It was strange to be living at her parents' house again. It was temporary, at least in her mind. They seemed happy to have her back and told her she could stay as long as she needed to. After being on her own for so long with very limited visits home, a night seemed too long. They weren't enforcing a curfew, but her mother did stress a courtesy call to say she wouldn't be home would be nice so they wouldn't worry. She wasn't sure where her mother thought she might stay, but then her mother had stressed that only female friends were allowed to spend the night with her and Claire guessed where her mother thought she might stay.
Her mother had seemed sincere in relaying to Claire she was sorry things didn't work out with Luke. In light of her conversation with John, though, she detected that maybe her mother wasn't as sorry as she said. She really didn't know many details about how her parents came to get married. For whatever reasons, nostalgic stories of the night they met or first kissed or when Dad proposed just weren't commonplace.
Her mother had seen her kiss John that night by the garage, but hadn't said anything. Claire had seen it in her mother's eyes, though. She'd seen something else there, too, understanding. That had made Claire feel a little better. The next morning, her mother inquired as to why Claire had not come home with even a Victoria's Secret bag. Claire didn't know what to say and so she'd stuck with the lie she'd told Luke. Her mother knew her too well, though. There was always something to buy! She never asked who John was or anything else about it. Evidently, she trusted Claire to take care of her problem without her unsolicited advice.
So, here she stood three months later in front of John's body shop with Cubs tickets in her purse. Her parents had season tickets and her mother, saying she sensed there was someone Claire would like to take, had given her tickets to both games for the weekend. She could have left the tickets at home, but she wanted to show them to him for some reason. She could have just called him, but she wanted to see him.
It was warmer than the last time she was here. There was no need for her leather coat, not the winter one anyway. They'd talked a few of times since February, but living with three other women didn't leave a lot of privacy for phone calls. So, their conversations had been brief and rather impersonal. She hoped he had been as disappointed as she was by that. She also wasn't sure if he expected her to come see him the second she'd come back. She had to get settled and find a job.
"Hi," she said, noticing Tim.
"Hey, you're back," Tim said. "New car?"
"No, this one's actually mine," she said about the Camaro.
"Nice," he said. "It suits you better than the Jag did."
"Thanks. I like it, too. Is John here?"
"Back in his office. Remember the way?" He must have realized she did, because he turned his attention back to the car he'd been working on almost immediately.
Claire felt eyes on her as she made her way to John's office, probably the other two guys who worked for him. The door was open. She hesitated a moment, taking the opportunity to check him out. He was bent over his desk, writing. His bangs were just a little too long, hanging in his face making it difficult for her to see his expression.
"Hi," she said softly.
He looked up, pen stilling as he did. "Hi yourself. When did you get into town?"
"Last week," she said, quickly adding, "I spent the week unpacking and interviewing."
He nodded simply, seeming to accept – and understand - that. Good. He stood then and she came into the office the rest of the way, closing the door behind her.
"Was the trip safe? Did you find a job?"
"Yes, no problems with the car, but remind me never to do that trip again anytime soon. And, yeah, I start a week from Tuesday. I did a phone interview with them a few weeks ago."
"Right, I remember you telling me about that. I figured that was a pretty good indication you were in if they were willing to interview you that way."
"I still had to go in for a face-to-face, which was why I didn't say anything about it. I didn't want to sound too confident or jinx it, but it was pretty much a formality. I did have a couple of other interviews already set up that I went to. One is slightly better pay, so I may have to weigh my options if I get an offer from them. They seemed to buy my reason for wanting to start the week after next being that I wanted to settle back in, unpack, and stuff."
"I can understand that, sounds like a good reason."
"I knew you wouldn't have a problem finding something, Claire, and downtown isn't bad."
"I'm not sure I'm looking forward to the commute."
"You could always take the train."
"I might, there is a stop only a few blocks from the building. I could read and stuff on my way to and from work."
"If you like that sort of thing anyway."
"You read I saw books in your apartment."
He raised a finger to his lips. "Don't tell anyone."
"I'll keep your secret."
He crooked his finger at her and she walked to him, setting her purse on a nearby chair.
"So, am I interrupting?" she asked, when he took her into his arms.
"No, was just working on an estimate."
"Isn't that what the computer is for?"
