Authors: Kira Ward
“Oh, yes,” she whispered, leaning back to brush her lips over my jaw. “You feel so good!”
I kissed her throat, bit her neck. And offered her a breathless kiss. She tried, but her bones had melted, her muscles turned to Jello. She fell forward again, caught herself on her hands. And she screamed as my finger against her clit set off a chain reaction that sent her over the edge. I could feel it, the way her muscles began to squeeze like a hand milking my cock. And it was quite proficient, that movement. My balls let loose, and I exploded, crying out, my voice drowning hers out, even.
I don’t scream. Never had. But Sloane had a way of making me lose myself, of making me do things I never even knew I was capable of.
She was quickly becoming more than just the girl next door, more than the girl I spent the majority of my time with. She was… more.
y body ached
but in a good way. I lay with my back to him, his arms around me like I was a teddy bear and he was a child, but his cock pressed semi-erect against my ass kind of ruined that image.
I closed my eyes, the exhaustion that had come over me after dinner coming back with a vengeance. I don’t know if I’d ever quite felt so tired before. But work was hectic—we were way behind on the number of books we were supposed to have ready for publication by the end of the quarter next week—and stress was always hard on my sleeping habits.
“You never cease to surprise me, babe,” Major said, his lips against the curve of my jaw.
“Don’t want to be boring.”
“You could never be boring.”
I smiled even though I didn’t open my eyes. But I ran my hand slowly over his forearm, pressing my fingers between his.
“I’m sorry about Jack,” he said. “He’s just…he’s not used to me being with someone steady.”
“He doesn’t like me.”
“He doesn’t know you like I do.”
“Do you like me?”
“Very much,” he said, nuzzling his face against my neck. “Didn’t I just show you how much I like you?”
“You did.” I squeezed his hand. “But that’s not quite what I meant.”
“I like you,” he said again, pulling me tighter against him as he lay his head down with a little sigh.
“Do you miss it?”
“What?” he mumbled.
“Going out to the clubs. Picking up strange girls.”
His arm tightened against me for a second. “Not really.”
“What about hanging out with Jack?”
“I’d much rather hang out with you.”
I settled down against the mattress, sleep just at the edges of my consciousness. I felt good. It didn’t seem like I’d ever felt quite so good in all my life. Content. Safe. Warm. Secure. I was happy despite everything else that was happening in my life and I wanted to hold on to that feeling as I drifted off to sleep.
“Besides,” Major said groggily against my ear, “it’s not like we’re getting married, or anything. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of opportunities to go out and be stupid in the future.”
Why did that make my heart sink? Why did it take away the little bit of the happiness that had buoyed my heart?
Plenty of time to be stupid. True. But did I really want that?
* * *
out of bed early the next morning, feeling just as tired when I woke as I’d been when I went to sleep. Despite the fact that we spend most our time at Major’s, all my things were still at my place, so I had to go home to get dressed every morning. I showered and dressed, dragged an eyeliner pencil under my eyes, and then decided I didn’t need anything more than that.
I was walking out the door when my cellphone rang.
“Come see me tonight,” my mom said before I even said hello.
“I have stuff to do after work.”
“You can do it after you see me. It’s been weeks, Sloane.”
I glanced over my shoulder at Major’s door. He was probably still asleep. He didn’t have a full time job—which must have been nice—and spent most of his time on the phone or the computer. I wasn’t sure what it was he did all day. He told me he was a freelance architect, but I had no idea what that meant. But he didn’t seem to hurt for money. His rent was paid, and he always had expensive booze in his cabinets. Freelance architects must make good money, I thought. More than a junior editor, anyway.
“I’ll try, Mom,” I said, mostly to get her off the phone.
My little Prius sat where it belonged right next to Major’s old Chevy pickup. The new paint was just a shade darker than the original, not enough for anyone else to notice, but I did. And every time I looked at it, it caused this hot knot to form in my belly.
How could Kyle do such a thing to me?
I still couldn’t fully wrap my mind around it. My best friend since high school should have been someone I could trust, someone who told me everything about everything. Yet, he managed to forget to tell me he’d been in love with me since middle school and that our conversations about the guys I was dating hurt him. If I had known…but the point was, I didn’t know. He never bothered to tell me. So I had no warning when he’d had enough.
It was like someone was trying to force me to see that you can’t trust anyone, even the people you thought you knew the best.
I dragged my way through the day, trying to keep my eyes open with coffee and sugar. Maybe I should skip off on Major for a night? Jack would probably appreciate if he was free to go out for once. But the idea of going home and not seeing Major made my chest ache a little bit.
“You look like a hot mess,” Sara said when she arrived at my office for lunch.
“You feeling okay?”
I stood up and slipped my shoes back on, grabbing my bag as I rounded the corner of my desk.
