Jackson pushed back his Stetson, shoved his wayward bangles out of his eyes, and sighed. Twenty feet behind him, Abebi sat shredding leaves. How had things gotten to this point? Jackson turned and watched Abebi toss another leaf to the ground.
“Let me get this right. . .” Jackson drew in a deep breath before going on. “You don’t want to marry me?”
Abebi blinked back the tears threatening to overwhelm her. The man knew he had to ask. That is what Sandy said he needed to do. Abebi wanted more than the piece of paper. She wanted commitment. Commitment from his heart. With wolves, also from their gut. She didn’t expect him to be completely faithful. Well, within the pack faithful. Remo and the elders counsel kept track of who was off limits. Even most of Remoor Beach’s humans snuggled and enjoyed a pleasurable afternoon with pack members. Lupa Prime, how did she explain sharing and keeping things light for now?
You want a courtship. Abebi glanced over her shoulder. Nothing. No one was there. Another breeze blew up and around her.
Leaves swirled and danced in the breeze blowing in off the beach. In the hills, fall was in full force. The riotous colors burst forth almost overnight. Brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges mixed with the remaining green of the tall pines and low grasses dotting the hills. In a few weeks, the higher elevations would see snow. The beach would thrive as the warmer waters from the south mixed with their northern cousins. Whales and dolphins would school as they made their winter migrations. What would her winter hold?
“No, not right now.” Abebi licked her lips. She pulled her sweater tighter around her. Neither of them knew the other very well. Her hand slid to her belly. Almost four months along and the thrum of life pulsed beneath her hand. These pups needed parents. Parents who stood together regardless of their union, married or partnered. Clear communication had to happen.
Abebi cleared her throat and stood. “I want to talk about us.” She closed the space between her and Jackson. As she reached him, she laid her hand on his arm.
Jackson looked down his arm to where Abebi’s hand rested. She hadn’t touched him in a week. That slow dance Saturday with her in his arms had felt so good. So hot and tempting. And so right. Yet, he’d held her away from him. The space between them was barely enough to keep their clothes from brushing as they moved around the dance floor. He wanted to pull her into his arms and crush her against him. Remo’s parting advice rang in his mind. Get to know Abebi. Let folks see you with her.
“What about us?” Jackson reminded himself to breath. It wouldn’t look good if he passed out. Shit, when had dating become this nerve wracking?
“Yes, please.” Abebi ducked her head. Her hand slipped down his arm until her hand found his. She tried to work her fingers between his.
Jackson pointed to the table. “Let’s sit down. My head is reeling faster than a fly-fisherman’s lure.”
Abebi’s quick giggle and nod set his heart to pounding. When had they become like a pair of bumbling teens? She moved toward the table.
Jackson quickly caught up to Abebi. He placed his hand in middle of her back and helped her sit. That was how his Daddy helped his Momma right? Christ, why couldn’t remember better? Paid more attention? Jackson tossed his Stetson on the table, raked a hand through his hair, and dropped to one knee. He grabbed Abebi’s hand, lacing his fingers with hers.
“I need to know,” he barely managed to get out. Jackson gulped, rose and sat next to Abebi.
Abebi looked the hand entwined with hers. It was now or never. She didn’t know if she had the words. The ones that wouldn’t scare him off. The ones that made sense and had him nodding yes. Not yes in agreement, though her heart pounded every time she thought of him saying let’s go for it. Rather a yes of understanding that they could build upon and begin a foundation that led to them and what they wanted. Not how others thought or said it all needed to turn out. It was their lives after all.
Abebi wrapped her other hand around Jackson’s. “I don’t have all the words. At times like this I use my paints and canvas to draw the picture I see.”
“We’ll take it slow and easy. Give me the words you do have.” Jackson’s weak smile nibbled at Abebi’s heart. His southern draw stroked her internal heat higher each time he whispered her name or talked softly to her.
Abebi nodded. She inhaled, closed her eyes, and asked her heart what she wanted and needed most. Two words flashed behind her eyes. She willed her heart to slow and allow her clarity on speaking what those two words meant.
Happy Weekend Gang!
Here on the spice homestead we are keeping an eye on Sandy. No not Abebi's best friend. The storm that has all of the east coast scarmbling and prepparing. We're under way too. I've got chores and errands to run while my muse ponders what the two words are that Abebi is going to spring on Jackson. Meanwhile, keep safe, warm and dry! Share a few good books with your spice and loves!