I probably shouldn’t have kissed her so soon. Not with Aaron just down the hallway. I didn’t regret it though. Sookie’s lips were every bit as soft as I remembered. I’d thought about kissing her a lot sitting there on cold, rainy nights. I needed something other than the men ready to shoot at me. Sookie was a great substitute.
Her hand was on my shoulder. The other arm was wrapped around my neck. I had my hands in respectable places on her body for once. It felt like the first kiss, but at the same time so familiar. Like we’d kissed a million times over the last thirteen years.
I wasn’t going to try to deepen it. I was sure we could have closed the door and easily got right back into things the way we used to. Sex was never going to be an issue for us. I didn’t want to, though. I wanted to enjoy her the way I was. I liked getting to know she was every bit as amazing as I remembered her being.
“Sorry,” I whispered an apology. My lips were still brushing against hers.
“What for?” She sucked on my bottom lip.
“I don’t know.” In case she wasn’t ready, maybe? My eyes were closed. As she sucked my hands rubbed down her back, skimming down to her thigh. When she tugged my lip again I flicked my tongue out, brushing over her top lip. I’d been with a few women since I came home. I couldn’t commit myself to anyone. I could easily commit to Sookie. Part of me felt like I was waiting for her all along.
Her lips parted for me, giving me entrance to her mouth. She was a much more confident kisser than she was thirteen years ago. Slender fingers moved up my neck into my hair as her tongue danced with mine.
It was as if the tables had turned. I was the tentative one for once. It took a few minutes for me to accept that I was kissing Sookie. It was like a dream coming true. A dream I’d had several times over the years.
My tongue swirled around hers in that same practiced dance. My hands shifted around her body to help her move so she was straddling me. Something told me I wasn’t going to be sleeping alone ever. I knew if she sent me to the spare room I’d creep down the hall to sleep next to her. Like I’d told Hoyt, life was too short. I wasn’t going to waste time with Sookie. We’d lost too much already.
“Oh man, seriously?” Aaron busted us from the doorway.
I gave Sookie one last peck, not worrying about her — our son catching us. I wasn’t sorry. It was those kisses that led to him being here in the first place.
“What’s up, Aaron?”
“I was just wondering what shelter we’re going to. Is Eric coming too?”
“I’d like to if that’s alright with you.”
“Yeah, it’s okay with me,” Aaron said. His attitude had mellowed a little bit.
“A dog might be good for you too,” Sookie said to me.
“Maybe.” It wasn’t the first time someone told me that. I just never had a home of my own to keep it. My father was anti-pet. “Does that mean we can get two?” I asked with an arched eyebrow.
“Oooh can we, Mom?”
Sookie sighed and looked back and forth between Aaron and me.
“Look at you two with the sad puppy eyes,” she said.
“In our defense, we have the same eyes, so…” I pointed out. They were my dad’s eyes. Sookie would learn that soon enough.
“Please, Mom. Then our dog will have a friend when Eric comes over,” Aaron pointed out.
“If Eric wants to get a dog, that’s up to him.”
“If two separate dogs pick us it makes sense.”
“No slobbery dogs in my house. No bulldogs or St. Bernards or anything like that,” she warned.
“Yes, ma’am,” I smiled. “I’ll even try to get a short haired dog.”
“I would appreciate it,” she said.
“I want the one who follows me everywhere.” Aaron wanted a best friend.
“You want a little brother,” Sookie chuckled.
“The offer stands,” I winked, horrifying Aaron. That was what parents did, right?
“What offer?” He looked between his mother and me.
“I told Eric a long time ago that I wanted at least four kids,” Sookie explained.
“Mom, be serious. We don’t have room for three more kids here.”
“We do if you share your room and we get bunk beds.”
Aaron looked horrified.
I chuckled at that. I was sure if we had more children we’d find a bigger house.
“You don’t think it would be fun? We had twelve men sharing one room when I was in boot camp. It would be like a little mini boot camp all the time.”
“They can sleep in the carport. A man needs his space,” Aaron rationalized.
