*01. Ahead of the Curve (01-05-07)
The disgusted sigh nearly has me laughing out loud, but I just manage to control the impulse. A quick glance at my beloved wife reveals the cutest damned pout I've ever seen. She's certainly putting the children to shame right now.
"If you're not careful, your face is going to freeze like that," I say and don't bother to contain my amusement.
"Oh shut up, Alex." The lack of venom in her words is reassuring. "I just wish Kat would have told me already and put me out of my misery."
"I know, love, but she'll be here soon enough to tell us. Besides, do you really think she'll have less than incredible grades? This is Kat we're talking about."
"I know, but she's been so quiet about it. She always used to talk about her homework and her grades."
Checking on the roast once more, I head into the living room to join her on the couch. She doesn't resist when I pull her closer, resting her head on my shoulder. Almost of their own volition, my fingers begin to card through her hair. The motion calms us both; I can't deny my own nervousness over Kat's grades. It's the first time she's lived away from home, and I remember my own first year of college far too well.
Without warning, Rachel straightens and heads to the fireplace, adding another log to the merry blaze. She sighs and runs a hand through her hair. "I'm being an idiot. Of course, she's going to have good grades. We taught her the importance of good grades, right?"
Before I can answer her question, the sound of footsteps on the front porch sets my heart to beating a little faster. Rose is already on her feet, running to open the door with a barely contained screech of delight. Kat leans down enough to drop her bags before scooping her little sister up into her arms for a tight hug. It doesn't matter that Kat was just here a few days ago to celebrate the brand new year; Rose misses her big sister being around all the time.
"Close the door before you let out all the heat," Rachel grumbles halfheartedly, but the smile brightens her face. "And come give your mother a hug."
Rose wiggles down to drag in the laundry bag as Kat closes the door. She walks across the room and lets Rachel envelop her in a tight embrace. They murmur for a moment or two, foreheads pressed together just like they used to when Kat was younger and needed a pep talk. After a moment, Kat reaches into her back pocket and offers the folded sheet of paper to her mother.
The brilliant smile on my beloved's face is more than enough to confirm Kat's grades, but it's Rachel's delighted cackle seals it. "I knew it!" She turns to beam at me. "I told you she'd make the dean's list, Alex!"
Smiling indulgently, I just nod in agreement.
*02. The Most Romantic Day of the Year (02-14-07)
"I told you I'd be able to get the kids out of the house," Rachel says with a smug grin as I step out of the shower. "And I didn't even have to blackmail Kat to do it."
"No, you just bribed Monica with taking William for a night."
Her grin turns the slightest bit sheepish at that, but she doesn’t deny the accusation. With a shake of my head, I start to towel off, only to be stopped by Rachel's hand on mine. She doesn't say anything but tugs on my hand to lead me out into the living room, not even allowing me the option to wrap a towel around my still wet, naked body. The change in both ambient light and temperature from the bathroom to the living room is obvious, and I smile at the blanket spread out before the roaring fire. All my favorite finger foods and a bottle of champagne chilling nearby remind me that I haven't had all that much to eat today either.
"Rachel Corrigan, are you planning to have your way with me tonight?"
Dark promises twinkle in her eyes, sending an icy shiver down my spine to melt into the heat of my arousal.
I am in so much trouble tonight!
*03. That Old Feeling (04-21-07)
Dawn's light wakes me with a terrible headache, perhaps the worst I've had since I was pregnant with Michel. It's been building for a couple of days, truth be told, but right now I just don't care about that as I'm puking my guts out. Rachel wants to have Kerry come and make sure I'm okay. I've refused, but it's probably not nearly as vehement as it should be when groaned between bouts of dry heaves.
"You don't need to do this, love," Rachel protests.
"Just leave me alone, Rachel," I snap when my stomach finally stops trying to pull an Alien on me.
Of course, she decides to listen to me now, and presses a damp cloth to my forehead before she heads out of the bedroom with the nasty, puke-stained trashcan. I am never using that can for anything ever again. Unless I have to puke. That's all it's good for now.
Leaning back against the pillows, I let my eyes clamp shut and try to do some deep breathing exercises to calm my stomach again. The pressure at the base of my skull makes it difficult to get comfortable. I hate this! With more force that I feel capable of, I will myself to try sleep again.
Apparently, it works better than I expect as the sensation of a cool hand cupping my cheek startles me awake again. And with returned consciousness, the pain and desire to puke return. Blinking rapidly against the tears filling my eyes, I try to focus on the face in front of me.
Damn! Rachel did get Kerry to come over.
"I told Rachel--"
"I know what you told her," she replies in that tone normally reserved for the children when they're sick. "She was wise to ignore your wishes, especially if you've been throwing up. You're feeling a little warm, too. Migraine?"
I try to nod, but the thought of moving my head makes me nauseous again. "Yeah," I say instead, wincing at how terrible I sound. "Back of my head feels like someone tightened the cables too much."
The soft gasp at the door alerts me to Rachel's presence. "Oh, Alex, please stop doing this to yourself. I can survive this one anniversary without you blunting the emotional repercussions."
Kerry's hands slide around to gently cup the back of my skull. Concentrating on my breathing again, I try to relax into her grip. Her impossibly cool fingers massage my scalp and neck for what seems like forever. I can't believe that I actually whimper when eases her hands away.
