All Tied Up

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All Tied Up

Being Thalia

Chapter 30

By avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando

AU Fan Fiction

In the sequel to Educating Thalia, the lovely Thalia Bareo is growing up, making her own way in the world after losing both men she loved, Professors Chris Evans and Tom Hiddleston. The sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago holds down a job in Madrid as she tries to deal with the real world. She continues her studies and freelances as a consultant for museums around the world. Being Thalia updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Warning: As a whole, this work contains adult content. If you proceed you have agreed that you are willing to see such content. Each chapter will not be coded with individual warnings. The overall story contains no hidden triggers.

If you are new to the series and characters, click here to the beginning of Educating Thalia.

If you are looking for other stories in the sequel, click here for the beginning of Being Thalia

Word Count: 1105

Summary: Thalia finds another- very sexy- way to cling to her independence.

Previous Chapter, Déjà Vu

Thalia can barely unlock the door, with Tom’s hands fumbling under her dress, his crotch nestled up against her backside. “Can you wait two more minutes? There are cameras in the hallways,” she hisses quietly. Not that she really wants him to stop, but she’d rather not get busted for inappropriate behavior at work. Shaking her head slightly, the irony is not lost on her.

She’s at her place of business, getting ready to fuck the man she used to work for- her college professor- in her office.

Guess the tables have turned.

He looks up and down the long hallway. Burrowing his face in the crook of her neck, he nips his teeth at her exposed shoulder. “And no lights. No one will know I’m trying to get your knickers down before we’re even through the door.”

Distracted, she drops the key. “Shit,” she mumbles.

Tom bends to retrieve it, his other hand sliding up her thick thigh as she grabs the key from him, finally opening the door. Holding tightly to the door knob, she wags her finger at him. “My desk is all laid out for next week’s budget meetings.” Dropping her hands to his solid chest, she runs her hands up his tight form before slowly undoing his tie. “Don’t even think of clearing it off in a mad dash.”

tie by painfulbliss

He solemnly crosses his finger over her chest, his fingertips dragging over the top of her exposed cleavage. Thalia holds her breath, feeling her skin rise in goosebumps at his slightest touch.

“I promise. I’m thinking of fucking you right off, against the wall, love. I can’t even wait ten seconds to cross the room to the desk.”

A rush of heat slams between her legs, his words, his hands, his mouth, causing her to melt down quickly. He pushes her through the door, banging it against the wall. Something in the dark room crashes to the floor. Moonlight casts shadows around them, but she can’t tell what’s broken – not that she gives a shit at the moment. She hastily kicks the door closed with her foot, pulling at the buckle of his dress pants.

Unbuttoning his pants, her shawl falls down her arm. Hit with sudden inspiration, a sinful thought fills her mind. Lifting her head, she keeps her face firm. “No.”

Surprised, Tom chuckles, “No?”

Air is sucked from his lungs as Thalia moves quickly, tugging his pants down and forcing him to sit on a nearby chair.

“You said I’d get my turn.” Flicking her wrap over her arm, she hitches her dress up, planting herself on his lap. Wet and ready, her slick panties caress over his exposed hardness while she pushes his shoulders back, his arms over the top of the chair. Staring into his eyes, she holds back a devious grin. Leaning forward, trapping the lace shawl between them, she brushes her chest against his, whispering in his ear, “It seems like it’s a perfect time for me to tie you up.”

Licking his ear lobe, she grinds down on him, reaching around his shoulders and tying the wrap behind him.

Nuzzling his nose in her hair, growing harder against her heat, Tom pleads, “Fuck me.”

Instinctively, Thalia wants to obey. He’s using that deep, growly voice that promises the wickedest things imaginable, the words sounding even dirtier in his posh accent. But no-

She’s doing this her way.

“That’s the plan.” Lifting from him, her mouth crashes into his. She scrambles to move her skirt out of the way, drawing her underwear to the side and sinking down onto his stiff, thick cock. “Oh, sweetness,” she mutters, pulling off his lip.

