Once again I'd like to thank @bois and @crystalline for helping me smooth the wrinkles
I cannot say that Hawaii was the most fun I’ve had on a vacation. Staying in a house with twenty-five people, most of whom you don’t know that well is no easy task. Pair that with attempting to mend a fractured and bruised relationship and a family quarrel. But—and it’s a big but—I got the guy.
But being back in Oregon was a whirlwind. I was meeting with Wayne and others several times a week to discuss logistics for a job that was being built for me. Wayne had called me the morning we were leaving Hawaii, as I was packing my bags, to tell me they were ready to officially offer me a job. I had Penn and now I had a job with the company I loved.
When I wasn’t working on the details of my soon-to-be job that wasn’t slotted to start until the first of November, I was working at Costco, the one that had sustained me during the craziest year of my life. Costco had helped me gain a newfound independence and build relationships that were so different from anything I ever had in Lincoln.
I was the same person in many ways but also very different.
Life felt kind of crazy and busy and full of blooming life. When I was married to Lee my life was the same except completely different. With Lee, everything was fun but slightly chaotic. I wouldn’t describe it as bad but only because I didn’t know better. I had no idea how unhealthy some of the patterns were.
The key difference between then and now is Penn. No matter how crazy things seemed, how frazzled I was after a day of planning with the regional board regarding my new role, how busy I’d been working in the warehouse or running the checkout stand—seeing Penn was like issuing a cease and desist on the crazy and chaotic. When he knocked on my door or I on his, and he looked at me the way only he could, everything stopped and only he existed. It sounds sappy but it’s the way it was.
Lee and I spent a lot of time together but we also spent a lot of time apart. It was something that worked for us. I never had the desire for something different but with Penn, I couldn’t imagine planning things that didn’t include him. Suddenly, solo vacations and weekends away were like indie low budget horror films. Every chance I got found me heading south on I5 just to wake up and head north on I5 the next morning.
I was exactly one month away from my November first start date and I was secretly terrified that I might be making a mistake. The new role was everything I ever wanted; traveling, diversity, planning, critical thinking, and training but it also meant being away from home a lot. Home right now was still Joe’s spare room but it wasn’t going to stay that way forever.
It had been a long week and I had finagled three days off as a surprise for Penn. It wasn’t a long weekend, that wasn’t how retail worked, but I knew Penn would appreciate it regardless of what days of the week it was. I pulled up to the house around nine. I didn’t tell him I was coming because unlike my crazy, nonstop life, Penn was as predictable as rain in January.
He must’ve seen me through the security monitor in the kitchen because I didn’t get a chance to say hey, hi, hello or even get a good look at my foxy boyfriend before he was on me—kissing me and dragging me into the house to have his way with me. For the record, I didn’t put up a fight. I was a willing victim if there was such a thing.
Penn hefted me over his shoulder. “I was wondering when you were going to stop by,” he said as we headed toward the stairs. I laughed at how playful he’d gotten. He was more relaxed around me than he’d ever been and I couldn’t get enough of it. Plus, the view was top notch...or bottom notch if you want to be technical. Penn wore an old pair of sweatpants that had lost their softness a decade ago but made his ass look bangable.
As he ascended the stairs, I slipped my finger down his pants and between those thick globes I couldn’t get enough of. He faltered when I pressed against his entrance but quickly recovered, taking the rest of the stairs two at a time. Quite the feat considering he was carrying an extra buck-seventy.
He went straight to his room and tossed me on the bed then disrobed. Sometimes there really was no ‘romance’ between us. Instead, there was a comfort that meant we could forgo any pretenses. And we were only two months into this thing. The more time I spent with Penn, the more I saw what I was missing with Lee. The guy always wanted things to be sensual between us. To the point, it felt forced.
With Penn, I learned sensuality has so many different levels. It’s more a mindset than anything else. This is why Penn broke the sensual meter even as he casually stripped me of my clothes like it was just another Tuesday, which it was, and he was trying to get laundry done. Then he crawled on the bed, spread my legs to his satisfaction, then reached to the nightstand to get what he needed.
He turned the box of condoms upside down and a strip of three fell out. “This is all that’s left,” he said as he took one off and tossed the others back in the box, returned it to the nightstand, and grabbed the lube. “Can you get more from work?”
