Chapter 4 – Chicken or Jerk?

Simone’s Jerk Chicken

8oz onions, quartered
1-1½ scotch bonnet or other chillis according to taste, halved and seeded
2oz root ginger, peeled and chopped roughly
½ tsp ground allspice
Small bunch fresh thyme, leaves only
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4fl oz white wine vinegar
4fl oz dark soy sauce
1 lime freshly squeezed

Place all ingredients in a food processor and whiz until smooth. Pour over your chicken and allow to marinate overnight in the refrigerator. *** Chicken must be thoroughly cooked to avoid the risk of salmonella. When cooking on a barbeque, it is advisable to pre-cook in the oven until done then finish off on the grill for that charcoal flavor.

Jill looked out across the Jackson’s packed backyard. When she and Simone had discussed a small get together for the unit, this was not what she had expected. Music was blaring from the speakers next to the back door. The sizeable built-in barbeque pit was blazing, the smell of Simone’s jerk chicken tickled her nose. Everyone from the chapel plus a few more crammed into the yard, the house, and pouring out onto the street. Thankfully, they did not have to worry about the neighbors complaining since most of them were at the party.

Althea, Jess, and a dozen other teens squeezed into the decent sized above ground pool, but it was still a tight fit. The teen had flatly refused to participate in the wedding, choosing instead to sit sulking on the front row. And that was only under duress, her father threatening to ground her for a month. No soccer. No television. It was not until he had said no internet that she had acceded. But the moment the brief service was over, she had made her escape to hide in her room, her head bent over the computer as usual. 

Jill remembered well how upset her youngest son had gotten when she began dating again three years ago. Of course, Darren happened to be right, at least about her choice in men. She sighed and brought the glass of wine to her lips. She had long since lost count of them, but she would worry about hangovers later.

The words to the old song, ‘it’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to,’ kept racing through her mind. And Jill did feel like crying. After her little run-in with Daniel in the laundry room, her deepest fears had been realized. She had lain awake until the sun began to rise, staring at the ceiling, counting, and re-counting every doubt she had. She had weighed them all carefully on the scales of life against the love she already felt for Bel, Ashley, Britney, and even Jess. And despite it all, she decided not to run.

Of course, that would have been bad enough, but just as the dawn was approaching and the hour was decent enough for her to get out of bed and begin the day, her wedding day, she had finally fallen asleep. Even then, it was filled with turbulent dreams. David was smiling as he rose from the surf that first day. Shaking his dark curls and flinging water about as he and his mates laughed. Daniel’s brown waves rumpled and his eyes dreamy as he stood in the kitchen doorway wearing nothing but those damned white boxers.

It only got worse from there. Taunts and jeers. ‘Fat, obnoxious slut.’ ‘Old and worn out.’ ‘No man could ever really want you.’ The words had rung in her ears until Simone had woken her late for the big event.

If that was not bad enough, the kiss that she had spent the whole morning worried about, as Simone and a couple of the other wives got her dressed, did her hair, and make-up, had turned out to be anti-climactic, to say the least. After the flames that had flared between them in the laundry room, Jill had not known what to expect, but it certainly was not the brief and formal brush of Daniel’s lips across hers. Signing the papers on a new car was more exciting than that kiss.

The kiss had only served to confirm Jill’s worst fears. After her wanton behavior the night before, Daniel was having second thoughts about the whole thing. Hell, if he did not need a nanny so damned bad, he would have probably run from the church as fast as he could. And Jill could not blame him.

The sarong wrap that she wore tied between her breasts hid well the one-piece swimsuit that was the official attire for this pool party, barbeque, and wedding reception. Jill was thankful to have the wrap. Its folds encompassed an array of sins; cellulite covered thighs and a not so flat tummy, just to name a couple.

Of course, the assortment of beautiful younger women around her served only to fuel her insecurities and her drinking. The only good thing was the bright floral swimsuit that Simone, in all her ‘big beautiful women’ glory, was parading around in. She envied the woman’s confidence and acceptance of her body shape. She craved, too, the way that Samuel seemed to adore every single inch of his wife’s character.

Jill looked around the yard once more. It had been so many years since she had done headcounts as she called them with her sons. Once her third son was born, it had been merely easier to count heads at the parks than to call to each boy individually.

She noticed that Jess was still safely staring daggers at her from the pool. Bel and a couple of other girls around her age were on the screened-in back porch. Their Barbie and Ken dolls dressed in wedding finery. Bel herself was still dressed in her prettiest pink dress. It was a present from a fancy shop in New York, she had boasted to Jill as they arranged her blond curls on top of her head. ‘Only the finest,’ her Grandma Janice said for her girls. After the wedding, Daniel had tried to coax the child to change into her swimsuit and shorts like her sisters, but Bel insisted that her dress was ‘a-pro-pri-ate’ for the party as well as the wedding. In the end, both he and Jill had caved into the child’s ‘cute face’ as she called it.

Ashley and Britney were in the small wading pool that one of the wives had insisted the guys bring over for the event. There were four or five young mothers, who were much soberer than she was at the moment, watching over a half a dozen toddlers.

That left only Daniel unaccounted for. Her husband, she thought as she drained the glass and headed off to the bar that Simone and Samuel had set up opposite the barbeque bit. Jill knew that if she concentrated very hard, she could make it the fifteen or twenty feet from her plastic chair near the back door to the bar without stumbling or weaving or doing anything else that might embarrass herself or Daniel.

Of course, that was not counting on the five or six young boys that came barreling along out of nowhere, water guns blazing. One of them, who could not have been more than seven or eight, ran straight into her. Any other time, the impact would have barely been felt. But with that many glasses of wine in her, it was a recipe for disaster. She felt herself toddle and began to fall forward.

Until a pair of strong arms wrapped about her waist from out of nowhere, Jill righted herself and shook her head, ready to make her apologies. When she looked up, it was into the hazy blue eyes of the person she had been looking for, the one person she was trying hardest to avoid this night.

