It’s almost 2017! Can you believe it? It’s been an incredibly challenging year for me in so many ways. Creatively, I was definitely it was a bit of a nadir while I worked on life stuff. But I feel something more positive around the corner, so I thought I’d drop little hints in this, my final holiday short, ‘Holdin’ it Down’. I hope you enjoy, and if you spot the hints of future works to come, I’d be interested to know what you think they are.
Happy Reading, and (less than a week from today) Happy New Year!
Holdin’ it Down
“You should have seen what your son just had me doing.”
Robyn came breezing into their suite, the remnants of a smile still on her lips.
Chris smiled back at her, thinking for the hundredth time that day how beautiful his wife was. Beautiful and unflappable. They had had a full house for Christmas dinner—seventeen people including the kids—and now had six remaining houseguests, if you counted his two middle children Jasmin and Kaden as “guests”.
And yet, Robyn had done nothing but smile all day and look as cool as a cucumber. Even now, hours after the meal, she looked as fresh as she had when she first emerged from her dressing room around one that afternoon, her fire-engine red dress swishing about her knees, her shoulder-length hair still bouncy and full.
“Which son are we talking about?” Chris asked.
“Landyn. To be only two-and-a-half, he is so much like you sometimes it’s scary. I had to literally crawl on my belly just now to escape his room. Whenever I put him down, he just sat up and gave me this look, like, ‘woman, who said you were free to go?’ and then he’d reach up to me like this …” Robyn shook her head. “I had to pick him up again like six times before he finally stayed down. I had crawl out of there so he wouldn’t see me leave the room.”
Chris shook his head. “That’s because you let him play you. I would’ve left his little ass in there, even if he was bawling his head off. Bedtime is bedtime.”
“Yeah, sure you would’ve,” Robyn said rolling her eyes.
“And how does that make him like me? I can’t remember the last time you did anything just because I wanted you to.”
Chris watched as Robyn slid the dress over her shoulders and let it pool on the floor at her feet. Since they’d been married, her hips were a little wider and fuller. Her breasts larger, and she was curvier in general. Chris loved the changes, especially the way most of the new weight settled in the places he enjoyed most—her ass, her breasts, and hips.
“Demanding? Stubborn? Has to have everything he wants, when and how he wants it?”
“That’s like all my sons,” Chris said, unable to keep the pride out of his voice.
Just four years ago, if anyone would have told him he would be the proud father of five kids, he would have laughed in their face. The three he had when he and Robyn got together, he fully intended to be his only children. But she had changed all of that. And many other things about his life as well.
Robyn thought for a second. “Yeah you’re right. Kaden is coming into his own a little more. Did you notice how he challenged Deuce earlier when they were playing on the Wii? Used to be he would have just lost the game and cried about it. Now he’s giving back as good as he gets. Trash-talking and everything.” She smiled and shook her head, her expression as indulgent as though Kaden was her own child. The way she loved his kids, even the ones who weren’t hers, only made Chris love her more.
Sitting on the edge of the ottoman, Robyn reached behind her to unsnap her bra. Chris kept his eyes on her, waiting for the moment when, once the bra was removed, she would briefly massage the mounds of her breasts, and issue a contented sigh. He smiled. She would never guess how much watching that turned him on. To her, it was just a mindless habit that meant she was getting comfortable and ready for bed at the end of the day.
“Speaking of Deuce,” she said. “He’s still downstairs with his friend watching a movie. I told him to let us know before they leave, but you know how he can be. So don’t forget to check on them before we fall asleep. Last thing I want is for you to get an angry call from his mother at one in the morning because he’s still hanging out here.”
“Sheryl’s got a new man. She’ll be cool if he stays here tonight. I just hope he knows he better not be fuckin’ his girlfriend in the home theater.”
Robyn spun in surprise. “Wait. You think him and Zora …”
Chris gave her a look.
“But she’s so against type for him. And he introduced her just as a friend from school who he drove down with, so …”
“She’s got his nose wide open,” Chris said scoffing. “You telling me you didn’t see that?”
