Brody checked the lasagna while he waited for Ryan. He hoped she hadn't gotten stuck in traffic, although he figured she'd call if something like that happened. It seemed strange that the six weeks were over. The only thing wrong was that he wasn't still playing hockey. Not that he would be even if the team was still in the playoffs. He was improving and would try skating again the next week. Still, he chafed at the restrictions.
The knock at the door jerked him out of his thoughts and he hurried over to open it.
"Hi." He stood there and grinned down at Ryan until she laughed.
"So are you going to let me in?"
"Just making sure it's really you." He leaned down to kiss her and reached for her guitar. "Come on in."
After her things had been stowed in the bedroom, he reached for her and pulled her into a thorough kiss. She made a pleading sound and he tightened his arms around her, trying to make up for all the lost time. Her fingers toyed with his hair before she wrapped her arms around him and held on.
"God, I missed you," she said.
"Missed you, too." Brody held her for a minute, rubbing his cheek against her hair and stroking her back.
"You still have your beard." Ryan pulled back just enough to look at him and smile.
"I didn't think it was fair to shave it off until you had a chance to see it for yourself. I thought you might like it." To prove his point, he leaned in and rubbed his chin against her neck. She yelped and laughed but he wouldn't let her go.
"Okay, enough!" Ryan couldn't stifle a few residual giggles even after Brody stopped.
"I knew you'd like it." Brody grinned.
"So, what smells so good?"
"Lasagna. I figured you probably haven't eaten."
She laughed. "It's been a while, and certainly not anything as good as what you make." She wiggled her hips against him. "But I could wait a little on the food."
Brody made some quick mental calculations. "Hold on." He held her hand and led her into the kitchen, unwilling to let go now that she was here. She laughed as he got out a hot pad, set the lasagna on it and turned off the oven all with one hand.
"There." He nodded and turned back to her, pulling her close. "Now we'll have some food for after."
"Are you sure we should?" Serious, Ryan brushed his hair back. "How are you feeling? As much as I missed you, I don't want to do anything that makes your head worse."
"I'm fine." He caught her hand and brushed his lips over palm. "Really, I'm fine. They've cleared me for light work outs and I'll be skating against next week and if I don't get you into bed, I think I'll explode."
"Can't have that." Ryan smiled and reached up to kiss him.
"Come on." He nudged her out of the kitchen.
She sighed. "I guess you shouldn’t carry me."
"Probably not. I'm only cleared for light exercise." He gave her a rueful smile and she was stunned into silence for a minute.
"Oh, you think you're so funny." Ryan moved scowled, fighting not to laugh after Brody started. "I think I'll skip the surprise I had planned for you." She crossed her arms in front of her.
"No, no, don't do that." Brody stopped laughing and pulled her back to him. "Come on," he coaxed as she resisted. "I was kidding, you know that. I think you look terrific." He kissed her neck and she broke out in giggles as his beard tickled her skin. "What's the surprise? Tell me."
"I can't; you have to wait a minute." Ryan stepped back and he gaped at her.
"Wait? I haven't seen you for over a month and you want me to wait? I don't think so." He reached for her but she shook her head.
"I just need a minute."
"All right, fine." He leaned against the wall and crossed his arms. "This better be worth it!" he called after her as she went into the bedroom, but she just laughed. He strained to hear what she was doing, but nothing gave him a clue.
"Okay, you can come in now."
Brody stopped in the doorway, speechless.
"Don't like it?" Ryan raised an eyebrow.
He tried to speak, cleared his throat, and tried again. "Oh, I like it." It was a fantasy come true.
Ryan sat on the bed, naked with her guitar. She grinned at him as she slid one hand over the neck of the guitar and lightly strummed the strings with the other. "You sure? I can always get dressed again."
"No, you're fine." He stripped off his shirt, stretched out on the bed facing her and tugged on her arm. She stopped playing and leaned over for his kiss. He kept a hand on her shoulder and teased her lips with his tongue; she parted her lips and he delved deeper. Ryan shivered as his fingers trailed up and down her arm.