“Sure, anything else?” I asked, amused at the whole thing.
He thought about it as he tore the wrapper then grabbed the bottle and opened the cap. He didn’t take the condom out, he was just getting it ready for later. He hated trying to open it after getting lube on his hands. “I’m low on those chocolate covered macadamia nuts.”
I shifted up on one elbow and laughed. “Is this a turn on to you?” I asked.
Penn tilted his head in confusion as he put lube on his hands. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, you’re talking about a shopping list and macadamia nuts.”
He looked at me like I was the strange one. “Yeah, because we need condoms and then you asked if I needed anything.”
“I was joking,” I laughed. “You’re just going about everything like you’re getting ready for surgery. I was just curious if this was doing it for you.”
Penn looked down at his erection, which was not waning or in need of simulation, and smiled. “I haven’t seen you in a week and now you’re here, laid out in front of me. Yeah, this is doing it for me.”
“Okay, I was just checking.”
Penn eyed me, “Is this not doing it for you?”
I looked at my erection, which was also not waning or in need of any attention. “Oh yeah,” I smirked. “I’m doing ok.”
“It was the shopping list that got you going, don’t lie,” he smiled slyly then reached down and smeared the lube along my ass before slowly pressing his finger in me.
I groaned, and had to take a breath, but continued on. “Kind of, yeah. It’s you and how easy it is between us. I love that. I love that I haven’t done anything yet you’re that hard for me.”
Penn leaned forward and kissed me. “You’re in my brain and now you’re in my bed. That’s enough for me.”
When he was done kissing me, he’d already managed three fingers which he quickly replaced with his condom wrapped cock.
“Fine,” I moaned. “I’ll buy you more macadamia nuts.”
This time Penn laughed and that damn smile, and everything it represented, sent a charge through me. It was the weirdest feeling, like soda exploding in your mouth until you couldn’t hold it in and it came out your nose. It’s a terrible analogy and he’d be offended if I ever said aloud, except it wasn’t all that far off.
He was staring at me, those dark brown eyes as light as I’d ever seen them. He loved me. It was written on his face and in his actions and the way he reacted when he saw me. And the way he was so comfortable that he could talk about buying condoms and macadamia nuts when he was getting ready to fuck my brains out. I hoped he saw it in me too. The way I looked at him and, in my actions, and the way I reacted when I saw him.
Penn pushed all the way in then kissed me, then pulled out, and started doing what he did so well. I don’t think either of us was looking for a marathon. He edged both of us long enough that by the time I finally came, it was so intense I was scared to get hard again. We did a quick clean up then tangled up in each other until I wasn’t sure where he started and I ended.
“I’m glad you came,” he said.
“I’m glad you made me cum.”
Penn smiled into my neck which made me smile and my stomach flutter. “That’s not what I meant and you know it.”
“I couldn’t be away for one more day,” I told him in all honesty. “I never had an issue being away from Lee. Even in the beginning when I was still in high school and he was off at college. I missed him but life went on. It’s not like that with you. Life stops and it doesn’t go on until I see you again.”
Penn squeezed me tighter. He was silent as he savored the words. When he responded, it was a simple ‘same’. It was softly spoken but packed with truth. We stayed up for a bit longer but neither of us spoke. It was just nice to be. And sometimes touch and proximity were more important than anything else.
Penn was on the other side of the bed when I woke. I quietly snuck out of bed, pulled on his sweatpants and t-shirt, then softly padded my way downstairs to the kitchen. I had a million songs on my phone from my Yevo days. A lot of them I enjoyed because they were fun, upbeat, and packed a lot of great memories. I plugged the phone into the speaker that was on the kitchen counter. I’m not sure Penn ever used it but I got enough mileage for the both of us.
I was cooking breakfast and grooving to Wobble when Penn came in. He came up behind me and kissed my cheek then tried to slide past me to safety. I grabbed him and started dancing against him.
“It’s too early for this,” he said, his voice thick with sleep. I didn’t miss the way he complained but didn’t try to stop me.
I continued to dance to the song purely for Penn’s enjoyment. “I know you can dance; we’ve done it before.”
“That was different.”
“How?” I asked. Penn shrugged and put his hand on my waist, getting into a little more. I laughed. “That’s what I thought.”
“Not like you remember anyway. You were still with Lee.”
“I remember just fine.”
