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A Reluctant Hero

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Dessert was less strained, strangely enough. Dorothy had loosened up while JD and I were watching the single Stooge that came to my door perform unintentional physical comedy and I had to think that Kelsey had filled her in. After our treat, Kelsey took her mom on a tour of the house, and then they came back to the living room to tell us that they were going to Kelsey’s space.

“Thank you for dinner, Ani,” Dorothy offered, shooting another look at JD as she did. “I had a great time.”

I smiled, and told her it was my pleasure and I hoped she’d visit again. It was a sincere invitation. Once the stick up her ass was removed, and she realized that Kelsey and I were just friends and I wasn’t trying to usurp her position of mother, she could actually be an enjoyable company. A few more goodbyes, Kelsey hugged her dad and told him that she’d see him soon, her eyes twinkling at me when she turned and then they were gone.

JD barely held back until we heard the door click shut behind them, and then he had me locked back in his arms, our mouths finding each other like magnets. I was yanking his shirt off, wanting and needing to feel his bare skin, and he had tossed my own off in his own yearning to feel me. His fingers were on the clasp of my bra when we heard it. He groaned into my mouth, reluctant to pull away, but his phone rang again.

“Fuck,” he muttered, pulling it free from his pants’ pocket. The fingers of his other hand were sliding along my skin, and as he answered it, mine were hooked in the waistband of his jeans. When his eyes went closed I felt triumphant, but it was short lived. I listened as he gave his code, the acceptance of another job, and then he was sighing and looking down at me. “I swear to God-” he leaned forward and licked back into my mouth, tasting and tempting before pulling away again. “One of these fucking days, I’m going to finally get to the main event with you, Ani, I promise.”

I was breathless, and panting, but I knew he had to go. Work calls, and we had to put a pin in it again. Shit. I felt like my entire body was on fire and vibrating with the need I felt for him. I was starving and dying of thirst, and he was the only fucking thing that could quench it.

“Go,” my voice was low, but I knew he could see that I wasn’t angry or throwing him out. “Before I-” I pulled my fingers out of his waistband. “Jump you and make you forget about your bounty.”

Groaning at even the vague promise I gave, he pulled completely away. “Where the hell is my shirt?” We were looking around the living room, mine was on the chair that was fast becoming his, but his was nowhere in sight. Then I heard the soft crackling of the fire and thought it couldn’t be possible, but tilting my head so I could see behind him, I closed my eyes and fought the building laughter. There, in the flickering flames of a real fire (the architect had thought I was crazy to insist on a wood burning fireplace when I laid out my ideas for my house), was JD’s shirt turning to ash as I watched.

He turned too, and his laughter broke my resolve to stay serious. “I know you want me to stay, Ani, but-” Shaking his head he looked down and our eyes met. “That’s a pretty fucking wild way to keep me.”

“So burning all your clothes so you have to stay naked and trapped is a bad way to go?” I asked, playing along. “I’ll make a note of that.”

He tugged on his jacket, kissing me again once I’d pulled on my own blouse. “I’ll call you later.” And then, another kiss and he was gone.

 

I didn’t see him for another three days, but he called me daily. While we didn’t always have phone sex, we did talk about our day and Kelsey. He told me how his case was coming along, and how much he really wanted to lose himself in me for hours or days, whichever we could manage.

Dad invited me to lunch on the third day. He worked from home, his lab rivalling some of the best around the country, so lunch at the house I grew up in wasn’t rare. It was simple food, but the conversation wasn’t.

“Tell me about Roger’s massive screw up.” We’d barely sat down at the patio table just outside the sliding glass doors of the kitchen. I sighed.

“You already know, Dad,” I shook my head and picked up my fork. “I came home from shopping and there he was, humping a coed.”

“On that beautiful table,” he shook his own head at the nerve of Roger to deface such craftsmanship. “Did you send him the cleaning bill?”

I admitted I hadn’t. Then I told him about Roger’s impromptu visit during my dinner party. “You should have seen him fall over, I’ll have to send you the video.” Yes, I had watched it over and over, sue me.

Dad wasn’t laughing. “Ah, the dinner party.” Shit, I swore I was going to reboot to factory settings Pandi’s harddrive to get rid of whatever surveillance encryption he’d managed to infect her with. “Tell me about Kelsey’s family.”

Damn it. I told him about Dorothy and making peace, and I tried to brush past JD with the bare minimal information. “Kelsey wants me to be there when she gives birth and she didn’t want it to be awkward.” I shrugged, nothing to see here, no siree.

“JD Richter?” I bit my lip and waited. “Made a bit of a name for himself not too long ago, didn’t he?”

“Did he?” I was planning on playing dumb. Why give my overprotective father more ammo to hang JD with?

He nodded and took a bite of his food. Carefully chewing and then swallowing, I could tell he wanted me to see him thinking it over. He and I were old hats at this game. “Terrorism, I think they accused him of, not that it was true.” OK, I thought, so he wasn’t completely against JD. “I thought he was seeing the hybrid woman, what was her name?”

I had been eating while he performed his part in our play. Swallowing the bite I’d taken and washing it down with a drink from my glass, I shook my head. “No clue, you know I don’t pay attention to the news.” Which was true, what wasn’t true was my feigned ignorance about this particular piece of news.

