26-Much Ado About Dinner

"Dinner?" Marissa repeated, staring at him across her stack of books and paper, the end of her pencil perched between her lips. "Yvaine wants to have dinner with me?"

Ezra nodded, reaching across to pull the pencil out, with a face that clearly said "that's unsanitary". "She's really eager to meet you. So I was wondering if you were free this Saturday, so we could have dinner out at a place I know, just the three of us."

"Okay." Marissa nodded slowly. "Yeah, that sounds good."

"Good." Was all Ezra said, before looking back down to his homework. They were at Marissa's house, sitting across from each other on the floor, the coffee table between them.

"What kind of restaurant is it?" Marissa asked. Ezra glanced up briefly before chuckling.

"They serve good food. Relax."

"That's not what I meant." Marissa glared.

"It's called 'Clair de Lune'." Ezra ignored her glare, but could not help adding in a teasing, "It's French food."

Marissa threw her pencil at him, which he easily dodged.

"I just want to know if they have a dress code." She grumbled as she took back the pencil Ezra picked up for her with a smirk.

"Just dress nicely." He shrugged, eyes focusing back onto his work.

"That was all he said." Marissa muttered, as she lay, arms and legs spread out, on Veneta's king-sized bed, as the dark-haired girl attended to her nails.

"'Clair de Lune'?" Veneta gaped at Marissa. She stopped painting Marissa's nails for a moment. She twisted the cap back on the nail polish bottle that read 'Starshine'. It honestly just looked like a shade of opaque pink to Marissa. "That's what he said the restaurant was called?"

"Why? You know the place?" Marissa asked.

"Duuuude." Veneta drawled, as she blew at Marissa's nails. "That place is fancy."

"How fancy?" Marissa asked curiously.

"Like, wear-a-suit-if-you're-a-man-a-dress-and-heels-if-you're-a-woman-you-can't-afford-to-breathe-the-smell-of-the-food-without-a-grand-on-you fancy." Veneta warned.

"What?" Marissa squawked, sitting up hastily, prompting a furious "watch the nails!" from Veneta. "That's not fancy! That's just being pretentious!"

"You need a dress and heels. ASAP." Veneta declared, bobbing her head in determination.

"I could borrow something from my mom." Marissa shrugged. At the moment, she was more worried about the cost of the food than having to dress appropriately. Although that also nagged at her in the back of her mind.

"Does she have fancy-gathering dresses?" Veneta asked suspiciously, as she carefully touched Marissa's nails carefully. She nodded once she was satisfied that the polish had dried. "Done."

"Thanks." Marissa smiled, admiring the pale pink colour despite its ridiculous name. "Like…cocktail dresses, right?" She asked in response to Veneta's earlier question.

"Wrong." Veneta snapped. She grabbed Marissa's arm and began tugging. "Come on. Viviana has some dresses that she doesn't wear. She may be shorter, but she's the same size as you."

When Marissa started protesting, Veneta shushed her impatiently. "The dinner's tomorrow evening, right? You have to be prepared. You're going to make Ezra never want to let you go."

Ezra parked his car outside Marissa's house. He checked his watch. It was 6:47 PM. He still had time until the reservation at 8.

He eyed the bouquet of flowers on the passenger seat that lay there because Yva had forced him to buy it for Marissa. Something about being gentlemanly to his date. He glared at the bouquet with disdain. He hated flowers. They smelled bad and they withered too fast, dying quickly.

The whole societal fascination with flowers seemed like some sort of shameless farce to him, a scam that enticed people with the fleeting beauty of flowers…Great. He was getting poetic now. But he had promised Yva to give them to Marissa, so he sighed, grabbing the bouquet and getting out of his car.

He walked up the path to her front-door. He rang the doorbell. No one answered. Well, he had said he'd come to pick her up at 7. He checked his watch again. It was 6:53. Close enough. He rang again.

"You're early!" A voice shouted at him accusingly from inside. Ezra grinned. He pushed the doorbell again, maintaining the pressure of his finger on the button, so the ringing sounded in an irritatingly fast, staccato-like rhythm. The door was yanked open, with a furious blonde on the other side.

"You're so annoying!" Her fury made him grin wider.

It suddenly fell though, as an expression of surprised admiration replaced it. He had to admit, Marissa cleaned up well. She was wearing a black skirt or dress – he couldn't quite tell because she was wearing a coat over everything – that fitted her form comfortably, stopping at a modest length just above her knees. The woolen winter coat that she wore over everything else was black, cinched tightly around her waist with a tie, and buttoned snugly, the length stopping at mid-thigh. Dark stockings covered the parts of her legs that were exposed beneath the black skirt – or dress – and she slipped her feet into a pair of safe-looking two-inch black heels.

"Are those flowers for me?" At the sound of Marissa's voice, Ezra looked up. He did a double-take. He had not noticed before with the stockings and the dress and the black, but she had also brushed all of her hair away from hair face, back into an elegant up-do. Her usually blonde eyelashes were also black, making her eyes look browner, and there was a touch of shining red on her normally pink lips as well.

