She'd surprised him more than a little bit calling Friday afternoon to tell him she'd be ready for them to get there any time after five o'clock.
He was doubtful, she could tell, and didn't blame him. She'd forced herself, though, to stop everything around thirty minutes ago. Everyone had the entire weekend off. She'd probably come in at some point, but she couldn't expect everyone else to care as much as she did. They weren't their designs they were working on, they were just there to put things together so Field's could see the patterns worked. From there, once they were satisfied, they'd go to whoever Field's used to produce the mass amounts needed to stock their stores.
She'd had no idea what to expect out of Fashion Week. She assumed she'd get a couple of nibbles, maybe some larger scale boutiques like the smaller ones she already serviced in the Chicago area. She'd about had a heart attack when they started talking contracts and the amount of money involved. It was easy for John to judge her inability to do anything but work, but he had no idea the dollar figure she was so close to getting. It wasn't a huge figure if she'd been part of a large company, but since she had little overhead and wasn't a large company the figure was astounding. Something to celebrate.
That was why she'd decided to take the weekend off. She'd been so busy since, God she couldn't even remember when she'd taken a weekend for herself. Living with John didn't count because she'd been forced away from her office, and even there she'd taken very little time off once they'd gotten her stuff there.
She'd brought a change of clothes with her, used the shower in the bathroom that only she had a key for. She wasn't even sure anyone knew what was behind the locked door and she didn't plan on changing that because she only used it for emergencies. Tonight wasn't really an emergency, but she still thought it was a pretty good reason to use it.
It'd been so long since she'd had an actual date. Again, she didn't really count the times she did things with John while staying with him because they'd already been together when he suggested them. This, though, he was driving out here to see her.
Granted, Liz and Abby were coming along so she supposed it wasn't really a date as far as dates went, but she didn't mind. She liked Liz and she totally understood that she came as part of the deal with John. Abby Claire didn't know well enough to like, but from what she'd seen to this point the girl hadn't done anything to make Claire think she wasn't nice, too.
It had blown Claire away that one of Liz's friends liked the dresses featured in the People from the GRAMMY's well enough that she'd become a fan. She supposed that was how it worked, but it was still odd for her to think that anyone she knew in any capacity knew her work before they knew her.
"I thought you said she had a secretary," Liz said from the front.
"She does. I don't know where she is."
"She, along with everyone else, are gone for the weekend."
"It's not even five o'clock yet."
"I know. I told her to put five on her time sheet anyway. I figured everyone deserved a bit of a break this weekend. I've been kind of a madwoman."
She rolled her eyes. "I know, right? Shocking!"
"You look nicer than when I saw you Tuesday."
"Thank you. I'd be insulted except I know I looked pretty bad Tuesday."
"Well, bad is relative. Bad for you is still pretty good."
"Thank you," she said. "I'm still glad you think I look nicer."
"So you guys want to see some things now?" she asked Liz and Abby.
"Really?" Liz asked.
"Well, yeah, isn't that why John brought you guys?"
"I thought he was joking."
"Nope, not joking at all. Come on back, I think there's quite a few things that are close to being done. Just pardon the mess."
She stood aside a bit, letting Liz and Abby look around. She answered their questions when they asked something, but overall they just seemed to think it was cool to see the different stages. There were things here from the very beginning of getting put together to things as finished as they were going to get waiting for Claire to review them and give the final approval.
"What are these things?" Liz asked.
"Well, I already have clients so I have to keep producing things for them, too. So, I'm trying to keep everything separate as best as I can. Those stations are the two people I have to work on those accounts. That way no one gets confused."
"Some of these things look kind of big," Abby said.
"Oh, yeah, those are for a maternity store in Northbrook. It's actually one of my favorite accounts because I've seen some pretty awful maternity clothes for businesswomen over the years. And, the best part is they have a small selection of baby things so I even get to design some of those things. Like special outfits for the baby. You know, coming home from the hospital and baptisms."
"You design baby clothes?" John asked.
