A Bartender, Drinks, and a Date Pt. 03byTony155©
Author's note: Dear readers, you may want to read the first two chapters in this series in order to familiarize yourself with the plot and characters. Thank you and happy reading. Tony155
It was over the next few days and weeks when Nick and Shannon discovered more about each other and found what made the other tick. They found each other fascinating and they spent almost every free moment together. Shannon tried hard to overcome her fears, but she still imagined visions of Jeremy from time to time. She never let on as she battled her demons and Nick felt everything was fine. Outwardly, she showed no signs, but inwardly, she knew she couldn't defeat him without outside help.
What frustrated her most was the fact that Nick didn't do anything to elicit any of the fears she possessed. Their arguments, which were rare, were small and meaningless and there was never any real anger shown. But, Nick raised his voice at times and that seemed to be enough to trigger something deep within her. Shannon would cringe and shy away and hope he wouldn't notice. She hated the fact that she was unable to overcome her fears and thought herself as being weak.
It was after one such argument in early August where Shannon flopped down on the sofa and buried her face in her hands, defeated and feeling sick to her stomach.
"Are you okay?" Nick asked. They had been discussing her schedule and he had been upset that she had to work some very late hours on the weekend.
"I can't take it anymore," she cried softly.
"What?" he asked, not comprehending her statement.
"Almost every time we argue, I think something bad is going to happen. I keep thinking you're going to yell at me or hit me." She couldn't look at him.
"Hit you? You know I would never hit you! I didn't mean to..."
"It's not your fault!" she sobbed, interrupting him. "I thought I was strong enough, but I'm not. I've tried, Nick, honest I have. I just can't do this on my own. I can't go on being afraid."
Nick was bewildered. He hadn't the first clue that she was still in turmoil. Things had been going very well between them; at least he thought they were. He became a regular at O'Reilly's and enjoyed being with her and watching her work. She warned him ahead of time that being nice to her customers and flirting was part of her job and she got better tips because of it. He assured her it wouldn't be a problem and it wasn't. He was secure and confident in their relationship and jealousy never entered his mind. But, he kept his eye out for ones who wanted to get more than just friendly or had way too much to drink. Of course, Stan, the bouncer, did a great job and there weren't any problems. Their dates were always fun, light, and easy and he looked forward to being alone with her. Sure, they had arguments. Didn't all couples? Nick never thought of them as being serious and he wasn't upset with her for very long. The arguments themselves didn't last long and he enjoyed making up to her, be it a simple hug and kiss, or going to bed. Their lovemaking was probably the most satisfying aspect of their relationship and he loved their times together. But, sadly, all the love he could give her wasn't enough. He looked at her as she cried quietly. Slowly, he sat down and put his arm around her to comfort her.
"Please tell me you still love me," she said, her head still down.
"I'm still here."
"Tell me. I need to hear it."
"I love you, Shan."
She sighed heavily. "Thank you for still loving me."
"It's going to take a lot more than this to drive me away."
Shannon smiled wanly. There was an awkward silence between them as the argument was forgotten and another problem was confronted.
"I didn't know you were still having problems," he said quietly.
"I didn't want you to know."
"I thought you would leave me."
"I'm not going to leave you.."
"Why would you think such a thing?"
"I have no idea. That's another reason I need help. Every time we quarrel or disagree, I think you'll leave me."
Nick looked down. He really had no idea she was feeling this way. It made him feel very guilty for every time he was upset with her. It wasn't often, but it was still too much if she was still having problems.
"Who are you going to see?" he asked.
"There's a battered women's shelter downtown. I think the counselors there can help me."
"Good idea," he nodded. "Do you want me to come along with you?"
"No," she said softly, putting her hand over his. "I don't want anyone there to think you're the cause."
"Hey babe. Long time, no see. I thought maybe we could get together for old times sake. How about it? Give me a call and we'll make plans."