"You look good." Ezra said appreciatively, as he handed her the bouquet.

"Thanks." Marissa replied half-heartedly, distracted by the giant bouquet he was handing her. She took the flowers with displeasure. "No offence, Ezra. But next time, can you not get me flowers?"

"Why? You don't like them?" He asked.

"Well, they're really expensive, you know?" She said, as she took them back to the kitchen. "Plus – I don't know if this is because I have a weak sense of smell, but – they don't smell like anything and die really fast. Which just emphasizes how wasteful it is to spend money on them."

Ezra chuckled, deeply amused. "Sure thing."

She came back out, grabbing a black rectangular clutch on the way, and stepped outside, closing the door behind her. She made sure to lock it before following, a step behind, Ezra.

"Is Yvaine in the car?" She asked after him curiously.

"No. She had to do something downtown, so she said she'd go on ahead of us and meet us in the restaurant." Ezra replied, as he unlocked the doors to his car with the remote. He stepped up to the car and opened the door to the passenger side. "After you."

Marissa shot him an offended look. "I can open doors by myself, you know."

"Yeah, you're a feminist, yada yada yada. Just get in the car." Ezra drawled at her. She shot him a sour look, before doing as he instructed. He closed the door after her and walked over to the other side to get in himself.

"So, what have you been up to?" Ezra asked as he turned on the ignition after putting on his seatbelt.

"What do you mean? You saw me two days ago." Marissa pointed out, clicking her own seatbelt into place.

"Alright, so what did you do yesterday?"

"I hung out at Veneta's. She's the one who told me that I would have to dress nicely." Marissa muttered in a mildly accusatory tone.

"I told you that too." Ezra replied.

"Well, you didn't specify what 'nice' meant. Clean-clothes nice, no-jeans nice, a-blouse-and-dress-pants nice, a-dress-and-heels-and-make-up nice, et cetera." Marissa rattled off, counting on her fingers all the options of what dressing nicely could encompass.

"A-dress-and-heels-and-make-up nice." Ezra replied. "Which you did just fine."

"Well, I wouldn't have if Veneta hadn't told me. Thanks for the details." Marissa said the last bit with heavy sarcasm.

"Aren't you bright and chirpy..." Ezra droned, his voice equally as sarcastic as hers. He drove onto the highway. The traffic was, surprisingly, not too bad.

"I was worried about making a good impression." Marissa muttered, rubbing anxiously at her calves. "I even wore pantyhose."

Ezra couldn't help the smile that made his lips twitch. "Is it that uncomfortable?" He kept his voice neutral.

"I guess it's not as bad as Veneta's original suggestion of actual stockings. Man, if she had somehow convinced me to wear garters and a belt…" Marissa tensed at the uncomfortable thought. Ezra tensed as well, but for other reasons. An image of Marissa in only stockings, garters, and a belt…

"Yeah, good thing you didn't." He muttered, pushing onto the gas pedal a little harder.

"I know, right?" Marissa agreed, unaware of the restlessness the conversation had caused her boyfriend. "By the way, are you dressed nicely?" She asked him, peering over at his black slacks and black dress shoes. He also wore a black coat, keeping the upper half of his outfit hidden.

"Yeah, I'm wearing a suit Yva picked out for me."

"It's kind of funny how we can't dress ourselves, isn't it?" Marissa pointed out thoughtfully.

"Yeah," he laughed, "it really is."

They continued to talk comfortably about random things concerning school and their friends and family until Ezra got off the highway. That was when Marissa began to panic.

"Wait a minute." She said, stiffening anxiously. "What should I do when I meet Yvaine?"

"Introduce yourself?" Ezra suggested drolly.

"Okay, and then what?" Marissa asked solemnly.

"Just be yourself." Ezra said. "I know she'll like you."

Marissa remained silent for a moment, before talking again. "What if she doesn't?" She asked quietly.

"Then she doesn't." Ezra responded. "There's nothing I can do about her not liking you. I'd like her approval, but like I said to Veneta before, I don't need it to keep courting you."

Marissa had to smile at his use of the word "courting".

"If it gets too weird, we'll leave the restaurant early and hang out at the park or at your place." Ezra continued. "So don't worry about anything."

Marissa unfastened her seatbelt and leaned across to kiss his jaw.

"For a moment there, I thought you were going to give me another hickey." Ezra said in amusement.

Marissa gasped. "Do you still have it?"

"It's almost gone now." Ezra admitted. "You're lucky our school uniforms have collars, or else people would have been talking about the prudish Marissa Vandertrooy marking up the promiscuous Ezra MacGregor."

"You really think people would have spread that around?" Marissa asked skeptically.

"It's not like I've been meeting any other girl." Ezra pointed out. "And I would never make any effort to cover up something like that."

"Well, thank God for collars." Marissa deadpanned.

"We're here." Ezra said, ignoring her comment, as he braked smoothly.

