Chris watched as she walked over and sat beside him on the couch. How did she seriously think he would be able to concentrate when she was dressed like this? “Did you want me distracted when we have this important talk?”
“Hey, eyes up here Evans! But I will admit that this was a test.” Chris was confused, she could see it on his face. “I know it is stupid, but I didn’t think you were genuinely attracted to me. I have always felt a certain sexual charge when we have fought and thought there was chemistry, but you never touch me.” Carter dropped her head, it was very odd to be having this type of conversation. But after the earlier fight, she felt the need to just get it all out. “I guess I questioned if you had the same feelings for me that I had for you. I know that must sound utterly ridiculous.”
Chris slid over closer to her, taking her hand, “Oh Carter, I never intended to make you feel that way. It has literally hurt to not touch you. Believe me, why do you think I take long showers? I was just nervous because I was not sure you would want me if I weren’t going to get better and I was worried about getting hurt.” Chris started shaking his head and smirking a bit, “Damn, I sound like a girl.”
Carter playfully punched him in the arm, “Wait a minute, you are taking care of yourself in those long showers? Damn it!” She playfully punched him in the arm again and laughed heartily. “On a serious note, you are what I want, and you have no idea how hard it is for me to admit that! It is so much easier when you don’t love anyone and don’t feel like anyone loves you back. I don’t know how to deal with relationships and feelings. It isn’t like I had a role model with loving parents as I was growing up.”
“You told me your mom left; did they fight all the time when you were little?”
She took a deep breath and hoped she would be able to get through this without breaking down. If she wanted her relationship to work, she had to put it all out there. This would help determine if she went through with the rest of her plan. “Yeah, she left. My parents were married about six months when my mother found out she was pregnant. It was way too early in their marriage, and she was not in the least bit excited. The General, well he was over the moon! He was an only son, his dad was an only son, his grandfather – you get the picture. So he was positive that I would be a boy; a son he would play catch with and who would go into the Marines and be an excellent officer.” There was a slight tone of bitterness in her voice.
“So you weren’t what he had in mind?”
“No, not the least bit. He was angry in the beginning and then came around. He tells me stories about how he would carry me around and dote all over me while my mother had to tote around all the baby stuff. In a weird twist of fate, he ended up being crazy about me, and she resented me. She wasn’t ready to have kids, and she hated the idea of being stuck with me while he was deployed or whatever. She didn’t want to be a single parent and made that abundantly clear. She was never the loving and adoring parent.”
“Wow, I can’t even imagine what that was like for you.”
“She stayed around until I was about 8 and that is when she decided that she was done being a mother. The General had just received a promotion, and he was home for the first time in several months. She packed up her stuff and told him she was leaving. He was begging her to stay; I had never seen him like that before. He tried to keep her from leaving; he tried blocking the door and reaching for her to hold her back.” She took a moment to gather herself because it was not easy to say these things. “She pulled a gun on him and threatened to shoot him if he didn’t move. She said she would kill him and me if she had to.”
Chris could not help but stare at her, watching the emotions play across her face. He had never expected this type of story, and this explained why she had a hard time with the idea of love and relationships. He reached for her hand and held it tight; giving her a slight squeeze to let her know that he was supportive. He didn’t want to push her to open up but wanted her to know that it was safe if she wanted to move on.
“I ran out of the room; couldn’t take the idea of her killing him. So, I grabbed the gun that was hidden in the desk drawer in the General’s office. I pointed it at my mother and told her to get out and that if she shot my dad, I would kill her.” She turned and looked into Chris’s face, “I threatened to kill my own mother, Chris. What kind of kid does that?”
“I’ll tell you, a brave kid who is trying to protect herself and her father. I had no idea it was this bad for you and I have to say it makes me understand a few things.” He put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her to him. “So, I guess you didn’t shoot, and neither did she?”
“No, she didn’t shoot. The General was horrified that I had gotten the gun, and he moved from the door to take it from me. He scooped me up in his arms and took me into the other room as my mother walked out the door. He never yelled at me; instead, he sat down in his chair and put me on his lap and we sat there all night. I didn’t cry; I think I knew she didn’t love me so it didn’t hurt when she left. It just made it really hard to grow up with a man who didn’t exactly know what to do with a little girl.”