“Just not getting enough sleep.”
“That hot new boyfriend of yours, huh?” Sara smiled with one of those knowing smiles that annoyed the crap out of me in high school, but which I kind of appreciated at the moment. I’d never been the popular girl with the right boyfriend. It was kind of nice to be the one envied, not the one envying.
I just smiled back as I walked past her and led the way to the elevators.
She managed to keep her questions to herself as we walked down to the sandwich shop on the corner. But as soon as we had our food and were settled in a booth, she started in.
“Please tell me he has like a twin brother or something.”
Sara had met Major once, but she fell head over heels in that instant. Lucky me, I had his attention first.
“Not as far as I know. But he has this friend, Jack.”
“Oh? Is he just as handsome?”
I shrugged. “I wouldn’t know. I never really looked.”
She groaned. “You’re going to be one of those sappy, dopey-eyed girls, aren’t you?”
I shrugged, but again, I couldn’t hide the smile.
Sara shook her head. “I’d give anything to find someone like that. The last guy I went out with thought paying for the appetizers at dinner was a romantic gesture.”
“Major cooks. He made homemade pasta last week. And he grills a steak like nothing I’ve ever tasted. Melts in your mouth.”
Sara groaned again, laying her head on the table like I’d just told her that her mother had died.
“You are so lucky. No wonder you’re so tired. I bet he keeps you busy in bed, too.”
The feel of his hands on my hips filled my mind, the way it felt when he pulled me back against him, his hands on my breasts. Sara looked like she wanted to kill me when that satisfied smile came back.
“I so want to be you right now,” she said. “The way my life’s been going, if I had a guy like that, he’d use me up and then leave me pregnant and alone.”
“Major’s not like that.”
“I know. That’s why it’s all so disgusting.”
She changed the subject and we had a nice lunch. But when I was back in my small office, reading a new book about the history of the internet, I couldn’t stop thinking about what she’d said. There something about it that bothered me. I wasn’t sure what it was until I was sitting across from my mom at her kitchen table, listening to her gush about my dad.
“We’re thinking the 29
. What do you think?”
“Of this month?”
She nodded. “Just a private little ceremony with the justice of the peace, and then a little reception here.”
I tugged my phone out of my pocket and pulled up the little electronic calendar I tried to use often to keep track of my schedule. But, somehow, the only thing I remembered to add to it was a little notation on the day my period started each month.
I don’t even know why I bothered to look.
“It’s a Saturday,” my mom said, the eagerness in her voice making me regret my reluctance a little bit. But only a little. “It won’t interfere with your work.”
“Are you sure this is what you want, Mom?”
This look came into her eyes, the same weary look she always got when I questioned her behavior when it came to my dad. When I saw that, I knew there was no point in arguing with her.
My attention fell back to the electronic calendar on my phone even as she began to talk.
“I know you don’t understand why I never gave up on him. But you’re not the one who knew him when we were young. You’re not the one that was with him when his father died, the one who sat up all night listening talk about his ambition and his fear, about the things he wanted to do in his life. And you weren’t the one who made choices that threatened those things.”
“But shouldn’t he have wanted us more than those things?”
My mom didn’t even hesitate.
“We wouldn’t have wanted him without those things. That’s just who he is, Sloane.”
I nodded like I hadn’t heard the argument a million times over. The calendar in front of me began to swim as tears filled my eyes. It hurt me that my mom had so little respect for herself. But what hurt more than that was that she still loved a man who never wanted me, never wanted the family that she and I represented. He should have.
And then—as sometimes happens when I’m really upset—my mind made a connection that had nothing to do with my mom and dad. Or maybe it had everything to do with them. I don’t know. But Sara’s comments about being left pregnant and alone had stuck with me all day long for reasons I couldn’t even begin to figure out. But then…I did.
There was no little notation on my calendar in the last six weeks for my period. Did I just forget? But when I thought about it, I realized I hadn’t had a period since Major and I got together. And I should have. Two weeks in.
I suddenly felt sick to my stomach.
Was this why I was so tired all the time? And the upset stomach that seemed to come just after dinner every night? Was this…
I couldn’t even wrap my mind around it.
“I have to go, Mom,” I said, standing so quickly that my chair toppled over behind me.
“Sloane, we didn’t—”
I was out the door before she could finish. I was running, stumbling, just trying to get to my car. And who should be leaning against the driver’s door but Kyle.
t had been
a long time since I last set foot in that office. But it hadn’t changed. There were still pictures of me from when I was a toddler in diapers on the walls and that stupid picture from when I graduated from kindergarten. I didn’t understand why she left those hanging. Didn’t she know how it would undermine me when I finally accepted the reins of the family business?
