Shadows at Dusk

by Elandria Lore

Shadows at Dusk
By Elandria Lore

It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience. Julius Caesar 101-44 BC, Roman Emperor

October 16, 2010
23:06:28 Central Time
LeXCorp Towers
Metropolis, Kansas

"I'm responsible for the death of someone he loved," Lex said simply. "Chloe Sullivan died because of me."

"Lex, you weren't responsible," she said emphatically. "You tried to protect-"

"It would have never happened if I hadn't been for me," he said quietly, tiredly. "You know that."

There was a significant pause before she spoke again, the static hissing in the long distance line. "A lot of people made bad decisions back then, Lex," she said finally. "Clark wasn't entirely blameless either and he's being a hypocrite and short-sighted by his continued attacks on you. I just...I don't understand how you can forgive him so easily," she finished edgily.

A smile flickered across Lex's face as he strode across to the open doors on the balcony; the city lay below him in glittering lights. He looked east to where he knew she was, imagined the bright lights of her own city shining in her dark hair. "It's easy to forgive Clark," Lex said finally, another small smile gracing his lips. "I've had a lot of practice. Besides," he said leaning casually against the railing, "he doesn't have you anymore. I do."

Her small sigh warmed him as did her next words. "I wish I could be there for you."

"You are here for me," he corrected.


"I know. Me too. But we've discussed this and it's better this way."

"You can't keep me away forever," she warned. "The next time I read 'byline by Lane and Kent,' and it's another assault, they're going down," she said only half joking.

"I stopped believing you were stupid a long time ago," he replied, "don't prove me wrong."

Her startled laughter was worth it and he smiled in response, real and full.

"I love you, Lex," she said simply.

He closed his eyes and felt her voice surround him. "I love you too," he responded, feeling his world shift back into place. "It's already tomorrow for you," he said looking at his watch. "I should go."

"Goodnight, Lex."


He pressed 'end' and slipped the phone into his trouser pocket, taking one last look at his city before walking back inside.

October 21, 2010
00:28:02 Central Time
LeXCorp Towers
Metropolis, Kansas

"How was the showing?" Lex asked taking his drink out onto the balcony. The air was getting colder but being inside for one of these conversations always made him restless. Made him want to grab his wallet, hop a plane and see her in person.

"It was great," she said brightly, making him immediately suspicious.

"What happened?"

"Nothing, it's's..."

"Tell me."

"It wasn't me," she said finally. "There was no one there I knew; no one there who knew me."

His hand clutched tighter at the tumbler as she sniffed.

"I know, it's stupid."

"It's not," he said firmly. "And I wish I could change it."

"Who'd've ever guessed that there are some things you can't do," she said with warm humor. Then she laughed, "And who'd've guessed that we could turn a great night into a pity party? I had a showing in New York and you got the keys to the city."

"Yes I did," he agreed as his shoulders relaxed.

"So how was the party?"

"Long. And boring."

"Tell me," she said and he slid into a patio chair setting his orange juice on the table next to him.

"The chicken was rubbery and the champagne was mediocre."

"You don't drink champagne anymore," she stated.

"I don't drink anymore," he said absently, "but that doesn't mean I can't tell mediocre champagne when I see it."

"Another of your awesome talents."


"How were the speeches?"

"Long and boring."

"The dresses?"

"Short and boring."

He heard her laugh and the sound of sheets rustling in the background, closed his eyes and imagined her curled up in bed, phone tucked to her ear, the necklace he'd given her last Christmas shining gold and red on her nightstand, her dress draped out on the chair. "Tell me again what you said in your acceptance speech," she said sleepily.

And in a low voice he told her his dreams.

November 3, 2010
21:13:54 Central Time
LeXCorp Towers
Metropolis, Kansas

"So I hear they printed a retraction," she said, her voice low and amused.

Lex let out a slow smile and closed his eyes. "You thought I wouldn't be able to handle it?" he asked leaning back on the lounger, the wind touching briefly at the collar of his shirt.

"I know you."

"Then you know I don't just standby and let people walk all over me."

"No, you annihilate them," she said dryly, "but there's also a difference between them and everybody else."

"They were very polite about it."

"They were grinding their teeth."

"Lois shook my hand," he rebutted.

"To forestall ripping your throat out," she added knowingly. "They're never going to give up."

"I'm glad of it," he said firmly opening his eyes. "Keeps me honest."


He chuckled, tracing the shapes of the stars with his eyes. "Tell me about your cooking lessons," he said changing the subject.