"Yes. I need to write it out first, though, to be sure I've thought of everything. I find if I just type it on the computer I leave things sometimes. This way, writing it down, I have to mentally go through every inch of the car."
"I see," she said, fiddling with one of the buttons on his shirt.
"I'm sure I'll get used to the computer eventually, but last month I had a pissed off customer because I left off a charge for two hundred dollars."
"What did you do?"
"Gave it to him," he shrugged. "I didn't have much of a choice; I hadn't included it in the estimate. Granted, that's why we call it an estimate, but I can't have people leaving here saying they got ripped off or I don't stand by my quotes. I pride myself on being honest. He knows he got the work done for free, though, so he'll be back the next time something goes wrong."
"Sounds like you have it figured out."
"Do you have to work this weekend?"
"Not necessarily. There's always something to do if I want to."
She reached for her purse and opened it, pulling the tickets out. "I've got tickets to the Cubs games."
"Both of them?"
"Yes. Want to go?"
"Uh, yes, that was the general idea."
"Just the games?"
"What else did you have in mind," she asked.
"Dinner maybe? More if you were agreeable."
"I just moved back home."
"You're an adult."
"I can't just stay out all night when I've only been here a week, John."
"Tell them you'll be out for the night. You're a big girl, Claire. You've been on your own for a year, dating the same guy for four. You were going to move to Boston before being married to what's-his-name. Surely, they realize you're not a nun."
She just stared at him for a minute.
"Okay, I guess they'd have no reason to not trust you until a few months ago. But they don't know what happened."
"Well, then, why should they think anything odd about you wanting to stay out for the night?"
"They're my parents. I'm sure they've told all of their friends I moved back home and if someone knew I stayed out all night…"
He sighed softly.
"Having parents like yours can really be a pain in the ass."
"My mom did say that I needed to call if I wasn't going to make it home at night so they wouldn't worry."
"I see," he said, seeming to catch on. She wasn't going to plan on staying out all night in advance, but going to a Cubs game could lead to a bar or two afterward, which could lead to drinking more than one or two beers.
She smiled. "Does that mean you won't go with me?"
"Have someone else in mind to take?"
"I could come up with a friend, yes."
"I get dinner?"
"Dinner and anything else after the games, I'm just not sure about all night. I was so nervous coming home that morning after I stayed with you."
"You said you didn't run into anyone."
"That's not the point! I'd never done anything like that under my parents' roof."
"You need to live a little, Princess."
"You're not really going to call me that, are you?"
"Not in front of other people, but it suits you."
"I'm not that girl anymore."
"I didn't say you were."
"Just making sure."
"Am I picking you up?"
"Do you want to?"
"It's a date, isn't it? I mean, that's what we're doing, right? Trying one another on for size in the real world? Out of my bedroom."
"I guess so," she said, stuffing the tickets back in her purse as a distraction.
"We don't have to do this, Claire. If you changed your mind or something."
"No, it still feels weird, that's all. Until February, my life was pretty mapped out for me. Now it's like everything's upside down. I'm back living with my parents. I never thought I'd do that again. Ever." She shrugged. "I'll get used to it. My mom saw us kiss that night."
"She didn't say anything. She wouldn't, that's not her style, but she knows I wasn't shopping that day. I don't know if she told my father or not."
"What difference would that make?"
"My dad liked Luke."
"Ah," he said, seeming to understand. "So, he most definitely won't like me."
"If my mom told him."
"Do you think she would have?"
"I don't know, I should have asked her but I guess I preferred not talking about it."
"Wouldn't your dad rather you go out with me than not?"
"Well, if I'm the reason you and Luke broke things off…"
"Oh, well, I don't know my dad would see it that way."
"Because of my job?"
"Well, there is that…"
"And you're okay with that?"
"I already told you I am."
"All right, then I pick you up. It's better than him thinking we're sneaking around."
"The games start at one o'clock I assume, so I'll pick you up around ten then. We can grab something to eat beforehand or just walk around down there since you haven't been there in a while."
"Do I get to kiss you now that the weekend is settled?"
She swallowed. "Do you want to?"
"Now that's the most ridiculous question I've heard in a long time," he said, tugging her closer.
"Yes, because you shouldn't have to ask."
