One-on-One Ch. 01

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Katie Shipley stirred in bed as a cool morning breeze blew in from the window. The wind ruffled the tangled mess of soft blue sheets and caressed her smooth white skin. The wind felt cold, even for fall, but the sun on her face was warm and enticing. It was Saturday, and she was happy to be waking up, once again, in her boyfriend’s bed. She could hear water running down the hall. Mike was in the shower but his side of the bed was still warm. Katie smiled, snuggling into his spot, her eyes still closed.

The walls around her glittered with the golden light of the morning sun. Katie smiled, relishing the promise of a new day. She had just finished a long, tough week at work and now had the next two days off – a rare occurrence for an independent theatre company employee, and even more rare on a weekend. Her boss had someone cover for her so she could relax and unwind. She could do whatever she wanted, but it didn’t matter what she did – as long as she did it with Mike.

She heard the squeak of the shower knobs turning, and the pleasant sound of running water stopped. She threw back the covers and climbed out of bed, the floor cool to her feet. She found her favorite pajama pants on the floor and one of Mike’s hoodies thrown across his dresser and put both on. She couldn’t believe it was sweatshirt weather already! The summer had flown by, and it was no wonder. Her company had put on two successful shows and was now gearing up for the fall season. Katie needed this break and knew this weekend would be her last taste of summer.

She walked to the kitchen to start the coffee. The smell of the ground-up beans, like the cool air and warm sun, was refreshing. Soon, she knew, pumpkin spice coffee would return and fall would officially begin. She leaned back on the kitchen counter as Mike walked in with wet hair and a towel around his waist.

“Wow, it’s chilly!” he said, making his way to Katie and kissing her firmly on the lips. She wrapped her arms around his neck and drew him in. His breath was minty and delicious. She kept her lips closed, not wanting to ruin the moment with her morning breath.

“Good morning, sexy,” she said, breaking the kiss. She enjoyed being this close, him naked underneath his towel and her in his hoodie and a pair of cozy pink pajama pants. She playfully wrapped one leg around him. “What would you like to do today?”

He reached into a cupboard behind her and pulled two mugs out, placing one in her hand. “I don’t know,” he said, pouring the fresh coffee into the other. “I thought I might go see if there are any pick-up games going on at the park.”

Mike was good at basketball – Katie loved watching him play. But she couldn’t hide her disappointment. “Baby, you know I have the whole weekend off, right? I thought we could do something together.”

Mike stopped and grimaced. He took in a sharp breath through his teeth. “Sorry, babe. I forgot.” He looked at her apologetically. “I’m so glad you have some time off,” he said, doing his best to recover. “Are you excited?”

Katie thought for a moment. She was excited, but now thought she might be feeling a shadow of a doubt. She loved Mike, but sometimes he could get lost in his own world and not see – or even think about – other people. She summoned a smile. “Yes! I’m so glad Becca was able to cover for me.”

“You’ve been working so hard. I don’t know if she can fill your shoes.” He took Katie’s mug from her hand and filled it with coffee. Handing it back gently, he looked at her, awaiting her response.

Katie smiled as she looked into his bright blue eyes. Mike was handsome, especially with wet hair and in nothing but his towel. He had striking features – prominent cheek bones, full eyebrows, and luscious lips. He was hot, there was no doubt about it. But all she could think about at the moment was how wrong he was.

She struggled to find the right words. “No, she can,” she finally said. “She’s been working there longer than me. She’s really good at her job. The best.”

“Oh,” Mike said. His gaze fell to his coffee. He looked embarrassed.

Why was she feeling so defensive? Her boyfriend was trying to complement her, but it left her feeling slightly annoyed. She didn’t want to correct him, but sometimes didn’t know how else to respond to the things he said.

Sometimes, she and Mike just didn’t click.

But Katie didn’t want to think about that. This weekend was supposed to be fun. They had had lots of fun together, especially during the first few months. Lately, though, she felt like they were growing apart.

“Is everything all right?” Mike said.

“Yeah,” Katie said. But that wasn’t entirely true. Where she had sensed a doubt about their relationship a moment ago, now the floodgates were open. All of her doubts came rushing through.

They had been together for a year and three months, and still she felt distant. No matter what she tried, she didn’t feel they were as close and connected as they could be. It frustrated her. “What would you like to do today?” she asked, trying to perk up.