“No. I didn’t.” Robyn looked thoughtful. Standing, she began peeling off her underwear. She generally slept without undies, which worked out well for those mornings where Chris woke up, rolled over and helped himself to sleepy morning sex.
The way his wife responded to him, purely on instinct, never failed to awe and humble him. He knew she was his. He said as much to himself—and to her—often. But to roll over in the half-dark of the early morning, touch her low on her hip and just have her turn over to kiss him lazily while still not fully awake; or to feel her part her thighs at the barest pressure of his morning hardness against her made him feel how much she was his. The way she submitted immediately to his touch, let him do as he wanted, issuing soft, cooing like sounds while he stroked deep inside her, was sexy as hell and gave new meaning to the words ‘my woman’ and ‘my wife’. At times like those, he felt like he and Robyn were one. Not just joined in heart and head, but in their souls.
Shaking the sappy sentiment from his head, Chris brought himself back to the here-and-now.
“I hate to say it, but she is going run circles around his ass. You didn’t see the way he looked at her?”
Naked and unselfconscious, Robyn shook her head. “No. How did he look at her?”
Chris mimicked a simpering, lovesick look and Robyn spluttered into laughter.
“He did not! Deuce is cool as hell. He would never come across that thirsty.” She headed for their en suite and Chris watched her go, eyes on the little jiggle of her behind.
“Yeah, well you mark my words. This chick is going to have his gut tied in knots. I almost pulled him to the side and counseled him to up his game.”
“Deuce doesn’t need your help in that department,” Robyn said teasingly. She paused at the door to the bathroom. “He’s got way more game than you ever did, Mr. Scaife.”
Chris laughed. “Yeah, okay.”
“Have to wash off this makeup,” Robyn said just before she disappeared. “So I may as well jump in and take a quick shower.”
As the sound of the water started, Chris thought about who did come across thirsty. No question about it, his brother-in-law Nate’s girl, Presley, that was who. She was a very nice-looking woman, and seemed to be a nice enough person, but a little too starstruck with Shawn and Riley. And asked way too many questions about people in the business. She had that look in her eyes of unbridled ambition and fame-seeking that Chris had become adept at detecting, especially among the beautiful women he met in his line of work, or rather his former line of work.
Though it was obvious she was into Nate—maybe even very much into him—she was the type of chick who would always be yearning for something bigger and better, something that she hadn’t even yet defined, but which she believed was perpetually around the next corner. A man could spend time with a woman like that, and he would probably even enjoy that time. But he would do well not to get too attached to her, because the gratification of just one person’s approval would never be enough for women like Presley—what she was looking for was mass adulation.
She couldn’t have been more different from say, Jamal’s wife, Makayla. Once she shed her shyness, Makayla pretty much didn’t seem to give a crap about the fame, wealth and the high-rolling lifestyle she had married into. Even though married less than a month, those two were finally starting to settle into being a couple. All through dinner, Chris couldn’t help but notice how many times Turner had looked his wife’s way, trying to catch her gaze, and winking or grinning at her when he did. Like she was a gift he couldn’t wait to get home to unwrap. That shit still messed his head up. They were all getting old if Jamal Turner, eternal bachelor and New York’s favorite dark chocolate pretty boy was out of the game for good.
Still, for the past several months, it hadn’t looked like it was going to turn out that way. Especially not after that new situation with the ever-present and always-difficult Devin Parks. Although to be fair, this time the drama was not of Parks’ making, but someone else’s handiwork. That shit … that had been nothing less than an attempt at a takedown.
But Chris had to hand it to Turner. He had managed that whole thing like a pro. There had been a few days in the past month, before things died down, when Chris couldn’t pretend he hadn’t been tempted to step in. In the end, there had been no need, and he was both disappointed and relieved. Disappointed because it was a strange feeling to be superfluous in his own company. And relieved because the way Turner handled himself proved once and for all that he had picked the right man for the job. It also confirmed that he needed to turn his focus one hundred percent to his new venture. He was going to have to come to final terms with letting go of the business he had built from practically nothing into the mega-machine it was today.
