Authors: Kira Ward
“I’m sorry,” I said again.
“Sloane, nothing has to change. I’m still your friend.”
“But you’re not. Don’t you see that?” I looked at him through a thin veil of tears. “You’re just a boy who thought he was in love with me. And I’m a girl who will never feel that way about you. That’s not friendship. That’s just a lot of lies that we told each other and we told ourselves. Nothing more.”
“You let me treat you exactly how my dad’s been treating my mom all these years. You knew how I felt about that, and you let me do it to you.”
“That was my choice.”
“Yeah, well, now it’s mine. And I chose not to do it anymore.”
I walked away, back to the passenger side of the car, and thankfully, he didn’t try to follow.
he ignored me
. Just completely ignored me except to politely introduce me to her friend. As though nothing had happened between us.
I paced my apartment, unable to get those thoughts out of my head.
How was it possible that a girl could get so completely under my skin so quickly? It’d been two weeks. She lived here two weeks and she was already driving me crazy.
When I saw her standing there in the lobby, wearing that tight little skirt and that dark jacket, I wanted to grab her and drag her up the stairs. Take her into my bed and show her what I thought about the silent treatment she’d given me these last five days. If she’d been alone, I might have done exactly that.
I kept telling myself it didn’t matter. She didn’t come knocking Sunday morning like I thought she would. I had a speech all planned, all the things I wanted to say to her about what had happened and what I would like to see happen. But she didn’t knock. She didn’t knock Monday, either. By Tuesday, I forgot what I’d intended to say. By then I was just pissed.
I kept expecting to run into her, but I was still caught off guard to see her standing there in the lobby. And the way she looked at me, as if I’d done something to hurt her. That was what really got me. Looking at me like I wasn’t the one sitting around waiting for her.
It was so fucked up.
I went into the kitchen to find a bottle of something. I left the bourbon at her place and hadn’t gotten around to replacing it. There was a bottle of scotch stuck behind an old box of crackers. I poured a healthy slug and drank it in one swallow.
Jack had called. He wanted to go out that night. For the first time in months, he had a free evening where he didn’t have to sneak out or go back to the office after a quick bite. And I told him no. But now I was wishing I hadn’t.
I poured another drink, but before I could take a sip, someone knocked at the door. Must be Jack. He threatened to come by even though I told him not to bother. But it wouldn’t be the first time Jack had done something I told him not to.
I jerked the door open, ready to tell Jack exactly what I thought of him, too. But the words died on my tongue.
Sloane stood there, a new bottle of bourbon in her hand.
“I, uh… I wanted to apologize,” she said.
She stared at me through big, beautiful eyes that were rounded with anxiety. She looked as though she expected me to slam the door in her face. It was almost satisfying to see.
I leaned against the door frame and crossed my arms over my chest to wait for whatever she had to say. I knew it was going to be good because I could see from the way she kept moving the booze bottle from hand to hand that she had a speech prepared.
“I found out today that you weren’t the one who keyed my car. And I realized that I shouldn’t have assumed it was you in the first place. I was judging you, and that was completely unfair.”
I could have put her at ease by saying something there. But I didn’t. I just kept watching her, enjoying her discomfort. It made up in some small way for the way I’d been feeling the past few days.
“And I’m sorry I told the police that I thought it was you. I’m sorry they came here and talked to you. That was just wrong.”
She kind of rolled back on her heels, the bottle again moving from one hand to the other and then back again. She stared down at the floor for a moment, then her eyes slowly came up to mine.
“You did a kind thing for me the other night despite everything. I should have known then. I’m sorry it took me so long to figure it out.”
She stood still for a second, her eyes landing on mine for the first time. But I guess when I didn’t do anything, she came to some conclusion in that messed up little head of hers. She thrust the bottle at me and turned to leave.
I grabbed her wrist and pulled her into me, capturing her lips as a sigh of surprise tried to leave them. She tasted like wine and lip gloss and something sweet that was just Sloane. Something I couldn’t get enough of.
I pressed her up against the wall and kicked the door shut, my hands moving over her jaw, into her hair, then down along the curves of her body. She was still wearing her work clothes, that impossibly short skirt and a white blouse that crisscrossed the front of her body making her breasts look impossibly soft and round. It didn’t take much to get my hand under that skirt, to slide it up over the back of her thigh to the bottom curve of that fine ass. She sighed again, her arms coming around my neck as I lifted her up. I’d thought about this for so long, wanted this for so long, that it felt like we’d been here too long already. I pulled her legs around my waist and turned, slipping the bottle out of her hand as we passed the kitchen, leaving it on the bar before proceeding to the bedroom.
We fell onto the bed, clothes flying before I even realized she pulled my t-shirt over my head, before she could object to her skirt slipping from her hips. Her blouse just fell open with the tug of a string, those perfect breasts barely hidden under the thin material of one of those push up bras. But that was gone, too, with just a yank at the clasp in the back. And then she was pulling me toward her, her hands doing crazy things to my equilibrium as she slid them down along the lower half of my belly.
