Waking up in someone else's bed was disorientating Brad decided.
Above him the ceiling fan whirred, a fan in Gretchen's window
blew curtains towards him. Idly he noticed that her window treatments
matched her sheets. Hardwood flooring creaked beneath
Gretchen's bare feet as she tiptoed towards her room.
Stealthily her hand turned the knob but Brad was already awake when she
entered. "Hey sleepy. Did you have a nice nap?"
did. Thanks for letting me crash." Leaning down Gretchen kissed the top
of his strawberry-blonde head. "Good. I'm glad. What's next on your
Brad shrugged while tugging an errant curl. "Your bed is
comfortable I might never leave." With a smile Gretchen reached for
pillow that lay against the head of her bed. "How come you didn't use a
pillow? Doesn't your neck hurt?"
"Not really. Not at all actually. You could still kiss it though."
Lightly her fingers traced a scar on the
side of his neck. Even after
his nap his voice sounded tired. Softly Brad kissed the side of
Gretchen's forehead. Waking up to her was one of the nicest things that
had happened to him in a long time. "I would have borrowed one of your
but I know you hate the way guys make pillows smell."
"I didn't mean you honey, you always smell good. What
are you doing?" Dainty feet
were his to admire. Afternoon sunshine filtering through her window
allowed her coral colored polish to sparkle. "Kissing you. But if you
don't want me to...," her mouth on his quelled
further speech. "I love you Brad. I'm sorry I yelled at you this
morning. I wanted you to stay and snuggle
"I would have except I had already agreed to meet Natalie. I
don't like it when people back out of plans without a good reason.
Where's your white tanktop? Put that on and come
back to bed." From the look on her face it was clear she had no idea
what he was talking about. "You used to have a long denim skirt that you wore with a loose white tanktop. I used
to tease you about looking like a good little Baptist girl."
"I haven't had that thing for years." Brad kissed her again before
reaching for a pillow. Two hours of sleep over a twenty-four hour
period just wasn't enough. Across the room her closet bulged with
clothing. "Some day I'm going to go through your closet. Then you can
everything I've wanted to see you in and I can see all the stuff you
never wear that I'd like to see. That's what we should do today."
Lovingly her index finger traced his eyebrows. "We should go
shopping. I have a list downstairs, we could get
you some new clothes." Her voice was cheerful until he pulled away.
Sadness settled over her when she thought about him leaving for the
night. First Brad kissed her finger, his hand covered
her breast while he kissed her uncooperative mouth. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing." The shallow rise and fall of her chest told him
otherwise. Gently he touched the side of her face. "Why are you so
"Do you want to go to Ireland with me?" Her words came in a nervous rush. "My dad has a former student
who's been invited to present at a conference. I talked to your uncle
Dave about it and he said he wouldn't mind if you had off. Mary Beth
called when you were sleeping. I didn't say anything about Ireland but
I asked if you had any plans for that week. You're supposed to be going
to Seattle again."
The worried look in her blue eyes lessened when he pulled her
closer. "I don't know if you heard this but Fern's mom is not doing
well. No one knows what's wrong but she
gets these dizzy spells. She's lost a lot of weight, it's been hard on
Vivian and her family. Fern asked if I'd go out there with her mom so
I agreed. Her dad can't go out until later and Fern doesn't want Vivan
traveling by herself."
"Couldn't Rita go with her?" Gretchen asked hesitantly. His
answering shrug wasn't very promising. "Probably. If she doesn't have
anything else going on. Fern and Rita don't get along though."
"You don't have to come to Ireland with me. I just thought it'd be fun for us." Fun was
the right word to describe time spent with Gretchen. She could make anything fun. "Believe me. I'd much rather go to
Ireland than Seattle. Would your dad let us share a room when we're out
"I was going to stay with him. My mom can't go because she has to
get ready for when the kids go back to school. Before the semester
starts is such a busy time at the bookstore."
"I would rather not share a room with your father. I don't know if I
can look either of your parents in the eye and I am definitely not
sitting in their living with them ever again. I don't think I can sit
in any living room with you. Your couch fetish is
going to be my undoing." Her big blue eyes were full of tempting
promises, at odd with her words. "My couch fetish? Whatever buddy. You
"I did not. You did. Sitting there looking cool and smelling hot."
The previous night came back in a flood of intoxicating sensation. For
Gretchen he was the reward that patience had paid. "I told you I was so
hot I was sticking to the couch. You were the one who was sitting there
looking cool. How can you smell hot anyways?"
