Chapter 7 – Dawn’s Early Light

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It took Esther a moment to realize where she was as she woke up. There was hardly any sunlight filtering into her bedroom, but she could feel the comfort of the quilt wrapped about her. Her bed was empty once again. There was still an indention in the pillow next to hers. It was still warm as she ran her hands across the spot where her lover had slept.

Was he her lover? He had, after all, turned her down last night. Twice. More than likely, the man could not wait to be away from her outbursts. To him, that one magical night was probably nothing more than scratching an itch. To her, it would have to be a lifeline. A memory to get her through the tough decisions that were to come.

Turning over in the bed, she looked out the window. The weather certainly matched her mood. Dark and gray. She considered crawling deep beneath the quilt and staying in bed all day. But she knew that would solve nothing. The problems would still be there when she woke up. Waiting for her tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that.

No, it was better to face them now. Get a handle on the extent of this situation and begin to formulate plans. In all probability, there would be repercussions at work for her actions. But even if there were not? Did she want to stay here? Did she really want to wallow day after day in her grief? Longing for something that could not be.

A part of her longed for the type of freedom that Michael had made for himself. The ability to just hop on the back of his motorcycle and go. New people, new places. New problems?

She supposed some things would follow her wherever she went. Tommy was dead, wherever she went. But other things like Sandy Monroe, she would be happy to leave behind. The prejudices of this place and its mean-hearted people. But then again, if she left, who would be there for the Joeys and her students?

Her mind was so caught up in the dilemmas which faced her that she did not even notice him until he sat on the edge of the bed next to her. Two cups of steaming hot coffee emitted the most delicious aroma. It wrapped about her, wiping her mind of all else except its richness.

The man might not be able to cook worth a damn, but he could make a hell of a cup of coffee. She took the cup, he offered her in silence. Bringing it to her lips, she blew softly across its dark surface then sipped. She moaned at the taste, which more than matched its aroma.

He shifted on the bed. “I love it when you moan.”

She blushed, aware that the quilt had slipped down and that this morning, she did not have even the threadbare nightgown to hide the ample curve of her breasts. Their dark areola peeking out above the covers. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be. Like I said, I like the sound of your moans. Although I would rather it be something besides my coffee that had you moaning like that.” Mike blushed — the redness going all the way to his ears.

She looked up at him quizzically. “But last night…”

“You were upset. I meant what I said. I feel bad enough for taking advantage of the situation the other night. I don’t want to keep doing it.”

Esther wanted to laugh at how serious his expression was. Did this man truly believe he had taken advantage of her? It was another of the oddly endearing things about him that made her feel as if he had stepped out of the pages of her books. Not even Jane Austen could write a hero to do justice to this man.

But if they were going to move forward then she needed to disabuse him of his misconceptions, and fast. “And if I told you that you had nothing to apologize for?”

Her eyes focused upon his lips as he brought the steaming cup to them. She could almost remember how soft they had been but how firm they had felt as they wrapped around and tugged at her nipple. Oh, how she wanted to taste his coffee-flavored kisses.

“Michael, I’m a grown woman. I am perfectly capable of making my own decisions about who I take for a lover and when.”

If it was possible, his blush deepened even more as he sat his cup of coffee on the nightstand next to her bed. “Yeah, but I can’t help but wonder if you would. I mean, if things were different, someone like you wouldn’t even notice a guy like me. You’re fancy books and lacy curtains. I’m t-shirts, jeans, and I’d sure as hell rather wait for the movie than read a book.”

Esther sat her cup on the table next to his. “You are also that rarest of breeds in this fucked world, a real-life hero. A man of honor, who does whatever he must to care for people, sometimes even people he does not know.”

Her fingers brushed across the roughness of his jaw as she spoke, “So if you ask me, it is you that got the short end of the stick. Heroes don’t end up with old-maid school teachers. They end up with beautiful sirens, whose calls touch their very souls.”

Their gazes held for a moment. The old bed creaked as he shifted, aligning his body so that he was inches from her. His fingers entwined with hers on top of the patchwork.

Mike had spent the past hour since he had woken up hard and cranky, trying to figure this one out. In the end, he had selfishly decided that he could not and would not waste a single opportunity to store up memories with this woman.

But her words now floored him. Was it possible? Did this woman honestly not realize how fucking beautiful she was? He could not believe that was possible. From the brown curls that framed her striking face to the full breasts that perfectly fit in his hands to those round and enticing hips, Esther was a fucking walking wet dream.

He studied her expression. No, she did not see it. But she would. He would make damned sure she did. Before he left… That thought did not bear consideration, not now. Not when she was lying naked before him in the bed. There were much better things to think about right now.

