Curse of the Kissing CousinsbyTara_Neale©
Tammy was nervous. It had been almost two decade since she had last seen her father's family. Her biological father, whom she called the sperm donor, had gone out for a packet of cigarettes when she was two and never come back. Despite the anger and hurt, her mother had stayed in touch with his parents, Tammy's grandparents, for her children's sake.
Although the visits were not frequent, she remembered fondly the summer that she had spent on their farm in Texas. She had begun the days by gathering eggs in the hen house. She had slopped the hogs. She had gone fishing with her grandfather. She had even eaten barbequed squirrel that one of her dozens of cousins had shot with his air rifle. It was a different kind of life for a big city girl.
The bright spot of that summer had been her oldest cousin, Little Joe. Even though he stood over six feet tall and had the build of a full-grown man at seventeen, he was still called Little. His father was called Big Joe, even though ironically his son was three inches taller and much heftier than he was. Being a naïve six year old, she did not understand the taboo of kinship; Little Joe was Tammy's first genuine crush.
Little Joe had been amazingly sweet about the whole thing too. Since her seventh birthday was right after she went home, she decided to throw herself a birthday party with all her cousins. It was more like a child's tea party actually. She and Little Joe's younger sister, who was a few months younger than Tammy, made cakes in the Easy Bake oven. It was the tub of chocolate ice cream that Little Joe brought home from the grocery store where he worked as a bagger that made the party a real success.
Tammy shook her head at her youthful innocence as she pulled her rental car into the parking lot of the two story ante-bellum building that was the town's mortuary. She was saddened that the purpose of her first visit back to the rural Texas town that was the seat of her family's history was brought about by the death of her grandparents.
It was a romantic tragedy actually. After fifty years of marriage, the last five of which her grandfather cared for her ailing grandmother, who had both Alzheimer's and diabetes, her grandmother had finally died peacefully in her sleep. Three days later, her aunt discovered her grandfather dead as well. They said that he had grieved himself to death for the woman that had been his best friend, childhood sweetheart and wife.
Tammy was in awe of a love like that. Her own love life had been anything but successful. At twenty-eight, she had recently ended her longest relationships that had lasted barely six months. She admitted it: her father's betrayal had left her with deep-seeded abandonment and commitment issues. She had built high walls to keep people, especially men, out. It was easier for her to deal with logic and knowledge than with emotions, which is why she had become an attorney.
There were two people that Tammy were hoping to avoid during this brief trip. Her father, of course; although her aunt assured her that he was unlikely to attend since he had remained estranged from his parents, who failed to understand his irresponsible behaviour towards her and her mother. The other person she hoped to avoid was Little Joe. She remained embarrassed by the behaviour of a six year old. It had actually become somewhat of a family story: the kissing cousins.
Tammy looked into the rear view mirror to adjust her make-up. She had to admit that she was a stunning woman. With soft brown hair that hung to just below her shoulders and clear blue eyes that revealed her keen intelligence and wit, she attracted more than her fair share of dates. The problems began after the third date, when she became intimate with someone. She would subconsciously push them away, never allowing anyone to become close enough to hurt her the way her father had. So far whether it was determination or luck, she had managed to do just that.
Unfortunately for Tammy, her luck this weekend did not hold. Almost the moment she stepped inside the viewing room filled with the matching coffins and dozens of mourners, her eyes caught sight of the man that she knew was her sire. He towered over most of the other people in the room as he stood just to the left of his mother's casket. What angered Tammy beyond words was the air about him: as if he was the proud son and had every right to be there.
Even after the flight and almost three hour drive, she wanted to turn and simply run back to the safety of her carefully crafted world. But when she turned it was to run instead into the open arms of the one other person she had wanted so desperately to avoid: Little Joe. She had stammered some inane excuse and pushed past him.
Outside the sun sank beneath the rugged landscape of Texas Hill Country, it was not the spectacular view that had stolen her breathe as a child. But this evening the shortness of breath and tightness in her chest had little to do with the spectacular view and everything to do with the brief glimpse of that man, her sperm donor.
