He was an idiot is what he was he realized as he parked his pickup on the driveway that led to a house at one time he wouldn't have dreamt of setting foot in. Except maybe to burglarize it. He shouldn't be here today. She might get pissed as hell and stay in D.C., or worse yet marry the guy after all. That shouldn't bother him so much, but he hadn't ever expected her to walk into his body shop looking for him. And now that she had, well, he was allowing himself to dream. And he wasn't going to just let her walk out of his life again.
Five years ago he'd had to. He knew it and she knew it, which he imagined was why she'd come today. She knew that day had meant more to him than just a fuck. Not that he'd told her that outright, but girls like her deserved more than that. And he wouldn't have had sex with her if he couldn't give her more. It was probably morbid curiosity more than anything that brought her to him this time. Whatever it was, he was going to take it. Maybe nothing would come of it, they'd spend time together and realize they were too different. No loss. Right? He was already alone. She didn't seem entirely hot on this guy so it's not like he was breaking up the next Ozzie and Harriet.
He had to see who he was. What he was like. He wished he understood what it was about him that she liked. Women like her had always been out of his league. Not so much now, but there was still the stigma of his being a mechanic. Professional women just didn't want that type of life. There'd been a few who found him good enough for a fling or an affair. He didn't make a habit of getting involved with married women, but a few had slipped through the cracks. And here he was doing exactly what he hated seeing other guys doing. Pursuing her when she was on the verge of getting engaged.
So, why'd she come see him? And what the fuck could he offer her? Tim hadn't questioned his leaving for the second day in a row, even though it was something John rarely ever did.
He rang the bell, working on his lie for when asked how he knew she was in town. It didn't sound like she had been doing much socializing so he doubted he would have heard it from anyone they knew through school.
"Hello?" It must be her mother. He saw the resemblance, though her mother's hair wasn't red like hers. She was an older version of Claire for sure, though.
"Is Claire home?"
"She is. She didn't tell me she was expecting company."
"I heard she was in town and thought I'd come by."
"She mentioned running into some friends while out yesterday." She stepped aside. "Come in. They're downstairs watching television. Do you know the way?"
"No, ma'am I don't."
She led him through a hallway that passed several rooms that made him realize just how different their upbringings had been. Not that he knew anything about art, but he wouldn't be surprised if some of the paintings he saw on the walls were originals.
"Here you are."
"Thanks, Mrs. Standish."
"I don’t know your name."
"It's nice to meet you, John."
He watched her, meeting her gaze more intently than he normally would have. He looked for any sign that she was just being nice, considerate. He didn't see it there, though. She seemed sincere and maybe she was. Maybe she wasn't so bad. He'd had her parents pegged as snooty, country club types that wouldn't give him the time of day.
He made his way downstairs, pausing to wonder what in the hell he was doing. He really had no business coming here.
"Mom?" He heard the sounds of a TV.
"No," he said simply. "Your mom said I could come down. I hope I'm not interrupting."
"John," she said in much the same tone as she'd used to called his name yesterday in his bed as she came.
"I ran into someone who saw you yesterday, thought I'd come by and say hi."
"Hi," she said softly. He had to stop himself from chuckling when he noticed she was blushing. "How are you?"
"I'm all right. You're looking well."
"Thanks." Her eyes slid to the guy sitting on the couch. She, judging by where she was standing, hadn't been sitting with him. "This is Luke. We're just here for a few days."
Luke stood then, offering John his hand. He took it.
"You knew Claire in high school?"
"Yeah, we ran in different circles you might say, but our paths crossed a few times. If I'm interrupting…I didn't realize you had company. I'll see you later."
"No," she said quickly. "You can stay. We were just about to watch a movie, maybe order pizza later. I haven't had Chicago pizza in years."
So she liked pizza. Judging by her figure, he didn't think she ate too much junk. He slid out of his coat and she came up to him to take it, her hand brushing his. She left it there just a little longer than she should have.
