***Chapter Seven***
Word Count: 2,873

"Wow, it smells great in here," John said, looking very sleepy. He'd come in during the night when she'd been in the bathroom and had been in his room, presumably asleep, by the time she'd come out. Maybe he hadn't realized she was really still awake, but she'd left the lights on in the dining room.

"Thank you," Claire said. "There's a plate for you in the oven, I figured you'd be up soon."

"You did, huh?"

"Well, yeah, Liz said you never slept real late even the nights you worked late."

"What about Liz?"

"What about her?" Claire asked.

"She eats, too," he said, walking to the oven to pull out the plate. She'd just made a breakfast casserole dish. It was the only thing she could come up with that would reheat or keep warm without looking disgusting after a little while of sitting.

"Well, of course she does. I know that. She ate with me and helped me put the dishes in the dishwasher."

"Oh," he said. He sat at the table and she brought him a glass of milk.

"You really thought I wouldn't feed her?" she asked.

"I wasn't really sure," he admitted. "She's not your responsibility."

"Bad night I take it because I know you know me better than that. First of all, the fact I cooked enough for you would tell you I did for her, too."

"An unproductive one. No offense, but your description is so vague."

"I'll remember the next time that I'm attacked to pay more attention to details."

"That's not fair or at all what I mean. It's just that it doesn't exclude many guys from the suspect pool. We know he's not blonde."

"Or black or red hair. I can't remember more than brownish."

"Yeah, like I said, vague."

"I know," she said. She was more than frustrated at herself. She wanted to help Sophie. She'd talked to her friend more than a couple of times and wished she could help ease her friend's mind that the guy would get caught.

"Thanks for breakfast. And if Lizzie didn't thank you, I will for her, too. This is real good."

"She did," Claire said.

"Wow, so that stuff that I teach her that she bitches about having to learn and do has paid off," he said.

Claire couldn't help but smile at that. "Yes, it seems to have worked with me anyway."

"Sit with me while I finish eating? Where is my sister anyway?"

"Um, she went for a bike ride with Mary."

"Ah, okay."

"That's all right? She said you'd be fine with it."

"I am. It is fine. Usually she leaves me a note, but I guess she figured you were the note."

"Not your first time working late nights I take it?"

"No. Why are you wearing the same clothes as you were when I left?"

"I haven't slept yet."

"Claire," he said, sounding very much as if that bothered him.

"I will soon. I couldn't go to sleep in the middle of something."

"All right. I'm not going to have you get sick on my watch."

"What do you guys do when you work late like that anyway?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, he seems to be out on weekends."

"Right, we've noticed that, too."

"So, why are you working all nights this whole week?"

"Well, we're interviewing everyone we can: bartenders, waitresses, security, and customers. Some we've already interviewed, but we're starting from scratch after the last girl."

"Wouldn't someone have come forward already if they had information?"

"Not always. Some don't want to get involved. Some don't even realize they saw or know anything. We're also asking about potential victims before you and Sophie. Even women who picked up a guy that turned a little too rough even if they got out of it unscathed for the most part."

"And people just talk about that stuff?"

He smirked a little. "About sex you mean?"

"Well, that, too, sure, but something that turned rough? They just tell you that."

"A month ago probably not, but when someone comes close to dying sometimes they start talking about things that they were embarrassed about the last time we spoke."

"Oh," she said.

"This is really good, by the way."

"I'm glad you like it."

"Sewing and cooking. What else can you do, Princess?"

"Evidently not identify a suspect."

"You did fine. I'll get it," he said when she reached to take his plate from the table.

"Thanks," she said. She stood when he did, though, watching as he cleared his plate. He rinsed it off before setting it in the dishwasher with the rest of the breakfast dishes. She hated to admit how much she liked watching him do things.

"What?" he asked. He'd obviously caught her looking.

"Nothing," she said.

He closed the distance between them, backing her up against the kitchen counter she was standing near.

"You don't look like it's nothing."

"Nothing, I swear," she said.

He slid his hands to her hips and tugged her to him gently.

"You were looking at me," he said.

"Yes," she said.

"You like what you see?"

"You know I do, I always have."

"That's good," he whispered before kissing her. She expected it, knew he was going to, and wanted him to more than she thought possible. She moaned softly as their lips met, sliding her arms around his neck as he parted his lips. She did, too, eagerly.

"I like you disheveled," he whispered, finding her ear and kissing her there.


He chuckled, sliding a hand from her hip to her stomach under her top.