“Does a man have Yoda sheets?’ Sookie asked, making Aaron’s cheeks turn red.
“Hey, man, Yoda is cool,” I said. “But, if a man needs space, do you think it would be okay if I slept in here with your mom? The bed in the other room is so small.”
“He doesn’t need that much space,” Aaron said, eyes narrowed.
“Then bunk beds are perfect,” I grinned.
“Won’t be no babies if you can’t share a bed,” Aaron said with my same exact grin.
Sookie giggled and climbed off my lap to sit next to me.
“Kid’s got a point,” she said.
“It can’t hurt to try, right?”
“Weren’t you just telling me that any bed was good?” Sookie teased, nudging me with her elbow.
“That was until Aaron pointed out a man needs space.”
Thankfully, the doorbell rang.
“Pizza’s here. We’ll have to finish this debate later.” Sookie got up from the bed to go pay for dinner.
I stood up too so I could follow her. I allowed her to go ahead of me and stopped Aaron so I could talk to him for a moment.
“Thank you for giving me a shot. This is just as new to me as it is to you,” I told him. I wanted to make sure he knew I was trying and wanted to be his father.
“You’re the only guy who’s been interested in her and doesn’t want to get rid of me,” he told me.
“So, you know, even if you weren’t my biological son I’d still want to keep you around. We got off to a bit of a rocky start, but you’re a good kid. I can tell. I know I’d probably react the same way if I was in your shoes. I’ve always wanted a family with your mother. She means a great deal to me, and so do you.”
“Thanks,” he said, but I could tell he was a little uncomfortable.
“Dinner’s ready!” Sookie called from the kitchen.
I held out my hand to offer him a handshake. When he took my hand, I appreciated the firm grip. It was a work in progress. We had plenty of time to get acquainted. I wasn’t going to rush him, but I felt like we were off to a decent start.
The shelter we were at was loud. There were dogs barking everywhere, trying to get our attention. Aaron looked like a kid in a candy store. He seemed overwhelmed with all the dogs.
“You think he’s going to try to take them all home?” I asked Sookie as Aaron looked around at all the dogs.
“I think there’s a very good chance he’ll try to talk me into trading you for a dog,” she answered.
“You’re not going to take him up on that, are you?” I took note of a little red puppy sitting all alone. He or she looked a little timid.
“I don’t know. Depends on how cute the dog is,”
“That’s mean,” I pouted playfully. I had my arm around Sookie’s shoulder as we watched our son. My eye kept being drawn back to the puppy in the back.
“Well if you’re lucky an ugly dog will pick him and then you’re safe.”
“Let’s hope. I’ve been pretty lucky running into you again. I don’t want to wait another thirteen years for the dog to pass so we can try it again. Look at that one.” I nodded to the puppy. It had its head down, glancing up every now and then.
“That one’s pretty sweet.” Sookie moved away from me to go check out the puppy. She knelt down and slowly reached out to pet its little head. Almost immediately the puppy flopped over for a belly rub. “Well you’re just givin’ it away, sister,” she laughed.
“Think she duped us into coming over?” I chuckled. I knelt down next to Sookie. I held my hand out for the puppy to give me a sniff. She licked my hand while still on her back. She was a lover. I could handle that. Meanwhile, I glanced over at Aaron to see he was being dog piled by about ten puppies.
“I think so.” Sookie scratched her little belly. “She’s a sweetheart, that’s for sure.”
I rubbed down her chest. The puppy’s eyes drifted closed. It almost looked like she was smiling. She seemed calm. My kinda puppy. People and animals that were too hyper or high strung caused me undue stress.
“Man, it’s hard to go look at other dogs when you find someone so sweet.”
“You thinking about keeping her?” Sookie asked, looking over at me.
“I think I am. She seems to be a sweetheart. Think you can handle her around the house until I find a place?”
“I don’t think I have a choice.”
“You do. It’s your house,” I said. The puppy turned over and propped up on her feet so she could walk over to me. She jumped up on her hind legs and pressed her paws into my stomach. She wanted me to pick her up. I caved immediately.
“She’s cute,” Sookie said when I got the puppy cradled in my arms.
