FIFTEEN – PASSING PATTERNS
“Well, that was a good game,” said Ivy, kicking back and putting her heels up on the coffee table in Grant’s rec room.
Grant clinked his Coke bottle to hers, happy just to have her here. “Nothing like a Packer victory on a Sunday afternoon,” he said. They both took a swig. “What do you want to do now?”
Ivy shrugged. “I dunno. Hard to top off the male bonding experience of sharing a football game.”
He leaned over and gave her a hug. “Just so long as I’m the only male you bond with.” She kissed him long and deep.
When they broke apart, she sighed. “Maybe you could show me some more of the house. I feel like exploring.”
“Want to come up to my room and see my etchings?” Grant asked, wiggling his eyebrows à la Groucho Marx.
“Maybe just a little racy.”
“Oh,” she said, feigning disappointment. “I suppose that will have to do, then.”
“We could go for a jog if you’d rather.”
“No, I’m feeling a bit lazy right now. I think two flights of stairs should be just enough exercise to fill the bill.”
He took her hand. She stood and they headed for the back stairway. “Do you still play guitar?” she asked as they mounted the steps.
“Some. Not as often as I’d like.”
“Well, maybe you can play for me, then.”
“I’ve been looking for new victims,” he said, smiling.
They arrived at the third floor and walked through the mansion’s twisting corridors to Grant’s room in the front of the house.
“Why haven’t you had me up before this?” Ivy asked as Grant opened the door to his room. “Other than that quick tour you gave me one day.”
“You think I ask just any woman up to my quarters?” he replied. “Besides, I thought the etchings might frighten you off.”
“When you’ve lived in Frost Harrow for as long as I have,” said Ivy, “a few pieces of artwork are nothing to be frightened of.”
“Maybe you’ll have to share the harrowing experience with me one day.”
Ivy smiled. “Maybe I will.”
She gave the room a quick appraisal as they entered. “Spartan, but not obnoxiously so,” she remarked fondly. “Like I remembered from your ‘tour.’ Good mix of modern and antique furniture. And the window seat and fireplace are wonderful. The guitar, too.”
“I’m glad it meets your approval.”
She walked to the nearest wall and examined the etching that hung there. It showed a well-dressed man in a bar.
“Lautrec?” she asked.
“Daumier,” he said. “The nude on the far wall is a Renoir. I picked them up while I was in France.”
She arched a dark eyebrow at him. “Pick up anything else in France?”
“Nothing I brought home with me,” he said, chuckling. He walked across the room to her and put his arms around her waist from behind.
She leaned back into him. “Good.” She tilted her head up and he kissed her. She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back. He ran his hands across her tummy and down the sides of her hips.
“Mmm,” she purred, twisting in his arms to face him.
They held each other and kissed and caressed one another’s backs. Eventually, they sank to their knees on the floor. Ivy broke off.
“How about a back rub?” she asked.
“Giving or getting?”
“I’ll give you one,” he said.
She smiled, gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, and then turned around. “Could you undo my bra, please?”
He nodded, then, realizing she couldn’t see him said: “Yes.”
She untucked her blue plaid shirt and hiked it up so he could see the bra’s plain white strap. He quickly undid the catch, resisting the urge to let his hands stray. She let her shirt slip back down and pulled her right arm into the sleeve. She slipped the shoulder strap off, put her arm back out, reached into her left sleeve and pulled out her bra. She tossed it on his bed.
Grant smiled and shook his head. “Didn’t some actress do that trick in Flashdance?”
She smiled back at him. “Sensible women have been pulling bras out of their sleeves ever since bras were invented.”
He gave her a quick kiss on the lips. “That’s because you like to tease.”
“And all you men love it,” she replied. “Don’t worry, I’ll let you know when I’m taking it off for a more serious purpose.” She reached up and undid the clasp of her necklace from behind her head. She untangled the chain from her long, dark hair and handed the amulet to Grant. “Find some place to put this, please.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He stood up and carefully laid the medallion on his dresser, pausing to admire the workmanship as he did. Ivy’s amulet was a silver triangle, the size of three half dollars, attached to a thin silver chain. Celtic knots twined about the medal’s surface like a maze, and a polished blue stone rested in its center. It looked very old.
“Where did you say this came from?” Grant asked, running his fingers over the medallion’s surface.
“My mom gave it to my father while they were married. I inherited it when he died.” She sighed. “You know,” she continued thoughtfully, “I hardly ever remember seeing him without it in all the time we lived in New York.”
“Was he wearing it when he…?” Grant glanced back at her over his shoulder to see how she was responding to the sad memories. To his surprise, he discovered she’d taken off her shirt. He watched the muscles in her back as she pulled one of his rugs under her and lay face down on it.
“No,” she said, turning her head to one side and gazing into some undetermined distance. “He’d left it home the day he and mom were killed. It’s kind of lucky in a strange way. I’m sure it would have been destroyed in the train wreck that…”
She broke off.
Grant walked over and knelt beside her. A single tear run down her cheek, and he brushed it away with his hand.
“There, there,” he said. “Sorry I asked.”
She shook her head and sniffed back another tear. “Don’t worry about it. I guess some hurts you never really get over.”
“I know.” He leaned down and kissed her cheek. She bent her elbow, reached up, and squeezed his hand.
“Everything gets better from here on out,” he said. “I promise.”
“Don’t make promises you’re not sure you can keep.”
He leaned forward, put his arm across her back, and hugged her shoulders. “I won’t. Now, how about that back rub?”
She nodded. “Mm. But your shirt is scratchy.”
He sat up. “You want me to take it off?”
“Not yet. I’ll let you know. Probably when I do yours.”
He used his hands to rub her back, first describing long, slow swirls up and down her torso from her belt to her shoulders. Gradually, he worked into kneading the muscles, gently but firmly. Then he ran soft, fingertip strokes from the nape of her neck to her waist.
Ivy cooed softly as he did so. “Mm. That feels wonderful.”
He leaned down and kissed her cheek, trying to push thoughts of the front part of her body from his mind. He didn’t quite succeed. Unasked for, images of the night in the rain—the night his jeep burned—sprang up in his brain. He remembered her lying nude in the storm and warmth sprang up in his loins.
He went back to full palm rubs and asked her what was on his mind.
“Ivy, tell me something.”
“Anything,” she purred.
“What really happened that night in September when my jeep got wrecked?”
“How romantic,” she said, meaning just the opposite. “You really want to know?”
“I really do.”
“The short version?”
“I wrecked your car trying to kill a demon who wanted to rape Cassie and me.” She paused a moment, turned her head, and looked into his eyes. “Believe me?”
Grant screwed up his face. This was nothing like the answer he expected. “I don’t think so.”
“I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t believe me, either.”
“But I still love you,” he added.
She sat up, covering her breasts with her right arm and hand, put the other arm around his neck, and kissed him.
He put his arms around her, squeezed her close, and kissed back.
“I love you, too,” she said. Then she smiled. “But your shirt still itches.”
“Time to take it off?”
“Sorry. Not yet. I’ll let you know.”
“Then maybe you better put your own shirt back on before we get carried away.”
“What about your back rub?”
“It can wait. I can wait,” Grant said.
He smiled, ignoring the feelings in his groin. It would be difficult, but he knew waiting would be worth it in the end.