"I have an above average sense of smell" he said pertly. "And you
do smell hot. Sit on my chest again. I'll demonstrate how good
I think you smell." Memories of sitting on his lap made her nipples tight.
"Last night was the first time I've had an orgasm while I was still
wearing all of my clothes. You're incredible."
"You're insprirational." Sex with Gretchen had surpassed all of his
unfulfilled fantasies. Reality was so much better than his inadequate
imagination. "Parade around in those flowered undies for me. I'll kiss
any of the bows I can find."
"I thought you liked the black panties better." Wickedly she leered at him. "I'm sorry it was hard to breathe earlier."
"Now that was incredible. Air is good but there are times when it's
overrated." Brad leaned back against one of her pillows as he listened
to her talk. "So are you going to come to Ireland? We can get a room of
our own if that's what you want."
"I'll have to think about it and I'll have to talk it over with
Fern, Vivian and Rita. I did commit to this and I don't like people
backing out of committments just because a more attractive offer comes
along. I was just in Seattle and if I can get Rita to go with Vivian I
think that'd work." Slowly his hand caressed the side of her hip. "I
would like to go to Ireland with you."
"Is your ticket to Seattle transferable?" There had to be a way for
Brad to get out of accompanying Fern's mom. "No." The tips of his
fingers ran down her arm while he contemplated an idea. "I wonder if I
could get Jill Schumacher-Klein could fly out to Seattle with Vivian."
"What would Jill do out in Seattle?" Gretchen vowed that some day
she would get even with Jill for the events surrounding her brother
Casey's wedding. Caesy had asked Gretchen to stand up and it would have
been fun except Brent Summerville had refused to stand up with her.
Acidly she thought of Casey's wedding day. Brent had claimed that Casey
wanted his sister to stand up but on the day of the wedding Jill had
been sitting with everyone else. Not standing up next to Brent. "Does
Fern even know Jill?"
"Jill helped Brent and Fern plan their wedding so she knows Fern and
Vivian. Really Jill is the ideal candidate. She has
her own money, she wants to go, she wants someone to go with, she likes
to shop and she likes to walk. Jill and Vivian can take Brent and Fern's dog out for walks
and they both love babies. Brent and Fern's neighbor just had a little
girl and she is so cute. Jill would enjoy seeing Brent and Fern's home
as well. Where's your phone book?"
"You should at least run the idea past Fern before you call Jill. What if she says yes and Fern doesn't want her there?"
"If I thought that Fern would object I wouldn't even bother calling
Jill. Also Jill would tell me if she thought Fern would be opposed to
the idea. It seems like the perfect solution to me."
"I still think that Rita would be a better choice. Your dad was just
telling me this morning how much Rita misses Brent. Plus Rita could
take care of Vivian if something did happen. Jill isn't going to be
good in a crisis and she's not going to want to sit around at Brent and
Fern's all day either."
"Rita and Fern do not get along. The likelihood of a real emergency
is minimal and the airline would be equipped to handle a medical
situation if one did arise. Jill is
classy, she's easy to talk to and she'd be willing to go shopping with
Vivian so Fern can workout or play soccer. Jill will be a good guest
and that's more than I can say for Rita who would probably dig through
the closets and reorganize Fern's kitchen. Vivian needs a break and
Jill will be able to manage that which is why I'm lobbying for her."
"You can't get past Rita because she's your mom." Gretchen said
angrily. "She would not dig through closets or reorganize anyone's
and she would go shopping with Vivian if that's what Vivian wanted to
do. Every year Rita puts together the sister trips, all
your aunts do is shop, eat and sleep. Rita organizes
everything and she even pays for people who couldn't afford to go
otherwise. You're not being fair to her. Rita is a good guest. Fern
should be grateful that she has such a wonderful mother-in-law."
"Rita still goes through my closet even though I've asked her not
to." Irritably he moved away from Gretchen. "I live with her and I've heard her tales of woe
she brings back from the sister trips. She complains about how
extravagant her sisters are and she forgets that not everyone has the
same taste, ideas or priorities that she does. The last time Rita came
home from a sister trip not even my dad would spend time with her she
was so freaking crabby."
"The last sister trip she went on Brent had a terrible game and your
aunt Sophie got sick. No one else was willing to stay with her so Rita
ended up missing the game and it was her son that was playing not to
mention she paid for everyone to go to the stupid game. My mom told me
about it. Rita should win an award for all the crap she puts up with. I
don't hear her sisters thanking her for all her generosity either."
