Broken Pasts
Author:C.M. Stunich

chapter 18

The good thing about is kids is that they'll tell you the truth, straight-up, no strings attached, no holds barred honesty. The bad thing about is kids is that they'll tell you the truth, straight-up, no strings attached, no holds barred honesty.

“So if you marry Nathaniel, will he be my dad?” Rhea asked as I moved a red checker across the board and tried to pretend that things weren't weird. They were very, very weird. Nathaniel was flip-flopping between acting like a paranoid bodyguard and a loving … I won't say boyfriend … potential partner maybe?

“Getting a little ahead of yourself, Rhea,” I said as I jumped her and she pouted her lips at me like I was the devil incarnate. “Nathaniel and I are not getting married. We're just … friends.”

“Friends don't blush at each other,” Rhea said as she glanced up at Nathaniel with narrowed eyes. “And they don't let you touch their penises.”

“Rhea McMaster-Gibson, you need to cool it with the penis comments. People are starting to wonder. And besides, how do you know that I … I mean, I haven't … Just don't say anything like that around your father, okay?”

“I want Nathaniel to be my dad,” Rhea said as she played with the stack of plastic chips on her side of the table. “He's taller than Dad and nicer and he has a better car.”

“Well all of that is true,” I said with a grin. Sorry, but I couldn't help myself. Don't judge. Glen was a human slime ball and even if it wasn't appropriate to mention that in front of Rhea, it certainly wasn't appropriate to lie about the man. I mean, what she'd said was true. “Your dad will always be your dad, no matter what.” Rhea groaned and I had to fight to keep a grin off of my face.

“We can be friends,” Nathaniel said, and I had to glance over my shoulder to catch his eyes. They were smiling at my daughter, looking at her with a sense of whimsy, of what might've been, could've been. It wasn't hard for me to imagine what he was going through. I often thought about what my unborn daughter would've looked like, if she'd have taken after Glen or me, if she'd have disliked him as much as Rhea did. I tried not to think about it for obvious reasons, but sometimes it was inevitable. Nathaniel was having one of those moments. “I even know how to do French braids.” Rhea sighed and shook her head.

“Everybody knows how to do French braids.” She paused. “At least you don't suck at bowling.” And that was that and she was finished with her poor, tired, old mother for the evening, off to defend the land from Japanese monsters whose names I couldn't even begin to pronounce. I sighed and rested my arms on the table, surprised when Nathaniel came and took Rhea's chair. It was actually kind of weird seeing him sit. The suit folded neatly around his body as he took a deep breathe and looked at me like he didn't know what to do. If he was looking for help he was looking in the wrong place. I didn't know what to do either.

“This is going to be hard, isn't it?” I asked him and he nodded.

“I think so.”

“And can you maybe clarify what exactly this is? The day's been kind of a blur. I mean, what's going on here, Nathaniel? You're a bodyguard one minute, boyfriend the next.” I cringed at the stupid 'b' word. Really, the English language is kind of limited in that department. We needed a word for man-who-could-possibly-mean-something-but-doesn't-yet. I sighed.

“I'm just … nervous about Gary. I'd actually be less worried if I did see him outside. Theresa, I think this is the quiet before the storm. I want to get to know you. I want to sit on the couch with you and have a drink and not keep putting things off. There's a spark between us. I haven't felt this way with anyone since Gillian, and I'm not letting it go now that I've found it. We owe it to each other to try this, see if we could be something together, but I can't do it when I'm already worried about losing you.”

“It's that bad?” I asked him, and he shook his head.

“I don't know. Maybe? Maybe not? Not all stalkers are created equal. Maybe he will just stop, go away and forget about you, but probably not. I just can't say.” I looked down at the linoleum, at the ugly 80's off-white linoleum, and tried to figure out what I was going to do.

“So you're staying tonight?” I asked, knowing that I could actually sleep peacefully knowing he was there. I wasn't going to tell him this, but when Cedric was there, I got about half as much sleep. Something about Nathaniel just seemed right to me. I told myself that it was some deep, basic instinct, like I could sense a good mate the way other creatures do, but I knew that was a load of bull because I'd picked Glen and Gary. Still, it was hard not to trust the feeling in my gut, the one that told me he was the good guy. And I wanted to believe it, I really did.

“And tomorrow,” he said. I could tell from his voice that he didn't want to talk about the night after that. He thought I was going to send him away, and he didn't like it, not one little bit.

“Sounds good,” I said. I wasn't ready to go there. We would just have to take the next few days as they came and figure it out from there. I didn't tell him this, but I did look up at him, absorb his strong, straight nose, his chiseled cheekbones, his smooth brows that certainly weren't plucked but weren't by any definition shaggy. “How do you do it?” I asked him. “How do you keep everything so neat and tidy and perfect? I can't even seem to button my blouse up the right way.” Nathaniel sat back and watched me with his green eyes, traced the edges of my lips, my jaw, dropped gently to my breasts and then lifted back to my face.

“It just has to be this way. If I let it all loose, I'll fall apart.”

