Unraveled, p.25
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       Unraveled, p.25

         Part #3 of Woodlands series by Jen Frederick
Page 26



  “I FORGIVE YOU FOR GETTING me up so early,” I yelled at Gray. The plane we were on was specially designed for parachuters, Gray had told me. It rose quickly in the air and landed quickly. Every atom in my body felt enervated. I ran through the instructions. Gray and the other instructor would hold me when I jumped and then let go after my chute opened. We’d be the last ones out. Gray thought that was safer because I’d have less chance of getting tangled up in someone else’s lines.

  "Ready?" he mouthed. It was too loud for me to hear him with the door open and the jet sounds mixing with the wind. I gave him two thumbs up. He made me run through the motions of pulling the chute. Grays worry was endearing and I would’ve kissed him if not for all our paraphernalia. Jerry, the instructor, gave me the five-finger countdown. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. They each grabbed an arm and we flew out of the plane. As instructed, I spread out my arms and legs like a bird. Gray still held on to one hand but Jerry had released me, which wasn’t what had been planned but no matter.

  I counted off in my head the seconds until Id pull my chute. The wind picked me up and I felt almost weightless for a moment. All too soon Gray squeezed my hand. He motioned for me to pull my chute cord. Angling my feet downward as I’d been told, I pulled the cord and steeled my body against the jerk Id feel when the chute would open. He’d told me that it was like someone pulling on my jacket if I was running, abrupt but not painful. Nothing. I pulled again.

  Seconds ticked by and I was falling fast. Panicking, I jerked my hand free of his, ignoring his shout, and tugged frantically at my chute cord until I felt a release. But no jerk came. In my hand was just the toggle on the pull cord, which had come off. I turned to show Gray and then the wind took the cord and whipped it away.

  The ground was rising fast, almost a blur through the tears that had formed. The tears from the wind, not fear, I told myself. And then, in an instant, I embraced it. So this was it. Perhaps my story was one of tragedy. Married young, widowed young, died young. I spread out my limbs again. When I fell and hit the earth, I figured the impact would be instantaneous. Death had to come to all of us.

  The wind rushed by me and even with my goggles, I could feel the sting against my eyes. There was peace here. But Gray. I’d known him only for a little time. If I’d had one regret, I wished I had kissed him harder, held him longer. The sensation of regret caught me unexpectedly, invading my peace almost as if a physical reaction had occurred. Then I realized it wasnt regret that had hit me—it had been Gray. His body wrapped around mine, his arms coming up from behind me, holding me almost in a loose headlock with one arm. With the other, he must have pulled his chute cord, because it deployed immediately. He pulled his body back with it.

  The ground still rose quickly, but he held me fast. The only thing that kept me from becoming part of the dirt was his strong, firm, and steady grip. I hugged his arms to me and wondered why Id been so ready to give it all up. Sobbing, now with relief, I clung to him as we fell rapidly to earth.

  The impact of the ground jolted me hard although I knew Gray had taken the brunt of it, landing on his legs first. He curled me into a ball and we rolled for several feet, tangled in chute cords and nylon until we were completely wrapped up. I ended up with my head tucked into his chest. Our legs were entwined.

  His breath was harsh and wracked in my ear.

  "Jesus. Jesus. Jesus Christ," he panted.

  I said nothing, only clutched him closer to me. As I began to shake uncontrollably in his arms, he whispered consoling words in my ear. “It’s going to be okay. We’re safe now. ” But he wasnt immune either. I felt his body shudder against mine and we just clung to each other inside the cocoon of his parachute. His gloved hands smoothed up and down my body comforting both of us at the same time.

  When he pushed my goggles off with one hand, I saw that his eyes looked wet. Im sure mine were too. Pulling me against him, we began ravishing each other. He rolled us over until my body was covered with his. We kissed to make sure each other was alive. We kissed in celebration of our survival. We kissed because deep down, the emotions that wed been trying to deny were overwhelming us.

