MERRY CHRISTMAS from Lethe Press
Merry Christmas from us at Lethe Press. And as today's is ordinarily Erotica Friday, who are we to break with tradition? Below you listen to or read a story from The Bears of Winter edited by Jerry L. Wheeler, in which Santa just might be getting up to a few steamy shenanigans...
Read 'Little Suzie' by Frank Muse, or listen to the audio version:
As soon as he regained consciousness, Santa knew he was in trouble. He was tied to a chair with his hands bound behind his back, and a rubber ball gag was strapped into his mouth. Things didn’t look good.
He quickly looked around the room. His sack of toys was on the floor where he had placed it after coming down the chimney, and a plate of snickerdoodles sat on the coffee table. He remembered biting into one and being delighted it was homemade. Nearby, a green plastic tumbler lay on the floor in a pool of slowly coagulating pumpkin-flavored eggnog.
The last thing Santa remembered before passing out was taking a big gulp of that eggnog. “It must have been drugged,” he thought. “My damn sweet tooth is always getting me into trouble.”
Santa had found himself in bad situations before, so he scanned the room again, this time more slowly. Maybe he could find some clues about who had done this to him.
The house was supposed to be the home of little Suzie Watkins, age six. She had asked for a Barbie astronaut doll, a pony (sorry, Suzie, Santa doesn’t do livestock), and a new soccer uniform. Suzie lived in an isolated region of Ontario, and her house was one of Santa’s first deliveries.
But as he looked around, he slowly realized that little Suzie probably didn’t exist. Most houses with children had some telltale toys scattered around, but he didn’t see a single piece of brightly colored plastic. Suspicious. Instead, he saw a well-stocked liquor cabinet, high-end electronics, and some tasteful leather chairs.
The Christmas tree should have been decorated with the sparkly ornaments and paper chains a little girl like Suzie would have made in school, but it was covered with hand-carved wooden animals, softly glowing white lights, and porcelain mermen instead. No mermaids? Even more suspicious.
If this were really little Suzie’s house, there should be photos of her and her family, but all Santa saw was a framed Tom of Finland print mounted above the couch. Suzie probably wouldn’t want to see a biker and a sailor groping each other in a public park. Very suspicious. With a sinking sensation, Santa slowly realized he had been kidnapped by one of his crazed gay fans. Again.
It was a hazard of the job, one that wasn’t discussed on morning talkshows or in animated children’s specials. As one of the world’s best-known Daddies, Santa figured prominently in the fantasies of thousands of gay men. Santa and his elves had developed a theory about how these fantasies originated. Maybe they arose from early childhood experience, but it seemed more likely they were ancient archetypal behavior patterns dating back to the early days of human evolution.
When people saw a big, strong man with a beard, they connected him with power, protection, and virility. In mankind’s hunter-gatherer past, Santa would have been the ultimate provider and chief of the caveman tribe. But now when gay men found themselves drawn to Santa, their attraction became perverted into sexual fantasies. Sick and twisted sexual fantasies.
The front door opened, and a large bearded man entered in a burst of snowflakes. He stomped his boots to remove the snow, put down the firewood he was carrying, and hung his coat on a hook. Then he turned to Santa and said, “Now that you’re inside with me I can light a fire. It’s really coming down out there.”
Santa struggled against his bonds, but his captor smiled and shook his head. “I’m sorry about the ropes, Santa. It’s temporary, just until you grow to love me as much as I love you. I’m hoping it won’t take long. I have so many plans for us.”
He stuck out his hand and then realized his mistake. “Oh, sorry again. I just wanted to formally introduce myself. My name is Jimmy, and I’m your biggest fan.”
Santa wanted to roll his eyes, but he resisted the urge. You’ve got to control yourself, Santa. Don’t do anything to make this psycho angry. Remember the children who need you, he thought.
Santa thought Jimmy might be right, however, when he called himself his biggest fan. Well, at least he was the largest person who had ever kidnapped him. He guessed Jimmy was about six feet tall, and maybe weighed two-fifty. Jimmy was only wearing a tight red union suit and a pair of work boots, so Santa could see that his arms and legs were thick and muscular. His union suit was unbuttoned to just below the navel, and his large chest and firm round belly were covered with the same bright red hair he had on his head and face.
Santa knew Jimmy was what the gays these days called a “bear,” but up at the North Pole, the elves just would have called him a “big hunk of man.” Jimmy was smiling broadly at Santa, and he realized Jimmy was not only the biggest but also the most handsome maniac he had ever been kidnapped by. Despite his dire situation, Santa felt his velvet pants start to tighten a little.
Jimmy sat down in a leather armchair opposite Santa and spread his legs wide. Santa could see the size of his Yule log through the union suit, and he tried not to let his eyes widen in amazement. He failed.
“I’m glad I got your attention,” Jimmy said. I’m sure you don’t remember me, Santa. You’re so generous each year to millions of children worldwide, why would you remember me? I’m nothing special, but I remember you.”
“Every Christmas you gave me whatever I asked for. When I was eight, I asked for He-Man and Skeletor dolls. My parents laughed and said ‘No way. We don’t want our little boy playing with bodybuilders in leather harnesses. That just doesn’t seem right.’ But I mailed you my list, and you gave me those toys. Boy, were my parents surprised.”
“When I was twelve, I wanted the boxed dvd series of Grizzly Adams and The Incredible Hulk. Again, my parents told me no. ‘We don’t want you hogging up the TV, watching Lou Ferrigno rip out of his clothes or a guy with a beard run around in the woods.’ But on Christmas morning, those presents were waiting for me under the tree. You always gave me what I wanted, and you never asked for anything in return except some milk and cookies.”
“Maybe you remember this one? When I was eighteen, I wanted the Colt Studios Hairy Chested Hunks calendar. I didn’t even bother to ask my parents. Even though I was too old to believe in Santa, I sent you a postcard anyway, and on Christmas morning when I woke up, the calendar was discreetly tucked underneath my pillow. I was excited to get it (real excited, if you know what I mean), but I was even more excited thinking about you sneaking into my bedroom while I slept.”
Jimmy slipped one hand inside his union suit and rubbed his big, ginger-haired chest. Santa tried to avert his eyes, but he couldn’t.
Jimmy said, “After I went to college, I started dating guys. Lots and lots of guys, and I kind of forgot about you. I guess it was the sex, because I was having lots of it. Men liked my big hairy body. Do you like it, Santa? Oh, sure all the sex was fun, and I even fell in love a few times, but I always felt like something was missing. And then just recently I realized what it was. No one had ever loved me as purely and truly as you did. Every man I loved always wanted something in return: sex, a relationship, emotional support, whatever. But you, you loved me unconditionally.”
Jimmy smiled and unbuttoned two more buttons. Santa watched as Jimmy ran his hand down over his furry belly, across a thick tuft of fiery pubic hair, and under the thin cotton fabric that hid his growing bulge. Jimmy grabbed it, and Santa moaned.
