Saturday, November 15, 2008

Add a Little Mistletoe by Aliyah Burke

Aspen’s body trembled. This was the only man with the power to turn her into a raving lunatic or a quivering mass of willing woman. Right now, she was the willing woman.

Slapping the bread and cheese down on the countertop, she stomped through her house to pick up dirty dishes, courtesy of his two dogs. Colt blocked her way back into the kitchen.

Arms crossed, he stood looking at her. “It bothers you that I’m here?” His words were quiet, but no less intense than any time he opened his mouth.

“What bothers me, Mr. Larkin, is the fact you planned this.” She waved her hand around, “Whatever this happens to be.” Shoving past him into the kitchen to toss the dishes into the sink, Aspen continued, “So apparently you have something to tell me about that night. Go ahead.” Aspen sank onto a barstool.

Colt faced her. Everything about her posture screamed dejection. Dropping his arms, he leaned across from her at the bar. “That night, Aspen, yes, I was dared to kiss you.” He noticed her hands shaking and covered them with his warm ones.

“Not for the reason you heard.” His hands tightened on hers, drawing her gaze to his waiting one. “The color of your skin had nothing to do with it. Nothing at all. I swear it.”

Aspen stared deep into his eyes, searching for truth. Finding what she sought in his stare, she nodded and said, “I believe you.” And she did.

As if that was what she had needed to hear him say and have herself say in return for the past twenty years, Aspen felt relieved of that burden on her soul. Taking a deep breath, she removed her hands from under his and closed her eyes.

When she opened them again, Colt was staring at her lips and there was burning desire in his eyes. Ignoring the pooling heat in her belly, she spoke again, “I guess I never realized how much anger that had caused me over the years.”

Unnerved by the barely-controlled passion in his unrelenting stare, Aspen began to make them both some food.

“If I had known that rumor was circling, I would have stopped it right away. Whoever said it was ignorant, jealous, or both,” Colt declared, watching her move around the kitchen. Each move she made was elegant and uniquely calming to his desolate soul.

A shy smile was all she gave him, before turning her attention to the skillet and making them both grilled cheese. The soup she reheated.

They ate at the table this time with the dogs at their feet. Colt kept watching her intently until she finally asked, “Why do you keep looking at me?”

“Just admiring the all-grown-up Aspen. You’re really beautiful.”

Aspen got up from the table. This was not what she wanted to discuss with Colt Larkin. Well, she did, but he wasn’t ever going to know that.

Setting her dishes in the sink, she turned on the faucet and began to fill the basin with warm water. “Look, I think we can cut out the cutesy crap, we’re not kids,” Aspen said dryly. “Let’s just get along until you can leave and go back to your life and me to mine.”

Two muscled arms settled around her, entrapping her with their sinewy strength. The sleeves on his shirt had been pushed back so she could make out each rippling tendon. Sweet Jesus, how come he is so strong? Aspen could feel the electricity pouring off his body as it molded to the contours of hers.

“Believe me,” he rumbled in her ear, his warm breath spreading along her cheek. “There is no doubt in my mind...we are way past school age.”

Eyes fluttering against the desire his voice evoked in her, Aspen prayed for strength. “Why are you doing this to me?” Her question was little more than a whisper.

Nuzzling her hair, Colt inhaled the smell of wild berries that surrounded her. “What is it that I am doing to you, Aspen?” he spoke against her temple.

Her body began to quake with need. “You…I…we…I…” Aspen stuttered.

Pressing his hard form closer to her softer one, Colt reached around her and shut off the water that had been filling the sink to full capacity. Then he added some dish soap as well. “You, I, we…what about it?” He put the soap back in its designated spot as the smooth voice of Brian McKnight flowed through the house.

Aspen had to lock her knees to keep from falling. She could feel her body’s wetness increase as each touch from Colt made her receptors cry out for one hundred times more. “I don’t know,” she admitted.

His hands moved to her shoulders and down her arms to tug up her sleeves so they wouldn’t get wet. Ever so gently, he placed her hands in the water. “Temperature okay?” At her nod, he reached for the dishrag.

Together, as one, they washed the dishes. Colt kept his fingers interspersed between hers as they scrubbed each dish. Sharing heat as outside, a storm raged. His body was pressed against Aspen’s so she could feel how hard he was, all over. He kept his firm lips upon her temple, stroking her soft skin.

Each touch was a caress as he assisted her in washing, rinsing, and stacking the dishes. When they were finished, he pulled out the stopper and made sure to clean her hands and arms off of all remaining suds. Then he dried them with just as much tenderness.

“Aspen,” he murmured, turning her to face him.

* * * *

Her eyes were like rich, dark butterscotch in the light. But they were soft and accepting. “Yes?”

Like he had done twenty years ago under the mistletoe, Colt cupped her face in his hands. Hands which were more callused and rough than they had been before. His chiseled features lowered themselves to her as his mouth settled upon hers.

At first it was just lips on lips. He nibbled on her full lips and relearned the shape and texture of her mouth. The second Aspen’s lips parted, his tongue was there to slip inside her mouth.

He watched as her eyes flickered shut and his own followed suit. Slowly, as though not wanting to rush anything, he swept his tongue from side to side in her mouth. Colt caught her whimper and his skin prickled with anticipation. She tasted like grilled cheese and Aspen, a taste he hadn’t forgotten in twenty years.

Aspen danced around his tongue with her own before she sucked it into her mouth. That suck was a jolt to Colt’s groin. He moaned and pressed closer to her body. Her back was against the counter and he spread his legs, settling her body between them. Powerful thighs rested against her and at the middle of them was a hard ridge that pressed against her belly.

She moved her hands up the hardness of his torso to latch around his neck—to do what she had longed to do that fateful night. Her fingers slid into the silkiness of his hair, bringing him closer to her mouth.

Ring. Ring. Ring. Her phone screamed to the house.

They didn’t jump apart. Silver met brown as their eyes gradually opened. Colt drew back slowly, maintaining a hold on her lower lip for as long as he could. She stood there trapped between him and the counter, watching.

“Maybe you should get your phone,” he suggested in a low tone. Her eyes conveyed her thoughts. “I’m not going anywhere, not this time.” Colt stepped away from her tempting body so she could get the phone.