Sunlight hit me right in the eyes and I squinted before mashing my face into the dark security of the pillow. My hand wandered to the side, groping to find her soft skin and felt nothing but cold bedsheets. I rolled over to make sure I was alone and sat up, blinking my eyes, and forcing myself awake. For the last three mornings, since she had arrived, Carter had always been the last out of bed, usually not rousing until 10ish.
Of course, I didn’t mind and had taken full advantage of her body warmth in my bed. She had said nothing about it but I had the feeling that before she came to Australia, Carter didn't have many responsibilities around the house. I frowned at the thought as I swung my legs out of bed and realized I still had no idea if she even did still live with her parents or by herself.
The last few days had been bliss, as we aggressively devoured each other since I had finally given up my charade once I saw her lying out in the moonlight like a siren calling me. We spoke of nothing outside the house, and not too much particularly inside it. Ten weeks of unresolved sexual tension had taken its toll and it turned out, Carter wasn’t as much of a talker as I expected her to be, or rather for a woman. She was ravenous, I would have said almost insatiable if I hadn’t felt the same and met her with a hard erection every time her hand wandered down my chest.
I meandered out to the kitchen expecting to find her at the island. Instead, all that was awake was the coffee percolator, sunshine streamed through the far windows and hit the steam rising from it. I swiveled around the large open space, not in front of the TV, not in Dad’s reading nook. Whispers from outside caught my attention, and I walked to the glass patio doors to watch her.
She had her back to me and was standing at the railing, her attention on something over the side and in the bush. Still in my Metallica shirt she had been wearing to bed, it hit the tops of her thighs and I stopped to greedily stare. Her hair was up in a small messy bun, the long tanned neck now exposed as my old shirt gaped on her, only curving when it finally reached her ass. I leaned my forehead against the window. I was fucked.
She lied. Carter Brunner was totally going to wreck me without even intending to. All she had to do was leave at this point and I would be back in that hospital room with my dad, taking his last breaths and my own heart caving in on itself. Utterly fucked.
She shifted between her legs, taking her weight off of the injured foot that was now mostly healed. I frowned at the deep red scar and ran my hands over my face, trying to evict the memory of how it came about. The men had pulled her out of the water and I instantly knew the problem. Then her body had started to seize and my throat jumped up and tried to escape.
God, I had been so fucking angry at myself, at her. Watching her get airlifted and flying over the water, I knew how bad I had messed up. At the thought of her leaving me, even through death. I knew I cared too much but now I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t go back. I loved Carter Brunner but to say it out loud was to give it power. Power over me.
By the time I had pulled into port with the passengers, I had already had a vague plan of taking a week off. There was no way I could sail around the beautiful and idyllic Whitsunday islands and think of anything else but Carter, injured and alone. The brief thought of Garrett and Declan also on land, in the same 10 block radius as an immobile Carter briefly swole my throat with panic before I pushed it aside and made the decision that she would be my house guest.
Outside, her head tilted to the side, and I saw her profile give a smile to something holding her attention. Quietly opening up the sliding door, my bare feet made little noise as I stole up behind her, and wrapped my hands around her waist, nuzzling the length of her neck. I inhaled as deep as I could, trying to imprint it in my memory. Carter leaned back and gently whispered to the side, “I think I’m in love.”
I stilled as she spoke, my lips still on her neck and slightly parted at her confession. Her neck leaned to the side, and she had a wide smile on her face with bright eyes. She gestured her head down to the wooden rail in front of her, and I saw the reason for her excitement. The bloody cockatoo had its head in her hand, using it as a scratching post.
I stepped back and came to her side, looking the two over with a grin. The bird, as big as Carter’s forearm, was milking the attention for everything he was worth. His neon yellow topknot was slicked down and he was repeating Carter’s stroking action along her hand, coaxing her to pet him.
“I think you should know that this joker is a slut for anyone with food,” and I tapped the empty bird feeder at the corner of the railing. The bird immediately craned his head at the sound and I laughed at the bob of his head. “Alright, mate, hold on,” and left the pair to go back inside for a new seeder.
As soon as it was on the stand, the cockatoo left her hand and waddled quickly over to the new food, climbing up the wood. She frowned at his desertion, and I grabbed her to pull her close, my hands wandering up under the shirt to the warm skin of her waistline. Carter shook her head, “Through every man’s stomach, huh?”