Their kisses chase one after the other, Tom pinned to the chair under her weight as she pushes down on him, grinding closer to their release. His arms useless, Thalia plants her feet firmly on the floor. Laying her hands on his shoulders she pulls off him, before slowly impaling herself again. A moan escapes her lips, while he holds his breath tightly. Sounds from the party filter through the building, hiding their groans and whimpers from the intoxicated revelers. With a quick boost up, Thalia repeats the motions, bringing Tom right to the edge. His long legs tighten under hers, his breath quickens in his chest as his eyes dilate, turning black with lust.

“Kiss me while I pour into you, Mistress. Take me as yours,” he pants, barely able to hold back.

“Uh, uh.” She shakes her head ‘no.’ Thalia rises again, leaving his tip barely in, swaying her hips side to side, before sheathing him once again. The force rocks the chair, but the two stay balanced. She can feel the strength rising up from his feet, an unstoppable force. Her mouth hovers above his, breathing in his air, brushing her nose against his, inhaling his scent, before hungrily claiming his mouth.   

So connected, her velvet walls grip him tightly, each surging pulse of his release filling her as her own orgasm crests. Yanking his hair, she tilts Tom’s head back, latching her lips over the exposed area of skin, under his earlobe. The scruff on his jawline scratches her cheek as she bites and marks him, staining his skin with her lipstick. He gives a full-body shiver, his head dropping even further back in surrender. She slumps against him, equally sated.

It takes him a while to lift up his face and blink at her.

“Oh, Jesus.” His breath is hot against her skin. “Am I still alive? Did you kill us? What a way to die!” He chuckles. “Now, give me your mouth, love.”

“Not because you tell me to-” She meets his need, her lips parting, accepting his tongue to tangle with hers. Breathy, she finishes her sentence, “Because I want to.”

“Giving yourself to me makes you no less independent, darling.” He cocks his eyebrow, a challenge in his eyes. “No more so than being tied to this chair makes me unable to move my arms. I’m trapped here because you wish it so.” To prove it, he twists his torso and gives a yank with his arms, freeing himself.

Kissing the tip of his nose, she rises off him, her wobbly legs making her collapse to the floor. “Are you saying I need to work on my knots?”

“I’m saying everything I do is for you, your wishes, needs and desires.” Sliding off the chair and landing next to her, Tom hands her shawl back. Pulling his shirt down, covering himself, he wraps his arm over her shoulder. “We can learn together, Thalia.”

Click here for Chapter 31, Served Hot

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Copyright © 2019 avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando.  All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

Night In

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Night In

Educating Thalia

Collaboration by @devikafernando & @avenger-nerd-mom

AU FICTION

Chapter 30

A collaboration involving Professor Hiddleston and Professor Evans- The two are rivals at a posh New England university and have no idea they both have taken interest in the lovely Thalia Bareo. She’s a grad student with interests in language and history; a sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago.  Story updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Word count: 5279

Warnings:  Language, Adult Situations, Fluff, food porn, serious discussions

Summary: Thalia isn’t still isn’t feel well, so Tom comes to take care of his girl.

Click here for intro to Educating Thalia

The doorbell buzzes, and Thalia nearly jumps off the sofa.

Oh God, he’s here. Is she really up for this?  He can be so intense…

The feeling from earlier stayed with her all day. She did have a slight fever earlier in the afternoon.  It’s not really the flu, but maybe a severe cold?   She never could tell the difference; she always had Stacey around when she was sick, to figure it out.  Thinking of Stacey and her dad only only makes it worse. She feels…odd. Off balance and uncertain, and she hates both with a vengeance. And to top it all off, she has no idea how to act around Tom this evening. At least if she’s quiet, she can blame her attitude on being ill.

With a sigh, she pads to the door. She’s dressed in her favorite canary yellow pajama pants, a baggy gray sweatshirt and fluffy, warm socks, with a shawl wrapped around her.

When she opens it, the first thing she sees are two enormous paper bags, one single pink orchid wrapped in transparent gift paper poking out on top. Then the bags lower, and Tom’s tired yet smiling face appears.

