Authors: L.J. Wilson
The upstairs was empty and familiar smells permeated. Downstairs there was food and drinks and people who affected the air Aaron associated with the house on Lakeshore Drive. Upstairs held the scent of home—a heady mist of lakefront breeze that rolled in on waves. The hall floor creaked in the spot he expected. Aaron thought that was wild, the way a floorboard made him relax, feel comfort. A few steps farther and Aaron knew he’d come up there for exactly that—comfort. He hadn’t looked for comfort in ages. He didn’t dare. But now… now the urge had surfaced—like tunneling from Chicago to China and finally coming up for air. It was quiet. He walked past Honor’s room. She’d taken over their parents’ bedroom long ago. Aaron peeked inside, seeing soft things, fluffy bed covers and a quilt. He kept going but stopped as a cat ran past him. They had a cat?
Aaron glanced toward Troy’s room. The door was almost shut. He could see the tips of his brother’s sneakers on the end of the bed. He thought about going in. No, the kid didn’t have anything to say to him downstairs. There’d be plenty of naturally awkward moments to come. Besides, Aaron was just avoiding the unavoidable.
At the end of the hall, cake and beer still in hand, he pushed open the door. His bedroom. Aaron exhaled a last prison breath. Well, at least Honor didn’t hang streamers from the ceiling. Item for item it didn’t look too different. Late-afternoon sun spilled in from the southwest windows. There was cat fur on the bed—a perfect circle where the sun, and he guessed the cat, spent the afternoon. He could see where there might be some territorial issues. The good news—a cat would be easier to negotiate than a new cellmate. The furniture was the same, maybe the bedspread was new. He couldn’t remember. He’d never made the bed anyway.
But staring at the neatly made bed, another Ruby memory surfaced. The last time Aaron had left the room there was the impression of her body in a tumble of sheets. They smelled like her. On the chair, in the corner, there’d been a black athletic jacket. Ruby had kept forgetting to take it with her. The jacket was gone now. Had she come by for it after his arrest—some quick, tense exchange with Honor? More likely, Honor had given the jacket to Good Will. Ruby wouldn’t have wanted anything to do with Aaron or his family.
That night, seven years before, Ruby started to dress as he lay in the bed—watching. Aaron had told her not to worry. Everything would be fine. Ruby didn’t argue. She had wanted to but she didn’t, slipping into frilly bikini panties—bright pink. Jesus, he remembered the color. Ruby wasn’t a lacy kind of girl, she didn’t need to be. He still remembered his favorite ensemble, the simple white undergarments from the Rose Arch Inn beach. But she’d been amused by the experimentation of lingerie, the tempting ways to pique Aaron’s attention. He saw no need to spoil her fun. Like a spell, Aaron was drawn into reliving the beach-scene memory and all the others. The fancy lingerie and the down-to-earth girl inside. Aaron had assured her again, “Just go back to work, babe. You’re worrying about nothing. I swear.” She’d looked at him, unconvinced, corralling her thick dark hair into a pinchy clip. It was a Ruby look. She always wore it up to work—her new job, the newly graduated nurse earning herself a coveted spot in the local ER.
Aaron could still see the questioning look in Ruby’s eyes. She didn’t trust what he was telling her. Aaron had tried to be more convincing, “It’s nothing to be concerned about, baby. Look, I swear, I’m done with Silas Brikk…”
I will be after tonight…
Aaron had reached from the bed and tugged at her arm. It was his intention to kiss her, just once more. But it never came down to one kiss. Aaron ended up pulling her back into the bed. In the weeks leading up to that night, his bed had become a safety zone, the last place where he held all control.
He knew what Ruby liked in bed—though his once-innocent girlfriend gave as good as she got. Sex had been worth the wait. Even now, Aaron’s mind wouldn’t let go of her body or the way she touched him, how she tasted—how, if Aaron asked, she would strip every piece of clothing for him in a personal, private way, signature signed by Ruby Vasquez.