“I don’t know,” Mike said. He wouldn’t make eye contact bursa escort with her. Katie felt the distance growing. “What would you like to do?”

Here they went again.

Katie felt herself getting more annoyed. Sometimes, Mike just couldn’t make a decision.

Granted, she didn’t want to make one either. But if he wanted to play some one-on-one at the park, why couldn’t he just say so?

She looked at the floor. “Would you like to go to the lake?” Pine Wood Lake was a popular destination. It was nearby and had a popular little restaurant with an outdoor patio.

“That sounds great, K.” They had gone there on one of their first dates, sitting together eating ice cream on a park bench overlooking the lake. It would be cold on the lake this morning, but they could keep each other warm. Katie smiled, thinking of her and Mike sitting closely, holding hands.

“Why don’t we go to the park?” she said. “I’d love to watch you play some ball.” She heard herself saying it, but couldn’t believe it. Why couldn’t she just tell him what she wanted?

Mike’s face beamed.

Oh, Katie thought. That’s why. Look at how happy he is. A small amount of resentment rose to the surface. If only he cared that much about my happiness, she thought.

“I’ll go get dressed,” she said. “I hope you’re ready to win!” She forced herself to smile and as she walked out of the kitchen. She turned and saw Mike following her, looking hot as he held up his towel with his free hand.

Seeing her boyfriend this way made her think: Maybe this day won’t be so bad after all.

***

The courts at the park were packed. Katie wasn’t surprised. The park was a popular weekend destination. Most of the players on the two courts were men – or boys – but Katie saw a few girls holding their own. Both courts had full-court games going, five on five. Mike would jump in to a pick-up game or maybe a three-on-three half-court game. He was 6’1 and strong, and usually came away with a win. Katie enjoyed watching him play, but occasionally snuck away for walks on her own. Today, though, she decided she would keep her attention on Mike. Maybe he needs more attention, she thought. I have been working a lot.

Mike touched her arm, jolting Katie out of her thoughts. “Thanks, baby,” he said. “I’ll just play a few games and then we can go to the lake. Sound good?”

“Yeah, I’d like that. Thanks, babe.” He ran off through the gate that separated the court and the players from the spectators. There were modest bleachers overlooking each court and Katie made her way over to them.

She started climbing the bleachers and stopped when she heard her name.

“Katie?”

She looked around.

“Katie, over here!”

At the top of the bleachers she saw a small group of women. One of them was waving. Katie recognized her as Bethany Wilson, an old friend from her first job out of college. They had been close, but they had been in their mid-twenties then. Now they were both in their early thirties, and they hadn’t seen each other in at least three years.

“Bethany, oh my gosh. Hi!” Katie waved back and walked over to her friend.

Bethany met her with a hug. Pulling away, she smiled. “You look great, K! Wow!”

Katie blushed. She had worked hard to stay in shape but felt she had let herself go over the past few months. She was grateful for the compliment.

“You look great, too! How have you been? What are you doing here?”

“I’m here with my friends, Jen and Sarah.”

Katie said hello. Both Jen and Sarah smiled and seemed very friendly. That didn’t surprise Katie. Bethany was always a good judge of character. “Sarah’s boyfriend and his friends are playing. We came to watch.”

“Oh, great! My boyfriend is playing too. Which one is your boyfriend?” Katie asked Sarah.

“He’s the one in the blue sneakers. Grant. He plays every week. This is my first time watching.”

Katie saw who she was talking about. Grant was athletic, but slightly shorter than Mike.

Grant drove to the basket for an easy lay-up, and Sarah yelled hysterically, clapping. “WOOOOOOOO!!”

Bethany laughed. “Would you like to join us, Katie?”

“Sure!” Katie said. She and Bethany took their seats one row down from Bethany’s friends.

“Which one is your boyfriend?” Bethany asked.

“Mike,” she said, pointing him out. He was wearing black shorts, a sleeveless gray shirt, and a white head band. Looking at him stretching courtside, waiting for a chance to play, Katie felt proud. Her boyfriend really was a stud. Even in his early thirties, he could still hang.

“Mmm,” Bethany said, apparently in agreement. They both laughed. “Lucky you!” Bethany said.

The men on the court assembled under the basket, exchanging handshakes and brief man-hugs. The game was over, and a new one would begin soon. Katie saw Mike walk out on the court to begin warming up. Once they saw his jumper, she knew, they would all want him on their team. She smiled, and noticed she was feeling a little silly about the way she had reacted earlier, in his apartment. She didn’t know why she sometimes reacted escort bursa to Mike that way, but for now, she decided she would put it behind her. One of the women behind her brought Katie back to the moment.