“That was so good.” Robyn came padding out of the bathroom, damp and fresh-faced, her skin boasting a slightly pink undertone. “I turned it up as hot as I could stand it and I felt all the tension just melt out of my muscles.”
“You were tense?” Chris shoved aside the iPad that he hadn’t even been looking at anyway.
“Couldn’t you tell? I wanted this to go well, especially with Kaden and Jasmin here for the first time. And all those toddlers running around … and then my mother and Ollie unexpectedly joining us … If Tracy hadn’t come early to help me cook I would’ve lost my mind. By the way, I think she’s pregnant again, did I tell you?”
“Nah,” Chris said, uninterested. He was watching Robyn release her towel from around her, toss it into the hamper in the corner and reach for her body lotion. “What makes you think that?”
“Didn’t you see the way she avoided the wine all night? And I saw her massaging her stomach a few times when she thought no one was paying attention. And Brendan was all over her.”
“Brendan is always all over her,” Chris pointed out.
Hearing what sounded like a little wistfulness in her voice, Chris turned his attention from her naked body and toward her face. He didn’t always tell Robyn what he felt for her. In fact, he wasn’t so sure he had words that could adequately express it. Every once in a while, he wished he had those words, so she would know. His life before her had been a half-life; and now, with her he felt like he was finally fully living. But who said that kind of thing out loud? Maybe dudes like Brendan, but not him.
Luckily, Robyn never seemed to care about that. She understood him in a way that transcended what he said, or didn’t say. All he knew was that sometimes, he would happen across old pictures of himself in the press or online, something old being revived to make a point about something new that was happening in the music business. And he would see in those pictures, a man who no longer existed. That was almost all because of Robyn.
“She and Brendan are doing brunch at their place in Brooklyn on New Year’s Day. I told her we would definitely be there. We’re going, right? We don’t have any other plans?”
Chris nodded absently. “Yeah, we’ll be there. C’mere.”
“First let me find my …” Robyn was reaching for the dresser, no doubt about to find and put on one of the wispy little nightgowns she wore to bed these days.
“Nah. Don’t put anything on,” Chris said. “Just come exactly as you are.”
Robyn didn’t hesitate. With a bemused expression, she took two steps toward the bed, then another two. And then three, deliberately teasing him with her slowness. Then she seemed to think of something else.
“Did you feel like things were kind of … off between Riley and Shawn? I sensed a little … I don’t know, something,” she mused.
Chris smiled and shook his head.
“I don’t know. And if there was something, they’ll work it out. Those two are rock-solid. Now shut up and c’mere.”
Climbing onto the bed, Robyn got on her hands and knees and began crawling toward him. Soon she was only inches away, or at least her breasts were, when she raised herself onto her knees, her torso upright.
“What do you want?” she asked, her eyes were mischievous. She pulled in her lower lip.
Without answering, Chris tossed back the sheets and released the erection that had been growing from the moment she first entered their bedroom and started shedding clothing. Robyn looked down and then back up at him. Without a word, she slung one leg over his so she was straddling him, weight still on her knees.
“This?” she asked, her eyes never leaving his. “This what you want?”
Chris nodded, and his eyes fell to the apex of her thighs. With a thumb he touched her, moving it in small circles. Robyn tried to lower herself onto him, hoping to supplement whatever sensation it was that had caused her eyes to flutter shut. But with his free hand, Chris grabbed her hip and stopped her.
“No,” he said. “I need you to come at least one time first. So you’ll be really wet …”
“I am really wet,” Robyn groaned. She grasped his wrist and moved his hand back farther. “See? You feel that?” She impaled herself on his middle and forefinger, rolling back and forth. She was hot, grasping and pulling his fingers in, and with each clench, she moaned, deep husky tones that made him want to watch her face, even as he felt compelled to look down.
With her eyes shut, and her lips slightly parted, Robyn looked wildly beautiful. He wanted to kiss her, suck on her full lower lip, bite her neck and bury himself inside her. But he wanted to see that first explosive orgasm. Her first one was always noisy and profound. After that, the others, later, would be quieter, longer, and harder to earn. But he loved putting in the work to get her there.
