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Jake quickly shot up out of bed. He started breathing heavily, and he was sweating profusely in a puddle trapped between the white sheets of his king size bed.
"Two years," Jake thought. "Two years since leaving, and that day still keeps playing in my damn head."
He tightly gripped his thick blankets, slowing his breathing in an attempt to calm himself down. As his hands continued shaking, he felt the soft touch of a woman's hands resting against his knuckles and then rubbing up his arms and on his chest.
"It's OK, baby," a soft, gentle voice assured. "Just keep breathing."
Jake continued to slow his breathing anymore until he was no longer hyperventilating. He took one last deep breath before turning his head towards the direction of the voice. Laying next to him was a brunette woman with curly hair who looked about a few years younger than Jake. She kept her crystal grey eyes on him until he was finally calm.
"Thanks, Cassandra," Jake said.
"Another nightmare?" Cassandra asked.
"Yeah. It's actually not as bad today as usual."
Cassandra trickled her hand from Jake's arm to his chest as he laid back down. She reached around to his left breast, now covered in various tribal, naval, and fiery tattoos all the way up on his left shoulder, and down his left arm. She then lightly brushed her long fingernails to the large scar on his right breast, where he was stabbed in the chest.
After Cassandra played with Jake's rigid scar for a few seconds, he kissed the top of her forehead. She responded by kissing his scar, and then slowly positioning herself on him. She then softly trailed her lips to the bullet scar above his heart, and then down to the scar underneath his left rib cage. She then made her way up to the bullet scar on his right shoulder next to his neck, and then finally to the scar on the side of his face, and finished by kissing him on the lips.
"At least you're getting better," Cassandra said as she kissed Jake's neck and cuddled up against him, her head pressed against his chest.
“What time is it?” Jake asked.
Cassandra turned around to the desk beside the bed and reached for the alarm clock.
“6:04,” Cassandra answered. "I better get up and get ready for class."
As Cassandra was getting out of bed, Jake quickly rolled on top of her, pressing his hips against her groin.
“It’s the last day,” Jake sighed as he proceeded to kiss along Cassandra's neck and slowly rock back and forth, spreading her legs apart. “Can you just call in sick?”
“Mmm," Cassandra moaned, biting her lower lip in response. "As tempting as that that sounds right now, I have to finish strong. Besides, it wouldn't look good for the Honors student to skip the last day."
Jake stared in Cassandra’s eyes for a moment, and then gave a slight chuckle as he rolled off of Cassandra, allowing her to leave the bed. He couldn’t help but peek over his shoulder, mesmerized by her sleek naked body as she grabbed some clothes from her dresser and then made her way to the shower.
“Let’s go out tonight,” Jake said. “We’re pretty much done with college. I think we should celebrate.”
“Oh?” Cassandra answered as she stepped in the shower and closed the curtains. “What do you have in mind?”
Jake pondered for a moment, thinking of a place that Cassandra would like. He knew that although she prefers life in the fast lane, there would often come a time where she prefers to be wined and dined. With that in mind, Jake thought of a beach side restaurant just on the Atlantic Coast.
“How about Il Giardino’s?” Jake suggested. “It is a special occasion, after all. Why not enjoy it at a special place?”
“Come on,” Cassandra responded as she peeked outside of the shower to communicate. “It’s not that special of an occasion.”
“Of course it is, baby. Last time we've been there was our anniversary. Consider it our own little graduation get-together.”
Cassandra stayed silent for a while as she finished showering, then clothed herself with black jeans and boots, and a white tank top.
“Okay,” Cassandra smiled. “Let’s go to Il Giardino's.”
“Excellent,” Jake responded. “The sunset should be around seven-ish tonight...”
“But,” Cassandra interrupted. “You had better not play hooky today like I hear a lot of people are planning to do.”
“Aw, come on, baby.”
