Rusty Nailed Page 1

Author: Alice Clayton

Series: Cocktail #2

Genres: Humorous , New Adult

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prologue

It was the best of times, it was the na**dest of times . . .

December

I’d never spent a Christmas away from my family. Christmas to me is family: immediate, extended, and later, created. My family and friends gather, trees are trimmed, presents are wrapped, nog is made and most certainly consumed. It’s Norman Rockwell, with a drunk uncle. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Except this year. This Christmas was entirely different. This was Rockwellian with a Wallbanger twist.

As a freelance photographer, Simon had a seriously cool job. He traveled the world on assignment for National Geographic and Discovery Channel, or whoever needed a photographer to go to the farthest-flung places on earth. This Christmas he was photographing European cities in their holiday best, and he’d be gone nearly the entire month of December.

Since officially becoming a we, we’d settled into our own normal. He’d continued to travel for work, booking trips all over the world: Peru, Chile, England, even a long weekend in LA to do a study at the Playboy Mansion . . . Hardship.

But when my globe-trotting Wallbanger’s home, he’s home. Home with me, either in my apartment or in his. Home with me for the dinners out with Jillian and Benjamin, or playing poker with the other two couples that make up our best friends. Home with me, in my bed or his, my kitchen or his, on my counter or his—home.

Yet apparently Simon was always away on Christmas. He’d taken jobs in Rome, covering the mass in St. Peter’s Square. The Vanuatu Islands in the South Pacific, the first time zone to celebrate the holiday. He’d even traveled to the North Pole one year and made a snow angel at midnight.

Strange, you say? Not really. His parents were killed in a car accident when he was a senior in high school. Eighteen years old, and his entire world was turned upside down. With no other family, he left Philadelphia a few months later when he enrolled at Stanford, and never looked back.

So yeah, Christmas was hard on him. I was beginning to understand my Wallbanger, beyond the man, the myth, the legend. Holidays were sticky in general. And as such a new couple, Christmas with my parents would be a Very Big Deal. He hadn’t even met them yet, and a Reynolds Family Christmas was perhaps not the best time to take that major we step.

So I wasn’t surprised when he started planning to be away for the entire month. The surprise was all on him when I brazenly invited myself along.

“From Prague I’m heading to Vienna, then Salzburg, and I’ll probably be there on Christmas. They have this festival where they—”

“I’m coming.”

“Still? Damn, I’m good. We finished an hour ago . . .” He covered the area between my legs with one of his beautiful hands. We were lying in bed, well into the late-November night. He was home for a few days between trips, and we were nooking after nookie.

“No, sir, I mean I’m coming with you to Europe. I’d like to spend our first Christmas together actually together. It’ll be fun!”

“But what about your parents? Won’t they be disappointed?”

“Sure, but they’ll get over it. Will there be snow?”

“Snow? Yes, of course there’ll be snow! Are you sure about this? I’ve been alone most Christmases the last few years. It’s not a big deal. I don’t mind being alone,” he said, not meeting my eyes.

I smiled and lifted his chin. “I mind it, okay? Besides, I have the week off between Christmas and New Year’s, so I’m coming. It’s settled.”

“You’re bossy, Ms. Reynolds,” he noted, moving his hand decidedly south of my hip.

“Yes, I am, Mr. Parker. Don’t stop doing what you’re doing there . . . mmm . . .”

And that’s how I found myself in a holiday fairy tale. I flew into Salzburg, Austria, where we stayed in a wonderful little inn in the old city center—snow falling, trees lit with thousands of little white lights, and Simon looking ridiculously adorable in a ski cap with a pouf at the end. Being supremely touristy, he’d arranged for a horse-drawn sleigh with actual jingle bells. On Christmas Eve, underneath a warm blanket and wrapped entirely in Simon, I gazed out at the city and the moonlight on the river.

“I’m so glad you’re here,” he whispered, followed by a light nip to my ear.

“I knew you would be.” I chuckled as he snuck a hand underneath my sweater.

“Love you,” he murmured, his voice laced with honey.

“Love you more,” I answered, my eyes sparkling with tears.

New tradition? We’ll see . . .