She graciously let him with an, "Ugh. An artist I am not."

"Yes you are," he belied smoothly.

"A camera I can figure out. A stove? It baffles me, Lex."

"I'm sure you'll figure it out."

"All the recipes are in this language that I can't quite fathom," she said, annoyed, "and what's not in another language is in numbers. I'm not good with numbers, Lex."

"You'll be great," his faith in her unshakeable. "You can do anything."

"Except bake a cake," she mumbled making him laugh.

"Better learn fast, my birthday's in a month."

"Ah, Lex, haven't you had enough people try to poison you without me joining their ranks."

His laughter once again spilled into the air, the wind picking it up and moving it into the night. He closed his eyes again, concentrating on her voice as she regaled him with tales of her cooking lessons, her downstairs neighbor, and the ninety year old Jewish man at the market who liked to practice flirting with her.

Everything disappeared.

Including the man who watched solemnly from across the street, his eyes dark with distrust as he listened in unashamedly on the conversation, his red cape snapping in the wind.

November 15th, 2010
22:24:18 Central Time
LeXCorp Towers
Metropolis, Kansas

"You did what?"

The incredulity in her voice was almost worth it. "You have to admit," he said smiling into the phone, "he's the perfect man for the job. Probably the only man in my instance."

"He hates you," she said, obviously working herself up, pacing around her small apartment.

"I know," Lex replied readily, because it was true, "but he also thinks he owes me." The grin was quick and sharp. "It's perfect."

"It's a disaster," she said grimly.

"Don't be so negative," he chided easily, though her concern for him warmed him like nothing ever had. He pressed a hand against the balcony doors; cool to the touch, and wished she was there.

"You're doing it again," she accused.

"Doing what?"

"Surrounding yourself with people you believe to be noble because they hate your guts."

"He is noble," Lex rebutted, turning away from the lights of the city, "even disregarding the fact that he hates my guts," he added. "Besides, it-"

"Keeps you honest," she finished for him. "Yeah, I've heard the line," she sighed. "You know, if any one of your 'noble' enemies heard how concerned you were about keeping yourself honest they'd...well-"

"Think I was playing at something," he finished, smiling. "And you don't think I'm not?" he asked, settling into the long couch.

"Dammit, Lex," she said softly.

"They're right. You know they are. You've heard the story," he continued, "you know they have every reason to distrust me. You know I have reason to distrust myself."

"So you surround yourself with uncompromising defenders of truth."

Lex leaned back into the couch and closed his eyes. Waiting. Knowing he didn't need to say anything. Knowing she wasn't finished.

"Even after everything I know," she said a moment later, her voice rough with emotion, "you are still the truest man I've ever met." Lex closed his eyes tight as she continued. "And I could never love you more."

Tears pricked against his eyelids so he didn't open his eyes. "If I could have you near me," he said through a closed throat, "I wouldn't need anyone else."

The didn't speak for a long time, just listened to the silence breathe.

November 20, 2010
19:16:34 Central Time
Wilshire Building
Metropolis, Kansas

"So there I was, completely in shock while this...peon tried to foist off inferior linens. I mean, my god, cotton," she shuddered theatrically. "As if I could ever allow anything but silk on my bed. What would people think?"

Lex managed by the barest margin to not roll his eyes as Kitty Datmouth's friends murmured in sympathy. It was really unfortunate that he was so vastly jaded. Especially since eventually he'd need these people's votes.

He would play nice. Smile. Make small talk well into the evening and then take his leave just before the party wound down. Too early would mean that he was snubbing the hosts, too late and he looked desperate.

This time he restrained a sigh, and skillfully set his glass on a roving waiter's tray.

"Enjoying yourself?" asked a sharply amused voice.

Taking his time, Lex turned around to see Lois, her hair pulled up, a slick dress covering her sleek curves and a red slash painted across her face where her mouth was supposed to be. He suspected she picked that particular shade of lipstick when she was going in for the kill.

"Ms. Lane," he said politely and then looked up and to her left where the ever-present form stood guarding. "Mr. Kent."

Clark was wearing a gray suit that did everything in its power to hide his shape; the thick glasses and hunched shoulders only adding to the impression that he could effectively hide in any crowd.

When his eyes weren't shooting green flame at any rate.

"To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"Illegal dumping," Lois spat and Lex raised an eyebrow.

"Anyone I know?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Don't play coy with me, Luthor."

"I wouldn't dream of it," he said with a slight smile.

