Due to the popularity of this novella, I am continuing the story beginning from about a month after their engagement and continuing through New Year's Eve. This is part 1 of 3, just before Christmas.
December 23 – Four P.M.
Grey inched his Jag XK into traffic and moved slowly toward the West Side Highway along with the other drivers anxious to start their Christmas holiday. Thrumming his fingers on the steering wheel, impatience tugging at his nerves, he wanted to get home.
Stupid fucking asshole accountant. Grey had spent the week going over every entry in the company books for the whole year with a by-the-book accountant. Digging out paperwork to support every accounts receivable, every accounts payable entry, he was totally out of patience. At three o’clock the maddening man finally left and Grey was more than ready to begin his five days of Christmas bliss, starting with a tasty meal cooked by his gorgeous fiancée, Carrie, to be followed immediately by passionate lovemaking. He was hungry.
At the red light, he texted Carrie he was on his way home. He knew she was at their townhouse redecorating. How did I ever find her? Damned lucky. Painting in the bedroom today? The bedroom… A grin broke out on his face as a vision of her stripped bare filled his thoughts.
Carrie went over her elaborate plans for turning his bachelor-pad townhouse into a comfortable home for them to share with him but Grey was sometimes too distracted to pay close attention to all the details. He interpreted it to mean when it was all done, their house would feel like a palace compared to how spare it was when he lived there alone. She texted back but traffic was moving now so he couldn’t check it.
The snarled traffic magnified Grey’s agitation so by the time he got home, the first thing on his mind was a stiff vodka and tonic. As he pulled into the garage, he could swear he picked up the faint aroma of his favorite dish, Beouf Bourguinon, simmering in the oven. He was yanked open the door to the house and barged through, trying to turn his tight frown into a smile when he bumped into a huge mass of tangled furniture. His nose was assaulted by the pungent odor of fresh paint.
He turned his head toward the kitchen but could detect no aroma of anything cooking. Picking his way around the pile of chairs, lamps and end tables he moved into the living room.
“I don’t care what your plans are Enrique, you can’t dump this here now! We had an agreement. Yes, bring the furniture NEXT Thursday not today!”
Grey stood tapping his foot on the polished wood floor, annoyed Carrie didn’t notice him.
“We’re leaving tomorrow morning! No, I can’t. No. No and that wasn’t our agreement. What? You’re going where? When? You knew this all along, didn’t you? The other rooms aren’t ready. They have to be painted first. You expect ME to carry that stuff up the stairs? Well that’s too bad! Come back and pick it up! What? What did you say?? Same to you, Enrique!”
Carrie slapped her phone closed, color rising in her face when she turned and jumped to see Grey.
‘Oh my God! I didn’t know you were home.” Her head jerked up and her hand flew to her throat.
“What is all this?” Grey stretched out his hand and swept it over the area taken up by the stacked furniture.
“This is Enrique dropping off my furniture a week early!”
“Crap. Where’s dinner?”
“Yeah, you know that meal we eat at the end of every day?” He walked into the kitchen and pulled down a tall glass.
“Oh, dinner. I thought we’d eat out. I’ve been struggling all day…”
“You’ve been struggling! I had a terrible day,” he said, slamming a handful of ice cubes into the glass, then unscrewing the vodka bottle.
Carrie stood and watched him as he sloshed vodka into his glass then drowned it with tonic water. He stirred it with his finger, took a gulp, noticed the silence and looked up at her.
“Were you going to offer one of those to me?”
“You want one?”
Grey turned to get a spoon to stir her drink and noticed the bedroom, his bedroom was torn apart and the bed was missing.
“What happened? Where’s my bed?”
“It’s upstairs, against the wall. OUR bedroom was painted today.”
“We have no bed? Dammit!” He slammed his fist down on the counter.
No dinner. No sex!
Carrie stood still and looked at him. She had paint in her hair and on her jeans. She wore an old shirt of his rolled up at the sleeves which was spattered with paint, too. Her silence commanded his attention again and his eyes roved over her form.
“What happened to you?”
“I had a few run-ins with paint today. I should have stayed out of the room when Ramon was painting but I needed a few things…did you know rollers spray a fine mist of paint?”
“I do now,” he chuckled in an unkind way.
“It’s not funny.”
“So where am I going to sleep tonight?” He took another gulp of his drink as his eyes narrowed on her.
“We can set up the bed. It’s in the bedroom. It’s that the room smells like paint but that will go away…it was water-based paint, so it isn’t too strong…”
“I HATE the smell of paint. I can’t sleep like that! What’s your back-up plan?”
“I don’t have one.”
“You don’t have one? What kind of planning is that? The house is a wreck. What are we going to do with this furniture? The rooms still have to be painted and we’re going to live in…in…this?” He gestured again.
