Strangelove - Part 5
Peter dumped a small bag of ice into the copper bucket alongside the stacked cans of pilsner on her counter. A bottle of pinot grigio and a decanter of Lambrusco sat alongside, just in case their guests were feeling fancier this evening. He had no idea of their preferences, never having met these friends of Jessica’s before, so he did his best at the liquor store. He couldn’t help fidgeting with his polo’s collar and the thin sweater pulled on over it as he stepped to the kitchen’s threshold.
“What else, hun?” he called down the hall.
Jessica’s voice replied from a few rooms away. “Make sure the stuff in the oven’s hot. I think that’s it.”
“On it,” she heard him reply as she pulled on her narrow gray sweater dress. It was another new piece she’d spent some serious cash on, but if tonight ended the way last Saturday did, she’d need Peter’s attention tonight, too. She’d been so wound up after her movie with Garrett that she’d practically assaulted her boyfriend on his doorstep. As soon as he swung the door wide, she was grinding on him and begging for his lips right there in his living room. He hadn’t asked what had gotten into her, but he tenderly embraced and made love to her anyway.
And when it had been over, she’d been quelled but not nearly satisfied. He was too tender sometimes, too gentle, even when she wasn’t. When she asked for him to be ferocious, he tried for about ten seconds before insisting that it made him uncomfortable. He called her precious, said she was too delicate to be rough with. Her demands went unheeded.
And with Garrett and Gwen headed to her place now, she needed to be on her A-game. She’d invited them to dinner after Peter showed interest in meeting this old friend of hers, one she’d mentioned out of the blue. She’d needed to ease her conscious with half-truths and confessed to running into him at a restaurant. When Peter learned that her old friend had a beautiful wife and son, he relaxed a little, asked questions and signed up for the dinner party.
The idea of having Garrett in her apartment, all muscled and tattooed, with her strait-laced conservative boyfriend sitting across the table made her eyes roll back in her head in ecstasy.
She wasn’t sure what kind of wild child she was turning into but was loving it all the same.
And she was super curious to meet Garrett’s wife, this unbelievably puzzling and progressive-thinking woman. She’d seen her face on social media before, knew she had a lip piercing, cobalt eyes and jet-black hair. She also seemed to frequent tattoo shops and shared her husband’s love of steampunk. Xander, their toddler son, was with a sitter, so she hoped to engage Gwen in conversation, but feared leaving Garrett and Peter on their own. They were on opposite sides of her sexual coin.
She brushed through her long mink hair, pinning it back behind her ears but leaving it down for a touch of sass. Long drops of silver swung from her ears and thin strands of matching metal laced around her bare ankles above mid-height black pumps. She painted a muted coral on her lips, swept tawny shadow over her eyes and practiced a sultry gaze in the mirror.
The doorbell rang, interrupting her preening. She released a deep breath, squeezed her palms into fists and made her way to the sound.
“I got it,” she called out to interrupt Peter’s path to the door. The open door revealed Gwen on the front step. A step behind was Garrett, a calm smile on his angular face and a bottle of wine in his hands.
“Hey, come on in,” she beamed, stepping aside.
Gwen exhaled and followed her inside, relieved as she swept off her heavy coat. “Boy, did we have a hell of a time finding this building. Tell me the rent’s affordable at least.”
“Yeah, being an accountant’s not the most glorious occupation. Sorr…”
Over Gwen’s shoulder, still on her front step, Garrett cleared his throat, catching Jessica’s attention. He glowered in warning, the sweltering look turning her tongue to ash and halting her words.
“Let me take your coats.” Peter declared as she stepped to Jessica’s left. “I’m Peter, Jessica’s boyfriend. Welcome.”
“Thanks,” Gwen replied, handing over the snowy wool. “I’m Gwen, Garrett’s wife. And you must be Jessica.”
Turning with a new smile, the hostess took her female guest’s hand. “Yes, thanks for coming out in this weather. Doesn’t seem like we’ll get a break this year, does it?”
“Nope,” Garrett answered, stepping inside the closing the door behind him. He swept off his leather jacket, revealing a long-sleeved Oxford the color of blood and narrow-fitting black pants with a wallet chain dangling from the left pocket. At his collar, the heavy hammer pendant barely peeked out below his waxed beard, but his silver hoops were missing from his lobes. “March is never good. This one’s not going easy on us.”