She tilted her head up at the same time he lowered his, so their lips met halfway. She breathed in sharply still not used to feeling like this from a kiss before deepening it. Would it always be like this? She knew a few months had gone be so they were feeling kind of needy.
Without thought, she worked the buttons on his shirt, peeling it open so she could touch his chest and stomach. He was so solid, so real. While she'd been working the buttons of his shirt, he'd been working the button and zipper of her jeans.
"You dressed down today," he murmured, kissing her jaw as he used his hand to push the front of her jeans open wider.
"I don't think I've ever seen you wear a T-shirt."
"I wear them sometimes."
He lifted the shirt in question up along her torso, over her head and off, tossing it into his chair. "Like when you plan on getting them dirty?"
He chuckled and she shivered, feeling his breath against her neck. He was going to give her another hickey, one that would show. She just didn't care if anyone saw it. There was no Luke waiting at home for her this time. Let her father throw a fit. She was an adult after all.
He worked the front clasp of her bra, freeing her breasts so he could kiss them.
"All those times we got to talk for five or ten minutes I kept hoping for more," he whispered.
"I know. Me, too," she whispered, working his shirt over his shoulders and off.
"There were so many things I wanted to say to you."
He chuckled, nipping at the underside of her breast. "Things that would make you blush."
"Oh," she said, and blushed just at the thought of what he'd had in mind.
"One day when you're not living at your parents' house maybe I'll get my chance to say those things."
"I still have my own line."
"Yeah?" he asked.
"No other extension in the house?"
"No, there is one in the basement, but they took the phone out when I left."
He drew away briefly, gathering her left hand to his mouth. "Glad to see this hand is free of any jewelry," he said, kissing the fingertip in question. She'd given the ring back to Luke. He hadn't wanted it, but she'd insisted. She had a few things he'd given her over the years, but they weren't as special as the ring had been.
John let go of her hand and kissed lower, working her jeans along her hips until he could slide his hand between her legs easily. She cried out softly as he entered her with a finger, brushing her clit with the base of his palm. He pushed her panties down then, circling her clit with his tongue.
"John, please," she whispered.
"Sorry, Princess, this will have to do for today because I don't have any rubbers on me."
"I'm on the pill."
"You are?" he said, drawing away from her.
"Yes," she said. "I figured it was probably the smartest thing to do."
He smiled, kissing her stomach. "I can't say as I mind, I hate those things."
"I think most guys do."
"You sure you want to do this here?"
She watched as he glanced around his office. Their options were rather limited, she realized. Obviously, he knew that better than she did.
"Unless someone's going to come in."
"No, they'll leave me alone. If the door's shut and you're in here with me."
He cleared his throat. "Don't get mad, but they know I left with you and never came back."
Her hands went to her face, covering up and turned away from him. How embarrassing.
"Oh, don't do that. It's fine. They don't care. I don't run a gossip column, Claire, it's just the way of things when you get a group of guys together. They talk, Tim mentioned it to them. Maybe they won't know it's you, but I'm sure Tim will have told them by now you're the woman from that day," he said, stepping behind her. She started to turn to face him, but he stopped her. He slid the bra off, setting it on the desk before cupping her breasts in each hand. She groaned softly as he stroked her nipples.
"Put your hands on the desk," he whispered, kissing her ear. He stooped behind her, working her jeans lower.
"We did it with me behind you that day at my apartment," he said, lowering his jeans.
"I know, but…"
"It's no different, just without the bed. And with our clothes on. Most of them anyway."
He stepped up behind her then and she leaned over the desk while he ran his hands over her ass, spreading her cheeks enough so he could enter her. She gave a soft moan as he thrust inside of her deep and hard.
Doing this here wasn't usually his thing. He had a time or two over the years, but never with anyone else here. Too fast wasn't something he wanted her to associate with him and sex. Ever. They didn't have a lot of time, though. So he used his fingers to help get her off a couple of times before he did. He loved when she came. She wasn't loud, but she didn't need to be. Her body flushed practically beet red in excitement was proof enough for him.
"Are you busy tonight?" he asked once they were both dressed again and she'd used his bathroom to straighten up a bit. A perk of being the boss was that he had his own. There was even a postage stamp sized shower in there. He didn't use it often, but on occasion he'd appreciated it being there.