“You like that, Santa?” Jimmy said. “Maybe I’ll give it to you if you say you love me. The nearest neighbor’s a mile away, and with this blizzard, there’s no chance any Christmas carolers are stopping by. Still, if I take off the gag, do you promise not to scream? I don’t want you to scare your reindeer.”
Santa nodded eagerly, and Jimmy pressed his hairy torso against Santa’s face as he unstrapped the ball gag. Santa inhaled deeply, taking in the smells of wood smoke, Ivory soap, and baked goods. He moaned again.
After he took off the gag, Jimmy peeled off his union suit and kicked off his boots. He looked down at Santa’s crotch and smiled. He said, “I can see you like my big cinnamon stick, Santa. You want to touch it? All you have to do is say you love me.”
Santa smiled and said, “All I can say is … you picked the wrong mythical figure to fuck with. I ain’t no Easter Bunny.”
Jimmy’s smile vanished.
With a quick flex of his arms and legs Santa freed himself from the ropes. “You didn’t think I’d be so strong, did you? I’ve been loading sleighs for two thousand years, you puny punk.”
Santa stood up. He was a head taller than Jimmy and outweighed him by at least a hundred pounds. Santa laughed when Jimmy gasped at his size. “That’s right, little cub. The biggest bears are the motherfucking polar bears.”
Santa flexed his arms, and the velvet ripped along the seams as his huge biceps bulged upward. He flexed his chest, and his enormous pecs ripped open his coat. He flung it onto the floor and growled. Jimmy whimpered as he saw the thick white hair that covered Santa’s powerful muscles and thick gut.
“I’m a damn Christmas superhero, and you can’t stop me from my duty. Even with that fucking hot little body of yours.” He poked Jimmy in the chest with one finger, and Jimmy fell back into the leather chair. He grabbed himself as he stared hungrily up at Santa.
Santa ripped off his red velvet pants, revealing a massive black leather jockstrap adorned with jingle bells. He spread his booted feet wide and rested his hands on his hips. And then, Santa made the bells jingle. Jimmy gasped.
Santa said, “The howling winds are mine to command! The icy blizzard is my companion! The year’s blackest midnight is my festival!” His eyes glowed with ancient, elemental power.
As he spoke, the house was buffeted by strong winds. The lights flickered, and snow gusted down the chimney onto the floor. Up on the roof, the reindeer stomped their hooves in agitation.
Jimmy crawled across the floor and began to lick Santa’s thick hairy thighs. Santa’s jockstrap jingled again as its contents grew larger.
Santa looked down at Jimmy and sneered. “Good boys get presents, but you know what bad boys get?”
Jimmy looked up expectantly.
Santa paused and said, “Umm, bad boys get … hold on …”
Jimmy whispered, “We talked about this. You know what you’re supposed to say!”
Santa laughed. “I’m sorry, it’s a busy time of year for me. Uh, I know you didn’t want me to say coal … Oh right.”
Santa composed himself and once again sneered down at Jimmy. “Bad boys get a trip to the North Pole.” He pulled off his jockstrap and threw it across the floor.
Jimmy said, “Oh Santa, it’s the biggest candy cane I’ve ever seen!”
With a bellowing “Ho ho ho!” Santa scooped up Jimmy, threw him over his shoulder like a sack of toys, and carried him off to the bedroom.
Afterward, they were lying in bed, listening to the wind batter the walls and watching the snow pile up against the window.
Santa said, “That was a lot of fun, but you don’t have to think up these elaborate scenarios all the time. Last month I was a firefighter and had to rescue you from a burning logging camp. Before that we were Mexican wrestlers, and before that I was a Viking and you were an Irish monk. You know, sometimes we can just get together for dinner and watch a movie.”
Jimmy looked up from where he was resting his face in Santa’s snowy chest hair. “I know, but it’s Christmas Eve, and I wanted you to have some fun on your busiest work night. It’s my present to you. And I just …” Jimmy hesitated and looked away.
“What is it, Jimmy?” Santa said softly.
“I just want to make sure you don’t fall out of love with me.”
Santa laughed so hard that the bed shook.
“Don’t laugh! I’m serious. You’re so exciting and famous, and I’m just a chef at a pancake house. What’s keeping us together other than the hot sex?” Jimmy reached down between Santa’s thighs. “I mean the really, really hot sex.”
Santa pulled Jimmy’s hand away. He looked him in the eyes and said, “For one thing, you’re the most amazing, beautiful, hairy pancake chef in Canada. And for another thing, I knew you were the one as soon as we met.”
“Of course. When I saw you two years ago at Provincetown Bear Week, my heart felt something it had never felt before. And I’ve felt a lot of things in my long life. Besides, somehow you saw through my magic and knew who I really was. That must mean something. No one else has ever done that.”
Jimmy wriggled up and kissed Santa’s rosy nose. “It was obvious who you were. I was like, ‘Damn girl, there’s Santa rocking out to Katy Perry. I better make my move before someone else does.’”
“Everyone else just saw an old fool in cargo shorts and a fanny pack,” Santa said.
“No, everyone else saw a sexy old fool in cargo shorts and a fanny pack.”
Santa growled and rolled over, pinning Jimmy under his massive bulk. Santa’s eyes blazed with blue fire as he said, “I’ll show you who’s an old fool, you little brat.”
Jimmy smirked and writhed under him. “Oh, I dare you to show me, old man.”
Suddenly, from up on the rooftop they heard the noise of reindeer hooves. They were tapping rhythmically, as if in Morse code.
“Oh darn it, it’s time to go. I guess I should deliver all those presents.” Santa sighed and climbed out of bed.
As he watched Santa pull on his boots and gloves, Jimmy said, “You know, one thing in tonight’s little game was true. You do always get me exactly what I want for Christmas. Hint, hint.”
Santa winked at him and said, “Well, people say there’s always a little truth in every fantasy.” He put on his red hat and walked into the living room.
Jimmy followed him and looked expectantly under the Christmas tree, but there were no presents.
Santa positioned himself by the fireplace, naked except for his boots, gloves, and hat. “I’ll call you tomorrow,” he said.
“Aren’t you forgetting something?” Jimmy said.
“What, you don’t want me to deliver gifts naked? Don’t worry, Mrs. Claus packed me an extra red suit in the sleigh. She knew I was coming here first tonight.”
“Your mother’s so considerate. Give her my love,” Jimmy said, and then added with a slight note of desperation in his voice, “But aren’t you forgetting something else?”
“Jimmy, I’d never forget you. You know sometimes I like to tease. Your Christmas present is next to the bed.” Santa laid one of his fingers next to his nose. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” Jimmy stepped back and watched Santa transform from a huge naked musclebear into a radiant ball of icy blue energy, which shot up the chimney like a rocket.
Jimmy smiled as the house rattled, and a cloud of snow and ashes shot into the living room. “That up-the-chimney thing gets me every time,” he said.
