Well, rather than moaning about my life (thanks to folks who responded to my last post via email and cheered me up), I decided to give you a taste of the two WIP I'm working diligently on to finish by July 1.
These boots were not made for walking. No, the swollen maggoty excuse for a cobbler responsible for these cursed leavings of a diseased impotent bull that some would call boots no doubt thought he was doing a service. The cobbler supplied the boots for half the officers of those calling themselves the British Navy and a fair number of privateers and merchantmen. As such, the ripe-smelling sot had supplied boots made for clinging to the surface of a ship's deck, not for walking across half of Christendom. Ten miles between Ryde and Sandown should not have been such a trial, but no carts had passed that would offer such an odd looking character a ride - and truth be told Marcus Mares was a miserable horseman. Not that there had been a horse for sales, without draining his purse dry.
So, Marcus approached the village of Sandown, the first point at which he was to reinvigorate the ancient watch fire system. It was also the village closest to the Culver Cliffs and hopefully home to the mysterious pair of gray eyes that still tortured him night after night. It had been three long days to prepare documents and obtain funding and proper seals. Three days far, far too long. Another day walking his feet raw on muddy roads that sucked him down to his knees in the muck.
Now that he was close - God's blood, he must be close by now! - he should go to the Captain of the Guard at Sandham Castle and perhaps then the local magistrate, post his bills and find recruits for the fire watch. He should set up shop in the pub and make nice with all of the boys and men who would be of use, perhaps even convince one or two of the benefits of entering her Majesty's serive.
What he wanted to do was go door to door, a vagrant in search of his heart - good God! He was turning in a mealy mouthed puppy, spewing forth romantic drivel worthy of the ha'penny stage! Fie, she would be his for a lifetime - perhaps longer. He should damn well be able to keep his sanity intact, his cock at bay and his priorities straight. Duty first!
A rustle of leaves to his left, and his hand went instinctively to his saber. It was half out of the sheath when a gust of wind whipped past him, battering him with dry leaves and cherry blossoms and sand. He gave thanks to his lucky stars that he'd gone for the sword rather than remove his dark spectacles - otherwise he'd be blinded by now and a sure mark for any enemy.
But the air held no scent of malevolence and there was nothing in the forest to indicate an imminent attack. Hell it was probably the Isle's famed red squirrels, tormenting him for the fun of it. So, instinct fighting judgment, he returned the sword to the scabbard. As the wind died down to nothingness, he took a risk and slowly removed the darkened glasses he wore to protect his sensitive eyes and searched the nearby brush on the landward side of the road.
There - a flutter of green darker than the new leaves growing on the low trees, the flush of pale skin peeking from between branches. He focused more closely, and he could tell the fabric was fine, but not too fine, the skin kissed by the sun in summer and grown pale only in the enforced idleness of winter rains. That and that smooth skin most definitely belonged to a woman.
"Who goes there? In yonder wood? Make yourself known!"
There was the slightest shift of the woman in the trees, and Marcus feared that she would simply flee. There was no way he would be able to follow a figure through unfamiliar woods in sodden boots on bleeding feet. And he had to know who it was - something in the way she moved, the sudden gust of wind that had startled him. Who was she?
A low feminine voice emerged, "And why should I come out? What right does a traveler have to order me about on my own land?"
The voice held confidence, tinged with the slightest quiver of fear. But the sound of that voice still sent blood pounding straight to his cock, his mind to imagining the sound of that voice moaning his name in the throes of pleasure.
He swallowed and tried to marshal his thoughts toward luring the woman out of the brush, rather than what he wanted to do to her once she was willing. "I have no right, my lady mysterious. Only curiosity to see a dryad in the flesh, to know what creature would have a voice so lovely."
"Fie, sirrah…do you think you have a velvet tongue, to try and coax a woman with such drivel as that? My voice is a voice, nothing more nothing less, the birds sing much sweeter than I ever will."
Still, she may not be impressed with his pathetic attempts at the poetic, but she had moved closer. The curve of her breast was visible, the elegant length of her neck as she tried to look at him without being spied herself. When he caught a glimpse of gray eyes, he knew he need look no further. She was the one.