“Sing for me,” he breathed against her lips. His touch was gentle as he caressed her cheek, coaxed a response from her. His fingers laced through those too soft curls once more, and he angled her mouth for his onslaught. But first, he nibbled and toyed with her full bottom lip.

He smiled when he heard her whimper, her hands clutching his bare shoulders. While he knew that she had work this day, he was not going to be rushed. He was going to love her thoroughly, just as she deserved. His tongue traced the familiar territory his teeth had just traversed.

She opened her mouth beneath his. This time she did not wait for him to take the lead. Her tongue slipped inside his mouth as he moaned into their kiss. Her fingers on his shoulder began to sink deeper; he smiled into her bold kiss. Oh yes, his sexy siren was going to sing her song loud and clear before he was finished.

She pressed her body upwards; the myriad of textures from the quilt chafed against his skin. Cotton, wool, silk. None of it felt as good as skin against skin. Mike moaned as he brushed the materials lower, his fingers seeking treasure hidden beneath.

What he discovered stole his breath. Her nipples were already hard and puckered. She sucked in a lungful of air when his callused fingers found the hard tips and grazed gently over them. Heat raced through his body as she rubbed against him once again like that kitten wanting to be petted.

She whimpered when his fingers abandoned her nipples. Mike wanted to give in to those pleas, spend the whole fucking day in bed with this woman, and show her in every conceivable way exactly how sexy he found her. Teach her body pleasures it never knew.

But as hard as he was going to try, he would bet this could be nothing more than a quickie. A chance to wet both their appetites, to comfort and ease a bit of last night’s pain, and to give her something else to think about besides what awaited her at that school.

His hands slid down her body. Throwing back the quilt, Esther spread her thighs as he half stood, unbuttoning his jeans and pushing the rough material aside. He did not need a second invitation to Heaven. Mike would sneak inside those pearly gates before Saint Peter knew what he was about. He might not deserve this, but he would be damned if he was turning down the chance at another taste of glory…and another…and another.

Within seconds he was between her legs, pushing deep inside her body. Her eyes closed; her head buried deep in the pillow as she gripped the sheets between her fingers until her knuckles were white. She used them as leverage to lift her hips, grinding against him, drawing him deeper and deeper inside her. It was a new form of torture, one that Mike could so fucking get used to.

She moaned as he filled her fully. He listened to her breath catch in her lungs as the base of his shaft rubbed against the sensitive nub of her clitoris. She screamed out as her orgasm hit her fast and hard. Her hips found his rhythm as she rode out the wave and the next and the next. Her head thrashed against the pillows, those fingers clutched his shoulders so fucking tightly that he knew her nails would break the skin, but he did not give a damn about the modest stinging pain as he plunged deeper within her waters, sending her over the edge yet again. Mike felt her trembling begin to weaken, but he was mindless as he joined her in his release.

He rolled to the side so that he did not crush her beneath his weight. He kissed the tip of her nose as she smiled that sexy, slow one like a cat who had just feasted on some stolen morsel from the table. He brushed a strand of hair back from her face. How could any woman be this fucking gorgeous this early in the morning?

An annoying sound registered for the first time. Looking over at the table next to the bed, he could not see the time because the two cups blocked his view of its neon orange numbers. But its shrill warning could not be denied.

She lifted her hips, driving his half-hard erection deeper inside her welcoming depths. She whimpered at the feel of him, and Mike answered with a low growl of his own. He brushed a kiss across her cheek, whispering the temptation into her ear. “You know no one would blame you if you called in today.”

She sighed as she pushed at his shoulder, rolling him onto his back in the center of her bed. If his words had not given her reason to pause, the sight of him more than half-naked certainly did, his chest glistening with a slight sheen of perspiration from their efforts, the head of his semi-hard erection peeking above the top of his pants.

She hesitated for a moment, standing naked beside her bed. Then she realized how exposed she was. The sag in her large breasts. The roundness in her tummy never went entirely away after giving birth, not even after twenty-five years. The cellulite on her thighs. She blushed beet red at what she must look like to this Adonis. What was she thinking?

She practically ran from the room. “I’m late,” she tossed over her shoulder as she sought the safety of the shower. Beneath its refreshing spray, her mind raced with options. For a woman that just three days before did not think she had any, they seemed overwhelming then. But she did not have time to consider them all or dally over a shower.

She grabbed a towel and wrapped it around her. She wondered if Mike would still be in her bed. The thought in itself was disturbing on some level. The idea of prancing around the room wearing only a towel as she collected her clothes and dressed was more than a bit daunting.

But he was nowhere in sight as she picked out a matching set of pale blue bra and panties. She refused to pause and consider why matching should matter. She threw open her closet door and pulled out a nondescript printed dress that hugged her ample chest and flowed softly about her tummy and hips before flaring out to dance about her calves.

