Authors: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy
kissed until she had no breath but Nola made no effort to end it.
Delicious, sweet sensations traveled from her
mouth throughout her body.
went limp, her nipples turned hard, and her pussy grew wet.
Every neuron in her system screamed with
pleasure and the marvelous anticipation of longing for more.
The kiss brought more physical response and
emotion than sex with any man she could remember.
This packed a punch and the intensity was strong
enough to overwhelm all her senses.
when she yielded to it with her total being, he pulled his mouth from
He gripped her upper arms and
pushed back until they stood separate.
Panting, he stared at her, eyes glittering like bright stones. “
I’m sorry,” he gasped.
don’t want to be but if you knew…”
passion vanished and anguish twisted her features. “You would never believe me,
Nola. And it’s better if I don’t.
need to go,” he said.
His body twitched
from head to toe and he winced.
didn’t believe it. She scrutinized him.
He leaned forward, arms and legs extended in such a way he appeared to
be about to drop down on all fours.
she didn’t know it was impossible, she would’ve sworn his back appeared broader
and his face somehow longer. “You look like you’re in pain.”
grunted out a few words. “I’ll be fine.
I’ll see you maybe tomorrow or the next day.”
don’t leave this way,” she cried. “I’ll worry.”
Nola could say a word, Johnny wheeled around and marched down to the lake where
his boat waited.
Dusk had shifted into
night by then so her visibility was limited, but she would almost swear by the
time he reached the shore he was almost crawling.
Tears slid down her cheeks but she wasn’t
aware until she tasted salt.
Understanding just how and why the evening went wrong was out of
She still clutched the carved
gator he’d made and her fingers tightened on it as she wondered if she would
ever know, or if he’d return.
the morning, Nola made coffee so if he stopped over it would be ready, but she
drank until the pot ran empty. He never came. She baked a pan of buttermilk
brownies because Johnny liked them, and in the late afternoon she warmed up
gumbo from the freezer, thinking that somehow it might summon him.
The evening stretched out to almost unbearable proportions but Nola went
to bed certain he would come the next day.
He’d said tomorrow or the next day.
refused to come easy and as she lay awake Nola realized she had no idea where
he lived or how to get there.
I don’t even have his phone number
drive down to that little store at the crossroads and ask, I guess.
far, she had made two trips to get groceries and both had been harrowing for
Although the tiny shop out in the
middle of literally nowhere bore no resemblance to the giant chain supermarket
where she had been robbed, shopping still made her anxious.
Although the store owner remembered her
grandparents and must know her aunt, Nola had become bashful and said little.
obvious occurred to her—she could ask Aunt Ronnie.
doesn’t show up tomorrow, I will. He acted so odd and like something was
happening to him, I’m worried sick.
still don’t know what changed, what made him uneasy, and why things got so
She struggled to pinpoint the
moment everything shifted, and after hours of contemplation Nola realized it
had been when she talked about the gator.
But why would an alligator make a long-time resident of Caddo Lake, a
man native to the bayou, uncomfortable.
The gator, which
or ‘baby’, had shown up each day.
Nola realized it hadn’t ever been around when
Johnny was and she wondered why.
it made any sense, and when she finally drifted to sleep it was fitful.
the morning after the third day without Johnny
Nola swallowed her pride and phoned her aunt.
Aunt Ronnie, her tone far too cheerful for such an early hour, answered
on the first ring. “Hello!”
Aunt Ronnie,” she said. “It’s Nola. How are you doing?”
fine, child, just peachy,” the older woman replied. “It’s good to hear your
Are you getting along all right
out there at that old shack?”
glad to say that I am.
I’ve been cooking
and enjoying the lake.”
that’s wonderful!” Her aunt sounded like she meant it. “I’ve been fretting over
you, hoping you weren’t sitting around, sad and lonely.”
seemed like a good moment to bring up Johnny. “I haven’t been lonely at all.
comes over almost every day to check
his heart, he’s a good man.”
hasn’t come by for a day or two, and I was a little concerned.
I don’t have his phone number but I wondered
if you knew where he lived so I could check on him.”
Her aunt’s whoop echoed over the
phone. “You like him, then, eh?”
I want him to fuck me until my
bones melt, so yeah.
he doesn’t have a phone that I know about. I can tell you how to get to his
place, but it’s complicated and hard to find.