Grabbing her neck to look up at me, I tilted it back before kissing her, “Not every man’s stomach, thank you,” and thrusted my semi into her lower abs.
Carter pushed me away with a laugh before moving back inside, “Dude, haven’t you had enough?” She asked before moving to the kitchen, pulling down some coffee cups. I leaned against the open patio door and watched her lean figure move around my kitchen with ease before simply replying,
Carter paused for a second and maybe even blushed before moving again to the fridge, taking out some leftovers and eggs. She walked around the kitchen, prepping breakfast and I kept my lean against the door, content to watch her move in the space as if she wasn’t a guest. She was comfortable. Confident. Relaxed even, though she knew I was watching her.
Eventually, she swung around with two plates and nodded over to the couch with the TV. “Mind if I watch the news? I can’t remember the last time I looked into the outside world.” She handed me the plate and made her way over, my own steps faltering. That bloody couch.
Carter stopped in front of it as she grabbed the television remote, noticing that I had hesitation about joining her. My eyes went to the plush material, unwillingly recalling the last time I was actually comfortable on that thing. I had been deep inside Ruby as she straddled me, her head tilted back in….
I shook my head, exiling that harpy from my thoughts.
“Okay, what is it with you and this couch?” Carter asked. I pursed my lips at her, wondering how to gently word it that I had lost myself in someone else’s cervix for a few months and happily forgot all my problems. It was a hollow relationship, totally forged over each other’s desire for something else. Me to forget, Ruby, for nice things. I responded after a few moments,
“It has a lot of...memories.”
Carter put her plate on the coffee table and placed her hands on her hips. “Bad ones?” I shook my head,
“I wouldn’t say the word ‘bad’...”
“Of her?” she answered her own question and I humbly nodded. Carter stared down at the couch once more before assuredly pronouncing, “Well, that won’t do.” Her face furrowed in thought before she removed the few throw pillows on the couch onto the floor and slid the coffee table away. I placed my own breakfast plate back onto the island, now curious.
She went over to the large glass doors of the front porch and opened them wide, wide enough to fit the couch through and I caught on. She was moving the couch out of the house. I watched as she got behind the end of it and started to push it across the wooden floors, the strong thigh muscles showing themselves with the strain as I pointedly stared at her ass peaking itself out of my shirt.
Her head turned back to me, annoyed, “A little help?” I gave her a guilty smile and joined her, together pushing the large nine-foot couch outside onto the wrap-around porch. Instead of stopping when it was outside though, Carter pivoted it and began to push it towards the wide staircase.
“It’s going onto the lawn?” I asked, no longer caring what happened to this thing and submitting myself to the decisiveness of Carter Brunner. She nodded, “Far out onto the lawn, away from the house,” and together we struggled to get it down the front steps, and lifted it from both ends. After about thirty meters from the house, and still twenty from the tree line, Carter indicated we could stop.
I exhaled from the weight of the exercise, slightly impressed that Carter could keep up with lifting the behemoth so far. She put her hands on her hips once more, looking the couch over and our surroundings before looking up to meet my face. “Okay, say your goodbyes to this thing.”
She then turned suddenly back into the house and I watched her walk back up the stairs, a little puzzled. My ‘goodbyes’? It wasn’t a memento, or something close to my heart. It was just something that Ruby had ruined. I looked back down at it. True, it had been in the house as long as I could remember, my mother and father using it to establish ‘family movie night’, but that was a while ago, and I had long lost that sentiment.
Now it was just the ‘Ruby fuck couch’. Goodbye? Absolutely goodbye. Goodbye, Ruby. It turned out, you were pretty goddamn low on the totem pole of women when I finally met a good one.
I turned back around, surprised to find Carter striding back towards me, a bottle of high-proof whiskey in her hand and something smaller. She sidled up and handed me the smaller item. A lighter. Without saying another word, she popped the glass stopper off the whiskey and poured it over the couch, dousing it until it was drenched and smelled like a barfly on two for one night.