Jimmy fell asleep quickly after Santa left, lulled into slumber by the sound of snowflakes on the windowpane. He smiled as he slept. Clutched in his hand was a large brass key, which had the following note attached to it by a silver ribbon:
Don’t you think it’s time we moved in together? Here’s your own key to my castle at the North Pole. Or should I say our castle? When you pack your things, don’t forget the wrestling masks. And maybe a cop uniform.
Love and Merry Christmas,
The Big Man in the Red Suit
All Lethe Press books, including Woof, are available through the major online retailers and booksellers. You can also support the press and authors by buying directly from our website. Or, if you prefer listening, the unabridged audiobook is available at Amazon or Audible.
It's nearly the weekend, so it's high time for a little fun, don't you think? Every Friday we're posting an excerpt from one of Lethe's erotica anthologies, and this week we're featuring The Bears of Winter, one of the most recent releases from our Bear Bones Books imprints, edited by Jerry L. Wheeler. Collecting together a set of passionate and romantic stories of bears amidst the cold and snow, this collection is perfect for the winter months, and even better, it's just $10 for the paperback all week at the Lethe website.
Read an excerpt from 'Snow on Scrabble Creek' by Jeff Mann, or listen to the audio:
Timmy Kincaid’s cussing and praying as he turns onto the narrow road leading up Scrabble Creek. The February rain that began as he left the bar back in Charleston shifted to snow as he drove Route 60 home along the Kanawha River. Now it’s falling so fast, the road’s barely discernible. “Damn, damn, damn. Thank God for four-wheel drive,” Timmy mutters, patting the old Ford’s console.
It’s 3:45 am in rural West Virginia; Timmy’s the only driver on the road. Ascending the holler, he passes shabby trailers, modest homes with unlit windows, chimneys trailing wood smoke. Road-cut icefalls glisten in the headlights; snow swarms like a host of crystalline insects.
The road winds along the wintergreen creek, climbing deeper into wintry hills. Timmy’s truck hits an icy patch and slides for a second before regaining traction. “Goddamn it,” Timmy snarls. Switching off Lynyrd Skynyrd so as to concentrate better, he gears down into third and drops into a determined crawl. Brow furrowed, he squints into the storm. Something hypnotic about its fall, he thinks. Something easeful. I could just lie back and study it and drive right into the mountainside, and that’d be the end of this loneliness. Bob’d be real sorry for leaving me then.
A few slow snow-blind miles later, Timmy pulls over in front of a ramshackle church. He scratches nervous sweat from his sideburns, fetches a pint of bourbon from the glove compartment, and takes a long swig. Sitting back, Timmy rubs his temples, breathes deeply, stares at the darkened windows of the building, and thinks of his only surviving relative. Aunt Beulah was in there earlier this evening, just like she is every Friday, handling serpents with the rest of the Scrabble Creek faithful. Copperheads and rattlers. Fuck. Timmy rolls his eyes and takes another drink. Wonder how Beulah and those other fine religious folk would feel if they knew I just spent the evening striking out at a gay bar? Another four swigs, and the bottle’s empty. He’s tempted to lob it at the church, but instead he tosses it into the passenger seat before continuing up the creek.
Soon, the Ford’s veered off the snowy pavement and bumps along a steep dirt road. Timmy’s trailer sits in the woods by a brook, a good mile from other habitations, isolated — just the way he likes it — near the head of the holler. He pulls into the driveway, turns off the engine, and sighs, relieved to be home after so many perilous miles.
Inside, he clicks on a lamp, then slips off denim jacket, baseball cap, and work boots. In the kitchen, he gobbles a few boxed doughnuts, then pops open a beer and chugs it. In the bathroom, he peels off his sweatshirt, jeans, and boxer briefs and takes a long shower, luxuriating in the hot water on such a frigid night.
Toweling off before the mirror, Timmy studies his reflection. He looks like what he is, a West Virginia working man. He’s twenty-eight, one hundred and ninety pounds, five foot ten, with shaggy brown hair, bushy sideburns, pale blue eyes, cheeks covered with a week’s worth of stubble, and an unkempt brown goatee. Soft brown hair coats the front of his body from his neck to his ankles. His belly’s a little plump with junk food and beer, but his arms, shoulders, chest, and thighs are thickly muscled, thanks to his former job in the mines.
Hell, now, not bad for an ole redneck boy. He flexes his biceps, then his pectorals. He flicks his nipples erect. He cocks his plump ass, runs a finger along his butt-crack fuzz, jacks his stiffening beer-can of a dick, and grins at himself in the mirror.
Abruptly, he shakes his head, grin fading fast as he recalls the day Bob, his lover of several years, moved out. That miserable memory leads to thoughts of the brawny leather-daddy he tried to hook up with earlier this evening who blew him off for a twink. Damn, I need laid. I cain’t find a man for love nor money. Hell, what’s wrong with me? An hour’s drive to Charleston, then that long, scary drive back in shitty weather … what a waste of time.
Morose, Timmy slips into A-shirt, sweatpants, and boot socks, heads into the living room, and turns on the gas fireplace. Grimacing, he sorts through a pile of unpaid bills — a source of mounting anxiety since his unemployment — only to toss them on the coffee table and turn off the light. Standing by the big window facing down the holler, he gulps a second beer, then opens another, content to be so far from people and the disappointments they bring, happy to be surrounded by dark and silent woodland. The snow sifts down around the tree trunks; something big and black wings past the window.
Pileated woodpecker, I’m guessing, Timmy thinks, finishing the third bottle before stretching out on the couch. Covering himself with a comforter, he closes his eyes. As horny as he is after such a frustrating evening at the Broadway, he considers a nice jerk-off session to a Raging Stallion dvd, but he’s too depressed. Instead he drowses in the firelight, listening to hard wind in the trees and the purl of the brook. He’s fast asleep when a pounding on the door startles him awake.
“What the hell?” Timmy’s on his feet in an instant, fetching a loaded pistol from the coffee table drawer. He toes on moccasins, flips on the porch light, and peers out the window.
A man is standing there in the storm. He’s tall, good-looking, burly-built, in his mid-thirties. His dark hair’s bound back in a ponytail; his goatee’s black and bushy, the moustache so full it obscures his mouth. He’s wearing black jeans, black boots, and a black leather biker jacket, broad shoulders dusting with snow. Woof, Daddy! Damn, he’s hot. But he looks wild too. Dangerous. What the fuck is a Hell’s Angel doing up Scrabble Creek this late? And in the middle of a blizzard?
Timmy clicks off the gun’s safety, unlocks the door, and opens it a crack. “What d’ya want?” he growls, glaring at the stranger. Growing up in Fayette County, Timmy learned an important fact a long time ago: even if people have heard you’re gay, if you look and act rough and tough, plus learn a little boxing and karate for good measure, they’re much less likely to fuck with you. He’s had to kick a few pious breeder asses over the years, morons who thought they could bash the queer. Local folks have learned to leave him alone.
