Chapter 1

Caution: This Romantic Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Consensual, Romantic, Heterosexual, Tear Jerker, .

Desc: Romantic Sex Story: Chapter 1 - Annabeth returns to face her past, but vows it will not affect her future.

"Chris, sweetie!" Lorna Kincaid bustled out the door as her son stepped out of his car. He stretched as he stood, giving his protesting muscles a break after the four-hour ride home for Thanksgiving.

"Hi, Mom," he said with a smile. He gave her a hug and had to bend down to kiss her cheek. Her head didn't quite reach his shoulder.

"How are you?" she asked. She waited while he took a duffel bag out of the back seat, then took his arm as they walked to the house. "How was the ride?"

"Not too bad," he said, looking around. The houses were the same as ever. Sometimes it seemed like the whole town was trapped in time. "I left early enough to miss most of the traffic."

"You didn't stop once, did you?" She fixed him with a firm glance.

Chris couldn't help averting his eyes. "Um, no." Lorna arched an eyebrow and he hurried on. "I was going to, really, I was. But I just got caught up in driving and listening to music and before I knew it I was almost here." He felt like he was ten years old again. It was all he could do not to scuff his feet.

"Hmmm," she said noncommittally. "Well, as long as you're here safely. Come on, you must be hungry. It's almost lunchtime." He sighed in relief.

Chris followed her into the little house and took a deep breath. Like the outside, the inside was just as he remembered. A faint scent of lavender floated through most of the house, but lemon dominated the kitchen. The floral curtains were faded but cheery; Chris made a guilty note to himself to send his mother either more money or new curtains.

"Now, sit," she ordered. Chris put his duffel bag on the couch and obediently took a seat at the kitchen table. Lorna ruffled his brown hair as she moved about getting some lunch. "You need a hair cut," she told him.

"I know," he said. "I just keep forgetting."

"I could do it while you're here." She laid a plate in front of him with an open-faced turkey sandwich and gravy, then added a glass of water.

"We'll see," he said, suddenly famished. While he ate, he studied his mother. Her dark blond hair was probably half gray, although she wore it well. Her eyes, blue like his own, were sharp and missed nothing. He was glad to see that the arthritis she feared had yet to set in, and hoped it never did. His mother did so much with her hands—cooking, cleaning, sewing, knitting—he knew she'd be lost if she couldn't do those things.

"So, what's new?" he asked after he'd finished.

Lorna sat down and put a piece of cake in front of each of them. It was her own award-winning sour cream pound cake. Chris couldn't recall the last time he'd had a piece of cake as good hers since moving across the state. Probably never, he thought to himself.

"Well, you know how it is around here," Lorna said. "The Peaks had to close their store in town, but that was all right, they wanted to retire anyway. Someone else has bought it already; that's the rumor, at least. The Ruizes painted their house blue and that put their neighbors all in a huff."

"Blue?" Chris repeated, and she nodded. He rolled his eyes. "What kind of blue?"

She shrugged. "Just blue, but you know how people are. Every other house is white, they want it white. Goodness, the way everyone went on, you would have thought they'd painted it purple and orange and put in searchlights." Chris chuckled at the image.

She told him a few more tidbits and he nodded at each one until one piece of information caught his attention. "Then there was the trouble at the Fordham place a couple of nights ago."

"Trouble? What kind of trouble?"

No one named Fordham had lived in the house for ages, but that was how everyone knew the big colonial at the end of town—the Fordham place. It was old, with peeling paint that had probably once been white. It had seen a few different owners while Chris was growing up, and more than one had tried repainting and remodeling, but it never stuck. The kids told each other it was haunted and dared the braver ones to sneak close to it on Halloween. Chris had gone once—alone, and not on Halloween—and found it just to be an old, empty house.

Lorna sighed in frustration. "The kind there usually is, just a little bit more," she said. "Ethan and Trent started going at it, you know how they do. Just about woke up the neighborhood. Cassie called me and I went out on the porch, I could hear them caterwauling from here."

"What happened, Mom?" He could feel himself tensing up and he wasn't even sure why. He hadn't been near the Fordham place in years; he didn't even know which of the family still lived there.