Dad was studying me, looking for a chink in my armor. “Molly Woods, an astronaut. Tried to warn us about spores from space and we came to find out that she’d given birth to one of these alien beings. Half human, half alien.” Right, the hybrids, which she’d become because of the close contact she’d had. “She has a child, one of the Humanichs, the original one, I think.”

This was part and parcel what Kelsey had told me, but he had no idea of it. “And?”

“I suppose their situation didn’t work out?” He’d managed, even with our back and forth to eat most of his lunch, I was still plodding through mine.

“I guess not,” replying while stabbing at my next bite. “I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Pandi told you that we’re-”

“Having a rebound fling?” He supplied, and I rolled my eyes. “Isn’t that a little close to home, Anilea? I mean his daughter is living in your home.”

“Dad,” the tone I was using was a warning. One I’d used plenty of times with my father. The ‘I’m an adult and I can make my own choices and mistakes, back off’ voice.

He reached across the table and took my free hand in his. “Roger was an idiot and he wasn’t good enough for you. You and I both know that whatever you saw in him and try as I might I can’t honestly say I figured it out, it wasn’t going to last.” He was right, I’d known it all along, it’s why it was so easy to toss his ass out. “This Richter man, however, seems like the sticking type, and I think-”

“Dad,” another warning, but he didn’t heed it.

“That you’re going to fall hard and fast for him and I want you to be perfectly fucking sure that he’s worth it.” He patted my hand and pulled away. “You don’t see what the rest of the world sees when they look at you, Ani.” I raised an eyebrow at that. “You’re smart, wealthy, and pretty. There are plenty of men who want to take advantage of at least one of those things, make sure Richter just wants you for you.”

 

The rest of lunch wasn’t as trying. We talked about his research. We discussed my newest book. And then, as I hugged him goodbye, I promised him that I wouldn’t rush headlong into anything with anyone.

“And I’m rebooting the AI, Dad, no more spying, understand?” He chucked me on my chin and smiled. “I mean it.”

 

I was throwing together dinner when my newly cleared Pandi informed me that JD was outside. I was smiling when he found me in the kitchen.

“Do you have some kind of device planted in my house that tells you when I’m fixing dinner?” He was pressed against my back while I stirred the boiling pot on the stove. “Hungry?”

His lips found my neck and my eyes fluttered closed. Feeling his tongue flick against the top of my spine I was surprised my knees didn’t buckle. “Very,” he growled. And then I turned and his mouth found mine and I forgot about dinner for a few very hot beats.

We were gasping when we came up for air, and then I was reaching behind me to turn off the burners. He had me on top of the island before I could consider moving, and then my shirt was on the floor, his jacket met the same fate, then his shirt, my bra, and his hands were on the button of my pants when his phone rang again.

“Damn it,” he muttered, his voice muffled against my chest where he’d been snacking. Answering it, while our eyes were locked on one another’s, his so dark that I felt my need for him ratchet up tenfold, I waited for the inevitable. His acceptance of a job, the redressing, the lingering kiss that promised more, but it didn’t come. “Yes, I’m here, Kelsey. Of course you can come talk to me.” Ah, he wasn’t leaving, but we wouldn’t be finishing either. Not now. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure that Ani has enough dinner cooking for three.” His eyes were still locked on me, but I could see he was at war with himself. His only child’s need to speak to him, and me half naked vying for attention.

I leaned closer and ran my nose along his jaw, nipping lightly before finding his earlobe. “It’s fine, JD, we’ve waited this long.” Taking his earlobe between my teeth I gave a little tug and felt his hand tighten its grip on my thigh.

I heard him swallow. And then he told Kelsey he’d see her in a few minutes. He tossed his phone beside me and then cupped my face in both hands and kissed the breath out of me. “Later, I mean it.”

 

We were dressed when she met us in the kitchen, I was back at the stove, stirring and making sure dinner wasn’t ruined. I listened as Kelsey and her dad talked. The topic wasn’t my business, so I kept out of it. Once dinner was ready, I served the three of us, sitting at the island instead of the table.

“I interrupted, didn’t I?” Kelsey broke the silence of our meal. We both looked away from where we’d been staring at one another and saw that she’d noticed our attention. “Shit, Dad, why didn’t you say that you were ‘occupied’?” I snorted at the reminder of our shared phone call in the diner.

“Because,” I offered, my eyes back on JD. “It’s not like it’s the first time we’ve been interrupted.”

He grinned, thinking of every time we’d been close, or that one of us was planning on getting close. “Seems to be a pattern with us, doesn’t it?”

“Then tell Pandi to make it all go silent and shut down the fucking phone, you two.” She rolled her eyes and picked up her plate. “I’m taking dinner to my place, that way the two of you can get your heads out of your-” She walked away, and I had to laugh at her indignation that her dad and best friend hadn’t gotten around to the main event yet. “Pandi?” I heard her call and the AI answer and she gave the order I hadn’t thought to give.

I shook my head while JD was chuckling at his kid’s insistence that we get laid. But then he shocked the hell out of me by picking up his phone and turning it off. “Kid’s got a point,” he answered, working on his plate of food once the phone and AI was put in their places.

It didn’t take long, eating that is, and then, after putting the leftovers away, loading the dishwasher, and wiping up what little mess we’d created, JD took me back into his arms and promised that this time, we weren’t going to stop until we finished.