When the bottle was empty, she turned back to me, her eyes a little softer now than when she had left. “You said your goodbyes?” Her question came out a little hesitant like there was a hidden meaning she didn’t want to voice. I understood immediately. Had I said goodbye to Ruby? Had I let go of everything she disturbed inside my brain, in my heart? Did I say goodbye to what had been holding me back, making me angry, keeping me from Carter?
“Yeah, I said goodbye to it all,” I replied without any trace of humor. I didn’t want any mistaking my intentions here as I met her eyes. There was no one else here. Only Carter.
She nodded, almost with gratitude, and stepped away from the couch, giving me a full view. I took one more look at it, and flicked the lighter on, throwing it onto the couch. The flame took immediately to the liquor, exposing it from the dark fabric with its flames. Within seconds, the whole of the couch had caught aflame, and together holding hands, we took a few steps back, watching the inferno and basking in its warmth.
I pulled the ute a little away from the front steps, knowing that the furniture delivery truck, shortly behind me would need access to the stairs. I peered up at the front porch, wondering if Carter would come out to meet me like a housewife waiting on her husband to return. When the door stayed shut for a few seconds, I shook my head of such foolishness.
Nearly a week together and I was certain I knew her better than that. Carter was independent and most likely had never waited on a man for a second of her short adult life. I left the ute and strode up the front steps, listening to the silence of the house as I quietly shut the front door. TV was off, the empty space in front of it about to be filled with the new couch on its way.
The kitchen was empty and the back porch beyond it held nothing but the swaying gums and palms. Shucking off my boots by the front door, I peeked my head into our bedroom. Nothing. Padding back out, the empty hallway for the other end of the house had the faint echo of typing, and I slowly opened the office door to see Carter sitting behind my desk on the laptop.
At first, she didn’t notice my arrival and I continued to watch her with amusement, a deep V on her brow as she was reading something on the screen hidden from me. I crossed my arms in front and leaned on the frame. The movement caught her eye, and a small gasp escaped, quickly followed by her slamming closed the laptop almost on instinct. My eyebrow arched at her and a small smile tilted at my lips in amusement. Carter recovered from her suspicious behavior and leaned on the desk with her elbow, attempting to look nonchalant,
“How was the Revenge looking? Ready to go out tomorrow?” she asked casually. I shook my head emphatically,
“Oh no. No. No, you’re crazy if you think you’re getting away with that. What was it? I swear if it was porn, I will be the exact opposite of mad.”
Carter gave a nervous laugh and leaned her head further down into her hand, pulling it through her hair. “I...was...watching porn. Absolutely.” I came up, snaking my way around the table, letting my hand trail along the oak edge, caressing it. She watched my fingers come closer towards her in the seat, fighting a smile against her lie.
“I love it… how about you pull it up again and we watch together,” sidling up to her side, my hand started to open the laptop, only to have her slam it back down. She took a long sigh, pursing her lips and smirking,
“I...i…i” Carter started, the stutter I hadn’t heard for some time making a momentary appearance before she took a deep, calming breath. Shit, I had discovered that it had only come out when she was nervous or too angry to think right. What the hell had she been looking up online? She started again, “I was… seeing what I needed to do to extend my visa. If it is possible,” she said flatly, looking down at her hands placed on the desk.
My face puzzled. Carter still had 8 months on her seasonal worker permit, she didn’t have to worry about doing any extension until a month ahead. Hell, she could even stay a few extra months and not suffer any consequences. She was still looking down at her hands when she tucked her hair behind her ear and stole a glance up to me.
Carter drummed her fingers along the top of the laptop before suddenly standing up, forcing me to take a step back from her. “Drink? Must be five o’clock somewhere, right?” she nervously said before rounding the desk and leaving the room, letting me stand there and wonder what the hell just happened.
I watched the space she just left. Why would she be checking into it so soon? It wasn’t really neces...unless she was sure she was going to stay. Unless she wanted to stay. Had something to stay for. Someone to stay for.
I was so behind, I could have been walking in slow-mo while Carter was sprinting.
She wanted to stay, she was sure of me enough to try. My heart skipped a few beats in my chest in excitement before I strode out of the office to chase her, excited, elated. She had made it to the fridge, pulling out a cider when I caught up to her, lifting up by the ass, her legs instinctively coming around my hips and I placed her on the counter.