"Huh?" Marissa turned to look out her window in surprise. The restaurant was big, bright, and expensive-looking. The words 'Clair de Lune' were written in elegant script above the entrance. A parking valet in uniform opened Marissa's door, to which she just stared at him blankly for. He offered her his hand and in mild irritation, she ignored it as she stepped out.

"I'll have you know, I can open my own doors." She snapped at him. The young man began apologizing profusely.

"The feminist rears its ugly head." Ezra scoffed, as he, having already stepped outside, strode over to the two, handing his keys over to the valet. "Just ignore her." He told him dismissively, as he took Marissa's hand and had her curl her arm around his.

"He just opened my door like I didn't have hands or something." Marissa muttered. Ezra chose to ignore her again, leading her to the entrance of the restaurant. As they stepped inside the lobby of the large restaurant (Marissa could not even process that fact that a restaurant had a lobby, at this point), a young woman in a grey suit, standing behind a tall desk with a giant book open in front of her, greeted them.

"Reservation?" She asked pleasantly.

"MacGregor for 8:00." Ezra stated.

"Ah, yes." The woman nodded without even looking down at her book. "The other party is already waiting." She gestured with a hand to their right. "Please. Allow us to take your coats."

Ezra obliged by beginning to unbutton his coat. Marissa followed suit, and two workers with a different uniform from the parking valet, took each of their respective coats. Ezra was the first to notice what Marissa was wearing. A high-collared, sleeveless, black dress that pulled in tightly at the waist, with the skirt fitting snugly over her hips and thighs to stop right above her knees. Ezra stared at the exposed shoulders the triangular structure of the front of the dress revealed, wondering if Marissa was comfortable with showing off that much skin. But as he was about to ask, she turned slightly, and Ezra could also see that the dress exposed the entirety of her back. He vaguely recalled something like this was called a 'halter' or something.

Marissa seemed to feel his staring because she turned to look at him and her eyes looked him up and down as well. He was wearing a simple well-tailored black suit with a pale blue shirt, unbuttoned at the collar, having chosen to forego the tie Yva had also bought for him. It was too uncomfortable.

"You clean up nicely." Marissa admitted; a little grudgingly, Ezra noted, like it bothered her that he could look so good. He smirked.

"I could say the same for you."

"Thanks," she acknowledged the compliment with a nod, "but I feel so exposed." She began rubbing awkwardly at her arms, having tucked her clutch under her armpit. Well, that answered his unasked question.

"Michael will show you to your table." The front desk woman interrupted the conversation, using the same smooth hand motion – used earlier to direct them to take off their coats – to gesture at a young man, wearing the uniform of a server. Ezra nodded as he took Marissa by the hand. They were led between many different tables, already packed with people, to a spot beside the windows.

At the table already sat a young woman in a simple, sleeveless, white dress. Her dark hair, the same shade of brownish-black as Ezra's, was parted into a deep side part and twisted into a low chignon at the nape of her neck, but the severity of the style was softened by tiny seed pearls hanging from silver chains from her earlobes. Yvaine, despite only being two years older than Marissa, oozed a certain class and luxury that made Marissa shrink a little inside.

Damn. Veneta was right. Marissa hated Yvaine already.

Before she could delve into the thought further, Yvaine turned her head away from the window to look at the couple standing before her. Marissa was dumbfounded by the striking cheekbones she also shared with Ezra; the same sharpness that looked like it could cut glass in Ezra's face was also visible in his cousin/half-sister's bone structure. Her dark – almost black – eyes looked at Ezra and then turned deliberately to meet Marissa's eyes. Then, suddenly, the sharpness of her face was softened by a wide grin. She stood up and took Marissa by the hand to shake it enthusiastically.

"When Spencer and Ezra said you were pretty, I didn't think they meant this pretty." She chortled brightly as she gushed. "Hi. I'm Yvaine MacGregor, but just call me 'Yva'."

"Hello, Yva." Marissa smiled back, finding the older girl's cheer infectious. The name felt foreign on her tongue, because she had always addressed her as 'Yvaine' both in conversation and thought. But now that the idea of 'Yvaine' became attached to an actual person, Marissa relaxed a little, subconsciously melding 'Yvaine' into 'Yva'. "I'm Marissa Vandertrooy." She paused for a half-second, before adding on, "Ezra's girlfriend."

Yva nodded. "Come, sit." She gestured at the chairs across from her. Marissa was helped into her seat, beside the window that was on her right, with Ezra pulling out her chair and pushing it back in. Offended by the gentlemanly gesture, she shot him an irked look, which went promptly ignored by him. He then sat down beside her, and it was only after the two sat that Yva resumed to her seat, directly across from Marissa.

"I know it's a little sudden to invite you to eat with your boyfriend's family, especially since you guys have barely been dating a month, but the way I hear it from Spence, it seems like it was really more close to four months. Which is still soon," Yva admitted, eyes on Marissa's face, "but I wanted to see you before I headed back, because I've never seen Ezra so serious about anyone else before-"

"Yva." Ezra warned.

