Unraveled, p.27
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       Unraveled, p.27

         Part #3 of Woodlands series by Jen Frederick
Page 28


  Sam patted my chest. “You talk a good game. ”

  “Don’t challenge me, baby, or you’ll be too sore to walk for a week. ”

  “Can’t wait,” she whispered and then bit my ear.

  LATER I GOT A TEXT TO go over to Bo’s place.

  “You want to go?”

  “No, I’m too tired. ” She moved her legs experimentally and then groaned. “And sore. ”

  I tried not to look too pleased about that. We’d used all three condoms and then I wished we had another one but since we didn’t, we pleasured each other orally. Best sixty-nine ever. I took a lot of mental pictures of her ass in my face as I ate her out and fingered her to a couple of orgasms. I’d be pulling those out regular when I was away from her. I wondered what I’d be able to convince her to show me on Skype. God, the dirty stuff we could do was getting me worked up again.

  “No, no, no. ” She held off a warding hand as I found myself leaning down toward her. “I’m done in for at least another twelve hours. Let my girl parts revive. ”

  “All right,” I said reluctantly. “I haven’t seen the boys in a couple of days so I’ll go have some beers while you recover. ”

  “Fine. ”

  I tucked her under the covers and gave her a deep kiss before heading off to The Woodlands.


  THE FARTHER AWAY FROM SAM I got, the easier it was for second thoughts to creep in. Years of having sex with women I didnt care about had left me unprepared for the emotional wave of fulfillment, the complete sense of belonging. The rightness of it all. Oh and the motherfucking fear of loss. This time my heart was pounding, not out of excitement, but of fucking fear. Just what had I agreed to back there in Sam’s condo?

  I was totally not in the mood to see one Ethan Drake at Bo’s place.

  “What the hell is Drake doing here?” I muttered to Bo as I stomped in the house.

  He rolled his eyes. “Chasing down Noah, I guess. ”

  Ethan Drake barely made it through boot and got kicked out in his third year, dishonorably discharged because he was snorting his measly enlisted paycheck up his nose.

  Worse, Drake was a dog. He fucked anything in his path and didn’t hesitate to offer a shoulder to a deployed Marine’s girlfriend. But women seemed to be blind to his smarmy ways. I’d once seen him come out of a bar’s bathroom with a girl he’d obviously just screwed. She actually fucking giggled when he said he was just doing his patriotic duty by seeing to her needs. I almost tossed my cookies right there, and the fact that she didn’t made me wonder about whether she’d been snorting coke along with him.

  But as Noah, Bo, and I stood with our arms crossed, glaring at his head, the girls nearly fought each other about who was going to bring his next beer.

  “All the way from California, you drove?” Grace asked in wonder.

  “Yes, ma’am. Couldn’t wait to see Jackson again. ”

  “That’s so sweet, isn’t it, honey?” She glanced toward Noah but didn’t really see him because if she had, she would have seen her man looking like he was going to either barf or hit Drake, possibly both.

  “I can’t watch this shit,” I muttered to Bo. Grabbing a few beers from the refrigerator, I headed to the patio. About ten minutes later, Bo came out with a bottle of whisky and two glasses.

  "Whyre you drinking alone in the dark?" he asked. I contemplated the bottom of my nearly empty bottle, debating whether I should say anything. What the hell, though, if you couldnt talk to your brothers, who could you talk to?

  "Sam almost died today?"

  "Out of fear from her first jump?" He cackled.

  "I wish. Her chute wouldnt open. "

  "What the fuck? Over at SkyHopper?" Bo sobered up quick and looked properly outraged.

  I nodded and took one of the glasses. “Fill her up. " Bo poured me three fingers. "Dont be stingy. "

  He filled me up.

  "Ive jumped there before. What happened?"

  "Faulty equipment. I pulled the chute cord when we landed and it didnt open. Pulled the emergency cord, and it came off in my hand. " I clenched my hand again, wishing Id decked the SkyHopper guy.