"Not a lot. I'm certainly no expert on what sells every day, but I know what people who have big, formal baptisms are looking for it seems because the stuff sells like crazy."
"Huh," he said.
"Who knew?" she asked.
"I sure didn't."
"And I'm not supposed to tell anyone this, but I'm designing a dress for someone going to the Golden Globes in January. That's being worked on here. It's just about finished."
"Really?" Liz and Abby both asked.
"Yes. It's for someone in the show Married…With Children. It's set in Chicago, and I guess she decided it'd be neat to use one of my designs since I'm from Chicago."
"That is so cool," Liz said.
"The mom?" John asked.
"No," Claire said. "Not the mom."
"She's been nominated a few times, I figured it'd be her."
"Well, they haven't announced the nominations yet I guess, but she assumes the mom would be nominated again. So I'm designing the dress she'll wear assuming the mom gets nominated."
"Is she picking up the dress?"
Claire laughed. "No, and I wouldn't tell you even if she was."
"Oh come on," he said.
She laughed. "Yes, just what I want to do, tell you when someone you think is beautiful is going to be here."
"She's cute, I wouldn't say beautiful."
"I can't wait until spring," Liz said.
"Me neither," Claire said.
"John said you'd take me with you to Field's one day."
"Sure, if you still want to go then. I'd love to. My mom's excited, but she sort of thinks it's not as big of a deal."
Claire laughed a little. "Well, she says it's because she isn't surprised, expected it all along. You know? I'm not sure if that's the real reason. She's not real good at showing emotions. Maybe inwardly she's as excited as I am. I'll never know."
"Thanks for letting us see," Abby said.
"Sure," she said.
"All right, guys," John said. "Let's go before Claire changes her mind about going to dinner with us."
"I'm not going to."
"You say that, I believe you mean it, but I can see your mind working even as we stand here."
"Well, of course, that's why I work so long because my mind is always working, seeing what I can improve."
"You're not going to improve anything tonight except maybe my mood."
"Your mood, huh," she said.
"Yes. Dinner with my girls puts me in a good mood for some reason."
"And you think it could be improved?"
He chuckled softly, grabbing her hand. She went to him when he tugged her toward him and kissed her.
"That's a definite start in the right direction," he said softly.
"I think my mood is better, too."
"That is very good to hear," he said. "You have a few weeks to make up for."
"I take it you talked to her," she whispered.
"I did," he said. "You hungry?"
"Good. Let's go. We brought a couple of movies."
"Oh, okay, you didn't have to…"
"I know, they wanted to."
"Liz thought you and I might want to go out for a drink or something later," he whispered against her ear.
"Liz thought that?"
"I like the way she thinks because I could use a drink."
"Why are we whispering?"
"I'm not sure how much Abby's going to go back and report to her mother about us."
"Oh," she said, blushing deeply. "Are you wanting her to go back and report things?"
"Only good things."
"Well, we better work on giving her lots of good things to report then."
"Yeah, she seemed to take you going home as some sort of…sign."
"I see," Claire said. "She thought what? I'd just stay there once the case was done?"
"I'm not really sure what she thought. I imagine Liz told Abby who told her mother that you weren't around anymore and didn't come around either. It probably made her think…"
"Does she not know the concept of having a job?"
He chuckled. "I don't know what she knows. I told you I have no interest in her and I've never given her any indication I would be."
"Oh, I believe you."
"I'm very glad, though I don't know it might be kind of fun to see you jealous," he whispered. He kissed her neck, drawing away. "Let's go then."
"I have to lock up and stuff, so I'll be right out. Okay?"
"Sure, are you going to leave your car here?"
"That's fine. You can bring me to get it later on or tomorrow."
"I can do that."
She flipped out the lights, made sure everything was shut down and quiet for the weekend before heading out. A part of her thought taking tonight off was a real bad idea, but seeing the excited look on Liz's face made her think it wasn't as bad as all that.
