tagRomanceGirl Gets Her Man Ch. 14

Girl Gets Her Man Ch. 14

byTruth74©

David and Karen watched from the doorway. They'd left James in his seat to go after Daniel. James Croix watched them go, but didn't make a move. Karen seemed confused, which was something that she never showed. David had never seen his son stand taller. Jerry was inches from his face, but Dan didn't move away. David wondered what happened to the quiet boy that he'd always known. Daniel held his shoulders back as he spoke with conviction, "She's nobody's girl!" Jo put a hand on the boy's arm and he looked down at her. Dan returned his gaze to Jerry and interlaced his fingers with hers. Jerry ended up submitting slightly by turning aside. His point made, Dan turned to Joanne and moved her toward the doorway. She walked slowly toward her mother.

*

Dan turned back to Jeremy and said, "You don't want to fight me, Jerry." He'd been ready to fight, but Jerry seemed to hesitate when he didn't back up.

"No," Jerry relaxed. "I shouldn't have to."

"The thing is, I want to fight you. I want to wipe that stupid look offa your face." Daniel loosened his tie. "But, I won't do it in front of Jo. You want to get into it with me, we can do it some other time. Right now, you need to go." He felt weird standing there the way that he was. This was his best friend. He knew everything about this man. Jerry was the guy that sat with him at his mother's funeral. 'Now, I don't know what to think or say other than you're a prick.'

"Dismissed, huh?"

"Exactly," Dan frowned at Jerry and walked with him toward the restaurant.

*

When Joanne got close enough, Karen put her hands on her arms and asked, "What just happened?"

Joanne looked at her mother and said, "I don't want to talk, right now. I don't want them to fight..." 'Dan'll lose.' Her eyes burned, "I want to go home. Can I?"

Karen's voice grew soft, "Baby, we'll settle the check. That's what we'll do. We'll pay the check then stop off at your apartment to pick up your clothes..."

Jo pulled out of her grasp. "No, I just want to go home. Just drop me off at home."

"But, baby. I can't leave you at that place after what I just saw."

"What did you see?" 'You probably think those two are fighting over me.'

"I saw Danny jump in front of you like Jerry was going to hit you. That is what I saw, wasn't it?"

Jo looked into her mothers sparkling brown eyes. 'Score one for Mom.' "That's exactly it. Now, do you get it? Do I have to call a cab, because if I do..."

"Should we call the police?" Karen looked to David for a recommendation.

Jo disagreed, "I don't think they'll fight each other. I mean, they're friends." 'Well, they used to be.'

David shook his head, "Those two had a pretty hard fight after you left the shop. I had to give away free food to get some of the regulars to come back inside."

Karen voiced her surprise, "Jerry's done this before? Why didn't you just say that's what happened?"

Jo sighed, "What is there to say? Dad's in love with Jerry. If I even hint that I don't like him, Dad flips out. If I'd told you, Dad would have probably taken his side..."

"Well, tell me now, Joanne. What would make two otherwise sane boys turn into thugs?"

"It doesn't matter, anymore." Joanne watched the two men walk quietly past her on their way into the restaurant.

*

"What's going on, here?" James Croix grabbed Jeremy's arm as he passed the table.

Jerry glanced in Dan's direction and frowned, "I'm sorry Mr. Croix. Maybe, I'll see you when you want to hear my side of things."

"But, Jer..."

"Jimmy, you let him go," Karen said as she pulled Joanne along by her wrist.

"But, bay..."

"I think we need to pay better attention to our daughter. We raised her with a lot of sense. She says she doesn't want to be anywhere near this man. If she feels this strongly about it, we should be the first people to tell him he doesn't belong here."

Jerry stood there with James' hand on his wrist and used his eyes to plead with Joanne. Joanne watched the way that Jerry looked back down at her father. He leaned in and gripped James' shoulder. It made sense. Dad had always wanted a boy. When she was little, she would try everything to get her father to notice her. She pretended to like everything that he liked. The one thing that stuck was watching TV. But, Jeremy didn't have to do anything. He just breathed and James was happy. She looked away. 'I can't compete with that.' Joanne quietly said as she pulled from her mother's grasp, "I think I'm the one that doesn't belong here."

"Honey," Karen soothed, "he can hit the road for all I care."

"No, I think I've had enough for tonight, anyway. Jerry can enjoy the dinner. I'm sure he and Dad have some things they want to catch up on." She turned slowly and walked out to coat check .

