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A Reluctant Hero

Chapter Text

I was staring at the empty glass in my hand, wondering how the hell I’d managed to drink an entire drink without tasting it. The sound of the techno garbage music invaded my hearing, reminding me of why I’d come to the bar. Why I felt the urge to sit smack dab in the middle of the young, heated bodies with the horrible music pulsing through the space, wishing for oblivion.

Roger. Roger Allen. My creep of an ex who I’d walked in on completely naked and screwing one of his undergrad students on MY dining room table. If that didn’t call for copious amounts of alcohol, after warning his sorry ass to disappear along with any and all reminders of him by the time I returned, then I truly didn’t know what would.

And so, here I sat, on drink number- OK, I lost count after ten. Looking at my watch I realized that, squinting to try to make sense of the numbers, was hours ago. Shit. Taking my car home would be beyond me, even with the self driving capabilities. What the fuck did my car look like anyway? Pulling out my phone, I scrolled through my contacts, ignoring Roger the dirty turd, and found Kelsey Richter’s number.

At first glance, I knew most people would assume that Kelsey and I were an unlikely duo, but the reality was that she had taken a class I got talked into teaching and there was something very lost about the younger woman. When she confided in me that she was pregnant, after our friendship had blossomed, I’d invited her to stay in my guest house. She was quiet, and surprisingly neat. After confiding in me that her relationship with her dad was strained at best, and she didn’t always see eye to eye with her mother.

She was actually visiting her mom, but I was hoping that she’d come pick my sorry, very drunk ass up and take me- Well, I’d figure out where I’d go once I knew I had a ride.

“Hey,” I could hear her yawn out the greeting, shit, what time was it again? “What’s up?”

I tried, through a few stumbling starts, to get the point across. Drunk, stranded by my own stupidity, please rescue me. She wanted to know what happened, and slurring through the story, I heard her sigh and figured that she got the jist.

“Give me a few, Ani, and you’ll have a ride.” I shrugged, knowing that she couldn’t see me somewhere inside my head, but couldn’t make all my functions combine for it to work. “Wait inside, OK?”

“K,” I offered, hanging up and thinking I had time for at least one more drink.

 

“Ani?” A deep voice called my attention away from my phone where I was trying to decide whether deleting all evidence of Roger’s existence or drawing weird shit on all his photos was the route I’d be taking. I looked up, and up, since this man was at least a foot taller than me and even seated on a high stool I felt like my neck wasn’t strong enough to stare up at him for long. “Hey, you ready to go?” His eyes flashed on the two drinks I had sitting on the table in front of me, forcing my eyes to follow his eyes and I smiled when I saw that I had more to drink, since I’d forgotten I’d order more for my wait.

“Go?” I asked, taking a long drink from the glass nearest my right hand. “I think that’s pretty presumptuous, sir, cause I’m very drunk and you’re very much strange.” I blinked, wondering if I used the right word. “Stranger.” I smiled and took another drink, draining my glass. “And if I’m going somewhere with someone that looks like you, I wanna be sober enough to enjoy the ride.”

He gave a quiet chuckle, but he was close enough that I could feel it, or maybe that was the pounding music. “I’m Kelsey’s dad, JD.” I squinted at him, Kelsey? Oh, KELSEY. Right, to take me home. Did I want to go home? Thinking was hard. “So, Ani, are you ready to go?”

I picked up the second and final drink in front of me. “I don’t waste, so give me-” I held up one finger and downed the entire glass at once. “There,” I nodded with satisfaction. “Now I’m ready to go.” I slid from my stool and my legs were like jelly, causing me to giggle as I nearly slid clear down to the floor. “Oops,” I giggled as Kelsey’s dad, DJ, stopped my downward momentum with a strong hand on my elbow. “Who moved the floor?”

“You had a LOT of fun tonight didn’t you?” He was smiling down at me, dimples peeking out from his scruff. “Let’s see if we can get you to my Jeep, OK?” I nodded, sliding my phone into my pocket after making sure I paid.

 

The cool night air felt refreshing on my face, but it did NOTHING to sober me up. I heard, rather than saw, him unlock his vehicle. It was big. Or I was small. But I felt a swoop in my stomach like when I rode a roller coaster and then I was inside the SUV. Hands were buckling my seatbelt, and then the door closed. I felt the rumble of the engine catch, realizing my eyes had gone closed on me, and when I opened them he was pulling into the road at a speed that might have alarmed me if I could wrap my head around it.

“Where to?” He asked, and I considered the question. Where should I go? Home was out, for now, and my dad’s- Dear god, I wasn’t ready for the “I told you so” conversation right now.

“Nearest hotel?” I wasn’t sure, but it seemed best. “I have to hire a cleaning crew to deep clean my entire fucking house and then I have to find time to buy a chainsaw-”

“That sounds ominous,” he offered, his voice so deep and low it was acting as a balm for my mind.

“Mmhmm,” I offered, and then everything went completely dark.

Chapter Text

I woke up with sunlight streaming through windows on the wrong side of my bed. In fact, blinking through the burning of my eyes and the pounding of my head, the sheets felt wrong. And the mattress felt- Shit. I sat up fast enough to make my head spin and forced me to hiss out a long breath. The events of yesterday and last night hit me like a freight train and I felt the urge to fucking die. Quickly.

“Morning, sunshine!” Who the literal fuck? I blinked past the pain, the blinding light, and the realization that I had not one single fucking clue where I was. “You look like hell.”

“Thanks,” I offered through my cottonmouth, which sounded much more like ‘tanks’ than I cared to think about. A chuckle rattled through the very bed, or so it felt like. I groaned, and tried to find some type of sight. “Ugh, I hate life.” I fell back on the pillow I’d woken up on and a sharp hit of pain rushed through me, causing me to groan louder. Another laugh and I considered tossing the pillow at this strange man.

“I brought you some coffee.” I must have turned green at the thought of drinking something so gruesome. “Or-” I felt the bed dip beside me and knew he had sat down. “Juice?”

I tried to open my eyes and focus them. He was tall, very tall. As I fought to see him more clearly, my gaze found the glass of orange juice in his hand first. “Yes, please.” And I sat up more slowly and leaned back against the headboard or wall behind me, so he could hand me the cool glass. Taking a careful sip, I went back to trying to see his face, this strange man who brought me something to take away the dryness of my mouth. After the first cool drink, I felt ready to try another go at conversation. “Thank you, mister-”

“Don’t remember me?” I shook my head and felt like dying. He smiled and I could have sworn that his teeth were brighter than the irritating sun. “Guess you had more than those last two drinks I watched you gulp down,” I felt my stomach lurch at the thought of alcohol. Any alcohol. “Are you going to throw up?” I shook my head slowly, fearing more pain. “If you feel the urge, let me know?” Nodding, he stared into my eyes. “I’d hate to have to toss my bed to the curb.”

His bed? Shit. “Are you going to introduce yourself, or-” Please, I thought, don’t let me have had a one night rebound with a hot as fuck tall guy. I mean, what a fucking waste. To not remember this man naked.

His chuckle vibrated the bed, and I nearly sloshed the juice all over myself and his bed. “You look worried. Very fucking worried.” I bit my lip and saw his stare land on the movement. “Ani, nothing happened. Other than you forgetting my name. Forgetting where you are. And of course, the part where you tried to take off all my clothes and ‘screw the living shit out’ of me.” My eyes went wide. “Don’t worry, you didn’t. You fell into my bed, after I had to carry your limp body inside, and then started to snore.”

From wide eyed to completely shut, I felt the flames of utter embarrassment hit me harder than ALL the alcohol in the world. “I still don’t know who you are,” I made myself open my eyes to see his smile grow. He was having fun with this, the asshole. Moving slightly, but feeling the pain in my head slam into me, his fingers touched mine and took the glass from me to sit it on the bedside stand where I’d been reaching. Long, tapered fingers, warm and strong, and my heartbeat skipped at the slight brush of our skin against one another. Damn it.

“JD Richter.” Wait, what? My eyes flashed. “There it is, the dawning-”

 

“Horror?” Finishing for him, my eyes shut against the knowledge that I’d propositioned Kelsey’s dad. Shit. “Guess I should be happy she didn’t ask Judge Judgy Pants,” I muttered, causing another laugh to jostle the bed.

“See you’ve met my ex.” I nodded, and sighed. “She makes a lasting impression doesn’t she?

“She’s not the only one,” the blush burned from the roots of my hair to my toes, I swore. Wait, glancing down, I confirmed that I was dressed only in my bra and panties. Fuck. “Did I-” I pulled up the sheet to make sure I was covered.

“Yeah, that was ALL you, Ani.” Our eyes met when I finally opened mine again. “Except your shoes, you nearly fell on your head trying to reach your feet, so I took one for the team.”

At least there’s that. “I should get dressed and-” Shit, he’d driven me to his house, that I had no idea of the location, and my fucking car was still in the bar parking lot.

“Relax, Ani,” JD’s smile was contagious, and I felt my lips curl in response to it. He stood up and started for the doorway. “Let me grab you something for the killer headache you must have, and then we’ll go to breakfast.”

“Only if I’m treating you,” I called to his retreating back, my smile growing as I saw his shoulders move to the sound of his laughter.

Chapter Text

I found strength, thinking about something greasy to soak up whatever alcohol was still swishing around my stomach, to get out of JD’s bed. He had just walked out of his bedroom to find me a cure for the screaming pain, and I thought I’d be dressed and vertical by the time he got back.

I failed to take into account just how much I’d fucking drank the night before. I’d just bent down to pick up my clothes that I’d tossed off onto the floor, when I heard him clearing his throat in the doorway. Damn it.

Shame burned through me at the reality of Kelsey’s dad having a wonderful view of my ass barely covered by the thin black satin of the strip they laughingly called panties at the specialty store where I’d bought them. The only redeeming quality of this moment was that my bra matched. Biting my lip, I considered my options. Stay bent over, praying he’d leave his own fucking house, or stand up and straighten my back and pretend that this entire ordeal wasn’t the most embarrassing shit I’d ever experienced,

I chose the latter. I was a fucking adult. A best selling writer, for shit’s sake. I was ASKED to teach creative writing when I took the time to stick closer to home. It was how I met Roger the cheat. Teaching a class at the local college, there he was, sucking up to the author in residence. Fucker. Clutching that righteous indignation like a security blanket, I dressed with my back to JD.

Tugging my tight jeans up my bare legs, then pulling the loose fitted silk t-shirt over my bra, I looked around for my shoes.

“They’re over here,” he offered, his voice sounding different, and hearing it made my hopes that he’d gone to a different room to wait until my ass wasn’t higher than my head rush down the drain. I turned and saw him holding up my heels by one hand, in the other a bottle of pills. “Sit, Ani,” I sat down on the edge of the bed and he moved closer, handing me the bottle first. “Take two and call me in the morning.” Smiling wryly and shaking my head, I took two pills from the bottle as he grabbed my juice from the end table and handed it to me. As I swallowed them, he knelt in front of me and I stared down at the top of his head as he took each of my feet and put my heels back on. “I took them off, I’ll put them back on.” His eyes met mine and I had to swallow hard again. Fuck, why did he have to be Kelsey’s dad? “Ready?”

My thoughts ran toward how the twist of lust I had from him putting on my fucking shoes had made my panties wet as all fuck, but I had to shake myself free from that. Breakfast. He meant food. Control yourself, Anilea. “Yeah, I’m ready.” Swallowing again, trying to coat my throat with saliva so I didn’t sound so husky or breathless, I tried to smile. “Do you have a good place in mind?”

 

He picked a small diner not far from his place. A place that I’d never find on my own, not that I planned on coming for any unannounced or even announced visits. The scent of coffee, yeast of fresh baked bread, and grease, glorious grease hit my senses as soon as we walked in. I may have moaned. I probably did, since JD shot me a look that my frazzled, still somewhat drunk ass couldn’t fathom.

Ordering our breakfast, I felt my phone buzz in my pocket. Shit. Pulling it free from my pocket, I looked at the screen. Kelsey. And ten missed calls from Kelsey and five from Roger. Ugh. I answered the current call and rolled my eyes at JD’s daughter’s freak out.

“Oh my God,” she was practically screaming in my ear. “I’ve been calling all night. I thought you were dead. Even Dad didn’t answer his phone.” I had to hold the phone back from my head, and I was fairly certain that the table furthest from ours could hear her. “Jesus, I didn’t know if he found you, if you’d been raped and murdered, do you have any idea how freaked out I’ve been?”

I set the phone on the table, no need for a speaker phone with Kelsey. “I’m fine, and you’re clearly gearing up for motherhood early.” Our food arrived, JD’s eyes were twinkling as his daughter continued her verbal rampage. “I have no freaking clue why your dad didn’t answer his phone, Kel, maybe ask him?”

“How?!” She screeched, and I felt another headache coming on. “He STILL won’t answer his fucking phone.”

I shot him a look as I took a bite of toast. “Hey, Kelsey.” She stopped ranting and the silence almost stunned me. “I didn’t answer because I was occupied.”

“Occupied?” I knew that tone. That ‘you slept with someone inappropriate’ tone. My dad had used it on me a time or two when I found one of his colleagues too tempting to turn down. “You were occupied?” Dear God, I kicked his ankle under the table and he had the nerve to grin at me.

“Yeah, Kelsey, occupied.” I swallowed my toast and shook my head at him. “I mean your friend, she’s quite a handful when she gets shitfaced.” Oh, you wouldn’t. “Between carrying her to the truck, carrying her to the house, tucking her in- Well, you can see that I was OCCUPIED.”

Still shaking my head, I took a long drink of my juice. “Kelsey, your dad made sure I didn’t choke on my own vomit, that’s it.” For fuck’s sake, don’t lose me a friend, JD. “I’m repaying his kindness with breakfast, can I call you once I get home?”

“Sure, sure.” She answered, but I could hear suspicion clouding her voice. “Call me when you get ‘home’.” And then we all said goodbye and hung up.

“She thinks we-” I was staring at the phone feeling completely horrible.

“Gave in to your urges?” He was smiling around his coffee cup. “Like you said, Ani, it would be a waste of the ride if you don’t remember it.” Fuck.

Chapter Text

Fighting down the absolute sharp thrust of lust that shot through my very core at the words I vaguely recalled saying when we met, I focused on my breakfast again. The waitress brought me a glass of water, once I’d had my fill of juice, and JD tried for a less entendre laden topic.

“Why would you go out in the middle of the week, alone, and get completely plastered?” Better than a bucket of ice water to cool down my libido.

