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You Started It


Fiona woke beneath a pile of warm, heavy Swede. Viktor did indeed talk in his sleep, but he didn’t snore or steal the covers. Even so, Jon jumped into her mind at the first chance. She finally felt ready to admit why.
I thought of myself as Jon’s girl.
And Fiona had acted accordingly - helping him, coddling him, acting like every awful thing he did was funny and charming and, ultimately, forgivable. Like a kicked puppy who kept coming back, she had acted in a way that asked no better from Jon. He may have run the show but she was a willing accomplice, stroking his ego. Some of it she’d even liked. And there was an edge to that aggression that undeniably excited her and was unmistakably Jon. For every time they’d ever ended up in a compromising position together, he’d never made a secret of wanting her.
That was the problem. He wanted her, but for what? If it was for sex he could forget it, because he could - and did - get that anywhere else. She sensed that he was scared now and wanted more, something solid and real, like dating. But Jon dating? The thought made her shake her head in disbelief.
Jon would be a... date? Fling? Experiment? None of those sounded bad, per se. But neither did they sound like enough.
If only he wasn’t so... Jon. Because no matter what he did wrong, something about Jon had Fiona so crossed up that she lay in bed with another man still thinking about him.
Only now she didn’t feel like forgiving anyone, even herself. Only forgetting.
Viktor shifted in his sleep, never letting go of her. Now here was a man who was ready. He was more ready that she was, already halfway there. And after the night they’d spent together Fiona felt herself running after him - falling, tripping, jumping - toward whatever he had in mind.
Boyfriend. It was obvious. A single word from her and this perfect specimen with the surprising smile would be her boyfriend. As an “other” he would certainly be significant. Viktor might not have that edge that gave Jon some of his fire, but Fiona now thought of it as one less way to cut herself.
Maybe this wasn’t the best way to start, she thought as she he moved again. But she was smiling, because it wasn’t really possible to regret something that had been so great. And there was no way she was letting Jon ruin this for her. Like a bear coming out of hibernation, Viktor spoke with his face mashed to the pillow.
“Told you Santa was Swedish.”
“How’s that?” she laughed.
“My present is still here.” He lifted his head, blond hair falling over his one open eye, and looked at her carefully. “You’re thinking you shouldn’t have done this.”
Fiona squeezed his forearm where it fell across her stomach. “No,” she half-lied. “I was just thinking I could never regret it.”
“We could do it again to make sure.”
She laughed as he pushed himself up onto his elbows. The sheets were twisted around them, bright white against his darker skin and the width of his chest and shoulders made it hard for Fiona to hear what he was saying.
“It’s okay, Fi. I meant what I said. I really like you. I know Jon does too, but he’s... well, you decide. I think you deserve better than him.” He let one hand drop to her side, tracing the curve of her breast. “Maybe I’m not better, since I kept you here last night.”
Fiona rolled onto her side and put her face right to his. “I stayed because I wanted to.”
“Nobody’s perfect.” ____
Fiona walked home in the cold sunshine. The giddy euphoria of her night with Viktor could have flown her there were it not for the promise of dinner with Jon around her ankles like lead weights. She felt guilty for thinking of him at all. If she fell into the river she’d sink like a brick now.
She hated to think of Jon this way - as a burden, a problem. He’d always been her favorite thing. Their dynamic had gotten lost in all the turmoil of the last few weeks and she’d shied away from his company because it always ended in a fight, a kiss, or some combinaton of the two. As much as she hated his presumption of going into her apartment, he had done it to deliver a gift. An olive branch. He deserved some credit for that and she promised herself that tonight she would give it to him.
Because it’s Christmas.
And that was all she would give him. Because Fiona was officially crazy about Viktor.
She went home and showered away the feel of last night’s perfection. By three-thirty Fiona was she admiring Jon’s dress selection in the full-length mirror. Paired with pattern printed heels and topped with a black wrap, the cranberry cocktail number was something she would have chosen for herself. Sweeping her hair back to show off the earrings, she pinned a few waves away from her face, finished her makeup and waited.
I am fine, this is fine. Jon will have to learn that he cannot get everything he wants.
But when a knock tapped the door, her heart leaped into her throat.
“Merry Christmas,” Jon said instead of a million questions: Had she missed him? Had she been with someone else?
Just reach up from the depths and drag me down, Fiona thought as she blinked at him. It had been a few days - very eventful days - since she’d rebuffed his aggressive kiss and turned her back on Jon in the park. Her mind had been otherwise occupied with a newer, shinier version of perfection. But the old standard looked as good as ever.
“Hi,” she said stupidly.
He wore a black suit with shiny lapels, a single button and a tie the exact color of her dress. His dark hair was getting a little long, making him look younger than his 23 years. It belied the size and shape of his body, and the old soul that had always lurked in his eyes. Sometimes Fiona thought his actions were at such odds with the person in his head.
“That dress doesn’t do you justice,” he tried, standing in her doorway like an awkward teen picking up his prom date. It had been a long time since Jon was less than confident around a girl. But here she was, more beautiful than ever as he looked into her eyes and wondered if he’d already lost her.
“It’s gorgeous, Jon. Thank you.” She rose onto her tiptoes and kissed him on the cheek.
“I missed you,” he said quietly and reached for her hand. “I have a surprise downstairs.”
Fiona slipped her hand into his, the familiar comfort of his contact. If nothing else it felt good to be around Jon and not be hissing or spitting or trying to scratch his eyes out. She pushed herself over the threshold and followed him to the elevator.
“Where are we going?”
“Only place that’s open,” he deliberately avoided the question with a smile.
Fiona rolled her eyes. If Jon could be relaxed then she might get through tonight just fine. She might even restore some of their friendship before telling him that would be the extent of their relationship. She loved Jon but if he wanted to be a new man, he’d have to make his practice cuts on someone else. Their friendship would be more like what normal people had - no kicking out one night stands or sharing a bed. It would be something new for both of them.
Before the elevator reached the ground, Fiona felt stronger.
I can do this. Even if I can’t give him everything, I can give him today.
They stepped into the lobby, and an older couple in fancy dress turned like they were waiting for just such an arrival. Fiona recognized them immediately from TV. The woman’s face lit up into a big smile. Jon had her hand again, she hadn’t noticed.
“Fiona, these are my parents, Bryan and Andree. Mom and Dad, this is Fiona.” ____
Jon stood very still and watched Fiona like she was in slow-motion. It registered on her face first - she knew his parents on sight. Her green eyes flashed wide, that soft mouth that he had no right to claim formed a tiny ‘o’ of surprise. Most importantly, her hand - back in his - squeezed. Just the reaction he was looking for.
“We’ve heard to much about you,” his mother said, throwing her arms around Fiona’s neck.
“It’s so nice to meet you!” Fiona recovered herself quickly, saying the first polite thing that came to mind. Autopilot kicked in and she hugged his mother, accepted a kiss on the cheek from his father. Jon’s hand moved to her lower back to moment she was free, guiding her to the hired car waiting outside.
His parents passed through the door and Jon leaned forward to hold it open for Fiona. She gave him the most murderous glare she could muster.
“Ambush,” she said under her breath.
His mother talked a mile a minute. She asked about Jon’s Christmas Eve and he said it was low-key, he’d gone to the Sharp’s for the morning to deliver a gift for the new baby, watched a movie at home in the evening. They all felt the dig - had Jon spent Christmas Eve with Fiona? Obviously this was serious enough to mean Christmas Day with the parents....
“I visited a friend for Christmas dinner,” Fiona said eventually. Andree’s expression fell by a fraction. Jon’s mask was near-perfect, only a slight flex of his jaw hinted that he knew exactly where she’d been, now it was confirmed.
Oh fuck, she thought. But it got her back up to know he’d done it again - helped himself to whatever there was. For once it had bitten him in the ass.
He shouldn’t open doors if he doesn’t want to see.
His mouth smile but it didn’t reach those intense eyes. “I hope Santa knew where to find you.” ____
Fiona was pissed and Jon knew it. He’d expected nothing less. He also knew she would be flawless - charming and smart and his parents would be in love with her before they were out of the car. They rolled to a stop in front of the nicest Chinese food restaurant in Chicago and Jon congratulated himself on being right about two things.
She’d been with Viktor. He couldn’t claim surprise - he’d never waited to get something he wanted. But Fiona was better than him, and he’d secretly been expecting more from her. Self-serving, yes. But even when you jumped out a window, hitting the ground still hurt like hell.
He needed this night more than ever. But first he needed a second to speak to her in private. His father helped his mother down from the SUV, Jon got out and turned to help Fiona. It was easy to block the door for a moment.
Her green eyes were sharp as they caught his. Fiona wanted to demand an explanation but she knew exactly what he was doing. Still there was a hint of something unusual in his gaze: apology.
An awkward silence rose between them.
“I didn’t know how else to prove it.”
“Prove what?”
“That I’m serious about this.” Jon let the words fall, like he was willing to drop the issue of Vitor, where she’d been, what she’d done with another man when he’d been thinking of her all night. Then he reached for her hand. ____
They were seated in a large, opulent dining room with low, sparkling light. Jon sat next to Fiona on the banquette, trying not to stare as the warm glow caught every surface of her. The bare skin of her neck and shoulder looked like silk, the earrings glinted like the diamonds they were. Shifting near, he breathed in the scent of her slightly flowered perfume. All the while she chatted with his parents like she’d known them forever. If he wasn’t about to salvage his chances with Fiona, he would have his mother to answer to now.
Jon rolled his shoulders and focused on the conversation. It would have been easy to slip into the banter he and Fiona always had, except it had been weeks since they’d talked like friends. Listening to her was like getting in a time machine. As Fiona talked about her past Christmases, Jon wondered if she’d told the same stories to Viktor. In bed.
She was with one guy. One guy she likes, who likes her, who wants something real. Compared to everything I did, he chastised himself even as he judged her. Each word was like a lead weight in his heart.
This is why she hates me.
Fiona could feel the tension in Jon’s body as he sat next to her - too tall, too stiff on the padded bench. She waited until something funny was said and then punched him in the thigh.
“Relax,” she hissed behind a swipe of her napkin.
The appetizer plates were cleared and Fiona excused herself to the ladies room. Jon had to slide out to let her go, so he used the excuse to walk her across the restaurant. They both felt his parents watching their backs until they were around the corner.
“This is too...,” she started to say.
Jon was still moving. He reached his arms around her, wrapping her into a hug. Fiona froze, space violated and surprised. She stayed that way, expecting him to help himself to the kisses he’d taken before. But Jon just rested his chin on top of her head and held her tight.
Fiona stood stock still for another moment as her brain and heart screamed at her body. All communication was down. She should push him away or at least step back, but she couldn’t make herself do anything. Everything about his weight and height and size felt....
“Sorry,” he whispered.
The apology wasn’t for bringing her here, on a blind date with his parents on Christmas Day like she was being debuted in the movie of the story of his life. It was for everything that came before, right back to the day they met when he didn’t follow “Nice to meet you” with “Any chance you’d like to help me change my life?”
Finally he let go. Fiona took a breath, gave him a sad half-smile and led the way back to the table. ____
Fiona could help thinking that if she and Jon were really together, this would be the perfect way to take the next step. His parents were so enthusiastic about her that she felt bad that they had no idea what she was really doing here. Even if Jon had said they were just friends, it was easy to see they were hoping for more.
They sat back down, Jon a little less rigid. He spoke up more over their delicious meal and it eased the pressure Fiona felt in her chest. By the end of the main course it almost felt like a normal dinner. She and Jon even shared a sorbet for dessert. It wasn’t until the check arrived and Jon sent his credit card away that she started to feel that familiar panic creeping in around her heart.
The car dropped Jon’s parents at the Fairmont hotel. Fiona knew they didn’t often stay with Jon, but sensed they didn’t know why. Not very nice to wake up your parents kicking a random girl to the curb in the wee hours. As Andree hugged Fiona goodbye, she whispered into the younger girl’s ear.
“Don’t let him scare you off.”
Fiona couldn’t keep the surprise off her face. Maybe they do know. _____
Jon needed to get her alone. His place wouldn’t work - she’d never come. And she probably wouldn’t let him into her place, not again. Climbing back into the car was like fighting quicksand, the air so thick with tension. After a short, silent ride home Jon tipped the driver before letting either of them out. Once on the sidewalk, he knew this was the only chance he’d get. She stepped out next to him.
“Fi,” Jon said, reaching for her arm, “I....”
He couldn’t take it anymore.
“I know you stayed at Viktor’s.” Instead of anger rising in his voice, it fell away in sadness.
Fiona felt weak. Not because she was ashamed that he knew - she wasn’t ashamed of what she’d done. But she certainly didn’t feel like Jon had the right to call her out. The Windy City was true to it’s name, an ice cold breeze whipping around them. It curled through Fiona’s bare legs as if to hold her in place.
“Because you went into my apartment again?”
He didn’t answer, couldn’t answer.
“Jon, I like him. A lot.”
“I just thought....”
“I thought that part of the problem with me is that I’ve slept around! I knew you were into him but I didn’t think....”
“Stop,” she whispered sharply. Then she inhaled deeply, taking a moment before this became a fight. “Sleeping with Viktor isn’t sleeping around Jon. Don’t you dare put him, or me, in the same category with those girls you bring home. That is not fair.”
The look on his face said he did know, but couldn’t figure out how to apologize for it. She brushed past him, twisting free, and made it all of three steps.
“I think I love you,” he said.
Fiona stopped. With her face hidden, she squeezed her eyes closed and bit back the anguished noise that came unbidden to her tongue. It was a full five seconds before she could turn to face him.
“I know, Jon. But the only person you care about is yourself.”
It wasn’t the answer he wanted and that made him mad. “I can do better!” he shouted.
She didn’t want to fight with someone who had just claimed to love her. She didn’t want to fight with Jon at all. Heavy, sharp words came so fast to her tongue, like bullets into the chamber of a gun. Until the next road trip. Until the next blond. You don’t need a girlfriend you need a babysitter. Fiona swallowed them hard and hunched down into her coat as if it were armor.
“It’s too little, too late.” ____
They faced each other for a moment, just waiting. As if the world would screech to a halt or someone would drop to their knees. But nothing happened. Jon had asked and Fiona had answered.
There was nowhere to go. What was she meant to do, ride in the elevator with the man she’d just turned down? The best friend she’d willingly let walk all over her? Fiona couldn’t be in the same building with him, not now. Jon stood there gaping as she hurried toward the car still idling at the sidewalk.
Fiona shut herself inside the back, hands trembling as she reached for the seatbelt. The driver met her eyes in the rearview mirror.
“Thought someone might still be needing a ride.” _


Just found this,read it all at once and enjoyed it. Starting the sequel. Thanks.
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