***Part Twenty-Two***
Word Count: 3,382

“You’re sure Mark is all right with us doing this?”

“Claire, it’s a little late now, don’t you think? And yes, I’m positive. You’re paying them rent. We’re not having a wild frat kegger. It’s a barbeque with some Marines and their significant others and families.”

“Yes, but it’s a lot of people!”

“Yeah, and it’s a gorgeous day out so people will be outside. No one’s going to trash Mark’s house. I promise. You’re worrying over nothing. They all know whose house you’re staying at and why. They wouldn’t do that.”

The idea had started out as inviting a few of John’s friends over had turned into something huge. Gloria and June, another wife of a friend of John’s, had come over yesterday and helped her make as much stuff as could be done in advance like salads and desserts. Everyone was supposed to bring a salad or a dessert, too, but she had to make some because if everyone brought brownies and then all they had to eat was what John was grilling she imagined she’d have some pretty hungry and pissed off Marines on her hands.

They had enough food to feed … Well, a Marine unit. A small one. John and his friends were in charge of grilling the steaks, hamburgers, and hot dogs. She’d wanted to get brats instead of hot dogs, but John had reminded her that there were going to be kids there, too. So, hot dogs had won out versus bratwurst.

She’d spent her day on Friday before John came over for the weekend cleaning every inch of the place. She wasn’t a slob, so it wasn’t a huge ordeal, but she’d scrubbed the bathroom and everything knowing people were going to be in there. Those same people would be judging her, analyzing her, looking for reasons to maybe not like her. She’d gotten along fairly well with just about everybody. There were a few women she wasn’t overly fond of, but she was pleasant to them and they were to her as well. She just knew that they weren’t going to be good friends or anything. Some wondered why they were just now meeting her. She wasn’t sure what was difficult to understand about the fact she still, legally, lived with her parents and they were paying for her school.

Gloria and June she liked. A lot. Even better, they were friends with one another, too, so the three of them could do things together. Like shop. The three of them loved to shop and it was nice to be with people who did it as thoroughly as Claire did.

“You’d better wear your hair down today,” he murmured, kissing her neck. He focused on the spot she knew he was talking about.

“Yeah, I know, someone wouldn’t stop last night.”

Since she’d cleaned everything so thoroughly on Friday she only really had to spot clean things yesterday before Gloria and June came over. Today was even easier. John was right, most everyone would be outside, but she still had to presume people were going to be in the house. Certainly, they’d use the bathroom and stuff while here.

“I don’t remember hearing you tell me to stop,” he whispered, sliding his hand along her stomach.

“Well, of course not.”

He chuckled then, grazing the mark he’d left her with his tongue and she shivered as a result. She absolutely loved when he did that. She had no idea why.

“Stop.”

“I will not stop.”

“There’s not enough time.”

“There’s always enough time when you’re wearing a skirt. We’ve proven that on more than one occasion.”

“But then you’ll leave me another one that I can’t cover up.”

“I can try not to.”

“You never succeed.”

He chuckled at that.

“Yeah, you’re right. I don’t. I can’t help myself for some reason.”

“I don’t mind them.”

“I know.”

“Then why do I have to cover this one up?” she asked, touching the back of her neck. Going by how long he’d been focused on the spot last night she was guessing it was pretty dark if not pretty large, too.

“I don’t know because people will think that’s all we do.”

She laughed softly. “It kind of is.”

“It is not. We watch TV. We’ve seen movies. I’ve taken you to dinner.”

“And then we come home and have sex.”

“Well, sure, you’re going to go back to school in August and I’m going to have months of nothing again.”

“Me, too.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“What if I don’t want to cover it up?”

“You don’t have to. You can do whatever you want. I was just warning you.”

“Hmm. So you want people I know that I let you be behind me but not people you know?”

“I didn’t say that! I don’t think people I know really care what we do. I don’t do it to you for that reason either. I just like doing it. I can’t explain it. A visible sign proving that you’re mine. I’ve never had anything that was mine before.”

“I know.”

“Besides, you’re the one who said you liked them there.”

