The Arrangement Ch. 10

byTara_Neale©

"The only thing you ought to be worried about is making damned sure she doesn't live through that nightmare again. You thought about that one, smart ass? Losing one man you love is bad enough. How would she feel if you didn't come home? You really want to take that risk without telling her how you feel?"

Samuel chuckled, "That he'd kick your ass for."

Daniel shook his head in denial. "Fat lot you know. You've been so fucking happily married it makes everyone sick for too god damned long to understand," Daniel teased.

Samuel laughed, "And that my friend is why you should listen to this old man. Like I said good loving and the occasional sweet talking and life is good."

The uproarious laughter behind him drew their attention, "Don't be buyin', his shit. I's the reason this marriage works. Puttin' up with his sorry ass," Simone purred as she wrapped her arms about her husband's waist.

When she stared at him, Daniel's heart stuttered in his chest at her words, "I told you once, Danny me boy, de stars being shinin' on you. Why you still be questioning t'ings you should just be grateful for?"

"Just don't send any 'lucky' charms this time, Simone," he smiled.

"Hey, they kept the mosquitoes away better than any bug spray," chuckled Samuel.

"I better go check on my wife. See if she needs any help," he said. "You two stay out of trouble."

Simone grinned and rubbed against her husband. "But trouble is what makes life fun. You run along now and check on your wife. Last I saw her, she was heading to the bathroom again. Said the smell of the bacon was bothering her."

She winked at her husband, "That food poisoning is sure hanging on. Makes you wonder, don't it?"

Daniel frowned, "I tried to get her to see the doctor when we were at the hospital with Jesse. Will you promise me you'll make her go if she isn't better in a couple more days, Simone?"

"Trisha and I been tryin' too, suga. I think you ain't the only one in dis marriage that don't want to face de truth sometimes."

"What are you talking about?"

"Aw, come on, smart ass," Samuel chuckled. "You figure it out, buddy." He brushed a kiss across his wife's lips as Daniel walked away confused.

***

Jill was feeling better. Her trip to the bathroom and the cold water had done its job. She watched the people milling about the yard. The atmosphere might be jovial on the surface, but it was not the same as their reception had been. That air of concern and worry were already cracking through the veneer.

She frowned when she noticed Travis helping T.J. up the slide. She looked around for Trisha, but did not see her friend. She had not seen her at all this morning. She crossed the yard and picked the little boy up as he squealed at the bottom of the slide.

"Hey, Trav, have you seen Trisha?" she asked.

The man looked down as he reached out for his son, "She isn't coming."

Jill frowned, "Why not?"

"Said she isn't feeling well," he replied as he took the boy in his arms, hugging him tightly.

She nodded, "I see. And it has nothing to do with the affair she had with Dodd?" she whispered.

Trav looked up at her. His eyes glinted with anger but then he shook his head, "Why am I not surprised?"

She smiled softly and brushed a lock of bright red hair out of T.J.'s eyes. "I understand how you feel, Travis. Far better than you know. Take a walk with me, please."

"No offence, ma'am, but I really don't see how you can understand. So if you don't mind, I'd like to just spend what time I have left with my boy."

"You're right, I might not understand the specifics. But I know it feels like someone stabbed you with a knife. Like you don't know how you can go on. Like your world and everything you thought you knew were gone, just suddenly gone, vanished in the blink of an eye," she said in a low voice.

"Ma'am, pardon me, but how do you know that shit?" She chuckled softly, "Don't worry, Trav. It isn't what you think. I know I have Daniel's loyalty," if not his love, she thought with a frown.

"But everyone keeps forgetting, I was married before. So now that I have your attention, would you like to take that walk, perhaps listen to what I have to say?"

The man frowned before he nodded slowly, "Yes, Ma'am, I guess so."

She led the man, still carrying his son out through the side gate. She smiled and waved as she watched Simone and Samuel slink away down the street towards their house.

"Can I count on the two of you?" he asked as he too waved at the couple. "Will you keep an eye on Trisha for me?"

Jill nodded, "But not for the reason, you're asking, Trav. Your wife made a mistake. A bad one. But she's paying, she's hurting too. And you aren't helping."

"Ma'am, I appreciate your help, but I don't really think you have the right to tell me what I should or should not do."

