***Chapter Eighteen***
Word Count: 1,789

June 1995

“What is wrong with you tonight?” he asked. She'd been nervous and just jumpy in general all night long. The smallest sound in the house had her worried the kids were awake or waking up the baby.

“I'm just nervous I guess.”

“About what?”

She shrugged. “The next week.”


“I worry about Bill, that it will confuse him having them here.”

“I guess I'm not following,” he said.

Claire's in-laws were coming into town for the next week for Frank's baptism. John knew she talked to them, of course. He just hadn't been expecting that turn of events until she'd told him last weekend. She evidently thought she had mentioned it prior to then, but she hadn't. He assumed it was just an oversight. He knew she was busy. She hadn't worked since having little Frank, of course, but she still had two kids to feed and get places. Bill was in Little League. Her mom helped, John did, too, when he could, but overall she bore the brunt of it. As it was supposed to be given her circumstances he imagined.

She shrugged. “I'm sure it's just me being paranoid.”

“And you don't want me to go with you to the airport?”

“I'm perfectly capable of driving to the airport by myself, John.”

“Wow. Really? Have I suggested you're not?”

“No, I'm sorry. I just don't think that would be a good thing to do.”

“Why not?”

“Taking you to go pick up my in-laws? How is that a good idea?”

“You can't have friends?”

She sighed softly. “If it wasn't the first time I was seeing them since his funeral.”

“So, you want me to stay away for the next week?”

“I didn't say that! I just don't think taking you with me to pick them up from the airport is a good thing to do. Mom will stay home with the kids while I pick them up.”

“All right.”

“Thank you, though.”

“You're welcome. I'm sorry you're nervous.”

“It's okay. I just hope they don't think I'm doing a bad job.”

“A bad job of what?”

“They haven't seen their grandparents in a year, but they see my mom every day.”

“Yeah, you've been a little busy, haven't you? Working and stuff? No offense, but I didn't see them knocking down your door to come here during the school year. They could've. Bill and Justin flew on a plane here together back in August. I bet they could've done that just fine at Christmastime or something if they wanted to fly them out there to spend time with them.”

“I know that. I still worry.”

“You'll be fine, sweetheart.”

She slid onto his lap, sliding her arms around his neck.

“Claire,” he said cautiously.

“All three of the kids are asleep. Mom's out.”

“You have nothing to worry about. You are fine. You do fine. You have two kids who are doing great despite their dad dying a year ago. Cut yourself some slack. They're not here to judge or critique you. They just want to see their newest grandson.”

“You're right.”

“Of course I am.”

She laughed softly, leaning against his shoulder.

“I'm sorry I've been crazy the past week.”

“You have absolutely nothing to apologize for. I knew what date he died.”

“I just feel like I've been neglecting you.”

He scoffed.

“You've been a bit busy.”

“I was busy before I had Frank.”

“You weren't as busy. Work has picked up for me, too.”

“I know,” she whispered, kissing his neck.

“You're sure you're okay for this?”

“Yes! I was okay weeks ago.”

“Yeah, I know physically you were cleared, but I also know a year ago last week your husband of eight years died.”

“I'm okay,” she said, finding his ear and tugging on his shirt.

He stilled her hands, pulling them away. It would be so easy to let her keep going. He hadn't been inside of her for months and he really, really wanted to change that. He knew, though, the reasons weren't solid, right. He needed so much more from her than sex and if he did this now, tonight with her that'd be implying he was okay with just this.

“I can't, Claire.”


“This, what you're initiating, wouldn't be hormones. Need. Whatever you want to call it that was driving you before. This would be sex because you want to have sex.”


“I can't do that.”

He was an idiot. A moron of the biggest kind. What man in their right mind turned a woman like her away?

“Why not?”

“Because I don't want just sex from you.”


“Look at me,” he said.

She drew away and looked at him.

“I can't do it. I mean, I'm flattered and glad as hell you want to, but I won't do that. You don't do sex just for sex.”

“But we…”

“I've had months to think about this. You know? What I'd do. I wasn't sure you'd want to, you know?”

“Why would you think I wouldn't?”

“Because you've never had sex with anyone but Dan.”

“I've had sex with you.”

“Well, yeah, but that wasn't a willing choice. You didn't enter into it logically.”