Aaron cleared his throat. The fabric of his jeans had grown one size smaller since standing there. In fact, the crotch was fucking strangling him.
was a bad idea. There was no Ruby. And that night, only hours after she’d left his room, Aaron could not have looked more like a miserable lying son of a bitch. He also needed to keep something else in mind. While his life had taken on a forced vow of celibacy, wherever Ruby was, surely she had not. As tough as Aaron Clairmont was, surviving prison gangs and psychos of every imaginable variety, the punishment and isolation of being locked up, the one reality he could not stand was the idea of Ruby with another man.
He put the Solo cup and the cake on top of the dresser. The mirror was unavoidable. What did he see? What would people see? More important, what was the difference? A punk who got caught up in an underworld of drugs, who agreed to take out his girlfriend’s father—a direct order from Silas Brikk and the elusive mastermind Jerry. Aaron shook his head. Yeah. That’s what all of Nickel Springs would see—better to just accept it. He wouldn’t be changing anybody’s opinion anytime soon. He got it.
Aaron picked up the beer and downed the entire thing like it was a funnel contest. He wasn’t used to it, and the alcohol hit him like a central line to his vein. Standing there, lost in a space as familiar as his name, the room registered—this wasn’t a seven-by-ten cell. He turned, pushing the bedroom door shut. He locked it. Just as fast, Aaron unlocked it. He could take a nap. He could take a walk. Fuck no. Walking didn’t sound like such a great idea. The beer had made him lightheaded. Aaron looked toward the en suite, the luxury of his end hall bedroom. He could take a shower. A fresh grin edged across his face, and Aaron stripped his clothes as he went.
Other than dirty towels, Aaron didn’t recall what was in the bathroom the last time he’d seen it. But Honor had made damn sure it was as inviting as a five-star hotel—all kinds of perfumy bottles of shit he’d never open, matching everything, three different shampoos, and two kinds of body soap. Towels that felt as thick as one of Jake’s movie-star bathrobes, or so he guessed. Christ, towels that couldn’t double as sandpaper, stamped with “Biddeford Correctional Facility,” would have been good enough.
Aaron and his naked ass turned the shower control until it was too hot for human touch. But he wanted to see the steam. The hard-on that had accompanied him into the bathroom had eased to half-mast. He pulled the curtain back and climbed in, figuring he’d have to take care of that one way or another. For a while, water and privacy washed around him. Aaron let the spray from the showerhead try and beat the last seven years off him—like taking rust off metal.
He was no longer used to being alone, which was probably the reason he didn’t startle when the shower curtain ripped open. Standing opposite to his soapy body and a cock that was suddenly hard as hell was Chloe Pike.
“Downstairs, I didn’t get a chance to say so, but welcome home.” In her hand was the plate of cake. She smiled. Her teeth were a little crooked, but so was the whole fucking scene. Chloe swiped a finger through the icing, her tongue licking it off with seductive ease. It made him forget about her teeth. “I didn’t see a place for presents downstairs.”
“Presents?” he said, half attempting to use a loofa to cover a cock that arrowed like a spike.
“Uh-huh. Parties mean presents, don’t they?”
He shook his head vaguely.
“Doesn’t matter. The one I brought isn’t meant to be opened in public.” She took another swipe of icing and a deep breath. The buttons holding her in the dress nearly squealed under the pressure.
Aaron blinked hard, mostly trying to bring into focus the teenage girl he’d last seen in the Clairmont house. Clearly, this was someone else. “Are you drunk?”
“Drunk? No. Believe me, my plan was to be cold-stone sober for this.”
“Since I heard about your release, I’ve been thinking...”
Aaron cocked his head, wondering how much of that she actually did.
“There are an awful lot of things you haven’t had for a good long while.” Steam surrounded her, adding a misty layer of sex appeal to redheaded, big-breasted Chloe Pike. “I bet you’ve had plenty of time to put them in order, item by item.”
“Have you been talking to my brother?”
She shook her head.
“Uh, yeah,” he said. “There’s a list… of sorts. But not all of it takes place in a bathroom.”
“I’d bet the top five might.”
“Top three. I’m not that complicated of a guy.”
“Ah, more basic needs. Good. That gives me a great starting point.”
“Starting point for what?”