“I know.”

“I can certainly work on leaving them in less visible places if you’d rather.”

“No, I wouldn’t rather. I think I’d feel naked without one.”

“I like you naked.”

“I like you naked better,” she whispered.

“Yeah?”

“Mm hmm.”

“Come on then, show me.”

“I can’t! I have no time!” He was tempting her, but he knew that. He always tempted her and he usually won no matter what she was doing. She’d even been late for work more than once when she had to work a weekend and he was here. Being late wasn’t an option for him the nights he stayed with her during the week.

“You’re putting entirely too much thought into this. They’d be happy with what you’ve made so far.”

“John.”

“Come on,” he said, tugging on the hem of her skirt a bit. He slid his hand along her inner thigh and she groaned softly as it crept higher.

“What is your deal this weekend?”

“My deal? Besides having you here you mean? I don’t know. What can I say? I’m a guy, I get horny.”

“What do you do when I’m not here?”

“Take lots and lots of cold showers, Princess.”

“Really? That works?”

“Well, yes and no. I mean, you’re not here so I don’t think about it as much unless we’re having one of our more fun conversations. You make me come and then I’m good until the next time we talk like that and you make me come again.”

“Hmm.”

“You’re here now, though, and that means there are no limitations. I guess my mind and my body both like that idea very much.”

He brushed up against her and her eyes fell closed. He couldn’t see that, of course, since he was behind her, pressed up against her so she could feel that he was serious.

“I’ll find somewhere new to leave one. No one will see it but me,” he whispered, brushing his cheek along the back of her blouse.

“Yeah?”

“Mm hmm,” he whispered, kissing the spot again.

“I…”

“I’ll help you out here after.”

She snorted at that.

“I can already see what your idea of helping me is.”

“I promise. Whatever you need me to do.”

“Anything?”

“Uh huh. Name it, I’ll do it.”

She chuckled softly, turning then to face him. She slid her arms around his neck and kissed him.

“What did I just agree to, Princess?”

“I don’t know yet.”

“That’s not fair.”

“Why not?”

“You know what you’re getting out of the deal.”

“I do. I guess I’ll set the terms once I’m sure the conditions are met.”

“I see. You have doubts on that?”

“I don’t know. You might have things on your mind to distract you.”

“From you? Not likely. You know it’s your fault.”

“What? How is this my fault?”

“Can’t you be a typical college student and wear jeans?”

“I hate jeans.”

“See? And you wear these skirts and I know what’s under them and I start thinking about how easy it would be …”

“I could wear longer skirts.”

“What that touch the floor? Your skirts are already pretty long for the most part. I’m not sure that would matter anyway.”

“No?”

“No.”

“You’re wasting all this time talking then it really will be too late,” she said.

“You’re still standing here.”

“I’m waiting for you.”

“Well, that’s easily fixed,” he said. Her arms were already around his neck so he didn’t have to do much maneuvering to pick her up and carry her to her room. She liked to think of it as their room.

***

It was fairly late. Most everyone had left by now except Gloria and Rick and June and Adam. The day had gone very well actually. People had to get their kids to bed or get up early tomorrow morning. So did John, Rick, and Adam, but someone had to leave first and Claire didn’t take it personally or as an indication she’d done something wrong.

The small keg Rick had brought was just about gone. The six of them were doing their part to finish it off.

“So, how often do you get home anyway?” June asked.

“I go home once a month or so when I can. Sometimes I have things going on,” Claire said.

“John doesn’t go there very often,” June said.

“No, not real often,” John and Claire both said.

“Honey,” Adam said softly.

“What?” she asked.

“Nothing. Some people don’t go home, you know?”

“Well, I know that,” she said.

“Why don’t we not make Claire feel like she’s the subject of an inquisition and talk about other things?”

“It’s all right, Adam,” John said. “Claire’s really the only person I’d have any reason to go back home for. I have a few friends, but I don’t talk to my parents. I visited her last summer at home, but usually it works better to see her at school. Less chance of running into people I don’t want to see.”

“Oh,” she said. “I didn’t know.”