“Who is that!?” Jen was pointing to a tall, tanned, muscular man making his way from the parking lot. He strolled through the gate and walked right onto the court. It was clear to each of the women in the bleachers that whoever he was, he felt right at home on a basketball court.

The man dribbled around, first behind the back and then through his legs. He drove to the basket for a layup and after making it, coolly collected his ball and dribbled to a spot just beyond the three-point line. He set his feet and fired a smooth jumper, which hit nothing but net. Katie could hear the smooth swish of the net giving way.

The man had a sleek, muscular build. He was a few inches taller than Mike. He had a nice tan and his shoulders gleamed in the sunlight. He had a tribal tattoo that wrapped around his left bicep, and a strange symbol Katie didn’t recognize tattooed on his right shoulder.

“Wow,” Bethany said.

Katie just shrugged.

“Don’t even, K.” Bethany said. “I have a boyfriend too. Doesn’t mean I don’t like what I see.”

Katie laughed, but she was starting to feel a little uncomfortable. She didn’t know Bethany’s friends and hoped Bethany had grown up a lot – like she had – since they last saw each other. Katie also didn’t know how much Bethany remembered about her or the things they had talked about.

“Hey, K,” Bethany said. She paused, looking at Katie.

Oh no, Katie thought. Don’t say it.

“You know who he reminds me of?”

“Who?” she asked, trying to sound nonchalant.

Please don’t say it.

“Kyle,” Bethany said, playfully nudging Katie with her elbow.

Katie feigned a smile. “I suppose.”

Bethany laughed. “He definitely reminds me of Kyle. Look at those shoulders.”

Katie sighed. He did look like Kyle, but wished that her old friend would drop it. She hadn’t seen or heard from Kyle in several years, which was just as well.

“Remember?” Bethany whispered. Katie thought she could hear Jen and Sarah behind them listening intently to their conversation, wondering who on earth Kyle was and why Bethany was being so weird about it.

“Yeah, I remember,” Katie said. Now she felt embarrassed. “That was a long time ago, though.”

“Yeah, of course,” Bethany said, finally dropping it and turning her attention to her friends behind her. They turned their attention back to the game, which was just getting underway.

Katie was grateful Bethany let it go but found herself unable to focus on the game. She clapped and cheered for Mike as he moved around the court. Her stomach felt heavy. The handsome tattooed player out there really did remind her of Kyle, and possibly the most exciting summer of her life.

***

She had been out of college for two years and had just moved in to a one-bedroom apartment in the city. She was happy and in love with her boyfriend, Ian, who lived nearby. She had a lot of friends and enjoyed her work as an administrative assistant at a small theater company. Life was going well for both her and Ian – at least, until she met Kyle.

Kyle lived in the apartment next door to her. They first met when she was moving in, passing in the stairwell. Kyle was several inches taller than her and had wide, muscular shoulders. He had striking blue eyes and a beautiful smile. Seeing him the first time, his features barely registered. She had been so frustrated by the moving process that she wasn’t sure if she even responded when he said hello. She did notice him do a double take though, and she was embarrassed to realize she looked so far from her best in old sneakers, short denim shorts, and a white tank top.

When he knocked on her door the next day, she didn’t even recognize him until he introduced himself. “I ran into you and your boyfriend yesterday,” he said. “I’m sure you had a lot on your mind though.” He smiled that gorgeous smile, and Katie smiled back. She couldn’t resist. He was handsome – and bold. Her boyfriend, Ian, was in the next room.

Kyle must have seen her glance in that direction. “I’m Kyle. I live next door. I just wanted to introduce myself.” He handed her a card – his business card. Katie took it. It said he was a web designer. She flipped it over and saw that he had written his personal cell phone number on the back. She thanked him and was glad to make friends with her new neighbor.

A few days later, she ran into him on the way to the laundry room. He had just finished folding his clothes and was walking back to their building. As they passed, he invited her over to a party he was having that night.

“Your boyfriend can come too,” he said. “I’d love to have you both over. No pressure – just a casual get together.”