The man gives Timmy a brilliant smile, flash of white in that black bush of a beard. “Hey, man. My Harley broke down. I saw your light on up here. Mind if I use your phone?”
Wary, Timmy hesitates. The stranger’s accent is mountain-bred like Timmy’s, but with a touch of something foreign to it. Scotland? He looks and sounds sorta like Gerard Butler. He’s bigger than I am. But I got the gun.
“A bike in this weather?” Timmy says, dubious.
“Yeah. Well. I ain’t always bright.” The man’s smile widens.
Downright charming, Timmy thinks, and somehow familiar.
The stranger takes a step closer, leaning one arm against the doorframe. “Say, haven’t I seen you in Charleston?” he says, as if echoing Timmy’s thoughts. “At the Broadway?”
“Uh. Yep!” Timmy nods, pleasantly surprised to find out that the handsome man at his door is a patron of Charleston’s gay dance bar. What are the odds? I spend all goddamn evening looking for a musclebear, and now one’s come to me? Talk about luck! “You go there?”
“Sure do. When my travels permit. My name’s Derek. Say, man, would you please let me in?” he says, brushing snowflakes from his beard. “It’s freezing out here.”
Timmy, reassured, opens the door and steps aside. “Many thanks,” Derek says, striding in. He tugs off his jacket, the leather gleaming in a flare of red firelight. To Timmy’s surprise, Derek’s wearing not a winter sweater or a sweatshirt but a tight black T-shirt that accentuates his sculpted chest, shoulders, and tattooed arms. Oh, fuck, he’s buff, Timmy thinks, licking his lips.
“Quite a little nest you have way up here. A true cub-cave.” Chuckling, Derek gazes around the messy room — gun rack, weight set, fast-food wrappers, emptied Bud Light bottles, Rebel flag doo-rag, collection of hunting knives — and out the big window into the storm. He turns to Timmy and cocks a black eyebrow, regarding the gun.
“Gonna shoot me?” Derek says solemnly, crossing his arms.
“Uh, sorry,” Timmy says, clicking the safety on and slipping the gun into its drawer. “You cain’t be too careful when you live out this far. Ever’body roundabouts knows I’m gay. I used to get beat up bad before I bulked up, and I still have trouble with some Bible thumpers down in Gauley. Even lost my job over it. Those fuckers at Alpha Coal fired me when they heard I was queer. I been unemployed for six months.”
“Sounds like you need some protection,” Derek says, pulling his glossy hair free and shaking moisture from it. “Or a hit man.”
Or a Daddy. Goddamn. He looks like Christ. If Christ were inked-up and built like a brick shithouse. “Naw. I can take care of myself.” Timmy beckons to the gun rack, then offers his hand. “I’m Timmy Kincaid.”
The men shake. Derek’s grip is very strong; the cub can’t help but wince.
“I know who you are,” Derek says, releasing Timmy’s hand. “I’ve seen you at the bar quite a few times. Look, would you mind if I spent the night? As bad as that storm is, I don’t think anyone’s getting in or out of this holler for a few days.”
“Uh, you may be right,” says Timmy, studying the stranger’s handsome face and powerful physique. Man, he’d feel mighty good on top of me. “Uh, yeah, I guess we’re both stuck up here. Hey, where are my manners? You want a beer? Or some moonshine?”
“Maybe later.” The stranger in black flashes another seductive grin. “You’re a really fine-looking cub.” His eyes are dark, gleaming. The pupils seem to glint red, as if reflecting the firelight.
Damn, he’s moving fast. “Uh, thanks, man. You’re pretty hot yourself.”
“I thought you’d think so. What time is it?”
“Uh, it’s …” A wash of sleepy ease surges through Timmy; at the same time, his cock hardens in his sweatpants. “5:30?”
“I hope you like the drama of this blizzard I brought. I figured it’d insure us a few nights together without interruption. Are there caves on this mountain?”
Timmy steps back. Suddenly, the sexy bear from the Broadway is talking like a psycho.
“Uhhh … caves? Brought the blizzard? What are you talking about?”
Derek smoothes back his bushy moustache, revealing sensual lips and a tight smile. This time the expression is less charming than wry. “I’m talking about owning you for a few days, boy. Longer, if you prefer. And I’m thinking you really shouldn’t have put away your gun.”
Oh, fuck. Timmy bolts toward the coffee table. He makes it only a couple of feet before the stranger seizes him from behind, one arm crooked around his neck, another around his torso. Timmy’s lifted, gasping and kicking. He barely has time to marvel at his attacker’s strength and speed before he’s thrown across the room. He hits the bookcase, then, in a shower of paperbacks, falls to the floor. He lies there on his belly, stunned. He rolls over, groans, and clutches his side. Teeth gritted, he pulls himself up onto hands and knees, head swimming, amoeboid spots clustering his eyes.
Derek’s voice, a calm baritone, throbs in Timmy’s head. “You’d better be careful. As you see, I’m a lot stronger than you.”
Timmy staggers to his feet, glaring at Derek.
“You’re ferocious, aren’t you?” Derek says, grinning. “I surely relish such resistance. It gives me an excuse to rough you up a bit. Come on over here, cub. Give it another try.”
“Crazy fucker. I’ll whip your ass,” Timmy spits, balling up a fist. Halfway through the arc of his punch, the dark man before him vanishes. Timmy stumbles forward. When he tries to turn, a blow to the belly doubles him over. When he tries to straighten up, he’s backhanded so hard he spins in a half-circle and drops to his knees.
“Enough,” growls Derek, wrenching Timmy’s left arm behind him so violently that he yelps with pain. He’s hauled up and slammed up against the wall.
Derek’s soft beard nuzzles Timmy’s ear. “Time to behave now. If you’d gotten home earlier, we could have done this tasty little dance for hours, but as it is, we don’t have much time. Do you believe me when I say that I’ll break your arm if you don’t calm down?”
“Goddamn you,” Timmy hisses, writhing in Derek’s grasp. “Goddamn you. How can you be so strong? Lemme go!”
Derek twists Timmy’s arm. Timmy screams.
“Do you believe me?”
“Ah, God! Yes! Yes! Don’t break my arm!”
“Please don’t break my arm!”
“Good boy. I’ll bet you have some rope, chain, and duct tape around here, don’t you?”
Timmy’s stomach tightens. He can’t recall ever feeling so helpless and so terrified. “W-why?”
“I … yeah. In the utility room. But why?”
“Why do you think?” Derek nibbles Timmy’s earlobe. “I need to leave at sunrise. That’s in only a few hours, and I want a lot more time with you than that. I’m going to truss you up, buddy. Like a belated Yuletide gift to myself. Tomorrow night, when I come back, we’ll spend some sweet hours together, I promise. And the night after that, if you so choose.”
“Oh, God, man. If I let you tie me up, what, what are you —”
“Let me?” Derek sniggers. “Your days of choice are past, my friend. What am I going to do with you? I guess you’ll have to wait and see.”
