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FORGIVENESS IS A VIRTUE – CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Kennedy

I woke at three in the morning, sensing the loss of the warmth that had lulled me to sleep after the man so thoroughly sucked my cock—after I sucked his first. When he began to prepare me for sex after our shower, I winced a bit.

Are you sore, love?” he whispered.

I was, but I wanted him again. “No,” I lied, not looking into his eyes.

He lowered his body over mine, looking into my eyes. “You’re a beautiful liar, but you seem to forget that I know all your poker tells. We’ll just modify the agenda. For the record, please don’t lie to me. Your health and welfare are important to me, and I never want to cause you pain.”

After we’d both found satisfaction, one at a time so we could both savor the pleasure without distraction, I immediately fell asleep, having not slept well the previous night. Our discussion before the joint shower had actually given me a bit of peace about the potential of our relationship.

All of my concerns about why Thorn had stuck around weren’t gone, but I was feeling a lot better about things. I still worried maybe he was setting me up with his support only to rip it away when I needed it most. I was still going to be vigilant, but I didn’t think I had to overanalyze every word and deed.

I heard a slight pecking sound from further in the house, so I pulled on pajama pants and quietly opened my bedroom door. I stopped by Jude’s room to see he was still sound asleep, and I walked into his bedroom to cover him with the sheet. The air conditioning was on, and the house was cool. Jude refused to sleep in pajama pants because he said they hugged him too tight, but I didn’t want him catching a summer cold. I kissed his forehead and left the room to follow the pecking sounds I continued to hear. As I walked down the hallway, the sounds became louder, and I finally recognized it was typing on a laptop keyboard.

I stopped in the shadows of the hallway to see Thornton sitting on my couch in his boxers with his laptop on his thighs, typing away. God, it reminded me of myself in college. I couldn’t remember how many times he’d find me in the same position when I was writing programs or playing games. It took me back to happier times before I fucked up everything.

He was using earbuds, so he was likely listening to music, but the look on his face reminded me of the intensity I’d seen from him in college when he was in his writing zone. It had been pretty amazing to witness, and he’d gotten a lot of inspiration from the music he’d listened to back then.

I woke up to find the bed empty, which was kind of unusual. If one of us was staying up all night, it was usually me working on something I’d put off and found myself against a deadline. I snuck down the hall to see Thornton on the couch with his laptop. He was studying the screen, and then he began typing quickly, having caught an idea I was guessing. His process amazed me. He’d come up with stories and plays I could almost see in my head when I’d read them without his knowledge. In my opinion, the man was brilliant, though he was entirely too modest about his gift.

Hey, what’s wrong?” I asked as I walked into the living room.

He glanced up at me and smiled, patting the couch. “Come sit. I have to write a damn fairytale for my creative writing class, and I have no original thoughts. Tell me a story about when you spent summers with your grandparents in Texas during high school,” he asked.

I took a deep breath and thought back to the days when I worked on my grandparents’ farm. I remembered one of my favorite memories from that time, so I went with it. Okay. Um, once upon a time…” I began.

Thornton laughed. “No, just tell me the story. I’ll frame it, love.” I chuckled as I felt my cheeks flush with embarrassment. As if I could ever write a story even close to what Thorn could craft on a mere whim.

Okay. Well, one summer when I was at my grandparents’ place, and we were moving cattle. Well, we were separating calves in need of being weaned from their mommas for shipping in the fall. We gave them their vaccinations and wormed them, and we turned them out onto another pasture. It’s the way things happen on a cattle ranch. Anyway, there was a little roan heifer calling for her momma, and the cow wasn’t coming up the hill. The heifer was too young to be weaned, but she’d got caught up when we were bringing up the rest, and there she stood, just crying for her momma.

My grandpa took off on his horse and went down the hill while the rest of us worked with the cattle to separate them. He came back an hour later, and he had the saddest look on his face. ‘Coyotes got to the momma. She’s gone,’ he told us.

He got down from his horse again and walked into the herd, picking up the little heifer. He took her into a pen at the side where a cow and calf were settled, and he moved the little baby to the Jersey cow’s bag. ‘She’ll take care of ya, little one.’ That cow actually allowed that heifer to suck, which wasn’t too unusual, but my gramps knew her well enough to know she’d take care of any stray calf around her. How’s that?”

That’s where you get it from, then, isn’t it?” Thornton kissed me sweetly and sent me to bed. The story he wrote was fantastic, and I knew when he’d let me read it after he got an ‘A’ on it, Thorn would be a remarkable writer if he decided that was what he wanted to do for his career.

I watched as his eyes closed for a moment, and then they opened again and went back to typing away. I saw a slow smile tilt his lips and heard his keystrokes pick up. Apparently, he was on a roll. I started to slip down the hallway to leave him to his creativity, but I accidentally stumbled on the hall closet doorstop, catching his attention because I hissed, “Mother Fuck,” as the pain surged through my foot, causing me to try to walk it off.

Thorn looked up and chuckled. “Lurking in the shadows, love? Come here and let me know what you think about this.” He pulled the earbuds out and settled the laptop on the coffee table, patting the couch cushion next to him.

