The group of women exploded like a hurricane through the back door. A storm of giggles, laughter and blushing. Night had fallen and the children had been whisked away by a couple of the more reserved wives to communal beds in their homes. A few, including Bel, were bedded down in Simone’s living room watching a Nick marathon. Even the group of teens had disappeared in favor of bad horror movies, junk food and whatever mischief they could manage.
Only a couple dozen guys and the stray date that was not yet ‘official’ enough to be included in the traditions remained in the back yard. Lanterns flared around it, casting shadows. Shadows that Jill was thankful would hide what sins this amazing get-up did not. The soft glow of the fire lights cast a spell that the bright light of day and even the haze of early evening had not.
Despite the chill of the breeze coming off the ocean, there was a warmth to the place. Or perhaps it was just that extra glass and a half of wine that gave her courage to think that she stood half a chance of pulling this one off, she thought.
Until she saw him. The men were congregated by the bar, laughing at another of Samuel’s stories. As if on signal, they moved as the team they were, surrounding their leader. Jill lost sight of him among the crowd for a moment, but not before she saw a dark and unreadable expression cross his handsome face. “I told you,” she heard his voice carry across the yard, but the rest of his sentence was muffled by the robust heckles of his friends and the silly giggles of hers.
She turned to run back into the house as the recognizable, pounding eighties beat suddenly blared from the speakers. Two hands reached out to restrain her. Simone’s dark one and a freckled one with a stone the size of Texas on its ring finger. She looked up into their faces.
“You can do this,” the women said as the group began to move together as one across the all too short yards that separated them from their husbands and boyfriends. The shaking of their arms and shoulders imitations of the MTV video that had once been among Jill’s favorites.
Jill surrendered to their words of encouragement. The die was cast already. Now she just needed to make it through the next five minutes, she thought as she began to move her satin and lace clad figure in time to the familiar song. She closed her eyes and prayed for strength. For the damned song to end. For this night to end.
But when she opened her eyes again, she realized that her troubles had just begun. Daniel stood just ten feet away, stripped to the waist of his too damned tight jeans. The impossibly defined muscles of his bronzed chest glistened in the fire light. The air caught in her throat and she willed herself to breath. But nothing could stop the insanely fast pounding of her heart, its beat faster than even the song. Jill noticed that somehow the t-shirt that he had changed into for the party was now wrapped about his wrists, securing them firmly behind his back.
“You’ll pay for this,” he mouthed. Jill winced. Although she was not certain if he was speaking to her or Simone or even Samuel and his other men. The intense need to escape, to take flight, gripped her once more, consuming what false bravado the wine and her friends had managed to impart.
As if they could read her thoughts, the group of women surrounded her then. With smiles and giggles they began to move faster to the chorus. The singer’s words rang like an anthem in Jill’s mind. Of heroes rising from heat, of gods and white knights. ‘I need a hero,’ ‘fresh from the fight,’ and ‘larger than life’ played through her mind.
Suddenly, Jill was transported to another time and another place. The music moved over her, carrying her on its wings, transforming her into that young girl she had once been, brimming with new found beauty and sexual confidence. Without thought, she began to move in earnest to its rhythm. Her steps were sure as she focused on the moment, surrounded with new friends and old memories. As they had promised the group remained by her side as they swayed and gyrated across the all too short distance. Jill led them with confidence as they flanked her like her own unit of warrior women invading and conquering.
But as the pounding refrain died and that sultry voice slowed once more into the second verse, Jill found herself eye-to-eye with the man that was her new husband. She swallowed hard at the look she saw in the depths of those crystal blue oceans. Her heart stuttered in her chest, skipping beats as her brief surge of assurance came face-to-face with the enemy.
When she would have turned and fled back to the safety of the group if not the house, he whispered, “You started this, you gonna run away now, sweetie?”
Even over the lingering charcoal, citronella and beer, she could smell him. The rush of adrenaline. Man, pure and simple. Words filtered through the haze of the wine, as she took up his challenge and the unspoken one that those eyes held as well. She knew this song. She knew these people. And on some primal level she knew this man. The rest just sort of flowed out of the depths of her soul.
Hers hands trailed slowly across the heated, bare flesh of his chest as she swayed and moved against him. She felt the silk scarves wrap about her calves as she moved her hips in seductive circles, brushing against the rough denim of his jeans. Her nipples tingled and swelled inside the corset and for a moment she feared that they would burst over the dam of its low-cut cups.
Emboldened by the moment, their audience drifted away until in her mind nothing remained but the two of them. They were as alone as they had been in the laundry room. Was it just a little over twenty-four hours? Things were moving too fast, she thought. Not fast enough, her body replied as her hands came to rest on his broad shoulders, her hips brushed repeatedly against his in this mock lap dance.
She could not bring herself to look into those blue-grey pools again so instead she found herself mesmerized by his soft, pink lips that were curled into a sardonic smile. If she closed the distance, if she had the courage, would she savor that fire again? Or would it be the ice she had found when the chaplain said…you may kiss your bride.
She would never find out, she thought with a touch of disappointment when the pounding bass trailed off and the song came to an end. She smiled. At least, I did this, she thought as she went to step away. To flee back inside the house with her comrades. To change out of this remarkable but ridiculous outfit. Before she could turn though, hands came from out of nowhere, imprisoning her wrists more securely than handcuffs ever had.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he asked as he drew her into his arms. Smiling over at Simone, who had retreated to the safety of her husband’s embrace, “The little witch didn’t tell you the rest, did she?” He chuckled. His arms beneath the chiffon of her robe were like a vise holding her still against him. “Stick around sweetheart cause this night is just getting started.”