Bella Jacobs hesitated only a moment before changing her status from “In a Relationship” to “Single.” Her hesitation had nothing to do with how she felt about Mark, and everything to do with the questions she knew were going flood her inbox and phone.
As soon as she changed it, she immediately logged out and closed her laptop. It was less than ten minutes before her sister called. She didn’t answer. Bella wasn’t ready to talk to her about it yet, to Nicole with her perfect life. Nicole would never, could never understand what it was like for Bella, not really. Nicole was pretty, petite and perfect. She had a perfect husband, perfect kids and a perfect house. She didn’t know anything about being overweight, single, and almost thirty.
After staring at the once again silent phone, Bella sighed, got up off the couch, and went into the kitchen. Romeo, the plump tabby that Bella had adopted from the shelter a couple years before, followed her as he always did.
Romeo meowed his charming meow and planted himself by his food bowl. He knew her moods and knew that when she was upset, she made herself indulgent comfort foods. And when she indulged herself, she indulged him as well. Romeo rubbed against her leg purring, waiting for the food that didn’t come.
This evening Bella just leaned against the counter and sighed. Mark, like too many guys she had dated, had been a world-class jerk beneath a thin veneer of niceness. Sure, he had been good-looking, but he was also vain, and it didn’t take long before he began preying upon her doubts of self-worth to make himself feel better. The final straw was when he had the nerve to say to her, “I don’t care what my friends say, I like fat girls”. Looking back at it now, she knew that she had stayed with him too long.
Bella finally obeyed Romeo’s meowing when the meowing turned from charming to imperative. She got some cheese out of the refrigerator to crumble into his bowl.
“I’m not fat. Not really…” she said to Romeo knowing that he would agree.
Bella knew that she wasn’t anyone’s definition of skinny and never had been. She loved food too much. She was definitely full-figured, but Mark had made it sound like she was morbidly obese. He was definitely a jerk.
‘And didn’t his face look shocked when I told him to get out,’ she thought with a smile. ‘A pretty guy like him certainly wasn’t used to fat girls like me doing the dumping.’
What had upset her was that she had known he was a jerk, and had known she was going to break up with him. She just couldn’t get herself to do it before it hurt. Hearing the word ‘fat’ hurt. Knowing that she had been forced into being alone again, hurt. Knowing that, once again, she’d been a fool to believe some guy’s lies, hurt.
Romeo finished the cheese and again rubbed against her legs pulling her out of her thoughts. Bella scooped him up and cuddled him to her ample bosom. She rubbed her cheek against his head as he rubbed his head against her cheek in return.
“But you love me, don’t you, Romeo?” she asked listening to his relaxed purring. “You don’t care how much I weigh or what size dress I wear, do you?”
“Meow,” Romeo answered.
“You’re the last of the good men,” she decided never wanting to let him go.
Bella looked up when the phone rang again. Crossing the room to see who it was it took only a second for her to decide to answer it. Dylan Cole had been her friend since high school. They had been in many of the same classes freshman year, and like every other girl in school she couldn’t help but notice how gorgeous he was. When so many boys were gangly and awkward, he was already tall and lean. He had dark curly hair and bright blue eyes. All the girls fawned over him, including her sister Nicole, who was already a junior.
Bella had been utterly surprised when he had started joking with her in homeroom and then sitting with her during lunch. It turned out that they liked many of the same books, movies, and music so their friendship came easily and naturally. Of course, harboring a secret crush on him for years, she did have to bury her bitter jealousy as he dated one perky cheerleader after another. But what made it a lot easier was that those girls came and went, while their friendship only deepened.
“Hi, Dylan,” she said cradling both Romeo and the phone. “If you say one word about Mark, I’ll hang up.”
“I have nothing to say on the subject,” he reassured her. “What are you up to?”
“Nothing. Taking a bath and going to bed.”
“Sounds great. On my way.”
Bella giggled in the way that only Dylan could make her. “Yeah, right. You can make sure I don’t miss any spots.”
“You know it, gorgeous.” He paused. “Seriously, I’m at the video store; I already picked up a couple bottles of wine. I’ll be there in about ten minutes.”
“Dylan…” Bella allowed the wiggling Romeo to escape from her arms and then crossed into the living room. “Dylan, I really don’t feel like talking about it.”
“Talking about what? I’m bringing over a movie or two and we’re going to have some wine. Maybe I’ll be able to convince you to make me some of your famous mac-and-cheese?” He paused again. “Look, pretty lady, I don’t know about you but I had kind of a crappy day and I’d like to just chill for a while with my best friend. If you really don’t want me to come over, I guess I could go home.”