“I didn't realize there was supposed to be logic behind it.”

“Sweetheart, I want to. You know I do. I know you can feel I want to, very badly. I can't do it. First of all, you're picking up your in-laws from the airport tomorrow morning. You'd feel guilty as hell if you picked them up knowing we'd just had sex tonight.”

She opened her mouth and he shook his head.

“You can't deny it. Well, you could, but you'd be lying. I know you. Maybe not immediately, but tomorrow morning you'd wake up and think about what happened. You'd feel guilty or think they'd know somehow or if Bill says something about me you'd think they would figure it out.”


“Claire. I love you. Do you get that?”

“I do.”

“Do you? Do you really? I'm not just saying words to get you into bed with me or to make you feel better about having sex with me. I want the whole thing from you. All of it. Your heart, your kids, maybe one or two of our own. I want you in my house, in my bed every day. I can't start having sex with you now without something more than friendship.”

“But you said…”

“Yeah, you can't use those words against me. That was months ago when I was thinking with my dick and the fact it was getting used regularly and very well at that. Or whenever it was that we talked about whether we'd still do this after the baby came. It's not a lack of wanting to. It's that you deserve better than that. You held out for being married for a reason.”

“I'm not going to hold out for marriage again!”

“Well, no, but how about holding out for actually being in a relationship with someone? Preferably me, but whoever. And, well, I deserve better. I don't expect you to fall in love with me tomorrow, but I'd like some sort of sense that you want to be with me for more than that.”

“I see you!”

“Yeah, you do, and I love that you call me to come over for whatever. I do, but I've had a lot of time to think on this since you had little Frank. I can't let my dick think for me, for either of us, anymore. I'm in a position to get my heart broken here. Do you get that?”

“I know,” she said softly.

“I think so are you ultimately because of the fact you don't do casual sex. If we start down that road now I'm afraid you'll start feeling guilty or bad about yourself. You thought you felt guilty before I can't imagine what you'd feel like if you all of the sudden decide you want just live out the rest of your life as Dan's widow.”

“I wouldn't do that!”

“If you decide you're ready for something from me that resembles some sort of commitment. Dating me is a start. I'm not talking marriage or an engagement, but actual dates without hiding what we're doing from people, including Bill and Justin. I expect then I could be persuaded to change my opinion on this subject pretty quickly.”

She slid a hand to his chin, brushing her fingers along his jaw there and he let his eyes close at her touch. She didn't touch him like this often. He wasn't sure why because he always liked it when she did.

“I'm sorry,” she whispered.

“For what?”

“I didn't think…”

“Don't worry about it. It's an easy habit to fall into, one I think you'd hate yourself for if you realized all we were meant to be was friends.”

“You don't want to be just friends.”

“No, I don't, but that doesn't mean you want more.”

“I do…”

“You're just not ready. I completely and totally get that, Claire. I'm not pushing you. I'm not asking you for anything today.”

“Can I kiss you?”

“I think that could be doable.”

She leaned in then and kissed him, sliding her arms around his neck. He deepened it about the same time she did, groaning softly at the intensity behind it. His hands at her hips slid up a bit. He had to stop himself from going further. God he wanted to touch her, all of her. He knew she was self-conscious about her breasts right now, but God they were so appealing to him. Everything about her appealed to him, though, that was a given.

She drew away at the sound of the baby over the monitor.

“Is it that time already?” It seemed like just a few minutes ago she'd fed him and put him down again.

“I guess it is,” she whispered, kissing his neck.

He chuckled softly.

“What are you laughing at?”

“Just thinking I can't remember the last time I spent two hours kissing someone.”

“We've kissed for two hours.”

“We weren't just kissing, sweetheart.”

“Oh,” she said and he chuckled again. “Is that bad?”

“No, I like it a lot.”

“Do you?”

“I do.”

“So, that's okay?”

“Yes, I can kiss you.”

“That's good,” she whispered. “Are you going to come to church on Sunday?”

“I don't think so.”


“If it was just your mom I might, but no. Dan's parents would wonder why I was there. You're worried enough without having to deal with explaining to them anything about me. I'll be here afterward, though.”


“Go get your son, Claire. I'm not going anywhere.”


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