"I figured after the playoffs and all, I'd try to cheer you up," she said after the kiss ended.
"I'm feeling better all the time." He toyed with the ends of her hair. "I know I keep saying it, but I missed you a lot."
"I missed you, too, and it's nice to hear." Ryan traced a finger along his jaw. "I'm really sorry how everything went for you: the concussion, the playoffs. I wished I was closer when those things happened."
"I wished you were, too, but you're here now, so it's all good."
"Yeah, it is." This time she kissed him.
Brody tangled his fingers in her hair and deepened the kiss. He wanted to reacquaint himself with everything about her: the way she felt, the way she tasted, the way she reacted to all the things he was about to do to her. There was only one thing stopping him.
"You don't need this," he told her and tapped the guitar. "Although I have to say—nice G string."
Ryan rolled her eyes but couldn't hide a smile. "I'll get rid of this if you get rid of those." She tugged at his jeans.
Ryan put the guitar down and laughed as Brody fought with his shoes before shoving his jeans off and tossing them on the floor. She sighed happily and rocked her hips as he brought her body against his.
He groaned. "Hey, watch that. I wanted to enjoy this."
Her eyes glinted as she pressed herself against him. "I'm enjoying it."
"I'll just bet you are." He smiled but didn't move to do anything.
"Something wrong? Does your head hurt?" Ryan looked concerned.
"No, I'm fine." He brushed her lips with his own. "Just making sure you're really here."
"I was wondering the same thing about you." She nipped at his bottom lip. "Let's prove it to each other."
Brody captured her mouth once more as though he'd never let her go. He groaned as she shifted against him, rubbing against his erection. She hooked one leg over his and drew him closer. She was warm and soft, and he most definitely was not.
Ryan shivered against him as he kissed her neck and shoulder. He intensified his efforts and she sighed and rolled her hips against him.
He took his time exploring her body, leading with his hands and following with his mouth. When he took a nipple in his mouth, she let out a soft cry and grabbed at his shoulders. He let his hand drift down along her side and over her hip, teasing her with light caresses on her leg. He laughed low in his throat when she tried to move his hand.
"What's your hurry?" he teased.
"It's been six weeks," she tossed back.
"Well, then." He moved his hand between her legs and paused for a moment before sliding a finger along her slick skin. "God, you feel so good."
Ryan made a noise he took for agreement and he began stroking her with a steady rhythm. He found her mouth again and she tangled her hands in his hair to keep him in place. She tore her lips away and her breath came in gasps. Brody watched her; her eyes were half-closed and she bit her lip as her body tensed.
Her hips moved in concert with his hand. She drew in a shaky breath and held it, then released it with a groan as she came. He didn't stop until she grabbed his wrist and managed a whispered "Please."
"Anything for you," he said, his own voice rough.
"How about this?" Ryan was still breathless, but she managed a smile as she wrapped a hand around his hard shaft.
"Oh, God, yes." Brody moved over top of her, sinking into her body as she held him close. Ryan came around him once more and he forgot everything except the two of them. He kissed her mouth, her shoulder, her neck, wherever he could put his lips.
Ryan dragged her nails up his back and his body was on fire. He knew he wouldn't last much longer and decided not to fight it. He wrapped his arms around her and pressed his lips to her neck as his body tensed and he gave into his release.
For a moment all he heard was the thrumming of his heart and the raggedness of their breathing. When he felt coordinated enough, he rolled to his side, keeping an arm around her and pressing a kiss to her forehead.
"I guess we're really here." Ryan gave a quiet laugh. "At least I think I am."
Brody smiled. "That's good. I'd hate to think this was all a dream or something."
"No, no dream." Ryan nestled into him. "So, any chance of dinner? I started dreaming about that a couple of weeks ago. If I never see another McChicken sandwich, it'll be too soon."
Brody groaned. "Are you serious?"
"Hey, it's not like we had a per diem or anything."
"Get dressed then. We can go eat the lasagna." Brody paused. "Well, you don't have to get dressed. I won't complain."
Ryan shook her head and reached for her shirt. Brody gave a wistful sigh and grabbed his jeans.
