It's Complicated By Nikki Prince

Funerals always had a way of making a person think about life, and, sitting in the small church pew next to Ashton on one side, then Royce, Emmie, Áine and Darian respectively, Keiko Jarrett thought about her life. She gripped a tissue tightly in her hand as she wiped away tears that fell for her friend. Ashton held a box of tissue out to her and offered her some more and she took it balling it into her free hand.
It's Complicated
It's Complicated By Nikki Prince

“Thanks,” she whispered softly and looked down the pew at her two girlfriends whose eyes were swollen with shed and unshed tears as well.

Ashton reached over and rubbed her shoulder gently and the huge comfort from that touch surprised her.
Perry had been a good friend of all of theirs and around the same age. Nothing about his life hinted to his early demise; in fact, as health conscious as he was they’d always joked he’d outlive them all. His death made no sense to Keiko. He had been so full of life always telling them they needed to take the time to grasp what they wanted and to stop waiting for it. He’d always been one to live in the moment, saying the next moment could be taken. How right he’d been. Perry’s death had been quick and, God, she’d hoped it had been painless. Cancer. The insidiousness of the disease was terrifying. Keiko remembered having a beer with him at Emmerson’s bar and grill two weeks before and he’d urged her to go after what she really wanted.

They’d all gone to the bar to unwind from their jobs for the week. Emmie would come by as she worked, because she didn’t want to be the kind of boss that played more than worked. So occasionally she’d sit with them and then get up to do more work. Darian and Royce were what they called “pool-aholics” and spent most of the time at the pool table drinking beers and egging each other on. Keiko and Perry had decided to sit and talk. The one thing she remembered about him and had always loved was that Perry was a talker. He was also an encourager of the group.

It became clear as she reflected on it. He’d known he was dying. He’d been telling her in his own way that she should go after what she’d wanted. When they’d asked him why he wasn’t dating he’d always say because he hadn’t found the right one. When she thought back to the time with Perry, he’d looked healthy to her. In fact, none of them had known he’d had cancer. It had taken him suddenly, and, without warning, their friend was gone. She’d laughed and told him that sometimes going after what one wanted was not in the cards.



Keiko laughed softly as she watched Ashton and Áine playing Ping-Pong in the section of Emmie’s bar. Ashton had shot wide and Áine had missed it.

“You’re staring at him again.”

Keiko turned her head to Perry who was leaning over her shoulder with a serious expression on his face and she frowned.

“No, I’m not. I was watching them play.”

“More like thinking about drawing designs on his skin with your tongue. You know if you want him, you should go for it.”

Keiko turned her head and eyed Perry. “What?”

“Girl, you heard exactly what I said.” Perry leaned back in his chair and took another drink of his beer and set it down. He didn’t take his eyes off her and she glared at him.

“You know I’m right or you wouldn’t be reacting like that. Besides you haven’t had any luck in the dating field as it is. Who was that guy a few weeks ago who took you out to eat and decided to take you to a fast-food restaurant?”

“Dennis Carvalho.” Keiko picked up her beer and took a big swallow after answering him.

“Right, that’s it, Dennis Carvalho, the guy cheaper than a pair of fake leather pants.”

Keiko coughed as she’d just started to take another drink of beer when he’d said that.

“Slow down, beautiful, before you get tipsy. Oh, hey, wait.” His eyes brightened up and a touch of wickedness was in his expression.

“What’s that look for?” Keiko set her glass back down on the table and narrowed her eyes on him.

“Well, just thinking if memory serves me, when you drink too much you get a little touchy-feely. Maybe a little liquid courage will help?”

“Shit, get a little tipsy one time in college and it never gets dropped.”

“Of course not, but at least you got touchy-feely with me and not someone else.”

“Yes, it’s a good thing you’re a friend or that could have been disastrous.”

“Not so if it were with Ashton. Then maybe you two would stop dancing around each other. Ya know the whole friends with bennies kinda thing.”

“Perry—”

“I know what you’re going to say, but you’ll see what I mean if you just make that move.”

Keiko opened her mouth to retort but was stopped as the rest of their friends came to the large table and all sat down bringing their extra noise with them. Ashton sat next to her and placed his arm on the back of her chair and Keiko had to look away from Perry as he wiggled his eyebrows. Keiko had to admit Ashton’s closeness always made her feel needy. But, she wasn’t going to admit that to Perry. Hell, she really didn’t have to, he knew it.

“This is always so fun, getting together when we can, just like we used to in college,” Áine said as she reached for the pitcher of beer and poured some in her glass stein.

“It is; those were some of our best times,” Darian said with a small snicker.

“Yeah, some of the craziest times too. Remember how we all met?” Áine queried.

“God, how can any of us forget?” Keiko said to Áine.

“Yeah, after the football game under the bleachers,” Royce commented.

“We had the big storm that day and we all had run under there to get out of the downpour,” Keiko said softly.

It had been like an instant bond between all of them. She’d never understood why, but then it was one of those things that asking why truly didn’t matter.

Emmie strolled over and leaned her hand on the back of Royce’s chair. “And what are we all talking about, my lovelies?”

“How we first met,” Keiko added.

“I felt like a drowned rat,” Emmie said.

“You didn’t look like any drowned rat that I’ve ever seen,” Royce offered up.

Emmie winked at Royce. Their little byplay and flirtation was something they’d all gotten used to. From the moment of meeting, Royce and Emmie had played around their attraction to one another. As far as Keiko knew nothing had come of the flirtations but it was interesting all the same to watch them together. None of them had fit into any stereotype and amazingly any idiosyncrasies between them all just seemed to match up and meld together making their friendships stronger.

“Nope, you didn’t but Royce did,” Ashton said jokingly as he slapped his hand on Royce’s shoulder. They all burst into laughter.

Royce snickered and said, “Whatever, bro. Whatever.”

