Authors: LaVyrle Spencer
Those arms had been denied for so long. Now at last they curled around the dark hair at the back of his neck while she arched up and opened the lips she had wet at his command, for David.
Jesse's mouth twisted hungrily across hers, then suddenly jerked away as he knocked the block of wood from beneath the rocker with a thrust of his knee. The chair came reeling forward and he was there to meet her as she came with it. Their mouths met almost desperately and he pulled Abbie from the chair onto her knees before him. He wrapped a powerful arm about her waist, forcing her against his hard, bulging loins, which moved in slow, sensuous circles against her satin wedding dress. His hands moved down to hold her tightly against him while their tongues spoke messages of want into each other's mouths and their lips spoke like messages against flesh that arched and pressed until both ached sweetly.
Tearing his lips from hers, he uttered against her temple, "You can't marry him, Ab. Say you can't." But before she could make a sound his impatient mouth sought hers once more, delving into its warmth and wetness with his seeking tongue. "Say it," he demanded in a voice gruff with passion as he lowered his lips to her jaw, then down, down to the open neck of her wedding dress. But she was adrift in splendor, could think of nothing but the pleasured sound which his touch brought from her throat. She leaned her face into his hair, kissing the top of his head while her hands caressed his face. His mouth moved beneath her palms, opening wide as he tasted her skin and buttons sprayed like sundrops around them, glancing off his face as he lowered it to the newly cloven garment where her breasts waited for his lips.
She recaptured enough sanity to murmur, "Jess… my wedding dress…"
Into her breasts he answered, "I'll buy you a new one." Then his head came up and his palms slid within the torn garment, touching a taut nipple, flattening it, then stroking it to an erect, pink peak.
"But it's my mother's," she said senselessly.
"Good," he grunted, running both of his palms upward past her breasts, onto her shoulders, then peeling the garment away with an outward thrust of wrists. He forced it down in back until it lay tight just above her elbows, imprisoning them within the long, lace sleeves but freeing her breasts to his hands, his tongue, his teeth, while her throat arched backward in abandon. He tugged at a nipple, groaned deep in his throat, then released it to rub the soft hair of his moustache back and forth across it as he admitted,
"God, Abbie, I couldn't get you out of my mind."
"Please, Jess, we've got to stop."
But he didn't, only moved to her other breast.
"Did you think about me too?" he asked in a choked voice.
She tried halfheartedly to pull his head away from her breasts, but he continued kissing and suckling while her arms remained pinioned by the garment, useless.
"I tried not to. Oh, Jess, I tried."
"I did too…"
"I love it when you call me Jess that way. What do you call him when he does this to you?" He knelt up straight again and held the back of her head in his two wide hands, searching her eyes before pulling her to him to kiss her with an almost savage anguish. Breaking away, he touched her very deliberately in her most sensitive spots—breast, belly, down her ivory skirts that remained between his hand and the warm, weeping female flesh within. "Can David make you quiver like this, want like this? Can he make your breasts get hard and your body go dewy like I can?"
And he knew from the tortured look upon her face what the answer was before she touched his face and kissed his chin, moving close.
"No… not like you, Jess, never like you…" And she knew if she lived with David a thousand years the answer would remain the same.
The bell tinkled and David looked up to find Bones Binley shambling toward him between the red benches. Now that the cold weather was here, Bones had taken to loitering in the store, which was far more comfortable than Mitch's veranda, and where the coffee was hot. Then, too, it gave him a chance to eye Mizz Abigail now and again.
She wasn't here today… but Bones knew that before he came in.
"Howdy, Bones," David greeted the gangly stalk, experiencing the peculiar momentary twinge of ego he always felt in Bones's presence ever since he'd heard Bones had eyes for his woman. As Abbie's "chosen one," David often patronized Bones just the smallest bit. As the "non-chosen," Bones sensed this and bridled inwardly. He couldn't figure out what Mizz Abigail saw in Melcher anyway.
"What say, David?" Bones returned.
"Thanks for taking Abigail's packages up from the depot yesterday. She was really happy to see them.
