He managed to make it all of two days before masturbating to the thought of Elena’s naked body perched on the edge of his table, and five days before talking to Alice.
“Elena stopped by, you know, the other night,” he mentioned casually as they were hauling tote boxes from the back loading area after a catering event the night before.
“Really?” Alice asked breathlessly as she lifted a heavy box.
“Yeah. I cooked for her, like you said.”
“I’m surprised she didn’t mention it,” Alice remarked, setting her box on the floor.
Thad considered how to make his next move. He had to be very careful here to get what he wanted.
“Probably because I was sort of an ass.”
“Regular-you-ass or pissed-you-ass?”
He scrunched his face in fake ire, making Alice smile.
“The pissed version. It was the night Gerry quit on me. And she came over really late, at like 11, with no ride home.”
“She stays too late at school, I’ve told her. It’s not fair to her driver to have such late hours. But what do I know about the life of an artist,” Alice laughed, flicking her hand with dainty flair.
“Yeah she mentioned that, learning to drive,” Thad said, trying to muster a casual tone and quell his excitement.
“I guess I mentally erased driver’s ed. She needs something wild like 50 hours with a licensed driver.”
“She didn’t drive in Brazil?”
“Apparently Elena drove a motorcycle, unlicensed.”
“What?” Thad asked, suddenly upset. Alice looked over at him.
“You know that’s possible, right? For a woman to drive a motorcycle?”
Thad pursed his lips, saying nothing, feeling how close he was to destroying his carefully spun web.
“Anyway, Mateo insisted she learn how to drive. From what the driver tells me, she’s pretty aggressive.”
Yeah, he didn’t doubt that for a minute.
“She can’t practice with a paid chauffeur,” he said. “He’s never going to tell her if she’s breaking the laws.”
“What, you offering yourself?”
Thad schooled himself to remain nonchalant, unpacking a tote and setting out its contents.
“I never said that.”
“Yeah, but you taught Javi and Enzo to drive way back when.”
Thad swallowed, feeling Alice fall unawares into his trap. Yes, the Honduran twin brothers who had worked for them back when the restaurant was new. He had taught them to drive, painstakingly, and had found it surprisingly rewarding. Alice had gushed over it, praising him endlessly, as if it was the first nice thing she’d ever seen him do. And maybe it had been. Thad’s own memories of learning to drive with his older brother had been important to him. It wasn’t a thing to be taken lightly.
“Way back when, exactly,” he shrugged.
“You were so patient with them, they talked about it all the time, how great you were.”
Thad said nothing, crouching and stowing pots and pans in the cabinets under the island.
“And Elena does need someone who can set her straight. If she gets in an accident, Mateo will be furious.”
“At her, or at the other guy?” Thad laughed.
“Both,” Alice said seriously. “He’s super protective of her. I can tell she doesn’t like it.”
Thad stood up, interested. Alice was leaning against the island, as if she’d known he’d take this bait.
“What, she rebels?”
“Kind of. I can hear them fighting sometimes, in Portuguese. Mateo won’t tell me about what, just says that Elena’s still angry about how he left Brazil. But that doesn’t make sense, you know, because now Elena left too. So there has to be more than that, but I can tell not to press him. Afterwards he’s so broody, and he gives her a long leash for a while.”
Thad shifted his stance slightly towards the table, the thought of Elena on a leash a bit too enticing for work hours.
“Don’t worry about it,” Thad reassured Alice, something he did often. “They’ve been apart a long time. They need time to figure out how to be a family again.”
Alice looked at him again, her eyes lingering on his face, and Thad wondered what he’d said.
“I wish she’d confide in me a little,” Alice confessed softly. “I really would try to understand. But she sees me as ‘team Mateo,’ you know, and keeps her distance.”
“It’s not like you go running to people for comfort when you’re upset.”
“True,” she laughed.
“Things will get easier. Especially when she isn’t stuck in that ridiculous mansion, talking to statues for company.”
Alice laughed again. They felt the same way about Mateo’s rather ostentatious displays of wealth.
“Exactly. Which is why she needs that license. And why she needs you to help get her there faster.”
Help get her there faster, he thought, squeezing his calves to calm his dick down. If he had a hard on in front of Alice, he’d curl up and die. God, he was going crazy.
“Well, maybe I can stop by Thursday. She said she drives then, and it’ll be slow here.”
