A BRIT ON THE SIDE -- FREE EPILOGUE
By Brenda St John Brown
Jasper’s been in Atlanta for fifty-eight hours and I’ve seen him for approximately two of those. Forty-five minutes of which were on public transportation when we were forced to be fully clothed and respectable. That changed the second the door closed behind us at his studio apartment, but between his General Orientation, Lab Orientation, and Research Orientation, plus school being back in session for me, we haven’t even had time for a proper reunion.
And by proper I mean naked, unhurried, and as decadent as spending three weeks apart demands.
So why I’m choosing to cook tonight is a mystery, even to me. But when I talked with my fellow math teacher, Tia, in the teachers’ room this morning about Jasper finally having time to come over to my apartment, the first question she asked was what I was going to make for dinner, and it planted the seed. I could cook, so I should.
Now, though, after a frazzled trip to Kroger and a stop at Whole Foods, I’m seriously questioning why I ever thought take-out from Einstein’s wouldn’t be good enough. It’s not like Jasper’s going to care. Especially after the texts he’s been sending me all day.
8:28 a.m.: We have a ‘get acquainted’ breakfast this morning. I’d rather spend the time getting re-acquainted with you. Preferably on top of me.
12:56 p.m.: Tried a Georgia peach today. Not bad, but you taste better.
4:44 p.m.: I’ll be there by 6. Plan to be naked by 6:01.
4:45 p.m.: Better yet, just be naked when I get there. I’ve always fantasized about that…
So have I, in fact – although my fantasy involves me in a trench coat and nothing else. I almost did it once with Theo, except a) I don’t own a trench coat and b) I imagined getting stopped by the police en route and trying to explain. Thanks, but no thanks.
For tonight, I don’t have a trench coat, but I do have a deep blue silk robe I bought at duty-free on my way back from England. I have every intention of answering my front door wearing it and nothing else. If I can get this damn food sorted out in the next thirty-six minutes. Which is looking…iffy.
I was smart enough to buy chicken breasts, which are cooking with olives, tomatoes, and a bunch of fresh herbs, but it’s the dessert I’m struggling with. I decided to try to make Eton mess and to say it’s an actual mess is a huge understatement. It’s not even that hard – one of the main reasons I chose it. It’s whipping the damn cream that’s killing me. I genuinely don’t know how to do it without Lou standing over me, egging me on to put some elbow into it.
I texted her earlier, asking to call me when she’s done for the night. As if on cue, my phone rings with a FaceTime call. Thank God.
I swipe to answer and Scarlett’s face fills the screen. I see her white duvet in the background, which kills any possibility of helpful hints from Lou. “Hello, lovely. How are you?”
“I’m good.” I glance down at the bowl on the counter. “Scratch that. I’m trying to make whipped cream and failing miserably.”
“If it’s for a hot night with Jaz I don’t want to know.” Scarlett makes a face. “But you might be better off with the spray can stuff for more, you know, accuracy.”
My laugh echoes around the small kitchen. “Believe it or not, I’m actually making dessert. Although now that you mention it…”
Scarlett holds up a hand. “I don’t want to know. I told you that.”
“I’m kidding, I’m kidding. I know better than to offend your delicate sensibilities.”
“My sensibilities are only delicate when it comes to not wanting to envision my brother that way. Speaking of, how is he? Has he moved in yet?”
I shake my head. “I’ve hardly even seen him. Besides, I told you we weren’t doing that. It’s too fast.”
Scarlett shakes her head right back at me. “I know, but judging by how busy you both are, it might be the only way you’ll see each other.”
“I’ve thought of that, actually.” A lot. But I don’t want Jasper moving in just because it’s convenient. Theo and I were engaged and we didn’t live together. I can’t ask Jasper to move in after being together for only a few weeks. Can I?
“You lived together whilst you were here.” Scarlett shrugs.
I’ve thought of that, too. “I know. But wouldn’t your parents freak out if it was more, you know, official?”
Scarlett rolls her eyes. “Um, they didn’t freak out when you were obviously shagging their son under their roof, so I doubt it. Besides, they adore you. And no, before you ask, I wouldn’t freak out either. Although once I come back, it might be weird.”
“Speaking of coming back, how’s your project going?” I wink. “Is Mr. Waring-Smith everything you hoped he’d be?”
“He’s something else. I’m learning a lot, but it’s bloody hard work. I’m the youngest and least experienced person on the team, so I spend a lot of time trying to act like I know what I’m doing.” Scarlett’s mouth pinches for a second before she forces a smile. “But you know what they say. Fake it ‘til you make it, right?”
“Well, if anyone can make it, you can.”