Katie thanked him, not sure if she wanted to take him up on his invitation. There was something about him – his confidence, his smile, and those broad, muscular shoulders. The way he looked at her. She escort bursa was glad she had put herself together before leaving her apartment. She had worn her hair back in a ponytail and put on glossy lip balm, with short pink shorts, a tight blue t-shirt, and black and pink sneakers. She looked sporty, which is exactly what she thought Kyle would like.

A thought struck her at that moment. Had she wanted to run into him? Sure, he was cute – well, beyond cute. He was gorgeous! But she had a boyfriend that she loved. She adored Ian. She would never cheat on him, not in a million years, but surely it was okay to look?

And to be seen?

She decided she would go to Kyle’s party and take Ian as her date. She would introduce them to each other and nip this in the bud before anything happened. She would do the right thing and put away any thoughts of Kyle and his amazing body and beautiful smile. He’s just my neighbor, she told herself. He probably has a girlfriend just like I have a boyfriend.

But little did Katie know as she carried her hamper down the steps to the laundry room that her summer would begin that night at Kyle’s party and come to be remembered for things like losing her bra in his apartment, chocolate-covered strawberries and wine, and little stolen moments where she and Kyle found each other alone.

***

In the bleachers, Katie could feel herself blushing. Luckily, Bethany and her friends were engaged in an intense conversation about one of their friends, and Katie had a moment to collect herself. She saw Mike hustling down the court, dribbling and looking to make a play. At some point he had been matched up with the guy with the tattoos and was, so far, holding his own. Mike bounced a pass behind his back to Grant, who pulled up and sank a jumper. Both she and Sarah cheered.

Katie thought back to that summer, and felt a small ping of excitement. What was it she had told Bethany back then? Oh yeah, she thought. The thrill.

Cheating gave her a thrill.

***

Back then, everyone thought Katie and Ian were perfect for each other. She loved Ian. She wanted to marry him one day. Even Kyle seemed to agree they were a great match.

She and Ian had gone to Kyle’s party and had a few drinks. The two of them got along well, and Katie felt herself relax. Kyle’s friends were nice, and that made Katie feel better about the whole situation. What had come over her? Why was she even thinking about Kyle this way?

She had worn a sun dress to the party, one that ended just above her knees. She thought it was cute, but also modest. She didn’t want to give Kyle the wrong idea, but on more than one occasion, she saw him steal a glance.

It excited her to know that men found her attractive. Ian always made her feel special, beautiful, and hot. But she had been in the kitchen alone with Kyle and had felt something new – something powerful. He had offered her a beer and she followed him into the kitchen to see what he had. Both of them looked in the fridge, together, the door blocking Ian’s view from the living room. She reached for a beer at the same time he did, and their hands touched. It was innocent enough, but electric. It sent a chill down her spine. It thrilled her.

Nothing more happened that night – Katie made sure of it – but she could not get Kyle out of her mind.

The next day she texted him, and that night, he came over to help unclog her sink.

Katie admitted that she could have unclogged the sink herself, but Ian wouldn’t be coming over that night, and she wanted the company. She wouldn’t let anything happen – nothing could happen – but she wanted to return the favor and offered Kyle a beer.

“I’m just watching a movie tonight. You’re welcome to stay and chill,” she said. She had put on a pair of jeans and a button-up top.

He stayed and they sat on the couch, close but not too close.

They talked for a while, and Katie realized that there was a lot more to Kyle than she thought. He was also into theatre, having been in an improv troupe in college. He enjoyed the same music. And they even realized they knew some of the same people. Katie felt comfortable in his presence. Warm, even.

Then she had an idea. “Check this out,” she said, pulling out her phone. She pulled up a video she had recently seen that had made her laugh. She held out her phone so they could both watch, holding it out and across her body so that Kyle would hold the other end to keep it steady.

As they watched the short video, their fingers touched along the edge of her phone. This time, Katie didn’t move hers away, and neither did he. The video ended and they just looked at each other.

“Let’s watch the next one,” Kyle said.

“Okay,” she agreed, with barely a whisper. The feeling was so intense – so charged – that she didn’t want to ever stop touching him.

Later, she wouldn’t remember the exact moment when she put her phone down so their fingers could become fully intertwined, or when their lips met, or when she laid back on her couch with Kyle on top of her. She would remember the feeling of his tongue in her mouth and her tongue in his, her hands and mouth roaming and exploring Kyle’s large, muscular shoulders. She felt a large bulge beneath his jeans and parted her legs ever so slightly so he could grind against her while they kissed passionately.

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