Her demeanor says, “I dare you.” But her eyes cry, “Please, come a little closer”.
She’s scared, that’s all. She’s been battered, bruised and torn. She’s full of scorn.
She wants nothing more than a man that will protect her heart and give her shelter … from all the storms of life. The journey won’t be easy. Hell, at times it will be damn near impossible.
But there is no doubt she’ll be worth every obstacle encountered along the way.
That morning when you wake up and she greets you with a smile in her eyes … you’ll know she is actually the one that saved you and not the other way around.
Ready to meet her challenge head-on, you abide by her eyes and move in front of her, careful and deliberate in all of your motions. With one finger tilting up her chin, you move your mouth possessively over hers.
Her lips taste of summertime distilled; the sweetest of berries. Mmmmm, cream-filled.
Your hand strokes her waterfall of curls. Her hair smells of magic and moon shine. Yep, this woman can quench your lustful thirst better than any of them fine wines.
But it’s that single tear, a tepid drop of spring’s first rain that streaks down her cheek. It’s her passion that overflows onto your fingertip that steals your heart. She’s ripped the earth right out from under you and torn your world apart.
She never attempts to move back, but you feel the distance fall fast. You watch her eyes closely for a careless spill of her secrets. You are rewarded by a golden glimmer of delicious surprise followed immediately by a splash of panic. Then her eyes dull and settle into a placid surface of a pale ale gone flat.
As you struggle to regain your balance, you take in every detail of her fine form as if you are studying a Rodin sculpture. You smile at the pleasure of touching her heated flesh instead of the cool marble of the artistic masterpieces. Admittedly, her appraisal of you at the moment is much colder than that of the sculptor’s tools. The ale in her eyes may be flat, but it is certainly being served over ice. You do not let her façade of aloofness dissuade your journey of her visual pleasures.
You admire the cascade of her ebony tresses, noticing that one lock of ringlets rebels against the rest, as if yearning for a caress of the swell of her breast. Your fingers resist the temptation to pull upon that lock and give it the help it seeks it reaching a satin paradise. As if she can read your mind, she tosses her hair over shoulder and defiantly crosses her arms across her lace held cleavage.
“You’re truly no different, Cowboy. I mean the kiss was a nice introduction, but you’re not very original in any other thought or action,” she offers as a reprimand. But the sass melts seamlessly with the rich caramel of her Southern drawl.
Struggling to put coherent thought together after imagining sucking a piece of caramel candy from her berry lips, you force a smirk of your own. “Given a dinner date, I will prove there’s much more to me than that stale stereotype of “Cowboy” you threw at me because of my boots and jeans, Ma’am. I’ll show you I’m a man with a worldly intellect, a wit sharper than the blade I keep on my hip, and a firm hand that knows how to use rope for the right reasons.”
The sudden rise of her chest and the sexy blush that licks her neck and cheeks reveals you’ve opened Pandora’s Box.
The slow stroll of her tongue over her lips tells you she is just buying time while she finds a way to cut you with a scathing rejection, although calling your bluff is her true desire. Her eyes captivate you as you watch the green prairie grasses burn in the crossfire of her internal battle. You move your head next to her neck and see her pulse jump as your mouth nears the exposed flesh beneath her ear.
You catch the tremble in her voice as she reins in her arousal and apprehension, “What are you doing, Cowboy?”
You inhale deeply, waging your own war with the need to consume her. You slowly tuck a curl over the delicate shell of her ear and whisper, “Savoring the smell of virgin snow falling in the sultry Southern sunshine. You, Dare Delaney, are a perfect complement of contradictions.”
You have no time to counter her movement as she turns her head and crushes her delicious lips to yours and grabs your head, holding you in place as she takes her fill of you. You enjoy the tickle of her tongue licking the seam of your mouth before she nips it aggressively and pushes her velveteen tongue into your hungry mouth, claiming her stake as a miner of lust and satisfaction. Your ragged breath ends as a growl when the raven beauty pulls back and pushes you a few inches away.
“How do you know my name?” Her voice is thick with wanton need and cautious skepticism.
Her question throws cold water over your ramped up libido and you struggle to maintain eye contact. You steel yourself for a hard slap across your shameful face as you confess, “I was platoon mates with your … with Jace. He told me all about you.”
You watch the life seep out her, not just the lavish rose color that had just moments before stained her delicate features. The essence of her simmering personality dissipates into a heavy fog of grief between you. Dare caves into herself as she draws her knees to her chest and she childishly wraps her arms around them. She shuts you out completely as she drops her head and slides into a silent obscurity under the curtain of her hair. She is not even aware of the indecent exposure of her black lace panties in her upright fetal position.
