She met him at the VFW hall on a Friday night.
A GQ man, his shoulders emphasized the pressed, pin-stripe button-down shirt. Exact cuffs were rolled twice, khaki shorts stopped just above his knees. Muscled legs forever tan, all the way into his tasseled loafers – no socks. His clean-shaven, chiseled jaw awakened her imagination. At six feet, his height was just right. His drawl was hard to understand but his interest in her was palpable.
“I’m not much of a dancer,” Joe whispered into her eyebrow as he held her tight. “So I thank you kindly for giving this country boy a turn on the floor. I confess. I’m a goner. I touch the back of your dress and get ideas.” He was the key that unlocked her laughter.
She still missed the comfort of her husband. Tonight was a test. Nobody here knew her, if she made a fool of herself, she could handle it. She didn’t fidget, just leaned against the bar and this stranger asked her to dance. She liked the feel of his hands on her back. Living alone lit up the little details she’d taken for granted in her together life. These days she noticed everyone’s hands. Joe’s, when they weren’t firmly guiding her steps, were playing a soulful guitar up and down her spine. Rare is the man who knows that touch is everything. He may never even set foot in a kitchen, but he knows how to work a simmer. This guy won the Blue Ribbon for simmer. He bought her a beer and then he danced the slow dances with her.
She was putty. By the end of the night, they were old friends and Lily asked him over for dinner.
Lily eyed the clock and ran her hands over her hips. Dinner was ready.
Just enough time to change my clothes. I want to laugh. I want to be silly like I was when Luke was alive. I just want to be alive again, damn it.
Alive is exactly what she felt when Joe walked through her door.
Joe leaned in to Lily, with a Rhett Butler kiss. He shrugged his shoulders and opened his hands, framing his words. “What’s all this? You shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble.”
“Hey, this little dinner is no trouble – it’s the cleanup I don’t like.”
Joe bent down to her ear. “I’ll take care of what comes later.”
Walking backwards she took his hand and guided him toward the deck. The weathered table was covered with newspaper. A wet kitchen towel and chunks of fresh lemon were near each dinner plate.
They talked, drank their wine, and cracked open crab claws. Lily showed Joe how to roll the ear of corn over a stick of butter. Joe pulled the juicy meat out of the shell easily and fed it to her. His fingertips lingered for hardly a breath at her lower lip. Drawn butter was on the table between them in a cracked custard cup. Lily offered him the last of it as she sucked her fingers. He wiped the bowl with a last bite of the crab and fed her one more time.
She noticed his muscles, his tan, and his hands. He was wearing a crisp denim shirt with an emblem over the pocket. “What’s that?”
“Special Forces logo.”
“Yup.” He poured the last of the wine and changed the subject. “This dinner brings me back to the easy years when I lived on the Outer Banks. It could be the fact that your deck hangs over the river and I hear the fish jump now and then. I like your place, Lily.”
He talked but she didn’t really listen. Sitting this close to him, Lily tensed unconsciously with a subtle sensual surge. She barely held herself in check when she felt the primal signal between her legs. A long-buried imp inside her was stretching and grinning mischievously. She leaned into Joe impetuously, her lips brushed his mouth.
“Umm – good. Was that dessert?”
She shook her head, still looking into his eyes. “Nope. I just couldn’t resist. I have strawberries for dessert. Nothing fancy.”
They ate the sugared fruit and afterward Joe reached for her hand and casually said, “I think you and I fit pretty good, but suddenly you seem tighter than a tick on a hound dog.”
She squirmed. “If it’s that noticeable, I’m in trouble! I can’t believe me – Good lord, I just might be sixteen again.”
He took her hand, turned it over, and caressed ever so softly with his thumb. “The air in here is thick with your anxiety, Honey. Am I the first man you’ve dated since your husband died?”
“Well, it’s been a while for you. I can set us some boundaries. We’ll go easy, if you need to, hell, we’ll even throttle back. That sound good to you, Lily?”
Her chest rose, the beat of her heart was pounding in her throat. She exhaled.
“Deal.” Her eyes did the talking.
She stood to clear the table and as she did, Joe took her hand. He walked backward and drew her toward the bedroom.
“Ohhh no, Joe.” She didn’t let go.
He held her with one hand, approached her bed, and eased the quilt back with the other. He knew the moment her feet turned to rocks. With a tug, he laid her down on her bed and kissed her face, then slid his lips down her neck.
Eyes wide, she looked up at the ceiling fan and smelled his clean, distinct scent. Her breath quickened, her hunger jumped out of bounds. She helped him as he tugged her clothes away and watched him pull off his shirt. When he unbuckled his khaki shorts and let them drop, he was butt-naked. The warmth of his skin when she touched his bare belly released her.
