She looks terrified. Jolene thought as Nessa made her way into the house. Jarrett and Olivia both looked at Nessa then at each other, Jarrett’s look of terror was understandable, Olivia’s look was–not. It was not understandable as whatever made up the pieces of it were not clear and it was not understandable why she looked that way.
“We were just about to send out a search party.” Olivia commented in a cheery voice that had nothing to do with whatever had been on her mind a moment before.
“Yeah, I mean even if it were just pushing Jolene out the door and saying ‘go find Nessa’, that’s still a search party, right?” The blonde woman put a bowl on the table and pushed a glass at Nessa. “You’d have thought somebody lit your new husband’s underoos on fire the way he was squirming around looking at the door every time someone shifted.” Olivia shook her head and grinned at Jarrett who was still staring at Nessa with his heart in his eyes.
“Why Jolene?” Nessa asked, sliding into the chair that Olivia pulled out with her foot, hands now laden with plates.
“Because that’s her job, isn’t it? She’s supposed to be the law around these parts and as there are no bandits or bank robbers to chase down, the least she can do is chase down missing wives.” Olivia said.
“Sorry, I–I was just, I…” Olivia shook her head at Nessa.
“I’m teasing, Ness.” The vet put her head in her hands. “Elbows off the table.” Olivia said primly. “Eat your fish.”
“You’re not my mother.” Nessa said.
“Nope, just your best friend, there’s overlap, eat your fish.” Olivia plunked down in her own chair and looked pointedly at the plates. “This is not revenge, it’s not best served cold.” There didn’t seem to be much one could say to that, so Jolene picked up her fork and flaked off some of the fish.
As always the food was excellent, but Jolene never felt quite as comfortable around the big table in Jarrett and Nessa’s kitchen as Sawyer did. Jolene’s husband–god she didn’t know if she would ever get used to that–didn’t even seem to notice, he talked animatedly to Olivia and Jarrett, even managing to draw Nessa into the laughter, though it was obvious that she was not completely involved in the story Sawyer was spinning.
And it was a funny one–she could wish, having met Ambassador Gavin, that she had been around when his horse had unceremoniously sat down on him. But Sawyer, as she had noticed not a few times before, had a way with words. Her smile was a little fonder than she expected it to be as Olivia threw her head back and made some crack about why the horse might have chosen such an inauspicious (at least for the ambassador) seat.
When Sawyer asked what she meant, Olivia just gave that knowing smirk.
“Well, where else would a horse sit other than on a horse’s ass?” She batted her long lashes over her brown eyes.
“Oh, cause I–” Sawyer broke off and glanced at Jolene.
“Sawyer! I’m hurt, do you think I’d tell off color jokes at the dinner table?” Olivia asked putting her hands to her chest in a great show of innocence.
“It ain’t never stopped you before.” Jarrett muttered into his glass of tea.
“Well, yeah, but the only one I could think of was a little too off color, even for me. Besides, even though Gavin is kinda a jackass–”
“Kind of?” Sawyer snorted.
“Okay, mostly, unless you’re a nobleman or otherwise useful.” Olivia dismissed. “And apparently bed companion isn’t useful enough.”
“You’re not!” Nessa gasped, dropping her mug. Jarrett caught it before it tipped over and landed on the floor, then patted Nessa on the shoulder, the creamy tan drained straight out of her face.
“God no!” Olivia said. “I’d almost rather sleep with my ex again. But that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t occasionally tried to scope a look at my tits and offer to show me his–weaponry.” The blonde shook her head again.
“He’s–he’s tried to look at your…!” Jolene honestly couldn’t tell if Sawyer started sputtering because he couldn’t imagine talking about breasts in mixed company at the dinner table or if he was sputtering because he was offended by what Gavin had offered.
“Well, yeah. They’re kinda nice if I do say so myself.” Olivia smirked again.
“I feel like an old matron auntie,” Jarrett said. “All I can think to say is ‘Well, I never!’ in a prim tone.”
“Well, you should,” Olivia smiled brightly. “It’s kinda fun.”
“But–I thought he was–paying court to Lady Fiona.” Sawyer said, his face suspiciously dark at the moment. “Or at least sort of trying to.”