"You're all untucked and stuff."

"That's good?"

"Yes," he groaned, sliding his hand higher along her stomach. "Makes you more touchable."

"Oh," she said, unable to say more when he cupped a breast.

"No bra either?"

"I took it off hours ago."

"No complaints," he murmured, finding the skin just under her ear. She gasped as he ran his tongue on the skin there.

"You sure? I could put it back on."

"No," he said, laughing softly.

He used his other hand to work the buttons on her top.

"Liz," she said.

"Will be gone for hours."

"You're sure?"


She slid her hands under his shirt then, pushing it up along his torso.

He stopped her, gripping her hand at the wrist preventing her from going further. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," he said.

"Okay," she replied, thoroughly confused. Weren't they doing this? "I thought…"

"You aren't wrong," he said.

"Then what?"

He sighed. "Can't it just stay on?"

"I'm sorry," she said, drawing away from him a bit. "What?"

"What's the big deal?"

"I'm supposed to let you undress me, but I can't do the same to you?"

"I need yours off to touch you."

"So do I."

"You don't need to touch me."

She saw when he realized what he'd just said sounded like. She didn't give him time to explain, clarify, or make some asinine excuse, though. She pushed him away and slipped out from in front of him.

"Claire," he called after her. She didn't turn around, though. She went to her room, closing the door behind her. She found one of the buttons on her top he'd worked open and tried to redo it with shaky hands.

"I'm so stupid," she said, letting her head fall back against the door.

"Claire," he said on the other side of the door.

"Go away."

"I'm not until you at least open your door."

"What? No, why would I do that?"

"Just open the door, Claire. One minute is all I'm asking for."

"That's rich," she said. "You don't deserve a minute. You are no less confusing than you were eight years ago."

"Claire, that's not fair. We're not in high school anymore."

"I don't want to see you right now."

"Please can you open the door? You do realize I could just open it myself."

She opened the door after a minute. It was his house.


"I didn't mean that the way it came out."

"You mean the part where you don't even want to get undressed before having sex with me? That part didn't come out sounding right?"

"I can see how it could be taken that way."

"I'm reminded of the fact you're also the one who said no at school that day."

"Shit. You're throwing that at me, too? It was wrong on so many levels for you to lose your virginity that way. I'm sure it was more enjoyable for you whenever and wherever it happened than in that closet."

"Whatever. I just wish you'd make up your mind."

"I want you."

"It doesn't seem that you do."

He turned around then and she sighed.

"Walking away proves my point."

"I'm not going anywhere. Lift up my shirt, Claire," he said.

"Why bother? I'm not having sex with you."

"Claire," he said, glancing at her over his shoulder. "Just do it before I change my mind and agree that this is better if this never happens between us."

"Fine," she said, lifting the bottom of his shirt. She got less than halfway up when she sucked in a breath at the scars and marks there.

"Not so pretty to look at or touch, is it?" he said.

"That you think this would bother me or stop me from sleeping with you is the most ridiculous and stupid thing I've heard."

"You want to see that?"

"Want to? Of course not, but it's part of you so in that way, I guess, yes I want to."

She leaned in, sliding her hands along his back and kissed one of the marks once his shirt was up high enough she could. She moved her mouth to the next scar, kissing it, too. She slid her hand around him, grazing his chest with a fingertip before letting them drift lower to his stomach.

There were so many, some were scars on top of scars so they were really raised and rough, festering looking and she couldn't even imagine what they'd looked like when they were fresh. It broke her heart he had so many, broke it even more at the idea that several had to have come at the expense of keeping his sister safe. He could've stopped it, fought back or left the house, but he'd stayed knowing it'd be her if he hadn't.

She worked his jeans open, her hand sliding inside and lower until she reached his length to cup him.

"Hmm," she said. She knew for a fact that he was a lot harder in the kitchen.

"Sorry," he whispered. "It's not you. The idea of you seeing those sort of dampened the mood."

"It's okay," she said softly, rubbing her cheek against his shoulder before kissing him there.

"Listen, I know being with someone who looks freakish is so much less than you deserve."

"Shut the door, John," she said.

She worked the one or two buttons on her top she'd managed to get fastened again, letting her shirt fall open while he shut the door. She slid his shirt further up, over his head and off. She dropped it on the floor at his feet.

"There's absolutely nothing wrong or freakish about you," she said. She kissed his shoulder, sliding her mouth to his collarbone to kiss him there, and finally his throat.

