“I’m okay,” I tell him. “This morning was good enough.”
“Are you sure?” His brows furrow. “I only came inside you twice.”
I swallow, sensitive spots throbbing. Well now I’m not so sure. But I have to try to wait. “I can hold out.”
He puts two fingers underneath my chin and tilts my head up. “I don’t know if I believe you.” He takes a step forward, causing me to take one back, repeating the movements until my spine hits a bar stool. I grip it behind me, and he pins me against it with two hands on the counter.
“We have company,” I remind him.
“Like I give a shit,” Lo whispers. He kisses me hard, stealing my breath, and my back arches to meet his pelvis. His hand slips into my jeans pocket.
Ryke says, “Lily.”
I immediately separate my lips from Lo’s, and I lean back into the stool to try to avoid his touch.
Lo clenches his teeth, and his head whips to Ryke. “Clearly, I’m trying to f**k my girlfriend. So leave.”
“Look, you can do whatever you want to her later.” He sets his hard gaze on me for extra reinforcement. This is where I should agree and peel away from Lo, but his fingers slip into the band of my jeans, sliding underneath my panties in the back. He has a hand planted firmly on my ass.
“Lo,” I warn. “He asked us for help, and we owe him a favor…”
He squeezes, and my knees nearly buckle. He keeps me standing by pinning his weight against me. “You really want to entertain this guy?”
Obviously not, but it’s the right thing to do. Before, we would have shooed him out of the door, distancing ourselves from everyone in sight. Being alone, together, that’s our thing. Adding a new person into the mix—that’s something we haven’t quite figured out yet.
With his other hand, he unbuttons my jeans.
“Lo!” I shriek. He’s trying to make Ryke so uncomfortable that he flees, but what I’ve come to understand about the guy, he’s impenetrable among all offenses. Somehow, I disentangle Lo from my body and button my jeans, my neck heating as I create distance from him.
I stand between Lo by the kitchen and Ryke by the foyer, wondering what the hell I’m supposed to do now.
Lo angles his body so he has a good view of Ryke. “You’re still here.”
Ryke scrutinizes Lo, trying to figure him out from afar. “Lily said you both would help me with research on Comic-Con.”
Lo takes this in. “She agreed to this?” He looks down at me. “That’s unlike you.”
“I owe him.”
Lo’s jaw locks as his eyes flicker to Ryke. “And you can’t come back later?”
“I’m here now. What’s the big deal?”
Lo scowls at him like he’s a moron. “You’re cock-blocking me, that’s the big f**king deal.”
I want to disappear. Like right now.
Ryke glances at me and then tilts his head at Lo without a shadow of insecurity. “Have sex with her later. I’m not stopping you.” He inches closer. “Lily, you want to show me your comics or should I go find them myself?”
Lo interjects. “Hey, I don’t know you. There’s no way in hell you’re going to be alone with her.”
“Lo, it’s fine,” I tell him. Really, I have zero desire to do anything sexual with Ryke, and I’m pretty sure the feeling is mutual.
Ryke inspects Lo once more and then he nods. “If I was you, I’d probably be the same way. Some strange guy creeping in with your girlfriend—I get it. It’s weird.”
“That’s an understatement,” Lo says flatly. “I make out with my girlfriend, you stand there. I put my hand down her pants, you stand there. I tell you I’m going to f**k her, you stand there. What am I supposed to make of that?”
My heart beats wildly, and I’ve lost the ability to breathe. I must be dreaming. Yeah, this is a dream. I’ll wake up soon, but obviously not soon enough.
“That I’m a self-assured guy that likes to get what he wants, and right now that’s information about Comic-Con. Pretty simple, right?”
Lo takes this in.
To nudge his thoughts, I say, “I’ll grab a few New X-Men comics. Stay here.” I don’t give Lo the option of backing out. I disappear into his room, sprinting around to try and gather some issues. After I collect a handful, I rush out of the hallway.
Lo has crept into the kitchen where he opens a cupboard for a glass. When I pass Ryke by the sink, the guy gives me a look like help me.
I’m trying, I mouth.
Try harder, he mouths back.
I flip him off in a knee-jerk reaction, and he rolls his eyes. I set the comics on the counter beside him and then fill the space in the kitchen between Lo and Ryke.
Lo closes the fridge, plopping an ice cube into his whiskey. When he leans an elbow on the counter, he eyes me like come here. He’ll probably wrap an arm around my waist and let me sink my body into his.
No, Lily. I shake my head at him and wade in the center, unsure and uncomfortable.
His face sharpens at the rejection, and he directs his hate onto Ryke. “What do you need to know?”
He shrugs. “Anything.”
“Ever hear of Google?”
“You mean that little search engine on that thing called the internet? No, I’ve never heard of it before. Can you explain that to me too?” He flashes a dry smile.
Lo grits his teeth and looks at me. “Why is he here again?”
“He’s writing an article on Comic-Con, and we owe him a favor.”