“I got an unpleasant shock when I got home from shopping yesterday,” I took a sip of water, then picked up my fork again. Stabbing at my scrambled eggs, I gave an internal shrug. Fuck it, I hadn’t done anything wrong. “My NOW ex was humping one of his students on my very expensive dining room table.” His eyes widened at my candor. “I felt numbing myself with copious amounts of alcohol was the best course of action.”

JD was chewing carefully on a bite of his own breakfast, mulling over his next question, and I recalled that Kelsey had said he was in law enforcement or bounty hunting so it made sense, I supposed, his interest I mean. “That explains you wanting to hire cleaners, but the chainsaw you need to purchase has me worried I should learn your ex's name, just in case I have to link you to his mangled body.”

I snorted, nearly choking on my own bite in the process. “I think I only want it for the table, actually. He’s a dickhead, but he’s not worth prison time.” I smirked and went back to eating.

 

I paid, even though he tried, not too subtly to slip the waitress his own card. And then I directed him to my house. He was driving like a maniac, and I found myself clutching at the ‘oh shit’ handle as my grandpa once called it.

“Are you in a rush?” I gasped, as he took a turn so fast that I felt like I’d left my full stomach at the beginning of it. “I could have called a cab-”

He turned slightly and I saw his smile grow. “No hurry, I just like to drive-”

“Like a fucking psycho?” I provided, closing my eyes because it made the ride slightly less terrifying.

I heard his chuckle, but kept my eyes tightly shut. “If you think this is fast and crazy, I better not borrow the Spyder from my buddy to take you for a spin.”

I realized that I had to open my eyes, sometimes the GPS would go screwy and bypass my house’s turnoff. My house was just a far off the beaten path as his, only on the opposite side of town. I heard him let out a little gasp of surprise when he made the turn and my house came into sight. Far back from the road, looking like it was a part of the side of the hill, all glass and browns, and this was only the front. Once he pulled around to the garage, he’d be able to see the guest house, a spacious apartment above the three car garage, but the other amenities were interior.

“Ani?” He shot a look at me once the truck was parked outside the garage. “Kelsey said you taught at her school.”

I nodded and gave a shrug. “If I’m in town for more than a month, the university asks me to cover one of their creative writing courses.” I was about to open my door and hop down, when his hand on my wrist stopped me. Oh, I had to explain outside, fun. “Anilea Ampstead.” I watched as his mind tried to figure out how or from where he knew my name. “The Greek Acropolis series?”

JD’s eyes widened again. “That’s you?”

“That’s me.” I reached for the door again, but he stopped me again. “I know that I said I couldn’t go home until I had a chainsaw and a cleaning crew, JD, but seriously, I’d like a shower.” In my fucking decadent shower.

He laughed and shook his head. “Just hang tight for a moment, would you?” And then he was out of the truck and opening the passenger door for me, holding out his hand so he could help me down. “Your ex was a winner, wasn’t he?” Another shake of his head, and he smiled down at me as he shut the door behind me. “You still don’t have your car, Ani.”

“I can call for a ride,” I led the way to my house, happy that he was following behind. Using the bio-metric lock, I added resetting and erasing Roger’s identity from the system. Asshole. “Come on, I’ll give you the tour.”

 

JD didn’t fawn. He didn’t froth at the mouth at the obvious signs of my success. The indoor pool. The sauna. Hot tub. I showed him where Kelsey lived when she wasn’t at her mom’s or visiting him.

“Didn’t you say you needed a shower?” He asked, and I shook my head. “I haven’t seen the whole house, your room, the infamous dining room table-”

I couldn’t decide if he was teasing or flirting, but I figured what the hell. We walked across the entire house, me pointing out the massive dining room table that looked like a huge redwood sliced with the rings stained to a high shine, and the base like twisted limbs. The chairs, also patterned as though they were fresh from a forest, were well padded and comfortable.

“Seems like a shame to take a chainsaw to it,” JD’s eyes drinking in the rustic beauty of it. “Maybe just have it re-sanded and stained in a new color?”

“I’ll think about it.” I realized that while he wasn’t impressed with the opulence, he was fascinated by the decor. It was well made, and rustic, while also showing well used wealth.

“This doesn’t really look like a-” he stopped, taking in the color schemes dark browns, tans, hints of gold. Soft suede sofas and chairs, gorgeous, but also comfortable.

I smirked. Everyone who got a tour of my house said nearly the same thing. “Like a lady’s house?” I put a sneer into the word ‘lady’. “Yeah, well I want comfort, without fear of dropping a glass of wine or a glass of scotch on the carpet.”

He followed me down the hallway, and I pointed out the guest rooms that were on the corners of the house. “Back here,” I offered over my shoulder, “are my rooms.”

“Isn’t the whole damn house made up of your ‘rooms’?” He growled, and I smiled.

“Yes, but company gets to visit the rest of my rooms, only special people get invited back here.” I shut my eyes at the implication of my words, but sailed on. I pressed a button, also print based, and a hidden pocket door slid open. “I like to keep something a bit of a mystery.”

“Maybe I should go?” He offered, but I just looked over my shoulder.

“What’s wrong, JD? Scared?” And I stepped across the threshold daring him to follow.

Chapter Text

JD followed me into my private domain. I saw him take in the huge rough looking bed, its four posts looking like they’d been logged fresh from a forest and put together to form a huge delicious playground. Pillows piled high, with matching end tables, my desk behind a shutter that matched the same rough wooden look, along with the vanity and dressers.

Hanging from the ceiling was a light that looked like a huge cratered moon, with matching mini moons on each end table. Bookshelves near my desk, were filled with the books that I wanted close to me when I was relaxing, while the rest of my book collection was in the library. The custom mural was in the muted fog that blurred the trees making the entire room look like it was tucked away in a real forest.

I watched his face as he seemed to be drinking in the entire room. He had a question on his lips, but I answered it before he could voice it. “The television is hidden behind this wall.” I gave the simple command and the mural slid apart and the screen appeared. “I wanted my bedroom to remind me of my happiest moments camping and hiking with my dad.”

JD nodded, and I knew he was looking for the entrance to the shower I’d teased him over. Stepping to the furthest wall, another whispered command and the mural wall parted, I heard his sharp intake of breath this time and smiled into the room that I REALLY relaxed in.

Where the rest of my house was dark, rustic, and rough looking; my bathroom was modern and light. Grey floors, white basins, and a huge bathtub enclosed in the massive shower. I waited for him to step into the room and pointed out that my closet was tucked behind the entrance, the linen closet opposite it.

“Well?” I wanted him to tell me what he was thinking, I found him incredibly difficult to read.

He bit his lip and kept his eyes on the shower. “That looks-” he huffed out a breath. “Wow.”

“You have NO idea how wow,” chuckling I walked to the open glass walls that separated the bathing area from the main bathroom. I tapped a hidden panel and the dual shower heads, on opposite sides of the tub turned on in a rainfall of water. “IF I don’t want to share my side, I don’t have to.”

“Not a sharer, Ani?” JD’s voice seemed lower and deeper.

I turned to face him. “Depends on who I’m sharing with.”

 

His phone went wild before we could say anything else. And then he was rushing off, taking a case of some sort, but telling me that he’d be seeing me again. A warning, or a promise, I wondered.

I called Kelsey AFTER I took the shower I wanted. A shower that ended up being far cooler than I’d planned when I first considered taking one, but that was a necessity. Once I was wrapped in a huge, soft bath sheet, I finally called Kelsey, ready for my dressing down. Instead she told me she was planning on coming back to stay with me. Her and her mom were at loggerheads again, and she wanted the peace of her own space.

I called a cleaning group, scheduling a deep and thorough cleanse, and then I sat down at my desk and looked into having my dining room table refinished. I took the time to ‘change the locks’ so to speak, making sure that Roger would no longer have access to my home. I decided that I’d wait until Kelsey came back to fetch my car, I had another one in one of the garage bays, so no rush there.

Dressing in a pair of silk pajama pants and a tank, I made lunch and sat in the living room afterward with the television droning in the background. And I’d be a damn liar if I said that JD Richter’s face didn’t pop into my head every few minutes.

Chapter Text

Kelsey drove me to get my car later that afternoon. I’d napped, and recovered, from my hangover, but having her dad’s image creep in every time I closed my eyes was less than relaxing. While the headache, dry mouth, and threat of dehydration was behind me, I had more tension than I wanted or needed. On the other hand, no thoughts of Roger Allen made my life less irritating.

I tried very hard to NOT squirm as my friend, showing the clear evidence of JD’s grandchild growing inside of her, kept glancing at me. Finally I opened my mouth to apologize, for what, I wasn’t completely sure, but Kelsey spoke first. Keeping her eyes on the road, far more careful than her dad drove, she sighed and then started talking.

“Dad called me before you did.” Oh. OK. “He said he forgot to get your number.” Ah. I thought about his promise to call me. “And then, he interrogated me about you.”

“He what?” My mouth dropped open. I mean, I knew I found the man irresistible, but it wasn’t like I’d put my best foot forward.

Kelsey chuckled and my lips curled into a smile at the familiarity of it with her dad’s. “I told you what he does for a living,” she rolled her eyes, but kept them on the road. “His last-” she seemed to be looking for a word. “Relationship was intense.” I waited, figuring that it was my time to listen. “You were-” Again she seemed to be searching for something. “When you were in Paris,” alright, a few months prior to this last teaching stint, right around the time that I learned that Kelsey was pregnant and offered my house as refuge. I nodded, wondering what was going on. “Did you just NOT watch the news while you were gone?”

“You know I hate the news, Kels, that shit gives me anxiety.” I shook my head at the theory that everyone had to be inundated with all the horrors our world had to offer.

This time she snorted, and I realized we were close to the bar. “We’re almost to your car,” she offered, and I nodded my agreement. “This is probably a conversation that needs our full attention.”

“Stop there,” I pointed to one of my favorite restaurants. “I’ll buy us dinner and you can keep telling me what you think I should know.”

 

She waited until we’d been seated, gotten our drinks, and ordered before continuing. “While you were blissfully ignoring the world around you, my dad’s face was plastered all over the news. They called him a terrorist. He and-” she stopped, her eyes pinching with a memory I didn’t share. “The woman he was seeing, they were involved in the Humanichs and Hybrid situation.”

“Oh.” I HAD heard about the hybrid aliens among us, of course, and the Humanichs project and how horribly wrong it had gone was LOUDLY covered. I didn’t recall JD in the mess, but I tried to keep my mind away from those types of stories. I took a long drink of my tea. “It ended?” I meant his relationship, the intense one, and was thankful that Kelsey understood.

She nodded. “She was-is working hard to help the hybrids to integrate into our world better, become more accepted by regular people, you know?” I told her I did. “And it was a short, INTENSE situation, I think Dad realized that it moved fast and hard, and he wanted to focus on getting back to normal?” She sounded unsure and I felt the same. “When he asked me for your number, my mind went to-” she took a drink from her own glass. “I wondered if the two of you had-” again, she stopped. Ugh.

“We did NOT.” Emphatic denial, even though I WANTED to, my mind and body screamed, we hadn’t. She chuckled.

“Yeah, I realized, I’ve seen you drink, Ani,” my face burned at just how drunk I’d been the night before. “And you were WAY beyond how drunk I’ve seen you,” I raised an eyebrow at her certainty. “I nearly needed to activate a translator application on the phone, Ani. But they don’t make one for ‘drunk friend’.” That got me laughing. “Dad doesn’t show interest in just anyone, though-”

I sighed. “He found the intense woman interesting.” And I might be dramatic, but intense? Probably not.

“And look how well that worked out,” she rolled her eyes. “I told him that you’re normally pretty even keeled. Normally.” Her red lips quirked on one side. “Then there’s the fact that you gave me-” she gestured to herself, the dark hair, nose ring and very big bump. “His only child a place to stay when he and my mom were going through their various crap.” She shrugged, faking a nonchalance at the estrangement that she and her parents went through in waves. “It was just weird hearing him show active interest in-” her smirk change to a look of ruefulness. “Then again, when we first got to know one another, I kind of thought-” I stopped fiddling with my silverware and looked up to see her studying me. “You’re older than me, and settled, and smart.” My head tilted wondering where she was going with the ‘compliments’. “You both have tastes that run toward outdoorsy, but refined, and-” She bit her lip and I still didn’t say anything. “If you aren’t into him, I get it, but if you ARE interested in my dad, I think the two of you wouldn’t be a HORRIBLE idea.”

My mouth dropped open again. Seriously, the Richters were going to turn me into a mouth breather. “Are you saying-” my mouth had gone dry again. Another twist of lust at the simple thought of JD making my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth. Taking another deep pull from my glass, I tried again. “Are you suggesting that your dad and me-” nope I couldn’t say it, not to Kelsey, it was too weird.

“If you’re grossed out by it-” I shook my head, thinking that it was the complete opposite, but still very fucking strange. “I mean, I know I sounded freaked out this morning.”

I snorted and nearly choked on the drink I’d hazarded to take. “Just a bit.” Sarcasm dripped from me at how ‘freaked out’ she’d sounded.

Her lips twisted again. “Yeah well, I’m knocked up, hormones on HIGH, and you and Dad didn’t answer your freaking phones for HOURS.” We stopped talking long enough to have our food served and as she took up her fork, she shot me a look. “You were completely trashed when I talked to you. Dad isn’t the type to take advantage, BUT no one answering made me wonder if he was investigating your corpse.”

“And then his ‘occupied’ comment helped loads,” I shook my head as I took my first bite. “He’s a handful isn’t he?”

Kelsey laughed around her own bite. Chewing carefully and swallowing, she grinned across the table at me. “Oh you have no idea.” Then nearly forced me to require the Heimlich maneuver when she added, “yet.”

Chapter Text

Kelsey followed me home when I retrieved my car from the bar parking lot. Once at the house, she mentioned she was going to take a nap, and I rolled my eyes as she gave my cell phone a loaded glance. Honestly, just because I had JD’s number now, didn’t mean I was going to call him. I wasn’t sure I wanted to, aside from the fact that even drunk me had great taste in wanting him naked and sweaty, I hadn’t exactly been at my best when we met. And knowing that he was fresh out of a situation of his own wasn’t all that inspiring for starting up something with him.

Rebound. That’s what we’d be for one another. If I called him up, if we pursued whatever spark we might have felt, it would flare hot and bright and then fizzle out. That’s what rebounds were. The way to cleanse the palette before you find a lasting relationship. Hell, books were written about this shit. Not that I’d ever read them, but still. It was common fucking knowledge. No matter the age, you don’t stay with whomever comes right after a breakup.