“Don’t 'aw, come on, baby' me, Jacob Riley. Your friend Dylan has already said he’s not skipping today. When I find him, and I will, he had better tell me he saw you in Sociology.”
Jake then gave out a smug look. “I can always bribe Dylan with tickets to the Capitals game,” he joked.
“A Capitals game?” Cassandra scoffed. “That’s the best you can do? All I have to do is give him a 36-pack of his favorite beer and pineapple pizza, and I’ll have him wrapped around my little finger.”
“Alright, alright. You win. I’ll go today.”
After Cassandra stepped out of the shower and got dressed, she grabbed her hard leather jacket and motorcycle helmet from the closet, and then left the bedroom. Jake stayed up just long enough to hear her rev up her Kawasaki and drive away. After hearing the sound of that 1000cc engine slowly fade in the distance, he drifted off to sleep once again.
“Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!”
Jake woke up from his slumber, remembering that he had set his alarm clock to 8:00 AM. After shutting off the alarm, he rubbed his eyes, sat up in his bed, and then stretched his arms. After finishing up his wake-up routine, he slid out of bed and cleaned himself up in the showers. Once he was cleaned up and clothed, he proceeded to the dining room, grabbed his books on the table where he left them, and then grabbed a banana from the fruit basket, and then headed for the door. He stopped for a moment to glance at a small desk next to the front door, which had a folded up flag, some pictures of old friends that had perished in combat, and a frame which contained a few medals, two of which were the most special to him. He then left his house and stepped inside his small, white Honda Accord, and drove away from that rented home in Little Creek Cove, and headed to Newport News, Virginia, where he would finish up his last day of school.
After arriving at Christopher Newport University, he parked in a driveway right next to a silver 1965 Ford Mustang Convertible that two guys were riding in. The man who was stepping out of the driver seat of that old muscle car appeared to be in his mid-twenties, wearing hipster clothing and sporting a mustache and goatee. The man stepping out of the passenger side looked to be about the same age, and appeared to be dressed up for a beach party.
“Hey, Dylan,” Jake started as he stepped out of his car. “Hey, Julio.”
“Jake, man,” Dylan responded as he shut the driver side door and greeted Jake. “What are you up to today?”
“Nothing much, really. Last day of classes. Didn’t want to miss it.”
“Didn’t want to miss it, or Cassandra told you to show up?”
Jake just grinned, knowing that Dylan had exposed the truth.
“Yo, Jake,” Julio added. “You coming to the party tonight?”
“What party?” Jake asked, giving a confused look.
“Jake, man.” Dylan was surprised. “The graduation party I’ve been telling you about. The one everyone has been planning since the first semester. You forgot already?”
“Wait… that’s tonight?”
Jake then shook his head in guilt as he remembered all the reminders that Dylan gave him in the past.
“Dude,” Jake apologized. “I forgot that was tonight. I made dinner reservations for me and Cassandra at Il Giardino’s in Virginia Beach.”
“You can cancel it,” Julio pleaded. “It’s the last night. After tonight, we might be parting ways for good.”
“Don’t be dramatic,” Dylan responded. “He doesn’t have to go if he doesn’t want to.”
“But I do, though,” Jake answered. “I’ll talk to Cassandra and I’ll cancel the reservations tonight, but on one condition.”
“Heheh let me guess, don’t get you drunk?”
Julio quickly gave a shocked look. “Wait what?” he interrupted. “He do something interesting last time he got drunk?”
“Oh yeah,” Dylan answered. “Jake and tequila do not mix. Last time he got trashed, he was almost running around Lesner Bridge wearing nothing but a paint bucket and a…”
“Stop right there!” Jake blurted out. “You and me took an oath to never…ever… speak of that night.”
“Aw, but it was awkward and hilarious all at once. I didn’t even know what to think.”
“I’m just going to bring bottled water.”
Dylan agreed not to tempt Jake into getting drunk at the graduation party, and the three of them headed to their sociology class for their end of the year lecture run by an elderly African American male wearing spectacles. After the hour and a half long lecture, the professor wished everyone well before dismissing the class.