"Ashavi." He whispered, the sound leaving his lips like the soft breath of a spring wind.
"What? What did you speak?" She stepped out from behind the bush and he could finally see her face in full. Dynamic features set off by pink lips he wanted to kiss until they were swollen and huge gray eyes he wanted to see alight with passion. Her hair was covered by the hood of her cloak and he wanted to see if it was the thick black cascade he had dreamt of covering both of them as she collapsed, sated, on his chest. His hand reached toward her without his will. She drew back, fear suddenly evident in those stormy gray eyes.
Marcus pulled his hand back, cursing himself for a fool. Whoever his mate was, she was a gently bred woman. He had to be careful…
Without warning, she ran through the bluebells covering the small hill separating the woods from the road and launched herself at him. It was so completely unexpected that it took him a solid minute to respond to her fervent kisses. But finally, his arms wrapped about the warm, sweet body in his arms and his mouth opened to hers, his tongue licking her lips. When she opened her mouth, he lost track of when and where he was, in broad daylight on a busy road. They were alone in the world, a matched par made whole after a lifetime apart. His cock was hard enough to bend steel, and his codpiece was tied far to tightly to accomidate the swelling pressure, especially as she was pressing the long length of her body against him with enthusiasm.
She was tall, perhaps an inch shorter than he, and their lips and bodies aligned in the most wondrous manner. Her hands tangled in his hair, pulling his hat off while she deepened their kiss. His tongue explored the sweetness of her mouth while his hands caressed the curves of her waist and up her ribcage toward the lush bounty of her bosom.
A horse neighed loudly in the distance and the clatter of a cart pulled them out of their daze. She did not speak, but shock warred with amusement in her eyes when she pulled away. She turned suddenly and ran for the woods, but he was hot on her heels, plowing into the dense underbrush to follow her, leaving his hat and spectacles where they had fallen.
"Do you make a habit, madam," he paused for breath in his sprint after her, pushing aside the branches that whipped into him with punishing blows, "…of kissing every visitor to Sandown, or should I feel honored?" Although the line had been calculated to anger her and get to her stop her headlong dash, a flare of jealousy coiled within him. That was no kiss of an innocent. She had known the touch of a man. Well, henceforth she would know no other but him.
"And what if I do, sirrah!" her voiced called back to his derisively. "Perchance you should take your greeting and continue on to see what you may be gifted with in the next village!"
She put on a burst of speed, and though he could see the swish of her skirts far ahead, he knew he did not have a hope of catching her - yet. He pounded after her, losing sight of her for a moment in the dense woods. But just as suddenly, she appeared, again, leaning casually against a thick hazel tree. He had to slow suddenly and double back, sweetly confused by her actions.
But talk seemed unnecessary as he stepped close. Her lips were rosy pink even in the shade and swollen with his kisses. He should speak with her, he should explain all within his heart, the history and magic that bound them as one. But instead, he took her lips again, pinning her against the rough bark of the tree. Her hands slid around his waist and her hips angled against his with ease. He cursed the layers of fabric separating them, the tight confines of her bodice that disguised the feel of her shape and prevent him from freeing her beautiful breasts so he could taste them. His hands moved from the tree to cup her breasts as best he could, and she moaned against his mouth, sucking his tongue hard into her mouth and thrusting her hips into him, almost begging him to push up her skirts and fuck her against the tree. He was almost convinced, but he hestitated, wanting to be able to take his time and worship her, learn everything about her pleasure before joining them as one. He drew away, trying to return some blood from his cock to his brain, and she smiled mischievously, ducking under his arm and escaping once again, forcing him to run after her - not an easy task with a throbbing erection.
"Give me only your name, sweet one, and I will be contented!" He yelled, hoping for that boon, though it was enough for him to know simply the knowledge that she was real, that she existed and tasted like the sweetest of fresh water to a man dying of thirst.
Nothing filtered back to him but the sound of her laughter. He stopped, his feet throbbing and his face aching from a thousand tiny scratches. He couldn't stop the smile which broke through though - she was a whirlwind, and he was ready for the ride of his life.