I reached for the nightstand out of habit, tugging a condom from the package without consciously thinking about it. She wanted to help, wanted to hold my cock in her perfect little hands. But just the thought of her touching me was enough to make me lose all control. I don’t remember if I got it on, how I could’ve managed to get my jeans out of the way quick enough, but I knew the moment I slid inside of her that I was never going to want another woman quite the way I wanted her.
I’m telling you, this was insane. How could this woman have me so wrapped around her finger already? But I couldn’t deny it. There was just something about her, something about the way it felt when she looked at me, the way it felt when she touched me.
I kissed her, slowly, savoring the taste of her, the feel of her silky soft lips against mine. I breathed in the air coming from her lungs, gave it back to her as I exhaled against her lips. And we moved together in a rhythm that was just ours, perfect for just us. And when the need got to be too much, when she reached that peak, I watched her fall… and then I went tumbling right after her.
hat’s this one for
Major looked down at the tattoo I was pointing at on his lower stomach.
“It’s the Chinese symbol for strength.”
“Are you sure? I’ve heard some people get Chinese symbols tattooed on them only to find out years later that it means something completely different from what they thought it was.”
“I’m sure. I have a friend from China who verified it for me.”
“Smart.” I pressed my lips to the center of his lips before moving my finger up along his ribs, letting it come to rest at the next tattoo. “And this?”
I felt the tension come into his shoulders as he glanced at the tattoo I was pointing to.
“The initials of a friend,” he said in a low, tight voice.
“And this one?” I asked, quickly moving on to the last tattoo, a heart on the left side of his chest, right above his own heart.
He didn’t answer me right away. I thought I should let it go, so I lay back, snuggling against his side. But then he did answer.
“It used to have a girl’s name in it.”
“Someone you cared about?”
“I was going to marry her.”
That was more than I’d expected. I figured it had a girl’s name in it the first time I saw it, but I guess I just didn’t let myself think about it. Now, though, I wished I hadn’t asked.
“She was his sister.”
I didn’t know what he meant until his finger brushed the initials he’d told me belonged to a friend.
“We were in boot camp together. He used to show a picture of his sister around. All the guys wanted to write letters to her, but he only allowed a few of us. And she responded only to my letters.” He ran his hand slowly down my back. “When we got liberty at the end of boot camp, she and I had dinner. We hit it off and we kept writing while her brother, Jack, and I were at dive school. We spent leave together before I left for my first tour. She made me promise I would watch over her brother, and I said I would.”
He seemed lost even as he continued to run his hand over my back, like he knew I was there, but wasn’t really conscious of it. It was like he wasn’t really there with me, but back wherever his memories were taking him.
“It was less than a month before we were supposed to go home. We were on patrol outside the city. We knew there was insurgent activity in the area, but we’d been there long enough that we’d gotten kind of cocky. We thought we could tell when there was danger around and when there wasn’t. It was stupid.”
“You don’t have to…” I touched his face lightly, making him focus on me. “You don’t have to tell me.”
“I want to.” He touched my bottom lip lightly. “I want you to know what kind of a man I am.”
“I already know.”
He kissed me, a long, slow kiss that was so sweet I could feel it in my toes. I curled into him, sliding my leg up over his hip, loving the way our bodies fit together. Standing, he was so much taller than me, but lying like this we fit together like our bodies were meant for one another. Like puzzle pieces cut just perfectly.
“I could tell you just about anything now, and you’d believe me, wouldn’t you?” he asked.
“You’re so young. Too innocent.”
“Like you’re so old. What are you, twenty-five?”
“Only six years old than me.”
“Yeah, well, I’ve lived a hell of a lot more than you.”
I traced my finger over the initials on his chest. “You must have seen a lot over there.”
“I saw my friend blown into dozens of pieces right in front of me. And my other friend nearly lose his leg.”
“It was my fault. I was supposed to be watching over them. Instead, I was joking around with a couple of the other guys on our team. Like we were walking the streets of Houston instead of Kandahar.”
“It’s not your fault. It was the men there who set the bomb or mine or whatever.”
He shook his head. “I promised.”
“You’re only human. You can only do so much.”
He tried to shake his head again, but I took it between both my hands and forced him to look at me. “Listen to me, Major. It could have just as easily been you. And it could be your friend sitting here feeling guilty and your girl mourning you instead of her brother.”
“But it wasn’t.”
“No, it wasn’t. And it’s tragic. No one should die like that. But that’s the reality of war. And your friend knew what he was getting into when he went over there. So did his sister. If she blames you, that’s her fault, not yours. And it’s her loss because she could be here with you, both of you grieving together. But she isn’t and that’s her choice, not because of something you did or didn’t do.”
He stared at me for a minute, almost like he couldn’t believe what I was saying. And then he moved into me, kissing me again.
“You’re really something.”
I rolled over, pulling his arms around me as I did. “Don’t forget it,” I said.
I wiggled my hips a little, pressing my ass back against his cock. I could feel it growing even as his hand moved down my belly, his fingers sliding along the top edge of my outer lips. He kissed my neck as his fingertip found the round swelling of my clit.