He chose not to look at Alice just then, worried he’d see a sly little smirk on her face, now that he’d bahis siteleri shown his hand.
“She’ll probably tell me to fuck off, if I’m honest,” he laughed to himself.
“You must have been in some mood,” Alice said, and he thought he detected suspicion in her tone.
“Well, let’s see,” he drawled, pulling on an apron as if to signal the conversation was almost over.
“I yelled at her, and called her stupid for taking the streetcar at night, cooked her a meal she didn’t particularly like, and then made her leave.” The last part was a lie, but it seemed better than to admit he forced her to accept a ride home.
Alice’s eyebrows rose. “Wow, you are a gem.”
Thad laughed in earnest. Alice always knew how to make him laugh.
He turned away, slipping earbuds in as he turned to the mixer to start some dough. Alice knew the signal well, and began her own work. They said nothing more about it, and, seed planted, now all Thad had to do was wait.
“What is this?” Elena asked when she saw him from the top of the staircase.
Thad shifted his weight, his hands shoved in his jean pockets.
“I told Alice I’d take you for driving practice. Give your chauffeur a break.”
Elena descended, her hand sliding on the bannister. Inexplicably, Thad felt again surprised by her changed appearance. She wore gray lounge pants and a baby pink hooded sweatshirt with LAX screen printed in big white letters. Her hair was up in a high ponytail, and he wished it was down. He liked it down. The outfit made her look younger than she said she was, younger than the woman’s body he knew hid underneath.
She waited until she was off the last step before speaking to him. Thad resented her willpower.
“Is that right? You’re here to do a little volunteer work?”
Thad stiffened, telling himself to give her the benefit of the doubt. English was her second language, after all.
“Not volunteering, helping out a friend.”
“Oh, so we are friends?” No doubt about that one. Her tone was icy.
“I’d like us to be.”
She said nothing to this, looking him up and down for a long while. Glancing down at himself, he half expected a mustard stain or something.
“Every time I see you, you look different,” she murmured, and he felt his heart drum loudly in his chest.
“First a beautiful suit, then a chef’s jacket, now leather and denim. It makes it hard for me to know who you are.”
It was as if she had spoken his own thoughts aloud, and Thad was momentarily unable to respond.
“Well, I’m definitely not that suit,” he finally muttered.
This made her smile a little, and he felt the throb of victory.
“Yes, Mateo mentioned how difficult you were to dress.”
“Well, I’m a lumbering ogre, what can you expect?”
She glanced up, her smile wider.
“I meant in your disposition, not your body.”
Thad felt embarrassed, his heart still thudding painfully. Elena crossed her arms in front of her chest, lifting her chin to consider him.
“You have a good body, Thaddeus. A strong body.”
Thad’s embarrassment soared higher, and he wondered faintly if she was making fun of him.
But her smile lingered, gentle. He’d never felt this confused in his whole life.
“You should be impressed,” she went on mildly. “That I know the word ‘ogre.’ That is a hard one.”
She pronounced it “oh-gray,” and Thad bit his lip to keep from smiling.
“You are very good at impressing me,” he replied, and her gaze darted up to his. She knew the meaning behind his words, her words really, from that first night.
“Am I?” she mused softly.
“And I am very good at fucking things up,” he went on in a calm tone, and she looked at him again with the same sharpness.
“I fucked things up with you Elena, and I’m sorry. I had hoped you really would come to the restaurant, and then you did, and I ruined it.” It was a speech he had rehearsed to himself in advance, whispering it in the car as he drove. It was rare that he apologized openly, but he couldn’t risk her misunderstanding him.
“Well, they make pills for that, now I know,” she replied offhandedly, and he couldn’t believe her blaise reaction.
“I meant the whole night, not just the last part.”
She frowned a little, lifting a bare foot and resting it on her inner knee, rubbing it against the fabric of her pants. He wondered if she was cold here, in America, comparatively.
“Things were nice until the last part. You must have thought I was crazy, the way I reacted. I didn’t know about the pill. A Brazilian man would never have come inside of me like that. I was . . . unprepared.”
He glanced around, wondering how many people were home, if there were cameras even here. She seemed unconcerned about disclosing their sexual history on the threshold of her brother’s house.
Yet he struggled to decipher her words. Things were nice?
“You don’t have to come here and be charitable, say you’re sorry and all that.”