"They were both drunk, as usual," she said with disdain. "The noise was ridiculous. Yelling at each other, probably throwing things. You could hear the glass breaking; next day I saw half the windows broken. Then the fire started."

"Was it bad?"

"No, the police were right there," she said with a sigh. "The neighbors had called and they showed up, but those two no-goods were so drunk they wouldn't have seen the archangel Gabriel if he'd been there. I heard one of them had a gun and one had a knife, so the police were waiting it out." She gave her son a small smile. "Gossip runs down the grapevine in a town like this, you know how it is."

"I do," he said. "Then what?"

"Well, I heard from Cassie—you know her Joe's a policeman—that whoever had the gun shot it, and whoever had the knife used it, and somehow they knocked over a light or a candle and the fire started."

"Was anyone hurt?" He knew she wasn't there anymore, but he thought about the young girl from years ago.

"Property damage, mostly," his mother said, getting up to refill his glass. "The fire didn't get far, with the police right there to call the fire department. Ethan and Trent were both taken to the hospital and then to jail. I don't understand why they never stay there. My God, how they treated Karen and that poor girl." Lorna shook her head as she sat down again. "Everyone knew and no one could prove it."

"I remember," Chris said almost absently. He finished his lunch and told his mother he was going to take a walk to get some exercise after the long ride. She nodded and said nothing, knowing there was a little more to it.

Chris stepped outside and took a deep breath of crisp autumn air. Almost unconsciously, he began walking down the street in the direction of the old Fordham place. He stopped at the corner and leaned against an old oak tree. Scanning the street, his breath caught when he saw her on the opposite corner.

Her hair was a bit longer and her clothes much nicer than the last time he'd seen her. The sun plucked highlights from the auburn hair as she rested her arms on the top of the fence. Still as a statue, she stood there. Chris could only watch and wonder if she remembered him.


Fifteen years ago

"See the new people in the Fordham place yet?" Pete asked Chris.

"Saw the trucks," Chris said as they chucked rocks in the pond. "I guess I saw the father. He was pretty big. Looked mean." He threw another rock, watching with satisfaction as it skipped over the surface before sinking about halfway across. He grinned at Pete. "Beat that, man."

Pete laughed. "You cheat, Kincaid. You're taller than I am and your arms are longer. You're a sixteen-year-old gorilla."

"You're just jealous, Yarrow," Chris said mildly. "You got any news on the new people?"

"You bet." Pete threw a rock and took comfort in the distance it traveled and the fountain of water it sent up. He could never compete with Chris in rock skipping. "My mom gets the dirt on everybody. She's practically psychic."

"That's why you never do anything reckless," Chris said. "Or fun." He rummaged in the cooler and pulled out a can of Coke.

"And I don't get grounded or belted, either," Pete pointed out. "Fair trade for me."

"Okay, so what did your mom find out?" Chris held another Coke to Pete who took it and drank before answering.

"Last name's Dileo." He sat next to Chris and took another swig of soda. "There's five of them. Mom, Dad, Grandmother and two kids. Looks like they came from upstate, but she doesn't know for sure. The kids are a boy and a girl. Both younger than us, I think, by a year or two."

"Well, that's something, anyway," Chris said, considering the information. It wasn't much, but it was more than he'd had before.

"Guess we'll meet'em in school," Pete said, lying back on the grass. "Might even be in our classes."

"You said they were younger," Chris reminded him. He looked out over the pond, watching the sun glint off the ripples.

"I know." Pete shrugged as best he could while horizontal. "Mom said she talked to one of the teachers and the kids are registered and the girl's in our class. Real smart, the teacher said."

"Huh," Chris said noncommittally.

Pete turned out to be right, as Chris found out on the first day of school. As everyone filed in to homeroom, he saw her in the back row.

Annabeth Dileo was the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen, Chris knew that right away. He was unable to take his eyes off of her wavy auburn hair and her pale skin. He gasped when he saw her bright green eyes. It wasn't until Pete whacked his shoulder that he remembered to breathe.

