Unraveled, p.2
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       Unraveled, p.2

         Part #3 of Woodlands series by Jen Frederick
Page 2


  A loud noise like a gunshot echoed, and I immediately ducked down to my knees, throwing my bag in front of me. I looked for Bo, but he was propped against the counter, crying with laughter.

  "Im so sorry. " AnnMarie leaned over me—her long dark hair nearly touching my face. "We just popped the champagne. "

  I looked around and saw a group of people with shocked faces and a few girls in front holding a sign that said "Welcome, Grunt. " One of Bos roommates (whose name I didnt remember) stood frozen with the bottle in question, champagne dribbling from the open neck like he was pissing all over the floor. Noah broke from the group and pulled me to my feet because Bo—the asshole—was still laughing.

  "Sorry, we werent thinking. " Noah tried to look repentant, but I could see he was fighting a big-ass grin too. The crowd had recovered, and he started introducing me around.

  "You fuckers. " I laughed, because it was funny. You could take the Marine grunt off the base, but you couldn’t eliminate his reaction to close-quarters fire. "If I didnt know better, Id think you planned that. "

  "Bo wouldve had to frisk you to make sure you didnt draw on us. " Noah shook his head. "We both know hed have liked that far too much. "

  One little blonde who’d been part of the sign committee murmured a few words I didn’t catch. I thought her name was Alice or Amy or something like that. I’d met her before when I’d come up for a weekend to see Bo and Noah’s set up.

  “What’s that, sweetheart?” I had to double over to talk to her. Some guys loved a good height disparity. I preferred a taller women. Easier to have sex standing up.

  “You guys are all so mean to each other. Noah made us write grunt on your sign. ” She stuck her lower lip out, which might have been an invitation to do something, although I wasn’t sure for what.

  "Grunt is a good thing for a Marine. You have to pass infantry school, otherwise youre in the rear with the gear," I explained. After eight years of being enlisted, I spent most of my time with other Marines or Marine wives and Marine girlfriends. I didnt love explaining things to civilians but part of why I’d come here to see Bo and Noah in the Midwest was to get away from the military folks, clear my head, and come up with a life plan. God, I sounded like Dr. Phil.

  "Whats infantry school?"

  I reined in my impatience and started to explain when Grace came over and rescued me.

  “Amy,” Grace said. "Leave the pretty Marine alone. His glass is empty and you know how guys get when their glass is empty. "

  "They get thirsty?" Amy asked.

  I kind of wanted to hear Grace’s reply, but her eyes were silently telling me to get while the getting was good. I fled to the group out at the pool, which included Bo’s girlfriend.

  “AnnMarie, you got any cute, single girlfriends available for me?" Truthfully, I planned to keep my pants zipped the entire time I was here, but I figured people expected me to be a horndog—and I didn’t like to let anyone down.

  “Theres a whole bunch of single women here. " She waved a hand at the ever growing crowd. "We held this party just for you. "

  "I appreciate that, but Im only here for a short time. Pick one for me. I want to use my time wisely. "

  "Oh no, not the ‘why one-night stands don’t make good sex’ lecture. ” Bo groaned.

  "Whats this?” she asked.

  "Ignore him. Bo doesnt like anything that requires thinking,” I said.

  "Hes actually very smart. ” She looked adorably peeved that I was saying anything bad about her boy. While I enjoyed giving both my boys shit, I was happy that Bo was with someone who defended him so fiercely. I kind of wanted that. Someday. Like in ten years, I told myself.

  "I can see you’re still in the early stages of a strong infatuation,” I teased, wondering how long it would be before Bo would carry AnnMarie off to have some dirty hot sex that wed all hear because this house, as nice as it was, did not have enough sound proofing. I’d learned that the last time I’d come to visit. The guys in this house enjoyed the ladies, often and loudly.

  "I want to hear this theory," AnnMarie said.

