Solid Ground

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Chapter 24

Make Everything Better Chicken Soup

A couple of pieces of chicken, leftovers work fine, deboned

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup green onion, chopped fine

1/2 teaspoon of fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon of fresh rosemary

1/4 teaspoon of fresh sage

2 chicken stock cubes

1 cup carrot, diced

1/2 cup celery, chopped

1 sweet red pepper, chopped

1/2 cup of frozen sweetcorn

1 cup of cooked pasta

Dash of olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

This recipe works best in a large ceramic stew pot. Sautee the chicken, garlic, and onion in olive oil, adding the herbs until your kitchen smells like heaven. Boil water in a kettle and add to the pot, stirring in the stock cubes until dissolved. Add carrots, celery, and corn, cooking until vegetables are done to your taste. Add chopped peppers and pasta. Cook for another five minutes. Broth can be served alone in severe cases of upset tummies such as Bel’s, adding the solid ingredients later as they improve.

Jill stood in the doorway of their bedroom. Her breath caught in her lungs as it always did when she looked at him. He sat on the side of the bed, wearing nothing but his boxers. She smiled as she thought of that first morning that she had seen him in the white cotton. His shoulders slumped as he spoke on the phone. His voice was low, and his brow furrowed, the soft lines more pronounced.

“Yeah, Mom. I understand. I might be away for a while in a couple of weeks, but Jill will be here if you need anything. Promise me, you’ll call if you do?” She slipped into the room and curled up on her side of the bed. Her hand automatically went to his shoulder and softly squeezed the tense muscles.

“Maybe. It would be nice. Let me see if I can get a few days leave. I know the girls would love it, and it would give you a chance to meet her. We’ll talk about it tonight.” She scooted across the bed and wrapped both arms about his waist, pressing a soft kiss between his bare shoulder blades.

“Alright, I love you both,” Jill’s heart rose in her throat at how easily those words came to her husband. For his parents. For his daughters. But not for her.

She told herself to give it time. That was how these things worked. Love that grew over time, as Ubah had said. Still, the doubts ate at her mind, taunted her. Dodd’s words, ‘Nothing like Rachel,’ had become the newest litany among all the others that undermined her confidence, her womanhood.

She drew back as she heard him saying his farewells. She snuck back to her side of the bed, grabbing her tablet, and bringing her knees up to her chest as she leaned against the headboard and pillows. She pretended to be engrossed in it even though she could not remember a word she read.

Daniel put the phone on the nightstand and rolled over, wrapping his arm about her waist. “Unless that is the karma sutra put it down for a bit.”

Jill could not help but laugh as she put it back. “How is your dad?” She turned in his arms to face him. The worried look on his handsome face answered her question before he spoke.

“Mom says that he made them stop the chemo. Said he didn’t want to spend what time he had left sick as a dog. So, they are just giving him what pain meds they can,” his blue eyes were misty as he stared at the buttons on his shirt that she had kidnapped and worn to bed most nights.

Her fingers brushed across his cheek. “I’m sorry, Daniel.” She wanted to take him into her arms, into her body and heart. But those damned words would not stop their song in her mind. So, she satisfied herself with the soft caress.

“Mom asked if we could get away for a few days. To visit,” Jill could hear the unspoken words in his voice as it cracked, ‘say good-bye.’ Tears filled her eyes for his pain, for his mother’s, the woman without whom she would never have met this remarkable man.

“Can you get some time off? I know that the team is going to deploy soon. Is there time?” Her fingers moved down his neck to caress his bare shoulder. She fought back the temptation to move lower, to play with the firm muscles and wiry chest hairs that always entranced her.

Daniel shook his head, “Normally, I wouldn’t. But this is different. I’ll talk to the command tomorrow. If I can swing it, you think you and the girls are up to a long drive?” Those eyes looked up at her; the smile on his soft lips was weak and forced.

Jill nodded, “We’ll manage,” she bent and brushed a kiss across his forehead. Trying to lighten his load any way she could, “And I have a surprise for you.”

Standing, she padded barefoot over to the dresser and rummaged in her purse for a moment before pulling out the small card. She smiled as she tossed it to him. “I got this yesterday. I figured I’d need it while you’re gone. So, you have a relief driver, commander.”

He smiled as he picked up her new driver’s license, but then she remembered the photograph. Typical of all the grainy pictures, it showed her age and weight. She lunged and tried to snatch it back. “Oh no, you don’t. The picture is horrible.”

