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Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This, Ch.09

Reconciliation of past relationships and preserving those in the present.
Chapter: September “The Glow of the Moon”

***


Decisions vary in scope and importance. We make them all the time; their making defines us as people, tells others who we have been, what we are, what we might be. Maybe you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain, or hot summer nights with a tall glass of cold lemonade. A slender girl with legs that climb all the way to heaven, or one with curves that don’t quit, promising to send you freefalling into love. The high-paying stressful job that will line your pockets with green and face with stress, or something more menial, impacting the lives of others in such a meaningful way that one can’t help but love the work they do. Decisions deeply rooted in every sphere of life. Family. Lovers. Friends. School. Jobs.

Marriage.

Jahn had spent a lot of time over the previous months thinking about his future. Somewhere along the line, he had finally realized that what he was doing wasn’t just an attempt to retain a sexy, thrilling relationship with two incredible women, but he’d actually fallen in love with both of them. A slow revelation, chiseling away at his defenses like a miner’s pick with a slow and steady tapping, It came to him that what he thought was love in other relationships was just commitment, but without an emotional bond. Not that all fault could be laid at his doorstep, but there was a recognizable element of self-involvement.

Together, Jen and Fiona were stronger than any one woman and had managed to drag him out of the shell he’d erected. That former solitude, the loneliness of it, held no appeal for him. He’d looked to the heavens and found his sun and moon. He wanted to reach out, draw them close, and never let them go, to marry them.

Jen examined the ring cupped in her palm with wonder, but Fiona stared at him as if he’d suddenly grown a second head. “That’s… polygamy,” she said, words tumbling from her mouth as if forced. Her sister half-turned to her, listening quietly.

“You’re absolutely right. People judge it harshly for a lot of good reasons. I don’t think any of those reasons apply to us, do you? What you think matters to me, not others.”

“It’s not … legal.” Flatly delivered, her response’s meaning was unreadable.

.”Of course, the marriage would be strictly ceremonial. I can give you my name, my commitment, my… self. The tax breaks, all the rest of the things that go along with so-called real marriages? They’re not what _matters_. You and Jen matter.”

Fiona’s voice was strained, but she continued. “How could we possibly arrange the wedding?”

“Entirely up to you. We could take our vows separately, or together. I like the latter, since all three of us would be in this together, but it’s your call. Whatever makes you most comfortable.”

“The … other things?” A subtle emphasis on the word ‘other’ framed her question. Of course, there was always the specter of sex to haunt the relationship.

A touch of humor tinged his response. “Jen’s done a fine job of arranging that, and we’re not even married.” The blonde’s cheeks colored a light pink, but she was smiling. Fiona, on the other hand… was he losing her?

“I… what would Mom say? I don’t think-“ Jen looked up sharply at this reply from Fiona, another more obvious realization having the blonde. He knew what that was – her father.

Mary Reed was an entirely different matter. During the short time Jahn had spent with her away from her daughters, he’d managed to get across to the woman just how much both of her daughters meant to him. Last month, he’d called her again, looking for some advice. After a reminder about his testicles being on the line, she’d answered.

“I already spoke to her. If this is what _you_ want, we have her blessing.” Turning briefly to Jen, he said, “However, if you want this too, you’re going to have to talk to your father. He’ll never accept it from me.” The blonde looked back, blue eyes appealing, before lowering them in tacit agreement, returning to examination of the sparkling ring in her hand.

“And the people at work? I have to … deal with that.” Yes, there was a slight complication due to her position in the company; she was upper management in V&P’s billing department, and had to maintain far more professional standards than lower level Records workers like Jen. Still, he didn’t think that would be a problem.

“Remember all those long talks we had early on, when you told me about your job? V&P is a family-owned corporation, you said. One that believes family matters, and that family isn’t defined by traditional norms. It wasn’t chance that both you and Jen work there, or that several of your co-workers have cousins and even parents in other departments. All of those big social events, the reasons why people seem to marry in-company so often.”

