For complete disclaimers see part 1.

If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at:



Kim Pritekel


Part 18


"Tell me you're kidding?" I looked at her through my bangs, not believing for a moment that she had done that.

"Scout's honor." Julia held up two fingers, and I rolled my eyes.

"Yeah, well you only made it as high as a Brownie, so I'm afraid that won't work." I touched the toe of my sneaker to the porch, pushing the glider along again. I had installed the thing a year and a half ago, and loved it. What was I thinking only having stationary chairs on my front porch?

"I'm telling you, Garrison. I went into that bar, it took every damn bit of courage I had, but I did it."

"And you danced with a woman?" I eyed my friend as she watched our kids sitting on a blanket in the center of the yard, painting each others nails.

"Yep. She was hot, too." She finally met my eyes, and tiny wrinkles gathered around her eyes as she grinned that shit-eating grin that, after two years of friendship, I knew meant she was telling the truth.

"Hot damn. Call me impressed." I sipped from my iced tea, the cool drink fighting off the harsh July heat. The humidity index was ridiculous, and I was sweating buckets.

"David has decided to move out." Julia's voice had went from the excitement of telling a friend a good story to the sadness of a wife, separated from her husband, because she couldn't decide what she wanted.

Six months ago I'd been awakened at eleven-thirty at night to someone pounding on the front door. Answering it, Julia fell into my arms, crying and clinging to me.

"He found them!" she'd cried, leaving me confused. I'd taken her into the living room, the lights on the Christmas tree the only thing illuminating her tear-streaked face.

"He found what?" I brought her down to the couch with me, my arm around her shoulders, pushing her hair out of her face, caressing the soft skin there.

"Your books." She shoved her purse to the floor, and three books she'd borrowed from me fell to the floor.

"Ah, jeez," I saw that one of the books was an erotic anthology.

"He thinks we're having an affair," she said through her tears, though there was some amusement in her voice as well. I was stunned.


"Yeah. It's crazy, I know." Julia started getting herself under control, swiping her sleeve across her eyes and sniffling.

Her husband had not liked me when we'd met. One night I had the Jones family over for dinner, and Julia, Zoë, Parker and I had a great time, while Julia's husband, David, had been a pompous ass. I think it had mainly been toward me. I think it was mainly an issue of David having some trust and insecurity issues with his wife. Julia had not really told me anything about it, but by the way he was acting that night, he resented my friendship with his wife, who in his mind, should give her best attention to him.

Julia had offered to help me in the kitchen with dishes, and I'd told her that I would back off, walk away, as I had no interest in causing problems between David and herself. She had told me no, that she'd handle it and my friendship meant too much to her to break it off because of David's jealousies.

It was not my marriage, so I'd taken her at her word that she and her husband would figure it out.

Then she ended up at my house in tears. It wasn't long after that the couple decided to separate. Julia had enough of David's control, so they decided to take a 'step back'. David had moved into the basement, deciding to stay in the residence for Zoë's sake.

Now, sitting on the front porch, I felt my friend's sadness and confusion.

"When? Where will he go?" I asked, running my arm along the back of the glider, fingertip just barely touching her bare shoulder, which shrugged.

"I don't know where he'll go. He came to me this morning and told me." She glanced over at me, a small wrinkle formed between her brown eyes. "I think he's met someone else," she whispered.

"Ah, Julia," I gathered her in a hug, her head resting against my shoulder. "I'm sorry."

"I'm such a bitch," she said, her voice quiet so as two very clever pre-teens wouldn't hear her. "Here I am going to lesbian bars to see if I have the courage to dance with a woman, yet I'm hurt and feel betrayed cause I think my husband has met someone." She sighed. "Guess I want my cake just to eat it, too."

I said nothing, knowing she was right, but there was no need for me to tell her so. I ran my hand through her soft, auburn hair, enjoying the feel of her warm body against mine, despite the heat of the day.

"I can't get over how big the girls are getting." Julia's voice was so soft, and the change of subject so sudden, I almost missed it.