Shannon stared at the recorder in disbelief for a long time after she heard the long lost voice of Jeremy. How could he? How could he think she would ever want to see him again? Waves of new found terror gripped her and swept through her as she sat down in a chair and hugged herself. His voice haunted her just as it did the last time she spoke to him. He couldn't possibly believe that, could he? Or was this just some sick, twisted game he was playing to terrorize her once again?
She had been seeing a counselor twice a week for the past two months and she could see a real difference in her confidence and how she handled situations with Nick. Little by little, her fears were going away and she was beginning to feel normal for the first time in two years. Things had been going great between her and Nick and they had even began to discuss the possibility of moving in together. Although marriage had not been talked about, Shannon hoped that was in their future plans as well.
Now, he was back in the picture just when things were finally starting to stabilize. She knew his probation was over and the restraining order she had filed with the court had expired, so he was doing nothing illegal by calling her. Shannon wasn't even sure if she could have another order filed on her behalf. She just didn't know.
That evening, she was unusually quiet as they dined at Nick's house. By his own admission, Nick was not a very good cook, but he knew how to grill. The early October air was still warm as they ate on his back porch. He had purchased a picnic table and benches and was looking into financing for an enclosure to be built. When they did decide to move in together, they thought they would share his house since it was a little bit bigger than Shannon's, plus it had a basement.
He noticed her reserved nature that evening, but said nothing. He thought she seemed jumpy and nervous at times and that was what bothered him. Things had been going very well between them since she decided to get counseling, and he had even seen her counselor once himself to gain some type of perspective as to what goes through the mind of a battered and abused woman. He came away with a greater respect for Shannon and had a better grasp for everything she went through.
"Is something wrong?" he asked, not being able to contain himself.
"Is everything okay at work?"
"Is everything okay at the restaurant?" She was working days at a fashionable upscale restaurant in the city's business district.
"It's fine." Her eyes stayed glued to her plate.
"Is the food okay?"
"It's fine!" she hissed. "What's with all the questions?" she demanded as she tossed her napkin on the table.
"What the hell's wrong with you, Shannon? Can't I ask you a question?" Nick searched her face for clues, but found none.
She got up from the table abruptly and walked towards the grass of his back yard. Nick tossed his napkin on the table as well as he watched her. Slowly, he got up and walked in her general direction.
While her back was still facing him, he said, "If I did something wrong..."
Shannon whirled around to face him. "You did nothing wrong! I'm fine. Work is fine. O'Reilly's is fine. Everything is fine! Stop with the questions already." Her arms were crossed in front of her. Her chest heaved as she tried to remain in control.
Nick blinked as he tried to understand from where this was coming. He couldn't remember her being this hostile and defensive towards him, even in their worst argument. He did some quick thinking and calculated that she wasn't near her cycle, and therefore not having PMS. Nick didn't believe her for a second about things being fine, but what was it? He scanned his brain to try and remember anything he said or did that would have upset her. He could think of nothing.
"Okay," he said. "No more questions." Nick turned and walked back to the table. After he sat down, he sipped from his water glass and eyed Shannon as she continued to look off into the distance.
Shannon couldn't believe how nasty she had been to him, but she didn't know if she should tell him or not. It was her problem long before she ever met Nick and she didn't want to make it his problem, too. But now, she was making it his problem and he didn't have a clue as to why. She blinked some tears away before she slowly turned around to go back to the table. He wasn't there. Some of the plates and bowls were missing and she assumed he was in the house starting the dishes. She went to the table and began to gather some of the utensils and plates before she walked into the house.
He was at the sink and his back was to her when she came into the dining room. Nick glanced behind him, but said nothing as she came beside him and placed the dirty dishes on the counter top.
"I'm sorry," she said quietly, placing a hand on his shoulder. Nick shrugged and said nothing. He continued to rinse off the plates and bowls in the sink.
"I can be a real bitch sometimes, can't I?" she asked.
"I won't argue with you about that." He looked at her and managed a small smile.
"I deserved that," she said. Shannon moved more plates his way. "Jeremy called today," she said in a low voice.