"What's the matter with you, Kincaid?" Pete asked. Then he looked around and saw Annabeth; he couldn't help grinning. "Oh, man, Chris—you're hooked, aren't you?"

"Am not," said Chris with a huff. He found his seat and Pete slid in behind him. "Just got lost in thought, that's all."

Pete snorted. "Right."

It didn't take long to realize things weren't right with the Dileos. Word trickled down, despite adult efforts to keep rumors from reaching young ears. Whispers went around the school.

Some kids said the grandmother—known as Miss Eve—was a witch, and that no one ever saw her because she stayed inside mixing up potions and powders. A couple of pets went missing, and blame was soon laid on either Miss Eve or Trent. Miss Eve took them for her potions, a few said, looking over their shoulders as though expecting her to appear out of thin air. No, said others, Trent had taken and tortured them, possibly before handing them over to Miss Eve.

"Nonsense," Chris's mother said firmly. He believed her, but knew there was something wrong all the same.

Within a couple of months, it was clear that witchcraft would have been the preferred offense. Karen Dileo was found locked out of her house on more than one occasion, sporting deep, dark bruises and at one time, a broken arm. Ethan Dileo was seen frequently around town, usually drunk. Most of the men in town began to avoid him—he was nearly always drunk, and whether he was or not, he had a temper verging on fury for the slightest offense.

Chris asked his mother what they could do. His heart was cold at the idea of something happening to Annabeth. She'd already come to school bruised and limping. Lorna smiled at him sadly, proud of his concern. "We can't do anything unless Karen asks," she told her son. Despite the injuries, Karen never pressed charges.

Though they weren't close, Chris took it upon himself to be Annabeth's protector. He followed her home from school, at first from a distance. He didn't know it himself, but he was hoping she would acknowledge him. Just a 'Hello' and 'How are you?' would have satisfied him.

Annabeth was leery of him, casting glances behind her and walking home as quickly as she could. Chris remained patient, and continued watching her. As far as he could tell, Annabeth was wary of everyone, so he didn't take it personally. One day she confronted him.

"Why are you following me?" she asked, planting herself in front of him. Her arms were crossed over her chest defiantly, and her green eyes flashed. They were nearly at her house.

"I'm worried about you," he said. She had surprised the honest answer out of him.

"I can take care of myself," she said. "I don't need you stalking me." Her eyes narrowed.

"Maybe," he said. "I can't see how it hurts to have a friend, or to have someone look out for you." The conversation gave him a chance to do something he hadn't done much of before—hear her voice. She rarely said anything in school, and when she did her voice was soft. If he and his mother happened to catch the Dileo family in town, only the father and brother spoke.

Annabeth stared up at him; Chris had close to six inches on her. Chris stared back, and watched her expression soften just slightly.

"You shouldn't," she said. "You'll get in trouble." Her voice was soft like it was in school, but there was more emotion in it than he'd heard before.

"With who?" he asked quietly.

"With him," she said, and he knew she meant her father.

He wanted to ask her so much more. Was she all right? Had her father or her brother hit her? Did she want to leave? Could she talk to a teacher if she wouldn't talk to him? Before he could say anything, the front door opened and Ethan roared something unintelligible. Chris brought his gaze back to Annabeth. Her eyes and expression were flat, neutral.

"He's calling me," she said in a toneless voice. "Stay away, you'll get into trouble." She turned and walked to the house while Chris fought every instinct in his body to grab her and pull her away.

Frozen in place, he watched as she opened the front gate, closed it, and strode to the door, where her mountain of a father waited. He couldn't make out the words, but he saw Ethan grab her arm, shake her, and yell something before throwing her to the ground. There was no sound from Annabeth. She caught her breath, stood up, and moved to go in the house. Ethan grabbed her again and threw her inside.

Chris ran home, trying to tell his mother what he'd seen. He was shocked. He'd never seen anything like that before. Sure, he'd been in a couple of scuffles at school, with friends and the rare foe; he'd seen Pete get swatted when they were younger. But even then it was nothing serious. Chris was almost in tears at the idea that he had let Annabeth go into that house, and his mother could say nothing to console him.