• • •

February 14

Text from Simon to Caroline:

Just pulled up, you ready to go?

Almost. Still need to get dressed. Just come on in.

I’m on my way up the stairs. We’re going to be late.

No, we won’t. Just keep your pants on.

Never heard that before.

Quit kicking my door and get in here!

I pressed send, then settled back against the kitchen counter. I could hear his key in the lock, and I muffled a grin. We were due to meet the gang for a romantic dinner in twenty minutes. With traffic, we’d be very lucky to make it in forty. If I was even luckier, we wouldn’t make it at all.

“Babe! What’re you doing? We gotta go!” he called. I could hear him dump his bag in the entryway.

As he came down the hall, I sighed dramatically and called back, “I decided against going out tonight. I’m not feeling so good.” I heard him stop dead in his tracks, and I would’ve bet my Le Creuset double boiler he was running his hands through his hair and swallowing a sigh.

I’d been pestering him for weeks to take me out for Valentine’s Day, and I’d insisted we make it a night out with our friends. But he was only home for a week, and I knew that he wanted nothing more than to stay in, veg out on the couch, and sleep with his girlfriend.

Girlfriend.

I still get goose bumps when I ponder this. I’m Simon’s girlfriend. He was once the Harem Master, and now I’m his girlfriend.

So, after dropping hints to him since mid-January about making sure he’d be home for Valentine’s Day, and then spending hours on the phone with Sophia and Mimi planning the perfect romantic evening out, my deciding at the last minute to stay in had to be making him question exactly why he’d decided a girlfriend was something he wanted.

“You sure about that? I thought you had your heart set on—”

He stopped as he rounded the corner to the kitchen. Perched on the counter, wearing an apron, a grin, and six-inch heels, was moi. Holding an apple pie on my lap.

“I have my heart set on something,” I told him. “But it isn’t a crowded restaurant. How could I get away with wearing only this?” I hopped down from the counter and turned around. Oh yeah, I was wearing the apron, and only the apron. And the shoes—don’t forget the shoes.

“Caroline. Wow,” he managed.

I grinned bigger. “I have pie.”

“You sure do.”

“Silly boy, I baked for you. Your very own hot apple pie. All you have to do is come over here and get it.” I broke off a piece of the crust and dragged it through the cinnamon sugar goo dripping down the side. Would he want pie or me first?

Turns out, he wanted both.

April

“See, now, I thought we were making progress. We watch baseball together, I sneak you peanut butter every now and again, and you go and do this? Why? Why do you continue to do this? And furthermore, why do I continue to allow this to happen?”

As I reached the top of the stairs, I overheard the conversation inside my apartment. Simon was home alone—maybe he was on the phone. Once inside, however, I peeked around the corner and found him sitting across the table from my cat, Clive, his Stanford sweatshirt between them. Clive had “marked his territory” on this very sweatshirt several times early on in our relationship, but it had been a while since he’d deemed it necessary to remind Simon who was the actual man of the house. We both thought Clive was over this particular peccadillo. Apparently not . . .

I stifled a laugh at how seriously Simon was staring at Clive, and how unseriously Clive seemed to be taking all this, batting at his tail as though it were unattached from his body. I backed down the hall silently, and then made a big show of rattling the doorknob to let them know I was home.

When I came into the dining room again, I found Simon reading the newspaper nonchalantly. He made no mention of the conversation he’d been having with my cat.

I allowed him that dignity, and pretended not to notice when I found the sweatshirt in the trash a few hours later.

May

A noise filled the bedroom, rending the night and pounding my eardrums. A great sawing, a loudness of indeterminate origin dragged me from my dreams of Clooney. I was sweltering, with a very warm body wrapped around me from the back and horrible noises pouring forth from his mouth, directly into my brain. I grappled for a cool spot on my pillow, his heat billowing toward me in waves as the snoring—oh my sweet Lord, the snoring—rattled my insides.

Even Clive had retreated to a safe perch on top of the dresser.

In a completely shit move reminiscent of schoolyard playgrounds, I drew back my legs and kicked the mass of sweaty, snoring boy that was filling my bed and ruining my sleep.

