Jeremy leaned against the bathroom door jamb and looked towards the bed as the bathtub behind him filled with warm water. Jess was still asleep; Jeremy couldn’t help but get up early as it was his working habit.
He turned his attention to the tub. Jess must have something in the way of a bath scent or something. Bath soaps and scents weren’t really his specialty. As he poured a generous lather of Jess’ lavender-scented body shampoo into the water, Jeremy’s memory of last night made him smile.
It had been more amazing than he had imagined. They had been amazing together.
He had been a bit rough with Jess last night, so this morning he had decided to give her the luxury of a bubble bath.
“Jess,” she vaguely heard Jeremy say.
“Hmm…” Jess murmured through a sleepy haze. She could feel someone or something nuzzling her neck. When she felt her lips taken in a kiss, she opened her eyes to stare into Jeremy’s smiling ones.
“You‘re better than a cup of coffee,” she whispered when he pulled back.
She could smell the soap from Jeremy’s skin. He’d already taken a bath – probably gone through some of his morning exercises. Jess wondered how he could look so fresh and energized after last night. When she moved in the bed, she gave a little wince; her body felt used. Not in a bad way, of course. There was nothing bad at all she could say about last night.
Looking up at Jeremy’s smile and feeling his body against hers right now was already making her blush at the memory of how he had made her feel. It also made her want him again.
“I drew you a bath,” Jeremy said as he got up. “Let me just check the water temperature one more time,” he said on his way to the bathroom.
“Really?” she smiled. When Jess automatically started to wrap herself in the sheet as she got out of bed, she stopped. Why hide from him now?
Jeremy had just closed the faucet; when he looked up at Jess, he was speechless. Jess was in the middle of tying her hair in a loose bun – she had nothing on but a crooked smile and a gleam in her eyes as she walked into the bathroom.
There was something nearly unreal about how she looked with sunlight streaming through the windows and casting shadows on her body – the body that he had finally become totally intimate with last night.
Jess walked right up to him. “Thank you,” she murmured, even as she gave him a deep and thorough kiss. Jeremy had to grip her waist to find balance and felt the first stirrings of arousal.
“It’s nothing,” he stuttered, when she released his lips.
“I need someone to wash my back,” she asked of him, her eyes both pleaded and challenged.
Jeremy did not need more encouragement; he could only say, “Okay.”
She helped him undress; never took her eyes from his, even as they lowered themselves in the tub.
Jeremy sat with his back at one end of the tub, his knees slightly bent so he could fit. Jess sat with her back to him. He reached for the sponge and proceeded to wash Jess’ back from the neck downwards. His hands were gentle, each stroke a caress. Jeremy gave the same devotion to her shoulders and arms. He wanted to take it slow – to just enjoy this moment with her. Jess felt a kiss on her right shoulder as he drew the sponge along her breasts and down her stomach and onwards – only to move up again just as she thought he’d go lower. When Jess groaned to complain, Jeremy chuckled.
“Tease,” she said.
Jess grabbed the sponge and turned to face him. She sat on her knees her right hand already trailing the sponge up Jeremy’s right arm. Her left hand followed the right hand to caress his arm muscles. She did the same with his left arm.
With a small smile, she started washing his chest.
“I have taken a bath, you know,” he reminded her.
“I know,” Jess answered him without pause in her actions. “I just want to touch you,” she added.
Who am I to stop her? Jeremy thought and enjoyed how her hands made him feel.
When the sponge dipped dangerously close to his arousal, Jeremy shifted in the tub.
“Uhm… Jess?” he said.
“Hmm…” Jess merely answered, still intent on what she was doing.
“If you keep doing that, I might not be accountable for my actions,” he added.
“Really?” she asked – her eyes were full of mischief as she dipped the sponge downwards and brushed it against Jeremy’s manhood.
Jeremy grabbed Jess so suddenly so water sloshed over the tub’s edge. “Jeremy!” Jess laughed and writhed in his arms.
The sponge forgotten, Jess ran her left hand to touch Jeremy’s firm chest and wandered down along Jeremy’s hip to cup his wondrous round butt.
“I am so envious of your round butt,” Jess sighed.
It took the phone ringing several times before Jess recognized the sound. When she pulled away, Jeremy moaned a complaint. “Must be the girls,” she said as she reached for a towel.
Jess stood with her mobile phone by her ear when Jeremy entered the bedroom a few minutes later. He had dried himself off, a towel hung low on his hips. He held a towel in his hand.