She nodded, "You're right, Travis. No one has the right to tell you what to do. But let me tell you what I did when it happened to me."

She smiled at the shocked look on his face. "My husband, David, and I had been married about seven years. That itch everyone warns you about, I suppose. I guess it was worse because we had four young boys under the age of six and had barely had any time as a couple. Royal Marines deploy for a hell of a lot longer than you guys do," she tried to lighten the mood.

"Anyway, I was cleaning in his study one day and when I dusted the keyboard of the computer the screen lit up," she sighed heavily.

"Ma'am, you don't have to talk about it, if you don't want."

"Thanks, Trav, but it was a long time ago. Just goes to show though that no matter how long or what happens it's something that's still going to be there. You just learn to live with it," she stared at him, "Or you don't. But one thing I learned you can't have it both ways."

"Anyway, it was an open chat. My husband and some woman called Sub-Girl. What I read that morning shocked the shit out of me. It was way beyond my comfort zone," she watched him fidgeted and chuckled, "Yeah, like that. Anyway, here I was twenty-six years old, living in a foreign country, with four small sons and no real family, not even back home. I had no idea what the fuck I was going to do. What I even could do. I felt trapped and hurt and so fucking alone." She fought back the tears, until she realized she was losing the battle and wiped them with the back of her hand.

"I moped about the house for days. I cried every time I was alone. And I fumed about how unfair it was. Basically, I pitched one hell of a petty party for myself. And things got worse. He spent more time in his study and I spent more time alone with the boys. I would go to sleep each night alone in our bed, knowing what he was doing downstairs."

"So what happened?" he asked. "Did you get a divorce?"

She shook her head, "No, we had a dozen more glorious years, better than we had before. And I would not trade that time for anything in this world." She smiled softly, "Well, almost anything."

The man frowned, "But how?"

"Forgiveness and more than a bit of fighting fire with fire."

"I don't understand, ma'am. Fighting fire with fire?"

She laughed, "I decided if my husband wanted a kinky affair with a Sub-Girl then I'd give him one." She chuckled as his brows arched and his eyes went wide. "That's right. I created a profile on that same site and started seducing my husband. It took me far longer than I thought to convince him to meet face-to-face, but imagine his shock when he discovered that his sexy little submissive was the wife he had been taking for granted all this time."

"I know that our story is different. You may even think it isn't the same, that what David did on the Internet wasn't cheating. But let me tell you, it sure as hell felt like it."

"Trav, you need to make a decision just like I did. I know how hard that is. Like you, I did it for my sons. I didn't want them growing up without their father, well anymore than the fucking Marines took him anyway. I didn't want to hurt them with a bitter divorce. So I decided to forgive him, to find a way to make it work. And we did. Like I said things were actually better than before."

"If you're going to stay in this marriage, even for T.J.'s sake, then you have to find that way too, Trav? You have to forgive Trisha. And quit punishing you both."

He dropped his head, "I'm not sure I can, ma'am."

"Then you have some hard decisions to make, Trav, because a marriage can't survive without balance. One person cannot spend their life loving another, giving everything to try and make it work the way I think your wife has these past few months. While the other person pushes them away, denies that love. It won't work. It can't. So how about I take T.J. back inside to play with Brit and Ash while you go have a talk with your wife. See if you can't find that way before it's too late."

He was silent for so long that Jill feared he would just turn and walk away, ignoring her words. Finally, he passed his son to her arms. "I'll be back, little man," he said as he brushed a kiss across his son's forehead.

"Hopefully, with your mama," Jill smiled. "Tell her otherwise, Simone and I are coming looking for her ass. And trust me, you guys aren't the only one that know a thing or two about search and rescue."

He saluted her as he turned to leave, "Yes, ma'am. If you don't mind me saying so, we're all damned glad you came."

Jill hugged the little boy as tears slipped over the rim of her eyes once more, "I'm glad I did too, Trav. Now go, get your wife. There should be a law against two stubborn red-heads getting married. Poor kid doesn't stand a chance."

***

Daniel stepped back from the gate, closing it quietly as his wife turned back towards the yard carrying the little boy.

Things were moving too fast again. The world spinning and rotating on its axis too quickly once more. It seemed it had ever since she stepped off that fucking plane. Waving her arms with that smile that could draw you back from the darkest night, light the path and lead you home. Nothing and everything made sense.

