A/N: And she's baaaaack! Here's a little something I whipped up while taking a break. What can I say, I had a hankering. There have been so many exciting things happening, and I feel like you are all on this adventure with me. My April release (A BOLT FROM THE BLUE) features a character I created for GG fanfic. I tweaked her a bit and gave her a fresh story, but I think the inspiration is fairly obvious.
You can check it out at if you are interested.
It's been busy in my little corner of the world. I have a new release next week (the first in a series featuring single dads!) and four more books coming in 2018, but my love for L&L always draws me back to the Hollow. I am so very thankful for your ongoing support of my fic and my career as a romance author.
This one is for the super coolest of all party people, Jewels and Lulu. Special thanks to my cupcake of a pal xjezzebelle for the beta read. I thought maybe instead of Partings, we could have…
The bell above the door sang out as Lorelai burst into the diner. "Hey. I need to talk to you."
"Where have you been?" Luke asked.
Though she was pleased to hear the edge of desperation in his voice, Lorelai brushed the question aside. "It doesn't matter."
"What are you talking about it doesn't matter, I've been looking everywhere for you. I tried your cell. I went by the inn. Patty was at your house."
He ticked each step off on his fingers, and while gratifying, Lorelai couldn't help feeling his efforts were too little too late. Still, she was here for a reason, and that was to ask for what she wanted. "Let's elope."
Luke stared at her as if she'd just pulled out a two-by-four and clobbered him with it. "What?"
Not the reaction she'd hoped for, but she was in it now, she needed to go. Do. Make this happen. "Come on, Luke. Grab your keys. Let's go."
"You said that would be fine at Martha's Vineyard. Didn't you say that would be fine at Martha's Vineyard?" She suppressed a shudder, just as she did every time she thought of that disastrous weekend. The only good thing to come out of it was Luke's assurance that he loved her and wanted to marry her.
"Yes, I did. I'm just…"
But she didn't want to hear it. No more excuses. No more putting things off. "Come on, then! Let's go! We can drive to Maryland." She threw her hands up when she saw the blank expression on his face. "What the hell, right? I mean, you have to see Maryland eventually. We can drive there, get married, and then come back here. And you'll get your stuff, and you'll move in."
He held up a hand. "Okay, hold on."
But Lorelai shook her head, unwilling to be deterred. "I mean we have the plan already, right? We just have to put the plan in motion."
"Let's calm down," he said in the same tone he used when trying to diffuse one of Taylor's rants. "We don't have to figure all this out now, do we?"
That tone, coupled with what she knew in her gut was going to be another postponement, flew all over her. "Yes, we do, because we've been waiting and putting it off, and I don't want to put it off anymore."
"But right now?"
She nodded emphatically. "Yes, now is the right time. It's the best time because it's now!"
His mouth thinned into a mulish line, and he grasped her elbow. "Come on," he ordered.
He tossed a glance at the curious onlookers as he opened the diner door. For the first time in weeks—no, months—Lorelai felt a surge of hope. "Your car or mine?"
"Lorelai, let's just talk this through."
She knocked his placating hands away with a shrug. "No I don't wanna talk, all we've done for months is talk. I want to do. I want to go."
"We can't just take off and get married."
"Why not, Luke? Don't you love me?"
"You know I do."
"But I love you, Luke. I love you. But I have waited, and I have stayed away, and I have let you run this thing, and no more. I asked you to marry me, and you said yes."
He rubbed his forehead. "Yeah, I'm just trying to think here."
"We fixed up the house, right?" She plowed ahead as if he weren't trying to stall her. Maybe if she talked more, talked faster, she'd be able to wear him down. "We have a bigger closet, and I didn't get the purple wallpaper because you didn't want the purple wallpaper. And if it's between you and the purple wallpaper, I pick you!"
"I didn't tell you not to get the purple wallpaper," he retorted, rousing to his own defense.
Frustrated, she waved him off. "Oh my God! You didn't like it."
"I don't care about wallpaper!" he burst out at last.
A perverse part of her was happy to get a rise out of him at last. "Do you care about me?" she challenged.
The impulse to tear at her hair was strong, but she resisted. Patchy baldness wouldn't do anyone any good. "Because I'm going crazy here. I made a commitment to you, and I need to make it happen."
"It will, it will happen, okay? I just have April to consider."
