Unraveled, p.9
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       Unraveled, p.9

         Part #3 of Woodlands series by Jen Frederick
 
Page 9

 

  She closed her eyes and raised her face to mine, and I took the invitation that she offered. Lifting her against me so I wouldn’t have to stoop down, I molded her body against mine. My first kisses were light, to make sure she had time to change her mind, but when she licked her little tongue along my lips, my fire was lit. I’d had aged whisky with my dad that didn’t taste as rich or as heady as she did. When her mouth closed over my tongue and sucked, my eyes rolled back into my head. There were other hot, wet areas of her body, and I ached to put my fingers there, and then my tongue, and then finally my rock hard dick.

  “Ahhh,” I moaned against her lips. She released my tongue but fixed her mouth against mine again. The flicks of her tongue against mine had me wondering what that fluttering motion would feel like against my cock. All the blood pooled in my waist as I envisioned her on her knees between my thighs, repeating those same butterfly touches and the same hard suck.

  This time when I pulled up her shirt, I grabbed both the T-shirt and her tank underneath. She moaned when my hand made contact with her breast. It wasn’t very big, but the nipple felt like the size of an eraser and saliva pooled in my mouth as I imagined sucking it into my mouth. I shoved up the material and pulled down on her bra in quick jerky movements until I had her plump little breast in my hand. Kneading it, I heard her moan and felt her clutch at my head. I got the hint. Pulling away from her mouth, I lifted her higher with one hand until I could place my mouth around her breast. Through her shorts, I swear I felt the wetness of her arousal. I sucked and she moaned harder, her legs nearly squeezing the breath out of me.

  The sofa, I thought, I need to get to the sofa. I stumbled forward, my mouth still latched onto her breast, rolling her stiff nub around my tongue and enjoying the trembling that my ministrations were causing. Holding her, I used the mental map I’d created when I first walked in. The sofa was at ten o’clock. I headed to my left and then cursed when I tripped on something.

  “Hold on, baby,” I said, letting her breast fall out of my mouth. “Shit, what was that?” I looked down and saw a pair of worn out combat boots and the shadow of her dead husband rose up and killed my arousal. My hand slid out from underneath her ass, and I slowly released her down to the ground. She looked up at me in confusion, clutching me, and I felt the bite of her wedding ring. This wasn’t going to work.

  “I’m sorry. ” I looked around the room and catalogued more than just the furniture now. There was an assault pack in the corner and on the wall hung a weird flag with just stripes and a blank space where the blue field of stars should appear. The combat boots I’d tripped over looked obscene. The whole place felt like there was someone other than Sam living here.

  “What’s wrong?” She looked and sounded upset, the kind of upset you got when you were turned on and then didn’t get to come. It was a bad kind of upset, the worst kind.

  I ran my hand over my short hair and searched for the right words to explain it all to her. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t find the words for something even I didn’t understand. I wasn’t always a jealous guy, but I was feeling pretty jealous now—which was sick in its own way because who’s jealous of a dead guy? If I told this girl that I felt like her husband was still here then she’d think I was loony.

  At my hesitation, Sam slumped back away from me, wiping the back of her hand across her mouth. She released a thready breath and I cursed myself silently for doing this to her. A part of me wanted to just place her on the sofa and say to hell with it but I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to get it up right now.

  “I’m sorry,” I repeated lamely. “I’ll just call a taxi. ”

  “No. ” She turned to me. “No. I’ll drive you home. ” Her head tilted up in a recognizable expression of pride. Okay then. I’d shit on this whole experience for her and if she wanted to drive me back to Adam’s place then I’d suck it up and let her do it.

  Samantha

  "WHAT BRANCH WAS YOUR HUSBAND in? Adam didnt say. " Gray asked, trying to start up a conversation, I guess. I was feeling embarrassed and bit petulant but a twenty-minute ride from downtown to The Woodlands in uncomfortable silence wasn’t a great idea either.

  There was no reason not to talk about Will. After all, I was going home alone tonight like I had so many nights before. "Army. "

  "Soldier, huh? Where did he serve?"

  "Afghanistan. Right at the end. You?"

  "Same. What was his platoon? Maybe I knew him. "

  I told him but he just shrugged.

  "Yeah, I didnt serve with a lot of airborne. I was a boots-on-the-ground kind of guy. Not that I dont enjoy jumping out of a plane. "

  "Ive never seen the appeal," I admitted. Will loved it but Will was always the adventurous half of our pairing. He said I kept him grounded and I’d always been kind of proud of my plodding, somewhat boring ways. What a silly thing to be proud of. "Will wanted to be a pararescueman—a PJ. He said that there was nothing greater than falling out of the sky. "

  “PJs are awesome. Did he ever take you jumping?"

  The unease I felt talking about Will had faded. It was kind of interesting talking to someone about the military who knew about it, knew the sorts of things Will was seeking when he was enlisted.

  "No. Wed talked about it but then, you know. . . ” I shook my head. Dragging up Will’s death was just not a place I wanted to go. “How long are you here for?”

  He didn’t answer right away, maybe contemplating how messed up I was with my condo full of Will’s old things, the ring still on my finger, and me pawing at his clothes. I wanted to tell him that I wasn’t screwed up at all but that he’d surprised me. Or my feelings surprised me.

  “Forty-five days,” he finally said, giving me no insight into what he was thinking.

  “Forty-five days?” I gaped at him. “So many weeks off! The only time I got to see Will for any extended period of time was between Basic and jump school. Even before he went to paratrooper training in Alaska I didnt get to see him that long. ”

  Gray shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “I haven’t signed my re-enlistment papers. My contract is up in six months. ”

  The military had you sign contracts. I knew the first contract was usually for four years of active duty and then Will had said that they tried to lure you into signing new contracts with promises of a better job or more money or both. Gray looked to be in his mid-twenties, although he could be younger. Deployment in a war zone aged you, Will had told me. Young recruits would go over and return months later looking like they were ten years older “How long have you been in?”