"Yeah. I mean, shit, Parker is damn near as tall as I am." This was a fact I was not pleased about. Guess she'd be tall like her sister. I knew Al was a relatively tall man, probably about six feet two. I had no idea about their mother. "She can damn near look me in the eye now." I shook my head. The kid was only going into the fifth damn grade this coming year!

"I know. She's going to be a little heartbreaker."

"Just like her big sister," I said absently.

"Well," Julia pulled away from me, sitting forward on the glider. "It's time for Parker's lesson." She smiled back at me over a tanned shoulder, her white tank top bringing out he tan, glowing skin. Julia really was a beautiful woman, her dark eyes, auburn hair, angelic face. I smiled back at her, bringing up a hand to lightly pet her back. She sighed with a content smile on her lips, eyes shutting for a moment.

"You know, that's one of the things I miss most about what's happened between David and I," she said lazily. "The touching. Not even sex, really. Just the affection." Her eyes opened and settled on me. I nodded my understanding.

"I know what you mean. I'm not generally terribly touchy feely with my friends, so it can be hard." I agreed.

"You know what I miss the most?" Julia cocked her head slightly to the side in thought. I shook my head. "Cuddling. I miss a good, warm, safe cuddle. David and I used to cuddle all the time." She sighed, looking back out into the yard. "He was unusual that way for a man, very affectionate. I don't know," she sighed again. "Maybe it's hitting me today because I took his presence for granted. Now that he's moving out, it's really over, isn't it?" She looked back at me, and I brought my hand up to her shoulder.

"Probably so, Julia. I'm so sorry."

"Eh, come on." She slapped my bare thigh as she stood. "Let's not ruin a beautiful day." She turned to the girls. "Parker, come on, Liberace. Lesson time."


I sat on the couch, book in hand, ankles crossed on the coffee table. Julia and Zoë had gone home after dinner, about two hours ago, and Parker had disappeared into her room to "work on her latest masterpiece in literature." I had to wonder where the kid got it from.

I heard bare feet running down the stairs, following by two more pairs, Roy coming around the corner of the living room right after his best human buddy. Tut lifted his head from where he'd been asleep on the armchair across the room.

"Hey, Garrison."

"Hey, kid, oomph!" She landed on the couch, her head plopping down into my lap. I looked at the sparkling, smiling blue eyes that grinned up at me. Her long, curly blonde hair splayed out over my shorts-clad legs. "Finished there, Hemingway?"

"For now." She grabbed the book from my hands, holding it up over her eyes to read. "What's this? You're reading 'Curious Wine' again?" She looked up at me and I nodded. "You really need to get some new books."

"Well, write me some and I'll be happy to read them." I grinned at her, and she rolled her eyes.

"Yeah, right." The girl really was beautiful. Her skin, tanned from hours and hours out in the sun with Zoë, had an amazing contrast with those eyes, a bit darker in shade than those of her sister. Her lashes were long, and her young body was beginning to take on the shape of a young woman. Julia was right- she would indeed be a heartbreaker, some day.

"What's up, kiddo?" I began to run my fingers through her soft hair, and the kid nearly purred like a kitten. It amazed me just how different she was from when she'd come here as a kid just shy of her sixth birthday. She needed affection and love like no one I'd ever seen before. She craved it like most people craved air. She had found two very willing mommies in Julia and I.

"Did you know Zoë started her period?" she asked, setting the book she'd stolen from me aside.

"No, Julia hadn't mentioned that.

"Yep. Guess it was really painful, too." Dark blonde brows, not far off the color of my own. "Does it always hurt, Garrison?" She looked up at me, wanting answers. I shrugged.

"It depends. Like for me, for instance, I started my period January 4, the year I was eleven. It was a Thursday. I'll never forget it," I shivered at the memory, which was probably not a wise thing to do since the girl was tracking every nuance of reaction from me.

"Was it horrible? Why do you remember the date?"