“And this is why you don’t like guns? It brings back the memories of that night?”
“Yes, that’s why. The scary thing is, I knew how to shoot, and I know if I had fired I would have killed her. I think the General realized that too, and that is why he actually moved when he did. I believe he was afraid I would really do it, and my mother had no clue as to how accurate my shooting really was.”
Chris didn’t know what to say; he prompted her to go down this path, but he had not anticipated that this would be her story. He gently rubbed her arm to soothe and comfort her. “Have you seen your mother since that night?”
“No, she sent the General divorce papers and gave him full custody of me. She even signed away parental rights, and that allowed her to get away without paying child support. I have no idea where she went or what her life has been like, and I don’t give a damn.”
“So why do you always refer to your father as the General; I would have thought this whole situation would have brought you closer together.”
She moved away from Chris and turned on the couch so she could look at him, “I know, right? It drove him away from me; he began to resent me and the fact that he was now a single father. He didn’t go to the front lines any longer, but he was transferred every few years, and he had to drag me along. He started treating me like a mission versus his child so everything was regimented. We didn’t interact like we had before my mother left.” She stood up and began walking over to the kitchen. “I need a drink you want some wine?”
“No, I ‘m good,” he responded. He wasn’t surprised she needed to have a drink, she was opening up in a way she never had before, and he knew that she needed the liquid courage. “So you had to grow up on your own?
She took a big drink as she walked back into the living room; sitting the glass on the coffee table, she took her seat next to Chris on the couch. “Pretty much; he dragged me everywhere, and I was constantly ‘on display’ at events in his honor. Guys wouldn’t ask me out because they were afraid of him. I never went on a date in high school; never went to prom or a dance. I was a hermit and because of it, I spent all of my time studying and reading.”
“What about in college? No one there knew your father.”
“Oh by that time I was so backward and afraid of the idea of dating. I loaded up my schedule and made sure I had very little free time. What free time I did have I spent studying and doing homework. All I did was push up my entry date with the Marines. Now, don’t go feeling all sorry for me. I tried dating when I was stationed in Germany; didn’t have much success. I’ve had a few boyfriends, but none of them worked out. And to answer the question before you have a chance to ask, I am not a virgin!”
Chris began to laugh, he wasn’t going to ask her that, but he did appreciate the fact that she clarified for him. “Ok, good to know. So do you hold it against him that he has kept you from meeting the Marine of your dreams?”
“Well, not exactly. The General is not lovey-dovey and has been cut off since my mother left. He never had another relationship, never remarried, and found it hard to be affectionate with me. He was also very stingy with praise and compliments. I never knew if he was proud of me, hated me, or was somewhere in the middle.” She picked up her glass and downed the rest of the wine, “I have been deathly afraid of finding a man that would be a copy of him. You know they say girls are attracted to men that remind them of their fathers. I was scared that is what I was going to get; better to be closed off instead of the alternative.”
Chris began to laugh out loud at this comment, “Oh my God, you were afraid I would be like your father? Why would you think that?”
“Well, you are in the Marines, and it is your career. He was brash and you, dear heavens you had enough bravado for the entire camp the day I met you! Look, it wasn’t that I thought you would be like him it is just my fear that I will find someone who turns out to be like him.”
“Is that all?”
She hung her head and slowly began to shake it, “I think I am more afraid that I will end up being like my mother. I don’t want to find a man and hurt him like she hurt my father.” There she had said it; the real root of the problem. She was more concerned with being her mother than anything else. It was weird, but it was almost as if a weight had been lifted from her shoulders when the words left her mouth. “I do suppose I owe you a ‘thank you’ though. You confronted the General about me and it allowed for us to open a dialogue that we needed.”
“How are things with him now? I am going to guess you talk more?”
“Yeah, we talk more. Since I got back from Afghanistan, we talk at least once a week. We have a regular lunch date, and we are trying really hard to reconnect. We have a long way to go, but we are committed to making it work; he is the only family I have.”
~ * * * ~
It was getting late, and the conversation was heavy, but it had been very productive. Chris was happy that Carter was able to open up to him, and he felt like he was finally able to understand who she was. He loved that she had vulnerability; she was tough and independent but deep down she was just looking for love and to know that she was safe.