I limped over and started to sit down when he scooted back and pulled me to sit between his legs on the edge of the couch. He scrolled to the top, and then he leaned back and began caressing my back and shoulders as I started reading the words on the screen. I couldn’t lie and say I wasn’t intrigued and a bit worried about what story he was telling.

Cole Brooks stormed out of the office, angrier than he’d been in his life, his thoughts spinning out of control. How dare that bastard question my ability to do my job! How dare he challenge me to take another direction on the ad campaign I’ve been working on for two weeks straight, night and day, abandoning my life in the process! How dare the asshole be so fucking tempting I lost the ability to protest and argue my case that the marketing plan was perfect! Derrick Crews was an intoxicating combination of ruthless businessman and cunning bastard, and Cole had no idea what to do about it.

“What’s the story going to be about? This doesn’t seem anything like the other story,” I observed quietly as I skimmed the first page. I glanced at the bottom left corner of the document, seeing he was ten pages in, and I was genuinely impressed.

He pulled me back against him and wrapped his arms around me, kissing my neck. “That other story is ours and ours alone, and I regret sharing it with the few people I did. This is an entirely different story. This one’s going to take place at an advertising firm. Poor Cole is in love with his creative director, but he’s only ever seen the guy with women, so he believes it’s a lost cause. The poor bastard is going to suffer from frustration and blue balls for a while, especially when he starts receiving cryptic emails to his work account from an anonymous internet address.

“The emails will be sexy and fuel some very vivid fantasies, but eventually—and I’m not sure how yet—he’ll find out his boss has been hitting on him for a long time. There will be a little sneaking around the office for sexual encounters, and of course, they’ll try to keep everything under wraps at work, but they’ll get caught, probably by a woman who had eyes for Derrick, and maybe there’ll be a little blackmail to keep things interesting. I’m not sure, but there’re a lot of places it can go from there. What do you think?” he asked. I was totally fascinated.

I turned to him and smiled. “I think it’s very promising. How long have you been up?”

“Well, you sucked the life out of me, and as a side note, I have to thank my parents for not having me circumcised even though it was likely an unpopular choice at the time. The way you can manipulate my foreskin drives me fucking crazy, Kennedy. Anyway, I drifted off for a bit and had a dirty dream about fucking you on the desk in your office. I woke up very hard, and you were very much asleep, but that was when inspiration struck,” he answered.

“When I’m writing, I keep strange hours, though I’m sure you remember it from when we lived together. With the turmoil surrounding us right now, I’m trying to temper the noise for Jude’s sake, but I needed to get the idea’s down so I could come back to it at another time. Did I wake you? I was trying to be quiet.” He had such a soft smile on his face I couldn’t help but kiss him.

When I pulled away, he was still smiling as he moved my hair off my face, reminding me I needed to consider doing something with that mess. I smiled in return. “You were quiet. I just woke up, and you weren’t there. I heard a quiet tapping, so I went to find out what it was, and here you are. Are you staying up? You can sleep with me, babe. I’ll be up before Jude,” I told him, hoping he’d concede to sleep in my bed. I found his warm body next to mine was like a cup of warm milk—if I liked warm milk. It was an incredible comfort.

“Are you sure?” he asked quietly. He seemed to like the idea very much, and I damn well loved it.

“I’m sure. Come to bed when you’re ready.” I rose from his embrace and went back to bed. I was used to working with writers, and I was well aware of how odd the creative process could be. I respected it, but at that moment, I sincerely hoped I wouldn’t be without him for too long.

I woke later, feeling his arm resting on my stomach just above the elastic of my pajama pants. His wild hair was tickling my chin, and his head was resting on my bare chest. I heard the toilet flush, so I gently extricated myself from under him and went to my own bathroom. After I brushed my teeth and pulled back my hair, securing it with a rubber band, I put on a t-shirt.

I quietly left the bedroom, just as Jude walked out of his, rubbing his eyes. I leaned over and picked him up, noting it wouldn’t be too long until I wouldn’t be able to do it any longer. “Bud, it’s still early. You can sleep a little while longer. Uncle Eli won’t be here for hours,” I whispered as his head rested on my shoulder.

“There’s noise outside, and it keeps waking me up. Can I sleep in your bed?” Shit! That wasn’t something I thought he’d ask.

“Um, how about I make a bed on the couch, and you can watch cartoons?”

“Nuh-uh. Your bed.”

How the hell would I explain it? “Bud, Thornton’s still asleep in my bed.”

“Did he have a bad dream?” I couldn’t contemplate the number of responses that came into my head, none of which were appropriate to share with my son.

“Uh, I believe he did. How about you nap in the spare room for a little while?”

He nodded, so I took him into the room on the other side of the house and placed him on the bed, covering him with a blanket draped over a chair in the corner. He seemed to already have fallen back to sleep, so I quietly pulled the door almost closed and went to the kitchen.

I needed to do some laundry and clean the house because we had the reception for Lark at my home the next day. Thornton had made the arrangements, with Betsey’s input, and Nora and Rory’s help. I really didn’t know what was set to happen, but I had every confidence it would be tasteful.