"Yeah, yeah, I get it. You're flustered. Wah wah." Yva dismissed him with a flop of her hand. She turned back to Marissa. "But it's true. I suppose it's a little early in the relationship to call you guys 'serious'," she made bunny-ears with her slender fingers. "But considering how even Marissa's mom knows about the relationship, I'd say this is something way beyond the maturity that high-schoolers are capable of." Yva nodded thoughtfully. "Which is a good thing." She finished with a smile.

"Thank…you?" Marissa asked hesitantly.

"It's a good thing." Yva reassured with another smile. "Just don't break his heart. Or I will rip out yours." Another sweet smile. Marissa winced inwardly. Yva was terrifying.

"Yva, stop." Ezra groaned, as he buried his face into his hands.

"What?" She pouted. "You totally knew I was going to talk about all of this."

"Yeah, but I didn't know it would be this embarrassing." He muttered into his hands.

"Sorry, I didn't catch what you said~" Yva sang out. "I told you about mumbling. It's rude and-"

"And makes me sound like an incoherent dimwit." Ezra finished, after he lifted his head back up.

"Good boy." Yva smiled.

"I feel like you'd get along with my mom." Marissa blurted out before having time to think the sentence through. She flushed. "It's not a bad thing!" She hurriedly tried to reassure.

"Thank you." Yva chimed. "That's sweet of you to say."

Ezra snorted.

"What's wrong with my mom?" Marissa demanded of him.

"Nothing." He protested.

"Then why'd you do something rude like snort?" Yva accused.

"Exactly!" Marissa nodded. "That wasn't very nice of you."

"Oh my God…" Ezra hissed. "What is happening?"

"I think we're getting along." Yva replied.

"I think we are." Marissa smiled in agreement.

"Too much." Ezra muttered.

"What was that?" Marissa cut her eyes at him the same time Yva snapped, "No mumbling!"

"That was so good." Marissa moaned happily as she licked the remnants of her dessert off of the tiny spoon.

"Glutton." Ezra stated as he calmly took his napkin and wiped her mouth with it. Marissa stuck her tongue out at him childishly, too happy with her full stomach to be truly insulted. Ezra lightly tapped her tongue with the tip of his finger, almost in a gesture that was half-scolding. She drew back with a sharp intake of breath, a little caught off-guard by the mild taste of saltiness that startled her taste buds. They immediately perked up, alerted to the sharp contrast of Ezra's taste to that of the crème brûlée. She unconsciously licked her lips, almost as if her tongue wanted another taste of him. He seemed to become aware of the thoughts she was oblivious to, because his eyes focused intently on hers, something akin to hunger lingering in the darkening depths as he licked his finger that had saliva – her saliva – on it.

"Sweet," he mused softly, so softly in fact that the single-syllabled word sounded more like raspy asthmatic breath than anything else. Marissa could almost believe that she had imagined him saying it were it not for the light tingling in her ears. She wondered if he could somehow taste the cream that had been melting in her mouth earlier, or if he was talking about her. Her taste. She stood up abruptly, face flushing.

"May I please be excused?" She asked hurriedly. Nevertheless, Ezra couldn't help but note that despite her obvious distress creasing her brows together anxiously – flustered feelings expressing themselves by painting red oh-so-lovingly over her pale cheeks – she waited for an answer. So polite, his girl. The thought was laced with amusement, affection, and desire, because her manners seemed to pop out rarely at the most unexpected times. He wondered if he could ever make her say 'please' and 'thank you' and wait for his ministrations in bed. He would reward such good manners.

He was snapped out of this dangerous train of thought as Yva smiled and waved her off. As Ezra and she watched Marissa walk away, Yva gave a low whistle.

"You've got it bad." She teased. Ezra scoffed quietly. "Not that I blame you." Yva admitted. "She's lovely. Totally forthcoming and honest, not to mention unguarded, which I find charming. You always did have a thing for innocence."

"Since when?" Ezra scoffed.

"Haven't you always liked virgins?" Yva asked calmly, but her disapproval was clear.

"There's not one sexually active male out there on this Earth who doesn't like virgins." Ezra shot back.

"The new, untouched, unsoiled toys always do tend to fascinate children." Yva retorted.

"Really?" Ezra drawled lazily in a nonchalant voice, leaning back in his chair like a careless debauch worth billions. "We're really having this fight about men's sexual desires right now?"

"Well if you wanted her so badly, you could have had her right now." Yva replied slowly after a pause to let out a heavy sigh. She was more relaxed now. "The way she looks at you…it's not too different from the way you look at her."

Ezra straightened a little, almost imperceptible to the untrained eye, but Yva noted it silently.

"Does she now?" He asked in a blasé voice like he could care less, but his voice was too quiet, too soft to be anything that was true carelessness.

Yva shrugged. "What's stopping your male-versal virgin-fetish when you're with her?"