“Hey there,” she says, feeling her lips stretch into her smile almost against her volition.  “You look tired.”  She reaches for one of the bags, but he twists from her grasp.

“Hey there yourself.” Tom steps in, somehow managing with his freakishly long arms and big hands to maneuver the bags so he can lean in and kiss her cheek.  “Don’t worry about me; just tired.  My right hand was too sick to come in to work today,” he chuckles.  “How are you feeling, darling?”

She ponders the answer a moment, her gaze drawn to the concern in his deep blue eyes. “Not too bad now. Staying at home was a good idea. And I took some medicine to get the fever down. But I’m kind of tired.”

“Well, I’m armed with chicken noodle soup and movies, just as the lady instructed.” His smile turning goofy, Tom jerks his chin at the full bags. “And I brought a flower because a wise woman told me not so long ago that proper dates need flowers.”

Thalia’s mind does a little dance at the mention of their first ‘date’ when he treated her to a lavish dinner. How fitting that he draws her mind to this particular memory, because he pampered her amazingly well before a long night of loving. And pampering is just what she needs today.

“You’re too good to be true,” she murmurs, and Tom wiggles his brows at her.

“Need me to pinch you? I’m definitely true and real.”

With an eye roll, Thalia steps out of his way so he can walk over to the counter, where he sets the bags down. With a comical flourish, he takes out bags, boxes and cans until he’s emptied half a supermarket on her counter.  He shrugs out of his coat and lays it over the back of the chair, turning to point out the selection with pride.

“Jesus, Tom, I said I’m sick not looking for a food orgy.”

His signature “ehehehe” turns her to mush for a moment, and she licks her lips as he removes his tie. “I saw that, luv,” he chuckles.  “Don’t give me ideas we can’t follow through with.  You need your rest.”  Looking down at the food, he grins.  “I know you don’t need all this, but what’s a movie night without some snacks?”

Before she can protest, he waves a can of soup in the air.  “But first, your soul food.” He roots around in her drawers for cooking utensils, and she points to the cabinet for the pot. Still dressed from a long day on campus, she watches him heat up the soup and add some fresh chopped carrots and celery as well. Her mind transports her into a possible future. She imagines really being sick and having Tom fuss over her and make her soup, reading her a bedtime story from Shakespeare’s works and reminding her to take her medicine.

“Darling?” Tom’s voice and his hands on her shoulders pull her out of her thoughts. “Are you quite alright?”  One large hand feels her forehead, checking for a fever.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine, don’t worry. Just entranced by that mouth-watering smell after I barely ate anything at all today.”

It’s not a lie. Her mind’s been so off that she hasn’t had more than the reluctant bite she had in the morning, as if she’s really sick.

Another smile lifts her lips, and the noose she’s felt so tightly around her neck all day loosens a fraction.

“I also bought mashed potatoes, as you requested” he adds. “But let’s leave those for a proper dinner after your stomach has been mollified.”

Together, they get the soup into a bowl, and then Tom hands her a few DVDs he’s picked from another bag and pushes her over to the couch with a gentle hand on the small of her back.

“Go and get settled, darling. I’m going to go change out of these clothes and put on something comfy, then I’ll make us a tray with snacks and I’ll be with you in a jiffy.”

Obediently, Thalia walks over to the couch, not sure how she feels about Tom puttering about in her kitchen. It’s all so…strange. It never feels this way with Chris, and…

No. She won’t think of Chris today. Not now.

God what a mess. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea.

Determined to make this a good night, she gets the TV screen from the closet and hooks up her computer, getting ready for their movie night before taking her seat.

A few minutes later, Tom walks into the living space, giving the room only a cursory glance before settling his eyes on her.  He smiles when she sucks in her breath at the sight of him in his cozy plaid shirt, with a peek of a tshirt underneath for added warmth in her cold apartment, and well worn jeans.  He sets the laden tray down carefully before plonking himself down on the sofa next to her. It takes him a bit of adjusting because his legs are so damn long, but once he’s finally sitting comfortably, he shoots her an eager smile. Hidden behind his glasses, his eyes are sparkling with expectation and excitement, and there’s that boyish quality to him again that surprises her so much. Combined with his decidedly manly looks—highlighted by the shadow of stubble along his strong jaw and by his slightly disheveled hair—it makes him so attractive she wants to curse the unfairness of it all. Instead, she wiggles closer readily when he lifts an arm so she can lean into his side.