“Daniel,” she whispered. She battled to keep her hands at her side. Not to give in to temptation and reach up to caress his freshly shaven face. Her breath caught at the pure male beauty of him. If she had found him handsome beneath the layers of facial hair, this clean-shaven version of a Naval Commander was like a sucker punch to the gut, knocking the wind from her. While his hands about her waist steadied her, they were also a painful reminder of the night before. The kiss. The real one.

“You alright?” he asked.

Jill could do nothing more than nod. Whether it was the wine warming her blood, or the dreams, or the man himself, she did not know, but she swore that her skin beneath his hands was blistering from the heat. Holding up her empty glass, she purred, “Just getting another glass of wine.”

Daniel took the glass from her fingers. “You sure that’s a good idea, sweetheart?”

His casual use of the term brought anger bubbling up inside her gut. After that weak excuse for a kiss in front of everyone. Then hours spent avoiding her at the party; she was in no mood for his patronizing. “What do you care? Go, find your buddies again. I’m just fine,” she said, trying to pull out of his grasp, but he refused to let go of her now that he had found her, it seemed. The wine had loosened the sharp tongue, that a quarter of a century of British reserve had taught her to curb. Turning to him, she whispered, “What? Is it time to pretend to be a ‘real’ couple for our company, commander?”

Daniel was in no mood for games with his wife. Eight glasses. Two god damned bottles of wine in less than two hours. What was it about him? Why was it that marriage to him was enough to make a woman drink? They had been man and wife for less than four hours, and the customarily reserved Jill was tipping glass after glass. It only confirmed his worst fears. He just was not cut out to be a husband.

But a husband he was. Again. And right now, short of showing his wife exactly how ‘real’ things were between them, all he wanted to do was get her home and safely to bed. Alone. This night at least. That ship had sailed a bottle and a half ago. He guided her through the crowd towards the bar, but not for the purpose, she thought.

Jill smiled and held her glass up as they greeted Samuel, who was tending the bar for a bit while Simone helped Dwayne through the house so that his wheelchair did not get stuck along the way. Daniel had been pleased that even in the haste Simone had remembered to invite Dwayne and several other members of his unit that were no longer active. But Simone was always a team player like that.

She had even invited Chloe and her son, Thad. Daniel had been surprised to see the young widow but delighted too. Thad was beginning to look like his father, Zach, who had been killed on the same mission two years ago that left Dwayne with paraplegia. Daniel had hoped that Jill would be able to befriend the young woman, having raised her boys alone after her husband was killed. But that too would have to wait for another time.

“Great party,” his new wife screamed to Samuel across the bar. The music was loud, but not that loud. “Another glass of rosé,” she smiled.

Daniel shook his head as he handed his friend the empty glass he was holding. “Actually, I was just about to take Jill home. It’s getting late,” he made their excuses, although he knew his friend understood far more than he said.

Jill shook her head and was about to protest when Simone stepped up from behind them. “No way, buddy. You, of all people, know this party is far from over,” she pinned him with one of her looks.

Daniel was just about as much in the mood for Simone as he was for his wife’s drinking binge. “This party is over for my wife, Simone. O-V-E-R,” he spelled.

Jill wrapped her arms about her new buddy and ally. “I’m a big girl, and I’m staying,” she poked him in the chest with her finger. “Just because we are married does not mean you can boss me about.”

Daniel threw up his hands and passed his wife off to Simone, “Get her out of here.” Turning to Samuel, “Not another drop, I mean it.” It was an order that was painfully familiar to the men.

Simone nodded and wrapped her arms about Jill’s waist. “Come on, girlfriend. Let’s get a cup of coffee and something to eat from the kitchen. Then we can get you ready.” Jill nodded, and the two women turned back towards the house.

“Simone, one more thing,” Daniel called after them. The women turned and looked at him. “I mean it. This party is over for her. I know what you are up to, and I’m not having it.”

“Spoilsport,” Simone taunted him, sticking out her tongue. “It’s a tradition almost as old as this unit, and you damned well know it. It’s bad luck, too, if we don’t,” she nodded her head to where Chloe and Dwayne sat by the wading pool watching Thad splash and giggle. Their faces were both dark with sorrow that neither dared to speak of.

“That’s poppycock, and you know it, woman. This is the twenty-first century, and we live in America, not some damned developing country where superstition still reigns over everything,” he fumed. “I will not have you and the others making fools of us just to satisfy some stupid, perverse tradition. Do you hear me?”

“It’s up to her, commander,” Simone turned, dragging Jill back towards the house.

Daniel shook his head and took the bottle of beer that Samuel held out for him. “I wouldn’t worry about it. Your wife can barely stand. I doubt like hell that a cup of coffee is going to sober her up enough to dance in front of fifty people.”

“I sure as hell hope you’re right, but you know these crazy women. Did a little alcohol stop Trisha? Or Gail?”

Both men left her name unsaid. It was the one time that Rachel had ever attempted to fit in with his friends and comrades. And it had been a complete nightmare. The last thing he wanted or needed was a repeat of that night in front of his men.

“Hey, don’t worry about it. I got your back, buddy. Remember, I’m the DJ, as well as the bartender. If anything goes wrong, I’ll simply switch the songs,” he said, raising his bottle of beer. “Just remember to make a big show of it. Rubbing against the little lady while you hold her drunk ass up and keep her from falling.”

“Gees, with a friend like you, who needs enemies?” Daniel sighed.

A cloud passed over Samuel’s face as he looked over towards the wooden gate that led to the street. A stocky blond-headed man entered, smiling and shaking hands with several people. “Speaking of which.”

Daniel turned and followed his friend’s line of sight. He gulped the bottle of beer and slammed it on the bar. “Just what I need right now. Clay Dodd. Who the hell invited his sorry ass?”

“Don’t look at me! I told Simone not to call that one,” Samuel held his hands up in surrender before he passed Daniel another bottle.

“Yeah, like your god damned wife listens to anything you say,” he cursed.

“Come on, Daniel. You know that isn’t fair. If Simone did invite him, it’s our fault. We’re the ones so damned worried about how what he did would affect the unit that we covered it up.” Lifting his bottle of beer, Samuel took a long drink, “Sometimes I wonder if we ain’t as dirty as that bastard. The way we left that poor girl out to dry.”