Caddo Lake can be treacherous for someone who doesn’t know it well.”
comment stung a little. “I’ve been coming here, to
, all my life,” Nola said. “I think I can
find my way.
If I get lost, I’ll ask.”
other woman laughed with a dark, smoky, deep sound. “You might get into trouble
if you do, but I’ll tell you.
down, all right? But he might be out fishing.
Sometimes he goes out for days at a time, or so he tells them down at
could be but I’d still like to check on him.”
right, honey, here goes,” Ronnie said.
scribbled the directions down on a piece of paper,
read them back to her aunt. As soon as she hung up, she headed out to her car
and set out.
roads wound around the lake and in some places were so narrow that the trees on
both sides of the road met overhead in a green canopy.
She drove slow, hands gripping the wheel, and
wondered what in the hell she would say when she drove up into Johnny’s yard.
should’ve taken a Xanax
, she thought, a sure sign of her anxiety, because
under normal circumstances she steered clear of medication.
would he say, she wondered, and what would he do?
Nola had no clue but she intended
to find out.
She missed his
companionship, and she wanted to share another kiss to see if the wild passion
it ignited was real or just a fanciful dream.
she brought the speed down to a slow crawl, the narrow lane leading to Johnny’s
place became so rough Nola feared she might get stuck.
Tall weeds on either side of the driveway
whipped her car as she passed.
he’d hear her coming and walk outside to meet her, but when she reached the
wide clearing beside the lake she saw no one.
parked the car near his old truck and climbed out. “Hello!” she yelled.
but the hardwoods and the sweep of the wind through the tall cypress
A far-off cry from a loon echoed
lonesome through the late morning and Nola twisted her lips into a frown. She
shaded her eyes and looked toward the lake.
When she saw Johnny’s johnboat tied up at the makeshift dock, she headed
toward the water.
She figured he must be
nearby, and she intended to find him. She decided she’d
the house if she
didn’t see him fishing by the lake.
few feet from Caddo, she stopped when a water moccasin slithered across the
Nola shuddered and glanced
around for a stick or something she could use to shoo it away if it returned or
another came in her direction.
she saw Johnny stretched out on the shore, arms tucked beneath his head as if
he were sleeping.
He should’ve heard me calling his name
he shouldn’t be so still.
advanced with cautious steps and knelt down beside him.
Dried mud covered his naked body and the
soles of his feet bore small cuts in many places.
Either the left one was filthier than the
right or there was something not quite right about it.
Nola peered at it.
The skin appeared rougher there, almost like
a hide, not human skin.
thought and stretched out her hand to touch it.
Johnny said and she shrieked.
She almost toppled over into the lake and might have if he hadn’t
grasped her hand.
awake,” she told him.
It ranked as the
stupidest thing she could have said.
sat up and stretched, face slack with the aftereffects of a deep sleep. “
I didn’t expect to find you kneeling
over me. Why did you come? Is something wrong?”
been several days since you came around and I was worried.
I thought you might be sick or something.”
no, I’m good.” He sounded thick-tongued and sleepy, though.
narrowed her gaze and raked it over him. “You don’t sound so good, Jean
Batiste. What’s wrong with your left foot?”
eyes locked onto it and after a few seconds, he shifted position so it wasn’t
as visible. “Nothing but a little dirt, that’s all.
It’ll wash right off.”
wasn’t right and she knew it. “How’d you get so muddy anyway?”
must’ve fallen in the lake,” he said after a pause. “How else would it be?”
don’t know but you’re pretty dirty.”
eyes shone and he grinned.
water, a little soap, I’ll be clean,
sounded like the man she’d come to know, the one she wanted with body and
Some of the concern she had
carried for the past few days receded.
Maybe she had worried for nothing.
Leave it to me to get carried
she thought with a rueful smile.
I can scrub your back,” she said. “And other hard-to-reach places.”
he replied. “I’d like that,
very much. Before I go inside, though, I want to hose off a little.
C’mon, let me do it and then we’ll go in.”
“Sounds good to me.”
turned and padded toward his home.
fell in step behind him, intrigued by the way the mud made patterns on his
For some reason, it appeared
thicker in the middle.
still,” she said and touched it.
her fingertips, his skin seemed rough and hard.
Perplexed, she spread her hand over it and shook her head. Tougher than
calloused skin, it had an olive cast.
“Does this hurt?”