Her hands were trembling almost uncontrollably as she tried repeatedly to get the key into the lock. Her mind was so scattered at the moment that she forgot it would have been simpler to push the button on the electronic key chain. She was so angry and hurt that she actually kicked at the gravel in the parking lot; forgetting that she wore opened toed sandals. That brought another stream of vitriolic curses from her mouth.
The rich deep laughter behind her startled her from her litany. "Little cousin knows some very bad words for a lady," laughed the next to the last person on earth that she wanted to see at that moment.
So she added another to her litany, "Fuck off."
Reaching around her and taking the keys from her trembling fingers, he calmly replied, "It's been awhile." He had the where-withal to use the electronic lock, which only succeeded in making Tammy madder; if that was possible. She tried to jerk the keys back, but he simply held them above his head like some game they might have played two decades ago.
"Give me the fucking keys," she demanded.
Shaking his dirty-blonde head, he inquired, "And where do you intend to go at this time of the evening? It will be dark soon. You remember anything about getting around these parts? How about the coyotes or the rattle snakes? And don't count on them silly GPS thingies to be worth a damn out here...if you get a signal at all."
Tammy tried not to consider the logic of his words. She felt betrayed somehow: by him for being there, by her aunt for assuring her he would not be, and by her cousin for being calm when she was anything but. "Just give me the god damned keys, Little Joe," she almost pleaded.
He sighed and shock his head. "Momma, didn't know he was coming till he showed up this evening. I swear, Tammy Sue," he explained as he walked around and opened the passenger side door and motioned for her to get in. "She knew it would rile you up something fierce, but she couldn't reach you on the damned cell phone. So she had me keep an eye out for you," he finished as he closed the passenger door once she was silently seated inside.
Tammy watched as her cousin crossed in front of the small rental car. She wondered how his almost six foot six brawny frame would fit into the compact car. Even through the anger she could appreciate the raw male beauty that over the past two decades had blossomed from the promise that even a six year old could recognize. He was definitely what would be called a man's man.
As he opened the driver's side door and tried to adjust the seat enough to accommodate his body, it was Tammy's turn to chuckle. Thinking of one of her favourite movies 'Best Little Whore House in Texas,' she purred, "Like putting a bowling ball in a marbles bag."
Her cousin chuckled at the shared memory of his mother's favourite Dolly Parton movie. "I'll take you back to my ranch for the night. You can calm down and decide what you want to do." Reaching out so that he cupped her proud chin in his large hand, he turned her face until her blue eyes stared up into his matching one. "You know there's no damned reason why he should run you off Grandma and Grandpa's funeral. You gots more right to be here than he does," he pronounced as he turned the key and maneuvered the small car onto the road.
Tammy thought over those words as she stared silently out the window at the brown landscape of brush, low trees and grass that grew thickest along the banks of the winding creek that ran next to the narrow two-lane black top road. She supposed he was right. That man's presence did not need to send her running. In fact, if she did leave, then he would have won. But to stay would require more courage than she had.
The drive seemed to go on forever as the country music blared out of the radio. It had been years since she had listened to country music. Somehow, it like this place had come to represent a past that she was ashamed of. But she found it virtually impossible not to hum along to the twangy lyrics that filled the small space of her rental car, what little space that was left over from the manly man that dominated all else.
She had to give that six year little girl credit. She had damned good taste in men. Little Joe was definitely one of the hottest guys she had seen in some time. As cliché as it sounded he seemed to ooze male sexuality. If he was not her cousin, she would have screwed him in a heart beat, Tammy thought.
As he pulled off the road and up to a cattle guard with a closed gate, he got out of the car long enough to open the gate. Tammy had the opportunity then to enjoy the fine view of one of the tightest asses she had ever seen in a even tight pair of Levi's. It was a sight to behold as her mama would have said.
Tammy was glad that the vehicle was rental as they bumped along the dirt road that wound through the high grass sprinkled with a few scrubby Mesquite trees. She shivered thinking that it was prime rattle snake territory.
He laughed, "Don't worry, little cousin. We had the rattle snake round-up a couple of weeks ago."