  He and I both knew that however temporary our relationship had been before, the fall had shaken loose our barriers and we were just raw nerves and emotion. I felt his erection heavy against me. I wrapped my legs around him and we pressed up against each other. We wouldve ditched our clothes and just fucked each other raw underneath the parachute if Jerry hadn’t arrived and interrupted us.

  "Hoolee shit," I heard him exclaim. "You two okay?"

  Gray pulled away from me immediately and rested his forehead against mine, trying to gain some composure. The mood changed as I saw his emotions flip from desire to anger. He pulled loose of my embrace and untangled us quickly, although Im not sure how. I was trussed up in enough strings and fabric to keep me immobilized for at least a month.

  "Her goddamn chute didnt open, you motherfucker," Gray roared at Jerry. If it wasn’t for the chute strings surrounding us, Gray would’ve been on him, beating the tar out of him. He began struggling with the harness.

  "We check those chutes daily,” Jerry protested.

  "If you did, then youd have seen it was defective, Jerry. ” Gray spit out his name like he couldn’t stand the taste of it. Gray sat me up and pulled the chute off of me. I hadnt the first clue what had happened. I only knew that it should’ve released when I pulled on it. “And you shouldn’t have let go of her. This was an accelerated free fall, and we both fucking hold her until the chute deploys. ”

  He finally got the harness off of himself, and he turned to attack mine. He was spitting mad, but his hands were gentle as he handled me.

  "What about the emergency cord?"

  "Neither cord opened the chute,” Gray bit out. I wondered if his jaw would crack from the effort of not yelling at Jerry. Gray knew—somehow just knew—that if he yelled right in my face, I’d lose it. I was so close the edge of a breakdown. He pulled both cords and the chute remained stubbornly closed, an innocuous backpack-looking thing. He yanked viciously again and the emergency cord pulled away, frayed at the end. He threw the entire thing at Jerry, who stumbled back at the weight.

  "You better get your house in order because the FAA will be there by the end of the day to run an inspection on your entire equipment supply. " Gray jabbed his finger at the guy’s chest, his other hand fisted like he wanted to plant it in Jerry’s face. "Youre gonna be grounded. You couldve fucking killed her. "

  The adrenaline rush, the fear, the passion had all drained away and I felt weak. "Gray. " He was still raging at Jerry. "Gray," I said louder. His head whipped around. His eyes were wide and his nostrils were flaring. I wanted to touch him so I could get him to calm down. Instead I said the words that I knew would penetrate his fear and disgust and anger. "I need you. "

  Immediately he turned away from Jerry and dropped to his knees. "Baby, Im here. What can I do?"

  I wrapped my arms around his neck and nuzzled my nose against him. "Take me home. "

  Part of me wanted to rage too but mostly I wanted to go home and lie with Gray in my arms and revel in the fact that I was alive, no matter the faulty equipment. Id done something very dangerous but Id survived. I was glad to be alive.


  I FELT SAMS SLIGHT BODY against mine, her utter trust in me and felt a surge of something so strong that I almost fell backward. I firmed up the steel in my spine and picked her up into my arms. While I wanted desperately to beat Jerry bloody and then go inside SkyHopper and ransack the place, I wasn’t going to leave Sam trembling and shocky. “Get me some OJ,” I ordered Jerry. When he just stared at me like a dumb robot, I barked again in my best copy of my gunnery sergeant father. “Get me some goddamned orange juice or I’ll cut off your nuts with your car keys. ” He got the message and took off toward the office building. One of the other jumpers came over.

  “Need a
nything?” His hair was military short.

  “Yeah, I need someone to file a complaint ASAP while I take care of my girl. ” Sam was silent, burrowing her head into my shirt. I wanted to get her home like she’d asked. As I reached the parking lot, I noticed a number of expensive foreign vehicles in the “owner” slots. The guy obviously had money or was wasting it on expensive toys rather than careful maintenance.

  “On it. ” He gave me a smart salute and trotted off after Jerry.