It drove her crazy that he used his kid as an excuse, but she let it go. Again. Because he was floundering with April and she got that. What he didn't understand was her solution would make everything better. "But once we're married, everything with April will be fine. Anna said so."
He reared back. "Anna said so, what does that mean?"
"When I talked to Anna…"
"When did you talk to Anna?" he demanded.
"After the party…"
"I didn't know you talked to Anna, you weren't supposed to talk to Anna," he said, clearly upset.
And because he was upset, her first instinct was to placate him. As usual. "I know. I'm sor…" But then sanity kicked in. So did her temper. Why was he fighting her on this? He said he loved her. He said he wanted to marry her. But his every action screamed the opposite. "God, no! I'm not gonna defend myself! For months now, I've been skulking around not saying anything, not having an opinion, like I'm Clarence Thomas or something, and I… I'm done with that. I've been waiting for a long time, and I don't want to wait anymore."
"I have to think this through," he insisted.
He couldn't have said anything that could have cut her deeper. "No!"
"I have April!"
"And I have Rory," she shot back. "We both have complications, Luke, but they aren't anything we can't handle. You're gonna have to figure out how April fits into our lives, not the other way around."
Maybe he thought he was, but she didn't think he was trying hard enough. "Well, try married!"
She wanted to stomp her foot like a kid having a fit. As a matter of fact, she came damn close. "No! I'm not waiting! It's now or never!"
"I don't like ultimatums!"
His expression hardened and her heart lurched against her ribs. She'd gone too far. Luke wasn't the kind of guy who could be backed into a corner. She'd made a tactical error, but there was no way in hell she'd back off now. She had to stand her ground.
"I don't like Mondays, but unfortunately they come around eventually."
"I can't just jump like this."
"Luke, we've known each other for the better part of a decade. Why does this feel like a leap to you?"
"It just does."
Lorelai wrapped her sweater snug over her dress and turned her face into the cool spring breeze. When she closed her eyes, she could pretend her friends and neighbors weren't pressed up against the diner window watching her dreams crumble. If she turned her back on Luke, she could walk away from him—from them—and all this uncertainty. She could go back to her house and hole up with some ice cream and a movie—"
She ignored his call, but she couldn't ignore the fact that there would be no place to hide from this. Her place was his place now. But no matter how many wallpaper compromises she made, it wasn't their place. Never would be. Because there wasn't room for everything their lives together would entail. Rory needed a place to come home to. April needed a room.
What they call a fishing hole, which is really a little pond…
Too small for you… Especially when you have children. If you have children….
A man needs his own space….
Her mother's words drifted through her mind like fog, but somehow, they'd made another plan come clear. Whirling to face Luke, she thrust out her hand. "Give me your keys?"
He blinked. "What?"
"The keys to your truck," she clarified. "Hand 'em over."
To his credit, Luke started digging in his pocket before he started in with the questions. "Why do you need the keys to my truck?"
"I just do," she said, waggling her fingers with impatience.
He dangled the keyring, and she snatched it from his fingers. "Where are you going?"
"We're going for a ride," she corrected, gripping the keys tight enough for the ridges to cut into her palm.
"Lorelai, I can't just—"
Before he could finish the thought, she ran up the steps and pushed open the diner door. "Cesar! Stealing Luke for a little while," she shouted.
"Okey doke," Cesar replied from the depths of the kitchen.
When she turned, she saw Luke standing there with his mouth open. Something about the look on her face must have made him think twice about protesting, because he snapped his jaw shut and followed when she dashed down the stairs and around the side of the building.
"Lorelai," he called out to her, his long strides matching her own by the time they reached the alley. "Lorelai, where are we going?"
She reached the driver's side door and wrapped her fingers through the handle, hoping its good, old Detroit steel-bodied construction might keep her anchored in her determination. "Just get in."
The old truck's hinges squealed, and she smiled. It would be a sad, sorry day when Luke had to put this beast out to pasture.
He stared at her from across the hood. "But why are you driving?"
"I know where we're going," she replied pertly, then hoisted herself into the seat.
Luke climbed in on the passenger side with minimal grumbling. Smiled as she cranked the ignition and the engine roared to life. If ever she needed proof of his love, she'd only have to think back on this moment and the way he cringed, but remained silent, when she shoved the gear shift into what she thought was first. Engine parts ground and growled. Luke reached over, covered her hand with his, and corrected the positioning.