“That was a fantastic night for our alma mater and a beginning of the wonderful friendships we all formed,” Keiko said simply.

Everyone nodded their heads in agreement.

“Our football team won against our dreaded enemies, the Bears.”

“Yeah that storm lasted, what, about an hour after that game?” Áine asked.

“I think it was the other team shedding tears,” Darian joked and turned to look at Áine. The laugh Áine gave sounded nervous before she picked up her drink and took a long sip.

Interesting. When was Áine ever nervous about anything? She was all fire and spark.

“I’d have to say you were right. We beat them bad,” Emmie said with a small giggle as she picked up a pretzel and took a bite.

Everyone started talking amongst themselves and Keiko turned to see Perry watching her. Keiko pretended as if everything was as per usual and laughed and joked as well.

Later, after the bar had closed, Keiko had stepped out after saying goodbye to them all. When she moved into Ashton’s arms, nothing had ever felt so good and she could have sworn he held her just a bit longer than the other guys, but she didn’t comment. When he pulled back she had made sure not to look into his eyes.

“Kei, do you need a walk to your car?” Ashton said.

Keiko shook her head in the negative. “Thanks, Ash, but I actually gave Perry a ride here.”

“Oh, okay. See you soon,” Ashton replied.

“Yes, of course.” Keiko waved then turned to head toward her car.

She didn’t say anything as Perry fell instep beside her.

“Now I’m upset that I asked you for a ride. If I’d been smart about it, I would have picked you up so that you and Ash could ride together.”

“Percival.”

“Nope you don’t get to, Percival me. You need to take what you want. Life is too short; besides he doesn’t live far from you.”

“Perry, you’re talking crazy,” Keiko said as they stopped next to her car and she searched for her keys.

“No, I’m just saying that it’s been a long time since you had that itch. Now go out and scratch it.”

“Perry, we have our whole lives ahead of us.”

The look on his face when she said that gave her pause and she was about to say something when he spoke again.

“Where is that adventurous spirit of yours? The one you said you found after your mom died?”

Keiko didn’t take offense. The relationships they all had was one where they could tell each other anything. He said it in love. “The spirit is still there, I promise. I just don’t think I should go up to Ashton and proposition him. Besides, I don’t want to rush into anything.”

“Time has a way of slipping through our fingers is all I’m saying. Go for what you want, don’t wait for things to happen to you, you need to make them happen.”

To go for what she wanted or to let the possibility slip through her fingers, that was indeed the question.



Although what Perry said made sense to her, he was being overly dramatic and now here they were at his gravesite. Gone too soon as they said but damn he’d left such an impact on all of their lives. The one when someone was feeling down who had a kind word to say. The one who would have given the shirt off his back. He’d honestly been the glue in the beginning of their friendships. Always keeping them together and finding ways they stayed in touch until it became a second skin to them all.

“Kei?”

Keiko glanced up at Ashton and realized that it was their turn to place their roses on Perry’s coffin. Ashton placed his hand at the small of her back and walked with her and they both set their roses down. Soon after, Royce, Emmie, Áine, and Darian did the same. The funeral was sweet and to the point and over quickly as Perry would have wanted. Later that evening they all sat around to talk about Perry. Once again, they’d all naturally paired into male to female couplings although they all sat around talking to each other.

Keiko silently watched her two girlfriends and their three male friends and realized perhaps Perry was on to something. She had a great relationship with Ashton. Royce and Emmie clicked well together, and Áine and Darian had a rapport as well. So why couldn’t more happen between them all? Dating was and had always been a minefield of men who hadn’t been what she wanted or needed. Sex for just the sake of sex with unknown men wasn’t in her to do. Random hookups. Not only were they dangerous physically, sexually, and possibly mentally, they just weren’t what she wanted in her life. She was a very sexual being, so were Emmie and Áine. Maybe it was time to take another look at all their relationships.

If there was one thing she could do it would be to live her life as Perry had said and she’d get her girlfriends to do the same. Well, at least she’d try.





Chapter Two



Keiko stared at herself in the mirror; it was pep talk time. She quickly washed her hands as she tried to bolster herself for what she wanted to do. It had been four weeks since Perry died and she’d finally talked herself into doing what he’d suggested. She’d finally convinced herself that her plan of action would work and her girlfriends wouldn’t think she was crazy. Keiko was tired of dealing with the losers she’d come across in the dating game.

At the age of thirty, she had the solution to this problem with the nudging of a very special friend. Why not date her best friend? Seriously, if one found their best friend who was single as well, to be stimulating in more than just conversation, a relationship could benefit both. Having thought about it for a while, she felt ready to present the idea to her girlfriends. She heard Perry’s voice in her head as if he were there. A long while. They were in the same predicament, so they could pick their men accordingly.

She already knew who she wanted and he also had two amazingly single males that were his friends, but she still wanted to pass this by her girls. So why did she feel nervous? Plenty of reasons. The first very big reason—the man she’d targeted, though he was a friend, might not want that type of relationship with her. The second reason that the group dynamics would change, a relationship between any of them would change the whole group, because the feelings involved would be entirely different. But, maybe she could disprove that and have what she wanted without all the feels that most thought would happen.

She wanted to experience Ashton without all the games and the fluff meeting someone else would involve. Ashton understood her and they got along so well. She closed her eyes and immediately, Ashton came into view. His lips, his hands—God, all she ever thought about was him kissing her, cupping her breasts, squeezing her nipples until she squirmed with pleasure. Built nice and thick where it mattered, Keiko would fit what he seemed to like in a woman. Her large breasts would fit perfectly in his hands. With her nice shapely ass, and a woman’s body—not a girl’s shape—one that would fit seamlessly against his form. The thought of him touching her filled her with pleasure and kept her panties wet on a daily basis. Just like they were now. It was always so disappointing to think about him like this and not have his touch. She intended to change that.

