Authors: Carmen Falcone
He thought an extra cup of espresso would help. Foolish idea. As he sat across from Grace in her office, she was a natural energy booster. He cursed himself for not being able to go back to sleep after she had left. He wanted to drive her home, but refrained from insisting after she refused the ride.
Bits and pieces of their conversation flashed through his mind.
You suffocated me.
Why on Earth did she have that perception? He only wanted to be there for her like he hadn’t for his mother. When they got married, he was so in love, the idea of something happening to her brought a hitch to his breath.
If anything, he had been very involved during their time together. Was she after the opposite? A husband who gave her all the space she needed, so much of it in fact that they occupied different wavelengths? Or had they been on different wavelengths all along?
None of it mattered.
Soon, his wife would be the four new offices on the West coast. That’s what deserved his dedication and time – that’s what would give back instead of over complicating things.
He focused on the numbers in front of him, on the spreadsheet on her laptop she’d turned in his direction. “Have you done a market study? Are your prices competitive?”
She clicked the top of her ballpoint pen and handed him a few sheets of paper neatly stapled together. “Yes, I even lowered them a bit to give me a head start.”
He glanced through some of her profit margins and sighed. “Maybe that’s where it all went sour. There’s a reason why the other caterers charge more. I understand you wanted to build clientele, but you can’t be profitable with such low margins. What are you doing to upsell your services?”
She opened her mouth to speak, and her cell phone rang. She peered at the screen and frowned at the number, answering right away. “Hello.” She gestured to him she would be just a moment.
He let out a sigh and rubbed the back of his neck. One thing was for sure, Grace King sure acted like they hadn’t had sex the night before.
She nodded a couple times, then said, “I’m heading over.” She hung up and slid her phone in her pocket.
“What is it?”
Surging to her feet, she grabbed her bag on the windowsill. “I’m so sorry, Sebastian. Can we continue this after lunch? I got a call from the nursing home.” She bit back a smile. “Nana has been asking for me. That doesn’t happen often and I really need to see her.”
He still remembered her grandmother, the vivacious Southern matriarch he’d met a handful of times. “Why don’t we go together? You can spend all the time you want, and afterward we’ll finish.”
She chuckled. “You? In a nursing home? Unless you want to give the old ladies an instant heart attack, I don’t see the point.”
“I’d like to pay Nana a visit. I’m old school. We’re going to get officially divorced, and she is the last of the King family I have the opportunity to say good-bye to.”
She shrugged. “My parents aren’t dead, you know.”
“You know what I mean,” he said. Her parents were never in the picture, but he hoped he didn’t have to spell that out.
She brought her eyebrows together, and a small gasp of air flew past her lips. “Fine. Don’t be heartbroken if she doesn’t remember you, and please don’t mention anything about our divorce if she does.”
“You got it.”
During the drive to the nursing home, she sat with the trace of a smile on her lips, eyes remote and deep in thought. He opted to keep quiet and not ruin her moment of bliss. Why the hell did he offer to come with her? The question buzzed in his ears, as they made their way into the quaint complex of brick buildings. A courtyard filled with well-manicured shrubs and colorful plants, made him realize it didn’t matter. Maybe seeing her spend time with Nana would nip in the bud any hope she would visit him in L.A. once in a while. Nonsense. He shook his head. The whole purpose of spending time with her was to enjoy the sex between them. Hadn’t one time of fooling himself been enough?
She showed him the visitor parking lot, and after parking, he turned off his Ferrari rental. Then he got out of the car, going around it to help her get out.
She continued staring at the horizon, transfixed. He nudged her shoulder. “Are you okay?”
She shook her shoulders and blinked. Accepting the hand he still offered, she slid out of the car. “Sorry. This is bittersweet. This may be the last time she remembers me.”
He gave the back of her hand a light kiss. “Grace, don’t waste your time anticipating. Enjoy her presence.”
Easier said than done.
