Just as I expected, we left the Topsail Animal Shelter with two puppies. Eric’s puppy, Janis, was obviously in love with him. I couldn’t blame the girl but she could at least play a little hard to get. Aaron had fallen ass backwards in love with a little guy named Luigi by the shelter, but he wasn’t keeping the name. The little pit bull was nine weeks old. He wasn’t neutered yet, but the shelter would do it for a small fee in a few more weeks. I made an appointment for when he was twelve weeks. Since we were taking home a male and a female, we didn’t need any more puppies in the near future. Two was more than enough.
“It’s a good thing I still have one of the old baby gates around in storage,” I said once the five of us were back at the house. We’d had to stop at a pet store to get feeding dishes, leashes and toys for the pups. “I think we might have to turn the spare bedroom into the puppy pen for the time being.”
“Oh darn,” Eric frowned. He wasn’t upset at all.
“I’ll just keep Charlie in my room. Eric can share the spare room with Janis,” Aaron suggested.
“Charlie? That’s your dog’s new name?” I asked rather than responding to his suggestion. Whether Aaron liked it or not, I still made the rules in the house.
“Yeah. I like it better than Luigi.” He blushed a little as he said it.
“Like Charlie’s Angels?” Eric asked, making him blush harder. Eric snickered quietly.
“Yeah, like Charlie’s Angels,” Aaron confirmed.
“I like Charlie better than Luigi.”
“Thanks. I wish I could take him to school with me.”
“Unfortunately, he’s going to have to stay home. That’s why we need to do the puppy pen thing. I got back to work tomorrow and Charlie can’t be left on his own all day here,” I said. I wasn’t sure what Eric was going to do with his time, but I wasn’t going to expect him to take care of the dogs all day.
“I need to start looking for a job here if I’m going to stick around,” Eric said. “I need to be able to contribute.”
“I have no doubt you’ll find something in no time.”
“I’m sure I will. I need to get the number for your friend Stan, too.” I was glad he was taking that seriously.
“Of course. I’ll find his card as soon as we get the dogs all set up.” They needed to learn where their food and water was going to be so they could feed themselves. I knew to put up the water after a certain time at night so they weren’t little piss machines all night. As it was, we were going to have to get up with them in the middle of the night to go potty.
“Where do you want to put their food?” Eric asked. Aaron was too busy playing with the puppies to care what we were talking about.
“The laundry room, maybe?” I suggested.
“That’s good. I’ll go get the bowls setup, unless you want me to go look for the baby gate?”
“No, I’ll look for the gate. I’m pretty sure I know where it is.” I had a little storage space under the house where I had most of my decorations and things locked up. I kept the gate for when we had company and we didn’t want little kids going down the stairs and out of our sight.
“Okay.” Eric took the bowls out of the bag. “I’ll go get these setup in the laundry room.”
“Thanks.” I slipped out of the house with my keys to go downstairs to the storage space. It was an oven in the summertime.
I kept my Christmas and Halloween stuff down there when it wasn’t in use. The leaf for my dining room table was in there as well. I had a few boxes of stuff I’d saved from when Aaron was a baby. The first outfit he wore home from the hospital, his christening outfit, and a few other sentimental items were there. I still had his old crib too. It was disassembled, of course, but I couldn’t bear to throw it out. I cried the first time he slept in a big boy bed.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure I would ever have another kid. I wanted to. I liked having a baby in the house. It would be different for me the second time around. I wasn’t so scared and I knew better what to expect. Plus, I’d have help.
Eric had already reminded me of what he’d said years ago about giving me as many kids as I wanted, but I didn’t know if he was just saying that to make me happy, or if he really wanted kids too. I was going to have to ask. Obviously he wasn’t against kids or he would have run off when I told him Aaron was his, but that didn’t mean he wanted a whole mess of babies. They were hard work, but totally worth it.
I found the gates I wanted and then headed up to the house to get them set up where I wanted them. One in front of the guest room door and another in front of the laundry room door. We were just going to have to have to be careful about making sure the sliders were closed so the dogs didn’t go running out into the ocean. They didn’t stand a chance against the Atlantic.
Once I had the gates set, I went to the fridge to get out the chicken I’d taken out of the freezer the night before so I could get it in the oven. I started up the oven to preheat it while I got the chicken prepped. Eric and Aaron played with the puppies on the living room floor while I was almost elbow deep in a chicken. Something about that didn’t seem fair, and yet, it made me happy.
It felt like family.