He rolled to the side, the license still firmly in his grasp as she collapsed on top of him, stretching and reaching for it. “Oh no, you gave it to me. So, no going back now, Missus Monroe.” He brought it up to his face. “What? You look fine.”

Jill rolled over so that he could not see the mist that clouded her vision. ‘Fine,’ was not the word that she wanted to hear on his lips. Then again, maybe it was time for her to face reality. Sometimes ‘fine’ just had to do. And her marriage was just that…fine.


Daniel was not sure what he had said or done, but the look on his wife’s face told him it was something big. As good as things had been the past four weeks since Jill had moved into their bed, he still did not know how to handle moments like this.

Like a fucking hurricane, she had blown into his world and changed everything. It had long since stopped being just the way she loved and nurtured his daughters, or the delicious meals, or clean house. It was not even the best fucking sex of his life. It was the way that she was there. Just there. He knew that no matter what, he could talk to her, or just snuggle up next to her. He felt safe. He knew that she would never turn him away. Never.

So, why did he keep fucking things up? Even when he did not know how, he managed to screw things up. To hurt her. And that was something he never wanted to do. He could not find the words then, any more than he could any of those other times. So, he did the only thing he knew; he reached for her.

Wrapping his arms about her waist, he pulled her back against his hard body. He spooned with her as he brushed her hair back from her neck and began to kiss along the pulse that beat loudly there. The immediate increase in its tempo told him that once more, his miracle welcomed him with open arms. Even now, when he had hurt her, even when he least deserved her.

His tongue flicked at the vein, throbbing beneath it, as his hand moved from her waist up to cup the fullness of her breast. His thumb played with her nipple through the cotton. He ground his hips against the softness of her ass, “I need you.”

If her moan was not response enough, the way that she arched her chest into his caress, her nipples hardening as she pushed her bottom back against his hard cock, set any shreds of doubt aside. His wife wanted him. Almost as much as he wanted her. Still, it was not enough. His fingers moved lower to work more of the buttons free. He wanted his wife naked and needy beneath him. He wanted, fuck no, he needed all of her. Her total and complete surrender.

Jill pushed his hands away from the cotton as she turned in his arms. “Turn out the lights,” she whispered against his lips.

It was the only thing she denied him. As spectacular as the sex had been the past month, it was always the same. Hot and heavy comings together of their bodies, their afternoon delights, with clothes pushed up or aside just enough to get the job done. Kitchen countertops, rug burns from living room carpets, hell, even the garage, bent over the hood of the car. Anywhere was fair game for the two of them.

Or it was slow, sweet making love in their bed after tucking the girls in for the night. But still, it was the same. Sexy lingerie, his god damned shirts, something was always between them. Even on the occasions when he had reached for her in the middle of the night. When his need for her loving comfort was stronger even than the need for sleep, it was not enough. It never would be.

He shook his head as he rolled her beneath him, “Not tonight, sweetheart. Tonight I want to watch you as you come for me.” His fingers brushed the material back from her shoulders. “I want to see how red your chest gets as you ride my hard cock.” He pulled at the edges, intent on ripping the damned thing off his wife if he needed to. Then the soft whine broke from the pink and white box on the bedside table next to them. “Fuck,” he spat.

Jill pushed at him and jumped up quickly. Too quickly, panic showed in her eyes as she mumbled, “Let me go check on them.”

He watched her round bottom swoosh back and forth beneath the edge of the shirt as she practically lunged for the bedroom door and the safety of the nursery across the hall.

“Fuck,” he cursed again as he collapsed back on the bed to stare at the ceiling. What the fuck was wrong? Why would she never let him see her completely naked? Hell, why did it bother him so fucking much? Everything else about their lives was just about perfect. Why did this one little thing matter so much? “Because, buddy, it’s the one thing your wife always denies you.”

Not the only one. Daniel heard her horrendous voice on the other end of the monitor, crooning a lullaby to his daughters. It was tender as she whispered, “I love you.” His chest tightened uncomfortably at the soft admission that was not for him.


Jill watched Britney fall back to sleep. She bent to kiss the soft blonde curls about the angelic face. Brushing a stray lock back, “I love you.” ‘Especially for this one, angel.’ She owed the baby for a reprieve this night.

What would she have done? She had never seen him like this. Over the past month, when he tried to take off her dress or shirt, she had always been able to distract him. Move things forward quickly until his mind was on something else, but the look of determination in his eyes tonight had scared her. If Britney had not cried out, she did not doubt that he would have ripped the shirt open, buttons be damned.

