Unraveled, p.8
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       Unraveled, p.8

         Part #3 of Woodlands series by Jen Frederick
 
Page 8

 

  “He’s a Marine on leave for a few weeks staying with former members of his—whatever they’re called—troop?”

  “Platoon,” I said flatly. I’d forgotten the most important thing about Gray—that was he was in the military and that I wasn’t ever getting involved with another military guy. Not even for a casual, one-night hook up. Eve opened her mouth to say something, but I didn’t let her. “Whatever argument you’ve got, just shelve it. "

  "You need hair of the dog," she told me, ignoring my admonition. “One military guy breaks your heart, get good loving from another to put it back together. "

  "Will didnt break my heart. He died. "

  "Same thing, honey. Youve been heartbroken for two years now. This could be the perfect antidote. "

  "Youre crazy. " I walked down to the other end of the bar and Eve followed me.

  "I might be crazy but it doesnt mean Im wrong. Trust me, I know heartbreak. You know I do. "

  Breaking my heart wouldve been Will leaving me for someone else. He didnt leave me. He went to serve his country. He still loved me. If he would have had it his way, we’d be happily married with a kid on the way. Then why did he enlist? Why did he choose a dangerous military occupational specialty?

  Because he loved his country too, I told my little voice mulishly.

  A cold cloth pressed against my temple. A quiet moment in the corner of the bar was what I needed to silence the voices, but I couldn’t tell anymore which were speaking lies. The ones that told me he loved me or the ones that told me he didnt.

  "He didnt break my heart," I repeated.

  Eve kissed the top of my head. "Didnt say he didnt love you, honey, just that he broke your heart. This guy is perfect. He’s a rebound guy—only around for a few weeks. You do him, get back on the horse, and youre ready for a real relationship then. "

  "Did you know, besides that insane moment earlier with Gray, that you’re the only person Ive kissed on the mouth since Will died?" I tapped my index finger against my lower lip. "So thats like twenty-six months, because I saw him the weekend before he deployed. "

  "Christ, girl, no wonder you were making out with soldier boy. " Eve brushed by me to stick the cash drawer, minus the cash, back into the register. "Youre like a bear waking up from hibernation. Try out someone else. Those big alphas can be a handful. " She winked at Randy who grinned like a man well satisfied.

  "Because Im slow and doddering, like a bear?"

  "No, because youre hungry. Im afraid youll try to feast on him in front of everyone. "

  Too late, I thought. “I can’t even pull my ring off so I think I’m still hibernating. ”

  Eve shook her head. “Nope. ”

  “And you know this how?”

  “Because before you wouldn’t even talk about guys. I don’t think you even saw that they were actual sexual beings. And now? Now you’re actually asking questions. We gotta make sure you’re pointed in the right direction for your hunt. ”

  “I sound very predatory…and dangerous. ” They both laughed. I appreciated Eve’s words, though, because they made my earlier reactions less embarrassing viewed through her perspective. “If I was interested, though, Gray is not my type. He’s too tall and…bold. Plus, he’s not even from around here. ”

  “That’s what makes him absolutely perfect,” Eve declared. “Who cares what he does for a living? It’s not like you are going to marry him. He’s a rebound guy. You’re getting your feet wet. Even better, you both know it’s temporary. ”

  Temporary. I rolled that word around on my tongue and after a moment I realized it didn’t scare me. It felt alright. In fact, it made me kind of excited.

  CHAPTER FIVE

  Gray

  WHEN EVERYONE BROKE FOR THE night and last call was made, I sent Bo and Noah on their way, explaining I had an apology to make and Id catch a taxi home. I’d tried to find Sam during the evening but she never returned to the patio bar, and I didn’t want to make waves by asking Adam for access to wherever she was.

  "Taxi service is shit here," Noah cautioned.

