"Oh, don't worry. I don't plan on teasing you for long." Max's voice is deep and raspy. I feel a burst of cold air as he completely pulls my skirt up past my hips to my waist, and then I hear as he unzips his jeans.
"In the kitchen?" Is it really going to happen like this?
"Would you rather wait?" he asks, and I feel the head of his dick poised to enter me from behind as he leans me over. I grab a hold of the ledge of the counter and push against him, taking him inside of me. I gasp; it hasn't been that long since the last time we had been together, but it feels like it had been forever. "I guess not," he chuckles, holding onto my hips and preventing me from moving too fast, setting the pace himself even as I try to encourage him to go faster and harder.
Whether it's because it's been a week since the last time we had done this, because of the position and place in which we find ourselves, or because of the crazy emotions that had run through their course today, I don't know; but it's not long before I feel my muscles clench and my body prepare for an intense orgasm. Max stops moving as I let go and fall off that steep precipice, crying his name so loudly that I'm sure half of Pittsburgh just heard. That happens not just that one time, not twice, but three times, each more mind-blowing and powerful than the last, until Max grunts and finishes.
When he pulls out and steps back from me, I feel my knees begin to give way. I have to clutch the edge of the counter so I don't fall over. My whole body feels weak and my head is swimming, like I haven't eaten in days. I take quick, shallow breaths. That is without a doubt the best sex I have ever participated in.
Max spins me around, having to prop me against the counter because I still can't stand on my own, and kisses me. "I hope you aren't over exaggerating," he laughs, tucking a piece of my sweaty hair that's clinging to my forehead behind my ear. What a man; he goes from hot and sexy to sweet in seconds flat.
"Absolutely not," I tell him, allowing him to pull me away from the kitchen counter and into my bedroom in preparation for round two.