"Dinner with a couple of friends."
"I see," he said.
"Were you asking me out?"
"It's not important. I just figured you're already down here. We had sex. The least I could do is buy you dinner or something."
"You could come with."
"I think I'll pass."
"You don't even know who I'm having dinner with."
"I don't know that it matters."
She maneuvered herself onto his lap, which was no easy feat as his desk chair really hadn't been designed with double occupancy in mind. Her arms went around his neck and she kissed him.
"No, I meant that you really don't know who I'm having dinner with. It's dinner with some friends. Come with."
He snorted. "Princess, you don't really want me along or you would have asked me earlier."
"I didn't ask because I'd just asked you to spend hours with me the entire weekend. It's Friday night, I assumed you'd have plans."
"I could have."
"John, I'm not saying you couldn't have. You asked if I was busy."
"I was thinking something quieter than having dinner with you and friends who probably don't like me."
"They don't know you."
"How do you mean?"
"Not everyone I know from here is from high school, you know? I have friends from Georgetown who live here, too."
"But high school or college, I'm not ashamed of you."
"You say that here and now."
"I say that anywhere. You've met my mother! She knows we kissed, and she's responsible for us going to the games this weekend."
"I don't know."
"If you don't want to go, that's fine. I'm not going to make you or beg, but you asked me if I had plans so you wanted to do something with me."
"Well, yeah," he shrugged.
"So, come with. When dinner's over we can go somewhere and have drinks or dance or something."
"Not a dancer?"
"Not really, Princess."
"Well, then, maybe another night for that."
She leaned in and kissed him, pressing against him in all the right places with all the right parts to convince him.
"Yeah, yeah, all right. How about this? I have to go home and shower and change anyway. Where are you meeting?"
She told him the name of the restaurant. He knew of it, hadn't been there, but heard good things about it over the years. It was a neighborhood place downtown near Wrigley, and he wondered briefly how she knew of it. Then maybe it was someone she was meeting who knew of it.
"I'll meet you there when I'm done. I'm not going to eat with you, but I'll meet your friends and join you wherever you go afterward."
"I'm not so sure it is, Princess. They were your friends in college."
"They know the other guy, don't they?"
She shrugged. "Yes. And again I say so?"
"They won't find it odd I'm showing up to meet you this soon after you broke up with him?"
"No. One of them knows about you. I mean, not every gory detail, but she knows about you."
"How did you know?"
"She was the only one of your roommates who ever gave me the time of day when I called you and one of them answered. She was nice, actually talked to me a couple of times when you were out, seeming to reassure me that you weren't out with a guy or hadn't hopped the first train to Boston on a whim."
"She's nice and she asked about you, so I told her."
"Neither of the other roommates asked about me?"
"No," she said.
"So you break up with your long-term, long-haul steady guy and some random guy calls and they don't ask about that?"
"No," she said with a shrug.
"And the guys who work for you."
"That's different, they're my employees not my friends. Not that I don't go out for beers with them once in a while and they roped me into putting a bowling league together this fall."
"Yes," he murmured, but she could tell he wasn't as grumpy about it as he wanted her to think she was. "I wasn't sure what to tell them and they don't answer the phone in my office to have anything to explain to them."
"Beyond you leaving with me that day and never coming back?"
"Well, yeah, but I think Tim sort of figured it out."
"What do you want to tell them?"
"For now, that you're someone I'm interested in."
"Why?" she asked.
"Because you said yourself we can't jump into something serious, Claire. You didn't even want to have sex again with me right away."
"That didn't last long."
"Yeah, well, it's not exclusively my fault."
"Did I blame you?"
"No, but just in case."
"Wow. Really? You think I'd blame you for my wanting to have sex with you?"
"It could happen."
"It's not going to. I'm a grown woman and I didn't have to let it go beyond kissing today."
"True. Why did you? You were pretty adamant in February that we not do this again right away."
"I missed you," she shrugged. "I got sort of used to hearing your voice before I went to sleep or when I woke up in the mornings."
"So, I guess talking to you on the phone was a good idea."
"It was, yeah," she admitted.