“That’s great,” Jess was saying, as she tried not to be distracted by Jeremy’s actions as he began to rub her still damp arms, neck and shoulders with the towel. His big hands gently pushed the towel through her hair in circular motions like a massage. An occasional kiss would land on her neck and shoulder. With his body so close to hers, Jess could feel his arousal against her back.
“Okay, see you soon,” she finally said.
“They’ll be here in under an hour; not a lot of time,” she turned and told Jeremy. He had dropped the extra towel on the floor and now had his hands on the towel around her body.
“Hmmm,” he muttered as he unraveled her towel and used it to pull her against him.
“Let’s see what we can do with under an hour…” he grinned.
It didn’t feel like they were all on different teams now, Landry observed as Jared and Jeremy exchanged a bear hug. He hoped their friendship survive it, because in this room stood two of the best guys he’d ever known.
“You’re looking great, man,” Jared was saying. “The knee okay?”
“Yeah,” Jeremy assured him.
“Must be the Cali air,” Landry commented.
“Great to see you, dude,” Jeremy told him in the middle of the hug he exchanged with Landry.
Landry looked unhappy. He had a smile on his face, but it did not show in his eyes.
“It doesn’t look like LA air agrees with you,” he told Landry.
Jeremy let it go – he had a pretty good idea what caused Landry’s restlessness.
“Let me show you to your rooms,” he said as he turned to walk towards the bedrooms.
“How many are we tonight?” Jared asked.
“Eight.” Landry would have to find out for himself who one of those eight people was.
While Jared and Landry settled in, Jeremy went out to find some refreshments. They were the only ones in the house. Joe and Jonnie were out surfing and Jess, Pansy and Karin were on the beach to soak in some sun.
“This place is awesome,” Jared said when he entered the open-spaced kitchen ten minutes later. He had changed into shorts and flip-flops.
“Jess found it,” Jeremy told him.
Landry was also beach-ready in his surfer shorts.
They stepped out onto the deck. Jared and Jeremy were talking and catching up with what they’d been doing since they left New York. Landry remembered what he had done before leaving New York – the memory so vivid he had problems getting rid of them in his sleep, too.
He looked towards the beach and noticed the figures lying on the sand. He recognized Jess, Pansy – and Karin. He blinked just to make sure he wasn’t daydreaming. She’s here.
He started walking towards them.
Jared and Jeremy stared at Landry walk off.
“Is that…” Jared started to ask Jeremy.
“Yep,” Jeremy answered.
“Oh,” Jared commented.
Jess and Pansy noticed Landry’s approach. When Landry looked at them, his eyes pleading – they merely nodded and stood up to walk down the beach.
Karin had her eyes closed, oblivious to everything except the sound of surf, seagulls and the heat from the sun. She was half-asleep – her thoughts strayed to that night she spent with Landry.
Karin had this dream every night since he had left New York. When she felt him kiss her, she sighed and enjoyed the feel of those wonderful lips. She encountered a firm and bare chest and as she ran her hands along it, Landry groaned. He was kissing her so intently, that she couldn’t help but react and kiss him back.
“God, I miss you,” she murmured against his lips.
“I miss you too,” Landry answered as he absorbed the passion from Karin.
The voice in her dream sounded so close – so real. Karin opened her eyes with a jolt. She was gazing at Landry who still had his lips against hers!
Karin finally mustered enough courage to break off the kiss. Landry looked like he was in pain. They stared at each other, both out of breath and unsure of their next move.
Karin thought she could get over him – treat what they had as yet another learning experience. Landry was definitely leaving New York – moving to Canada – and she was staying put. So even if they stayed in touch electronically since he travelled back to LA, Karin had been putting a steady distance between them – to protect herself.
As Landry kissed her senseless, she could barely keep up. She was drowning in her own feelings – confusion, relief and longing.
When Landry eased up on his assault on her lips, he whispered, “If this is your idea of putting me through hell, you’ve certainly succeeded.”
Karin’s eyes flashed upon hearing his words. Did Landry think she did this intentionally to torture him?
“I don’t play games,” Karin said in a flat voice.
“Then why didn’t you tell me you were coming to California?” he countered.
Why didn’t she? Karin asked herself. Because you are a coward, that’s why. She didn’t tell him because she was afraid of her own feelings for him.
Landry was pissed, convinced that her silence confirmed his suspicions.
“You could have mentioned that you’d be visiting Jeremy,” she shot back at him.