She opened her mouth again, something cutting no doubt, but his cell phone trilled in his pocket and he smirked, cutting her off completely by turning and opening it.

"Luthor," he said, walking to the edge of the crowd.

"I caught you at a party," she said in answer and he couldn't help but grin.

"You knew I'd be here."

She didn't deny it, instead asking, "So have you jousted with the dynamic duo of journalism yet?"

Lex looked over his shoulder at Lois who was glaring at him and Clark who was turned away, picking at his plate full of food trying desperately to ignore him. "Illegal dumping," he said calmly. "I'm thinking of hiding behind a potted plant for the rest of the evening."

Her low chuckle was worth the stares he was receiving for talking on a cell phone during the event. "Luthor's never hide," she said after a moment. "And besides, you look good in that suit."

He opened his mouth but couldn't speak as the implication hit him like lightning. His heart climbed to his throat making his next word a choked whisper though he didn't hear anything but the quiet rush of all the blood leaving his head.


"Jesus God," he whispered, his eyes darting around the room. Because Chloe was here. She was here, and that meant-

"Lex," she said soothingly, "calm down. They caught him three hours ago."

There. A face at the edge of the crowd, small cell phone held to her ear.

She smiled. "We're free."

He didn't notice that he was crying, just the blurring of her face as he walked forward. She closed her phone and dropped it in her handbag without once looking away from him. "Lex," she said, and it was the first time he'd heard her clearly in six years. "Say something."

He realized he was still holding his phone. Closed it and slipped it into his pocket. When he looked up she was still there. Still looking at him warmly. He raised a hand to her face, touched the ends of her hair. "You changed it back to blonde," he said, making her smile.

The blinding one. And it took only that for him to step forward and wrap his arms around her, burying his face in her hair.

"It's over," she murmured into his shoulder, her hand touching his cheek, "I'm safe, you saved me."

"I love you," he said simply, his lips brushing her cheek as he drew back.

Her smile grew, and his eyes might have been bright and his throat might have been tight as she said, "yeah, I love you too," but that still didn't mean he couldn't scowl and open his mouth to reprimand her for taking this kind of risk without telling him. For coming here without him knowing. But her eyes sparkled as she cut him off.

"You know what I'm thinking?" she asked, her smile, her presence effectively derailing any argument he could have had.


"Chinese," she said definitively.

And when he laughed, every pair of eyes were on them, and as he tucked her to his side he saw them, mouths agape, still as statues and he stiffened next to her.

"You should talk to them," he said neutrally, because he knew it was right.

"You trying to get rid of me, Luthor?" she asked easily, tucking her arm through his.


"I will," she said, and they both saw the three people in question hurrying towards them now, the scene they were about to have spectacularly unavoidable. Chloe turned Lex's face toward her and said firmly, "but that's tomorrow. Tonight is for us."


"Lex," she replied in an aggravated voice.

Lex smiled crookedly. "Good." Touched her cheek again. "I don't want to let you out of my sight."

They turned as one to Clark, Lois and Pete. "Hi guys," she said brightly.

"Chloe?" Lois asked, apparently the only one to find her voice.

Chloe slipped her arm from Lex's and pulled her cousin close. "It's me, Lo," she said softly. Lois' arms clung desperately, and she might have been crying had her eyes not been squeezed so tight. "I know I owe everyone an explanation," Chloe said pulling back, "but I have something I need to do first."

"Chloe," Pete said in a desperate cheese grater voice.

"Tomorrow," she said gently, touching his arm, then Clark's. "I'll still be here tomorrow."

"Promise?" he asked, his green eyes searching and earnest.

"Promise," Chloe said, taking a step back and linking her hand with Lex's.

It was only then that they seemed to notice that the older man was still there, their glares turning molten.

"I'll be staying at Lex's," she said evenly, then tightened her grip on Lex's hand, and tugged him away from the silent challenge.

Somehow they got to the street before Lex dragged her to a halt. "Thank you," he said solemnly, the shadows painting her face and he'd never seen anything more beautiful.

"Come on," she said softly, "you're buying."

It was just after eight when the knock came at the door and Lex was actually surprised they'd waited so long. Already awake and dressed, despite the late night, he made his way to the door in socked feet. Opened it to see Lois glaring sullenly, flanked by Pete and Clark.

"Where is she?" Lois snapped, pushing her way inside, but before Lex could speak, Chloe's voice floated from down the hallway.

