FROM WORK IN PROGRESS, Abiding Echoes(Justin and Beth)…
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“You ate my ice cream,” he murmured in disbelief. Where had she found room in that tiny body for roughly six scoops of ice cream?
Laughing softly, she guided the cone to his lips and he slurped the last of the French vanilla scoop. The sugar cone tumbled from Beth’s fingers as she leaned forward and pressed her chilled lips against his. When she parted those lips and invited him in, the sweetness lingering there tantalized his palate.
Justin hovered at the edge for just a moment, parried with her teasing tongue while he tunneled his hand through her silky curls to gently cup the back of her neck. Holding her still, he gave himself over to the moment and tasted every bit of her mouth. He would have urged her closer, pulled her into his lap, but she was already there, leaning into his kisses, giving more of the sweetness he’d just plundered.
Beth crawled up Justin’s body and clung to him like a cat, and he swiveled in his seat so the steering wheel would stop crushing her in the small of the back…not that she appeared to notice. He kept one hand buried in her hair while he allowed the other one to travel beneath the hem of her blouse and tickle her spine.
Never in his life had Justin experienced such a rage of passion surge through his blood. Never had he been as aware of another person as he was of Beth. His whole body strained against the boundaries of decency as he explored her softness with his hands and mouth.
He pulled back, gasping for breath as consciousness of where they were filtered into his overheated brain. Beth flopped back into her seat, her green eyes nearly glowing with stirring emotion.
“I’m sorry,” began Justin, feeling the need to apologize more than the sentiment behind the apology itself.
“I’m sorry, too,” murmured Beth, a curving her lips upward.
Her words turned his heart to lead and it sank to somewhere near the vicinity of his stomach. But she snagged his fingers like a frog snapping up a fly. Then she gently tugged his hand and placed it over her heart.
Her chest rose and fall rapidly with the deep gasps of air she drew in. “Feel that?” Her voice was as unsteady as he knew his would be if he could speak.
Her heart leaped so violently against his touch, he wondered if he wouldn’t soon be holding it in his palm.
“So…” she whispered. “Maybe we should establish what it is we’re sorry about.” She touched the fingers of her free hand to his lips. “Because I’m only sorry that we have to stop.”
Justin stared. No other woman.
She eased up on her hold on his hand and laced their fingers together, sending a pointed glance across the baseball diamond. “So…did you bring me here so we could play ball?” Her hair spilled to her shoulders and shrouded her face like a veil. She shook it back but it only fell forward again.
“No,” answered Justin quietly, reaching out to push the hair from Beth’s face so he could see her brilliant green eyes. “But I didn’t stop here to make out like teenagers at a drive-in, either.”
Interest flickered in her gaze and her lips twitched into a smile. “You still have drive-in theaters here?”
“Not in Orson’s Folly, but up in Oslow there’s one still operating.” He grinned. “Why? Got a sudden hankering to see a movie?”
Beth twisted in her seat and shifted her gaze to stare out the window for a few heartbeats. Justin held his breath. She was definitely up to something now.
The gaze she leveled on him seared him with heat and captured his imagination with its suggestion of wildness. “I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t see much of the actual movie. I’d much rather save the money and make out under the stars tonight.”
Justin stopped breathing. Oh, man. From zero to engines revved and ready to go in six words or less. He had to get away from the enclosed space with her or they’d quite likely get picked up for public indecency. He popped open the door and hopped out, striding on shaky legs to the back of the truck. He took his time searching through the brown paper sacks for his own impulse purchase, hoping to recover his self-control before Beth climbed from the pickup to join him.
“What’s that?” she asked as she approached, eying the roll of red tissue paper wrapped around two balsa-wood sticks. Squinting at the label, she read, “Sky Master?”
Grinning, Justin grabbed the spool of string from the bag and headed for the center of the ball field.
“Wait a minute!” she cried out from where he’d left her. “Wait…you brought me here to fly a kite?”
Justin glanced over his shoulder but didn’t stop walking when he noted her trotting to catch up.
“You ever flown a kite?”
“Ah…” Beth chuckled nervously. “Not since I was about ten. And it landed in a tree.”
Suddenly he was on top of the proverbial world. “Then it’s time you try again.” He gestured to the open field. “See? No trees. Nothing to get snagged on.”
Beth stood stock still except for two slow blinks of her eyes. She swallowed once, and then launched herself at him. Justin dropped the kite kit and stepped back with one foot to avoid falling over as he opened his arms. She was warm and squirmy and laughing…happy. And when she drew back to gaze into his eyes, she’d lost the little line that had been pinching her brow since they’d run into Alice in the general store.
Leaning forward again, she laid her lips on his for a quick, hard kiss that was somehow more intimate than the hot and heavy caresses they’d just shared in the cab of his pickup. Then she pulled out of his arms, bent to retrieve the kite and grabbed his hand, taking off for the center of the field. “Come on,” she said, laughing. “I wanna fly this kite.”
As Justin joined her in a flat-out run, he noticed the little things. The glint of gold in her hair as it bounced against her shoulders…the warmth of her hand in his…the delighted peal of her giggles when she turned and caught his eye.
No. Other. Woman.
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