Her cell phone chimed and she jumped. God, what a way to be shoved out of the mood. She pressed the home button on her cell to see who was calling. It was Áine.

Keiko answered, “Hey, girl.”

“Hey, Kei. Emmie and I are just down the street by the store. Just calling to see if you need us to bring anything over?”

“Hmmm, I would love it if you two could bring over a bottle of that blackberry wine we love so much. I forgot to get some. I have the snacks and the movie.” With what she wanted to talk to them about she needed a bit of liquid nerve to get her started.

“Sounds good, but if you want wine, there must be something that you want to talk about.” Áine knew her too well.

“Yes, girl, I have something I want to discuss with you two and I need to be relaxed to do it.”

Áine chuckled. “See? I told Emmie something was up.”

“You both know me so well. Now get your butts over here, so I can have my glass of courage.”

“We’re hurrying, girl! See you in a bit.”

The call ended. She slipped the cell into her jeans pocket and headed out of her bathroom into the kitchen. She washed her hands again and then went back to finish plating the grapes, cheese, and crackers. She’d also bought them pints of their favorite ice cream. Once they settled in, they could indulge in their sweet tooth. Nothing like caramel dulce de leche ice cream to bring happiness to a girl and calm her nerves if the wine didn’t work. Comfort food working its magic.

She carried the tray of snacks into the living room and set it down on the coffee table. Then as soon as the girls got there, they could indulge if they wished. The only thing missing were the wineglasses.

Moving over to the china cabinet, given to her by her mother, she caressed the wood softly for a moment. Looking at the cabinet made her think of her mother who’d passed away two years ago. “I miss you, Mom.” Squaring her shoulders, she opened the cabinet and pulled out three wineglasses.

It still hurt to have lost her mom, but she felt determined to live the life her mother would have wanted for her. She also would make sure to explore what she’d talked with Perry about. Ashton. He was the perfect candidate for this because he wouldn’t let feelings guide him. He’d give her what she needed and that was companionship and him without her scaring him off with wanting connections that he couldn’t handle.

His parents had had a nasty divorce from what she’d heard from him and from the others. Nasty enough that he’d always said he wouldn’t ever fall in love and that he just wanted sex. Knowing that was what he wanted helped her in making her decision to pick him. Well, besides the fact she’d always felt drawn to him. Perry was right; in the times when she’d thought no one was looking she had been watching him. He intrigued her and he always had. His drive to be the best lawyer he could be right along with always helping others when he could had endeared him to her. It wasn’t that the others didn’t have wonderful traits but she liked who she liked. Right? He didn’t want ties, and she’d make sure everything stayed on the friendship level. Sex would just be an added bonus.

The doorbell pulled her from her reverie, along with the sound of laughing and chatter from Áine and Emmerson. They let themselves in, as they all had keys to each other’s houses.

“Kei, where are you?” Emmerson yelled out.

“In the living room, you two!” Walking back to the coffee table, Keiko set the glasses down just as the two other women came into the room. With a squeal of delight, she hugged both to her and kissed their cheeks.

The three of them held on tightly to each other.

Pulling back, she beamed at Áine with her red shock of wild hair, green eyes, and pale beauty. Then she looked over at Emmerson who, like Keiko, was of mixed race. Though, Emmie was part African American and Caucasian descent, while Keiko was part African American and Japanese.

Áine was the first to pull away from the group hug and flounce down onto the couch. She put the wine bottle down on the coffee table, kicked off her low heels and settled on the sofa with her feet tucked under her.

Emmie followed suit and dropped her tall form into the chair facing them.

Taking their settling in as her cue, Keiko reached for the wine bottle and poured them each a glass. She then sat on the opposite end of the couch, folding her legs up under her and waited until the other two grabbed their wine.

They sat in perfect silence for a few moments, sipping the wine and just enjoying the taste of it.

Then, with no surprise to the other two, Áine spoke up. “Okay, it’s time to tell us why you needed the wine.”

“Damn, girl, you’re bossy.” Keiko chuckled and took one more sip. Closing her eyes briefly, she calmed her nerves enough to let them in on what she wanted to suggest to them.

“Kei, come on.” This time Emmie was insisting.

“All right, you both know that my luck with men has been horrendous, right?”

“Yes.” Emmie nodded emphatically.

“Hell, yes,” Áine agreed.

Keiko rolled her eyes and proceeded. “Well, I’ve found the perfect solution to that.”

“And what solution would that be, Kei? Come on, stop holding us in suspense.” Áine huffed as she picked up a cracker with cheese and nibbled on it.

“I want us to all go after what we want in the form of a friend with benefits pact.”

Áine stopped chewing and her eyes went wide. “Um—nothing against you, girlfriend, but you know Emmie and I are strictly dickly. Hell, we thought for sure, you were too.”

Keiko burst out laughing and finally, when she was able to calm herself, stared at her two friends. Emmie held her arms crossed over her chest as one brow rose in question, while Áine had a smug look on her face.

“No, girl… I don’t mean having that with you two! Although, you should know, if I swung that way, you both would be the first on my list to have fun with.” Keiko laughed so hard tears slipped down her cheeks.

Emmerson spoke up first. “Then what did you mean? Friends with benefits means being with a friend sexually.”

“Duh! No but I meant with our three mutual male friends.” She stayed silent after that omission and watched as the light went on.

“You mean with Ashton, Darian, and Royce? Those friends?”

“Yes, those very three, Emmie.”

She held her hand up as Áine and Emmerson started to protest.

“Áine, please, you’ve wanted Darian from the moment you met him and, Emmie, you’re just as attracted to Royce as Áine is to Dar. As for me, I can’t deny how much I want Ash if I wanted to. What better way to be safe, to have sex, and to be with someone we get along with than to do this?”