She locked the door behind her, pulling on it to be sure it was secure before walking to his car. He was waiting by her door for her.
"Wow," she said as he opened her door for her. "What's that for?"
"You deserve it."
"Thank you, but really. What's it for?"
"Well, you do deserve it, but it's to show them that they should expect it, too."
"Oh," she said, glancing at both girls in the backseat before she got in.
They went to a restaurant that served everything from sandwiches and burgers to salads to actual meals and everything in between. It was a pretty popular place downtown and it was Friday night, but they'd gotten there at a decent enough hour that they didn't have to wait too long.
"So how are you guys liking sixth grade?"
"It's good," Abby said.
"It's fine," Liz said.
"You're at the same school, right?"
"Yes, Mary and Chris are, too," Liz said.
"Well, that's good at least. It has to help even if you don't have a lot of classes together."
"We don't," Abby said.
"No, just lunch."
"Maybe next semester you will."
"Maybe," Abby said.
Claire remembered sixth grade, switching classes for the first time. It was a little overwhelming.
"I still can't believe another one of your dresses is going to be on TV."
"It probably won't be. It'll be at the awards ceremony, presuming the mom gets nominated as expected, I guess. I don't know what she'll do if she doesn't. Go to the ceremony anyway? The dad gets nominated, too, doesn't he?"
"Yeah, they're both pretty funny. You don't watch?" John asked.
"I've seen it, but not regularly, no."
"We'll have to fix that."
She leaned in to kiss his cheek before brushing her lips against his ear.
"There have to be better things you can think of do with me when I have free time than watch TV."
"Well, yeah, plenty. Would you like a list?"
She laughed softly. "No, that's okay."
"Pity. It's pretty lengthy."
"Maybe some other time."
"It's going to keep getting longer."
"Hmm, you think of that many things?"
"Only every day."
"That sounds like it may take us a while to get through."
"Oh, you know, fifty or sixty years maybe."
"I'll make it that long."
"I think I like that idea."
He cleared his throat softly, glancing at Liz and Abby who were watching them rather intently. Neither seemed to be really listening to what they were saying, though. Claire was glad of that. She rested her head against his shoulder lightly as she let her hand rest against his thigh.
"So, what movies did you guys bring?" she asked.
"Jurassic Park, Sleepless in Seattle, and, um," Liz said.
"The Fugitive, wasn't it?" John asked.
"Yes! Have you seen any of them?"
"No, I admit I haven't, so all good choices. I assume they are anyway, because you picked them."
"Really?" John asked. "None of them?"
"No. Why would I?"
"I don't know."
She lifted her head from against his shoulder to look at him. "You think I exaggerate when I talk about how focused I've been. I'm not exaggerating. I haven't done much of anything."
"I think just that admission has made me add about thirty things to that list."
She laughed softly. "I know, I've lived a very sheltered existence."
"Jurassic Park was like huge last year. How could you have not seen it?"
"I don't know. Now ask me what colors were in last year and I could run circles around you."
He sighed softly. "Now I'm reconsidering that drink."
"Well, yeah, I sort of feel like it's my duty."
"To make me watch movies?"
"Put like that it's pretty ridiculous sounding."
"She could keep the movies for a while," Liz offered. "Couldn't she? I mean, it's not like after watching them tonight or tomorrow I'll need to watch them again for a while."
"She could," John offered.
"I'll never watch them if I don't with you guys, so take them home tomorrow and whatever I don't watch tonight I'll watch with you the next time I come over. Your brother mentioned my coming over for dinner one night."
"Sure," Liz said.
"So did you bring your design with you?"
"No, it's not done yet. I started over because Abby said she thought it was dumb."
"I did not!"
"You did, too. You didn't have to say it, I could tell you thought it was dumb."
"Well, I don't know, it just wasn't you, you know."
"Yeah, that's the tricky part when you're designing for yourself. What you like and what are good for you may not be the same thing. You should've brought it with you. Did you throw it away?"
"Next time I'm there we'll look at it, maybe there's something we can do to make it more you."