“When they said you were here, I almost didn’t believe them.”
I turned and smiled as I watched my mother, very dignified in her proper business suit, come toward me with open arms.
“How are you, Mom?”
“Very happy to set eyes on my only child.”
“You saw me a week ago.”
“Not here. Does this mean what I hope it means?”
I shook my head as I turned and looked out the massive windows that made up the back wall of her office. “I just came to see how things are going.”
“You know how things are going. Mitchell sends you a report every quarter.”
“Yeah, well, reading a report and seeing things in action are two very different things.”
My mother ran her hand slowly up my back, resting it on my shoulder as she always used to do when I was a small child. It was odd, seeing how far she had to stretch to do it now. She was nearly on her tip toes.
When did my mother get so small?
“How are you? Really?”
She shrugged as she moved around me and took a seat behind the desk that had been hers since before I could remember. She shared the office with my father for many years. I could remember coming here, watching them push papers around behind side-by-side desks. They used to joke about how hard it should have been to keep a marriage going and share a business
an office. But they made it work. I don’t remember ever meeting two people as in love as my parents were.
I hadn’t stepped foot in there since my dad died. I’d never wanted to see his empty desk standing there in front of the windows. But it wasn’t as bad as I had always imagined it would be.
“How did you do it?”
She looked up from the computer screen that had replaced all that paper. “What?”
“Move on without him.”
She sat back in the tall office chair, her hands clutched in her lap.
“It wasn’t easy, Major. No matter what you thought at the time, it was never easy. I still miss him.”
“I do, too.”
I walked over to his desk and rapped my knuckles on the solid wood. I could remember hiding under this desk, giggling when my father would make a big deal about finding me, asking everyone who walked through the office doors if they had seen me, looking under the long conference table shoved into one corner, looking under the narrow love seat in the other corner. It wasn’t until I was laughing so hard my belly ached that he finally pretended to find me, tugging me into his arms and hugging me close, telling me how scared he’d been that he would never find me.
“Would you be sad?” I asked.
“The saddest man on Earth.”
I thought about that a lot when he died. Wondered if he had known he was going to die, if he hadn’t been killed on impact in that accident, if he would have been sad knowing he was about to leave us. Sometimes I felt vindictive, so angry at him that I hoped he had been aware, that he had been sad. Other times, I was grateful it happened fast, so that he didn’t have to suffer, physically or emotionally.
I just missed him.
“He’d be proud of you, Major.”
I glanced at my mother. “Would he? I made a lot of mistakes.”
“Yes,” she said with that pinched look she always got on her face when any mention of my reckless teenage years came up. “But you also pulled yourself together, served honorably in the military, and built a strong reputation for yourself in your chosen field.”
“He’d be disappointed I didn’t join the company straight out of college.”
“I think he would have understood that you needed some time to decide what it was you really wanted.”
I nodded again, but I wasn’t as confident in that as she was.
“Why are you here, Major?”
I shrugged. I wasn’t sure what to tell her because I really wasn’t sure why. I was at a meeting downtown, and the sight of the company building overshadowing half the major streets, my father’s name on the side, didn’t make me feel sick to my stomach the same way it had so many times in the past. It hadn’t for a while, but I just now realized it today. So I came.
The security guard didn’t know who I was. He insisted on calling upstairs to my mother’s office manager to make sure it was okay to send me up without an appointment. I didn’t recognize any of the secretaries, either. There were so few people left there who had worked for my father, who he often chose personally. Now the place was filled with college kids and recent graduates, all with their own ideas and schemes, none of whom probably even realized that the name on the letterhead—on the outside of the building—once belonged to a good man, the kind of man who was part of a rare breed these days.
“Jack tells me you’re seeing someone.”
“He’s worried. Thinks the girl is using you.”
I stood still for a second, not wanting to show my temper to my mother. But if I heard that crap one more time…
“She doesn’t know.”
“Doesn’t know what?”
“Who I am. Where I come from. I haven’t told her yet.”
I glanced at my mother. She was still sitting there in that huge chair, her hands still clasped in her lap. But she was watching me with another look that was all too familiar, that look that I’m sure all mother’s get when they think their child is deluding himself.
“It’s new. I don’t see any reason to rush into things.”
“Well, that’s a good thing. But don’t you think she’ll wonder why you kept the truth from her when you do get around to it?”
“I don’t think Sloane will care. She’s not the kind of person who weighs someone’s self-worth by how much money they have in the bank or what their family name is.”
“Yes, well, ours is not a typical family name.”
“Which is why I choose to use Rutherford.”
“Will you drop that when you come to work here?”
“I suppose. There won’t be any reason for the ruse anymore.”
She smiled, a self-satisfied smile. “Then you do plan to—”
“Mother, how many times do we have to have this conversation?”