Leaning in, he captured a nipple between his lips, playing with it and feeling her hips jerk in response. With one hand, she held his head to her chest, asking without speaking, for him to be rougher with her. He nipped her a little and she gasped, then he felt her free hand, clamp around his wrist and he got that noisy, explosive orgasm he’d been working for. Wasting no time, Chris removed his hand, prying it loose from her grip and without losing the contact between his lips and her breast, arched upward and lunged deep inside her.
Robyn cried out, and both her hands grabbed his biceps, her fingers digging into his skin. She was completely still, but where Chris was deep inside her, there was nothing but movement.
Chris’ eyes met his wife’s and held. Both of them were frozen in the moment, their breathing labored. When Robyn shifted, he held her still once again.
“No,” he breathed. “Don’t move. I just want to feel you. Just like this.”
Robyn smiled and leaned in, cupping his face and sliding her tongue between his lips. She was warm, minty, and sweet all at the same time. They kissed the way they were making love—with sensual slowness, reading each other and responding. As her lips and mouth grew hungrier, it became more difficult to keep still, especially with Robyn twitching and shifting on top of him. Chris wrapped both his arms around her in a bear-hug, forearms crossed at her lower back, hands cupping her ass.
“Some people just can’t follow instructions,” he said against her neck. “I said …don’t move.”
Robyn was almost panting with need. “Don’t think I can,” she said. “You feel so good, baby. So … so… good.”
Chris bowed his head, playing with her nipples again, moving from one to the other and back again. As she panted, Chris felt himself getting even harder. Not too long now. He was going to have to let go. But he didn’t want to, because then it would be over, at least for a few minutes. And that was about as long as it would take for Robyn to fall deeply asleep. He knew his wife. She was always a little bit of a babbler, but her frenetic chatter was a signal that she was close to exhaustion. Like a little kid, she always had one last burst of adrenaline before sleep grabbed ahold of her and didn’t let go. But tonight, he had better uses for that last gasp of energy than letting her run off at the mouth.
Holding her by the waist, he lifted her off him. Robyn’s eyes opened wide in disappointment and alarm.
“What’re you …?”
Chris turned her onto her stomach, sliding a pillow beneath her pelvis and entering her once again. Robyn gasped, looking at him over her shoulder, her eyes hooded and clouded over with pleasure. Whatever he gave her, she was throwing right back at him, until tiny puddles of perspiration pooled in the dimples at her lower back. Her hair stuck in curly ringlets at her temples and the back of her neck, and she flung her head back and forth to keep the rest of it from sticking to her back. Leaning forward, not missing a stroke, Chris lifted her hair, wrapped it around his hand and tugged it, then blew on the back of her neck.
When he grabbed and pulled harder, Robyn’s moans grew louder. She was almost there, so he increased the pace, wanting to get there with her. In that last few seconds, when he knew his climax was upon him, Chris leaned in, grabbed ahold of his wife’s chin and turned her head so he could kiss her. He felt her shudder wrack her entire body just as his tongue met hers, and then, his own eruption followed, close on the heels of hers.
Collapsing on top of her, resting most of his weight on her forearms, it took Chris a moment to regain his breath. Beneath him, Robyn made that purring noise she often made when he’d put in some serious work.
“Hmm,” she said. “That’s what I needed. But now my shower was for nothing. I’m all sticky again.”
“Take another one,” he murmured against the shell of her ear.
“Can’t. Too tired.”
“Doesn’t matter. We’re good. You’re good.” He rolled off her and instead wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her against him spoon-fashion.
They were sticky, but like her, he couldn’t muster the energy to care enough to do anything about it.
Just as Chris was sure she had drifted off to sleep, Robyn sighed.
“Baby?” she said.
“What were you and my mom talking about in the kitchen?”
Chris froze. This was the conversation he’d been hoping not to have until tomorrow. This was the conversation, he’d been hoping not to have at all. He told Carolyn that he thought she should be the one to have it, but she said she didn’t mind him broaching the topic if it came up. More likely, she wasn’t looking forward to breaking the news and hoped Chris might prime the pump for her a little.