The irony of his advice sent a tingle through him.
She withdrew her hand and nodded. “Thanks.”
He put his right arm around her shoulders while they talked, and realized how tense she was. Squeezing her neck lightly, he whispered into her hair, “It will be okay.”
By the time they reached the reception area, he noticed several nurses in beige uniforms shepherding some residents. A few of them seemed more independent elderly, as they walked, played chess or shared a laugh. Even though he had only seen Nana a few times, he recognized her. She sat on an old-fashioned leather chair facing the gardens. Her gray hair was put up, giving her a dignified air and showing her wrinkled face. Sitting, she seemed a lot slimmer than when he’d last seen her.
“Nana,” Grace called, emotion carrying her voice.
The woman turned to her granddaughter, putting aside the knitting gear that lay on her lap. “Grace. I was knitting a vest for you.”
A wave of warmth rushed through his bloodstream, and his stomach clenched. He knew how much her grandmother meant to her, and somehow being there seemed like for one moment, he understood Grace better.
“Nana, this is Sebastian.” Grace introduced them.
Sebastian leaned and shook her hand, and the old lady assessed him like the first time. She didn’t recognize him as Grace’s husband, which meant she thought they were in an age of the past where Grace was still single.
Grace wrapped her Nana in a hug so tight, Sebastian hoped her bones would endure it. “Calm down, child, it’s not like I haven’t seen you in forever,” Nana said, her Southern accent pronounced.
“Excuse me,” the nurse said softly. “Doctor Suarez would like to speak to a family member.”
Grace cast another loving glance to Nana, and whispered, “I’ll be right back. Don’t you dare move.” And followed the nurse to an office down the hallway.
“I’m glad we’re alone.” Nana glanced around them to make sure they were not heard. “How is she doing, doctor?”
Sebastian frowned. Doctor? “Excuse me?”
“You are Grace’s new doctor, aren’t you? I decided to pay her a visit and knit her a sweater. I also baked her favorite peach cobbler but the damn nurses can’t seem to find it.” Nana spoke with propriety, her voice steady and expression somber.
Sebastian swallowed. He could feel the color draining from his face, his blood thickening and freezing in his veins. “What kind of doctor do you think I am?”
“Whatever you call yourselves these days. In my time, we didn’t have fancy shrinks telling us everything would be okay. But, bless her heart, she should never have trusted Aidan.”
Sebastian curled his fingers into a fist.
Who the hell was Aidan?
It was after five by the time they returned to her house. Grace tossed her bag on the couch, and removed her high heels. They had spent a good amount of time at the nursing home. Those rare days her Nana remembered some part of her life were emotionally draining. Grace would put on a strong front and then would fall apart afterward.
After she had returned from getting an update from the doctor, she found Nana talking to Sebastian. Sebastian had been nice enough to give her time alone with her grandma while he went to the cafeteria to get something to eat. She imagined bringing him there would have been boring for him, and a part of her questioned his reasons. Why would he offer?
“I ordered Chinese.” He said, pulling her out of her musings.
“I could have made something.”
“No.” He walked to the kitchen, retrieved a glass from the cupboard and filled it with water. “You had a long day.”
When she heard him returning, she straightened her shoulders, accepted the glass, took a swig, and licked her lips. The protector in him was up to speed, in full force. Now that she knew he blamed himself for his mother’s death, she understood why he kept being so commanding in their marriage. Which, of course, didn’t mean she would choose to experience all of it again. Aidan had controlled her like a puppet, and she cut the strings for good. As good as the sex between she and Sebastian was, she had to remind herself that was all they had in common. Right?
Flashes of their easy conversation the night before stabbed at her mind. A cold shiver went through her, and she braced herself even though the room temperature was comfortable.
You enjoyed talking to him.
And if she was being honest, didn’t she like how he’d insisted with her earlier? She had forgotten the amazing partner he could be, when he wasn’t trying to call all the shots. An inside voice whispered she wasn’t allowed to harbor those thoughts. The man wanted a divorce, and that’s what he would get.