Jen stopped him from continuing. “Can I say something?” Turning her full attention to Fiona, her voice gentle, she said, “You’re my sister and my best friend, Fi, but that’s not enough anymore. I’ve been waiting…. like my whole life for someone to love… hell even _like_ me. It’s lonely, and I don’t want to live like that anymore. I love Jahn, and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather share him with than you.” Holding up her hand, eyes filled with determination, she slid the ring onto her finger.

Desperately, Jahn reached out with, “We’ve made it this far, Fiona, past family and the obstacles that matter. The rest is love and commitment. Am I wrong? Don’t you feel the same? Or is living like that too much to deal with? I want to think that I’ve moved past being so narcissistic, but if I’ve completely misunderstood…”

Brown eyes flooded with tears. “Of course I love you, Jahn, and I’m well past any resentment of Jenny. It’s just… I never could have wished for anything like this. It seems like there are so many reasons we shouldn’t, like this is wrong or something. I love you, but…”

“We all need somebody to love. This is about what _you_ want. Will you marry me?”

“I…” Staring at the back of her hand, she examined the ring, tears sliding down her cheeks. Her gaze shifted aside to Jen’s worry-filled expression before cutting back to his, and some of the luster returned to her eyes. Whatever concerns that exceptional mind of hers could raise, she left them unspoken, resolve in her features. She slid her own ring into place. “Yes.”

***


Hard decisions had to be made in the first weeks after the trio got home, and Jahn, like it or not, had to be at the center of all of them. Mary had accepted the arrangement, and even seemed pleased when he told her both of her daughters had said yes to the proposal, but Donovan was now the paramount issue, and Jen seemed to understand that if they were going to go through with a wedding, her father’s approval was absolutely critical.

It was a cool and confident young woman that approached her father’s booth at the Johannesberg prison, not a vulnerable little girl praying for her daddy’s approval, though Jahn was certain that at least some part of his fiancée still craved it.

Donovan sat with the phone in his hand, a huge bull of a man attempting to discern exactly what had changed his daughter’s attitude so dramatically. A steely stare that got no visible reaction from Jahn gained the man nothing, but the ring on Jen’s finger told him a great deal. Those blue eyes looked briefly approving then narrowed.

Not stupid, Jahn thought. He knows damn well that something’s up and that it probably has to do with Fiona.

“Hi Dad! We just got back from Florida a few days ago, and I wanted to give you the good news. Jahn proposed!” With a bright smile that seemed a little forced, she raised a hand to show off her ring. “We’re going to get married, come spring!”

Donovan said a few words that Jahn couldn’t make out, seeming to give Jahn a nod of acknowledgement, though not quite approval, because he was still waiting for the bombshell. Was that a question he was asking? Jen obliged with a response, though hesitantly.

“Yeah… about Fiona. I know it’s not something you want to hear, but he’s marrying her too.” A shadow seemed to fall over the big man’s face and it hardened into something like the granite cast Jahn had seen when they first met, but darker. From where he stood, the harsh words the man was speaking were only a drone, but he could guess.

“No, Daddy. I _am_ okay with it. I’m not doing this because it’s what he wants, but because it’s what _I_ want. I love him, and so does Fiona, and he loves us both. Do you understand that?”

Donovan spoke again, most of it unintelligible from what Jahn could read of his lips, but the last looked something like “It’s not right.”

Jenny flared up angrily, voice thick with emotion. “Maybe not, but _you_ made it this way, _you_ made this situation different, Daddy. You and your friends! Did you think I wouldn’t figure out that the people you’ve got looking out for us have been chasing off any guys that we might have been interested in, or showed the least bit of interest in us? Do you know what that’s like, how lonely that is? Mom told me how you used to be this big ladies man, and how you fell in love with her instead. You had them, then her; and we had nobody. Nobody!”

Donovan seemed to reel as if punched, and Jen continued, “Don’t take this away from me, just because it doesn’t seem right to you! You made it “wrong” because you wouldn’t let _me_ have a normal life, and now you want to take what I do have away! Do you hate me because I’m not like you? Is that it?” Jen sounded as if she were losing her composure, close to tears. Reaching out, Jahn laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

Something like panic replaced the darkness and hostility on Donovan’s face, and Jahn was reminded again of the odd mix of love and hate at war inside the man, as if he were some sort of mutant representation of that yin/yang business. Leaning forward, the man spoke urgently into the phone, indiscernible chatter nearly an octave higher than his usual base rumble. Reassurance. Letting her know he did love her. Trying to fix the colossal fuck up that had been his interference in his daughter’s life and was now threatening to take the one thing he did love in life away from him. Whatever dark principles the man held, they were losing the war against the one thing that mattered most to him. Good.