Nick looked at her as everything came together. "You talked to him?" His eyebrow was raised.
"No, he left a message. He wants to get together, for old times sake." She laughed sardonically.
"What are you going to do?"
"What can I do? He's done nothing wrong, hasn't he? He hasn't broken an laws. I'm not going to do anything."
She was right. Nick knew that. If his probation was over and the restraining order was out of date, he was doing nothing wrong.
"Save the tape," he said.
"Save the tape of the recording," he explained. "If he tries anything, you'll have proof of attempted contact. I have another suggestion."
"I think you should record any conversation you might have with him on the phone. Make sure you tell him that you do not wish to talk to him and that you do not want him calling you. That way, if he keeps on bothering you and you need to get another restraining order, you'll have evidence of harassment."
"Okay, I'll do that, but..."
"What if he comes to O'Reilly's? I'm sure he'll try to contact me there if I don't call him back."
Nick thought for a moment. "If he does show up and if I'm not there, make sure Stan is nearby. Tell Jeremy in no uncertain terms that you want nothing to do with him and you don't want to see him. Stan or I will be your witness."
"Okay," she said meekly. "I really hate to get you involved with this." She hung her head once more.
Nick dried off his hands. He turned to her, lifted her chin with a finger and kissed her softly. "I've been involved with this since the first time you told me about him. I'm glad you told me."
He stared into her dark eyes and became lost in them as it happened so often in the past. Nick pulled her close and held her tight until her nerves were calmed.
"Hey babe. Why the cold shoulder? C'mon, let's get together and forget about the past. I did my time. No hard feelings, eh? Give me a call."
Shannon saved it; just like she did with the other two times he called. She loathed to hear his voice and didn't want to look at her recorder for fear of seeing the light blinking. After the second call, she contacted her attorney and she said basically to take the same precautions as Nick had suggested. Unless she talked to Jeremy and told him not to call her or contact her, he was doing nothing illegal.
She had discussed the situation with her boss at O'Reilly's and with Stan, and they promised to do everything they could to help her. Stan still wanted to get his hands on Jeremy for everything he did to her, but he knew he had to be professional and work within the scope of his job. Shannon decided not to say anything to her boss at "Leonardo's", the restaurant where she worked during the day. Unless he was following her, she didn't think he knew she worked there. If things regressed, then she would let her boss know the circumstances. Shannon noticed nothing amiss during those first few days after he called, but she kept an eye out for him and tried to be careful during her daily routine.
Nick pondered whether or not to ask her to stay with him until this situation blew over, but he didn't want to go overboard with his protectiveness. He still worried, though. He had seen too many bad things happen to innocent women in his line of work. One thing he did insist upon doing was escorting her to and from O"Reilly's, be it walking with her or driving. Yes, it was only a few blocks, but he felt better about it.
Shannon thought he was being too overprotective, but she relented without an argument. She loved him too much. As much as she had tried to prevent him from becoming involved, he had made it his problem too. But, there was one thing she insisted upon. If Jeremy should happen to come to O'Reilly's, she wanted to take care of the situation with him alone and with no help from anyone unless she really needed it. Nick was reluctant to agree with this, but as long as she was within eyesight of either Stan or himself, he could accept it. He was proud of her for trying to be brave and wanting to do it by herself.
Her sessions with her counselor were almost to their conclusion. Even with the cloud of Jeremy hanging over her head, she no longer felt fearful around Nick and trusted him completely and without reservation. She felt silly about trying to keep Jeremy's phone call away from him and apologized more than once for her behavior, which Nick readily accepted.
She still refused to call Jeremy or make any type of contact with him and hoped her silence would discourage any further attempts on his part, but in the back of her mind, she knew that was wishful thinking. Somehow, she knew he wouldn't stop until he made some type of contact with her, either by phone or in person.
"Mmm, I love it when you do that," Shannon murmured as she squirmed from the flicks of Nick's tongue across her clitoris. His face was joyfully buried between her thighs as he continued his sensual assault. "Oh, don't stop," she whimpered as she held his face to her. He was hitting a good spot and rollicking waves were starting to build within her.
