Authors: Arianna Hart
This story is dedicated to my dad. He was always there for me whenever I need a shoulder to cry on, a joke to cheer me up, or a word of advice. I never let him read a single book I wrote, but he was proud of me every time I sold a new one. I wish everyone had a father like him.
I miss you, Pops.
Also, special thanks to my fabulous niece, Jackie, for all your help with Georgia-isms (any mistakes are mine). I’m so proud of you, sweetie.
Dale, Georgia, Twelve Years Ago
“Mama, there’s a car coming up the drive,” Nadya said as casually as she could considering the vast amount of anticipation thrumming through her eighteen-year-old body.
“It’s probably just Pastor McBride coming for his weekly visit,” her mother answered from the living room. “Do we have fresh tea in the fridge?”
“Yes. But, Mama, I don’t understand why he comes every week. We’re never joining his church.” Not that she minded, seeing as Pastor McBride always brought his son J.T. with him on his visits.
“I guess he feels like it’s his Christian duty to bring me to the Lord. I keep with God my own way.”
“But Mrs. Campbell is always saying how we’re going to hell—”
“Darlin’, those same ladies who spend all Sunday at church praying and lamenting come to me on Monday looking for love potions or a gypsy curse. Now you tell me which is more sinful? We live our lives without pretense and hurt no one, while they smile to your face and stab you in the back. When the time comes to meet my Maker, I have nothing to hide.”
Nadya didn’t have patience to contemplate theology right now. Every atom of her being was focused on the sound of tires crunching up the long drive from the road to their cabin. She wiped her suddenly sweaty palms on the seat of her cutoffs and checked her reflection in the spotted mirror hanging in the hall. Her long, black hair stubbornly refused to lie straight in the Georgia heat and humidity. It was way too hot to leave down so she’d piled the curls on top of her head and let some fall around her face. With the big, gold hoop earrings and some eyeliner and mascara to play up her slanted eyes, she thought she looked exotic and mature. She’d never be one of those blonde-haired, pink-cheeked china dolls like her friend, Mary Ellen, so she didn’t even bother to try.
The crunch of tires on the gravel drive came to a halt, and Nadya’s heart beat double-time. She peeked out the kitchen window and caught a glimpse of J.T.’s long frame unfolding from his father’s Buick. Her mouth went dry as he ambled around the hood of the car. He tossed his head back to get the shock of hair that perpetually hung in his eyes off his face, and her heart skipped a beat.
That damn move had every female from five to fifty panting after him. And if that didn’t get their panties in a lather, a flash of his dimples and they melted at his feet.
Nadya bit back the urge to rush to the door as she heard the porch steps creak. Let him wait for a change.
Her mother shot her a knowing grin as she answered the polite knock on the screen door. Nadya listened from the kitchen window as her mother greeted their visitors.
“Why, Pastor McBride, what a surprise,” Mama said in her sultry voice. “What brings you all the way out here on such a hot day? Won’t you sit down and have some tea?”
“Good afternoon, Miss Talaitha. I’d love a glass of sweet tea if you have it ready. Don’t go to any trouble on my account though.”
“It’s no trouble at all. How about you, Jefferson Thomas? Can I get you a glass too?”
No! No, no, no, no!
If J.T. sat down with her mother and his father, that would force Nadya to join them, and they’d be there for close to an hour making small talk and listening to the pastor talk about the wages of sin.
“No, thank you, ma’am. I was wondering if I could take a look at the creek? Some friends of mine were thinking about going fishing, and I want to see how they’re running today.”
“I understand. Have Nadya take you. The woods ’round here can be a little trickier than what you’re used to.”
Yes! Go, Mom!
“Nadya? Honey, can you show Jefferson Thomas the way to the creek? Oh, and bring out some tea for Pastor McBride,” her mom called in through the open window.
“Yes, ma’am.” Nadya took a deep breath and tried to still the shaking in her hands. The rattling of the glasses on the tray was evidence she hadn’t succeeded.
Her legs turned to jelly as she caught a glimpse of J.T. standing politely on the steps, his hands in his jeans’ pockets. Butterflies danced in her stomach and she felt lightheaded. His green gaze followed her as she carefully placed the tray with the pitcher of iced tea on the table by her mama’s chair.
“Now don’t be gone too long,” Pastor McBride said as he settled down opposite Tala. He took a long drink of the iced tea. “That sure hits the spot. On second thought, take your time. I might not move from this spot all day.”
“Take a stick and watch for snakes.”
“Yes, ma’am.” J.T. gestured for Nadya to lead the way.
Just act normal. This is nothing more than two friends taking a walk in the woods. Just an innocent stroll through nature.
Nadya grabbed a long stick propped near the wood pile and pushed her way through the bushes hiding the path she and her mother knew like the backs of their hands. She could feel J.T.’s gaze on her as they moved deeper into the woods. The temperature cooled off some in the shade of the trees, but the humidity was as heavy as a horse blanket.
The sound of running water trickled in the distance. Nadya turned to warn J.T. of a spot where the path had washed away. Before she could get the words out, he had her pressed against a tree, his tongue filling her mouth and his hands clamped on her ass.
Heat exploded through her and she could practically feel her body ignite. Tearing at his neatly tucked T-shirt, she yanked it up so she could run her hands over his bare skin. She felt the bulge between his legs press against her thigh, and nervousness warred with excitement.