In the end, Jen had her way, and while her behemoth of a father looked beaten, he also appeared much happier. The hot seat didn’t seem quite so hot when Jahn finally had to sit down and speak to the man, though Donovan immediately put him on the defensive.

“Hope you’re sincere, boy, that you really do love her, because you know the consequences if you hurt my girl.” All cold menace, delivered under a veneer of calmness for Jen’s benefit. That would be terrifying under other circumstances, but for some reason their mother was still more intimidating.

“Or you’ll cut my balls off, right?” Jahn delivered the line without a hint of sarcasm to discourage any suspicion of mockery. “I do love her, yeah. With all my heart.”

Donovan stared at him coldly for a moment then gave a short bark of a laugh. “You’ve been talking to Mary.”

“Wouldn’t be where I am without her approval, sir.”

“No, don’t s’pose you would. Mary’s a beautiful woman, all class, but she’s got a firebrand temper. Mess with her little girls, either of them, and she’s like the wrath of God. Didn’t take shit from me, or any of the guys.”

The guys. “Your ‘friends,’ I take it?”

After another uncomfortable stare, Donovan said, “I don’t care if you don’t like what they stand for; they’ve done right by me. Pick up a paper. Wasn’t right for me to have them shielding Jenny the way they did, but that’s on me. Not them.”

“Including Edwards?”

“He’s to his old man what Jenny is to me. That’s all I’m gonna say on that.”

“And this neighborhood watch program of yours?” Carefully delivered, treading that fine line of sarcasm and respect.

“They’ll make sure Edwards stays where he belongs, but otherwise… I’m ending it. I trust Mary’s gonna keep a real close eye on you, but it’s _your_ job to make sure nothing happens to my girl.”

“’Til death do us part,” Jahn said softly.

Donovan looked taken aback at the quote, but nodded. “Just like that, kid. Now fuck off and put Jenny back on the line.”

***
Resolving the conflict with Jen’s father had brought all the sunlight back into her disposition, and she spent the ride home gushing over the fact that things seemed to be working out just right. There was a touch of shadow over her newfound enthusiasm, as if she feared that it couldn’t last. He’d have to work on changing that, and spent most of the afternoon making good on the attempt.

“Agh!” Jen gasped out as Jahn went down on her again, nibbling lightly at her clit, enjoying the musky scent of her arousal. “God, I love the way you love me.” The teasing motion of his tongue around her swollen lips and then back to their original target caused her to arch her back and surge against him, clutching at his head with her thighs, fingers digging tightly into his skull to grip what she could of his head. Her climax was a frantic thing, violently pulling him into her, encouraging him to partake more deeply of her most personal essence. When she finally let him up for air, the satisfied expression on her face could do no less than bring a smile to his.

“You get to look forward to this for the rest of your life,” he whispered in her ear, after he’d moved up the bed to lie down beside her. The beatific look on the blonde’s face was all the repayment he needed.

***
September days seemed to start flying by as the trio began to carefully let out the news of the impending wedding. Fiona had already spoken to Vander about the matter, confirming what he’d already suspected: the company had absolutely no problem with what her boss termed an ‘alternative marriage’ The man’s choice of expression had an uncomfortable feel to it, and Jahn was glad he didn’t have to deal with the flack that those who led other ‘alternative’ lifestyles had to. World was an ugly place sometimes, and he didn’t want that for Jen and Fiona.

Donovan’s advice to pick up a paper had haunted him for a while, and he eventually took a trip to the local library to search their archives. The man’s conviction predated most of the library’s online resources, and Jahn had to kill most of an afternoon, but eventually found an old scanned copy. Jen had been right in her assessment – the assault and murder had been nasty pieces of work, and by all witness accounts, racially motivated – a deadly assault on a Native man drinking at the same bar Donovan and some friends were hanging out at. Jahn had stumbled over that bit, looking for the name of the man killed, but it hadn’t been Fiona’s father, who he knew by name, if nothing else.