"Standard H," he murmured.
"I remember now," she assured him.
They shared a shy smile as she let up on the clutch. Luke kept his hand on hers, gently correcting when she needed it, but otherwise remaining silent as she cruised through town. Remembering what her mother had said about property lines and the city limits, she slowed as she came to the county highway just outside of Stars Hollow. Two miles down the road, a set of driveway reflectors winked at her. The light of a full moon spilled over the hulking Victorian draped in shadows.
When she turned into the drive, Luke twisted in his seat, confusion etched into his brow. "What are you doing? Do you know who lives here?" He flung his body from side to side, looking through every window as if waiting for the blue lights to appear. "We're trespassing."
She hit the brake and the truck stopped on a dime, their momentum carrying them forward in perfect unison before their seatbelts yanked them back to reality. Lorelai set the parking brake, then threw her shoulder into opening the door. "Come on."
"Lorelai," Luke hissed as he clambered out of the truck. She was halfway up the steps before he caught her hand. "You can't—"
"It's vacant," she explained.
Luke held firm, shaking his head as he stared up at her. "Okay, but you can't just go—
"And it could be ours."
The last part cut his protests off as neatly as a machete. "What?"
"My mom and dad. That's what my parents have been doing in Stars Hollow all these weeks…looking for a wedding present for us."
Luke's jaw dropped as he tipped his head back to take in the entire edifice. "A wedding present?" he asked weakly.
She shrugged. "We'll it was this or the Cuisinart, and since they were asking me…"
He stared at her, wonder, worry, and wariness warring on his handsome face. "But…They can't just buy us a house."
"Well, no, but if I have to choose between the Romanovs and this, I choose this."
"Like you and the purple wallpaper. If I have to choose, I choose you. And this house." She turned, her hand still clasped in his, and took in the gorgeous wraparound porch. "But I can live without the house, too, if it means I can have you."
Luke took a step up, then wrapped his hand around her waist, drawing her to him. "You already have me."
Lorelai held he gaze as she shook her head slowly. "No, Luke, I haven't had you in months." She reached up and cupped his scruffy cheek. "And I miss you. I miss being able to talk to you without feeling like I'm walking on eggshells."
"You've been struggling, I know," she finished for him. "But you've also been shutting me out." When he opened his mouth to protest, she hit him with her best shot. "Keeping secrets. Living separate lives."
She covered his lips with the tips of her fingertips. The last thing Lorelai wanted to hear was any more excuses. Pushing him back a half-step, she motioned for him to look up at the shadowed edifice of the house.
"What do you think of this house?"
"Lorelai, we shouldn't be here," he hissed into the night.
"Just tell me what you think of the house Luke."
He shook his head and craned his neck to look up. "I don't know, it's a big house. Why? What do you think of it?
"It's not important what I think, I want to know what you think."
He shot her a sidelong glance. "Weren't you the one just complaining about being Clarence Thomas? Wanting to give your opinion and all?"
"It's a pretty simple question. Surely you can answer this one without getting permission from your ex-girlfriend first."
His head whipped around and he stared at her, his mouth agape. Lorelai couldn't pretend she wasn't as thrown by her comment as he was. It was the first time she let any of the resentment she felt towards Anna slip out.
Luke must have realized there was no way that he could defend himself, so he snapped his mouth shut, and tipped his head back to stare up at the house. At last, he shrugged. "I think it's a beautiful house."
"So do I" Lorelai released a breath, and looked up as well. "I think it's beautiful house too."
He turned to look at her. "I still don't know why we're here."
She could feel his gaze on her, but couldn't bring herself to look at him as she explained. "My parents want to buy us this house as a wedding present."
In her head she slowly counted backwards from ten. By the time she got to four he was sputtering, but she reached the number one before he managed to get a coherent word out, so she felt free to jump in to the fray.
"It's got five bedrooms and four and a half baths. I can't remember how many acres of land, but there's a stable and a fishing pond and… And room, Luke." She turned to look at him. Their eyes met and held. "Room for all of us," she said softly.
"Lorelai," he said voice breaking with emotion.
"So I need to know, Luke, do you want to marry me?"