  Bo flopped back and heaved a huge theatrical sigh. "Now were in for it. "

  She put her hand over his mouth. "Start talking. "

  He must have licked her hand because she pulled it away with a yelp and wiped her palm on her shirt, giving Bo a dirty look. Yup, it was official. I was jealous of one of my oldest friends because of the easy relationship he had with his girl. Maybe coming here had been a mistake.

  I forced my gaze away from the happy couple and onto the growing crowd. There were a lot of gorgeous women here, and many of them were eyeing me like I was top grade prime rib at an all-you-can-eat buffet. I’d be a fool not to take advantage of an offer.

  I turned to AnnMarie to explain my theory. "Its not that hook ups arent good but its like the difference between a nice song and an awesome concert. One is a three-minute interlude. The other is an event. The better you know your partner, the better the sex is. ” My eyes surveyed the eclectic mix of students, construction workers, musicians, and gym rats that made up the new friends of my old friends. If I did hook up, I wouldn’t want anyone who would form an attachment. My time here was temporary, after all.

  "Maybe for you its three minutes. " Bo smirked.

  "Whatever. You cant tell me its not better with AnnMarie than anyone else. "

  "I was a virgin when I met AnnMarie," Bo said loftily. AnnMarie just rolled her eyes. "Besides, just because AnnMarie knows a girl, doesnt mean she knows her medical history. "

  "Why do you need that?" She quirked an eyebrow at me.

  "Im just careful," I replied. I didnt want to go into the long, sordid story about my past brush with a serious STI due to a cheating girlfriend. I’d come away clean, thankfully, but it had been a close call.

  "Plus she has to be in the medical profession,” Bo added.

  "Jesus, she does not. " I was going to have to take him to the ground because hed forgot the kind of beating I could deliver.

  "Your last three companions were in the health field. " Bo held up his fingers. I grabbed a couple and twisted them back as he tried to hit me with his other fist. AnnMarie grabbed at him and he subsided. Still, her scowl was directed at me.

  "Im not going to hook you up with any of my friends if you’re dating someone!" she said disgustedly.

  "Im not seeing anyone," I assured her. "Im just not into the bar hook up. "

  "Whys that?" This was a question from Adam, the one whod popped the champagne cork. He had more tattoos than some of the guys I served with. I guess it went with his rock band lifestyle.

  "Safety," I said.

  "Too many chances of putting the stick in crazy?" another roommate asked. It was Finn this time, the guy who actually owned this house.

  "No way. Crazy is awesome. Crazy in the head; crazy in the bed," Adam said.

  I shook my head. "No. Disease. Pregnancy scares. "

  "Suit up, man. " Adam tipped his head back and drained his beer. I waited until he was done to impart some much-needed sense. It was the same tip I gave to the new recruits.

  "You can still get herpes on your ball sack. "

  Adam looked down at his lap and so did nearly every guy within listening distance. One by one, they all got up and left. Presumably to go look at their nuts. Bo gave me a nudge and high-fived me. Civilians, Marines—they were all the same in some ways.

  Grace came wandering out and sat down next to us. "Where is everyone?"

  "Checking out their balls," AnnMarie said. Her dry delivery made Bo and me crack up again while Noah looked on with a smirk.

  AFTER ADAM HAD CONVINCED HIMSELF his gonads were in good health, he showed me where I’d be staying for the few weeks I’d be here.

  "You sure Im not putting you out or anything?" I threw my seabag and backpack down near the door in case Adam had changed his mind about letting me use his room. The place was pretty clean fo
r being the bedroom of a twenty-five-year-old musician who lived with four other guys. Not military clean. There was shit everywhere, like two guitars in the corner and a mess of woven bracelets, heavy silver rings, guitar picks, and what looked like four or five different pairs of headphones on a dresser. But there weren’t any empty pizza boxes on the floor or half-filled beers on the nightstand. Instead, it looked like the room of a guy who lived in his music.