My hand gripped her by the jaw, holding it firm when I kissed her, tongue mashing together and I made sure I stole her breath for a few good seconds. To make her feel that tightening in her chest that came across mine every time I looked at her. I broke away from and leaned my forehead against hers, feeling her rapid breath against my cheek.
“Whatever the question, yes. Whatever you want to do, yes.”
Carter’s hands pushed against my shoulders and I leaned back, her face serious. “We’re going to go slow, okay?” she rasped out between breaths. I pursed my lips mockingly and she caught it, “Well, as slow as two people together constantly can go, okay?”
My other hand came up to grip the other side of her jaw, this time tenderly, with reverence and I nodded in agreement. Whatever she wanted, she wanted me to hold back with serious words, I could do that as long as I could always grab this face. I went in to make it clear with my tongue when the sound of footsteps coming up the stairs stopped me and I let out a sigh, looking to the door as a sharp rap came from the other side.
“Hold that thought,” I told her, and she smirked, watching me stride to the door to let the delivery men in. I directed them while the truck backed up to the stairs, and Carter watched from the island as the new L shaped suede couch was brought in three sections. One of the men handed me a delivery receipt and I grimaced at the ridiculous price tag I had agreed to on impulse.
I put the receipt on the island, Carter now sipping her cider, and I tapped her leg with a flick and a smile, her eyes going down to the piece of paper. “Looks expensive,” she commented and I rolled my eyes, and looked back at the new couch, giving the delivery men a small wave as they shut the front door behind them.
I resumed my position in between her legs, placing her cider on the counter, and lifting her up bridal style. I threw her onto the new couch, falling onto the length of her, and buried her underneath, letting my taller body cover the length of hers. “Much better,” I whispered before delving into her mouth again with my tongue. After a few minutes of making out and we were both out of breath, she pushed my mass off her, and I unwillingly relented.
She sat up, pushing her hair back, and turned her whole body to me.
“Do you need money? For the Fury?”
I erected myself out of my lean at the mention of the Fury, running my hand through my hair to clear it from my face. Unsure of where she was going with this,
Carter shifted in her crouch on the suede beneath her, looking slightly uncomfortable, “I have some money from an inheritance. My grandfather passed a few years ago and left me some money…” Now understanding where she was headed with this line, I fully sat up, my erection now lost as she slowly continued, “...and I would like to loan it to you.”
I stood up anxiously and started to pace in front of the couch. Money, again. But this time not what I could give her. What she wanted to give me. The root of all problems. Fuck. My dream girl just offered me a get out of jail free card. But she kept talking like she needed to sell me on it.
“It’s just that with the U.S Currency exchange rate and the DOW being so strong right now, it would be a great time to trans...” I literally put my hand up to stop that beautiful mouth from making any more sounds. Carter took the hint and stopped, letting me resume my pacing and think this out.
I was so fucking sick of it, worrying about getting enough for the Fury, even risking my livelihood and non-incarcerated state of freedom to try and make it to the deadline now less than a month away. I had risked everything to try and get that boat back. But risking Carter? I shook my head at my own thought and sat back down beside her, grabbing both of her hands with mine.
“No.” I simply said.
“Baby, history shows I’m pretty fucking stupid when I’m put into a corner over money and making choices regarding women. But I know for certain that you don’t start a relationship with someone great by borrowing a literal boat-load of cash from them.”
She furrowed her petite forehead, looking like she was about to chastise me, “Jackson…”,
“Carter, no. You’re too important and honestly, I do not want to fuck this up. You said go slow, this is not how you do it. We got to learn to trust each other first.”
That last part seemed to knock the sense back into her because her open mouth clamped shut and she unfurled herself and placed her feet on the ground. Eventually, a smile returned to her face and she brought her hand up to my beard, rifling her fingers through it, spreading them wide to hold my face.
“Well, it’s New Year’s Eve but we have work tomorrow afternoon, shall we start celebrating early then?” She brought her bare legs up on the couch and across my lap, where my fingers began to trail up them and to her thighs. She parted her legs and I leaned down to kiss the insides of them, knowing full well what it did to her. Carter moaned and threaded her hands through my hair and gripped my scalp enough, pulling it up, forcing me to climb up her body and meet her mouth.
“I already started my new year.” I told her, right before losing myself in my own private paradise.