Pacey fidgeted where he sat on the leather couch, restless and agitated. He tugged at the tie around his neck, exhaling loudly. “So, after today, do we just wait to hear from them? How does this work? Are we supposed to follow up with them?” He glanced over at Drue, his dark blue eyes watching him carefully.
Drue shrugged, flipping through a magazine. “It doesn’t really matter.”
Pacey’s mouth fell open and then he scowled at him. “Explain to me how it doesn’t really matter if we find out if we’re getting the financing or not?”
Drue looked up, mildly surprised. “Oh, I thought you knew. This is just a formality really, to meet with these guys. My father is the one signing off on the check, and believe me, his main concern is just that I find some sort of livelihood, something he can tell his buddies at the club when they ask what his wayward son is up to.” He looked back to his magazine.
Pacey stared at him in disbelief. “So, I’ve been working on this business proposal for a month, doing all this research, drafting it up and stressing over every detail, and now you’re telling me that we were always going to get the money all along?”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“I’m going to kill you.” Pacey said matter-of-factly with a careless shrug of his shoulders. “I’m going to be in this business with you and in less than a year’s time I am most likely going to end up killing you and spending the rest of my life in prison. I just know it.”
“Hey, you might still be in jail today if it wasn’t for me, buddy.” Drue reminded him drolly.
Pacey had to smirk. “As much as I appreciate that, Drue, that was quite a few years ago and somehow I really don’t think I’d still be serving a sentence today for a broken nose.”
Drue put his magazine down. “Well, for what’s it worth, it’s not like I haven’t been impressed by your efforts here. The whole boat brokerage idea, this was your thing and you really followed through on it and made it happen. I don’t think I quite knew you had it in you, Witter. The way you’ve managed to get your life on track, achieve your goals. It’s all very inspiring, really.” Drue looked him in the eyes, leaning over to rest his hand on Pacey’s arm. “In fact, I’d go as far as to say…you make me want to be a better man.”
Pacey looked back at him blankly for a moment, blinking his eyes, before he shook his head with a sigh of resignation. “Will you ever just shut the fuck up?”
Drue laughed, unable to maintain a straight face any longer, as he returned his attention to his magazine.
“Mr. Valentine? Mr. Witter?” The receptionist looked over from her desk. “They’re ready to see you now.”
As they stood up to walk into the office, Drue motioned to the folder of documents in Pacey’s hand. “I’m really hoping you have some of those colorful pie charts in there. Those are always a big hit.”
Pacey tugged his tie off and shoved it in his jacket pocket as he trudged up the sidewalk from the commuter ferry wharf, glancing out at the lights from the city skyline reflected in the dark waters of the harbor. He always felt a certain sense of calm wash over him when he walked these few short blocks from where the ferry dropped him off to his apartment, the quiet of his neighborhood a welcome relief from the noise and rush of downtown.
It had once been an old Navy yard on the outskirts of Boston, the ancient buildings refurbished into apartments and condominiums and a few commercial properties, a general store, a grocer, a dry cleaner, a handful of small storefront restaurants and bars. It was as if he was in his own little world here, part of the city but separate from it at the same time. And, as an added bonus, he was surrounded on three sides by the harbor, so that from almost every window he could see at least a glimpse of the ocean.
He turned down the tree-lined street, trotting up the brick steps of his building and stopping to check the mailbox before pushing through the heavy oak door and climbing the stairs. He paused on the landing, holding the mail in one hand as he fumbled to find his keys with the other, and then unlocked the door to enter.
There were faint, familiar strains of music drifting through the apartment, the gauzy curtains billowing in the warm wind coming in off the water through the open windows, and she was sitting in the middle of the living room floor, leaning back against the overstuffed sofa with a glass of wine in her hand, a newspaper spread out on the floor in front of her.
“Do you have any idea what today’s job market is like?” She looked up at him, speaking as if they had already been in the middle of conversation.
Pacey shrugged and grinned, throwing the mail and his keys on the small table in the front hall as he came into the room. “No, but I have a feeling you’re going to tell me.”
“It’s unbelievable. I should have started interviewing back in January like I originally planned. I’m never going to find anything now.” She looked back down at the newspaper, furrowing her brow.
