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“I can't believe I'm saying this to you, but go put some clothes on.” He was rubbing her back. “I think maybe we should talk.”
She smiled at him with a longing look in her blue eyes.
He knew what she was thinking, “Yes, you blow my mind standing there so near naked. I can't think straight.” He closed his eyes and rested his chin on the top of her head. “Go now, before I do something that's gonna haunt both of us.” His hand was resting on her butt; he gave her a pat as she walked away.
He couldn't quite believe that he had just lightly spanked her very enticing bottom. He rolled his eyes, picking up the lyrics of the song. Singing slowly with it, he watched the ocean, it was lovely and blue today, just like the dark blue of her eyes. There was gold in them, right at the center and almost white flecks that made her eyes seem to change colors. He tried to keep thinking about those eyes that seemed to look into his center and assess him. He did not want his mind to move to the idea that she was dropping that soft robe and changing into clothes. Damn! Now he'd thought about it, his body was reacting. He closed his eyes and allowed his head to fall back, making it look like he was contemplating the ceiling, the tenting in his pants would be a give-away of what was really on his mind.
He thanked the fickle gods of chance that Mitzi came running down the beach. She had been out on her morning run; he needed to check to see if she was wet. She liked the shower outside that he used to rinse the salt water from her coat when she had been dancing though the edge of the waves. He called her, turned on the water, rinsed her, then stepped back so she could shake off without covering him with water. “You saved me again, girl.” He took the towel that dried on the rail of the deck, getting her dry enough to come into the house. “You know she likes you, don't you?” He put their faces together, rubbing her perked-up ears. Mitzi seemed to know he was at Leigh's house. Smart dog, he spent a lot of time there. In the afternoons, she would read to him what she had written or hand him what she called a hard copy, to let him read something she had written.
This was his first unfurnished home. He had intended to just order some furniture, but he had met her the first day. He had known that she was the one; he wanted to please her. He just hadn't figured out how to get her to pick out what she wanted without making her think he was some kind of obsessive nut case. He was obsessive about her. He'd never been obsessive about a woman in his life. Sure he liked them, he'd even had a relationship or two. He was thirty years old, but he'd never felt that any of them were the one he wanted to spend his life with and he certainly hadn't cared whether they liked the furnishings in his house. He had wanted to take his camera on day one and begin to collect photographs of her just doing all the things she did all day. He didn't want the images for show; he wanted them to be his, for his eyes to make a record of her in his life. He had taken a great many shots already. She was going to think he was a stalker. He had to talk to her today, get things organized and worked out between them.
“Jack,” she called as she slid the glass door open. “Well, hello girl,” she crooned to the dog. “Are you ready for a drink of water and some kibble? Does Jack know you have your own dining area and rug in the kitchen?”
Jack smiled because he did know that Mitzi had made herself very much at home with Leigh. It was such a joke that he was jealous of his dog.
She looked up at Jack and smiled at him. “I've got clothes on now. You want something to drink while we talk?” She was dropping ice cubes into cups, being sure that his soft drink was just the way he liked it.
“Come over here to the couch,” he pointed with a tilt of his head.
She followed, sitting cross-legged so she could face him. The song “Til We're Not Strangers Anymore” was playing. He chose not to waste time.
“I'm tired of being a stranger.” His voice was so soft; his eyes drew her to him.
“We aren't strangers,” she protested, trying to understand what he was saying to her. She knew that he was very special, that he was someone she could love. She did not want to say or do anything to ruin the closeness that they had established. She had never shared any of her stories with another person the way she had with Jack.
He set his drink on the coffee table, taking hers and placing it beside his. “Yeah, we are,” he whispered reaching to hold her face. “We just kissed for the first time today; I've wanted to do that for two weeks. We still sleep in separate bedrooms; I've wanted you in my bed since the first moment I saw you.” He waited to see what her reaction would be to his statement. “You have no idea how much I want you.”
“I don't know what I'm supposed to say to you. Two days before you showed up, I was in a very brief, very passionate relationship with someone who is in my mind. Are you real or are you just an imagined dream meant to drive me even crazier than I am most days? I touch you; I can feel the power you put in me just being near me. But are you real?” She knew that his reaction to what she was saying would determine how their relationship developed. She needed him to believe her, to answer her question.
Jack took in a deep breath. She had told him about Jason and he had waited for her to settle her heart about him. “Touch me.” He took her hand and placed it over his heart. “Do you feel that? It's me and I'm real.”
Her hand moved over his chest and down his abs, her hand stopped its downward path.
“When you touch me, it's like I come to life.” He reached for her, pulling her over across his chest, his hands pushing her hair back from her face. “The fates saved you, Jason was here to show you how much you can be loved. I believe he was here so you would be ready for me. You were made for me. I knew it the moment I saw you walking up the beach when I ran out to get Mitzi. I wanted you right then, in my house with me, in my bed with me, with me every morning when I open my eyes, every night when I lay down to sleep. I want to feel you beneath me, on top of me, me inside you. I don't want to scare you away, but I can't go on much longer acting like we're just neighbors and nothing more.”
He held her head still with his hands, covering her lips with his, his tongue touching her lips so that she would open to his taking of her mouth, his arms pulling her close and holding her like she might fly away. “Don't tell me this is too soon, we've been looking for each other forever.” He kissed her again. “When I hold you, when you are so close to me, I start thinking about forever, babies and family things. Things that have never entered my mind before.”