“Paris,” he said. “You know she was supposed to go for the holiday, so …”
“Yeah, that was weird. How Oliver just showed up like that when she was supposed to go. Is everything alright between them?” Robyn turned in his arms so she was facing him. Her lips were bee-stung and her hair was a mess. But yeah, still beautiful.
“He wanted to surprise her,” Chris stated the obvious, stalling.
Oliver was Carolyn’s “gentleman friend” whom she’d met when she moved to Paris a couple years ago to support Robyn through a career change that had turned out to be a life-change. Not only for Robyn, but for Chris, and for their relationship. Since then, Carolyn and Oliver’s relationship had been long distance, with Robyn’s mother traveling to France once every three months, and Oliver coming to the States as often as his time and business interests would allow.
“So they’re okay, then? Everything’s cool with them? I know my Mom loves him. I would hate for him to have flown all this way to let her down easy or something.”
“That’s not why he’s here,” Chris said.
Alerted by the certainty in his tone, Robyn sat up. “What’s going on? What do you know?”
Chris sat up as well. “You have to promise not to trip.”
“Chris, tell me.”
“He’s … he asked her to marry him.”
Robyn squealed. “Oh my god! Are you …” Then she paused and straightened her back. “But that would mean …”
“That she would be moving to Paris.”
Chris knew she was attached to her mother. When they’d first gotten involved, it was clear to him that her mother’s approval would mean everything, and her disapproval could be the death knell. Luckily for him, Carolyn Crandall was the chillest of people. He was lucky, as far as mothers-in-law went, because she had never been anything less than supportive of his and Robyn’s relationship.
“And what did she say?” she asked, her voice small.
“She loves him.” Chris shrugged. “They want to be together.”
Robyn’s eyes filled. “She’ll miss my kids growing up. And if Nate gets married …”
“Robyn,” Chris said her name with a little more force in his voice, the tone he used when he needed her to focus. And sometimes when they were arguing. “She deserves to have her own life. Not just be your mother, or our kids’ grandmother.”
“I know that. But is she thinking this through? I mean …”
“I’ve never known you to be selfish, Robyn,” he said.
She looked at him in surprise, but said nothing.
“Because that’s what it would be. If you respond to this news with anything other than complete happiness for this change in her life, that’s what it would be. Selfish.”
Robyn sighed, and looked chastened. He knew his opinion of her held a lot of sway over his wife, but he rarely wielded that power to change her mind, or behavior. Because he respected her as well. The nature of their relationship was to allow each other plenty of breadth to make their own individual decisions, and even mistakes. So the significance of him saying this, and saying it in this way was not lost on Robyn.
“Is she sure?” Robyn said. “Did she tell you she was …?”
“She’s excited. And she speaks French fluently now. And has her own neighborhoods and hang-outs over there. Her own friends. Every time she comes back here, her life is grocery shopping and television, looking after Caity and Landyn when we’ve got stuff to do. It’s a smaller life than she wants, Robyn. Smaller than she deserves.”
“I guess she never thought she would have this again. Someone who loves her. And for him to want to take her to live in Paris …”
“Yeah.” Chris nodded. He watched his wife processing, as she did, quietly.
“And we’ll go see her. Maybe summers or something.”
“I am happy for her,” Robyn said. “I am.”
It sounded like she hadn’t completely convinced herself yet, but was working on it. She leaned into him, her head on his shoulder and Chris wrapped an arm around her.
“So tomorrow. Nothing but smiles when she tells you, right?”
“Nothing but smiles,” she confirmed. “But I’m going to miss her so much, Chris.” Her voice broke a little.
“I know. But that’s later. Right now, we’re here. Our entire family is here. Under this roof. And the Scaifes are holdin’ it down.”
At that Robyn smiled a genuine smile. She let her head fall back so she could look up at him. Chris saw the love in her eyes. And felt it in his chest. He smiled back.
“Yeah, we are,” she said. “We’re holding it down.”