tagRomanceBack to the Farm Ch. 09

Back to the Farm Ch. 09


I thought I wasn't going to be able to finish this chapter until after my next exam but happily my muse turned up again, LOL. There won't be another chapter for a few weeks now though--for definite this time. I'm sorry, but I really need to get stuck into my studies for now. Don't worry--I will finish this story, I promise! But in the meantime, thanks for being patient with me!




'What a difference a day makes'--Words & Music by Maria Grever & Stanley Adams (recorded by Dinah Washington, 1959)


Melissa could still hear Matt's voice even though she was now in Charlie's bedroom and he was pacing up and down the hall. He'd been on his mobile for the whole time she'd been in the bath and although she'd tried not to eavesdrop, it had been only too clear things in Singapore weren't going well. Not that he'd ever lost his temper, she noticed, secretly impressed by the way he was handling the call, the third of that evening. Though as he'd explained earlier, there wouldn't have been any point. There was no longer any doubt he'd have to fly out there sooner than he'd hoped, but she knew he was doing everything in his power to ensure that it wouldn't have to be within the next couple of days.

Pulling her towelling robe more securely around her, she crossed to the window and peered out at the darkening sky. Never before had she been so conscious of the words of the song, 'What a difference a day makes'. Those twenty-four 'little' hours had certainly turned her world upside down, she thought, picking up the clay pot she'd made Aunt Suzie all those years ago and twisting it around in her fingers. Though until now she hadn't had much of a chance to dwell on them. Just as they had every other day that week, they'd spent hours working on the house, systematically trawling through each room, emptying cupboards and boxes, checking the contents lest they miss hidden treasures before ultimately, as happened more often that not, dumping their uncle's long held possessions in the skip outside.

But unlike those other days, they'd worked together. Somehow, they'd made an unspoken agreement not to leave the other's side, as if they'd both realised they'd already spent far too long apart. So it had been a day of fun and laughter, a day of recalling almost forgotten memories and a day of long, lingering, meaningful glances. Yet that was all there'd been. Even though she knew very well that Matt had bought condoms when they'd called into the village that morning, it wasn't as though he'd thrown her on the bed on their return and made love to her all afternoon. Though she'd half-expected he would. Scrub that. She'd hoped he would. But Matt had seemingly had other ideas.

Maybe the unexpected arrival of the vicar in the pharmacy had had something to do with that, she mused, wincing at the memory. There she'd been, standing by the counter, surreptitiously reading a leaflet about the morning after pill and trying to decide whether she really needed to take it when Reverend Michael Wright had appeared. She was fairly certain he couldn't have had any idea what she'd been reading, having managed to shove it into the back pocket of her jeans the moment she'd spotted him, but he surely must have wondered why she'd promptly turned as red as a beetroot. It hadn't helped that Matt, who'd already made his purchase, had then proceeded to watch their encounter from a safe distance just outside Michael's line of sight but very much within Melissa's, grinning hugely throughout their entire conversation.

She felt her lips curve into a rueful smile. The rotten sod. But she'd virtually decided not to buy the emergency contraception anyway. Not only was she unsure she needed it--as she'd told Matt earlier, her period was already overdue--but the cost had taken her breath away. Twenty-six pounds for one little pill. Doubtless Matt would have given her the money but the blurb on the leaflet had stated it could be taken for up to seventy-two hours from the time of unprotected sex. Which gave her until Saturday evening to either get it from the doctor or the family planning clinic in Mickleton if necessary and both would apparently prescribe it for free. The wait and see approach seemed logical enough, especially as she'd be going home tomorrow.

Tomorrow. That meant they only had one more night and one more day together. Against what had at first appeared almost insurmountable odds, they'd managed to clear the bungalow in four days. The only thing left to do was to sort through the jumble in the loft. They'd already arranged for the local branch of the Salvation Army to collect the more serviceable items of Charlie's furniture tomorrow afternoon. And then...