With that in mind, I didn’t call him. I tried very fucking hard to NOT think about him between shit I did to keep busy. Stuff like editing my newest book, or starting another story. No, JD Richter was NOT going to work for a rebound. IF I gave him a call, it wouldn’t be for a fast and hot affair, because even drunk, hungover, and a tad bit stupid, I knew that JD would be wasted as a rebound fling. He was the type of man that a woman should want to hook, mount, and keep forever. Anyone who didn’t see that was a fucking idiot.

 

 

He broke first. Four days after I woke up in his bed, my phone rang and I didn’t even pay attention to who the caller was because I was engrossed in the writing of a new chapter to a new book. Answering it almost absently, it took a moment for my brain to disengage from the computer in front of me and HEAR the voice speaking to me.

“I’m sorry, who did you say was calling?” No, I thought, it couldn’t be-

That deep rumble of a laugh and I could swear it vibrated through the phone and I could feel it in my toes. “Forgot me already, Ani? That stings.” I swallowed loudly. Shit. “JD? Kelsey’s dad? Prince Charming since I put Cinderella’s shoes back on?”

I had to shake my head at that comparison. “Pretty sure Cindi didn’t lose her shoes because she was shitfaced, but I won’t deny that you were my hero.” Another chuckle from his end. “Sorry I was in the middle of writing and-”

“I should let you go?” He was asking, not agreeing.

“No,” my voice had grown quiet, and I wanted to smack myself from how needy I sounded. “It’s fine, I can pick it back up anytime.”

“I’m sorry I had to rush out the other day,” he offered, and I thought I heard the sound of liquid flowing into a glass. “Work, it never ends.” Kelsey had filled me in on how he’d lost his license, but after the truth had come out, fought to get it back.

‘Work’s important. Pays the bills, right?” I stood up from my desk and wandered to my kitchen. “I hope it wasn’t something gruesome.”

We chatted about what he did for a living, and as we spoke, I made a late lunch. “What’s that noise on your end?” He asked, clearly picking up the sound of me setting the pan on my stove, and the sounds of me assembling my ingredients.

“I’m making lunch,” looking at how late it was, I realized it was too late for even the latest lunch. “Maybe dinner, actually.”

“You cook?” The interest in his voice was clear.

I grinned as I worked at chopping and measuring. “Well, I have to eat, so learning to make something a little more filling than peanut butter sandwiches seemed like a good idea.” I could swear I heard him smile. “You don’t cook?”

“Never seem to have the time,” he answered and it was my turn to smile. “I haven’t had a home cooked meal-”

“Are you jockeying for an invitation, JD?” It went quiet on his end, and I considered taking it back, but then I thought fuck it. “There’s more than enough for two.”

I heard rustling from his end, and then the telltale jingle of a set of keys. “I’ll be right over.”

 

Once I had dinner steadily bubbling and baking, I took a look at my appearance and was thankful that I’d taken that very cold shower earlier. Rushing to my bedroom, I grabbed something that was attractive, but not overly done up. Another pair of skinny pants, this time in a faux buttery leather and a loose fitting tank, my hair was piled up on my head and I forewent shoes. My house, no need for heels.

I was back in the kitchen, putting the finishing touches on the simmering pots, when my visitor was announced. Giving the OK for him to enter, I waited as he made his way to the dining room, and called out for him to take the door to the right. I made a note to have my AI, Pandi, freeze frame the look on JD’s face when he walked into the room.

My kitchen, like the rest of my house, was dark wood and rustic looking. The stove wouldn’t have looked out of place in a restaurant, nor would the refrigerator and the huge stone sink was always an eye opener. I gestured for him to have a seat on one of the stools lining the huge island, and asked him what he’d like to drink.

“I thought the rest of your house was impressive, but this?” He was still taking in details, and I smirked as he finally met my eyes. “Wow.” Giggling, I asked him what his drink preference was again, and he finally accepted a beer.

I waited until he took a long drink, and shook my head at how easily and comfortable he seemed to fit into my house. I had a glass of tea, since I was planning on keeping clear of any type of alcohol for the foreseeable future, I moved back to the stove and once again we fell into conversation.

I was taking out a dish from the oven, along with the bread I’d put in to warm, when he finally asked the most important question of all. “What are we having, Ani?”

Italian, my preference on any given day, was what we were having. And we ate at the island, side by side, talking as he complimented me on every single part of our meal. I loved watching people appreciate the meals I cooked, Kelsey raved every time she came over for lunch or dinner, and her dad was no different. I had a flash of Roger not being all that interested in what I cooked, his focus more on eating things that would keep him fit and trim, clearly to catch all those willing coeds.

“You just flinched,” he offered, as he swallowed another bite. “What were you thinking about?”

I huffed out a breath that was a cross between a laugh and a snort. “Roger, the ex.” He was studying me. “I just realized, he never seemed to like what I cooked.”

“Fucking idiot.” JD muttered, and I smiled. “That man must have been blind and stupid.” He was still staring, I could feel the heat of his gaze even as my attention returned to my own plate. “What kind of moron screws around on-”

I stopped him. Too dangerous territory. Too close to crossing that invisible line that I wanted him to fucking know existed. “Yeah, well, hindsight.” Taking a sip from my glass, I changed the subject to work.

 

He helped me clean up, putting leftovers in bowls, one of which I insisted he take with him and loading the dishwasher. We were seated in my living room, a fire flickering in the fireplace because that’s the entire point of having a fireplace, JD nursing a second beer and me still drinking tea.

“Tell me about your family,” he asked, his chair facing the sofa I was lounging on.

I sat up and set my glass on the coffee table. “My family?” Leaning back again, I thought about it. “My mom died when I was really little,” I was five, she had passed away after a long illness, one that even my dad couldn’t fix. “Dad’s a doctor, infectious diseases, and he didn’t really understand my artsy nature.” I smirked, thinking about how aghast he’d been when I came up with a B- for my science classes, and that C for math would forever haunt him. “He liked the outdoors, and since I’m his only kid, I learned to like them too.” I loved the outdoors, the forests, the rivers. Lakes and mountains were my playground growing up. “He really didn’t understand my choice in men.” Like Dr. Aaron Myles, his coworker who was very slightly younger than him, who he caught bending me over a lab table when I was nineteen. “Other than my parents, the extended family isn’t really close. Reunions, holiday cards, you know, the normal.”

“Other than the idiot box you dated recently,” I chuckled at the description. “What wasn’t understandable about your choices?”

Damn inquisitive minds, I thought, but shrugged. What the hell, let’s warn him ahead of time. “Older men, usually his colleagues.” I heard, rather than saw, JD’s inhale. “I was an adult, I swear,” most of the time, I flashed on that one fling and felt a blush rise. “It’s just that-” I was very very irritable at the idea that I had daddy issues, so I had this conversation a LOT over the years. “Men who have more experience, tend to treat women better, you know?”

My eyes met his and I realized that JD was older than me. Maybe not as old as my dad, maybe not as old as my oldest lover, but he was. And his eye color, that molten caramel that had drawn my interest when I’d finally been able to focus my eyes, had gone so dark that pinpointing his pupils would have been a challenge. I bit my lip and his eyes focused on the movement. Shit. Not good.

“How about your family?” I tossed out before we both did something that I would fucking regret when it went to shit.

JD smirked, clearly understanding my attempts at diverting the conversation into safer territories, but I had to think he didn’t really know why. He reminded me that I knew Kelsey and had met his ex wife, but I shook my head. “So you were hatched from an egg and didn’t know your parents?”

He laughed, full bodied at my silly joke. Then he told me about his upbringing. His stint in the military. His path to his current profession. He gave out his life’s story as easily as I did, which wasn’t as common as people might think.

“And you just got out of a-” I stopped, shocked at my line of questioning. Shit. Nope, Ani, not that.

“Molly,” he offered, his eyes still on mine. “Molly Woods.” I nodded. “That was a very weird situation.”

I waited, unsure if I wanted to hear about the woman he kept company with before. I knew his ex wife, the mother of his daughter, but this was fresh. “You don’t have to-”

“It’s ok,” he smiled at me and I had to return it. “I’m a grown up, I can handle talking about it.”

I nodded and he told me about meeting her at a crime scene. How he thought she was insane, given where she’d been staying it made sense, but then he found out the victim had been pregnant, just like she’d warned. He told me how it went from her roofieing him to him being called a terrorist for helping her. How that snowballed into intimacy and how, eventually, he realized that she needed her people more than the two of them needed one another.

“Do you still talk?” My fucking curiosity was going to make me want to jump off a cliff soon.

“Not much,” he answered, leaning forward to sit his beer down on the coffee table. “What we had wasn’t supposed to last, Ani, but we became friends.”

I smiled and let my eyes focus on the view behind him, outside the panel of glass. The green of the forest creeping closer, the darkness not obscuring the leaves that seemed close enough to touch.

“Ani,” my eyes found his again, and I swallowed at the look in his eyes. “Come here.”

Oh no, not happening. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” My tongue felt like it weighed a thousand pounds.

He bit his lip as he studied me and I felt the burn from that simple gesture all the way down my body. “Why isn’t it?” Shit.

“Rebounds are never a good idea, JD.” Still sounded as dry mouthed as when I woke up in his bed. The thought of a bed and JD increased the burn.

“Then don’t call it a rebound, Ani.” Fucker, I thought, trying for logic and wordplay. “Come here.” He crooked his finger this time and I could swear he had a fucking string attached to it and my body, the yearning was so strong to give in.

“No,” I wanted it to come out strong and clear, but instead it sounded scared and uncertain. “You come here,” wait, what? Fuck, Ani, not helping.

And then he was over top of me, his weight pressing down on mine, and at the first touch of his lips on mine, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had fucked up majorly. Because I had no fucking doubt whatsoever that when this ended, I’d be crushed. Fucking crushed, because with one kiss, I was addicted to JD Richter, and we weren’t even fucking naked.

 

We didn’t get naked. Not when Kelsey’s voice called out from the door that connected her apartment to the house.

 

“Ani?” She was growing closer, and JD had pulled back and was grinning as he stayed hovering over me. “I saw Dad’s truck outside and-” She was standing in the threshold of the living room when she stopped speaking and I felt the burn go from lust to embarrassment that his daughter and my best friend had caught him on top of me, with my hands locked around his neck and his slithering under my shirt. “Ah, hey, Dad.”

He was chuckling as he answered her greeting, and I felt like sinking into the sofa and dying. It was one thing for Kels to tell me that she was alright with the two of us, but catching us? That was too fucking much.

 

JD left a little later with his leftovers, and I had to shake my head as he ignored his daughter’s presence and kissed me with enough passion to make the wood of my house catch fire. Then he smirked down at me, promised to call, and was gone.

I turned to face Kelsey and rolled my eyes at her trying to hold back her own laughter. “Really?” I asked, shaking my head and heading back to the kitchen. “Want me to heat up dinner?”

“Gonna use your face?” She offered, still laughing. “The red of that blush is throwing off enough heat that I have to believe the microwave won’t be needed.” If I keep rolling my eyes, they’re gonna stick that way. “Jesus, you’re a fucking adult, Ani, why are you so embarrassed?”

I shot her a look. “Because he’s your DAD, Kels.”

Shrugging, she took the plate I’d fixed for her from my hands and sat on the same stool her dad had earlier. “So? He’s not YOUR dad, Ani, that would be cause for fucking embarrassment.”

Jesus, the Richters were going to be the death of me.

Chapter Text

JD called a few hours after he left, and I think he was a little surprised when I answered. I reminded him that us writer types work whenever the muse strikes. We talked about our evening and then, shocking him a little more, I let our conversation go to the naughty side.

“Too bad we were interrupted,” his voice had somehow dropped a few octaves.

I bit my lip and moved to my bed to lay down. “And why is that, JD?” If his voice got deeper, mine grew breathless. “Just what did you think was going to happen before Kelsey came to say hello?”

I heard his sharp inhale and smiled. “Ani, if I didn’t know better, I’d think you were trying to get something started over the phone.”

“I think you know exactly what I have in mind,” licking my lips, I waited to see if he’d volley my offer back.

“I could just drive back over there,” I felt a wave of lust rush over me at the idea of JD and I finishing what we started. “But-”

“But?” My hand was laying on the bare skin of my stomach.

I heard a rustling on his end and then his voice came through loud and clear. “I think this might give me an idea of what to do when I get there.” I smiled, and started unbuttoning my pajama top.

“Where are you right now?” I wanted him to be comfortable, God forbid him take matters into his own hands and fall over. Injuring himself before we get to experience one another in the flesh would fucking suck.

“I’m in the exact spot you were when you woke up the other day.” Another twist of lust hit me. “I can still smell your perfume on the pillow.” Dear God, he might be better at this than me.

“Really?” My top was open and I was thinking of my next move. “I think you were going to tell me what would have happened if we hadn’t been interrupted earlier.” Give me a prompt, so I can catch up, I prayed.

“Since I was laying on top of you,” I could almost feel him again, the heat and weight. “And we’d only gotten a tiny taste of one another, I would have spent more time kissing you. The way your taste was twisted up with tea, sugar, and a hint of the herbs you used for dinner, I’d want to memorize just your flavor.” I swallowed hard. “And I’d want to hear that little noise that came out of the back of your throat when our tongues touched for the first time. I hope you make it more than once, Ani, because fuck if that wasn’t the sexiest sound I ever heard.”

“And your hands?” I could still feel the tips of his fingers under my tank, teasing at the soft skin of my waist.

I could feel the low chuckle he practically breathed out. “I’m a multitasker, Ani, I guess you noticed that.” Another swallow from my side as he told me how he’d planned on teasing the softness he’d barely touched earlier. His fingertips barely touched my skin, stoking a fire that he knew was flaring up brighter and hotter as he went. “And I’d started to taste more of your skin, Ani, your neck. I’d test your pulse with my lips and tongue,” Jesus, I thought, this man would make me burst into flames with all my fucking clothes on.

He kept talking, and I offered my own suggestions. How I’d want to feel every single inch of his skin, and how he wanted to move me to lay on that super soft fucking rug I had laying in front of the fireplace. Naked, we’d take our time, finding out every spot that caused a jerk, twitch, moan, or whimper.

JD talked about how he imagined I’d taste, what his lips and tongue wanted to do more than he had words for, and I could hear the hitch in his voice and knew that I wasn’t the only one taking matters into my own hands, so to speak. He turned to heavy breathing as I described how badly I wanted to taste and tease him, how I’d stare into his eyes as I took him into my mouth, and how badly I wanted to see him come completely undone for me.

Soon words failed us as the images we’d already painted overwhelmed each other, and we were panting and moaning, and then as we both rushed over the edge, together but separate, I heard his breathless chuckle.