  "Mother fucker," Bo cursed.

  "Thats putting it mildly. "

  "You fix that?"

  "One of the other folks there was a state trooper. He filed a complaint and said it’d be shut down within the hour. "

  "So that why youre drinking in the dark by your lonesome?"

  I wish. "I was terrified today. Actually terrified. Like if I was the type to shit in my pants, I wouldve been soiled by the time I hit the ground. " I leaned my elbows on my knees and stared out at the dark water of the pool, now almost black without the underground lights turned on. I was afraid to close my eyes because I feared Id see Sam sprawled on the ground with her head split open like a melon. "I dont think Ive come so close to touching mortality. Even over in the desert, I figured we could all take care of ourselves. But this time. . . " I trailed off. I remembered that first night I saw Sam and how my heart had stopped beating for a moment. This time my heart had stopped for enough counts for me to be pronounced dead.

  "Life is short and precious?"

  "Something like that. What am I doing with this girl, Bo? Im here on leave to have a good time and now Im fucking around with a widow. She says…” I paused. Did I want to tell Bo? Why not, I thought. “She says she’ll follow me, come with me wherever I’m deployed. ”

  “And you can’t wait to shake her off?”

  “No, that’s the weird thing. It felt good. ”

  "And that terrifies you?”

  "Yeah, still shitting in my pants terrified. "

  "Good thing you arent the type to soil yourself. "

  "No kidding. " I sighed and drained half the glass.

  "You may want to slow down there. "

  "No, I dont think so. If anything Im drinking too slow. "

  "Alcohol isnt going to change the way you feel. "

  "Can I find clarity in my drunkenness? Because I need some answers. Ive only got, what?” I held up my fingers and tried to count. “Ten days to figure out what I should do. Ten days left with Sam? I swore I wasnt ever going to get involved while I was in the Corps. "

  "Twenty years of solitude seems like a pretty big reach. Dont know any FWBs that work out that long. "

  "So instead I get married, cheat, get divorced. Get remarried. Rinse and repeat?"

  "Not everyone is like that. "

  "Name one relationship that has survived boot, deployment, or constant movement around the world. "

  "The statistic is like sixty-five percent or something that fail, so one out of three succeed, buddy. "

  I snorted. "Those are great odds. You betting on those odds?"

  "You dont know that Sam is a cheater. She married an Army guy. "

  "I dont know that shes not a cheater. Maybe if I had a way to test her. Try her out. " There was some thought forming at the back of my mind. I tried to reach for it, draw it forward so I could examine it.

  "Whoa, I dont know if I like the sound of this. " Bo took my now-empty glass and moved it away from me but I didnt care. I didnt need the alcohol now. I was on to something. "You might want to stop that thought train right there. "

  "No, this is actually a great idea. Maybe one of you can hit on her. Or no, she knows you guys. We need a stranger. " The idea was taking shape and form and seemed brilliant.

  "This idea is alcohol fueled. No good comes from alcohol-fueled ideas. " Bo cautioned. What did he know? Like he said, he never let AnnMarie more than two steps from his side. That wasnt an option for me.

  "Its like boot camp. BC for couples. For relationships. If it could weather a hard test, then we could make it. " I tried to explain it to Bo but clearly hed drunk too much because he wasnt getting how amazing this plan was.

  "Dont test her. Youll lose her. "

  "Thats the whole point, Bo. " I tried to make him s
ee the sense of it. "If testing her makes her do a runner, shes not good for the long haul anyway. "

  Bo rubbed a hand over his head. Hed allowed his hair to grow long since hed separated. "I dont think I can talk any sense into you tonight but trust me when I say that this is the worst idea in a box of bad ideas. "

  “I’ll do it. ” A voice came from the left. Ethan fucking Drake. Had he been listening to our conversation the whole time? As I peered up at him in my drunken fog, taking in his black hair that swooped down over his eyes, I was struck with the clarity I told Bo I’d been searching for in the bottom of the liquor bottle. There were always going to be guys like Ethan Drake out there sniffing around someone’s girl. And some girls who were lonely and lacked confidence or backbone were going to fall for his line. And the rest weren’t. I could live the rest of my life alone because I was too afraid to take a chance, or I could borrow a leaf from Sam’s book and just hang it all out there.

