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love me always as i do you

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[*]

Grace had thought an English class on violence in contemporary literature would be an interesting complement to her psychology courses. She even likes the material and the professor, and is already thinking of ways to combine representations of violence into a possible interdisciplinary trajectory towards serial killer and violence offenders profiling.

However, what isn’t interesting is the group of three floppy-haired fuckboys in the class who sit in the back and ask dumb questions concerning the appropriateness of the characters’ actions and whether perhaps the victims were asking for it, all the while checking Twitter and cackling over Red Sox scores.

So, when her phone buzzes at the end of class and she sees John’s name come up in a received text, she releases a long breath and praises the lord, because she needs to talk to someone who will let her rant, feed her, and then kiss her until she can’t breathe. John is always good for a rant.

They’ve been apart more often than not during this year, with him in Providence and her still at Hastings for her junior year. But on more than one occasion, when he wasn’t able to come to her and she was upset over anything, she would go home to her apartment (shared with the incomparable Daisy) and find a pizza and ice cream waiting, and a request for a Skype date. He might deny it, but John Logan has a knack for romance.

Grinning, Grace pulls out her phone as she shuffles out of class, her bag slung haphazardly over her shoulder. The winter has been bitterly cold and wet, and as she steps outside she shivers and crinkles her nose, poking at her phone.

John: Where are you?

Grace: Just getting out of violent lit.

John: Such an upper.

Grace: Are you around? I could use a phone rant.

John: Yeah, call me when you’re home.

John: I love you.

The emojis really make it, Grace thinks as she shakes her head and tucks her phone in her coat pocket. The walk from campus to her apartment is brief, about fifteen minutes; but the promise of talking to John makes it feel interminable. She stomps through slush and greying snow, peering up at the cloudy skies. It’s Friday and she has no plans to leave the house, despite Daisy’s urgings, so she doesn’t mind if it snows a little more.

When she makes it to her door, she walks in expecting an empty apartment. Daisy is at the station until 7 on Fridays. What she gets, is John Logan lounged across her sofa in the tiny living room, hands tucked behind his beautiful head.

“Hey there,” he says, casual as you please.

Grace gapes, and kicks off her boots. “How did you get in?” she asks, startled.

“Daisy did me a solid. Is that the response I get now? I haven't seen you for a month and a half. Is the magic finally gone?” he asks, grinning at her.

Laughing, she drops her bag and launches herself at him, coat and all. He wraps her up against his broad chest, frowning as she presses her cold fingers to his face. “Where the hell are your gloves?”

“Would you just shut up and kiss me?” she retorts.

John laughs and does as she demands, kissing her long and slow until she’s squirming against the stretched-out length of his body, her skin flushed and her limbs achy with want. She shrugs out of her coat and slides her hands under his sweater and undershirt, wanting bare skin. Emails, phone calls, Skype dates, texts – they were nice and thoughtful, but it wasn’t enough. Grace is an independent woman and has a full life outside of John – but she still wants him to be there more than he is. It’s the nature of the business, of his career; she still doesn’t have to like it.

“No preliminaries, huh?” he asks, voice husky.

She bites at his bottom lip in a teasing way, stroking her palms over the rise of his ribs, the coarse hair spread over his chest. “Is this really the time for romance?” she murmurs, kissing her way along the taut line of his throat.

He chuckles and worms his hands under her sweater during her thorough exploration of his chest. “We could take this slow,” he says softly into her ear, his warm breath sending a shiver down her spine. “I could stretch you out on this couch, take off your clothes piece by piece, put my mouth on every inch of revealed skin – “

All her joints turn to liquid as his words fill the air. She pants against his neck as his hands slide under the hem of her sweater and pull it up and over her head. The solid reality of him beneath her is better than any fantasy, better than the low lull of his voice over the phone late at night. Her thighs part over his denim-clad hips and she can feel the straining press of his erection through both their jeans.

“Put my mouth on your belly, find the mole on your hip – but I know where you really want me and my tongue,” he whispers, dragging his fingertips over her camisole, cupping the soft curves of her breasts through her bra. She whimpers and arches into his touch, her hands settled into a tight grip at his waist.