“I know you didn’t intend to tell me all of that tonight, but I am glad that you did,” Chris said as he leaned over and kissed her on the head. “Carter, you have to know that you are worth being loved and I don’t think you have to worry about turning into your mother.”
She turned to look at him, “But you don’t know that for sure.”
“Yeah and neither do you! Just like I am not going to turn into your father; don’t say that I might because we are different people Carter. We know what not to repeat.” He watches as she slowly nods her head, acknowledging that he has a point. “So, dare I ask what you really wanted to talk about tonight?”
She looks at him sheepishly, “No, I wanted to tell you that I had feelings for you and tell you that I wanted to see about moving the relationship forward.”
“Ok, well we have established that we both have feelings for one another. So how exactly do you intend to go forward?” He then slaps himself in the head, “Oh! That is where the sexy little pajamas come into play, right?”
At this point, Carter cannot control her laughter, “Yes, genius that is part of it. But to be honest, it wasn’t the only thing. I want to be closer to you, this traveling is killing me, and I hate that I only see you on the weekends. I want to give my notice and move down here, and then I can help with your therapy, and we can date like regular folks.”
His head snapped to look at her, “What? You can’t do that Carter; you can’t quit your job. Are you out of your mind?” He watched as her eyes clouded over with his words; she was confused as to what he was trying to say to her.
To this point she had felt that the conversation was going well; they had expressed feelings for one another, and she gave him her background. This opposition was unsettling. “Wait a minute, I’m confused; I told you that I love you, and I thought you understood that I don’t use that word lightly,” She stood up from the couch, trying to catch her balance as the wine had started to catch up with her. “I figured that when your rehab was complete, you would go back to Afghanistan. I don’t want to waste time that I could be spending with you.” She began to pace, and she could feel her body temperature rising. She suddenly turned back and looked at him, “Oh, I am foolish. Is this because I am the only one willing to use the ‘L’ word?”
Chris stood from the couch and walked over to her; he put his hands on her shoulders and looked into her eyes. “No, you are not the only one Carter; I have loved you longer than you know. But you are not going to throw your career away because of me. You are a brilliant analyst with an incredible career ahead of you, and you will regret losing your career because of me.”
She just stared at him; trying her best to figure out what in the world he was saying. “I can get a job anywhere. I could probably even get transferred here if I wanted to. Do you not want me to move here? Am I missing something?”
“Right before you got to Afghanistan I was approached about reenlisting. I had six months left on my commitment, and they wanted me to stay. I was ready to sign, I had the paperwork ready to sign and send back when you got to the camp. I was so worked up about you being there, and then the ambush happened; I never sent them back.” He walked back over and took his seat on the couch; motioning for her to come and sit next to him.
As he sat down, she cuddled up next to him. “So if my math is right, you have four months left to firm up your commitment or step away?”
“I am uncertain now about staying in. I love being in the thick of the fight and being on the front lines. And with no girlfriend, wife or kids, it was an easy decision to go back. This injury and the slow healing have me thinking that I might not ever be combat ready again. And now that I have a girlfriend, well that has me thinking too.”
“Thinking about getting out? So I will say the same thing to you that you said to me, are you out of your mind?”
“No, for the first time in a while I might actually be in my right mind because for once I am thinking about a future. I always looked at the Marine Corps as my life, and you don’t think about a future when you are at war.” He was absent-mindedly stroking her head as she rested it against his shoulder. “Maybe I want to think about settling down and having a life that doesn’t depend on the Corps.”
“So explain to me again why it would be a bad idea for me to leave my job?”
“Well we can’t both be unemployed can we?”
“So you want to be the one unemployed and expect me to support your sorry ass?” She said looking up at him and grinning, “Okay, I can get behind that idea.”
“Yeah well that would mean I should move to Virginia to be with you, and I am not sure how that will work since I am on active duty and assigned here for treatment. I can’t just move you know.”
“Well, there has to be some protocol for this. If you aren’t going to reenlist, and the doctors cannot guarantee that you will get better, you should be eligible for a medical discharge. With that, you would be able to move anywhere, and you would still be able to get treatment and therapy through your veteran’s benefits.”
