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It had been almost two weeks since the night at Iron Kettle Brewery, and Katie’s life was taking off in a way she never expected. Her boss, Bill, was retiring, and Katie had just learned she was under consideration for his position as Lead Producer and Director of Operations. The news had heightened her senses and made her feel more alive than ever as she wondered: Was she ready? Could she nail the final job interview and finally hit her stride?
After all these years, after starting at the bottom and working her way up, her hard work was being noticed. She had even signed up for an online course on leadership and business administration, hoping to apply what she learned to her everyday work. Her investments in herself improved not only her productivity but that of her team as well. Katie beamed all day upon learning the news, and couldn’t wait to get home to tell Mike.
She was feeling good about their relationship, too. Mike was “the one” and she showed him every day. Sure, Katie thought, she had been a cheater in the past, with a previous boyfriend, and it had been fun. Thrilling, even. But now she was older, wiser, and more mature. She loved Mike and was totally devoted to him.
Blake Davis had given her his number, and Katie hadn’t used it. After the night at the brewery, and after the secret fun she had in the bathroom in her hot black and white dress, she had thrown away the napkin with Blake’s number and hadn’t thought about it twice. Blake was hot, for sure, and reminded her a lot of Kyle. Katie even admired his audacity for flirting with her. But she was determined to avoid the same kinds of mistakes she made long ago. And while it thrilled her to know Blake found her attractive, Katie loved Mike and had decided — with certainty — that there could be no other man for her.
As she drove home, she thought about cooking a nice surprise dinner for Mike, opening a bottle of wine, and sharing her exciting news.
She stopped at the store for wine, fresh produce, and tender chicken breasts. Mike was a bit of a health nut and loved the delicious salads she fixed for him. When Katie got home, she quickly changed out of her work clothes into cute, comfortable shorts and t-shirt. In the kitchen, she hummed to herself as she worked. She smiled again as she thought about her possible promotion. Feeling valued at work was important to Katie, and she felt more fulfilled than ever. As she chopped vegetables and watched the chicken breasts frying on the stovetop, she swung her hips to the tunes she sang to herself.
Imagine, Katie thought. Me as Ops Director and Lead Producer!
She was so lost in her happiness that she didn’t hear when Mike first arrived and let himself into her apartment. He called out to her.
“In the kitchen!” she hollered above the sounds of sizzling chicken and vegetable chopping. Mike approached her from behind and wrapped his arm around her waist.
“Hey babe, you’re looking good.” He kissed her on the cheek.
Even though she hadn’t yet turned around to see him, she replied, “You too, baby.’
She carefully tucked her knife away and lifted both hands up and behind her, running her fingers through her boyfriend’s soft, luscious hair.
“I’ve got great news!” she said.
“Yeah? Let’s hear it!”
Katie whirled around. “Bill is retiring!” Her eyes were full of excitement, and her grin stretched from ear to ear, until she realized Mike needed more information. He was smiling but his eyes glazed over. “Bill is retiring,” she repeated, “so his position will be opening up!”
Mike’s eyes lit up. “Wow! Are you going to apply for it?”
“Yes! Well, actually, I met with him today and he told me I’m his top choice to replace him!”
“Wow, babe, that’s great!” Mike hugged her tight. As Katie held his embrace, doubt began to creep into her mind. Of course she would have to apply and compete for this position; it wasn’t entirely a sure thing. But Mike’s very first response seemed to imply that there would be other, more qualified candidates.
Mike hadn’t been with her in Bill’s office today, she thought. He hadn’t heard Bill gushing over her. And he never seemed to understand why she invested time and money in that online course. He had said — even insisted — she didn’t need it, claiming she was already talented enough. Of course he wouldn’t appreciate what this moment meant to her, she thought.
“What’s wrong?” he asked. “You look upset.”
“Oh nothing,” she said, biting her lower lip and turning back to the cutting board on her counter. “I know it’s not a sure thing, but Bill seems to think I’m the frontrunner.”
“Of course you are. You do such great work. I’m so proud of you.” He seemed to realize his misstep, and he wrapped an arm around her waist again. “I love you, babe.”
Didn’t he always say that, she thought, when he didn’t know what else to say?
“I love you, too,” she said.
