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Not Matter the Time, II...an Alternate Love Story
It was almost eight-thirty by the time Daniel pulled the jeep onto the Interstate. Casey had settled into the passenger seat, her bare feet on the dashboard, sunglasses on her nose, looking for all the world like a model striking a pose. He glanced at her, his body hardening, his heart pounding. God, I love this woman!
"Six hundred." she said suddenly.
"Six hundred. The number of times we’ll make love in a year if we keep up like we are. Every morning and every night, minus five days a month for hell week. That leaves six hundred." She giggled.
"Yeah, the week that every woman has to suffer because Adam was a wuss and wouldn’t stand up to Eve," she explained.
He thought about this for a minute, then began to laugh. "Hey, Eve was the one who pushed the apple on him. She shook her tits and ass at him, and that’s all she wrote, baby. He was a goner."
"Oh, please! A real man would have tossed that apple over his shoulder and nailed her if she had shaken her assets in his direction. All she did was offer him a bite of an apple, and he didn’t have the balls to say no!"
He was laughing harder. "Yeah, and if he had nailed her, you’d be complaining about what a brute he was."
"Better than being a wuss," she grumbled. "If I walked up to you, bare ass naked, and offered you something that you knew was going to get you into some serious damnation type trouble, and shook my tits and ass at you, what would you do?"
"Before or after I nailed you?"
She burst into laughter. "Oh, good one! Come on, be serious…if this was like, life and death, don’t you think you could resist?"
"I don’t know, babe. You have great assets, and if you started shaking them at me, I don’t think I’d be able to refrain."
She heaved a pained sigh. "I guess it all boils down to being God’s fault."
"How do you figure that?"
"He gave man only enough blood to run one head at a time," she replied.
He was laughing so hard his sides were starting to ache. Life with this woman was going to be…joyous…happy…incredible.
She glanced sideways at him. He looked as happy as she felt. Being with him felt so natural, as if…as if this was exactly where she was destined to be…at his side. "Okay, if we’re going to spend the day talking about all these heavy philosophical questions, I have one for you."
"Okay. What?" He was already grinning
"Explain extra virgin to me." She grinned at him.
"Extra virgin. As in extra virgin olive oil. Which, by the way, is better for you than most other types of cooking oils. But it’s always bugged me…‘extra virgin’. I mean, how can it be ‘extra’ virgin? Does it mean ‘extra virgin’ as in additional? Like, they didn’t stop with ten or eleven virgins, oh no, they tossed in ‘extra’, like fifteen or sixteen. Or ‘extra virgin’ as in…a super virgin? How can anything be extra virgin? It’s either virgin or not. Been nailed, not been nailed. Been screwed, not been screwed. ‘Extra virgin’…like does it have two maidenheads or something? You’re the expert on this linguistic stuff. Explain it to me."
Daniel wondered when the last time had been that he'd had this much fun. He was laughing again. "Babe, I’ve never thought about it."
She nodded. "Yeah, that’s what I thought. I never had a life…too much time to sit and ponder this stuff. So I suppose that you’ve never thought much about why dogs like to hang their heads out of the car window and let the wind blow their ears off, but can’t stand it if you blow in their face. I always wondered about that, too."
He was laughing so hard it hurt.
"You know, if you study ancient cultures, maybe you could find the answers to some of these questions. There are a lot of sad, pathetic people out there with inquiring minds who want to know this stuff. I’ll bet you could make a fortune! ‘Doctor Daniel Jackson answers life’s most perplexing questions…like why does plastic wrap work great in the commercials, but in real life only clings to itself’," she said, moving her hands and fingers as if reading from a sign. "See, I have this theory, that we’ve been through this before."
"Who…been through what?"
"Us…people…civilization. See, I think we’ve nuked ourselves back to the Stone Age because nobody could find the answers to these perplexing questions, and it just got to be too much…especially the extra virgin thing, and ‘Boom’! We just couldn’t take not knowing any more."