Determined to shake off her second guessing, she sat the glass on the side table and whispered, “Come here.”
He followed suit, and she proceeded to undo his belt. With a frown, he seized her wrists. “You don’t have to do this now, Grace.”
“Wasn’t that the deal? To get our fill? Let’s not pretend this isn’t anything other than a farewell fuckfest.” She shot him a glance, and found his eyes darkening. A tiny part of her wished he would protest her definition of their affair. Nonsense. Why would she want that?
He loosened the hold of his fingers on her wrist then let go completely. Smiling, she unzipped his pants and pulled them down along with his boxer briefs, and his cock jutted out, greeting her.
Well, well… whatever reservations he showed, his most honest body part was on her side. Without foreplay, she took the hard, thick length in her mouth, and Sebastian’s groan filled the void. She ran her tongue up and down his growing flesh, the tip of her tongue stroking the blood-pumping veins. Cupping his balls, she intensified the rhythm, grazing his skin, and he growled.
“You’re killing me.” He jerked away, and with a swift movement, flung to the sofa and then rolled her on top of him. Their mouths met in a toe curling, belly-fluttering kiss. She teased him with her tongue, and he bunched her dress at her waist.
He began to nip her jaw, his breathing as hard as hers. She let her hair fall back a bit, enjoying his strong body so close to hers, his spicy male scent pushing into her senses. When he reached her panties, she expected him to delve his fingers into her, or use his palm to cup her sex. Nope.
Sebastian grabbed both sides with his hands, and ripped off her panties. “Grace, are you still on the pill?”
“Yes,” she breathed. The pressure of cotton being pulled against her skin ached for a bit, but not long. She positioned herself on top of his cock, and the moment he thrust his hips forward as she straddled him, she moaned.
He placed his hands on her buttocks, but she was the one dictating the rhythm. She undulated herself on him, moving faster and then slower, each time capturing his mouth with hers. The sensation was so fantastic, she didn’t want it to end. He thrust deeper, brought one hand to her clit, then began to flick it. “Let’s come together, gorgeous,” he whispered. “You tell me when.”
She would tell him when… Sebastian, giving up control in the bedroom? Riding him harder, she linked her arms around him and intensified the rhythm, which he followed.
“Sebastian… I can’t hold it any longer.” Within seconds, she contracted around him, and then her body shook against his. They held each other tight, panting and moaning in unison at the end. She rolled off him, and she closed her eyes. Wow.
“Who’s Aidan?” he asked.
Immediately, the glorious sex afterglow vanished. She sat up as if she’d been electrified. “Who told you about Aidan?” was her immediate question, but as she pulled down the dress and ran her fingers to smooth her hair, she answered herself. “Nana.”
She’d noticed Nana had been treating her like she was eighteen again, but during the rest of the day she had no clue she had shared anything with Sebastian.
“She thought I was your doctor.” Sebastian pulled up his boxers and looked at her.
She anchored her feet on the edge of the couch and drooped her arms over her legs. Taking a deep breath, she stared at the coffee table. Was she ready to share that part of her life with him? She hadn’t before… when forever was involved. Sebastian was a smart man. Wouldn’t he find out anyway? Besides, she didn’t want him to learn from someone else. Ideally, he wouldn’t learn at all.
“Aidan was my half brother.”
He nudged her elbow, and propped her to look at him. “I thought you were an only child. You always told me your parents took you on their trips.”
She clamped her lips shut. He cocked his head to the side, interested in her reply. Yeah. Lying to him just wouldn’t work. “My dad had him with another woman, a few years before he met my mom. Throughout my childhood I didn’t see Aidan very often.” Ironically, the image of the skinny, tall gangly boy with beady blue eyes zipped through her mind. “He lived with his mom in Ohio. Then, he moved out and started to join us for summer vacations every other year.”