While the attack happened long before hate legislation had been instituted, the circumstances had been sufficient to put away anyone involved for most of a lifetime: Tate Harding, the dead man, had left a family behind, and the only man who’d been successfully fingered for the murder had taken the rap. That was the important part, what Donovan had been referring to. Several men had been pointed out as being with Donovan that evening, and it was believed that they’d been directly involved but the police had nothing to implicate them. Donovan was the one who went away. A Margrave was named, though it didn’t appear to be the same man as their neighbor across the street.

Click.

Donovan’s people weren’t just doing looking out for a friend, they were doing it for a friend who’d sacrificed his entire life for them. It was the darkest examples of loyalty Jahn had ever heard of, and he wasn’t sure how he felt about that, but it … made sense. More importantly, he didn’t feel like he had to worry they might take exception to their buddy’s little girl sharing her man with a half-breed. Those friends would do what _Donovan_ wanted.

Case closed, he thought numbly, turning off the computer.

***


Life’s never that simple, though. Just when you think you’ve fixed all the problems, another pops right up.

“It’s wonderful that Jenny was able to work things out with her father,” Fiona said serenely as she put away the last of the dishes they’d been washing together. “But… there’s still some unfinished business we need to take care of.”

Glancing sideways at her, he noted the emphasis she’d placed on ‘unfinished,’ and said, “I already called Greg. He was pretty cool about it, and seemed a lot more relaxed when I talked to him.” Apparently, Jen’s intervention had helped Greg and Amy’s budding relationship over a major hurdle, and the man had been shockingly friendly when Jahn spoke to him, treating their previous grudge as long dead past. Though, it seemed Jen already knew all the details…” I guess Amy’s been hanging out with Jen and her friends since then.”

Fiona nodded as they headed into the living room to relax. “On top of everything else, Edwards was a control freak. Amy didn’t have any friends of her own. I’m told she used to be a lively, outgoing person before things fell apart for her, and Jen has been helping her get some of that back Amy needs someone who actually cares about what she feels to look out for her, and friends to uplift that battered spirit. She has that now, she’ll be okay.”

Taking hold of his hand, Fiona said quietly. “Greg isn’t the ancient history I wanted to talk to you about.”

Only one person came to mind, and he felt his stomach lurch, because he was sure there was only one person she could be referring to. “Andrea? Look…”

“Hear me out, Jahn, okay?” she interrupted. His lips felt tight and bloodless as his mouth thinned into a disapproving line, but he nodded anyway.

“I’m not sure if you’ve realized it, but Andrea and I don’t just work together. We’re in the same department, and though you might not be able to tell from the titles, she’s the head of A/R and I’m moving up to a similar position in A/P.” Receivables and Payables, he thought. Billing. Right. “We don’t just work together, we have to work as a team, and if my promotion comes when Jordan retires, I’ll have to work a lot more closely with her.”

Somewhat bluntly, he asked, “Okay, so how do I fit in? As you said, it’s ancient history.”

Quietly, she said, “I’ve seen how you react whenever her name comes up. You’re bitter about that breakup, even if you’ve mostly moved past it since then. It’s a toxic issue for you, and if I’m going to be around her more often, the subject of work would have to be off-limits. You know how important my career is to me; I don’t want the two poisoning each other.” He did know this. While he and Jen could best be described as low-level functionaries, Fiona was an expert at what she did, and had the potential to become regional manager someday.

Mulling the thought over for a few minutes, he finally asked, “Okay, I understand the conflict here, but what am I supposed to do? Confront her, have another shout down? I had my fun the first time, and ultimately it just turned out to be an embarrassment, and made me look and feel like an asshole. On some level I know she wasn’t solely at fault for the way things turned between us, even if that sideshow with Greg was a major factor.”

Fiona nodded. “Right, you and I discussed that. Andrea’s rather bitter about how things turned out as well. There are a number of good reasons behind her feelings that have nothing to do with you. You weren’t meant for each other.”