“That’s what he said.” Scarlett’s grin is genuine this time.
“He did, indeed.” I laugh and glance at my watch. “Okay, on that note, any helpful hints on the whipped cream? Jasper’s going to be here in half an hour.”
“Not a one. For what it’s worth, I doubt Jaz is going to care. He’s not exactly a gourmand.”
Well, no. In fact, the first thing Jasper did in the Atlanta airport was hit the vending machine for some Cracker Jacks. But then yesterday he texted me a picture of his heirloom tomato, goat cheese, and arugula sandwich with black olive tapenade, declaring it “what a vegetarian sandwich should be.” So obviously his tastes are eclectic.
“Okay.” I put down the spoon. “I’m going to leave it. I mean, trying counts, right?”
“A for effort and all of that.” Scarlett glances down and then back up again. “I have to finish this spreadsheet and you need to go get ready.”
“I do. Although Jasper isn’t exactly known for being prompt.” Never mind that I’ll kill him if he’s late after waiting three weeks and three days to see him.
“I seriously doubt he’s going to be late. I thought he was going to run to the airport himself the other day if my dad didn’t get off the phone. The only time I’ve ever seen Jaz pace like that was the day A-level results came out.” Scarlett pauses. “He’s crazy about you, you know.”
“I know.” After all of the weirdness with Scarlett this summer, it still feels uncomfortable to state it outright like that, but it’s better than the alternative. “It’s kind of mutual.”
“I know. I don’t understand it, but I know.” Scarlett laughs. “And on that note, I’m going to love you and leave you. You two have a fab evening and give Jaz a sloppy kiss for me.”
I blow a kiss at the screen. Scarlett and I laugh before she disconnects and I glance at my watch again. Twenty-three minutes. Crap. I need a quick shower and new make-up after having my teacher face on all day. Honestly, I probably need no make-up considering what I’ve got planned for tonight, but that’s beside the point.
Ten minutes later, as I rub lime and basil body lotion on my post-shower body, I feel the first pang of nerves. I’m excited to see Jasper. More than excited. But what if once our hormones subside, we flounder? It feels impossible, but what if we have nothing to talk about? My lunch with Theo wasn’t so long ago I’ve forgotten our awkward silences. A memory made all the more uncomfortable by our stilted conversations in the teachers’ room recently. If someone had told me a year ago I’d be in this place with Theo, I never would have believed them.
Jasper and I are a lot less certain all around. For starters, he’s only in the country for nine months. And if the past two days are anything to go by, his time while he’s here isn’t going to be his own. Or mine. I know he’s crazy about me – and likewise – but a flower needs water to grow.
Whoever put one of my mother’s antiquated expressions in my head needs to stop it. I don’t need that on my mind on top of everything else. Especially when the buzzer for the downstairs door is ringing right now.
Right now? Shit, shit, shit. I grab the blue robe from the hook on the bathroom door and slip my arms into it as I run through the living room. I press the button to release the lock on the front door without checking who it is. I’m pretty sure it’s Jasper anyway, but truthfully, I never check first, a habit that drives Scarlett insane.
And judging by the stern look on his face when I open my apartment door, Jasper, too. “You shouldn’t just let me in. What if I were a serial killer?”
God, he looks good. Crooked glasses, slightly baggy shorts – dark blue this time – and the short sleeve button-down I bought him from Target because it’s too damn hot here for his usual Oxford shirts. My heart turns over. I point to the daisies in his hand. “Serial killers don’t usually bring flowers.”
He grins. “I could have stolen them. In keeping with my criminal profile.”
I hold my hand out and take them. “Well, now I’m complicit, so you may as well come in and I’ll take my chances.”
Jasper takes a step and closes the door behind him, leaning against it. His gaze travels over my blue robe and he reaches out, rubbing the soft silk between his thumb and forefinger. His voice is two octaves lower when he speaks. “If I were a serial killer, this would be my undoing, you know.”
“Would it?” I close most of the gap between us, leaving just a few inches. One hand reaches for his waist and my other loosens the tie on my robe.
As the tie falls away, revealing my bare skin underneath, Jasper sucks in a breath. “God, yes it would.”
In one smooth motion, he yanks me against him and pushes the robe off my shoulder while a hand fists in my hair. Our mouths collide like it’s been months instead of days and I fumble with the buttons on Jasper’s shirt, gasping when I release them all and we meet skin on skin. It’s not nearly close enough.
As if he can read my thoughts, Jasper’s hands cup my ass and he pulls me closer. I let myself writhe against him before drawing away so I can undo his shorts. In between kisses, I let my hand close around his hard length and say, “Help me with the buttons. I can’t get this.”