She shook her head that the man should remember so much about her. She sought to distract him, "So how did you come by this place?"
He shrugged as he kept his eyes on the road, if it could be called that. "Saved up when I was in the army."
She frowned, "The army? I don't remember Mama saying anything about that."
"We all kind of lost track of you after that summer. It was my last one here, actually. I shipped out to boot camp right after you went back to the big city. I spent thirteen years in until I had an accident. Damaged my back pretty badly. Ended up with a medical discharge."
Her brows knitted together. The way he spoke, so matter of fact, so tersely, it reminded her of their grandfather. He had never been a man to waste words and it seemed her cousin was the same way. As they pulled up to small wooden framed house, the sun gave its last rays of the day, adding a strange glow about the ranch.
He parked the car and pulled the lever that would open the trunk. He carefully stretched his long limbs out the door as if trying to bring the blood flow back to them after being cramped for so long in the tiny vehicle. He took her one small travel case from the trunk and stood by the passenger door, holding it open for her. "Welcome to Joe's Folly," he smiled.
She laughed, "What a name? How did you come up with that one?"
He frowned, "This ranch has gone through two dozen hands in the past twenty years. I have had it longer than anyone in the past century. I guess I just always wanted the things I can't have."
"So where's the wife? The kids?" she quizzed as they walked up to the door.
"Ain't got none. When I was a Ranger, it just didn't seem fair to a woman. And now? What woman would want an old broken down soldier and cowboy? Want to live here?" He shook his head as he looked around, "Besides like I said I always want the ones I can't have."
She gave a puzzled frown as she stepped inside the door. It was masculine but clean and tidy. It spoke of the disciplined life of a former soldier. "I'll put your bags in the bedroom. I'll take the couch tonight."
She shook her head, "No, that can't be good. Not if you have back problems."
He shrugged, "I'll manage. Take a couple extra pain killers."
"No, I insist. I'll take the couch."
"No way, Grandma would box me upside the ears if I let you do that," he chuckled.
She smiled at her memories of the gentle woman, who had come from another era, a time when a woman was cared for and protected, cherished for her role as wife and mother. "She always did have her long list of what was and wasn't proper for a young lady."
"Or a gentleman," he added. "God, I miss them already. You know when I came home, Grandpa insisted I stay with them. Said Mama couldn't look after me and work. So he took care of me and Grandma, still managed to keep the farm going enough to feed us all too."
She nodded, "They were amazing people."
He shook his head as he turned towards the bedroom, "More than you know, little cousin."
She followed him into the bedroom. In the mirror, she caught sight of the wince he made as he lowered her case to the floor. But he was all smiles when he turned back to her. "I'll make us some dinner. Would you like a shower while I fry up some steaks?"
She sighed, "That would be perfect. My flight was too long and then all this dust."
"Bathroom is across the hall. I'll see you in a bit then."
Tammy grabbed the matching shorts and sleeveless t-shirt that proclaimed her 'Super Bitch' from her open case on the bed. She put them and turned back to the mirror to brush her wet hair. She thought about using her blow dryer, but it seemed a waste when the dry desert heat would do so quickly enough.
As she stared at her bare faced reflection in the mirror, she remembered Little Joe's flinch as he put down her case. It was not right, she could not allow him to spend an uncomfortable night on the couch. On the other hand, she knew there was no way he would allow her to sleep there either. Grandma had trained that one to be a true gentleman. She smiled as she could almost hear her Grandmother's Texas twang curl around the words.
There was only one solution. They would have to share the bed. She turned and stared at it. The damned thing did not have the decency to be king-sized. Hell, she doubted it was even Queen. A double. A double bed shared with a man his size. An uber hot man. And she had not had sex in how long? She laughed. "He's your fucking cousin," she whispered. "Well, not your 'fucking' cousin."
But he had been her 'kissing cousin.' Her first kiss actually. Completely innocent, of course. But then again what did seven year olds know about sex anyway? She pressed her fingers to her lips remembering her birthday party. They had eaten cake and chocolate ice cream in the basement. All dressed in their Sunday finest. When it was time for her to blow out her candles, her wish had been simple...a kiss. Her first kiss.