"Ruby? Jane you home? Crap, it's freezing in here!"
Hester Lowbridge closed the door to the apartment she shared with two other girls and shivered in the December cold. The other girls were from upstate New York and Minnesota, and they thought the D.C. weather to be balmy and fair all the year through. Hester swore under her breath as she checked the blackout curtains and then turned on some lights. She went over to the radiator, giving the old thing a good kick and with a puff and hiss, finally the thing emitted some much needed heat. Hester squatted next to the ugly pipes and warmed her hands greedily. For a child raised in the hot deserts of Arizona, Arlington Virginia in early December was goddamn cold!
Finally warm enough to think straight, she realized that the lights and heat were off not because Ruby or Jane had finally managed to sneak some men past their vigilant landlady, Mrs. Bizel, but because the girls really weren't here. It was a Tuesday, not usually a date night, and for both of them to be gone was certainly strange.
Taking off her scarf and gloves and unpinning her hat, Hester shook loose her long blond hair from the tight chignon she'd worn all day and decided to check on what might still be eatable in the kitchen. It was there she finally found the hastily scribbled note.
Ruby's been hurt. Gone to pick her up at the hospital. - Jane
All thought of food fled and Hester ran out the door, clomping down the stairs in her sensible shoes in a mad rush to get to the single phone in the building. Fortunately, there was no line, and she dialed up the operator. She was trying information at the second hospital when the front door opened and in walked tall, raven-haired Jane, followed by a hassled looking Ruby balancing her petite frame on crutches, her dyed-red curls shaking with frustration.
"Ya think I have enough to worry about, what with teaching a pack of possessed third graders and organizing the Christmas pageant this year. Oh no, that's not enough don't ya know. I got to go break my leg by slipping on the damn ice!"
Realizing she was still holding the phone and the operator was chattering at her, Hester hung up the phone. "Oh no! Ruby, I'm so sorry! Here, let me help!" She stepped up to take one of the bags Jane was carrying.
Jane opened her mouth to say something, but Ruby wouldn't let her get a word in. "Help! Oh, you better believe I need help! Either that or I'm going to go insane. Can you imagine, no dancing for a whole two months! The horror!"
Hester bit her lip to keep from laughing. To Ruby, dancing was practically as important as food or air. "What are you going to do about teaching?"
Ruby sucked in a breath as she maneuvered the crutches to take the first step up to the apartment. "Fuck teaching at the moment. That's the principal's problem. She'll find somebody to fill in." She gave another gasp, and without a word, Jane and Hester took the crutches and ducked under Ruby's short shoulders, half supporting, half-carrying her up the one flight to their landing. The door was already open from Hester's mad dash down the stairs, and all three of them collapsed on to the faded green sofa with a thud and a sigh.
Ruby grimaced again. "Oh, this is my punishment for taking on the damn Christmas pageant. Everybody told me the thing was cursed. Something bad always happens, every goddamn year. But I didn't think a Minnesota girl could fall on the ice in damn Virginia and manage to break my leg! Oh, my brothers are going to tease me something rotten, don't ya know."
Hester laughed softly and stood. "Can I get you anything Ruby? Something to drink?"
"Scotch, straight up."
Hester pinned her with a look that boded no good.
Ruby snorted. "Fine, fine, Miss Prissypants. Water. Gimme some water. I thought Janey here was the nurse and you the secret agent, not the other way around."
Hester walked to the kitchen and came back with a glass of tap water. "I told you for the hundredth time, Ruby, I'm not a spy. I just work in the SIS building."
And she wasn't a spy. She just tried to catch them. She was a codebreaker for the Signal Intelligence Service up in Arlington Hall, but she didn't want it widely known, given her security clearance. It was easier to just be a secretary who worked in the building. Since all the stupid men in her department always made her get the coffee, she might as well be a damn secretary.
Jane let out a snore suddenly and Hester rolled her eyes. Great, two patients to take care off. Jane was a nurse at the Army Medical Center in Washington and between all her shifts and taking the unreliable bus to this apartment in Arlington, Jane was asleep on her feet half the time.
