Author Kate Forest has worked in a psychiatric hospital, as a dating coach, and spent a disastrous summer selling above-ground swimming pools. But it was her over twenty-year career as a social worker that compelled her to write love stories with characters you don’t typically get to read about. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, two kids, and a fierce corgi.
Excerpt from Interior Design and Other Emotions
The chilly metal seeps through my coat and the green velvet dress that Sarah and I found at a consignment shop. The best thing is that I didn’t spill anything on it, and I can probably sell it back for not much less than what I bought it for.
Chris shoves his hand in his pocket and fishes around for something.
“Gina, we make a good team.”
“I mean we’re good together. I want us to continue to be good together.”
“Why wouldn’t we?”
“I-I…” Chris stands and takes a few paces away from me. “I don’t know what I’m trying to say. Except I love you.” He turns back.
“I love you, too.” I scramble in my head for the right response. I try to pick up on the cues of his body language. Something is troubling him, but his words are positive. If I had years of decoding people and their meaning, I might be able to guess at what he’s trying to say. “Chris, did I do something wrong at the party?”
“No, sweetheart, not at all.” He returns to the bench and takes my mittened hands in his fine-leather-gloved ones. “I’m just trying to say we should spend even more time together. In the future, too.”
“Okay.” I race through all the lessons Jennifer has gone over with me. I pick two or three things that Chris could be hinting at. “Chris, do you want…want me to move in with you?”
His posture relaxes, and he shoves his hands back into his pockets.
“I guess, yeah. I guess that’s what I was getting at.” His smile is sheepish but cute.
“You know Nonna would never accept that. She couldn’t keep me from doing it. But I don’t want to hurt her that way.” I stroke his arm, which I can’t feel through his heavy coat and my mitten. “But I can stay over anytime you want.” I wink again, and he laughs.
“Come on, then. Let’s go.”
I take his hand, and we no longer stroll to admire the window displays. We practically jog to his apartment building. At each intersection, he whispers what he has planned once we get inside, and my libido is about to burst through my thinning wool coat.
He nuzzles my ear in the elevator, and I giggle.
He dashes down the hall, pulling me after him. The tension that started to build when we danced has become unbearable.
We tumble into his apartment and immediately fall onto the couch, kissing. We don’t break apart to pull our coats off and fling the scarves away. He kicks his shoes off. I need to unbuckle the straps from mine. I can’t do it while maintaining lip contact.
“Wait, wait.” He pulls back. “Meet me in the bathroom. I have a new shower massager I want you to see.”
“Oooh,” I gasp. That’s maybe the most intimate thing we could do, and I want to do it.
I take off my shoes and shimmy out of my stockings. The water has come on in the bathroom.
Chris is nude, his erection jutting forth. His strong arms beckon me toward him. He’s lit candles, and the scent of vanilla wafts toward me. The hum of the shower beating against the tiles is loud enough to mask my nervous peep. But Chris’s eyes question me.
“Is this okay?” he asks.
I nod and slip the rest of my clothes off. As I approach, the warmth of the spray flows over my skin, and I drop my arm that was covering my breasts.
Chris’s lips spread into a wide grin, and he follows me into the tight space, closing the glass door.
“Here, let me.” He takes a bar of soap and works it into a lather. His slippery hands travel across my shoulders and down my sides. I allow my eyes to close, and my head to rest against the cool tile, a welcome relief from the overwhelming heat.
He gets more soap and circles my breasts.
“Please, Chris, down there.” I spread my legs apart, because the torture he inflicts with those sudsy fingers needs to be at my sex.
“Mmmm.” He leans forward to nibble my ear, his erection pressing into my belly. And his fingers part my folds and slip around in a pattern I can’t define. All I know is that the water caressing down my body, Chris’s coarse chest hairs, the smooth, cool tile, and the magic of his fingers work together so that I might shoot straight into the air. The crash to the ground would be so worth it.
“Here.” Chris stops and hands me the soap.
My groan reverberates off the walls of the small room, echoing my frustration. But his mischievous smirk lets me know I’ll get what’s mine.
“My turn to torment you.”
“Yes.” He places his palms flat on the wall on either side of my head.
I take my time, slowly drawing the edge of the soap up one side of his flat abs and down the other. The lather drips down over his cock, which twitches, demanding attention.
Stroking it with my slick hands, I feel the power that I have in giving him pleasure.
He grunts and pushes back. His eyes drill into me as rivulets of water run over his face.
“Gina.” He leans in, and the fiercest kiss of my life lifts me onto tiptoes. I grab his shoulders so I don’t slip. His tongue is frantic to reach every part of mine, and we’re locked together. Until he breaks away, panting.
“How about like this?”
He turns me around, and I’m pretty sure what I need to do is bend forward a bit.
From behind, he reaches around to stimulate me while the tip of his erection parts my sex.
The tile against my face helps quell the heat as he slides ever so slowly into me.
My clit is practically singing as his pace increases. I lose my ability to tell where my body ends and his begins. The orgasm buckles my knees, and Chris steadies me as I feel him slip out.
He moans as he comes outside of me.
Wordlessly we get out and towel each other off. I shiver at the cold of the floor, but my skin is still on fire.
“Come to bed.” His voice rumbles through me.
“I want to keep my phone with me in case Nonna calls.”
I kiss his nose, and he rolls his eyes.
I pad into the living room, where we shed our coats. That is what sex is like for women who know what they want, with men who are considerate lovers, for couples that are as intimate as they can be. This is what a relationship is about. Being vulnerable and safe all at the same time.
I pick up our coats to hang them, and something drops.
A black velvet jewelry box tumbles next to the couch.
I freeze. I know what comes in those boxes. I smack my head. Chris was going to propose when we were sitting on that bench, and I missed it. I am an idiot. How many women would have missed those clues? None. Well, one with autism.
Then I do the cleverest thing I have ever done. I kick the box a few inches under the couch. I can pretend I never saw it, and Chris can save face about chickening out.
Now I have to decide if I’m glad he didn’t follow through and force me to choose something I’m completely not ready for, or crushed that he couldn’t bring himself to ask me.