“You didn’t care.”
“I didn’t,” I admitted. “But I do now.”
Penn must’ve liked that answer because he continued to dance. He had this effortless way about him which made him a great dancer only he didn’t know it so he tried too hard, which made him slightly awkward. And totally adorable. I loved it. Also, leave it to Penn to look so goddamn sexy dancing in the morning with his dark brown hair plastered in every direction and sleep creases on his face.
The song changed to a favorite of mine by Dermot Kennedy. I hadn’t heard it in a while but as it played, I saw the look on Penn’s face change. The playfulness fell away as the words resonated with him. He didn’t take his eyes off me and I couldn’t take mine off him. I could see it in his eyes, that every word being sung over the speaker was being sung for me. But it was also being sung for him. Because he had that power over me.
The dancing slowed until we swayed back and forth, pressed against each other, staring. I leaned in and kissed him. It was slow and languid but authoritative. When he pulled away, I was breathless and flustered and hard as a rock.
“I think the eggs are burnt,” I said as I straightened up. Penn watched me for a few seconds before taking the pan off the heat and turning the oven off.
“What time do you have to leave?” He asked.
“Nightfall on Friday,” I answered. “Only because I work an early shift on Saturday.”
Penn spun around. “Friday?”
“Yep. Did I not say that last night?”
“Oh,” I smirked. “I must have been sidetracked.”
Penn growled and wrapped his arm around my waist. “You’re really here for three days?”
“I wish I would’ve known. I would’ve cleared my schedule for you.”
“We can’t always clear our schedules. I thought it would be fun to shadow you. Go to work and watch what you do all day.”
“You don’t want to pump toilets.”
“You said you hire guys to do that.”
Penn smiled. “Maybe I’m covering for someone today.” I narrowed my eyes and Penn folded like a cheap suit. He smiled then kissed me. “I’m really glad you're here and I’m happy to bring you to work.”
We hung out in the kitchen and ate cereal in our pj’s then showered. Besides some kissing and heavy teasing, nothing happened. Despite not seeing each other as often as we wanted, there was more to life than getting off. Except, I couldn’t stop myself after he got dressed. There was something so incredibly sexy about Penn when he was dressed in his work clothes. They were just worn Levi’s and threadbare shirts/sweatshirts but he just looked so good.
“What are you doing?” He asked as I yanked his fly open and fell to my knees. Penn bit his lip and watched me as I used my tongue to bring him to life, then slowly worked him until he was breathing heavy. I loved that he was big enough to push my limits but not too big that I couldn’t handle him.
I was getting close when Penn’s fingers gripped my hair. I could feel him starting to twitch and was about to step up my game when the doorbell rang. We couldn’t really ignore it because if we didn’t answer, his brothers would walk right in and we weren’t exactly in the safety of the bedroom. I hadn’t seen his family since Hawaii and this wasn’t how I wanted to be reintroduced.
When the bell rang again, I pulled off Penn with a loud pop. “You go to the bedroom and finish and I’ll answer the door.”
“I’m going to kill them.” Penn didn’t bother tucking himself in as he marched to the bedroom and shut the door. I stood and watched where he’d been standing, smiling, then went to greet one or both of his brothers.
I knew the second I opened the door I’d be accosted for being MIA. What little time Penn and I had together, wasn’t going to be spent with them even if they felt they somehow deserved it. I respected Penn wanting that boundary, but I knew it would end eventually. Only, when I opened the door, it wasn’t Ryan or Logan.
“Hi,” I said, disguising my shock with a friendly smile.
“Is Penn here?”
I opened the door more and moved to the side. “He’s just finishing up. Come in.” I followed him to the kitchen where we both waited. “Can I get you some water?”
He declined and we both stood there awkwardly. Luckily, it wasn’t long until I heard Penn’s steps as he hurried down the stairs. He kind of slid into the kitchen, probably preparing to save me from his brothers, instead, he stumbled on his own surprise.
“Sorry I’m late.”
“No worries. I’m running late myself. I have to finish up a few things. Do you mind waiting a few minutes?”
“No worries,” he said. “I have a few work calls so I’ll meet you outside.” Jason smiled at Penn then me before leaving the house.
When the front door closed, Penn whipped around and gripped my shoulders. “I told you about this. When Jason said he was going to be in Oregon and asked if we could meet up, I asked you if you were okay with it, remember?”