"I don't know. It just always stuck with me. It wasn't fun. I woke up with it, this really gross, wet feeling in my underwear,"


I grinned at the girl. "I went to my mom, showed her my underwear, I mean, shoot, I had no idea what was happening to me."

"She hadn't told you about it?" The kid looked positively mortified. I chuckled.

"No, she had. But being told and then experiencing it were two entirely different things. I had horrible cramps that morning. Mom let me stay home from school that day." Frightened blue eyes looked up at me. "But, before you freak out, the good news is that was the worst period I ever had. Now," I waved my hand. "Piece of cake."

"Really?" those eyes widened with hope. I nodded.

"Yep. A little discomfort for me during the first day, then it's smooth sailing."

"Will it be like that for me, too?"

"I don't know, sweetie. Everyone is different."

"Hmm," her brows drew and she absently reached down to stroke Roy's head, the big dog having squished himself on the floor between the couch and coffee table.

"But when it does happen, Parker, you can come to me, okay?" I felt her nod. Deciding to turn to happier topics, I began to run my fingers through her hair again. "Are you excited about your trip?"

That did the trick, blue eyes grinning up at me. "I can't wait! Zoë is soooo jealous. She wants to go to San Diego, too."

"Why don't you ask Keller if she can go with you? I bet she wouldn't mind."

"You think so?"

"Sure. I bet the three of you would have a great time." I smiled down at her. Part of me was so thrilled for the kid, going to visit her big sister for two whole weeks. But, I had to admit, there was a huge part of me that dreaded it when the kid left. It would be so quiet around here. What would I do with myself? So much of my day was spent with Parker, especially now, during summer break. She was at the hangar all the time, helping out, chatting with Penny, who adored the kid. Even Jerome spoiled Parker rotten. He didn't get to see his own grandkids very often, so I think the kid filled that spot for him.

"Okay!' Without further delay, Parker jumped off the couch and ran full speed to the kitchen, where the cordless phone waited for her on the counter.


"Yeah?" she said from the doorway that led to the hall, the kitchen on the other side.

"Ask Keller before you invite Zoë."

"Okay!" Then she was gone.

Sighing, I reached down and petted my dog. "What are we gonna do wither, Roy?" I asked. The huge, black dog looked up at me with a whine. "I hear ya pal, I really do."


Julia and I watched our excited girls as they waited in line to go through security. I wished so badly that we could go with them all the way to the gate, but there just was no way.

They had both been instructed a hundred times, don't talk to strangers, don't accept anything from strangers, stick together, don't leave each other, ask only an airport employee to help you find the baggage claim in San Diego.

I think the girls were about to beat us both.

"I should have flown them myself," I said for the thirtieth time, and that was just in the one day.

"Stop it, Garrison. They'll be fine. You have your own business to run."

"I know, but,"

"No buts about it. Come on." Julia tugged me by the arm, leading me through the airport and out the main doors. I couldn't help but looking over my shoulder, hoping to get one last glimpse of the kid, though she was long gone, on her way to gate 34A.

"Do you really think they'll be okay?" I asked, buckling my seatbelt in the truck. Julia chuckled, buckling her own on the passenger side.

"Garrison, Zoë flies to see her grandparents by herself all the time, and has since she was ten. Really, they'll be okay."

I sighed, brows furrowed. I felt a hand rest on mine, making me glance over at her.

"They'll be fine."

Nodding, I put the truck into drive, and we were headed back to Warwick.

"So, did David get that apartment?" I asked finally, a light, summer rain tickling the windshield.

"Yeah. A U-Haul showed up at the house Tuesday, and David, a couple of his fellow teachers, and the woman I found out he's been having an affair with for three months, helped out, too."

"How do you feel?" It had been three weeks since David had announced his intentions to move, and it had been a very difficult time for my friend, filled with trepidation, excitement and sadness.

