Authors: Colette Cabot
Tags: #Contemporary Romance
“So, you can handle buffalo as well as camels?” she said gratefully.
“Why did you run Kathy Mae?” he said, turning to face her, but not moving apart. “I was going to give you a ride home. You almost killed yourself.” His eyes, now from a closer perspective, looked to be a lighter shade of green against the backdrop of the open sky.
“I didn't know it was you,” she explained, breathlessly, her mind still reeling with how this day could have ended. “I was too afraid to look.”
He did not speak anymore, but only took her troubled face between his hands and smoothed the worry lines on her forehead with his thumbs. Then he slowly brought his lips to hers. He did this gradually to see if she would object. After all, she had assumed he was a rapist, and he didn't want her to reconsider that it might be true. When she did not object, he engaged her full mouth in an intensely passionate kiss.
A wind suddenly appeared and kicked up small debris around them—just some broken pieces of weeds and tiny seeds. The whirling fury of nature equaled the passion of their kiss with unbridled passion. The very ground seemed to rumble with the vibration of the emotions passing between them. But, that was actually thunder. She, who had never been kissed, learned from the feelings of her body exactly what to do.
Her emotions led her recklessly to an embrace that would ultimately end on the prairie floor, until a thought entered her mind which only took a split second. She thought about her friend Carrie, whose life had been ruined by sexual passions. All her plans for a new life could end with the emergence of one tiny sperm at the wrong place during the right time of her cycle. She had just met this man. Was she no better than her friend Carrie?
Immediately, she shook her head free and pushed him away, though not far away. The smoldering stare he gave her, was so intense and serious that she felt like she was going to be devoured by a wild animal. He was insane with overwhelming desire coursing through his veins.
No words to describe what had passed between them. It was something that their bodies knew well, but their minds and wills stood confused. It was a kiss that Kathy Mae had only read about in books—then a vivid, but merely mental experience. And, just like with her self-help book—she believed it would someday happen to her—someday, and not with a stranger. Although every inch of her wanted it, the dangers were also real.
This man had kissed her, a man she knew barely anything about, and she had already begun to dream of a life with him. Carrie must have done the same with the two men who destroyed her dreams as well as taking the life of her young son. Mason aroused her like the passion and darkness of a Missouri thunderstorm. Like the temptation she often felt to stand in the rain letting it consume her, he seemed beautiful and powerful.
“You ready to get out of here?” he asked, realizing that she was right to put on the brakes. “That bull seems to have forgotten about us, but I wouldn't want to guess wrong about what's inside an animal's mind.”
She nodded yes and followed behind Mason through the tall grasses towards his parked pickup, leaving the buffalo with whatever thoughts he chose to have about his unexpected visitor. All had moved on from the moment. The day moved on into evening. The sky moved from light rain to a downpour. Kathy Mae wondered if it had ever subsided at all, or if they had just momentarily become oblivious to the gathering storm.
Kathy Mae rode home in Mason’s truck as dusk enveloped the sky. The tires spun gusts of dirt, mud, and gravel to eye level as they quickly sped out of Prairie State Park to hopefully arrive ahead of the storm. She awkwardly placed her hands in her lap, waiting for Mason to say something. Since leaving the park, they had been sitting in silence, each reluctant to deal with what had happened—or almost happened.
He barely knew this woman, yet he had decided to grab her face and kiss it. Why had he acted so rashly? Sexual passions were, for him, part of the natural order—like the sky meeting the earth and the rain falling from the clouds. It was both natural and dangerous, like a wild buffalo. His passions had caused him many lost relationships in the past, as he had eventually learned that much more was involved for women than his animal nature could easily comprehend.
“I'm sorry about coming on so strong,” Mason attempted to apologize, “I must have misinterpreted your feelings back at the real estate office. I thought you and I were on the same page, and I'm sorry if you feel violated in any way.”
“You didn't misinterpret anything,” she said, then back-tracked quickly, “Well, at least not in any way that was your fault. You see, I've had no experience at any of this. And, I felt attracted to you immediately and strongly. I just didn't know what to do with all that emotion coming on so suddenly.”
“That explains it all,” he nodded, “except why I'm so lucky. We'll take it slower, I promise, that is if you still want to get to know me better.”
She nodded and smiled shyly. He understood that he was dealing with a girl unlike his usual type.
Behind them, the storms were moving in quickly. Kathy Mae could see the ominous black clouds gathering. She hoped that they didn’t do too much damage, like in Joplin where people lost homes and family in disastrous ways.
