Don't Ever Give Up Ch. 06bySpotInTheSand©
Note: Special thanks go out to my two regular editors, LilTexasSexFiend and AnInsatiableReader, for making this infinitely better than it was when I first wrote it. As always, let me know what you think, through voting, comments or private feedback. All three works too! ;-) As I said, this story will go up with one chapter posting daily until it's all uploaded, so don't get too mad about the cliffhangers. Enjoy!
"Sheila, let me tell you a story," Tim said, hopping off his jet-ski after cutting the engine. Julia stayed on as Tim walked the machine back to shore. "Once upon a time, this dude stayed out in the sun too long and got burnt to a crisp. The next day, he invented sunscreen."
"Oh, fuck you," was Sheila's brilliant reply.
"Or, ya know, not," J.T. said, doing the same with his own jet-ski while his sun-soaked fiancée stayed on board.
"Not a fan of that either," Julia said. "But seriously, Sheila. You're baked, girl."
"Pretty sure I know that," she replied.
"You know, babe," J.T. added, "Tim is right. Not that I won't enjoy rubbing that cold, green gel all over your body later, but I think it would have been more fun to do that with sunscreen before the fact. Plus, you know, with my skills..."
"Look at you," Tim said. "Your fiancée is broiled, and you're still thinking about sex."
"Does that surprise you?" Sheila asked, gingerly hopping off the jet-ski as J.T. loaded it onto a trailer that Tim would later pull forward into the garage. "Besides, that's what you get for asking a pale-skinned redhead with half a zillion freckles to marry you. I burn quicker than a marshmallow in a bonfire."
Tim had his friends and some of the players over for a little get-together. The N.C. State football team had played Wake Forest that morning, with a made-for-ESPN kickoff time of 10 a.m. Of course, the win made the Wolfpack 9-1 and might move them into the top 10 nationally, so Tim didn't guess they'd have to play any more coffee-and-donuts games this season.
More engines died off behind them, and Tim turned around to see five more jet-skis pull up to shore. All the riders were either football players or their girlfriends. Pat Kersee and Tia Lopez were one of the couples. Pat had been out here a few times before, but it never ceased to amaze Tim how a 350-pound lineman could get on a jet-ski without it sinking to the bottom of the lake. If Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein could handle that, Tim reasoned, they could handle Tia's 100-pounds-dripping-wet frame on top of that.
The jet-ski in front was driven by Carlos, with his passenger being whoever he happened to be banging this week. He'd told Tim her name, but Tim didn't see much point in learning it - the next time he saw this girl again would be the first time he'd seen one of Carlos' hook-ups more than once. All Tim knew was she was hot - pretty much a standard thing for Carlos - and she was a redhead. The last one he'd seen him with was a brunette, and according to some other guys on the team, Carlos had been with a blonde a lot lately, too. Tim could never keep up.
For his part, Carlos had only scored one touchdown in the 35-10 rout over Wake, but he'd gone over 200 yards for the third time that season and, most importantly, he'd hung onto the football for dear life. After the game, ESPN's crew had called him "One of the most reliable and consistent running backs in all of college football." Coach Taylor had only taken issue with the first two words.
"Damn, J," Carlos said, using the team's nickname for J.T. That's how lazy Americans have gotten, Tim thought - initials are no longer short enough. Everyone just used the first letter. "I know you love you some Red Lobster, man, but I didn't know you loved it enough to have the red lobster brought to the party."
Tim bit his lip - Julia did no such thing, and burst out in laughter. Tim could tell J.T. wanted to laugh, but his best friend knew better.
"You know what?" Sheila said, spinning to face Carlos. A faint smile played on her lips. "I don't even know you, and still, you can bite me."
"Don't I have to crack you open first?" Carlos asked. "Like, with some lobster crackers or something?"
Sheila was still slightly amused, but didn't respond. Instead, she looked at her fiancée.
"Who, exactly, is this?"
"Carlos McDonald," he said, extending his hand. Sheila looked at it but made no move to accept it.
"Charming, I'm sure," she replied, and spun back around to continue her walk to the house.
"I don't think your girl likes me very much, J," Carlos said as he and his 'friend' hopped off their jetski. Tim took it and loaded it onto the trailer as the rest of players followed suit.
"Perhaps if you hadn't insulted her right out of the gate, Carlos," Tim replied.