Bella looked at the framed photo of Dylan and herself by the television. It was taken a few summers before at a Renaissance Faire. He’d convinced her to dress up, and although she’d been uncomfortable at first, it wasn’t long before she was relaxed and having fun. It was always fun with him, and their smiles in the picture were proof.
“Okay,” she said finally. “I’ll even make dinner. What movies are you getting?”
“I don’t know, something stupid with lots of explosions, probably.”
He knew her so well. After yet another break up, the last thing she wanted to see was a movie with even a hint of romance.
“Sounds good. See you soon.”
Bella set a pot of water to boil and then exited to change into her pajamas. ‘Another nice thing about Dylan,’ she thought as she undressed, ‘I don’t have to worry about dressing up in uncomfortable clothes, pretending to be someone I’m not whenever he comes over. He’s seen me at my worst and accepts me just as I am.’
Bella opened the drawer and instinctually reached for her break-up uniform. The ancient sweatpants and ratty tee-shirt was almost a dress code in times like this. But something told her not to. Allowing her hand to drift to it without thought she instead fingered her rose-colored silk lounge set. She had gotten it just in case someone special had ever deserved to see her in it; nobody ever had.
Tonight, though, was the night. Bella slipped into the lounge set adding the fuzzy slippers Dylan had gotten her last Christmas. Quickly checking out herself in the mirror, she returned to the kitchen to start the mac-n-cheese. As a chef, this was, by no means, the most extravagant thing that she could make, but it was Dylan’s favorite. Although Bella didn’t cook for just anyone in her personal life, she always considered cooking for Dylan as something special.
Dylan kissed her hello on the cheek as he usually did, then stopped, took a step back and gave her a wolf-whistle. “Nice jammies,” he said.
She smiled and waved him off. “What movies did you get?”
“Something absolutely terrible called Revenge Served Cold and its even worse sequel, amusingly entitled Revenge Served Warm.” He tossed the bag from the video store onto the couch and followed her into the kitchen with the bottles of wine. “I saw the first one on cable a few weeks ago. It was so bad I swear it must have been a money-laundering scheme.”
As Dylan walked behind her he was unable to take his eyes off of Bella. The way the dusky pink silk caressed her sensuous curves was an entirely unexpected, but not at all unwelcome, surprise. He found himself nearly envying the fabric. “Quite possibly the worst movie ever made,” he continued distracted.
“And you chose to share it with me,” Bella said, turning to take the bottles from him. “I’m so flattered.”
Dylan managed a smile. “You know there’s no one I’d rather share horrible movies with, gorgeous.”
She laughed lightly and nodded toward the table. “Food’s almost ready. Do you want to eat first, or watch while we eat?”
“We should eat first,” he said. “I can’t promise you’d be able to keep anything down if we try to eat during.”
Dylan admired her as she laughed then turned away to sit. Turning his gaze back toward her, he watched as she glided around the kitchen. Lost in her work, she seemed to ignore him completely.
Dylan continued to admire her every movement. Her hair was still up from her shift at work, so no matter how she turned he could see her face. As she always did when she cooked she seemed to achieve a sort of transcendental state. He had seen it many times. It was more than just her facial expression, there was something more about her that made her look beautiful. Here was a woman in the simple bliss of living her passion. It made Dylan aroused just thinking about it.
Dylan thought back to the first time he saw such a look on her face. Their sophomore year of high school she’d taken a Food and Nutrition class and he had once cut gym to see her. It was then that he saw it. Hers was a look of bliss that made him as certain as she was that the only proper career for her was in culinary arts.
Bella wasn’t a fat girl who would eat anything in sight. She was a curvy woman who loved good food. The only problem with her, as far as he could tell, was she simply had no idea how amazing she was. He’d been telling her for years, but she didn’t believe him. It was like his opinion didn’t matter to her. It drove him crazy. More than once he’d resorted to drastic measures. When that also didn’t work, he had turned it into a game.
The first time he had been over to Bella’s house was junior year when she had been testing out a dessert recipe for her Advanced Foods class. Things hadn’t been going well in the kitchen. She had gotten frustrated and had turned to him proclaiming that she would just buy whipped cream instead of trying to make it herself.
“Oh, no you won’t,” he’d told her. “If you cheat, I’ll make you sorry.”
She had flapped a hand at him dismissively as she passed by him to get her purse. “Sure, sure. What are you going to do, spank me?”