I liked seeing the two of them interacting. If having dogs brought them closer together, then so be it.
Once the chicken was in the oven I got to work peeling potatoes.
“Eric, you still like roasted chicken and mashed potatoes, right?” Like he was going to stay no…
“Yes, ma’am,” he answered. “You want help with anything?”
“No, thanks, I’m okay here. Do you like cornbread?” I was thinking of making some. I hadn’t had it in a while and I knew Aaron liked it.
“It’s one of my favorites.”
“Alright. Then I’ll make cornbread, too.” I went to the pantry to get the mix. My Gran was probably rolling in her grave, but it was easier than doing it all from scratch.
Charlie came trotting over and looked up at me while I mixed the batter. He was a cute little bugger. He was mostly tan but had some white on his face, chest and paws. Judging by the size of those paws, he was going to be a big boy when he was all done growing. That just meant he would fit in with the other fellas I was living with. Janis came around looking for her playmate. She was a little redder than Charlie, but close to the same size. From what the shelter told us she wasn’t going to be quite as big as a full-grown pit when she was done growing, but she would be close to the same size. Her paws weren’t so big.
The puppies whimpered at me.
“If you’re begging, you can quit,” I told them. “You have your food in the other room.”
One of us was going to have to be the hard ass, and I could tell it wasn’t going to be Eric or Aaron.
“I don’t want the dog in my bed,” I told Eric. The couch was one thing, but my bed? Nope, that was a dog-free zone.
“She can sleep with Charlie and Aaron. She’s probably going to have a better time snuggling with them.”
“That’s fine. If Aaron doesn’t mind and he wants to be covered in dogs while he sleeps, that’s up to him.” I did not want to wake up with a dog butt on my face.
“He’s a twelve-year-old boy. He’s not going to care,” Eric chuckled.
I closed the bedroom door and quietly said, “I think it’s pretty funny he named his dog after Charlie’s Angels.”
“He’s at that age where he’s getting into girls,” Eric pointed out. “I was the same way when I was his age.”
“Oh I know why he likes the show. He’s been taking longer and longer showers lately.” I knew what it meant, not that I wanted to give it too much thought.
“Do you have any underwear catalogs around?” Eric smirked. “If so, I’m sure they’ve gone missing.”
“I do his laundry, Eric,” I snickered. “Last time I put fresh sheets on his bed I found my Sears catalog under the mattress.”
“Not surprised. This is probably a good time to have a man around the house. I’m sure there are some talks you’re not interested in having with him.”
“Maybe if I wasn’t a nurse, but we’ve already had the puberty talk. I’ve been a lot more honest and open with him than my parents ever were with me. My mother never bothered to mention birth control to me. If she had, I wouldn’t have gotten pregnant.” I was so naive and silly when I met Eric. Emotionally I was ready for sex but I was still ignorant. There was a lot I didn’t know that I should have been told. A bible was pretty shoddy birth control.
“That was on me too. I knew better. I was so smitten with you I didn’t think about it,” he said, taking some of the blame on himself.
“About that… do you really want more kids?” I asked him. I went over to the sliding door and pulled it open a few inches. I liked to sleep with the sound of the waves hitting the shore.
“Not right now. I’m not mentally ready enough to take care of a baby. I would like more children with you. I’d like to raise them and go through all the pregnancy stuff with you. I’m excited to meet with Stan. I want to be able to be healthy, not just physically. Did you know I got the best sleep last night that I’ve had since before I went to Nam? That was because I’m here with you,” he told me.
“It could have been the ocean. I always sleep better by the water too.” I started to unbutton my shirt so I could get ready for bed.
“Could have been.” I could tell he didn’t believe it. He pulled his shirt over his head. He politely took it over to the hamper instead of throwing it on the floor.
“Well, whatever the reason, I’m glad you slept so well.” I pulled my shirt off. Eric had seen me topless before, although not with the gnarly vertical scar on my lower abdomen from the C-section I’d had.
He walked over to me and reached out to run his fingers over my scar. “How big was Aaron when he was born?” he asked quietly.
“About nine pounds.”
“I guess we both have our battle scars,” he said. Eric unbuttoned his jeans and pushed them to the floor. He lifted his boxer shorts to show me the gunshot wound. There was a divot about the size of a silver dollar on his inner thigh.
“Ouch. You’re lucky it missed your femoral artery.”
“Very lucky. I fell wrong and broke my leg on top of it, that’s why I have the limp,” he explained.