“Right, let’s have a look at your beloved superheroes,” he says with that infectious enthusiasm of his, and Thalia hits play on the DVD.

The movie hasn’t even properly begun and Tom’s hands are already wandering. But there’s nothing sexual to his touch. The hand of the arm he’s draped across the backrest of the sofa winds into her hair, and he tugs the hairband off to run his fingers gently through her tresses. Off and on, he stops gliding through her curls to massage her scalp ever so lightly or to trail his fingers over her neck in a soothing, rhythmic motion that relaxes her blissfully. If she wasn’t so focused on the movie, she’d feel drowsy by now.

With his other hand, he digs into the snacks—pretzels, individually wrapped chocolates, popcorn, toffees, peanuts, his long arms giving him easy access without having to shift. Off and on, he feeds her a bite in between spoonfuls of her soup.

Half-way into the movie, Tom disentangles himself from their embrace, and she can barely hold back a protesting sound because she hasn’t felt so relaxed in days.

He takes the empty soup bowl out of her hands to set it on the coffee table. Thalia’s eyes watch his long fingers deftly open a couple of buttons of the rumpled flannel shirt. Her mind is transported back to Chicago, where he wore the shirt for the first time. Something stirs inside her. Is it melancholy? Wistfulness?

She stomps down on the flicker of feeling. “Feeling nostalgic?” she asks, popping some popcorn into her mouth to hide whatever expression might be on her face.

Tom smiles a little crookedly. “As a matter of fact, I do.” His face grows thoughtful, and she can feel him zone out for a bit. When his gaze settles on her eyes again, he looks serious. “I may sound like a sappy old fool, but the time I spent with you in Chicago ranks way up high there with the happiest days of my life.”

God, why does he have to tug at her heart strings like that? “Way too sappy, mister,” she jokes, trying to lighten the mood. Tom’s expression clouds over instantly, and she feels as guilty as if she’d just kicked a puppy.

His beaming smile returns when she shares, “Mine too, Tom.  It ranks really high for me too.”

They turn back to the movie, and even though he pulls her snugly into his side again, something about him feels off.

With a small sigh, Thalia places a hand on his thigh and rubs up and down softly.

“I’ll always treasure our time in Chicago,” she admits, and some of the tension melts out of Tom’s body. She can feel him press a kiss on top of her head before he moves his arm to place his hand on her waist. It stays there, as if it belongs there for the rest of her life.

Soon, both of them become too engrossed in the movie to make normal conversation. Shocked that Tom hasn’t seen any of the Marvel movies, Thalia keeps throwing in extra information, filling him in on relevant tidbits that happened in previous movies. The first intermission has her pause the DVD and half-turn towards him.

“How come you haven’t watched any of these? They’re modern classics, damn it. It’s like never having listened to Shakira or something equally blasphemous.”

Tom chuckles, downing a few gulps of soda before answering. “In my defense, I did read some of the comics in my childhood. And they were fabulous. I just never got around to really caring enough to watch the movies.”

Thalia shakes her head, her curls brushing his face. “Shame on you. So, how do you like it so far?”

“It’s amazing. I’m positively surprised by how much backstory between the lines there is, how much emotional depth beside all the action.”

That is such a Tom thing to say that it makes her smile. But she gives him a mock-stern glare. “Well, I hope you’ll remedy your grave mistake and watch all the others too.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He salutes smartly, giving her a goofy grin. It turns into a smile when he leans in and pecks her on the cheek, a chaste brush of his lips that lingers a while and warms her from the inside out. “Thank you for introducing me to them, Thalia.  We can watch them together?”

The nagging voice in the back of her head won’t stop.  “That means you’d have to find time for me outside of office hours.”