Head hanging, Timmy slumps trembling on the edge of the bed, trying not to break down, trying not to beg for mercy. His captor has used a combination of coarse hemp rope and duct tape to bind Timmy’s wrists behind him, then to secure together his elbows. Now, with one of Timmy’s own hunting knives, Derek slices off the boy’s A-shirt. He swathes the young miner’s bared torso and biceps in a taut web of cords and knots, followed by several yards of duct tape that circle his chest and trap his arms against his sides.
“That should hold you till tomorrow night,” Derek says, tightening a knot. “Think you can get out of that?”
Timmy stares at the floor. The sense of inescapable doom that swamped him as the stranger slipped the first length of rope around his wrists has rapidly moved into a quivering, nauseated panic he’s doing his level best to conceal. Daddy always told me I was good in a crisis, he thinks, feeling a trickle of fear-sweat roll down his temple. Get a grip, Timmy boy. Be a man. Don’t give this freak any satisfaction.
Slowly he shakes his head. “Get loose? With all this fuckin’ tape? I kinda doubt it. Guess a nutcase like you knows what he’s doing. I cain’t hardly move.”
“You aren’t complaining, are you? You used to love it when Bob got out the cuffs.”
“How the hell d’ya know about Bob? This is different, and you know it. Are you really gonna keep me like this till tomorrow night? All trussed up without no food or water?”
“Yep. I only wish I could be here to listen to you scream and watch you struggle. That’s going to be quite a delicious show.”
“What if I piss or shit myself?”
“Then we’ll share a hot shower.”
“How many …” Timmy pauses to lick dry lips. “Have there been others? Guys you taken prisoner like this?”
“Quite a few over the years. I do what I please.”
“And … how many of ’em have you … how many have d-died?”
Timmy twists his wrists and strains. His bonds have no give at all. “And … h-how many of ’em have you let loose?”
“A few. Please me, and who knows? I may decide that you’re too delicious to kill. Look at me now, boy.”
Timmy lifts his head, gazing up at Derek. He hopes like hell that he appears defiant and brave.
“You really want to cry, don’t you?” Sighing, Derek strokes his stubbled cheek. “And you’re so starved for tenderness. When did a man last touch you? When did a man last kiss that pretty mouth of yours or take you up that plump ass?”
“Why the hell do you care?” Timmy says, shaking off Derek’s hand. “Ain’t none of your business.”
“If we were at the Broadway, you’d be cruising me, wouldn’t you? You always seem to go for solid, scruffy-looking Tops with wild beards. But you’ve haven’t had much luck in the romance department, have you? First, you leave your wife for your best friend, Bob, causing a big scandal down in Gauley. You have a few tasty years together, complete with handcuffs and buttplugs and other toys you keep in that gym bag beneath your bed. The two of you together were great fun to watch. Then Bob gets restless, tired of living in the sticks and being called ‘faggot,’ and moves to DC. You’ve been alone ever since, haven’t you? You’re far too shy in bars, you know. You just don’t know how to flirt.”
“God, man, how long you been stalking me?” Timmy sputters. “How d’ya know all that?”
“I’ve been admiring you for about a decade, if you want to know.” Gripping Timmy’s right arm, Derek pulls him to his feet. Timmy stands there, head bowed, shaking violently. He can feel the roving of Derek’s gaze, like a wolf spider crawling over his naked torso.
“You’ve grown into quite a magnificent man. Well worth the wait.” Derek rubs Timmy’s fur-matted belly, probes his navel, and squeezes his beefy biceps. “And tomorrow night, I’m finally going to possess you.”
“Jesus.” Timmy’s voice cracks. “Possess? God, I am fucked, fucked, fucked.”
“Exactly,” Derek whispers, wrapping an arm around Timmy’s shoulders and drawing him near. When Timmy, straining against his bonds, tries to pull away, Derek only chuckles, jerking him closer. “I love the way your arms bulge when you struggle. You’re not getting loose, and you’re in no position to resist,” Derek says, voice soft and deep. “Haven’t you been yearning for a powerful man to hold you tight?”
“Yes, but …”
“Think of it as a gift. And accept it while you still have time. You really don’t want to make me angry. Do you want to make me angry?”
“Then lean against me, boy. Rest your handsome head on my shoulder. Let me hold you.”
Shuddering, Tim obeys, slumping against the Christ-like man who might be his killer.
Derek hugs him hard, then runs a finger down his spine. “Ah, you feel so good. You make me so hard. Do you know why?”
Timmy coughs, choking back tears. “No. No, I don’t.”
“I love you. All of you. Your youth, your bound body. Your mortality. Your muscles and your manliness. Your fear and your helplessness.” Derek brushes Timmy’s chest hair with the back of his hand, circles his right areola with a forefinger, and kneads his crotch through his sweatpants. Timmy shudders; his cock stiffens. What courses through him is an amalgam he never thought could exist: terror and desire, in equally abject proportions.
For a few silent moments, Derek nuzzles Timmy’s beard, kisses his bare shoulders, strokes his belly, and massages his pectorals. Outside, the wind has stiffened; the trailer rocks and creaks. Who ever woulda thought the Angel of Death would have such strong hands and such a tender touch? Timmy thinks, eyes edged with tears. God, if I gotta die, make it quick.
“Dawn’s getting close. I need to set you up in the utility room and then find myself a snug place to sleep. But first …” Derek holds up a balled-up blue-and-red cloth. It’s Timmy’s Stars-and-Bars doo-rag.
“What’s that for?”
“Time to shut you up,” Derek says, patting Timmy’s jaw.
“Aw, hell. We’re the only folks in this holler, and you said yourself ain’t nobody coming up here in this storm. Ain’t no need to put that rag in my mouth. Please don’t.” Timmy shakes his head, grits his teeth, and turns away.
With a forefinger, Derek strokes Timmy’s tight-set lips, then grasps his stubbly cheeks and squeezes hard. “Consider it an aesthetic touch. Open up or I’ll break your head.”
“Oh, God,” Timmy pants, opening his mouth.
Roughly, Derek stuffs the doo-rag in. He ties it in place with doubled-over rope pulled so tightly between Timmy’s teeth that he moans. Derek applies duct tape next, plastering it over Timmy’s lips and wrapping several yards of it around his head till four layers seal his mouth. It too is painfully tight, indenting Timmy’s unshaven cheeks, causing his jaw to throb.
“You’ll be nice and quiet while I’m gone,” Derek says, rubbing an approving palm over the tape and kissing Timmy’s nose. “Right?”
“Huhh uh.” Timmy clenches his brow and shakes his head.
“Yelping for help all damned day, that’s my guess. A hillbilly defiant to the end, huh? I guess we are like that. You ready?” Cupping the young miner’s chin in his hand, Derek wipes wet from his eyes. “I’ll let you use the bathroom first.”
Timmy nods, breathing hard through his nose. Gripping him by the arm, Derek leads the boy down the dark hall.
All Lethe Press books, including The Bears of Winter, are available through the major online retailers and booksellers. You can also support the press and authors by buying directly from our website. Or, if you prefer listening, the unabridged audiobook is available at Amazon or Audible.