Melissa blew out a breath. Then what?

"Ooh." The sound of Matt's voice behind her made her jump. "Big sigh." He grinned as he she half-turned to face him, sliding his arm around her as he drew level. "What were you thinking about?"

"Oh..." Acutely conscious she was naked beneath her dressing gown--should she have got dressed again, despite the lateness of the hour?--she pretended to think, buying herself time. It probably wasn't a good idea to tell him she'd been trying to decide where their relationship was going for most of the day. If it was going anywhere. "This and that. Nothing much. Who was that on the phone?"

Matt gave her a disbelieving look. "Mike. He's arranged to have a formal meeting at the site later--well, tomorrow for us. Depending on the outcome, I'll either get to stay here for another week or two or I'll be on the next plane out."

"Mike? But--" Melissa lifted his forearm to inspect his watch. "It must be the middle of the night in Singapore."

"Actually, it's around five in the morning. He's always been an early riser. And you're trying to change the subject." Putting his other hand on her upper arm, he twisted her around to face him before peering down at her, his eyes warm. "You okay?"

She gazed back, experiencing the rather uncanny sensation he could see straight into her soul. Could he read her thoughts? "Yes, of course," she answered as lightly as she could manage. "It's just been a long day, that's all."

Matt nodded, not breaking eye contact for a moment. "You know," he began, his tone equally light, "if you like, I can sleep on the settee--"

"Oh, no!" she interrupted before blushing furiously, the broadness of his sudden grin alerting her that her protestation had been rather too vehement. "I mean--oh God." She swallowed hard. "I mean--"

"Ah, right." He nodded again, laughing now. "You mean you'll sleep on the settee? Well, that'd be great, thanks."

"Hey!" He wasn't serious, was he? Or was he?

"Lissy." His voice softening, he raised a hand to brush back her hair, his knuckles grazing against her cheek. "I just didn't want you thinking I'd made any assumptions. Or that I had any unrealistic expectations."

Relieved, Melissa released the breath she hadn't realised she'd been holding. "Even though you bought a packet of twelve condoms?"

"Oh hell, you saw that?" He rolled his eyes, his grin returning. "Just so you don't have any unrealistic expectations, that doesn't mean we're going to do it twelve times, okay?"

Oh boy. The mere thought of doing it once made something contract low in her belly.

And clearly aware of the impact of his words, his gaze turned mischievous. "I bought another twelve to be on the safe side."


He laughed anew at the outrage in her tone, dipping his head to kiss her. "I'm kidding. Even if I was capable of that--and believe me, I'm not sure any man is--there's no way I'd be so rough on you. In fact, I'm not so sure we should even do it once. You're still pretty sore from last night, aren't you?"

Oh God... How the hell did he know? Had she been walking bow-legged or something? Conscious of the heat flooding into her face yet again, she stared at him in alarm. "I'm fine," she hastened to assure him. "Not that sore at all, really." Not so sore that she wasn't longing to feel him inside her again, to experience that exquisite stretching, that bittersweet friction that was pleasure bordering pain. That overwhelming sense of completion she'd felt as he'd driven into her again and again... "That bath was great," she went on quickly in case he really could read her thoughts. "I left you the water, actually, in case you wanted it. I didn't think there'd be enough hot water left for you otherwise. You know what that immersion heater's like. I pressed the boost button, but..." She trailed off, aware she was babbling. What had made her think he'd even want to share her bath water? There was something much too intimate about the notion, even if it had been something they'd done frequently as children.

But he was smiling, his face once more descending towards hers. "That sounds good, thanks," he murmured, kissing her again before reaching across to put down his mobile phone on the bedside cabinet and beginning to unbutton his shirt. "Care to join me?"

"Um." Even more flustered now, she looked at him helplessly for a few seconds. "I--er--"

"It's okay." Matt grinned. "It'll probably be quicker if I go by myself. Besides, the water's probably not hot enough any more. But I can dream." And kissing her one last time, he released her with a wistful sigh. "I see you've been reading."