"Don't hold your breath waiting for Rita's family to thank anyone in
mine. They only call me when they want free dental work."
"Speaking of free dental work I hope Dave isn't going to give anyone
in Monique's family free work. You don't give people stuff for free do
you?" It was oppressively hot in Gretchen's room. Even with the fans
going Brad was still overly warm. "Not anymore I don't. Why are we
wasting time talking when there are so many other things we could be
enjoying?" Under her breast she could feel his hand
moving. "How can you be horny again?"
"It's your fault. Lie down and snuggle with me." She gave him a
quick kiss before pushing off the edge of the bed. "I have to go to the
bathroom first. Try not to miss me too much."
"It'd be impossible not to miss you. Hurry back." The door closed
behind her just as the phone on her wicker vanity started ringing.
over Brad picked it up. It was strange to see his brother's number on
Gretchen's father's phone. "Dr. Schwartz's phone, Brad speaking." Brent
stopped pacing when he heard his brother's voice. "Hey Brad. I'm trying
to get a hold of Greg and Gloria. I must have accidentally called the
"Dr. Schwartz left his phone for Gretchen because her phone battery
was so unreliable. I can give you her cell phone number though."
Frustrated by the situation Brent started pacing again. "I have
Gretchen's number. I need one for Greg and Gloria."
"That's what I meant. I can give you Gloria's number."
"That'd be good. What's new with you?"
"Not much. How have you been?"
"My neighbor Christian hit Fairfax backing out of my driveway so
Fern took him
in to the vet. We were supposed to be getting together with Schwartz's
so I was gonna call them and let them know what happened." Idyllic
white clouds drifted by Gretchen's window. Gretchen returned from the
bathroom so Brad made room for her on the bed. "I can call Gloria for
you. How's Fairfax doing?"
"Not too good. Fern is upset and Christian feels bad about the
accident. DJ was running with Fairfax and he took off when he saw
Fern." Brent didn't know what he would do if
Fairfax didn't come home alive. If only DJ had kept him on his leash
instead of trusting the dog to stay by him. "I hope Fairfax pulls
through." Brad said sympathetically. "I know he means a lot to Fern and
DJ. You too."
"He's more DJ's dog than anyone else's. He listens to DJ more than
he listens to me and Fern. He even sleeps in DJ's room at night."
Tension receded as Brent listened to his brother's voice. Brad was
always calm in a crisis. "Keep us posted on any updates you get. I'll
call Schwartz's and let them know you guys can't meet them. Do you have
a minute or do you have to get going?"
"I have a couple minutes." If Brent's phone call had accomplished
nothing else at least Brad was talking to him again. Some day he was
going to have to ask Brad how he kept such a level head. He could have
used some of his brother's clinical detachment while talking to Fern.
"If I can get someone to fly out to Seattle with Vivian would it be
okay if I didn't come?" Brent stopped himself from agreeing
prematurely. He needed more information before he agreed to anything.
"Who were you thinking of sending?"
"I was thinking of either Natalie, Rita or Jill Schumacher-Klein.
Your pick." Briefly Brent weighed the alternatives. His pregnant
sister, his mother that his wife couldn't stand or his former best
friend's sister. "Mary Beth told me that you were thinking of buying
Todd and Jill's place.
It'd be nice to see Jill again. Fern would like to see her I bet. How's
everything else going?"
"Fine." He lifted Gretchen's hair out of the way and pressed a kiss into her shoulder. "How are the finger/shoulder injuries?"
"My shoulder is better. My finger still hurts like a bitch. Mary
Beth mentioned that Dave has a new girlfriend. What are you thinking
introducing bitchy women to people you're related to?" Brad shrugged as
he inched Gretchen's shirt up. "I do stupid shit all the time. You want
to hear why Dad doesn't like Monique?"
"Rita made muffins for Dad to take over to Dave's. While Dad was
over there he found out that Monique spent the night at Dave's even
though they just met each other
yesterday. I don't think Dad would have liked her anyways but now he
doesn't like her."
"Dave should know better than to shack up with some broad he just
met. Mary Beth said Monique wants you to fix her dad's teeth for free."
The idea of Brad and Gretchen alone at her place was not sitting well
with Brent. "What are you doing with Dr. Schwartz's phone anyways?"
"I stayed up late helping Gretchen clean what might be her new
place. After we went to the zoo I came over here and took a nap." His
hand moved to the button that held Gretchen's jeans together. Without
them she would be much cooler. Brent stopped pacing long enough to
wonder why Brad was spending so much time with Gretchen. "Why didn't
you take a nap in your own room?"
