An Angel's Fix Pt. 07byphotodad©
Jasmine was toying with the pendant at Ashley's throat, just as Ashley was toying with the matching one at Jasmine's. They were coming down from their highs after grinding on each other's legs. Joe was asleep on the other side of the bed, a side effect from the long day, and also Ashley's ability to satiate him quickly after they came home.
"Does it bother you that we do this so soon after that gorgeous Mass?" Jasmine asked after kissing Ashley's shoulder.
Ashley looked over at her, amazed that Jasmine seemed to be in her head again. "I don't know. Sometimes it does, but usually not. You?"
Jasmine shrugged. "Sometimes. But somehow this doesn't feel like it should be wrong. Religiously, you know. Why do you think that is?"
Ashley sighed then propped herself up on an elbow to face her girlfriend. "Well, I think of it like this: God is like a parent, right? He lays down what he wants us children to do. But like all kids, there are some things I don't agree with, and break the rules. I still love Him, and do my best to obey. But, life is happier with you and Joe, which makes it easier to love Him." She let out another sigh, not sure if her point was clear, then laid back against her pillow.
Jasmine smirked. "You know that rationalization probably won't fly on Judgment Day, right? But I like how you think." She let go of the pendant to pet Ashley's chest and ribs, leaving the fleshy mounds be for now. "Living a fair life with happiness, kindness, and respect of others is the best way to worship and praise Him on a daily basis."
"You turning into a Jesus freak on me, Jazz?" She cut her eyes over toward Jasmine.
Jasmine let her hand rise and fall on Ashley's ribs in a tap of admonishment. "No," she giggled. "Just that Mass was fun, if a lot of work to prepare for, and it got me thinking...after my head cleared of naughty thoughts of you." She caught Ashley's frown. "No, I still think those things of you. Just not quite as urgently as a few minutes ago," she added with a grin.
Ken had decided to spend Christmas with Jill, and the pendants were apparently popular tonight, as he was fiddling with hers. "Careful," she warned. "That's very special to me."
As beautiful as Jill's naked frame lying next to him was, Ken still couldn't help another glance around the guest room that could have been a set for a decorating magazine. "So this is Joe's house," he said in wonder, having arrived earlier that day to see the Mass that Jill kept talking about. "Wow."
Jill smiled and turned into him, snuggling closer. It was getting late, and another big day was tomorrow. In her weariness, she explained through mumbling the history of the house. How Joe's parents had it built with entertainment in mind, the company parties held there, her and Jasmine's role in helping with the parties once Joe befriended them freshman year in high school, Jasmine's employment as maid there, and how it became a safe place for any of Joe's "Angels," should they need the escape for the night. She recapped how Joe inherited the house through his parents' sudden demise, and how Ashley nearly threw everything away to be with him then. "He thinks of this as her house now," she concluded. "With Cindy as the caretaker."
"You mean curator," Ken offered. "I recognize some of the pieces downstairs. Good Lord!"
Jill recently discovered that he had an eye for art when he took her on a date to a gallery show, not that he advertised the hobby. She chuckled weakly, well on her way to sleep. "You're more right than you know. Cindy's been bored, I guess. There's a few new ones on some of the walls."
Ken was still playing with her pendant. "This must have cost a fortune. I've never seen anything like it."
"There's only seven," she said plainly. "You've seen four of them." She opened her eyes in time to see his confused expression, and Jill was secretly happy that he didn't check out her friends hard enough to notice. "Mine, Ashley, Jasmine, and Kim's," she clarified. "They're all identical and hold some secrets."
Ken searched his memory of her friends and was surprised he hadn't noticed the other pendants before. "What secrets?" he asked. He knew she was drifting off, but this fascinated him, and she didn't seem to mind answering in her half sleep.
"The names under the onyx, the diamond..." His thumb centered over the mentioned jewel on the piece. "Don't push that..." There was a dull click. "...too hard. Ugh," she groaned as she sat up and reached for her cell phone on the night stand.
"What's wrong?" he fretted.
Jill put her finger up to hush him, hoping that the system had been turned off after all this time since Joe all but left Carter. The phone rang a second later, and she shook her head in disbelief that the concealed device still worked. "Hello?" she answered.
"Identifier, please," came the curt reply on the other end.
"Good morning, Jill. What's the emergency?"
"I'm sorry. My boyfriend accidentally triggered it. He'll know better now." She added the last part with a sideways glance toward Ken.