“Um, Kei, have you even talked to the guys about this? One guy? That guy being Ash?” Áine quipped. “Besides, I might want to ride Dar’s dick, but I don’t think I want to beg him for it.”

“No one said you had to beg for it, girl.”

She watched as Áine shrugged her shoulders. She looked to Emmie who took a big sip from her wineglass. Kei could tell she was interested and so was Áine or she wouldn’t have kept talking about it. Áine liked to argue, or debate as she put it, but there was no denying she wanted Darian. It had always been obvious to Keiko.

“No, but I plan to and soon. All the guys that I’ve gone out with just want sex and they disguise it as a date when all they want is to get into my pants. I’m tired of going out with men who just want to fuck and there isn’t a connection chemically. I don’t want to work on the emotional side with someone I’m not friends with. With Ash, we have the connection of being friends at least.”

Keiko looked from Áine to Emmie hoping to see some understanding in their eyes. Both women looked at her with seriousness. Emmie fiddled with her earring and Áine picked up her wine and took a sip.

Neither woman spoke so Keiko started talking again. “He knows me and I know him. I’m tired of going out with a man knowing I won’t ever see him again and all he wants is sex. I can do this with Ash and we can go out to dinner, movies, and anything we like as we are doing now, with of course… the bonus of sex. Our three are players of the highest order but honorable and, without much convincing, I’m sure they will fall hook, line, and sinker.”

“This could potentially blow up in our faces, Keiko,” Áine stated.

Keiko had expected that type of response from Áine as she was the most practical of the three of them. Emmie was the quiet one, though when she did something she made up for her quietness.

“Not if we give the guys the rules of engagement,” she said thoughtfully.

“Rules of engagement?” Emmie said softly. “You’ve thought about this a lot, Kei.”

“Yes, I think it will do us good to be wicked for once and just go for what we want. I want Ashton. I have for a long time. We’ve known all three of them since college and have managed to stay friends with them. I don’t think this suggestion will be such a shock for them. They’re always flirting with us.”

“Flirting is one thing, Kei, and full-on having sex another.” This came from Emmerson.

“Well, how about we do this?” She paused for effect. “I’ll be the first experiment with this. I will go for Ashton and then you two can see how it goes for me and decide if you want to do the same thing.”

“That sounds plausible and sinful, I like it,” Emmie said and giggled.

“I’ll bring it up to him at the get-together that we’re having on the holiday weekend.” Keiko took a big drink from her glass.

“Do I need to buy a bottle of wine for that occasion?” Áine snickered as she asked the question.

“You’ll probably need to bring a whole case,” she chuckled.

Áine looked at her with a serious expression on her face. “Hon, are you sure you want to do this? I mean, sure, the guys are available, but what about our friendships? We’ve all been through some pretty rough times together.”

“Yes, this will make this even easier on all of us if we do it. Come on, Áine, think about it. We know them, they know us. There are no surprises. Besides, what are you worried about? I’m the guinea pig.”

“True.” Áine chuckled. “Okay, I’m in. Darian won’t know what hit him. What about you Emmie, going to go for Royce?”

Keiko snickered. Poor Darian. Knowing Áine he wouldn’t know what hit him.

Emmerson had stayed quiet while Áine and Keiko talked and as much as Keiko could tell, Emmie had been just taking it all in.

“I’m in too. You’re right about it being tiring out in the dating world. We have an affinity with the guys.”

“Right, which is why this will work, you’ll see.” It had to. Oh, God, this had to work.

The rest of the night, they spent talking movies, their occupations, and everything else like girls did. It was a night Keiko needed and it would be the beginning of something new, she had that feeling. Ashton Locke was in for a big surprise and that surprise would be her.





Chapter Three



“Repeat that again?” Ashton was sure he hadn’t heard what Keiko had said to him.

He looked at the dark-haired beauty with the stunning mocha-colored skin, who was also his friend, and wondered if she was daft.

She’d taken him from the group and asked him to go inside to help her with the hors d’oeuvres and, while he was arranging the veggies and fruit onto a tray she’d given him, she’d dropped this bombshell on him. He’d almost let go of the grapes but managed to catch them when he turned to look at her.

“I want us to take our relationship to a different level. I want to be your fuck buddy.”

“Okay, who are you and where have you taken Keiko?”

She giggled softly as she continued to fix the tray with cheese, meat, and crackers as if she hadn’t just told him she wanted them to fuck. Not that the thought of fucking her hadn’t passed through his mind a time or two since knowing her. But this was Keiko, his friend and not some random girl.

“Hear me out, Ashton, before you say no, please?” She stopped messing with the tray and looked into his eyes.

Leaning back against the counter in the cozy kitchen, he waved his hand for her to continue. God, he hoped he wasn’t going to regret letting her continue. He probably should have stopped her and walked away. “Go ahead Kei.”

“Well, I’ve been thinking about this for a while. I’m tired of the games that dating brings. So, I thought what better way to still have the benefits of a relationship and none of the drama than to date my best male friend. That best friend being you. Besides, you want me, you’ve said so yourself.”

She had hit the nail squarely on the head with the comment about him wanting her and having stated it before. He wasn’t about to deny that, but to actually have sex with her and keep their friendship intact? How would they manage that? It didn’t seem to be possible to have sex with her and not have it run into the emotional issues.

“How in the world do you expect us to have sex and remain friends, Kei?” They had a strong friendship. If this turned into anything but lust there would be problems. His parents proved that to him repeatedly. He saw a wicked glint hit her eyes and he was in for it. She put down the cucumber she’d been cutting, wiped her hands, and came around the counter to stand directly in front of him.

She pressed her lush body to his and wrapped her arms around his neck as she looked up at him with her beautiful chocolate-brown-colored doe eyes.

“Easy. I’ll show you. Kiss me, Ash. You and I’ve been doing this dance way too long.”