"She won't let me touch her. I've already told you that we haven't had sex." He shrugged, leaning forward to place an elbow on the table-top and using his raised hand as a resting place for his chin. It was true. He had told Yva the basics of Marissa and his relationship with her when she had returned, as breezy as could be. Needless to say she had been flabbergasted at the unexpected information.

"Yeah, and I thought you had some sort of illness or something." Yva admitted. "It's just so surreal. You've never…there's never been…" She stopped, unable to say more because she understood that pain and loneliness had both played parts in determining the lifestyle he had chosen to lead. "Does she fulfill you?" She asked finally.

"I don't know." Ezra inhaled slowly, his expression softening into something rarely seen, as his eyes focused on Marissa's glass of water. "I usually feel like there's nothing to fulfill when I'm with her."

"She's that wonderful?" Yva asked curiously, wanting to know more about the girl that was turning Ezra to mush, without his even realizing it.

Ezra chuckled at the words. "No, not really. She's quite horrible at times. I already told you she has a temper-"

"Which I don't believe."

Ezra ignored Yva, choosing to continue on as if he had not been interrupted. "And it's not like she's not judgemental. Because she is. Plus, she's stupid too." He smiled here. "It's just, she's so honest about everything she's thinking and feeling." He paused, reaching out his free hand to trace the rim of Marissa's drinking glass. "It's fucking weird."

Yva rolled her eyes. "But?"

"But I like it." Ezra straightened to look Yva in the eye. "I like that she doesn't try and bullshit me about anything. All that's on her mind is aired out, the consequences be damned."

"She's different from other girls." Yva smiled knowingly.

"Yeah. No flirtatious games. No manipulations. No coy acts for sex or money or security. I trust her." He leaned back with a sigh. "She's not worth giving up for one good fuck. Maybe if it were one trillion mind-blowing fucks-"

"Ezra," Yva cut in icily. He glanced up at her with a trace of a smirk on his lips.

"Come on, Yv. I'm a virile, hot-blooded, seventeen year old boy. Cut me a little slack here." Ezra cajoled mildly. "Besides, I'd expect all trillion times to be instances of fucking her. Not that that would happen anytime soon…"

"You don't think she'll want to have sex with you?" Yva asked, wondering at this unforeseen relationship of the younger man.

"At the moment, no." Ezra replied simply, not seeming too bothered by this. "I'm just sticking around for when she'll change her mind."

"Ezra," Yva groaned, clutching at her head in despair.

"Should I lie and say that a part of my attraction to her is not about the anticipation of sex?" Ezra deadpanned before becoming genuinely serious. "Trust me. It's a part of it."

"Ezra, you punk," Yva raised her head to hiss at him as she kicked at his foot under the table. Ezra endured the pain without a flinch.

"It's not everything." He continued in a serious, low voice, not wanting to be overheard by anyone else. "It's not even the majority of it. But I still want to have her like that. I'll be fine if it doesn't happen. Disappointed? Yes. Frustrated? Shit, yes. But it's not the worst thing in the world. Still, she's beautiful and I want her."

Yva let out a heavy sigh, but did not say anything. She just leaned back into her chair, seeming to mull over something. Finally, she seemed to decide to let the conversation rest for now, because she relaxed with a small smile. "She is very beautiful. I don't think I've seen a more perfect face or figure, in quite some time, either. Not that you should judge people based on their looks."

"You think she's hot too?" Ezra asked with a smirk, choosing to ignore her last comment.

"I'd be blind not to." Yva rolled her eyes, letting her manners rest forgotten for now.

"Nah, I've seen better." Ezra drawled teasingly. "Remember that girl I told you I fucked last year. The one with the tightest-"

Yva threw her napkin at Ezra in disgust.

"Seriously?" She demanded. "I've told you before that I don't like hearing you talk about people like that, whether I know them or not."

"I know." Ezra leaned back into his chair with a sigh. "I was just kidding. Marissa's honestly the only girl I can manage to think about for more than fifteen minutes, which I think says something."

"That you're actually growing up and having feelings for a real girl and not just in it for the physical gratification?" Yva asked, lightly teasing, but only half-joking.

"Something like that." Ezra shrugged, smiling to himself.

"And here she comes." Yva tilted her head over at the tall, statuesque blonde who was carefully making her way through the tables.

"You should be careful." Yva nodded over at the other occupied tables. Both young and old men spared her a glance or two as she drifted by their seats; all had a materialistic, bourgeois air that seemed to be calculating the blonde girl and just how much she'd be worth. "Even our waiter was eyeing her earlier, you know?"

"Yeah." Ezra replied. He did know. It had bothered him, but there had been nothing he could do about it other than shoot the young man a dark look. And now, in this situation, there really was nothing he could do. At all. Marissa was a very attractive girl, made more so tonight with her pretty dress and heels, and there would always be men who would look. If he had it his way he would make sure that no one would ever look at or even think about her in the ways that he knew they were doing right now. But she was her own person and he did trust her. At least, he trusted her intentions and her feelings for him. Although he really would have liked to walk over to Marissa right then and cover her up with a table cloth…or at least kiss her to show people that she belonged to him. That she was his.