He took hold of her arm to stop her. “That’s exactly what I’ll do,” he said.
She had looked at him, eyebrows raised. “You wouldn’t dare.”
“If you think so, go ahead and take another step,” he challenged. Dylan’s initial intent had been more to keep her from compromising her work by giving up when things got difficult. He knew she could do it, and only needed the encouragement to try again. But at the mention of spanking her, the idea had made him unexpectedly excited. He didn’t want to hurt her. He knew it wouldn’t hurt her. But he thought that it might let her know that he was serious about keeping her from giving up on herself.
Bella held his gaze, bit her lower lip, then, with slow deliberation, took another step forward.
“I warned you,” Dylan said before drawing his other hand back and delivering a solid whack across her rump.
Bella gasped as pink flooded her plump face and her eyes widened in her shock. “Dylan!”
“Now you can either go give it another try, or you can find out just how serious I am about not letting you give up and cheat. What’s it going to be?”
Dylan had almost hoped she would test him. Instead, she dropped her gaze and turned back, her cheeks still pink as she again picked up her whisk.
After that moment, his playful acts of punishment had become something they both looked forward to, although neither would admit to the other just how much. More often than not, Bella would deliberately test Dylan. She would saucily turn and half-bent, she would smirk at him over her shoulder, wordlessly daring him. Every time she did, he would oblige, usually with three quick swats across her round ass that would leave her giggling and blushing.
As time progressed, there were times when it wasn’t so playful. When one of Dylan’s friends asked Bella to the Senior Prom, she was certain she that she had only been asked as a favor to Dylan. She didn’t want to go; she didn’t want to bother shopping for a dress; and most of all, she didn’t want to have to tell Dylan’s friend ‘thanks, but no thanks’.
When Dylan finally asked her why she was delaying, she had avoided his gaze and muttered, “No one wants to see a fat girl ruin prom, Dylan.”
Dylan looked back at Bella amazed that she would say that about herself. Both he and his friends had noticed how she had gotten taller, and was no longer the chubby girl from freshman year. It hadn’t been Dylan’s idea for his friend to ask her to prom, but Dylan was certainly looking forward to seeing her dressed up and stealing her for a dance or two. The truth was that his buddy had been talking about asking her to prom for months. If it wasn’t for that, he might have asked her himself just to make sure that she was there.
“The only way you could ruin it is if you don’t go,” Dylan had told her. “You aren’t fat, Annie.”
He was the only one who ever called her that. Her nickname came from the musical that they had seen together. She, like the character, too often displayed a fierce optimism as a façade to hide her insecurity and low self-esteem. Like the spanking, it was something that only they shared. It made them feel closer to each other and that was something they both wanted.
“You have to be nice to me because you’re my friend,” she had continued, still not looking at him. “I know what I look like, and I know I’d look ridiculous in one of those dresses. Forget it.”
“I think the problem is you don’t know what you look like,” Dylan had countered. “You’re pretty and not everyone thinks a girl needs to be scarecrow-skinny.”
Bella had finally looked at him. The girl he had been dating, the girl he would certainly be taking to the prom, was one of those “scarecrow-skinny” types, just like all the others he’d dated through high school.
Although she still, deep down, had those same feelings for him she’d had since freshman year, she rarely let herself think about them anymore. Their friendship had become such a deep and close one, so important to her, that the contradictions between the girls he dated and the way he chastised her for criticizing her own appearance barely even registered. But now she just couldn’t bear the thought of having to see him spending the evening looking so fine with some perfect, petite, perky girl all over him.
“I’m not going. He can ask some other fat girl.”
“I’m not taking no for an answer,” he had told her. “You’re gonna buy a dress. You’re gonna look beautiful, have a wonderful time, and later you’re gonna thank me for making you change your mind.”
“Do I have to put you over my knee?”
She had sighed and shook her head. It was obvious to her that he didn’t understand. He was gorgeous and fit, and no one had ever looked at him and whispered or giggled the way they did to her. He didn’t know what it was like to look at himself in a mirror and hate what he saw. This wasn’t some playful defiance game to her. This was survival.
Dylan, who had no concept of any of this, just sat down in one of the kitchen chairs and gestured at his lap. “Come here.”
“No,” she’d answered half curious if he would actually do it.
“I said come here.”
For the first time, his expression wasn’t playful. He was serious and her heartbeat quickened as she felt her cheeks heating. The intensity of his gaze arrested her, pulling her forward. Finding herself in front of him, she meekly bent forward across his thighs.