She remembered well the day it had happened because even from her house, she had seen the blackest cloud ever swooping down to earth. It wasn't even the F-5 tornado itself, just the storm from which it was born—and that was frightening enough.
One of the girls that worked with her at the library had been at a gas station in Joplin when it hit. She had told Kathy Mae about all of the people in the store running to the beer cooler—a large, heavy fixture big enough for all to hide inside. The beer cooler was picked up and smashed down again onto the ground. All they could do was scream, “JESUS, HELP US!” A woman was crushed to death, and another man suffered a heart attack from which he nearly died. Storms in the Midwest were like that—the devil roaring in the outer wind and the Lords eye in the middle.
In fall and spring, people in the Midwest had become accustomed to bad storms and moderate tornadoes as part of life. They were so used to it, they often waited outside to spot them coming, just for the fun of it. Some people even got in their cars and drove around chasing them. Kathy Mae was not one of those sort, and from his gravely serious expression, she didn't think Mason to be one of those fools, either.
“Do you know the way to Borough?” she asked, knowing that he must, since it had been walking distance from the real estate office.
“Passed right through it on the way to your office today,” he said, then he teased her a bit, “But, of course, I sneezed and missed it.”
“Right, I've heard that one before,” she said. “When you get to the old Methodist church, take a right. My place is down Carriage Lane, the second house on the left.”
She felt embarrassed for him to see both the place where she lived and the woman inside. Kathy Mae tried to disregard those feelings, knowing it was now only a temporary living condition, and that he slept with animals in a trailer—not that it probably wasn't a step up from her own situation. Someday, she would have better—but not for a while. She knew she had to live cheaply so she could save money to go to school. After that she might permit herself to begin imagining her dream home.
“You know, I'm suddenly hungry,” he said, dreading the end of their evening together, “I would love to take you to dinner. How about it?” he asked.
“I'm starving,” she gasped, although she really wasn't. Apparently, this was the day the universe had decided to feed her for free. All she really wanted was an opportunity to spend more time with him.
They sat at the intersection, a crossroads offering two possible choices.
“Chinese is left into Nevada,” he said, “The best pizza around these parts would be in Brumley toward the right. What'll it be?” he asked.
Taking the hint by saying it first, she said that Chinese sounded good. His smile told her she had chosen well. It pleased her to know one more thing about him, and she wondered how many things she should know before it would be more acceptable to become intimate with him. Or, was it only necessary to take the proper precautions. In his mind—a male mind—this probably was the case. But, she was already concerned about being hurt.
He reluctantly realized he was beginning to date this woman. It was not going to be casual with her, and that concerned him. He did not want to deal with any more rejection. She was young and inexperienced, so she couldn't know what she really wanted yet. It would be difficult for him if he allowed himself to expect something that would never happen. Such disappointment he tried to avoid by sticking with one-night stands and purely sexual encounters. Somewhere deep inside him, he really wanted more.
His real mother, not that tramp whom his dad had made a fixture in his house, but his real mother, had been gone from his life when he was just a toddler. Over time, by the age of eight or so, Mason stopped dreaming of an imaginary mother and didn't expect anyone to attend award ceremonies, games, or any event which the other parents attended. But, he had been old enough to remember the countless times he watched to entrance hoping to see someone appear. He remembered crying himself to sleep when he needed a hug when no one was there to give him one.
He hoped that Kathy Mae might be the one who would never disappoint him, if such a person existed. It was strange that he thought this after having given up on women for many years. There was something about her shy, yet open look—the big doe eyes that reminded him of Bambi. And, she was untouched—by any man as well as by the more vulgar side of life. She was exceptional, he could see it in the way she moved, with an innocent grace all of her own. Time would tell.
Her face was all the more beautiful to him because of her flaws. He noticed the little crooked tooth in the front. It didn't diminish her smile one bit. She seemed to wear no make-up at all, at least she didn't look like she wore much, not like the strippers he had dated who glittered in the dim lights of bars and had lips that were colored in unnatural shades of red and pink. Kathy Mae's lips were the color of a blushing cheek, and the texture of her soft mouth was obvious as bare flesh, beckoning to be kissed with no fear of feeling greasy smears on his mouth. He wondered that every man walking down the street would not be tempted to grab her and plant one big smacker on her lips.
Kathy suddenly interrupted his thoughts.