“You drive me crazy,” he whispered against my ear.
“You’re all I’ve been able to think about for weeks.”
“Yeah? Join the club.”
He grasped my thigh, pulled my leg back over his and then he slid carefully inside of me. His cock felt so good inside of me and that angle, made him press against things that had yet to be touched, the bottom of his tool nudging nicely against my clit. He didn’t move at first, just contented himself by kissing my shoulder and playing with my breasts. When he twisted my nipple between his fingers I wanted to scream. Instead, I wiggled my ass against him, creating just enough friction that my clit began to ache with that familiar need.
“You feel so good,” he whispered against my neck. “I just want to lie like this for the rest of my life.”
“That might become a little inconvenient for your other girlfriends.”
“I don’t think I’ll have time for others.”
Was it stupid that those words made my heart soar?
And then he began to move, and all thought just disappeared. All there was was the pleasure, the need that grew and expanded until it had nowhere left to go. There was just him and I and an orgasm that seemed to go on forever.
I didn’t want it to end, either. Was it possible to fall in love after just a short time? Or was it just the amazing sex that had me walking on clouds?
But then it was suddenly over, and he was cursing under his breath.
“Babe,” he said in a tone of voice I had yet to hear from him, “tell me you’re on some sort of birth control.”
And that’s when the clouds crashed back to Earth.
“I forgot the fucking condom. And I don’t think we used anything the other night.”
I just kind of nodded. I didn’t know what to say. I hadn’t even thought about it until now. I guess I should have, but there was so much going on that it never crossed my mind.
Obviously, it hadn’t crossed his mind, either.
“If something comes of it, tell me. I’ll take care of it.”
I suddenly felt like I was walking a very familiar path. And I wasn’t sure what to do about it.
* * *
the following night as I sat down for dinner across from my dad at
. I don’t think he noticed, though. He clearly had something on his mind.
“You like your apartment?” he asked.
I nodded. I wondered what he would think if he knew I didn’t sleep there last night. Or that I wouldn’t be sleeping there again that night. I wondered if he would care at all.
“You look good, Sloane. Happy.”
I shrugged. “I like my job.”
“That’s good. They’re treating you well there?”
“As well as any other junior editor.”
He poured himself a glass of wine from the bottle the waiter had left at our table and sipped at it like it was honey, he a desperate bee. He seemed more nervous tonight than he usually was. My dad…we had spent time together. But it was usually in a car on the way to school or on the way home. We rarely spent more than twenty minutes in each other’s company and when we did, I usually spent that time with his personal assistant because we were at his office and he was on the phone. He didn’t know what to do with me. I think I made him nervous. My mom often put it down to the fact that he had very little experience with children, but nothing had changed as I entered adulthood.
I was pretty sure it was just me.
“How are things at the firm?”
He focused on me as though he’d just noticed I was there. “Fine,” he said, the word echoing around the wine glass as he went to take another sip.
“I have a friend whose best friend is a junior associate with a law firm. He complains about how many hours they work him—”
“I’m thinking of asking your mother to marry me,” he interrupted.
I coughed. I think I was choking on my own spit. What the hell did he mean—
“What the hell do you mean?”
“Just what I said.” He set the wine glass down and studied my face for a minute. “Do you think she’d say yes?”
“After everything you put her through, you’re going to ask her to marry you? Do you know how long she waited for that? She thought…” My words died as the realization of what he was saying finally sank in. “It was me, wasn’t it?”
“All these years. You wouldn’t marry her because of me. Because I was there and having a kid would make things messy.”
“Do you know how often I listened to her cry? How many times I watched her drag around the house because you came around and made her think that things were finally going to work out, that you were finally going to stay, and then you walked out again? And now, after I’ve moved out, you’re finally going to do it?”
He was quiet for a minute, watching me over steepled fingers. And then he said, “I think you’re old enough now to understand the choices we made. When your mother got pregnant, we’d only been seeing each other for a short time. I asked her to make a choice, and she chose you.”
“You didn’t want me?”
“I didn’t. But she did.”
Hot tears flooded my eyes. I stood up and blindly turned. My father was right behind me. He grabbed my wrist, made me turn into him.
“You don’t understand. I was too focused on my career, focused on a life that didn’t include a wife and kids. Your mother knew that when she first began dating me. It was her choice—”
“But you’re my dad. You’re supposed to want me.”
“It doesn’t work that way, Sloane. Not all people are meant to be parents. The smart ones are the ones who admit that to themselves.”
I jerked free of him and walked out. To think that I’d been so worried about him seeing the scratches on my car. To think that I cared what he thought of me, or of where I should live. I don’t think he cared enough about me to even notice. If not for my mom…
I just needed to get away from there, to go somewhere where I could breath. The only place I could think of, the only place I honestly wanted to go was to Major’s.
He was waiting for me.
He didn’t say a word when I barged into his apartment, when I took his hand and led the way to the bedroom. He didn’t ask when I began to cry. He just held me and took away my need to think. And I was so grateful for that.