He didn't see her at school the next day and was consumed with worry. What had he made Ethan do? He shouldn't have followed her, he thought to himself miserably. He should have let it go. Or stayed further back where she couldn't see him. God, who did he think he was? James Bond, who could follow anyone anywhere?

He headed home in a haze and nearly missed Annabeth, who was sitting on a bench about a block from the school. Her head was bowed. A million emotions fought for prominence, but all he could say, in a tight voice, was, "Are you all right?"

She looked up at him and his heart broke. He had to sit down. There were bruises on her face, and a cut on her forehead. Her arm was in a sling.

"Did he do this to you?" Chris asked. He felt light-headed.

"Yeah," she said, looking away.

"Did you tell anyone?" he asked. "I mean, you must have gone to the hospital or something."

She gave a short laugh. "There's no one to tell. They won't believe me. He told them I fell down the steps and never left me alone to say otherwise."

"You could come with me," Chris said on impulse. "Come home with me. I know my mom wouldn't mind."

Annabeth stared at him as though he had three heads. "You ... you mean it, don't you?" Chris nodded. She reached up to wipe at her eyes. "I can't. I can't," she said before Chris could argue. "He'll hurt my mom, I know he will. Then he might try to hurt you and your mom."

"We'll tell the police." Chris was desperate. "They'll help."

"As soon as they leave, it'll go back to the way it was," Annabeth said, her voice dull. "It always does. Sometimes," she continued, "I hate my mom. I hate that she stays with him. That she's letting Trent be like him. But she's my mom. I'm trying to help her. As soon as I'm eighteen—maybe sooner—I'm getting out of there."

"Please, let me try to help," Chris begged.

"You're sweet," she said, and stood up. "But I can handle this." She leaned over and kissed his cheek. "Thank you."


"Hello, Nabby."

Annabeth jumped and spun around in one move when she heard the voice. She'd been so busy staring at the house and trying to sort out her jumbled emotions that she hadn't noticed anyone around her.

"Chris." It was all she could say. Of all the people she'd expected to see, Chris Kincaid was not one of them. She had wanted to—badly wanted to—see him, but had thrust that hope far away. He was the only one who'd ever called her Nabby.

"How are you?" he asked.

"I'm ... I'm all right," she said. She'd never been able to keep much from him. Those clear blue eyes had always seen through to things. Sometimes even through her, though she'd never been entirely sure how. Annabeth Dileo had learned quickly to hide things, especially emotions. Chris had known how she felt, even if she never said anything. He had a way of seeing into her that elicited both hope and fear.

"You're looking good," Chris told her. She stood her ground while he looked her up and down.

He looks fantastic, she thought. "Thanks," she said.

"What brings you here?" he asked.

She tore her eyes from him and looked at the run-down colonial. "I got word my grandmother's doing poorly." Her voice was measured, careful. "I came to see."

"I heard there was a fight the other night," he said neutrally, observing her.

"Yeah," she said, still staring at the house. "There was. I got here just in time for the grand finale."

"You're not hurt?" he asked, and the concern in his voice made her look at him again. The expression on his face nearly brought tears to her eyes. After all this time, he still cared.

"No," she said, her voice softer than she'd originally intended. "No, I wasn't in the house. I was just driving around the corner when the police went in." Chris looked relieved.

"My mom said she heard the noise all the way down at her place," he told her.

Annabeth gave a mirthless chuckle. "I wouldn't be surprised if they heard it in the next county," she said. "Ethan and Trent can set up a right ruckus, as Miss Eve says."

"You aren't staying there." Chris touched her arm lightly and she could see he wasn't asking.

"No," she assured him. "I'm not. I have a room at the hotel up on route 43 outside of town."

"You could stay at our place." Annabeth felt her heart catch at those words. He'd said them so many times to her, and every time he meant them. She knew it. Once again, she shook her head.

"Thank you, but no," she said. "My room is fine." It had been a long, hard road away from her family and out of this town. She wasn't sure if she could r explain it to Chris, but she could not stay in the town. Not even at his mother's house. Lots of articles and books talked about going back to where it happened, taking control, making it your own—to Annabeth, it was a load of crap. She'd be plenty happy never to see the damn house again.