His gaze was drawn to her full lips and he had to stifle the groan that built up in him from escaping. Her words wiped the thoughts of his parents from his mind. Placing his hands at her waist, he pulled her even closer and covered her lips with his. She tasted of cinnamon and heat and, unable to fight the urge, he deepened the kiss and thrust his tongue into her mouth. She wanted a kiss; he’d give her a kiss.

She melted against him and, yes, he was lost. The fireworks of the first kiss between them were more explosive than he had expected. He nibbled at her bottom lip as she made small mewling noises in the back of her throat. Fuck, she wanted this as much as he did. She was straight-up serious about this.

He pulled back and her eyes fluttered open. Her lips had a pouty look. Damn. She was sexy.

“Why did you stop?”

“How on earth do you think this is a sound idea, Kei?”

“It was going fine until you stopped kissing me, Ashton.”

“I can’t think.” He tried to set her away but she clung to him.

“There isn’t a reason to think, just feel.”

“I think you’re asking for something that you won’t be able to handle.”

“Try me, Ash. If you’re right that I can’t take this then I won’t approach this subject again.” The challenge in her eyes called to him and he dipped his head, taking her lips in a deep and sensual kiss as he brought her flush against his body.

She thrust her tongue into his mouth and he took it gladly, sucking on it as his hands roamed her body. He was so into her that it took a moment for his brain to register that someone was clearing their throat. He pulled his lips from hers and peered over her shoulder. Royce stood there with his arms cross and a sardonic twist to his lips.

“I came in to see if you two needed any help as it was taking a bit for our refreshments.”

Kei giggled as she turned in his arms and spoke to Royce. Ash was still holding her. From his perspective, it was a little too late to snatch his hands back as if he’d gotten caught with his hands in the cookie jar. Keiko stayed in his arms. He guessed she figured it was too late to move away or perhaps she just didn’t care.

“No, no help is needed Royce. Ash’s hands-on approach is perfect.” When he heard those words from her, he knew it was the latter.

She just didn’t care. Shit. Perhaps she could do this. Now the question was, could he?

Royce chuckled and wiggled his eyebrows. “Are you sure? It could be like back in the old days, Ash.” Royce was teasing of course but the look on Kei’s face was priceless. Her eyes were wide and her mouth had fallen open.

“Oh, I’m very sure. Now please head back out, take the veggie tray with you and Kei and I will be out in a minute.”

To Royce’s credit, he nodded and picked up the tray and headed back out to the others, though not before winking.

Once Royce was gone, Ash let out a huff and let go of Keiko. “You do realize that now your little experiment is going to be known amongst our friends.”

“All they will know is that you and I kissed. They won’t know the details unless you wish to tell them. We’re two grown people. I don’t mind you telling them you’re just going to be my fuck buddy.” Every time she said “fuck buddy” it went straight to his dick. He suspected she knew that because her body language spoke volumes. Her body was turned toward his and she was touching him as much as she could.

“Fuck, you don’t give up, do you, Kei?” He ran a hand roughly over the top of his head pinpointing her with his gaze.

“Not when I want something, but then you’re already familiar with that.” There was a twinkle of mischief in her almond-shaped eyes that was irresistible as always.

He wanted her. That was obvious and it was more than evident she wanted him. He could tell as well that she wasn’t going to take no for an answer.

“Kei, this could change our friendship.”

“I’m betting you it won’t. Least not in a way that will be harmful. I know what you like; you know what I like. We’re friends; we have been for a long while. We make rules and then keep them.” She sounded so confident.

“Knowing what we like doesn’t mean this is something we should do.”

“Oh, come on, Ash.” She moved back into his arms. Her beautiful heart-shaped face, perfect lips, and the body he’d been secretly admiring all these years could be his. All he had to do was say yes to what she was proposing and come up with some rules with her. Easy, right?

Right.

“Okay, Kei. We’ll come up with some rules that we’re both comfortable with and try this new twist to our relationship.”

He didn’t understand why the hell he was agreeing to being hers in more than a friendship capacity. Perhaps it was his dick doing the talking. No, he knew it was his dick talking for him but damned if he wasn’t going to listen to it. He’d wanted her too damn long and now she was laying herself basically at his feet.

“Wonderful, we can get together tonight at my place and talk over rules and undress each other.” She giggled and the glint in her eyes turned him on ever more.

“Kei, you have a one-track mind about this.”

“Just tired of the games people play with one another. We want each other, so why not?”

“You’re starting to sound like one of my male friends.”

She grabbed his hand and placed it on her breasts. “Does this feel like one of your male friends?”

Shit. He could feel her nipple poking into his hand through her shirt and bra.

“Fuck, no.”

“Then I’m sure you’ll have no problem seeing me… as me.” She winked. “Oh, and what’s this about you and Royce sharing?”

He cleared his throat. He’d hoped she hadn’t heard that part. Apparently, she had fantastic hearing. As she gazed at him with her beautiful brown eyes, he knew she wasn’t going to let it go and that he’d have to answer.

“Back in college Royce and I shared women.”

“Mmm, kinky. Do you do that now?”

“We haven’t for a long time. Are you asking that because you want to have Royce now as well?”

She burst out laughing.

The look on her face was almost comical if it weren’t for them talking about sharing her with Royce. Sharing her wasn’t on the table. Shit. Was he truly thinking of having a sexual relationship with his best friend, Keiko?

Keiko placed a hand on his chest seemingly over her laughing fit.

“No! I was just curious. Not that Royce is bad to look at but the only friend I want to have benefits with is you.”

Ashton moved quickly. Picking her up by the waist, he set her on top of the counter where there was space, his hands still holding her. Her brown eyes were wide as she stared at him.

“This is the last time to back out, Kei. If you think you can do this, with no strings and as friends then let’s do this.”

She gave him such a wicked look he had to stop the groan that almost escaped him.