“We may think he’s an idiot all around, but even he is not dumb enough to think he could get away with a supremely dumbass move like actually making a move on Fiona while she’s still Lock’s girl.” Jolene found herself nodding in agreement. He couldn’t be that stupid, not unless Archerglen was seriously trying for a diplomatic incident. “Or else mine are just better than Fiona’s.”
“Your what?” Sawyer asked, then colored and slumped in his seat.
“My those.” Olivia said blandly. “To his way of thinking, I’m a tavern wench, that means my virtue is negotiable and he just hasn’t found my price yet.” Jolene saw Nessa shift uncomfortably in her chair. “But that’s probably not appropriate for the dinner table conversation, so Ms. Quiet over there, how’s the wide world of crime?”
“There’s crime in Shadowcrest?” Jolene asked blandly.
“Sure. Why there’s fraud just walking the streets.” Olivia said, heaping more salad on Sawyer’s plate. He looked longingly at the fruit tarts on the counter before doggedly munching on the greens. Jolene’s eyebrow went up. “Haven’t you seen Alistair? He’s a huge walking dildo packaged as a human, how is that not a crime?” Nessa, who had been about to take a drink of her tea spit it back into her cup in a spew. While Jolene, despite her best intentions, found herself snickering.
“I don’t think we can arrest Alistair for that though.” Jolene stirred a little honey into her tea, face thoughtful. She was expecting the muttered “Pity,” she was even expecting it from more than one person, she just hadn’t been expecting Jarrett to be among the mutterers.
Then again, while he tried not to speak badly of anyone, the big man was not Alistair’s biggest fan.
… Was anyone actually? She hadn’t spent enough time with Zahrah to know whether she was still firmly Team Jackass or not…
“Well, other than the fact that Alistair’s crimes are not the arrestable sort, Shadowcrest is quiet on the crime front.” Jolene finished right before Olivia glanced at Nessa who was pouring tea into a fresh mug, her eyes lost and a little moist at the corners.
“So, who wants dessert?” Olivia bounced up as if trying to distract them from the fact that Nessa was on the verge of tears. “Other than Sawyer.” The blonde patted Sawyer’s head and smiled. Jarrett looked at Nessa then at his hands.
“I–I…” Nessa started to say to Jarrett, then boiled up out of her seat. “I need a little air.” Olivia bit her lip but loaded her hands full of plates and the platter with the tarts and started doling them out. Jolene held her hand up and shook her head at Olivia’s quirked eyebrow.
To be honest, Jolene wouldn’t have described herself as a sensitive person. She was not the cop that was brought in when someone needed a child or victim comforted. She wasn’t the person who people unburdened their problems to or asked for advice. She wasn’t, really, even that great of a confidant.
So why she followed the cockamamie urge to follow Nessa out onto the porch, like she was Heidi (who was most of those things) and like Nessa would want to talk to her was anyone’s guess.
It wasn’t hard to find Nessa, though her dress blended into the twilight, her hair flamed in the moonlight like a beacon.
“Wanna talk about it?” Jolene asked, helping herself to the other side of the bench that Nessa was curled up on?
“I’m pregnant.” Nessa said. Jolene blinked, she was actually sort of expecting a surly sort of ‘no’. She bit her tongue on the ‘that was quick’ that rose immediately from the pronouncement.
“And this is bad…?” Jolene offered instead.
“I don’t know.” Nessa admitted. “If it were anyone but me? No. If I were married to anyone but Jarrett, again, probably not. But…”
“Well, I’m gonna take a wild guess and say because you only got married yesterday, and Kennedy’s not that quick, your pregnancy predates your wedding?” Jolene asked. Nessa nodded and sighed miserably. “Is it that you’re unhappy about the timing or about the being pregnant at all?” Jolene blundered on.
“It’s not the fact that the baby was conceived before the wedding.” Nessa sighed.
“Um–so–what is it?” Jolene offered in prompting, hoping the other woman would take the hint and start talking, thus sparing Jolene from asking any more awkward questions.