The second the question escaped her lips she realized that it sounded like she was using the house as a bargaining chip. And, in a way she was. But he was everything to her, and she wanted the life they'd planned together before all of this stuff happened. If she couldn't swallow her pride long enough to barter away a house and a few goats or something, then maybe she wasn't trying hard enough either. Stepping up a stair, she turned and looked directly into his befuddled face.
"I love you. I want to marry you. I want us to be a family. You, me, Rory, April, and anyone else who might come along," she added her voice quavering. "But this can't go on anymore. I can't go on like this anymore. You can't keep shutting me out, putting me off. I won't wait any longer, Luke. I need to know that you're in this with me. That we are planning to make a family together one way or another."
His jaw worked. He swallowed hard a couple of times, glanced away as if needing a moment to gather his courage, then turned back to look her in the eye.
"Lorelai Gilmore, will you marry me?"
The tears she'd been holding back burst from her on a semi-hysterical laugh, but she wasn't so out of it that she couldn't find the right answer. "Yes. Yes, I will marry you Luke Danes."
She reached out and caressed his scruffy cheek, then smoothed the furrows from his brow. She didn't have to look hard to see the gears grinding in his head.
"We'll work it out," she reassured him in quiet firmness. "We can work it out together. But we have to be together. All the way together. No more secrets. No more separate lives." She twisted to sneak another peek at the dream house her mother, of all people, had chosen for her. "No more your place or my place. I want this to be our place, and I don't care if I have to sacrifice my Friday nights for the rest of my life, as long as I can live here with you."
Luke nodded his Adam's apple bobbing. He wrapped his long fingers around her wrist, caressed the tender skin over her pulse with his thumb, then pulled the palm of her hand to his mouth for fervent kiss.
"Yes," he murmured against her skin. "Okay. Yeah. We'll work it out together."
For the first time in what felt like weeks, Lorelai smiled. "Letting her hand drop, she laced her fingers through his, and turned to dash up the steps. Luke lagged behind like an anchor. When she glanced back over her shoulder he shook his head in bewilderment.
"What you doing?"
"We're going to work this out," she said as if the answer should've been obvious.
"What? Here? Now?"
Lorelai stood on the porch her feet planted wide and her hand still enmeshed with his. "Yes, here, now. Because now is the best time."
Their gazes met and held, and this time she didn't have to say a word to wear him down. Heaving his oh-so familiar sigh, Luke trudged up the steps the soles of his heavy boots clomping loudly on the painted wooden slats.
"Right. We're going to work it out together here and now," he said resignation making his voice deep and throaty.
Lorelai almost took pity on him, but he hadn't suffered the way she'd suffered for the last few months. Setting her jaw, she led him over to a wide wicker sofa with floral chintz cushions. The moment he settled on the seat beside her she unlaced her fingers, and crossed her arms over her chest needing something to hold on to while she revealed her innermost thoughts.
"I kind of get why you didn't tell me about April," she began haltingly. "I definitely get why you didn't tell me about Anna," she continued the words tumbling from mouth before she could check them. "I mean; I can't even imagine the two of you together in any capacity. How you managed to make a kid I'll never know."
Luke gave a gruff laugh but said only, "No."
Lorelai nodded, approving of his short answer. Lord knows, she didn't want to have to give details about her trysts with Christopher—teenage or otherwise. She wasn't about to ask any questions about what Luke had been up to in the years prior to their meeting.
"The thing I don't get is, why keep it separate?" she said speaking slowly and deliberately choosing each word with care. "I mean it's not like you think I don't like kids or something. I have a kid. I raised a kid. She's pretty good kid, the last couple years notwithstanding, but overall I think her record balances out on the good side."
"Rory's a great kid," Luke interjected. "You did a great job with her."
"So, why was it that I wasn't good enough for your kid?"
Luke blinked as if her conclusion were as off-the-wall as her fashion choices. "What?"
"I don't understand, Luke. I like kids, I raised a good kid, but for some reason you don't want me around yours."
He closed his eyes and expelled along gusty breath. "Lorelai, it was never that I didn't want you around April."
She glared at him, incredulous. "Are you kidding me? You did everything you could do to keep us apart."
"I did everything I could do to keep you from seeing me with April," he blurted. "You have a kid. You knew what you were doing. I had no clue. Still don't. I always thought maybe one day you and I would have kids, but then I got scared you would see how horrible I was with April and decide that you don't want to have kids with me."