“Holy crap, I didn’t think they’d ever stop talking,” J.T. mumbled against her cheek as he spread kisses to her throat.
Shivers ran down her spine and lodged in her belly. And lower.
“I about died when she asked if you wanted some tea. I didn’t know how we’d get out of there if you’d accepted.”
“Are you kidding me? I haven’t seen you all week. If I had to sit across from you and make nice with your mama while my daddy preached, I’d of embarrassed us both. I don’t think either one of them would believe it was the gospel giving me a boner.”
“Jefferson Thomas! You’re surely going to hell for that.” Nadya ran her nails across his ribs and through the smattering of hair on his chest. She felt powerful when he gasped as she found a nipple.
“I thought you didn’t believe in hell.”
“No, I just don’t believe in the hell your daddy preaches. Come on, I want to show you something near the creek.”
“I don’t really care if the fish are running. Me and Billy only say we’re going fishing to have an excuse to drink beer.”
“No kidding. I can probably fish better than you. That’s not what I wanted to show you. Come on, it’s just a little farther.”
She grabbed his hand and dragged him back onto the path. For a while the silence was only broken by the whine of the heat bugs and the rustling of leaves. The world seemed to be holding its breath, waiting for something momentous to happen.
“It’s just through these trees, come on,” Nadya urged.
“What’s so important—” His words trailed off as she pulled him into her clearing. “Whoa, what is this place?”
The clearing was her special place. Years ago, boulders had tumbled into the creek and formed a shallow pool. An ancient tree had fallen, creating a perfect bench for her to sit on and think deep thoughts or just splash her feet in the crystal-clear water. A patch of moss spread from the tree trunk back into the woods, giving her a shady bed for daydreaming or just relaxing.
She’d never seen another human here, only deer, squirrels, birds and the occasional fox. As far as she knew, she was the only person who knew about this place. Until now.
“How did you find it? This is incredible, like something out of a movie.”
“When I was about five, I was collecting firewood and I saw a deer leap through the bushes.”
“So of course you had to follow him.”
“You’re lucky some hunter wasn’t following him too. You could have ended up shot.”
“I was five. All I was thinking was, ‘look, pretty deer. Maybe I can touch him’.”
“And the deer led you here?”
“Yup. The clearing looked pretty much like it does now, except I weeded the area near the pool so it’s more open. I come here when I need to get away or just think. It’s my special place.” She swallowed back the nerves that tried to choke her. Even though she’d practiced what she wanted to say, she couldn’t get the words out, so she used her body instead.
Going up on tiptoe, she speared her fingers into his thick hair and brought his mouth to hers. In the next heartbeat, he clasped her to his chest, crushing her breasts against him. She ran her leg up the outside of his thigh, which pressed him closer to her. When he groaned, she felt it straight to her core.
The dappled sunlight painted his body as he stripped his shirt over his head. He pulled her to the mossy ground and rolled her on his chest. Before she could catch her breath from the intimacy of having him between her legs, he pulled the elastic out of her hair and let the cloud of it tumble down.
“God, just let me
touch you,” he whispered feverishly against her throat.
“Yes.” Her voice caught as wave after wave of sensation flooded her.
Her shirt and bra magically disappeared and they were skin to skin. An ache bloomed between her legs as sweat made their skin slick. Blood rushed through her veins and her only thought was
He rolled her onto her side and ran kisses over her super-sensitive breasts. She dug her fingers into his back, trying to find an anchor in the chaos that overwhelmed her.
When his finger parted the curls between her legs, she felt the shock zing through her, followed by a tightening deep within. Her hands trembled as she tugged down his zipper. The length of him practically jumped out of his tightie-whities. She wanted to look closer, to see this part of him that was so different from her, but he groaned and wrapped her hand around the shaft. Sensations flew at her from all directions. The soft moss under her hip, the heat of the sun on her skin, the velvety texture of his cock covering a steely hardness. And most of all, his finger in her body, pumping into her, drawing every last ounce of pleasure out of each stroke.
Her breathing came faster. There was something there, something close, if she could only. Just. Reach. It. She heard him panting in her ear as she stroked him faster and faster, could taste the saltiness of his skin as she bit into his shoulder. Suddenly, her body flew apart. Her hips pulsed as her center spasmed around his finger. Just when she thought it was too much, J.T. let out a groan and wetness flooded her hand.
Nadya lay there, trying to catch her breath. Her shorts were pushed down to her knees, and she didn’t know what to do with the mess in her hand. J.T.’s sweat-slick skin stuck to hers, and she felt hot and confused and had no idea what to do next.
“Hold on, I’ll give you my shirt to clean up.” J.T. reached for his crumpled T-shirt.
The second he rolled over, she shimmied back into her shorts and lunged for her tank top.
“Wait, please. Don’t cover yourself up yet.”
Nadya felt embarrassed and awkward all at once. Now that the fire inside her had died down, she couldn’t look at him. This was not at all how she imagined the afternoon to be. All she wanted to do was get dressed and go home, but when he held his arms out to her, she melted against him.
“Why didn’t you
I was going to let you
” Even after what they’d shared, she couldn’t say the words.
“Then why? I don’t get it.” In health class they spent hours telling girls how to tell a guy no, they never discussed what to do when you wanted to say yes.
“In less than a month I’m shipping out. I don’t want anything tying me to this town. I respect you too much to make promises I have no intention of keeping. Once I step on that bus, I’m never coming back here.”