EROTICA FRIDAY: Bearotica
It's nearly the weekend, so it's high time for a little fun, don't you think? Every Friday we're posting an excerpt from one of Lethe's erotica anthologies, and this week we're featuring one our classic releases from the Bear Bones Books imprint, Bearotica, edited by R. Jackson.
Read the story 'Four Times In Room 230' by Daniel M. Jaffe. (And if you're a fan of Jaffe, take a look at yesterday's post for another of his stories from his collection Jewish Gentle.)
I glimpse you in the maze, rounding a corner, your hairy chest disappearing behind a black wall, your ponytail. A beard?
I hear you from around the corner, from behind the wall, your voice soft and firm, telling another man to turn around. I eavesdrop for moans.
Others walk by me, muscular men, lean men, who size me up in the shadows of Chicago’s baths, who notice the hair coating my chest, my pudgy waist; they sashay quickly past.
I hear a sigh from around the corner. You or the other? I reach beneath my white towel, excitement growing at men’s sounds. I think to steal a glance around the corner, but you might want privacy in this public space; some do; I don’t wish to annoy because, even though another occupies your maze-lair now, later the chance could be mine.
Whether or not we actually meet, I decide, you will be the memory I leave with tonight, the grizzly wraith I’ll conjure when, later at the hotel, I telephone my lover back in Boston, when I make him playfully envious of my night’s harmless romp.
From behind your corner steps a man, tall and hairless and thin. Oh. Is that what you want — smooth and lanky? I haven’t a chance.
Then you emerge, tall and thick, hair covering your full chest, your solid belly, brown hair tangling down somewhere behind the towel. And yes, a beard, yes.
You walk, notice me, stop. You stop still. Stock still, two arm-lengths away. Your eyes, I see your eyes seeing mine and you stand there still. Maybe? Maybe I should — ? Or maybe you’ll slap my hand away, mock with a laugh?
Hell, I’ll take the chance.
I step forward, reach out, graze the back of my knuckles against your chest and . . . you move toward me. I splay out my hands, fill each with hairy flesh, your nipples hard against my palms, your hair entwining my fingers, and you reach out to me, stroke my upper arms, reach around me, pull me close, bend your head down to nuzzle the hair swirling on my left shoulder.
Your Fuller Brush beard against my shoulder, my left, then my right. “Turn around,” you whisper and I, usually resistant to command, obey without question. You reach your arms, your hands around me; my nipples between your thick fingertips. Ahh. Gentle nuzzling, beard against back of neck, tongue in my right ear, my left, and someone else, some unknown hand reaches out in the darkness to grab at my hard-on meant for you, he squeezes — did you know? Your arms around me, your thick arms, your arms pulling me close, you pressing against me, all of you against me, around me. A whispered invitation to your room.
I disengage from the anonymous groping hand to follow you, watching as you lumber just a bit side to side and stomp, your feet thumping against the indoor-outdoor carpeting, your calf muscles flexing, your butt now tightening, now releasing beneath the white towel, fine damp hair filming your back, light brown hair to match the ponytail half-matted with sweat.
A cold, late December night, but Room 230 is warm.
Inside, towels off, I reach up to embrace you. You look down at me. Your thick mustache against mine, your wet lips covered in soft bristle, your tongue reaching to soothe.
You want to know — do I like massage? Is oil okay?
For you, this Yogi Bear with blue eyes and gentle touch, I lie face down, my eyes blinded by pillow. So unlike me, usually wary and guarded and closed, to lie on my belly for a stranger, to lie vulnerable, unable to see an approach from behind.
You kneel over me, straddle me, your heavy cock and balls brush my ass, I hear the rub of your hands together warming the oil. You begin with my shoulders. Ahh. Gentle and firm, strong, deep, ahh. Shoulders and back and butt, your fingertips along my butt, gently inside and — oh oh oh, tongue replacing fingers, beard against my ass, tongue deep, oh oh oh — then your hands on my thighs, on calves, on feet. You lift my feet one at a time, take charge of my feet as if to assure yourself I won’t run away, you fill your mouth with my feet, toe by toe, your tongue in between, your beard, the bristles.
Violin tremors. Chocolate ice cream chills.
Your mouth between my toes then up my calves, your tongue, again my butt — oh God — and up, your tongue along my spine, your beard, you take my arms between your hands, my thin hairy arms between your thick fingers and you . . . do something . . . some rubbing or squeezing or kneading, I can’t even tell, but my fingertips feel ready to ejaculate blood.
“Are you relaxed?”
You roll me onto my side then, I open my eyes to see you lie down facing me on the narrow cot. I want to feel all of you, your body, I nuzzle your eyes and your beard and taste your massage-oil lips, your tongue with the flavor of my butt, and I clutch your face, probe my tongue deep into your mouth so deep it drags out half my chest, I fill you with me and you squeak, a little river-otter squeak of delight, your blue eyes squeezed shut at the force of my tongue against yours, my hands filled with your beard, me shifting us both so I lie on top of you, rubbing hairy chest against chest, kissing you, not pulling away, not letting you pull away, breathing your breath, filling your lungs with mine, your arms around me, your hands grabbing my ass, our cocks against each other and you, you whimpering sweet surrender and trumpeting conquest: “Fuck me.”
A moment of preparation — me kneeling, sliding it on, lifting your heavy legs to my shoulders — slipping in. I tell myself I should focus on the tingles, the sensations of your hands on my chest, my cock inside you, but it’s your face that fills my mind, your beautiful face, your hair, your beard, your chest, your eyes again squeezing shut, your head snapping right and left, your moans, your groans loud now from the gut, your growls, you not caring who in other rooms, in the hall, on upper floors might hear your howls and roars and we are two bears rutting a winter summons and challenge to spring.
Your sounds wane to whispers, I slow, your eyes open and you tell me I’m the most this in the world, the best that, and again I gently pound my belly against the backs of your thighs, filling you as deeply as I can, slowly now. I thrust. Your eyes shut. Again the moans. And again the roars and you gasp, motion me to stop. You’ve come twice, without even touching yourself.
Your thighs down, I lie on top of you, satisfied that you’re satisfied; you look away and say the most romantic phrase I’ve ever heard: that if you stare into my eyes, you will come yet again.
We shift so I’m on my back, you’re on your side, your head resting on my chest, your hand playing with my gray hairs among the brown, and I hear that same joy whimper as before, I hug you closer.
“I’d fall asleep on your chest,” you say, “but I’d lose my heart.” This is a statement, but also perhaps a question, a tentative request for permission.
I so want you to fall asleep against my chest, to lose your heart to me, but I’ve no right, holding, as I do, the heart of another back home who holds my own. What is this need to forage and hunt when the larder is full?
So we talk. You of your home in Seattle, me of home in Boston, his home and mine. You whimper again, perhaps in residual joy, perhaps in regret. I’m sorry and I’m glad.
