I keep meaning to spare you my spamming of yet more of my snippets, but apparently I have one more left in me this week. It’s something I wrote a while ago that seemed to fit, so this is for the So-Long Blogfest Karen over at Novels During Naptime is hosting.
She stepped through the door and closed it silently behind her. Standing still, she let her eyes adjust to the deeper darkness of the hallway.
Moonlight streamed in through the window in the breakfast nook, bathing the white ceramic tiled table top in a silver glow. She toed off her shoes and made her way on soundless feet down the hallway toward the pool of light.
She stepped into the kitchen, headed toward the sink. Running her fingers along the wall, she flipped the switch.
A soft, yellow glow bathed the area.
Grabbing the tea kettle on the stove, she pushed open the spout, slid it under the faucet and opened the tap. When it was full, she put it on the front burner and turned it on.
“Did you have fun tonight?” His drawl, soft and low, hung in the stillness.
“I’m sorry.” She turned to see him leaned up against the door frame, long and lanky, legs crossed at the ankles, arms crossed against his chest. “Did I wake you?”
“Nah. I couldn’t sleep.” He cocked his head, dragged his thumb across his lip. “So did you?”
“Did I what?” She opened a cabinet and snagged a cup. “I’m making tea. Would you like some?”
“Sure.” He slid off the door frame and crossed to the counter in three easy steps. “Did you? Have fun?”
She pulled another cup from the cabinet, closed the door, set them on the counter.
Resting her hands on the smooth surface, she leaned forward and locked wide, clear as glass eyes on his. “Yes, I did.”
He leaned back and she reached up to open the overhead cabinet.
“What would you like?” She poked the boxes, read off names. “Chamomile, Earl Grey, Lemon Mist…”
“Chamomile,” he suggested softly. “It makes you sleepy.”
She pulled the box down and set it on the counter next to the cups. “Did you have fun tonight?”
He shrugged, reached for the box and took out two bags. “Ate dinner with dad. Talked to Livvy for a few minutes.”
She tilted her head, arched a doubtful eyebrow. “You talked to Livvy?”
“She was watching Pretty Woman.” He shrugged again. “She likes Julia Roberts. Hates the movie.”
“She prefers The Pelican Brief.”
She snorted softly as her lips curved gently up at the corners. “And Denzel Washington.”
She turned and headed across the kitchen.
His eyes tracked her as she walked and realization hit him again. She was still far too thin. Low rise jeans rode loose on the curve of her hips, and a pale silken expanse of narrow waist was visible beneath the hem of her tee shirt when she opened a cabinet and reached for the cereal.
“You want something to eat?” He pulled two bags from the box, closed it.
She pulled the cereal down, opened a drawer and pulled a Ziploc bag out. Shutting the drawer with her hip, she opened the bag and the box.
He pulled the bags apart, put one in each cup. “You should eat.” He closed the box and put it back in the cabinet.
She shrugged a slim shoulder, and poured cereal. “Not hungry.”
Closing the box, she replaced the cereal and closed the cabinet. Grabbing the bag, she ran her fingers over the blue and pink lines to make purple. With a satisfied smile, she came back to the counter and dropped it on the counter.
“I thought you weren’t hungry.”
“It’s for Danny.” She pulled a sippee cup and cover from the dishwasher, poured apple juice. “He likes to feed himself when he wakes up. And I can stay in bed for a little while longer while he plays.”
“You’ve really got the mom thing down.”
“It’s practical.” Her shoulder moved again. “It works.”
“I could always get up with him, if you wanted.”
She stiffened suddenly, shoulders back, spine rigid, head tilted up slightly. “This works.”
The whistle of the kettle split the tension suddenly shimmering in the air.
In carefully choreographed silence, she moved to the stove, shut off the burner, picked up the kettle and came back to the counter, poured steaming water. She didn’t look at him as he picked up the cups, carried them to the table.
She put the kettle back on the stove, picked up the cereal bag and the juice, and joined him at the table.
Still not looking at him, she settled herself in her seat, raised the cup to her lips and blew gently.
“So.” He tried to catch her eyes from the corner of his. “What did you do tonight?”
She blew softly on her tea. “Went for a ride.”
“Damn it, Maddy, I’m trying here…”
She was on her feet and moving toward the hallway before he could stop her.
He was out of his own chair and starting after her. “Madelyn…”
She stopped at the sound, spine suddenly rigid, shoulders drawn back in a hard, tight line. “Like I tried?”
“Talk to me.”
He felt her tension hit him like a shock wave, a kick to the head that stopped him in his tracks a step behind her as she turned to face him.
“Why? Because you’re ready?” She slipped forward slowly, backing him up a step, surreal, sleek, and serene, as quiet as death. “Because you want to?”