“It’s amazing how two millimeters in either direction and the wound would have been catastrophic instead of just extremely painful and inconvenient,” I said as I wiggled out of my own jeans.
“You think the fates had something else planned?” Eric’s eyes made it to my tits.
“I think it’s definitely possible.” I reached back to unhook my bra.
“Need help with that?” He lifted his hands, offering to remove my bra for me.
“Sure.” I dropped my hands to let him undress me.
Eric’s hands ran up my stomach, under my bra. He cupped my breasts as he leaned down to kiss me lightly on the lips. Removing the bra included a little nipple rubbing. Once the bra disappeared he slid his hands down my sides and slipped around to grab my ass.
“Are you sure you want to stay in here with me and not in the guest room?” I asked.
He looked at me like I was crazy. He grabbed my hand and lifted it to rest over his heart.
“I don’t want to be anywhere you’re not, Sookie. I’m very sure I want to stay in here with you.”
“Just checking.” I tilted my head up to kiss him. He was still a phenomenal kisser.
He kissed me back for a minute or so. He released my hand so he could wrap his arms around me, pulling me close enough to feel his growing erection against my stomach. His tongue massaged mine as he began to sway us from side to side slightly. I felt his big hands grip my ass gently, caressing my skin.
His hands felt good on me, like they belonged there. When I broke the kiss it was so I could lock the bedroom door. Aaron didn’t usually let himself into my room anymore, but it would be just my luck if that was the one night he tried. With two puppies in the house we wouldn’t be able to keep the door shut all night long, but we’d be okay for a little while. Once the door was locked Eric tugged me over to the bed.
He took a seat so he could pull me down to straddle his lap. His hands moved right back to my ass as he dropped his head to kiss down my neck. His lips traveled down to my chest as he lifted my breasts so he could flick his tongue out to lick my nipples one at a time.
“You sure haven’t lost your touch,” I whispered, trying not to moan.
“I’m just doing what feels right with you,” he whispered back. He brought one of his hands in between us so he could slip his fingers down to rub over my panties. “Everything feels right with you.”
“It’s been a while since I’ve done this.” Years, in fact.
“It’s been a while for me too. Are you sure you want to do this?” He pushed my panties to the side so he could rub my bare lips.
“I am. Are you?”
“I’m ready.” He gently moved my hand to his hard-on.
It was a little sooner than I expected it to happen, but I had learned long ago that some of the best things in life aren’t planned or don’t go according to your plans. So for that reason I got up off Eric’s lap and tugged my panties down. His eyes lit up a little with a look I hadn’t seen for a very, very long time. He stood long enough to take off his shorts. Our bodies had their differences after thirteen years. His remark about battle scars was all too true. The important thing was that what we had been through didn’t destroy us; it made us stronger.
His lips on mine felt like a celebration of that. Eric lifted me the same way he used to, like I was weightless and precious to him. All those old feelings I thought were lost forever came flooding back. I sure hoped Aaron learned to love his dad because I didn’t think I could let Eric go. Not again. What I would be throwing away was just too good.
His long, heavy body hovered over mine as our tongues battled. My hips rocked to meet his until finally he slid into me. It was just as good as I remembered it being. His hips moved slow and steady, and our eyes met. It was the most intense, intimate moment of my whole life, and if course my eyes welled with all of the emotion. It never occurred to me until that moment just how happy I was to see him again. Eric was one of the lucky ones to have lived through the war, and somehow God saw fit to bring him back to me.
I wasn’t letting go.
I pulled his face to mine and kissed him. If my tears weren’t enough to tell him how I felt, the kiss should have been. Despite how long it had been for either of us, Eric’s stamina held out pretty well. He still finished before me, but it didn’t matter. What mattered was having him back with me, in my arms, and knowing this time we didn’t have an expiration date.
“I love you,” I told him. I’d never said it out loud, but it was about damn time I did.
He lifted his head so he could see my face fully. Eric’s expressive eyes roamed all around my face as if he was looking for something. When he finally found whatever it was his eyes locked onto mine.
“I love you too. I never stopped,” he replied, running his fingers through my hair.
“Maybe this summer we should take the boy to San Francisco,” I suggested.
“So we can show him where we fell in love?” Eric smiled.
I nodded and smiled back at him.
“We can take him to Hippie Hill. Maybe we’ll catch another concert. Jackson Browne would be nice.” I may as well put in a request.
“You think he’d like San Francisco?”