“Jesus, Ani,” his voice was still low, but he sounded as satisfied as I felt, for the time being anyway. “If that’s what we can do when we’re not in the same fucking house-”

My own chuckle came out just as breathless. “No shit.”

We said goodnight once we were both capable of actual speech, and as I turned off the lights I was smiling wider than I could have imagined phone sex ever making me. I slept like the dead, and when I woke up I was ready for my day and had the urge to be productive.

 

That feeling left after I once again absently answered my phone and this time the caller was Roger. Fuck.

“Ani, we need to discuss what happened.” He was saying as I contemplated the validity of throwing the phone out a window.

I shook my head as he kept talking, clearly in lecture mode. “Roger, stop talking.” He did and for once I felt grateful. “There’s absolutely not a single fucking thing we need to talk about. All your shit is gone, right?” I hadn’t taken the time to check, I figured even he wasn’t stupid enough to leave anything behind, on the off chance I’d change my mind.

“Yes, but-”

“Then we’re done.” I replied, cutting him off again. “You screwed a coed on my dining room table, I caught you, I kicked you out, and now we’re done.” I sat back and sighed. “Don’t call me again, Roger, don’t visit, don’t bother waving if you see me driving past or walking down the street. We’re finished. Bye.” I hung up before he could say another word, then I took the time to go one better and have his number blocked.

 

The next hit came when Kelsey visited during lunch. Handing her a plate, I could tell she had something on her mind and worried for a moment that her hormones had made her flip away from being alright with JD and me. The real conversation she was planning was far more out of left field.

“I invited Mom to dinner tomorrow.” I nodded, seemed like a nice idea for her to have her mom come for a visit to her apartment. “Here, Ani, I invited her HERE.”

“You mean,” I looked around my kitchen and theoretically my house. “HERE?”

She nodded and looked a little worried. “I realized that even if you and Dad don’t work out-” I raised an eyebrow, “nothing comes with a guarantee.” I shrugged. “But regardless, when this little person comes out of me, I want you to be at the hospital and if you and Mom don’t take time to get to know one another, it will be fucking awkward.”

“So by dinner,” she was smiling, seeing that at least part of the battle was won. “Am I expected to create said dinner?”

 

I agreed to make Kelsey her favorite comfort food meal, and I begrudgingly agreed that her idea made sense. After lunch she went back to her own area, and I went back to writing, thinking that the day had had enough surprises.

 

I checked the phone when it rang again. No more fucking oops answers for me, no siree. It was my dad and shaking my head I answered.

“Hey, Dad, what’s up?” I was filling my glass with water and heard the dramatic sigh. Damn it.

“When were you going to tell me that your no good, asshole of a boyfriend cheated on you?” Jesus, how the fuck, I glared at the AI system. Traitor.

Taking my water to the living room, I curled up in the chair that JD had taken the night before and realized that just like his bed and my perfume, his scent clung to my chair. Taking a moment to appreciate the musky and mouth watering scent, I sighed on my end. “Eventually, Dad, of course. I figured you would notice he was gone when you visited, or when I came to dinner without his sorry ass.”

“Kicked him out?” I hummed my confirmation. “That’s my girl. Now send him the bill for the deep cleaning you had done. That rancid dick can fucking pay for his mess to be cleaned up.” I snorted into my water. “I swear, Anilea, the men you choose.” I flashed to JD’s face and thought it better to not bring up the fact that I was pretty fucking sure my taste was getting better.

We talked for awhile longer, him promising that he’d stop by soon, and me promising that I’d come to his house for a game of Scrabble and dinner. Then he reminded me of how much he loved me, and we said goodbye.

So much for no more surprises, I thought to myself, as the phone rang again. And when I checked the caller’s ID, my irritation went away and my smile grew.

“Hey, JD.” I was still smiling when we hung up, hours later, and once again almost completely satisfied. From just his fucking voice, no less.

Chapter Text

Kelsey’s favorite dinner was simple to make. I could do it with muscle memory alone, and nothing would fuck it up. As I worked, I considered Dorothy Richter. Maybe I hadn’t been fair with the woman. I’d offered her pregnant daughter a home, sure, but I guess that she could have taken my gesture of goodwill as me butting in where I wasn’t needed. I wasn’t a parent, but if I had a daughter, I could see where a stranger offering her a place to live while she was going through some issues with her family might be construed as sticking my nose where it didn’t belong.

I was putting the finishing touches on the dining room table, which I’d covered with a tablecloth for the first time since I’d bought the damn thing. JD was right, of course, the table was gorgeous. Making it into kindling would be a damn waste, but staring at the gleaming top only made me see Roger’s naked self grinding against a student. So a heavy lace covering, a family heirloom, was now covering the entire damn thing. I added candles, and a few flowers, and then set the table.

Dinner would be ready in around a half an hour, when the first guest arrived. I say first, because my life seemed to be a massive fucking surprise party that kept coming, calls and now visits.

 

“Dorothy,” I greeted her as Kelsey came in through her own entrance. They met at the threshold of the dining room and I could see how impressed JD’s ex wife was at the sight of my home and it’s decor. “We have a little bit of time before dinner is finished, Kelsey, why don’t you take your mom into the living room. Dorothy?” Her focus returned to me, and I smiled. “Can I get you something to drink?”

I got a small tray out for the three drinks I’d made when I was told I had another visitor. And this was a visitor that would have been welcome on any other fucking evening, but I had a feeling that steadily rose as he walked in, that shit was just getting started at being the weirdest evening of my life.

 

“JD,” I heard Kelsey’s mom call out, her shock evident in her tone as I came out of the kitchen with my tray.

Under other circumstances, with more warning perhaps, the site of JD looking like a deer trapped in the headlights might have been funny. Maybe. He was looking from me and the tray I held, to the living room that currently houses his ex wife and daughter. Whatever he’d had planned for the evening, the look he shot me when he turned to face me showed that he was disappointed at the loss of it.

“Hey,” I offered, taking the tray into the living room and sitting it on the coffee table. “What do you want to drink, JD?”

He followed me into the kitchen, and I was so fucking happy that I’d insisted on a real door for the room because he had me pressed up against the island as soon as it swung shut behind us. And then his mouth was on mine and he was granted one of his wishes, swallowing that tiny noise that I made when our tongues touched. My hands were tangled in his hair, and I could swear that the room temperature rose ten degrees as he feasted on my mouth.

We pulled back, but not away, and he leaned forward so our foreheads touched. “Fuck if I haven’t thought about doing that since the other night.” He rubbed his nose against mine. “Actually, I think I’ve thought about doing that since I fucking first laid eyes on you.” My hands were still in his hair and I chuckled at how we met. “Yes, Ani, even drunk as a skunk I wanted you.”

“Too bad that I insisted I wanted to remember the ride, huh?” He dipped back in for another taste as the timer rang behind me, reminding me that I had his daughter and his ex only a few rooms away. “Shit.”

“I didn’t know Dorothy was going to be here,” really? It was a surprise to me too, at least when your child suggested it. “Guess I’ll head home and call you later so we can catch both of our fucking houses on fire.” I rolled my eyes as I pulled away and started getting dinner put into and on serving dishes.

“Grab a plate from-” I pointed to the cabinet that held my better set of china. “And utensils from-” Another gesture. “The extra napkins are here,” I pulled open another drawer. “I made enough for leftovers, trust me, one more to the table won’t be a burden.” He stepped up behind me and I felt the heat of his full length press against my back. And then his lips met the back of my neck and I had to hold back a very loud moan. “Careful, I’d hate to fucking drop dinner.”

“If you do, then we can send Kelsey and Dorothy out for take out, and we’d have the entire fucking house to ourselves until they come back.” His lips were sliding along the curve of my neck to my shoulder.

“It would only take them ten minutes, JD.” I bit my lip as his teeth nipped at my shoulder. “Tempting though that idea may be, I think I’m gonna want more than ten minutes.” His laugh vibrated through me and then he pulled away. Damn it.

“Have it your way,” he was opening the kitchen door to add his place setting to the table. “Don’t say I didn’t offer.”

 

Dinner wasn’t as bad as I feared. Dorothy did shoot a few weird looks at JD and then me, but she didn’t say anything. Kelsey tried to keep the conversation flowing, and it mostly worked. Mostly. JD had set his setting across the table from me, and since I was at the ‘head’ of the table, he was at the ‘foot’, and the length meant we couldn’t touch if we tried. We could look, though, and I didn’t know for sure about him, but I was a squirming mess on my end.

 

As I was about to announce dessert, another guest arrived. A very unwelcome guest. When I told Pandi to send him away, he got a tad vocal, and I sighed.

“Fine,” I stood up and stalked to the front door. “Give me a moment, please.” I knew that Dorothy was about to ask questions behind me, but all I could focus on was the imbecile that was waiting for me on my doorstep.

Roger looked rough. That’s the best way I could put it and I swear it wasn’t colored by the last activity I saw him engaged in. No, he was rumpled, his hair was sticking up like he’d been pulling at it, and he looked almost feral in the eyes.

“I thought I told you that we’re done.” I said, glaring up at him. “That would mean that you aren’t welcome here, Roger.”

He took a step closer to me, and I felt the heat of JD against my back again. I couldn’t see his face, but Roger could and it stopped his forward momentum. “Who the fuck are you?” He asked, his voice a pale imitation for the deep voice that answered him.

“JD Richter,” his voice sounded normal, so I couldn’t fathom why Roger looked so scared. “You must be Roger.” That snapped Roger out of his fear and into defense mode.

“What the hell are you doing in my house?” My ex had the nerve to ask. HIS house? The literal fuck?

“YOUR house?” I was inches away from throttling his ass. “I don’t know what drugs you must be on to be that fucking delusional, but THIS-” I waved my hands at the expanse of my property. “Is MINE. I financed it, I had it built, and I am the only fucking name on the Goddamn deed, so Roger, I think you need to get the fuck off of my lawn.”

“You heard the lady,” JD’s voice had changed, slightly, and I saw Roger gulp. “Leave. Now.” I watched as Roger tried to decide if it was worth the fight, but JD had about six inches on him, and from what little I’d touched so far, he was solid muscle. “Go.”

Roger chose to take the ‘high road’ as it was. “Fine.” He spat out, looking for all the world as though he was the victim in our story. That I’d somehow betrayed him. “Fine. You can have her.” And then, in the most hilarious flounce that I’d ever witness, he turned with his nose in the air, and fell off the step he’d been standing on.

I couldn’t help it, I laughed. He looked like a fucking buffoon, indignation and wronged, and now he was face down in the grass with his ass up high. Fucking hell. I turned away, and finally saw JD’s face, but all I could see was my own mirth reflected.

“Fucking idiot,” he muttered, shutting my front door behind us, and then kissing my lips gently. “Come on, I think Kelsey and Dorothy are getting dessert served.”

Chapter Text

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.

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JD’s arms were around me, mouth tempting mine to play with him, but I stopped him. His eyes were dark and hooded, and his fingers were sliding under my shirt, so when I pulled back I knew I’d stumped him.

“Bedroom,” it was a demand, because screwing in front of the fireplace, or humping on the island was definitely on the ‘to do list’, right now I wanted him in my bed.

He caused me to squeal when he scooped me up into his arms, which turned into a giggle as I buried my head into his neck. “Bed it is,” that low rumble of his voice, coupled with his arms cradling me to him, made that ball of lust unwind and spiral out.

It was up to me to touch the panel that would open my room up for us, and then as it slid shut behind him, he lowered me to my feet and picked up where we’d left off multiple times now. Cupping my face, his lips met mine and he stoked an already flickering fire. He went slower, knowing that we wouldn’t be interrupted, knowing that we had all the time in the world, for now at least.

Instead of tearing one another’s clothes off, when he pulled my shirt over my head and tossed it toward the chair near us, he took the time to lean in and taste the newly bared skin. Tongue flicking against my pulse, then sliding his nose down my collarbone, a nip to the curve of my breast peeking out of my bra, causing me to almost miss his fingers unsnapping my bra. His mouth followed where the satin cups had supported me, and then he was on his knees in front of me, looking up as his long fingers unzipped my pants and worked them down my thighs. Feeling the bare skin of his hands sliding along the bare skin of my legs nearly made me fall over, but he kept me steady, taking my hands and putting them on his shoulders for support, he tugged my pants off my feet and they joined the rest of my clothes.

JD kissed my inner knee, nipped my inner thigh, and then I felt his breath against the damp satin of my panties. He hummed and placed a kiss on the fabric standing between him and my mound. “Dessert.” And then my knees did buckle as his tongue, hot and wet, touched my still covered sex. I was back in his arms, and lying back on my bed, watching as he tore his own clothes off, robbing me of the experience. His fingers hooked into the waistband of my underwear and then they were added to the pile of discarded clothes and he slithered up the bed to finish what he started.

 

JD Richter was a man who took pleasure in giving pleasure. Every moan, every gasp, every plea that came from my mouth fed his enjoyment. When he felt that I was more than ready for him, he was above me, hips rocking into mine, hands pulling my legs around him and then together, we pounded like waves on a beach. His mouth on mine, the flavor of me heavy on his tongue, he stole every sound that I wanted to make. My nails were scraping his arms and back, digging into the slight curve of his ass, and after he’d brought me over more times than I could count, he finally joined me. He kept moving throughout both of our final climaxes, working our bodies to the brink of exhaustion, but what a fucking amazing way to earn it.
He stayed cradled on top of me, his head buried in my neck, our breathing evening out as our hands were memorizing every inch we could touch of one another. His lips touched my neck, almost too spent to kiss, and I felt him sigh in contentment.

“Jesus,” he breathed, and I turned toward his face as he pulled up to look at me. “Is the house still standing?” I glanced around us and nodded. “Bed isn’t broken?” A head shake from me. “Damn, gonna have to do better next time.” And that did it, I laughed, long and hard at JD’s confidence.

“Better?” My fingers traced his lips. “What did my house ever do to you to make you want to destroy it?”

He shook his head and leaned in to kiss me, rekindling the fire a little. “It’s too far away from mine,” he breathed and my breath caught.

 

 

JD and I took full advantage of Kelsey’s insistence that we go dark. My shower, which he learned intimately I had no trouble sharing with the right person, earned five stars with him in it. The bathtub, because we definitely needed to soak after the bedroom and the shower, would never look the same after he bent me over the side and took me again. The dining room table was looking far more attractive after I had him as my late night snack on the gleaming surface. The island, the rug in front of the fireplace, the couch, the chair he claimed, the front door, the patio door, the hot tub. We went through that to do list pretty damn fast, but also very thoroughly.