Daniel sighed. It was not one of his prouder moments as a commander, but sometimes there simply were no-win situations. Then you made the best choice; the best of a bad lot. Clay Dodd was one of those times. “What is it about a little money that spoils people?”

Samuel chuckled. “Not like we would know, buddy. Not with what Uncle Sam pays us.”

Daniel smiled and raised his bottle, clinking it against his friend’s. “I’m surprised you ain’t accepted one of his daddy’s kind offers.”

“Nay, man. Something ain’t right about that outfit. I’ll take my chances with you and the other guys. At least, I know you got my back and won’t sell me out to the highest bidder.”

“Thanks for that, man. Don’t know what I’d do without you, especially tonight.” Turning, Daniel watched as Clay approached Dwayne and Chloe. “I better go see what that snake is up to this time. But I mean it, keep our wives away from the PA system. I don’t want to hear that god damned song tonight.”

Samuel saluted. Something they both knew was a joke in a group where skill meant more than rank. “Yes, sir. I’ll do my best.”

“You just remember who has your back next time.”

Samuel laughed, “Yeah, buddy, but you remember what side our bread is buttered on. And I don’t know about you, but I like the butter spread nice and thick on my buns.”

“T-M-I,” Daniel spewed beer at the image of Samuel’s butt covered in butter. “If that’s one of your ‘tricks’ do me a favor and keep them to yourself.”

Both men laughed and raised their bottles one more time before Daniel turned to face the unpleasant task of dealing with this gate crasher. Daniel walked over to where the man was chatting with Dwayne Richmond, Chloe Johnson, and a half dozen other wives and girlfriends. For a moment, he thought of a Bible story from his childhood, the apple in the Garden of Eden. This man was as wily as that snake for sure.

Clay Dodd had served in his unit for only a couple of years. The Annapolis graduate was the only son of one of the country’s wealthiest men. Clay Dodd, Senior, had founded his security firm, Storm Breakers, back in the early eighties. He had used his expertise as a former Army Ranger to craft a line of personal and electronic security systems that were among the most innovative and sought after of their time.

Over the years, he had grown from security details for the rich and famous to protecting some of the world’s most influential leaders and some of its most precious resources. The problem was that to build his wealth and power; the man had chosen not to be too picky about who he worked for. Rumor had it that some of the world’s most wanted men were among his client list, hiding from the same United Nations that was also a client of Storm Breakers.

Clay Junior had inherited his father’s weak moral compass. Rumor also had it that Dodd Senior had purchased his son’s nomination to the Naval Academy with a large donation to a senior Senator, a man that also served on the Department of Defense’s oversight committee. A man that it was said had used his influence once again to guide the young man’s career path into the highly prized SEAL unit. It was a path that had been unobstructed until he joined Daniel’s unit.

“Hey, Clay,” Daniel extended his hand towards the man. “I’m surprised to see you here.”

The man smiled, just as Daniel imagined that snake would to an unsuspecting Eve. “It’s always nice to see you too, commander,” he took the extended hand. “And on such a joyous occasion. So soon after Rachel’s suicide too. I spoke with Heather Thomas, just this morning. Seems that they knew nothing about your nuptials. How odd?”

Daniel cleared his throat and looked the man in the eyes, “Yes, well, I see no need to inform Rachel’s family of my private affairs.”

“Was it, commander?” the man laughed as he raised a bottle of beer to his lips. “I mean the timing does beg the question. Less than a year and you have replaced your dead wife with someone new. Makes one wonder how ‘new’ she really is.”

Daniel ignored his comment, turning to Dwayne. “It’s good to see you again, my friend. How are things going with the new job?”

Dwayne took the hand that Daniel held out and smiled. “Pretty good, commander. How’re things around here?”

“Same as usual,” the men exchanged pleasantries without revealing the sensitive nature of their partnership. Daniel had helped arrange Dwayne’s new job with one of the computer firms working closely with the Department of Defense and his team.

“Yes, I was just telling Dwayne that despite his disability, Storm Breakers could use a good man with his computer expertise,” Clay inserted himself into their conversation.

“Did they ever figure out what went wrong with that helicopter? Damned shame about it, though. Zach dead, and you ended up in a wheelchair for life. Seems like the least this country could do is get to the bottom of it all. Don’t you think, Chloe?” Clay addressed Zach’s young widow as he drained the bottle of beer.

The smile, that had been on the woman’s face as she played with her son, was gone in an instant. The pained look that replaced it spoke volumes. “If you’ll excuse me, it’s getting late. I should take Thad in and change him. We should be heading home soon,” she stood, preparing to make a hasty retreat.

“I’m pretty tired too, Chloe. Mind giving me a lift?” asked Dwayne.

The girl nodded as she took Daniel’s hand. “I want to get going before,” her voice broke, unable to finish her sentence.

“If that’s why you’re in such a hurry, don’t be. That particular tradition is not happening this night,” he asserted.

A shadow crossed the woman’s fresh face, as she gripped his hand tighter. “No, she has to. You know that. You know what happens if…” she trailed off before reaching down, scooping her son out of the pool and running into the house.

“Oh, yes, I forgot about that. Nice timing on my part. Arriving just in time for the big show,” Clay grinned.

“I said it is not happening tonight,” Daniel replied with finality as he stared after the retreating woman. Her pain was his own, another burden, the guilt of his command.

“Too damned bad. I hear that Rachel’s performance was unforgettable. Besides, I’m kind of curious now to see if the new Missus Monroe is as hot looking as the Ice Queen was,” Dodd’s reptilian smile broadened.

Daniel took a swig of his beer. He gripped the bottle tightly. Too bad, it was only his third. He might have enjoyed knocking the bastard over the head with it, if he had been drunker. Not that he had been that drunk in a very long time. He added it to his growing list of fantasies, right alongside watching Jill do the one thing that he had virtually forbidden her to do.

He held out his hand to Dwayne, “I’m really glad you came. It’s always nice seeing old friends.” He nodded to the four remaining wives that had strategically retreated to the edge of the pool upon Clay’s arrival, “Ladies.”