"Mine," he murmured the word as he watched her, straightening in surprise that he had spoken without intention. Yva seemed to have heard it too, because she was looking at him, mildly entertained.

"I know what you're thinking right now." Yva tsked. "But you shouldn't get so upset. If I didn't already have someone, I might have gone after her myself."

"You wouldn't." Ezra turned to look sharply at the older girl, nerves a little raw from both his jealousy and having been caught off-guard.

"I don't know." Yva shrugged her delicate shoulders. "I might have. You're kind of indebted to me as a maternal figure, right? Maybe I could have convinced you to give her to me and convince her to come over to bat for my team. Just like how you seduced her." She was teasing him now, but her words still irritated him. Ezra glowered darkly, bristling at her.

"I owe you a lot, Yva. You were like a mother to me." He spoke quietly, acknowledging her previous words. "And I would give the world to you if I could. You probably know all that too. But not her. She's mine."

Yva contemplated him before smiling. "So don't let her go." She leaned back in her seat, using the space that was created to cross her lean legs. "Besides, I was just kidding. I already have a girlfriend, you know?"

"A girlfriend?" Ezra and Yva both looked up to see that Marissa had just made it to their table and cocked her head curiously, like a puzzled puppy. "I'm sorry I took so long. I got a little lost. But what do you mean by 'girlfriend'?" She asked, turning to address the last question at the older girl. Yva nodded at her to sit. She obeyed by settling back into her spot beside Ezra.

"I like girls," Yva said. "I'm a lesbian."

Marissa continued to stare at her blankly. She turned back to look at Ezra who just raised an eyebrow expectantly at her.

"Oh. I see." Finally, she began to nod slowly. Well, that was unexpected. Marissa couldn't help but mentally roll her eyes at Veneta, wherever she was right now. Hopefully, she'd feel the ray of annoyance that was being directed at her.

"Did I make you uncomfortable?" Yva asked in concern, gently leaning in to take a hold of Marissa's hand; a mildly flirtatious act on the brunette's end. Ezra shot her a glare. Yva glared back. But Marissa didn't move away, oblivious to any implications that Yva was making with the physical contact, and just smiled at her in reassurance.

"No, sorry. I'm just a little surprised is all." When Yva squeezed Marissa's hand happily, Ezra took Marissa's wrist, pulling her hand out of the older girl's grasp.

"Possessive much?" Yva snarked at him, her polite mask vanishing once more to be replaced by sisterly irritation at a younger brother.

"You're the one who threatened me with a 'what-if' scenario." Ezra barked back, lacing his fingers with Marissa's.

"Well, sorry for having a little fun." Yva sniffed.

Marissa had no idea what was going on, but she had to appreciate the warm familial familiarity that the two treated each other with. As Yva paid the dinner bill, insisting she would do so as the eldest, the three got up to leave.

Outside the restaurant, they went their separate ways.

"As much as I'd like to go home with you guys, I brought my car, so I have to drive it home." Yva smiled with a 'what-can-you-do' shrug.

"Be safe." Ezra said as he hugged. "I'll see you at home."

"Will do, little bro." She smiled as she returned the embrace. As they separated, Yva turned to Marissa who returned her smile. They hugged as well.

"You know you have them, right?" Yva whispered quietly into the taller girl's ear. Marissa pulled back to shoot her a questioning look.

"His affections. His heart." Yva replied softly to the unspoken question. "He's suffered enough in life that it's amazing he still has a heart. One that he can give away, at that. And I've said this before, but I will say it again: I will tear you to pieces if you break it."

Marissa nodded seriously, understanding the gravity behind the words despite their obvious threat.

"What are you two talking about?" Ezra demanded as he came back from retrieving his car and keys from the valet. "Yva, are you saying something weird again?"

"Wow, thanks for your confident vote of family trust, Ezra." Yva drawled sarcastically. "I can feel the love."

"Go home." He retorted. "Your mom's going to worry."

"Yeah, yeah." Yva dismissed him and with a final smile at Marissa, she gave a wave. "Good-bye! Drive home safely!"

"Both you and Spencer were right." Marissa said as she slipped into the passenger-seat, deciding to keep silent as Ezra opened the car-door for her; accepting the chivalrous act graciously for once. "I do like her."

Ezra shut the door before walking over and getting into the car himself.

"I told you." He said after shutting his own door. He put on his seatbelt, glancing over to make sure Marissa had hers on. Satisfied that she did, he started the car. "She likes you too."

"I know." Marissa smiled. "I could tell."

Ezra scoffed in amusement.

"Although her liking girls did catch me off-guard." Marissa admitted. "Veneta never told me that."

"That's because Veneta doesn't know." Ezra said. Marissa frowned.

"Why not?" She asked.

"Because Yva came out to the family only last year, and they even refuse to acknowledge it." Ezra replied. "No one else, outside the family, besides Spencer, knows."