“I’m ready, I want this, and I’m not backing down. I want you Ash. Try me…I won’t disappoint you, I promise.”





Chapter Four



“How did it go, Kei?” Emmerson said and her voice was slightly raised, which made Keiko laugh.

“Yes, what did he say?” Áine rushed forward pinning Keiko with her anxious gaze.

“It went well, Emmie and Áine. He’s going to meet me at my place tonight and we’ll go over the details.”

She laughed as both women gasped. They were settled in the kitchen cleaning up after the small party. She’d known they’d bum-rush her like this, seeing as they hadn’t had a chance to ask her anything after she and Ashton had left the kitchen and brought the food out. The air was thick with tension between her and Ash, but it was because of the anticipation of what they’d decided to do.

“Whoa,” Emmerson said and Keiko snickered because the other woman’s mouth was open like a fish out of water.

“Close your mouth, Emmie. I told you this would be fine.”

“Yeah, I know you did. That doesn’t mean I’m not in shock. I’d have thought he’d have said no. Not anything against you, only because of the whole friendship thing between you two having the possibility to be destroyed if you go through with this. Hell, even our friendships with the guys could be ruined.”

“Stop being so doom and gloom.” Keiko put her hands on her hips and looked at her friends. “Come on you two, it’s not going to come to that. It will be sex and companionship.”

“Um, isn’t that what people call marriage?” Áine inquired.

“See, that’s the beauty of this. No paper to tie either one of us down.”

“Hmm, tying down sounds plenty fun.” Emmerson wiggled her brows and they all laughed.

“That’s bad, Emmie,” Keiko replied.

“I know, I know but it made you a little less nervous, didn’t it?” Emmerson said gently.

“Is it that obvious?” Keiko turned away, began washing some of the dishes in the sink.

She needed to keep herself busy so she wouldn’t show how truly nervous she was. All the obstacles they thought up were the same ones she’d thought of repeatedly. She didn’t want to think on why it wouldn’t happen. She wanted to think on all the reasons it would take place.

“It’s that obvious,” Áine answered.

“Okay, yes, I’m nervous. But this is going to be the best thing I’ve ever done. You’ll see.” She didn’t know who she was trying to convince, her friends or herself. “Either way, it’s too late to back out.”

“It’s not too late,” Emmerson said as she started putting away dishes.

“It’s not too late for what?” Keiko asked.

“Too late to stop this before something happens and you two aren’t friends anymore.”

Keiko turned to her and shook her head. “It is too late. I’m not backing down. I already told him that I wanted to do this. I’m not going to quit.”

“If you back out, it doesn’t mean you’re a quitter, Kei.”

Keiko chuckled. “This isn’t like I asked him to marry me and then decided at the last minute that I don’t want to marry him. I’m not going to play with his emotions. This is something that will benefit us both.”

“It’s not his emotions I’m worried about,” Áine said.

Keiko exhaled noisily. “Stop worrying, you two.” She turned back to wash the dishes and as she did she called over her shoulder, “I’ll be fine.” She repeated that as a mantra in her head.

This would work. We can be in a sexual relationship and remain friends. She’d live in the heat of the moment; the only emotions would be those of a sexual nature. Men could do it, why couldn’t women? They’d keep their friendship. No, there was nothing to worry about, was there? Everything would go as planned. She swallowed hard. Now all she had to do was get rid of the butterflies in her stomach that told another story.



Ashton parked his car in Keiko’s driveway and sat inside for a few minutes as he tried to decide if he should go in or drive away. Who would have thought Keiko would come up with something like this? She was right; he was attracted to her and had been from the beginning, but he hadn’t wanted to destroy their friendship. The fact he was even thinking about doing it was crazy.

What was the worst that could happen? He took a deep breath. The worst thing that would happen would be to lose her friendship and in turn have all the friendships crumble. That was the worst thing that could happen. Was finally having Keiko where he wanted her worth the loss of years of friendship and possibly the friendships of all the others involved? It wouldn’t get that far. He wouldn’t let it get that far. They were adults, they were consenting, and their friendship would be what would keep things together.

He didn’t realize he was sitting there clutching the steering wheel until he heard the woman of his musing calling his name from her front step. Shit. There was no turning around even if he’d wanted to. She’d seen him. He turned off the car, took his keys out of the ignition, and got out of the car closing the door. As he moved forward, she moved toward him. She had the perfect little switch when she walked. Everything about her breathed sexy and any thought of not doing this stopped. He was going to do this; he was going to do her. She stopped just in front of him almost between his legs. Almost. Ashton wanted to change that. He reached out and hooked his fingers in the belt loops of her jeans and pulled her forward and then leaned in and kissed her.

Her taste was exquisite and he was hard at just that taste of her. God, how could someone get him so revved up like this? No, not someone, only Kei could do this to him. She melted against him and he took that as his cue to keep kissing her. Damn if his toes didn’t curl as she slipped her tongue into his mouth and teased it along his.

Ashton kissed her for a few more moments before parting the kiss to gaze into her eyes.

“Hmm, I thought you wanted to talk first?” Keiko speculated as she searched his eyes with her own.

“We’re still going to talk. I just thought we could both reaffirm why we’re here.”

“Oh, I definitely know why I’m here,” Keiko parried.

Keiko took his hand and tugged him toward the door. Ashton chuckled, followed her into the house, and closed the door behind him. He’d been in her house many times but never for this reason, though that hadn’t stopped him from thinking about it. Shit. He was really doing this. He let her lead him down the small hall to her living room and of course, he couldn’t stop himself from watching her hips switch again. She was all woman and he was going to get the chance to finally enjoy her.