Standing in front of the mirror that graced her dresser, she applied the lightest of make-up, just some eye shadow, mascara, and lip gloss. Of course, even that was more than she usually bothered with. But she would not give that a thought either.

Eying her reflection in the mirror, she supposed it would have to do. For a woman approaching fifty, it was not half bad. But certainly, no Helen of Troy, or even Diana, goddess of the hunt. She was just plain old Esther, who taught drama, English, and ancient mythology to teenagers whose only interest in such things was in the movies, video games, and television shows they spawned. But it was her lot in life as she turned and walked into the living room.

Mike lay in bed for a long moment trying to figure out what just happened. How had she gone from smiling and satisfied to not being able to get out of there fast enough? Maybe he was wrong? Perhaps she regretted what had happened? Maybe she had woken up enough to realize that she deserved so fucking much more than he could ever offer.

He adjusted his jeans and stood up. It was not like he could blame her. He had clearly taken advantage of the situation, not once but twice now. He should have known better. He certainly owed Tommy better than to come here and seduce his mother, use her, and then just leave.

Leave. Mike thought about that too. Maybe he should stick to his original plan. Spend the day taking those damned decorations down and packing them away. Then move on tomorrow. But as he looked out of her bedroom window, he was reminded of why he could not.

The woman looked even worse in the morning light with her bleached blonde hair in tangles and smeared mascara beneath both eyes. She wore only a t-shirt as she threw something at the man as he walked towards the car. Mike could not hear what was said, but it was obviously shouted.

No, he was most definitely staying. At least a few more days until things settled down a bit, and he knew Esther would be alright. He ran his hands through his hair. Well, as okay as she could be. Alone in this fucked up town.

He looked around the room, taking in the bed where he had slept with her in his arms for the past couple of nights. Old habits forced him to make it neatly before leaving the room. No, it would be back to the couch for him tonight. He stared at the closed bathroom door as he left the room.

No soft moans were coming from behind it this morning. Then again, he had collected more than his share of those. They would have to be enough as he passed the couch that would once more be his resting place until he could move on. Knowing the woman he loved was safe at least, if not happy.

He went into the kitchen and poured two more cups of fresh coffee. He opened the fridge and thought about scrambling some eggs and burning some toast for her. But their morning romp in her bed had probably put her behind schedule as it was. Instead, Mike pulled out some ham, cheese, and mayonnaise. At least, even he could not fuck up a sandwich, right?

He was just coming from the kitchen with two more cups of coffee in his large hands as she emerged dressed very primly. He half-smiled as he realized that his sexy siren had very much been replaced with that schoolmarm she spoke of. “We never finished them. Figured you might need some caffeine in you before facing all those kids,” he held out a cup to her.

She took the cup and brought it to her lips. He studied her as she chugged it, almost like it was a beer in some drinking contest. He could see that she was still upset. He wished he knew what he had said to cause it. But then again, he had never been all that good with women, so it was no real surprise he had screwed this up too.

“Thanks,” she handed him back the empty cup. “I definitely needed the caffeine rush, although the kids are not the problem.”

He nodded his head. “They seemed pretty nice. At least the ones I met last night anyway.”

“They are pretty good. Most of them anyway.” She crossed the room and grabbed the dark blue letterman’s jacket that hung on the coat rack behind the door.

Mike inhaled at the reminder of his friend…and his betrayal of that friendship. Tommy would kick his ass if he knew what had happened this morning. That much Mike was sure.

“I’ll see you this evening then,” she seemed to fumble for words.  Mike could hear her voice break. Was the woman in that much of a hurry to be rid of him then? That was just too bad he was not going anywhere until things were more settled around here.

“Yeah, I should have the haunted house down by then. Maybe we can cut up those pumpkins and get them boiling before they go off. Should have everything packed away this evening,” he assured her.

Esther turned and smiled weakly at his words. It seemed that now that the Halloween festivities were over, the woman could not wait to send him packing again. Not that he blamed her. Not that he had any claim to her or her time. She was just one of the many stops on his journey. Another promise to be kept, but no matter how hard he tried to convince himself of that, his heart was not listening.

“Yeah, well, thanks for all your help,” she opened the door and rushed through it. Leaving Mike standing alone in the house with his ghosts and memories of her taste, those moans, and the feel of her hair and skin. He drained his cup of coffee and took the empty cups back into the kitchen to wash before he began the task ahead of him.

It was for damn sure he would not be able to keep his mind from drifting back over those soft moans, whimpers, and pleas. No, he would spend as much of this day reliving his brief respite in Heaven’s gates as he did working. But who could blame a man? You only tasted Heaven once, and his had been spectacular.

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