Strangelove - Part 17
“And what did you say after that?” Garrett asked, handing over the petite strawberry milkshake he grabbed from the counter when his name was called.
Jessica took it from him with eager palms. “I didn’t apologize, if that’s what you mean.”
“Well, I’d hope not.” He grabbed the second shake, a larger malted black-and-white, from the ice cream shop worker with a thank you. Her arm nestled in his as they strode away from the kiosk in his local mall.
“All I could do was tell him I loved him. I couldn’t even apologize for apologizing too much.”
“No, and for the record, he’s not wrong. It’s a defense mechanism of yours. You’re so afraid of disappointing people that you just assume normal everyday inconveniences are somehow your fault. It’s really sad.”
“Well, that’s harsh. But God help me, all I could think about was you chiding me about apologizing. When he went off, I tripped right back to however many weeks ago that was, and it hit just as hard as it did then.”
“You don’t apologize nearly as much around me as you used to. You’ll learn not to around him, too. You survived a long time as the prim, remorseful Jessica but you don’t have to anymore. It doesn’t seem like anyone wants you to, either.”
“Nope.” She took a sip, watching families and couples stroll past as they walked.
“How’d the rest of the night go?”
His eyes shifted to her as he slugged down a third of the shake in one gulp. She snickered and shook her head. “Went back to my place. He initiated for once. It was nice.”
“Nice?” He repeated, tossing his now empty cup in the trash. “Not a word a guy wants used to describe sex.”
“Well, he was insistent which was nice. And he did make sure I was taken care of before anything else happened, though it wasn’t as intense as when you did it. He tried but he’s still gentle, which is fine, but not thrilling.”
Garrett hid his grin. He knew how thrilled she was by force first-hand now. Her scent on his fingers lasted the whole car ride home and until dawn, when he woke next to his naked, exhausted wife. He’d pushed just far enough, she’d triumphed like a pro athlete, and he couldn’t wait for more, though he knew he had to. Step three could take a few more days or a few more weeks.
She continued after another dainty sip. “I was surprised you wanted to meet here. What’s on the agenda?”
“No agenda,” he admitted, easing her around a meandering group of teenagers. “I just wanted a little time with you, to see how you’re doing and how you’re feeling. You specifically nixed phone calls and email doesn’t work for this, so here we are.”
“I nixed calls for a very specific reason. And to be honest, I’m feeling pretty damn good,” she murmured, blushing a beautiful pink. “On the drive home last week, I felt like everything was a little more peaceful. I could feel my heart pounding between my legs for an hour or two. And I was terribly dehydrated the next day. I guess that’s the release you wanted me to have?”
“Sure. Who doesn’t want to feel satisfied, peaceful? The smile on your face that night, that’s
the whole reason I pushed so hard. That’s why I started the business.”
“And you offered me something that you hadn’t offered anyone else. That meant a lot to me.”
“You’re not anyone else,” he glanced to her, his eyes warm. “And Gwen couldn’t believe I did.”
“It’s not against your rules, right? That didn’t cause an issue with you guys?”
“No, it’s not against the rules, it’s just really out of character. Plenty have seen me without clothes on, but I’ve never offered to let a client undress me themselves.”
“Well, your confidence and honesty did the trick. Though I was a touch disappointed.”
She stopped, turning to him. “Because I’ve always wanted to see the rest of your collection.”
He lifted a brow, his lip curling up. “You’ll have to be more specific.”
She grinned and wiped a slow palm up the sleeve of his jacket. “These. Can’t see them now but I’ve always been fascinated by them. I don’t know much about mythology but that’s Mjölnir around your neck, right? The tattoos are Norse, too, I guess?”
He released a slow breath, pride welling up inside him. “Yes, the language of my faith. Let’s find a seat. I’ll show you.”
On a bench in a nearby hall, tucked away from bustling shoppers, he lifted his jacket from his shoulders. Pushing up his short sleeves revealed dozens of one-inch tattoos in bold black, muted blue and dusty charcoal, scattered over his arms like they’d been thrown there by a child. He lifted the hem of his tee, revealing his toned middle and a long string of letters that looked like English but elongated and with symbols etched over them. The band of text swept from left to right across his entire middle.
“This is from Hávámál. It says, ‘When searching for answers in the runes created by gods and written by Odin, it’s best to reflect over the meaning.’ The Hávámál is an ancient poem from the Viking age. I put this here to remind me to stop and reflect when life gets a little chaotic.”
“Are they in a specific order? It doesn’t seem like it.”
“Each one has meaning on its own. Like this one,” he explained, taking her hand and touching her index fingertip to the blue six-pointed star shape made of straight lines. “This is Hagall, which is the Nordic letter H, but also means hail. It represents transformation. Hail is devastating but when it melts, it becomes water, which is much easier for humanity to handle and something man needs to survive. Transformation of bad into good. Make sense?”
“Yeah, wow,” she breathed, sliding her fingertip to one above, shaped like a haphazard R. “And this one?”
“Raeidh. It’s like a modern-day R but it means riding. It can mean riding literally, like a horse, but it can also symbolize a journey, a ride we set out on to better ourselves. I got this one after I opened my side business.”
“I guess I never thought of them as anything other than art. How many do you have?”
“All sixteen younger runes plus a bunch from the elder set. I add new ones as I get older and experience new things. This one?” He gestured to his left forearm, just above his wrist, where a simple X in gray adorned his skin. “This is the most important to me. It’s the rune for gift. I got it the day my son was born.”
“Xander,” she murmured. “Right. So, he’s your gift.”
“He’s a gift to this world. At least we think so.”
She giggled. “Well, I wish I shared your affection for tattoos. I never understood why anyone would want to be stabbed repeatedly for fun.”
“Stab is a bit off. It’s more like scraped repeatedly.”
“Still awful,” she argued, standing and handing him his coat back. When he pulled it back on and rose, she retook his arm in hers. “I think I’ll resist the urge. Besides, I think you and your wife have enough for all of us.”
“More than enough,” he admitted, walking with her back to the main path of the mall, back into the din of dozens of chattering patrons. “Where to?”
“There,” she froze suddenly, pointing to draw his attention. “That. The one on the right.”
His gaze followed her outstretched finger to the chain leather retailer. In the window was a selection of belts, two-inch thick strands draped over a replica of a bucking bronco. The belt on the far end was etched with interlocking Rs from buckle to tip. His mind tripped back to his lesson, the meaning of the rune he’d just shared with her.
His focus shifted right and down, captured instantly by her steamy gaze. He dragged her closer to the display. His voice was a heated whisper, just barely audible amongst the crowd as they stood arm and arm outside the shop’s window. “Tell me what you want. Say it plainly.”
“I want you to hike my skirt up, bend me over the bed and spank me with that belt.”
Garrett’s breathing slowed as her words penetrated deep. The blood rushing to his head and into his ears muted the racket around them as stepped inside the shop, his palm reaching for his wallet.
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