THE DARK AND DAMAGED HEARTS SERIES
SEX, HEAT AND HUNGER: PART 2
JAMES AND EMMA
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I was in love. Hopelessly, mind-bogglingly, head-over-heels, make everyone else around me either green with envy or gag with disgust, in love. Life was perfect, my man was perfect, and I was blissfully happy despite the fact that I was forced to say “goodbye” to my perfect man Tuesday morning. Not even twenty-four hours had passed since we’d finally professed our love to one another, out in the middle of the street, red-faced and screaming at one another. And now, wrapped up in his big plush robe, I found myself standing on his threshold waving after his car as it grumbled down the driveway, wishing him a safe flight to Seattle and a productive work week.
I missed James terribly while he was away, especially at night when I was forced to sleep alone, staring at the empty space in the bed next to me that was usually reserved for his big, gorgeous body. But at the same time, as much as I missed him, it was nice getting back into the routine of things —hitting the gym, vegging out in my pajamas in front of the television before bed. Mundane and monotonous, maybe, but they were things I looked forward to after a long and busy day at work.
Having finally said those three magical little words to each other was the glue we’d needed to solidify and finalize our commitment to one another. I no longer felt as though I was suddenly going to have the rug ripped out from beneath me, that he’d call it quits or just stop calling. We were in this, both of us, for the long haul. For the happily ever after, for the forever.
Wednesday night after the gym Alyssa and I grabbed dinner, where we re-hashed my stupid St. Patrick’s Day run-out. She agreed that I had yet to find closure when it came to Tom, that the memory of him still haunted me regardless of how much Max, Alex, and James had changed my opinion of men and my own self-worth and exorcised the demon from my life. She also gave me shit for how I handled things, calling me ridiculous and childish, and agreeing that James had every right to get upset. As seems to be the case these days, I conceded and told her she was right.
Friday was here before I knew it. I was excited to see my parents but more excited to have James home. My addiction to him was becoming a bit of a problem, but I just couldn’t stop, nor did I want to. He couldn’t have gone away on business at a better time, though, for the day he left I got my period, and the day he returned it ended.
I drove home after work, packed a bag for the weekend and then made my way out to his house. The lights were on when I arrived, which was surprising as James had texted me when he got back into town to let me know he didn’t expect to leave the office until six thirty or so. When I opened the door, and the most mouth-watering aroma embraced my senses, I was nearly knocked off my feet. Oregano, basil, and roasted garlic —someone was cooking Italian!
I walked into the kitchen to find my man, wooden spoon in hand, wearing a dark green apron over two pieces of his tailor-made suit, white dress shirt, black vest, and the sky blue tie I’d bought him last week. I’d noticed it in a shop window and knew instantly how it would make his eyes glow. I’d been right. His sleeves were rolled up, and a dish towel flopped casually over his shoulder; marinara sauce simmered enticingly on the stove, and garlic toast was ready to broil. He even had a salad sitting in a big bamboo bowl and something delicious baking in the oven, chicken parmesan maybe? He knew it was one of my favorites. His back was to me as he stirred the sauce, the Sinatra on the stereo had muted my entrance. I walked up behind him and slid my arms around his waist kissing that sexy spot between his shoulder blades and inhaling his intoxicating James smell; woodsy, spicy and all man.
Turning around and taking me in his arms, he kissed me soundly.
“Hi,” I managed to say after I caught my breath, his cobalt eyes twinkling with love. I ran my hands up and into his hair, pulling ever so slightly on the dark silky strands.
He growled low and manly. “God, I missed you.” His lips against my neck, peppered kisses up one side and down the other.
“I missed you too.” I put the grocery bag up on the counter and went over to peek inside the oven; it was chicken parmesan —yum. “I thought we were just going to take my parents out for dinner tonight, and then maybe eat in tomorrow night. You said you had to work late.”
He lifted one sexy shoulder. “Yeah, I know, but I worked so much over the last three days that I’m just drained, and I want to make a good impression on your folks. And I’m dying to fuck you. Serious blue-balls here.” He pinned me against the counter with his hard body. “It’s been a long hard week. Very hard, if you get my drift. And you smell so damn good.” He thrust his hips into mine, deftly rotating them, my eyes closed from the delicious friction against my clit. Even with layers of clothes between us, the man drove me wild, made me swoon, made me yearn to yield to him. “Do we have time for a quickie before they get here?” He wiggled his eyebrows and then tilted his head down to nip at my neck.
“Probably not.” I pouted. “They’ll be here any minute. Are you nervous?” I reluctantly pushed out of his grasp and started putting the groceries away in the fridge.
“No. Well, maybe a little. I haven’t really done the whole ‘meet the parents’ thing before, and I really want them to like me. I’m kind of in love with their daughter, you know? Besotted in fact.” I looked at him and raised my eyebrows. “Oh yeah…” He nodded. "I bought a Word of the Day Calendar, I need to keep up with your verbose loquacity, and today’s word was besotted.”
He poured a glass of Zinfandel and handed it to me as I giggled at his use of the new word, his playful grin making my knees weak and my core tighten in need.