"Luke, that's ridiculous."
"Maybe it is to you," he argued, "but I had no idea what I was doing, or how it even happened, or that it even happened…" He let the thought ramble off on its own steam, circling his hand as if prodding them along. "All I knew was I was in way over my head, and I didn't know what to do who to ask—"
"Me," she interjected. "You ask me. That's what you do when you're in a relationship with someone. You count on each other."
He turned it in his seat so that he could look at her dead on. "Really? That's what you do? You say that like this is a common occurrence. Like I'm supposed to know how to handle having a teenage kid I didn't know existed."
"Well, let's just say maybe you're supposed to know what you're not supposed to do," she shot back.
"That doesn't make any sense."
"Since when have I ever made sense to you?" Lorelai snapped.
They stared at each other long and hard, and then she burst out laughing. When Luke began to chuckle to she shook her head in dismay.
"Man, I don't even know how to defend myself. Maybe I should call Clarence Thomas and see if he can help me out," she mused.
Luke sobered. "You shouldn't have to defend yourself," he said gruffly.
Her laughter drifted off on the spring breeze. Wetting her lips, she blew out a breath. "No, I shouldn't have to. But it seems like that's all I've been doing lately. To you. To Anna. Don't even get me started on Rory or my mother. Hell, I put up a pretty good fight with that shrink I was talking to tonight."
Luke startled. "Shrink?"
Lorelai nodded. "Didn't I tell you? My mom invited Christopher to dinner so that she could introduce him to this woman."
"Why? She knows you come on Friday nights," he asked, perplexed.
Lorelai waved her mother's logic away. "Who knows. She thought you would be there, so maybe a double date?"
"With Christopher," Luke said with a derisive snort.
Lorelai threw her hands up in exasperation. "Well, I don't know."
"Why did she think I'd be there?"
Lorelai stared at him in disbelief. "Why? Because you're my fiancé and I go to dinner at my parents' house every Friday night. You used to come, maybe that's why."
"Okay, fine, but why is she trying to set Christopher up?"
Lorelai pulled a face. "Who knows? I can never really figure out what goes on with my mom." She tipped her head back and looked up at the ceiling fans mounted along the porch their blades turning lazily, stirred by the spring breeze. "I never in a million years thought she would pick like a house like this for me," she murmured. "For us."
They fell silent, the fight seeping out of them. Luke reached over, took her hand and pulled it into his lap. "It might not have just been me," he said at last.
Lorelai turned and studied his profile as she waited for him to expand on the thought. When he didn't say anything more, she elbowed him. "What is cryptic sentences for 2000, Alex?"
The corner of his mouth lifted into a sardonic smirk. He raised one shoulder and let it fall. "Just saying that I wasn't sure about me as a dad, but I was sure about you is a mom, and maybe I didn't want to share."
She blinked in surprise at the bold confession. "You didn't want to share?"
"April. I didn't want to share April." He turned to look at her. "I'd missed so much with her already, and I knew once she met you she may not want to hang out with me as much."
"Luke, that's ridiculous."
He shrugged again. "You saw how it went with that birthday party. It was a total disaster until you showed up, and then after, all I heard was Lorelai this, and how cool was Lorelai was. And, yeah, Lorelai is the coolest, but I'm her dad—" He jabbed a finger into his own chest and seemed to startle himself out of his rant, but she got the gist.
"Oh, Luke. She's your kid. She may think other people are cool, but you're right. You are her dad. Don't forget she came looking for you."
He gave a bitter chuckle. "Yeah, and look what she got." He shot her a sidelong glance. "A guy who screws up all the best things in his life."
She gave his hand a squeeze. "You know, one of the things I've always admired about you was your ability to fix things. I never knew people didn't just call someone to fix things until I met you."
The smirk came back. "And then you learned to call me."
Lorelai laughed and let her head fall back against the sofa again. "Yeah, and then I learned to call you."
He covered their joined hands with his free one, smoothing his palm gently over her knuckles. "How do I fix this, Lorelai?"
She thought about that for a moment, but the only answers she had were the words Anna had tossed at her. "Engaged isn't married," she murmured.
He looked over at her. "What?"
"Engaged isn't married," she repeated. "That's what Anna said to me, and she was right. You and I both have a track record, Luke, and it's not a particularly good one."
