Chapter Twenty-Three
Word Count: 1,379

"So about graduation," John said much later in bed.

"What about it?"

"Should I go? She asked me if I was, but I don't want to cause any problems."

She scoffed softly.

"Okay. Any additional problems. I realize I'm responsible for her needing to graduate and everything."

"We're both responsible."

"You're right. Come to think of it I should hold you way more responsible than I ever have."

She laughed against his chest. "Why?"

"It's your fault! Kissing me."

"No one had kissed you before?"

"Not like you did," he whispered.


"No one had ever…"

"Yes, you've told me before no one's asked you to do that."

He chuckled. "Begged me would be more like it."

She shrugged. "I was curious. And I loved you."

"Anyone would think we were nuts saying we felt that in less than a day."

"I know. We're not anyone, though."

"No," he whispered.

"Yes, you should go," she whispered.

"All right."

"I'll clear it with my dad and everything. If they have a problem with it they can stay home."


"No, really. She's entitled to have her father there if she wants to."

"All right. She told me the date and we're free, but I wouldn't be able to get there until Saturday morning. Possibly Friday night late. We're playing in Dallas that night I think Claude said."

"Oh," she said.

"I'd fly to Chicago and then fly to meet them at our next city. I won't complain about a weekend not spent with them on a tour bus," he said dryly.

"I bet. Why didn't you use it this past summer?"

"We played only at Shermer Days so no need really. We had a van that we towed behind the bus until this past April when it died. We'll probably look at getting something else before we head out again so that we have a ride without the expense of a rental in every city. I guess we figured without the van we may as well fly. I don't know any of us really thought about it. It was a little different this past summer. We weren't touring like we will be starting in June so it wasn't moving from one town to the next constantly. We had breaks where we could go our own way for a few days if we wanted."

"But buying a car…"

"We just need it to get around towns in so it's not like it needs to do anything but run decent."

"I suppose."

"You going to come out on the bus with us?"

She snorted softly. "No, but I suppose Melissa will, won't she?"


"And you're comfortable with that?"

"Yes. No one's going to do anything to her. She'll have her own bunk and it has a curtain-like thing that closes it off from the aisle. We can go take a look at it before you leave if you want."

"It's down here?"

"Yes. The guy who did the detailing on the bus lets us store it there when we're not using it. Free advertising and stuff."

"Oh," she said.

"You worried about her and Sean?"

"A little, I guess."

"She said they're not really talking anymore."

"I know. I guess I worry that she'll try to do something to make him change his mind."

"I don't think they'd do that on the bus and she's going to be in my room for a reason," he said.

"And you don't care that people see her leaving your room?"

"No, I've already told both of you I'm being cautious for your sakes more than mine."

"Just making sure you've thought of that."

"I have."

"You're going to get asked a lot of questions."

"I imagine I am."

"Like where she's been the past eighteen years."

"I know. I haven't figured out how to answer that one yet."

"Do you have to answer?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. No answer is going to paint anyone in the greatest light. I've paid child support and haven't seen her. You've taken my money and haven't encouraged me to see her."


"I'm not angry. I'm just stating the facts."

"I know. You just make it sound so calculating."

He shrugged. "I was pretty mad at you for a long time."

"I'm sure. I was, too, though."

"Rape charges, Claire. I couldn't fight those back then. Let alone I had no idea if that's what you'd told him happened. I wasn't going to go look you up after that on the chance it wasn't."

"I know."

"I had thought about it. Before he came to the house that day, I mean. I'd thought about once I had some cash in my pocket, knew I had something to offer you, finding you at school."

"Did you?"

"I absolutely did. I just knew I couldn't show up broke with no job to speak of."

He chuckled softly. "Your silence tells me I was spot on."

"You were."

"I wish you would've."

"I couldn't have paid for your school and stuff, and you said those were your dad's conditions."

"I know."

"You would have gone against him?"

"At least I would have known you felt the same way."

"And what not see me for four years?"

"He couldn't have stopped you from seeing her."

"I'm not so sure about that. I'm sure he would've come up with something. Drug charges or just suspicion of drug use. You lived at home until graduation, right?"

"Yes, but not when I was at school."

"I suppose," he said, not having thought on that. "I was so pissed that wasn't on my mind."

"I know," she whispered.

"As far as what to say. We should both sort of agree on something, shouldn't we? So we don't look like liars."

"I suppose."

"Something like the agreement we had was to keep her out of the limelight."

"Yes, but that wouldn't explain why you didn't see her."

"I was eighteen and a dumb fuck. That should be pretty self-explanatory."

"I'm not going to say that."

"You wanted to have a baby. I wasn't ready to be a dad. By the time I thought I might be it was sort of too late."

"That sounds a little more reasonable except I didn't get married until three years ago."

"Well, yes, but you dated him for quite a while before that, right."

"Yes," she said.


"What kind of question is that?"

"Why'd it take you so long?"

She shrugged and sighed. "I don't know. He was older. I've told you that. I just really wasn't convinced he wanted me and not just some symbol of something he could obtain." She slid a hand along his thigh. "I'd never let myself get close to anyone again really. I don't know."

"Was he a good guy?"

"He was a very good guy. He deserved so much better than a wife who wasn't completely in love with him. I did the best I could and I don't think he had anything really to complain about in the grand scheme of things. He knew that I'd never quite gotten over you."

"I'm sorry. You wouldn't have wanted me ten years ago. You wouldn't have wanted me a year ago more than likely."

"That was the problem. I always did."

He shifted a bit, sliding his hand along her ass and lower between her legs. She pressed her ass against him as he slid a finger inside of her and kissing the spot on the back of her neck she was pretty fond of him doing that to.

"I think I always did, too. I think you were the reason I couldn't have a lasting relationship. I never felt for them what I'd felt for you."

"It sucks, doesn't it?"

"You have no idea," he whispered. He'd craved it. Belonging. Something solid. A relationship to prove he wasn't his old man. That he was better than his parents. The more it didn't happen the further he delved into the bottle or the drugs.

He didn't want to think about it anymore. Not tonight.

"John," she whispered.

"Uh huh," he murmured, kissing her shoulder. He brushed his cheek against her skin there.

"I want you on top of me."

"Me, too," he said.

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