“It’s all right, really. She’s here this summer and hopefully will be next summer, too.”

“Do you know when you’re getting married yet?” June asked.

“I’ve asked her that, too, and she hasn’t given me an answer,” Gloria said.

“Do we,” John asked. “I told her it was up to her and her parents.”

“She’s been here for close to a month and you haven’t asked her yet,” June asked.

“I’ve been more focused on the fact she’s actually here for three months after basically a year of not seeing her or even talking to her for eight of those months,” John said.

“Mom and Dad said it was up to us. They did say in lieu of the engagement announcement in the paper there’s going to be a party.”

He sighed softly. “You didn’t tell me that part.”

“I was waiting,” she said.

“You’re not going to put an announcement in the paper?” Gloria asked.

“No,” John said quickly. “I don’t want my name anywhere my parents could see it.”

“Oh,” Gloria said.

“Forgive her, John, man, I’ve never…” Rick said.

“I’m not mad. Why would either one of them know?”

“Well, if you need any help down here June and I can do that. We’ll be sure you have our information when you leave for the fall.”

“Thank you,” Claire said.

“So, anytime we want?” John said.

“Yes. They think we should wait until I’m done with school, but they understand if we don’t want to. I thought I’d look into the transferring thing more closely before we made a final decision.”

“Oh.”

“I was thinking of driving to Duke one day to talk to someone. I sent away for a copy of my Purdue transcript so as soon as I get that I will.”

“That’s a bit of a drive.”

“Well, I’d live on-campus during the week and come home to you every weekend. It’s better than no weekends. And being that I’d be a senior I may have a better schedule. I don’t know. Maybe I’d be able to come home one night during the week, too.”

“I like the sound of you coming to our home any time.”

“Me, too,” she said.

“How long will it take for your transcript to get here?”

“I called as soon as I got here so it should be anytime, maybe tomorrow. I was kind of surprised it hadn’t gotten here already. I had one, but I left it at home and I really don’t remember where. The idea of Mom searching through my things bothers me.”

He chuckled a little at that.

“Are you sure you don’t want help with the kitchen?” Gloria asked.

“No, I’m fine. I’ll have all morning tomorrow to do it.”

“Do you need a ride back to base?” Adam asked.

“Nah, Claire will get me there in the morning.”

“I don’t miss those days,” June said. “I used to hate having to wake up with him so early in the beginning when we only had one car.”

“Well, I’d look at a car if we had a house, but I haven’t needed one until now.”

“I didn’t either,” Adam said. “What was the point? It was just that June wanted to be able to get around.”

“Because I didn’t want to be stuck at home all day, every day,” she said.

“I know, honey,” Adam said, giving her a kiss.

Not too much later the two couples left, Rick taking the keg with him to return. John helped Claire bring the few remaining things from outside in. There wasn’t much, a few cups and plates. She’d used plastic cups and paper plates so there weren’t many dishes for her to wash really. John guessed based on the location of the couple things he found that it was kids who’d left them and forgotten about them versus an adult.

They were in bed later. John was pretty sure this part of their time together would never get old as far as he was concerned. He hoped not anyway. She’d gotten a little mad at him earlier because he’d said he’d leave a hickey somewhere new, somewhere no one but him would see. He hadn’t been able to resist leaving her another one on her throat on the opposite side as the one he’d given her on the back of her neck. She wasn’t real mad except one of the kids had asked her what she did to herself.

“So, you’re really looking at transferring your senior year?”

“Yes. If I could do it next year I would, but I don’t think there’s enough time.”

“I agree, it’s probably too quick of a turnaround.”

“Now, if they accept me…”

“Do it,” he said quickly.

“Are you sure? You were adamant I not do it for this year.”

“That was totally different. We weren’t engaged. I wasn’t sure what was going on with me. I’m still not sure if I’m going to stay here, but I’m more confident I’ll be here for a while yet. I may get borrowed out to places here and there for my drawing.”

“Right.”

“You are a lot more aware of the risks now. The chances of my getting deployed again in the next year are slim, but they could happen. Does your sorority have a chapter at Duke?”