“I remember,” I said. “I didn’t realize it was today, though.”
“I forgot.” Penn ran a frustrated hand through his hair. “You showed up and everything went out the window.”
I pulled Penn to me by the strings of his sweatshirt. “It’s fine. You go.”
“I can cancel.”
I thought about it for one literal second before telling him it wasn’t necessary. “What are you guys going to do anyway?”
“We were just going to hangout. Go get lunch,” he said. “What about you? What are you going to do?”
“I have some errands I can run. Maybe see dad, depending on how long you’re with your ex-boyfriend.”
“We weren’t boyfriends.”
I kissed his cheek and grabbed my sweatshirt from the counter. “Sure, keep telling yourself that.”
“We weren’t boyfriends,” he said as he followed me to the front door.
“Don’t fall in love with him when he tries to talk you out of dating me.”
He couldn’t say anything because Jason was standing on the porch, waiting, so Penn glared at me instead. I waved goodbye and left Penn and Jason to do whatever it was they had planned. I didn’t love the idea of leaving them alone but I couldn’t let what happened with Lee affect my relationship with Penn. I trusted him.
I called my dad and Nathan but they were both working. I drove around for a bit before landing at the grocery store. I’d been living in Portland for so long I forgot what it was like to grocery shop in a small town. It seemed like every aisle landed me in front of someone I hadn’t seen in two years who had lots of questions. Mostly, what was I up to? And how sorry they were to hear about Lee and I followed by a discrete inquiry as to what happened to us, which I sidestepped.
Despite their curiosity, it was nice to see old acquaintances though it left me feeling drained. I was over Lee but being back in Lincoln, going through a familiar motion that reminded me of my time with Lee, knowing Penn was with Jason—well, it didn’t sit well.
And because the day wasn’t going as planned and I was a slug and life was a giant salt shaker, it would be fitting that Lee just happened to be standing next to my car as I came out. I loaded my stuff into the back then walked around. Lee was standing by the driver’s door.
“You blocked me.”
“Why does it matter?” I countered. “Why were you trying to call me? What was left to talk about?”
This was the part where Lee would get defensive and say something to try and belittle me. Only there were no harsh words. Lee stood there and watched me with a genuinely sympathetic look. It was almost like I was standing next to the man I knew and loved for so many years.
Lee looked at his watch. “What are you doing?” He asked. “Are you free for lunch?”
Lee sighed. “I want to have lunch, Nash. I want to sit down and talk like we should’ve done a long time ago.”
“Like you should’ve done,” I corrected. “I wasn’t the one sabotaging our conversations. Sabotaging us.” I might not know Lee anymore but I still knew him enough to know he was going to press the issue until he got what he wanted. It’s how Lee worked. I experienced it first hand for years. I didn’t accept his first proposal to date yet it happened eventually. I held my hand up. “Please don’t. I don’t want to go and have lunch with you. I don’t trust you enough to do that. I gave you more than enough opportunity and you burned me every time. I went to therapy and I got the answers I needed. I don’t think you can tell me anything that I want to know.”
Lee looked defeated but he wasn’t ready to give up yet. “I owe you an apology.”
“Okay.” I let go of the door handle and faced him. He looked at me like he was confused about what I was doing, so I gestured for him to continue. “You don’t need to sit in a restaurant to apologize.”
Lee rolled his eyes. “Never mind.”
I turned back to the door and shrugged. “Okay.”
Lee growled. “I’m trying, okay? I feel bad about what happened and I want to make amends.”
“But there’s nothing to amend anymore. The window to that closed a long time ago. Even after you cheated, I would’ve worked through that if you would have tried, but you didn’t.”
“I’m not trying to get back together, I know that’s not going to happen, but I’d like to be friends.”
I leaned against my car and closed my eyes so I could gather my thoughts. “I don’t hate you, Lee, but I don’t want to be friends. Maybe down the road we can attend the same fundraiser together and hold a conversation, but friends? I don’t see the point. I mean, seriously? If you had valued me as a friend you still would’ve treated me better than you did. Who knows, maybe down the road I’ll change my mind, but for now? No.”
