Hi everyone! Thanks for reading this far! This is part 3 of an 8-part series, so if you want it to make sense, I'd go ahead and read parts 1 and 2 first. I welcome constructive criticism or general comments since this is my first attempt at writing. Thanks y'all, happy reading!

PART 3

Chapter 7

While Isaiah walked me home from the library that Thursday night, we talked more about how things between him and Mia had gotten so messed up.

So far, all I knew was Mia's side of the story, which went a little like this:

We were all at Matty, Rian, and Isaiah's annual Ugly Christmas Sweater party the past December, and I mean all of us. Isaiah told Mia to invite our Grinds friends, most of my good Data Analytics friends were there too, and they only made up about an eighth of the crowd. Isaiah took the party very seriously, so he had to spend most of the night roaming around his apartment to find the n of the contest. Of course, Mia and I got quite drunk off the mulled cider that we'd brought, and when I inevitably ended up in Rian's room that night, Mia decided to head to Isaiah's room to sleep off some of the drunkenness. She dozed off and woke up probably 20 minutes later to the door opening. Assuming it was Isaiah, she reached her arm out to him and said, "Hey, babe, come hang out for a minute."

"Not 'babe.'" A voice said. Mia's eyes focused and she realized it was Matty.

"Oh, hey Matty, I'm sorry, I totally thought you were Isaiah... um, did you need something in here?"

"Nah, Isaiah just wanted me to keep you company, since he saw Dot and Rian go to his room and it looks like Isaiah might be a little while longer."

"That's nice, thanks." She paused, unsure how to politely send him away. "I think I'm good with just napping here, though."

"It'll be fun, a few of us are about to start a game of Kings."

The thought of being around more people than just Matty was tempting, so she said yes and followed him to his room, where a group of four other people had indeed gathered. The drinking game got its' job done, and after one game Mia knew she'd had more than she should have. She stood up with the rest of the group and began to walk out of Matty's room, but he grabbed her arm and pulled her back in. She's not sure exactly how it happened, but she vaguely remembers Matty trying to kiss her. Mia and Isaiah had been on-and-off all semester, but they were most certainty 'on' at the moment. Mia tried explaining, though she admits that she might not have been making any sense given how drunk she was. Regardless, what Matty did was wrong. Mia remembers falling down onto Matty's bed, but she doesn't remember her Christmas sweater coming off. That's how Isaiah found her later, passed out on Matty's bed with no shirt on.

Matty had another story entirely. His also includes inviting Mia to play Kings with friends in his room, but he claims that he was just trying to get her to lay down for a bit after the game because he was worried that she'd get sick. When Isaiah found her alone, Matty said he was out looking for a trashcan and either Isaiah or myself.

"Listen, Isaiah. My gut isn't always right, I realize that, but I know Mia pretty damn well and she really, really loves you. I truly don't think she'd even want to kiss anyone else, regardless of how drunk she was. When we get drunk at my house all she fucking does is talk about you. Honestly it can get annoying."

Isaiah smiled at this. I added, "And I hope you know me well enough to trust that I wouldn't make that shit up."

"I do, Dot, it's just, I also thought I knew Matty."

My heart broke for Isaiah, a big teddy bear at heart. "I'm not trying to make you choose, love, I just want everyone to have the same information so we can communicate like adults."

"Bless your soul, Dot. I'm sorry you're somehow always in this situation."

Isaiah was referring to my unofficial role as the middleman. If each of my friends was a UN country, I'd inevitably end up being everyone's ambassador to the other. This job stuck to me in high school, mostly just mediating small-scale conflicts between hormonal teenagers. Now, in college, I was mostly a combination of matchmaker, negotiator, and sometimes literal messenger. I suppose it came naturally to me since I always try to simply tell truth.

"It's okay, I really just want to see all of you happy."

He gave my shoulder a squeeze and stumbled over the start of a question. "Do you... I'm not... you know I think it's great that you have your regular hookups and all, I mean I don't really have an opinion on what you do on that front, but I wonder—"

"I promise, I do not want to get into a relationship. Casual sex is not a cry for help." I said, cutting him off.

"I know, I know... you just do so much for our relationships that I'd want you to let me know if I could ever return the favor."

I laughed quietly, but loud enough for Isaiah to hear. "Thanks love, but if I ever think that's what I want I'll figure it out myself."

My phone vibrated in my pocket and I pulled off my glove to punch in my passcode. It was a text from none other than Rian.

Rian Dane

Are you with I right now?

Yup, walking back from Grand right now.

Want to sleep over?

I'll stop at my house and grab my work clothes for my AM shift 

Cool, I can drop you off in the morning

I put my phone back in my pocket and pulled my glove back on, turning to Isaiah. "Speaking of my sex life, looks like I'm heading back to your house." He laughed and said, "Ah of course, I should have known when Rian texted me to ask if we were studying."

We stopped by my house and I ran in to get my work uniform, toothbrush, and face wipes. We cut through a few backyards in an attempt to get to Isaiah's apartment quicker, feeling the frost bite starting to set in. We made it inside, and I gave Isaiah a quick hug, thanking him again for the homework help. He turned to go to his room just as Rian came out to get me. He leaned casually against the threshold, arms crossed and an amused look on his face. That was when I remembered that I had my hands pulled in under my coat, vigorously rubbing my arms to warm up.

"Cold?" He asked.

"Very."

"Good thing I have about fifteen candles burning in my room."

Chapter 8

I looked back at Rian quizzically. "It's good mood lighting, but I'm not sure it will do much to keep me warm.

"The way I use them they will."

He reached out for my hand and I laughed, shrugging my shoulders to remind him that my arms were currently zipped inside my parka.

I knew Rian was strong, but I didn't think he was strong enough to do what he did next. He moved to my side in two strides, bent down, wrapped his arms around my waist, and threw me over his shoulder. I exhaled with an "ophf" and started laughing harder than I had all week. With my arms wrapped inside my coat and my body folded over Rian's shoulder, I felt the way I assume a rolled-up carpet would feel being carried by movers.

We got to his room and he threw me on the bed, moving to unzip my coat and pull off my boots. I looked around at the tiny flames dancing on his nightstand, his desk, his dresser; definitely more than 15 of them.

"What's up with all this?" I asked Rian, confused by the intimacy of it.

"What, I can't just do something nice?" He asked with a smile, straddling my hips as he unbuttoned my sweater down the front.

My face deadpanned, knowing that wasn't exactly our thing. He chuckled and kissed me once, softly, on the lips.

"My friend got me a few massage candle-things for Christmas. I think he meant for them to be a gag gift, but I thought they looked cool. And you were the first person that popped in my mind who'd actually be down to try it."

"What are massage candles?"

He picked up a tin off his nightstand that was about the same size as the ones I keep loose-leaf tea in.

"This. You burn the candle for a while, and then when you blow it out you can use the melted stuff as massage oil."

I pulled my arms out of the sweater sleeves and pulled his face down to mine, planting kisses on his mouth, forehead, cheeks, jaw, nose, and every other spot I could find. After my very long, tense winter break and this tough first week back, a massage and an orgasm was exactly what I needed.

"Thank you thank you thank you!" I said between kisses. "Thank you for thinking of me, you're pre-forgiven for whatever dumbass thing you say or do next."

"Deal."

Rian stayed on top of me as we took each other's clothes off. Or, more like, he took off my clothes and I tugged on his until he took them off himself.

"Get under the covers." He whispered.

Rian set himself as a more dominating persona right off the bat, and although we never explicitly discussed our respective control levels after our first hook up, he continued to take control each time.

I wiggled back toward the headboard and slipped beneath the blanket as he crawled toward me. He held himself over me, and after a few seconds of silence, he pulled the blanket down in one swift motion. I gasped, the cold from the poor insulation hitting me hard. He lowered himself down until his body was mostly resting on me. I would have thought I'd hate that, but the comfort of his weight and warmth felt reassuring. We were both naked at this point, and I felt his cock hardening against my stomach. He didn't hold anything back from the next kiss; his tongue fought for my mouth immediately and his lips seemed to knead my own. The duality of Rian's warmth and the cold that pushed at my exposed skin heightened every sensation, and my legs moved to wrap around his waist to get more contact with his cock. I felt a low rumble coming from his chest, and his started to thrust against me. With each movement, his cock dragged across my stomach and clit and made me moan into his mouth. I felt my pussy swelling and dripping with wetness, so I knew he felt it too.

"Fuck, you're so wet." He whispered as he sat up, my cue to put my legs back on the bed. He grabbed my waist and started to flip me onto my stomach until I finished the motion for him, resting my head on my forearms. I was panting already, and he hadn't even started massaging me yet. I heard him blow out a candle, and the next thing I knew, a warm, round object was sitting on the middle of my back. Rian straddled me again and leaned down to kiss my neck. His hands gathered my hair and wove a quick braid. I looked back at him, wondering how he was better at that than I was.

He shrugged. "Five sisters."

His hands went to my shoulders and his thumbs began to dig tight, deep circles over my shoulder blades. I moaned low and long, so thankful that some of the built-up tension of the week was being rubbed out. I was drifting into a dream state when I felt the warm oil of the candle dripping down my spine as Rian poured it at the base of my neck. He set the candle down and spread the liquid all over my back. He started kneading the muscles on my neck and moved slowly to my shoulders, my upper arms, and my lower back. I was completely zoned out when he reached the top of my butt, but I came-to a little when he shifted further back on my legs. He grabbed my ass with both hands and ran his thumbs along the crease where the back of my thighs met my cheeks, spreading me open just a little. He manipulated the muscles with ease until I was even more relaxed than I was before. His fingers moved to the juncture point of the inside of my thighs and my lower lips, rubbing softly but surely. I wasn't even aware of the sounds coming out of my mouth at that point. I thought he was going to touch me, put a finger in me maybe, but he continued down the inside of my legs, massaging my glutes, calves, and lastly, the soles of my feet. He moved a little faster on the way back up my body but stopped at my ass this time. He spread my legs just slightly with his knee as his hands repeated all the previous movements. Finally, he slipped two fingers inside my dripping pussy with no resistance at all, my body already limp from his massage. I don't think my brain was even fully registering his movement; it just knew that my body felt incredible. He rubbed my front wall slowly, adding pressure as he went. I felt like I was floating through the air, my impending orgasm being a burst of wind that would only lift me higher. My body was too relaxed to tense up, so it just started twitching; my fingers, my arms, my hips. I registered the words, "almost there" and then felt one finger rubbing more oil around my puckered hole. It pushed in slowly and pulled back out, never going past the first knuckle. This wasn't the first time he'd played with my ass, and he knew how interested I was in it. It was, however, the first time I imagined I could come from that alone.

I came hard, the cold air and the warm oil, the intensity of his fingers in my pussy and the tenderness of his finger in my ass, the utter relaxation and the rush of endorphins all fighting for control. They battled it out in my brain as I screamed into the bed, my body jerking so hard that Rian had to put his hands on my lower back to calm me. My vision was fuzzy and it sounded like I was underwater, as if my senses could do nothing but focus on how fucking good I felt. I felt Rian's cock at my entrance as he began fucking me hard and fast, his body now hovering over mine. He kissed my neck until my brain function started returning and I turned my head to kiss him. He spoke to me softly, each word punctuated by a thrust.

"You." Thrust. "Look." Thrust. "Beautiful." Thrust.

"I want you to come on my cock, just like that."

I'm not sure how much time passed between my orgasms, but it couldn't have been long. As if my body wasn't capable of denying him, another massive orgasm ripped through me when he told me to come. I screamed again and felt myself contracting, urging him to come with me. I felt him shudder and grunt hard, and eventually collapse on top of me, my pussy still milking him.

I felt him pull out of me and cover me with a blanket, and I remember him whispering that he was going to grab a towel and some water for us. I passed out before he returned, but I awoke an hour later, already cleaned up and curled into Rian.

Chapter 9

Friday morning opening shifts aren't ideal, but the cold of a January morning in Ohio is just salt in the wound. True to his word, Rian woke up with me at 5:45 and dropped me off at work by 6 AM, saving me a sad walk in said cold. Seeing as it was the first Friday shift of the semester, I wasn't sure who I could expect to see.

After punching in my code to clock in, I drifted over to the espresso machines, not even bothering to turn on the lights; I knew what I was doing even in the dark. I started making myself an Americano with hazelnut syrup when I heard the sound of someone else clocking in.

A minute later, a deep, sleepy voice muttered, "Good morning."

I looked over my shoulder but couldn't make out the person's face, so I played along. "Morning! You can turn the light on if you want."