“I haven't had Chinese food in years,” she said, “There has seldom been a way or a reason to go this far from home.”
“It's only twenty miles from Borough,” he said, “You really have led a sheltered life.”
“It seems far, when you don't have transportation,” she explained. “I went there once with a friend of mine. She died, and I can't remember why we went there. She borrowed her dad's car that night—I think without asking. Maybe that's why it never happened again.”
“Hope it doesn't bring back sad memories for you,” Mason commented, with concern.
“She passed a few years back,” said Kathy Mae, “I like to remember the good parts now. Time has softened the edges of the sadness I used to feel.”
Kathy decided she had to keep him talking so she could know more about him, so she asked about where he lived before moving to Nevada.
“I lived all over,” he answered in a way that seemed to betray a little reluctance to talk about it. “The trailer was always my home on the road, so I'm used to not living in the house. I'd actually choose the barn before I'd live with those two.”
“Too crowded?” she asked, realizing as soon as the words came out of her mouth that she was prying. “I know I feel crowded even though it's only my aunt and me. She seems to be everywhere I look. Her presence just covers every nook and cranny. I try to stay in my room, but of course, I have to clean.”
“Too bad you don't have a trailer,” he joked.
“I'd still have to go in there and clean,” she said. “Everybody calls me Cinderella. It might not be my name, but it's my job description.”
“Well, Cinderella's life turned out pretty good in the end,” he said. “I hope yours does, too.”
She smiled, wondering if she was thinking, actually hoping, that he would be her handsome Prince.
“That must be the property you picked up the papers for today,” she asked, trying to get the conversation back to the subject of his life. “So, they just bought it?”
“Not exactly,” he answered, “They were in this rent-to-own deal. The payments are now applying toward the mortgage since they've paid enough now to cover the down-payment—or I should say I did. They are always running short of cash when the payment comes due.”
“The storm seems to have moved on,” Kathy Mae noticed when they pulled into the parking space right next to the door of Happy Garden Restaurant. It was nearly seven in the evening by now, and she was wondering if Aunt Anna was watching the clock and wondering if she was going to have to get her own supper as well as her lunch. More than likely, there would be a pile of dishes in the sink, if Aunt Anna even bothered to put them there.
“I wonder what my aunt would do without me,” she said when they seated themselves at a table. “And, your folks, too. What if they didn't have you to count on?”
“That's a real good question,” he said, thoughtfully. “Guess I never thought much about it. Since I'm an only child, I figure it'll be my house someday anyway.”
“Not since he's married to the woman you told me about,” she said cautiously, again thinking she was treading into personal matters. “His wife would inherit everything, unless he leaves a will stating things to the contrary or changes the deed.”
“You sound like a lawyer,” he teased. “But, I think you're right. Maybe I need to check into that.”
“You don't need a lawyer,” she added, matter-of-factually. “All you have to do is add a T.O.D. to the deed. That means Transfer on Death. You can do that at the county courthouse.”
“Okay, now I know you're a lawyer,” he said. “What are you doing in that rinky-dink real estate company?”
“I do a lot of reading,” she said, embarrassed. “Really. I worked in a library before I got this job, and you can find out anything you want to know in the library.”
“What about you?” he asked as they walked up to the buffet table with their plates in hand. “Are you T.O.D.'d on your aunt's property?”
“I don't know,” she admitted. “Probably not. My aunt has a living sister, my mother. Boy, that is surely someone who doesn't deserve it. My aunt would hate it if my mother ended up with her house after never paying her anything for all those years she was taking care of me. I will check into that. Not that it would pass to me, either. But, she should make sure it goes where she wants.”
“It's a good thing we've had this conversation,” said Mason. “Here all I thought I was getting was a pretty girl, and you've got a head on your shoulders as a bonus.”
“You can't possibly think I'm pretty,” she said, shyly.
“I most certainly do,” he insisted. His straightforward look convinced her he meant it.
“Oh, you're a keeper, Mason,” she said seriously, but smiling. “I'm hanging onto you.”
He smiled back and said nothing, but he was thinking, I hope so, I really do hope so.
“Do you get the feeling that you are being watched?” he said while they consumed wonton soup, cashew chicken, and egg rolls. He nodded toward the blue haired women across the aisle whispering loudly, as they probably weren't wearing their hearing aids and didn't know everyone could hear them. They fell silent every time he and Kathy Mae started talking, hoping to hear juicy tidbits.