Lo inhales sharply. “Fine.” He starts rattling off X-Men characters, mutant powers and how they fit into Earth 616, way too quickly for anyone to understand.
“Wait, wait.” Ryke holds up his hands. “What the hell is Earth 616?”
Lo already looks frustrated. He downs half his drink, and Ryke’s body tightens, as though each time Lo takes a sip is a bullet to his chest. His reaction actually makes me sidle to Lo and try something else.
I stand on the tips of my toes and whisper in his ear, “Hold me.”
Obligingly, Lo sets down his drink and wraps two arms around my hips, leaning my back into his chest. The public display should embarrass me, but Ryke ignores our affection like we’re just standing around.
I cut in, “Earth 616 is the Marvel universe.”
“That’s not too hard to understand,” Ryke says.
One of Lo’s hands creeps beneath my shirt and stays on my stomach. I am a horrible, horrible person. I should push him off and stay focused on the conversation, but if this deters him from drinking, then maybe it’s okay.
Lo says, “Not all Marvel comics take place in Earth 616.”
Ryke cocks his head. “Now I’m confused.”
I try to explain. “It’s used to denote Marvel’s primary continuity. There’s a string of comics that all fit together in sequential time…” I feel something cold on my lower back and stifle a gasp.
Lo runs an ice cube on my skin, teasing…and probably hoping Ryke will take a hint and leave. Concentrate, Lily.
I clear my throat. “Then there are other comics that will take the characters and screw around with them. These comics do not fit into Earth 616.” He slides the cube up my spine, my skin cold and prickling. Oh God… “Like Ultimate X-Men…it…”
The cube melts away and Lo rakes his fingers along the same wet trail. I tuck a piece of my hair back. “..It doesn’t fit in with any of the other X-Men comics. The same way The Ultimates doesn’t fit in with the Avengers line, even though they’re about the Avengers.”
Lo takes a small sip of his drink, and at first, I think my efforts aren’t helping, but he pops an ice cube out of his mouth, not even hiding what he’s doing from Ryke. A hand flies to my eyes, creating a blinder against any sort of judgment and awkwardness. Lo says to Ryke, “They’re alternate universes.”
“What’s better, the main line or the alternate universes?”
“They’re just different.”
The ice shocks me, and I flinch from Lo. I spin around and set my hands on his chest. Stop, I mouth.
His lips find my ear, and I have a feeling he’s glaring at Ryke as he whispers to me, “I’m going to take you so hard, you’re going to come with every thrust. And when you’re swollen and wet, all it’s going to take is me inside of you. I won’t even have to move for you to cry out.” Yes.
No! I try to focus even though my legs quake in desire. I keep my palms on his chest and push him back into the counters, away from me.
He clasps my wrists and devours me with his gaze. I would have put a hand on his shoulder and forced him to his knees by now. And he would willingly hold onto my thighs, spreading my legs open. Focus.
Ryke goes to the fridge. “Which do you guys read?”
Lo mouths to me, Ignore him.
I shake my head and break his hold on my wrists. “We both read Earth 616.”
Just as Ryke returns with a Diet Fizz, Lo picks up his glass again. I guess now that I’ve left his arms, he’s free to drink. Great. If I told him to stop, he’d shoot me one of those looks like maybe you should stop hav**g s*x. Right now, that sounds close to torture.
“You can take those comics,” I tell Ryke, thinking of a new solution quickly. “And you can stop by and return them when you’re done.”
Ryke actually looks impressed that I created a decent lie for him to come back.
Lo glares at me, his fingers tightening around the glass. “I don’t think it’s necessary for him to take our comics. He can sign up for an online subscription.” Ryke’s whole master plan involves becoming friends with Lo. According to him, the relationship will somehow help Lo stop drinking. I don’t understand it completely, but if he’s been around alcoholism, then I trust he knows more than me on good solutions.
“Don’t be rude, Lo,” I say.
He downs the rest of his drink. No, no, no. Before he can make another, I grab his wrists.
His eyebrows cinch. “Lily…” I’ve never told him how I feel about his addiction, and I can see the wheels spinning in his head, wondering if I’m about to f**k with our well-oiled system.
I’m not. I place his hands on my br**sts, and his lips upturn in a crooked smile. He shifts both hands. One goes underneath my shirt, the other hooks around my shoulders, drawing me to his body. My back stays to Ryke, and as Lo kneads my breast, my willpower poofs into nothingness.
“I’ll bring these back tomorrow,” Ryke says. “Have fun f**king.” Oh my God.
Lo says, “You can keep those. Think of it as a gift for helping us at the party.” Translation: We’re even.
“I’d feel better returning them. Thanks for the invite, Lily.” Way to throw me under the bus. The door shuts, and he’s gone.
For a second, I realize Lo may have teased me in front of Ryke only to kick him out. And now that he has left, he may go to his vice and stop feeding mine. My fear lasts a single moment. Lo starts to make good on his promise and slams my back into the fridge. He’s going to take me hard.