You grab the country quilt from the love seat and prepare for her assault as you risk touching her to wrap her in the blanket’s warmth. But you receive no reaction. No curses, no tears, no acknowledgement that you exist any longer in her world at all. This was not the introduction you had envisioned. Even with all the pictures Jace had flashed about, you were unprepared for her overwhelming presence. You were unprepared for the Dare that Jace had never really been able to put into adequate words.
Although your best friend had been laid to rest over a year ago, you can feel his wrath in your insensitive and immature handling of Dare. And honestly, you deserve to have your ass kicked.
You sit next to Dare, careful not to breach the invisible shield that now shrouds her daunting beauty. Your worn boots bump against the table, nudging forth the memory of the first conversation you ever had with Jace. You don’t know how to help Dare but you know that the sorrow welling up inside of you must be spilled or you will break under the weight of it. You wish there was a way to filter the pain from the words that are causing your throat to thicken and ache.
“We were side by side on the bus to FayetteNam. I thought I was going to have to punch him to knock him unconscious because his damned leg bounced non-stop. I tried ignoring him by immersing myself in my book. At first that seemed a mistake as me reading indicated an open invitation for him to talk. His first words to me were, “I’m not sure if Dare would love you or hate you … or both.” I continued to read Catcher in the Rye until he slipped a glossy photo of the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen in between the pages of my book.”
Although Dare had not moved a muscle since your fucked up confession, you feel her body tense and you know she is holding her breath, waiting for your next words.
“Nice,” I nonchalantly managed as I reluctantly handed the picture back over. Jace looked me over carefully and said, “Yep. Dare would hate you. You might be able to read but you lie worse than chicken shit.”
Dare’s body trembles and before you know what you’ve done, your arms are pulling her into your lap. She gives you no resistance as she limply complies and sobs into your chest. You rock her gently and quietly sing “Jack and Diane” in the darkened room.
“What else did my brother tell you about me?” she finally whispers as the last note of her favorite song falls from your lips.
You curse the fading light as you need to reconnect with the effervescence of her eyes. But you will do nothing to jeopardize holding her body against yours. You truly do not know where to start in sharing your knowledge of Jace’s older sister. You close your eyes and just let the words pour over you both, like a waterfall of cleansing memories.
“You hate beer. You savor expensive red wines and cheap champagnes the same. Sea salt and chocolate must accompany an apology. Earrings are your only indulgence when it comes to jewelry. You have a fiery temper that burns long and hot. Your first love was reading. And when life becomes too much to bear, you rush back into the pages of a novel so you have an excuse to shed tears. “
She covers her face again, but groans in aggravation. “Damn him, the little brat!!” You chuckle, as you had that same sentiment toward Jace more times than you could count. Her molasses tone warms you as you feel it vibrate against your chest, “Perhaps I should ask if there is anything you don’t know about me?”
You hear the fear and vulnerability blend into the weariness of her grief. You stroke her curls as you carefully consider your response. “Dare Delaney, with all that Jace revealed to me, you remain a complete mystery — one that I’ve wanted to solve for over eighteen months. But I don’t want the answers given to me in a conversation that spans an hour or two. I want to delve into your creamy depths and mine the answers over the course of a lifetime, as I will never tire getting to know the real you.”
Silence surrounds you as you give Dare time to process what you’ve said. Thanks to Jace’s insight, you do not misconstrue her lack of response as a rejection; however, each second that drips by makes the possibility more real. Slowly, she slides from your lap and stands alluringly before you. Her fingers find the contour of your jaw. She strums the unshaven stubble as if they were taut guitar strings.
You resist the urge to kiss her fingertips but allow her to continue her contemplative exploration of your face. You inhale her intoxicating scent, praying that this will not be the only time you are able to imbibe her sweetness. Her hand drops down and grabs yours to pull you to your feet. She turns and leads you deeper into the dark halls of Jace’s childhood home. Your heart quickens as the implication of this walk hits you.
At the end of the hallway, Dare opens a door to your right and directs you inside. She drops your hand as she turns on two lamps illuminating the huge sleigh bed before you. You cock your head at Dare as she sits on the edge of the bed and raises one black boot toward you. “Please,” she drawls with her seductive accent.
When you hesitate, she looks up at you with maple tears glistening and murmurs, “I cannot promise you a lifetime, Cowboy. I cannot promise you even next week. But I can give you tonight. A night where we can bury our secrets within each other and find the comfort we both desperately seek. One night of fire that might warm our cold souls until we are able to heal our wounds enough to find others that won’t know how broken we really are.”