“She is.” I shifted her so I was holding her like a baby. Her little tail started to wag as she looked up at me with some beautiful blue-gray eyes. “I wonder if she tried to sucker other people with that shy business.”
“I think that’s a safe bet,” she chuckled.
I rubbed her belly, making her eyes close. I was already in love. That was pretty sad.
“I think I’m going to have to bring her home with me.” All she’d done was wiggle her tail and be cute. I figured if I looked at other dogs I’d want them all. “How many do you think Aaron has claimed?”
“It better not be more than one. We don’t have that much room.”
“Come on, you don’t want to get buy a kennel?” I laughed. I shifted the puppy so she was eye to eye with me. She reached out, trying to paw my face. When I put her to my chest she rested her paws on me like she was hugging me. “Man, I’m fucked when it comes to this one,” I laughed.
“I knew it was only a matter of time before your eye wandered to a younger woman,” Sookie sighed.
“I’ll still give you plenty of attention,” I promised, leaning down to give her a lingering peck. The night before I did end up in her room. Nothing happened. It was nice to cuddle with her again. I didn’t tell her but it was the most restful sleep I’d had in well over a decade. Thirteen years to be exact.
“Yeah, we’ll see about that. I’m going to go check on Aaron and see if he’s narrowed it down.” The boy was still surrounded by puppies, all wanting his attention.
“You know, if he likes the puppies so much I would be willing to bring him over to volunteer here after school. If he wanted to, and if they wanted him,” I finished quickly.
“I will. I’ll give him a couple days with the new puppy before I ask. I’ll talk to the manager here before we go.” Aaron could have scoffed in my face for all I knew. I thought it was a good idea.
“That’s probably a good idea.” Sookie patted my arm and then went over to where Aaron was. The puppy swarm parted to engulf Sookie too.
I wouldn’t have been surprised if we all went home with our own dog. I could have been wrong but I felt like she got me. My unnamed puppy knew I was going through something that I needed her for. I lifted her up to my face again. She had an old soul in those pretty eyes.
“What do you think your name should be?” I asked as if she’d respond. Her only response was to wag her tail and give me a little yip. Useless.
I pulled my puppy to my chest again. I walked over to find the guy working there and asked him what I needed to do to adopt her.
“Hello, Peter?” I said. His nametag said his name was Peter. I assumed it was right.
“Hi, what can I do for you?”
“I’m interested in this pretty girl.” I held up the puppy. “I’ve never adopted a dog, so I don’t know how this works.”
“Well, we have a little interview process we go through just to make sure you’re compatible with the dog you’re interested in. We also want to be sure of your living situation, you know so we don’t have the animal coming back in a few weeks. We like to make sure we have a good match before we send folks home with a pet,” he explained.
“Okay,” I nodded. “How do I start? Does this one have a name?”
“She does. That little cutie’s name is Janis,” he told me. “She was one of four puppies brought to us. Her brothers, Jimmie, Dylan and Mick have all been adopted out already.”
That sealed the deal for me. I nodded to Sookie and said, “My girlfriend and I saw Janis Joplin play on our second date. I think this little princess is meant to be mine.”
“I’d say so,” Peter nodded. “Come on, I’ll get the paperwork started for you.”
I followed Peter to the office so we could get the paperwork started. The interview was about twenty questions. I suspected Peter already knew the answer to whether or not Janis and I would be a good fit. The entire interview she sat patiently on my lap.
Sookie and Aaron came into the office with a cute little red nose pit bull. He wasn’t very big, but he clearly had a lot of energy and personality. Just like my son. The shelter liked that we were adopting more than one puppy. Dogs were social pack animals that needed the company.
All in all, it was a good day. Aaron didn’t snap or sass me once. Around the dogs, he was like a brand new kid. Things were still looking up. Adding the puppies to the family was going to change the dynamics, hopefully for the better. Not that we were in a bad spot. We were still new. At least Aaron and I were. The more I thought about it, the more I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere. Sookie and Aaron went to D.C. for a field trip and came home with a new family member.