By the next afternoon, heading into evening, we both realized that the real world couldn’t be denied forever. I gave Pandi the order to go back online and JD turned his phone back on. The amount of voicemails we both had was mind boggling. As was Pandi’s announcement that we’d missed Roger’s return to the scene of the crime, my dad’s attempt to override her new encryption, and--

I caught him looking at me, and I saw the hunger that I felt for him reflected. The urge to turn it all off again, get lost in one another in this big house of mine was almost overwhelming. Then his phone rang and we were back to normal.

Chapter Text

JD left after accepting the job that came in as soon as he turned his phone back on, but not before yanking me to him and kissing me thoroughly. A tiny nip to my bottom lip, the dark hungry look still in his eyes, promising me he’d see me soon, he was gone. I shook my head and swallowed down the rush of lust that he’d created with a single fucking kiss, and tried to decide if food or work would be my first course of action.

Kelsey found me in the kitchen, having seen her dad leaving she decided to come see if I was still capable of speech, or movement, I thought as I caught her smirking. “What?” I asked, pulling out the ingredients for French toast. “Hungry?”

“Looks like Dad had you for breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” she offered, her smirk growing into a full blown smile. “Seriously, you have a little-” she gestured to her own neck and I felt my eyes widen. He hadn’t.

I turned my head and tossed my hair back as I studied my neck in the reflection of the microwave glass door, and sure enough, a bite mark. Shit. I groaned and then glared when she laughed. “Not funny, Kelsey.” I pulled my hair back down, but then sighed as I looked at the ingredients in front of me. Hair hanging meant a greater chance of eating said hair by accident, fuck. I sighed and pulled it back and twisted it into a knot as I pulled open the junk drawer and grabbed a hair tie. “I can’t believe I didn’t notice that he-” I was muttering, trying to flip through ALL the times we came together and remember the feeling of him BITING me, but nothing came. Nothing other than the flush caused by how good every time he touched me felt. Or the images of his body, naked and glistening with sweat as it hovered over mine. Fuck.

“You just went red, pale, and then let out a gasp,” she offered from the stool she was studying me from. “You want me to leave you alone to take care of whatever caused all that?”

I shot her another look and picked up the first egg. Cracking it with more force than necessary, I ignored her. Eggs, cinnamon, a hint of cream, vanilla, then thick slices of bread before adding each to the lightly buttered pan. “Grab the powdered sugar, syrup, and I think there’s some whipped cream in the fridge-”

“You didn’t use that with-” I groaned out loud at the very idea that my best friend kept mentioning the sex she was insinuating I’d had with her own father. “Joking, Ani, God get a grip.”

“Let’s never, ever, ever discuss YOUR dad and me-”

“Screwing like rabbits?” She offered, which earned her another sharp look. “Fine, but I’m your closest friend, so if not me, then who?”

 

JD called a few hours after Kelsey had tortured me to her heart’s content. He was elbows deep in a case, but he wanted to hear my voice. After reminding me of all the ways he liked to hear my voice, he sighed and said he had to go. My answering sigh was met with a low chuckle and he promised me that he was just as eager to see and hear me in person as soon as possible.

I had gone back to my desk, listening to the voicemails from the calls I’d missed while we were ‘occupied’, I rolled my eyes at Roger’s insistence that he wanted to speak to me again. Hearing my dad sound irritated that Pandi was down, and that I’d closed the loopholes for him to backdoor his way into the AI’s system. I knew I’d have to call him back, but work called to me.

Getting lost in the story I’d been working on, I ignored the reminder that Roger had shown up at my house AGAIN while JD and I were locked in our own bubble. I took heart in knowing that he hadn’t been able to breach my security, but it was annoying regardless. Pandi broke through as I fell into a world of my own creation, telling me that once again, Roger was on my doorstep.

Asking for the intercom, I kept typing as I spoke. “If you don’t remove your lying, cheating ass from my property, Roger, I will be forced to electrify the door, the porch, and the fucking pathway. While seeing you flail around as current flows through your sorry ass would amuse me, I hear the paperwork for such shit is enormous and a pain in the ass to fill out, so kindly fuck off.”

“Ani, come on, you know that you can’t throw away what we had.” He was pleading, while trying to make it sound seductive and alluring. I snorted. “Do you really think that JD Richter, hero at large, is gonna be happy with you after screwing a hybrid astronaut?” Nice, first try to remind me of how ‘good’ we had it, then insult me. “I mean, have you SEEN Molly Woods?” Even better, show that you’d fuck her, you moron.

“Roger, what we had was at best temporary insanity for me, at worst it showed how fucking desperate I was for sex with something not battery powered.” Take that, you tasteless prick. “As for JD and his past? I have seen Molly Woods, and he and I have talked about her.” Again, what did he think, I just randomly hump hot men? “He seemed pretty fucking happy after we spent almost 24 hours locked in MY house, which again, I want you to walk away from. This is your last warning, Roger. Leave now, never darken my fucking door again, or ZAP.” I hadn’t stopped writing, multitasking wasn’t only something JD excelled in.

“Fine, but don’t call me when your little rebound implodes.” I truly snorted so hard I had to stop typing. Shit, honestly? “I mean it, I’m moving on-”

“With the coed?” I offered, through giggles that the snort had turned into. “Great, let me know where you register. I won’t buy you a wedding gift, but fuck if I won’t laugh at the teething toys she picks out for playtime.” With that parting shot, I told Pandi to turn off the intercom, but watched the camera to make sure he flounced off, and hoped that he’d go asshole over head again so I could keep the good times rolling. Sadly he didn’t fall down, he shot the camera a glare and then walked calmly to his car. I sighed and wondered if he would stay fucking gone this time.

 

I answered my dad’s call as I was making breakfast the next morning. I could hear his frustration in just the ringing of the phone, but the heaviness of it in his tone caused another eye roll.

“Dad,” I cut him off before he could gain steam at how irresponsible it was to ignore the world, meaning him clearly, for whatever idiotic reason I could have had. “I wanted, no I needed, time alone.” With JD, and his naked body, and fuck, where was I? “I don’t know what the big deal is, we used to ‘unplug’ every weekend when we went camping.”

“Yes, but then I had you in my sight and I could keep you-” I heard him huff an exaggerated sigh. “Anilea, you have to understand that you’re my little girl. No matter how old you get, no matter how independent you are, you’re still my daughter.”

“I understand that,” I sat down with my full breakfast and put him on speakerphone. “But you have to get that I AM an adult, Dad. Putting surveillance software on my AI, or GPS trackers on my car, or any of the other ‘protective’ measures you want to take is stifling. Trust that you raised me to be careful, please?”

“Roger-” he started, and I groaned. “You have to admit, Ani, he’s not the first in a long line of assholes that took advantage of you. He lived in your house, ate food you bought and prepared, paid no bills, and I’d bet money that you even bought him things he mentioned he liked.” So? I like to give people gifts, and what better gifts than things I knew they wanted? “I’m not saying you shouldn’t be generous. Kelsey is a case in point, she’s good people.” He’d met Kelsey during one of his visits to the house and took to her immediately. “But men? You have a bad track record. Think of Jason-”

“I’d rather never think of Jason, Dad.” The fling, if you could call it that, that had made me blush when JD asked for more information about my past indiscretions. “Besides, that didn’t go that-”

“He had my name forged on the marriage license, Ani.” I shut my eyes at the memory of Jason Sallinger. A lab tech that worked under my dad, but was nearer his age than mine. Attractive, and predatory, I hadn’t known at sixteen men like him existed. At least not in my world. “If I hadn’t realized what was happening, I can’t even think of what would have happened.” We’d learned, as the police investigated Jason, that I wasn’t his first attempt at the con. And at least one of his past paramours was missing and had never been heard of after they eloped.

“You know that I’m more careful, Dad.” Now, I thought, I didn’t let anyone really know how deep my pockets were. How vast the wealth was that I’d earned through my own creativity, and through my inheritance from Mom. “Roger has no idea how much I’m worth.”

Dad sighed again. “Your house alone paints a picture, Ani. Your two vehicles, the trips you take that aren’t promotion related. And the books? For fuck’s sake, sweetie, you’re on every talk show every time another one is released. He knew enough. It’s why he can’t let go, or at least-”

“He showed up while the system was locked down.” Dad’s end went completely silent. “And he showed up a few hours after it went back up. I told him I planned on shocking him, literally, if he shows up again.”

“Ani, let me send the man I use to-” He took a deep breath and I could almost see him preparing to admit something he knew I’d find irritating. “Help keep you safe. He can check to be sure that Roger doesn’t have his own shit in place to watch you.”

I didn’t consider that Roger would do anything like that, but in a flash I realized that he might. Maybe not before I caught him, but now? Now he seemed desperate to keep me. I reluctantly agreed to his offer. Adding that I’d want this man to remove anything he found, which Dad said was the entire point, of course.

He promised to come with the man, hopefully later in the day, and I told him I’d make us an early dinner.

“Get the Scrabble board out,” he demanded, and I smiled. “It’s been too long since I trounced you at wordplay.”

 

“Good luck, old man,” I challenged, and hung up grinning from the return to normalcy.

 

Dad was true to his word, and with Kelsey beside me, we watched the two men, the stranger holding a device of some sort in his hand go inch by inch around the exterior of my house. Then, even though I protested that there wasn’t any way that Roger had planted anything in my house, they did a repeat performance to the interior. I was shocked when they found a few tiny gadgets inside to add to the small group they’d uncovered outside.

“This,” Dad told me as he held up one of them, “is MY GPS tracker from your car.” Nodding to show my understanding, he went on. “It’s going back on, Ani, because there were two others in the same car.” Wait, TWO? “One is no doubt Rogers, but the other one? Either he’s idiotic enough to double up, or someone else put it there.”

“I’d think it was him,” the other man offered. “There were two of everything we found. Close enough to make me think that he was using two simply to make sure he had a backup in case one failed.” He shook his head at the stupidity. “He’s not a rocket scientist, is he?”

“He teaches poetry,” Kelsey offered, bringing Dad and his friend lemonade. “So, no, not a rocket scientist, and he also has the most pedantic ideas about Longfellow.” I shook my own head at her irritation with Roger’s opinions on poetry.

The other devices were for sound, which means that he had probably heard JD and I from the first visit he made to my house and most definitely the sounds of our lovemaking. Good, I thought, suck on that. I invited the security man, whose name he reminded me was Kelvin to dinner, but he declined.

“My wife made reservations for tonight.” I smiled and walked him to the door. “I put your dad’s tracker back on your car. Both of them are being tracked, and I’d advise you to keep them on. This ex of yours, he doesn’t sound all that stable, but even if he is it’s safer.” I agreed and thanked him for his time. “Don’t mention it. Just stay safe.”

“I’ll try,” I started to shut the door, but he stopped me.

“JD is a good guy,” my eyes widened and he grinned at me. “Your dad filled me in. I know him, and he’s a good one. If you’re with him, you’re safe.” Then he said goodbye and I finally closed the door.

 

Dad had invited Kelsey to dinner, like she needed an invite, and the three of us ate and then gathered around the Scrabble board I’d set up on the opposite end of the dining room table. I was laughing as the two of them argued about the validity of a word when Pandi informed us that we had a guest. Dad looked at me with shrewdness as I told it to let him in, and then as I sat at a table with my dad and Kelsey, JD walked in to meet my father for the first time.

Chapter Text

I had to give JD credit. He walked into my house, practically ignored his own daughter and my dad, and kissed me as though we had no audience at all. Once he was satisfied I knew just how badly he’d missed me in the just over 24 hours we’d been apart, he pulled away and smiled down at me.

“Sorry,” he offered, face still so close I could feel his breath fanning my kiss swollen lips. “I just couldn’t wait another minute.” I was smiling as we pulled apart, and remembered Dad and Kelsey were still sitting at the dining room table. Licking my lips, and causing JD’s eyes to focus on them again, I shook my head with a quick inhale of air to clear my head.

“You’re just in time to meet my-” I started to turn to the table, but Dad beat me to the punch, so to speak.

“You must be Kelsey’s dad, JD, isn’t it?” My dad was standing next to me, and as everyone did, forcing me to look up. My heart rate calmed down when I saw he wasn’t glaring or trying to look intimidating. Holding out his hand, he smiled even and offered his name. “Adam Ampstead,” I watched as JD took his hand with as much confidence as he did anything. He didn’t try to dominate the handshake, which I’d seen some men do, but he shook Dad’s with the same pressure and strength that my father was asserting.

“It’s a pleasure meeting you, Dr. Ampstead.” Point for JD, doing his homework and using the correct title. I remembered him asking about my family during our first dinner here, and smiled. “Ani mentioned your focus is on infectious diseases.” Well played. Dad studied JD as their hands dropped. Clearly he was hiding being impressed, my dad was an old hat at feigning indifference to someone who was showing him their intelligence.

“I am, do you know the field?” Volley, and I waited for the lob back from JD.

JD chuckled and shook his head. “Hell no, I barely managed a D in biology,” his dimples were peeking at me and his eyes met mine with a twinkle. “Ani tells me she wasn’t much better.”

My dad, shocking me, laughed with him. “Yeah, I never quite understood how someone as brilliant as Anilea couldn’t grasp science and maths.” I rolled my eyes and took my seat at the table.

“I can still kick your ass at Scrabble, old man,” I challenged, seeing Kelsey watching our dads like a tennis match. “You alright there, Kels?”

 

She snorted as her dad took the seat next to me and Dad retook his own. “Sure, I was waiting for fireworks, but this works too.” She shrugged as we restarted the game. JD was content sitting next to me and watching the three of us play Scrabble more competitively than most sports players played for trophies.

He was touching my tiles, leaning close to me when Dad ordered him back. “No outside aid,” he growled at the two of us and I snickered.

“Pretty sure Dad wasn’t helping her make a word,” Kelsey offered, dropping her tiles onto the game board. “Besides, I just won, hands down.”

We all studied the board and I nearly spit the sip of the drink I’d just taken out. “OXYPHENBUTAZONE, Kelsey, how the fuck did you manage-”

JD was watching the three of us like he couldn’t grasp the nerdiness on such a high scale. His daughter, the little freak that she was, had managed to use our own competitiveness against us, and adding the ‘oxy’ to the rest of the word had earned her a whopping 1,778 points. My mouth had recovered, and was hanging open while my dad was working hard to find a loophole to make her win illegitimate.

“I win,” she pushed back from the table and Dad stood to help her to her feet. “And now, a victory pee.” I laughed as she waddled to the closest bathroom and Dad was shaking his head.