  “Eight years. ”

  “And you’re thinking of separating?”

  I felt, rather than saw, him nod. He was reluctant to share his dilemma and why not? I was a stranger so I just drove on until we reached Adam’s house. I stopped the Land Rover at the top of the hill but Gray made no move to get out.

  “I can’t decide. I think they gave me a meritorious promotion to staff sergeant because they want me to stay in. I don’t deserve it. ” He was frustrated, not quite pulling all of his thoughts together coherently. “There’s a lot more responsibility now. I’ve got to pay attention to the regs better. My dad, he says there are better things out there for me…” He trailed off, his indecision making him more attractive to me than all his alpha male posturing could have.

  “When Will died, I dropped out of college, and I’ve never gone back. The last two years…I spent the time bartending, just marking each day as it went by. ” I watched him as he stared out the window, the air conditioning in the Rover making the only noise for a while.

  “I took a community college course last fall when I got back from Afghanistan,” he said finally, still looking out the window. He’d cupped the back of his head with one hand, rubbing the back of his neck to ease whatever tension had built up. “Other guys who’d gotten out said that community college was better because the students were older, but there’s still such a b
ig difference between me and the others. When I was running raids, they were watching epic battles between wizards and monsters. I felt disconnected. When I finished that course I didn’t go back. I’m not sure college is for me. Both my dad and my grandfather were career Marines. I joined right out of high school. Every time I encounter civilians, its like we speak a different language. I get tired of explaining to everyone that not every military guy is a soldier," Gray grumbled.

  I smiled. Marines were touchy about being referred to as soldiers. "Will obviously never had that problem. "

  “There are four branches of the military. Only one has soldiers. ”

  At Gray’s continued disgruntlement, I laughed out loud. “I know. Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. ”

  “Thank you. ”

  We sat there for a moment in companionable silence and for once I didnt feel the need to rush to say something. Even though he wasn’t touching me, I still felt a connection between the two of us. It could have been our shared experience but I couldn’t remember the last time I enjoyed just talking with someone. A transient thought niggled at the corner of my mind and I asked the question before I could give it much thought. "Have you lost anyone?"

  "A couple guys early on. But not a spouse," he said quietly. "I get that that’s different. "

  His respectful tone made me feel somber. I looked out the window into the quiet night. There was little noise back here. The streets were illuminated by sporadic streetlights, and the only sound was the quiet rumble of the engine.

  "A loss is a loss. " I hated the measuring of grief.

  "Can I ask you a question?"

  "No. "

  "Seriously?"

  "If you have to ask the prefatory question then you already know the follow up is a bad idea. "

  He’d repositioned himself so his back was resting against the window showing no signs of wanting to leave. Strangely my early frustration had given way and I wasn’t anxious for the loss of his company either. Gray chewed on his thoughts for a moment and then asked his question anyway. "Whats the hardest thing about being a widow?"

  Ugh, seriously. I didnt want to talk about my sad situation with Gray anymore. I was beginning to feel like that poor young widow again instead of Sam, the girl Gray wanted to have coffee with—if only for a small window of time. Heaving an exasperated sigh, I leveled the most annoying military question ever at him. "Did you kill anyone?"

  "Not even on the same level," he argued. I bet if I looked at him hed have a pissy expression on his face.

  Sighing, I gave in. "What do you want to know?"

  "A pog in my platoon died during my second year. You know what a pog is?"

  "In the rear with the gear. Persons other than grunts," I trotted out. Id picked up some military lingo while Will was in. Id wanted to be supportive and helpful even though I hadnt entirely agreed with his decision.

  "Right, non-infantry. But damn good guys. Anyway, he had a young wife and a kid. I think shes twenty-three or twenty-four. Older than you, but not much. He died, and she was still around base. Everyone was super careful with her, and finally one day, she broke down at the PX and screamed that shes fine. Only obviously she isnt fine. Later I guess she goes home and swallows a bottle of pills and has to be taken to the ER. "

  I winced. "Horrible story. "

  "I knew him. I felt like he was one my guys even though he wasn’t a grunt. " A genuine sorrow weighted his words.

  “So you felt like she was partly your responsibility?"

  "In some ways. I mean, theres a big support network for military widows around the base and I went to visit her, but I felt helpless. I wished I couldve done more. Plus, because he died, she was going to have to move off the base anyway. ”

  His expression of regret tugged at me. "Maybe if you wrote her a letter about how vital a member of your platoon he’d been, shed appreciate that," I suggested.

  "Yeah, maybe. " His hand reached up to rub the back of his neck again and he sighed. "Sorry for bringing it up. "

  "Ive always thought that the girlfriends and fiancées had it worse. " I wasnt sure why I was extending this topic.

  "Whys that?" In the dim light I couldnt see his eyes but I felt them. He was not only listening to me but hearing me, and I understood him in return. My heart stretched toward him.

  "Because they dont get the same consideration even though they were in love. I mean the difference between getting the funeral flag and the brass bullet casings was two months for me. Two months earlier and his mom wouldve gotten those things. "

  "So you feel guilty because you have them?"

  "A little. Like Im an imposter—like I dont deserve to grieve like others have. But I got the visit, the commemorative things, the people checking up on me. " God, I couldnt believe I was sharing this stuff with him—this guy who Id stared at, kissed, argued with. But he didnt turn away at all. He just kept looking and listening, like what I had to say really interested him.

 
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JEN FREDERICK SERIES:

Woodlands