Turning to Clay, he replied simply, “It is always interesting seeing you.”

“Yes, well. Here’s to hoping we see lots more of the new wifey,” the man raised his bottle.

Daniel’s palm itched, this time with the need to curl it into a fist and slam it into the man’s face. He could not help smiling as he overheard Dwayne say, “You always were a real asshole.”

But he was more than a little tempted to turn back at Clay’s low blow response. “At least I was smart enough to get out while I could still walk away.”

Daniel fumed at the cruel words. The man had not walked away. Not exactly. He had slunk away like the snake he was when one of the female interpreters that worked closely with their unit came to Samuel and him in confidence. She had been virtually raped by Clay, who had used threats that came with his officer rank and his father’s wealth to intimidate her into having sex with him.

She probably would not have come forward at all had it not been for the fact that she found herself pregnant with a child she did not want. Despite the gravity of the woman’s charges, it had been a case of he said, she said. While they did not doubt her claims for a moment, they knew that a court-martial panel might not believe her, especially in light of his father’s influence.

So, he and Samuel arranged a transfer back to the States for the young woman and confronted the man. They offered him a simple choice…transfer out of their unit or face that court-martial. It was an empty threat, but the man did not know that. With the disgrace of transferring out of the prestigious unit, Clay had chosen to leave the Navy altogether. As fathers and leaders, he and Samuel had sighed with relief.

But that was not the end of their troubles. Like a bad apple, the man seemed to show up everywhere the unit went. Thanks in large part to the sensitive contracts that his father held to protect local officials in Iraq and Afghanistan. Worse yet, the man had chosen to remain in the Virginia area rather than return to the bright lights of New York City.

He had also taken to poaching men from Daniel’s unit. Offering them lucrative contracts, vast sums of money that the Navy simply could not compete with. The bastard had even had the balls to try and buy him and Samuel as they called it.

The offer had become one of the biggest arguments between him and Rachel in those final months. His first wife simply could not understand how his duties to his country could be more important than money. Money, she felt that she deserved after a decade of their bad marriage. Money that would pay for a nanny, her shopping addiction, and private school for their daughters.

Daniel wanted to turn back and reveal the truth of who and what this man was before everyone. Instead, he chose prudence once more, as he simply walked away towards the large pool from which he saw his eldest daughter finally climb out.

“You want me to do what?” Jill practically screamed at Simone and the half dozen other wives and girlfriends that huddled in the kitchen. “Are you fucking nuts? I might be drunk, but I ain’t that drunk. You want me to prance half-naked before Daniel.” She stared at Simone, “With everyone watching?”

The buxom young redhead from Texas, who had introduced herself as Trisha, stepped forward. “It’s tradition, honey. You a Texas gal. You know how important these things are,” she looked around to the others for support. “We all did it. I promise you, another glass of wine, and it’ll all be good fun.”

Jill could not expect this girl, who looked like she stepped directly off the Miss Texas USA ramp, to understand, so she turned to Simone. “You know why I can’t do this, Simone. Please,” she pleaded in a whisper, tears glistening in her eyes.

The woman nodded her head of curls and turned back towards the others. “It’s her choice, girls. You know that.”

The petite brunette, who had just entered the kitchen carrying a toddler, stopped. A horrified expression crossed her pretty face, as tears threatened to brim over her green eyes. “You have to,” she cried out. Looking at Simone, she begged, “You have to tell her. She has to do it. I don’t want this happening to anyone else.”

Simone tried to wrap her arms about the younger woman, “Chloe, you have to let this one go, honey. It wasn’t your fault. Daniel’s right, it’s all just a superstition. You refusing to dance had nothing to do with that copter going down. You aren’t to blame for Zach’s death any more than Dwayne is.”

The woman clutched tightly to the toddler as the tears spilled down her innocent cheeks. “Maybe you are right, but I’ll never know for sure, will I?”

Her eyes bored into Jill, who at that moment felt remarkably sober. She knew those eyes. They had stared back at her from a mirror for years. They were the eyes of grief.

“It’s a dance. Just a dance. Trust me; it isn’t worth the pain of never knowing,” Chloe choked out the words before she turned and ran from the room, clutching the little boy so tightly that he began to cry.

Jill stood up and went to follow after her. Her heart brimmed over with the shared pain of losing a soldier, husband, and father. It was the worst of nightmares, suddenly made real.

But Simone held out her hand.  “I’ll go after her, sweetie. And don’t let this lot pressure you. It is your decision. The tradition began as a special gift freely given by a bride to her groom. If that ain’t what you want, then don’t do it.”

Jill nodded and squeezed her friend’s chunky hand. “Thank you. Now go after her. And call me if you need me. I might be drunk, but I ain’t so drunk I don’t still know those feelings. Tell her I’ll call her next week too, will you?”

Simone brushed a stray hair back from her face, “I meant it. You are as perfect as we thought you were. You are everything that man, those little girls, and this unit needs. And don’t you forget that, girl. Size zero or size twenty-four don’t matter half as much as what’s in here,” the woman thumped her ample chest. “And that you got in spades.”

Jill hugged her. “Go, damn it. If I’m gonna do this thing, I don’t need black mascara smudges on my cheeks on top of everything else.”

Simone squeezed her back, “You go, girl. I knew you would come through in the end. Don’t you dare do nothing before I get back.”

“You have my word on it. And no matter what Daniel says, bring me another bottle of wine. I’m gonna need it for this one.”

Simone winked before she disappeared through the back door. Jill sighed and joined in with the other wives as they chattered about the night’s main event. Or what for all of them had been the prelude to the main event. She hoped like hell that Simone was right. That she could do this. Or at the very least she hoped that bottle of wine was enough to make her forget it all.

Daniel was still seething with anger when his eldest daughter walked over to him, “What’s that man doing here, daddy?” Jess practically hissed.

Daniel looked over his shoulder, “I didn’t know you knew Clay Dodd, Jess.”

The girl stared at the grass, her toes making circles in it. “Yeah, well, he came around a few times. To talk to Mom when you were away.”