“I didn’t know until a couple of days ago. Jared sent me and Jeremy a message that he was coming to LA. Jeremy invited us,” he defended himself.
It still doesn’t answer my question, Karin thought.
They stared at each other – the air simmering with tension and the unsaid anger that hung in the air.
“Hey, Landry!” they suddenly heard.
It was Jeremy’s younger brother Joe who came towards them; Jess’ younger brother Jonnie trailed after him. Landry forced his attention from Karin.
“What’s up, Joe?” he replied with a smile; he liked Joe. When his eyes briefly met Karin’s, she looked away. His gaze told her that what they were discussing was far from over.
“Surf’s great,” Joe told Landry. He smiled shyly at Karin, but was otherwise more relaxed as he talked with Landry.
“Aw, I didn’t bring my board,” Landry grumbled.
“You can borrow mine,” Joe told him.
“Or mine,” Jonnie interrupted. “Hi, I’m Jonnie, Jess’ younger brother.”
As the guys talked about surfing, Karin stood up to gather her things. Pansy and Jess can get their own stuff, she decided.
“Karin,” Landry called just before she turned to walk to the beach house.”We’ll need to get this settled.”
She just looked at him with tired eyes and nodded. She needed to get in the shade, drink something cold and put some distance from Landry. It had been an overwhelming ten minutes – it had felt like a lifetime.
Karin was lost in her thoughts that she nearly did not notice Jared and Jeremy sitting on the deck.
“Don’t I at least get a hug?” Jared joked, cutting into Karin’s reverie.
“Jared,” she said – a smile quick on her face. She gave him a hug.
“Jenni’s not with you?” Karin asked about his wife.
“No. Jenni and Eva are home in Indiana now. I have to travel to Portland tomorrow. I just decided to visit my boys,” he told her.
As Karin and Jared talked, Jeremy observed. He knew something was wrong just by looking at her. If Landry caused that misery on her face… he stopped himself. Jess and he had decided not to meddle. Their friends needed to resolve whatever it was they had between them. All they could do – would do – was support their friends if they needed to.
He looked for Jess and found her. She and Pansy were on their way up and Jeremy could see that Joe, Jonnie and Landry were as well.
“So, I guess you and JLin did the nasty last night,” Pansy whispered as they walked.
“Pansy!” Jess hissed indignantly.
“Don’t you Pansy me. Was it great?”
When Jess turned bright pink in the face, Pansy was flabbergasted. “You have to tell us everything.”
“Later,” Jess shushed her.
“Hey,” Jeremy smiled at Jess as they neared. Jess and Jeremy only had eyes for each other. He took her hand and gave her a lingering kiss. “We’d better get dinner running,” Jess told him.
“Okay,” he said. They went into the house.
Jared and Karin had stopped talking and Pansy just stood.
“Was it me or…?” Karin asked Pansy.
“Oh, yeah…” Pansy confirmed.
“I’m just happy for my boy,” Jared commented as he took a sip of the beer in his hand.
Pansy and Karin laughed with him.
Karin’s laughter cut straight through Landry’s heart. He would give anything to hear her laugh like that for him again. She looked relaxed sitting there with Jared and Pansy.
He kept on talking with Joe and Jonnie as they passed them. He was acutely aware of Karin avoiding looking his way and the huge question mark on Jared’s face. Later, he thought.
“I’m hungry,” Joe grumbled as he watched Jeremy turn steaks on the grill.
“Here, do something productive,” Jeremy said as he handed Joe the prongs.
“You smell like Jess,” Joe suddenly commented as Jeremy moved past him.
Jeremy could feel his neck burn in embarrassment, until he realized something, “Since when do you go around smelling Jess?” Joe didn’t answer. Jeremy decided to cut him some slack, but gave his little brother a push on the shoulder anyway and reminded him, “Smell, don’t touch.”
“Ha, ha,” Joe answered.
He looked around. There was chatter as their friends talked. It felt great having their friends all gathered. It was unfortunate that Christine was the only one who couldn’t join them; she was on vacation in Europe.
Jess watched Pansy talk with both Jonnie and Landry, discussing car design. Karin and Jared were arguing about hockey. Landry’s eyes kept flitting to Karin, while Karin persistently had her back to Landry. Jess shook her head.
Jess smiled; sometimes he just knew what she was thinking. Jeremy was the biggest optimist – and because she cared for her friends, she chose to put faith in what he just said.