They hadn't talked for hours every night or anything. It was too expensive for both of them to do that, but they'd talked every couple of days. If they had a particularly lengthy conversation, which happened a time or two, they went a couple extra days in between calls.
They hadn't talked about anything real personal or naughty. Living with roommates didn't allow her much privacy, her own bedroom or not. They'd talked, though. Most of it was daily stuff; work, weather, things going on in Chicago, things they'd done, or whatever. They talked about the past five years some, but not a lot. Enough to know where one another had been. It was nice, though, to talk to him that much without anything physical between them.
Her excuse today? She really didn't have one, other than she obviously was incapable of keeping her hands off of him when they were together.
"Do you think I'll ever stop?" she asked.
"Stop what? I'm missing something."
"Princess, I sure hope not. A woman like you stops wanting a bum like me and I've got nothing else to offer you."
"You do, too. You own a business."
He snorted. "Right. Such an impressive undertaking, too."
"Why do you do that?"
"Why do you sell yourself short? Make light of what you've accomplished?"
"Princess. I'm just a mechanic."
"No, you're not just a mechanic, John. You've made something out of your life despite the odds. I remembered your scars before seeing them again in February. I remember what you said that day at school about what life was like at your house. I heard the rumors about you after that. God, the fact you're not dead is amazing."
"Wow, there's a vote of confidence."
"You never thought he'd kill you?"
"No, not really. I mean, sometimes sure I guess I wondered if I'd make it out of the house alive."
"And you did," she said, kissing his jaw. "Don't sell yourself short. You own a business. A smaller garage or not, it's yours. Like you said when I saw you in February it took your blood, sweat, and tears to get you here. It's amazing."
"I haven't done anything that great."
"Well, I think you have."
"And the prom queen is always right?"
"Exactly? My opinion counts for everything, don't you know that? What I think or do everyone falls into step behind me."
"I'm not a sheep."
She chuckled, nuzzling against his jaw. "You're a black sheep maybe."
"Why, Ms. Standish, I didn't know you were into the interracial thing."
She giggled softly, nipping her ear. "I'll see you in a few hours."
"Okay. Bring your appetite just in case."
"You'll have already eaten by the time I get there."
"It's Friday night, so maybe not. The place is always packed, and I'd sit with you while you ate."
"All right then. I'll walk you out."
"You don't have to."
"No have to's about it. That's what guys do for their girls, don't they?"
"I suppose they do."
"Don't pretend with me, Claire."
"The type of guy you're used to. Manners and etiquette and all that stuff. If I'm missing a queue don't hesitate to stop beating around the bush."
"I won't, John. I don't expect you to be perfect. And I don't expect you to be any guy but the guy you are. Don't change for me."
"I'm not changing or trying for perfection, Princess," he said, helping her off his lap. She grabbed her purse and took his hand when he offered it to her. "Just trying to keep you happy."
"Meeting my friends is a good way to start."
"Does that mean you'll go bowling with us sometime then?" He opened his office door, letting her pass through it first.
"Sure. I'm not very good at bowling, but I'd go."
"I thought you said they weren't your friends?"
"They are, I guess," he said as they walked through the work area. "It's just different when you're the one who signs their paychecks and has the power to fire them. There's always that weird kind of thing when we're out somewhere. I can leave work at the door. It's not like we do anything here that has to be discussed after hours so when we leave I can check being their boss at the door. I don't think it's as easy for them, though."
"I get that."
He opened her car door for her, shaking his head a little.
"Nothing. Nice wheels."
"How did you?"
"It's new, figured it had to be something like that."
"Take care of it."
"Hey, I have an in now on being sure I do."
"Only if I can drive it once in a while."
"How about tonight?"
"Take the train down and then you can drive it to your place after we're done."
"You going to go home from my place then?"
"Probably, but I have no curfew."
"So, Daddy won't take the Camaro away if you get home at sunrise?"
"I guess there's only one way of finding out."
"All right, Princess. I'll catch a train then."
"Okay," she said, smiling widely. She glanced back at the garage for a second before going ahead and kissing him. "I'll see you later."
"Count on it," he said, shutting the door for her once she sat down and started her car. She waved into her rearview mirror as she pulled out of the gravel parking lot. She knew somehow he wouldn't go back inside until after she was out of sight.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com