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Ten Trends to Seduce Your Bestfriend: Chapter 39


“Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt you and Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I hope you’re both staying hydrated.”

I rolled my eyes at Amelia’s teasing. I supposed Byron was my lover, even though we hadn’t had home-run sex yet.

Amused against my will, I surrendered to a smile. “Ha. And yes, we’re both staying hydrated. And you’re not interrupting. Sorry I didn’t call you back on Monday.”

“It’s fine. I knew you were busy. Everything okay with you two? I’m assuming you worked things out?”

Presently in the bathroom doing my makeup for the awards ceremony tonight, I picked up my concealer sponge and dabbed under my eyes, careful not to rub or pull. “Yes. Everything is wonderful. Thank you.” Despite not yet handing over our V-cards to each other, everything was going swimmingly.

We’d been trading I love yous freely, doing a lot of gross, cute, coupley stuff, like staring at each other and smiling, or randomly kissing in the middle of a discussion, or trying to undress each other in a sneaky way, or forgetting we were in public while hanging out in Central Park and making out on a bench—not hot and heavy or anything, but definitely some serious necking.

We also filmed two more challenge videos. The Bestfriend Fashion Challenge, which had been fun since we’d had to go out and buy Byron clothes that closely matched mine, and the Travel Surprise Challenge. Both were discussed in detail prior to filming as neither made much sense to do off the cuff.

I posted the Travel Surprise Challenge right after filming and editing it, saved the other new video for later, and continued pondering what to do with the Leggings Challenge recording. Byron had told me he didn’t care if I posted the leggings video but had admitted he didn’t want to share our first kiss with the world. Therefore, the Kiss Your Crush video would remain a secret forevermore, to be enjoyed by just us two, and that was perfectly fine with me.

But every time we got close to having sex, and I thought I might lose my mind with wanting him, Byron would pull back, alter our course, or take a breather. I wasn’t necessarily confused about it, and I wasn’t upset. We had all the time in the world, there was no rush. Plus, I was certainly enjoying all the new and wonderful things I was learning about his body.

But I did tell him I would prefer we not turn it into a big deal by trying to make it perfect, or special, or a whole thing. I’d been told several times that a woman’s first time having sexual intercourse wasn’t a pleasant experience, no matter how many rose petals were strewn on a bed or how many candles were lit. I wanted it to feel natural, a healthy extension and progression of a relationship between two people who loved each other, and that’s it.

“I’m glad to hear everything is wonderful.” Amelia sounded like she was smiling. “But I’m not calling to tell you I was right about basically everything, I’m calling about the interview for the community manager position and about the auction.”

Setting the concealer sponge down, I frowned at my array of eye shadow. “The auction?”

“Yeah, you know, your school’s auction? All those books Byron’s publisher is donating? Byron’s agent wants a quote about what the funds will be used for.”

I stared at the mirror, my brain working overtime to figure out what the heck she was talking about. When I couldn’t, I said, “What the heck are you talking about?”

“I’m sure we talked about this. Or maybe—that’s right. Pamela was supposed to give you an update when you were there for the interviews on Saturday.”

“An update about what?”

“Byron’s publisher is donating five hundred signed advanced copies for your school auction to fund your STEM fair, the new books for the library, and the computer lab. Isn’t that nice?”

My stomach swooped, dropping and then lifting. Feeling dizzy, I leaned against the counter. “He . . .”

“Yes. He’s signing the books when he gets back. You know how crazed people are for this last book in the trilogy, you’ll probably raise more than you need. Smart of the school to make it an online auction.”

“Yes. Smart.” I shook my head to clear it, feeling overwhelmed with BETRAYAL! But also, not betrayal.

Byron had promised. That night he’d made me dinner at my apartment and I’d told him about raising money for the STEM fair, he’d promised he wouldn’t do this. He may’ve had more money than he knew how to spend, but taking care of my priorities and obligations, on my own, was important to me. HOW DARE HE!

But also, why hadn’t I wanted his help?

That’s not the point. He promised and he broke his promise.

Except, hadn’t it been silly of me not to accept his help?

Maybe, but that’s still not the point.

But shouldn’t it be a factor?

He went behind your back. How can you ever trust him again?

Eh. I still trusted him. But I was definitely annoyed.

“Winnie? Are you there?”

“Yes. Uh, Amelia, I didn’t know about any of this. I’d heard from a teacher at my school that a bulk donation had occurred, but I didn’t know Byron had been responsible.”

“Oh. Sorry. Shoot! Maybe he wanted to surprise you. Did I ruin a surprise? But I thought for sure Pamela was supposed to talk to you about it at the interviews.”

Tapping my fingers on the countertop, I considered what to do. “When did all this happen?”

“The first week of your summer break.”

Hmm . . . sneaky. “And Byron was the one to offer the books?” I clicked the lid back on my concealer and picked up the brush for my eye shadow.

“I don’t know. You should talk to him. But I do need that statement, the quote. I promised his agent I’d have it back along with whether or not you’re interested in the cosmetics partnership opportunity—which is the real reason I’m calling.”

