Keeper Ch. 06byArdella©
"Pizza's done." John said absently as the kitchen timer went off at the same time Blue's cell phone rang. He stood, looking down at her as she fumbled the tiny phone from her pocket. "Do you know who it is?" he asked when she hesitated with her phone in her hand, thinking about the odd calls and texts she had been receiving.
"It's Detective Banks." she murmured before pressing the answer button and holding the phone to her ear.
John watched her warily for another second as she answered, then went into the kitchen to make sure their dinner wasn't burning.
As he slipped on the oven mitt and pulled the hot pan out of the oven, he frowned. It wasn't nearly the type of dinner he wanted to treat Blue to, certainly not showing off any of his cooking skills, but it would have to do. They had already discovered that neither of them had much in the way of food, considering they were both leaving the next day. They'd both already rid themselves of anything that was going to spoil. And when the question of going out to eat had been raised, Blue had voted for staying put and John had wholeheartedly agreed, and so John had pulled a frozen pizza from the freezer.
He could hear the murmur of her voice coming from the living room as she talked to Detective Banks. Of course he would provide her with the same privacy that she had to him when he was on his phone earlier. Not that he wasn't itching to know everything that was being said. He concentrated- hard- on getting the pizza dished onto the plates he'd pulled from the cupboard, a bottle of wine and two glasses ready, and two tapered candles stuck into holders.
Since he'd planned to set the seldom used dining room table for their meal, he had to leave the kitchen to carry the items out and past where Blue was standing and still talking. She didn't turn away from him as she talked, like someone wanting to keep their conversation private would have.
On his second trip from the kitchen to dining area, Blue was ending her call and setting her cell phone on an end table near the couch. John raised a brow, indicating his curiosity.
She crossed her arms-and damn but he loved when she did that because it plumped up her already generous breasts underneath the soft looking sweater she had on and had the power to distract him from whatever it was that was going on at the moment, and Jesus, if she did that without the sweater...
He may have been distracted by her chest, but she was distracted by the table, judging by the smile on her face and the glow in her eyes as she watched him light the candles.
"John, you didn't have to do this." She laughed softly. "But I like it. Pizza and wine by candle light."
She moved to where he was standing by the chair he had pulled out for her. Instead of sitting, she surprised him by slipping her hands around his waist and tilting her face up to his. He felt her breasts brush upward against his torso as she raised herself up on her toes, her intention perfectly clear. It was an invitation he wasn't about to turn down. Obliging, he bent his head and leaned into the soft kiss that was waiting for him.
"I guess I'm a bit short for this." she whispered, smiling against his lips. He straightened to his full height and looked down at her through his eyelashes.
"I'm not complaining. But we could get you a box to stand on." he teased.
Blue sat down and watched, bemused, as John gallantly poured the wine.
"I've never had pizza by candle light." she told him as he took the chair opposite hers. "Come to think of it... I don't think I've had any dinner by candle light."
"Seriously?" John was somewhat taken aback by this, but thinking it could work to his favor. "Well obviously the past men in your life were severely lacking." He was only half kidding. Really though, what kind of idiots were they that they didn't treat this woman to something so simple yet elemental to romance as a candle lit dinner?
Blue blushed at his comment, looking everywhere but at him. She looked uncomfortable with his teasing, and he began to wish he hadn't said anything, until she spoke.
"Detective Banks... you know, the phone call just now?"
John nodded and began on his slice of pizza, silently encouraging her to continue.
"She said she doesn't think the tampering of my car has anything to do with Jackson... um, my ex... or the strange texts and calls I've been getting. The police are following a different lead. It seems one of the other women who's car was broken into has a jealous boyfriend, who was at Cuddy's with her last night, and they were heard arguing about his supposed cheating. He was witnessed stomping out, in a rage, without her when she tried to make him jealous by threatening to leave to go see an ex boyfriend... well, they think he was the one who disabled the vehicles. He wanted to keep her from leaving. Anyway, this guy disappeared. They're looking for him."
John glanced up from his meal. "Why'd he damage more than just this woman's car? Were there any witnesses?" He couldn't help asking. There was just something that didn't set right with him about it.