A note of sarcasm entered his voice, “I’m sorry _she_ feels that way, but-,“ Then he picked up on the rest of Fiona’s response. “What the hell? Since when do you have any personal insight into Andrea’s affairs?”

Calmly meeting his confrontational glare, she replied, “We were friends for a long time. Our friendship cooled off a bit, and these days it’s a friendship of mutual professional respect.” Noting the look on his face, she reassured him. “That’s well before you came along.”

“Doesn’t seem to jibe with what you told me the first time we met. What was it you said? Something about her being a user?”

“You don’t remember how you and I first met, do you?” She delivered the question matter-of-factly, as if it were of little consequence.

In an even voice he said, “You’re changing the subject.”

“No, this is relevant.”

“Wellllll,” Jahn hedged. “I’m sure we met before the first time you asked me out, at a party or something…” Fiona gave him a slight smile, squeezing his hand as she did so.

“Don’t be embarrassed about it. You wouldn’t remember, but I do. It was Christmas of 2008. That was one of V&P’s parties, remember. Couples such as yourself and Andrea were present, of course, but plenty of singles looking to meet somebody.” He did remember that part. He’d had more than a few half-drunk women hitting on him. Eyeing his fiancée, he asked, “You weren’t one of those girls pawing at me, were you?”

Laughing, she shook her head. “No, but I distinctly remember what a gentleman you were about the whole affair; that made a huge impression on me. More relevant to what I’m getting at, though, I remember Andrea treating you like a well-trained puppy. Not the first time she’s treated one of her boyfriends that way. There’s a reason she does it, and I understand and sympathize with her feelings, but it’s still a terrible way to treat someone you’re supposed to care about. It’s using.”

“This doesn’t make her any less capable as a professional, or a horrible person. Andrea’s got a wickedly sharp intellect that she’s put to great use for the company, and as a person, she’s the friend others can look to for sound advice and a shoulder to lean on.”

Jahn studied her for a moment, considering the insights she’d offered. “Okay, so the reason she acts the way she does is..?”

“That’s her story to tell, not mine. We may not be best friends anymore, but I won’t do that to her.”

A slight smile tugged at his lips. “Seems to me that what you’re really saying is: we need to have a talk with Andrea.”

“People don’t communicate with each other often enough,” she confirmed.

“And she already knows about us? If I show up with you on my arm, it’s not going to cause a problem?”

Fiona shrugged. “She doesn’t know yet, but it won’t be a problem. She’s got herself a new man now, someone she actually cares about and treats as an equal.”

Something his fiancée had said tugged at his brain. “You remembered me from a party nearly four years ago, asked me out right off the bat the second time we met. Coincidence?”

That alluring smile he loved so much made a return appearance, “You’d be silly to think that I spent four years pining about in expectation that the pair of you would split, but opportunity knocked very loudly. Why do you think I went ballistic when Jenny snatched you up?”

***
Seeing Andrea again could have gone more smoothly, but Jen got wind of the fact that Jahn was in the building and intercepted him at Fiona’s office. Her ambush was effective, practically jumping onto him to drag him down for a kiss. Swapping tongues certainly did have its appeal, but the demonstration was uncomfortably public. His face flushed with heat as he realized other workers were staring. Pouting prettily up at him, his girlfriend drew back. “You could have stopped by my floor to say hi, you know.”

Shifting nervously, he said, “I’ve got an appointment to keep.”

An icy voice interjected, “Sucking face on the office floor, Jahn? Keeping it classy, I see.” Andrea. His ex-girlfriend stood there, pulling on her overcoat in preparation for the lunch Fiona had arranged. As beautiful as ever, with those sculpted features, perfectly prepared shoulder-length locks a lovely shade of strawberry blonde, and green eyes that glittered like cut gemstones. Nearly Jahn’s height, Andrea Dunlap seemed to tower over his diminutive fiancée.

Spinning about to face Andrea, Jenny scowled up at her. “That was uncalled for.”

Andrea was a master of communicating condescension and quirked her lips in a smile that dripped contempt. “I suppose that’s true. It’s hardly fair to fault someone for an inability to control their baser impulses.”