You’re a cellist, you explain, come here to Chicago to audition for the symphony the day after next; I’m here for a conference of literature professors, will leave town tomorrow. A chance encounter. You say: if your relationship ever ends, not that I hope it will, but if . . .
Sweet sweet sweet.
What is this capacity to share so with a stranger, to feel tenderness toward a furry wanderer amid shadows? To meet and within minutes to trust, to place ourselves in each others’ hands, to trust our bodies, our eyes, to trust the perimeters of our hearts?
We kiss again, you make me hard. You caress my balls as we kiss and I suck in your tongue, vacuum your mouth while your finger enters my ass, index finger or thumb or both or more. Inside me, I feel you inside me. I pump my cock with my hand and instead of the usual quick surge to Everest, I rise slowly to foothills, then higher amid brambles, your fingers inside me, your hand, maybe your arm, your shoulder, your head climbing in while I rise to a ledge, hear moans, my moans, feel your ponytail tease the tip of my cock, and my back arches for you to crawl up inside me, pound me, fill me up and up and up until peak after peak after peak.
I’m in a swirl of darkness, feel only the heaving of my chest, then you pull out your hand, I hear you stroke, you come onto me.
I gasp, breathe deep, sit up, sit up straight, try to clear my head. I stare into your blinking eyes, pull your head down to my lap, the back of your head on my lap, your face looking up at mine, your lips, I graze your bearded lips, our eyes lock, you whisper, “I see your heart behind your eyes,” you reach down to yourself and . . . a fourth time.
You are amazed at your fourth time. I am amazed at your fourth time. To come four times, you are not bear but lion. To be able to inspire such vigor, I feel myself lion as well.
More whispers and caresses, nipple tweaks and hugs, sincere declarations of how special and what a fantasy. Completely sincere. Sighs. Exchange of addresses on matchbooks.
A final kiss. Final for now, we say, knowing it’s likely final for always.
I leave Room 230, shower and dress, bundle up, leave the bathhouse, take a taxi through the windy cold to my hotel.
I could have invited you to the hotel with me, could have tempted you to count beyond four, could have tried for a record of my own. But if I had, if I had made you risk losing your heart, if I had risked losing my own, if I had lost it, how could I then telephone my lover, as I’m now about to do, and make him smile at an honest, lusty tale?
All Lethe Press books, including Bearotica, are available through the major online retailers and booksellers. You can also support the press and authors by buying directly from our website.
It's nearly the weekend, so it's high time for a little fun, don't you think? Every Friday we're posting an excerpt from one of Lethe's erotica anthologies, and this week we're featuring our latest, Thunder of War, Lightning of Desire: Lesbian Historical Military Erotica from the multi-talented Sacchi Green.
Read an excerpt from the story 'Moment of Peace' by Jove Belle:
1945: WWII: South Pacific
Rose set the last of the dinner dishes in the industrial stainless steel sink as the opening strains of the show filtered through the canvas walls of the kitchen. The suds had long since given up and the water was tepid at best, and she wondered for the hundredth time why she thought joining the WACs was a good idea. She was doing the same exact thing she’d done all her life, cleaning up after messy men who never thought to say thank you. Only now, instead of her father and brothers, she did it for the hundreds of soldiers on an island she hadn’t known existed until she received her orders. So much for weapons maintenance, the job Uncle Sam promised her. Sure, she’d been shown where that job was done just before they told her there was no need and sent her to the kitchen.
“Oh, Rose, it’s starting. Hurry.” Alma was a petite woman, slight in stature, and easily overlooked. But her mind was sharp. Sharp enough to get her assigned to communications, but not sharp enough to keep from being reassigned to the kitchen along with Rose. Still, Rose admired the way she paid attention and caught details others missed. Like how they were constantly coming up short on forks. Alma was the one who discovered that a few of the soldiers were trading them with the locals for handmade trinkets to send home. Rose hadn’t even considered that. She was frustrated by the loss and annoyed that her ass kept getting chewed over it but never once did she think it was intentional. Who steals forks for God’s sake?
“We’re almost done.” Rose rinsed a plate and handed it to Alma. “Only a few more left.”
“I don’t want to miss anything important.” Alma’s dishtowel was more wet than dry at this point, and all she managed to do was push the moisture around on the plate without actually drying anything. Rose didn’t care. She’d signed up to serve her country during the war, but she hadn’t thought that would literally mean serve them breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
“They’ll start with the news reels.” Rose finished the last plate and drained the water in the sink. She knew everything she needed to know. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the United States of America jumped into the Second World War, and Rose watched her brothers march away while their neighbors cheered. Two years later, after the speedy victory they’d been promised hadn’t happened, the army changed their opinion about women serving during wartime. Nobody cheered when she signed up, but she figured that was fine. She still wanted to do her part, and the victory garden behind her house wasn’t enough.
“Oh, I love the news.” Alma sighed in a way that shouldn’t have made Rose’s stomach tighten, but it did. She gazed at Alma, finally done with the work and able to enjoy the reason she’d volunteered to stay late and let the others go back to the barracks early. Alma’s eyes took on a faraway look as though she were remembering a more romantic place and time. That’s what Alma did. She romanticized everything, saw things with little hearts drawn around the outside edges. Still, no matter how many times she saw Alma with that dreamy little smile, Rose’s breath caught in her throat and she couldn’t stop the grin from climbing up her face.
“Here.” Rose reached for the last dish and the towel. Her fingers brushed against Alma’s and the charged thrill made her pause in motion. She stopped, hand on the plate, barely touching Alma, and completely unable to remember how to breathe. They stared at each other for several long moments and the dreamy look in Alma’s eyes was replaced by something darker, something needier. Instead of a tingle, this time Rose’s stomach clenched.
Alma broke contact first. “Yes…um…right.” She drew her hands away and held them behind her back. She looked anywhere but at Rose.
Rose finished with the plate, tossed the towel into the laundry bag, and picked up the stack of plates. It was just heavy enough to make her biceps flex and the small intake of breath told her that Alma noticed, too. Rose wore her uniform with the shirt sleeves rolled up. She’d started that as soon as she’d connected Alma’s soft sighs to the movement of her arms. Rose tightened her grip to accentuate her muscles, and lifted the plates onto the shelf. When she finished, she dusted her hands together, then turned to Alma. “All done. You ready to go?”
Alma sucked in her bottom lip and held it between her teeth for a moment. It was such a subconsciously sexy thing that Rose gripped the edge of the sink to hold herself in place. If Alma knew she was doing it, she’d stop out of embarrassment and Rose didn’t want that to happen. Their relationship was in a weird, strained place, stuck between friends and something more. They shared heated looks, and even a few kisses that could have been more, but Alma still went on dates with a skinny private who was so young he had acne and his face turned red when he tried to hold Alma’s hand. Rose hated him on principle alone.