"How does Spencer know?" Marissa asked in disbelief.

"She told him too. The two of them are close. Always have been since they first met when he was eleven and she was thirteen."

Marissa thought that through for a moment.

"So…" she began slowly. "When she told you to distance yourself from Veneta…was that because of Spencer's crush on her?"

Ezra looked over at Marissa in surprise. "Sometimes I can't tell whether you're sharp or slow."

Marissa shot him a warning look.

"But yeah," Ezra admitted. "Spencer liked her ever since he met her when they were like ten or eleven. We were all buddies, but I think Yva could tell that Veneta was beginning to like me back in grade nine, so she told me to distance myself for Spencer's sake. So I did that. It was only two years ago that Spencer came up to me and said that I shouldn't keep myself so aloof from them, that his crush was over. Coincidentally, that was when Yva left for university." He paused a bit before continuing, "I think Spencer was worried I'd be lonely without her. He still liked Veneta then, though he began to deny it to me. He's such an idiot. This is why nice guys always finish last." Though the words were harsh, Ezra's voice was quiet and betrayed concern.

"For his sake, I hope that that's not true." Marissa murmured.

"Yeah, it seems like he'd die liking her to the end." Ezra said. They shared a thoughtful silence, which Ezra broke first.

"By the way, don't tell Veneta, or anyone else for that matter, about Yva's sexual orientation." Ezra warned. "She should let everyone know in her own time."

"I know." Marissa agreed, with a smile. "I wasn't going to."

When they finally arrived in front of Marissa's house, Marissa hurried out of the car, not wanting to give Ezra a chance to open the door for her again. As she slammed the door behind her, she was surprised to hear a similar slam following close behind.

"Ezra?" She turned around to find him looking at her from across the roof of his car, lit up from above by a streetlight.

"No farewell?" He teased.

"Farewell." Marissa replied easily with a grand wave. He just snorted before crooking a finger at her, his expression serious.

"Come here," he beckoned in a low whisper.

Something inside her squirmed nervously, becoming aware of the predatory stare he was directing at her. She hesitated, wondering if she should follow through with her automatic urge to bark the order back at him. Instead, she gave in, this one time. Slowly she walked over the snow-packed street, around the car, to him, eyes never leaving his. She stopped a foot away from him. He cocked his head after a moment's pause, almost as if in question.

"I can't do all the work now, can I?" She joked lightly. Wordlessly he closed the distance between them in one step. She had to tilt her head back, because despite her own towering height, which had only increased with the heels, he was still nearly half a head taller than her. She waited for him to do something – because he had obviously called her over for a reason – so when he didn't, opting to simply watch her silently, her one-worded question popped out without a second thought.

"Kiss?" She asked, a touch too sweet in her uncertainty. She looked surprised at her own audacity and seemed to hurriedly search for some way to back-track.

It was too late for that though, because Ezra leaned in even closer, an arm encircling her waist, while the other wrapped around her shoulders; slow and deliberate.

"Would you like to?" He rasped, eyelids lowering until a sliver of dark grey peeked out from under long thick lashes.

"Hm." She hummed, at a loss of words as his lips hovered closer until they practically lingered over hers, a mere breath away from touching.

"Sorry?" If Marissa wasn't feeling so entranced she would have punched him for his teasing.

"Yes," she exhaled breathlessly.

"Yes, what?" Dammit! What did he want from her? She let out a frustrated whine in the back of her throat as she tilted her head up to touch his lips. If he wasn't going to give her what she wanted, she'd take it from him. Their lips brushed together before he evaded easily by lifting his head away from her.

"No," she protested, mouth now resting unhappily on his chin.

"Mind your manners, princess," he was clearly enjoying this, although the words did sound a little thick as she lightly bit his chin in irritation at his condescending tone.

"You mind yours, smartass," Marissa replied as she lifted one of her hands to tap his butt. He tensed in surprise, so Marissa took the opportunity to grab the back of his head and pull him down for a kiss. She smiled as she felt him open his mouth in surprise.

Oh, sweet revenge.

She took advantage of his surprise to slip her tongue into his mouth and curl it around his. That was when he reacted, cutting Marissa's role as the dominator rather short, as he slammed her back into the side of his car. He was kissing her desperately, as if he had been holding back all along, fingers tugging at the pins in her hair, letting them fall carelessly onto the snow. She was clutching at his head, afraid of falling and breaking the kiss despite having his body pinning hers to the unyielding car-door.

Marissa shivered as the icy cold metal of the car met her panty-hosed calves, sucking in an involuntary breath from Ezra's mouth as she shuddered. She pressed herself more insistently against him, wanting to both absorb more of his warmth and have him as close to her as possible. He suddenly pulled away from her, a line of saliva still connecting their kiss-swollen lips. He lowered his hands away from her person, placing them on either side of her, against the car. His eyes were dark and heavy with want, but his words, though laced with heavy pants, were kind.

"You're cold. Go inside."

