New story: The Birthday Present, part 2 of 3
- Title: The Birthday Present
Rating: mostly PG... part 3 will most likely be R (or higher)
Summary: Logan makes the mistake of offering Marie ANYTHING she wants for her
birthday... and then gets stuck giving it to her.
(continued directly from part 1)
Who ever made up that saying, "If it can go wrong, it will," must have had
her in mind. Marie sat on Logan's lap, just as close to tears as she could
go without falling over. Today was supposed to have been perfect, and fun,
and wonderful. It was turning out to be miserable.
She wasn't sure where she had gone wrong. Logan had offered her anything she
wanted, and she'd chosen something she thought they could both enjoy. A
race. Nothing fancy, just some down home fun like she used to have when she
was a kid.
Her dad had loved races. She could remember going to dozens of them, way
back before they got so expensive. They'd watch the cars, root for their
favorite drivers, and generally act pretty silly for the whole day. It had
been wonderful. Today had not.
Okay, so she hadn't really thought it out. She'd been remembering what a
great time she'd had as a kid, but she hadn't been thinking in the practical.
Races weren't about ten thousand fans anymore. This race was enormous, the
longest race in the NASCAR circuit, and it seemed like everyone within ten
states had shown up. It had been expensive, and she was still feeling guilty
about the favors the professor had called in to get them a room for the
night. To make matters worse, there was only one available, and while it
didn't bother her to share a room with Logan, she had no clue what he was
thinking about the matter. She didn't want him thinking that she expected
anything, especially when she couldn't do anything.
And Logan was miserable. It wasn't the rain, or the crowd, or even the
lightning that was flashing overhead. Logan didn't know a thing about
racing, and he was completely lost. That, combined with more people than
either of them had seen in the last five years, was making him more than a
little nervous. God, she just wanted to take it all back.
She'd just wanted some time with him. Some time alone, with no emergencies
or well-meaning friends butting in. She'd wanted him to have fun and relax
for a change, with her. She'd wanted them both to have a good time.
Now, she just wanted to go home. She was soggy, cold, and exhausted. The
only thing making the situation even marginally tolerable was the fact that
Logan's arms were tight around her, and he seemed more at peace than he'd
been all day. He'd been trying so hard, and that told her more clearly than
anything else just how miserable he was. Logan never tried. If he had to
make an effort, then he was having a horrible time.
"I'm sorry," she murmured into his ear.
"For what?" he asked, sounding genuinely surprised.
"For dragging you here," she admitted. "For making you drive all night, and
put up with idiots all day. For making you miserable."
Logan's arms tightened almost painfully. "I'm not miserable," he told her.
She snuggled in closer, breathing in the scent of sweat and beer. He was
wearing more than he'd had a chance to drink. Just one more way that the day
had deviated from what she'd planned. So much for loosening him up.
"Next time you can pick the date," she offered hopefully.
He grinned at that. She could feel his smile in the movement of his face,
and she moved away just a bit. She could touch Logan, for short durations,
but she was still careful not to prolong the contact. Beard stubble had
scratched her lips, where she'd been resting her head on his shoulder. She
would have loved nothing more than to leave her face there, to kiss him
gently and feel his jaw move as he spoke. She knew better.
Logan seemed to recognize her dilemma, because he loosened his grip on her
and began rubbing her back lightly. "Any date with you is a good one," he
said softly. "But a few less people would be nice."
"Yeah," she admitted. "I wasn't really thinking about how many people would
be here. So far I've been lucky, and I haven't bumped anyone the wrong way."
"I haven't gutted anyone either," he told her. Despite the intended sarcasm,
she knew that he'd wanted to, and more than once.
"Two hundred laps to go," she told him gently. "If the tickets hadn't cost
so much, I'd leave now."
"We've stuck it out this long," he said, and again she saw the grin. "When
does play resume?"
Marie lifted her head, looking around. The crowd was much smaller than it
had been. She edged out of his arms just long enough to reach for her
headphones, and then her radio. She tuned it in, listened, then turned back
"Another hour or so," she said finally. "They're drying the track now, which
will take another hour or so, then they'll continue the race."
He nodded, then reached up and removed her headphones, tossing them back into
the padded bag that she'd brought with them. "So we have a little time?" he
"Some," she said, her smile going shy. She hated when that happened, when
she felt so young and silly, but with Logan it happened quite a lot.