Daniel shook his head. He should have known. When he refused the man’s offer for a higher paying job with his father’s company, he would have gone to Rachel, of course. Hell, the two of them were probably country club buddies from way back in New York City. Daniel smiled as he lifted his daughter’s chin. “Don’t worry about it, sweetpea. And besides, since when you did you start talking to your old man again?”

“Oh, you don’t need to worry about that. I’m still plenty mad with you. And you know I have every right to be. You marry the woman a week after you pick her up from the airport. Friend of gran’s, my ass.

“Watch your mouth, young lady,” he wrapped his arm about her shoulders. “I know this seems sudden to you. And one day when you’re a bit older, we’ll talk about it. But for now, will you just trust your old man that he has not gone crazy. That he’s just trying to do what’s best for our family?”

“Is this because of Aunt Heather and the custody case? I thought we won that?” He could see the worry in her face. His eldest had endured way too much of that in her short life.

“Sort of, Jess. But more than anything, it’s about having someone else there for you and your sisters. If anything,” he smiled. “Well, just if.”

Jess shook her head, “I get it. I guess. Althea and me watched this old movie. I mean really, really, really old. It was like this. A Navy commander that wanted to get back on his ship, but he had all these kids. He married this red-headed lady, who had just as many kids. It was called something funny like His, Hers, and Theirs or something.”

Daniel chuckled. He remembered being forced by his mother to watch it when he was younger. Back in the day when there was only one television set, and adults got to decide what you watched. “Yeah, something like that, sweetie.”

The girl shivered, “Just promise me that there won’t be any ‘theirs.’ That’s the most disgusting part. Old people like them, and you guys having babies. Yuck!”

Daniel chuckled at his daughter’s train of thought. He certainly would not mind a little baby making action with his wife. “If I promise it is not on the agenda any time soon, am I forgiven?”

She shrugged her shoulders, “Maybe, but she still won’t be my mother. Ever. You tell her to keep her smothering to the little girls, and we’ll be fine.”

He knew that Jill would appreciate his daughter’s boundaries, but he doubted very seriously that the woman would simply give up on trying to reach the temperamental teen.

He hugged his daughter and watched with worry as he saw Chloe Johnson race from the house, carrying a screaming toddler. He was about to go after her when he noticed that Simone was right behind the girl, calling out to her. But she would not be stopped. Chloe barreled through the wooden gate at the side of the house towards the street.

Thankfully, Daniel noticed Dwayne roll his wheelchair after the woman that was his best friend’s widow. He held out his hand to stop Simone as she ran after Chloe. “Leave it. Dwayne can handle her better than any of us.”

Simone nodded, “All right, I have some things cooking in the kitchen anyway.”

Daniel stared at her. “It better not be what I think it is.”

“Well, that’s for me to know and you to find out, commander,” the woman swung her wide hips and danced back into the house.

Jill held up the glass of wine and stared at the woman in the mirror. “Simone, it’s perfect.”

Simone wrapped her arms about Jill’s waist in another hug. “Did you honestly think I’d let you down, girlfriend?” She reached up and adjusted the sheer, white lace robe on her friend. “I know exactly how you’re feeling. You think just because I flaunt my stuff that it’s easy for me to be around all these teeny weeny beauty queens?”

Jill stared at her friend, “But you’re so confident.”

Simone laughed, “No, sweetie, I’s arrogant.” She took the glass of wine and turned Jill back to face her. “I meant what I said earlier. You are perfect, and that has nothing to do with what? Size sixteen?”

Jill blushed, “Something like that.”

“Look at you. You’re breath-taking.”

Jill did take another long look at herself in the mirror. The white satin bodice of the corset lifted and molded her breasts until they sprang like the waters of life from its D cups. The stays inside the soft material also did a beautiful job of holding in the waistline that made her cringe. The array of pastel-colored scarves tied to its bottom formed a skirt of sorts that hung to her stocking clad calves. Beneath it, she wore a white garter belt and lacy underwear that were like a second skin to her round bottom. Her friend had even found an entirely sheer chiffon robe that covered the lingerie until it looked almost presentable enough to be worn in public.

Almost, Jill thought. She still would much rather be just about anywhere else at this moment. But with Simone’s help, she would make it through the next five and a half minutes, or so she promised herself as she took a deep breath. “Let’s do this damn thing then,” she did not bother trying to wrestle the glass of wine from her friend’s fingers. Instead, she picked up the bottle that was sitting on the dresser, and downed what amounted to another half a glass.

“You know we’re all right there with you,” Simone reassured her as she swung the door open, and more than a dozen squeals greeted them.

“For the first fucking verse, thanks a lot, girlfriend,” Jill answered sarcastically as she was passed from wife to girlfriend to wife for hugs and inspections.

“You’ll do fine, sweetie. Just think of it as another two-step,” Trisha slapped Jill on the ass. Hard. “Come on.”

The group of women exploded like a hurricane through the back door. A storm of giggles, laughter, and blushing. Night had fallen, and the children had been whisked away by a couple of the more reserved wives to communal beds in their homes. A few, including Bel, were bedded down in Simone’s living room watching a Nick marathon. Even the group of teens had disappeared in favor of bad horror movies, junk food, and whatever mischief they could manage.

Only a couple dozen guys and the stray date that was not yet ‘official’ enough to be included in the traditions remained in the back yard. Lanterns flared around it, casting shadows. Shadows that Jill was thankful would hide what sins this amazing get-up did not. The soft glow of the fire lights cast a spell that the bright light of day and even the haze of early evening had not.

Despite the chill of the breeze coming off the ocean, there was a warmth to the place. Or perhaps it was just that extra glass and a half of wine that gave her the courage to think that she stood half a chance of pulling this one off.

Until she saw him. The men were assembled by the bar, laughing at another of Samuel’s stories. As if on signal, they moved as the team they were, surrounding their leader. Jill lost sight of him among the crowd for a moment, but not before she saw a dark and unreadable expression cross his handsome face. “I told you,” she heard his voice carry across the yard, but the rest of his sentence was muffled by the robust heckles of his friends and the silly giggles of hers.