I went to the kitchen to start the coffee, deciding to wait until they were up to start breakfast. As I waited for the coffee to brew, I noticed a notebook I’d seen Thornton writing in over the week he’d been at my place, along with the Mont Blanc pen I’d given him for Christmas years ago. That discovery made me smile.

I opened the notebook, seeing his famous lists in his elegant script. The first page was filled with his self-assigned tasks and notes regarding Jude’s summer plans with footnotes to discuss them with me. I wasn’t surprised at all.

The second page was a list of people I assumed he’d gotten from Lark’s phone and her address book. I chuckled at the notations beside each name and phone number. They were broken down into categories: “Friend,” “Acquaintance,” “Business Contact,” and “Idiot.”

Some had stars beside their names, and when I counted them, I saw the number correlated with a notation at the top of the page regarding the guest list for the gathering on Sunday. The ones which were crossed through didn’t fall into the friend category, so I assumed he’d merely notified them.

Those designated as business acquaintances were highlighted. At the top of the page, I found the highlighted entries were to be discussed with me. All of it was Thornton’s typical mode of operation, but what caught my eye was the last entry on the back side of a page. There was a circle with a slash through it, and the notes he’d made, likely during the phone conversation.

Staff Sgt. Dante Melendez. Met Lark 9 yrs. ago. Deployed week after hookup. She contacted him six months ago. Seems to be of Hispanic descent! He was in the northwest for visits with family, and she met him in Nashville a few times. She told him Jude was a friend. Stationed at Ft. Campbell but moving to Germany soon. Identified myself as Thorn Caine in conversation.

It was apparent to me that the guy was the most likely candidate to be Jude’s father, and I knew my time was up to keep it from Thornton. Based on his notes, he either already knew it or had his suspicions. He’d seen Lark and me, and he wasn’t stupid enough to think Jude looked like me or much like Lark either, as I really thought about it. I needed to come clean with the man, and I prayed he didn’t leave me over the deception. Surely, he’d understand I was only trying to protect my son.

–FIAV–

Two hours later, my house was a flurry of activity, inside and out. There was a lawn care service manicuring my yard. They were cutting the grass, trimming the hedges, and weeding the flower beds where the gerbera daisies had just bloomed. When Thornton saw them, he kissed me soundly and thanked me before he hurried back into the house.

Inside, Rory, Betsey, and Nora were busily rearranging furniture to allow space for the caterers. Elijah and Jude were in Jude’s room playing video games to stay out of the way, and I had no idea where Rob and Fred were hiding.

I was completely overwhelmed as I watched all of the activity, and I thought about what Lark would make of it if she were still alive. She’d have been in the thick of it if it was for anyone other than herself, I was confident.

I felt a hand on my shoulder as I stood on my front porch. I turned to see Thornton holding a glass of tea in his hand. “Thirsty, love? Are you okay? I should have talked to you about all this, but it seemed like you didn’t want…” he began explaining.

I took the tea and leaned forward to kiss him, hopefully easing all of his concerns. “Please, don’t apologize for doing something I should have done myself. I need a haircut before tomorrow, and it wouldn’t kill Jude either. Do you think it’s poor form for me to duck out for an hour?” I asked.

He took my left hand and kissed the bracelet I hadn’t been without since he reappeared in my life. “I’m happy you’re wearing it. I’ve noticed, but I was afraid to say anything about it. Anyway, how’d Jude end up in bed with me?”

I laughed. “Jude woke up because there was a noise outside his bedroom windows. I didn’t realize it was the lawn crew. I talked him into the spare room after I told him you were sleeping in my room. He asked if you had a bad dream, and being a chicken shit, I said yes. I’d guess he was trying to comfort you and that’s why he slipped into my room and climbed into bed with you. I hope it wasn’t awkward.”

He wrapped an arm around my shoulders. “Not at all. Of course, I was caught off guard when he pushed open my eyelids because he thought he smelled breakfast. It scared the shit out of me because it didn’t register for a minute, but when I woke enough, I tickled him until he told me he was going to pee in your bed. He’s such a great kid. Why don’t you take him for a haircut and maybe you guys get lunch while you’re out? He might need some dad time.”

“Good idea. You need anything while I’m out?” I asked.

“No. Just be careful. Love you, Kennedy.”

I had started to walk away, but I turned back and walked over to him, wrapping my arms around his waist to pull him closer. “I don’t feel like ‘I love you’ is enough to tell you how I feel about you, but that’s all I have to offer. I do love you, Thornton. Thank you so much for everything you’re doing. Tomorrow night after everyone leaves, I need to

talk to you about something significant. If you need more clothes to stay at the house, can you go today and pick them up? I have to go back to work on Monday because I’ve got meetings in the morning and I feel like this is something I’d like to get off my chest before I have to concentrate on work.”

He kissed me gently. “Whatever you need, I’m here, Kennedy.” With that, I left him and went into the house to find Jude. A little alone time with my son seemed like a good idea.

To be continued…


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