"How's your mother?" Chris asked. He felt awkward, rummaging for things to say. He wasn't even sure he should ask about her family.

"She's still there," Annabeth said with a shrug. Then her expression hardened. "I tried to get her out, and she won't go. Damn stupid woman. So she can stay. I can't give anymore."

"What did they say about Miss Eve?" He had to admit that even after all these years, Annabeth's grandmother retained an air of mystery. She was the voodoo priestess, the shaman, the witch. The reputation had never changed, according to his mother.

Annabeth shrugged again. "They say she's failing. I'm surprised she's lived this long. God knows she didn't deserve it."

"So why did you come?" Now he was openly curious.

"I don't know," she admitted. "Maybe just to see if it was true. Maybe to see if anything had changed. And maybe ... maybe just to see if I could handle coming back."

She hated that she thought there might be something to the theory in those books of facing up to the past. It seemed like so much psychobabble. Something Dr. Phil or Oprah would tell you with an earnest face while they stared into the camera. Still, it nagged at her. She'd left after she'd turned eighteen and hadn't come back. Twelve years she'd been gone; her only contact with the town was Lorna, Chris's mother. Lorna and Chris had shown Annabeth more kindness than anyone else in her life, and she couldn't cut them out of her life as she had her family.

"You look like you're handling it fine," Chris said. She loved how he spoke to her. He kept his voice low, level and quiet, as though she was a scared kitten. I suppose I was, she thought. For a long time, I was. It chilled her to think she could be again.

"It's not so bad from a distance," she said, and he could hear the half-lie in her voice.

"Nabby." She turned to look at him. "It's all right if it is," he told her, and risked stroking a stray hair back. "It's all right if it's hard, even from a distance."

She couldn't say anything then, just nodded and let her gaze slide back to the house. So many awful things had happened in there, she thought. Sometimes she had thought she'd die. Other times she had wished she would. How she had managed to get out was occasionally something she still had trouble believing. But I did get out, she reminded herself.

Those three years in this town had been like a prison sentence. She had gritted her teeth, kept her grades up, avoided her brother, been beaten by her father and ignored by her mother and grandmother. Her grades had been good enough to get her a full scholarship at the state university, hours and a world away up the highway. She had gone and worked like crazy at both her studies and her jobs. Studying straight through the summers, she'd graduated early, found a job in the city and never come back.

Now she was back and the reason was unclear. Did she need "closure," she wondered with a cringe? God, she hoped not. It sounded so ... needy. Besides, what closure could there possibly be? Her father was a raging drunk and her brother a nearly murderous one. Her mother was dead in spirit if not in body, and her grandmother had been a passive but malevolent presence the whole time.

"Why don't you come see my mom?" She blinked as Chris's voice cut through her thoughts.

"Sorry? What?"

Chris smiled. "I said why don't you come to our place. My mom would love to see you."

"Thanks, but not now," she said. Shaking herself, she stepped over to her car. "I need to get out of here for a while."

"You're not going to bail them out?"

Annabeth let out a genuine laugh at that, and Chris felt himself warm at the sound. "Oh, hell, no," she said. "They'll be out on their own soon enough. Karen or Miss Eve will go post the piddling little bail amount. They can have it."

"It was good to see you, Nabby," Chris said, touching her arm again.

"You, too, Chris." Her hand was nearly steady as she placed it lightly over his.


Twelve years ago

"You came." Chris watched Annabeth approach as he sat by the pond. It was night, but the moon was bright enough to see by.

"I said I would." She sat when he patted the ground next to him, grateful the moonlight hid the worst of the latest round of bruises. Her face wasn't so bad this time, she mused with some bitterness.

"I wasn't sure you'd be able to," he said. Neither looked at the other; both stared out over the water. Waves of moonlight shimmered hypnotically.

"I'm eighteen now," she said defiantly. "They can't make me do anything. If they do, I'll file charges and by God I'll press them all the way." Ethan had caught her by surprise a couple of days ago and so she had bruises around her ribs. At least, she thought idly, my clothes hide them.