As they were cleaning up after the party, her cousin had asked what she had wished her and it all came spilling out. Little Joe, who had been helping them clean, replied then she should have her birthday wish. He bent and pressed a soft kiss to her lips. As chaste as it was, it had become the standard by which she measured all other kisses.
"He's your cousin," she chided herself as she closed the top of her suitcase and zipped it back up. "You can do this, Tammy Sue." She frowned at the image in the mirror. Where had that come from, she thought. No one called her that. Only her Grandmother. She shook her head. "Must be coming back here," she assured herself as she turned and walked down the hall.
"Something smells good," she smiled.
He looked up from opening a bottle of wine. She could see his Adam's apple move up and down in his throat as his eyes travelled from her wet hair to her bare feet. She wondered suddenly if as modest as her outfit was, perhaps it revealed too much. She has after all not worn either bra or panties under her pyjamas.
He shook his head, "Just a couple of steaks from the freezer, some fries and a salad. Nothing special."
"Smells good to me," she said taking the chair next to his. "I've been thinking, Little Joe. There is no way I'm letting you sleep on that couch. I'll drive back into town and look for a hotel before you do that."
He frowned as he brought a big bite of meat to his lips, "No way you doing that, little cousin. Grandpa would kill me. And you are not sleeping on the couch, I won't hear of it."
"Then I guess there's only one solution," she said raised another bite to her lips. "We share the bed."
He coughed and sputtered. His face turned red as he choked on the steak. She reached over and pounded on his broad shoulders as he cleared his throat. He brought the glass of red wine to his lips and drained it. "What?"
"We share the bed," she repeated. "Come on, we are adults. Don't tell me you have never slept in the same bed with a woman you hadn't fucked?"
He visibly cringed at her words, "Grandma would wash your mouth out with soap if she heard you saying things like that."
She chuckled, "You're probably right. I can almost hear her now. 'Tammy Sue, a lady does not say such thing.' God, I'm going to miss them," she said as she poured him another glass of the wine. Lifting hers, she met his gaze, "Here's to our grandparents. May they find as much happiness in heaven as they did with each other."
He lifted his glass, "I'll drink to that."
"And no more arguing. We share the bed. For god's sakes, we're cousins after all."
He shook his head at her words, "If you only knew, little cousin."
She frowned as she finished off the last of her food. "Knew what, Little Joe?"
He shook his head as he took their plates to the sink and washed them up. "Nothing. It's nothing really," he denied as his phone rang. He picked it up from the table and answered it. "Hello, Mama. Yes, she's with me, just like we agreed."
Tammy could hear her Aunt's voice but she could not make out what was being said. "I know, Mama. I explained that already. She knows that you did not know he was coming," he arched his brows at her.
"It's all right, Auntie. He told me," she confirmed with a yell.
"Yes, Mama. I'll make sure she has some time alone with them tomorrow morning before the funeral." He turned his back and walked towards the hall, "No, Mama. It's not going to be a problem. I promised you wouldn't be."
Tammy got up from the table and walked about the living room for a couple of moments. she could still hear them talking from somewhere down the hall but the voices were so muffled that she could not make out a single word.
She walked over to the large fireplace that sat against the far wall. Upon it were arranged dozens of photographs. She picked up the one at the far side. It could not have been more seven or eight years old. Little Joe's handsome face stared out of the frame at her. He wore a dress military uniform with a tan barrette upon his almost shaved head.
Her gut tightened as she stared at the picture. Despite her brave words earlier, the truth was that she had never slept with a man she had not fucked. Hell, she almost never actually slept with the ones she did fuck. Sleeping with someone was too intimate. She reminded herself that Little Joe was not just any man. He was her cousin.
Another frame caught her eye then. Its silver glint contained an older photograph, one that she recognized as over twenty years old. In it his smiling young face is framed on either side by the impish faces of two young girls, her and his sister. She is holding a tiny chocolate cake loaded down with more candles than there is room for. Her wide grin revealed that her front teeth were missing.