I didn’t give Lee a chance to respond though I don’t think he would’ve. The lawyer in him always got the last word if that’s what he wanted. I glanced back as I drove away and he was still standing there. The further I drove the more I wondered what he had to say, I just wasn’t sure I trusted whatever that was.
I unloaded the groceries to Penn’s kitchen and put everything away. I wasn’t sure when Penn was going to be home so I decided to make some coffee and sit on the porch. It was a bit chilly but nothing my jacket and the view couldn’t fix. I was feeling gloomy and I hated it. I hadn’t felt like that in a while.
Penn was gone most of the afternoon. The longer he was gone the worse my mood became. I wasn’t mad at him or anything, I was just feeling lonely. Seeing Lee had picked at an old wound. I’d been outside for hours when he got home. I could hear him moving around the house, calling for me.
“I’m out here,” I yelled. A moment later the door opened and Penn stuck his head through.
“What are you doing out here?” He asked. “What’s wrong? I told you I would’ve canceled on Jason.”
“No, no,” I waved off. “I ran into Lee today.”
“Oh,” he said, staring at me from the other side of the door. “Let me shower, okay? Meet me upstairs?”
I nodded then changed my clothes to something warm and comfortable before landing on the sofa in the media room where I found a JAG marathon playing. Penn joined a few minutes later. He came in silently and sat on the sofa with my head on his lap. Then he ran his fingers through my hair, twirling a clump in his fingers. We hadn’t sat like this since—
“So, you ran into Lee today?”
“Yeah. He wanted to have lunch.”
“He said he wanted to make amends.”
“Did you tell him to fuck off?” Penn smirked. I smiled at him and the familiarity of what we were doing and a little of the dark edge I was feeling began to dissipate.
“Pretty much. I told him that I didn’t want to have lunch because there wasn’t a good history of that working out. He said he just wanted to be friends and I said no.”
“I don’t know what he expected,” I continued. “He cheated on me in the worst way and then tried to make me feel like shit afterward. You can’t convince me that he had any respect for me back then and I’d be hard-pressed believing it’s changed.”
“Why do you think he wanted to have lunch then?”
“I don’t know. Probably needed some affirmation that I don’t hate him so he can move on. He probably wants to tell people how good things are between us, that the divorce was amicable and we’re still friends. I always knew he cared about what people thought but I didn’t realize how bad it was. I was so blind.”
Penn continued to finger my hair. “Was there any part of you that wanted to have lunch with him? To sit and talk like grown adults?”
“Yeah,” I said, finally. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little curious. I want to know what he has to say. I want to know a lot of things. I just don’t want to hear it from him.”
“Like what?” he asked.
“Normal things. I want to know when/where/why/how. I want to know how things went for him after. I want to hear that he’s sorry and he fucked up and lost everything. I want to know it all. But, also, I don’t.”
We laid in silence as Penn messed with my hair, making my eyes heavy.
“You know, Shayla is really good friends with Abby’s sister, Courtney.”
I furrowed my brows and looked at Penn. “And?”
“Paul tried to work on things with Shayla. She had questions, lots of questions, and he supposedly answered them.”
“Get to the point.”
Penn stared at me like I was being ridiculous. “Shayla told Courtney everything. Courtney told Abby—”
“And Abby told you?”
“She told all of us. Sometimes I was there, other times I was told after the fact by well-meaning brothers. I can tell you what I know,” he offered. “I can’t say the information is one hundred percent accurate and, it’s not from Lee’s perspective, but it’s something.”
“Do I want to know?” I asked.
Penn shrugged. “I don’t know. Do you?”
I turned over until my face was buried in his lap. I think I wanted to hear what he had to say but I didn’t want to look at him or anyone for that matter. “Okay, tell me.”
“Are you hiding?” he laughed.
I leaned up so I could see him. “You’re about to tell me things about my ex-husband that are going to make me feel shitty. I want a little privacy.”
“Okay, sounds fair.” When I nuzzled back into his lap, Penn rubbed the back of my head. “Paul said it started slowly. He’d been bi-curious for a while. Paul and Lee worked at different firms but attended a lot of functions together and got along pretty good since they were both heavily involved in the same circles and organizations—”
“Well, yeah. They also occasionally did trainings together. It was at a training where things kind of took off. They were at the hotel bar one night and had kind of been flirting, I guess. I don’t have the details but it was the first time something happened. Paul freaked out afterward and they didn’t talk for a while. Clearly, that didn’t last long. Paul said they mostly hooked up when you were gone. He claims it was purely sexual but Shayla said they went on at least two vacations together that were disguised as work events. She’s pretty sure it was more of an emotional affair than he let on. I know that Paul and Shayla tried for a year before she saw Paul coming out of Lee’s house one night. He claimed it was nothing but that was the last straw for her. She thinks they never stopped hooking up, that they were still messing around while he was making you go to therapy and while he and Shayla were in therapy. But that’s speculation.