While they ate the lasagna, Ryan told him more about the tour and he recounted the end of the playoffs in more detail. She laughed when he presented her with gourmet mint chocolate chip ice cream.
"You really do pay attention, don’t you?" She rested her chin on her hand and smiled at him.
The next morning, Ryan woke up and stretched, savoring the feeling of being next to Brody and not in a seedy motel.
"Good morning." He propped himself on an elbow.
"Hi." She stretched again. "I can't tell you how nice it is to stay in a real bed. I'm so tired of motels and hotels and whatever else."
"I can imagine."
"Do you have some breakfast?" She looked at him hopefully.
"You bet." He leaned in for a quick kiss. "What would you like?"
"I have no idea. Whatever you have will be fine."
"Okay. I'll find something."
Ryan smiled as he got out of bed and threw on some sweat pants. She showered and dressed then went out to the kitchen. She stood for a moment, trying to identify the smells.
"Hey. That's the thing you made me before. Huevos rancheros." She laughed. "I can't believe you remember that."
"I remember things. Like how you don't eat." He gestured to the table. "Have a seat."
"Thanks." Ryan sat and drank some orange juice. "This is great."
He chuckled. "You haven't even had the food yet."
Ryan looked at him. "It's not all about the food."
Brody was as relaxed and content as he could ever recall being for the next few days. Ryan was still there. She'd talked about finding a job, and calling Annette's friend to see about the apartment in Adams Morgan, but she had stayed with him. For the first couple of days, it appeared all the traveling had caught up to her and she slept a lot. He didn't mind. Just knowing she was there made him feel better.
After Ryan had caught up on her sleep, they'd spent time together. It was different than before; now neither of them had to go to work, or a game, or a meeting or anything else. Brody found he liked the rhythm they established. It would have to end sometime, but for now it was good.
"I texted Annette earlier today," she told him as they ate dinner one night. "That apartment in Adams Morgan fell through." She sighed. "But Annette said I could crash with her for a while, and she'll talk to other people. Lara's mom said I could stay there, too. I guess I really need to start looking for a job."
"Okay. No hurry." Brody reached over and squeezed her hand.
She smiled. "Thanks. I did need a few days off, but I have to get myself together. Jocelyn was working on some more stuff for us, and I have a little money left, but not a lot."
"Any idea when you might hear from her?"
"She said it would be a few days when we last talked to her, which was before the last show. I thought we'd have heard by now, but I'll wait another day or two before calling her. Jocelyn's cool, so I think she'll call with news, or at least a status report, when she has something to tell us."
Her phone rang as they were clearing the table.
"I'll be right back," she told Brody. "That's Jocelyn."
She stepped into the living room and he half-listened as he dealt with the dishes. At one point, he laughed as Ryan made a sound that sounded like a laugh and a shriek all at once. She came back in the kitchen, clutching the phone to her chest.
"Hey, what was that?" Brody glanced over from the sink. "You look like you're about to burst."
"Jocelyn did it! She got us on a tour! We're going to open for Stone Fortress when they come to the East Coast! And then she has us headlining some clubs! Oh, my God, I can't believe it!"
"That's fantastic!" Brody stepped over and scooped her up in to a hug, swinging her in a tight circle. "You guys deserve it."
"Thanks! Thanks! Oh God, I—I don't know what to do." Ryan looked up at him, dazed.
Brody laughed. "Maybe you want to call Lara or something?"
"Yeah, I will. I will. Jocelyn is calling everyone personally, so I'll give her some time for that. Besides, I think I need to let it sink in. It doesn't feel real." Ryan rubbed a hand over her eyes.
"Any other details? When does it start?"
"In, um, three weeks." She huffed out a breath. "Wow, three weeks. Hardly any time at all."
"Three weeks?" Brody looked at her, his enthusiasm fading. "How long will the tour be?
"I'm not sure. I was too excited to ask questions." Ryan frowned. "What? What's the matter?"
"So you're going to be gone all summer." Brody stepped back and crossed his arms over his chest.