  "Whats the worst that could happen?" I said. "Id have to run back to your place? Ive done longer distances with a hundred pound pack on my back. "

  Bo and Noah shared a look and then shrugged and took off when they realized I wasn’t going to change my mind. I loitered outside the bar, leaning against a brick wall, fading into the shadows. From my vantage point, I could see the exit but I was mostly hidden from view.

  The door opened and Sam came out with her friend, and I pushed away from the wall and called out so I didnt startle her. She still yelped in surprise and jumped back, bumping into her girlfriend. So much for not startling her. I stepped into the light and held up my hands in surrender so she could see I was harmless—although I was aware that was a relative term. I couldve taken both women and had them bound and in a car in less time than it takes a cop to piss.

  "Jaysus," said the taller woman, holding her hand to her heart. "You scared the piss out of us. "

  "Dont you have anyone walking you to your cars?" My plans for Sam were momentarily distracted by the thought of these two young women out here in the night unprotected.

  "Marks here. " Sam jerked her finger over her shoulder and out came a guy I noticed had been walking around checking things out. He was dressed in black slacks and a black button down shirt and looked like he weighed about a hundred and forty pounds dripping wet. He might require a little more effort, but the three were vulnerable. "And Randy. "

  Randy was clearly a bouncer, and he walked with heavy feet. He looked like he was all muscle, no technique.

  I decided to make for Mark first, before I separated Sam from her people. Mark was the guy in charge, at least based on his clothes—black shirt button down shirt, black slacks, and dress shoes. Sam and the other woman wore shorts and Randy had on jeans and a T-shirt. "Hey, Mark, Gray Phillips. Friend of Adams. We sat at the table to the left of the stage. "

  Mark nodded and held out his hand. He had a good handshake. I was tempted to squeeze it too hard but managed to suppress my stupid caveman instincts. I was trying to make nice here. I gave him my best politicians smile, which I learned from watching my dad for the last eight years—he’d worn it out until it was his default expression.

  "I need to have a few minutes with Ms. Anderson here, if I can. I promise to return her in just a few. " I gave his hand another squeeze and another smarmy "Im a people person" smile. It worked for my dad, and I hoped it would work for me here.

  Mark nodded. "Sure. " He even gave Sam a little push toward me. She glared at Mark but no one made a move to stop me from moving her down the sidewalk into the darker edges of the boulevard.

  She was resistant and I felt like I was dragging her. “Look, I’m sorry I said that stuff inside. I was worked up and caught off guard. ” I gave her a sheepish grin. “I’m pretty big on not cheating. ”

  “I got that. ” She sighed. “I think it was just a mistake all around. I get why you were angry. I’m sure if I was kissing someone I thought was married, I’d have freaked out too. ”

  I wanted to object to the freaking out thing. “Can we rewind and go back to the place we were before I insulted you thoroughly?”

  Sam bit the side of her lip and glanced back at her tall friend. The tall friend smiled and waved, a get-going gesture. I waved back because Sam needed more encouragement from the look of indecision on her face.

  "Did you really wait all night to tell me that you’re sorry?"

  No, I realized with sudden clarity, I waited all night to see if I could convince you to pick up where we left off. Then I laughed at myself for being a dick. So much for not liking bar hook ups. "Yeah, I guess I did. "

  "Wheres your crew? Did they abandon you?"

  "I told them to go on ahead. "

  "You have a car? The Woodlands is a ways out. "

  "Nope, but Im fine. "

  She tapped the front of her nec
k and frowned at me. No one else was around now, just her, me, and the three waiting for her.

  "Howre you getting home?" she asked finally.

  I rolled my shoulders to appear as relaxed and non-confrontational as possible. "Im just going to call a taxi. "

  "Taxi service is terrible here. " Her frown was getting deeper which was the wrong reaction.

  “I really am sorry, you know. ” I ran my fingers over the side of her mouth, trying to coax a smile out of her.

  “Me too. ” She tucked her face into my hand, almost like one of those kittens a few of us had found near a forward operating base in a ditch, abandoned by their mother. Those tiny things had been hesitant at first, but with a little milk and a tender touch had tottered on their little legs after us, always seeking one last pet. We’d given those kittens away to local kids.