Shayla finally left for good and filed for divorce. I guess Paul got super pissed and blamed Lee. There was a huge fight in the street between the two. Word was Paul was mad that Shayla left him and wanted Lee to suffer so he was going to air Lee’s laundry. From what I heard, that was the end of those two. Me and Logan were at lunch a while back and both Lee and Paul were there, separate parties of course. Logan and I were the only ones that knew what had happened between them so we could feel the tension while everyone else was oblivious. They never did acknowledge each other. I also heard that Lee started dating Brett Turner six months ago but Brett dumped him after a month.”
“Probably because Lee’s a douche.”
“I wonder if that’s why Lee wanted to talk, so he could clear the air and tell his boyfriends that he’s a good guy and is besties with his ex. You know? No hard feelings so his actions must not have been so bad.”
“It’s possible,” Penn agreed.
“What did Paul have that I didn’t?”
My face was turned by two strong hands until I was looking straight into Penn’s stormy brown eyes. “Nothing,” he said firmly. After silently promising I wasn’t going down that road, Penn let go of my face. “Now, tell me how you feel after hearing all that.”
“I don’t know what I expected but I don’t feel any different. Even as you said it, it was like I’d already heard it before. None of it is shocking. I guess some details are to be assumed.”
“Did it make you feel better to know that Lee got dumped?”
“I don’t care enough one way or another.”
He smiled. “Sorry to disappoint but that’s all I got.”
“Why didn’t you tell me before? That you knew all that?”
“Because we weren’t talking, then we were, but the information was irrelevant at that point. And for the record,” he said. “I never asked. They just assumed I wanted to know.”
“I figured,” I said. “Thank you. I actually feel better,” I sat up and kissed him. “Now, how was your day with Jason.”
“You weren’t wrong.”
“He had more feelings than he let on.”
“What did you say?”
“That I was sorry but it was always you,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t think he actually had strong feelings for me.”
“Why not? You’re a hell of a catch.”
“Eh. I think Jason is easy going and fun but I think he also liked having me on the hook. I think his ego was hurt and he’s reacting poorly.”
“I guess it doesn’t,” I conceded. “You know, I thought a lot about things while you were with Jason today.”
“Have you thought more about moving? You haven’t mentioned it since Hawaii.”
“Why do you ask?”
I rolled my eyes. “Gee, I don’t know. Maybe I’d like to know if you’re planning on moving to California or the east coast or wherever.”
“I’m waiting to see where you land.”
“But what do you want to do?”
“I want to wait and see where you land.”
I let out a frustrated sigh. “Penn, it’s not only about me and where I land. What about you? Are you still wanting to move away?”
“I’m being serious. I want to see what you do. I don’t want to move to California if you’re here. I’m fine staying in Lincoln. I’m also fine in Portland. I can be wherever.”
“As sweet as that answer is, I don’t like it. What would you do if you didn’t have to consider where I land? What if I had nothing going for me and was free to do whatever,” I asked. “What would you want to do then?”
Penn shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t think I’d want to move to California.”
“Maybe Spokane? I’ve thought about Arizona or North Carolina.”
“Okay,” I thought about it. That didn’t sound so bad. “How’s business been? Busy?” I asked.
“Yeah, it’s been good. Been staying real busy.”
“Are you looking to hire more help?”
Penn eyed me suspiciously. “Why?”
I rubbed my neck. “I don’t think I’m going to take the developer job with Yevo.”
Penn’s eyes went wide and I thought he was going to choke. “What? Why not? That’s what you’ve been waiting for.”