"Janey! Wake up or you are going to drool on my cast!"
Ruby laughed when Jane bolted awake with a, "Yes, Nurse Johnson, I'm awake Nurse Johnson!"
"Lord, I hope I never have to deal with Nurse Johnson!" Ruby laughed until she tried to move her leg and groaned in pain. Hester decided someone needed to take command.
"Jane, go get some shut eye, will you? I'll watch over Rollicking Ruby here until I can get her to sleep too. You've done plenty."
"Yeah honey, thanks for the lift. I promise I'll pay you back for the taxi soon."
Jane mumbled something under her breath and yawned loudly. "Ok, Sergeant Lowbridge, I yield the field. I'm going to sleep." She stumbled across the room and into her bedroom, closing the door behind her without a backward glance. She didn't even bother to turn on the lights, probably just collapsed on the bed as usual.
"Sergeant? Thought you'd at least have made lieutenant by now, what with those hours you put in!"
"You should have called me at work Ruby, rather than make poor Jane get you. I could have gotten you with the car."
"And waste precious government worker gas rations? You've got to be kidding. We need those to get us into the nightclubs once my leg heals up! Unless the damn war is over before then." Ruby heaved her leg up on the sofa and grimaced at the pain.
"Are men the only thing you ever think about?" Hester had returned to the kitchen, binding up her long blond hair in a loose bun, she stuck a pencil in it to keep it in place and rummaged through the cupboards looking for something to feed to Ruby.
"It's either men or how to teach geography to a bunch of third graders. Which would you rather think about, honey?"
Coming up from under the countertop victorious with a can of soup in hand, Hester answered nonchalantly, "Given my luck with men, I'll take the third graders!" She wrinkled her nose. Just thinking of that bastard Chuck Lerman made her blood boil. The cheating asshole that she had to face every damn day at work was not something she wanted to think about while trying to relax at home. He was bad news and bad in bed. Not that she'd ever had anybody who impressed her, but with a vast wealth of experience of three men, she supposed she shouldn't write off the entirety of the male species.
"Will you?" Ruby asked, her eyelashes on maximum flutter.
Hester wondered what she had missed while lost in thought of how sad her love life was. "Will I what?"
"The pageant. All the other teachers won't touch it with a ten foot pole, and I've got fifty first, second and third grader who've struggled to learn five songs. Somebody has to conduct them, and I know you can sing. Please?"
Hester blinked, lost for words. "You want me to direct a Christmas pageant."
Ruby nodded hopefully.
"With two weeks notice."
Ruby frowned. "Well honeybunch, if I would have known I was gonna break my leg, I would have sent you a memo back in July."
"you've got to be joking!"
"Well, who am I gonna ask? If I was back in Minnesota, there's the ladies of the Council of Lutheran Women who would come in a muck up the whole thing royally. But I don't know anyone around her who would do an equally bang up job, so it's either you or Jane and she's working double shifts this month so she doesn't have to think about Johny."
Johny, Jane's fiancé, had been shot down over the Pacific sometime in October. He was probably dead, but Jane clung to the slightest chance that he was alive somewhere in a Japanese prison camp or on a desert island somewhere. Hester didn't know if she could ever take that kind of pain.
Hester pushed a tray with lukewarm soup and stale crackers in front of Ruby. "Fine."
"Fine?" Ruby shoveled in the watery soup with gusto. Of course, she inhaled anything and was still thin as a reed. Hester would never be the ethereal beautiful like her mother June was. If it wasn't for sugar and gas rationing and all the walking she had to do, she'd still be the chubby kid she was as a teenager in Tucson.
"I'll do it. But on one condition."
"Name it? You can even have my firstborn child."
"Ha! What would I want with a bratty kid. Because there's no doubt about it, you would produce one humdinger of a troublemaker. No, once that leg of yours heals good and tight, you do my laundry for two months solid."
Oh gods, what have a gotten myself into?
Remember this is raw and unedited, so feel free to cut to ribbons.