Blue took a sip of her wine and shrugged as she set the glass down. "Throwing suspicion off of himself by vandalizing random cars along with his girlfriend's? I don't know. Detective Banks didn't tell me much else. Except... though she doesn't think it's enough now for official police involvement, she suggested that I should keep a log of any new texts or calls that worry me, and call her personally if I need to. If my 'situation escalates', she said."
John was quiet for a long moment, staring down at his plate. Blue was about to ask him if he was no longer hungry when he looked up at her, his eyes reflecting the flame of the candle nearest him.
"This Jackson guy. Is that who was on the phone last night at Cuddy's, when I found you in the hallway? You were upset by a phone call."
Blue lifted a shoulder, her turn to look down at her plate, until he reached across the table and rested the tips of his fingers on the hand she had lying there.
"Yes, that was Jackson. He... I guess he was drunk. He was just... angry. It was really nothing." She slipped her hand from beneath his fingers, instantly regretting it but not willing to put it back.
"Drunk and angry." John said the words condemningly. "Was he often drunk and angry?"
Blue looked up, a little bit startled at John's tone, but his expression was carefully blank. "No, it wasn't a usual thing. But I've learned that when he is, it's a bad combination for him."
John's eyes narrowed. His jaw clenched. Definitely no longer carefully blank. "Has he ever hurt you?"
"No, no. He had never once raised a hand to me. He's... not the hitting type..." Blue trailed off weakly. John's expression told her he didn't completely believe her.
But it was true, Jackson never had hit her. There was the tell-tale bruising on her upper arms for a while, after he had grabbed her and held on too tightly when she had told him she didn't want to see him any longer. He hadn't really hurt her. But then there was the words he had spoken. Words that, yes, did sting.
She realized she had been just sitting there, staring blankly at John's chest. Avoiding his eyes and his questions.
"Look, it doesn't matter. He cheated on me and I caught him and after I listened to his 'excuses', I told him it was over. In fact, it gave me an opportunity to end it, because I had been thinking of doing so already, even before the infidelity. I was surprised he wanted to stay together anyhow, considering some of the things he said about... well, it just wasn't working out." She looked away as if embarrassed that she had said that much, then back at John with a raised chin and tightly shut lips.
After a moment, her face relaxed and she picked up her wine glass. "So, what time is this poker game?"
John took the change of subject, if reluctantly. He raised his own glass and lightly touched the rim to hers. "We've got an hour. Anxious?"
"To lose?" Blue laughed. "No. Not particularly anxious to see Orley in his underwear, either." A sudden devilish urge came over her, and she held her glass to her lips. "Now, you, on the other hand... say, if I were to get lucky and win a hand or two against you..."
"Well, I'll tell you, darlin'..." John drawled, holding her gaze. "That would be lucky for you. 'Cause I'm not wearin' any."
Blue choked on the sip of wine she had just taken, while John leaned back in his chair with a raised brow and a smile.
"What kind of music do you like to listen to?" John raised his voice so Blue could hear him from the kitchen.
She looped the damp dish towel over the bar on the wall next to the sink, the last of the dishes now dried, something she had insisted on doing as John washed them. While they worked they talked casually, comfortably, and as she was finishing, he had gone into the living area. Blue watched him now from the doorway as he stood in front of an impressive stereo system.
"All kinds, really." she answered.
"Well... no. Not that so much."
"Eighties hair bands?"
Blue laughed, loving the boyish sparkle in his eyes as he looked over his shoulder at her. "Um. No. Not that either."
"You're making that up-"
She laughed again as she walked closer to stand at his side. "I've been known to listen to Gregorian chants. Depends on the mood I'm in, but you never know what kind of music will go best with a painting or other type of art project I'm working on." She shrugged, amused by the look on his face. "I like much of the contemporary stuff that's out there now. I like Nineties Alternative. All kinds of rock. Some classical. Symphonic. Psychedelic sixties. A bit of country. A bit of folk. A bit of metal. A bit of-"
John held up his hand. "I get it, I get it." he surrendered jovially. "Sweet Baby Blue Waters is a woman of diverse musical tastes. I like that." He turned back to the stereo, missing the purse of her lips at hearing him use her full name. Or perhaps he'd meant to miss it.