“If you’re going to behave like this, then I’m going to sleep at my house tonight,” she said, picking up her purse and walking over to the coat tree.
“I don’t care where you sleep!” He shouted, reaching into his pocket and pulling out his keys, then he threw them in the silver key bowl, cursing when they bounced out onto the floor.
He bent down to pick up the keys, stopped, raised his eyes to her face and straightened to face her when he heard her gasp.
Carrie blinked as fast as she could to keep from crying. Her hand flew to cover her mouth. Speech eluded her as the rapidly growing lump in her throat seemed to close off all air to her lungs. She stared at Grey, watching his expression change from the hardened mask of a minute ago to one of contrition. She moved her right hand over to her left, her fingers closed around the diamond ring on the fourth finger and tugged at it.
Great time to have swollen fingers!
His gaze dropped from her face to her hand, he paled as a look of horror swept over his face.
“If you don’t care where I sleep then we shouldn’t be engaged,” she said, continuing to pull at the ring.
“No, no, Carrie, don’t…don’t…” In two long strides he crossed the room. He placed his hand over hers, to stop the tugging.
“Grey, marriage is messy. Shit happens. Plans go down the toilet. Life gets screwed up. It isn’t always going to be beouf bourguinon and drop-of-the-hat hot sex. I don’t think you’re ready to do this…to get married. Our first mess and look…look what you said…to me…” She couldn’t hold it in any longer, tears cascaded down her face faster than she could wipe them away with her hand.
“I’m sorry, Carrie. Honey…I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean it. Of course I care where you sleep…with me, always with me, with or without sex. Please, please…don’t walk away.”
He moved closer to her, putting his hands on her shoulders.
“Why should I stay?” With her chin jutting out slightly, she stepped back from him.
“You’re right. I don’t know long-term, committed relationships. I’ve never had one. But you have. You’ve been married. Teach me, guide me…tell me what to do…what to expect. I need you. You’re my life. Please, please be patient with me, don’t leave, stay with me.”
She looked up at him as he poked his handkerchief into her fist. Angst showed on his face, wrinkles deepening at the corners of his eyes, his mouth set in a tense frown. His brows raised in a question, his eyes pleaded with her…he looked pathetic, the way he looked at Aunt Delia’s when he begged her to marry him. He resembled a large puppy with his tail between his legs, her heart lurched. He slipped one arm around her waist and drew her to him. His other arm went around her shoulders and tightened his grip.
Carrie melted into his arms, resting her forehead against his chest and sobbed. He stroked her hair.
“I’m so sorry I hurt you. I love you so much. Say you’ll never leave me, no matter what stupid thing I say or do.”
“That’s what vows are for,” she sniffled into his hanky.
“The sooner we take them, the better,” he said, kissing her hair.
“I love you. You know that, right?” She asked, leaning back, her head tilted up.
“I don’t want to destroy that by being an idiot.”
He brought his mouth down in a tentative kiss, barely brushing her lips, holding back, awaiting her response. She fisted the lapels of his jacket and pulled him down toward her while she deepened the kiss. His hands slipped down to her behind and pulled her closer.
After a few moments, she stepped back. He combed her hair back from her face with his fingers.
“I have an idea. Why don’t I make you another drink to take into a long hot bath. When you come out, I’ll have some food for us from Googie’s down the street. We can eat then relax in the living room and ignore the furniture here. We’re leaving tomorrow for Pine Grove anyway.”
Carrie nodded, “Sounds like a plan.”
While she went into the bathroom to start the tub, Grey mixed her drink. She joined him in the kitchen, watching him stir the potent liquid and started unbuttoning her shirt.
“Our first fight,” she sighed, putting her hand on his arm.
“I guess it was.” He squeezed some lime in the tall glass then looked up.
“Right after the bath, lesson number two…make-up sex.”
“Avid student here.” A grin spread over his face.
Carrie slid the shirt off her shoulders and unbuttoned her jeans. She wasn’t wearing a bra and the indirect lighting gave her breasts a soft, golden glow.
“Do we have to wait for the bath?” His gaze lingered on her breasts.
“But I’ve got paint…”
“I’ll deal. We have the sofa.”
“Good thinking,” she said, sliding her jeans down her legs before retreating to the bathroom to turn off the water.
Grey’s gaze focused on the sway of her hips as she moved away from him.
“Food can wait.” He murmured before he unbuttoned his shirt then shrugged it off his shoulders.
“My thinking exactly,” she said, rejoining him before pulling her panties down to the floor, then stepping out of them.
Their eyes connected. Carrie crept closer until her breasts grazed his chest. He wound one arm around her waist as his other hand tugged at his belt buckle. After his pants hit the floor, Carrie took his hand and led him into the living room.
“Lesson two begins now,” she said easing down onto the sofa and gently tugging him after her.
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