Logan grinned at her. It was a real ear-to-ear grin, and not just one of
those quirky smiles he was so well known for. It was a rare sight, and all
the more precious for it. "You're blushing," he informed her.
"No shit," she grumbled, returning her face to his shoulder, trying to cool
the heat in her cheeks on his wet T-shirt.
He laughed gently. "Watch your language," he told her, but there was
amusement in his tone.
"This, from you?" she asked
"Do as I say, not as I do," he said.
She shook her head at that, lifted her face and kissed him gently on the
lips. He returned the kiss, very quickly, and then pulled back. A gloved
hand came up and traced her cheek. She saw the regret in his eyes, a
familiar emotion that she felt as well, and she smiled to combat it. "Does
that mean no cigars?"
"Definitely no cigars."
"Too bad. They smell good, like you do."
Logan chuckled again. "Not at the moment," he corrected. "I'm just this
side of sticky, and gritty on top of that. I don't know how much is salt and
how much is tar."
"Comes with the sport," she said softly. "You still smell good. Like home."
Thinking it must be the most stupid, childish thing she could have possibly
said, she hid her face back on his shoulder. She felt his arms come around
her, heard the shaky breath he took, and had to smile. Thank goodness Logan
didn't seem to mind it when she was childish and silly.
The girl had absolutely no clue what she did to him. Logan shifted his body
minutely, trying to ease the pressure on the one part of his anatomy that
responded to Marie despite anything he knew, thought, or wanted.
She was the sweetest combination of innocence and experience that he'd ever
run across. He was constantly amazed that she could blush, even after some
of the things he knew she'd pulled out of his mind. She shouldn't trust him,
shouldn't want to spend time with a man as jaded as he was, and yet she did.
Despite his past, and in spite of all he'd done to discourage her, she still
curled herself trustingly into his arms and sighed in contentment.
What the hell had he done along the way to deserve that?
Gently, he rubbed her back and watched the crowd before him. It had thinned
considerably as soon as the lightning had stopped, and he was grateful. He
had no desire to again go through the obstacle course they'd braved to find
their little cubby hole.
Marie's breathing gradually lengthened and deepened, and he knew that she'd
fallen asleep. In a way, he was grateful. Aside from giving him an
opportunity to watch her unobserved, it was also something she'd desperately
They had left Westchester just before noon on the previous day. Although
he'd told her to sleep, Marie wasn't known for her listening capabilities.
She'd chattered as he drove, too excited to settle down. He'd finally let
her drive around ten, knowing that at least one of them would have to get
some sleep if they were going to make it through the drive and the race
intact. She had driven almost two hours, then had been too tired to
continue. She'd stopped at a rest stop, and they'd both napped until almost
four in the morning.
Logan had felt rested enough to go ahead and drive them the rest of the way.
They'd arrived in Charlotte just before noon, three hours before the stadium
gates would open. He'd checked them into the motel, but they hadn't taken
time for showers. Instead, they'd had a nice lunch at the closest
restaurant, and then drove to the raceway.
It had taken quite a walk to make it from the parking area to the stadium,
but she hadn't seemed to mind. Despite her lack of sleep, she'd been
bubbling with excitement that had almost been contagious. Almost.
While her energy had lagged as the race progressed, a result of being awake
for thirty-six hours with only four of them involving sleep, she was fairly
wasted. He shifted his body, bringing her more comfortably against him, and
let her sleep. She'd said it would be an hour before the race began again,
so he would give her that hour to rest. He might have slept himself, but the
jet engines that were used to dry the track were a constant irritation to his
As it turned out, it was closer to two hours. When the whine of the jet
engines faded, only to be replaced by the cars, he nudged her awake. She was
sleepy and soft, flushed from her nap, and a bit groggy. He stood her
carefully, and kept an arm around her as they made their way to their seats.
The rest of the race went off without an incident. Marie told him that it
was because the drivers were tired, and didn't want to risk another caution
to slow the race down. He wasn't sure what it had been, but he was grateful.
A rookie wound up taking the checkered flag, much to the dismay of many race
fans, but Marie seemed happy enough with the finish. That was what he was
here for, after all.
If the walk from the SUV had been long and crowded, the walk back to the
vehicle was horrible. Drunken fans called to one another, stepped in front
of the slowly moving vehicles in the road, and generally made pests of
One particularly drunk fan nearly found himself at the receiving end of his
claws. The idiot was wandering from one side of the crowded sidewalk to the
other, asking every person in range where he had left his car. This wasn't
bad in and of itself, but when he sidled up to Marie and began grilling her
on the location of her car, Logan took it personally.