"Hmm," Carlos answered back. "Yeah, but I can't hit on her, 'cause she's engaged to the dude who flies our plane sometimes. What else is there?"
"Maybe just being nice?" Julia tried.
"Carlos can't do that with women," Tim replied before the player could speak up on his own behalf. "Not without trying to get them into bed."
"That must be tough," Julia answered, laughing heartily.
"That's what it's like bein' me, but I make do," Carlos said, playing along.
Tim and the players finished loading the jetskis onto the trailer, and Tim carefully backed into the garage as everyone headed up into the house. The party was far from over, Tim was sure, but the sun was setting, so it was time to put the $12,000 personal watercrafts away, thereby protecting them from any cases of drunken stupidity that might arise later.
When Tim got back into the house, most of the players were in the basement along with their girlfriends. Julia was not among them, however, so he went to the second floor, to the room he used as his personal gaming space. He found Julia there, along with J.T., Sheila, Carlos, Pat and Tia. Carlos' girlfriend-for-a-day was not in the room.
There were several side conversations going on when Tim sat down next to Julia on one of his black leather couches. Despite his large circle of friends, Tim wasn't much of a social butterfly, so he was content to let everyone else talk while he half-listened. That didn't last long, though. A few moments after he sat down, Carlos slapped Tim on the shoulder to get his attention.
"So, Doc, I have a problem," Carlos said.
"I'm sorry to hear that," Tim said, smirking. "But I'm not on the clock right now, and even if I was, we'd need to lose the crowd."
"Nah, nah," Carlos replied. "Nothin' like that. Just want to run somethin' by you."
"You got any brothers or sisters, Doc?"
"A sister," Tim replied. "Why?"
"You loaded, right, Doc?"
Tim grinned. "That was a random question."
Carlos ignored that. "I mean, I know you ain't no Bill Gates or nothin', but you swimmin' in cash, right?"
"I do okay for myself," Tim replied. The list of things team staff didn't discuss with the players was long and distinguished, but salary was right near the top.
"Your sister ever try an' leech off you? Ask you for money?"
Tim couldn't help it - this time, he let out a nice, deep belly laugh. "Mallory works as a script writer for a sitcom in Hollywood, and her husband is one of the country's foremost plastic surgeons. If anyone's asking for money, I'm asking her."
Carlos contemplated that for a second.
"If she wasn't rich, and she tried to leech off you, would you let her?"
"I don't know," Tim said. "It'd depend on the situation, I guess, but she's my sister. She's family. I probably would."
Julia had turned her attention from a conversation she'd been having with Sheila and Tia, and focused on Tim and Carlos' discussion.
"What about you, Julia?" Carlos asked. "You got any brothers or sisters?"
"Yes," she replied. "Why?"
"You Doc's girl, right?" Carlos asked. Julia looked up into Tim's face and made eye contact. They shared a smile before Julia nodded at Carlos. "I figure, Doc ain't gonna date a dumb lady. I want all the advice I can get."
Julia giggled at the "dumb lady" comment. "Well, I'm only really close with a couple of them, but I have six. Why?"
"Any of them still live close?"
"Yeah," she answered. "I have a sister that lives in Durham."
"She ever try to borrow money from you, now that you have a bunch of it?"
"Tim and I are just dating," she answered. "It's his money, not mine."
She paused for a minute, and Carlos was content to wait for a reply. For that matter, so was Tim.
"But, even if it was mine, we're not close enough for her to ask me for money," Julia replied. "And she's doing pretty well for herself."
"Really?" Carlos asked, his interest piqued. "What does she do?"
"Carlos, tap the brakes, buddy," Tim said. "She didn't sign up for an interrogation."
"I'm not tryin' to," Carlos said. "Look, I ain't all that tight with my brothers either, down in Atlanta. But I'm having a great season. I started this year as a fifth- or sixth-round pick. Every time we play, my stock rises. Mel Kiper had me as a low first-rounder or early second, and we still have at least three games left."
Tim started to understand where he was going with this. Julia did too, and beat him to it.
"And people you don't talk to except during the holidays are starting to act like you're their favorite relative?"
Carlos snapped his fingers and pointed at Julia. "Exactly."
"Well, I don't think I can help either," she answered. "Last I knew, about six months ago, Ashley was a lab tech at Durham Memorial. She makes way more than I do at Southwest."
Carlos looked a little confused, but it only lasted for a few seconds.
"So, Doc, whaddya think?"