He wiped his eyes as he continued to laugh. "Casey, you are too much!"
She giggled. "Is that good or bad?"
He reached over and took her hand, lifted it to his lips, then held it against his leg. "It’s good, babe. Very good."
She was silent for a few minutes, watching the scenery go by. "Daniel?"
"I have another question for you."
"Meaning of life stuff?"
"No, wedding stuff."
He smiled at her. "Actually thinking about it now?"
"I guess it finally hit me that it’s real, that this ring on my finger isn’t going to disappear in the morning…that you…" she paused.
"That I what, babe?
"That you really love me and want to marry me," she said softly.
"Glad you finally realized it," he said, smiling at her.
She smiled at him. "I’m slow, but once I get it, I got it," she replied.
"Okay, what’s your question?"
"Well, before I can really plan anything, I sort of need to know when we’re going to get married."
"When do you want to get married?"
She shrugged. "I don’t know. I think I’d like to have a couple of months to get things together. Since it’s the end of June, maybe we could get married in September?"
"I guess I could live with that."
"Unless you want to drop down to ‘Vegas and get married. We could have Elvis marry us in one of those tacky wedding chapels," she suggested with a grin.
"Uh uh. I want a real wedding. Want you walking down the aisle to me."
"Okay…in your dream wedding…how am I dressed?" she asked, her eyes flashing with wicked humor.
"Dream wedding? Naked, absolutely. Real world, I guess I’d like to see you in a white gown," he replied.
She pulled her lip between her teeth.
He caught the motion from the corner of his eye. "What?"
"I’m not a virgin anymore. No complaints, trust me, but that sort of blows the whole white dress thing."
He shook his head. "Actually, the ancient Romans viewed the wearing of white as a sign of joyous celebration. Other cultures consider white to be good luck. It’s only been in the past few centuries that wearing white was linked to the ‘purity’ of the bride."
"So, it would be good luck for me to wear white?" she asked, a smile on her face.
He raised her fingers to his lips again. "Yeah, babe, the best of luck. For a very joyous celebration."
She nodded. "Okay." She stared out the window, thinking about the envelope of money in her purse. She only had about three hundred dollars left after buying his ring. She would have to find a job immediately, and save like crazy to get enough together to have a wedding that Daniel wouldn’t be ashamed of. Maybe she could find a nice dress second hand. She could make the cake, and any other food needed for the reception. Flowers, well, that was going to be a big expense, she had discovered.
"Penny for them," he said softly.
"I’m sorry, what?"
"Penny for your thoughts," he explained.
"I was just thinking about…well, I have to get a job right away…from what I found on the web, weddings can get costly very quickly. I thought I’d look in the paper and see if I could find a dress for sale…and then, I can make the cake and finger food for the reception, but I don’t know what to do about the flowers, they can be so-"
"Casey Renee, I want you to listen to me. Listen closely. I will pay for whatever we need. You will not buy someone else’s dress to marry me in. You will not exhaust yourself trying to do all of that cooking-" he stopped when he noticed the look on her face. Tears stood in her eyes. "Aw, babe, I didn’t mean to make you cry. I just want you to stop worrying about the money. I can handle this, trust me."
"You will not buy someone else’s dress to marry me in…not buy someone else’s dress…marry me in…not someone else’s dress…marry me in…" She closed her eyes. How stupid could she be? Of course he would be embarrassed if she wore a secondhand gown to marry him in! His friends were all highly educated, probably all well off, as he seemed to be.
"Casey? Babe, talk to me here," he said softly.
"I’m sorry," she whispered. "I guess I wasn’t thinking…I…I don’t want to do anything to embarrass you in front of your friends." She turned back to the window, again, her heart breaking. As right as this felt, as good as it felt, how could it work when they were so different, when he was so much…better…than she was?
Now what in the hell was that supposed to mean? "What?"