"I've changed my mind, Lex," she said easily. "I thought I could live in the bed, but I've just experienced the shower. Is it feasible to ship the master suite wherever I go?" She came out of the bedroom wrapped in a voluminous purple robe and drying her hair with a large towel. She took in the tense crowd and smiled brightly. "Morning guys!" When she turned to Lex he was already slipping on his shoes. "Going somewhere?"

"I thought I'd let you catch up," he said, walking over to her, his hands going to her shoulders.

"I thought you didn't want to let me out of your sight," she said, affronted.

"That was yesterday," he said, his mouth tilting up at the corners. "I'm already tired of your face." But the words were gentle, and accompanied by a hand to her cheek.

She smirked and grabbed his shirt, brining him down for a quick kiss. "Save it, tough guy. I know you love me."

"With everything in me." And with a quick half smile he was gone.

It wasn't until he got into the elevator that he bent double, fighting for breath.

He walked out of the elevator into the darkness of the garage, his keys biting into the palm of his hand.

"Hey guys. You probably want an explanation, huh?"

He knew she wasn't in any danger: he'd checked three times last night, twice before they'd even gotten back to the penthouse. This morning he'd woken up in the chair next to her bed to see a blond hair peaking at him from under the comforter. He stood, stretched, then slipped out of the room to have an hour conversation with his head of security.

"It's been six years, Chloe-"

They'd thought she'd been safe before. After surviving the safe house explosion she'd been hidden for months, but Lionel found her.

"-what the hell happened?"

His hand shook as he opened the car door and he sank inside; the feel of leather cushioning his body, the smell of wealth.

"What does Luthor have to do with this?"

She'd been kept in lockdown after that, but he'd found her again. The day before she'd been set to testify, three men went to the morgue and fourteen were in the hospital in critical care.

"It's kind of a long story."

Gabe Sullivan was buried two days later.

"Let's everyone just...sit down."

Lex gripped the wheel and turned the key in the ignition.

"He didn't hurt you did he?"

Chloe had been so terribly pale as she sat on the stand and answered hard and bruising questions from the prosecutor. She did not cry; she did not tremble. Her voice was strong and sure as she answered the questions clearly and concisely.

"Or brainwash you?"

Lex had watched her, two days later, get bullied by reporters as she descended the steps of the courthouse. He met her eyes briefly and then turned to the reporter in front of him who's eyes had gleamed when he asked how close they had become during his father's trial. "Miss Sullivan's testimony was instrumental in my father's case," he said simply.

"Don't be ridiculous."

"Having protected her for the last three months against several reported attempts on her life, do you really think that such attempts will end once your father is incarcerated?" another reporter asked.

"It's not like it's out of the realm of possibility, Chloe."

"Miss Sullivan has given up months of her life and has lost her father in these unfortunate proceedings," he didn't even pause to look at Chloe as she muscled her way through the crowd to her car, "but with my father's power severely curtailed," she started the ignition, waving away the crowds, then lurched the vehicle forward causing reporters to scatter, "I see no need for her to give up any more of her life," squealing down the block, her red Volkswagen careened around the corner and out of site, "and it's doubtful our association will continue."

"He knew what Lionel was capable of, and he left you to fend for yourself as soon as he got what he wanted."

"Now if you'll excuse me," Lex said putting on his driving gloves, "I have more important matter to attend."

"You don't understand," Chloe said smiling. "He didn't abandon me-"

He didn't make it to his car before the explosion rocked the street.

"He saved me."

The flurry of the press would rise to an unprecedented crescendo, but Lex would maintain his cool exterior and remark unfeelingly on the tragedy.

"The explosion was a hoax?"

But if people commented on Lex's attitude it was in low whispers behind concealing hands.

"No, it was real, just like the safe house bombing. But this time we knew enough in advance that we thought we could catch the man who did it and connect it to Lionel."

His first call to Chloe didn't happen for another year.

"But why the faked death?"

He didn't know what she looked like anymore. Didn't know who she was. The first phone call was twenty minutes of awkward silence because neither of them wanted to hang up.

"We didn't find out who the man was, but we found out what he was: an assassin. Paid in full."

The second hadn't gone any better.

"But Lionel died five years ago, why would he still be after you?"

"I'm sorry about your father," Chloe had said, a year and three months into her sentence.

"Apparently this guy has a really good work ethic," Chloe said dryly.

Lex had been struck mute at her comment. He hadn't been able to say those words to her yet and her father had died because of him and his.

"So what? Did they catch him, or..."

He swallowed heavily. "Mercy says that you've decided to try photography."

"Yesterday afternoon," Chloe nodded. "He's wanted in several different countries."