She'd been waiting for the headpiece for days and was worried it might not get here in time."
Bones nodded at the floor. "Yup."
"She said to thank you again when I saw you."
"She's up at the hotel having her picture taken."
David laughed. "I don't know why I bother telling you anything. There's not a thing happens in this town you don't know about before it does."
Bones again laughed at the floor—a soundless shake of shoulders.
"Yup, that's a fact. Now y' take like yesterday, with that blizzard brewin', I musta been the only one out when the two-twenty come in and that DuFrayne feller gits off carryin' all that pitcher-takin' gear and checks in up at Edwin's." Bones found his twist of tobacco and bit off a good-size chew.
David went white as the new snow.
"D… D… DuFrayne?"
"Y… you… in… must be mistaken, Bones. That wasn't D… DuFrayne, it was D… Damon Smith with the picture-taking gear."
"Him? He the blond one? Short? About so-high? Naw, he din't come in till the nine-fifty this morning.
No, that other one, he come in on the late train yesterday and checks in at Edwin's just like I said. Far as I know he's still right there." Bones lifted the lid off the pot-bellied stove, took deadly aim, and let fly with a brown streak of tobacco juice that sizzled into the lull that had suddenly fallen. Then he wiped the side of his mouth with the edge of his hand, keeping the corner of his eye on David.
"I… I see it's time for me to go in… meet Abigail, Bones. It… told her I w… would, after she was d…
done with the ph… photograph. If you'll excuse me…"
"Sure thing, sure thing," returned the pleased Bones as David hurried to the back room for his coat.
Three and a half minutes later, David entered the hotel lobby.
"Well, David, my man, how's business?"
"All's… set to go, right af… after the w… wedding."
Edwin chuckled amiably, noting David's nervousness. He gave David a conspiratorial grin. "Last twenty-four hours before a wedding are the toughest, eh, David?"
"Don't you worry now, with that store and that wife, you're gonna be as happy as a hog in slop."
Normally David would have laughed heartily with Edwin, but he only asked now, with a worried look upon his face, "Is she here, Ed?"
"Sure is." Ed thumbed toward the ceiling. "Been up there an hour already. Should have a dandy photograph by this time."
"I… I n… need to talk to her a in… minute."
"Sure thing, go right on up. Smith's in number eight, end o' the hall on your left."
"Thanks, Ed. I'll find it."
Upstairs the sunlight streamed through sheer lace on the long, narrow window at the end of the hall as David strode silently upon the long runner strewn with faded moss roses. His toe had begun to hurt, and his heart felt swollen, as if it were choking him. An hour? She had been here an hour? Did it take an hour to have a photograph made? But it
Damon Smith she was with, It was! Yes, it surely must take at least an hour for the posing and the developing, which was done on the spot.
As he approached number eight, he saw that the door was closed but not latched.
A murmur of voices came from inside—a man's, husky and low, a woman's, strained and throaty. David felt suddenly weak and placed his palm against the wall for support. The voices were muffled, and David strained to hear.
Oh, God, that was Abigail's voice. David's eyes slid closed. He willed his feet to move, to take him away, but it felt as if those moss roses had suddenly sent up tendrils to hold his ankles to the carpet.
Tortured, he listened to the husky words that followed.
"I love it when you call me Jess that way. What do you call him when he does this to you?"
David's mind filled with terrible moving pictures as a long, long silence followed and sweat broke out on his brow. Move! he told himself. Get out! But before he could, DuFrayne's voice, fierce, passionate, asked, "Can David make you quiver like this, want like this? Can he make your breasts get hard and your body go dewy like I can?"
And Abigail's shaken reply, "No… not like you, Jess, never like you…"
David hesitated a moment longer, nausea and fear plummeting through him while from within the room came the sounds of lovers who forget themselves, and the temptation became too great.
Stepping to the door, he pushed it open, then gulped down the gorge that threatened to erupt from his throat.