Jessica tipped her head, her eyes appraising with a pleased grin. He’d given some serious consideration to the clientele at this dinner party. His proclivities were masked to mollify Peter, but his rugged, industrial style was still very much on display. It only heightened her white-knuckle attraction to the charismatic enigma.
Her boyfriend stepped over, taking Garrett’s coat and offering a hand. “Peter, nice to meet you.”
Garrett’s palm enveloped Peter’s as he towered over him. “Garrett Gahan. You’ve met my wife Gwen. Our son Xander’s probably enjoying his last bedtime story of the night by now. Too late a party for the pipsqueak.”
Gwen beamed at her husband as he stepped over to lay a kiss on her brow. Peter folded his arms with a smile of his own. “Well, next time we’ll shoot for an earlier meal. There’s a great place uptown that does pajama brunch. Let me get that bottle chilling.”
Garrett handed over the wine before stepping to Jessica. “Thanks for having us over. You look lovely. Is that dress new?”
She fought hard to stop the blush, but her cheeks caught fire anyway. “Yes, thank you. Let me pour you a drink. We have two wines ready to go or beer if that’s better?”
“After that drive, I could drink it all,” Gwen retorted, following Jessica into the kitchen.
Alone in the living room, Garrett spun to take in his surroundings. Everything was so feminine, so gentle, that he felt like an ogre. Wispy paintings of flowers, faux columns holding vases of lilies up high and bisque furniture clustered with needless pillows decorated the modest and meticulously clean space. The scent of a flower he didn’t know by name lingered, interrupted only by the wafting scent of basil. In this pretty parlor’s adjoining galley kitchen, Italian was on the menu.
Peter rejoined Garrett in the living room, offering him a beer in a tall, chilled pint glass, keeping a second one for himself. “Join me?”
“Of course,” the guest replied amiably, taking and tapping his cup to Peter’s.
Through the kitchen doorway, Jessica poured Gwen a glass of red. “Seriously, thanks for coming. I would’ve understood if you’d decided to bag it. The weather’s just not making anything easy.”
“No, really, it’s all good. I’m guessing you don’t know what chasing a three-year-old around does to a person? A night off is a welcome reprieve, even if it involves sliding all over the highway.”
Jessica bit her lip, stymying the guilt. “Doesn’t Garrett have that huge truck?”
“Yep. And?” Gwen snarked, taking a sip. “Didn’t make any difference.”
“My God. Well, if it’s that bad later, you all are staying here. Or I’ll put you up in the hotel down the street. I couldn’t live with myself if something happened to you.”
“We’ll be fine,” she replied encouragingly. “Gotta get home to Xander. While I love a night off, I can’t bear the thought of being away for too long. I guess that’s the true mark of a momma.”
“I understand. I hope you two like pasta. I made my grandmother’s lasagna. Family legacy.”
“That’s great. You know Garrett likes to eat. It’s a miracle he’s in such decent shape. Can’t say no to anything cheesy or buttery, can he?”
Jessica looked away, thinking back on their meals together over the last few weeks. He had gravitated toward the worst possible options. She bit her bottom lip, palming at her wine glass as she contemplated their time together, their lewdness, their building intimacy.
As Jessica’s smile dipped, Gwen stepped forward, cajoling with a muted tone. “If you’re worried about your arrangement with him, don’t be. He tells me everything, even when I don’t ask. That’s the only way our marriage could ever work. Besides, he’s been doting, affectionate over the past few weeks, probably because of you. This business of his, it makes him a better man and a more dedicated dad. It’s his purpose in life. I’ll be damned if I’m going to step between him and his reason for being. So, try not to look so guilty. It’s all good.”
Her simple shrug baffled Jessica. Her husband insisted that his wife was understanding but she hadn’t planned on Gwen being so forthright. Seeing the compassion and the acceptance for herself was something else, though.
“The men are hungry,” Garrett announced, thumping into the kitchen from the living room with Peter just behind. “That better be covered in cheese, whatever it is.”
“What did I tell you?” Gwen snickered, lifting a brow at Jessica.