“That girl is,” he sighed, and turned back to JD and I. “Your daughter is brighter than she likes to pretend.” I felt JD holding back his laughter. “One day she’ll be as accomplished as Ani, mark my words.”

I smiled and nodded. “I don’t fucking doubt it for one minute.” JD was watching me. “What? I met her in the class I taught.” My smile grew at the memory of how impressed I’d been with the papers she turned in. “She has a way of writing that’s far better than her peers, I’ve told her she should work on expanding some of the things she got graded on.”

“I had no idea,” JD offered, knowing that his daughter was smart was one thing, clearly, but learning she had talent in writing was another.

“What didn’t you know?” Kelsey had come back, her bump leading the way. “What?” We were all staring at her and she glared back. “Seriously, what?”

“We were just telling your dad how talented you are at writing,” my dad offered, holding her chair for her. She rolled her eyes at us and sat down.

“Sure,” she offered, as I stood up to refill our drinks. “A couple short stories and a poem or two and I’m a writer.”

“How do you think I started?” I tossed back, feeling JD following me.

He helped me with the drinks and smiled as I offered to reheat dinner for him. “You can’t keep feeding me, I’ll weigh a thousand pounds.”

“I can’t fatten you up so you can’t run away,” I stepped closer to him and looked up as his hands slid up my arms. “And I can’t burn all your clothes to trap you through forced nudity. How the hell do I keep you?”

Smiling, he leaned down to capture my lips in another kiss, but first he offered the solution. “Who says you haven’t captured me already?”

Chapter Text

I was stunned by what JD had said in the kitchen, and it showed when we joined Dad and Kelsey at the dining room table. Dad shot JD a look, Kelsey was staring at me like she didn’t know what to say, and I had no fucking clue what JD looked like.

“Ani, are you alright, honey?” Dad asked, eyes still locked on JD. I nodded, and sat down on the same chair I’d vacated before going into the kitchen. “Where are the drinks?” Shit.

I closed my eyes and felt the vibration from JD’s laughter coming from his spot beside me. “I completely-”

“Forgot?” Kelsey asked. I shook my head and when I opened my eyes I saw that all three of them were looking at me in amusement.

“Let me just-” I stood up again, and JD started to stand to come with, but I held up a hand to stop him. Smiling down at him, I muttered, “you already made me forget once, mister.” And his chuckle followed me through to the kitchen.

 

The rest of the visit was spent carefully avoiding what could have possibly made us forget the drinks the first time JD “helped” me in the kitchen. From the looks that Kelsey kept shooting me told me EXACTLY what she thought it was, and while we had definitely kissed, it was what he’d said, not what his tongue had done inside my mouth that made drinks not important at all.

Dad was staring between us for the rest of the time he spent with us like if he studied us long enough he’d figure out what changed. Good luck, I thought, and let me know what you figure out.

The Scrabble board was put away, Kelsey said she needed to rest and said goodnight to her dad, me, and my dad, and then Dad said his own. JD stayed behind, and I was about to ask him if he had to go, if his case was still open, but he silenced me with another kiss as soon as the doors shut behind our family members.

Pulling back slightly he was smiling down at me and I felt it to my toes that he meant it. That I’d captured him, and damned if it wasn’t mutual. “You don’t have to rush away?” It came out as a breath and my heart beat faster when he shook his head. “Thank God,” and I tugged his head back down to mine and let the kisses grow from a flickering flame to a full on forest fire.

He had me pressed against the table, the same one that my rancid ex had befouled, the same one I’d tempted and tasted him on during our one night together, but JD clearly had better plans for the surface. “Up you go,” he lifted me and with a gentle hand on my shoulder pushed so I was lying down. “I’ve wanted to do this since I first laid eyes on this table.” He tugged my pants off, then his own, and I raised up enough to get rid of my blouse and bra, watching as he was tossing his own shirt onto the growing pile, and then laying back I felt the breath leave me as he crawled onto the table with me, and made me forget about ever getting rid of the table again.

We were naked and still on the table when Pandi announced that Roger had returned to the scene of the crime so to speak. I heard and felt JD’s irritated growl at my ex’s insistence on forcing himself where he wasn’t welcome. “Pandi?” I offered, feeling JD’s arms tighten around me. “Where is he?” Told he was wandering around the building, and was currently outside the windows that looked through the living room into the dining room, or would if I didn’t have the security darkening on, I smiled wickedly. “Turn off the one way security, Pandi.” Confirming that I did indeed want Roger to see through the glass, I smiled as JD hovered over me again. “Seems like Roger wants a show, what do you think?”

JD’s eyes were locked on mine as he slid into me, and I honestly couldn’t say if Roger watched or not, because at that point no one existed in the entire universe except me and JD Richter, but IF he was watching? Well, I know that what he saw would have made him envious. I have no doubt that not a single lover Roger Allen had ever been with could say that they had been as satisfied, loved and completely undone by him the way JD made me come apart. And as he rolled over, putting me above him and raising up so our chests were tight together, our mouths locked, I hoped that Roger saw what we felt. That this wasn’t a rebound, or a fling. That if he pushed, if he prodded, he’d realize that nothing would come between us. Except the distance between our houses, which would be a conversation for another time, when our mouths weren’t occupied with other matters.

 

I was still on top of JD, we were still sitting on my dining room table, but we were sated, for the moment. Panting, hearts pounding, even though we seemed finished, our hands didn’t seem to get the memo. His hands were sliding over my back, touching my neck and mine were holding on to his shoulders, as though I were afraid he was a mirage.

“Anilea Ampstead,” he bit his lip, “I did not see you coming at all.”

“I think you saw me coming before I saw you,” I countered, my hand moving so I could trace his lower lip. “Thank God Roger was such a useless worm.”

He chuckled. “Roger,” shaking his head he glanced toward the living room. “I don’t see his sorry ass, think we got the point across?”

“What point was that?” I teased, as though I humped men on the dining room table for an audience daily.

“That you’re mine, Ani, and that he’s shit out of luck.” And then our lips met again, and both of us were smiling into the kiss.

Chapter Text

JD surprised me by staying the night. I mean, technically he stayed the night we went dark, but this time we left our phones and the AI on. And he held me while we slept. After we’d cleaned up the dining room table and reinstated the one way glass on the windows looking into the living room, of course.

Feeling his arms around me as we drifted off, I had to wonder if Dad was right. Did I fall fast and hard? And if I did, then was this time, with JD Richter going to turn out better than all the other times?

We woke up to my phone ringing. Groaning against the light of morning, peeking through my windows, I rolled toward the bedside table holding my charging phone. Too blurry eyed to check the ID, I answered with a yawn.

“Ani?” Dad? I thought, blinking through the fog of first waking. “Ani, honey, are you there?”

“Yeah,” I muttered, smiling as JD’s arms reached out to tug me back into his chest. “Why are you calling me at the buttcrack of dawn?”

Dad chuckled, and even in my sleep addled mind I could see him shaking his head. “Still not a morning person, I see.” I was snuggling into JD’s warmth, and really wanted the call to be over, but he kept talking. “I guess that means you haven’t seen the viral video yet.” The way he said it made my skin crawl, it was the same tone he’d used when we found out about Jason. “Ani, it appears that Roger-”

Shit, I knew, with a flash just what Roger had done, and it was ALL my fucking fault. “Where did he post it?” Dad told me the site that he’d been sent, but I knew, from the way he said it, that it had been picked up by EVERYONE. Shit shit shit.

“How did he-” he stopped and I heard him suck in a breath at the realization of what I’d done. Me, his darling only child, and he sighed. “Anilea,” he breathed, and I could feel the judgement rolling over me. Damn it.

“I wanted him to get the fucking picture that we were over, Dad,” I had my eyes closed, JD’s fingers were sliding down my arm and his lips were on my temple. Damn it, would this fucking ruin everything? “I have to go, I think I need to tell JD-”

“He was included in the list of the email I was sent,” Dad offered, but hearing my sigh he stopped. “I suspect he hasn’t had a chance to check his messages.” More guilt, really Dad? “Call me later, Ani, we’ll talk about damage control.”

“Bye.” I hung up and had to stop myself from throwing the phone across the room. I knew Dad was only the first call I’d be getting today, since I had no doubt whatsoever that Roger would have CCd every single one of my professional contacts. Shit. I sighed, and JD held me closer.

“Do I want to know?” He asked, and I forced myself to look up at him. His eyes were the light color that they always started at, and I wanted nothing more than to see them go dark and make me forget about everything, but that was what got us into this mess.

Letting my thumb trace his lower lip I sighed again. “Probably not, but I think forewarned is best.” I hoped, as I considered how to say it, that he wouldn’t hate me for what Roger had done with my stupid need to prove to him that JD and I were a couple. “Roger took the opportunity while we were on the table performing to record us.” I watched his face, but saw no change, he was waiting to hear the rest. “And he uploaded it and sent the video to every single person he thought would judge me- us for it.” I bit my lip and waited for the anger at my spontaneous act causing a huge fucking embarassing mess. Nothing came. “JD? Did you hear me?”

His eyes, much to my shock seemed to twinkle, and then his dimples came out and then a fucking laugh escaped him. I knew I looked surprised because I was, but him kissing me through his chuckles and pulling back to kiss my nose had me stumped.

“Ani, I swear, you look so fucking cute blushing.” I raised an eyebrow. “I was all over the news not long ago being called a terrorist, sweetheart, having a sex tape released seems pretty fucking tame by those standards.” Shit, I’d forgotten. “It might hurt you though, huh?” I hadn’t really thought of the backlash for me, only how it would affect JD and I, so I shrugged. “Do you need to get on top of it?”

I smiled at the words he’d chosen and rolled him onto his back. “Now that you mention it, Mr. Richter, I do think there’s someone I need to get on top of.” And I did, straddling him and letting our bodies make me forget that my dad and God knew who else had seen the very act I was performing on him now.

 

Eventually my phone blew up with ringing. JD’s stayed mostly silent and I shot him a look wondering if he shut if off without telling me. I was on the phone with my publisher, who oddly enough, like every other person who called was more or less amused by Roger’s attempts to make me look like a bad person. Most of them wanted to know who the hot as fuck guy I was screwing was, and they all assured me that not only were they on my side, but they hoped that I planned on suing the fuck out of my ex for revenge porn.

“Why is your phone completely silent?” I asked, as I hung up on another well wisher, which was weird in and of itself. “Usually by now it’s ringing its ringer off and pulling you away from me.” He pulled me onto his lap where he’d been watching me from his chair. “Did you cheat and turn the damn thing off?”

He chuckled, causing the vibrations to rush through me. “No, Ani, but I did put in for a vacation of sorts.” I stared down at him, wondering who this man was that had replaced the workaholic I knew. “Kelsey’s due date is coming on fast, AND I wanted time to get you under my spell.” His lips brushed mine and I felt them curve into a smile. “I didn’t think I’d have the help of a leaked sex tape, but hell, I’ll take any help I can get.”

I smiled and pulled away. “Like you need spells or a sex tape to ‘trap me’.” My fingers were playing with the hair at the nape of his neck. “I wanted you when I was too drunk to actually see you fully, JD, I think I want you more now that I see AND know you.”

“You do?” A small nod of affirmation and his smile grew. “Want to get out of here before the audience Roger started grows?” I hadn’t thought of the possibility that- shit. “Pack a bag, come home with me, Ani.”

Biting my lip I was worrying about Kelsey and he noticed. “She came in while you were in the kitchen during the fifth call. I told her going to Dorothy’s might be a good idea and she agreed. She told me to tell you to call her when you get a chance.” I smiled at his taking care of my worries before I even realized I should have them. “Now, go pack.” Pushing me off his lap with a smile. “I’ll make sure everything is secure before we leave.”

 

I packed for a few days, unsure of how long my house might end up being the site of lookie loos, once the video gawkers online figured out where I lived. JD was right, because Pandi mentioned that the road along the house was getting more traffic by the minute. Tossing in my toiletry stuff, along with some books and my laptop, I was still thinking about leaving the phone behind when he came into the bedroom.

“Not to rush you, but they’re getting closer to the driveway.” Shit. I zipped up my bags and he took them from me. “We’ll take my truck, leave your cars in the garage.” I started to ask why, but he smiled. “If he was outside filming, Ani, we can’t be sure he didn’t put another tracker on your cars.”

“What about yours?” I mean, if Roger was so hellbent on ruining us, or trying to, why would JD’s property be safe.

His smile was breathtaking. “Oh, I really fucking hope Roger put one on mine, Ani, because I seriously want him to step one toe on my porch.” I laughed as he took my bags from me and we started through the house to his truck. “Kelsey left a while ago, we’ll call her from the truck to tell her where you’ll be.” I nodded as we locked up and he put my things into the backseat before helping me up into the passenger side of his Jeep. We were just leaving when the first car started to turn into my driveway and I was about to ask if he worried they’d follow us when he reminded me of his ‘skills’ as a driver.

 

I managed to call Kelsey while her father was driving like a complete maniac even though I saw no one pursuing us. She was laughing as I threatened to throw up all over JD’s upholstery. Letting her know that I was going home with JD, while also threatening him seemed to amuse her.

“Dad, go slower, if Ani throws up then she keeps throwing up,” I watched him look at the phone in disbelief. “Trust me, she hates vomiting, the sound, the smell, it makes her go on and on and on.” She would know, the one time she got morning sickness or whatever, I joined her.

I felt the truck’s speed decrease marginally, and the turns weren’t nearly as jerking. “Thank you,” I offered to them both, my eyes closing in relief. “Now, I’m taking a few days off, to pretend that my ex isn’t as big of a rancid cunt as he clearly is.” She laughed and JD joined in. “I’ll take calls from you, Dad, and hell, Dororthy, but no one else.”

“Not even-” Kelsey knew that I worked as hard as her dad, even if mine was mostly stationary.

“Not even work,” I confirmed. “Let me know if you need me, ok?” She agreed, and then made her dad promise to keep me safe from Roger’s horrible ass, she told us both goodbye.

“All to myself, Ani?” I turned and caught his eyes focused on me and not the fucking road. “I think I’ve died and-”

“If your eyes don’t get back on the fucking road, we’ll both be dead,” I offered, and he laughed, but returned his attention where I felt it was more needed. “But yes, you’ll have me all to yourself, JD, as long as you get me home alive.” More laughter, but slightly less frightening driving.

Chapter Text

I won’t lie and say going back to JD’s house wasn’t something I was itching to do. The truth is that I didn’t really get to appreciate his house at all the first time I “visited”. Amazing what being so drunk you black out can make you miss, isn’t it? And then, the morning that I woke up hungover enough to want to die, well you can appreciate that I was in no fit shape to take in the sights.