She draped the coat over a table and John looked at the possible seating arrangements available to him. If he took the chair, that would leave Claire sitting next to Luke on the couch. If he sat on the couch, well that would look strange. He settled in the chair, assessing Luke while taking in the basement at the same time.
He was the type of guy he pictured her ending up with truthfully. Tall, clean cut, nice looking he supposed not that he knew a lot about that sort of thing. His handshake had been firm but not too much. He dressed nice, even bumming in her basement he had dressier pants on as compared to his blue jeans that were naturally faded. He was fit but more like a swimmer than the bulkier physique he had that resembled a football player or wrestler.
"How are you liking Chicago?"
"It's nice. We haven't really seen too much of it. We're only here for a few days and Claire's parents have been keeping us busy."
"And yet you still managed to get to the mall," he said, eyes resting on Claire.
"Nordstrom's was having a sale," she shrugged casually. "I had to go look."
"Of course you did," he said with a smirk.
"They didn't have anything good, though," she said, sounding pretty convincing.
"Must have been pretty well picked over then?"
Luke draped an arm around her and John had to look away then. He spotted the video sleeves and stood to look at them.
"You watch Predator?" he asked, his gaze falling on her.
She didn't look comfortable, and he didn't think it was because he was here. Hard to imagine with as responsive as she was to him yesterday she didn't want to be touched by Luke. Maybe there was something to what she said. It was them. He'd believed her, sure, but thought it was an exaggeration on her part. He'd had good sex before, but never really cared if he saw the woman again.
He set the Predator sleeve down and cleared his throat. "Thanks for the pizza invite, but I should go. I just stopped to say hi since I heard you were in town."
"Are you sure?" she asked.
"Yeah, I've got an early day tomorrow so I should head home."
"But it's not even dinner time."
"I know, thanks anyway. Next time you're in town I'll take you out for pizza, that's better than delivery."
"Okay, I'll walk you out."
"No, my mother would have a fit if I didn't."
He chuckled. "All right then, don't want to be the cause of your mother getting upset."
"I'll be right back," she said to Luke, looking entirely too relieved to get away from him.
John grabbed his coat and followed her up the stairs, enjoying the view of being behind her as he went.
She walked him a different way then he'd come in.
"What are you doing here?"
"Just curious I guess."
"I haven't talked to him yet."
"I just didn't think this was the place to do it. He has a layover in D.C. between our flight and his back to Boston. I'll tell him then."
"Claire, if you're not sure…"
"I am sure. I just don't want to do it here. We're stuck here together for two more days, I'd rather it just be me miserable than him, too."
She stood on her tiptoes then and kissed him. "I was surprised to see you."
"In a good way?"
"Yeah, it was good."
"Wasn't sure you'd be mad or not."
"If you'd come in telling him what happened then yeah I'd be mad."
"I don't kiss and tell, Princess."
"I know, otherwise my reputation would have been ruined at school."
"Can you get out later?"
"Come see me."
She closed her mouth, lips tight, but she was thinking about it. "John…"
He handed her a key fob, pressing it into the palm of her hand. "This will get you in both the downstairs door and my door. If you come, great. If not, keep it for when you move back here."
"You're giving me a key?"
"You'll use it then or now."
She slid it into her pocket, glancing the way they'd come. "I have to get back down there."
"I know." He stroked her cheek with his hand and kissed her again, lingering a little. "I'm sorry."
"That you're in this situation."
"Try and come."
"I can't promise."
"I'll see what I can do."
"Was your friend leaving so soon, Claire?" he heard her mom ask as he left through the garage door. Had she seen them? Heard them?
"Yeah, Mom, he just came to say hi."
That was all he heard of their conversation. He walked back to his pickup, taking in her house once more. He wondered if she'd come tonight. The house was so big, there had to be ways for her to get out and not get caught. He'd wager anything she'd snuck out a time or two in high school.
He'd cleaned his kitchen and bathroom, picked up his bedroom, and even started a load of laundry. All things to keep him from thinking about her and whether she'd show up. He'd debated about washing his sheets, but perversely wanted to keep them on the bed. They smelled like her. He had no idea what perfume she wore, but it clung to his pillows. He liked it.