“Jack.” She whispered his name against his lips, mostly, just because she liked the sound of his name in her mouth. ”I do not know quite what to say or do. I thought maybe you'd think I was just the crazy neighbor lady who really likes your dog.” She laughed a little bit, “I'm not accustomed to any man paying any attention to me. I had become so alone that I was going to just walk into the sea and not come back. That's when he saved me; he hauled me back to the beach and just let me cry. He was only here for two days, sometimes I think it was all just a dream but then you popped out the door. You remind me so of him. I don't want you to think that you are just a replacement.” She tried to pull away but he held on.
“If it was a dream, it was a good one. The thought of a life without you just blows me away.” He was kissing her between words. “I need you.” His voice was soft, his hands warm. She knew, at that moment, that she loved him. When she looked into his golden brown eyes she knew that he saw the love in her eyes. He smiled; he devoured her with his mouth. His arms held her so close that she could hardly move; she did not want to move away. Here in his arms was the place she wanted to be for the rest of her life.
“I don't think we're strangers anymore,” she whispered against his lips. “Surely this can't be too fast when we are meant to be in this place with each other.”
“Let me love you.” His hand moved up under her sweatshirt, caressing her skin with his warm, big hands.
She nodded, folding into him, breathing the same air that he breathed. Words were no longer necessary between them. They wanted the same thing, to be a part of the other one. The dance of ridding each other of the barriers of clothing was magical, the revealing of bodies ready for love was fast as they tumbled into bed.
Her hands moved over his beautiful golden body. He was like steel covered in satin to her hands. She could feel him, hard against her stomach; she reached between their bodies to hold him in her hands. She was his guide to enter her, to fill her with that part of him that would connect them for a journey to the stars. This was making love, he was cherishing her, she was returning the passion that he gave to her. This was what she had written about thinking that she would never know the feeling, thinking it was something only written about by poets.
She found herself saying his name over and over as he took her to heaven's edge, dropping them together into a powerful climax. He called her name. As they lay together, trying to return to reality, feeling their hearts beat and their breath returning to normal, he spoke softly to her, “My god, Leigh, I never felt anything like that before.”
“Jack, I think that I can agree with you. I want to do that again.”
He laughed softly.
“I've got a demanding woman, have I?” He was still inside her. He started to move, realizing that he was ready to go again. “I hope you meant that, because I'm taking you with me again.” There was joy in his soul; she gave him power, she gave him back the love he gave her. “I love you, Leigh.”
They lost track of the times they exploded into one another. The sound of her saying she loved him did not ever grow dull to him.; the words became new each time. They finally slept; wrapped and tangled with each other, the most contented feeling they had ever had, they slept.
The summer months drifted away; each day was theirs. She was amazed that he had so few things in his side of the house. She smiled at his confession that he had intended to buy stuff, but after he met her he wanted her to like what he had. He wanted them to share a place, he wanted a home with her in it. He even admitted that he was thinking about babies with her.
“I want all the things that I thought that I would never want. I want a home, I want to call you wife, I want to hear my children call you Mom.” He reached in his pocket and handed her a tiny red velvet box. “Will you marry me, Leigh?”
“Of course, I'll marry you,” she said, holding the box in her hands.
“Here, get the ring out and I'll put it on your finger.” It was a ruby set with diamonds around it. “Now, how soon can I get you to stand in front of a preacher with me?”
“School starts and I have to go back to my day job in a week, you know that. I've signed a contract for a year. We can get married on a weekend and put off a honeymoon. We can wait until fall break around Thanksgiving for that.”
They decided that they just wanted to get married but then they both had families and they did want their families to know about their engagement.
“Cocooned here with each other, it's going to be like breaking the magic to go out to the rest of the world.”
He held her close to him. “It's time,” he said. “We are going to make this a part of the real world.”
When two people decide to begin their own family unit it amounts to having two extended families blend together. It was an interesting journey to meet his family then to meet hers. He was amused at the way her middle school students began to celebrate the fact that Miss Stevenson had a boyfriend and that she was getting married. As he was presenting the photographs at galleries that sold his work, she became recognized as Jack's intended wife. She was often surprised to see herself in the semi-erotic pictures that he took. It was never her face on, but they both knew it was her -- he was very careful with what he shared. The series of photographs was very popular and he sold every one that he chose to share. He never revealed the name of his model; although, he was asked.
Fall break found them in separate parts of the church that had been a part of Jack's family for generations. He had taken pictures of her in her dress, her veil, he was holding her, hands resting on the place where his child was growing safe deep inside her. He had the pictures on easels in the narthex of the church with silk calalilies framing them. The music “When You Say You Love Me” led the people attending the wedding inside the church.
She was handed over to him by her father. He thanked her parents for the most precious gift he had ever been given. He led her into the sanctuary where they made the traditional wedding promises. Never had those ancient words meant so much. They were a new melody, a song to sing to each other. The rings were blessed, their hands wrapped making the vows a sacrament. They shared communion with their family and friends. The reception was a celebration. He took her back to their cottage on the beach. They were in the process of buying a house, but this would be the place that they had decided to keep. It would be the place they went to share special times and celebrations.
As the moon reflected on the calm black Atlantic, he wrapped her in his arms from behind. Holding up their hands to look at their rings, rubies and diamonds twinkling on the bands in the moonlight, his right hand caressed the slight baby bump. “I wish that I could have had a picture of your face when I made my promises to you.”
“Some things we'll just have to remember.” She leaned back into his arms. “I love you, Jack. Whatever brought you to me, I am eternally grateful.”
“Leigh, you are all I ever dreamed of having. I love you. I love the baby we are making together. Maybe we will hear from publishers and you can spend the rest of your life writing those beautiful stories that sing their way out of your head.” He dropped his head to kiss her neck. “Come, Wife. I want to take you to bed.” He clicked on the music the they both loved and danced to bed. “You were made just for me,” he whispered.
The fates were pleased, the world was right.