Mia had ruined everything.
Why couldn’t she have fought away her fantasies, knowing them to carry great risk to her most valued friendship? Waited for her overwhelming attraction to Rafe subside in the knowledge that these things rarely ever ended well? Other people did. Normal people.
It was two weeks to the day since The Incident, as Mia had started calling it. Two weeks since she’d let Rafe strap her down to his bed and do as he pleased. Since she, Rafe and Luna had lain together for hours afterwards, kissing and fucking and caressing until the sun peered through the blinds and commanded them to stop. Since the decadent night that had ruined everything.
Almost the second they had awoken, sore and awkward and exhausted, a gloom had settled over R&M Labs that neither Mia nor Rafe dared to acknowledge. In fact, they had taken to barely speaking to one another at all, living civilly as flatmates and working together as colleagues with no apparent personal relationship to speak of. Mia couldn’t tell who was making more of an effort to avoid whom.
She’d been acting like a lovesick teenager, spending hours lying on her bed in silence, nothing but her mocking and self-blaming thoughts for company. She’d tried to go out with friends, but after a couple of hours of excluding herself from conversations so she could sit and brood, she’d excuse herself and go home to do more of the same. She wondered how many of them still believed in those “migraines” of hers.
Childish and fruitless though Mia knew it was, she’d even been trying her best to act out in the hope that Rafe might suddenly snap out of his newly found avoidant nature and carry out the threat he’d made, so deeply in earnest before, to punish her for any display of anger or temper. She’d been abrupt with clients on the phone when she knew he was in earshot, but other than shooting her the occasional confused look, he’d barely reacted. She’d snapped at Luna, sighed loudly and slammed around the office, even dared to bark at some kids across the street one night for playing their music too loud. It had been no use. Mia was already beginning to accept that their friendship – or, whatever it had been all along – was over. She even had a bag of essential items packed in case she suddenly decided she couldn’t stand it any more.
Only, it seemed Rafe had beaten her to that. He’d gone away to stay with a friend in the South for a couple of days – to “think,” he’d told Luna, who had passed all of this onto her.
Luna was either oblivious to the tension or doing a very good job of ignoring it. She spoke to them both as if nothing had happened. She was her usual disarmingly cheerful self, humming away around the office and selflessly helping out with various boring tasks that had nothing to do with her. On the nights she didn’t go home, she’d stay with Rafe or in Mia’s room, either sleeping on the floor or in bed with her, their limbs intertwined. Mia never spoke to her about Rafe and Luna didn’t ask, for which she was quietly grateful.
Painful as the distance between her and Rafe was, Mia couldn’t deny that she’d noticed quite a change within herself. She walked down the street with a new confidence, her head raised slightly higher than usual, making eye contact with those she passed and even offering a smile if she was feeling particularly generous. Men had rarely looked at her before, but now she noticed them offering her lingering glances. Some had even offered to buy her drinks on those long nights out with friends, but of course she’d always politely declined. Though it was quite clear any chance of a relationship with Rafe was zero, it still felt like some kind of betrayal.
There was a difference when she looked in the mirror, too. Mia had come to realise that she might be attractive, maybe even pretty, in a doll-like kind of way. She could never illuminate a room like Luna, inviting every gaze of the people within it to rest on her, but with a bit of make up and the right clothes she could be rather striking…
“Are you high?”
Behind her, Luna was scoffing at something. She glared at her laptop screen.
“What?” said Mia, swivelling around on her chair.
“Just some art dealer. He’s nuts. He keeps offering me ridiculous amounts of money for my last painting and I’ve told him no, it’s not for sale, time and time again. His offers get more ridiculous every time.” She slammed her laptop closed.
“How awful,” Mia said. “I dread to think how I’d feel if somebody kept trying to offer me lots of money.”
“You don’t get it.” She slid her laptop under Rafe’s desk. “You’ll understand when you start selling your work. When are you going to start selling it, anyway?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” She shrugged. “I don’t think it’s good enough.”
“Of course it is!” She rolled her eyes affectionately. “I wish you’d believe in yourself a bit more. You really have to start chasing what you want.”
“After what happened last time I did?” Mia turned back to her computer screen to signal the end of the conversation. She kept focussed on her work as she heard Luna approaching her. “I need to get this done,” she said pointedly.
Luna hovered behind her. “Give it time,” she said. “Like he said to me, he needs to think.”