“It has been,” I agreed. “But the more we talk about the job, the more hesitant I get. The area I would cover is a lot bigger than originally discussed and that makes me nervous. I’d be covering Oregon, Washington, California, Montana, and Utah. That’s huge. I’d be on the road a lot. That would’ve been fine five years ago but I can’t even go seven days without you—and I don’t want to go seven days without you. So much has changed for me and I don’t want to hold on to things from the past. Yevo is the past. I did that when I was with Lee. I did a lot of things with—or without Lee—depending on how you look at it. I want things to be different with you.”
Penn looked terrified and I knew he was afraid he might be misunderstanding what I was getting at. “What are you saying?”
“Remember when we bought that box of condoms? We could’ve bought a smaller pack at the drugstore but I wanted the forty-eight pack because I was planning long term. Well, I’m still talking long term, only instead of condoms, I’m talking about living arrangements. I want to live where you’re at. I’m not saying we need to move in together, yet, but I’d like to be less than two hours away. I was thinking if that job offer was still open—”
“The one I gave you eighteen months ago?”
“That’s the one!” I laughed. “I’d take it now.”
“You said you’d never pump toilets.”
“First, I never said I’d never do it. I said I didn’t want to do it,” I corrected. “Second, you told me the job was more of an administrative role. Bids, billing, stuff like that.”
“It was—eighteen months ago,” he smiled. “Things have changed.”
My stomach picked that moment to rumble. I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast and waiting was no longer an option. We got up and went to the kitchen where we made steak salad and ate together. Penn was all smiley and bright and touchy as we ate. And so was I. I’d had a momentary mental hiccup because of Jason and Lee but Penn was bigger than that.
“Well,” I thought really hard, I even rubbed my chin and tapped my cheek for effect. “I could always stay with Costco and just transfer to a new city.”
“What?” he asked, confused by my sudden change of topic.
“You said the original offer expired. I was thinking I could transfer my current job.”
“Or you could work with me.”
“I’d work for you,” I corrected.
“With me,” he said. “Condom box sizes might be your long game but it’s not mine.”
“Condoms are my long game?” I asked, laughing at the wording but also kind of loving it.
“That’s why you insisted on a box of forty-eight,” he preened. “Even though we’re down to two and it’s only been just over eight weeks.”
“I need to rethink my long game.”
I spent the whole dinner watching Penn. We talked about work, and travel, and a little about what Penn wanted his businesses to look like in the future. I couldn’t stop staring at him. The way he kind of hunched over the table while he forked his salad, the way his shirt was a little tight, his skin was still tanned from the summer, and his hair had dried kind of funny after his shower. Then he’d look up and smile or laugh at something he said or something I said, and how his dark eyes had this kind of innocent, sheepish look that drove me insane. Between Penn’s natural ability to get under my skin and the two glasses of wine, I was all sorts of buzzing by the time dinner was done.
“I thought about my long game,” I said as we put the dirty dishes away. “I have a new plan.”
Penn smiled as he cleaned his plate off. His cheeks were a little rosy from the wine and he looked so sexy. “What? Are you going to buy the whole pallet of condoms?”
I took the plate and rags out of his hands and set them off to the side then pinned Penn against the counter. “You’d like that wouldn’t you?”
Penn swallowed and nodded his head.
“Do you want to live with me?” Penn nodded again. “Do you want me to work for you?” Penn was about to correct me but I beat him to it. “Work with you?” He nodded. “Are you my boyfriend?”
Penn’s eyes widened a fraction. Fear, anxiety, excitement. We hadn’t discussed it or made anything official, so this was new territory even though we’d been trespassing on the grounds for a while. Penn nodded. I walked my fingers under his shirt and around his waist until I was pressed against him.
“Are you seeing anyone else?” I slipped my hands down the back of his sweatpants and cupped his ass, letting my finger caress down the valley.
Penn shook his head. “No.”
With my hands on his ass, I pulled him towards me. “Are you planning on seeing anyone besides me?” I asked as I walked backward, up the stairs towards the bedroom.
“No,” he said, almost annoyed that I’d even ask him that. “It’s just you.”
“For how long?” I asked and there was a spark of panic in his eyes. Fear that if he said it out loud, that if he got too close to what he wanted, he’d be hung out to dry again. “For how long?” I asked again.
“Umm,” he hesitated. I pulled him into the bedroom and pulled his shirt over his head then pushed his pants down. When he was naked, I took my clothes off and stood in front of him again with my hands on his waist.