The male voice chuckled slightly. "Very well. We'll be right here if you need anything. You and Ken have a Merry Christmas." Then the line clicked dead.
Jill sat on the edge of the bed, piecing together the puzzle behind the short conversation while putting the phone back on her charger.
"What is it?" Ken asked, seeing Jill deep in thought.
Jill knotted her eyebrows, still thinking about what just happened. "You found out what one of the secrets is on this pendant," she explained distantly. "It's a panic beacon. A security team from Carter calls me if it's pressed. I have different code words for different days. If I don't answer or answer incorrectly, they come in, SWAT style."
Ken grinned in disbelief. "Yeah, right."
Jill ignored him, went over to the dresser, pulled out a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, and put them on, not bothering with underwear. She was mumbling to herself as she left the bedroom. "It works. They know Ken's name. 'Be right here.' I wonder..." She padded downstairs barefoot and found Kim in the music room at the front of the house, staring out the window with her arms crossed.
"I wonder what happened," Kim mused when Jill hugged her from behind.
Tail lights flashed through the trees as a car drove by. "Ken hit my button." Then Jill laughed at what that sounded like. "I mean the one on my pendant," she clarified quickly.
"Oops," Kim giggled. "I wondered who's boyfriend would be first." She welcomed the embrace by stroking Jill's forearms.
Jill rested her chin on Kim's shoulder. "Well, mine being the first one made, it doesn't have the oops-proof sequence like yours. But, that doesn't explain why they're here." She nodded toward the window and pondered that silently with Kim for a moment. "I guess we'll find out tomorrow."
"You mean later today," Kim corrected while glancing at the grandfather clock.
"Yeah. Try and get some sleep. We gotta be at her parents' house by 10." Jill kissed the back of Kim's head. "Merry Christmas."
"Hey Doug," Joe greeted the uniformed man who entered through the side door. "And I thought I was up the earliest to see what Santa brought," he grinned while neatly folding the second omelet of the morning.
"Oh no. I was Santa. At least for the admiral's family this morning." Doug looked at the food Joe was busy with. All week since Joe got there, Doug felt like he was living at a restaurant. "What are you making this morning?"
Joe handed him a laden plate. "Three-egg omelet, griddle cakes, cheese grits, and bacon. Maple syrup is in the nuker, would you mind getting it to the table?"
Doug put the warmed bottle on the breakfast table and sat down with his plate. "I thought y'all were going to Ashley's for a big lunch and dinner."
"We are, but I think her mom wants to do gift exchange first. And, knowing the girls with the way they admire everything, and make a show about why they gave what to whom, it could be hours before we eat again. Aren't you coming?"
"Yup!" exclaimed Cindy from the dining room door. She came over to kiss Doug. "Merry Christmas, sweetie. I thought you were listening when her mom asked us last night at the reception."
Doug accepted the kiss and returned it after swallowing. "I was. I just thought she was being polite. Merry Christmas."
The rest of the house trickled into the kitchen, giving Christmas greetings, grabbing their plates and taking seats at the breakfast table or bar. Jasmine and Ashley chose to stand near the stove to eat. Ken came around for a cup of coffee and glanced at Ashley in her camisole top.
"Good night, Ashley!" he exclaimed. "You're, like, buff!"
"Um, thank you?" Ashley wasn't sure how to take that.
"I'm not enough for you?" Jill chided from the breakfast bar.
Ken was sheepish at getting caught looking. "I just meant I never noticed how built her shoulders are."
"Well, she was a cheerleader," Jill needled.
"Yeah?" he asked Ashley.
Ashley replied around a bite of bacon, "And gymnast."
"No kidding." Ken glanced at Jill and was glad she didn't seem genuinely upset that he noticed her friend's physique. "A flyer, no doubt. At least by judging your small frame."
"Flyer, stunter...whatever they asked me to. I miss it though." Ashley said this with sparkling eyes, clearly happy that someone was asking her about something other than singing for a change.
"What kind of stunting? Like tumbling and such?" he pressed.
"Tumbling, pyramid top stretches, partner...like I said, whatever they asked."
Ken was intrigued now. "Partner, eh? Do any co-ed?"
Ashley had to chew her latest bite before answering. "Not since California. Our school here didn't have any guys brave enough to try out." She ate a couple bites of bacon while reminiscing. "Man, I really do miss being in the air like that."