“I’ll be right back,” Mike said. “Dinner smells delicious. I can’t bursa escort wait!” He hurried off to the bathroom.
Katie opened the bottle of wine and poured herself a glass. She raised it to the empty room. “Cheers,” she said, rolling her eyes and taking a big sip.
Why was she always so hard on Mike? He was a great guy, and was doing his best.
Why was there always a seed of doubt in her mind? Hadn’t she been sure, just moments ago, that he was “the one?”
She took another sip of wine, shivering slightly as it warmed her belly. Already, she felt the edge coming off. She looked around at the delicious food she had been preparing and felt her anticipation of a romantic evening return.
Mike walked slowly back to the kitchen, seemingly unsure about Katie’s mood. She quickly decided to ignore the doubt in her mind, to make this work, to be present in the moment with the man she loved. He touched her arm and pulled her in close, hugging her again. “I’m so proud of you. You deserve this promotion and you are going to do great!”
“Thanks, baby.” She turned back to the counter to pour him a glass of wine. As she did so, he pressed against her, and she felt a familiar bulge in his pants begin to grow. She lightly wiggled her butt against him.
She was wearing pink and green boy shorts, a favorite of Mike’s because of the way her butt popped in them, and a dark grey t-shirt. When Mike’s hand slipped under her t-shirt and lightly caressed her soft stomach, Katie gasped. She thought dinner would come first tonight, but now Mike’s hand was moving downward and sliding between her skin and the worn elastic of her boy shorts, and Katie sighed. She grinded against him harder, letting his hand make its way back around her waist to her rear, exploring her, gliding smoothly and confidently along her behind. His fingers sent shivers up Katie’s spine as they dipped playfully down her crack. Katie moaned and glanced behind at him, smiling. The look in Mike’s eyes told Katie he was quickly becoming a single-minded animal, that his whole world, everything he could ever want, was right there underneath her shorts. She could see he wanted nothing else in that moment but to feel her heat, to be inside his one and only true love.
But no. It was just too much. She turned and gently pushed him away. She hadn’t gotten the reaction she hoped for, and unfortunately, she didn’t feel close enough to him in that moment.
While that wasn’t entirely Mike’s fault, it changed the mood just enough for her to pump the brakes on sex.
“Help me finish cooking,” she said.
She reached for a spatula and handed it to him. Mike sighed heavily, but also smiled, and looked at his beautiful girlfriend, doing his best to give her sad puppy dog eyes.
Katie playfully rolled her eyes. “Stir in some veggies,” she said.
A few days later, Mike walked to the park from his apartment. The sidewalk was uneven, and he bounced his basketball carefully every few steps, wary of dribbling off a crack and watching his smooth, worn basketball — which he’d had for years — rolling into the street.
While he walked, he thought of Katie. Something was going on with her. They had been together nearly a year and a half, and Mike felt more distant from her than ever. He knew that he was part of the problem. He always put his foot in his mouth, even though he was a good listener and tried very hard to be a loving, supportive boyfriend. He’d always struggled with this, whether it was overcoming extreme shyness as a child or learning how to communicate in an adult relationship.
He wondered if Katie knew how hard it was for him to connect with people on a level more than superficial.
Probably not, he thought. She seemed to be inwardly focused as well, especially now as her career was taking off.
Mike was considering signing up for a recreational fall basketball league, but he felt now wasn’t the right time. Katie needed something more from him, although he didn’t know exactly what. It seemed like Mike could be setting himself up for failure. What was it she had said about him?
He could be so presumptuous.
Mike knew the dangers of presuming to know what Katie needed, but he didn’t care. He wanted to be a good boyfriend. He was even thinking he might marry Katie one day, and right now, she needed his support. Playing organized basketball two nights a week seemed silly in comparison.
When Mike arrived at the park, the basketball courts were mostly empty, except for a few kids playing horse at one end. Mike set up on the opposite court and dribbled around absent-mindedly. He would talk to Katie when she came over later.
He would make it right, and they would get back on track.
After a few shots bounced off the rim, Mike palmed the ball and extended his arm. He held it there for a few seconds before bringing it to his chest and slapping it into a secure hold with his other hand. The leather felt familiar and warm in his hands. escort bursa It felt good.
Mike resumed shooting, and didn’t notice two men walking through the gate separating the courts from the rest of the park. They saw him, and called his name.