Coiled tight, she was wrapped in a raw, bitter chill; a living, physical thing that stretched out between them with a killing cold. “Because you’re wondering if I’ve been busy…figuring things out?”
Heavy-lidded eyes locked on his and a cut glass smile sliced her lips as she stood face to face with him.
“Was it good for you?”
He reeled from the kick to his gut.
Her voice, whiskey smooth, flowed through him.
Stopped his breathing.
Caught in the crosshairs of her cold, contained rage and his own shame flashing hot and bright in his gut, he shut his eyes as the world turned over.
“Were her lips soft and warm?” She traced his with a soft fingertip, slid the finger gently between his lips. “When you mapped the terrain?”
His head jerked and a spasm rippled against a clenched jaw as she trailed her finger over and down the corded tendons of his neck, along his collar bone, over his shoulder, across his neck. Slash and burn, he felt the trail of heat from her fingers ignite the shame into a firestorm as she slowly circled him.
“Did you tell her how to touch you? Where?” She pushed tight up against him; leaned in close, let her lips and warm breath brush the join of his neck and jaw. “Did you call her baby and breathe hot in her ear when she was under you? Over you?”
She trailed her finger over his shoulder as she came full circle, pressed her palms against his chest and let her hands drift downward. “Did she run her hands all over you?”
Taut as a tripwire, he breathed hard, a harsh, jagged gasp for air. The first spike of real fear shot up his spine, blazed into his brain, blood pounding in his head making his face burn. He shivered as her fingers found his waist, slipped lower to rest on his hips.
“Did she make you moan and arch against her when she took you in? Was it more? Was it better?” She pulled him in hard against her. “Did you find what you were looking for? What you wanted? What you needed?”
He exploded, his hands moving to grab hers. Hard fingers snapped shut, wrapped her small wrists like a steel band as he pulled her even closer to him, spinning them around and driving her back, pinning her against the wall with his greater mass.
“It wasn’t like that,” he rasped, forehead to forehead breathing her in. “It was…figuring things out.”
Her words were as warm and soft as her breath, surgically precise as they sliced through him like a razor. “And was that the only time you needed to…figure things out?”
There was a crack of thunder as light and heat exploded in a conflagration behind his eyes. A shudder worked its way through him as he struggled to suck enough air into his lungs to breathe. “No.”
She moved slightly beneath him and he felt soft breasts and sharp hipbones, radiant heat fusing them along their shared border.
He slid his cheek against hers, whispered hotly in her ear. “One.”
He pushed harder against her, growled harsh and low into her face. “It was a fuck.”
She laughed suddenly, brittle and high pitched, shattering the thin veneer of civility stretched beyond its limits between them. “You still think this is about fucking?”
Despite everything she was still quick. She pushed him off and around, backed him up against the wall. “I’ve told you before, Logan.”
He exhaled harshly on a groan as a long, slender finger traced his lips and her husky, smoke-filled voice floated over him.
“It’s not about the fucking.”
He growled low and fierce deep in his throat. “Madelyn…”
“I’m not stupid.” She was strong and had survived. She had learned a lot. “I understand love.”
He dragged in a jagged breath, his heart pounded deep in his chest. “Don’t do this.”
“Honesty. Trust. Your words.” She pulled back; turned, started moving away from the torched free-fire zone between them.
He exploded, hands moving to grab hers as he stepped to her, invaded her space. His hands wrapped her wrists as he pinned her arms and used his hips and shoulders to chivvy her back up against the wall.
He leaned in, eyes dark with rage, voice low and dangerous. “Trust?”
White-hot rage boiled up and out, spread like wild fire in his veins.
He buried his face in her hair, his lips close to the delicate shell of her ear as he breathed harsh and hot and heavy. “You couldn’t trust me enough to tell me where you’d been.”
Roiling torrents of grief, guilt, shame, and joined the rage and suddenly became a riptide that threatened to drag him under as she stilled completely under him.
He couldn’t even feel her breathing.
He pulled back, blinked hot tears from his eyes as he felt her shift beneath him. “Hell, you couldn’t even tell me about the kid.”
He didn’t feel her move, didn’t see the slap coming. His head snapped and she shoved hard, sent him staggering.
Words sharp as razor-wire carved him to the bone. “I’m not doing this anymore.”
She quietly lobbed the flash-bang grenade into the still smoldering carnage. “It’s too late.”
The shock wave rocked him back as she disappeared in the incandescent glare behind his eyes.
“No, no, no, no, no, no.” He couldn’t tell if the chant was only in his head, but he knew he had to make her hear.
“Because you were right.” Her voice floated down from far away, words char and ash that covered him. “What do we have now?”