“For whatever it takes to make your homecoming memorable. You should know, Aaron Clairmont,” she said, putting the plate on the sink edge, “I’ve always had a huge crush on you.”
“Me?” It felt like the water was hitting nowhere but his cock, which seemed to be overly tuned into whatever Chloe Pike had to say.
“Yep. You don’t remember. I’d be babysitting Troy—though he was only a couple of years younger than me. You’d come in from work and fix yourself a sandwich. I’d watch your ass from the bar stool.”
“You’d watch my… You were what… fourteen?”
“Fifteen,” she said as if it made a difference. “I had lots of Aaron Clairmont fantasies back then. Of course, I wasn’t quite grown up, and you never looked twice.” She breathed again, and he swore the top button to her dress hung by a strained thread.
“I wouldn’t have looked if you’d been of age. I was involved with somebody.”
She nodded. “I remember.”
So did he. Aaron reached up, grabbing the edge of the shower curtain. Chloe reached up at the same time, stopping him.
“I’m all grown up now. You’d hardly be my first trip to the rodeo… know what I mean? And I’m the one standing here.”
“And so what? Now your fantasy includes fucking the fresh-out-of-prison parolee?” It kind of pissed him off. He wasn’t interested in being Chloe Pike’s notch.
“Oh, Aaron, you’ve got it completely backwards. Gifts are for the recipient’s enjoyment. I’m all about that.” His hand remained on the curtain. Hers dropped, unbuttoning the dress. While it had a cellophane effect, it peeled like the skin off a pear.
Maybe it was because she was standing in a bathroom, but he didn’t yell “stop.” Chloe Pike stood before him wearing a black bra that complemented her tits and matching G-string. She was a specific kind of piece of ass, and she knew it. The kind that radiated a “
fuck me anytime
” attitude. Chloe shuffled back her wavy red hair while never breaking eye contact. He meant what he’d told her. Aaron hadn’t looked twice at a teenage Chloe. On the other hand, if her boobs had been anywhere close to that big, he wondered how he’d missed them. Shit, a blind man couldn’t miss them.
“The past is the past, Aaron. And the future… who knows? I’m more into right now.”
He forced his Adam’s apple down his throat as she unhooked the bra, which dropped dismissively to the floor. Considering his most-recent points of view—concrete, iron bars, cons, and prison guards—a nearly naked Chloe in come-fuck-me pumps was a surreal scene.
“You look a little stunned. You okay?” Breast size became secondary as Aaron’s gaze fixated on gold rings that pierced each nipple. “A gift from… shall we say, an admirer.”
He blinked hard, clutching the loofa that he held. “The boobs or the bling?”
She rolled her eyes. “Both, of course. Cool, huh?” She fingered the rings, caressing her breasts as her hands slid decidedly south, stepping out of the heels and black panties. A natural redhead, he realized, wondering when the erotic dream would pop. Without an invitation—but with no warning to stop—a very real Chloe Pike invited herself into the shower. Aaron backed up until his back hit the tiled wall. “Relax,” she said, taking the loofa from him. “I don’t bite… Well, not unless you want me to. You know, you can do that. Tell me exactly what you want… I’m pretty much open to anything.”
“Chloe… I, uh… I don’t think…”
“You don’t think what? That you don’t want what’s
?” she said, giggling. She glanced down, and things took a serious turn. Her hand wrapped around a cock that indicated “no” was not Aaron’s answer. With the soapy sponge, Chloe stroked his backside and bare ass. “Like I said, think of this as a little from me to you welcome home gift. It doesn’t have to mean a damn thing tomorrow.”
“Shit, when did gift cards go out of style?”
“I guess a few things have changed. Why don’t you just relax and let me show you around… You know, refresh your memory.”
Aaron had considered what his first few days, even hours, out of prison might be like. This scenario hadn’t crossed his mind. Not without having to bring cash. “I… this isn’t right. You shouldn’t be doing this.”
“Why not? I promise. I gave up influencing minors years ago.” His eyes widened, and she rolled hers. “Babysitting…” She let go of his cock, and her fingers traced the span of his chest, which rose and fell with an urge that felt primal. “God, you’re in great shape,” she said, fingers sliding over rigid stomach muscles.