She watched as he flipped through some musical selections. "What kind of music do you like?" she asked, just before the soft strains of a country love song flowed around them. She recognized it as the song that had been playing in his truck, just the night before, when they had kissed. Her heart gave a thump at the thought that he had remembered and chosen it purposely.
He turned and held her gaze for a moment before taking her hand. "I like music that will let me do this-" he answered, guiding her to the middle of the room and pulling her close. Holding her hand against his chest, his other hand found a home at the small of her back, and he began to lead her into a slow sway, moving gracefully along with the music. "Mmm... let's see." he murmured. "I like modern country. Classic country too, if I'm in the right mood." He spoke quietly above her head, and she felt his breath stir the hair along her forehead, as if his mouth was nearly close enough to kiss her there. "Classic rock, definitely. That's a staple. Oh, and Springsteen."
"Springsteen isn't a type of music." Blue said to the small open v of his shirt, where she could actually see the faint beat of his heart at the base of his neck. Crazily, she wanted to touch the tip of her tongue there. The skin, in that little dipped section between his collar bones, looked so warm and smooth and...
"Lady," John rumbled, making his Adam's apple jump, and of course she noticed that because it was right above that lick-able spot, a signature of manliness so close in proximity to a spot that had a vulnerability to it. "The Boss is a musical genre all his own."
She wanted to giggle. Oh, good gravy, she was reverting to a giggling teenager around him...
The music swelled on an upbeat and he swung them into a turn. The movement caused his hard thigh to nudge slightly between hers, and he took that opportunity to bring her closer, the large, warm hand at her back gently snugging her against him. Her giggle turned to a soft gasp that stuck in her throat. No, definitely not a teenager. Woman. All woman.
They moved together silently until the song ended, and when the music switched seamlessly to another slow tune, John released her hand to settle both of his at the back of her waist. Immediately she raised her arms to curl them over his wide shoulders and around his neck. The action made her body fit even closer to his. John's breath rushed out as her soft, generous breasts pillowed firmly against his torso. Blue sucked in a breath as she felt his hardness against her stomach. He was aroused, and completely unashamed of it.
The thought of pulling away only briefly crossed her mind, and even then she ignored it. Even so, John's hands moved... one to the upper curve of her buttocks, the other slipping up and underneath her soft sweater to sear the skin of her back with it's warmth... fingers spreading and palms flattening to hold her, as if he was afraid she was going to move away.
At the sound of his words, Blue finally looked up from the dark, checked flannel material of his shirt. His head was bent towards hers, the topaz color of his eyes glowing like fire. She knew what he meant. Didn't she, just that afternoon, wish there were no heavy layers of their winter coats between them? Swinging her gently still in time to the music, his eyes closed briefly as the movement made his hips push and brush closer.
Blue nodded in silent agreement about the coats. Words didn't seem necessary. Turning her head, she settled her cheek against his chest. That seemed necessary. She could hear his heart beating, his breath entering and exiting his lungs. When he spoke again a moment later, she heard his voice rumble beneath her ear, even though it was in reality only a breath of a whisper.
"You're so soft."
His fingertips made exploratory little circles on the skin of her back, palms still flat.
If she was soft, he was just the opposite. Hard plains and slopes of muscle, in addition to the obvious erection against her belly. Blue felt a rush of sensation between her thighs as she let her mind wander, the slick wetness telling her that her body was ready for what John was definitely ready for.
Opposites, yes. Soft and hard. But fitting. Complementary. So perfectly. How would they fit together if yet another barrier of clothing was gone? If they were skin to skin, warmth against warmth, soft and hard...
They moved slowly through two more songs, traversing at a snail's pace around John's living room. He kept them pressed together seamlessly. All the while she was aware of his arousal branding itself against her stomach, though he made no demands on her other than keeping her close.
The music stopped. So did they. He only held her, and she could feel his breath flutter the hair at the top of her head, hear and feel the heavy thud of his heart. She'd had her eyes closed for several minutes now, and was reluctant to open them.