"I've never really been the kept woman type," Chloe said back, and he could feel the smile in her voice.

" and Lex?"

"And a picture is worth a thousand words right? Even if I can't be a journalist, I can still tell my story."

"He's my friend," she said firmly. "He's come to mean a lot to me in six years."

"I'm sorry, Chloe," he said, the words coming out easier than expected. "I never meant for any of this to happen."

"And you all have every right to be angry with the situation because Lord knows it's going to take some getting used to, but Lex isn't the bad guy here, and you're going to have to get used to it."

"I know," she said softly. There wasn't any forgiveness in her voice as she began to talk about her classes. About her love of black and white photography and the lady next door who played the violin until three in the morning.

"He's not a good guy, Chloe," Pete said imploringly, then scowled at Chloe's serene smile.

The parking attendant knocked lightly on Lex's window, startling him, mouthing 'Are you okay?' through the window. Lex nodded dry-eyed and backed slowly out of the parking lot, merging easily into the morning traffic.

"He's the best man I know."

There had never been any forgiveness in her voice as she spoke, and it had taken Lex years to realize that it was because she never blamed him.


For that and for a million other reasons-

"Look, I really don't want an argument," Chloe said shaking her head. "For a long time I felt like my life was on pause because I couldn't have a normal life. Because I couldn't just drop by and grab some pizza or talk to you about a story."

-he would never be able to repay her.

"We've all got a lot to catch up on-"

So he could limit his hovering and allow her all the time she needed with her friends.

"-and I don't want to miss out on any more."

And he could hope that their friendship wouldn't crumple under the weight.

Chloe's resurrection caused barely a ripple in the news, which was just fine with her because there were so many legal ramifications that she was swamped for the next week.

And her friends were practically suckerfish, clinging to her every free moment of their time, which was...exhausting.

She knew she'd changed a lot in the past six years because being in hiding meant just that: hiding. Hiding everything she was and everything she'd always aspired to be: letting her hair grow, dying it brown, wearing glasses, and dreaming someone else's dreams.

And going from the reporter teenager who was always in the middle of whatever was happening in their small leafy hamlet where everyone knew everyone's business even if they mostly did turn a blind eye to a mildly successful photographer who captured anonymous snippets of New York life where most people didn't know or care what was happening outside their own personal sphere of existence was not an easy change. She'd gone through massive growing pains where the only person she could count on to support her in this hugely different life was Lex.

Lex who was complicated and difficult and angry. Lex who was intriguing and generous and kind. And as the last link to her life, he became everything to her.

Then he became everything to her for a thousand other reasons.

Currently though, she mostly wanted to strangle him.

"Where the hell have you been, it's almost midnight," she yelled, briefly horrified that those words had come out of her mouth.

Lex, his briefcase still in his hand, froze in the middle of shrugging off his coat. "I didn't think to call," he said after a moment.

Knowing that, from him, that was an apology, she was somewhat mollified. She decided to work through her embarrassment fully by asking, "Did you at least remember to eat?" while taking his briefcase from him and helping him out of his coat. The final stop in 'Leave it to Beaver Land' was kissing him briefly on the cheek before taking his hand and leading him into the kitchen. Because she knew he hadn't eaten, he did things like that.

She let go of his hand and opened the refrigerator; hunting for the neat plastic containers that Ingrid packed the leftovers in. How she'd ever lived without a cook she had no idea.

Turning around she saw the startled look on Lex's face hadn't faded, which meant that he was exhausted. Smiling briefly she went over to the microwave and punched a few buttons before turning back around and grabbing a bottle of water on her way to Lex. Sitting stiffly at the counter he was watching her somewhat warily. She smiled brighter and uncapped the bottle before handing it to him. "So how was your day?"

He set the bottle down without taking a drink, saying, "What's going on here?"

"I was worried," she said, pulling up a stool next to him and propping her head in her hands.

"And?" he asked leadingly.

"I'm still worried," she said. "You work too hard."

Leaning heavily on the table, his hands curling loosely around the bottle he sighed, "Most people wouldn't agree with you," he said, taking a drink.

"Most people are idiots," she said, earning a smile.

"And how are our resident friendly idiots doing?"

"Lois," she started, getting up when the timer beeped, "thinks I should move in with her." She shuddered dramatically as she reached for a plate. "I understand where she's coming from, but she clearly hasn't thought that through," she said, dishing out the lasagna. "We'd kill each other inside a week." Whatever she expected when she turned around was not the pensive expression on Lex's face.

