The alarm clock buzzing woke Landry up.
A movement beside him reminded him that he was not waking up in his own bed this morning. He reached out and caught Karin by the waist and pulled her back against him. With eyes still closed, he felt her hair against his face and breathed in the scent of roses.
“Landry, I have to get up,” Karin whispered.
“I know,” Landry murmured against her neck, “but I seem to be paralyzed.”
“Funny,” Karin retorted as she tried to get up.
“Spoilsport,” Landry grumbled and opened his eyes to look up at her.
A lot of the women he dated before would have run to the bathroom even before he opened his eyes. Karin had her face raised to the sunlight that shone through the curtains. She raised her arms to stretch – the movement raised the hem of her night shirt to expose her mid-riff.
Landry moaned inwardly and felt the stirrings of arousal. Stop it, he chastised himself.
He was surprised that she made him stay the night before. Landry couldn’t remember sleeping that well since… well, ever.
She stood to walk towards her closet and pulled out clothes – a suit. The suit did not match how she looked like right now in her white shorts and night shirt – soft and dreamy. Landry checked out those long legs and was finding it hard to concentrate on what Karin was saying.
“Landry,” Karin repeated. She shook her head and moved closer to the bed.
“You want to join me in the shower?” she asked.
“What?” Landry asked with surprise.
Karin grinned, “Thought that could snap you out of it.”
“You’re a mean woman,” Landry complained when he realized she was teasing. He buried himself on the bed as the frustration of arousal gripped his lower body.
“Can you put some coffee on while I’m in the shower?”
“Sure, I’ll figure it out,” Landry answered.
Landry was in the kitchen when Karin came out. He stood fully dressed in the clothes he arrived in last night. He’s efficient, Karin observed. Landry had set the table while the coffee brewed silently, its scent filled the kitchen.
“I hope you don’t mind me browsing through the cupboards,” Landry said as he watched her approach. She had a pin-striped blouse tucked under a pencil skirt and her hair was already gathered in a bun – soft and dreamy was hidden under career-girl Karin.
They ate their breakfast of oat cereal with fruit and Swedish crackers with cheese – which Landry surprisingly liked. As he sipped his coffee, Landry looked at Karin – and she looked back.
“So, are you ready to talk?” Karin asked and held his gaze.
“I’m still pissed – don’t think that’ll disappear right away,” Landry shared.
“It was awful watching the Knicks go through that – watching you go through it,” she said simply.
“I just feel that I could have given the team more – I just wasn’t given the chance to,” Landry told her. He was holding his coffee mug and looked intently at it. “I don’t even feel needed.”
“I don’t know much about the business of basketball,” Karin admitted, “so I can’t give you any career advice.”
“Do you love working for Volvo?” Landry asked.
“I wouldn’t be working there, if I didn’t,” she answered honestly. “When the time comes that I don’t feel any happiness at what I do in Volvo, I’ll move on.”
“Even if it means leaving your friends behind?” Landry asked.
“I love my friends, but I know they will support me in whatever decision I take. I’d do the same for them,” she replied.
Landry drank the rest of his coffee in silence. Karin let him dwell in his own thoughts.
“Well, I hate to throw you out,” Karin finally said a few minutes later, “but I have to work.”
“Let me drive you there,” Landry offered. It was on his way home and he wanted to do something for her, as little as it may seem in comparison for what she did for him last night.
“Thanks,” Karin said as he held his stare.
Oh, yeah, totally fearless, Landry thought.
“Any plans for tonight?” he suddenly asked on their way out of her apartment.
“No. I might catch the Rangers game on TV tonight,” she replied.
Landry was silent for a moment. Hockey, Rangers, Hagelin, he thought and his gut clenched.
“If I made dinner – not as grand as lobster ravioli – but nourishing, would you consider watching the game with me – at my place?” he asked, his face a total mask.
Karin paused with her coffee mug halfway to her lips. He was asking her to his place.
“I’d love to,” she answered.
Landry smiled, pleased with himself.
When he later pulled in front of the Volvo offices, Landry quickly leaned towards Karin to graze his lips against hers. The kiss was sizzling. She felt the warm sensation all the way to her toes.