Karen made a move to protest, but David touched her hand and nodded toward Daniel. "Don't worry. He's following."

*

Jo turned in the ticket for her coat. 'You shoulda just told everybody in the whole place what he did. No. I can't do that to Dad. He'd never forgive me.'

"I kinda get it now," Daniel startled her with his proximity. He'd managed to be inches from her when she turned around. "But, I don't think it's right. You should tell them."

She looked up at him and smiled weakly, "If I tell them, they lose two children. You can't come riding to the rescue this time. There's no happy ending."

"How are you getting home?"

She went through her little clutch purse, "I have money for a cab..."

"I'll drive you home."

She tried to fight him. "Why should I get into a car with you?"

"Mayhaps, my horse is in the shop. And, I'd really rather spend the night watching over my lady."

Joanne looked at him, "You sound sappy."

He arched in conspiratorially. "I can't help it. Brit Lit minor. I fight it every time I talk to you. Sometimes, I fight it so hard, I end up saying nothing. Who knows, if we hadn't seen each other tonight, I might have really done something sappy like...maybe, professing my undying love to you in front of 150 people. I think you understand why I didn't do that."

She held up her hand to stop him from moving in closer. "I do. But..."

"I'm not enough of a jerk for you to refuse the ride, am I?"

"I guess not," she frowned.

"Good, because I already had the valet get the car," he smiled as he took her coat from the attendant. He opened it so that it hung open for her to put her arms through. When she turned and put the first arm through, he said, "Are you sure you don't want to go to my place? Jesse might be there."

"No, I think I should just go to my apartment." 'If she is there, I'll just have some trash to put out.'

He watched her button her wool coat and put a hand on her back to guide her out to his car.

Jo stopped in mid-stride. "What about your dad?"

Dan smiled again, "Ever thoughtful. We drove separately. I insisted on it, in case he wanted to stay longer than I did. Or, if he saddled me with some crazy chick..."

"Hmmm." 'I guess he did.'

"I had no idea the woman he chose for me would be the one I picked myself. I mean, imagine my joy at seeing you. And when you danced with me, I nearly..."

"You can stop the charm," she said as he opened the door for her. "I'm getting in the car."

Dan stood with the door open as she settled in the car. Not until she was sitting comfortably, did he shut out the cold air and walk around to get in himself. She took her usual position with her face toward the window as he pulled away from the curb.

"So, how's class going?"

She didn't turn to face him, "Are you supposed to be able to ask me that?"

"Yeah, I think. I'm not handing out the grades. I'm not making the tests. I think we should be fine if you tell me."

"I'm struggling with the mechanisms. I'm trying to memorize them, but..."

"Don't memorize. Think of it as the cycle that it is. The previous change leads to the next. Cells do it all of the time. Acetic acid or some derivative appears in almost every cycle. There's a reason for that."

"I know, but how is that going to help if I get asked about the number of ATP's produced in various aspects of different cycles. It doesn't," she frowned at the glass.

Dan had gone into teacher mode without thinking about it. That's not what she wanted. He let her sit quietly as they got to her parking lot. He turned off the car and something caught his eye on the passenger side floorboard. It was the pale sole of a shoe. He looked over at her hose covered foot and then up to her ankle. Those pretty shoes had left impressions in the tops of her feet. 'She must have taken them off while I was driving. They must hurt.' He hopped out of the car and rushed around to her side. Before she could get the shoe back on, he had the door open and was reaching in for her. He scooped her up and held her in the air.

She clutched at him in fear that she'd fall. "My shoes!"

He hefted her to reposition her in his arms. "You have your purse?"

"Yeah."

"Keys in the shoes?"

"No."

"Then, I'll get 'em later."

He got her inside the building and made sure the door was shut behind them. She'd wrinkled her nose and furrowed her brow, but she didn't protest. He looked up at the three flights of stairs between them and her apartment.

"You can put me down, and I'll walk up..."

"No way. You'll tear those stockings," he ventured a look at those little toes. She wiggled them and frowned. "Besides, I get to hold you all the way up there."

He took the first few steps slowly to get used to the change in his center of gravity, then trudged up as though he wasn't carrying anything at all. By the bottom of the third set of stairs, he slowed. His legs were burning. Joanne felt him struggle, and let go of his neck. He tipped forward to keep her in his arms and she slid easily to the floor.