She turned to run back into the house as the recognizable, pounding eighties beat suddenly blared from the speakers. Two hands reached out to restrain her. Simone’s dark one and a freckled one with a stone the size of Texas on its ring finger. She looked up into their faces.

“You can do this,” the women said as the group began to move together as one across the all too short yards that separated them from their husbands and boyfriends. The shaking of their arms and shoulders imitations of the MTV video that had once been among Jill’s favorites. 

Jill surrendered to their words of encouragement. The die was cast already. Now she just needed to make it through the next five minutes, she thought as she began to move her satin and lace-clad figure in time to the familiar song. She closed her eyes and prayed for strength. For the damned song to end. For this night to end.

When she opened her eyes again, she realized that her troubles had just begun. Daniel stood only ten feet away, stripped to the waist of his too damned tight jeans. The impossibly defined muscles of his bronzed chest glistened in the firelight. The air caught in her throat, and she willed herself to breathe. But nothing could stop the insanely fast pounding of her heart. Its beat faster than even the song. Jill noticed that somehow the t-shirt that he had changed into for the party was now wrapped about his wrists, securing them firmly behind his back.

“You’ll pay for this.” Jill winced. Although she was not sure if he was speaking to her or Simone or even Samuel and his other men. The intense need to escape, to take flight, gripped her once more, consuming what false bravado the wine and her friends had managed to impart.

As if they could read her thoughts, the group of women surrounded her then. With smiles and giggles, they began to move faster to the chorus. The singer’s words rang like an anthem in Jill’s mind. Of heroes rising from heat, of gods and white knights. ‘I need a hero,’ ‘fresh from the fight,’ and ‘larger than life’ played through her mind.

Suddenly, Jill was transported to another time and another place. The music moved over her, carrying her on its wings, transforming her into that young girl she had once been, brimming with newfound beauty and sexual confidence.

Without thought, she began to move in earnest to its rhythm. Her steps were sure as she focused on the moment, surrounded by new friends and old memories. As they had promised, the group remained by her side as they swayed and gyrated across the all too short distance. Jill led them with confidence as they flanked her like her own unit of warrior women invading and conquering.

But as the pounding refrain died and that sultry voice slowed once more into the second verse, Jill found herself eye-to-eye with the man that was her new husband. She swallowed hard at the look she saw in the depths of those crystal blue oceans. Her heart stuttered in her chest, skipping beats as her brief surge of assurance came face-to-face with the enemy. 

When she would have turned and fled back to the safety of the group if not the house, he whispered, “You started this, you gonna run away now, sweetie?”

Even over the lingering charcoal, citronella, and beer, she could smell him. The rush of adrenaline. Man, pure and simple. Words filtered through the haze of the wine, as she took up his challenge and the unspoken one that those eyes held as well. She knew this song. She knew these people. And on some primal level, she knew this man. The rest just sort of flowed out of the depths of her soul.

Her hands trailed slowly across the heated, bare flesh of his chest as she swayed and moved against him. She felt the silk scarves wrap about her calves as she moved her hips in seductive circles, brushing against the rough denim of his jeans. Her nipples tingled and swelled inside the corset, and for a moment, she feared that they would burst over the dam of its low-cut cups.

Emboldened by the moment, their audience drifted away until, in her mind, nothing remained but the two of them. They were as alone as they had been in the laundry room. Was it just a little over twenty-four hours? Things were moving too fast, voiced logic. Not fast enough, her body replied as her hands came to rest on his broad shoulders, her hips repeatedly brushed against his in this mock lap dance. 

She could not bring herself to look into those blue-grey pools again, so instead, she found herself mesmerized by his soft, pink lips that were curled into a sardonic smile. If she closed the distance, if she had the courage, would she savor that fire again? Or would it be the ice she had found when the chaplain said…you may kiss your bride?

She would never find out, she thought with a touch of disappointment when the pounding bass trailed off, and the song came to an end. She smiled. At least, she had done it, as she went to step away. To flee back inside the house with her comrades. To change out of this remarkable but ridiculous outfit. Before she could turn, though, hands came from out of nowhere, imprisoning her wrists more securely than handcuffs ever had.

“Where do you think you’re going?” he drew her into his arms. Smiling over at Simone, who had retreated to the safety of her husband’s embrace, “The little witch didn’t tell you the rest, did she?” His arms beneath the chiffon of her robe were like a vise holding her still against him. “Stick around, sweetheart, cause this night is just getting started.”

With a wink to Samuel, a slower tune drifted on the still, cool night air. This voice was male but equally throaty and seductive. Daniel’s smile was brighter than any of the lanterns that dotted the landscape. Her eyes were once more glued to those hypnotizing lips as he repeated the singer’s words, “Would you dance if I asked you to dance?”

Jill’s heart froze in her chest. The air seemed impossibly thin as she struggled to move it in and out of her lungs. Her mind was thrown into turmoil. She forced her eyes to meet his gaze. The azure depths of his eyes were hazy. An erotic invitation to the unknown. It was probably all just a show for his friends; she knew that. But some part of her wanted to believe that even just a tiny portion of it was only for her. At that moment, she decided to give in to this temptation. To go with the flow. To be hypnotized by it all.

Surrendering her last reservation, she melted against him, moving slowly with him as the music drifted around them, and the other couples joined them on the makeshift dance floor. Her arms wrapped about his neck as she leaned her head against his shoulder. It was just beginning to throb a bit from the alcohol and, more than likely, the stress of the past few days. In the ridiculously high heels that went with the get-up that Simone had chosen, they were practically eye-to-eye.

His hands slipped lower to rest against her hips, drawing her even tighter against him. The hard ridge beneath the rough material was pressed against her, making a mockery of her earlier taunts about being a ‘real couple.’ Standing this close, she could feel the pounding of his heart as it strove to match the wild music of her own. She could feel its life force in his neck pulsing beneath her cheek. She bit her lip to stave off the temptation to kiss and lick at his pulse beating so steadily there.

This moment seemed more ‘real’ than anything she had felt. In a very long time. She smiled against the warmth of his shoulder. Tears gathered in her eyes. She knew this feeling well. Safety. Perhaps it was not as sure, as fully-realized, as it had been once. Maybe this man was not the best friend, lover, and husband of her youth. But the two of them were more alike than different. And this moment could be a start, a new beginning. If she let it.