"You any good?" he asked while returning next to Jill.
Ashley sighed at the memory. "Third in the partners category at the Cali state tourney. As for flying, our squad was second in the team performance category."
"Don't forget state gymnastics floor routine champion," Jill added. She could see the wheels turning in Ken's head. "Go ahead and ask her, Ken."
Ken thanked her with a smile. "Well, I was wondering if you'd like to stunt with me? We don't really do that much at FSU, but I used to do it for club cheering down south. I miss it too. And no offense to Jill, but she's more of a base."
The offer enticed Ashley greatly, but she hesitated. "I don't really have time to practice for a competition. School is pretty tight, I gotta do tour stops for the label on spring break, Catholic asked me to do their prom, and I'm gonna try out for the performance group at the School of Theater."
The last bit caught everyone's attention, as it was the first they heard her mention it. But, no one said anything.
Ken was the only one whose mouth wasn't at least partially open in shock. Likely because he only recently started being around Jill's friends, and thought it was normal for Ashley to run a suicide schedule. "I just meant for fun, like whenever we get free moments. What do you remember?"
Ashley ignored the looks from the others. "Ups, stretches, tosses, you name it. Yeah, I'd love to do it again."
Kim broke her silence for the first time that morning. "Just DON'T drop her. She won't sell many records as a drooling idiot." She decided that this was as good a time as any to give her decision to Ashley. "Because I won't be there to help catch her."
Jasmine caught that. "Wait! What?!"
"Cindy offered to let me stay here while I get my AA from the local college, and I've decided to take her up on it." Kim was grateful to Cindy, but was afraid of disappointing her friends, and so stared at her plate as she said this.
Jasmine was about to protest, but Cindy intercepted it. "Yeah, Doug's gone a lot, so I could use the company and help," she explained to deflect any unintentional hard feelings.
There were a couple of moments of silence while everyone digested the new information. Jill decided to break the thought process. "Okay, so speaking of surprises...Joe, when were you going to tell us that security is back?"
"They've been back for a while," Ashley shrugged as she rinsed her dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.
Kim shot her a look. "You knew?!"
Ashley made a cute frown. "Duh? I thought you saw them when we were shopping in Atlanta this week."
Kim shook her head. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I thought you figured it out. I mean it's kinda hard to miss that there was the same woman who happened to be at every store, restroom, and dressing room area we were."
Jill wanted to put an end to the looming bickering. "ANYWAY," she glared at the two. "Joe, what happened? Why are they back?"
Joe said simply, "I'll tell you later."
Kim and Jill looked at Cindy, missing that Jasmine seemed unfazed.
Cindy made a show of glancing at the clock on the wall. "Well, I gotta get ready," she said as she collected hers and Doug's dishes, dodging having to answer the unspoken question.
They arrived at Ashley's parents' house promptly at ten. Joe and Ken were in shirts and ties, Doug in his class A uniform, and the ladies dressed up in nice dresses. Ashley was more casual, opting for a white blouse, Christmas vest, jeans, and the fur-topped boots she got while in Denver last year. Jasmine stopped short when a man wearing a pistol at his side walked from around the corner of the house.
Ken recovered from his startle and mumbled to Jill, "I guess you weren't kidding about security last night." She shook her head in response.
"Sam! What are you doing here?" Jasmine asked while prancing up to the sentry for a hug.
He returned the hug with a smile and answered, "I'm assigned to the Roberts' house."
She looked questioningly up at him, but didn't get anything further. After wishing him Happy Holidays, she left him to his patrol and joined the others just as Mrs. Roberts answered the door.
"Girls, if you're trying to impress the commander, I'm sorry that he's not here," she apologized once everyone settled in the living room.
"Where is he?" asked Kim.
Most of the girls were surprised that Joe answered. "He's at sea." Seeing the confused faces, Joe took a breath to elaborate. "Although Ashley and I never lost our security details, that's most of the reason for them being more visible lately. Her dad's ship launched the drone that took out one of the terrorist leaders a few weeks back. Given their desire to go after families who they believe are responsible, the release of Mike and Ashley's song, and a military contract agreement going public, Carter felt it prudent to step up the protection."
"Thank you, Joe. I do feel better having someone trusted nearby while he's away." Then Mrs. Roberts sighed before changing the subject. "Who wants to open presents?"
