(Again, a huge thank you to panthology and her mad skillz for this graphic!)
Features: Undertaker (Mark Calaway)
Rating: NC17 for language and sexual situations
Usual disclaimer - own nothing but my original characters, all the other people own themselves, WWE owns the trademark names, I'm doing this to exercise my creativity and for the sheer pleasure of writing. Ask my therapist!
For those who wondered, no, it hasn't been abandoned. I've been writing away steadily (to the tune of at least one notebook filled, thanks!) on this, and also my other stories. I've just not been posting.
Still seeing how posting this goes.
Thanks for reading and remember - feedback is always appreciated. I'm writing for the love of it, but it's always nice to hear the opinions of others.
And since it has been such a long time between updates, and to save you trolling back through the archives (although I have helpfully tagged all the chapters!), you'll find links to all the earlier chapters here.
Mark spent the afternoon at the gym, and was just getting out of the shower at the hotel when his cellphone rang. Picking it up, he answered, "Hello?"
"Hey Mark, it's me," said Harley.
"Hey Kate. You done with work already?" He glanced at the clock set into the bedside table.
"Yep. We're ahead of the game, even."
"That because you're a slave driver, sweetheart? Been cracking that whip?" he chuckled.
"Bet your ass!" she grinned, her amusement showing in her tone. "Anyway, I'm just back at the hotel, gonna jump in the shower. Come on up to my suite when you're ready."
"It's why I gave you a key, Mark," she said matter of factly. "So let yourself in and make yourself at home if I'm still in the shower."
"Okay sweetheart. I'll see you in a bit then."
Mark knocked on the door of Harley's suite before using his key to open it, calling out as he entered, "It's just me, Kate."
As he closed the door behind him, her voice came from one of the bedrooms. "Hi, me! Make yourself comfortable, I'm almost dressed."
Sitting down on the sofa, he called back, "Take your time, sweetheart."
Once again, Harley proved she wasn't a woman who felt the need to spend hours fussing with her appearance, as she walked into the living area of the suite a few minutes later. She was simply dressed - a white tuxedo front shirt with a pleated dickie and a tiny ruffle down either side of the button placket. It was belted over a pair of dress jeans, and she wore a pair of Western style boots. Her hair was caught at the back of her head with a barrette and fell loosely around her shoulders.
Mark rose to his feet with a smile. "You look real nice, Kate."
She returned his smile, taking in the striped shirt he wore with his own jeans and loafers. "Thank you, Mark - so do you."
Reaching for his hand, she drew him back to the sofa and they sat down together. He turned so he was facing her, resting his arm along the back of the sofa behind her.
"So, ahead of the game, huh?" he asked.
She nodded. "The main crew and equipment arrived yesterday, and we've already got the ring set up in the arena." That in itself was something of a luxury - usually they had barely a day's grace before a show to set up. For a Pay Per View, sometimes it was two, but the inclusion of the inferno match, and the extra work that involved, both in the lead up and at the actual show, had prompted Bob to insist on more time.
He nodded himself. "Glenn and I have been working on some stuff for the match. Be good to be able to rehearse that with the ring set up."
Harley's eyes met his. "We figured a live flame rehearsal tomorrow afternoon - give us plenty of time to tweak things if it's needed."
He could see the concern in her expression and was again touched by it. "Been a long time since anyone's worried about me, Kate."
She brushed away his comment. "Please, Mark - the company's always worried about you. You're a pretty big deal around here."
Wasn't too long ago he'd thrown those words at her in anger, he thought. And he was wise enough to know the deflection was just another intimacy issue. He wasn't going to push her on it - much.
He wrapped his arm around her in a hug. "Maybe. But it feels a whole lot less impersonal when you're doin' it, sweetheart."
She couldn't help her smile as she leaned against him. "Can't help that, Mark - you're my friend. So's Glenn. I want to make sure you're both gonna be safe when I've got that inferno rig doin' tricks that'll make folks heads spin."
There was no mistaking the excitement in her voice - the tone that said she was getting into the spectacle of the thing. He grinned, kissing the top of her head. "We'll make it a showstopper, hey sweetheart?"
She sat up, looking into his face, even as she raised a finger at him in warning. "A safe showstopper."
He laughed, leaning in to kiss her. "Yes, Kate - a safe showstopper!"
Harley sighed with pleasure as their lips met, her eyes half closed, and Mark gently pulled her close, kissing her more deeply. To his delight, her arms went up around his neck almost the moment their lips met, and her lithe body pressed against his. His arms tightened around her as he lost himself in the kiss for a long moment.
When finally their lips parted, his voice was low and husky as he nuzzled his cheek to hers. "Missed these kisses, Kate."