“Hmm…” Karin murmured.
“I’ll see you soon,” Landry whispered against her lips and pulled back to admire his handiwork – Karin’s slips were red, a few tendrils escaped from her hair and fell against her pink cheeks. She looked soft and dreamy again.
“Okay,” she answered.
As Landry drove off, he thought of Jared.
So much mystery, Karin speculated as she changed into jeans and a light sweater.
Landry picked her up from work and drove her home so she could change for their date tonight. He didn’t say much about what he had planned other than they’d have dinner and see the game together. Landry had a certain gleam in his eyes that Karin couldn’t quite read. She sighed.
When she came out of her room, Landry smiled. Karin looked great – no matter what she had on. He was looking forward to tonight.
“I’m sorry, Karin,” Landry said as he drove through traffic.
“For what?” Karin was curious.
“We’re not having dinner at my place,” he said. “We’re meeting some friends at Clyde’s for dinner.”
“Oh,” Karin replied. “Are Jess and Jeremy joining us?”
“Not exactly,” Landry answered.
When they arrived at Clyde’s, they were followed to a table where Karin saw a familiar face – Jared Jeffries. He stood to greet them – so did the lady that accompanied him.
“Hey, Jenny,” Landry said as he gave the woman a kiss on the cheek.
Jared gave Landry a hug and turned towards Karin.
“Karin, you know this man. Jenny – his unfortunate wife,” Landry laughed.
“Hey!” Jared said. “Do not listen to him.”
Jenny gave Karin a hug and so did Jared.
Karin laughed, “He is a joker.”
She hadn’t seen Jared since the evening at Avenue.
“How are the girls – you all alright?” he asked.
“Yes,” Karin answered, “They’re keeping us busy, though.”
“Jared has told me that you all work at Volvo,” Jenny mentioned.
“We do,” Karin told her.
Jared and Jenny were very nice and obviously knew Landry well, judging from how they interact. If Jared noticed that Landry’s hands were either on the small of her back or braided with her fingers, he did not show any surprise. Karin wondered how much Landry’s friends knew of them – and whatever they had together.
“So, Karin, are you ready?” Jared said with a twinkle in his eyes.
“Excuse me?” Karin asked, obviously confused.
Jared looked at Landry and said, “You haven’t told her, huh?”
Landry shook his head and said, “It’s a surprise. We’re watching the Rangers game at MSG.”
Karin was speechless.
“See what you’ve done,” Jenny laughed.
“Sorry,” Landry grinned as he leaned to give Karin a quick kiss. Jenny and Jared exchanged glances.
“Wow, thank you very much, Jared and Jenny,” Karin said earnestly.
“What about me?” Landry complained.
“You are not the Rangers fan – Jared is.” Karin stated. “I know stuff – I’m a hockey freak,” she shrugged.
Jared discreetly gave Landry a thumbs-up that neither Karin nor Jenny saw. Landry just shook his head.
They stood in the VIP Lounge enjoying drinks after the game.
“Know what, Karin, you need to be in my box at each match,” Jared grinned.
“Take my place,” Jenny laughed. “Hockey is not my thing. Jared needs someone to discuss it with.”
“No, she’ll be with me,” Landry interrupted before Karin could say something.
“I think I prefer Jared,” Karin said. “At least he knows hockey.”
Jared and Jenny laughed at that.
“She’s dumping me for you. Unbelievable…” Landry groaned.
Landry had been holding her hand nearly all evening, letting go of it only when they stood to cheer.
When he felt her hand tense up, he looked at Karin and followed her gaze. Carl Hagelin had spotted her.
Jag trodde inte att du skulle vara här, he said to Karin, giving her a short hug.
Landry scowled – he released his grip on Karin’s hand and chose to wound it around her waist. The movement was both protective and proprietary.
“I’m here with friends – Landry, Jared and Jenny” she said in English. Karin was conscious of Landry’s hand and felt its support.