“Yes.”

“That would help, too. I’d feel much better knowing you’re not just down here by yourself and I get sent off to Libya or something.”

“Oh God, don’t even joke about that!”

“So, next June? Is that what you’re thinking then? You said your parents would want June.”

“If you’re sure you don’t want to wait.”

“I’d marry you tomorrow if you agreed to that.”

“My parents would kill us.”

“There is that.”

“Unless we didn’t tell them.”

“Claire,” he said cautiously. “We can’t lie to your parents about something like that.”

“Why not? We could still do the whole wedding thing next year. Or we could tell them and then just do a big formal reception, do our vows at the country club in front of everyone instead of at a church.”

“No,” he said.

“Why not? You said you would if I agreed.”

“Because you’d hate me.”

“I would not.”

“You would, too! You’d miss out on the dress and the parties and the bridal thing they do. You know where you get presents and stuff. I’d do it. You think about it and if you still want to in August before you go back I would, but no lying to your parents. If you want to do it we’d invite them, your brother, any friends you really want here and do it right.”

“In three months?”

“Sure. It’s the Marines, Princess. You don’t think weddings happen at the drop of a hat around here?”

“I suppose,” she said.

“It may not be in a church, but it’d get done.”

“Hmm,” she said.

“I really wouldn’t want to only because I think ultimately you want the big church wedding, but if you told me in August you really wanted to.”

“I was thinking of asking Sheila to be a bridesmaid.”

“What?”

“You heard me.”

“Why?”

“Because she’s your friend and you’ve known her forever. I was going to go see her the next time I’m home.”

“Really?”

“Yes,” she said.

“That’s very nice of you.”

“Well, if you had a sister I’d ask her.”

“So I should ask Christopher? Is that what you’re telling me?”

She laughed softly, distracting him by running her foot along his calf.

“You don’t have to do anything.”

“But that’s what’s done?”

“Usually.”

“You need to tell me these things, Princess. I don’t know!”

“He wouldn’t be upset if you didn’t.”

“Yeah, but your parents, your friends would wonder why I didn’t ask him over some guy I haven’t talked to in two years like Tony or Kevin.”

“You could ask them, too. And James.”

“Four of them?”

“Yes. That’s actually pretty small.”

“Small? Are you kidding me? How many friends would you have if I wasn’t so limited in choices?”

“I don’t know. I’d probably keep it to five or six.”

“Wow, Princess. And you wonder why I think you’d end up hating me or at the very least regretting eloping?”

“No, I get what you’re saying.”

“If you ask Sheila, let me know what she says. If money is an issue for her, or you think it might be, tell me.”

“I’d buy her dress if it is, you don’t need to do a thing.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes. And her daughter would be old enough to be a flower girl, too, next summer.”

“You’ve really thought on this.”

“I have.”

“Then this summer is out.”

“What?”

“Come on. We can wait a year. If you’re at Purdue you’ll be busy going home when you can to get things for the wedding done. If you’re down here we’ll see one another every weekend that we can. We can wait a year.”

“I know.”

“I like that you’re so anxious.”

“Of course I am.”

He chuckled, running a fingertip along the hickey on the side of her neck. “I’m sorry if I embarrassed you.”

“You didn’t. Not really. I’ve kind of gotten used to people commenting about them after I’ve been with you.”

“Not kids, though.”

“No, not kids. I just told him I burnt myself with a curling iron.”

“I’ll be more careful.”

“Yeah, I’m going to have to find a blouse or sweater to wear to work tomorrow that won’t let that one show.”

“Too many rules. You should quit your job and stay here all day.”

“So you can leave me visible hickeys?”

“It sounds logical to me.”

She laughed softly. “Why not just work on leaving them where no one will see.”

“Yeah? You have an idea?”

“I do,” she said.

“Hmm. Anywhere good?”

“I think so.”

“Do you want me to start practicing getting into the habit now?”

“You could.”

“I’m going to hate August when it gets here,” he whispered, moving on top of her.

“Me, too,” she whispered.

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