"Maybe you should think about it," he said quietly. He looked up when she stopped dead in the middle of the kitchen. "She misses you," he continued, "and it might make it...easier."

She snorted and continued across the kitchen. "Nothing aside from going back in time would make this easier, Lex." She put the plate in front of him and reached for the silverware. "And besides," she grinned mischievously, "I like it here."

"You like the bed the shower and my cook," Lex said dryly, forking lasagna into his mouth.

"I like you," Chloe said softly, putting a hand on his free arm.

Lex paused in chewing and looked up at her.

She continued, meeting his wary eyes. "You've been avoiding me," she said evenly.

Lex swallowed hard and wiped his mouth on a napkin, effectively removing his arm from her touch. "We live together," he retorted softly, "I see you everyday."

"Lex," she chided, "we spoke more when we were living two thousand miles apart. Now I'll call you if I have to, but talk to me. Talk to me like you used to."

"I don't want you to feel indebted to me," he said before continuing to eat, his eyes fixed firmly on the plate.

"I am indebted to you," Chloe said, rolling her eyes, "but you're also indebted to me," she continued firmly, "so I'm pretty sure we're on even footing here. So what else is bothering you?"

"I found your college application."


Lex looked up at her. "I'm glad you're going back to school," he said simply.

"Lex, I swear to God if you don't start talking-"

"I didn't think it was a big deal," he said abruptly, dropping his fork on the plate and moving over to the sink. "At first, anyway. It was natural," and when he turned there was a twisted grimace on his face, "I assured myself of this."

"Lex," she said, standing, but he stopped her with a hand.

"You're twenty-four years old. You're smart and talented and brave and the most beautiful woman I've ever known, and you deserve more than to be reminded everyday of the six years you lost because of me." His voice was tight with anger, all of it self-directed.

"You think that I should just forget everything that happened?" she asked quietly. "That I would want to forget?"


"Lex," she interrupted. "I don't want to forget. I don't want to move out and I don't want to think that every time you said you loved me might have been a lie."

"It wasn't a lie," he said, startled.

"Then why haven't you come back to your bed yet?"

Lex took shocked stepped back.

"I fell asleep in your bed the first night and you let me," she said, advancing on him. "I fell asleep in your bed the second night and you moved to a different room. I've fallen asleep in your bed every night since then," she said, her arms waving expressively, "wondering whether or not you were going to show up and you never did. Did you think I was just being rude? Because I thought I was being amazingly unsubtle."

"You want to sleep with me?" Lex blurted.

She looked up at him, where she'd backed him against the wall, and grinned. "You know for an idiot, you're still pretty hot," she said, putting her hands on his chest. "And I wasn't lying when I said I loved you either."

She could see that snap him back from uncertainly and his eyes went focused as closed his hands over hers. "I thought you were being nice," he said in a low voice.

"I'm not that nice."

He smiled. "I thought you were being grateful," he said wrapping a hand around her neck.

"I'm rarely that grateful," she said, making his smile widen.

"I think you're out of your mind."

"I'm hoping I'm about to be," she whispered, her heart thumping wildly in her chest as he nodded.

Gentle pressure had her tilting her head back and she shivered at the first touch of his lips on her skin. Her fingers dug into the linen of his shirt as he trailed soft kisses up the side of her neck, her eyes drifting shut.

"If I start sighing like a romantic heroine," she said on a whisper of breath, "Jesus, you're good at this," she said and then laughed nervously. "That's not actually what I meant to say."

"I liked it," Lex replied, his hand stroking smoothly up her side. He took a step forward causing her to step back, then started leading her backwards down the hallway. "You do realize," he whispered, his mouth skating over her jaw, "that your friends aren't going to like this new development." He ended the statement by looking in her eyes and she stared back unrepentant.

"You do realize this hasn't been new for about three years." She jolted as she bumped into his door and then grinned. "Well...some of it's new. But they don't need to know that."

"They'll think I'm using you," he said, fumbling blindly for the doorknob.

"They've got it wrong," she shot back as he opened the door.

He caught her before she stumbled back into the room, and before she'd fully gained her balance, he was kissing her; his mouth no longer gentle and teasing, but hot and sure, settling over hers with a certain finality. "Chloe," he said roughly, his hand slipping under her shirt to skim over soft skin. "Come to bed with me."

"God yes," she said, then laughed at his startled expression as she ripped his shirt down the front. "I've never been very patient."

Tumbling them back onto the bed, he traced a hand across her cheek. "I can learn to live with that."

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