Chris turned to look at her. She kept her gaze fixed on the other side of the pond. To anyone else, she'd look strong, even stoic. She knew Chris would see through it, but she had to keep up the pretense if only for herself. Tears gathered and she bit her lip to keep them back. When he put an arm around her shoulders and gently pulled her close, she couldn't stop them.

"It's all right, Nabby," he murmured, rubbing her shoulder.

"Why do you call me that?" she asked, grabbing at any distraction to stop the tears. She didn't want anyone to see her weak, not even Chris, although he had before.

"Because you're special to me," he said simply. She turned so that she could see his face and his wonderful blue eyes that looked silver in the moonlight. "So I wanted to call you something that was just between us. If you don't like it, I'll stop."

"I like it." He squeezed her shoulder and they sat silently for a long time.

Leaving Chris and his mom would be the hardest part, Annabeth realized. Her own family could drop dead that instant and she wouldn't care. Chris and Lorna Kincaid were a different story; she wasn't sure she would have survived without them. She had taken Chris's offer more than once to stay at their place, despite the beatings that frequently occurred afterwards. Lorna had never said anything about anything; she just smiled and acted like Annabeth was supposed to be there.

"I'll miss you," she said as her head rested on his shoulder.

"I'll miss you, too," he said, "but you can always call or write or visit. You don't have to go away forever." Surprising her, he used his finger to tilt her head up and kissed her softly on the lips.

Annabeth didn't know what to think after he pulled away. No one had ever kissed her like that, not that she'd given anyone the chance. Chris and Lorna were the only people she allowed to touch her. It had taken time, but she had f trusted that they wouldn't hurt her, physically or emotionally. The first time she had let Lorna pat her shoulder without flinching away, the older woman had had tears in her eyes. Annabeth had been touched and couldn't explain why.

"Could you..." she swallowed, "could you do that again?"

Chris smiled and lowered his lips to hers once more. She sighed and unconsciously gripped his shoulder; he moved his free hand to cover hers. Annabeth relaxed as she realized Chris would let her have control, that he wouldn't force her to do anything. He's waiting for me, she thought. Gathering her courage, she turned into him and parted her lips slightly.

She smiled to herself when she felt Chris jump, then almost squeaked as he ran the tip of his tongue gently over her lips. Reflexively, she opened her mouth and let him explore, shivering at the sensations. Cautiously, she ran her tongue over his and let the taste of him run through her. Caught up in him, she blinked when he broke the kiss.

"What's wrong?" She looked down, afraid of the answer. She was sure she'd done something wrong. She had no experience in this area.

"Nothing," Chris said, wrapping both arms around her to hold her close. "It's just ... if we keep going like that, I won't want to stop."

"You would keep going?" She stared at him.

Chris laughed softly. "In a heart beat," he said, dropping a kiss on her forehead. "But I don't know if we should. I don't know what you want." He rocked her for a moment, holding her close and stroking her hair. Hair, she recalled bitterly, that she had had to go to a salon to fix after Trent had cornered her and hacked at it with a pair of shears. The woman at the salon had said nothing, just nodded and gone to work. She'd done a good job, Annabeth had thought, layering things to hide the ragged edges.

Suddenly Annabeth knew what she wanted. "Chris," she said quietly. He looked down at her. "I want to keep going," she told him. His eyes widened slightly.

"Are you sure?" he asked, keeping her in his arms. "I don't want you to think ... Oh, hell, I don't know. You don't owe me anything, Nabby."

"Do you want me?" she asked, her voice low but steady.

"God, yes," he sighed, resting his forehead against hers. "You're so pretty, and so strong." He gave a quiet chuckle. "And I love it when you're close to me like this."

"I like it when you touch me," she said. Her heart was pounding—she hated leaving herself vulnerable like this, but trusted Chris wouldn't hurt her. "You're always so gentle and soft. No one else touches me like that." She swallowed, unable to say any more, although her thoughts kept running. My father beats me, my brother grabs me, my mother doesn't touch me at all, and I don't want my grandmother to touch me. "Please, Chris. I want you to be the first." The only, popped into her head, but she didn't say it.

"Nabby, I do but ... I'm not ... prepared..." His voice was slightly ragged and she allowed herself to believe he did want her.