"Relieved, in some ways. I mean, the security of having him in the house was nice, but at the same time, having him all the way in the basement, like some roommate or something, was pretty hard." Julia flicked on the air conditioner, positioning all her vents so they blared directly on her face. Her hair was blown back from her face, the heavy air currents making her squint or lose all moisture in her eyes.

"I can understand that. Are you going to file? How is Zoë handling all of this?" I flicked my turn signal, checking the rearview mirror as I changed lanes, our exit not too far up the pike.

"I think I should. There's no reason to keep dragging this on. Just because I'm fucked up doesn't mean he has to pay for it, too."

My head snapped around and I looked at her. "What?!" She looked at me, surprised at my tone.


"You are not fucked up, Julia. Don't take all the responsibility for this on your shoulders. David has made his own decisions, too."

"Garrison, this all started because I couldn't figure out who the hell I was. I mean, shit, if only I'd realized I was bi-sexual before we ever got married." She sighed, looking out the passenger window.

"It's not that easy, Julia. Do you realize how many men and women get married and have a family and their gay? Shit, I think a lot of them do it to try and force that part of themselves down."

"I can see that. Though I have to say I don't regret it. Without my meeting David I wouldn't have Zoë." Her voice sounded so resigned, so filled with guilt.

"True. Will he fight you for her? I mean, I assume you're going to want to have custody of her."

"Oh, absolutely! I don't think he'll fight me. He loves her, but I imagine with this new woman, and their relationship being so new, I'm counting on him not wanting that sort of burden." She sipped from the Sprite she'd bought at the airport, then handed me the bottle. I took a long pull, then handed the green, plastic bottle back.

"And what about you? What's your plan?" I asked.

"Keep teaching, doing my lessons on the side, figure out a way to pay that house payment by myself,"

"Sell the place. It's a nice house, Julia. I imagine you can get a good deal off it, and get you and Zoë a nice place of your own." I pulled us over to our exit, slowing as a big rig flew by, then merged into traffic again.

"I might have to. There's just so much change for her right now, and I feel so guilty because of it. David and I made this decision, not her."

"I'm sorry, my friend. I wish there was something I could do. You know me and Parker are always here for you guys. Hell, let Zoë spend some time at our house. The girls would love it, and it would give the girl a bit of stability, familiarity."

My friend sighed, looking so small over there. She smiled at me and nodded, so tired-looking. We moved on to other topics.

I made us something to eat, then we sat on the couch, the boob tube on. I could sense a profound sadness coming off Julia in waves. Glancing over at her, I saw that she sat there, curled up in the corner of her side, against the arm. Her eyes were focused on the television screen, but I wasn't entirely sure how much she was actually seeing.

I grabbed a pillow, plopping it on my thighs, and patted it. She looked over at me, then down at the pillow, then up at me again. I grinned, she did, too. My hand came up to stroke her hair as she laid her head down.

I smiled to myself, secretly enjoying the human contact. From the sigh I heard below, I'd say Julia was just as happy. When I got a text message on my cell phone, telling me the girls had arrived safely in San Diego, and that I'd get a call later on, Julia and I both felt better.

We watched TV for about another hour when we both began to yawn. Julia sat up, stretched and looked at me.

"Do you mind if I crash on your couch?" she asked. I nodded as I stood.

"Yeah, but only if you'll sleep in Parker's bed."

"Oh, that's not necessary,"

"Listen, chick, there's no way in hell I'm going to let you sleep on the couch when there are three bedrooms in this house, and only one of them is being used.

"Alright, alright," she raised her hands in surrender.

"Smart lady. Night."

"Goodnight, Garrison."


"Tut, lay still." I muttered, shoving him with my foot to emphasize my point. That damn dog was half cat, I swear. He'd lay there and lick one body part or another for hours on end. It made the whole bed vibrate.

As I tried to get back to sleep, my eyes popped open again. Crying. There was someone crying in my house. Was Parker having another nightmare? She hadn't had one of those in months. Besides, she was in San Diego. Who the hell was crying in my house!