She smiled, "You made a good try, but you're not meant for that," as she trotted up the toward her door. He watched the brown legs flash under her skirt as it bounced higher and higher with every step. He wanted to rush in and grab the closest leg. 'Hell, I gotta work out. I can't even catch up with that.' He moved slowly up the stairs as she got her keys into the lock.

"Come on, Danny. I'll let you carry me around the apartment, if you really want to," she toyed with him.

"Beg pardon?" 'Say it again. Say it again.'

"Just get in here. I'll see if Jesse's in."

He got to the doorway in time to see her disappear down the hall to the bedrooms. He closed the door and sat down on the couch. There was a book open on the coffee table.

Jo looked in every room before she went to her room and pulled the dress off. Jesse wasn't there. She quickly changed into a pair of pajama pants and a t-shirt. She didn't want Dan left out there by himself for too long. When she got back, he was on her couch with his jacket open. His eyes were slightly closed as he held up the book she'd been reading earlier. She looked at the clock on the stove. It was ten o'clock. Dan was tired, but he wasn't going to say anything.

"Hey." He focused on her and smiled. "Feel better, now that you're out of those clothes?"

"Yeah," she softly said as she sat down next to him.

"I wish I could change, but I doubt you'd have anything that would fit me."

Jo thought for a second. 'It was kinda rude to change clothes when he can't. Do you have anything that could possibly fit him?'

"I have a robe you can borrow. It doesn't have flowers or anything on it. It would be more comfortable to sleep in..."

"Is that an offer?" He watched that odd warmth cross her face.

"Um, if you want it to be," she finally came up with as she went into the kitchen to get something to drink. "I mean, I don't want you to fall asleep at the wheel, or something."

"Yeah, I'm a bit tired. But, I need to help Pop in the morning..."

"I'm sure he'd understand. I mean, this wouldn't be the first time you missed making the donuts," she turned toward him and took a big swig of juice. 'Oh, no.' By the look of surprise on his face, he didn't remember coming over that night.

He cocked his head at her and slowly asked, "How would you know that?"

'I am so busted. Leave it to me to mention probably the one time in his life he didn't make the donuts.' "Uh, I just figured. You know, I've played hooky, before..."

He closed his eyes, let his head hit the back of the couch, and groaned, "So, you saw me after the concert?"

"Of course," she said. "You left with Candy..."

"No, you saw me drinking at the pub. No, no. Drunk at the pub, would be more like it."

"No, I didn't."

"Don't lie."

"I'm not lying. I went straight home after the concert." She set the drink down and faced him.

"I don't think I want to hear this."

"Fine, don't. It's easier that way," she made a move for the hallway.

"But, one question."

"Hmm?" 'I wish I'd picked the first bedroom when we moved in. I'd be in there with the door shut by now.' She turned and looked at his upturned face. He was frowning at the ceiling.

"Did I make a complete ass out of myself?"

She walked into the living room and put a hand on the edge of the couch. "I don't think you did."

He turned and looked at her, "So, I did something right that night?"

"Well, I don't know about right."

She scanned his face. He looked so natural with his head resting on her couch. The rest of him didn't really share that ease. His butt was balanced at the edge of the cushion with his long legs stretched far out across the floor.

"Was I gross and smelly?"

"No, I don't remember any smell. I mean, you weren't reeking. Why? I thought you didn't want to know."

"I do want to know. I just don't want to hear it, if its bad."

She sat on the edge of the couch and said, "You drunk dialed me. You wanted to warm up. I don't know why I let you up here, really. You were a complete ass at the concert..."

"Yeah, yeah. I'm an ass for walking out like that. I felt bad doing it. Let's focus, shall we? I called you and came over?"

"Uh, huh. You curled up on my couch and tried to go to sleep."

"I did?"

"Pretty much," she blushed. "You said some stuff, and I took you home." 'I'll spare you the details.'

"Some stuff?" He sat up and put a leg up on the cushions. "What stuff?"

She was going to say nothing, but he had this strange look on his face. "Not much. You just told me that you wanted to be with me." 'And that you loved me, but I won't hold you to that.'

He pushed up to stand and shook out his legs. "I still do, so that wasn't bad. I guess. You made me think it was something big. Do I still get the robe?"

She kept the relief to herself as she said, "Sure. I'll be right back."

Jo had just opened her door when the phone rang. She picked it up without looking at the caller ID.

"Hello?"

- -So, how was dinner?- - Gary asked.