He had spent so much time living with the ghosts, seeing the other man as human and fallible was new. But his wife's other words rang in his ears, she would not trade that time for anything. It only solidified his deepest fears. How would she feel if she knew the truth? Knew his role in destroying her world? No matter what Samuel might say, he doubted his wife's sense of duty would extend that far. No, if she knew the truth, those sweet words of love that his soul craved like a dying man's last breath would turn quickly to hatred and anger.

And in the coming weeks, that was what he needed to deal with it. How to wrap it all up neatly, hid it in the deepest corners of his mind and learn to live and love with this mazing woman that was a gift he would never deserve. Because that was the only option.

He smiled as she bumped into him, cooing and holding the little boy. His hands gripped her upper arms and kept her upright. "We really do have to stop bumping into one another like this, Missus Monroe," he teased as he bent to kiss her softly.

He felt her stiffen in his arms, feared for a moment that she would pull away. But with a weak smile and a slow shake of her head, she wrapped her free arm about his neck and giggled, "Oh yes, commander, I can think of lots more interesting ways of bumping into you," she teased.

He relaxed a bit at her words, enjoyed the feel of holding her in his arms. "You or Mistress J?" he whispered against her ear. Even with his unit and their families around, he found it difficult to control the intense need he felt at the very mention of her.

"Both of us." She drew back out of his embrace and bent down, putting the little boy on the ground and pointing to where Brit and Ash were tottering towards their playhouse. "Go on, give those two some of your red-headed willfulness, my little hellion."

Daniel chuckled as he held out his hand to her, "Don't think my girls can't stand their own, sweetheart? Those two beat the crap out of your little hellion the other day."

"Two on one. They should save those games until their a bit bigger," she teased. His frown at her words was greeted with soft laughter as she took his hand and stood up, "Oh, my sweet little farm boy."

Her face went white and she stumbled a bit. His arm wrapped about her waist steadying her. "Woe, sweetie, are you all right?"

She nodded, "Yeah, I just stood up too fast, I guess."

He frowned. "Maybe I should," he began until her finger once again stilled his words.

"Shut up and kiss your wife?" she teased again.

He shook his head, "You've already won one battle this morning with that one, Missus Monroe. Don't try it again. You should go lay down for a bit. I kept you up most of the night, then you've spent all morning cooking. And you're still sick with that damned food poisoning. I'll entertain our guests while you rest."

She shook her head almost violently, "No, I don't want." She paused and looked at the ground.

He drew her closer, "Don't want to miss a moment?" he breathed against her ear. "The feeling is mutual."

He felt her relax against him, wanted to lift his hand and wave it all away, be alone with her once more. But he could not. Duty was closing in on him. He wanted to push it back but he knew he could not. He needed to focus, to compartmentalize. His life depended on it. His men's lives depended on it. But for this one moment he would live in the present and simply hold onto his wife.

"Promise me you will see the doctor if this doesn't get better soon," he asked.

"Stop worrying about me, Daniel. I'll be fine. The girls will be fine. You focus on doing what you need to and coming home to us. That's all that matters."

He laughed, "More orders?"

"The most important ones, commander," she whispered as her arms wrapped about his waist and squeezed tightly. She pressed her head on his shoulders, "Just come home to me. That's all I ask, Daniel."

His throat tightened as he nodded. Would she ask the same if she knew, he wondered.

***

Jill washed another plate as she stared out the kitchen window. Only a handful of people still remained, milling about in their backyard. Daniel, Samuel and Travis were huddled in a corner near the gate. She could see from the serious look on their faces that it was all business already.

"How you feeling, suga?" purred the soft Texas twang behind her.

Turning slowly this time, she smiled at her friend. "Better, now that you're here." She held out her soapy hands for the pile of dishes in Trisha's. "How are things?"

The woman shrugged, "I don't know. I honestly don't know, Jill." She watched as huge tears spilled from the woman's eyes. "He says he wants to make this work for T.J., but what's the point? If he can't forgive me? If we can never move past it?"

Jill nodded her head. "I know, sweetie. But these things can take some time. What you did hurt him pretty damned bad. And who you did it with only makes it worse." Jill shivered, "OK, I just have to ask. What the fuck were you thinking? Clay Dodd? That man gives me the creeps."