"No, it's not."
Lorelai turned her head to look at him again. "Let's fix it. Let's beat the odds and go for broke. Say yes to everything. To each other, to this house, to figuring it out as we go along. I want to stop worrying and waiting. Stop walking away and start something new."
He rested his head beside hers and turned to look deep into her eyes. "Okay, but I don't want to go to Maryland. If we're going to do things right, we have to stop running away from everyone. We'll get married here with your parents, and our kids, and everybody watching."
Lorelai nodded once. "Deal."
They stared at each other, locked in the moment. Finally, her lips twitched into a smile she leaned in a little closer.
Luke came willingly. "Maybe we should seal this deal, you know, just to make it official. I know you like things to be official."
His smile was wry but warm. Memories of the night he made his intentions official came flooding back to her. "You're the one who likes things to be official, but if you want to wait for a ref, we can call one in."
"All I need is you."
He kissed her then, his mouth warm, sweet, and gentle as always.
When they parted, she whispered, "Luke, it has a fishing pond."
Heaving a sigh, he closed his eyes and pressed his forehead to hers. "I fish."
"I know." She waited for him to open his eyes, but he stayed where he was. "I remember when you taught me to fish."
"For another guy."
His disgruntled tone made her insides turn mushy. "Did you ever think then we'd catch each other?"
Luke opened his eyes long enough to pull back and roll them. She stared at the tip of his tongue as he wet his lips. "I waited eight years, Lorelai. Of course I thought about trying to catch you. Never really thought it would happen."
"We have to make sure we don't screw up and let each other go."
He stared into her eyes for a long silent moment. "I don't think I could if I wanted to."
"I don't want to get unhooked. Not wiggling or anything," she whispered. "Sitting as still as I can. Waiting. Hoping—"
Luke closed the distance between them with a swiftness she found gratifying.
The scratch of his scruff against her lips and cheek almost made her choke up. Lorelai couldn't remember the last time he kissed her like this. Tenderly. Like she was something precious and fragile. With his whole heart and every ounce of his attention. Though she knew there were probably more rough days ahead, they wouldn't be so bad as long as he kept kissing her like this. She wouldn't settle for distracted little pecks on the cheek or casual dismissals. She wouldn't keep her mouth shut.
She was about to take the kiss deeper when Luke drew away just enough to break contact. "I can hear you thinking."
Lorelai laughed softly. "Usually you're the noisy thinker. I'll try not to get so wrapped up in my head," she promised.
He looked at her long and hard as a trace of that stubborn determination she used to know so well flashed in his eyes. "I'm not going to let you," he said, his voice deep resonant.
He spoke the words almost like a vow. A lump formed in Lorelai's throat, but before she could swallow it, he gently brushed her hair back from her face. With the crook of one finger, he tipped her chin up so she stared directly into his eyes. "This thing we're doing. You and me…I'm in. I'm all in, Lorelai."
The single syllable was all she could manage to get past the boulder of emotion clogging her throat, but it was all she needed. He was all she ever needed.
Lorelai launched herself at him knocking him back against the creaking wicker. Luke laughed as he caught her and fell back, but his laughter morphed into a deep groan when her mouth covered his.
Their tongues dueled, but within seconds, what started as a battle for supremacy evolved into a slow dance so sensual her body throbbed with anticipation. He was long and warm and solid beneath her. She'd almost forgotten how comforting his bulk was. How substantial he felt standing next to her. Unlike Christopher, who was nothing more than a gust of wind in her life. The only thing she could count on Chris to do was stir things up, and disappear.
She braced her hands on Luke's shoulders then slid them down squeeze his biceps. She felt him smile against her mouth, but Luke didn't break the kiss as he flexed ever-so slightly. Then he wrapped his arms tight around her, holding her strong and sure.
She moved on top of him instinctively, searching him out. Luke gave a guttural growl when she found just the right spot. They kissed like hungry teenagers; sweet, sloppy, ardent kisses that lacked any real form, but more than made up their lack of style with substance. He trailed open mouth kisses down the side of her throat. His hand skimmed up her rib cage in the classic sideswipe.
Lorelai smiled and shifted to the right ever so slightly to grant him access to her breasts. Luke was no shy kid. He took what was offered, running his thumbs over the peaked tips pinching her through the fabric of her dress. Lorelai was still panting when he started to strip the sweater from her shoulders.