Jasper breaks away and looks at me, his eyes shiny with want. “You realize the only thing keeping me from taking you right now is the fact I’m still semi-clothed?” His eyes dart to the couch and back again. “I daresay we won’t even make it to the couch if you continue that.”
“Too bad.” I finally get the button undone. “I was kind of hoping to be bent over the back of it.”
Jasper groans and his voice comes out in a growl. “Bloody hell, Bea.”
In the next minute, Jasper’s shorts are pooled around his ankles and I am, indeed, bent over the back of the couch, Jasper’s bare chest flat against my back. He pinches my nipple lightly between his thumb and forefinger and I let out a small yelp. I turn to kiss him, but before I can, his hand slides from my breasts down my stomach and in between my legs in one smooth motion.
He doesn’t even pause. His finger plays over my clit and enters me and we both groan. “Bloody hell, Bea.”
I open my legs wider. “Is that all you’re going to say?”
I feel Jasper’s nod rather than see it. His lips are at my ear. “I was late to my lecture this afternoon because I got so turned on thinking about seeing you tonight.”
“Did you?” I manage to keep my voice even, but good Lord, those fingers. “What did you do about it?”
“I ducked into the loo and unzipped myself. Took my cock in my hand, imagining it was yours. I almost gave in and whacked off, but then I thought I’d rather make myself wait.” Jasper’s voice is low and gravelly now. “In retrospect, it might not have been such a good idea. Because I don’t seem to have much self-control at the minute.”
This time I do turn my head to meet Jasper’s eyes. “Who’s asking for self-control?”
No one. The answer is no one. My words unleash all of the pent up longing between Jasper and me. Before I can take another breath he’s in me and, oh my God. Seriously.
There’s nothing tentative or gentle or tender between us. This is pure need. I feel the tension building in both of us and I have to brace my hand on the back of the couch as Jasper hips move in time with mine. My breath hitches as he reaches around my waist and puts a hand between my legs, and less than six minutes later we’re both spent, Jasper’s chest against my back as we gulp in air.
“Wow.” I can’t manage more than that.
“How does three days manage to feel like three weeks?” Jasper shifts, bracing his arm against the back of the couch so he’s not leaning on me so heavily.
I twist to look at him. “Technically it’s only been two days.”
“It’s been longer than forty-eight hours. I’m counting it as three.” He leans to kiss me, softly this time. “I need to find a way to better manage my schedule.”
I’m totally on board with that plan, but I also know how important this opportunity is to Jasper, so I say, “You’re busy getting oriented, acclimated, whatever they call it. I get it.”
Jasper eases away from me. “And you’re a saint for understanding, but it’s not going to get any better, unfortunately.”
Warning bells blare in my head in the form of the words Scarlett hurled at Jasper the day she found out about us. You make her feel special and then when she falls for you, you remind her you’re a serious scientist and a relationship isn’t in this year’s plan, sorry, not sorry.
I offer a tight smile because my face suddenly feels plastic. “Well, lucky for you I cooked, which must beat dining hall food, right? I didn’t do so well with dessert, but that’s never been my strong suit.” I pick my robe up off the floor, tying it tightly around my waist. “But I learned a few things from Lou this summer, so the main will be edible at least.”
Jasper reaches for me, but I slip past him into the kitchen because my plastic face is faltering. Like it might burst into tears or explode from trying not to. It could go either way. Crap. Crap. Crap. I open the oven and peer in at the chicken. As I ease the door closed, Jasper comes up behind me and snakes an arm around my waist. Somewhere in the past twenty seconds, he’s pulled his shorts back up to his hips, although his shirt is still unbuttoned. “What’s wrong?”
His voice is soft, which makes it even harder to keep mine steady. “Nothing. I’m fine.”
Jasper spins me around so I’m facing him. “Beatrice.” His eyes search my face and his voice softens another degree. “What is it?”
I swallow and make myself meet his eyes. They’re so filled with concern, I can’t just brush it off, no matter how much I want to. “I’m not that understanding. Not really. I’m worried.” Once I start, things pour out of me I wasn’t even aware I was thinking. “What if your schedule doesn’t leave any time for us? I mean, you’re overwhelmed now and the academic year isn’t really even underway yet. What if it just gets worse and worse? I don’t want to become another thing you have to schedule in.”
“But I will have to schedule you in.” Jasper puts his finger over my lips as I open my mouth to speak. “That’s a reality and it’s who I am. If I don’t make time for you, there won’t be any, and that would be a travesty.”
Jasper’s words are meant to be reassuring, but it’s not working. “So I get Wednesday evenings and Saturday nights?”