For the first time, she faced the truth that she had been avoiding these past weeks. She could not just casually exchange one hero for another. It was more complicated than that. As much alike as David and Daniel were, they were individuals. They were different men. As familiar as this new life was, she needed to let the old one go.

As the tears spilled over, she felt the power of the song wash like a benediction over her. She was most definitely in over her head as she followed her new husband’s lead. Her mind battled to come to terms with it all. She heard some temptress whisper, “Will you?”

The man in her arms turned to look at her. Through the haze of tears, it was clear. Clear blue eyes that stared back at her, not the laughing brown ones that had taken a part of her heart with them to the grave.

She smiled as she realized that a part was not all. There was plenty of heart still beating, quite loudly in fact, inside her chest. And just as loving Daniel’s daughters would never take anything away from the love she felt for her sons, neither would loving this man ever change any of the twenty wonderful years she had shared with David.

He answered her with a tentative one of his own. “Will I what?” his voice was a low throaty whisper.

“Kiss away the pain,” her answer echoed the singers. 

Their eyes held for a moment. She watched as dark clouds gathered in the blue skies of those eyes. She felt him stiffen a bit, and she worried that she had said something terribly wrong. The memory of his cold kiss earlier burned in her mind.

She opened her mouth to take it all back. Instead, his covered hers. And fire erupted. The chill of the night melted away at the touch of his tongue against hers. She tasted the beer, but another taste overpowered it. Daniel. It was more intoxicating than the wine she had drunk. More potent than any drug. And she feared she might be addicted already.

“I’ll do my best,” he whispered against her lips as the music stopped.

Daniel laughed around the beer bottle as his friends surrounded him. The truth was he felt like anything other than laughter. This show was grating on his nerves. He had tried to slip away quietly with Jill after that song. Its words and her pleas haunted him as much as the question that was burning in his mind. The question that he hid from them all. 

“Yeah, well, you just remember I owe you for this one,” he addressed Samuel. His friend had no way of knowing exactly how much. And the rest of this night would have to tell. Samuel slapped him on the back as the group entered the same front door that he had opened for his new wife barely more than a week ago.

New wife – words that played like a bad movie in his mind, a movie in which he was now the male lead. The problem was he was not very good in the role. The truth was he was no one’s hero. At least not when it mattered most. Oh sure, he could fight. Win battles that few other men could even face. Hell, he could also change diapers. But at the one thing that mattered most…as a husband and a man…he was a complete and utter failure.

“You can thank me later, buddy,” laughed the man that seemed cut out for that part. “Simone, you girls better be finished in there cause we kept the man waiting long enough,” his friend called out as the gang pushed Daniel down the hallway towards the bedrooms. Towards heaven or hell itself.

Simone and a group of the wives stepped out of the doorway just as they approached, “You think we’d let you down now, suga’?” she drawled as Samuel wrapped his blushing bride of a lifetime in a bear hug and brushed a kiss across her ruby red lips. The others pushed Daniel through the open door.

Jill was sitting on the edge of his bed. Her head was down as she stared at the sea of brown carpet. Blond hair fell about her features, but the stiff way that she held herself told him that she found this moment as impossibly embarrassing as he did.

Embarrassment was not the only emotion that he felt as he took in the view of his wife with her legs dangling off the bed. If the flowing sundresses that hugged those luscious tits and the tight jeans that caressed her full bottom had been temptation, this was the fires of Hades itself, as he took in the white satin and lace that encased her full-figure.

Gone was the lacy robe that had been draped about her shoulders as she had gyrated about him earlier. Her pale skin glistened in the dim light of the lamps that sat next to his bed. He watched hypnotized as her chest rose and fell. He was not sure if he feared or hoped for the gentle swell in those satin cups to overflow their boundaries.

And those impossibly long legs that he could imagine wrapped about his waist were covered still in the sheer white lace stockings that were attached to the tiny strap of silk that he supposed was a garter belt. He had not seen it earlier or the lace panties she wore. Those scarves that had flown about her legs as she danced had hidden them. He tried to push the door closed before anyone else caught sight of her.

Daniel felt the blood coursing through his body. “You can take my breath away,” he whispered the words of the song as they shoved him towards her.

Their audience was not to be denied this night. “Naw-aw, buddy,” laughed Samuel. “You know this show ain’t over.”

He cursed whatever fool had started this tradition. But he knew Samuel was right. It was one almost as old as his unit itself. And he of all people should understand the importance of such things, but this night he was in no mood for their games. He just wanted to be alone with his new wife. He needed to settle some things.

“It’s over when I say it’s over,” Daniel barked. “And I say it’s over. You guys have had your perverted fun. Go home to your own wives.”

Simone giggled as she snuggled against Samuel. “Oh no, you don’t, boy. If you think that milk toast kiss you tried to pass off in front of the chaplain is gonna satisfy us girls, you got another think coming.”

Reaching across the room, she grabbed Jill’s hand and pulled her from the bed until she was standing right in front of him. Simone gave him another of those looks, “NOW, you may kiss your bride. And make it good, boy. Us wives got to have something to tease these old men with.”

Daniel looked down into Jill’s green eyes. “I’m sorry, but they aren’t going to leave unless we…” His words trailed off as he lowered his head. The moment his lips brushed hers, it burst across him like a tidal wave. Desire. Need. Pure fucking lust. He was hard in an instant. The way she melted against him, melding their bodies, entwining their legs, was driving him insane.

Or was it the taste of wine and woman as her tongue met each bold thrust with her own. Her arms draped about the heated skin of his shoulders, had his body begging and pleading with him to finish what they had begun the night before.

With a groan deep into her throat, he wrapped his arms about his wife’s waist and drew her tighter against him. Partly because he wanted, needed, to feel those soft curves pressed against every single inch of his hard body. But he also did not want to have to murder his friends and comrades for looking at his wife in that fucking white cloud of temptation.

The loud cheer that went up from their assembled guests barely registered in his mind as he tasted and feasted on her lips. His hands moved over the satin, wishing it were nothing but the softness of her skin.