"Julia?" I sat up, cobwebs clearing, I hurried down the hall, listening through the closed door of the kid's room. Yep, she was crying, alright.

Tapping lighting on the wood, I called her name. The crying stopped for a moment, but then continued again.

Deciding to make sure she was okay, I turned the knob, glad it wasn't locked. Julia was curled up in the fetal position in the center of the bed, her slight body shaking with the power of her sobs.

Touching something deep within me, I went to her, gently sitting beside her.

"Hey, hey, hey," hand on her shoulder, I nudged her to unbury her face from her hands and the bedding. She looked up at me, her eyes wet and puffy. "Ah, Julia. Come here." Without another word, I gathered her into my arms, cradling her head against my chest. She began crying again, though quieter and controlled.

I let her go for a few moments, wanting her to get it all out. When she began to take deep, cleansing breaths, I smoothed the hair, wet from her tears and the sweat of exertion, and looked into her eyes.

"What's the matter, sweetie?" I whispered.

"I'm so sorry I woke you." Julia began to swipe at her eyes, running the back of her hand across her nose. I snagged a tissue from the box Parker had next to her bed. My friend blew her nose and blotted her eyes.

"Don't you worry about it." I smiled as I brushed more hair back. "What's this about?"

"Oh hell, I don't know." She sniffled and sat up, balling the Kleenex in her hand. I handed her another. "I think it's just a combination of so many things. David moving out, I miss my daughter," her eyes began to fill again. "And I'm on my period." She began to cry once more. Stifling a smile, I hugged her to me again.

"You've had to deal with a lot, Julia. Don't ever apologize for letting it out. Okay?" I felt her nod. "Come on." Standing, I took her hand, along with the box of tissues, and led her back down the hall toward my bedroom. Tut was right where I'd left him. He was not a happy boy as I made him move so my friend and I would have room. "Lay down, honey." She did, and I wrapped myself around her from behind. She wiggled her body back into mine, and eventually her breathing evened out, and she was asleep.

I laid awake for awhile, constantly rubbing her somewhere- her arm, her hair, her back. I even massaged the tense muscles in her shoulders, smiling at the soft sighs that escaped even in her sleep.

This poor woman, my friend, who I'd come to cherish very much. I knew she was going through her own personal hell, and there wasn't a damn thing I could do to help her. I decided then and there that I'd do whatever it took to help her and Zoë.

It didn't escape me that I'd made that same pledge for another beautiful woman and young child.

That was the last thought in my head as sleep finally took me.

Until the phone rang.

The shrillness seeped into my consciousness, stirring my brain to focus on the morning light that filtered in through the closed blinds and curtains.

"Mm, get that, will ya?" I asked, realizing that I was on the opposite side of the bed from the phone.

I heard movement of covers, then tired fingers fumbling with the phone on its cradle.

"Hello?" Julia said, a tired, and quite sexy, I might add, voice. "Mm, hey, Keller. No, this is Julia. How are you?"

At the mention of the janitor's name, my eyes flew open.

"Hang on a sec," more movement. "Garrison, it's Keller."

I turned over to find the phone being thrust at me. I took it, sitting up. Clearing my throat several times to get rid of the sleepies, I put the receiver to my ear.

"Hey, Keller. How goes it?"

"Uh, fine. Um, so, Julia answered the phone?" she said, a strange tone in her voice that was hard to discern. It was almost some strange offshoot of sarcasm.

"Yeah. She was here late last night, so decided to stay."


Silence. Thick and heavy. Nervously, I cleared my throat again, putting a smile in my voice.

"So did you mange to make it through a night with those two nutballs?"

"Yeah. You know girls, up all night, talking, giggling." Her voice still sounded strained, forced.

"Good. It's about time you get to deal with it." I grinned, and heard a soft chuckle on the other end of the line.

"Yeah. How do you do it?"

"Very carefully. So what have you got planned?"

"Today we're going to hit Sea World, then later in the week we'll go to the San Diego Zoo."