"About your family?"
"Do what you have to do. From my work with the Panthers, I'd say it's fairly common, man. You have that kind of coin, people are going to come out of the woodworks. You want to reward the people who have stuck by you and helped you get where you're going to be in a few months? That's cool, and it's the honorable thing to do. If they're people who should have been there for you, but haven't been until now? I'm not saying you cut them out of your life, but you know who your people are, man."
Carlos contemplated that for a few moments.
"I'll tell you what, Carlos. This conversation has gotten too serious for my tastes," Tim said.
"Seriously," Julia answered. "You guys beat Wake this morning! It's supposed to be a party!"
"Come by this week, sometime in the morning, and we can talk more about it if you want," Tim replied.
"I think I'll do that," Carlos said. They bumped fists. "Thanks, Doc."
Carlos jumped into a conversation with Pat and J.T., and Julia relaxed her body into Tim's. He snaked his right arm around her shoulders, but felt her flinch a little when he touched her right arm.
"Get too much sun there?" Tim asked.
"Yeah, but I think that's the only place," she answered.
"Hmm," he replied. "Still, though, the right bicep... very important part of the body."
"Yeah?" Julia looked up at him now, curiously interested.
"Oh, yeah," Tim replied. "I think I'm gonna have to steal the green stuff from J.T. and Sheila, and pay special attention to that area."
"Just that area, huh? Your hands won't do some wandering?"
"I make no guarantees," he answered. "I am just a mortal male, after all, and that right arm is connected to this very hot body..."
He trailed off, but his left hand was lightly stroking the outer part of her left breast, out of view of everyone else. Tim heard Julia moan very quietly, but it got louder as she leaned closer to his ear.
"Can we kick these people out now?" she whispered, to which Tim laughed.
"Nope," he replied. "I'm gonna make you wait."
She pouted. "Why?"
"You're already this worked up now," he answered. "I can only imagine how much fun you'll be in a few hours."
"Hours?!" she exclaimed. "Hell, no. This isn't my house, but I'm throwing people out in thirty minutes."
Tim grinned. He knew she'd do nothing of the sort. Julia enjoyed a party as much as anyone else, and Tim knew she'd be patient. Sort of.
"Hey, I know it's your house and all, but not everybody appreciates the show like I do," J.T. said, softly enough that no one else heard. He'd taken Carlos' seat to Tim's left.
"Well, that's about all the show you're getting," Julia answered.
"For now," J.T. replied. "Tim will film whatever happens later and send it to me."
"That's fine, but not until after we get film of you, Sheila, and the bottle of lotion," Julia replied, to which both Tim and J.T. laughed. Julia could banter with J.T. just like Tim could - something Tim appreciated.
"Let's go grab a beer, man," J.T. said.
"I'm good, man," Tim answered.
"It certainly looks that way," J.T. replied. "But I need to talk to you for a minute."
Tim nodded, and leaned over to give Julia a quick peck on the lips. "Be right back."
They walked down to the kitchen to grab beers from the fridge, then headed back upstairs, through the master bedroom, and out onto the deck that overlooked the lake.
"What's up?" Tim asked.
"How have things been?" J.T. questioned.
"Just fine, man." Tim answered.
"You don't have to bullshit me, Tim," J.T. answered back. "Remember the last time you kept something from me for three months? You damn near got dumped."
"What are you talking about, man?" Tim responded. "Things are good."
"I'm sure they are," his best friend answered. "Except when you two are alone together."
Tim sighed. "I swear, I want to put her on my cell phone plan just so I can take away her phone. She tells Sheila more than I tell you."
"They've got breasts, don't they?" J.T. replied. "Of course they talk more than we do."
It had been more than two weeks since that night on J.T.'s deck, and for the most part, things with Tim and Julia were rolling along nicely. Their physical relationship, which Tim already thought was as good as it could be, had grown even stronger. That whole going four days without sex business was a thing of the past - lately, it was rare if they made it through an entire workday.
It was the emotional side of things Tim was struggling with. That night, everything had come so easy, once he had realized she could hear everything he was saying. In the privacy of J.T.'s third floor, with no one around but just the two of them, the normal barriers he felt when trying to open up to Julia simply weren't there.
They'd stayed at his house for most of the day, with Julia calling in sick. They'd had sex a couple more times, but mostly, it was just laying around in bed, sleeping off and on, and enjoying each other's company.