"Maybe. I tried."
"I'm sure you did. We'll figure it out."
Dinner didn't take that long so they were at her place by seven o'clock.
"You're setting your alarm I see," John observed.
"I admit I do feel safer, and I know that's probably not the greatest thing."
"Alarms are better than none."
"I know. You don't have one."
"I have Lofton. I don't need one, but you won't get a dog."
"I can't take care of a dog, John!"
"I know, I'm just saying. You want the protection it's either one or the other."
She showed Abby and Liz to their room, hoping they didn't mind sharing a bed. She'd told John she only had the one spare bed. She'd certainly slept with her girlfriends at sleepovers over the years when she was younger. John followed her to her room.
"I guess I never paid attention to your bed."
"How do you mean?"
"Well I've only been here a couple of times and it wasn't for a social call, so I never paid attention to the fact you have a king-sized bed."
"Oh, yeah, I splurged."
"I guess. It seems a shame to let all that space go to waste."
"I've thought that fairly regularly the past month or so."
"Never had any reason to."
"Hmm," he said.
"The door's supposed to stay open, though, remember?"
He chuckled. "Yeah, I remember. Doesn't mean I can't think about it."
"No, I suppose not."
"Thanks for coming to dinner with us."
"Thank you for dinner. I had fun."
"It's good for you. You look better."
"I looked bad you mean?"
"No, I don't mean that. You just look relaxed. Like you're letting your brain stop working for a little while."
"I suppose I am."
"Well, that's good, right?"
"I guess so."
"So, movies or drinks?"
"Movies for now."
"All right," he said. "You're sure?"
"Yes. Maybe after the first one I'll change my mind. I'm not used to just sitting still for hours at a time."
"Okay. We'll play it by ear then."
"You get every weekend off?" she asked.
"One of the perks of being a detective, barring an open case that requires us to work. Yes. Why?"
"I was thinking at dinner it would be kind of nice if maybe this became a habit for you and Liz."
"You coming down here, staying a night with me."
"Yeah, you could even, I don't know, leave a toothbrush here or something."
"What if I don't want to bring Lizzie every Friday night?"
"Well, that'd be up to you, I guess."
"So, it's not a package deal?"
She laughed. "That's a loaded question, because of course she's included. Not to say I wouldn't welcome some time with just you, too."
"A toothbrush, huh?"
"Yeah, well, you know, a razor or something, too. So you wouldn't have to worry about having what you need every time."
"That's a pretty quick turnaround, Princess, from not wanting to even see me."
"I changed my mind."
"Do I get the same thing?"
"Same thing what?"
"One night during the week from you? Barring some catastrophe that legitimately keeps you at work or me at work, but of course you'd still be welcome to stay there."
"It might be late when I'd get there."
"So you call me when you're leaving so I know you're on your way and if I fall asleep between the time that you call and when you get there you wake me up." He chuckled softly. "It shouldn't be that difficult to answer."
"I just don't want you to get mad at me if I can't."
"I get you have deadlines, but one night during the week you'd get some sleep. Is that so bad?"
"No," she sighed. "I'd get sleep, but I'd also have to leave your house super early to get to work on time."
"You are the boss, aren't you? Your employees know what they're supposed to do if you're not there, right?"
"I mean, because I know you have meetings with clients and stuff so you're not there every second of every day to begin with."
"You can think on it. It's a deal from my end without my having to think about it."
"I don't have to think on it either, not really."
"Is that a yes?"
"It's a yes."
"Hmm. Then I choose Wednesday and Saturday."
"Well, because Saturday means it could turn into most of the day Sunday so I'm almost getting two days out of my day."
"You watch football on Sunday."
"I can watch football here with you."
He chuckled. "Oh come on, I'm willing to wear a suit and stuff for you."
"Yeah, I know."
"Okay, let's go watch some movies with them then before they think we've forgotten about them. You can let me know your decision later."
"No, I don't need to. I'll watch football with you. I may work while it's on."