  “You going to drive me home, or am I going to have to hoof it?” We’d been beating around that bush, and I figured I should just come out and ask.

  “I actually live near here. ” She gestured to the west of us but I didn’t care where she lived, only that I was hearing her right. “Would you like some coffee?”

  Coffee. Shit yeah, I did. “Ordinarily I don’t go home for coffee after a night at the bar but yeah, with you, I’d like that. ”

  “I’ve never had anyone home for coffee except, well, Will. ”

  Will, her dead husband and fallen soldier. I pushed that image out of my mind. She was here with me and I still remembered the feeling of her shuddering in my arms. This time I wanted the trembling to happen when I was inside of her. I wanted to feel the shake of her body when I licked her pussy and the clench of her tight channel when I thrust into her. No one else would be there but her and me. “Lead the way,” I said. “I’m thirsty. ”

  She flushed slightly, waved to her friends and boldly took my hand, leading me down the dark alley with piss poor lighting behind the bar. I took a mental note to mention to Adam tomorrow that his old man needed better, safer lighting for the staff. Sam hit her key fob and the lights to an expensive European SUV blinked on and off.

  "Nice wheels,” I said. "You take this off-roading?” This vehicle was more my style than Bo’s tiny sports car would ever be.

  “Never," she said. "It was my moms. I got it when I graduated from high school. Its actually pretty old. "

  "Still nice. "

  We chitchatted about cars and she knew surprisingly quite a bit about her own vehicle.

  “I can even change my own tires,” she said proudly after I’d teased her about knowing how much horsepower her Rover had.

  “That’s impossible,” I mocked. “No girl knows how to do that. ”

  “Whatever,” she flicked her palm toward me. “My dad taught me because…” She trailed off.

  “Because?”

  “I’ve been alone for a long time. ”

  The specter of why she’d been alone formed between us but if she was going to ignore it, then I was too, because I wanted this girl. We’d started something in that hallway and I was too stubborn to give up on whatever she had in mind for me. Plus, I had stuff to show her too. I’d made her those promises and I always, always delivered on my promises.

  The trip to Sam’s place took only a few minutes. She wasn’t kidding when she said she lived close. It was one of those old brick factory buildings revitalized into lofts. The lighting here was shit too. I shook my head. Placing my hand at the small of her back, I watched the shadows so she didn’t have to. She might be able to change her tire and recite the horsepower on her Rover, but she didn’t watch out for herself like she should.

  “Have you lived here long?” I asked as I followed her up the stairs to the second floor of the building.

  “Three years,” she replied. “It’s small but mine. ”

  I may have preferred taller girls, but there was no denying the shapeliness of Sam’s ass as it moved underneath the cotton of her shorts. I remembered what it felt like in my palm—firm but pliable. I clenched my fingers unconsciously at the memory. I couldn’t wait to take a bite out of it. The upside down heart shape was practically taunting me.

  Surreptitiously, I reached inside my own shorts and made a small adjustment so my burgeoning wood wouldn’t scare her or cause me unnecessary pain.

  “Here we are,” she murmured, throwing open the door to her apartment. I took a quick look around. There was a lamp lit on the far side of the room and a kitchen to my immediate left. I noted the table and the sofa as the only real furniture in the room. Her bedroom was either somewhere else or she slept on the sofa. “Do you, um, want coffee? I mean a real cup?”

  I suppressed a smile at her artlessness. This girl was the farthest thing from a cheating, dishonest base wife. The same protective instincts I’d experienced before when she seemed under verbal assault by the blonde came roaring back. Reaching out, I tucked a few of the loose strands of honey blonde hair behind her ear. “No, what’s right in front of me is more than enough. ” I rubbed the pad of my thumb across her lush lower lip.

 
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JEN FREDERICK SERIES:

Woodlands