"I know you'd rather rely on sleep and some of that willow bark tea you and Zo swear by, and normally I'd agree with you, but I think we need to go with something a little stronger to get rid of this one."
"Okay," I whisper almost on top of her last words. Even as hellacious as I feel, I can tell she's surprised by my acquiescence.
"You're not going to fight me on this?"
"No," I reply, leaning into her touch again as she strokes my forehead. "Just let me survive this damned day."
*04. Beauty (06-23-07)
"Where did you find these?" Catherine asks, the delight plain in her voice as she strokes the fuzzy buds.
"You're welcome," I reply with a grin of my own. "Dace had mentioned the court case didn't go well, and we thought this might help cheer you up."
"Oh, they do. This was a wonderful gesture. I'm taking them in to put on my desk tomorrow night," she says and hugs both of us tightly. "Seriously though, where did you find pussy willows in Las Vegas in June?"
Rachel points to Dace, saying, "It was that new florist you mentioned last week when I was doing my appointments at the clinic. You'd be surprised what they have in stock when you mention that you work for the House of Hearts."
Dace chuckles and gladly accepts the steamy kiss Catherine plants on her. "But I never told you she liked the catkins. I didn't even know she liked them."
Rachel smirks with a nonchalant shrug. "I took a calculated risk. I mean, come on, exotic dancer with the last name of Willows?"
Catherine's cheeks go red at that, and she rubs her forehead. "Yeah, that's why I never mentioned it, Dace. It's kind of a cliché, you know?"
Dace chuckles indulgently and leans over to press a kiss between Rachel's eyes. "I owe you for this one, Matilda."
*05. Sensations (09-25-07)
"You're not going to get this one, Alex, so just admit defeat now. You've only got one guess left."
Rachel's self-satisfaction would be annoying as hell if she didn't have me all turned on right now and trying to figure out what she's doing. Shifting slightly, I try to break free of my restraints again, to no avail.
"Do it again," I beg, cringing at just how needy I sound right now. And yet, I just don't give a damn.
The light, feathery touch glides up my thigh and brushes across my clit again, once, twice, a third time. She bet that she'd stump me, that she wanted revenge for me surprising her with the Popsicle last time. And I'll be damned if I let her win.
"It's not a feather."
"You already guessed that, Alex."
"I know that! I was thinking out loud." Even though I can't see her reaction, I still stick my tongue out at her. Her knowing chuckle precedes the mystery item brushing against my clit again. Hang on… "It's a spatula."
Rachel makes that annoying buzzer noise again, and I can't help but pout. "Wrong again, love," she teases as she leans up to remove the blindfold from my eyes.
It takes a moment or two for my eyes to adjust to the light after nearly two hours in total darkness. Once I can see properly again, I lift my head in an attempt to see what that damned mystery item was. Rachel has other plans for me, taking possession of my lips. Already walking the razor's edge, it doesn't take long until I'm whining like a bitch in heat.
When she eases two fingers into my clutching wetness, I very nearly come on the spot. Sheer determination and her devious bedside manner are all that stand between anticipation and oblivion. Rachel leans back to sit up, fingers barely moving, but her thumb slides up to rest heavily on my clit. All it will take is one twitch of her thumb and I will fly apart at the seams.
"Look at me, Alex," she orders in a low tone that brooks no disobedience.
When I finally meet her gaze, she smiles and mouths "I love you" as she holds up the bright red silicon basting brush that stumped me. Before I can formulate a response, she flicks her wrist in such a way that it feels like both of her hands and her mouth are fucking me senseless. The wordless command to come is so strong, there's no way I can even think of resisting.
*06. Anniversary (02-29-08)
"Happy eighth anniversary, my love," Rachel whispers, breath ghosting across the nape of my neck.
"Uh-uh," I mutter sleepily, pulling the covers up over my head.
Rachel's delighted laughter filters into my warm cocoon, her fingers dancing lightly along my belly. "When did you become such a grumpy Gus in the morning, Alexandra?"
With a sigh, I pull the covers down to squint at the alarm clock. "Since it's too damned early to be awake on our third anniversary. The sun's not even up yet, Rachel."
She stops me from burrowing back down under the covers by sliding her hand up to cup my breast, fingers teasing my nipple into hardness. Damn it! She knows I like getting woken up this way, but not this damned early in the morning!
"Definitely still half asleep," she teases. "You can't even remember how many years we've been together."
Glaring up at my beloved wife, I bat her hand away and resist the urge to stick my tongue out at her. "How could you forget, Rachel? We've known each other for twelve years. We've been a couple for the last eight of those twelve years. But this is only our third anniversary because this is the second leap year since we first admitted our feelings for each other."
There is a long moment of silence, and I can see the wheels spinning in Rachel's brain as she works through what I've just said. And then the most beautiful look of chagrin crosses her face.
"Damn it!" she mutters, looking away for the span of a few heartbeats. When she returns her gaze to me, she smiles sheepishly. "You're exactly right, my love, and I'm sorry. I told you that you were the better one at remembering this kind of thing."
"I forgive you," I reply with a grin before waggling my eyebrows at her. "And I'll let you make it up to me later, after I get some more sleep." Leaning up to briefly press my lips to hers, I snuggle back down into the covers again.