"I—I guess. I don't know exactly but I guess, yeah, we'll be gone a lot of it." Ryan realized the problem and felt guilty. "Oh. I'm sorry. You were going to stay in Virginia this summer."
Ryan couldn't believe she'd gone from near euphoria to sad confusion in such a short time. "Well, look." She cleared her throat. "I still have three weeks before I go. That gives us some time, and—"
"So is this how it's going to be?" Brody asked.
"How what's going to be?"
"Me running around during hockey season, you running around during the summer?"
"I don't know." Ryan closed her eyes and took a breath, trying to sort out her thoughts. "I only know what it's like right now. And right now, the band had a great opportunity that we can't miss. I want that, and I want you to be happy about it for me."
"It's kind of hard to be happy about not seeing you for weeks at a time."
"I'm not thrilled about that aspect of it either," she told him, and reached for a compromise. "Maybe you could come along sometimes. I'd love to have you with me."
He rolled his eyes. "So I come along, amuse myself all day then watch you perform and sleep with you in between?"
Ryan stepped back. "That's a little harsh. Look, I know this is a lot to process. I'm still working through it myself."
"There's not much to work through, Ryan. You were gone, you're back and you're leaving again in three weeks. It's a little hard to work a relationship in with that, isn’t it?"
Her eyes flashed. "You think it's so easy for me when you're constantly here and gone during the hockey season?"
"At least I have a schedule! At least you know when I'll be here or not."
"A schedule?" She choked out a laugh. "You think that makes it so much easier? Knowing that—that it'll be two days or two weeks before I see you when I want to see you now? Or need to see you? Yeah, that's so much better."
Brody took a deep breath and raked his hands through his hair. "Ryan, I'm not trying to fight. But I don’t think you can blame me for being disappointed about this. I looked forward to spending the summer with you, to taking you to Michigan—to just spending time with you. And now you tell me you can't do that."
"Am I supposed to say no?" She willed him to understand. "Brody, we can't wait for this kind of thing to come around again. It may never. You may not believe this, but I don’t care if we rule the charts or if I live in some big Malibu mansion. I just want to be able to support myself doing what I love to do. And this is what I have to do in order to get there."
"I don't have to like it."
Ryan pressed her fingers to her eyes. "You know what I hate? I hate that you're the person I want to tell most about this, to share it with, and so far, both times I've had big news, it's been a mess. I know the first time wasn't your fault, and I went off, but this is different."
"I don't see what's so hard to understand. You're back after six weeks and all the time I planned on spending with you won't happen."
"What do you want me to do? Say no?"
He scoffed to cover his confused feelings. "Of course not. Don't be ridiculous."
"I'm not being ridiculous, I'm trying to figure this out," Ryan said. "You want me to go and don't want me to go. That doesn't give me a whole lot to work with."
"Can't I just be a little upset about this for a while? Don’t I get to be just a little pissed off when you throw a monkey wrench in my plans?"
"Funny how you can get pissed off about my career, but I can't about yours." Ryan turned and threw up her hands and went back to the bedroom. "Forget it."
"Where are you going?" Brody followed her. "What are you doing?"
"I'm getting my stuff." She grabbed her bag and set it on the bed, then threw her clothes in. After a minute, she paused and turned to him. "If I stay here, one or both of us will say something really bad. I'm not great at all this relationship stuff, but I know that much. I don't want that to happen. I'm going to Lara's, or maybe her mom's."
He stared for a moment, then spun to follow her as she left the bedroom and walked to the door. "Hey, wait. Ryan, I don't want you to go. Don't leave."
She gave him a sad smile. "I don't actually want to go, but I think it's best. I think we need some time apart to figure all this out."
"Why can't we figure it out together?"
"Maybe we can, but we can't right now. We're both not thinking straight." She reached up and kissed him. "I'll call you, Brody."
He watched her go, wondering how everything had been shot to hell in twenty minutes.
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<a href="http://www.lushstories.com/stories/love-stories/rhythm-and-the-blue-line-ch-41.aspx">Rhythm and the Blue Line Ch 41</a>