Even though she was tired from her shift, she almost always found the strength to accept his love when they got to her house. It had become a lovely habit for them to make love at her house after he either drove or walked her home. It was something they looked forward to, no matter how late it was. On those rare occasions when she was too tired, they would simply fall into bed and love each other when they woke. Nick usually stayed most of Saturday morning until it was time for her to return to work at noon.. He would then escort her back and head home for a few hours. He would usually return around six after he cleaned up and did paperwork from his job.
More and more, he found he had to bring some of his work home to keep up. He hated doing that, but it was the only way to keep his sanity. Mostly, it was report writing and updates of clientele files. He didn't mind the work, except for it being so time consuming. He simply didn't have enough time during the week to do everything he needed to do.
Within minutes, Shannon arched her back and quivered uncontrollably as each orgasmic spasm went through her. It was not an earthquake-type orgasm that sometimes gripped her during their lovemaking, but it was sensual and satisfying.
She took him in her arms and held his head to her breast, kissing his forehead and smoothing his hair with her fingertips. Shannon was now head over heels in love with Nick and wasn't shy about telling him or showing him.
"I love you so much," she murmured.
A contented sigh was his answer.
"Do you love me?" she asked, needing assurance.
"You know I do," he replied, looking up at her face.
"Tell me," she pleaded.
"I love you, Shannon."
She held him to her chest tighter. "Love me," she whispered. "Fill me up."
After kissing each breast tenderly, Nick slowly made his way down her body, kissing every inch of her as he began to make love to her all over again.
The music in the bar was loud that Saturday night and everyone seemed to be having a good time when the stocky stranger walked in and paid Stan the five dollars cover charge. Stan hesitated a micro-second, but instantly recognized Jeremy even though he appeared to have gone to great lengths to disguise himself. His hair was now long and wavy under to dark black cowboy hat and he now sported a full beard, but Stan saw the piercing eyes and the full, pouting lips. It was he. Stan knew it. He frowned slightly, but regained his composure.
Stan took his money without reservation and cheerily told Jeremy to have a good time. Jeremy merely grunted and brushed past him, his eyes scanning the bar for the bitch who put him in jail, albeit for only a few days.
Shannon was in the back and wasn't at the bar when Jeremy showed. Nick was sitting on a stool near the middle of the bar, sipping on a Smirnoff's when Jeremy walked behind him and took a seat near the corner, about five stools away.
When Stan saw Jeremy settle, he walked past Nick and tapped him on the shoulder. He continued walking until he came to a table behind Jeremy. He motioned toward Jeremy and Nick nodded. He understood.
Minutes later, Shannon walked back to the bar with a tray of glasses when he heard his voice.
"Well, aren't you even going to say hi to me?"
The sound of his voice sent chills through her as she stopped in her tracks. Slowly, she turned and saw him again. He had changed. He didn't look much like the man who beat her. It was the voice and his eyes that convinced her.
She set down the tray and stared at him as fear, dread, and hatred began building through her system. Shannon glanced quickly at Nick who blinked and nodded slightly.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, barely able to conceal her contempt.
"I came to see you, babe," he replied impassively. "I called you a few times. You never called back."
"I didn't want to talk to you."
"Oh, come on Shannon," he laughed. "You're still holding that against me? I did my time. I'm a changed man." He glanced to his right and eyed Stan. "I forgave you a long time ago. How about a little forgiveness on your side?"
Stony silence was his answer.
"You're still looking good, I'll give you that," he continued. "Are you still as good in the sack as you used to be?"
Silence. A glare.
"Hell, you could fuck all night sometimes. I sure miss those times. How about a little marathon tonight? You know, for old times sake." He smiled wickedly at her.
"I think you should leave," she hissed.
"Leave? Why would I want to leave? I'm just here to have a good time. Maybe when you're off duty, we can talk about all the good times we had."
Shannon moved closer to him and stared into the eyes that still scared her.