Frank and Marka discover that both were raised Catholic. For fun, they ask one another what their Confirmation names were. Marka also reveals that she and her real mother don’t get along, but that her step-mother is a wonderful, loving lady.
“Ouch! Guess we know where Mom stands.”
“Five years to be able to say that without feeling guilty.”
“Can’t pick our parents. If we could, I’d have picked Jimmy Simmons’ dad. He was the cool dad in the neighborhood. Mine was the hardass. Military, spit and polish, follow the rules, keep your hair cut and your nose clean. Now, I appreciate it. At the time, I was the only kid in the fifth grade with a crew cut.”
“Oh, that hurts.”
“Yeah, and I was almost six feet tall by the time I was eleven.”
“So, when did you reach this level of divine buffness?” She gestured with her fork.
“Filled out some in high school. U.S. Army is responsible for the rest.” He took a sip of his juice, eyes twinkling over the rim. “Thank you for noticing.”
She nearly spewed her mouthful of food. “As if I couldn’t! God, do you have any clothing that doesn’t fit like it was made for you? Even in jeans and a T-shirt, you look incredible.” She put her elbows on the table, propping her forehead on her palms. “I’m sorry. I’d blame it on alcohol, if only I could.”
“Even in baggy jammie pants and a shirt three sizes to big, you look pretty amazing yourself. You’re a very beautiful woman, Marka.”
“Thank you for noticing,” she whispered, her face buried in her hands.
Getting up suddenly, she bumped the table with her hip, nearly upsetting her drink. She ran to the kitchen, snatching at the paper towels. She clutched them to her face, crying bitterly.
Concerned, Frank followed, enfolding her in his arms. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“It’s not that. No guy in the entire history of my miserable, crown princess of disastrous love life, has ever complimented me like that. I mean, I got compliments if I worked for hours on my hair and makeup. . . . And here I am in the worst outfit imaginable and you tell me I’m pretty.”
“No, I told you you’re beautiful.” He wiped her tears with his thumbs. “What kind of assholes have you dated, Marka?”
She gasped, laughing and crying simultaneously. “Oh, you wouldn’t believe! One loser after another, each one worse than the next. I could be in a room with nine great guys and one loser and pick the loser every time.”
“Well, this time, you picked one of the nice ones.”
Frank couldn’t control himself another minute. The urge to kiss her was undeniable. Marka was soft and vulnerable, drenched in tears, beautiful and she smelled incredible. It seemed the most natural thing in the world.
Marka trembled as his mouth touched hers. Sighing, she leaned into him, opening her mouth a little. Experimentally, he licked her lower lip. When her lips parted, his tongue flickered in quickly, tasting her. Growing bolder, he dove in deeper, holding her close.
Marka shivered as he devoured her. He wanted to possess her and she wanted to let him. He was everything she wanted in a man and so much more.
Frank’s desire grew by the moment. He knew he shouldn’t take advantage, but there was something about a woman weeping in his arms that crushed his defenses to dust. He wanted to touch her everywhere, but contented himself with taking her face gently in his hands.
Marka pulled him by his belt loops. She rubbed against the front of his jeans, liking the response she got. Smiling to herself, she pulled him closer, moving her head so he’d kiss her neck and nibble her ears.
They kissed a long time, standing in the corner of her tiny kitchen. Frank was so preoccupied, he didn’t hear the phone ringing. Marka pulled away to answer. His mouth followed hers, desperately wanting her back.
“Hello? Yes, he’s here. One second.” She put her hand over the receiver. “It’s Charlie,” she whispered.
Frank frowned as his brain went from sex mode to professional mode. “Shit,” he muttered. He gave her one last kiss, brushing his lips across hers, before taking the phone from her.
“Yeah, Charlie?” He was still somewhat distracted.
“It’s Penwarren. He’s gone.”
That got his full attention. “He got out? How?”
“No one knows. He’s disappeared.”
“Goddammit. That man is the bane of my life! Okay. Get every spare man you can enlist and meet me in the foyer in ten minutes. Has he shown up at Mabel’s?”
“Nope. Hasn’t gone to the nursing home either.”
“How long ago?”
“Ten, fifteen minutes, tops.”
“Okay. I’ll be there in a few.” Frank hung up, groaning. Touching Marka’s cheek, his tongue flickered across her mouth. “We need to talk about this,” he said, not wanting to leave.
“You know where to find me.”
“Yeah…,” he sighed.
“Get going, boss man. Take care of the bad, fat man.”
Frank laughed, nodding. “I’ll be back,” he said in a purposely bad imitation of Arnold. “This is me—leaving.”