He stopped her before she turned into the room. Standing there with her in the doorjamb, he brought his mouth to hers once more and kissed her deeply. He couldn’t resist kissing her again now that he’d tasted her. She gave a soft moan, which made him kiss her even harder, thrusting his tongue into her mouth, repeating what she’d done to him on her porch. When he pulled from the kiss, both were panting and she’d slipped her hands under his black T-shirt stroking her fingers along his abs. He liked that she didn’t stop touching him even though he’d parted the kiss.

“See, this is going to work,” she said.

“What brings you to that conclusion?”

Keiko chuckled. “If you don’t know, maybe this isn’t going to be possible?”

He grabbed her hand and placed it on his member that was already rock hard beneath his jeans. “Something’s already excited by the possibilities.”

“See. Now what do you have to say to that?” Keiko remarked.

She squeezed him gently and he bucked into her hand. Damn, he wanted her to take him out of his pants right there. It was painful being in his jeans with his shaft getting harder by the second.

“I’d say, come on, let’s talk as promised and, after all the talking is done, we can take off our clothes and seal the deal. Agreed?”

“Agreed.” Keiko happily took his hand in hers.

Once again, he let her pull him forward and into the living room. Once they’d settled on the couch, she turned toward him and he waited to see what her game plan was. It would be interesting to see what she had to say. Yes, there was indeed chemistry but there had to be rules set up so they could know what each other expected or this was not going to be feasible.



Keiko felt breathless after the kisses and touching him. He felt good, better than she’d dreamed, and there was the thrill in knowing she turned him on. Now to get the details ironed out so they could fulfill the desire they had for one another.

She took a deep breath and then looked into his eyes, her hands folded in her lap so she didn’t start touching him. Touching him would get her off track. She could wait, she’d waited this long to have him. Her hands were shaking and it was because of the need to touch him and the fear that need caused.

“Okay, I’m starting to worry now,” Ashton spoke and she snapped out of her musing.

“Worry about?” she asked softly.

“That you want to turn back. You don’t want this and then there will be this awkwardness between us that never was there.”

She shook her head. “No. I’m sorry, was just thinking. I want this, I want you. I have for a long time. Let’s talk about how we’ll do this.”

“The rules,” he said softly.

She pushed forward and held her hands in her lap as she made sure to make eye contact with him. This was no time to be timid. She wasn’t a timid person and she wanted what she wanted. She had to make sure he understood she seriously wanted to pursue this with him.

She nodded and then took a deep breath and spoke again, with what she hoped was confidence. “Yes, the rules. I have no claim on you and you have none on me. I do want someone to go with me to movies, out to dinner sometimes when the mood strikes. A companion of sorts.”

“Got it, so that means we’re free to do what we want, no strings attached with the occasional dinner or movie thrown in.”

“Right I think an NSA relationship will let us keep things into perspective. We are after all going to be fuck buddies.”

“Okay… rule one, NSA.”

She nodded and had to wonder why she felt a strange twinge when he said it. She chalked that feeling up to nerves. It all had to be nerves and overthinking.

“Basically, I think that we fuck when we want to fuck, wherever we want to fuck.” She shrugged. “We can go to the movies and things like that, but it isn’t written in stone. The next rule of course is safe sex.”

“That is a given. I have condoms.”

“Perfect and I’m on the pill.”

“Safety is taken care of.” The glint in his eye was her only warning he was about to do something. She gasped as he tugged her forward and then pulled her onto his lap.

“Rules done?” she asked him softly.

“Rules are done.”





Chapter Five



What else did they need to discuss? It would be no strings attached with safe sex. She nodded, licked her lips, and then whimpered as he took her mouth in a rough kiss. She brought her hands up and cupped the back of his head as she kissed him back. The kiss went on and on and Keiko needed more than just their kissing. She held on to the back of his head for a moment longer and slipped under his shirt, touching him gently. Not satisfied with just touching his skin she began unbuttoning his jeans. She wanted more of him.

She shivered when he tugged at her bottom lip with his teeth and then sucked on it. Her hands began to tremble again as the need for him rose. He brushed her hands away and undid it for her. She pulled back from the kiss, looked in his eyes briefly, and, before she lost the nerve, she looked down and reached in his pants and pulled him free. Her eyes widened; she’d thought he would be big but finally seeing him it defied even her imagination.

“Touch me, Kei. I want to feel your hands on my cock.”

Damn. She loved hearing him talk dirty and she looked back up into his eyes as she placed one hand on his member.

She squeezed gently. “Like this?”

“That’s a start.”

“Talk dirty to me, Ash. Tell me what you want and how you want it.” She started to get even wetter than she already was. Her panties were soaked.

“You like dirty talk, Kei?”

“Yes. I love it. It makes me wet.” She squeezed her hand on him and began stroking, licking her lips.

Keiko examined Ashton’s handsome face. It was plain to see the desire that enveloped him.

“Good, something else we have in common. I want you to stroke me. I want your hands and mouth on me and I most definitely want your dirty talk.”

“Is that all you want?”

“Of course not, but it’s a start.”

She got off him and settled between his legs on her knees. “Well then, how about you get comfortable so I can give you what you want?”

Ashton looked at her for a moment and she had to wonder what he was thinking but she didn’t have to wait long to find out. He reached into his pocket and pulled out several condoms. She loved that he was prepared and had thought about their safety. She looked down at his tennis shoes, undid the shoestrings, and then helped him out of them. Once she’d put them to the side she waited patiently for him to shrug out of his shirt and then rise and remove his jeans. He tossed the clothes on the other side of him and sat there proudly with his hard-on at full attention.

“Touch me again, give me what I want.”

“Talk dirty to me.” She placed her hands on his thighs.

His words made her bold. She needed this and, apparently, so did he. She licked her lips.

“Fuck, do that again.”

“Do what again?” She knew what he was talking about, but the teasing between them was perfect. It was light and fun and amped the need up even higher.

“Lick your lips, now,” Ashton growled out.

His growl made her shiver and she licked her lips again. “Like that?”