The real world had roared back to life after that, though, and Tim found himself dealing with the same insecurities that had always blocked him from pushing things further.
"It's just hard for me, man," Tim said. "I like being able to do the little things for her, the things I couldn't do when we were just friends with benefits. I really do have feelings for her that go so far beyond friendship, that I really couldn't justify keeping things there any longer."
"So, what's the problem?"
"I'm not a stupid guy, J," Tim said. "There was a reason I stopped myself from getting into a relationship with her for so long. I knew there were going to be problems; shit I struggled to get past. And, lo and behold, there are."
"It's hard to get a handle on, really," Tim said. "I have a hard time opening up to her about things. That night at your house... everything just flowed out naturally."
"Trust me, I know," J.T. said. "And I should thank you, I guess. Sheila got so tired of hearing the two of you, she practically jumped me so we could drown you out."
"Glad I could help," Tim said. "But I was able to tell her so many things that night, and since then, I can hardly talk to her about the things I really need to say. Even if it's completely stupid, she's a big girl, and she knows me really well. I at least owe it to her to tell her how I feel so she knows."
"Like, what are we talking about here?"
"Well," Tim said, and trailed off. Finally, he sighed and continued. "She likes to go out with her friends. Granted, we spend a hell of a lot of time together, so it's not like she does it all the time. But she's still a very independent woman, and maybe once a week, she likes time to herself. And hell, man, I chill with you and a lot of the other guys at least that much, usually a lot more. Even if I didn't, I'd have no right to stop her."
"The last woman I dated was the same way, and at some point while she was out with her friends, she met the guy she dumped me for."
"Ahhh," J.T. said. "And there it is. Sooner or later, it all comes back to Leira."
"No," Tim said. "Well, I mean, yeah, but not because it was Leira. I told you before, J - I'm over her, and I meant it. But that's really the only long-term relationship I've ever been in, man, outside of a few flings at college. That's all I have to go off of."
"Man, you have to let that shit go," J.T. said.
"I know that, but I have no idea how to," Tim answered. "Sometimes, it just gets to be too much and I just need a break. You asked me why I volunteered to take that trip to Milwaukee for you last week, even though it was an overnighter. The walls were starting to close in."
"After less than two weeks?"
"Let's not bullshit ourselves - it's been a lot longer than that," Tim said. "It's been official for a couple weeks, but we were heading down that road for a long time, man. I refused to recognize it, but the feelings have been there for a long, long time. Hers too. Sometimes, it just feels too... I don't know. Comfortable, I guess."
"That makes sense, dude. Things are feeling too good - GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE!!!"
Tim looked down at the ground for a second, then sighed again. "Think about it for a second, J.T. Your brilliant use of sarcasm notwithstanding, think about it."
He let that hang a minute.
"You remember how I was after Leira dumped me?"
"Just think how I'll be if things with Julia get to the level they were at with Leira... and then she does the same thing."
Just the thought of it made Tim want to throw up a little bit, and he could tell by the look on J.T.'s face that it was unsettling for him, too.
"It wouldn't be pretty," J.T. said.
"And I know that," Tim replied. "And my brain knows that. Fascinating organ, the brain - it puts up defense mechanisms we don't even know about."
J.T. pondered that for a minute - or maybe he was just chugging half his beer and couldn't talk.
"So, what, then? You're just going to stay in this thing knowing that every couple weeks you're gonna have to bail for a while because she's getting too close? Because it's getting too serious? That ain't gonna work, man. You have two choices. Get over this shit and give her the chance she deserves, or get out of this relationship."
Tim looked at J.T. for a second.
"And I can tell by the look on your face that ending things with Julia is about the last thing you want to do."
Tim just nodded.
"I know what you need," J.T. said, after pausing a few moments.
"Amnesia? Something else to erase everything from before about a week before I met Julia?"
"Oh, no," J.T. said. "Then you'd have never met me. You think life without Julia would be bad."
They both chuckled.
"You need closure."
"And how do you suppose I get that?"
"I don't know, man," J.T. said. "You said it's not Leira that you're stuck on, and I believe you, dude. But she is the one who did all this to you. You know that not every relationship ends like yours did. Your parents, my parents, happily married for a long damn time. It's something she did, specifically. Some people could just accept that, but you? Somewhere in that brain you were just raving about, you need to know why. You need to understand. Then, you'll be able to move on."