Charlie Ever After

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37| Tanner

The sound of thumping at the door wakes me up. I look over at the clock on my bedside table and the neon numbers read 11pm. I rush down the stairs and pull the door open slowly. When I see her standing there, soaking wet and shaking, my heart drops. She doesn't say anything she just lunges herself into my arms. I stumble slightly but regain my footing as I wrap my arms tightly around her and hold her close as she cries into my chest.

My hand works comforting circles across her back as we stand there dripping.

"Baby, what happened?" The nerves inside my gut are buzzing incessantly as my eyes trail over her entire body, trying to find anything physically wrong with her.

She pulls back and looks at me with tear soaked eyes and sniffles. I can tell she's having a hard time breathing so I lay my hand lightly on her chest and start rubbing.

"Shh, baby. It's okay."

I shuffle us towards the laundry room where I pull a towel out of the still warm dryer and wrap it around her shaking body. I rifle through the load of my laundry that I had just folded a few hours before and pull her out a hoodie and a pair of sweatpants. I hand the garments to her and she just looks at me, her eyes are bloodshot and filled with unshed tears and she looks so broken, so upset.

I kneel down in front of her and work on taking off the worn pair of vans sneakers that I know are her favorite, throwing them aside as I stand up in front of her. I slowly slide the towel off of her shoulders, letting it drop behind her before I hook my fingers under the hem of her shirt, looking into her eyes for permission before I lift it over her head and toss it to the floor behind me. I unbutton her jeans and help her shimmy out of them and when she's fully naked in front of me, I can't help but to drink in all of her beauty. My eyes trail her body from head to toe before settling back on her eyes.

She's looking at me in the most intense way and it sucks the air right from my lungs as she wraps her legs around me, pulling me closer and crashing her lips to mine.

Her tongue parts my mouth open and I invite her in, reveling in the taste of her that I've missed so much.

"I love you." She moans against my lips.

"I've missed you so much."

My hands are all over her body before settling on her hips as they buck against my touch.

"I missed you too. I love you so much, Charlie." It comes out fast and hoarse but I don't care, I just keep pressing my lips against hers in the most exhilarating kiss that I've ever experienced in my life.

The rational side of me is telling me to pull away and stop this before there's no turning back. She just showed up at my door, hysterical. I shouldn't let her jump straight into my bed when she looks so broken.

I pull back just slightly, resting my forehead against hers. "Baby. What's going on?" It takes everything in me to not capture her lips in mine as I notice them wobble with a pout.

"Fuck me first, please." She practically begs before continuing "and then I'll tell you everything." She lets out a frustrated groan that leaves her grabbing for me and that's all it takes.

I crash my lips against hers, pulling her in as her hips grind against me. I can feel the moisture from her excitement rubbing across my groin and I can't help the groan that slips from my throat.

"You're already killing me." I whisper against her ear before trailing sloppy, wet kisses down her neck. I take her soft skin between my teeth and alternate between sucking and biting each inch that my mouth comes in contact with.

"I need you." She sounds so desperate as she fists a handful of my hair at the nape of my neck and tugs my face towards hers for more kisses.

The animal within me roars as I push down my pajama pants along with my boxers and grab her hips, pulling her close to me.

Her hands are between the two of us, one wrapping around my cock, moving up and down in tantalizing strokes.

I grab her hand and move it to the side before pushing her panties out of the way with my free hand. My cock instantly throbs as my finger brushes through her arousal. I grab her hips and pull her even closer, my cock pressing painfully against her entrance before I steal her lips with mine once more, drinking in the taste of her.

I buck my hips forward, sinking inside of her warmth as her mouth drops open in the sexiest little o and her eyes flutter shut, her head dropping back against the wall.

The sound of her sweet moans fill my ears as I continue my thrusts, starting off slow but picking up speed as her noises coax me on. I know at this rate I'm not going to last much longer but by the looks of it, neither will Charlie. She's wiggling her hips against mine and losing control of her body as her eyes roll to the back of her head, still clutching that chunk of hair at the base of my neck.

Her walls clamp tightly around my erection and I'm seeing stars. I slam my hips into hers a few more times and I can feel her tighten around me even more as she whimpers.

"I'm gonna cum." She breathes out against my neck as she buries her face under my ear.

Her ragged breathing against my skin causes goosebumps to litter my entire body.

"Cum with me. I'm so close." I'm finally able to grit out through clenched teeth as I continue rocking my hips against hers.

Her head lolls back again and it smacks against the wall with a thud. I instantly reach up and hold her head protectively as I pump once more inside of her, feeling her body unleash its release and shake beneath me.

I finally let go as my cock throbs inside of her with my own release.

Once our breathing returns to normal I take her lips gently in mine and give her a sweet kiss before lifting her up, wrapping the towel around her body and carrying her upstairs to my bedroom.

I plop her down on my bed and pull out the pajamas that I had tucked under my arm for her.

Taking a seat in front of her, I can see the sadness return to her eyes.