“It’s none of your business,” Mia said, as neutrally as she could.
“I think it is.” Luna rested her arms against the back of her chair, the silk scarf she wore lightly brushing the back of her neck.
“I’m busy.” She kept typing. “Please. I really don’t want to fight with you now.”
“Who said anything about fighting?” Luna laughed. “I was just saying. You can’t sit here and ignore it forever, you know. You’re as bad as Rafe…”
Mia swung around on her chair, almost knocking Luna flying. “Excuse me? If it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t be in this fucking mess!” She ignored the sting of guilt as Luna visibly winced, rushing to get her words out. “So don’t you dare stand there and give me half-assed advice like you’re some prophet or something. We were just fine until you came along.”
“Okay then,” Luna said stiffly. “If you say so.”
She turned and walked over to the other side of the office, bending to pick up her laptop. Mia watched her helplessly, instantly regretting her outburst. Her words lingered, polluting the air above them.
“I think I’m going to go.” Luna’s usually brash demeanour had completely disintegrated. She avoided Mia’s eyes as she grabbed her coat, characteristically dumped on the floor.
“Oh, Luna,” Mia sighed, getting to her feet. “I’m sorry. That wasn’t fair...”
“No, it wasn’t.”
“I’m just really upset right now.” A fleeting thought of jumping in front of the door and barricading it with her arms passed through her mind as Luna walked towards it. “Luna, please don’t go. You know I didn’t mean it. If it wasn’t for you, I never would have woken up to what I wanted.”
“If you say so,” she said again. “Whatever.” She swung her bag over her shoulder. Her bright eyes had gone cold, giving her vivid face an intensity that was both terrifying and magnetic. “I’m still going, though. Don’t exactly feel wanted here at the moment.”
“You are!” Mia leaned over her desk, despite knowing she’d probably already lost the battle. “Luna, please stay. I can’t stand being here by myself.” Her voice cracked and she swallowed fiercely at the intrusion in her throat. What the fuck was with all these tears lately?
Luna stilled, her lips twitching with thought. Then she sighed, shrugging her coat off again. Mia sank back into her chair, relieved and ashamed, as Luna returned to her side. She said nothing, slipping an arm around her and nuzzling her hair. Mia closed her eyes, fighting back the unwelcome tears as she settled into the embrace. She knew she wasn’t worthy of it. Even less did she deserve the gentle kiss Luna pressed to her lips, which she returned with all the fervour she could muster. She was desperate for Luna to know how sorry she was.
She grunted with pleasure at the sensation of Luna’s soft lips brushing her own, chaste and tender, hand on her chin. Her fingers felt soft on her face, caressing her cheeks. Mia’s pulse began to slow to normal again. It was going to be okay after all.
Luna’s breath felt hot on her skin as her mouth made a trail down her neck. Mia sighed, tilting her head to allow her access, watching as her slim fingers made quick work of the buttons on her blouse. She couldn’t help moaning a little with arousal. It excited her to think that the office door was open, that anybody could easily walk in and see what was going on. It wasn’t likely to happen – R&M Labs were appointment only – but somebody with the wrong building, maybe? Maybe even Rafe…
Luna’s lips left her neck abruptly, replaced with the firm grasp of hand. As her grip tightened, Mia gasped in shock. She wasn’t pressing tightly enough to cut off her breathing, but a little more pressure and…
“You’re a little brat, aren’t you?” Luna said softly. Her tone was dangerous. Mia was frozen, only able to think about the hand on her neck. When a sharp slap came down on her cheek she responded with a cry, squirming in Luna’s grip. “Aren’t you?”
“Yes.” The smack hadn’t been too hard, but it left enough of a sting for Mia to know Luna wasn’t playing. “I… I’m a brat.”
“Very good.” She spoke close to her ear, her tone mocking. Mia shuddered, afraid. “I don’t think you deserve kisses and cuddles right now. Would you agree?”
“Yes,” she answered faintly.
“Do you think you deserve to be punished?” She slipped a hand into the cup of Mia’s bra and pinched a nipple.
She bit her lip to hold back a cry of pain. “Yes.”
Her kiss was brutal, her teeth tugging at Mia’s lower lip until she whimpered and tore her mouth away. As much as she wanted to push her away, she couldn’t; she was, as usual, completely hypnotised by Luna.
“Get up, brat,” she hissed. “When I’m finished with you, you’ll never even raise your voice to me again.”