  "Nah, Im going to bunk in the garage. Its where most of my instruments are anyway. " Adam went over to the dresser and shoved everything off the top and into the drawer beneath it—presumably clearing space for my shit. "This is the bathroom. " Adam opened the door to what Id thought was a closet. Inside was a decent-sized bathroom with a shower, a toilet and a sink and another door. "Closets through there. I tried to clear a little space for you. " The closet looked like a denim factory. There were dozens of jeans piled on custom shelves and another full set of shelves with an unholy amount of boots and shoes.

  "Not to be offensive, man, but you’ve more clothes and shoes than any guy Ive ever met. "

  Adam gave a negligent shrug. "I like clothes. So sue me. "

  "Ill just leave my stuff in my bag. ” I didn’t feel comfortable setting my gear up beside Adam’s. I was only here for a short while and I’d had plenty of practice living out of my pack.

  "Your call," Adam said. "Use what you want. The cleaning crew comes on Wednesdays at three. We all try to get out of here and leave them alone. ” He paused, looked around the room again, and then gave me another shrug.

  The cleaning crew explained the decent state of the room. The shrug, however, was weird but I let it pass without comment because it wasn’t any of my business. If Adam had been in my platoon, I would have probably had to ask nosy questions to make sure he wasn’t fucking up his personal life so bad that it would affect his performance in the Corps. But he wasn’t, so I shut my mouth, showered off the travel grime, and shrugged on a fresh T-shirt, cargo shorts, and sandals. Downstairs, the party seemed to be in full swing, with people littering the patio outside and some poorly playing a first-person action game on the big screen in the living area.

  “You allow these atrocities to occur without retribution?” I asked Bo, who was leaning against the wall grimacing as the video game players missed kill shot after kill shot.

  "I dont know them but we can dunk them out in the pool later. "

  "This is just a normal everyday occurrence here?" I waved at the mass of people moving in and out of the house toward the back patio and into the pool. Bos gaze traveled around the room, stopping at AnnMarie talking animatedly to some girl I hadn’t met. I had to nudge Bo out of whatever fantasy he was concocting. He jerked a little and then punched me in the arm. "The fuck?" I said, punching him back.

  "I was having a moment. " He scowled. Like he hadnt had a moment earlier when hed dragged AnnMarie away from the pool for some private time.

  "Let her be for a minute and maybe shell miss you," I retorted. This riled Bo up and soon we were grappling on the hard wooden floor. He struck me twice in the ear. Bo had big fists but his larger body also made it easier to maneuver around him.

  I’d gotten a choke hold around his neck and was pulling his head away from his shoulders when a huge stream of cold water hit my face. "Motherfucking what?" I yelled, dropping Bo. AnnMarie stood there with an empty pot, looking both exasperated and amused.

  "You guys are acting like youre five. " She tapped her foot by my head.

  "Nah, I was still fighting like this when I was fifteen. " I smiled, getting up and pulling her in for a hug. I pressed my wet body against hers for all of one second before Bo pulled me off. He and Noah picked me up and proceeded to throw me into the pool.

  I kicked off my shoes and stripped off my T-shirt and shorts, throwing the whole lot up on the pool deck.

  "Keep your panties on," Bo shouted as my clothing hit the concrete.

  "No worries, man, I wont embarrass you by showing my package to all the girls here. "

  "No one wants to see your pasty white ass. "

  "I think youre more afraid that AnnMarie will see my giant dick and leave you. " Predictably, Bo jumped into the pool. We started trying to drown each other, but Id had too much training for that.

  Bos entry into the pool prompted the rest of the crowd to jump in and soon I was too interested in all the honeys around me to want to wrestle with Bo anymore. Noah tossed me a pair of swim trunks, and I changed under the water. We played pool games until I was too hungry to be distracted by all the bikini-clad coeds in the water with me.

  "You really know how to press Bos buttons," AnnMarie commented as I threw together a sandwich and wolfed it down in three bites.

  "When you spend a few years stuck next to a guy 24/7, you get to know him pretty well,” I explained. She handed me a soda and I drained that too.

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