‘Nothing like Rachel.’ ‘What man could ever really want you?’ ‘Fat whore.’ The words played like a brain worm, painfully taunting. She felt the hot tears course down her cheeks. It was the one thing she could not allow. If the words in her mind brought pain, she knew that she could never survive the look of disappointment that was certain to show on his face.

She tiptoed across the nursery, looking back one final time at the babies sleeping peacefully in their cribs. She loved them. No matter how hard she had tried to protect her heart, the truth was that she probably had from that very first night as she watched Daniel and Samuel put the sleeping angels into their pink car seats.

But she knew one thing, she could never live with that look. Not even as much as she loved them, as she loved him, she could never stay and see disappointment, disgust, in the eyes of only the second man she had ever truly loved.

Looking at the closed door to their bedroom, her hand trembled on the knob. She could not. Not just yet. She needed time to think. Time alone to clear her head. Get her feelings back under control. So, instead, she padded softly down the hall and through the kitchen. She stopped for a moment in the small laundry room; her fingers brushed against her lips as she remembered that first sweet taste of him. Daniel. Her husband.

She forced her feet to move. She opened the back door and sat down on the top step. Tears flowed unchecked down her cheeks in the pale moonlight. What a mess she had made of this whole thing? Falling in love with a man she could never really have. Not the way she wanted anyway.

She would never be a raving beauty like Rachel. Hell, even when she was that young girl first discovering her womanly power and sexuality, she had never been anything more than the girl next door pretty. Now at forty-five and after four pregnancies, her body was not even that. Round, soft, full…those were the kind words. Fat, cellulite, sagging were more appropriate.

Looking up at the moon, she wondered once more for the hundredth time since coming to this place, why? Why would someone so beautiful, so perfect, not find happiness in his arms? Alright, so maybe this place was not New York or glamorous. But still, Daniel was amazing. Gorgeous. Considerate. Strong. Funny. A good friend. A great dad. Not to mention, a fantastic lover. Wasn’t that enough? What more could there be?

Of course, there were the girls too. Rachel’s daughters. How could she leave them like this? It just did not make any sense. If she had been half as pretty as Rachel, hell, a tenth as perfect, she would grab it all and never let it go. Never let him go. Why had the other woman? Money and possessions simply could not be that important.

Jill sat on the back steps thinking for some time. The yard about her was cast in shadows as the tears flowed down her cheeks. She played her predicament over and over in her mind. She wished a thousand different things, but none of them changed the simple reality. She was head over heels in love with a man that would never feel the same way about her.

Oh, he needed her, perhaps even wanted her, but that was just simple biology. A hungry man would eat anything, after all. How long would this passion last? It was something she did not want to think about. Not now. Now she would enjoy him while she could.

His face kept haunting her. The hunger and the need that she had seen, reflected so raw in the depths of those blue eyes, would not leave her alone. His father was dying, another loss in little more than a year. And all too soon, they would face the first separation of their new marriage.

She wanted and needed to offer him what comfort she could. Solace and yes, as much of her love as she dared to show. She fought the battle in her mind until only one truth remained. She could deny him nothing. Well, almost nothing, she thought as she sent a silent prayer upwards and slipped back into the house, re-tracing her earlier steps until she grasped the doorknob in her trembling fingers. Her resolve almost fled as she opened it and saw him collapsed across the foot of the bed, precisely as she had left him.

She walked over and switched the lights off. She would go as far as she could this night, she decided as she began unbuttoning each of the tiny white buttons along the front of his shirt. She let it slip from her shoulders but wrapped it about her like a security blanket as she saw him turn over.

“Jill?” he whispered.

She closed her eyes and prayed for strength to answer the unspoken need she heard in his voice. She let the shirt slip the rest of the way down her arms until it pooled about her feet on the floor. “I’m sorry, Daniel.”

He reached for her, and she went willingly into his strong arms. His lips moved over her bare shoulders and breasts as they rolled and tumbled on the bed they shared. When his mouth moved over the turgid peak of her nipple, she pushed him onto his back. Her hands made quick work of his boxers, the only barrier between them. When those were tossed carelessly across the room, she rose over him. Taking his already hard cock inside her once more.

She gritted her teeth and held her breath at the intense pleasure of it stretching and filling her. Fireworks of desire burst over her as she came almost immediately. Her body squeezed his as her fingers scratched at his shoulders. She rode wave after wave of it as she gave him everything she could in the haven of the pale moonlight that drifted through the small window in their room.

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