  She’d loved and lost and no matter how she said that she never compared losses, losing her husband had to be a helluva a lot harder than getting cheated on. Yet, she allowed me inside her life, her body, her heart. She told me she loved me without any certainty about my response. She was out there living and I was cowering the dark like a five-year-old convinced there were monsters in my closet.

  “Nah, no need, man,” I stood up, swaying a little at the alcohol rush. “I got this. Bo is right. Sam’s a keeper. She doesn’t need any test. ”

  I left them both behind. I wished Sam were here with me now. Inside, I sat down on the sofa in the living room and texted Sam.

  Where RU?

  LOL. You drunk, baby?

  No, horny. Really horny.

  She sent me a smiley face. I wondered what that meant.

  Come over and hump me.

  Still recovering but I’ll be ready for some morning action. Luv you, babe.

  Luv U2.

  Typing those words out came easily. My momentary panic washed away as quickly as it had come. Yeah, letting someone into my life was scary but I wasn’t better off without Sam. I lay down on the sofa. When I slept off some of the liquor, I’d drive over to the condo and tell her how much I loved her and how stupid I was for doubting us for a second. She’d understand. I knew she would.

  The next thing I knew I woke up in a puddle of my own drool face down on the leather sofa. I wiped it up with the bottom of my T-shirt. The sunlight coming in through the windows wasn’t early morning sun, it was late morning sun—I couldn’t see the orb on the horizon. And it was bright. Really fucking bright.

  Shit. I must have drank too much and overslept. As I sat up, my head started pounding. I needed water, aspirin, and a shower in exactly that order. My whole pity party seemed stupid in the light of day. I needed to get back to Sam. Picking up my phone, I was relieved to see that I’d texted Sam last night before passing out. My messages were slightly cringeworthy, but hell, I’d been drunk. At least I wasn’t spouting poetry or something. She’d have real concerns then. My phone showed she called twice this morning. Once at nine and again ten minutes later. Then nothing. I’d call her as soon as I showered.

  The front door opened and Adam and Finn came in. They stopped near the sofa and Adam gave me a weird look.

  “What’s up?” I jerked my chin upward in acknowledgment and then winced when the motion sent a spike through my temple. Ugh. Water. I needed rehydrating.

  “Left your friend over at Sam’s this morning. ”

  “My friend?” I pushed off the sofa and headed for the kitchen. Hand on one hip, I surveyed the room. If I were aspirin, where would I be? Next to the sink. Wait, I’d just ask Adam. “Aspirin. ”

  He pointed to the cupboard next to the sink, just as I’d guessed. Smart man. Inside I found glasses, aspirin, mints, and a big box of condoms. This was definitely a house full of men.

  “Ethan Drake,” he said as I swallowed four aspirin dry and then filled up a glass.

  “Yeah, not my friend. Freeloader that came to see if Noah had room in his entourage. ”

  “Huh. ” Adam swirled his keys around his finger.

  There was loads unstated in that sound. A sense of foreboding settled over me. I glanced at the clock on the microwave. It was close to eleven in the morning. A lot of time had passed since I’d texted Sam and since she’d tried to call me.

  “What?” I asked almost afraid to hear the answer.

  “Sam called and asked for you this morning. ”

  “I saw that,” I replied impatiently.

  “She wanted some help taking something down, so I told her Finn and I would do it. Your pal Drake said that he needed to come along because he was delivering a message from you. ”

  “Oh fuck me, no. ”

  I got up, ignoring the stabbing pain in my head. “I need to get over to Sam’s right away. ”

  Adam threw me the keys. “Have it at. Don’t like that guy and didn’t like leaving him there, but he insisted and Sam, well, she seemed eager to talk to him. ”

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