"Because I didn't want to." Watching denim slide down slim hips made
him aware of what he did want. "Did you take a nap with Gretchen or
without her?" Afraid of the answer Brent bit the side of his lip while
he waited for his brother's response. "Without her. She got more sleep
than I did last night."
"What are you guys doing now?" Gretchen's fingers had started on his
chest. When they reached the edge of the sheet her hand stopped. "Just
"Can I talk to Gretchen for a minute?"
"I can ask her if she wants to talk to you."
"After talking with Mary Beth I realized that I owe Gretchen an apology."
"Just a minute." He handed the phone to Gretchen who had heard what Brent had said. "Hello?"
"Hi Gretchen. It's Brent. I'm sure you don't want to talk to me and
I understand that because I know I ruined your surprise birthday party
and a bunch of other things. I
wanted to apologize for that and everything else I've done in the
"It's okay." With Brad caressing her breast it was hard to take
Brent's apology seriously. Most likely he didn't mean it anyways. Brent
probably wanted something from Brad and being cooperative was a way to
manipulate his brother. Letting go of Brent once and for all was such a
good feeling Gretchen gave Brad a dazzling smile. "I got over that long ago."
"Well I felt bad about it. I was in a bad mood and I shouldn't have
taken that out on anyone else." So much for Gretchen graciously
accepting anything. Then again doing things gracefully never had been
her style. "No. You shouldn't have." Gretchen agreed. Behind her back
Brad was unfastening her bra. Deep cleavage made a groove for his
finger. "I better get going. Have a good one. Good luck with
"I heard you might be buying a new house. I really am sorry Gretchen."
"I know you are." The tips of her nipples ached beneath her shirt. "Don't worry about it."
"If money would help I can loan you some." Refusing Brent's money
felt even better than hearing him apologize without being prompted.
Outside the sky was so bright and blue it hurt her eyes. This was a
magical day. "I'm fine but thanks. Good luck with
everything. Take good care of Fern."
"I will. Or at least I'll try. Is there any way," Brent avoided the
mirror and paced the length of his room again. "Do you think it would
help to talk about the past?"
"Not really." If Brad didn't stop rubbing her she was going to have
an orgasm while she was on the phone with Brent. "I'm over it."
"Whatever happened...," he couldn't tell her he was sorry if he had
hurt her because he had meant to hurt her. "I'm sorry."
"You're making a big deal out of nothing. You'll give yourself a
headache worrying about it. I have to get going. Thanks for letting
Brad out of the Seattle trip."
"What is he doing that he wants out?" At that moment Brad's tongue
was teasing Gretchen. As soon as she was off the phone she was going to
retaliate. "I'm going to take him to Ireland. I'm going with my dad and
we're going to meet up with Lana so it should be fun."
"It sounds like fun. Have a nice trip. Tell everyone I say hi. Can I
talk to Brad again?" Before accepting the phone from Gretchen Brad
wiped the scent of her off his face. Brent sure had lousy timing. "I
can't call Greg and Gloria if I'm on the phone with you." His brother's
dismissal hurt. But Brent had agreed to be nice to Gretchen. "Let me
know who is going to fly out with Vivian. I'll pay for their ticket."
"I've got it." The sooner Brent got off the phone the sooner Brad
could get back to Gretchen. "You guys paid for mine so I owe you one.
I'll send Fern an e-mail as soon as I get things worked out on my end.
Thanks for calling. And thanks for the apology."
"You're not going out with Gretchen after what happened in Seattle
are you? Because that'd be the biggest mistake of your life. I talked
to Lana and she said..."
"As a matter of fact I am so your apology came at the perfect time.
Thanks for being there for us when we needed you." Lightly his finger
stroked Gretchen's quivering flesh. "Brad...," Brent could hardly
believe his brother was being such an idiot. Distracted by Gretchen
Brad cut the call short. "We'll talk to you later. Let me know how
Fairfax is doing."
"Damn it Brad, listen to me...," Once again his brother interrupted him. "I've got another call. Later gator."
"Brad, don't you dare...," the words 'hang up on me' died when the
connection went. Furiously Brent threw his phone on the bed cursing his
brother's stupidity. Gretchen's room was still warm but she was so
welcoming Brad almost let voicemail take the call. With one hand on
Gretchen Brad set
her father's phone down to see who was
calling him. The number wasn't one he recognized but there was no
Lana's voice on the other end of the