“Is that what you want, Grace?” he asks.

She lifts her gaze to his. His eyes are sharply green in the dull winter light, the afternoon turning towards night. Wetting her lips, she shifts up to straddle him fully and works at the belt and zip of his jeans. “I want you to fuck me, and then I want that,” she says, voice reedy.

His lips sharpen into a smirk and he reaches up to loosen her hair from its ponytail. “I missed you,” he says hoarsely before sitting up and catching her mouth in his. She squeaks against his mouth and laughs, shaking out her hair. It’s closer to the brown shade from when they first met, though she was glad to keep the golden lowlights. The fingers of one of his hands sinks into her loose hair as he wraps his other arm around her waist and gathers her right into his lap. With seemingly no effort, he stands with her in his arms, and she squeezes her thighs around his hips.

When he starts to walk towards her bedroom, his jeans, loose from her clumsy fingers, slide down and catch at his knees, and she laughs into his kiss.

“Laughing at me, Ivers?” he asks archly, the tops of his cheeks flushed.

“Almost always,” she says with a smile, twining her arms around his neck. “You’re pretty funny-looking.”

He smiles warmly, his eyes crinkling, and walks her back against the living room wall. “Just for that,” he murmurs. His mouth slides over her collarbones, biting at the taut pink skin as he noses into the valley between her breasts. The weight of his body presses her up against the wall as his hands move to her jeans. She drops her legs from his hips and perches on tiptoe as he undoes her zip and tugs down both her jeans and panties to her knees. She gasps and rolls her head back as the mild air touches her skin. She is wet and aching for her, her skin tight and her muscles sprung for action. Desire thrums between them as it always does, and when he strokes his callused fingers between her thighs and inside of her, she moans his name.

“You’re so wet for me, Grace,” he murmurs against her sternum, pressing his lips to skin and the lacy edge of her camisole. “It’s just for me, isn’t it?”

“Yes – “ she breathes, tangling her fingers into his hair. “John – “

He curls two fingers inside of her and strokes, and she shuts her eyes on a shudder, her hips rocking off of the wall. She kicks off her jeans and panties and hooks a thigh over his hip. His free hand cups under her ass, supporting her as she trembles under his touch and wraps her thighs around his waist. His hard cock shifts against her thigh and she whimpers skin to skin. He groans against her skin and mouths his way across her camisole to her bare shoulder. His teeth sink into her skin and she shivers, sliding her hands over the line of his back and over his hips to wrap her fingers around his cock.

“Grace – yes – “ he breathes, as she strokes his erection. He slips his fingers out of her and his thumb finds her clit as she guides him inside. Thank god for the pill, she thinks as she moans. He fills her so well, his hips pressed into the cradle of her thighs. His breathing against her shoulder is hard long pants of hot air, his muscles thrumming with want.

“I want you to come three times before dinner, love,” he whispers against the thin skin at the base of her throat, moving within her in a steady rhythm as his fingers circle her wet clit. “I want to feel you come right on my tongue and around my cock – “

She slides her hands down to grip his ass and arches her spine, shuddering with pleasure. “I can live with that,” she moans.

He chuckles against her skin and licks at her pulse, pressing deeply into her. “Glad to hear it.”

They make it to the bed for her third orgasm. With his head between her thighs and his tongue on her clit, she closes her eyes and wishes he never had to leave.

[*]

When the Chinese food arrives, Grace pulls on a pair of John’s boxers that he left at Christmas and an old Hastings jersey of his to fetch it at the door. He comes out of her and Daisy’s tiny bathroom and catches her spreading a towel out on her rumpled bed, setting out cartons of pork fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, egg rolls, beef and broccoli, and kung-pao chicken.

“Did you order everything on the menu?” he asks, padding in naked and crawling back into bed.

She drapes a towel over his lap and hands him a carton. “I know how you eat.”

He smiles and leans over to kiss her, a brief brush of their mouths that sets her alight. Her limbs are like jelly and she can still taste him on her tongue. “You look hot in my clothes,” he murmurs.