Thad’s canlı bahis siteleri mind swirled, the confusion deepening. Did she want him to leave? Did she even like him, or had she really come to the restaurant just for sex?
“I . . .” he sputtered, frustration rising as he forced his incoherent thoughts out. “I’m not . . . it’s not charity. I wanted to see you, I wanted to take you driving. I still do.”
Elena’s head tilted, considering this.
“You want to take me driving.”
“Yeah. Is that so crazy?”
“Is it a date, this driving lesson?”
“Well, no. But it’s not like I could just ask you out.”
“No, Elena,” he said sharply, frowning. “I’m a decade older than you. Your brother is my friend.”
“Ah, my brother,” she practically spat. “What does he have to do with it?”
“A lot,” Thad insisted, disbelieving. “He’d be livid. He’d make both our lives hell, and Alice’s too, and she’s like a sister to me. Things are complicated.”
Elena’s lips thinned and she turned away.
“Americans make everything complicated.”
Before he could answer, she spoke again.
“Well, it doesn’t matter. I don’t want to date you.”
Thad felt as if he’d been punched in the chest, the words were so surprisingly hurtful. He’d just flat out told her they couldn’t date, why, when she repeated it, did it feel like she’d knifed him?
“I don’t want any boyfriend. I am here to study, and focus on my music.”
Thad couldn’t even look at her, staring instead at her bare flamingo foot on the ground. He felt the urge to just turn and leave, but that was childish and he knew it.
“Now that you know that, you still want to take me driving? Or you will go now?”
His nostrils flared. She was testing him.
“I’d still want to take you driving, if you want to go.”
“Let me get shoes, then. Want to come see my room?”
“No,” he barked, planting his feet like bricks on the floor.
“I didn’t think so,” she laughed, ascending the stairs once more.
Thad had braced himself from the moment he got in the passenger seat of the car. He was expecting the worst: weaving in and out of lanes like a maniac, flooring it on the highway, running reds. But Elena’s driving was mild, textbook even. She used her signals, checked her mirrors, and kept her hands at 10 and 2. He eyed her suspiciously, expecting any moment for her alter ego to emerge.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Alice said you were aggressive on the road.”
“Does this seem aggressive to you?” she purred innocently, sliding her hands up and down the curved length of the steering wheel.
“Do you drive like this when you’re with Alice?” he demanded.
“I drive like this always,” she insisted, saccharine sweetness lacing her voice.
Thad was getting angry at Elena’s willful obstinance. He decided to punish her with silence.
A few minutes passed before she broke.
“Oh, stop it. Honestly, I drive like this. I’m not a crazy person like you think.”
“Then why would Alice say you’re a bad driver?”
“Because I paid Emilio to tell her that. Or, to tell my brother really, but he must have told Alice.”
Thad’s brow furrowed, confused.
“Why would you do that?”
“To make Mateo angry, of course,” Elena laughed lightly. “There is nothing I like more than making my brother angry.”
“It was a joke!” she insisted, glancing over at him only briefly, keeping her eyes on the road.
“Well, it’s a shit joke. Alice was worried about you getting in an accident.”
“I cannot win with you!” she exclaimed, her own anger clear. “You would be mad at me if I drove wild, and now you are mad at me because I drive nice? You are impossible!”
“I’m angry that you lied, Elena. Made people worry over you for no reason.”
She pursed her lips in a tight line, saying nothing. They drove in tense silence as her phone’s navigation took her off the highway. He had set it to a state park where he liked to hike. He’d wanted to take her to a scenic lookout there, somewhere he could look at her out in the open for a while. The road to the park was winding and narrow, empty on a late morning workday. But before they even neared the park, she veered abruptly off the road onto a dusty patch of bare earth.
“What are you doing?”
“I need a break,” she said darkly, putting the car in park and getting out, leaving her door flung open.
She walked in front of the car a while, off into a line of trees at one side.
Thad followed her, yanking the keys out of the ignition.
“A break from what?” he demanded, catching up.
“From you!” she whirled, her ponytail flying.
“You,” she said menacingly, pointing a finger right at him.
“You make me feel like a bad person, Thad.”
It wasn’t at all what he had expected she’d say, and it stopped him in his tracks.
Thad felt his heart beating fast, a strange fear creeping up with the same flavor as that moment when she canlı bahis held her jizz coated hand up to him, naked and panicked.