“Yeah, I think he would. Between Chinatown and maybe a trip out to Alcatraz… he probably wouldn’t hate a stop in Los Angeles on the way home either.” We wouldn’t be able to take my Mustang out there. I didn’t know what Eric drove, but a little motorhome would be ideal for a trip like that, especially with the dogs.
“Maybe stop in Denver on the way there… I would like you guys to see where I grew up.” He kissed my jaw.
“I’d like that too. I’d like to meet your parents and your brother if he’s still living there.” I knew Godric hadn’t gone overseas, but if he was still an active duty Marine, he could have been stationed anywhere. I was no expert, but I didn’t think there was a Marine base in Denver.
“He’s actually in San Diego. Maybe he could meet us in Los Angeles?”
“That would be nice,” I replied. “Looks like we have some planning to do. I’ll see what time I can get off from work when I go in tomorrow.”
“Should I hold off on looking for a job? I have money, so I can help you with bills and stuff.”
“I think maybe the better question is, do you really want to find a place to live?” I had a feeling he wasn’t going anywhere, and if I was being honest, I didn’t really want him to. It was probably selfish of me with Aaron being in the house. Usually we kind of made decisions as a team, and I hadn’t consulted with him about it, but there were some choices where I had to pull rank as his mom. Deciding who got to live with us was one of those things, at least that was what I told myself.
“Well, I wouldn’t want to separate the dogs,” he smiled. “Then there’s the whole love thing and the fact that I haven’t felt this whole since I went to bed with you that night before you left. I don’t want to go anywhere else. If you want me to stay I’d really like to.”
“I’d love for you to stay,” I said. “I think it’s a conversation we need to have with Aaron.”
Honestly, I didn’t think Aaron would be all that surprised by the idea but I also wasn’t sure he would be too happy about it at first. He was used to having me all to himself. It didn’t mean he couldn’t get used to sharing me or that he wouldn’t get comfortable around Eric. I hoped that in time Eric would just be his dad and not some guy who donated the sperm to create him. We were a ways off from that, though.
“Maybe I can make dinner for you guys tomorrow and we can discuss it,” he suggested.
“You can make dinner anytime you want.” I certainly wouldn’t complain about having someone to split the cooking duties with.
“Great. Maybe if I butter him up with good food he’ll start to warm up to me,” Eric chuckled. “It would work for me.”
“I think all you need is time, Eric. His whole life he’s only had me. It’s a pretty big change to get used to. I think the dogs will help a lot.”
“I was joking, gorgeous. I’m happy being patient with him. I’m honestly just happy to be able to see him and be around him. I like getting to know who he is.”
“You were kind of joking. I know I could sway you with food,” I chuckled. “Remember those blueberry muffins?”
“It was everything not to propose marriage when I had those.”
I laughed and said, “I can make those for you sometime this week. Your son isn’t a fan of blueberries so I hardly ever make them anymore.”
“He’s broken,” Eric said semi-seriously. “I wouldn’t turn them down. What is his favorite?”
“Favorite food? Pulled pork sandwiches. That kid will put down like four of them in a sitting.” It was quite a sight.
“He’s a Northman, I’m not surprised,” he chuckled. “Is JB’s family still in the picture?”
“No. They knew before Aaron was born that the baby wasn’t JB’s. A few of them disapproved of JB marrying me because of it. With us living so far away and Aaron not being JB’s son anyway, we lost touch. I see them from time to time when I go back to Louisiana, but it’s been a few years since I was there last. My parents come out to see us around Christmas, but otherwise we don’t really see much of each other.”
“Is it bad that I’m relieved by that? Have you talked to your parents?”
“No, net yet.”
“Is your dad going to hate me?” He actually looked nervous.
“He might, but don’t take it personally.”
“I won’t. Sometimes I feel like my own dad hates me,” he sighed. “I’m used to it.”
“Your dad is fool,” I replied. “Just let him say something nasty to you or about you in my presence and watch what happens. He might have been a Marine, but I’m a mom. I can take him any day of the week and twice on Sunday.”
“You know, my mom said the same thing about you,” he smiled. “It’s one of the many reasons I love you.”
“A girl’s gotta be tough,” I winked. “A girls also got to get some sleep if she doesn’t want to kill her patients.”
He leaned in to kiss me goodnight. When he pulled back he shifted on the bed so he could wrap his big body around me.
“Sleep well, gorgeous.”
“You too.” I hadn’t admitted as much, but it felt good having someone lying next to me in bed. I reached over to turn out the light and then let myself snuggle against him. Between Eric’s arms around me and the sound of the waves, I was asleep in no time.