He smiled against her lips when he heard the quiet click of the door closing. His mind replayed their earlier conversation about ‘not rushing’ things. He knew that he should step back now. Offer his wife the bed for the next couple of nights while the girls were away with friends for their ‘honeymoon.’ He could slip away to watch stupid late-night Westerns and drink himself to sleep.

But what he should do and what he wanted to do were two different things. Even though he knew the alcohol and the situation itself clouded her thinking, he did not care. He did not want her thinking, did not wish cold reasoning to have any part of this night. He tried to fuel the flames that had her burning against him as hotly as he was igniting. If honor, niggled at the back of his mind, it could go fuck itself, because his body had every intention of ending a very long dry spell by fucking his new wife.

He maneuvered them until he felt the edge of the bed against his shins. Gently, lest he aroused her from the wine and kiss induced stupor that he wanted to feed this night, he lowered them both to the bed. His hand moved with more confidence than he was feeling up from her waist until it cupped her breast. His fingers ran along the edge of the material as his tongue danced against hers.

She whimpered as he broke the kiss. He looked into those cloudy green pools as he brushed the offensive material back to reveal the soft, full perfection of a man’s dreams. He knew that if he did not want this dream to end too quickly, he had to keep her drugged with the seduction. Keep reason and sanity at bay…at least until dawn.

So, he did what he had wanted to do since the moment that Britney had splashed water across that damned dress. He lowered his head and tasted the sweet heaven and fiery hell that was his wife’s nipple. He drew the turgid peak deeper between his lips and was rewarded with a louder whimper as she arched against him.

Their bodies lying side by side on the bed, he could feel her hips moving in slow circles against his. The dry humping as they had called it as teens was driving him insane. One of his hands moved to her hips to still the incessant rhythm as his other hand cupped and squeezed at her bared tit. His teeth lightly scored the firm flesh, and she practically came off the bed. This time the whimper became a moan.

His wife’s responses were a more heady concoction than the half dozen or so beers that he had drunk throughout the night. Headier than anything he could remember, even the adrenaline rush of battle.

Daniel knew he was moving fast, but it was not quick enough for him. His fingers slipped beneath the patterned lace of her underwear. Panties that revealed far more than they hid as they stretched tightly across the white skin of her lush bottom. He tugged and pushed at them in time with the rocking of her hips against him. He had them halfway down her thighs when she lifted that round ass and moaned as his tongue lathed her damp nipple.

“Fuck this,” he spat as he tore the damned things off her. His words breathed across the tips of her breast.

The lacy scrap was still wrapped around his fingers as he explored the softness of her round bottom, mapping it with his touch. His mouth and tongue refused to surrender their prize as he toyed with it. “Please,” she whimpered.

“Please what?” he breathed across her skin as he continued to toy with the darkened peak. He knew the answer he wanted. ‘Please fuck me,’ rang like a refrain in his head.

He threw the damned lace across the room as his fingers moved between her soft thighs. He groaned against her flesh as they moved over soft curls and delved lower still. He smiled around her nipple as he found her as wet as he was hard. Her hips lifted then, enveloping his hands between her legs, as two of his fingers disappeared into the warmth that another part of his body coveted.

“Aw,” she screamed as he felt her flesh clamped tightly about his fingers. “Yes,” she moaned as he began to move them deeper inside her. “Oh, god, yes,” she whimpered as she arched her hips into his bold caress.

Daniel was about to burst out of his god damned jeans. But the choice was to surrender the heavenly softness of her ripe breast or the wet welcome of her tight channel. It was not a choice he was ready to make just yet. As his teeth tugged more firmly at the soft flesh, his fingers were greeted almost instantly with a rhythmic tightening of her muscles.

“D…” she whimpered as he continued the all-out assault on her senses. The end game of this mission so close that he could almost feel it. “Da…” she moaned once more.

Daniel was preparing to surrender the tender softness of her breast as she crested and crashed against him. The need to discard the tight confines of the thick material was driving him mad with distraction when she gave a final moan, “Da-vid.”

Daniel shut his eyes at the stabbing pain that ripped through his chest. He had taken more than one bullet to the Kevlar vest. He knew the stinging shock of that pain, but it was a fraction of what he felt at that moment. His fingers slowed inside her impossibly tight body as the aftermaths of her tremors continued to squeeze softly at them.

He knew that her words, misspoken though they were in her drunken and lust induced dreams, would not stop some men. Hell, most men. He was not one of them, as that damned honor came bubbling back to the surface. Indecision and pain warred in his heart as he stilled. His head rested against the soft pillow of the breast that moments before he had been teasing and tormenting.

It was his new wife that ultimately decided for him. The soft rise and fall of her chest soon gave no doubt that after the powerful release of her orgasm, she had found the peace of sleep. Something he knew he would not see this night. Not even at the bottom of the bottle of Southern Comfort that awaited him in the kitchen cabinet.

Softly he turned, withdrawing his fingers with regret. He rolled to the edge of the bed. His head hung in defeat. “Fuck, when are you going to learn, man. You just aren’t cut out for this,” he whispered as he stood up.

Going to the closet, he pulled out the spare blanket and tucked it about her. Her blond hair spread across the quilt brought another stabbing pain to his gut. “I’m so sorry, Jill,” he bent to place a kiss on her forehead. “You don’t deserve a fuck-up like me.” He flicked off the lights and drew the door closed even more softly than their guests had earlier.

In the darkness, he stumbled down the hall to the kitchen. The moonlight was streaming through the window over the sink as he reached high into the cupboard next to it for the only comfort he would find this night. The famous alcohol was far from the sweet comfort he had hoped to enjoy. Unscrewing the cap, he brought the bottle to his lips and swallowed. He looked out at the array of bright stars and lifted the bottle.

“David, my friend, here’s to you. Wish I were half the husband and man you must have been,” as he drowned his sorrows in a long drink. The liquid burned his throat with heat and fire that was only a dim reminder of the flames he had held in his arms just moments before.

One thought on “Chapter 4 – Chicken or Jerk?

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