My heart instantly plummets as I take her face in my hands and leave a soft kiss on her forehead.

"I love you." I whisper softly against her skin before taking the shirt in my hands and sliding it over her head. She reaches her hands up and snakes her arms through the sleeves as the rest of the material pools around her waist.

"My mom was assaulted." She says it so quietly that I don't even think she meant for me to hear it.

I don't know what to say to her confession, I just lay my hand on her thigh and trace small circles across her skin.

"I found her on the floor. She was unconscious and covered in bruises and cuts. She won't talk to anyone about it."

She sighs and she's silent for a moment as tears start cascading down her cheeks. I try wiping them away but they're falling too fast.

I move up to the spot next to her and wrap my arms around her, pulling her into my lap as she continues to cry.

"I told her everything that I've been dying to say to her for years. I told her about my dad..."

I suck in a breath, she's never talked about her father before.

"She believes her own lies, but he found me- three years ago, he found me and he's been in my life ever since and my mother insists on continuing her lies." She's hysterical at this point and all I can do is hold her, listen and try to soothe her in any way possible.

"I wish she died that night." Her words make my blood run cold, but I don't blame her for feeling that way.

I don't know much about Charlie's past, only what she's chosen to tell me; but from what I already know, I can tell she's been through hell and back when it comes to her mom- if you can even call her that. She wasn't around for much of Charlie's life, choosing alcohol and men over her own daughter.

The thought makes my gut twist, I never knew how fortunate I was to have my family- but today, seeing Charlie as hurt as she is- I thank my lucky stars.

I tug her even closer as she explains the past few days events, the tears never ending.

"After all of the shit she's put me through, I still love her. I still feel obligated to her. Why?" She sniffles, finally calming down as she looks up at me through tear soaked eyelashes.

I shrug my shoulders. "She's your mom. You'll always love her, which just makes it hurt worse." I sigh and my heart breaks for her.

"I'm so sorry you're going through all of this, baby. I'm so sorry I wasn't there for you."

It's as if she just notices my busted up face because she reaches up and tenderly traces the fading, yellow bruise under my left eye then across the scabbed up split on my bottom lip.

"What happened?" She looks up at me with eyes full of concern.

I wasn't even thinking, I wasn't ready for this yet. I'm going to tell her the truth, I just don't know how to. How do you tell the one person you love, that you got into a physical brawl with the one person she hates the most.

I open my mouth to speak and then clamp my lips shut.

"Tanner, you can tell me." She whispers up at me before giving me a soft kiss, encouraging me to continue.

I suck in a shaky breath and nod my head.

"The party that we were at... I went to keep Collin company until Scout got there, but as I was leaving..."

I rake a hand through my hair and close my eyes, letting my head fall back against the wall, unable to look at her as I tell her the truth.

"Gavin walked in, with some chick on his arm." I can feel her go rigid in my arms and I almost regret telling her, but I can't lie to her. I won't.

"As soon as I saw him, I got so fucking angry. I saw red." My jaw clenches and I try to control my breathing as I finish. "He was with some girl as if he isn't a dangerous fucking monster. No girl should ever be around him. I just kept thinking about what he did to you-" My words are rushing out over a hundred miles a minute as I start to panic.

I can't bring myself to look down at her, I look anywhere but at Charlie as I continue speaking.

"I said something, I instigated it- but he got in my face, he threw the first punch and when I got the upper hand, I couldn't control myself." I sigh and feel my body start to shake. I just wrap my arms tighter around her and hope that she doesn't push out of my grasp.

My whole body tenses up as memories of last weekend come flashing back. I knew in that moment that I fucked up and I know now- I just hope that my poor decisions don't cause me to lose one of the only people in my life that truly make me happy.

My ears start ringing and my breathing starts to pick up. "Collin had to pull me off of him. He said that I scared him, and that I've scared him before." I scoff but I can't help the guilt that floods my system as well as the tears that burn my eyes- threatening to spill over.

The ringing gets worse, but I try to focus on my breathing. All of a sudden I'm jolted back to reality by Charlie's hands on my face, pulling me down to look at her.

"Tanner." She says firmly. For a moment I fight her grasp, still unable to look at her, but she eventually wins and my eyes slowly meet hers.

I suck in a shuddery breath as her soft brown eyes capture mine and I'm transfixed in my spot. I can see pain, but most of all- I see understanding.

"Look at me." She demands as my eyes momentarily drift away from hers.

"I'm not going to sit here and say I'm proud of you or happy about what you did." She sighs and looks away for a moment, trying to gather the words she wants to say, but her eyes meet mine again after only a second or two.

"I love you. Part of me is pissed at you for letting him get to you and for reacting. But, I also know that when it comes to Gavin, it's impossible. Because- trust me, if I saw that asshole ever again, I don't think I'd ever be able to stop hitting him. The second part of me is happy- thrilled that you beat the living shit out of him. He deserves so much worse." Her eyes travel my face for any hint of emotion and when she catches the tears building in the corners of my eyes, a small smile plays at the corner of her lips.