"God Almighty, Blue... I want you so much, baby." he breathed.
Blue shifted and leaned her upper body back to look up at him, the movement drawing a low grunt from his throat as her belly pressed tighter into his groin. Instantly she was concerned about his comfort.
"Sorry..." she began, pushing her hands against his rock solid chest so she could move away from him, give him room.
Hands on the upper slopes of her hips, he brought her right back. "This isn't a complaint." he growled. He searched her eyes, looking for any sign that she was offended. Finding nothing of the sort, his hands slid down her buttocks to grab her rounded cheeks and lift, at the same moment his mouth took hers.
Blue found herself on her toes, her arms back up around his neck, wound tightly. Several long, breath stealing moment later, John lifted his head, tilting it back to look at the ceiling.
"Ohhhhh... hell." He puffed out a sharp breath, drew a cleansing one in, let that one out. "Orley."
"I'm not Orley, I'm Blue. I'm surprised you can't tell the difference." she joked, purposely, trying to break the spell that had her still throbbing between her thighs.
He barked out a laugh and released her, his fingers lingering with hers before reluctantly letting her go entirely. "Sweet Baby, if I ever get you and that old coot mixed up, I'm in deep trouble." Settling his hands on her shoulders, he turned her and marched her to the door. Abe came running when he whistled a short, sharp note, and pranced impatiently while John helped Blue on with her coat. "We're already five minutes late, but how about we walk over?" He smiled wryly. "We'll walk slow. The cold air will do me good. Can't have Orley see me hobbling bowlegged, he'd never let me live it down."
Blue blushed hotly as she buttoned up, watching John shrug into his own coat. "Maybe the cold will... um... help me too." she found herself admitting softly.
That stopped him. He stared at her, one arm in his coat sleeve, one out, and then he was reaching for her again, only to be stopped by the overly happy dog that jumped between them.
"All right, all right, we're going." he groused, but grinned and swung open the door, letting a blast of cold winter air in.
His hand at her back, he led her outside and down the porch steps. The night was silent and still, the cloudless sky sparkling with brilliant stars. As they turned onto the road toward Orley Green's house, Blue looked up at her companion.
"I'm not so sure about this. Are you sure you want me along? I really don't know how to play poker, I've never done it before. Not even those on-line games."
"That's okay. I don't mind if you lose."
Blue flipped a hand toward him and smacked his shoulder. He retaliated by catching hold of her hand and tucking it into the crook of his arm. A retaliation she could live with, she decided.
"Be prepared to lose your shirt, Ms. Waters. And your shoes. And then your pants. Ooooh... and I can't wait for when you lose your bra..."
Blue's laugh trilled into the night air. "You just don't quit, do you?"
"Never." John murmured, tightening his arm on hers. "Quitting isn't part of the plan."
Keeping her face oh-so-carefully blank, Blue glanced around the worn, wobbly card table at the two men seated with her. Orley stared back at her, his thin lips moving around the chewed-on cigar in his mouth as his yellowish teeth worked the unlit stogy. The only expression on the old man's deeply creased and lined face was one of faint daring. So did that mean he had a good hand, or was he bluffing?
Attempting to size him up while still appearing casual, Blue lifted the cigar she held in her own hand and placed the end into her mouth. A second later she was removing it and poking her tongue over her lips, barely resisting the urge to spit out the taste. She glanced up just in time to catch John quickly arrange his expression from amusement to casual disinterest, his own cigar stuck into the corner of his mouth.
Tradition. That's what she was told it was. Tradition to have the cigars during this neighborhood poker game. And the hats? That too. Of course Orley's ratty old brown felt pork-pie hat was something that was always on his head. It was the same one, Blue was nearly positive, that she had seen him wear back when she was a kid. Judging by the condition of it, he probably bathed and slept with it on.
John had a hat too. He had insisted on detouring by his house on the way to Orley's, and had run in and come quickly back out, carrying a black Stetson cowboy hat and a plastic sack full of something unknown. He sat at the left hand corner of the rickety table from her now, his hat settled firmly on his head, the brim pulled low to shadow over his eyes and damn, but he looked amazingly sexy.