“Oof!” He woke with a start, inadvertently pressing more of his hot skin against mine. I peeled myself off the bed to stand over him, brandishing my pillow, which no longer contained even an ounce of coolness.

“Babe, what’re you doing? Did you kick me?” He curled back in on himself like a roly-poly.

“You have to stop!” I yelled.

“Stop? Stop what? Come on . . . come back to bed,” he mumbled, already slipping back into his dreams, where he seemed to be a lumberjack.

“Don’t you dare go back to sleep! No! More! Snoring!” I yelled, wild inside and out now. Being deprived of my sacred sleep turned me into a woman possessed.

“Snoring? Come on, it can’t be that bad—what the hell!”

I’d snatched his pillow away, dropping his head to the mattress.

“If I can’t sleep, no one will sleep! You are loud, and you are hot!” I shrieked.

“Well, the hot we knew, right?”

“Aaarrgghh!”

“Wait, are you PMS-ing?” he asked, almost immediately looking fearful as he realized his mistake.

Simon finished the night across the hall in his own apartment. I needed my sleep.

July

“Goddamn, Caroline, that was amazing.”

“Yes, yes it was,” I purred, stretching my legs around him, clutching him closer to me, feeling him still inside me. His breathing synched with mine, relaxing into me as I scratched at his scalp and made little patterns on his back with my fingertips. After a few minutes he raised up on one elbow, and I smoothed his hair back.

“You didn’t come, did you?”

“No, sweetie, but it was fantastic anyway.”

“Let me make it up to you,” he insisted, moving his hand in between us, surprised when I stopped him. “Babe?”

“It’s not always about that. It can still be amazing, you know? Some nights, being here, being close with you, is all I need,” I said, bringing him down for another kiss, slow and sweet. “I love you so much,” I whispered in his ear, his answering grin making my heart swell.

After the Great Orgasm Hiatus, which in my head is how it was officially known across the land, was she always there for me? Of course not, not every time. But mostly she was there, and mostly she was there for multiple Os, and sometimes she brought G with her. Those were the nights I damn near passed out.

But while I loved the countertop sex, and the shower sex, and the kitchen floor sex, and the stairway sex—well, one night of stairway sex—the quiet sex was still my favorite. When it was Simon on top of me, letting me feel his good weight and his good love pressing down on me, inside me, all around me. And if on occasion the O stayed away, it was okay.

I knew she would always return.

Simon shuffled back toward the bed, bringing a bottle of water with him, Clive close at his heels. Clive wisely stayed away during the relations; he’d attacked once and was almost punted. So now he took cover away from the action. Simon getting water was the signal that he could come back in to snuggle.

As Simon passed me the bottle, I turned on the news to check the weather for the next day to see if I’d need an umbrella. Each on our own side, with Clive in between us, we watched the forecast. Our hands were clasped on the pillow in between.

Pretty f**king great.

• • •

August

“Go ahead, I know you’re dying to say it.”

“I don’t think I have to, Caroline. Your moaning is saying it all.”

“No, no, I know you want to. Go ahead.”

“Fine. I told you so.”

“Feel better?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Now shut up and let me get back to my noodles.”

Simon laughed as I slurped up my pho, a delicious Vietnamese noodle soup. For years, I thought I didn’t like Vietnamese food. I suppose eating it in Vietnam made all the difference.

Once again, being Simon’s girlfriend had proved to be a windfall. He’d invited me along on a trip in Southeast Asia: Laos, Cambodia, and ending in Vietnam. I couldn’t join him for the entire journey, but I was able to meet him in Hanoi and spend a week with him as he photographed for National Geographic. We toured cities and villages, sandy beaches and quiet mountaintops. We ate amazing food every day, and loved our way through every night.

Our current state of amazing found us floating in Ha Long Bay, eating a wonderful meal that had been cooked on the houseboat we were staying on. I gazed at the tiny islands, which broke the surface of the water like the backs of dragons swooping up from underneath. The sun was setting, and to cool off from the sweltering heat, Simon had taken a dive off the back of the boat. Water trickled off his skin, his cargo shorts stuck to his legs, and his shirtless torso made my mouth water even more than the pho, so life was good.

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