He heard the squeak from the hinges on the door downstairs, indicating someone opened it. He could have fixed the squeak, but he liked it. It let him know if someone was coming in. Since you needed a key to get in, it was helpful to know someone might be coming up who wasn't supposed to be there.
The sound of the squeak was followed shortly by a knock at his door.
He opened it. "You didn't need to knock. That's what keys are for."
"It just felt strange."
She came in and he hung her coat up after she'd taken it off.
"I can't stay long."
"I know." He glanced at the clock. It was almost midnight. He didn't have to be in the office until nine most mornings, but he tried to be in there by seven. People liked to be able to pick up their car before work. He chuckled when he noticed what she was wearing. "You look like you're ready for bed."
"Well, I am. I stopped at Walgreen's on the way here. I figured if I get caught coming back in I can say I just had to run out for something."
"Not just a pretty face. I always knew that."
"You think I'm pretty?"
"Yes, but you knew that already."
"I was never quite sure what you really thought."
"You still aren't?"
"I'm confused right now, but not so much about you. I mean, I am. What am I doing? I'm contemplating moving back to Chicago for a guy."
"You're family is here, there are job opportunities here. It's not like you're moving to a cornfield in Iowa."
"I know. It's just so against everything I wanted to do."
"You were moving to Boston to be with him!"
She sighed softly, resting her head against his chest. "I don't want to argue about this right now, John. I'm just confused and trying to figure out a way to break it off with him after four years and not sound flighty."
"I just don't want you to make me out to be the bad guy. You came to me yesterday."
"I know that."
"I didn't force you to come back here with me. And I think you knew if we went to bed together you wouldn't stay with him."
"Yes." He felt a warm dampness against his shirt and realized she was crying. "Hey," he said, smoothing down her hair.
"I didn't come here for this, but would you just hold me?"
"Sure," he said and picked her up easily, taking her into his arms and carrying her to his room. He set her on the bed, drawing back the covers before he joined her.
"I can't sleep here."
"What time does your old man wake up?"
"Six I think."
"I'll set the alarm for five just to be safe. Stop and buy some donuts and coffee on the way home. You can say you woke up and wanted to do something nice for everybody."
He took the time to do just that before joining her, sliding an arm under her to draw her close.
"I'm such an idiot."
"You're not," he said adamantly. "You're confused and probably feel a little guilty for what happened. I wish I could say I'm sorry, but I can't."
"Why'd you come today?" she asked, eyes meeting his.
"Wanted to see who he was I guess."
"I didn't like him touching you," he said simply.
She laughed, swatting his chest. "Besides that."
"He seems decent, along the lines of who I'd always pictured someone like you ending up with."
"Very unlike me."
"Yeah, yeah, they do, Princess."
"And I wasn't happy with him. I wonder if that's why I never came back here unless I had to."
"Sort of. Or just the temptation before I was ready to face it. Three years ago I was too smitten with Luke to think about doing what I did yesterday."
"Why did you? You could have just broken it off."
"I told you, I needed to make sure it wasn't me. I don’t know. I had one person to compare how I reacted to him."
"You mean, you've never done anything?"
"Well, I've done things, sure. I mean, we've been together four years, I just wasn't into it."
"You were certainly into it yesterday, so I'd say it's him more than you."
"So, I could find that with someone else?"
He chuckled, drawing her to him so he could kiss her. "If I have anything to say about it, you're not going to have the opportunity to find out."
"You look like your mother."
"I get that a lot. I don't see it, but people tell me that all the time."
She was getting tired. He could tell by the way she was talking, her words were getting a little slurred. He drew the covers around them and brought her comfortably against him.
"Get some rest, Claire. I'll get you up when the alarm goes off."
"Should go home."
"You should stay here," he whispered. Sex with her was good. This was more than good. Her snuggling up to him, settling in to sleep. Whether she knew it or not, she was giving him something too. He didn't get this often, partly his own fault maybe. But just to have someone need him, want him for no reason other than to be by him. He kissed the top of her head. It was nice.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com