Her fingers stroked lightly over the back of his neck, under the neat ponytail of his hair, and she smiled at him. "Plenty more where that came from."
He chuckled. "That is a dangerous thing to tell me, sweetheart. Not if you want dinner any time soon!"
She glanced at her watch with a grin. "Oh, we got a little time up our sleeves, if you've a mind?"
Smiling, he pulled her to him. "Not going to say no to being close to you, Kate."
Wrapping her arm around him, she nuzzled her face to his chest. Her voice was very quiet. "Missed this, Mark."
That admission, and the way she was snuggled into him, surely was a step in the right direction, he thought as he rested his cheek on the top of her head.
That closeness continued as they went downstairs a little while later, arms around one another. Which was perfectly fine by him.
Harley pointed the remote towards the Hummer, and he couldn't help his laugh at the look on her face.
She chuckled self-deprecatingly. "I know, I know - it's a flashy damned thing, but I can't help it! I love it!"
"Got one at home too, Kate?" he asked, pressing a kiss to her hair before heading towards the passenger door.
She climbed into the driver's seat. "Nah. Hardly seems worth it, when it'd spend most of its time in airport parking. I got a Ford."
He nodded. "Better make the most of this one then."
She grinned at him as she started the engine. "Oh, you better believe it!"
The restaurant Mark suggested for dinner was one of Harley's favorites, and they enjoyed a pleasant meal largely unbothered, thanks to a secluded booth.
They spent the time catching up with one another. Their early morning conversations had been brief ones, and they both found they'd missed their casual opportunities to touch base throughout the day.
It wasn't that either of them lacked friends with the company to talk with, but as two people who were developing a relationship deeper than as friends, they were naturally drawn to want to spend time together, no matter how casually.
So they talked of simple things, the mere fact of being together far more important than the actual topics of conversation.
On returning to the hotel, Mark made a quick stop in his room before heading to Harley's suite. Changing his shirt for a t-shirt, and brushing his teeth with a grin to himself at the tingle of anticipation he felt at spending the night with her, it wasn't long before he was letting himself into the suite, tapping on the door before he did so.
It seemed Harley had been thinking along the same lines he had, because she too had changed into a t-shirt, and had kicked off her boots. She gave him a smile before gesturing towards the mini-bar.
"Hey chief - fancy a nightcap?"
He couldn't help his chuckle. "You still can't stay away from mini-bars, huh?"
She shot him a grin. "A gentleman wouldn't bring up my . . . past indiscretions!"
He crossed to her in a few long strides, pulling her into his arms. "Sweetheart, your indiscretions were the wake up call I needed to realize what I was feeling for you. Not ever going to complain about that."
Those arms, she thought a bit incoherently - she'd happily spend the foreseeable future in them. A thought that didn't cause any panic or drawing away, for a wonder. It seemed absence could not only make the heart grow fonder, but also settle, at least temporarily, intimacy issues.
Mark let her go long enough to find glasses and ice, and a few minutes later they were sitting on the sofa together. Harley divided the contents of an undersized bottle of bourbon between the glasses, and he took his with a smile.
"How'd you know?" He gestured to the bourbon bottle.
She chuckled. "More of those past indiscretions, I'm afraid. Remembered tasting it on your lips that night in Austin."
Now that was a surprise and a half. He damn sure remembered everything about that night, and that kiss, but knowing she did too was . . . well, it was kind of a turn on, actually.
He wrapped his arm around her shoulders, pulling her close. "Again, not about to complain, sweetheart."
"Good," she sighed, cuddling into his side.
He echoed her sigh. He could get used to this all too easily - being with her at the end of the day, unwinding before going to bed together. Even without sex, that was a damned appealing prospect.
Unfortunately, although his brain was well aware that sex was still out of the question, other parts of his anatomy had failed to get that memo. His hand stroked up and down her arm gently, caressing her almost of its own volition. And her hand, resting lightly on his thigh, had definitely caught the attention of his dick.
As a result, his body was sending a pretty urgent memo of its own. One he decided to ignore. Wasn't like he was going to die without sex, after all. Thousands of horny teenage boys were wrong about that.
They sat together in comfortable silence, the muted clink of ice cubes the only sounds as they sipped their drinks.
It was Harley who broke the silence. "Will you stay the night, Mark?"
Mark gave her a one-armed hug. " 'Course I will, Kate."
She snuggled in closer to him with a nod. "Good."
And just like that, his mood took another upward shift. Not that it needed one - he felt remarkably content. But knowing she wanted him here with her was proof that she really was overcoming some of those intimacy issues.
He wasn't so lost in his musing, though, that he missed Harley's muffled yawn a moment later. He pressed a kiss to her hair gently. "I think I should get you to bed, sweetheart. You've had a busy week."