"I say we christen the new place," he said gruffly.
Lorelai reared back, shook the sweater from her hand, and tossed it across the porch, shocked and aroused by the suggestion. "What? Here?" She asked echoing his earlier disbelief.
Luke arched against her pressing up to meet that most sensitive spot. Lorelai rubbed against him like a cat, unable to resist the call to action. Her breath hitched. "Now?"
Luke reached up to reclaim her breasts and then nodded. "Yes, now. Because now is the best time."
Lorelai laughed as he began to gather her skirt with one hand. "You're nuts."
"I believe that's my line," he retorted.
"If the lunacy fits." She let the line dangle.
He sank his hands into her hair and pulled her back down again. His lips grazed hers, slow and teasing. "At least we'll go crazy together."
Lorelai didn't consider the neckline of her dress particularly deep, but somehow, Luke managed to pull the stretchy fabric aside, baring her lace-edged bra. Tucking her chin to her chest, she looked down and exclaimed, "Oh!"
"This dress drives me crazy," he confessed. He pressed an ardent kiss to the shallow hollow between her breasts. "This spot right here." He nuzzled the lace along one side. "You don't think I notice things, but I do."
Too anxious to withstand much of his slow, methodical, maddening foreplay, Lorelai hooked her finger into the strap of her bra and yanked it and her dress aside, baring herself to him. It slid over her shoulder and hung loose, but she didn't care. Luke peeled the other side down, stretching the fabric of the dress beyond its limits. She felt the pop of threads, but Lorelai ceased to care the moment he rose up to take her breast into his mouth.
His long fingers curved around her. His breath came hot and fast, washing over her skin in urgent puffs that only revved her up more. He teased her nipple with the sharp edges of his teeth, and she arched into him. Cradling the back of his head, she pulled him closer, urging him to take more. Take her. More than anything, she wanted to feel whole again.
Luke shifted from one side from the other, but Lorelai wasn't about to let him dally long. She picked up where he'd left off, lifting the hem of her dress higher, gathering big handfuls of fabric, desperate to feel him against her skin.
With her skirt bunched at her waist and the bodice sliding down her arms, Lorelai imagined herself the heroine on one of those old romance novel covers. A woman about to be debauched. Or do some debauching. Either way, she had her man, and she wasn't letting him go without a fight. Preferably one involving a lot of sword play. She made a mental note to talk to Luke about a pirate outfit as she slipped her thumbs into the waistband of her panties.
Her first shimmy made Luke groan long and loud. She liked it so much, she gave it another go, before pushing her panties down over her hips.
Luke released her breast with a gasp and fell back against the cushions with an "Oof!"
Lorelai flattened herself against him, wriggling and twisting until she managed to work the panties down her thighs. "Hold this," she said, forcing the excess fabric of her skirt into his hands as she flopped around on top of him.
He gathered the material under his forearms and grasped her hips. "What are you doing?"
She scissored her legs until they slid down to her ankles. Kicking them off, she scrambled up to straddle him again. When she brushed her hair out of her face, she found him staring up at her, an awed expression on his face. His jeans were worn and soft, but the seams scraped her inner thighs. The feel of him beneath her was so familiar, but at the same time new and exciting. She slipped both hands under his flannel and yanked the t-shirt from his waistband. The soft hair on his stomach tickled her palms. She stroked it gently, then slipped a finger into the tail of his belt.
Luke watched, unmoving, as she slid it free from the loops. Her knee slipped down between the chintz cushion and the brittle wicker, but she didn't care. She could deal with scrapes and scratches. The important thing was, he hadn't broken her heart.
Tossing her head, she looked down at him as she worked the worn leather through the buckle, then yanked it free altogether. Luke's eyebrows shot up as she balled the belt into a wad and tossed it across the porch.
"Oh, yeah," he said with approval. He grabbed her hips to steady her again. "I hope to God no one is here."
"I told you, it's vacant," she reminded him. Grasping the loose denim and his boxers, she gave them a rough tug.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," he cautioned, coming off the cushions. He took great care in gently freeing his erection from the tangle of clothing, then subsided again. "Okay. Carry on."
Lorelai smiled at both his caution, and his eager response.