Mike looked up. It was Blake and Grant. They were both dressed for the cool morning in athletic hoodies, and each of them carried their own ball. They walked towards him, both starting to dribble casually as they crossed onto the concrete court. “What’s up, man?” Grant said.
Mike raised his chin in a welcoming man-nod. “What’s up?” He set his feet and fired a jumper from the right wing. It clanged off the rim and bounced towards the other court, out of the reach of the two newcomers.
He shrugged and went after it, stopping as he passed Blake and Grant. The two shook hands with him. “How you doing?” Mike said.
“Good, man. Nothing new. How’ve you been?” Blake said.
“Good.” Despite being annoyed at Katie when she flirted with Blake — and it was definitely flirting, he now felt sure — Mike had no feelings of animosity towards Blake. He seemed like a cool dude, and Grant did as well. He felt in them kindred spirits: active, athletic, and competitive.
“You up for a game?” Grant asked. Mike shrugged — why not? “Word. Go get your ball and we’ll play some Twenty-One.”
Mike retrieved his ball and jogged back to the hoop where Blake and Grant were chatting as they shot around. He rolled his ball towards the bleachers, where Grant had put his ball and his sweatshirt.
Blake took off his sweatshirt. As it came off, his t-shirt nearly went with it, and Mike got a look at his midsection. His abs were like washboards.
Damn, Mike thought.
Blake threw his hoodie towards the bleachers. As he turned, Mike saw his oblique flex, a diagonal wall of sinewy strength. He looked like a javelin thrower. Mike couldn’t help but be impressed. The sight of that tight, well-formed muscle told him that Blake Davis was, without a doubt, a beast.
Regardless, Mike still liked his chances. He loved playing Twenty-One, and as the three of them negotiated the rules, Mike felt the familiar fire in his stomach as he prepared to compete.
They would play no-taps, taking it back to the three-point line off the rim. Two points per bucket, followed by one free throw, up to three if first two go in. Make-it-take-it. Win by two or reset to eighteen points. Blatant fouls only.
The game began evenly matched as the three men sized each other up and adapted to one another’s styles. At twelve-all, they took a break, no doubt silently sharing the same sad thought that they weren’t as young as they used to be.
As Mike caught his breath, he tried to think of a way to get one-up on his competition. He had noticed Blake crossing his feet when he moved left. Mike thought if he could get Blake in isolation, he could drive to his right, and go in for a layup when Blake lost his balance. It would be an easy two points. He just had to make sure Grant stayed out of the way.
When the game resumed, Mike started at the top of the three point line, checking the ball to Blake. Grant stood under the basket with his hands on his hips, still resting his body, waiting to ease his way back into the game. If Mike could line the two of them up, he could back Blake into Grant and have them both of out his way.
Mike dribbled in, meeting Blake square, not wanting to give away his moves. He crossed over so he dribbled with his left hand, hoping Blake would bite.
Blake didn’t, but that didn’t matter to Mike. He faked left and crossed over behind his back. Blake stayed with him, but because of the way he crossed his feet, Mike was a step ahead. He drove to the basket. Blake continued to guard him, not allowing any room for Grant to defend. Mike leapt, holding the ball to this right before arching it over Blake’s outstretched hand.
The ball banked and went in.
“Nice move,” Blake said.
“Thanks,” Mike muttered. He couldn’t help but notice that while he was out of pumped and out of breath, both Blake and Grant seemed ready for the next play.
Regardless, he had challenged Blake one-on-one, and had bested a man he was increasingly thinking of as a friendly rival.
Blake and Grant exchanged a glance, amused at Mike’s smugness. Mike was oblivious to their silent exchange. He was busy catching his breath.
Mike made his first free-throw but missed the second, and play resumed beyond the three-point arch. Not wanting to be a one-trick pony, Mike varied his game plan, checking to Blake before setting his feet and quickly firing a three-pointer. He missed, and Blake grabbed the rebound.
The game continued, with the score reaching 19-19-18. Mike and Blake had 19 points each, and Grant was only a point behind at 18. The next bucket could win, and all three men were in it to win it, ready to leave everything they had on the court.
Grant got away from Blake, dribbled escort bursa to the left wing, and shot from beyond the three-point line. “Game!” he said as the ball sailed through the air in a perfect arch.