As he pulled up the very rugged driveway, I smiled as the red house came into view. There was a blue addition, maybe, off to the side, but even with my confusion, the wide front porch looked inviting as hell and I couldn’t wait to be hidden away with him. Before he could say whatever he was thinking of saying, I turned to him and asked a very important question.

“Is that a porch swing?” My eyes were probably lit up like the moon, but honestly, I thought his house was gorgeous.

JD chuckled and put the Jeep in park. “I was going to apologize for how humble my house is compared to yours, but the look in your eyes, Ani, tells me that’s unnecessary.” He was smiling as I unbuckled my seatbelt. “Sit still, woman.” I was practically bouncing with the urge to explore his house, but I knew he prided himself on being a gentleman so I waited. Soon enough he was opening the car door for me and I was sliding down his length. Wait, what was I excited about again, the warmth of his body was making me lose focus, and then his head dipped down and I completely lost my train of thought.

Kissing me like his life and mine depended on it, I forgot where we were, that we were outside made no fucking difference, only the feel of him pulling me into his body and the taste of his mouth mattered. He pulled away with a smile. “Welcome back,” I rolled my eyes. “Now, I think you wanted to know if I had a porch swing,” he took my hand and we both ignored my bags for now. JD pointed out that yes, that was a porch swing, and then he showed me inside, and I smiled as I looked around with all the wonder of a little kid in a toy store. “Look around, I’ll grab your bags.”

Biting my lip, I wandered further into his house, taking in the wood burning stove, the bookshelves with books and a little of this a little of that, the lived in furniture, but what I really noticed was how the entire place SMELLED like him. My fingers danced along a shelf as I heard him come back inside, and my eyes landed on a boxed set that looked very familiar. “Did you really buy my books, JD?” I turned to see him leaning in the threshold watching me.

“I wanted to see if they lived up to the hype,” I waited with a raised eyebrow. “Give me a break, Ani, I JUST got started on my vacation.” I smiled as he came over to wrap his arms around me. “I could read them while you’re here.” His eyes staring into mine while his lips quirked in a smile. “Then you could gage my reaction in real time.”

“Or,” I countered, running my hands up his chest to wrap around his neck. “I could just give you something else to study while I’m here.”

 

“Homework? Professor Ampstead, I didn’t think I signed up for your class,” his voice had gotten lower and I felt that twist of lust start. “I’m not much of a writer.”

“Good thing I was thinking of a more physical subject,” I offered, as he dipped his head and we restarted what he’d begun outside.

 

From the slow burn to a raging inferno, JD’s hands were tugging off my clothes as I was practically tearing his off. The tour could wait, if we ever got around to an actual tour. I was laughing as he basically tossed me onto his bed, the same one I’d woken up in in the not so distant past, and then he was over me again and I heard him whisper that now he didn’t have to settle for the lingering scent of my perfume. And then we stopped talking all together.

 

I was wrapped up in his arms, our laughter echoing off the rafters of his house as he recounted my memorable (for him at least) first night in his house.

“First I had to juggle your dead weight up the porch steps, then fight to open the front door, but damn if you didn’t revive as soon as we crossed over and the door shut.” I was shaking my head as he kept going. “The next thing I knew, your hands and fingers were EVERYWHERE, and I nearly smacked this one,” he raised my right hand to kiss my knuckles, “because it was groping a very sensitive part of me and not very fucking gently.” I snorted, and he kissed my head. “You were telling me all the very graphic and ambitious things you planned on doing to my ‘hot as fuck tree tall body’, your words, not mine,” I felt a blush begin to burn. “And then, wiggling and groping the entire way, I finally got you in here, only to have you refocus on stripping yourself to the skin, I stopped you, I am a gentleman.” Another giggle from me at that. “Your pants got tangled in your heels, so I had to push your ass onto the bed, and the next thing you were snoring and your heels were off.” I sighed, feeling the embarrassment roll off me, since I seemed to be in a better spot now.

“I’m so sorry that’s how we met,” I was still chuckling slightly, wishing his house had a tad bit of video feed, if only to see how ridiculous I must have looked. “But it seems to have worked out in the end.”

“That it did,” his thumb tilted my chin up so he could bend down for another kiss. “I felt like a letch because fuck if I didn’t want to let you at least TRY what you were offering, but I couldn’t.” His eyes were back to that soft caramel color I loved. “Not you, not that I’d ever do that, but YOU? No, Ani, you are a woman that’s meant to be savored and loved.” My heart clenched and I bit my lip. “I swore I’d go slow if I ever met someone else, after-”

“Molly?” He nodded, and I smiled. “We are going slow, JD, I mean we keep getting interrupted.”

That caused the laughter to start all over again and I thought that the next couple of days were going to be just what the doctor ordered.

Chapter Text

JD willingly handed me control in his kitchen, apologizing for its less spacious and more modest appliances. I rolled my eyes and shook my head. “If I was into you for your kitchen, JD, I’d still be into you.” I opened the fridge and took stock of what he had. Not much, but some basics that I could work with for the night, and maybe the morning. “We might have to order some groceries, though.” He showed me the places he kept the shelf stable ingredients and I made a list as I went for what else we’d need for a few days at least. He took the list as soon as I said I thought I was finished, and started the order. “You know, I could pa-” He glared at me and I stopped talking. OK. “Or not.” I went back to fixing our dinner, another shake of my head at how irritated he seemed by my offer. A rarity from the men I dated, the idea that they would pay for anything. Which made my dad far more correct than I cared to admit.

I was putting the finishing touches when he wrapped his arms around me from behind. “I really wish we were naked right now, Ani,” his whisper against my ear made my eyes flutter closed.

I felt the heat from him against my back, but it was the heat of the stove that reminded me why I was dressed. “Yeah, but I’d really rather my nipples not be burnt by steam piping off the pots, or God forbid from leaning in to get anything out of the oven.” His chuckle vibrated through me. “And what a damn shame it would be if your ‘low hanging fruit’ if you know what I mean, should get singed.”

I felt him shiver from the thought. Maybe it was a cringe, but he got the idea. “OK, clothing optional every part of the day except meals.” I smiled and shook my head again. “Are you denying that being naked constantly with me isn’t something you’d like, Ani?” A flush of heat that had NOTHING to do with the oven flowed through me.

Turning around, I grinned up at him. “Are you trying to tempt me with your body, JD Richter?” His arms were still around me so he was hunched down so my arms wrapped around his neck without me having to stretch. His smile was infectious, and I was staring into his eyes thinking about how fucking tempting he was with his clothes ON, and then the timer told me that dinner was finished. “There we go, slowing down again-” I winked and he let me go so I could pull dinner out and we could dish it all up.

 

Sitting at his table, I caught myself staring at him more than usual. How was he real? I mean, seriously, I write for a living and my novels and series have plenty of romance in them, but this, what JD and I were experiencing, how was it REAL? This shit doesn’t happen in real life, does it?

“What are you thinking about?” He had just swallowed his last bite of dinner and sat back to study me.

Biting my lip, I looked down at my almost empty plate. “Is this real?” He looked confused. “The two of us, meeting like we did, and having Roger the moron toss a wrench in, and now-” I stopped and took a drink from my glass. “You have to admit, rom-com writers would think this was a hard sell.”

He laughed, grinning at me even as I kept staring at him. “It’s real, I promise.” He stood up to take his plate to the dishwasher. “If you’re lucky, I’ll even let you pinch me to prove it.”

“Don’t I have to pinch myself to prove it?” I asked, following him with my own plate. “I mean, pinching you doesn’t prove that I’M awake-” He turned, taking my plate from me and putting it on the counter behind him. Then I was in his arms, and his lips met mine. I felt it, that rush of want and need building.

“Don’t you dare pinch your perfect fucking skin, Ani,” he growled against my lips. “The only marks you wear are ones you get from me.” Dear Lord, the twist of lust that hit at that warning nearly made me crumble. “And they won’t be where the world can see.” Shit.

 

We were wrapped up in a blanket in front of his wood stove, our naked skin pressed together while the flames danced. “So nudity all the time?” I confirmed, as his lips met my shoulder again. “I think I’m seeing the appeal-” And then I was under him and he showed me just how appealing constant nudity, except during meal times, was more than fucking appealing.

Chapter Text

I was looking out the window at the rural wildness that surrounded JD’s house, completely bare as JD and I seemed to stay, when he walked up behind me and pulled me back into his chest. His head was propped on top of mine, his arms wrapped around me, and I felt so much peace that I wondered when the bubble would burst. It had to, right?

“We still haven’t taken advantage of your love for my porch swing, Ani.” I smiled at how playful JD sounded. “How about it? Drinks on the swing?”

I tilted my head to look up at him. “Are you suggesting we go butt ass naked on the porch?” His smile lit up his face. “How often do you get visitors out here?”

“Rarely, like fucking very rarely.” I raised an eyebrow, and noticed that the sky was darkening with the threat of a storm. “Come on, you know you want to-” Tempting and teasing. Shaking my head, I grabbed the blanket we’d curled up in on the sofa after dinner the night before.

When he looked at me in curiosity, I rolled my eyes. “I’m NOT going to chance splinters in either of our asses, mister.” He was laughing as he followed me onto the porch, and after I’d arranged the blanket, he sat, pulling me against him as he pushed to get us swinging gently. “This is nice, but I don’t know how long we’ll get to enjoy it.” I pointed to where the darkness was growing closer. “Storm’s coming.”

“I’m not afraid of a little rain, Ani, are you?” I considered it as the first drops began to fall, and soon they were pounding against the metal roof of the porch and I smiled at the sound. I waited, watching for lightning and listening for thunder, when none seemed forthcoming, I stood up and saw him staring up at me.

“Not afraid of rain?” Holding out my hand, he took it and I pulled him down the steps and into the coolness of the rainfall. “Then let’s make the most of it.”

JD could take a hint. His hands cupped my face as the water drops were drenching us both, and then his lips claimed mine, his hands moved down to pull me tight against him. It didn’t take long for him to walk me to a part of the house where he could press me against and then my legs were around his waist, and we were making enough noise to make thunder jealous.

“Every time I think I have you all figured out,” he was breathing into my skin, drinking the rain water from my skin as he pounded into me. “You up the ante, Ani.” I arched into his thrusts and his moan tingled on my neck. “You like this, don’t you?” I bit his shoulder as he hit my magic spot and earned another moan. “Wild and outside, the two of us uninhibited by-” I arched again and he had to stop talking.

 

We were shaking by the time we finished. Soaking wet, even without layers of clothing, shivering slightly as our body temperature seemed to come down, but our eyes couldn’t leave one another’s. “I love you,” I swallowed hard, thinking it was too soon, but it was true nonetheless. I’d never said it first, but then again, I wasn’t sure I’d ever felt it first.

He was still panting slightly, but he was smiling. “Anilea Ampsted, I thought you’d never realize it.” I waited, feeling my own smile curl up. “I think I’ve loved you since-” he kissed me, seeming to gain some strength to continue. “Since the first time I saw you waking up in my bed.” His hand moved up, fingers brushing my wet hair out of my face. “I love you, I love you,” he kept saying it, kissing me between each declaration, on my cheek, my jaw, my forehead, my neck, and finally touching my lips again.

 

We took a hot shower. Yes, more pounding water, but there was a sweetness to having him wash and warm me. I returned the favor, making sure that there would be no doubt that everything he felt for me was reciprocated. When we were dry, and warm, we wrapped up in a fresh blanket on the sofa and watched the flames of his stove flicker.

My back to his chest, our fingers linked, I felt like I wanted the moment to last forever. But of course, we’re talking about JD and me, so when his phone rang I nearly laughed. Almost, but then I saw his eyes widened and I thought, ‘this is it, the bubble has burst’, but no. Not even close.

“Kelsey just went into labor,” he said, as we both stood up. “We have to-” I was grinning up at him.

“Let’s get dressed and I’LL drive, Grandpa,” he was looking like he was going to argue, but I silenced him with the warning of, “you want to survive to see the baby, right?”

 

It took the two of us less time to dress than one would imagine. He reluctantly handed me the keys to his truck, and I rolled my eyes at him. Then we were heading down the road as he helped the GPS navigate, you know in case it missed a turn or something. We made it to the hospital far sooner than either of us expected, even with me driving at a reasonable speed and not taking turns on two wheels.

Inside, we were directed to the maternity wing, JD’s hand holding tight to mine he pulled me along with him. I was going to offer to wait in the waiting room, but JD clearly had other plans. He found Kelsey’s room and tugged me along with him.

“Thank God,” Kelsey breathed, reaching out her hand. “I thought you’d be too late.” JD took her hand and she smiled. Dorothy had her other hand and I was trying to figure out how to slip out before baby Richter made a grand stretching appearance, but Kelsey caught me. “Oh, no you don’t.” She was glaring at me and I shook my head, hand on the room’s doorknob. “Don’t you fucking dare, Anilea.” My eyes widened and I took my hand away. “You’re part of this fucking family-” she stopped, as what I assumed was a horrific pain ripped through her, her hands squeezing Dorothy and JD’s so hard that I could see their fingers turn white. It took a few beats of her breathing through her nose and trying to break her parents’ fingers before she relaxed and could speak again. “That means you STAY.” Shit.

 

I found a spot beside JD, far away from where the baby would pop out, and held the cup of ice chips. Feeling like I should be fucking useful somehow, I’d hold the cup for Kelsey whenever she asked. It didn’t take long for the doctor to declare Kelsey was fully dilated and ready to push. I shot a longing look at the door, but she caught me again. Fuck.

“I’ll break your fucking legs if you even think about it again,” she gritted out, her breathing turning to panting as the doctor instructed her to get ready. “If I have to fucking be here, then so do you.” I was going to point out that she HAD to be here because she was the actual mother, but I thought better of it.

 

It felt like hours passed before we heard the baby cry. And there it was, covered in gore, and screaming like it would rather be pushed back inside. Yay, I thought, afraid to look at the door again now that Kelsey seemed less occupied by labor. Even if I’d rather be on the moon right now than in this room with a screaming baby covered in goop. It wasn’t the screaming, or the baby that was causing me discomfort, but the smear of blood, the hanging cord that Kelsey asked if JD would cut, and then I swayed and sweet nothingness took over.

 

I woke up in my own hospital bed. My head had a bandage on it, and I vaguely remembered Kelsey giving birth. Squinting against the light that felt like it was beating into my brain through my open eyes, I heard the door open and turned to see who was entering.