Jen’s hand curled into a fist, and she half raised it, “Bitch, I’ll show you an inab-“

“Jenny, chkt.” The blonde’s expression turned stony as Fiona headed off the confrontation, but she acceded and gave Jahn a possessive hug before stalking away. Strange, he was going to have to ask Fiona what _that_ was all about sometime. The brunette turned her attention back to Andrea. “I wish you wouldn’t treat my sister like that.”

Andrea gave a slightly dismissive gesture of her hand. “You know we’ve never gotten along.”

“That’s true, but this is a different situation. Jahn is our fiancée. We, all three of us, are getting married early next year.”

“Our-“ The incredulity on Andrea’s face was palpable, almost priceless, though it was hard for Jahn to enjoy it under the circumstances. “-married.” Still, however sharp surprise she’d just had, the taller woman composed herself quickly, her face becoming a mask of indifference, though it was clear to him that gears were turning and she was making a host of connections in her head. Click, click, click, he figured.

With a forced smile, his ex said, “I’ve got to hear this one.”

***
Jahn had never had the opportunity to witness Fiona in her element, doing what she did best at her job. As she took control of the lunch date, it became clear to him that what she was doing must be very similar to how she handled clients. Displaying tact, diplomacy, and that all-important respect, she made a concerted effort to keep everyone at ease. His fiancée immediately began a process of defusing any tensions, starting with a non-apology to both of them for pushing the confrontation, then following it up with a real apology to Andrea for the way she’d snatched up Jahn after the couple had broken up. Jahn didn’t think that was something she needed to justify, but it was obvious Fiona felt as if making there had been a kind of betrayal in it.

“I’ve said to both of you that you weren’t made for each other, and part of that is because you never really talked to each other, never connected on an emotional level. If you had, you might have understood why.”

He’d never been to any kind of therapist, but this felt like going to a relationship or marriage counselor. Except in reverse. Fiona was pulling it off, though, and gave them a nudge in the direction of discussing their past. All nudges – he noticed that she never seemed to push Andrea, letting the woman decide for herself when and what she’d share.

Andrea Dunlap had been an all-star student, outgoing and popular. Growing up, from a small town and conservative background, with the full support of a loving family she seemed destined for great things. Always sure what she wanted to do with the rest of her life, she rocketed through high school and into the state college with a full ride. Her star was rising, and she knew she was going places, until she met Brian Cadley. An entire world seemed to shift in place as she fell head over heels for him, but it wasn’t a change for the better. Cadley was a destructive influence, the life of beer-soaked parties, the kind of guy who had no commitment to anything but getting drunk and getting laid, and freeloading off anyone that would have him around. Compounding matters, he’d gotten her pregnant, and made it clear he didn’t really care. Andrea closed up on that topic, and Jahn wasn’t sure whether she’d had an abortion or gave the baby up for adoption. Either way, it was clear that she’d been emotionally devastated by the experience.

Andrea’s life had gone into tailspin, grades slipping, alienating friends, scholarship under threat, ignored by a live-in boyfriend, unable to talk to her parents about what had happened. Fiona had helped her get her head on straight, and after that, Andrea had done what she did best, in clinical and single-minded fashion setting to rights her academic standing, tossing the frat boy to the curb, repairing her friendships, doing whatever she had to do to get her life back on track. She’d sworn to herself that she’d never lose control of her life again, never let some heartless asshole use her like that.

Control. That’s what it came down to. She’d closed herself off emotionally, and Jahn had never made the effort to dissolve that barrier, to find out what drove her.

The situation with Greg and Jahn had been strange synchronicity. Most guys she’d met after getting things together were either over awed, or intimidated by her new-found level of confidence and insistence on absolute control over her life. Those that did approach her were generally dismissed. Greg and Jahn, however, had been sincere in their approach, with an eye to romance, and she’d been thrilled to have the attention. But neither had connected with her in their time together, and her _need_ to control the situation had caused it to evolve into that odd three-way relationship that none of them were comfortable with. He’d been surprised to find that Andrea wasn’t simply dating someone else or ignoring one man in favor of the other, but avoiding them both.

He’d been stupid in some respects. It was never about the material things for her. Why should it? She’d always had the money and success, things she’d earned for herself.