“Here’s my long game,” I said. “We have two condoms left. I’m going to use one tonight and one tomorrow before I head home. Then we will be out of condoms. When I go to work on Saturday, I’m not going to buy more. Which means we won’t have any the next time we’re together.”
I could feel Penn growing hard against my thigh and I could see his chest beating like crazy as I spoke.
“My schedule is going to free up after I talk to Wayne on Monday and turn down the job. You and I are going to find a rental somewhere near Portland until we can figure out where we’re going to go. In the meantime, you’re going to make a doctor’s appointment, because the next time we sleep together, we’re not using a condom. There’s no one else for you but me, and there’s no one for me but you. Understand?”
“Absolutely,” he leaned down and kissed me. He slipped his tongue against mine and I couldn’t help but get lost in him.
I pulled back. “Why are we doing this?” I asked. “These are serious plans. So tell me, why are we doing it?” Penn’s eyes darted back and forth as he tried to piece everything together. “There’s only one reason we’d take such big steps,” I said.
It finally registered and he looked hesitant but hopeful. He narrowed his eyes.
“If you’re not there—” I said, almost teasingly as I took a step back.
Penn grabbed my arms and pulled me flush against his chest. “Do you love me?” he asked.
I pushed Penn on the bed and crawled between his legs, hovering above him. “Do you love me back?” I asked.
Penn pulled me down, everything turned to chaos. We couldn’t get enough of each other and we rolled around on the bed trying to get more than ever before. Without breaking the kiss, Penn reached over and found what he needed. I went down on him and got him as prepared as I could. We probably should’ve taken more time but we were in too much of a hurry to worry about semantics.
He rolled the condom on me while I lubed him up.
“There’s only one condom left after this,” I said as I pressed into him.
“I’ve already been tested,” he said. “The week we got back from Hawaii.”
“I was tested after Lee.”
“You could take it off.”
I pushed all the way in, making him grunt. “What about the sea turtles?” I asked, pulling out and pushing in again.
“What about sea turtles?”
Penn felt so good around me, I swear it was better than ever before. “Something about plastic in the ocean,” I said, taking a breath to try and compose myself. “Not wanting to kill them. Being wasteful. Something like that.”
His laugh filled the room. Penn lifted my chin until I was looking right at those wonderful eyes. “But I want to feel you in me.”
“But I want to feel you in me now,” he begged. I lifted his leg over my shoulder and wondered what it would feel like. “Take it off. Cum inside me,” he persisted.
I moved faster. The look on his face and the words on his tongue brought me over the edge. I came so hard I thought my eyes would burst. I could barely catch my breath but I kept moving, slower this time.
“You didn’t cum in me,” he frowned.
“I just told you what my long game was. You can’t jump ahead.”
Even while I continued to fuck him, Penn reached to the side of the bed and grabbed the last condom. “If you’re going to keep going, you better re-suit.”
I eyed him skeptically. Although we sometimes re-suited between rounds, this felt particularly fishy. I pulled out and Penn rolled the condom off me then flipped me on my back and took me in his mouth. He worked me over until I was pulling him off because I was so close to the edge again. He rolled the last condom on me then straddled my lap.
Penn rode me hard and put me away wet. I was barely coherent by the time he let me cum. I laid on my back and tried to get my brain to unscramble itself. I finally opened my eyes and tilted my head toward Penn. He was next to me with a hand on his chest and a dopey smile on his face. His hair was damp, his skin was flush, and his chest was heaving.
I rolled, half covering his chest, and kissed him. “Thank you.”
Penn laughed, all lazy and stated like. “For what?”
“For everything. For being you; a friend, a listening ear, and a rock when I needed one. For being patient and forgiving.”
“I’m just glad you finally came to your senses.”
“Hey,” I lamely swatted his shoulder because I didn’t have the energy to pack a real punch. “I’m trying to be romantic here.”
“Are you trying to tell me you love me? Because you still haven’t actually said it.”
“I do love you,” I said.
“I’ve been in love with you for a while.”
“I kind of figured.”
“Yeah?” I asked, laughing. “How’d you figure?”
“I’m awesome. You just needed time to come to terms with it.”
I laughed, long and hard, then cupped his face. “You are awesome. And I’m happy to be on the receiving end of your awesome. And I hope you always share your awesomeness with me.”
“I hope you always share your awesomeness with me, too.”