One Year Later
Franky found me lying on a patch of grass surrounded by fallen autumn leaves. “You’re blocking the sun,” I complained, cracking an eye open to peer up at him. His short beard had gone fully gray.
“Good,” he said, grinning down at me. “Now maybe you’ll come inside.”
I’d been grouchy all day. Hell, for the last few weeks, if I were being honest. Ever since we found out that while we’d been planting daisies and making love in Lockwood this time last year, my mother had taken her final breath. We were exactly one year too late in finding her.
I pulled a photo of her from my jacket pocket. It had been inside a box of junk her landlord hadn’t tossed out yet. “What do you think she was like at the end?” I asked Franky absently.
With a sigh of resignation, he came to lie next to me in the grass. The dry leaves crunched as he placed his weight over them. “Well, her landlord said she kept to herself. Didn’t really talk much and always seemed preoccupied with her thoughts.”
“Thoughts of me, you think?”
“I’m willing to bet my life on it,” he said. “Things left unreconciled never stop haunting us. I’m sure she wished she could have made things right with you.”
“Then why didn’t she?” I asked, frustrated. “It’s not like I would’ve been hard to find. I hadn’t strayed too far from where she’d left me.” I’d wanted her to find me. After a year of therapy, I understood that.
“I wish I had an answer for you, Leelee Bear,” Franky said. “But it was her loss, not yours.”
I shifted to my side and leaned onto my elbow, letting the photo fall between us. I traced the angles of his face as his head turned in my direction. “I love you,” I said as the cool breeze ruffled his hair.
He mirrored my position, then pinched my chin, leaning in to drop a quick kiss on my lips. “Then let me cook for you,” he whispered, and I rolled to my back with a groan.
“Why do you insist on using my love for you against me?” I asked. We had a no-cooking policy where Franky was concerned, and it had been working just fine until Jasper introduced him to a cooking-for-dummies show, and now he insisted on trying until he successfully burned the house down along with the two townhomes that neighbored us.
“I do not,” he said, slightly offended but mostly playful.
“You do,” I said. “You wait until I say I love you, or after you’ve fucked me senseless, then you ask if you can cook for me. It isn’t fair.”
Franky laughed, kissing my frown. “You weaponize my love for you as well,” he stated, resting his head in his palm.
“When? Name one time when I waited until you were a fucking pile of putty before trying to get something out of you,” I challenged.
“How about I provide two instances as examples?” he asked confidently, then pressed on before I could tell him that I changed my mind. “Let’s see, there was last night when you asked for a blow job after I confessed that I could never love anyone else the way I love you. Then there was this morning when you begged me to finger you until you came, knowing I was running late to meet Cole. I believe your exact words were ‘why put off for later what you can do now, if you really love me.’ Oh, and then—”
“You said two,” I deadpanned. “You said two instances as examples.”
“But there are so many more. Now that I think about it,” he said, scandalized, “you use my love to get sexual favors from me. Like the time you—”
“All right, fine,” I said, sealing his mouth with a palm and laughing. “You can cook for me. Burn us to ashes if you want. As long as we’re together, I don’t care what happens to me.”
Franky removed my hand and crawled over me, kissing my nose, my cheeks, and both sides of my jaw.
“Thank you,” I said, cupping the length of his throat.
“For what?” he asked, gazing down at me like I was the reason the sun set in the west.
“For distracting me. For making me laugh.” I shrugged. “For loving me.”
“The pleasure is all mine,” he whispered.
Franky stood, then gestured for my hands so he could help me to my feet. We dusted the leaves off ourselves as we made our way inside.
“What’s all this?” I asked in surprise as I stepped into the kitchen.
Franky moved into my field of sight, blocking me from the items spread out on the counter. “Well, while you were freezing your buns off out there, I was in here prepping.” He didn’t stop me when I peeked over his shoulder at the cooked lasagna noodles resting in the colander near the sink. My stomach chose that exact moment to let out a growl. Lasagna was my favorite.
Franky laughed and ordered me upstairs. “Go shower and get your own prepping done,” he said pointedly. “And take your time. Dinner will be ready in about forty minutes.”
I hesitated. “Ah, should I leave you and the stove alone together? I mean, what if you end up needing me to extinguish the two of you?”
He led me by my shoulders out of the kitchen while I offered resistance like a toddler, my gaze fixed nervously on the stove. “It’ll be fine,” he assured me, tapping me on the ass and watching as I slowly made my way to the stairs.
I took my time getting myself ready but lost the battle with patience when the delicious scent of spices and pasta made its way into the bathroom. With nothing more than a pair of boxer briefs on, I allowed myself to be pulled like a puppet string into the kitchen.