Pacey stood there a moment, appraising her with a small smile. “You just finished finals. You’re graduating college in a few days, Jo. Why don’t you focus on your accomplishments up to this point for just a brief moment before you start worrying about the future.” He tilted his head, narrowing his eyes playfully. “Besides, even if you can’t start carrying your weight around here, with tenant laws they way they are it would take months before I could get you evicted.”
She looked up at him with a smirk, placing her glass of wine carefully on the hardwood floor. “So, tell me more about how this meeting went today.”
“There’s really not much more than what I told you on the phone.” He shrugged, speaking over his shoulder as he walked across the apartment into their bedroom, unbuttoning his shirt. “We should have the money soon and I think we can have this thing up and running by the fall. We checked out some more locations in South Boston and one over near the North End this afternoon. I want to take you by tomorrow and see what you think.”
“Okay.” She beamed. “This is so great, Pace. I knew you could do this.”
He came back out a moment later, hiking up his jeans. “So, do you want to go and grab some dinner?”
“Yeah.” She smiled, pulling herself up and walking over to him to wrap her arms around his waist. She rested her head against his chest for a moment, closing her eyes and breathing him in. “I’ve missed you.” She whispered.
“But I’ve been right here.” Pacey chuckled in his deep, rough voice, pressing a kiss to the top of her head and pulling her close as he playfully rocked her back and forth in his arms. “You know, I’m the irresistibly charming, devastatingly handsome guy you wake up next to, pass by on your way to the shower...”
“Yeah, but you’ve been so busy with work this past month and I’ve had exams and papers and everything to finish up with school.” She leaned up to kiss him. “I can’t wait to jump on the boat with you and sail away for a while. Just me and you.”
Pacey hesitated, breaking away from the kiss. “Um, yeah…well, we should probably get going if we want to ever get a table at Cilantro’s. There’s probably already a long wait.” He turned and took her hand in his, raising it to kiss her wrist before pulling her towards the front hall and grabbing his keys off the table
Joey frowned slightly and sighed as he led her out the door.
As they stepped out onto the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, Pacey reached for her hand again to start up the street, but Joey hesitated, tugging at him to lead him in the opposite direction.
“Let’s walk home the long way.” She smiled, the tiny white lights twinkling in the trees above them reflected in her eyes.
“Down by the park?” Pacey raised an eyebrow, his voice lowering to a growl as he let her guide him by the hand. “Why? You want to go make-out?”
Joey turned and smiled at him over her shoulder.
“You do!” Pacey exclaimed, his eyes widening, and then he chuckled. “Josephine Potter, you shameless little hussy.”
“What?” Joey shrugged. “You all of a sudden have something against public displays of affection?”
“Believe me, Jo, if you only knew what I thought about doing to you in public on a daily basis, well, you should just be glad I am instilled with any self-restraint at all.” Pacey’s deep voice was full of amusement. “And, it just so happens that our waitress back there was so hopelessly attracted to me that she slipped me a few extra mints with my change on the bill, so I’m well prepared for some lip action with you.”
“Did you ever stop to consider that there might be another reason why she gave you extra mints?” Joey smirked.
Pacey shook his head, ignoring her. “Now, now...no need for jealousy. I’ve learned to recognize the signals by now and react accordingly. I may as well be wearing a sign around my neck that says ‘you can look, but don’t touch’. So when a woman like that starts brazenly flirting with me right there in the middle of our dinner, you can rest assured...”
“Woman? She was like seventeen years old, Pace.” Joey cut in with a laugh.
“Really? You think she was that young?” Pacey’s voice rose in disbelief. “Damn, I’ve still got it.” He mumbled thoughtfully as he popped a mint in his mouth.
Joey shook her head, trying unsuccessfully not to smile, as they continued down the street hand in hand. They eventually reached the small waterfront park and as they followed the cobblestone path lined with wrought iron benches, Pacey lifted Joey’s hand to kiss it before playfully pulling her into him, bumping her against his body. He moved behind her to rest his hands on her waist as they climbed the steps of the small stone pavilion to where they could look out across the harbor at the lights of the city, and hear the live music drifting over the water from the various harbor cruises.