"I'm on the pill," she said. "It's all right."

"Why did you do that?" he asked, curiously. She almost laughed. It seemed so odd for him to say, yet didn't break the mood at all.

"My cycle has been messed up lately," she said, sparing him the details of why. Her father had hit her once too often in the mid-section, it appeared. "So the doctor gave me the pills to make sure it got regular. And..." she took a deep breath.

"And what?" he asked, stroking her hair again.

She hid her face in his shoulder for a moment, then lifted it again. "Trent has been ... worse lately. I've been able to avoid him, fend him off. But I was afraid there might come a time when I couldn't, and so—"

"No, Nabby, please." Chris's voice was choked with a mix of anger and fear. He held her as closely as he could; she wrapped her arms around him as well, savoring the feel of him so close. "I'm sorry," he said, "but I just ... I can't hear you say that ... I can't bear to think of something like that."

"Shhhh, it's okay," she soothed, rubbing his back. "I'm leaving soon. He won't get a chance." After a few more moments of quiet, she spoke again. "If you don't want to, it's all right. I wouldn't blame you."

"What?" Chris pulled back to look at her, blinked a few times. Then he shook his head. "No, that's not..." He trailed off as he leaned down and captured her lips, kissing her more urgently this time. He slid a hand into her hair, soothing her while he kept her still, kissing her lips, her face, her neck.

She sighed happily as his lips traced along her neck, shivering when his tongue ran lightly over her collarbone. He lay back on the grass, bringing her with him, holding her body close to his. As she moved to meet his lips again, he slid a hand under her shirt and traced soft circles on her lower back. "Ohhh," she said, ducking her head down and shivering. "That feels so good," she whispered.

"Good," he said, nuzzling her cheek. "That was the plan."

They lay quietly for a few minutes, listening to heart beats. Chris continued his lazy stroking until she couldn't stand it. "Touch me more," she said softly.

"Gladly," he said in husky whisper that made her shiver again. Working together, and sometimes at cross purposes, they managed to shed their clothes. Annabeth giggled when Chris cursed her bra, finally reaching back to help him. "Damn things," she thought she heard him mumble before his lips took hers again. This time there was no mistaking the desire that coursed through them both.

She pushed him away slightly, tracing his muscles and studying him in the moonlight. He closed his eyes, trying to steady his breathing as she ran her hands over his shoulders, his chest, and his stomach. When she reached lower and wrapped her hand around him, they both gasped. Curious and tentative, she stroked him, taking his moans for approval. Keeping her hand in place and never stopping, she turned her head and laid kisses on his chest. His skin tasted hot and slightly salty; she couldn't get enough of it.

She sped up, dropping kisses on his shoulders and his neck, then moving her hands to capture his face so she could kiss him with all the passion building up within her. Chris gave one slight murmur of disappointment as her hands moved, then quickly rolled so his body was slightly over hers. His hips moved almost involuntarily as he lay there trying to control himself.

As she had, he took a moment to fully absorb her body. He stared at her eyes and slid his gaze down to her shoulders, then her breasts ... and stopped when he saw the bruises on her ribs. When she felt his body tense, Annabeth opened her eyes and followed his gaze, then bit her lip and tried to wiggle away.

"No, Nabby," he said, and kissed her. "Don't move. You're beautiful. I just ... I hate to see that. You don't deserve it." He gently stroked the bruised skin. "It makes me angry, I can't deny it. I want to go and tear their throats out for hurting you."

"They aren't worth your anger," she said as tears dripped from the corners of her eyes. Chris moved to brush them away and her heart twisted at the tender gesture.

"They might not be," he said, "but you are."

"Keep touching me," she pleaded, pressing her lips to his. "Everywhere. Anywhere."

He did as she asked, keeping his hands gentle to avoid causing her any pain. She tried to memorize everything about this night. How Chris's body felt so warm, thawing the cold wall she often kept around her heart. How his touches made her gasp and sigh, and how hers did the same to him.