"You're sure she's gone for a while?" she asked.

"Yes, when she and Mary go for bike rides they're gone for hours. We'll be lucky to see her for dinner."

She kissed him then, lips parting almost immediately to meet his tongue. She took his hand, placing it over her breast again. He stroked her peak with his thumb. She gasped at the feelings coursing through her body because of him touching her. She'd reacted much the same way that day of detention and for whatever reason had never reacted to anyone as strongly again.

He slid his hand lower into the waistband of her pants.

"Why do you wear skirts every day except today?"

She laughed softly. "Just to be difficult I guess."

"You succeeded."

He worked her pants open, sliding his hand lower. She did the same, finding his length again.

"Better this time?" he asked.

"I wasn't mad or offended."

"If you say so, but I can assure you just the same it wasn't you," he said. He slid a finger through her curls on his way to finding her opening. She was so ready for him and she knew he felt the evidence of that.

She drew away a little and he followed her the short distance to the bed. He slid his shorts off before joining her there.

She watched as he slid on top of her. She gasped as he took a peak between his lips while he slid her pants off. Lower he kissed until he found her nub. She gasped as he licked and sucked her there. She gripped the sheets beneath her, clutching them as she lifted her hips off the bed. Eventually, he slid a finger all of the way inside of her after licking her opening.

She finished so hard and so fast that her body practically shuddered from the feeling that it caused.

"Been a while for both of us, I guess," he whispered as he slid himself up along her body. She hadn't noticed him do it, but he was naked now and pressing himself against her opening. She took him in, welcoming him, groaning softly and biting his shoulder a bit as he slid into her deeply. She explored, touching him everywhere that she could reach. She kissed him places, too.

He kissed her neck, sucking on the skin there causing her to gasp as he brought her over the edge again. She slid a foot along his calf, arching herself off the bed a little more as he increased his tempo of his thrusts inside of her.

He cried out, pulling out of her way before she was ready to have him gone. She watched as he slid his hand along his length, eyes open watching her as he finished over her stomach. She ran a fingertip through it, sighing softly for some reason at the feel of it against her skin.

"Sorry, you didn't say if you were on the pill or anything and I guess you'd have no reason to be."

"No, but it's okay. I'm not mad or mind."

"I'm glad because I wasn't willing to risk it."

"I know, I understand."

"I'll be right back," he said.

She frowned a little at that. He was leaving?

"What?" he asked

"Where are you going?"

"I was going to go to the bathroom to get you a washcloth."

"You don't have to. I have to shower later when I wake up anyway."

"You're sure?"

"I don't want you to go yet," she admitted. "Unless you need to go."

"All right," he said. "I was just trying to be considerate."

"You're fine."

He slid next to her on the bed and she settled against him. She ran a fingertip along his chest, unsure what exactly to say now.

"So," he said, breaking the silence after a few minutes.


"How is that possible?"

"I've been busy," she said with a shrug.

"I guess."

"You said you haven't in a while either."

"Yeah, but I'm not smart, talented, rich, or beautiful let alone all of those things in one very appealing package."

"I just haven't wanted to."

"Princess," he whispered. He rolled onto his side to face her. He slid a finger along her throat and shoulder.

"Don't worry. I don't expect you to marry me or anything. I wasn't waiting for anything like that."

"Well, after we've dated for a while maybe."

She scoffed.

"What about Liz?" she asked.

"What about her?"

"You said you don't do this when she's home."

"I think I'd be open to rethinking that policy with someone I was seriously involved with."

"Would she mind? You have a good relationship, I wouldn't want to interfere with that."

"I don't think she'd mind, no. I've done so much, everything, for her, I think she'd be reasonable enough to realize I deserve something, too."

"Some of her friends' mom's might."

"Yeah, well, they don't matter."

"I'm glad you think so."

"You realize I can't spend the night with you," he said.


He chuckled, lowering his mouth to her shoulder.

"At your place. If you wanted to spend the night together it'd have to be here."

"Unless you brought her to my place, too, but yes I know what the situation is."

"Assuming you want to do this again you mean."

"You're the one who said we shouldn't be involved."

"Yeah, I'm an idiot."

She laughed, sliding on top of him. She slid herself over him, not real surprised he was hard again.

"I guess you want to again."


"I made it bad for you?"


"I can tell. Have I mentioned I love a woman in charge?"

"No, but you can show me how much," she said, taking his hand and sliding it between her legs.

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