You're so Bad
“Should we say she likes crocheting?” Reese suggests, glancing at the screen of the laptop cradled in Shauna’s lap.
The three of us are sitting on the couch in the living room of our house, Shauna in the middle with the computer. We're creating a dating profile for Constance. Does she know about it? Hell, no. But she’s exactly the kind of woman who does what she wants and asks for forgiveness later, so she deserves a taste of her own medicine. Besides, we all love her, and we want her to have herself a good time. Right now, she’s off at a crafting class so she can make a centerpiece for Thanksgiving dinner, which we’re going to at Danny and Mira’s apartment later this week even though Burke’s house is about ten times larger. She told Shauna the class would last well into the evening, so we’re in no rush.
Bean’s curled up in my lap, about twice as big as she was when I first brought her home, and Bertie is settled into his bed next to Reese. Which isn’t to say he hasn't been looking at me and grumbling every five minutes. He may have gotten used to me being around, but he’ll never like sharing our girl’s attention, and I can’t say I blame him.
“She’s getting a bit better at fiber arts,” Reese continues. “She made me that scarf last week, and it was actually pretty warm.”
“No offense, bub,” I say, patting him on the back, “but it made you look like big bird.”
It was yellow and fluffy, and Reese actually grew an inch over the past month, surprising us all.
“Yeah,” Shauna adds as she cuddles closer to me, wiggling her butt in a way that gives me ideas. “Let’s be honest. Crocheting isn’t exactly her strong suit.”
“And that kind of crafting makes you think of an old broad,” I agree. “Constance may be getting on in years, but no one who wants to keep their balls would call her old.”
Reese grunts in agreement, because he made that mistake a few weeks back, just before Halloween. He wouldn’t let her carry a box into the house, on account of it was heavy, and when he told her he was offering because she was in danger of hurting her aging bones, she put him on Bertie clean-up duty for a week.
“What if we say she’s open to new experiences,” he offers as he reaches over to give Bean a pet. She affectionaly bats at him.
“Then we’ll attract some silver fox pervert who thinks he can spank her with a flogger,” I say, making Shauna laugh. Good.
“Don’t,” she says, bending over the computer with her laughter. It’s making her tits sway under her shirt, which is a mighty fine view. It’s too bad there was a cold snap today, because the shirt is long-sleeved and covers up most of the things I love to see. We’re all in long-sleeve shirts and jeans, casual as you please, because that’s what pleases all of us. “She’d probably like that.”
“Maybe so,” I say. “Go ahead and add it, Tiger.”
“Can’t. Laughing too hard.”
So I shoo Bean off my lap, earning me a less-than-pleased love tap, then grab the laptop and add the line, ending with a winky face.
“Don’t,” Shauna says, her voice pained, as she laughs even harder. She’s let her hair grow a longer, and it flutters around her face and her cheeks.
I reach over and tuck it behind her ears. “You think I’m gonna stop if you keep laughing like that? I can’t think of a sight I’d rather see.” Giving her a wicked look, I add, “What am I saying, now. Of course I can.”
“Come on,” Reese says with a sigh. “I’m right here. Can’t you wait until later to launch into that stuff? I want to help with Constance’s profile.”
“Nah. Some things can’t wait,” I say. “You’ll understand when you’re older.”
“You say that about every five minutes," he complains, quite rightly.
“So I guess you’re still not old enough. Now, what next?”
Reese gives us a nervous glance. “Well…I haven’t shown anyone yet, because I made it for Christmas, but I painted a portrait of her. You think maybe we should use that as one of her photos?"
Shauna beams at him. I love it when the two of them get down with their art together. It’s fucking beautiful to see, even if the best picture I can put together is a couple of stick figures going at it in the Note It app Shauna and I downloaded so we can send each other pictures messages during the day.
“You’re too much, kid,” she says.
“I don’t know.” I run a hand along my jaw, pretending to think on it. “Did you give her a bubble butt?”
“I’ll go get it,” he says, ignoring me. That’s fine. He knows who the real brains are in this here outfit.
I set the laptop on the coffee table and pull Shauna onto my lap, getting a squeal from her.
“This is a bad idea,” she tells me, turning her head to look at me. I lean forward and kiss her, capturing her bottom lip in my teeth and sucking.
A little sound escapes her, and I grin against her mouth before pulling back slightly. “You like saying that, but it almost always turns out to be a good idea.”
“Okay, Doc,” she says wryly, her eyes shining, “but this is a different situation. Nana might get pissed at us.”