“I am not a bad person,” she said, her voice wavering just the slightest despite her accusatory finger. Something deep in his chest twisted at that wobble, a sound he’d never heard from her, one he didn’t even think was possible.
“I know that,” he said quickly, taking a step forward, but she took one back, and he froze again. He lifted his hands in surrender.
“You’re a good person, Elena, I know that.” He spoke gently, making his tone softer than was his norm.
“No,” she shook her head vehemently.
“You think I’m reckless, and stupid. A child, and a slut at the same time. You think I’m selfish and spoiled, thoughtless, cruel.” She hurled the words at him like weapons, accusing him too of being reckless, stupid, thoughtless, cruel. She wasn’t wrong.
“I might be all of those things, Thad, but you shouldn’t make me feel it like you do.”
She swiped at her eyes angrily, and Thad hated himself with a fierceness he could hardly contain. He swallowed it down with Herculean effort.
“Elena, no,” he managed hoarsely, his own voice unsteady. “I don’t think that. I swear I don’t.”
“You’re not kind,” she ended softly, as if she hadn’t heard him, her arms falling to her sides.
“No, I’m not,” he agreed, deflated. “I’m not kind.”
She had no reply to this, and the fire seemed to have left her. She stood in the sunlight with her arms crossed, looking at the ground, her foot digging into the dirt.
Thad shut his eyes tight and tried to find words.
“I get angry sometimes, and things I say come out wrong. I don’t think you’re any of those things, Elena. You’re . . . you are young, but I know you’re not a child, and I never called you selfish. I can see that you’re working hard to make a life of your own. You were reckless though, with the streetcar, but I only said it because I want you to be safe. And I’d never, ever say you were cruel.”
“But, Alice,” she protested.
“It was a bad joke, but that’s all. I care about Alice, she’s my family, and I don’t want her to worry.”
“I don’t want her to worry either,” she said meekly.
“I know you don’t believe me but I care about you too, that’s why I’m so hard on you. In my family, if you love someone, you push them to be better. And I know, I know how destructive that can be, but I do it anyway. I can’t help it.”
The words left Thad in a rush, from some hidden source he hadn’t known existed, and once the well was tapped, the water gushed.
“If I didn’t care I wouldn’t even think about you. I’d never harp on you. But I think about you all the time, and then when I see you I’m all pent up, and, fuck, I don’t know.”
As quickly as the words came they were gone, and he felt naked, standing ten feet away from her in the wooded nowhere. Her eyes were still on the ground. His feet moved of their own accord to close the distance between them.
“Let me kiss you,” he murmured, reaching for her. She didn’t pull away, but her shoulders came up.
“I haven’t kissed you at all. Let me show you,” he whispered, tentatively brushing her cheek with his knuckles.
“Show me what?”
He opened his hand at the sound of her voice, curving his fingers around the back of her neck and pulling her towards him. He bent, pressing his mouth against hers tenderly, just brushing his lips across her skin.
“How good you are,” he answered softly, sipping from her mouth.
“How sweet,” he murmured, pressing a little harder, coaxing her open.
He felt her breath as she hesitated, and made a sound low in his throat, opening his jaw wider to stroke her with his tongue, deepening the kiss, shifting it with his growing hunger.
She made a soft sound of surprise even as he slanted against her mouth, pulling her head closer to his, slipping his other hand around her waist and drawing her up against his body.
God, she tasted so good, so warm and open. He felt the weight of her head as she relaxed in his hand, felt the hot cavern of her mouth as she blossomed for him. His hand slid down her waist to cup her ass, squeezing it, pressing her against his crotch.
Her breathing was ragged now and she was kissing him back, damn it, her hand on his chest, grasping the fabric of his shirt.
He broke off, burying his face in the column of her throat, scraping his teeth against the soft flesh there, licking her, nipping.
“So good,” he murmured. “Too good for me, by a mile.”
She butted him with her forehead, angling to draw him back to her mouth, and he went more than willingly, his tongue diving in. He was starting to feel the wildness take over, and his hand on her ass drew up again, searching for the waistband of her pants, slipping inside.
He groaned when he found her ass hot and bare beneath his touch. He caressed her, searching for the string of a thong, and found nothing.
“Are you telling me,” he said darkly, dipping his hand between her asscheeks, finding her little puckered hole.
“That I sat next to you in that car this whole time,” he went on, stroking, feeling her quick little gasps as her face pressed against his shoulder.