After the goodnight, Gracie trailed George back to his dressing room. You’d think after all these years they would share one, but Gracie had a lot of aprons. George pulled his tie free, dropping it on the vanity. “What is it, dear?” he asked, moving to hang his jacket on the back of the door. Gracie drummed her fingernails on the doorjamb. Hands newly empty, George gently pried Gracie’s claws away from the crumbly, old wood.
“I think we’ve got termites,” she said as her husband towed her into the little room. George pushed the door shut with his back, pulling his wife into his arms.
“What’s the matter, Gracie?” He tucked her head beneath his chin. She didn’t answer, resting her weight fully against him. He sighed, stubbing out his cigar on the wall and putting it in his pocket. It would not do to rush her. For a long time, neither of them said anything.
Unbuttoning the cuff, George worked two fingers up Gracie’s sleeve. With Gracie’s warm weight against him, George didn’t really think about anything. The too smooth skin of Gracie’s scar beneath his fingertips had always fascinated him, even though she hated it. She eventually responded by twisting her fingers into his shirt; something was ripping her up inside.
“Oh, George.” Gracie had a million ways of saying his name. For that one, he needed to sit down. He scooped her up, depositing them both on the single rickety chair in the middle of his glorified closet. She settled herself comfortably on his lap but went silent again.
Now, it wasn’t like they didn’t have all night, but this chair just was not that comfortable. “As much as I love you, Gracie, I can’t actually read your mind. You’re gonna have to give me a little help here.”
“Do you remember when you bought me that centerpiece?” She unbuttoned the tabs on his collar.
“You mean the one I bought as a sad apology for being the damn fool dumb enough to cheat on you?” She nodded. “Well, I’m proud to say: I haven’t earned you another one.” He grinned broadly to an imaginary audience. Now, it wasn’t exactly a joke, and it wasn’t exactly funny, but when she didn’t laugh, his stomach went cold. He clutched her tighter. “Do you owe me a new barbecue?”
“Oh, thank God.” He dropped a quick, emphatic kiss into her hair. “Well, now that I know I’m still the bad guy; what’s eating you?”
“George!” He accepted her expression of fleeting outrage as a job well done. “You’re not a bad guy.” She settled back against his chest. “You’re the best man I know.”
“Oh, dear.” He stroked her hair soothingly. Gracie was a brilliant woman, really, but she couldn’t resist a good one liner. Normally. Tonight, she was letting them go like pigeons in the wind. “Talk to me, Gracie,” he whispered into her hair.
“You know that new lawyer, Matthew?” she murmured into his buttons.
“The blind gent? He’s real talented. Why?”
“He’s been following me around for days.” Her voice was heavy and so quiet George could barely make out the words.
George tipped her face up. His gaze flickered from wide green eye to blue. They were glossy, and George hated to see her cry, but it looked like there was nothing he could do; nothing to protect her from when she was already hurt. “I’ve been following you around for twenty years.” He let the quiet weight of his voice make his promises. A little lighter, he added, “What could be worse than that?” He smiled, still foolishly trying to lift her spirits, even as his own eyes prickled.
Tears spilled over Gracie’s lashes, dripping down her cheeks. “He follows me everywhere. I’ve played it crazy. I’ve played it straight. This morning, I was mean to him. He’s outside my dressing room right now. I’ve tried everything I can think of and he just won’t leave me alone!” Her broken voice slowly picked up until she was all but shouting indignation in George’s face.
Searching her expression, George thought fast. Well, he tried to anyway. Half a thought and George would circle back to how Gracie was his. Any man who thought he could get his greasy mitts on his wife had another think coming. George was a lover not a fighter, but he owned a Louisville Slugger and he knew how to use it. Without realizing, George had slid his hand up Gracie’s skirt, grip possessive on her thigh. Gracie was his wife, and he’d prove it to all comers.
Now, there was a thought. “Ah, Gracie?”
“Yes, George?” She licked the tears from her upper lip and bit the bottom one.
“I’ve got an idea.” Her eyes went from wary to hopeful in a blink. “Before I break my knuckles on his face; what do you say we give him a show? Let him know just how happily married we are?” She tilted her head, trying to figure out exactly what her husband meant.
George did not wait for his wife to cotton on. He turned her in his lap, spreading her legs over his knees. Rucking up her slip, George unclipped Gracie’s nylons. He pushed the thin girdle up to her bust, slipping his hand down her soft belly and into her panties.
“Oh, George!” Gracie’s voice went smooth, loosing that bright quality he adored and dropping into something he couldn’t resist.
“Be loud, darlin’,” George whispered into her ear as she melted against him. He threw his head back, shouting proudly, “You hear that, Murdock? Gracie’s MINE! Now, back off!” There was a nasty thump against George’s rickety dressing room door. He jumped in his seat. “Good gravy, he’s really out there.”
“I told you so.” Gracie tangled her fingers in George’s hair, pulling his mouth to her neck. George grinned into the soft skin beneath his wife’s jaw, chuckling. He did something clever with his fingers, pulling a scream from his sweet girl. “GEORGE! George…”
Neither of them noticed the sound of a man’s hard-soled shoes hurrying away down the corridor.