“No one gets to talk about you that way,” he’d said, drawing his hand back. He swatted her sharply and she gasped. “Not even you, Annie. You’re a lovely girl with a pretty face and beautiful curves. You’re funny and smart and too good to be wasting time with most of the guys around here. Now I want you to admit to yourself that’s true.”
“Dylan,” she had begun, still bent over his lap.
He swatted her again. “I said admit it.”
“I admit it,” she had said, eyes closed and feeling the heat in her cheeks spreading through her whole body.
“Now agree to go to the dance.”
“I don’t –”
The third spank was harder. Bella had bit her lip to keep a sound from escaping. It hadn’t exactly hurt. What it had done was stir up quite a storm of confusing feelings within her, especially since unlike the first two times, the third time, he hadn’t pulled his hand away from her rump.
Bella took a slightly shaky breath, then said softly, “I’ll go to the dance.”
“Good girl,” Dylan had said. “Do you want me to go dress shopping with you?”
She had straightened slowly, unable to look at him again, although now it was for entirely different reasons than a few minutes before. “Sure. That would be great. Thanks.”
As the two now ate dinner, no mention was made of Bella’s new ex, Mark. Similarly, neither mentioned the year that had passed since Dylan had dated anyone. Instead, they enjoyed dinner, which was excellent, and the two talked about their jobs and the upcoming Fantasy Festival they planned to attend.
After they finished eating, Dylan cleaned up, as he always insisted on doing whenever she cooked for him, and Bella opened the second bottle of wine. She still didn’t want to talk about her break-up with Mark, but after refilling their glasses, Bella found herself sighing anyway.
“I don’t know why I expected anything else. I guess I should just give up on the whole idea of dating.”
Dylan closed the dishwasher and leaned against the counter, crossing his arms over his chest as he gave her a look. His expression was one that mixed stern disapproval with sympathy and a hint of amusement. The amusement wasn’t because he found her anguish funny, it was because after all of these years, she was still blind to her own value.
“Maybe you should just stop dating jerks,” he suggested with a hint of frustration.
“That’s easy for you to say,” she muttered, lifting her wineglass to take a sip. “It’s not like I’m being flooded with offers. I can’t afford to be picky like some people.”
“Annie,” he said, a little sharply. “You certainly can, and you absolutely should.” Dylan paused and took a breath, lowering his arms to his sides. “I hate to see you go through this kind of thing.” He moved back to the table and picked up his glass. “I want you to promise me you’re going to set your standards higher.”
She scoffed softly. “Promise you I’ll just stay single, you mean?”
“It’s not like I haven’t tried, Dylan,” she interrupted, putting her glass down. “None of them start off on the first date, or the third date, being honest about what creeps they are. No, they just start digging at my self-esteem, and making me feel bad about myself until I’m right back to being the fat girl in high school. It’s the only way they can get a girl to stay with them, to make them too broken to leave.”
Angry, Bella wiped the tear from her cheek with a fist. “Well, forget it. I don’t care anymore. I can be single. I can be the best damn fat chef in town. I can be the best damn fat aunt ever.”
“Annie,” Dylan said again, pulling the chair out from the table and sitting down. “Do you think that curves like yours mean you aren’t beautiful and deserve a guy who will treat you right?”
She sighed. “Please, not now. I’m too tired for a pep-talk, Dylan.”
“I’m not gonna try to give you a pep-talk,” he said reluctantly. “You seem to have made up your mind not to listen to me tonight no matter what I say.”
She nodded, relieved he wasn’t going to insist on it for a change.
“But that doesn’t mean I’m just going to let you go on like this, ignoring the facts.”
When she met his gaze again the silent command was there. She felt a fast rise of conflicting emotions.
“It’s been a while since I’ve had to spank you for this. I guess it’s time, isn’t it?’
“Sure,” she replied with a little half-smile on her mouth, immediately starting to feel better. “Because it’s so naughty of me to be down on myself, right?”
“It is,” he said, still holding her gaze levelly. “If you can stand there not knowing how beautiful you are, I’m failing you as a friend. If I have to put you over my knee and spank you, then I will.”
Bella shook her head slightly. Of all people, Dylan was the only one she felt had never failed her. He had always been there for her, especially on nights like tonight, when she foolishly thought what she had wanted was to be alone with her misery.
“Don’t argue with me,” he chided with mock severity. Dylan adopted that over-the-top scowl that always made her giggle. When she couldn’t keep the amusement buried he smiled too. “Come here and accept your punishment, Annie.”