Marissa felt an ache inside of her body that almost seemed to stem from loss of contact with the boy in front of her, but she squashed it down.

"Yes," she agreed, though she didn't move. She tucked a strand of her loosened blonde hair behind an ear. "Thank you for dinner."

He smiled then, eyes lightening to a paler shade of grey than it usually was. "Polite, aren't you? Although you refused to say 'please' when I prompted you to."

"That's what you wanted me to say earlier? 'Yes, please'? You wanted me to beg you to kiss me?" Marissa asked, her voice growing more skeptical with each question; at the same time, she was trying to steady her breathing to calm her still erratically beating heart.

"It would have turned me on," he shrugged.

"And jumping you didn't?" She scoffed.

"I can't quite figure out whether you like to dominate or be dominated." Ezra admitted, leaning in close to study her face, as if he could read her thoughts by doing so.

"I'm pretty sure you like to dominate." Marissa deadpanned. "Please and thank you very much."

He pulled back with a dark chuckle. "Oh, you'd be surprised at the kinds of things I like to do in bed. Especially if you were in that bed."

"Urgh." Marissa grumbled in disgust.

"Like sleeping, you pervert." He admonished, although his eyes were alight with humour.

"Yeah, alright." Marissa replied sarcastically. "Now it's time for me to go in and get some sleep myself." She turned to walk away, but found her path blocked by one of his arms.

"Please," she intoned drolly. Ezra snorted back a laugh. She scoffed at him before grabbing a hold of his arm and lowering it away from the car. Her hand accidentally brushed against his and she gave a start at how cold it was. She turned to him in worry.

"You want to come inside to warm up?" She asked softly, grabbing his hand with both of hers and lifting it to her lips to blow warm air onto his fingers.

"Are you soliciting me?" He asked suggestively, although his hand twitched when he felt her lips brush his palm.

Marissa shot him a dull look, which he responded to by smiling at her.

"Another time, Marissa," he replied. "Right now I feel like if I go in with you…" He lifted his hand to cup her cheek in his warmer palm. Her face was actually colder than his hand, but she had remained unaware of it. As he touched his pinky to the pulse on her neck, he felt it give a heavy thud. His smile disappeared. "I'm not going to let you go."

Marissa stared up at him with large dark eyes that seemed to understand what he meant. She turned her face in his hand, so that her nose was pressed into his palm. She closed her eyes as she inhaled deeply and Ezra felt his own heart stutter at the sight.

"Good night, Ezra," she whispered into his skin, before pulling away as she opened her eyes. As she began to walk away on unsteady legs, she imagined that she could still smell his skin, lingering in her nostrils. That smell that had been so musky and warm, and oh so male. She felt her ankles wobble, feet teetering to balance on the heels that felt so foreign to her. Her unsteadiness became more potent as she realized that her legs were still a little shaky from her kiss with Ezra as well. She forced herself to snap out of it with a rough shake of her head, almost having made it halfway up the front path.

"Night, Marissa." She gave a start at the unexpected sound of Ezra's husky voice carrying over to her through the cold, winter, night air. She turned around, her eyes meeting his. As their eyes made contact, she felt an ache deep inside of her, telling her she was almost ready for him to do with her as he wished. It was followed rather quickly with a nervous flutter that left her feeling mildly queasy and uncomfortable. No, she was not. The ache made itself known again, as if caught in internal debate. But then again…No! She was not ready for this. And yet-

"Ezra," she called out in a hushed voice, not quite sure of what it was that she wanted to say. She wasn't even sure if he had heard her, but then she saw his head tilt forward as if acknowledging her to continue.

"Touch me. Please." She spoke, the ache inside of her vocalizing itself before she even had a chance of becoming truly aware of what the source of the ache had been. She watched Ezra's body stiffen in surprise, kicking away all hope of the possibility that he had not heard her quiet request. She felt her own body tense at the unbidden words, as her mind frantically searched for some way to take her words back. She was totally not ready for this...whatever 'this' was.

Hello everyone! Sorry for the bit of delay. I actually tried to update on Thursday (and the Friday following), but there was something weird going on with the login page. It seems the problem's been fixed though, so here is an extra (twice as long) chapter. So the question is, will they or won't they? Cue: evil cackle. Honestly, you all know about my aversion to lemons (as made quite clear in my profile page), so who knows...Not that getting two characters to do the hanky-panky without lemons is impossible.

Oh, and speaking of profile pages, I accidentally stumbled onto mine a few days ago and realized that there are no hyperlinks for the pictures (I tried to insert hyperlinks into the names, but apparently I failed. Horribly.), so I'll be fixing that soon. Check it out, if you so dare to ruin your own mind-made images (I recall, when I was working on an earlier chapter, someone was gravely disappointed that Ezra was not represented by Cillian Murphy; I apologize). Oh, and review if you feel so inclined (I'll be eternally grateful, because your sweetness is undeserved on my end); and even if you don't, thanks for reading thus far! I love you all!

© 2012 w. rite. reckless (Fictionpress User I.D.: 618899)