He rolled her over and lightly traced a road atlas up and down her body. His fingers felt her warmth and wetness, but only for a moment. He licked his fingers, turned her over, and blanketed her with his lithe body.
“Are you real or am I imagining this?” Lily panted. Her legs went limp.
Lily amped up when Joe ran his fingers through her hair. She was no longer on a trickle charger, any self-discipline she had was gone, ripped away with her clothes. She sailed further from the shores of inhibition. The song that came from her throat was only a whimper. She tried, a tiny bit, to pull away from him. Just so she could catch her breath. She wanted to keep his lips in a bottle. Her hands drifted over his smooth skin, touching, remembering, awakening. She hugged him to her as he rolled over to her other side.
He was collected and confident, his eyes inviting her to dance. His fingers never left her skin. His mouth sucked her under.
Boundaries? He had to be kidding . . .
Above them, the fan circled rhythmically. He reached across her long body to turn on the bedside lamp. When he did, it flickered on and off, mimicking her.
Was it only an hour ago that I was too nervous to be intimate? When I believed he wouldn’t see me naked tonight? And now, here I am, sticky and spinning.
When she rolled toward the edge of the bed, he caught her and held her tightly. She grabbed at the damp sheet and laughed. He slithered down her belly, and her belly tightened with the anticipation.
Her moans turned into growls, all the time the lamp flickered, on, and off, on, and off. It matched her shallow breaths. Every cell in her awakened body reached out for him. She yearned to melt into him.
Softly, he begged her for her hand.
“Why?” Distrust in her tone.
“Just give it to me, Lily.” He licked her ear, wrapped his arm around her belly and held her back against his chest. “Lily, give me your hand.”
Obediently, she reached her hand up to find his. He held her wrist like a velvet vice, stretching her and arching her on a sensual rack.
He was always in control.
She was always out of control. He urged her to go beyond.
“I’m finished, Joe. I’m drained.”
“You’re not.” His voice that of a necromancer.
Her words fell to the stone floor; her primal growl turned into a sweet moan. She heard a thumping. From far, far away. Her bed was hitting the wall and its banging matched the blinking, flickering light.
“Water,” she rasped. I’m going to die. And I’m going to have a smile on my face.
Joe reached for the glass on the bedside table and gulped a mouthful of cool water but didn’t swallow. He kissed her and let the water slide between her open lips. That’s when she knew she would not die of thirst. It would be from his touch. Touch of his tongue, fingertips, even his teeth.
Snuggling in, she asked, “What was that talk about boundaries?”
She breathes in the musk of this naked man next to her, then gently drags her fingertips along the small of his back. She likes to touch him, to feel his chest rising slightly then falling. Spent now, they each shift with perfectly matched rhythm, toward sleep. He holds her soft body nestled against his chest. He strokes her narrow hips, her ribs, her arms, her face, with the fingertips of both his hands. Plays her like a guitar. She softly hums in her sleep with each brush. He turns into his faded pillow. The last thing he notices is the smell of her hair on his fingers. Her primal scent lingers.
When she wakes, the first thing across her mind is, I have to fix that lamp. I’m going to put that on a list – right after I figure out how to walk again.
Lily quietly turns on her back and arches her arms above her head in one smooth move. Sun shadows from the shutters play across the bed, splicing Joe in a diagonal glow of daybreak. Opening her eyes to him sleeping next to her is comforting. She doesn’t actually think it; it just is.
She’s also exhausted.
She quietly slides off the bed and heads for the bathroom. The stone floor feels cool to her bare feet.
She puts her arms out and runs her hands along the walls, steadying herself as she navigates the short distance to the bathroom. She sits, her eyes closed. She takes slow deep breaths.
She heaves her body up and leans into the sink, cups water into her hands, rinses her mouth, and stands in the dim light, looking at herself the mirror. She holds her breasts in her hands to relieve their tingling. The sight of her wild hair brings back the sweet wrestling with the beast now asleep in her bed.
She raises her arms to tame the tangles, when she does she lets go of her breasts, their weight instantly brings back their tenderness. Tensile heat flares deep inside like warm syrup, a primal sap starting to run again. In the mirror, her eyes sparkle and glint at her.
Her breath quickens. She feels the twist in her chest with more than a little amazement. Her thoughts stop there. Her gut takes over as she heads back to the beast sleeping in her bedroom.
Or is the beast in her?
Kavanaugh’s poetry, prose and photographs have appeared in Melancholy Hyperbole, When Women Waken, Blotterature, Wising Up Press, and The Lindenwood Review. She travels the scenic route between St. Pete, Florida and the Off Campus Writers Workshop (OCWW) in Winnetka, Illinois. When she’s not writing, she’s listening, picking up slices of life or shells on a beach.