"I wasn’t thinking when I said I could get a second hand dress…I just…I…it would embarrass you…I’m sorry…" she stammered, trying to talk around the lump that had lodged, permanently it seemed, in her throat. She was shocked when he began to brake the jeep, and pulled it to the shoulder of the road.
He turned to face her, held her hand tightly. "Casey, that is not what I meant. Honey, if you want to wear a flour sack to get married in, then you can. Won’t bother me at all. I just want you to have your own dress, not someone else’s. You could never embarrass me in front of my friends. Now, tell me what else is bothering you." He instinctively knew that the cost of the wedding was only part of the problem plaguing her.
She looked down at her lap. "I don’t know if…this…is going to work," she said softly, her words filled with the pain that was tearing at her heart.
His own heart began to thump against his ribcage. "This? As in…us?" He lifted her chin with one finger, but she refused to meet his gaze.
She nodded, her misery reflected in her green eyes as she stared at the front of his shirt.
"Why not?" he asked hoarsely.
"I’m…I’m…I’m not exactly in your…league," she replied, still not looking at him.
He shook his head. "Casey, what am I going to do with you? Babe, you’re beautiful and sexy and smart and funny and charming and brave and I love you. I don’t give a damn what anybody else says. Or thinks. You are my Destiny. You are the only woman I want by my side for the rest of my life…for eternity. I don’t care where you came from. I only care that you’re with me right here, right now. I want you to have the wedding of your dreams. I want you to go shopping and find the dress that makes you happy. I want you to enjoy the reception. I have no doubt that you could make the cake and everything else. But this is about you, so I want you to enjoy it. Don’t worry about the money. Please? Trust me?"
She pulled her lip between her teeth again. "It’s so hard," she whispered. "I’ve…I’ve never had anybody…nobody really cared…I just…"
Every word sent a new pain into his heart. The more pieces she gave him of her childhood, her life before going to college, worse the picture that they created became. "That’s over, babe, forever. I’m here now, and I’m going to love you and take care of you. I want to do that. That’s what marriage is all about."
Finally the green eyes moved up to meet his blue ones. "Are you sure?"
"More sure than I have ever been in my life."
She looked into his eyes, saw the love, the safety, the refuge; everything she had needed, wanted, been looking for, was there in those blue depths. She nodded.
"C’mere," he said, pulling her over the console that separated the bucket seats. He hugged her, rubbing his hand up and down her back. He kissed her, putting all of his love into the action. "Better now?"
She nodded again.
"Love you," he said gently.
"Oh, god, Daniel, I love you!" She put her hand on his cheek. "I love you so much it hurts."
"Me, too, babe," he replied. He hugged her again, buried his face in the soft, fragrant skin of her neck. "I love you so much it hurts."
A tap on the driver’s window startled them. Daniel rolled the window down to speak to the State Trouper that was standing beside the jeep. "You folks all right?" The trouper asked, looking in at Casey.
"We’re fine officer," Daniel replied.
"Ma’am?" He leaned over to look directly at Casey, took in the fact that she had been crying.
Casey smiled. "I’m fine. Just a case of pre-wedding jitters. I haven’t found my dress yet," she explained.
The man grinned. He had been married for ten years now, but could remember vividly the arguments and ‘melt-downs’ that had occurred before his wedding. He gave Daniel a look of sympathy. "When’s the wedding?"
"September, although we’re still working on the exact date," Daniel replied.
"Well, see there, you have plenty of time to find that dress," the man said.
Casey flashed that smile again. "I suppose it has to be," she said.
"Take my advice, once she agrees to a date, make her stick to it," the trouper said softly to Daniel.
Daniel chuckled. "I intend to."
"Just purchased this vehicle?" The man asked.
"Yes, sir," Daniel responded. "I’d been looking at jeeps in Colorado, where I live and work, and when I flew to Tacoma to bring Case back, we found out her little car wouldn’t make it, so I just went ahead and bought it there."
The man nodded again. "Okay, well, I’ll let you folks get on your way. You take care. And ma’am, try not to let it all get to you. You’ll find that dress."