“Fine,” she conceded, stepping forward to bend over his lap. He would swat her behind a few times like he always did, and she would either giggle like she sometimes did or she wouldn’t. Afterward they would go watch one or both of the bad movies and the subject would be dropped for a while. That seemed to be their unspoken plan and Bella liked it.
Bella approached Dylan’s knees and looked down. There was something different in his eyes. She couldn’t quite determine what it was but it made her a little excited.
Getting onto her knees she again looked into Dylan’s eyes hoping to share the playfulness of the moment with him. Instead of seeing that familiar glint back, she saw his hand reach up and rest on her back between her shoulders. “Down,” he commanded, pressing lightly.
Bella resisted for a moment. This was new. Before now she had always willing laid on his lap. Now it felt like he was controlling her. For the first time she felt helpless to his will and it made her heart race. She allowed Dylan’s strong had to lower her onto his knees and she liked it.
Once on his lap, Bella felt Dylan switch hands. It was now his left holding her down, freeing up his right. Her breath quickened as she imagined his hand drawing back.
“Promise me… no, promise yourself you’ll raise your standards and stop dating jerks,” he said.
Before Bella could continue, his hand connected with her ass sharply. With only the silk between his skin and hers, the spank was a whole new experience. It tingled, and made her gasp like the spankings had when they were in high school, only much more so.
“Promise, Annie,” Dylan said with earnestness in his voice.
Her hands tightened as she gripped onto the hard muscle of his thigh for support. “I promise.”
His left hand caressed down her back sending a new tingle down her spine.
“Now admit to yourself out loud that you are beautiful just the way you are.”
Bella bit her lower lip and closed her eyes. Not only was what he was asking ridiculous and impossible, she felt a burning desire to know what he would do if she refused. Her face flushed at the idea.
After a moment of silence Dylan realized she wasn’t going to comply. She couldn’t see it but a small smile crept across his face. He drew back and spanked her again. “Say it, Annie,” he demanded.
Bella squeezed her eyes and mouth closed, trying her best to keep her moans from escaping. It wasn’t as if she had forgotten how attractive he was. How could she, when she saw him almost every day, and he’d only gotten more handsome as the years went by? The crush she had had in high school hadn’t really died, despite being buried deep. It had simply changed as it was nurtured by their friendship and enriched by his constant care for her. And now, laying across his lap, she had an overwhelming desire to keep him touching her for as long as possible.
“Stubborn girl,” Dylan whispered loud enough for Bella to hear. “I see I’ll have to be more firm with you.”
Still holding her down with his left, he surprising slid his right hand up to her waist. Bella tensed. This too was new and if he started tickling her, that just wouldn’t be fair at all. Instead, his fingertips hooked the elastic waistband of her pajama pants and she instantly lost her breath.
Bella’s eyes flung open as Dylan slowly pulled down her silken pants exposing her bare bottom. His left hand was still on her back. If it hadn’t been she might have given in to her surprise and pulled away. Even confined she needed to know what he was doing. Why had he changed the game in this way?
If she could have seen his face, she would have seen the way his gaze was fixed on the curves revealed by the lowering silk. She would have seen the expression of barely-restrained hunger at the sight of the creamy skin and round buttocks.
“Beautiful,” he breathed, so softly she could barely hear him.
When the waistband of her pants was across the tops of her thighs he stroked his hand back up. His touch was light, almost reverent, and it fueled her feelings for him. When he spanked her again, it was softer, and his hand lingered, turning the swat into a caress.
Bella closed her eyes trying to silence her soft moans. Upon his first touch on her bare skin, every nerve in her body seemed to spark warmth. When he spanked her bare ass again, that warmth had flared into heat. It raced up from his strong hand, causing her body to tremble and her head to flood with dizzying desire. Reaching its peak, the sensation then retreated down her where it settled in the swelling folds between her legs. She moaned louder unable to control herself.
The third spank on her bare skin was a little harder, but again immediately became a caress. The tingling between her legs intensified in reply and was followed by a subtle throb. She had no idea what had prompted him to change the game this way, but she couldn’t focus her mind to consider it. She was consumed by arousal, and lost to his touch.
Struggling to gather her wits she realized that nothing she thought she knew of herself prepared her for this. To become so excited by this sensual punishment confused her. To yearn for the next swat, helpless and hot, made her feel out of control. When she found herself wishing that his strikes were lower so that he could see how wet she had become, it woke her up.