“And here I am, thinking we got the best trump card there is, because she made up a fake boyfriend for you not three months ago.” Bertie makes a sound that’s an awful lot like a sigh, as if he understands me and is none too pleased that I’ve stuck around.
Shauna reaches forward to straighten my hair, her hand lingering on my face, soft and smooth, and I want it everywhere. Too bad the kid’s at home, because if he weren’t, I’d suggest we have ourselves some fun right here on the couch.
“We all know how that turned out,” she says. “She’s well aware that she did me a favor.”
I grin at her as she traces her hand down my cheek. “Maybe I just wanted to hear you say it.”
“Oh come on,” Reese says as he walks back in, every bit the teenager who just walked in on his parents doing the nasty. I can’t help but laugh. Who ever thought I’d be on the receiving end of that tone. Most of the people I knew growing up thought I’d be dead before I even reached thirty, and here I am a few years older than that with a bonafide job, a woman who’s much too good for me, and a teenager to torment.
Shauna slides off my lap, and I lift my hands. “Nothing to see here. Now show us the bubble butt.”
“She doesn’t have a bubble butt,” he says, rolling his eyes as he lifts up the small canvas.
Shauna sucks in a breath, and even though I’m no artist, I know it’s something special. It’s just Constance's face, laughing, but he's captured her…well, her Constanceness. I’m not a man who’s good with words. All I know is that Constance is the kind of person who you meet and then want to hold on to. It was like that for me from the beginning, even before I knew I was going to fall in love with her granddaughter. And somehow the little scamp captured that with nothing more than paint and canvas.
“It’s incredible, Reese,” Shauna finally says. “Yes, we should absolutely include a photo of that.”
I nod to him. “You’ve got a talent, my friend. I’m proud of you.”
Better yet, I can tell he’s proud of himself. Proud that he’s stuck with painting and learned a thing or two. Proud that he’s got a real job. Proud that he’s standing up to the asshole foster father who hit him and made him feel like less of a person. We still don’t know what all will happen with that, but the thing that matters most is that he’s doing it. He was scared, but he didn’t let that stop him.
I’m facing down my demons, too, so maybe I’ve learned a thing or two from him, or he’s learned a thing or two from me. Whatever the case, we’re growing together, and it feels pretty damn good.
“I’ll go take a photo of it in the art room,” he says with a grin. “The lighting is better down there.”
Because we installed a special light box for taking photos of some of Shauna’s smaller creations.
Once he disappears, I give her a look. “Should we get back to what we were doing, Tiger?”
Except my phone chooses that moment to buzz. I set it out on the coffee table earlier, and now it’s doing a little dance on the surface.
“Is it Nana?” Shauna asks, her gaze skating to the laptop. If Constance walks in now, it won't take her more than a moment to figure exactly what it is we've been up to, what with the photo of her on the screen, under a headline saying “Seeking Silver Fox.”
I pick up the phone and frown on it, because if I’d been asked to guess who was calling, her name wouldn’t have come up on the short list.
I meet Shauna’s gaze. “It’s Josie the Great. Should I answer?”
Her what-the-fuck face is probably a mirror image of mine. We’ve both seen Josie since the garbage fire that was Champ and Bianca’s wedding, but I wouldn’t have thought the psychic and I were on casual phone call terms.
“Yeah?” she says, although it comes out as a question. Then she follows up with a nod. “Put it on speaker.”
So I do.
When I answer, Josie gets right down to business. “I need to come to your Thanksgiving dinner.”
“Excuse me?” I say.
“You’re excused. It’s important. Untold disasters will go down if I’m not included in your plans. I saw it very clearly. My boyfriend too. His presence is mandatory.”
“But it’s not my Thanksgiving dinner,” I say. “We’re going to a friend’s place. I can’t rightly invite you to my friend’s house.”
“Your friend is Danny,” she says. “I don’t have his number.” This last bit is said in a sulky tone, like she’s as much an annoyed teenager as Reese. “If he’d thought to give it to me, I could have told him directly.”
“Still,” I say. “I can’t tell you to come. It’s not my place.”
I'm also not so sure it’s a good idea for her to be there. Josie has a talent for causing trouble or at least for being at the center of it, and while I’m that kind of person too, I wouldn’t feel good about bringing a flaming bag of dog shit to Danny’s door. He’s got it hard enough right now.
Shauna surprises me by taking the phone from my hand. “We’ll send you the info,” she says. “Bring a side dish.”
“I don’t cook,” Josie says as if offended. “But I’ll do reading for anyone who wants them.”
“I don't think this is such a good idea, Tiger,” I tell Shauna, raising my eyebrows.
“It’s the only thing that will save you,” Josie says dramatically before clicking off the call.