“Mm-hmm, just like that, fuck.”

“You have a dirty mouth and I love it.”

She looked back down at his cock and took it in hand again. He felt like steel covered in velvet. Leaning forward, unable to stop herself, she licked the tip, which had precum shining on it.

“Shit…”

Keiko watched in fascination as his phallus jerked and more precum seeped out of the tip. Loving the power she had over him, she leaned in again, but this time she opened her mouth, running her tongue along the underside of the head. He had a taste like no other.

Keiko knew she was on to something and doing it right when Ashton muttered her name and thrust his fingers into her hair and began rocking slowly into her mouth. He tasted so good and she continued to suck the head, using her hand to pump him into her mouth in the same rhythm as he rocked. She never imagined she’d have the chance to kiss him let alone what she was doing. It was all so surreal. She swirled her tongue over the head, his flavor hitting her tongue making her clit throb.

“Oh yeah… suck the head harder and you can hold the base tighter,” Ashton hissed.

With his direction, she sucked harder and held him as he wanted. Looking up, she watched as he laid his head back.

Easing away from him, she waited for him to lift his head.

A look of confusion crossed his face. As she lifted her head from his cock he asked, “Why’d you stop?”

“I just wanted you to know, that my panties are soaked.”

Keiko chuckled softly as his eyes narrowed and then she gasped as he stood, picking her up in his arms. He kissed her soundly and then let her slide down his naked body. He didn’t talk, he just quickly divested her of her shirt and then tugged at the snap on her jeans and pulled them down. His blue eyes widened and he stood there staring at her. Her nipples became hard pebbles as he continued to gaze at her. No, it wasn’t just a gaze; he had a look of hunger on his face.

“You weren’t kidding,” Ashton said and Keiko continued to stand there under his perusal.

“Of course, I wasn’t. Why would I kid about something like that?”

“Damn, if I’m not seeing a whole new side of you.”

She couldn’t stop the grin that spread across her face. To know that he was seeing a different side of her was exciting because perhaps now he was finally seeing her as more than a friend. For the arrangement to work that had to happen. He had to see her, really see her.

“And, mmm… you shave too.”

“Yes, I want to feel everything.” She was amazed she didn’t feel embarrassed for him to see her naked.

She’d worried that would happen.

“That’s the point, Ash, shaving makes me more sensitive to everything. Skin to skin, that type of thing… now stop talking and touch me.”

He gave her a mock salute and then bent over and picked up a condom that was on the couch. He opened it, tossing the wrapper onto the coffee table, then sheathed himself slowly. He sat down on the couch and wiggled his finger, telling her to come close. Of course, she wasn’t going to back down from that.

She moved forward.



Ashton stopped her from kneeling in front of him again and shook his head in the negative. Once again, he tugged her forward and pulled her into his lap. He drew her close so that his erection was trapped between their bodies. Slowly he slid his hands up her sides, stroking her skin gently. She was so beautiful, so soft, and he was beyond pleased.

He cupped her breasts in his hands and tugged at the chocolate nipples before leaning in close and sucking one into his mouth. Her low moan was thrilling to hear and his need for her rose twofold when she started making little mewling sounds in the back of her throat. He switched his attention to her other nipple while using his fingertips to play with the one he’d abandoned.

“Oh, God… stop playing, Ash,” Keiko gasped, and he chuckled softly then hissed as she rocked against his body. Lifting his head, he watched her expression change. His breath caught as she continued to rub herself against his leg and dick and he felt her wetness on his thighs.

“I’m not playing, Kei.” He pulled her flush against him and kissed her lips, raising her slightly, hoping she’d know what he wanted.

She did. She rose on her knees and he lifted her a bit higher as she hovered over his velvety member and slid slowly down until he was fully seated within her. Both went completely still.

She started to move and he placed his hands on her hips stilling her. “No…” He took a deep breath. “Not yet… hold on a minute. You’re going to make me come like a schoolboy and I definitely don’t want that to happen.” Her look of confusion disappeared immediately after his explanation.

“You feel so good…” Keiko stated.

She sounded breathless already and he had to wonder what she’d sound like once they really got started.

He watched as she closed her eyes and gave a small kitten-like sound. She trembled against him and he knew he needed to move. He cupped her ass and squeezed and then stroked his hands back to her hips and began to guide her up and down on his cock. Ashton growled softly as she caught on quickly and rocked in rhythm with him.



Keiko couldn’t believe he was inside of her and they were fucking as she’d dreamed. Ashton made her heart race; it was so loud to her own ears, she was surprised he couldn’t hear it. If she didn’t know any better, she’d have thought she was having a heart attack; it was so strong. He felt beyond good. There was nothing awkward about what they were doing. Nothing at all. She didn’t know why she thought there would be. They fit together well like they always had. She braced her hands on his shoulders and rolled her hips as he seemed to hit every spot within her. Biting her lip, she observed his nostrils flaring. She couldn’t look away; no one had ever aroused such intense feelings in her. That was why this would work.

She rolled her hips once more, tightened her inner muscles, and he grunted. The power she had over him, the power he had over her as they fucked, was amazing. His soft intake of breath and ragged sigh gave her all the encouragement she needed to continue what she was doing to him.

“God, yeah, keep that up, girl.”

She gasped as he leaned forward and nipped the side of her neck. She pressed her skin to his lips, wanting more of his teasing as it sent shivers up her spine and made her gush wetness just a little bit more. She exhaled as he licked along her flesh and then added a bit of suction with a little peck to the same spot. Oh, yeah, there were going to be hickeys. She hoped lots and lots of hickeys.

He moved his mouth to another spot on her neck and she arched into him and sped up a bit. Her panting became the rhythm that she rose and fell on him. Reaching up, she placed her fingers in his short-cropped raven hair, marveling at how soft it felt in comparison to everything else about him which was hard as steel.





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