“Cosmetics partnership?”

“Here, let me shut the door.” Amelia’s line went quiet for a few seconds, and I heard the sound of a door snicking shut. Then she was back. “So, I know I said you’d be perfect for the community manager position, and I still believe they would be lucky to have you, but Ethical Cosmetics reached out to Byron’s agent to ask if you’d be interested in a remote, flexible, contract job where you highlight the technology, research, and engineering that goes into their products on your channels. Everything from the chemical engineering processes to the sustainable ecological practices they use, like the choice not to use palm oil because it leads to deforestation.”

“Huh. That does sound interesting.”

“It pays a lot more than the community manager job, and—not that you asked my opinion—but I think what you’re doing with your social media is really unusual, and that makes you a commodity. Not many creators with your follower count and engagement are embracing STEM-focused content and traditional feminine interests at the same time, and doing both equally well, giving both equal focus. You’ve become this personality now, bigger than what you set out to do. As much as I think you’d be great here, with me, I think maybe the cosmetics partnership might be a better fit for you.”

I valued Amelia’s opinion and her honesty, but this was a lot to take in. “How long do I have to think about it?”

“Well, I need an answer about the community manager interview before you get back from New York. Those are being scheduled now.”

“If I interview and they offer me the job, but I don’t take it, will that make things difficult for you?”

“No. Not at all. In fact, I hope you do interview and you don’t take it. I really want everyone here to meet you, feel the energy you bring, and try to find similar influencers. You already know how I feel, but it bears repeating: we can’t keep thinking about women in STEM as us versus them, where girls are either good at engineering or good at quote, unquote girly things. That’s changing in a big way—it’s already shifted—and companies, nonprofits, advertisers need to catch up. I need the team here to be on the forefront of it.”

“Then yes, I’ll do the interview.” I dabbed my eye shadow brush in the first shade and leaned forward toward the mirror. “But I am very interested in the cosmetics partnership. Do you have any materials? A job description?”

“Yes and yes. I’ll email those to you. And, with your permission, I’ll ask Byron’s agent to reach out to you directly from now on. I love you, but I’m tired of his agency using me as a go-between all the time.”

“Makes sense. And thank you so much. Thank you especially for helping me pull everything together for the awards ceremony tonight.”

“Oh yeah! With everything else going on, I keep forgetting. How does the dress look?”

“I’m doing my makeup now. The dress goes on before the lipstick and powder, but after the eye shadow.”

“Of course, of course. Everyone knows this.” Amelia chuckled. “You should do an industrial engineering–focused video about the most efficient process for getting dressed for a fancy night on the town.”

“Those industrial engineers love their processes.” I grinned as I dusted my right lid with eye shadow. Her idea had merit, and I made a mental note to jot it down. It would also be fun to do a series of parody videos on how each type of engineer got ready for a fancy night on the town. Industrial engineers would of course be obsessed with the process and efficiency, where mechanical engineers might build a machine to store and retrieve each necessary item required to get ready, in order, via automation.

Grinning at the possibilities, I said my goodbyes to Amelia and turned the entirety of my outward focus to applying eye shadow while my brain worked on new ideas for my STEM tutorials and projects. These last few days with Byron had been wonderful and amazing and so precious to me. But I also couldn’t wait to get back to my life in Seattle, all the work and plans I was excited about tackling there.

And now that Byron and I had figured things out, I hoped neither of us would think about the future in terms of my life, or his life, but our life. Together.

“That’s not the point.” My back to the door of the limo, I sat with my hands in my lap and regarded Byron’s grumpy eyebrows. His grumpy eyebrows were adorable, even when they were also stubborn. “The point is that I specifically asked you not to donate anything, and you did.”

“I promised I wouldn’t donate money or items, and I didn’t. My publisher did.”

I laughed, frustrated, and shook my head. “You know it’s the same thing.”

“I promise you, it’s not.” Lip curling slightly with distaste or disgruntlement, he pulled at the cuffs of his suit jacket.

“I don’t care if you’re paying for it or if your publisher is paying for it, I asked you—I specifically told you—I wanted to do it myself.”

He gritted his teeth, his eyelids drooping. My Byron-whisperer skills told me he was extremely frustrated. “These were books earmarked for destruction, two of the pages switched, they were going to throw them away. This is costing my publisher nothing. God, Winnie.” His gaze cut to mine, his patience thin, but his tone remained calm and even. “We’re on the same team here. If I pass you the ball, are you going to say no thank you because you didn’t get it yourself? No. You’re going to score a goal.”

“Yes. You’re right. We’re on the same team. And, I admit, in retrospect, it was very silly of me to turn down your offer.”

Byron blinked, straightening in his seat. “It was?”

“Yes. And in the future, I will not be so hasty to turn down offers from you that make my life easier, okay? But that’s not really what I’m upset about.”

“Then what are you upset about?” He leaned forward, looking curious instead of defensive.