Shauna watches me as she types off a text and then sets the phone down next to her laptop.
“Why’d you go and do a thing like that?” I ask, curious. My mouth hitches up. “Did you really believe Thanksgiving dinner would be fucked if we didn’t invite her and her boyfriend?”
“I think Thanksgiving dinner will be fucked regardless,” she says, and knowing what I do, I’m inclined to agree with her. “But Josie…she gets things rolling. I think maybe we do need her to be there. Don’t ask why.” She shrugs. “Anyway, I’m guessing her plans fell through and she didn’t have anywhere else to go. Nana says no one should go through the holidays alone.”
I have, many times. When I was Reese’s age, I spent Thanksgiving at a shelter with a bunch of people I didn’t know from Adam.
Now, I have a family.
Now, I’m a man who has a lot to lose, and no mind to lose any of it.
I lean forward and claim her lips. She kisses me back hard, no gentleness in my girl, not now. She knows what I’m thinking. Most of the time, she knows before I do.
Then I pull back slightly. “I love you. I’d like to spend every Thanksgiving I have left with you, and every time some chucklehead asks what I’m thankful for at the dinner table, the answer will be so obvious the turkey will know it. I’m thankful for you.”
“Look at you, getting soft,” she says, but there’s a smile on her face, and I know I’ve pleased her. If I’m lucky, I’ll go on pleasing her. Every day. Every goddamn way I can.
“You know I’m hard where it counts.” I wink at her, and she reaches over to cup my jaw.
“Maybe I should test that.”
Of course that’s the exact moment when Reese comes bounding up the stairs.
“Goddamn, are you two still at it?” He rolls his eyes, and we all laugh, and I feel so good I hardly know what to do with it.
“Guess what?” I say as he settles onto the couch again and shows us the photo he took before sending it off to Shauna. “Shauna went and invited a psychic to Thanksgiving Dinner.”
“Seriously?” he says, glancing between us as she reclaims the laptop and loads up his picture. “Josie’s coming? You mean Josie, right?”
As if we know more than one person who fancies themselves a psychic.
“Yes,” she confirms. “Just don’t ask her for any advice. We’re ninety percent sure she’s full of shit.”
“Still, that’s pretty cool. She knew about the cake falling at that wedding. That’s pretty dope.”
“It probably only fell because she told them it was going to,” I feel the need to point out.
He shrugs. “It’s almost cooler if she made it happen out of the power of suggestion. I’d like to be able to do that.”
“We have a future Machiavelli on our hands here,” Shauna says with a snort.
“A future who?” he asks.
“Don’t you listen to her. You want to be a fortune teller, you got our blessing.”
Shauna shakes her head as if she’s done with us, but she’s not fooling me. I can see her grinning at the screen of her laptop.
“Okay, guys, this is it,” she says, lifting her head and glancing from me to Reese with shining eyes that make her look even sexier. “Go time.”
She launches the profile, and Reese actually claps, which makes me grin. Sometimes he can’t reel back his enthusiasm, hard as he might try.
A second later, Shauna gasps. “We already got a like!”
"Who’s it from?” I ask, leaning in.
“Huh. I’m inclined to say no, but you never know with Constance. She might just want a bit of ass.”
Reese releases a sound like someone just punched him in the gut. “All right,” he says, getting to his feet again. “On second thought, I’m going to go bleach my brain. I want Constance to have fun, too, but this… This is too much for me, I think.”
"Way to set healthy boundaries, kid!” I call after him as he retreats to his room, Bean and Bertie following him like he’s the damned Pied Piper.
He lifts an arm in acknowledgement and keeps going.
“And look at you talking about things like boundaries,” Shauna says with a little smile as she sets the laptop onto the coffee table again. She scoots close and stretches her legs over my lap. A feeling of pure happiness envelops me, because there’s nothing that brings me more joy than being close to her.
“Therapy is a wonderful thing,” I tell her. “And getting some ass is even better.”
She laughs as I lean in and tickle her, then lift the edge of her shirt so I can blow a raspberry on her stomach. Who am I kidding, I just want it to come off. I’m about to pick her up and throw her over my shoulder so I can get her into our bedroom when the door is thrown open with a dramatic energy that only Constance can achieve. Cold air wafts in, followed by Constance in a bright red dress, her hair swept back in some style I couldn’t begin to name.
“Children, you owe me an explanation,” she says as she shuts the door behind her.
Well, shit. That happened sooner than expected.
“What’s up?” I ask, because I don’t want to admit to the crime before she accuses us of it.
“You set up a dating profile for me?”