“Do you believe in soul mates?” I asked him and wondered if it was going to be possible for him to ever love again. If it wasn't, then I needed to get on a one way train away from Nathaniel Sutherland and I needed to do it now. He looked down at the floor like I thought he would, but when he glanced back up at me, he was smiling.

“I believe in love eternal,” he told me. “But I also believe in second chances. Your past doesn't have to dictate who you are, but it can help you discover who you're meant to be.”

***

I want to say that I grabbed Nathaniel by his suit jacket and kissed the hell out of him for saying what he said. But I didn't. I froze like a deer in the headlights and started to sweat profusely before excusing myself to the bedroom. He followed, of course, because well, that's what bodyguards do, and then he stood in the doorway, silent and dark, but with this little hint of a smile hovering around his lips. That might've been because he'd seen me pick out a pair of red lacy panties and a matching bra, but I wasn't going to admit that to myself.

“Goodnight Nathaniel,” I said and then wondered briefly if I should invite him into my bed. Chances were though that he wouldn't take me up on my offer, and I'd end up feeling frustrated and embarrassed, so I kept the thought to myself.

“Goodnight Theresa,” he said. “Sleep tight.”

“Don't let the bed bugs bite?” I joked and he chuckled softly. Oh my god. There it is. Nathaniel did have one of those chocolatey, masculine, throaty laughs in his repertoire. He'd just been saving it. “You did that on purpose,” I told him, and even in the darkness of the room, I could see that he glanced over his shoulder to look at me.

“Did what?” he asked innocently.

“Never mind.”

Silence.

“Nathaniel?” I asked. “Are you sure you're okay over there? I mean, you didn't get any sleep last night either.”

“I'll be alright,” he told me and in his voice, I could hear this fierceness and this determination to keep me safe, no matter the cost. I had this feeling that a little fatigue was a very small price to pay for Mr. Sutherland, that he'd give his life to save me if he had to. And sure, I bet in some way it was helping him deal with Gillian's death, but that was okay with me. He had a past; I had a past. In many ways, we were a perfect fit.

I rolled onto my side and tried to sleep, tried to think of anything and anyone other than Nathaniel, but I couldn't. I just kept imagining his chiseled chest, his biceps, the feel of his hard cock pressing against me through his slacks. It didn't help that I could hear his steady, quiet breathing in the still air. All that did was serve to remind me of the sounds he'd made when I'd touched his skin, pressed my body against his.

Theresa, my inner voice began as my hand slid under the blankets and brushed against the silken fabric of my panties. It only took one touch to shut her up, to give into the feelings that had been bubbling up inside of me since I'd first seen Nathaniel. Our little romp in the living room hadn't helped either. In fact, I'd have to say that it had only made things worse. What if he hears you? I wondered as I worked my fingers in gentle circles. Well then, wouldn't that be nice? And then my brain went wild, supplying images of Nathaniel spinning around, ripping off his tie and leaping into bed with me, pressing me into the sheets with the warm weight of his body, kissing my lips with fevered passion and nibbling the skin on my breasts with his teeth. It was so real that I swore I could feel his hands on me, that I could hear him breathing.

I paused.

You know the whole 'on the lawn there arose such a clatter' bit from The Night Before Christmas? Well, this was like that only it wasn't from the lawn, it was from across the room, and it wasn't a clatter, it was Nathaniel. Moaning.

“Don't stop,” he said as I rolled onto my back and tried to spy him on him through the silver gloom of the bedroom. The moon's light was doing little to illuminate my bodyguard, but there was one thing I knew for sure: that break in the dark, that pale circle in all of that black, was his ass. I stared opened mouth as I listened to the noises from the doorway. Please God, don't let Rhea wake up, I thought, but I couldn't ask Nathaniel to stop. I didn't want him to stop. I wanted to join him.

I slid my hand down the skin of my belly, brushed across the dark curls there and found my clit. Theresa McMaster, I thought as I writhed in the pillows, moved my hand to the tune of Nathaniel's breathing. You are a fucking pervert.

“Come over here,” I whispered in the dark. Or moaned in the dark. Same difference. “Nathaniel … ”

“I can't,” he breathed. “If I get in bed with you, I won't be able to get back up, Theresa.”

“Like you're any more prepared standing there with your dick in your hand,” I whispered fiercely back at him, but I never stopped masturbating and neither did he. I moved my hand down the slick wetness between my legs and inserted my fingers, imagined that they were Nathaniel's and copied the motions he'd used on me earlier. It was like having a magic wand. “Nathaniel … ” I whispered as I found that sweet spot and my eyelids fluttered like butterflies.

“Theresa … ” he called softly back as I found the big 'O' for the second time in a single day. Pretty impressive for someone whose total life score was also two. I came into my hand, wishing it was Nathaniel, wishing he wasn't such a good bodyguard, that he wasn't so fucking sexy, and bit my goose down pillow to keep from screaming.

Afterward, when Nathaniel's perfect ass had disappeared from view and he was once again just a black splotch in a whole lot of darkness, I told myself that I could actually fall in love with this guy.

How scary is that?