The gift exchange went well, as everyone was happy with what they got and who they got it from. Most notable were gifts from Ashley. Her mom and dad got a pair of tickets to her first concert scheduled that spring in Atlanta, including a promise to pay for airfare and lodging. Joe got a high-end mixer he had been lusting over. Kim received a new tablet to replace her aging laptop. A beautiful antique carousel figurine was added to Jill's collection, and Jasmine got a gold artist palette charm for the anklet she'd recently been wearing. Interestingly, Jasmine got Ashley a microphone charm for her own anklet. Its shape matched the studio microphone Jasmine also gave her.
Mrs. Roberts read the wish in her eyes. "Go ahead and kiss her, Ashley. I don't mind."
The room filled with dropped jaws. Ashley's own eyes mixed shock, embarrassment, and fear. "What are you saying, Mom?"
"Oh please! I've known since your drugged confession in the hospital last year that you're involved with her. And now that I know, it's easy to see it in the way you act around each other. Your dad would flip out if you did it in front of him, but he's not here now, is he?"
Ashley gulped hard. "Daddy knows, too?"
Her mom smiled. "No, and he won't find out from me. So, go ahead and thank her. She's sitting right next to you."
Ashley and Jasmine hugged and thanked each other for the gifts and whispered that each had another gift waiting in Tallahassee. They did not go any further than the tight hug, as it was already awkward that Mrs. Roberts called them out. Joe broke the tension by giving the last gift to Ashley. It was a key chain for her truck made of leather with a golden figurine of spear-wielding Chief Osceola on the rearing Renegade's back.
"It's very nice," Ashley complimented while giving him a hug and kiss, trying to hide her disappointment in the oddly token gift from her wealthy husband.
* * *
Early the next day, Kim rode with Ashley back to Tallahassee so she could pack her things and pick up her car. They followed the rest of their friends who were in Jill's SUV. Ashley thought Jill had missed their exit, then thought Jill had lost her mind, as they turned off a different exit, then traversed unfamiliar streets farther and farther from the apartment. After a gate, they pulled into the parking garage under a newer high rise building, and Joe immediately jumped out of the SUV and went to Ashley's door, wearing the big jacket he used over his pads when he was playing football.
"Where are we?" Ashley questioned when he opened her door.
He opened the jacket. "You remember last fall when we were here?"
"We weren't here," she rebutted.
"Well, Tallahassee, in general."
"Yeah, but it was raining and cold then," she said.
"Get in," he demanded, still holding his jacket open.
Ashley locked the truck and ducked inside the jacket with him. "But I can't see anything, and it's not all that cold," she protested.
"That's the point," he said. "This is cozier than a blindfold for you, I think." He zipped it up around her, making for a humorous image of one fat person with four legs.
He guided them walking, and all she saw was smooth concrete moving past below her feet. They stopped for a moment before she heard a chime, then they crossed a metal threshold and onto a tile floor. She immediately recognized the smell and sounds, and knew they were in an elevator. As the momentum pushed her heavier, she heard Jill and Jasmine murmuring excitedly in hushed tones outside her cocoon. Ashley could tell the car was moving with some speed, but seemed to rise for quite a while. At last she got lighter about the same time she heard another chime. Joe nudged her a few steps until the threshold passed below and the floor changed to marble. The elevator closed smoothly behind and she felt Joe reach up to the zipper.
"I don't understand. Did you have to smuggle me someplace?" Ashley asked.
The group laughed, and she heard Kim gasp, "Oh my God. I just figured it out. WOW!"
Ashley wanted to tear out of the shell, and flailed her hands against the inside lining of the jacket to make the point. "WHAT? Joe, let me out!" She intended the statement to be a demand, but it came out as a pout.
"Just a minute. Keep your panties on," he replied.
She heard clicks across the marble, and she recognized the gaits of Jasmine and Jill walking separate ways before the footsteps changed to wooden clops. After a bit, Jill called "ready" from a distance and Jasmine soon after from the opposite side.
Joe said down to her, "You feel nice in there. Sure you want me to let you out?"
"YES! I'm starting to get sweaty."
"Maybe I like you all hot and bothered."
"JOE! If you want to see those panties you mentioned ever again, you'll let me out right now!"
He leaned into her and suddenly the jacket lifted a bit, along with her skirt. His hand reached between her legs and he rubbed her through the dainty material. "You mean these panties?"