“I know.” I wrapped my arms around his neck and stood on my toes, so I was eye level with his mouth. “They’ll love you, don’t worry. And I’m besotted with you too.”
Suddenly there was a knock at the door. I looked at the clock, and it said six thirty —show time!
“Mum, Dad!” I opened the door to find my parents standing on the front steps in quiet awe of the house.
“Hi, sweetie!” My mum dropped her bags and pulled me into her arms, one of my favorite places to be. I love how my mum smelled; scents from my childhood, clean linen, Pantene shampoo and chalk from the pre-school she taught at. I’d inherited my coloring from my mother, we both have peaches and cream skin, hazel eyes and honey blonde hair. But unlike my mermaid tendrils, my mum chooses to keep hers in an adorable pixie cut that shows off her long neck and high cheekbones. Without a doubt, Anita Everly is a very attractive fifty-three-year-old woman.
I heard an impatient throat cleared behind my mother. “Hey, what about me?”
“Sorry, Dad,” I laughed, letting my mum go. “Hi.” I wrapped my arms around my father, giggling like a child as he lifted me off the ground and spun me in a circle. My dad was the fire chief and had been on the rowing team in university, he was anything but a slouch, and didn’t show his fifty-six years at all. This was a man who still ran thirty miles a week and could bench press a smart car; he was built like a “brick shit-house” as his friends liked to say. And although all three of the Everly children shared their mother’s hazel eyes, my brothers got their coloring from my dad.
All the men in our family shared that naturally tanned skin with dark blond wavy hair, though my dad kept his cut quite short and it was starting to thin. As a child, I had whined about not getting my dad’s eyes. In my opinion, they were his best feature, bright green with flecks of copper and yellow, alert and wise with humor and passion bubbling beneath the surface. The running joke in our family was that if you looked up “Daddy’s Girl” in the dictionary, there would be a picture of me clinging to my father’s legs and standing on his feet as we danced at my Uncle Dan’s wedding. Phil Everly rarely said “no” to his little girl.
I wasn’t sure if James had followed me to the door or if he was waiting in the kitchen for us, but I had my answer when my dad dropped me abruptly, and I stumbled to get my footing.
“Oh shit, sorry. James this is my dad, Phil, and my mum, Anita. Mum, Dad this is…,” I said with a sigh as I looked at the man I loved, “this is James.” They all shook hands, and I could tell that my parents were eyeing him up warily. James, on the other hand, tottered back and forth on his feet and licked his lips nervously; it was a whole new look for him.
“Come in… come in,” I urged. “We’re going to put you in the garage apartment, but we can take your stuff up there later. James made dinner, and it’s almost ready.”
I grabbed my mum’s bag, and James reached for my dad’s. However, my dad reached for his bag at the same time, and they had a little awkward hand-over-hand moment. Poor James’ face went crimson.
“You have a lovely home,” my mother said as we led them through the foyer into the open floor plan of the house.
“Thank you, Mrs. Everly.”
“Oh, please call us Phil and Anita.”
“James designed the house himself, Mum, and did most of the work as well, bringing in his most trusted contractors only when he had to. I’ll give you the full tour later.”
“Can I get either of you anything to drink? Wine? Beer? Water? The bar’s fully stocked so just name your poison,” James asked, as he made his way back into the kitchen and started decanting a second bottle of wine.
“I’ll have a glass of wine please,” my mother said.
“Wine for me as well,” my dad said but didn’t bother to turn around. He was too busy wandering around the living room examining the rockwork around the hearth and the wood beams of the ceiling. My dad had designed and built my parent’s house as well, although not as complex or grandiose as this, I could tell he was sizing James by his craftsmanship and style.
James seemed to relax once the meal was on the table and the wine had calmed his nerves. And his chicken parmesan had us all sporting some pretty righteous food babies.
“So, Mum, are you still interested in coming to my rebounder class in the morning?”
“Yes, honey, I’d love to try your trampoline class. I’m just afraid I’d fall off.”
I scoffed. “Nah. Nobody falls off. James’ sister came with me last weekend, and it was her first time, and she didn’t fall off. You’ll be okay. You do yoga; you’ve got core strength and balance. Dad, what are your plans for tomorrow?”
“Well, sweetie…” He took another sip of his wine while rubbing his stomach. “I would like to get to a running store or two, I need some new shorts, but it doesn’t have to be tomorrow, it could be Sunday on our way home. We’re just here to see you.”
“Well, I think James wants to do some work on his boat this weekend. Wasn’t that right, James? You wanted to try and get the boat out of winter storage and put it back in the marina?”
James nodded while taking a sip of his wine. “Oh, uh, yeah, but that can wait if your parents wanted to do something specific.”
“What kind of a boat do you have?” my dad asked.
I knew my father, the avid fisherman and boating enthusiast, would have his interest peaked the moment I mentioned James’ boat. I hoped that this would earn some brownie points for James and dissolve any last bit of awkwardness between him and my dad. I was right. My question spurred a thirty-minute discussion about fishing spots, lure preferences and boats of all sizes. As we were clearing the plates, I could tell by my dad’s questions that he was eager to see James’ boat and check it out.