Rich laughter rang behind them, "Yeah girly. With your pretty face and hot body, why the fuck a weasel like that one?" asked Simone.

Trisha chuckled and shook her head, "I've been asking myself the same fucking question for six months. I don't know I guess the attention was nice. I mean it all started out as him stopping by to talk about the Night Walkers offer occasionally. Then he suggested dinner one night, said I could use a night out on the town and that it would all be a tax-right-off for him."

Simone looked at the floor, "Was that the night I watched T.J.?" she whispered. Jill reached out and wrapped her arm about her friend, understanding the other woman's guilt at her part in it all.

Trisha's eyes filled with tears as she nodded, "I'm sorry, Simone, but honestly I never meant for anything to happen. I'm still not sure how it did. He took me to nice place by the ocean and like he said most of dinner was talking about getting Trav to quit the Navy and come to work for his daddy."

"Then when we left the restaurant, he said he had forgotten to bring some paperwork about the benefit package. He said it was back at his place, said it was just around the corner. So I thought nothing of stopping by there to pick up all up. But when we got there," the woman dropped her head into her hands, sobs shaking her body.

"I swear it was only that once. And I still don't know how it happened. One minute I was standing on the deck watching the waves and drinking wine and the next I'm naked in his bed. Oh god, I hate myself," she cried. "How stupid can I be? It wasn't like it was anything special. He just kept bragging how I wasn't the only wife that needed a little attention when the guys were away."

"Well, don't be looking at me, girly. I'd break the little bastard," Simone giggled nervously as the three of them hugged by the sink.

Jill blushed. She was beginning to have suspicions of who else might have graced the man's bed, but now was not the time to dwell on those things. "Have you tried to tell him any of this? Tell him how you feel?"

Trisha grabbed a dish cloth from the counter and passed it over her face as she nodded. "Yeah, but not sure it helps. Nothing seems to."

Jill squeezed her friend's shoulder, "How about telling him that you still love him? Tried that one?"

Red hair swung about her face as she shook her head violently, "No. And I'm not going to. What would be the point? Grovel and humiliate myself when it's pretty damned clear he doesn't feel the same?"

Jill swallowed past the pain, the woman's word cutting a little too close to home. She was thankful when it was Simone that spoke up.

"Girlfriend, let me ask you something? If you had to walk a mile in Chloe's shoes, if that boy didn't come back this time? Would your pride matter a hill of beans? Or would you rather have given him the ultimate gift...your love, no strings attached."

Jill fought the tightness in her chest as another round of nausea assailed her. 'Your love, no strings attached,' echoed in her mind as she realized how many of those strings she had put on her declaration that morning. It was not just Trisha that had some thinking to do it seemed as she turned back to the sink. "Well, unless you two are helping with the dishes, I suggest you go find your husbands and kids."

Simone shook her head, "No way, sweet cheeks. You ain't getting off that easy either. Those dishes will wait. You're coming with us," she smiled grabbing both their hands and dragging them towards the back door.

***

Daniel barely registered anything that the two men were discussing. He knew that he should be the one leading the discussion, but his heart simply was not in it. No, his heart was decidedly somewhere else. He looked up just in time to see Simone come through the back door, laughing and giggling, pulling Jill and Trisha behind her.

Even though she was too pale and dark circles shown beneath those green eyes, his wife had never looked more beautiful. He stared at her, trying to memorize every line of her face, every curve of her ripe body. He had spent most of last night doing the same, tracing and mapping it all with his hands and lips. But it was not enough. He feared it never would be. He sighed and smiled weakly as Simone led her little group towards them.

"All right, you big baddies, you have plenty of time for de he-man shat later. Right now, us girlies need your atten-shun," Simone said as she slung Trisha into her husband's lap. Trav frowned and went to pull back, but then reluctantly wrapped his arms about Trisha's waist.

Samuel laughed and shook his head as his wife repeated the process, slinging Jill into Daniel's lap. "What you up to, girly mine?" he teased. His wife sashayed up to him and swung her round bottom in his face until he reached out and wrapped his arms about her waist, drawing her into his lap with a giggle.

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byTara_Neale© 10 comments/ 22116 views/ 16 favorites

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