Pacey wrapped his arms around her from behind, hugging her and nuzzling her neck a moment before turning her around to face him. He slid a hand down to the small of her back, holding her flush against him. “May I have this dance?”
“You may have all of them.” She smiled, reaching up to rest her hand on his shoulder. He danced her around the small space, twirling her in his arms to the music wafting in on the cool spring breeze, skimming across the water on the warm night air.
Joey giggled and then suddenly grew quiet, pulling back to look at him and narrowing her eyes. "Did you like me even way back when I made you take those ballroom dance lessons with me in high school?"
Pacey raised an eyebrow, considering this. "I definitely did not dislike you." He replied carefully in a low voice and then narrowed his eyes back at her. "What about you?"
"I definitely did not dislike you, either."
Pacey chuckled softly, bowing his head to brush his lips across hers as they swayed back and forth, their tempo a bit off now from the rousing big band number that was trumpeting off the deck of the boat passing by. Their pace slowed even more as his lips found hers again, slightly more insistent, more demanding, more passionate this time as he brought his hands to her face and then slid them slowly down her neck, the familiar slow, soft strokes of his tongue meeting hers and eliciting a small moan from low in her throat.
He pulled away after a long moment with a small smile, peppering her lips with soft kisses as he stroked her cheek with his thumb. Joey sighed contentedly, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and playing with the short hair on the back of his neck.
“But I still remember how it felt.” His deep softened to a whisper.
“How what felt?”
“Dancing with you.”
”Yeah.” She smiled slowly. “I remember that, too.”
Joey clicked off the light in the bathroom, crossing the hall into the bedroom where Pacey was already sprawled on the bed, lying on his stomach in his boxer shorts and a tank top, the remote control in his hand as he flipped through the channels trying to find the final score for the Red Sox game.
Joey walked over to their bureau, glancing at him over her shoulder as she removed her jewelry. “I almost forgot to tell you that there was a message on the machine today from a Jeff something or other…”
“Oh yeah.” Pacey nodded absently, his attention on the television. “He’s doing some work on the hull for me next week.”
“Next week? You’re having work done on the boat?” Joey spun around, placing her hands on her hips. “You’re taking ‘True Love’ out of the water? What about our trip?”
“Damn.” Pacey muttered, closing his eyes and dropping his head.
“Pacey, what’s going on? Every time I’ve mentioned this lately you’ve tried to change the subject.” Her face fell, her voice softening sadly. “Are we not going on the boat this summer? It’s supposed to be tradition. We go every year right after the semester’s over.”
He looked over at her, shaking his head, his warm blue eyes full of affection and amusement. “I should know better by now than to try to even attempt to surprise you with anything. You’re too damn nosy, Potter.”
“Surprise me? What do you mean?” She relaxed slightly.
Pacey sat up with a sigh, walking over to their large walk-in closet and reaching up to the top shelf. “This was supposed to be your graduation present, which I wasn’t going to give to you until Sunday. You know, Sunday?” He turned to look at her over his shoulder with a smirk. “When you’re actually graduating?”
He took a small shoebox down, opening it up and taking out a thick envelope, then crossed the room to hand it to her.
“Can I open it now?” She smiled.
“Uh, yeah.” Pacey rolled his eyes, but grinned as he watched her.
Joey giggled, unfolding the paper to pull out two airline tickets, her smile fading at she read the words. She looked up at him slowly, her eyes round and shining. “These are for Paris.” She whispered.
Pacey shrugged. “I thought it was time you got to go.”
Joey stared at him for a long moment before she jumped up to wrap her arms around his shoulders, hugging him tightly and shutting her eyes, tears leaking out onto her cheeks. “Do you have any idea how much I love you?”
“Well, if it’s even half as much as I love you, then I guess I must be doing something right.” Pacey whispered as he held her, giving her a gentle squeeze.
She pulled back to look at the tickets again with a wide grin. “We’re going for two whole weeks! I should start packing tomorrow.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right.” Pacey agreed with a chuckle. “Because, with your wardrobe, we may just make the flight if you start now.”
She smirked before moving in to kiss him again, her lips lingering against his as she sighed. “Thank you.”
“Happy Graduation.” Pacey smiled, kissing her back.