“You’re awake,” JD sighed, sounding relieved. “I didn’t want to leave you, but-”

I shook off his worries. “New baby, I totally understand.” My hand crept up to see how bad I smacked my head when I fainted, because that was the reasoning I’d come up with as he walked in. The bandage wasn’t as thick as it could be, so I felt some relief of my own. “So?”

He looked confused. “So, what?” I rolled my eyes.

“I went out before I heard what she had, boy or girl, grandpa?” He smiled and took my hand, kissing the knuckles.

“Boy,” I grinned at him as he continued. “Although he nearly became a eunuch when I heard you keel over.” My smile dropped. “Scared me to death hearing you hit that stand.” I closed my eyes in embarrassment. “Faint at the sight of blood, Ani, you keep surprising me.”

I snorted, and pain shot through my head. Fuck. “Yeah, I have a weak stomach, which Kelsey knows, when she’s not in the throes of pain.” He smiled. “What’s his name?”

We talked about the baby, about Kelsey, and about when I could be released from the room now that I was awake. The doctor came in and told me that he’d have my paperwork brought up, warning me to take it easy, and that I had a concussion, but I would be fine as long as I listened to his orders. I tried to keep the eye rolling to a minimum.

Once I was on my feet again, I made JD take me back to Kelsey and the baby. I wanted to see the little guy, and make sure his mom was doing alright after my spectacular exit. She was holding her son, a tiny little guy swaddled in a soft blanket with a tiny cap on his head when we walked in.

“Look at you,” she smiled up at me. “You’re upright again.” I shook my head and got closer. “Ani, meet my little guy, Gideon Richter.” I bit my lip at how tiny he was. And much more appealing now that he wasn’t wearing the insides of his mother. “Gideon, this is your-” she stopped, looking up at her dad and smiling. “Nana Ani.” My eyes widened. “Dad tells me that you two figured it out, finally.” She rolled her eyes and patted the bed beside her. I crawled in next to her and gently touched Gideon’s tiny head.

“He’s beautiful, Kels,” I was smitten. When his tiny fingers wrapped around one of mine, I felt my heart clench. “Congratulations.” I wasn’t paying attention to her or JD, because for a couple of beats, Gideon’s tiny face was focused on mine and I couldn’t see anyone else. Jesus, is this that biological clock everyone mentions, I wondered as I felt a yearning I had never felt before.

“Thank you,” she kissed his little head softly and handed him to me before I could argue against it. JD was by my side, holding his grandson’s head in one huge hand while I cradled him to me. “You’re a natural.” She whispered, watching me hold her son. “When can I expect a baby brother or sister?”

Chapter Text

Choices, choices, I thought as JD and I drove home. OK, JD drove as one of the doctor’s orders was to not operate heavy machinery and he decided the Jeep counted. At least he didn’t drive like a maniac this time.

Back to my choices. I could address the elephant in the room, car, truck, fuck. Kelsey had tossed it out into the void, and I had to wonder what his thoughts were on the subject. Did JD want another kid? Did I want my first kid, with JD? I wasn’t really paying attention as he drove, and I spaced out when the truck stopped. Shit. I missed the entire drive.

He didn’t have to tell me to wait for him to open my door and help me out, in fact, he had to basically snap his fingers in front of my face to get me out of my own head.

“Ani?” I looked up at him, after he’d apparently set me on my feet outside of the truck. Well shit, I wasn’t even drunk and I was missing things. “Are you alright? Does your head hurt?” Right, concussion.

I smiled up at him, this man that came into my life when I was honestly not looking for him, but felt like my world would be smaller without him in it. “I’m fine, tired, but fine.” And freaking out about whether or not you’ll be wanting to make a younger version of Kelsey with me. “Let’s go inside.” Taking his hand and feeling my heart leap when his fingers linked with mine easily, we went into his house.

“I think you’re due for a couple of the pills the doctor gave you,” he offered, letting my hand go and moving into the kitchen to get me a glass of water.

“I’m fine, JD,” I said again, tugging off my clothes, we were inside and we HAD decided that the nudist approach to life was our normal here. I heard him clear his throat when he returned, my back to him as I was unfolding the blanket on the back of the sofa. “What?” I asked, turning around to see him smiling at my nakedness. “Isn’t this the house rule?”

He hummed his approval and handed me the glass, making me roll my eyes at his nursemaid attempts. “Here,” he pulled the bottle of pills the doctor had given me from his pocket. “Take two-”

“And call you in the morning?” I smirked as I complied. “Should I hold open my mouth so you can see I was a good girl and swallowed?”

“You’re always a good girl,” he was taking his own clothing off, his eyes on me as he worked. “Especially when you swallow.”

 

After JD and I practiced making a tiny Richter, I was curled into his body as we watched the flames in his wood stove dance after he’d taken the time to start it up. Sighing, I felt his fingers stop their light touch teasing my skin.

“Do you want to talk about what Kelsey said?” His voice was quiet, and I considered saying no, not yet, but why bother?

Tilting my head up so I could look into his face, I couldn’t stop the smile that spread at the sight of him. “I think the better question is do YOU want to talk about it?” He moved his hand up to cup my face, thumb brushing over my lip.

“A baby sister or brother for Kelsey?” He took a deep breath. “I’d be lying if I said the thought hadn’t crossed my mind a time or two.” I wondered if he meant with Dorothy, Molly, me, or some other woman that I didn’t know about. “There’s something about you, Anilea, that makes me want to start over.” Oh. Wow.

“You’re not just saying this because I’m at the biological clock ticking age, are you?” I squinted up at him, praying that this wasn’t something he thought I wanted, and was appeasing me to keep me. He shook his head, moving us so he could kiss me softly.

When he pulled away, his eyes were dark, but also gentle. “No, I’m not just saying it because I could HEAR that clock ticking when you were holding Gideon.” I smiled at him and shook my head. “I think I thought about it the first time,” after all those false starts, I thought. “Looking down at you while I was inside of you, I wondered what you’d do if it happened. If by some twist of fate that you’d end up pregnant, how you would take it.” I hadn’t thought about it then, mostly because I take the utmost precautions to NOT have an accidental pregnancy. “I could almost see the baby we’d create.”

“What does the baby look like?” JD Richter was full of surprises. I bit my lip, watching his smile grow.

“Like you,” his eyes drank in the contours of my face. “You and a touch of how Kelsey looked as a baby.” He pulled me until I was straddling him, so we were face to face. “I’m not saying NOW, but I’d like us to have a family, Ani. A fresh start with you.”

I leaned forward so our foreheads were pressed together. “Our baby would be younger than your grandson, JD, would that bother you?” He chuckled and held me.

“Does it bother you?” Answering a question with a question wasn’t really fair, but I realized he thought that was my biggest issue with starting a family with him. How silly.

“No,” a breath, but with complete conviction. “Nothing about having a baby with you bothers me.”

“Really?” For once he sounded as breathless as he usually made me. “You and me-”

“And baby makes three?” Another whisper, but still sure. “We’d still have to talk a few things through,” I reminded him, and myself before we got carried away.

“Later,” he growled, and then he was standing with me wrapped around him as he carried me to his bed. “Let’s go practice, Ani.”

My giggles were muffled by his neck, where I’d buried my face, but I was more than willing to practice until we were perfect.

 

Later, sated and sweaty, my head cradled on his chest so I could listen to the steady pounding of his heart, I couldn’t stop a laugh from bubbling up at the absolutely ridiculous thought that hit me.

“What’s so funny?” He sounded deliciously tired, and I smiled knowing I had a hand in making him that way.

Propping my chin on his chest, I looked up to see that his eyes were slits, fighting the pull of sleep. “I just realized,” another giggle left me. “I’m screwing a grandpa.”

His eyes opened enough for me to see him roll them. “Ani, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’ve BEEN screwing a grandpa-to-be for awhile now.” A smirk grew on his lips and he offered his own take. “Besides, I just mounted a really hot Nana, didn’t I?”

“You’re pretty sexy for a grandpa yourself,” I offered, my hand taking a trip down his body to cup his very sensitive semi-hardness. “And you’re holding up pretty fucking well for a-”

I was on my back and he was wide awake before I could finish. And we started another practice session. Practice makes perfect, after all.

Chapter Text

Kelsey was coming home within hours, and it took that long for JD and me to come up for air from our practice session. He was brushing my hair over my shoulder so he could taste my shoulder and I was arching my back into his body curled around mine. Bliss. That’s what being with JD was for me. Absolute bliss. Reality would have to be addressed though, so after we sated ourselves, and he made sure I took another round of medication for my stellar display of cowardice during Gideon’s birth, we sighed through pulling on clothing, thinking that for the conversation we were going to have to have it was best to put temptation out of the way. For now, at least.

Sitting at his table, with a larger than usual breakfast since we needed to recharge our batteries so to speak, JD was the first to bring up the biggest issue with our newly established future. Actually, that’s inaccurate, he simply put my first worry off the table by telling me something he’d decided before Gideon came screaming into the world and right after he fell in love with me.

“I’m giving Kelsey this house,” he said it with ease, as though he gave away houses all the time. “Your house is huge, but it’s also tucked out of the way, so-”

“You’re willing to move into my massive place and give up the serenity you have here?” I had to admit, I’d fallen in love with JD’s place. The quiet, which I admittedly had at my house too, but I didn’t have the simplicity. The smaller space gave a feeling of comfort and HOME that was lacking in my house.

He reached for my hand and smiled at me. “Your house is pretty damn serene too, well it will be when we make some rules for how much we allow the outside world to interfere.” I bit my lip, thinking about how Kelsey had to tell us to turn our devices off so we could get on with it. “Unless you don’t like that idea.” He seemed less sure.

“I’m thinking that my house is going to be a lot more cozy with you in it, JD.” And I felt it, that’s what had been missing. Him. Love. “Have you told her?” He nodded, and I rolled my eyes. “I’m always the last to know.”

“You’re always the last to realize things, Ani, not the last to know. You probably knew what I was thinking, but you didn’t want to admit it.” Possibly. “Now, for the elephant in the room.”

I raised an eyebrow, wondering if he meant my birth control, but it dawned on me. A huge irritating elephant. “Roger.” I bit out. “I’ll call my attorney when we get back to my house, after we settle Kelsey in and get you packed.” I planned on taking my team’s advice and suing him for revenge porn. Just because he didn’t get the outcome he wanted, didn’t mean I was willing to let him get away with it.

“Actually,” JD stood up and pulled me to my feet, breakfast had been finished for awhile. “Your dad called me while you were-” Passed out because I can’t stomach blood and gore, I inserted it in my mind. “He’s already called the attorney, who was apparently already working on the paperwork. He was on the email list. Roger is a dumb ass.” I shook my head, I hadn’t managed to look through the entire CC list on the email that sent out the video. “All you have to do is sign off, and then we’re in the clear on that one.”

“He was the elephant wasn’t it?” I was feeling a little confused, but JD shook his head and smiled down at me. “Well, what is?”

He pulled me outside, onto the swing that I fell in love with when we arrived. Letting me sit down, he made my breath completely leave me when he got down on his knee in front of me. “The elephant, Anilea Ampstead, is that we’re talking about cohabitating, potential babies, and commitment without actually making a commitment.” Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a dainty band that managed to look like a twisted twig, the stone a raw gem that was unique and gorgeous pale blue. “So?”

I felt like I was floundering. My mouth searching for words that I didn’t know. “When?” My eyes met his and he looked as confused as I was. “Did you get this?” I touched the ring and swallowed hard. I didn’t know why it mattered, but I wanted to know.

“After I left, that first night.” I nodded, remembering he’d been called away by a job. “I was working, and one of the people I spoke with is a jewelry designer. I saw this on her worktable, and she told me it was the first one she made that was inspired by nature. And I knew I wanted it for you.” His Adam’s apple bobbed and he took my hand. “So, Ani?” Ah, right, my answer.

“Let’s see if it fits,” I held out my hand for him to slide it on my ring finger. “Looks like it belongs there, doesn’t it?” I bit my lip, seeing him studying my finger wearing his ring. “I’ll never take it off.” His eyes met mine and his smile hit me like a freight train. “Of course I’ll marry you, this way I don’t have to fatten you up or burn all your clothes, right?” He laughed as he leaned in to kiss me.

 

JD had told my dad when they spoke during my indisposition in the hospital. And Dad, for what it was worth, was beyond happy. In JD Richter, Dad saw a man who wasn’t interested in my wealth, and one that would take care of me and keep me safe. That was something I hadn’t seen coming, but I probably should have. JD and Dad had things in common that had nothing to do with their work.

Dad was at my house when we arrived after Kelsey and Gideon settled into their new house. Dorothy had gone to my house and gotten the baby things, after I’d programmed Pandi remotely to give her access. The three of us, a trio of grandparents, helped make sure that they were comfortable, Dorothy promising that she planned on staying on for some time to get Kelsey and Gideon’s routine straight.

Pulling into my driveway, Dad stood alongside his security guru, Kelvin. I had a flash of panic, but JD put me at ease.

“Kelvin came to make sure that Roger didn’t add any new enhancements while we were gone.” His hand touched mine, the ring he’d given me sparkling gently in the sunlight. “He’s a-”

“Good guy?” I smiled, remembering that Kelvin had said the same about the man sitting next to me. “I think I’ve heard that before.”

Dad let Kelvin and JD discuss security while he took me inside. “Let’s see it.” I held out my hand and he took it in his own. “He knows you better than every other man you’ve ever been with, doesn’t he?” When his eyes met mine he was smiling. “I approve, not that you need it-”

“Yeah I do,” I said, moving so I could hug him. “I do need it, Dad, because I truly screw up when I don’t have it.” He chuckled, his hand cupping the back of my head like he’d done when I was little. “JD is-”

“The man for you,” he whispered, kissing the top of my head. “Knew it from the moment I met him, Ani.” I grinned into his shirt. “He walked in this house and acted like he couldn’t see anyone but you. That told me everything I needed to know.”

“Kelvin probably helped too,” I offered, pulling back and seeing him staring down at me with a smirk. “He told me he knew JD, so knowing he was YOUR guy-”

“With a brain like yours, I’ll never know why you can’t-”

I sighed and pulled away with a grin. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Why I can’t do math and science doesn’t leave a mark.” Maybe, I thought, my kid would be more like Dad and he’d feel more fulfilled. The thought had me giggling.

“What’s so funny?” JD was alone when he came inside, and he told Dad that Kelvin had another job to get to to explain his absence. “Ani?”

“Sorry,” I said, getting myself under control. “I just had a funny thought.”

Both men looked at me like they wanted to know, but I shook my head. “Who wants food?” I asked, deflecting with my best weapon.

 

In case anyone wants to know what the ring that JD gave Ani looks like: