A/N: Things start to get a bit steamy towards the end of this update!

Ryker opened the door, behind which was a narrow staircase leading to Emmie's second story apartment

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Ryker opened the door, behind which was a narrow staircase leading to Emmie's second story apartment. He had insisted that she go up first so that he could watch one of her finest qualities sway back and forth under her tight black workpants as she made her way upstairs.

"Are you looking at my butt?"

"Are you pretending you don't like it?"

At the landing, she turned to peer down at him. Dim light from the stairway's sole bulb was just enough for Ryker to see the feuding emotions of surprise and annoyance battle it at the corners of her lips. "I'm not proud that I'm flattered, and I'm choosing to be offended on principle. Do you ever see a woman as more than just an object?"

Now he was the one to be offended. "I'm not a misogynist, despite what you might think. But I am a man with the desires men have. And I find you desirable; including but not limited to that round, sensuous derriere of yours. In fact, I rather liked it when you turned so that I can see the front of you as well. You're a sexy woman all around, Emmie. I refuse to believe there's anything wrong with me expressing that, especially now that we've agreed to this arrangement of ours. Are we or are we not on the same page here?"

Without saying anything, she turned to climb the remaining stairs. He'd observed the way her eyes shifted when he'd spoke—not the wide-eyed stare he'd noted this morning, but a subtler change, as though her eyelids had grown unaccountably heavy. It was a look that he could only interpret to be one of awakening lust.

She hadn't answered his question. Were they on the same page? He'd meant to glean more with his question than just the confirmation that they were both willing to do this without forming any sort of attachment to each other. She was hiding something, he was certain of it.

How could they possibly claim equal footing if she was holding something back? Not that they had to tell each other their deepest, darkest secrets; the whole point of this arrangement was for them to have sex without complications. Secrets revealed would only muddle things, but secrets withheld could do the same. And if those secrets had anything to do with him (and how could they not?), then this might very easily end in disaster.

Perhaps he should call this off. It was a bad idea to enter into any sort of arrangement with someone he couldn't trust. The mere suggestion of distrust brought Carin to mind. Cold calculating Carin, who had seemed nothing but warm and unassuming when they'd first met. She'd been at a party in Seattle hosted by a mutual friend on a New Year's Eve, not long after MechaJames had begun to take off. Her thick tangle of black hair and the way it swooped against the curve of her back had immediately caught his eye.

She'd chatted innocently with him about a number of inconsequential topics—their tastes in music, the never ending rain of the Pacific Northwest (she was from Reno and had yet to get used to the change in climate), what the weather did to her hair, and her propensity towards dogs small enough to fit in purses. She had a purse dog with her that night, in fact. Giles, she called him. Giles was the only thing Ryker still missed about their relationship. That yippy little bark of his coupled with Giles' madly waving tale whenever Ryker came home had been an unexpected pleasantry in his life.

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