The pained expression returns to his face.  “I know, darling.  Spring semester is always so busy for me, my evenings just seem too full.  I’ve been lackadaisical when it comes to making time for us away from my office, and you’re always on the go, my love.”  He squeezes her hand.  “I hope visits to the storage closet make up for some of the missed times?” he inquires, referencing their meeting earlier in the week.

She smiles, “For now,” winking at him playfully, though she wonders if it’s really enough.  But then again if both men were competing for the same hours, she wouldn’t know what to do with herself, so she lets it go.

She unpauses the movie and snuggles back into his comforting embrace. After a while, Tom pushes the tray to the side and props his socked feet up on the coffee table. Not even the action sequence on the screen can keep her from catching an eyeful of his long feet. It’s disconcerting to see him without shoes, in a weird way. His feet look even bigger without shoes on, and a giggle bursts free when her naughty mind wanders to what they say about men with big feet. Well, she knew all too well that there was some truth to that…

“What’s so funny, darling?” Tom shoots her a confused glance, his lips automatically lifting to mirror her gleeful grin.

“Nothing.” She chokes back her laughter and bites her lip, concentrating on the movie. From the corner of her eye, she can see Tom still looking at her. He crosses his legs at the ankles and rests his free arm behind his neck, sinking a little lower in his seat. Thalia mimics his actions, feeling mighty comfortable as she pulls the blanket over them.

She picks up her commentary, and somehow that sends her off on a rant about Loki and how Marvel doesn’t give him the attention he deserves. She talks about his development throughout the Thor and Avengers movies, and about how the actor playing Loki had managed to make the villain outshine the hero.

“So, you’ve got a thing for the bad guy, hm?” Tom asks, shifting his attention from the screen to her again.

Thalia gives it some thought. “I wouldn’t say that. Firstly, Loki isn’t a stereotypical villain. He’s kind of misunderstood, and he’s got this mischievous side to his character that always gets him into trouble but isn’t really meanness or evilness.”

Tom nods. “That’s kind of how the real Norse mythology portrays him, if my memory serves me correctly.”

It’s her turn to nod. “And secondly,” she shoots him a grin, “I’m pretty infatuated with Captain America too, and he’s definitely the good guy.”

Shifting to catch her attention, Tom says with a twinkle in his eyes, “Personally, I think a man should be a bit of both in real life, it will get him far.” He wags his brows at her comically. “A good boy in certain situations, a bad boy in others.”

With a guffaw, Thalia elbows him in the ribs. She’d been feeling so guilty just a few hours ago, and now look at her, laughing and thoroughly enjoying Tom’s company.

Being with him like this, with sex and secrecy out of the equation, is a totally new experience—if you disregarded Chicago, which was different in a way—and she’d thought at the beginning that it might be awkward. But it isn’t, and that gives her pause.

Pushing thoughtfulness away, she asks with a raised brow, “And what about women? Are we supposed to be a mix of good girl and bad girl too?”

Tom’s grin fades, and there’s an intensity in his gaze that she’s seen often. It always leaps into his eyes so suddenly, and it’s one thing she appreciates so much about him, how he’s genuine and all-in, whatever he’s tackling.

“Well, you’re the perfect mix of both, and look how wonderfully irresistible that makes you,” he says, his tone almost a low, growly purr before bestowing a quick kiss to her neck.

God, if she wasn’t feeling so out of it today, she’d be all over him by now. Even in her confused state, she feels a flutter in her belly.  The warmth bubbles out of her and she tells him just that.

“Good; then we’ll have another movie night soon, when you’re feeling better.”

The sound of an explosion pulls their attention back to the screen, and they watch the rest of the movie in amicable silence, punctuated by the occasional gasp or whoop at a great scene.

“Well, that was lovely, darling.” Tom says when the end credits are rolling. He makes a soft, satisfied grunt and shifts his position. She feels him nuzzle her throat softly, his stubble barely scraping across her skin, the clean, unobtrusive shampoo smell of his hair mixing with the scent of his skin. One of his big hands caresses her stomach, so lightly she senses the heat of his palm more than actual pressure. It draws lazy circles over the soft gray fabric, lulling her into a state of boneless bliss.