His hands smoothed over her hips and down her legs, then back up again. He stroked her face while he trailed his lips down her neck and then to her breasts. She thought she'd die when his hand touched her there, and then again when his tongue teased one nipple to a hard peak. Her own hands flexed on his shoulders, opening and closing as his teeth nibbled at her. She arched her back when he took her other nipple in his mouth and used his hand to tease and massage the first one. "Chris, oh, God, Chris..." she whispered as the sensations washed over and through her.

She was breathing heavily when he went back to her lips and tangled one hand in her hair, letting the other drift over her stomach and down further. Trembling slightly, she moved her legs apart and nearly cried out when his hand went between them. It seemed like all the heat in her body had rushed to that spot, and she couldn't help but shake as he stroked her. The world fell away and she called his name, clutching his shoulders to anchor herself.

"You're amazing," she heard him say as he waited for her to come back.

"Now, Chris," she said, her eyes locked on his. "I need you now."

"I wish we were in a bed," he told her as he moved his body over hers. "I wish I could take you away and do this right."

"It's perfect," she said, dragging a finger along his cheek. "You're perfect. Now, please..." she kissed him and moved her hips up instinctively.

Chris slid into her slowly, carefully, and she knew it had to be difficult for him. Surprisingly, there was little if any pain. Perhaps, she thought, that was some compensation for all the other hurts she'd suffered so far in her life.

"Annabeth," he breathed, and she closed her eyes. She loved to hear him say her name. Her family only spat it out, like a curse. Chris said it in a way that comforted, that softened all the rough edges.

He moved slowly, she managed to meet him and they discovered a rhythm. She lost track of time as he held her, as they touched. She shook again and again as his body rocked against hers. "Oh, Chris," she murmured when she had her voice back, "thank you." He kissed her hard, thrusting his tongue against hers and she felt him tense. Knowing he was close to coming, she wrapped her legs around his waist and her arms around his shoulders.

"Let go," she told him. "Let go." With a groan, he thrust against her once more, and his body stiffened for a moment. At last he relaxed and let her pull him down. When he tried to move, she refused, tightening her grip.

They stayed for hours, both reluctant to leave. He tried to convince her to come to his house, but she shook her head.

"I'll be all right," she assured him. "I know how to get in quietly. Ethan's dead drunk and Trent probably is, too. My mother's too scared to get up."

"Nabby," he said seriously, "please, see me again before you go. I have something for you."

"I'll try," she said. They slowly dressed and walked back. Annabeth stopped him a few houses away.

"I'll go from here," she said. She nodded at his house, where a light was visible in the living room. "I'll be fine."

"I don't want you to go in there," he said, his eyes fierce. "Please, Nabby."

"I'll be fine," she assured him again. "Just go on." She kissed him softly on the lips. He stared at her, then nodded—obviously not happy about the situation—and went to his own house.

Annabeth watched him go, then squared her shoulders and went into the old Fordham place for the last time.


Poking at her dinner in the restaurant next to the hotel, Annabeth let herself remember that first, wonderful time with Chris. She had never told him that her brother had caught her on her way in, and that only a well-placed knee had prevented him from doing more than hitting her. While Trent had lay groaning and cursing in the hallway, she had run to her room and bolted the door. Not trusting that against Trent's anger, she had pushed her dresser in front of the door for additional security.

Then she had huddled by her bed, giving in to one last demand for tears. The roller coaster ride from sheer bliss to ritual fear had shaken her to her core. F, the tears had dried up as she made herself focus on Chris and the way he'd made her feel. She had closed her eyes and dozed for a bit, waking in less than two hours. Rubbing the sleep from her eyes, she had checked the clock to see it was shy of four in the morning.

It's time, she had thought. Her original plan had been to pack and leave as she usually did for school. Looking around her room, she had decided to leave immediately. Her parents, she had been sure, were only vaguely aware that classes had ended the day before. She would miss graduation, but hadn't cared. She had packed quickly and efficiently, taking only her clothes, the money she had earned and hidden, and a picture of her and Chris that Lorna had taken on Chris' birthday.

She had opened the window, climbed carefully down the trellis, and begun walking. She had never looked back.

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Consensual / Romantic / Heterosexual / Tear Jerker /