“How’d you know?” Shauna says, because she doesn’t know that you should wait for as long as possible before admitting to wrong-doing.
“Delia just sent me a message. That private investigator Burke works with, Deacon Montgomery, asked him about me. Because he saw my dating profile and recognized me from some of her photos. I know it was you.”
I look to Shauna, who looks to me. Okay, then.
"Sure,” I say, glancing back at Constance. From the way she’s staring at us, I can’t tell whether he’s mad, but she’s definitely upset. “We love you, Constance, and we go to thinking you might like to have a lot silver fox fun. Why should Frank get all the ass?”
Shauna shoves my shoulder with hers, and I bite back a laugh. “It’s not just that, Nana,” she insists. “You told me you’re more yourself now, and you’re right. Wouldn’t you like to find someone who loves this version of you?” She pauses, then adds, “Are you interested in the P.I.?”
She snorts and adjusts her hair. “I’ve never met the man, have I? Still, there’s something…debonair about the profession, I suppose.”
“Not to ruin the moment,” I say, “but I think his username is PrivateD!ck4U.”
She laughs harder. “All the better. Now, did you set it up on that computer?” She nods to Shauna’s laptop.
“Yes, ma’am,” I say.
She gives me the hard look of a woman who doesn’t appreciate being called ma’am, and sits down next to Shauna and claims the computer.
“Just don’t look at your profile photos,” I say. “It’ll ruin your Christmas present.”
She shakes her head in put-upon aggravation. “If this is what you’re giving me for Thanksgiving, I despair to think of Christmas.” But I don’t think she’s going to look. She’s a woman who likes surprises, Constance.
“Well,” I say, getting to my feet and holding out a hand to Shauna. “We’ll leave you to it. I got something I need to do with Tiger here.”
“You do?” she asks, surprised. I understand, because the idea only just came to me. A few minutes ago, we had every intention of staying in tonight.
“I do. Get on your coat, sugar.”
She does, and I do the same. When we leave, Constance is poking around on the laptop, a look of glee on her face. She looks up and smiles at us, the smile of a mother tiger. “Thank you, you meddling troublemakers."
I salute her, and Shauna rushes in to give her a hug. Minutes later, we’re in my new truck, a sweet Ford F150, headed to our destination.
“Where are we going?” she asks, giving me a sidelong look.
I answer by putting my hand on her leg and starting to sing, “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”
She gives me an aggravated look and then joins in.
But her expression changes as we get closer, and I can feel her watching me with open curiosity.
“Why are we going here?” she asks. “It’s probably not open. It’s not exactly the time of year for it.”
“That’s okay,” I say slyly. “We’ve never let a little thing like that stop us before.”
It’s not open. The gate has been shut and padlocked, but it’s a measly little gate, and we park to one side of it before we both climb the fence and walk into the flower farm. I’m holding Tiger’s hand tightly in mine, my heart thumping in my chest. The fields are pretty damn stark, but there are a few late autumn flowers that are pops of color.
“What are we doing here?” she asks again, turning to me.
I put my arms around her, and she can probably feel my heart trying to escape my chest.
“I meant what I said earlier,” I say, looking down as she looks up, tipping her head like she’s one of those flowers and I'm the sun. “The thing I’m most thankful for is you. You once told me that you wanted to get married in this here flower farm. I’m not going to ask you officially until I have the money for a ring, and even then, I feel I’ve barely got the right to ask you at all. But I’m going to marry you out here someday, if you have the mind to keep taking chances on me. I love you, Shauna. You’re everything in this world to me.”
Her eyes are glimmering in that dangerous way that tells me she might cry. She tips up onto her toes and kisses me hard, claiming my mouth like she’s claimed every other part of me. Her lips are soft and hungry, and I’m filled with a need that won’t quit. It’ll never be enough, her sassy mouth, her sweet pussy, her hands touching me like I’m someone who’s worthy. I melt into her, letting myself take this moment, this joy.
She pulls away slightly and says, “And you’re everything in this world for me. I don’t need Josie the Great to tell me. We are going to get married out here. With just you and me and Reese and Nana. Delia and Burke and Mira. Danny and Shane. Drew. It’s going to happen, Leonard. I can see it. I can see forever.”
And, because I’m me, and I have a true talent for breaking beautiful moments, I say, “It’s not too cold out just yet. What do you say we make it official out in the flower field? I’ll get you warm mighty quick.”
And because she’s her, she answers by pulling her jacket off and letting it fall, then grabbing me by the hem of my shirt. And in my chest, I know. I’m right where I need to be, even if it took me longer than most to get here.
This is how forever feels.
Danny and Mira's story comes next!
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