But she doesn’t want to doze off. Damn it, she has Tom over at her place for really the first time. She wants to treasure this.

“What’s a movie you’ve watched so many times you’ve lost count?” she asks, trying desperately to stay awake. She holds his hand steady on her stomach with her own, their fingers entwining.

“Mmm…” He leans his head back against the sofa, his face scrunched up in thought. “I think it’s a close tie between ‘Heat’ and Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’.”

“What?” Thalia sits up straighter and lets go of his hand, checking his face to make sure he isn’t kidding. Those two movies are like night and day, and… “But that’s a children’s movie!”

He lets his head roll to the side, quirking his brows at her. “Yeah. And your point is?”

Now it’s her turn to frown thoughtfully. “Seriously? You’re not pulling my leg?”

Tom places a hand over his heart, assuming a comically solemn face. “Dead serious. Scout’s honor.”

That makes her giggle again. “I doubt you were ever a scout.”

He grins back at her. “Got me there, darling. But I was honest about ‘The Jungle Book’. I mean, how can you not love that movie? It teaches us so much, about friendship and family, about nature, about never giving up. Even after all these times of watching it, it makes me cry and laugh and sing along.”

As if to prove a point, Tom starts humming the tune to ‘Bare Necessities’, which sends her into another fit of laughter. She can’t remember a time when she’d felt so shitty but ended up laughing so much.

“Laugh all you want,” Tom said, crossing his arms over his chest and looking like a kid again. “It’s one of my all-time favorites, and I see no reason to be ashamed of it.”

Thalia shifts, half-turning on the sofa so she can face him. “I’m not saying it’s something to be ashamed of. You just surprised me, is all.” They exchange a smile. “It’ll be a great movie to show to your kids one day,” she adds automatically, then bites her lip.

Something shifts in his expression, almost imperceptibly. Curiosity has her shift closer and reach for his thigh, tracing circles on the bluish-purple, well-worn denim.  Her breath catches before she speaks, her heart racing.   “Do you want to have children some day, Tom?”

He stares into the distance before seeking out her eyes, his shoulders lifting in a shrug. “I think so, yes. I’m not so sure of when.” One finger lifts to his lips, rubbing pensively. “I know I’m not getting any younger, but for now, settling down and playing house isn’t how I envision my life.  Even if I found the right partner, I feel like there’s more I want to do first.”

The pounding in her chest echoes in her ears and she feels like it fills the room, wondering if he thinks he’s found the right one in her.

His hand captures hers against his leg, stilling it. With his thumb, he’s the one now tracing circles on her wrist. “But if I do get married and become a father one day, I’d probably love to have first a girl and then a boy because I know how wonderful it is to have a sister.”

Thalia allows her mind to wander for a moment, picturing a slightly elder version of Tom with glasses, a bit of grey at his temples and in his ginger scruff. She imagines him strolling to the park somewhere in London, holding the hand of a merrily skipping little girl with pigtails while a smaller boy is riding on his shoulders.

What does it say about her that her mind draws a blank on the woman who should be walking alongside him, holding his other hand?

Before she can dwell on the fantasy, Tom gives her hand a squeeze. “And you, dear Thalia?  Are children in your future?”

She chews on her lip, momentarily thrown by the question because being with Chris has made her oddly aware that having her own family isn’t so much in her distant future anymore but a real possibility if she chooses to take that path.

“I think I’ll go with your answer,” she says slowly. “Not now. I’m not ready for settling down yet, and it’s kind of scary to think of dedicating myself solely to a little person I’m responsible for when I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am.”  She sighs, searching his blue eyes, so intently focused on hers.  “Does it sound selfish to say I feel like I need to finish making myself before I make someone else?”

Tom shakes his head, squeezing more firmly. “Not at all… I don’t think anyone could ever accuse you of being selfish.”  He watches her thoughtfully.  “But when you do have them one day? What shall it be? A little girl with your riotous curls and your sass? Or a small, intelligent boy who loves burying himself in books?”

They exchange a look and a grin before blurting out at the same time, “Both. Both is good.”