"I'd expect no less from you, Princess."
"You say that and I can't help but thinking it's not a good thing."
"It is what it is. It comes with part of the package, I accept that."
The Fugitive was really very good. She knew about the TV series, of course, but she didn't know much about it beyond the one-armed man angle. Liz put Sleepless in Seattle in next.
"I thought you wanted me to see Jurassic Park."
"I'm going to save it for when you're at our house next time," Liz said.
"That's my sister, always plotting."
"I think you paid her."
"Maybe," he said with a chuckle.
"Isn't this a love story?" she asked.
"Uh yeah," he said.
"And you'd rather see this than a movie about dinosaurs?"
"How do you know there are dinosaurs in it?"
"Because the cover shows pictures of dinosaurs. I can see, you know?"
"I told Lizzie it was her and Abby's choice what we watched since I wasn't even sure we'd be here to watch."
"Oh," she said.
"Besides, there's nothing wrong with love stories. I like Tom Hanks."
"All right," she said.
She evidently wasn't the only one tired because Abby and Liz went to their room before the movie had finished.
"School must be hard work," John said with a soft laugh when they'd left the living room.
"Then, maybe they're trying to give us time to be alone since we didn't go out somewhere."
"I'd have felt kind of bad doing that my first time seeing her after so long."
"Maybe next time then."
"That was sweet," she said when it was over.
"Yeah, it wasn't bad. I wouldn't watch it twenty times in a row or anything, but it's enjoyable. Funny at times."
"True. You're not a bad guy."
She shrugged. "I don't know. I know guys who wouldn't own a movie like that let alone choose to watch it."
"I'm secure with myself to be able to watch and like a movie like that and not think it makes me weird."
"You're not going to make me watch it again, are you?"
She laughed. "No," she said, standing from the couch. She offered him her hand which he took and led him to her room. Liz and Abby had shut their door, but from what she could tell they were quiet now. They hadn't been right away, but Claire had expected that.
"What are you doing" she asked when he started shutting the door.
"Relax. I'm not going to shut it all the way."
She went to her bathroom then to get ready for bed. It was very strange to do that with him here, knowing he was in her room waiting for her. He was going to use her bathroom, she presumed he was anyway because he was sharing her room with her.
They talked for a while after he joined her in bed. They didn't talk about anything, just things. It was sort of weird, something completely foreign to her. It was nice, though. Very nice, she had to admit, to lay there in his arms and just talk about when it rained last, the fact she needed an oil change on her car, and that his partner had gone out with the same woman more than once.
She turned in his arms when they both seemed ready to try to sleep.
"Why are you wearing pants?" he whispered, kissing her ear.
"You heard me, I know you did."
"I can't not wear them with them here."
"They're eleven not two. They're not going to come in here in the middle of the night needing us."
"Well, you could take them off if they really bother you."
"Yeah?" he asked.
"I wouldn't stop you."
"Much better," he whispered once he'd slid them off.
"You still have something on," she said.
"Shorts, which wouldn't stop you from touching me if you really wanted to," he said.
He chuckled softly, grabbing her hand and bringing it to the front of his shorts and the slit there.
"See," he whispered. She didn't pull her hand away, touching him instead. He was already hard, which she supposed was because he was in bed with her and it had been a while. He slid his hand between her legs, too, fingers touching her and sliding inside of her the way she really liked.
"John," she whispered.
"Shh," he said.
He used his arm to draw her closer against him. She went willingly and then he was there and her breath caught for a minute as he slid inside of her. He kissed her shoulder to her neck, sliding a hand along her thigh before finding her nub.
"Fast or slow?" he asked against her ear.
"Well, how worried are you they're going to catch us?"
"Not that worried. You know how they sleep better than I do."
"I like that answer, because fast didn't appeal to me at all tonight."
"Nuh uh," he said.