As if the New Year had swept away the old debris, the relationship between Andrea, Greg and Jahn simply fell apart. It had been an abrupt wakeup call for Andrea, and the rage and helplessness that had inspired her screaming fit at V&P when they broke up had been a sort of catalyst.

Greg and Jahn weren’t the only ones that had found someone new that day. A man named Christopher Ford had been at his cubicle across from her office when Andrea had her emotional tear-up. He’d had a bit of a crush on her for the longest time, admiring her from a distance, and when he heard the break down, he was there to help pick up the pieces. The situation had given them the opportunity to connect from the start - here was someone she could finally open up to, someone who would understand that her reserve and aloofness were simply a defensive façade, and would never step across those boundaries without invitation.

Jahn listened to her story, and told her his own, letting her in on a lot of things about himself that his ex had never known, but that Fiona had coaxed out of him through long conversations. Andrea was walled off by her emotional cloister, Jahn by his self-involvement. Two castles – so close and yet so far apart, doomed from very the start. Fiona had been right all along, the former couple hadn’t been meant for each other.

A wave of peace enveloped his heart, as understanding unfolded in his mind, the bitterness washing away with a low tide. When Andrea reached across the table with that same revelation clear in her glittering green eyes, he took her hand in his own. A gentle touch, it was one of forgiveness, as was his own to her.

***
“I’ll admit, it wasn’t very nice of me to force a confrontation like that, but I didn’t want the ghost of an old relationship hanging over our heads. It worked out for the best, don’t you think?” Wrapping the leftovers, she put them in the fridge and turned to him.

“For the best,” he echoed agreeably.

“Perhaps you’d like to punish me?” she asked with a teasing smile, turning slightly to show him the curve of her butt.

Startled out of his reverie, it took him a moment to register what his fiancée had said, and he laughed as he made the connection, a riding crop and an old-fashioned wooden paddle coming to mind. “You’ve been talking to Jen.”

A hint of concern on her face, she asked, “That’s okay with you, isn’t it? We’ve been talking a lot more lately, and of course you’re a part of a lot of our conversations…”

Grinning, he said, “I might find it kind of awkward if _you_ were to ask to play out any of Jen’s elaborate …. dress-up scenarios or some of the other wild stuff she gets up to. I’ve always gotten the feeling that you prefer to keep your kinks on the down-low.”

Relaxing, she smiled flirtatiously. “I love the things we do together, but I do have some adventurous spirit and you don’t always have to be gentle with me. You just have to ask first. Agreed?”

“Agreed.” Leaning back, he stared pointedly at her backside. “So, you feel you should be punished, do you?’

Brown eyes widening, her cheeks darkened to a slightly deeper tan of something like arousal, and she responded with a touch of sass in her voice. “It _was_ dreadfully forward of me.”

Standing, he grasped her wrist firmly and pulled her to the living room couch.

“Bend over and take off your panties.” With a look of mock reproach over her shoulder, she complied, raising her skirt and dropping the flimsy undergarments to the floor.

“It’s awfully forward of _you_ to take advantage of a helpless young woman in this fashion, isn’t it sir?” she teased. He admonished her with slap on her ass, hand coming down in a heavy arc, not enough to hurt, just to sting. She inhaled sharply and skin of her bottom turned a mahogany shade from the contact.

The room was filled with her breathless squeals as he paddled her, the play incensing his cock, and she was convincing enough about it that he worried whether he was really hurting her. But she egged him on with those over-the-shoulder smiles, and it was clear from the wetness between her legs that she was as turned on as he. When Jahn finally entered her pussy from behind, the girth of his cock embraced by that delicious slick tightness between her legs, she came violently, her spasms incensing him further, taking control away. Lost in the moment, he released his load in her, a liquid reprieve.

***
“Have you decided whether you want to go on the campout with us?” Jen’s question was casually delivered, but she knew it carried baggage. The plan intended a weekend event next month, and Greg and Amy both had accepted an invitation to come.

The baggage, though… it didn’t have any weight to it anymore. The garbage had been buried, the rest was simply shared history.

“I’d love to.”

… to be continued…


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