She made a soft sound of assent. "And it ain't over yet." She yawned again. "Sorry to be a party pooper."
Her accent was more pronounced when she was tired, he thought, smiling warmly at her. "You're barely three weeks out of the hospital, sweetheart, and you've been working almost non-stop the last couple of those. Extra work that I've caused you with this inferno match. I'm the one should be apologizing." He took her glass from her and set it down with his on the coffee table in front of them. "And all the more reason for you to be in bed."
"Hey!" she protested.
He chuckled. "I know, I'm a bully. But I feel the urge to take care of you right now."
She blinked at him in surprise.
Leaning in to kiss her lightly, he murmured, "Now you know how I feel when you worry about me. Not that I don't think you can take care of yourself, but it's nice to think that someone else wants to help, isn't it?"
She could only nod.
"Nothing wrong with letting someone take part of the load, Kate. Not when you could use it." He rose to his feet and held out his hands to her.
She stared at them for a long moment, and then placed her own into them with a smile. He pulled gently on them, drawing her to her feet.
"Bed?' he asked.
She nodded, leading him into the master bedroom of the suite. There, they stood looking at one another for a long moment before Harley rose up on tiptoes and kissed him lightly. "I'm going to change, Mark," she said matter-of-factly. "I won't be a minute."
He nodded, stroking a hand over her hair.
She moved away then, collecting some clothes from her case before going into the bathroom.
While she was gone, he turned down the sheets on the bed and sat down to take off his shoes. And considered his clothing. He should have grabbed a pair of shorts and a t-shirt to sleep in, but he hadn't wanted to presume that she'd extend the invitation to stay, much as he'd hoped she would.
While he could comfortably sleep in just his shorts, prudence dictated that a t-shirt was needed. He wasn't sure being bare-chested in bed with Harley was a good idea. At least, not while they were under a hands-off policy.
There was nothing for it, he decided. The t-shirt stayed - if it meant a quick stop in his room in the morning to change it before breakfast, so be it. That settled, he took off his jeans, leaving them on the chair in the corner of the room.
Harley re-appeared, wearing a pair of sleep shorts and a t-shirt of her own. Mark ignored the leap of excitement he felt, and patted her shoulder gently as he took his own turn in the bathroom.
As he came back into the bedroom, their eyes met, and Harley couldn't help her chuckle as they stood facing one another, the bed between them.
"Wow - awkward much?"
He grinned and nodded. "Yeah, a bit! Think you can keep your hands to yourself if we get in there together?" He gestured to the bed.
Covering a yawn with one hand, she nodded. "Bigger challenge will be whether I can stay awake long enough to get a goodnight kiss," she said, climbing into the bed.
As he did likewise, shaking his head, he said, "Dunno what it is with you, Kate. You got this total obsession with goodnight kisses."
She lay facing him, pouting. "Does this mean no goodnight kiss?"
He chuckled. "Keep your pants on, woman! I'm getting there!"
Giggling, she poked her tongue out at him. "Slower than molasses in January, I swear!"
He reached out and pulled her into his arms. She came willingly, wrapping her arms around his neck with a contented sound.
A sigh of pleasure escaped him as he nuzzled his cheek to hers. "Now, there was something about a goodnight kiss?"
"Yes please, Mark," she whispered.
"Never gonna be able to resist when you ask me like that, Kate," he murmured huskily, bending his head to capture her lips with his in a long, slow kiss.
As their lips parted, Harley made a helpless sound, almost melting against him. He held her close, hands stroking gently over her back, a little stunned himself at the intensity of it.
It was long moments before she broke the silence. "Found something better than goodnight kisses . . . "
He nuzzled his cheek to the top of her head. "What's that, sweetheart?"
"Bourbon flavored goodnight kisses," she said, snuggling closer to him.
It was getting easier for him to spot the deflection. Truth be told, this time he could understand it. That kiss went a long way past goodnight, or even simple desire. If he'd been surprised at how much he'd missed her, being apart from her, he was amazed by how it felt being with her again.
He wasn't quite ready to deal with that himself, so he kept his tone light."Is that so?"
She nodded. "Mmm, hmmm."
"Want another one, sweetheart?" He was back to wanting to kiss her for hours.
"That could be dangerous," she admitted, looking into his eyes.
He brought one hand up, brushing his thumb lightly over her cheek. "Wouldn't be right anyway, keeping you up when you're tired."
She nuzzled her face to his touch as she nodded.
He kissed her forehead gently. "Goodnight, Kate."
Patting his chest as she drew back from him a little, she smiled. "Goodnight, Mark."
He reached out to turn out the light by the bed as she nestled into her pillow, smiling himself as he closed his eyes. This? Was pretty damned fine.