Rose smiled, lopsided and cocky because Alma liked it when she smiled like that. Alma still hadn’t responded to Rose’s question; she simply stood there, biting her lip as her eyes grew darker and her face flushed with heat. Rose took a small step toward her, just enough to let Alma see her interest, but not enough to push. “You wanna go clean up first? Or is Phillip waiting for you?”
Alma shook her head, a confused almost smile on her lips. “No date tonight. I…”
A thrill bloomed inside her and Rose took another careful step forward. “You…what?”
Alma took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and looked Rose right in the eyes. “I want to spend the evening with you.” Her bluster faded a bit and she hastily added, “If that’s what you want, I mean.”
Rose nodded, and even though she could feel her head bobbling like a doll at a carnival, she couldn’t stop herself. “Yes, I definitely want.”
All Lethe Press books, including Thunder of War, Lightning of Desire, are available through the major online retailers and booksellers. You can also support the press and authors by buying directly from our website.
It's nearly the weekend, so it's high time for a little fun, don't you think? Every Friday we're posting an excerpt from one of Lethe's erotica anthologies, and this week we're featuring our latest, Thunder of War, Lightning of Desire: Lesbian Historical Military Erotica from the multi-talented Sacchi Green.
Read an excerpt from the story 'Danger' by Sacchi Green herself:
She’d caught a hit above her left ear hard enough to split the skin and raise a still-swelling lump. “Did you pass out when you got hit?” I was cleaning the wound gently with a soaking wet dishtowel. I’d already had a look at her eyes and didn’t see any signs of concussion.
“Nope. Just got real mad. And maybe a tad destructive.” Her voice was getting steadier.
“You’re lucky to have such a thick skull.” I felt around through her hair for more damage.
“Lucky to find a cute nurse close at hand.” A cocky attitude isn’t easy to pull off with your head down and bloody water trickling over your neck and down your chin, but she managed. There was something about the tone of voice, and an old, raised scar across the nape of her neck that diverted the flow of reddened water… I knew with sudden certainty that “Haven’t we met somewhere?” wouldn’t have been just a hackneyed pick-up line, after all. That scar was just about a year and a half old, the result of a mortar attack that blasted her ambulance apart and killed an already-wounded soldier. Her collarbone had been broken, too, but she’d managed to get the other two guys out and away before flames hit the gas tank.
I let her sit up while I went to fix an ice pack. “What makes you think I’m a nurse?” Stupid question. So much for anonymity. Not that she’d be likely to give me away to the Army bureaucracy, but some fear even deeper made my gut tense, some danger I couldn’t even give a name.
“Well, you were one hell of a nurse in Long Binh, and I figure that’s something you never forget. Like riding a bike. Or a woman.” Her grin, now that I could see it, was cocky, too, but her eyes were grimly sober. She knew all about the things I couldn’t forget. She’d been there, too, right through the worst of it. Her hair had been much shorter, not quite as dark, and the only time I’d seen her up close was when I was stitching up that gash on the nape of her neck. I might not have recognized anything about her, even my own handiwork—but I did remember the cockiness under stress. And those hands.
“You were in ‘Nam, right? Ambulance driver?” I pressed the ice pack against her wound. “Hold that.” Her hand went up obediently.
“Jeep jockey, mostly, on loan to the nurse’s motor pool from the WAC base at Long Binh. When things got hot, every vehicle had to double as an ambulance.”
I drew a deep breath. “And nurses had to be doctors half the time.”
“Right.” She held out the hand that wasn’t holding the ice. “Thanks for the fine stitching job, Kim. I asked around about your name.”
“You’re more than welcome…Gale, isn’t it?” I shook her hand, then forced myself to let it go. “Once we get the swelling under control, I’ll put on a dressing, and you can hang out here tonight and get some rest.”
Whether she had a concussion or not—could be a mild Class A—she had to be badly shaken, her defenses down. Better stick to the nurse role. “How about a bite to eat?” I went to the cupboard and riffled through it. “Hungry?”
“Could work up an appetite.” Gale’s tone made me glance back over my shoulder. She was surveying my ass and back with open appreciation.
“Definitely a sign of recovery.” I put some chicken noodle soup on to heat. Not such weak defenses, after all, if her offensive game was anything to go by.
“A little something to keep your strength up,” I told her, once I’d set out soup and crackers for us both and sat down at the table to join her. Then, while she was still formulating a snappy comeback, I turned seriously apologetic. “I’m sorry I didn’t recognize you sooner. It was…hard, over there, keeping a balance between caring enough about patients and not caring too much. And afterward there was so much to block out…”
She started to shake her head, and winced. “No problem. I figure I got more mileage tonight out of being a stranger.” The grin she managed was strained. My various sensitized pulse points stirred hopefully at the reminder, but I swung back into nurse mode with an effort, gathering up disinfectant and scissors and bandages from the bathroom.
“Yeah, well…” I felt my face flush. “Back to business for now. This will sting a little. And I’m going to have to snip some hair around the wound site.”
“Hack it all off,” Gale said curtly. “If I hit the streets tomorrow looking anything like I did tonight, I’d be painting a bright red target on my ass. The cops are probably throwing darts at sketches of me right now”
I gave her a trim that, bandage aside, left her looking like the teen-aged love child of Katherine Hepburn and Marlon Brando. Elegant cheekbones, short, unruly hair, sultry eyes. “You clean up pretty well,” I told her. “The image of a target on your ass is pretty intriguing, though. You sure there isn’t one there already? Was all that…” I motioned toward the fringed jacket and the braided, dyed hair showing above the rim of the wicker wastebasket, “…some kind of disguise? You’re not just worried about the local cops, are you.”
An attempted shrug made her wince again. She yawned and rubbed her eyes, shock and exhaustion beginning to catch up to her, but she answered frankly. “I’m AWOL, and wanted by everybody from the MPs to the Oakland Police Department to the SDS. A little episode coming out of the Oakland Army Base just after I got stateside.”
I knew all too well the treatment a uniform could get you back in the land of your birth. Even nurses ran the risk of taunts and spitting when protesters got their mob mentality on. I might agree with some of what they were for, but their methods seemed like the mindless tantrums of over-privileged brats.
“That bad, huh?” I wished I hadn’t brought up the subject. She didn’t need any more stress tonight.
“It wasn’t what they yelled at me. I hadn’t slept for forty-eight hours, had waking nightmares, barely remembered my own name, and I still kept my shit together through all that. But there was this guy in a wheelchair, a Marine. When they threw things, he couldn’t get out of the way fast enough. I don’t even remember much after that, but I know I grabbed a Babykiller sign and started swinging it. Some people got hurt. I ran, and kept on running.”
Her head slumped. I caught it against my breast as my arms went around her. “Come on to bed now,” I said, my lips brushing her hair so lightly she couldn’t have felt them. So much for my longing for unscarred, unbroken women. What a delusion.
She managed to stand, moved across to the bedroom with my help, and even tried to pull me down beside her while I eased her clothes off. “Later,” I said, and turned out the lights. “Get some sleep now. Nurse’s orders.”
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