“Like I said, you made a promise to me. Then you broke that promise. I don’t care what the context was, or whether they were going to destroy the books. What I care about is being able to trust you when you make a promise.”

His expression flattened and he stared at me, obviously contemplating and debating my words. After a few seconds, he nodded. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”

I smiled. I’d had no doubt we’d eventually get here, but I loved how willing he was to reassess his decisions when I took the time and energy to communicate my concerns. Maybe he wouldn’t always come to see things from my perspective, but I trusted he’d always be willing to listen.

“You’re forgiven. And I love you.”

The curve of his mouth looked contrite, but also pleased. And this time, when his eyelids drooped, it wasn’t due to of frustration.

“Hey. Come here. Kiss me.”

Bracing my hands on the bench, I leaned forward and closed the distance between us, giving his luscious lips a soft kiss and whispering, “I can’t give you anything more without jeopardizing my makeup.”

“But I’m not wearing any makeup.” I heard the intent in his voice just before I felt his hand on my thigh, just below the tulle of my fluffy skirt. “I could kiss you in other places.”

I grinned, made breathless by his offer as my eyes darted to the raised privacy window. “I think that would jeopardize more than just my makeup.”

He trailed his lips along the line of my jaw, to my neck, then along my collarbone to my shoulders, giving me soft, savoring kisses that had me wondering if it would really be so bad if we skipped the event entirely. My shoulders were bare as the dress was strapless, and he seemed to appreciate how much access this gave him to my skin. But he didn’t bite, or suck, or do anything that might leave a telling mark.

Even so, the soft touches were making me dizzy, my pulse thrumming rapidly, my mind solely focused on his lips, which was probably why I didn’t realize his hand had pushed up my skirt until he nudged my legs apart and pulled the lace of my underwear to one side.

“Are you wearing the red? The one from the photograph?” he demanded, his voice low, barely a grumble.

I nodded, meaning to say yes but all that came out was a high-pitched whimper. He was so good with his hands. His fingers were a miracle. I felt like I was melting, hot and unsteady and inured against everything but his touch.

“Do you love it? What I’m doing?”

“I love it. I do,” I replied, panting.

His other hand slid up the back of my neck, tangled in my hair, and tugged sharply. “Don’t come. Let me know when you’re close.”

“Don’t come?” I squeaked. Was he serious?

“I want you wet all night. I want you to ache for me. I want to know, every time I look at you, that you’re thinking about this moment. Do you know why?”

I shook my head mindlessly, tilting and rocking my hips, chasing my climax. But he must’ve realized how close I was, because his touch became light, teasing. He slid the tip of his tongue from my clavicle to my ear, and whispered, “Because it’s all I’ll be thinking about too.”

With one more gentle kiss, he withdrew his hands completely, slowly and methodically righting the front of my skirt, and leaned back, leaving me hot and needy and incredibly frustrated.

My eyelashes fluttered open and I glared at him. “That wasn’t very nice.”

He brought his middle finger to his mouth, placed up to the first knuckle inside, and slowly sucked my arousal off his fingertip. “But you love it.”

“I do.”

He plucked my hand from my lap, bringing my wrist to his lips. “And you love me.”

“I do.”

“And so it wasn’t very nice, but it was very good.”

I nodded, unable to tear my eyes away from him, my heart beating like the wings of a hummingbird. Byron filled every space he entered in a way that had more to do with his intrinsic presence than with his height and size, he always had. I felt my breaths grow shallower the longer I stared.

This was what desire felt like—the pain, longing, frustration, the torture. I used to hate this feeling, but now I loved it, I wanted it, just as I loved and wanted him.

Our limo slowed while Byron was still pressing kisses along the thin skin on my wrist and the interior of my forearm and elbow. And when the limo came to a stop, he stilled and closed his eyes. His grip on my hand tightened, and I listened as he inhaled deeply.

“I don’t want to do this,” he said. “I won’t be able to speak. I won’t be able to think. I hate this.”

“I know.” Shifting the hand he held, I forced him to lift his chin. I wanted to press our foreheads together. “But I will be next to you. And I will be your voice and distract those who would seek to monopolize your attention. And I will kiss you and touch you.”

“It’s not fair that you have to rescue me again.”

“I don’t know about that.” I played with the short strands of his hair at the back of his neck. “We’re on the same team. If I pass you a ball, are you going to say no thank you? Or are you going to score a goal?”

He grunted, but I saw the beginnings of a reluctant smile eclipse his earlier misery.

“We will find a quiet, dark corner where we can be together, just the two of us.”

“And what will we do there?” Byron angled his head back, his hands content to hold mine.

“Oh, I’m sure we’ll figure something out.” I winked at him just as the door on his side opened, noise and light and the smell of exhaust rushing in.

But Byron only had eyes for me, and his small smile didn’t waver, not even when we left our bubble of contentment and the lights flashed and the crowd pressed forward. We were in this together, giving and receiving strength from the other, and it was so much more than I’d ever dared to dream, or ask for, or allowed myself to want.


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