She shrugged. “I’m not getting any younger, Major. I’d rather live out the last of my days enjoying my gardens than sitting behind this desk. And I don’t want to see all that your father and his father and his father worked for fall into the hands of someone outside the family.” She lifted a gold frame that I knew held a picture of my father when they were both students at Yale and studied it for a minute. “His father would be rolling in his grave if he could see me sitting here, my name the only one under the letterhead anymore.”
I’d heard it all before. And it used to make me feel as though my chest may burst from the frustration and anger that built there. Today, though, I was only a little annoyed.
Maybe something had changed. Maybe I was finally growing up.
“I’d like to meet your young woman when you’re ready to tell her everything.”
“I think you’d really like her. Sloane is…” I was aware of the smile that moved over my expression when I said her name. I couldn’t help myself. “She’s full of fire and bright and complicated. And beautiful. Incredibly beautiful.”
“Sounds like you really care about her.”
I kind of shrugged. “Like I said, it’s new. But it feels good.”
“I’m glad.” She came around the side of her desk and took both my hands in hers. “The only thing your father and I ever wanted for you was happiness. You know that, don’t you?”
I kissed her cheek lightly. “I’m gonna go now before you talk me into something I’m not ready to do.”
She just smiled. It was a nice smile.
* * *
out of the building and headed over to my old truck. Even it seemed at home here. And it should. My father bought that truck off of some used car lot nearly fifteen years ago. He said it would take us about four years of weekend mechanic work to get it up and running properly and that was exactly how long it would be before I was old enough to get my license. We came up here several weekends a month, worked on it in a corner of the parking garage so that mother wouldn’t have to see the mess every time she went into the garage at home. Dad wasn’t as good with engines as he was at ruling business meetings, but it was a lot of good memories. Lots of long conversations about life in general, and what it meant to be a man in particular. It was nearly done when he was killed.
I left it parked up there for a long time after that. Didn’t want to have anything to do with it. But when I came back from Afghanistan, Jack surprised me by driving the damn thing out to San Diego to pick me up. I could have bought a new car. Could have bought a fleet of new cars. But this truck was more than just a way to get around town.
“I thought I recognized this old thing.”
A woman almost as tall as me pushed away from where she’d been leaning against the side of the truck. She was dressed like my mother in a business suit, though, like Sloane, her skirt was short enough to show off amazingly long and lean legs. Her blond hair was down around her shoulders, a little curl teasing the ends, a wide smile on her full lips.
“Kara,” I said on something like a sigh.
She moved into my arms and kissed my cheek as though high school had just been yesterday and we were still something of an item. The rebellious son of the school’s largest benefactor and the daughter of the headmistress.
“You look amazing,” she said, pulling back just enough to really look at me. “I’d heard you were back in the area, but I said I wouldn’t believe it until I saw it.”
“How are you, Kara?”
“I’m good. But I’m not the one who joined the Navy without telling anyone.” She smacked my arm playfully. “Did you ever get any of my letters?”
“But never felt the need to write back, I guess?”
I studied her familiar green eyes for a minute, a cocky grin making itself known.
“Some things never changed. Still just as beautiful as ever. And as demanding as ever.”
She laughed. “And you, just as charming as ever.”
“What’s going on? What are you doing here?”
“I work here now, if you can believe it. I work in legal.”
“You’re a lawyer?”
“Yep,” she said, pride burning in her cheeks. “How about you? What are you up to?”
“Working as an architect at the moment.”
“Yeah? You always did like all those old buildings downtown.”
She touched the tailgate of my truck, a dreaminess coming into her eyes. “You used to talk about this old thing all the time. Do you remember that night—gosh, I think I was only fourteen, fifteen—when we snuck up here with Jack and that girl—what was her name?”
“I don’t remember.”
“But we acted like fools and nearly got caught by security.”
“I remember that part.”
And I did. It was a week before my dad died. The last time I saw the truck before Jack brought it to San Diego.
Just looking at Kara made all those memories too vivid. She and Jack were such a huge part of that time in my life. It was weird seeing her now, dressed so professionally. When I knew her, it was always torn jeans and concert tees. If I was rebellious, she was the definition of wild child. And now…I guess I wasn’t the only one who was growing up. I was just doing it slower than everyone else.
“I’ve got to get back to work,” she said, leaning in to kiss my cheek. “But call me sometime, huh? We’ll get together and talk about old times.”
I tugged my phone out of my back pocket and handed it to her. “Call your phone. Then we’ll have each other’s numbers.”
She did what I said, then handed my phone back. “You do look good, Major.”
I moved in for one more cheek kiss, then climbed into my truck, my thoughts already on Sloane—hoping Sloane would be home when I got there—before Kara was even fully out of sight.