“Yeah, I guess that is true.” He leaned over and kissed her head again, “We can talk about this some more tomorrow; I think I am ready to go to bed, are you coming?” He asked, raising his eyebrows.
She gave him a grin, took his extended hand and seductively whispered in his ear, “You bet I am.”
~ * ~
Chris woke up first; the pain in his leg was throbbing, but it was worth it. Their arguments from last night only made the making up and the sex more intense. Carter was on her side, her back to him. He was admiring the angles of her body; the curve of her neck where he liked to kiss from her ear down to her collarbone. He gently pulled the sheet back to admire the lean line from her shoulder to the curve of her hip and down her long legs. She was exquisite, and he was just thankful that the pajamas she had on last night were silk because they slid off her body so easily. He wished he could just stare at her, but that familiar twitch made him want to pick up where they left at some point in the overnight hours. He just hoped that there was a good sound-proofing barrier between apartments or he might have a few complaints on his hands.
He tried to ease out of the bed so as not to disturb her; she had been so tired, and since she was sleeping peacefully he did not want to ruin that. Besides, if she got plenty of rest this morning, it would mean she would have plenty of energy for later tonight. He was totally anticipating a second and possibly third round before she had to head back to Quantico.
He made his way to the bathroom and shut the door, hoping it would muffle the sound enough when he turned on the shower. He had the water on as hot as he could take it; bracing his arms on the wall in front of him and with this head down so the hot water could rain down on his sore and aching body. He was so lost in how the water felt that he did not hear the door open. He had no idea Carter had joined him in the shower until he felt her arms wrap around his stomach and her head rest on his back. He jumped at the feel of her cold hands around his warm body.
“Morning,” she said before kissing down his spine.
He removed his hands from the wall and turned to face her, “Morning,” he smiled as he bent to kiss her. “I am sorry babe I didn’t mean to wake you.”
Her arms were still wrapped around him, and she began kissing the tattoo on his clavicle. She had been dying to touch it since she first saw it when he was in the hospital. Every time she saw him, he had unknowingly teased her with glimpses of it. Last night, well she took the opportunity to touch it and trace it with her tongue. Amazingly it was as erotic as she had anticipated. She knew he had others, she had seen the ones on his arms, but the one on his clavicle was sexier, and she had no way to explain that. She stopped kissing and looked up at him, “I was awake before you got out of the bed; I just didn’t turn over because I wasn’t sure I could keep my hands off of you.”
“Oh you little minx, I think I underestimated you.”
“Oh you have no idea,” she purred as she slowly ran her hands down his chest. She kept her eyes fixed on his. “Should I demonstrate for you?” She asked as she placed her hands on his hips.
He didn’t answer; instead, he backed her against the shower wall and lifted her up; she instinctively wrapped her legs around him. He was hungry for her; he moved her ever so slightly and kissed her hard as he slid into her. Her scream of ecstasy was muffled by the kiss. As he broke away from the kiss he buried his head in her neck as he continued to thrust into her. As they both went over the edge, Chris bit down on Carter’s shoulder; she didn’t flinch.
Carter’s legs relaxed, and Chris moved to put her back on her feet. The shower had turned cold some time ago, but neither of them noticed or cared. He turned the shower off and reached for a towel offering it to Carter. She took it from his hand and before he could reach for another, she was beginning to dry him. She started with his back since had slightly turned from her; she moved the towel slowly and seductively over his shoulders and down his back; following the curve of his ass and down each leg. She was careful not to touch him other than with the towel; although she did blow on his spine as she moved and he visibly shuddered. She stood and whispered in his ear for him to turn around where she began the process all over. However, now she was a little more playful and flirty. She dried his shoulders and then kissed where she had just had the towel. This was repeated as she moved down his chest and when she got to his hips, well she knew that he wasn’t going to stand for her game much longer.
“You know, I think you have done enough of that,” he said as he reached for her arm and pulled her back up. He reached down and picked her up and carried her into the bedroom where he placed her carefully on the bed.
“You can’t put me on the bed, Chris, I am all wet.”
“Yeah, I am counting on that.”