"You saved me from him, Tanner. The night of the Fourth, when you swept me off my feet-" She grins. "You continue to save me every single day. You don't need to ever save me with your fists though." She places her soft hand on my cheek and I can't help but lean into her embrace, my eyes fluttering shut as I soak in her love.

I've never been so emotionally vulnerable with anyone; Charlie is a first for me, in so many ways.

We hold each other as we calm down; mulling over the truths that we both set free- feeling lighter because of it.

She's laying on my chest, drawing little pictures across my skin with the tip of her index finger as I play with her hair, running my fingers through her long chocolate strands.

"My father died when I was five." She drew air quotes around the word died, and emphasized it with a roll of her eyes. She continues her little patterns across my chest, goosebumps rising on every inch of my body.

"She said that he got into a car accident or something like that- her story never stuck. When I started getting older, I started asking more questions- questions that she couldn't answer. She'd always deflect my questions or just get angry with me for bringing it up." A tired sigh escapes her lips as she traces a heart across my skin with the pad of her finger.

Her eyes remain on her finger, following its every path as she continues, "When I was sixteen, I thought I was being stalked." She giggles. "Seriously, Lydia and I went nuts over it." Another roll of her beautiful eyes.

"Turns out that my dad hired a private investigator to come find me." Her smile widens just slightly.

"I confronted the Private Investigator one day after school. Me and Lydia took our normal route but hid in someone's back yard and while he was trying to figure out what direction we went in, we cornered him." Her smile turns into a mischievous grin as she recounts the events; my little bad ass.

I can't help but to chuckle. "But, what if you were really being stalked?"

She finally looks up at me and rolls her eyes. I chuckle again and pull her closer.

"We didn't get that far in our planning; we were sixteen." She shrugs her shoulders and I can't help but to grin, thinking of my girl at sixteen and being as fearless as she's explaining.

"He told me everything and gave me the choice of whether or not I wanted to reach out, and as a teenage girl- that means a lot."

My grin just grows wider as I listen to her speak.

"My dad had been looking for me, for over ten years." She sighs. "And my mom tried to keep me from him. She threw out every card, every present. She ignored every phone call and every single visit he tried to make- all because she was pissed that he left her to be with a man. Tanner, my dad is so happy. How can she not see that and want that for him?"

I just shrug my shoulders. "Some people only think about themselves. They don't care about anyone else's feelings." I hate speaking so bluntly, especially because my words are directed right at her mom, and as much as I want to hate her mom- it's Charlie's family and I was always taught to respect family, no matter how much or how bad they fuck up.

She takes in my words with a nod and for a few moments we sit in a comfortable silence.

"My biological mom killed herself." The words come crashing out and I cringe as they do. Way to go, Tanner.

"When my sister Tessa died- my mom was ruined, but who blames her." I bite my bottom lip to try to stop the tears that I know are bound to fall.

Tessa's death was always easier to talk about- not that it was easy at all, because it's like pulling teeth sans Novicane. Talking about mom was just exponentially harder.

"It was about a year or so later. She just couldn't handle it anymore, one of her babies was gone." I let out a shaky breath before continuing, "One night she took a handful of her anxiety meds. At this point, I was still having night terrors- I woke up wanting her and ventured into her room to find her cold. She wouldn't wake up. No matter how much me or dad tried to shake her."

I don't realize I'm crying until Charlie reaches up and tries to catch my tears as they fall with the sleeve of my hoodie. She has tears in her own eyes but she's biting her bottom lip, trying to keep them at bay- trying to be strong for me.

I wrap her tighter in my arms and kiss the top of her head. "You're the only person outside of my family and my shrink’s office that I've ever told." I confess and it takes me a few moments before I can finally look down at her again but when I do she's wearing a smile- a sad one.

"I love you, Tanner. You can tell me anything. I'll never force you to, but I'll always listen." She takes my hand in hers and plays with my fingers.

"The whole time I was at my mom's house- all I could think about was coming home. Then that got me thinking... What is home?" Her eyes shoot back up to mine.

"I've never felt at home in any specific place, it was always anywhere that certain people were- mainly Lydia and Isaac." She looks away again momentarily but then her eyes are back on me and my breath catches in my throat with the intensity in which she's looking at me.

"Until I met you... You feel like home Tanner. With Lydia and Isaac, it's different. I love them with all of my heart- but you're my home." The most radiant blush is creeping up her neck and face and I can't help but chuckle as I press my lips to hers.

My heart is flip flopping behind my ribs and I don't even care enough to control it right now, because the words that Charlie just spoke to me, make me happier than I think I've ever been. She was able to put into words a feeling that I've been struggling to explain.

Unlike her, I've always felt at home with my family- in our house; but with her, it's a completely different feeling.

When I think of her, I don't just think of the now- I envision us five, ten years down the road; hopefully in a house with a big back yard, a dog, a few kids. The feelings she gives me have me confident that we're end game. She's my happily ever after.
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