Two steaming plates of lasagna waited by candlelight on the island as Franky popped the caps on our bottles of Stella. There was also a basket of garlic bread and a dipping sauce of what looked to be olive oil and herbs.
“Nothing’s burnt to a crisp,” I said, mystified, as I perched on a stool. Franky swooped in and kissed me, taking me by surprise and nearly knocking me from my seat. He gripped the sides of my neck, and I held on to his forearms for support. By the time he was done with me, I needed an oxygen mask and sex. He brushed his knuckles down my warm cheek before stepping away to sit on the stool across from me.
“Nope,” he said, breaking off a piece of bread. “Nothing burned.”
Shaking the lust from my head, I scanned the counters for takeout containers and to-go bags but there was nothing. I considered checking the trash until Franky’s chuckle snagged my attention. “Why is it so hard to believe I cooked this? You saw the noodles and ingredients laid out before you went upstairs. Eat,” he said, picking up his fork and digging in.
I groaned as the first bite hit my tastebuds. “Remind me to thank Jasper, will you?”
Franky smiled, breaking off a piece of warm bread and dipping it in the oil before motioning for me to open up. I closed my mouth around his fingers, and he pulled them away slowly, his obsidian stare heating.
“You have way too many clothes on,” I said huskily. Franky’s shoulders shook with amusement as he fisted his t-shirt over his head.
“Better?” he asked.
“Better,” I said with a nod. Music played softly overhead as we ate in silence, enjoying the mood he’d set and allowing anticipation to build.
“I don’t think I realized how important learning how to cook has been for you. Guess I never took you seriously. To me it was something you not only didn’t know how to do, but something you didn’t need to do. Uber Eats worked well for us all this time.” I shrugged. “But that look of pride on your face is such a fucking turn on.”
Franky gave me a shy smile. “Cooking was never something I got to do as a kid. Neither was cleaning up after myself or shopping for myself—or driving myself around. I love being self-sufficient.”
It was true. I’d been living with Franky for a year, and we didn’t have chefs or maids or personal drivers. He took pleasure in loading the dishwasher, in walking instead of hailing a cab, in mowing his own backyard. I often forgot how wealthy he was. I loved that about him.
“I love you,” I said for the twentieth time that day.
“Are you trying to out love me?” he asked with a hiked brow. “Because it won’t work.”
“A man can dream,” I said, laughing. If I’d told him how much I loved him twenty times that day it was because he’d shown me how much he loved me just as many times.
“Speaking of dreams,” he said, pushing his empty plate aside and taking up his beer. “It’s been months since you had a bad one.”
“Yeah,” I said, knowing where the conversation was headed.
“Are you sure you want to do this? What if he doesn’t give you what you’re looking for? What if you end up relapsing into full-blown night terrors again?”
“It’s a chance I have to take,” I said. We’d found my father. He was serving a long prison sentence, and he’d agreed to my visitation request. Franky and I would be making the trip to Texas tomorrow.
“Okay,” Franky said, reaching out to squeeze my hand. “I’m with you every step of the way. Now,” he added, standing and leading me to the sofa, “time for dessert.”
He unlaced our hands once we’d made it into the living room, and I removed my underwear, opening myself up with the lube we kept in the coffee table drawer while Franky got the fireplace going.
“Someone’s impatient tonight,” he said after turning to find me writhing on my fingers.
“I just n-need you inside of me,” I said. Franky didn’t waste time kicking out of his jeans and slicking up his cock before pinning me to the sofa cushions with his bulk and sliding right into me.
We held each other tight, opting for something slow and tender over wild and passionate. We didn’t mind, because there was something still wild about holding on to each other as if letting go meant our hearts would simultaneously stop beating. And there was still something passionate about long, drugged strokes in and out of me as our mouths hovered parted and panting less than an inch apart, and as our eyes locked on to the love reflecting in our joint stares.
Franky took his time, occasionally kissing my lips and whispering sweet nothings to me. He warned me right before he came, promised to fill my hole to its limits with cum, but at the last second he pulled out, fisting our cocks in one hand and thrusting until we exploded together. He lapped up our cum before positioning my spent body on top of his.
“What should we do after your visit with your father?” Franky asked as we gazed at the dancing flames. “We’ve been hit with a lot these past few weeks.”
I had been the one hit with a lot. First learning about my mother’s passing and then my father’s incarceration. But Franky always spoke in terms of we, because what affected me affected him, and vice versa.
I thought about it for a while. Thought about how chaotic my emotions had been recently, and thought about the one place that could offer me a reset after the madness. I kissed Franky long and hard, whispering the words I love you against his lips—declaration number twenty-one, but who was counting. I brandished a hopeful smile down at him. “When this is over,” I said, “let’s visit Joe. Let’s go fishing.”