Abigail knelt on the floor, eyes closed, head slung back as hair tumbled in wanton disarray down her bared back. The bodice of her wedding gown was lowered, pinning her elbows to her sides, baring her breasts to Jesse DuFrayne, who knelt on one knee before her, his mouth upon her skin. Abigail's bridal veil was crushed beneath their knees, its headpiece lay in a misshapen gnarl under the rocking chair behind her. Pearl buttons lay ascatter amid hairpins, a comb, the satin shoes he'd given Abigail as a wedding gift. Sickened yet unable to tear his eyes away, David watched as the woman he was supposed to marry tomorrow reached blindly to cup the jaw of the dark man before her, guiding his mouth from one breast to the other as a soft moan escaped her lips.
The shamed blood came surging to David's face as he bleated out a single word. "Abigail!"
She jerked back. "David! Oh, my God!"
"Well, you certainly had me fooled!"
The blood drained from her face, but as quickly as she pulled back, Jesse instinctively pulled her against his chest, shielding her bare breasts from intruding eyes, cupping the back of her head protectively, even his raised knee tightening against her hip as he settled her safely against the lee of his loins.
"You'd better watch what you say, Melcher, because this time it will be me who answers, not her," Jesse warned, his voice resounding mightily against Abigail's ear which lay against his chest.
"You… you scum!" David hissed. "I was right all along. You're two of a kind!"
"It seems we are, which makes me wonder why in the living hell she'd want to marry you."
"She won't be! You can have her!"
"Sold!" barked Jesse, piercing Melcher with an ominous glare while he reached blindly to pull the shoulders of Abigail's dress back up.
"An apt word, I'd say, considering the money she's already taken from you, you son of a bitch!"
Abigail felt Jesse's muscles tense as he put her away from him and made as if to rise.
"Stop it! Stop it, both of you!" Abbie cried, clutching her dress front and struggling to her feet, followed by Jesse, who kept a shoulder between her and the door. The torn garment, their compromising pose, and what David had overheard made denial impossible. She felt as if she were freefalling through endless space into the horrifying noplace of
. She lurched around to move toward David, but he backed away in distaste.
"David, I'm sorry… I'm sorry, David, please forgive me. I didn't intend for this to happen." She reached a supplicating hand toward him even as the other continued to hold her bodice together. But apologies and excuses were so pitifully inadequate they only added to her shame.
"You lying harlot," he ground out venomously, all signs of stammering somehow surprisingly gone from his voice. "Did you think I wouldn't find out? Just one more time before you married me, is that it? Just one more time with this son of a bitch you'd rather have than me? Well, fine—keep him!"
Today was the first time she'd ever heard David swear. She reached to clutch his sleeve, horrified at what he'd witnessed, at herself for having fallen so low.
But he jerked free, as if her touch were poison.
"Don't touch me. Don't you ever touch me again," he said in cold, hard hate. Then he tugged his coat squarely onto his shoulders, turned on his good foot, and limped away without a backward glance.
Standing there staring at the empty doorway the enormity of her offense washed over her. Tears formed in her eyes and her hands came to cover her open mouth, from which no sound issued for a long time.
She felt sickened by herself and her eyes slid shut as she started quaking uncontrollably.
"He'll never marry me now. Oh God, the whole town will know within an hour. What am I going to do?"
She covered her temples with her fingertips and rubbed them, then clutched her arms tightly and rocked back and forth as if nearing hysteria.
Jesse stood several feet behind her, did not approach or try to touch her as he said quietly, "It's simple…
"What!" She spun to face him, staring for a moment as if he'd gone mad. But she was the one suddenly laughing, crying, shaking all at once in a queer fit tinged by frenzy. "Oh, wouldn't that be jolly. Marry you and we could spend the rest of our lives screaming and biting and scratching and trying to get the better of each other. Oh…" She laughed again hysterically, "Oh, that's very funny, Mr. DuFrayne," she ended, tears streaming down her face.
But Jesse was not laughing. He was stone serious, his face an unmoving mask as he said intensely, "Yes, sometimes it is very funny, Miss McKenzie—funny and exhilarating and wonderful, because that's our way of courting each other. I found I missed it so much when I was away from you that I had to come back here to see if you were as good as I remembered."