"Thank you, officer," she said, still smiling.
Daniel rolled up the window, they refastened their seat belts, and he pulled onto the road. For several long seconds neither of them made a sound. Casey squeaked. Daniel chortled. Then they were laughing.
"Want to bet he’s already calling his buddies and telling them he found a crazy woman on the side of the road?" she asked, giggling.
"Probably." He glanced over at her. "You’re really okay?"
She took his hand, lifted it to her lips. "Yep. Really okay. I just have one question."
He braced himself. "Okay. What?"
"How much do you make working for the Air Force?"
He grinned. "A little over a hundred and thirty a year."
He glanced at her. She was looking at him, her eyes wide. "Babe?"
"You make over a hundred and thirty thousand…dollars? A year?"
She grinned. "I’m marrying Daddy Warbucks!"
He laughed. "I don’t know about that. But we’ll be okay."
"I guess so!" she exclaimed. "Wow. Does that include medical?"
"And dental and a retirement plan."
"Wow. Beats twenty-two five all to hell and back."
He glanced over at her. "You were living on less than twenty-five thousand a year?"
She nodded. "Not all of that was in cash, either. Some of that included what little medical I could afford."
He shook his head. No wonder she had been so worried about money! She'd been living hand to mouth for…how long? "So back to the wedding…and your elusive dress…"
She giggled. "I guess in my heart I know what I want. I’ll just have to try and find it."
"Okay. That’s much better," he grinned at her.
"I need to stop."
"You’re the navigator, so navigate already," he replied with a wicked grin.
"Did anybody ever tell you that you’re a smart aleck?" she grinned.
"Well, you are."
They pulled into the first rest stop they found. When she returned to the jeep, she realized that it was locked, and Daniel had the keys. Her set was in her purse. On the floor in the back. She stretched, bent over and touched her toes, then bent over to each side, trying to work the kinks out of her back.
"Holy shit! Take a look at that fine specimen of womanhood," a voice said behind her.
She turned around to see three men, all of whom looked to be in their early twenties, staring at her.
"Please tell me you’re looking for the right man to rock your world, 'cause baby, here I am," the speaker said, grinning at her.
She held up her left hand, waggled her ring finger.
"Uh, I don’t do sign language, baby," the young man said.
"Okay, let me spell it out for you. T-a-k-e-n. Not interested," she replied softly
Daniel walked up behind her. "Everything okay, babe?"
The young men looked at the new arrival. He might have looked like a geek, but there was something in his eyes, something…dangerous…that made them return to their vehicle without another word.
She turned around and sighed, wrapping her arms around his neck. "My hero. Again."
He watched as the young men drove away.
"You’re already tired of it, aren’t you?" she said softly.
"What?" He looked at her. Realized what she was talking about. He pulled her close. "Never. I’ll defend you every day if I have to. No, I was just thinking that I’ve never been with a woman as beautiful as you, and it makes me…" he shrugged. "I’m still awed that a woman like you would even look twice at a man like me."
She shook her head. "Didn’t we have this discussion already? You, Sweetheart, are a handsome hunk of archaeologist. Don’t think I haven’t already had to send out the warning vibes to some women!"
"You really don’t see it, do you?" she said. She reached up and pushed his hair back, adjusted his glasses. "I’ve seen women looking at you, watching you. I know just exactly how lucky I am."
He hugged her. "Not as lucky as I am," he whispered in her ear.
"Wanna bet?" she whispered in return.
"We’d better get going," he said.
"Yeah, too many witnesses around here," she replied, getting into the jeep.
"Too many people would see me ravaging your body if we stay here," she said, smiling at him.
He grinned. "Guess that means they’d see me ravaging you, then, doesn’t it?"
"Yep. No ravaging today," she sighed. "Tonight, however…" she looked over at him and wiggled her eyebrows.
He laughed, and pulled the jeep back onto the road.
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