The beeping of the alarm on her watch woke Harley the next morning. She didn't even need to open her eyes to know where she was - the warmth of Mark's chest against her cheek told her she'd ended up snuggled into him. Again.
And from the way his arm was wrapped around her, holding her close, he didn't seem to mind.
She was perfectly content to lie there with him. Lovely as it had been to wake up to his phone calls, this was way better.
A few moments later, his voice, still scratchy with sleep, rumbled against her ear. "Morning', sweetheart."
"Good morning," she spoke quietly. Trying to ignore how the sound of his voice made her heart beat a little faster.
He didn't say anything more, but his hand stroked gently over her back, making her sigh with pleasure.
Only half awake, he shifted his hand to pull her closer to him. When his fingers encountered the warm flesh of her back where her t-shirt had ridden up, she gave a little wriggle against him, her own arm wrapping over his chest.
That woke him the rest of the way up, definitely. All of him. As she was about to find out, if she shifted the leg draped over his thigh any higher.
He ignored his growing tumescence, just as he had the previous evening. He couldn't, and wouldn't, deny his desire for her, but sex wasn't everything. Just being with her was enough for now.
As she woke up more herself, Harley became aware of Mark's erection, which was no doubt due to how she was plastered against him. She shifted a little away from him, but his response surprised her.
His arm tightened around her, pulling her back into him. "Where do you think you're going, woman?" he growled.
In truth, she didn't want to go anywhere, as evidenced by her immediate willingness to snuggle back into him, despite her words. "Didn't want to start anything."
"You ain't startin' anything, sweetheart," he drawled lazily, his hand going back to caressing the bared skin of her lower back.
"You sure?" she asked, lifting her head and glancing down to where his erection was causing a noticeable bump under the covers.
He chuckled, leaning up to kiss her cheek, then gently guiding her head back down to his chest. "You just ignore that - damned thing's got a mind of its own sometimes. All I want's a chance to enjoy waking up with you, sweetheart."
She smiled, nuzzling her cheek to his chest. "Kinda liking that part myself, Mark."
His hand was warm against her back. Once again, she thought how gentle he was for such a big man. Her eyes slipped closed, hugging him with one arm.
Mark was supremely content. It was a pleasant change to have the luxury of lingering in bed in the morning on the road. Today was going to be busy, but that was later. For now, it was just the two of them.
They talked lazily, going over their day's plans. When talk turned to breakfast, he patted Harley's back gently. "You'll have to give me a few minutes to go back to my room and change my shirt, sweetheart."
She nodded, lifting her head to smile at him. "Can I get a kiss before you go, Mark?"
Chuckling, he pulled her up to him gently. "You and kisses, Kate!"
She batted her eyelashes at him with a coy smile. "Does that mean no?"
His answer was to wrap both arms around her as his lips sought hers. There wasn't any way he was going to pass up the opportunity to kiss her.
Trouble was, once he started kissing her, it was all too easy to lose track of time. By the time his lips parted from hers long enough for him to think clearly again, he was startled to find he'd pulled her on top of him.
Her hip now pressed against his erection, but it appeared she was taking his advice and ignoring it. She pushed his hair back gently from his forehead, smiling.
"Now you can go," she said.
He chuckled. "Oh, you got what you want and now I'm dismissed?"
Grinning, she shifted off him and propped herself on one elbow beside him. "You got ten minutes . If you ain't back by then, I'm coming looking for you!"
Laughing, he reached for that ticklish spot on her ribs. "This how you Southern girls always treat your man, sweetheart? Wanting him at your beck and call?"
Giggling helplessly, she tried to squirm away from those tickling fingers. "Who said you were my man?"
He stopped tickling her, pulling her close instead. "Well, you're my woman, aren't you?"
His eyes met hers. He knew he was pushing her. He hadn't intended to say anything like that, but he remembered the kiss they'd shared the night before, how it had shaken him.
She looked at him steadily, then nodded, whispering, "Yes, I am."
He caught her lips with his, holding her close as he kissed her, murmuring, "Then that makes me your man. Seeing as how there's got to be equal ownership." He winked at her. "Mule."
She laughed, as he hoped she would. That conversation in Huntsville State Park seemed an eternity in the past, but she remembered it. "Bully," she retorted, eyes twinkling.
He nodded, kissing her lightly again. "Yep. But I'm a bully who needs a clean shirt before he takes his woman to breakfast."
"Meet you at the restaurant then?" she asked.
He nodded again. "I'll grab my gear while I'm in my room, then we can go straight to the arena."
She smiled. "Sounding like a plan, Mark," she agreed.
She sat up in the bed while he pulled on his jeans and shoes, and then walked him to the door of the suite. They parted with a kiss and Harley went to dress, her expression thoughtful.
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