My tone is harsher than I intended and Jasper takes a step back, although his hand remains on my waist. “I think we’re going to have to work that out together. You have a life too, and I’m not so self-centered to think it’s all about me.” He raises an eyebrow. “Although two nights isn’t going to be nearly enough. Just so you’re aware.”
A tentative smile pulls at my lips. “I’m glad to hear you say that.”
“Our summer arrangement where I woke up with you every morning and fell asleep with you every night was perfect, honestly.” Jasper steps in and holds me against him again. “If we could’ve stayed in that attic room somehow, I’d still be there.”
“Scarlett thinks you should move in.” The words are out before I let myself fully process their implication.
Jasper’s eyes widen. “And what do you think?”
“One part of me thinks it’s fast, but the other part thinks it’s dumb to base a decision like that on meeting some arbitrary timeline. Like, being together for six months makes it the right time?” I shrug. “Theo and I were together for over a year and engaged, but I couldn’t imagine moving in with him.”
“I’ve imagined moving in with you.” Jasper pushes a strand of hair behind my ear and his thumb caresses my cheek. “Leaving love notes for you on the bathroom mirror and bringing you tea in bed.”
“Going to the farmers market together and reading the Sunday paper in bed.”
“You giving me a good bollocking about leaving my dishes in the sink.” Jasper grins.
“You telling me off for leaving my glass of sweet tea on the coffee table.” My smile widens. “Although I’m not sure if that would be because of the glass on the table, the iced tea, or the sugar in it.”
“Maybe all three.” Jasper’s thumb moves to my neck and starts to make small circles underneath my ear. “Even though I’d like to think I’m not that bad.”
“You are, actually. It’s one of the reasons I love you.” I meet Jasper’s gaze. His blue eyes are steady and sure. An ocean for me to dive into. I know what I’m about to say and I wait for my panic bats to take flight in my chest, but they don’t. Still, the words come out fast, all in one breath. “You should. Move in, I mean.”
Reason number 612 I truly love him. Jasper doesn’t say any of the usual, Are you sure? What do you mean? I’d say if the situation were reversed. Instead he cups a hand around the back of my neck and says, “I should.”
I can’t help smiling. “Is that so?”
Jasper grins back at me. “It was your idea. One I’m in full agreement on.” His expression turns serious. “However, I’m happy to wait, too. Until you’re sure.”
“Sure of what?”
“Sure of me, Bea. Sure I’m not going to turn into the wanker Scarlett has led you believe I can be. Sure I’m really here, really yours. I’m a scientist, and I understand the need for definitive proof.”
I do too. And I know it when I see it. “This whole summer was definitive proof. Even if I didn’t always like your methods, everything you did was proof. Up to and including the fact it took you nearly the whole summer to finally kiss me and not freak out.”
“Because I didn’t want to be a casual dalliance to you. I wanted this.”
The way Jasper looks at me, I don’t have to ask what this is. I know because I want it, too. “Which is why you should move in.”
Jasper’s eyes sweep over my face like he’s looking for a trace of doubt. Satisfied with what he sees, he says, “Should we go get my things then?”
My eyes widen. “Now?”
“Am I being overeager?” A flush steals across Jasper’s cheeks. “I take it back. I’ll wait until you’re sure.”
I shake my head and wind my arms around his neck. “This has nothing to do with being sure. It’s just…I’ve cooked dinner and my plans for dessert involve whipped cream.”
“Oh. I like the sound of that.” Jasper kisses me softly, then says, “And you know what else I like the sound of?”
“What?” My mouth skims his jaw.
“Waking up with you every morning. Falling asleep with you every night. Your damn iced tea glasses everywhere.” Jasper kisses my temple. “I mean it, Bea. I want all of it. All of you.”
I see it as clearly as if he’d spray painted it on my kitchen wall. But more importantly, I feel it. Jasper – Jasper and me – feels right. Whole. True.
“I want all of you, too. In fact, I just had a thought.” I slip out of Jasper’s embrace, turn off the oven, and grab the bowl of badly-whipped whipped cream from the fridge. “How about we have dessert first? Speaking of wanting you.”
Jasper grins and takes the bowl from my hand. His fingers grab the tie on my robe as he tugs me down the hallway towards my bedroom. I catch a glimpse of myself in the hall mirror as I pass. My hair is frizzy and I have a smudge of mascara near my left eyebrow. But my eyes are bright and my cheeks flushed. My smile might split my face in two. I look good. Happy.
I look like a woman in love who knows she’s well-loved in return. It’s a good look for me. One I plan on keeping.