“I am beautiful just the way I am,” she spit out realizing how much she had lost control.
Bella endured what felt like an endless pause before Dylan replied. When he did his voice was much softer than it was before.
“Yes, you are,” he replied. “You are, Annie.” Dylan subtly cleared his throat and used both hands to pull her pants up.
Slowly, Bella lifted from his lap. Dylan, who seemed at a loss as to what to do next, stood and turned quickly, replacing the chair in its usual position at the table. Without turning back to her he excused himself with a low mutter and exited into the bathroom.
Guilt quickly filled Bella. She was sure that she had moaned too loudly and had made Dylan feel uncomfortable. Justifying her loss of control she blamed him for changing the game on her. His spanking had aroused her and he knew it, now things were awkward. It was just the remnants of a school-girl crush she told herself. He had to understand that. It was nothing that he had to worry about.
Bella anxiously grabbed her wineglass and took a swig. Unable stand still as the remaining sparks exploded within her loins, she crossed into the living room. Seeing the pair of movies on the coffee table, she grabbed the first and stuck it into the DVD player. She would pretend like none of this had happened much like she treated her crush for Dylan many years earlier.
“Listen, uh, I’m going to head home.”
Bella turned around finding Dylan standing in the doorway. His eyes were lowered and his head was slightly turned away from her. ‘He can’t look at me,’ she thought.
“I’ll call you later, okay?”
“Okay,” Bella said, even though she felt it was anything but okay. “Be careful getting home, Dylan.”
“You know I will. Have a good night, gorgeous.”
Bella followed Dylan to the door. In one swift move the door was open and he was through. He never looked back. Watching him leave felt like getting her heart broken all over again, but this time worse. Mark had just been another jerk, but the rejection she now felt from Dylan meant something. The void that Dylan created by his early departure seemed to suck the life out of her as he left.
Bella locked the door behind him and collapsed onto the door frame. Why did things have to change? Not that she could blame Dylan for feeling awkward. This was their game and the rules had been clear, hadn’t they? It certainly wasn’t his fault that after all these years she still desired him. He couldn’t have known what it would do to her when he pulled down her pants to spank her bare ass.
The only thing she couldn’t understand was why he would have done such a thing to begin with. Their spanking game had always been playful, even if Dylan often used it to make his point. Why had tonight been any different. Why did she find it so arousing this time?
Bella quickly straightened up wanting to bring an end to the night as quickly as possible. ‘He always calls me “pretty lady” and “gorgeous”. That’s why it happened,’ she considered. ‘How could I not fall for him with him saying things like that. And why hasn’t he dated anyone in so long?’ His undivided attention was seductive. How could she help but be aroused by him. ‘He could understand, right?’ she thought. ‘He would have to.’
Curling into a fetal position in bed, she felt the light thump of Romeo joining her. Without hesitation, she gathered him into her arms and pulled him close.
“Why can’t men be more like cats, Romeo,” she asked him as she pulled him close. “You just love me no matter what, don’t you?”
“Meow,” answered Romeo.
“I know,” she sighed. “Maybe you could give the men in my life some pointers.”
Bella focused on the warm vibrating body in her arms. It didn’t take long for Romeo to fall asleep, but for Bella and her racing thoughts, sleep was a long time coming.
In the three days following her break-up, Bella talked to just about everyone except Dylan. As hours had turned into days, she began to wonder what exactly had happened. It was just a game, wasn’t it? Sure, she had committed a foul, but certainly that wasn’t enough to abandon their friendship altogether, was it?
Bella agonized over whether or not to call him, and what to say if she did. Instead of doing something, she simply did nothing. She threw herself into work with more passion and self-demanding perfection than usual. Once she got home, she would turn her full attention to Romeo spoiling him rotten with fresh salmon and heavy cream.
Each day followed like this until, at last, the phone rang and it was Dylan. Bella kept her voice calm and her greeting casual.
“Hey, stranger. How’s tricks?”
“Tricky,” he replied. “You busy tonight, gorgeous?”
“Not even close,” she said with a near laugh “What’s the plan? Are we going to watch more bad movies?”
Dylan’s pause seemed unusually weighted. “No… How about you come over here, I’ll make you dinner for a change?”
“Wow,” she chuckled. “Really? You’re going to cook for me?” When he didn’t laugh with her, she sobered, wondering what was on his mind. “Sure, I’ll come over. Of course.”
“Great,” he said. “See you in about half an hour. Is that okay?”