"Oh, they'll love that. Shit, I'm jealous." That chuckle again, low and velvety.

"Yes, well, become ten again, and we'll talk."

"Oh, never. I wouldn't go back to that age if my life depended on it."

"Yeah, tell me about it. I better go."

I was surprised, but sighed, resigned. I felt like something was wrong, and I wished there was something I could do. So instead, I decided to give her a quick heads up before I let her go.

"Keller, just so you know, I think Parker could start her period here pretty soon. Be on the lookout for it."

"I'll take care of it." It was quick and crisp. "I'll call later. I know Parker wants to talk to you, and I'm sure Zoë wants to talk to her mother, too."

"Okay," I sighed, hating the edge that laced Keller's voice. Why was she such a god damn enigma!? "You guys have fun today, Keller. Tell Parker I love her."

"Yup. Will do. Bye."

"Bye," but I'd said it to dead silence. Jaw muscles tightening, I handed the phone to Julia who had no idea what I was going through inside. The war that was being wagered against my brain and heart. I had no doubt that Keller thought Julia was in my bed because we had had sex last night. I could hear it in her voice. It almost sounded like disapproval, bringing back memories of how she acted long ago when Celeste had been at the house.

Fuck this shit! I decided to enjoy my time with Julia, my best friend. I wasn't about to allow any perceptions that Keller may have ruin my day, or my time alone with Parker away. It was rare that I had such time alone. No matter how much I love the kid, it was nice to know a bit of freedom.

"Do you have classes today?" I asked, turning to my side, head resting on my hand. Julia nodded.

"Yeah. The summer session. Why?"

"Play hooky."


"Come on, play hooky. Lets be bad today and call in sick." I gave her a shit-eating grin, mischief in my eyes. Julia stared at me for a moment, ten without another word, she picked up the handset and dialed.


"I feel sooooo bad." Julia grinned, licking her hand where the ice cream had melted in the intense sun.

"Why?" I asked, chewing on a bite of cone I'd just taken.

"Why?! Why do you think? I just cancelled my class for no good reason."

"No good reason. Jeez, ungrateful welp." I muttered, shoving the rest of the cone into my mouth.

She giggle, which was absolutely adorable. We were in Woodman Park, laying in the grass, the sun shining down, our bodies only half obscured from its rays by the shade provided by the near-bye tree.

Taking a long drink from my bottle of water, I crumpled up the napkin with the red Dairy Queen logo on it, and stood with a groan, tossing my trash into a metal can not far from us.

I looked around us, seeing that there really weren't many people at the park at all. Woodman wasn't a very popular park, as it didn't have any equipment for children to play on, so it was often ignored. That was precisely the reason why I liked it so much, and came often with my camera.

I noted the large fountain just beyond the trees, its spray a fine mist in the heavy air, so inviting.

Looking back at my friend, I noted that she was almost finished with her cone, and waited until she did.

"What?" she asked, standing to also throw her trash out. I said nothing, only nodded toward the fountain with my head. She drew her brows, confused. Without another word, I bent over, untying the laces of my sneakers, then with a whoop, ran toward the fountain.

The water was amazingly cool, making my overheated skin zing in bliss.

"What are you doing, crazy woman?" I heard laughed behind me. I looked over my shoulder from where I sat, smack dab in the center of the fountain's pool.

"Cooling off. What does it look like?"

"You're going to get in trouble," Julia looked around, looking for the SWAT team, I suppose.

"Come on, Julia, live a little. The water's fine." I laughed, splashing around like a five year old. I yelled out, my voice echoing through the park, then laughed again at my own lunacy. Julia just stared, her head cocked slightly to the side, eyes focused on me, on nothing, on everything. She walked over to the fountain, her sandals slicing through the water of the fountain as she waded through, making her way over to me.

I grinned like the fool I was acting like, turning toward her, completely not expecting her to take my face between her hands, brown eyes closing mere moments before her lips touched mine.