She catches his jaw in her hand and kisses the corner of his mouth, aching with the thought of saying goodbye already. “Eat, before your stomach rumbles its way out of your body,” she says.

John opens his mouth to speak, and then his growling stomach breaks the silence. He smirks. “You work up my appetite, babe.”

Laughing, she hands him an eggroll.

“I miss you all the time,” he says quietly, as they eat their fill. He’s listened to her rant about the fuckboys in her class, and helped her map out the schedule for her classes for fall semester. Dusk has settled, and the sounds of outside are muted with newly falling snow.

Grace tucks herself into his side and picks at her kung-pao chicken. In a fit of fancy when they moved in, Daisy strung white Christmas lights around the edges of Grace’s room; the light is soft and warm in the purple winter darkness. “I miss you too,” she says softly. “But I’m proud of you.”

He kisses her forehead, setting his empty carton of beef and broccoli on the towel and wrapping his arm around her shoulders. “I’m proud of you,” he says, voice warm. “You’re on your way to great shit, Grace.”

She sighs and sets her carton aside as well. When he shifts his weight, she slings her thigh across his lap and curls up to his chest. His hands settle on her back, fingers playing through her hair.

“I have an idea,” John says after a long quiet spell, his voice low.

She drags her palm across his chest. “Ideas are good. Have them often?”

“You’re sassy.”

“Well, I miss you.”

He kisses the top of her head. “Feeling’s mutual, babe. Hence my idea.”

“Okay,” she says. “Hit me.”

“Maybe – “ he pauses. There’s an uncomfortable tension running through his body; she can feel the rapidity of his heartbeat under her palm.

She sits up, watching him carefully. His cheeks are flushed, his eyes very dark. “John?”

He smooths his fingers through her hair, smiling slightly. “I love when you call me John,” he says quietly. “It sounds different when you say it.”

She blushes but leans into kiss him softly. “What’s your big idea, hotshot?”

He cups her face in his palms, watching her carefully. “I thought maybe next year, we could move in together.”

Blinking, she stares at him with wide eyes. “Really?”

Nodding, he runs his thumbs over the rise of her cheeks. “If all goes well, I’ll move up to Boston and be on the team there. And I just – I hate being apart from you like this all the time. We could find a place that’s halfway, so it isn’t a crazy commute for you. And I don’t mind driving far – I would do whatever you wanted to do.”

There’s a faint roar in her ears, as if all the blood is rushing away from her brain. She remembers to breathe after a moment, watching him watch her.

“Are – are you sure? Because I know – I love you and I want to be with you but I know it must be hard to have a girlfriend younger than you and there’s so much more out there for you and I don’t want you to feel held back and I – what if you hate how I organize the kitchen or bathroom or what if – “

He leans in and stops her ramble with a kiss, bringing her right into the cradle of his chest. “Grace – Grace, I love you,” he says softly. “I don’t want anyone else. I’ve been around that block several times. You yelled at me about it, remember? I just – I want to make a life with you. Whatever that life ends up being. You’re what’s important.”

“Hockey – “

“I love hockey, but hockey isn’t going to last forever,” he says seriously, twining his fingers into her hair. He holds her as if she is the most precious thing in his life. “You are going to last forever. You and I are going to last forever. And I want to start that as soon as we can.”

Blinking away a strange rush of tears, Grace suddenly can’t stop the smile from spreading across her face. “You’re as sappy as they come, Logan.”

“So you’ve said,” he says with a smile, all warmth and love. “C’mon, love. What do you think?”

Happiness flits through her, making her light-headed. She leans in and kisses him. “Yeah. I want to do it.”

He whoops and rolls her onto her back, kissing her breathlessly as their limbs twine. She shrieks and laughs as they roll to avoid the cartons, curling up together at the headboard of her bed.

“Maybe you can have a room just for all your serial killer books,” he says against her mouth.

“You’re so romantic,” she deadpans, laughing when he pinches her at the waist and kisses her again. Later, they will hash out the details, the budget, the inevitable side-eye from her father; for now, in the late winter glow, they will bask in each other.

[*]