Once their chuckles have subsided, Tom sits up and stretches with a drawn-out sigh, his plaid shirt rising to show a glimpse of his pale, nicely defined abs and sparse happy trail.

Somehow managing to look graceful while unfolding his long limbs and getting to his feet, he bends to pick up the tray with the half-eaten snacks and soda cans.

“Would you like anything else now, darling? Tea maybe? Your mashed potatoes?”

She shakes her head. “What I want right now is another movie, and some cuddles.”

He smiles, his eyes crinkling. “Your wish is my command. Give me a minute.”  Moving to the kitchen, he pauses.  “Is that a yoga mat in the corner?  I didn’t know you practiced yoga.”

His turn of phrase pierces a bit; just another example of how little they really know about one another.  She’s sure in passing on work days she’s mentioned going to the gym, possibly even yoga class.  It just proves how when Tom is in work mode, the real world often slips away.  Blushing a bit, she admits, “Yea, I was a little sore and achy this morning.  Some stretching helped, but then I was too zapped to put the mat away.” She shrugs.  “Perk of living alone; at least it’s my mess.”

He chuckles.  “Funny how we get set in our ways, then we begin to wonder if we could give up our freedoms to live with anyone else.”

She thinks on his words, but by the time he’s returned, she’s half asleep. Even more reluctant to lose her time with him, she stirs when the couch shifts from his weight. True to his word, he arranges himself for some cuddling. Sitting sideways on the sofa, his long legs hanging a little over the other end, he places a cushion on his lap and urges her to half-lie on him. It takes them some wiggling again, but then it feels so comfy she never wants to get up.

Between his steady heart-beat close to her ear and his soothing caresses all over her arms and back, she ends up missing half of the movie because she dozes off in between. Tom is quiet the whole time, only whispering an endearment here and there, holding her close without caging her in.

But then her stomach rumbles, and Tom grows alert from one moment to the next. He sits up straight, gently shifting her too. “Does my Warrior Princess need some magical health-restoring sustenance?”

She grins and nods, rubbing her sleepy eyes. “I’d kill for a steak right now, but I guess I should settle for those mashed potatoes.”

A mischievous glint enters Tom’s eyes. “Your stomach seems well enough, don’t you think? Can you handle some proper food?”

Thalia nods, wondering where this is headed to.  “What time is it?”

“It’s barely half past eight.”  Tom basically jumps off the sofa, not forgetting to resettle her tenderly. “I’ve got just the right thing in mind. Stay right here and let me treat you to one of the few things I’m truly good at.”

And off he is, with a bounce to his step, making Thalia wonder what on earth he’s talking about. What he’s good at? Shakespeare and stuff?  Amazing sex?  What’s that got to do with being hungry?

In a state of bliss and relaxation, Thalia tries not to think anything at all and simply wait.  She jumps when the phrase “bite that tattoo on your shoulder” rings from her phone.  She thought it was on mute, and rushes to cover the speaker with her hand.  Looking over her shoulder, Tom is focused on cooking, and not paying attention.  So like him actually, to be lost in his thoughts.  She sighs and shakes her head, still feeling a little off.  And guilty.  Terribly guilty.

Opening the screen to the picture Chris sent of him and Avery playing Legos at his kitchen table draws a smile to her face.  Their adoration for one another is touching.  However, her discussion with Tom reminded her of what she wants, but that doesn’t mean she has to make any decisions right away. Chris is still holding Avery at arm’s length from her.  He’s not pushing her into a mother role, and she can live with that.  He doesn’t seem to want an instant family, and Tom seems nowhere near ready to settle down.  Sending a quick reply, she snuggles down into the couch and laughs at the deleted scenes on the DVD.  Tantalizing smells waft from the kitchen after a while, making her practically salivate although she hasn’t had an appetite all day.

Looking over the back of the couch, she hides her laughter at the pile of bowls and broken eggshells on the counter.  She never would have guessed Tom was a messy cook.

“Hurry up, I’m starving now,” she whines.

“Patience my darling; good things come to those who wait.”

“I know, I know.  Delayed gratification,” she giggles.