“Jacob Riley,” the professor called out. “A word, please?”
“Sure thing, Professor Fleming,” Jake answered as he headed to the center of the classroom.
“I’ll catch up with you tonight,” Dylan told Jake. “Remember, Chic’s Beach at 6:30.”
“See you then, Dylan.”
After the entire class has left, the only remaining people in the room were Jake and Professor Fleming.
“I got back with my colleague,” Professor Fleming began. “Are you still interested in working in D.C.?”
“Absolutely,” Jake answered.
“Well I’ll have you know that he reviewed all of your forms, did a background check on everything, and spoke to all of your references. He messaged me personally and told me that he was very impressed with what he has heard from your references and from what he saw in the documents that were sent to him. You’re in the top of your class in Criminal Justice and Sociology, and you exceeded beyond your expectations in the Navy as well. Now that alone peaked his interest, and then everything else was icing on the cake. He wants to set up an interview with you. Can you meet with him this Monday?”
“Yes sir, I can.”
Jake was excited to hear that he was going to be interviewed to be an N.C.I.S. special agent.
“You have come a long way since your return to the states,” Professor Fleming congratulated. “I wanted to give you the good news personally. You have definitely earned it.”
“I can’t thank you enough, Professor Fleming,” Jake replied. “I really appreciate everything.”
“Any time. You have my number, so feel free to call me any time and keep me updated on all your endeavors. And if it’s not your cup of tea, there’s always an opening here at this campus. We could always use someone with your expertise."
Jake shook his professor’s hand and thanked him once more before leaving that classroom. After returning to his car, he took a deep breath of relief as he glanced at his now empty college campus one last time before stepping into his car and driving away for good. An hour later, he returned to his home to see that Cassandra’s motorcycle was in the driveway. Once he stepped inside his house, he saw Cassandra sitting on the couch in the living room, waiting to greet him with a hug and a kiss. She was wearing a black dress that matched her long, curly hair, and she was wearing her glasses, which brought out the color in her eyes.
“Jake,” Cassandra said as she started putting on her earrings and makeup. “You better hurry up and get changed if you still want to go out to eat tonight.”
“Yeah,” Jake hesitated. “About that…”
“Change of plans?”
“You could say that.”
Cassandra finished putting on her ruby red lipstick, and then stopped. “What for?”
“The graduation party is tonight,” Jake answered. “Dylan reminded me before class today. I forgot all about it.”
“Babe, I could have told you that. I thought you just didn’t want to go. Do you?”
Cassandra then slowly waltzed towards Jake and wrapping her arms around his torso.
“Let’s go to Chic’s Beach,” Cassandra said as she kissed Jake, smearing red lipstick on his cheek.
“You sure, baby?” Jake asked. “I don’t want to make it seem like we’re ditching dinner.”
“Well, we kinda are, but I wanted to go to the party, too. I didn’t want to feel bad and tell you that I didn’t want to go out to dinner.”
“I guess we’re going to Chic’s Beach then.”
As Cassandra kissed Jake on the lips, she started to walk away to get changed, but was stopped by Jake’s arms wrapping around her front side and him kissing the back of her neck.
“Guess what else, baby?” Jake asked as he continued kissing Cassandra’s goosebumps that started forming on her.
“What else,” Cassandra whispered as she gave a slight chuckle.
“I got the interview.”
Cassandra’s look of passion suddenly changed to a look of shock and excitement as she quickly turned around to face Jake.
“Yes, I did,” Jake answered. “Monday, in D.C.”
“Oh, my God,” Cassandra gasped as she hugged Jake tightly. “That is amazing! I’m so proud of you.”
“Thank you baby. Now we can finally look for a house over there.”
“Yes we can.”
With haste and excitement, both Cassandra and Jake got cleaned up and changed once again as they prepared to head to Chic’s Beach for the graduation party.