Instinctively my hands found her waist, and I leaned into the kiss. Lips soft, unsure, yet demanding. Her mouth opened, and I gave her what she was seeking. The meeting of our tongues was like fire, which spread quickly through my body, sparking life and sensation.

The kiss lasted a couple of minutes, Julia slowly pulling away, her eyes opening and looking into my own. I saw so many things there, swirling through the rich color- fear, hope, desire and need. I had always thought it was crazy when I'd read that sort of description in books, getting a crazy, almost cartoonish, image in my head. But it was true. It was all there, and all for me.

"Wow," she breathed, her hands slowly sliding from my face. She swallowed, her tongue peeking out to just touch her bottom lip, that very lip that I had sucked on not two seconds ago. "I feel like I should apologize, but I can't." She looked me in the eye, seeming more confident than she had. "I'm not sorry."

She slowly sat down in the water, allowing the coolness to overtake her body, then without further ado, she threw herself back, and with a whoop, began to do, what looked like, making snow angles, but in the fountain.

Shaking myself out of my stunned state, I also threw myself back, and we began to play, little kids free from a day of responsibility and expectation. We looked at each other, grinning from ear to ear, and the water fight was on. An hour and two very wet women later, we were on our way back to my house.

"That was so much fun," Julia ran her hands through her hair, trying to untangle it, grimacing in pain at the knots that had formed.

"Sure was. And it felt great on such a hot day." I said, heading into the bathroom on the first floor to grab a brush. "Here, let me." I sat her down in a kitchen chair, and, standing behind her, began to slowly, gently, brush her hair out.

A silence fell between us, a somewhat heavy silence, though not uncomfortable. I had the feeling that Julia was thinking about the same thing I was- the kiss. Why had she done it? What had brought it on, and what did it mean?

I wasn't entirely sure I'd want to get involved with my friend in that way. She was beautiful, and I loved her as a friend, but she was still so confused, and I knew when it came down to it, she really had no idea what she wanted. Did I want to be the one to train her in the ways of loving a woman?

But then again, she was beautiful, had a great body, great breasts …

"Ow, Garrison,"

"Ah shit, sorry." Realizing I was pulling her hair, not paying attention as I got lost in my own thoughts.

"You okay?" I could hear in her voice that she was worried, nervous. Knowing her as well as I did, I knew she was scared to death that she'd crossed a line today that would hurt our friendship.

"I'm fine. Really. My mind was just roaming." I kept my voice light, but not unnaturally so. It was obvious that something was on my mind, but nothing bad.

"Do you want to talk about it?" she asked, her voice quiet, glancing at me over her shoulder. I looked at her, looking into her eyes for a moment, trying to decide. No, I didn't. Smiling, I shook my head.

"Turn around so I can finish this."


Julia was an amazing kisser. The night of our first kiss, she went home, but I walked her to the door, feeling strangely as though it were a date. We stopped at the door, and she turned to me, suddenly shy.

"I had a lot of fun today, Garrison," she said, her voice quiet. I smiled.

"Me, too." As she looked into my eyes, I knew what she wanted, and knew she was too shy to ask or take it again. So, placing my hand on her cheek, I stroked the soft skin with my thumb, Julia leaning into the touch, her eyes never leaving mine. I leaned in, touching my lips to hers, closing my eyes and inhaling her scent.

I felt her hands take fistfuls of my shirt, pulling me closer to her as I deepened the kiss. Wrapping my arms around her waist, I spread my fingers out, touching as much of her lower back as I could, the skin so hot under the thin shirt.

Julia breathed a sigh of contentment as we continued to kiss, mouths lightly exploring each other, her hands finally letting go of my clothing and finding their way up around my neck, playing the short hairs at the back of my neck, making me shiver.

"God, you're good at that," she whispered against my lips before pulling away. "Damn. Do all women kiss so good?"

"Only if they're taught by me." I grinned with a wink, and she playful slapped me on the arm. "Goodnight, Julia."

"Goodnight." She kissed me softly again, then left.


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