“Tell me, James, do you golf?” We were all sitting in the living room enjoying more wine and discussing our upcoming Caribbean holiday when my dad abruptly changed the subject to one of his key “are you worthy of my time and worthy of my daughter?” questions. Fortunately, however, it was a subject I had prepped James for. My father hates golf. Despises it. He calls it the “lazy man's past time” and spits when anyone calls it a sport. Plus, as the fire chief, he loathes the amount of water it takes to hydrate the courses, especially during the hot summer season when the rest of the city is on water restriction, and there are severe fire-bans because the tinder is so dry.
James was ready. He shook his head. “No sir, I don’t. Not unless I have to, that is.” And he was telling the truth, James didn’t golf, in fact, he hated it as well and shared many of the same reasons as my father.
“Ah, I getcha.” My dad nodded, indicating he understood the pain of having to do something you hated for the sake of the greater good. “Like a golf tournament for charity or a schmoozing, elbow rubbing, ass-kissing event.”
“Yeah, exactly. But I don’t consider it a sport. After golf I still have to go for a run, get a real sweat going, you know what I mean?” And that was that. James was my father’s new favorite person.
“Your father and I really like James, dear. We think he’s very kind and he seems to really care for you,” my mother said as we stopped into a drugstore on the way home from the gym the next morning.
“Yeah? That’s good. I’m glad you guys like him. He was so nervous.”
She ran her hand affectionately down the back of my head like only mothers can do. “And he’s one heck of a cook, and handsome. Boy, is he ever gorgeous. And he’s won your father over entirely, boats, fishing, running and a mutual hatred for golf. It’s like your dad has found a new BFF.”
I snorted, picking up a perfume sample and sniffing the nozzle, wrinkling my nose at the over-powering scent of musk. “Yeah, I figured Dad would love him.”
“Do I what?”
I gave her the side-eye, a small smile playing on my lips. “Yeah… I do. I’m crazy about him, Mum.”
“Awe honey, that’s wonderful.” She beamed, resting her hand on my shoulder and giving it a motherly squeeze. “And he feels the same way? Why am I asking? Of course, he does, I see the way he looks at you. He’s crazy about you.” I smiled, picturing James’ handsome face and the way he lights up when I walk into a room.
“Do you think our age difference is going to be a problem?”
“How old is he?” We were now perusing the cosmetics section, mindlessly putting samples on the back of our hands while having one of our many heart-to-hearts.
“He just turned thirty-eight. His birthday is in January. Do you think he’s past the time of wanting to get married and have kids?”
“He’s thirty-eight?” She raised her perfectly tweezed brows while her bright hazel eyes twinkled with excitement. “Wow, he looks really good for thirty-eight. I don’t know, honey. What has he said? Does he want kids?”
“Since meeting me, he said all his priorities have changed, but I’ve never asked him to elaborate. He’s normally such a closed book, but he’s been flipping pages for me so much lately I haven’t wanted to pry too much, so I don’t really know what he means.”
She smiled, her classically symmetrical face rosy from our workout and her eyes taking on an extra glimmer as we talked about love, my mother has always been a hopeless romantic, she believes we all have a soulmate out there just waiting for us.
“Then that’s exactly what he means, honey,” she said. “A man like James puts his career first and his love life on the back burner, waiting for the right woman to come along. And you, my love, are that right woman, I can see it in his eyes —in both your eyes. I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”
“What’s your key to a happy and long-lasting marriage, Mum? You and Dad have been together for almost thirty-five years. What’s your secret?”
My mother shrugged. “Keep the fights clean and the sex dirty, honey.” And she wandered off to look at the Elizabeth Arden makeup leaving me stunned.
“Mother!” I chased after her.
She rolled her eyes and exhaled with a chuckle. “Oh, chill out.”
We were giggling so much we were drawing attention. My sides hurt and I had to go on the hunt for a tissue to wipe the tears from my eyes. A hopeless romantic she might be, but my mother was also a straight shooter, she tells it like she sees it and doesn’t beat around the bush. And as much as I didn’t want to hear about her and my father’s sex life, I’d rather know that they still had plenty of romance in their relationship, then find out that they were in a loveless marriage and only stayed together out of habit.
I felt my phone vibrate and checked my text messages. It was James.
J: Your dad and I are going out in the boat. What are our dinner plans?
“Well, it looks like Dad and James are still hitting it off. They’re taking the boat for its first run of the year.”
She gushed. “Oh, your dad must be in his glory right now. Anything having to do with boats and he’s like a child at Christmas.”
“James just asked what we want to do for dinner. What do you think?”
She shrugged, holding up her hand to show me a foundation shade. “I’m good with whatever.”
I shook my head and made a face; it was much too dark for her complexion.
“Well, how about Thai? I can make reservations for later in the evening, so we’re not rushed. Are we going to go downtown after our showers?”
My mother nodded. “Yeah, sure, that sounds good.”
E: Thai for dinner. Will make a reservation for 7:00. Have fun. Xoxo
J: Sounds good. Love you.
A small tingle ran through me at the sight of “Love you” in his text. I hoped the feeling never got old.