Hagelin looked surprised and turned towards Karin’s companions. “Oh, I’m sorry. I am so used to seeing Karin with other Swedes that I naturally speak Swedish. I told her that I didn’t expect her to be here,” Hagelin explained.
“She and Landry are my guests tonight,” Jared told him. He noticed Landry’s less-than-friendly-smile, and she’s-with-me body language. Okay… something between these three, Jared thought.
“I hope you enjoyed the match,” Hagelin said.
“Exciting as always,” Jared answered.
Hagelin eyed Landry and the way he held Karin. They had their heads close together – she was whispering something to Landry; he was listening intently. So they were a couple, he thought. He never would have seen that coming – Karin dating a high-profile basketball player.
“I’ll see you all another time, I hope,” Hagelin knew when he wasn’t welcome.
They said their polite goodbyes and watched him leave.
“Jared,” Jenny turned to her husband, “the time.”
“Oh yeah – the babysitter,” Jared said. “You don’t have to leave on our account,” he told Karin and Landry.
“It’s been a long day – and week,” Karin said and looked towards Landry.
“Long season,” he sighed.
“You got that right,” Jared said. “Hey, I know we all face the unknown this coming off-season, but don’t be a stranger, okay? Keep in touch.”
“Will do,” Landry replied as he hugged Jared and Jenny. “Thanks, man.”
“It was our pleasure,” Jared said.
“Don’t let him neglect you,” Jenny told Karin with a grin and a hug.
Karin laughed, ‘cause she wasn’t sure what to say.
“When I need a hockey buddy, I’ll call you,” Jared said as he embraced Karin.
“Anytime,” she told him.
“I never thought you could shout like that,” Landry commented, to break the silence in the car as he drove Karin home.
Karin grinned, “What – did I turn you off?”
“No. On the contrary, I found it arousing,” Landry answered honestly.
“Really?” Karin remarked.
“Figure each other out, remember?” Landry reminded her.
“Pansy calls it foreplay,” Karin shared without thinking.
They looked at each other and burst out laughing. “Your friends are awesome,” Landry decided.
“Yes, they are,” Karin smiled.
Landry hesitated by the door when they reached Karin’s apartment.
“Come on in,” she said when she noticed him hovering just inside the living room.
She gave him a hug and said, “Thanks for everything tonight.”
“It was nothing, really” he said as he enjoyed the feel of having her in his arms.
Karin lifted her face and pressed her lips against Landry’s. She set the pace this time – nibbled at his lips, licked them with her tongue. When their tongues grazed, it knocked the wind out of Landry’s lungs. This wasn’t a controlled kiss. Karin let herself go and ravished Landry like she always wanted to.
Landry was so aware of their bodies pressed together, of how little control they had over the situation was slipping. He reluctantly pulled back. They were both out of breath and unable to look each other in the eye.
“God, it kills me to pull away right now,” Landry murmured – their foreheads touching.
He took a deep breath. “What is it that makes me feel THIS MUCH about you?” he asked, more to himself than Karin. She moved to lay her cheek against Landry’s chest – listened to his heartbeat and felt what he was saying.
“If I stay longer, I might never want to leave,” Landry admitted.
Karin understood his predicament – if he stayed, she won’t ask him to leave.
“Say goodnight, Karin,” Landry whispered.
Karin lifted her head to say “Goodnight”. Landry kissed her softly, let her go and walked out her door.
It was Saturday; Karin made her way into Housing Works.
The way last night ended was weird. She lay awake in bed for hours – replayed the scene over and over in her mind – until exhaustion set in. She had not heard anything from Landry at all – it felt weird.
Was he disappointed in her? Was he tired of her? Maybe meeting her ex on a date was too weird for him, she worried.
She hated to admit it – she missed the fool.
As Karin turned a corner to walk towards her usual spot, she stopped. Her spot was occupied.
Landry sat on the window ledge; his long legs bent up to support the book he was reading.
He looked up, saw Karin and smiled – she felt a tug in her chest.
Damn it, Landry, Karin thought. Why do you have to be so damned cute?
“You’re late, Miss Bennett,” he said.
“On the contrary, Mr. Darcy – you are early,” she retorted as she sat beside him.