It was the last thing either of them said for a while. They'd never purposely been quiet before because they'd always been alone before now. She'd heard women talk about men from behind not appealing to them and she couldn't fathom why at the moment. Not only did he feel absolutely incredible inside of her this way, but he was able to touch her everywhere yet almost make it seem as if he was hugging her at the same time. The only downside was the lack of kissing, but he made up for not being able to kiss her mouth by kissing every other part of her he could. He was anything but fast when he finally finished. He stayed like that, too, and she thought it was a pretty nice way to fall asleep.
And to get woken up the next morning. He wasn't as slow or gentle this time, but she didn't mind at all. He used his fingers to be sure she finished before he did.
"Good morning," he said, kissing her shoulder before rubbing his cheek against the spot.
"Hi," she said.
"Hope you don't mind my version of a wakeup call. I came back to bed after going to the bathroom and I guess I couldn't resist."
"No, I could get used to that."
"You could, huh?"
"It definitely works if you don't want to get caught obviously having sex."
"Hmm," she said.
"And no I haven't done that because Lizzie was down the hall before."
"I know. You said you didn't do that with her home. I believe you. You knew you were going to do that before you did it?"
"I thought about it. I wasn't sure you'd let me."
"Well, I don't know. Some women don't like that."
"They're stupid and clearly don't know what they're missing out on."
"You're not missing out on it."
"I'm just lucky then, I guess."
"That mean you'd like to do that again?"
He chuckled. "I meant some other time, but it's early yet I could probably be convinced to again if you were of the mind to use your hand."
"Oh, no, that's fine. I just wasn't sure what you were asking. Yes, I'd do it again."
She turned in his arms then and kissed him.
"I did miss that," she said.
"Yeah, sorry. I did the best I could."
"It's okay. I'm not complaining."
She got up to go to the bathroom.
"Are they awake yet?" she asked when she got back into bed.
"Not that I've heard. It's not even eight o'clock, they'll probably be asleep for a while yet."
"Good," she said.
"Yeah? What did you have in mind?"
"You did tell Liz, right?"
"Yes, I did."
"And she was okay with it?"
"Our being involved? Yes. She didn't say much, I think she sort of figured it out on her own that we like each other."
She giggled softly at that.
"I don't know, the simplicity of that statement is funny."
"What that we like each other?"
"Well, we do. She said she knew the day we went to the movie and dinner and I called you Princess. She said she'd never heard me call anyone anything like that before."
"Oh, I know, just thinking about it from an eleven-year-olds frame of reference and ours is kind of funny."
"Uh huh. So what were you thinking?"
"Well, I was going to see if you wanted to take a shower with me."
"Yes," she said. "Then after we get dressed we could make them breakfast. I went grocery shopping Thursday night before I came home so my fridge is full of all sorts of stuff. I even bought orange juice."
"I thought so. I tried anyway."
"You want a shower first?"
"With you would be nice."
"You realize I, uh, may not stay completely focused on taking a shower, right?"
"I sort of figured that might happen."
"How big is your shower anyway?"
She laughed softly. "It's not that big, but I'm sure we can make it work."
"Please tell me we're going to shut the bathroom door?"
"And then cooking breakfast?"
"Yes. That seems a logical progression of things."
"Okay," he said. "I think I like this spending the night at your place thing."
"I don't know. I'm not complaining about you before, don't get me wrong, but I always felt as if I was the one suggesting things. You know? I like hearing your ideas, too."
"I'm getting to the point where I'm getting a few."
"You didn't last month?"
"Not really. I wasn't even sure what I was doing!"
"You did just fine."
"Should I be wondering why you think you know what you're doing now?"
She laughed softly. "Probably not for the reason that you think. I've just had lots of time on my hands. I draw people, bodies, figures. It's logical that when I'm drawing them now that I have experience to put with those bodies I think of things."
"I see. Well, you have ideas you want to share with the class don't be shy or wait for me to call on you."
"I just told you one of my ideas."
"And I like it. Let's go before you change your mind."
"I'm waiting for you."
"Oh well, I'm sorry I'm holding things up."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com