"It was fine. You know, I think you were right about a few things. I should have told you, but I was kinda mad at you and..."

- -I can see that.- -

'What's that supposed to mean?' "Gary, if you're gonna start..."

- -I saw him, Jo. His car is in your lot. You can't lie and say he's not at your house, right now.- -

"Yeah, Dan's here. That's one of the things I wanted to talk about."

- -You're not gonna deny it?- -

"No, I'm not. We're not like that, Gary. So, if he's in my living room, it's none of your business. I'm getting him a robe. He's gonna stay over." 'Girl, shut up! What? Maybe, he'll leave me alone, now!'

There was a long pause before he said, - -Huh. He sure did put in a lot of work, didn't he. I bet the whole time I was at home, he was paying that down payment. Was he the one that got you that jewelry you had on? Naw, don't answer that. You probably earned 'em. Honestly, I think you were too high priced for me. I mean hell, I had to spend a week's pay to take you to that damn concert, and all I got was a quick feel through your clothes. Go head and fuck him. He'll get his money's worth.- -

He hung up with a click. It took her a minute to put the receiver down. She went to the bathroom and looked at her makeup. It was still perfect. She wet a washcloth and wiped at her face. Gary had said it as though he could care less. 'Like he gave me his permission. I don't need his permission. I don't.' She managed to get it all off with a trace of lipstick still on her lips. 'That's better. I don't feel like a whore, do I? I mean, Danny's never bought me anything. He didn't pay for dinner. We're not gonna have sex. I'm not like that. Then, why did Gary say that?'

On her way out, Jo grabbed a really big night shirt out of her drawer, pulled the oversized robe off of its hook, and turned off the light to her room.

When she got back to Daniel, she must have shown how upset she was, because he said, "What happened?"

"Nothing. You can change in my bedroom, if you want."

"I don't need to go somewhere." He pulled off his jacket and unbuttoned his shirt. "It's a robe. I'm not taking off my pants, so it shouldn't matter."

He slid the shirt down to reveal a gray sleeveless undershirt as he said, "Unless, you're uncomfortable."

He'd also uncovered a wide tattoo that encircled his arm just above his right bicep. He'd never mentioned having a tattoo, but there it was. What she could see of it was a solid band of black around his arm. There was no ornamentation. She watched it flex and disappear as he pulled the arms of the robe up. The openings fell about five inches short of where they should land and it didn't close in the front. Oversize for her was obviously way too small for him. He raised an eyebrow and said, "I think you look better in my clothes."

She struggled with herself to keep from laughing. 'If I like it, does this prove Gary right?'

"Do you think it's slimming?" He stressed the seams on the shoulders. She let out a low hesitant laugh to please him. It didn't work.

He pulled the robe back off and sighed, "It was Gary, wasn't it?"

She just looked at him.

"On the phone," he prompted her to respond. "It was Gary. I saw him outside when we came in. I figured he'd wait until tomorrow to call, if he didn't follow us up the stairs. I guess I was wrong."

"You saw him?"

"He was in a car with the motor running."

"Is that why you carried me in? For his benefit?"

"No," he said as he moved closer to her. "I did that for me. So, what did you tell him?"

"I told him what I told him before I went to dinner."

"Which was?"

"I don't want to see him anymore. I also told him it was none of his business if you were over here."

He shook his head and slid down sideways onto the couch. "You really want to get me into a fight, don't you?"

"No, I just wanted Gary to hear it from me." 'I didn't even think about Gary going after Danny.'

"So you don't have to break things off. They just blow up."

"There wasn't anything to blow up. He told me to go ahead and do it."

"Very nice of him. I bet he said that kinda like he explains how he likes his latte."

Joanne blinked at him. 'Yeah, that's exactly how he said it.'

"You hurt him. I bet he feels worse than I felt when you told me you were going to the harvest festival with him," Daniel winced at the recollection.

'I thought you didn't care about that.' "Well, that's not my fault. I told him it was over. He just didn't want to believe it."

"You did? When? Tonight?"

"I didn't think I had to. He never called me back that night. He didn't call me the next day. He didn't call me for three weeks... So, I let him go. Yes. When he started to call again, I told him. Repeatedly. I let him go. He should have just stayed gone. When he showed up tonight, I let him go again."

"Then why isn't he gone? Why did he call?"

"I don't know. I just don't know."

Dan thought for a moment. "Call him back."

'Are you nuts?' "What," she hesitated.

"Call him back, and I'll talk to him."

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