"Hey," he whispered as she took him in hand and maneuvered herself into position.
Lorelai looked up. "Hmm?"
"I love you. You know that, right?"
She stopped fidgeting and looked down at him. His blue eyes were dark and earnest, his expression absolutely serious. "I know."
Grasping his cock firmly, she began to lower herself on to him. A strange noise emanated from Luke. Sort of a chuckle chocked groan. Lorelai tore her gaze away from the juncture of their bodies and searched his face. "You okay?"
"You just Han Soloed me." He shook his head. "If ever there was proof of my love for you, it was the fact that I just turned a movie character into a verb."
Lorelai grinned as she sank down onto him. It was slow going at first, maybe she needed more of that never-ending foreplay, but she couldn't wait. This was what she wanted more than anything. She and Luke joined in the most elemental way a man and woman could be. The moment he was settled deep inside her, she collapsed onto his chest and tipped her head up for a kiss. Luke obliged, brushing his lips over hers with gut-aching tenderness.
"I love you too. And I'm really glad you're not frozen in Carbonite."
"Nope." His hair made a shusshing noise against the cushion as he shook his head. "Fully mobile," he said has he grasped her hips and began to thrust up into her.
They moved together, falling into sync with an ease that made it hard for her to breathe. What would she have done if he'd let her walk away? Would she ever be as happy with any other man as she'd been with Luke? One thing was for sure, no one else would ever have the power to break her. Not like Luke did. She exhaled on a long shuddering breath.
"Stop." He murmured the word into her ear. "It's okay. We're okay."
And he was right. They would be okay. His gruff reassurance and the solid feel of his bulk beneath her worked their magic. Soon, all she could think about was the smooth glide of Luke buried deep inside her, the coaxing gentleness of his roaming hands, the oh-so-familiar sounds he made while they were making love.
Luke. Her Luke. She and Luke. Together. Forever.
"You're gonna marry me," she panted, rising up to ride him faster, just the way he liked.
She let her hair fall forward, knowing he wouldn't be able to resist threading his hands in it. Worked like a charm. "Can we have this house? We need a house of our own."
She was playing a little dirty pool by asking crucial questions when the man was in a compromising position, but Lorelai didn't care. She'd bit back her own demands for too long.
"Yes. Yeah. Okay," he managed to croak. Luke gritted his teeth and bowed up into her. "Lorelai, please."
Her mind was working too hard to muster an orgasm, but now that he'd agreed to her terms, she didn't mind letting him have his. Leaning back, she cupped her breasts, more for his benefit than hers, and increased the pace. "It's okay, Luke. Let go," she whispered.
Her thighs were screaming, and her knee was raw from scraping against the wicker. The seam of his jeans rubbed the tender flesh inside her thighs. He slid a hand between them, intending to stroke her to climax, but she pushed it away. "I got what I wanted. You take what you want."
"You." The word erupted from him on a strangled shout.
His body arched and tensed, but she kept moving, demanding the orgasm he was trying to hold back. At last, he capitulated, but not without a few muttered threats for revenge and redemption. Lorelai slowed, milking the dregs of his release from him as he grew lax and languorous beneath her. Luke exhaled in a whooshing gust, then tried to pull her down to him.
Lorelai resisted, wriggling from his grasp. "Oh, God, hang on," she said in an urgent rush. Disengaging, she rose up off him, yanked her knee out of the crevice, and then collapsed on top of him. "Too old for this."
He chuckled, steadied her with one arm, then started finger combing her hair with his free hand. "You're not old."
She shifted to look up at him. "I feel old. Too old to be running all over, begging my guy to love me."
"I do love you."
"I want things to be settled between us. I want us to be looking toward the future, not running away from our pasts."
He squeezed her gently, but said nothing in reply. When he spoke at last, it was to ask, "Did you say five bedrooms?"
She nodded. "And four-and-a-half baths."
"Room for everyone." He ducked his head in an attempt to look directly at her. "And then some."
"And then some," she repeated in a whisper.
She felt his chuckle rather than heard it. "It takes an extra-large starter home for a couple of non-starters like us."
Lorelai's lips curved at the description. "That was exactly what I thought."
He kissed the top of her head. "So, we'll talk to Reverend Skinner tomorrow?"
She nodded and snuggled into him, holding him tight against her. "Sounds like the perfect place to start."