The switch flipped, the light bouncing off the stainless-steel appliances and the squeaky-clean counters. I blinked a few times, letting my eyes adjust, and the first thing my eyes focused on was Austin's face.

"Oh, hey, sorry Dot, I didn't recognize your voice." He sounded just as surprised as I felt.

I smiled at him, taking my first sip of coffee. "No worries, I think everyone sounds different before the sun comes up."

Austin and I paused when we heard the loud door open again, followed by someone clocking in, culminating in rapid footsteps nearing us.

"Dot!!" yelled the sweetest voice, running up to give me a hug.

"Rebecca! I had no idea you were on this shift! This is awesome, we're gonna have fun."

Rebecca was a freshman who had started working at The Grind her literal first day of college. She reminded me of myself in some ways: we were both women in STEM, sarcastic, honest, and had a tough exterior but soft interior. That's where the similarities stopped, though. Rebecca was shorter than me, standing at probably 5'1". Her hair was dyed a rose gold color and was cut into a very short pixie. Her face was slim; actually, her whole body was slim. She honestly looked like she was plucked straight out of a fairy garden.

Rebecca pulled back from our huge and made a face. "I was going to ask you how your first week back has been, but I don't think I have to..." she tilted her head at my neck, and my hands flew from her back, up to my face.

"What, what's wrong?" I asked with worry in my voice.

She giggled and whispered, "You've got a hickey on your neck."

"Fuck! Fuck fuck fuck. Goddamn, I'm gonna kill him." I said softly, getting on my knees in front of our newest mini fridge to use the smooth surface as a mirror.

"Wow, what's happening here?" Austin came up to join Rebecca and I at the fridge. Although I was trying to find the spot, I could tell that Rebecca was smiling as she said, "Um, it just looks like Dot had a good night."

I felt a body move behind my own and saw Austin in the distorted reflection. He leaned down, his face just inches from my neck, to comment, "Oh, yup, that looks like a new one, too."

I whipped my head around to glare at the both of them, which effectively stopped their laughing. "If Jaime fucking sees this, I will never hear the end of it. Do you have concealer with you, Becca?" She shook her head, a hand covering what was obviously a smile.

"Austin? Any concealer? Probably a long shot." I asked.

"You know what, I just ran out last night." He winked as I pushed myself to my feet. "I think I can help though." He reached around me and unclipped the pin that was holding half of my hair back. I stood still, too nervous to move as he strategically placed the front pieces of my hair on my shoulder. God, he smelled god. And his face was so statuesque.

"Oh... yeah, I should have thought of that. Thanks, Austin." I mumbled, embarrassed by my brain fart and the way my body froze. Rebecca moved to stand behind Austin and gave me a thumbs up, raising and lowering her eyebrows in an almost comical way. I wasn't sure what was going on.

The rest of the shift continued with more hiccups than normal, but that was to be expected given our disproportionately high percent of new employees on the shift. After clocking out, the opening crew collectively moved back to the coat room to bundle up for our walks to class.

"Dot, are you going to go to Goose's party tonight?" Rebecca asked, elbowing me in the side to get my attention.

"Jesus, I totally forgot that was tonight." I debated for just a moment before remembering that the weekend after the first week of classes would be one of the few that wouldn't be burdened with hours of homework. "Yeah, I'll go. I'll text you and the others and we can make a plan, okay?" Rebecca smiled at me and patted my cheek as she said, "You're the best. I actually have a shirt that I think you should wear."

"Why's tha—" I started to ask.

"Oh, Austin!" Rebecca shot her arm out to grab at his coat sleeve. He turned, an effortlessly cool expression on his face. "Are you going to Goose's party tonight?" Rebecca continued.

"Who is Goose and why are they called 'Goose?'" He asked, clearly confused.

"Oh, Goose works here, his real name is George but no one calls him that. He will literally only buy Grey Goose vodka, hence the moniker. Anyway, he throws some pretty great parties aaaand one of them is tonight!" She said energetically, as if she was introducing a game show host.

"Sounds fun, I'll go if someone shares the details." He looked between Rebecca and me.

"Lovely. Here, just put your number in my phone and I will add you to one of our little Grounds group chats." She pushed her cell into his hands and continued putting her coat on. He laughed, typed hesitantly, and handed it back to Rebecca.

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