The kiss deepened and lengthened as they stood there, and Pacey finally broke away to trail his lips to her neck as she reached up to wrap her arms around his shoulders. Resting his hands on her hips, he began to gently guide her back towards their bed, pushing her down onto the comforter. He took the tickets from her hand, tossing them onto the dresser before coming back to wrap his arms around her, bringing his kisses back to her neck as his tongue glided over the delicate pulse points to the hollow of her throat, effortlessly seeking and finding the most sensitive spots on her skin.
Joey moaned softly, gripping the muscles in his back as she held onto him and arched her neck back for him. “Did I mention already how much I’ve missed you?” She sighed and smiled at the familiar feel of his touch, the confident ease and practiced skill of his hands and lips as they moved over her body both thrilling her and relaxing her at the same time.
Pacey adjusted himself on top of her, sliding his hand down over the curve of her ass to hold her as he slowly ground his hardening erection into her through the thin material of her panties, causing her to gasp quietly at the sensation and then immediately ache for more of him.
“You did mention that, yes.” He growled in a low voice as he slid his hand back up her body, pushing the material of his faded t-shirt she always wore to bed up out of the way, trailing his fingers over her smooth skin, grazing his palm over her breast as her breath caught in her throat. “I guess we’re just going to have to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
He lowered his mouth to cover the rosy bud, gently taking it between his teeth as his hand smoothed over her hip, easily sliding her panties down and guiding them off her. He dragged the tips of his fingers back up the inside of her thigh as he moved up to kiss her mouth.
Joey gasped and moaned into the kiss as he caressed her, but then suddenly placed her hands flat against his chest, holding him back to look at him. “There’s one way to make sure that doesn’t happen, you know.” She whispered in a breathy voice, her chest heaving slightly, her eyes wide and dark with her arousal.
Pacey held her gaze, moving his hand to hold her waist as he thrust his hips forward, pressing his erection firmly against her. “Oh, yeah?” Joey’s arms trembled, her hold on him weakening as her head tilted back onto the bed, and Pacey leaned in again to kiss her neck. “What’s that?” His deep voice rumbled through her as he brushed his lips over her earlobe.
Joey sighed shakily, closing her eyes as she tried to gain some composure. “Every time I start thinking about the future lately, now that I’m finished with college and trying to decide if I’ll go on to grad school right away or work for a while, well…everything is so unclear to me right now.” She whispered hesitantly.
Pacey moved his kisses back to her mouth. “Everything is going to work out fine, Jo. Nobody says you have to figure it all out right away.” He slid his hand back up her body to her breast, cupping it in his hand and teasing her as circled the peaked nub with his thumb.
Joey moaned softly, reaching up to touch his face. “No…what I’m trying to say is that everything is unclear to me except you, Pace.” Her voice had a slight pleading tone to it and he pulled back to look at her with a small smile, lowering his hand to rest it on her stomach. “Every time I look into my future, no matter what else I see or how it may change week to week, you’re always there.” She paused, swallowing back the lump in her throat as she watched his face. “And I want…I want to know you’re always going to be there.”
He regarded her, furrowing his brow in confusion, chuckling as he shook his head. “I’m not going anywhere, Jo.” He wrapped his arms tight around her, whispering as he kissed her. “If you haven’t figured it out by now, you’re pretty much stuck with me.” His kisses traveled down her neck towards her chest.
“Then marry me.”
Pacey paused, blinking his eyes open, his kiss still pressed to her skin where he had felt the words vibrate against his lips as they left her throat, trying to figure out if his ears heard her right. He pulled back to look at her, his face blank.
“I mean…I know we haven’t really talked about it. Not seriously, at least.” There was a rosy tinge to her cheeks as she rushed to explain. “But I guess I kind of always thought in the back of my mind that, you know, once I was finished with school and…”
Pacey cut her off with a kiss, his lips lingering against hers as he smiled.
Joey broke away to meet his eyes. “You think I’m crazy, don’t you?”
He dropped his head with a sigh, his eyes softening, shining as he met her gaze again. He leaned down kiss her tenderly, whispering against her lips. “No. I don’t. But I think you’re about to make me ruin another surprise, Potter.”
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