“I was hoping–because there are a few baby issues between Jarrett and me–cause of his children and I have my own problems there–that we could have–I dunno waited.” Jolene nodded in understanding. “But the thing is, I don’t think that we could ever have a baby that wouldn’t be born into a bunch of issues. Not with him, not with me.” Nessa confessed.
“Y’know, somebody told me that Sawyer and I would figure it out. And we are, kinda, sorta. I mean, we still haven’t–you know–done everything…” And wasn’t that embarrassing to admit? “But we are figuring it out. I bet you and Jarrett’ll figure it out.”
“I just wish…”
“Someone else told me–at least–I think someone else told me–that happily ever after is a cheap lie.” Nessa looked sharply at her. “It’s a long story.” She flipped her hair out of her face. “The reason I bring it up is, I think they were right, who wants to know how the story’s gonna end before you start reading it? If you could have all the answers, really–would you want ‘em?” Jolene asked.
“It’d make things easier.” Nessa said without answer the question.
“Not what I asked.” Jolene pointed out. Nessa winced a little. “You know, this bench is hard–and cold.” Nessa snorted and stood up. Jolene rubbed her rear, hoping it would just look like she was smoothing her skirt.
“You know.” Nessa said as Jolene fell into step beside her on their way back toward the house. Here’s where she’ll tell me that she didn’t know I could be sensitive, or encouraging or something. “I bet Sawyer would be perfectly willing to rub the cold out of your precious ass, Jolene.” Jolene gaped.
But it seemed like that used whatever confidence Nessa had, because as they walked up the stairs to the house, she seemed to go paler by the breath. What happened next, Jolene couldn’t really say, the door opened, Olivia was sheparding Nessa toward Jarrett and then a half moment later, she was sheparding Jolene and Sawyer out the door toward home.
“Do you know what that was about?” Sawyer asked, taking Nessa’s place at her side.
“Nessa swallowed a cabbage seed.”
“Oh…” Sawyer said. “Cause–Olivia said, she thinks Nessa–expecting.” Jolene folded her lips into something between a laugh and a smirk.
“Sawyer, sweetheart, that’s what the expression means.” Jolene told him.
“Oh.” The darkness and Sawyer’s tan skin hide any color change, but she’d guess he was blushing again. “Well, I guess…” He fell off into a familiar embarrassed silence that usually popped up around this time in these sorts of conversations.
“Can we talk?” Jolene asked, rounding on her husband as he pushed open the front gate to their yard.
“Do you–ever–do you wish we would?” She asked hurriedly, the words seeming to slur together in her haste. Sawyer tilted his head to the side, the feeling of his hazel eyes on her like a physical sensation. “Make love.”
“Well, aye.” Sawyer laughed a self-depreciating laugh that sounded all wrong for him. Her Sawyer was too confidant for laughs like that. “I just wanted to give you time–if that was what you needed.”
“I think you’ve been giving me too much time and understanding.” She admitted to Sawyer’s stare. “You’ve been understanding and I haven’t been understanding about what you would want or need. And that’s not very fair of me.”
“Well, but, life isn’t fair.” Sawyer admitted, as he pushed the front door open. He busied himself with lighting a candle.
“No–it isn’t, but we don’t have to help it along.” Jolene said. He turned and blinked at her for a moment as something hung for that brief moment in the balance. Sawyer’s tongue flickered out nervously slicking his lips and that, really, that simple nervous gesture was all it took to tip the balance.
Because in less than a heartbeat and a half–she knew it was just that long because her heart was pounding very loudly in her ears at that moment–she was in Sawyer’s arms, her lips pressed hard and hungry against his soft, warm, wet ones. He made a startled noise and she pulled back, all the guilt that had kept her from kissing him like that rushing back in.
“You don’t have do this just because I want to.” Sawyer said.
“Fuck that, Sawyer. I wanna do this because we both want to. If you’ve changed your mind…” It was hard to say if she trailed off or if he cut her off because they were just about simultaneous. His grip was a little uncertain as his hands found his way to her waist, and she was pretty sure one or the other of them was shaking.
But then her hands slid into his hair and there was no place for shaking or uncertainty, not in that moment. Later there might be regrets, or questions, or some stupid thing, but in that moment, they had each other and really, what more did they need?