  I placed my girl tenderly into the passenger side of her Rover. I’d never driven it because Sam always seemed to enjoy being behind the wheel, but she was in no shape to pilot this vehicle back to her place. She curled up in the passenger seat, her big green eyes staring at me. The look in them, shit, made me feel like I was bigger than life. I knew some guys got into the military because they had a big old savior complex. They liked to be the hero, and going over and killing people that they were told were the enemy made them feel good inside. Id never felt that way, but right now I got it. Sam was looking at me like Id conquered King Kong as it was trying to devour the city

  “Guess all those training jumps were good for something,” I joked weakly, brushing the hair out of her face. Her color was still pretty pale. Fortunately for Jerry, he appeared within seconds with a bottle of orange juice. “Drink some of this,” I commanded and then added, “please. ”

  She must have felt a little better because she rolled her eyes but dutifully took a small sip.

  “A little more. ” I winced as the request came out like another order. It worked though. The military guy came out with a form that he’d filled out. I signed it. “Thanks, man. ”

  “No problem. That was scary as fuck just watching it so I can’t imagine how you both feel. ”

  Jerry was long gone by then, which was probably a good thing because now that Sam was feeling better I wanted to go beat the shit out of him.

  “I’ve had better days,” I admitted.

  “Go home, get your girl into bed, and take a load off. I’ll see this is filed. I’m going to make a call to the FAA too. This place should be closed down within the hour. ” The guy flipped open his ID and I saw it said “State Police. ”

  I blew out a breath of relief. “Thanks, man. ” We shook hands and Trooper Jensen gave me his card so I could follow up.

  By the time we got to the condo, Sam was getting back to her old self.

  “That was certainly adventurous,” she said drolly as I was pulling into the parking lot behind her building.

  The thought of her crashing into the ground because the goddamn chute wouldn’t release had me banging the steering wheel. I wanted to turn around and drive back and give Jerry a piece of my mind. “Good thing you stopped me from killing Jerry because there was a State Trooper who jumped before us. ”

  “I can’t say that I’m going to want to do that again anytime soon, but I’m not sorry that I went and I’m glad you were the one who took me. ” She rubbed her palm along my stiff forearm.

  “If I’d just checked that damn chute—”

  She cut me off. “If onlys are a fool’s path. I know this from too many sleepless nights. Let’s go upstairs and celebrate the fact that we’re alive. ” She pulled my chin around and pressed her mouth against mine. “Take me upstairs and make love to me. ”

  I can’t remember how we got upstairs and into her bedroom. I only know that we did. In the bathroom, I turned on the hot water and undressed her while the shower heated up. She allowed it, passively standing there all the while watching me with burning eyes. Somehow she sensed that I needed to take care of her.

  When we were both nude, I tested the water temperature and then pulled her inside. Sam’s condo had no bathtub but the shower was incredible. There was a rainshower head recessed into the ceiling and another large spray head mounted on the side. I had turned them both on so that we could each be warmed by the streams of water. The one thing we were missing was a bench, but I’d make do.

  I stood us under the rainshower head and let the soft drops of water fall onto our heads and shoulders and back. “Lean on me,” I urged and she did, dropping her head against my left pectoral muscle. She could probably hear it hammering but I didn’t care much now. Any defenses I had against this girl were bashed against the ground. I’d seen her falling from the sky, and my heart had gone with her. There wasn’t a calling higher than being with her, but I wasn’t sure how to tell her. Now wasn’t the right time, but soon.

  I rubbed her head gently, kneading her skull and then her shoulders, keeping all of my touches above her waist and away from her breasts. That didn’t keep my cock from being stiff as a pike and poking her in the stomach.

  She made soft sounds of pleasure as I rubbed away any tension she had left. Turning her so her back was to my front, I grabbed the showerhead off the hook to rinse off the soap in her hair. “Tip back,” I told her and directed the spray at the back of her head and then, cupping my hand protectively at her forehead so the soapy water wouldn’t stream into her eyes, moved the spray around the crown of her head.

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