Both Mike and Blake watched carefully, hoping it would not go in. For a frightening second, it looked like it would. But even after the ball bounced once off the rim, straight up and over the basket, Mike wasn’t ready to give up. He set up for the rebound off the second bounce, leaping to snag it.
“Damn!” Grant said, hustling to get back on defense. Mike started at the top of the three-point line. With the game on the line, both Blake and Grant guarded him fiercely.
Mike wanted Blake in isolation again.
First he would have to get past Grant. He checked the ball in two-point range, knowing a three-pointer would set him back to 18 points.
He set his feet and raised the ball, indicating he was going to go for it and end the game on a long jumper.
Grant bit, leaping in the air to block his shot. At the height of his flight, Mike went around his right side, forcing Blake to defend on his weak side. He crossed over twice in front of Blake, setting him up for a dramatic one-on-one match-up.
Mike set his focus on Blake, knowing that Grant was coming around behind up to his right to try and swipe the ball. Before he could, Mike drove right, but Blake’s feet were set and even.
Blake was going to beat him on the lay-up.
Mike instead spun on his left foot, dribbling once as he planted his right foot for a fade-away jumper. He sprung to the rear and fully extended his shot. The ball gently rolled off his fingertips, fired in a smooth arc. Blake jumped with an outstretched hand, missing the ball and fouling Mike by making contact on his arm. The ball went in with a swish so satisfying Mike pounded his chest. The foul didn’t matter, and Mike won the game.
“Yeah!” he yelled as he bested his rival.
Blake smiled, hunched over with his hands on his knees. “Good game, bro,” he said, offering his hand. Mike shook it.
“Good game, dude,” Grant said. They shook hands as well.
Mike smiled. “You too,” he said.
If only Katie had been here to see that, he thought.
Later that afternoon, Katie Shipley drove to her boyfriend Mike’s apartment. She was looking forward to a quiet night in. She had been working hard lately. Her promotion was in motion and things were moving fast. Just not fast enough.
The past few days had brought no news, and Katie was worried. Had Mike been right? Were there other equally qualified candidates under consideration? The thought was causing her anxiety, and she hoped her boyfriend — her best friend in the world — would be there for her tonight. She needed someone to talk to about her fear that this promotion might not be hers after all.
She knew it wasn’t fair to Mike, but she blamed him, at least partially, for the seeds of doubt germinating in her brain. If he had just been supportive, just said what she needed to hear, she might be able to ride out these last few days with less worry. Instead, because of his insensitivity (presumptuousness was too kind a word), she couldn’t stop worrying about who else Bill and the company might be considering.
As she parked in front of his building, she took a deep breath. No, she thought. I’d still be worried. This isn’t Mike’s fault. She closed her eyes. She thought of her boyfriend, waiting for her inside his apartment, and thought for a minute about driving home.
Why did the thought of Mike, who was probably inside frantically cleaning and washing dirty dishes at the last moment to prepare for her arrival, cause her anything other than joy? Why was she dreading going into his apartment?
Because, she thought, I know what I need but I don’t know if I’ll find it in there. I never know.
I can never be sure I’ll find what I need with Mike.
She pulled her phone out of her jacket pocket, subconsciously needing to reach out to someone. But who could she call? Who could she text? She found herself wishing she still had Kyle, or someone like him, to text.
But after a moment’s thought, she wrote to Mike.
– I’m here.
Katie sighed. Mike was a wonderful person, despite his flaws. She was lucky to have found him. It wasn’t fair to him to fixate on his faults. She needed to remember how wonderful he could be.
Sure, he often says the wrong things at the wrong time. Or rarely says the right thing. But he tries.
At least he tries, Kate thought. Most guys don’t even do that.
In his apartment, Mike greeted Katie with a large, excited smile. He helped her take off her jacket and hung it on a hook behind the door. Katie caught Mike’s eye wandering to her breasts. She was wearing a thin sweater, and her perky breasts were prominent beneath it. She hadn’t shown them off on purpose, and Katie immediately wished she had worn something else.
I hope he doesn’t want sex, she thought. Please don’t make this about sex. I’m not in the mood.
And she wasn’t. She felt so distant from Mike that sex was out of the question. They needed to reconnect, and Katie hoped a quiet night in would help them do that.
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