With a soft smile, Marie moved from Logan's right side to his left,
effectively placing him between herself and the drunk, and making the man
think twice about following regardless of his inebriation. With a deep
breath, and itching knuckles, Logan let the man wander off to annoy someone
"Slick," he told her with a completely straight face.
"Thanks," was her only reply.
Once back at the SUV, Marie didn't bother to get in. She unlocked the back
and lifted out the large cooler she'd had him load back in Westchester. He
set the smaller cooler in the back seat, lifting it easily over the seat back
as it was now much lighter than it had been filled with beer, her Diet Pepsi,
She grabbed another bag from behind where the large cooler had been stored,
and began to assemble a small grill, complete with a tiny propane tank that
screwed into the bottom. Once lit, she dug in the cooler for two large
steaks while he stood there dumbfounded.
"What?" he finally asked, finding his voice.
"Dinner," she answered with a huge smile. "It'll take an hour or more for
the traffic to be manageable, so we might as well eat something. There's
chips in the big bag, or French bread if you prefer. Beer's in the big
cooler, down at the bottom."
"You plan good," he told her, grabbing a beer from beneath the mostly melted
"We aim to please," she told him with a grin. "Drink what you want. I'll
get us back to the motel if need be."
"I can't get drunk on beer, Darlin'," he told her. "My body cleans it out
faster than I can drink it. Straight whiskey will do it, but that's more
effort than I usually want to put into getting drunk."
She shook her head, turning a steak as she did so. "I'm always learning new
things about you."
"You know more than anyone else does," he admitted. "At least, anyone I know
"I'm glad," she told him, and he knew that she meant it. He didn't mind her
knowing him so well. She'd never use that knowledge against him, and she'd
never hurt him. It purely wasn't in her.
Marie could cook a hell of a steak. He ate all of his, then half of hers.
She just grinned and asked him if he wanted her to make a run to the store
for another. That earned her a tight hug and quick kiss, but he still turned
down the offer.
He helped her clean up the mess, put things away, and get them packed away in
the SUV. As she'd predicted, by the time they finished and were ready to
ride, the road was nearly clear of vehicles. There were still a few
stragglers, such as themselves, but at least the traffic was moving. She was
quiet on the drive to the motel, a good forty minutes despite Xavier's
connections, and he knew that she was doing all she could to stay upright.
He's slept more than she had the night before, and it was nearing three in
the morning. She had to be dead on her feet.
She proved him right when she tripped twice on the steps up to their room.
He was half carrying her, both of them shushing one another's giggling so
that they wouldn't get themselves kicked out, when they made it into the
room. Marie immediately began tugging off her cotton shirt, giving him a
brief glimpse of lacy pink bra as she disappeared into the bathroom.
"I've got the shower first," she called out. "I have half the track on me."
"Me too," he grumbled, not sure if he was more put out by her taking the
first shower or not sticking around to give him a better view. Shaking his
head, he dismissed the thought of Marie in her bra, and began tugging off his
own clothes. Two could play at this game.
When she finally exited the bathroom in a cloud of lemon-scented steam, he
was standing in by the door wearing only a towel. She gulped in one breath,
and then two, her eyes seeming to take over her whole face and her mouth
gaping open. He grinned, slipped past her with only the briefest touch, and
closed the door to the bathroom.
He was still smiling when he left the steamy bathroom ten minutes later,
smelling and feeling a great deal better than he had. He hadn't realized
just how much grit, sweat, and rancid beer had found its way to his clothing
until he had washed the gunk from his body. He glanced at the mirror that
was over the vanity, and actually considered shaving. With a disgusted sigh,
he decided he was too tired after all and moved towards the beds.
Marie had taken the bed nearest the window. It looked like she'd barely
managed to get her tank top and pajama bottoms in place before she'd
collapsed. She hadn't even bothered to pull the covers over her, and her
arms were prickly with goose bumps. He shifted her body a little, and then
lifted her carefully into his arms, tugging the covers down and setting her
on the bed in a swift motion.
She was nestling into the pillow by the time he'd tugged up the blanket,
settling it lightly over her sleeping form. God, she looked so sweet when
Logan rubbed his face, feeling the stubble and thinking once more of a shave,
before pulling the covers back on the bed nearest the bathroom. He eased
into the fresh sheets, obscenely grateful for the things he would never take
for granted, and was asleep before he took his next breath.
(continued in part 3)