What feels half an eternity later, Tom walks over the imaginary divide into the living space, his tray even more laden than before.

Her jaw hits the ground when she sees plates heaped full with mashed potatoes, fried eggs sunny side up and cut into pieces, sausages in bite-sized cubes, toast, two glasses of juice, grilled tomatoes, and bacon strips.

“What the… Thomas William Hiddleston, is that what I think it is?” She looks wide-eyed from the tray to his face with its smug grin and back.

“If you think what I think you think,” he jokes, “then you’re right.”

Thalia shakes her head, curls bouncing. “That’s a full English breakfast, right?”

He nods enthusiastically. “One hundred points, A+, Ms. Bareo. It sure is.”

“But, but…” she splutters. “Just in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s eight in the evening, Tom, not in the morning.”

He shrugs, barely managing to keep the tray balanced. Walking over, he sets it down and kneels in front of her, making a big ceremony of shaking out a cloth napkin he’s somehow found in her tiny, under-stocked kitchen. He drapes it over her knees, the funniest, kind of proud and precious grin still lighting up his features.

“If I may say so myself, I’m really gifted when it comes to putting a full English breakfast all hot on the plate at the same time.” Thalia muffles her incredulous laughter behind a hand as he goes on. “The tricky thing is the timing, you know. The toast should be hot enough for the butter to melt.” He points to the plate, his grin widening even more. “The bacon should be sizzling, the sausages and the eggs fresh.” He tilts his head, giving her one of those boyish, infuriatingly adorable expressions. “It isn’t an easy thing, but I do love a good challenge.”

“Dork.” She playfully hits his chest, and he captures her hand and peppers it with tiny kisses.

“But a dork who can cook. Want to see for yourself?”

He takes his place next to her again, and they tuck in, banter going back and forth between appreciative moans at the food.

Damn it all to hell, the man really can cook. Thalia represses the voice at the back of her mind that says it would be lovely to have him prepare breakfast for her on a regular basis.  She tries to stop the back and forth pendulum in her brain between Chris and Tom, instead focusing on the delicious food and wallowing in his attention.

After the late dinner, Tom drowns out all protests and does the dishes by himself while they have a shouted conversation over the running water, because he insisted she stay cuddled on the couch.  She could get used to letting him care for her in this way.  He  tells her more about English breakfast traditions she remembers vaguely from her time in Stratford-upon-Avon.

They put on another movie, this time a chick flick because she wants to wind down, but Thalia falls asleep midway. The next thing she notices is that she’s being carried. Groggily, she opens her eyes and squints at Tom’s face in the dim light.

“What…what’re you doin’?”

“Sh, darling, don’t fret. I’m just taking you to bed. You need a good night’s rest and then you’ll be back to your usual sassy self again in the morning.”

Shushing her half-hearted protests, he sets her gently down on the bed and tucks her in. He reaches out and brushes her hair from her face, checking her forehead for a fever again with gut-wrenching concern.  “I tucked you in here once before when you weren’t feeling so well.”

Thalia grabs his hand before he can withdraw it, leaning her cheek into his touch.

“You did.  I remember it well.  It seems like a lifetime ago.  Who would’ve ever thought we’d be here now, like this?”

“It was only my wildest dream, and I still can’t believe it came true, darling,” he whispers, placing a kiss to the back of her hand.

“I’m sorry, Tom. I wish the night didn’t have to end like this,” she says, fighting the drowsiness because it’s important to her to get these words out. “I can’t even give you a proper good night kiss, and I…and you…ugh.”

“Hey, hey, hey, don’t worry.” Tom leans in and brushes his lips over her forehead, wrinkled in distress. “I may turn into a starving sex maniac around you at times, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t keep it in my pants and just enjoy some time with you.” He smooths the blanket over her with a little smile.

“Sleep, my Warrior Princess. I’ll be on the couch. If you need anything, just call out.”

She wants to say more, her heart in her throat, but Tom places a finger over her lips and shakes his head. He waits until she closes her eyes, his hand brushing over her arm rhythmically—and before she knows it, she’s asleep.

Click here to read Chapter 31 Cabin Fever

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