"What?" Still picturing herself in the bath with him, and now rather wishing she'd agreed, Melissa was caught off balance. "Oh." Her gaze followed his to the letters strewn across the bed. "Not really. Not properly. Just bits and pieces. God, some of the stuff I wrote... It's pretty embarrassing."

He smiled at her across his shoulder, already halfway to the door. "You were fourteen when you wrote me those letters, Liss. Cut yourself some slack. Believe me, yours aren't that bad. Try mine if you really want to read something cringeworthy."

He'd read them? As he headed out into the hall, she stared after him in surprise. When had he found time to do that? And oh, what must he have thought? She moved towards the bed and scooped up the pages of one of her own letters, grimacing at the oh-so-neat handwriting. But every one had been a labour of love, each declaring her love in embarrassingly flowery prose. At least, the first few had. Having sorted through them and put them into order, she saw that as time moved on, those earlier letters remaining unanswered, the tone of her later missives had adopted an increasingly frantic note.

Did I say something wrong? The words sprang at her from the page as she perched on the edge of the bed to read. Because if I did, please tell me what it was. I'd hate to think I'd done anything to upset you. Or am I just being silly? Maybe you haven't had time to write. I know how busy you must be this term. But I don't need you to write me a great long letter, really. Just a couple of lines, so that I know you're okay?

Melissa winced anew. She'd only written once more after that before giving up, convinced that he must've changed his mind, that he hadn't really been in love with her at all. And she'd blamed herself, decided she must have come across as too needy, too clingy, when all along, he had sent her letters too. Admittedly, not as many; she'd written twenty-one to his twelve, and where hers often ran to four sides of notepaper, his had barely covered two. Though she knew that if she'd received them, she wouldn't have cared a jot. She would have treasured every word.

His early letters were mostly filled with details of rugby matches and his increasing frustration at being subject to the school's somewhat draconian attitude to discipline and personal freedom. But in later letters, he too had begun to express concern at not hearing from her, and in the last, had actually accused her of having met someone else.

That's why you haven't written, isn't it? It's okay, Liss, I understand. Disappointed, of course, but I can't force you to wait for me, to wait until I get out of this place. I'm guessing someone as beautiful as you can't be short of admirers. But don't let whoever it is take advantage of you, please. Don't let anyone make you do anything you're not ready to do. Promise me that?

And just know that I love you, Liss, okay? I love you--and I always will.

"Huh," she muttered as she re-read the words, her vision misting slightly. "Someone as beautiful as me? Yeah, right."

"You really don't see it, do you?"

"Shit!" Heart pounding, Melissa swung around to find Matt right behind her, her mouth immediately going dry as she realised he was wearing nothing but the white towel slung around his hips, his muscular body still glistening with moisture. "Why--why d-do you always have to make me jump?"

"Why are you always so jumpy around me?" he countered simply. She watched as he deposited the clothes slung over his arm on to the stool in front of Aunt Suzie's dressing table then swallowed as he knelt before her, taking the letter from her hands. "And why the hell don't you believe you're beautiful?"

"Because I'm not!" Unnerved, Melissa found she couldn't meet his gaze. "It's lovely of you to keep saying that I am, but I know that I'm not, okay? How could I be? I'm the short, dumpy red-head who's never even had a proper boyfriend, for God's sake. Who until last night hadn't even had sex--and the only reason it happened then was because it was dark and you couldn't see me--hey!" To her annoyance, she saw that he was laughing. "It's true! If we hadn't had a power cut, last night would never have happened. And if there'd been any other woman here, you wouldn't have touched me with a barge pole."

"What?" Matt sounded startled.

"Well, no one else has ever told me I'm beautiful--well, no one other than Charlie and he doesn't count. No one else has ever seemed all that interested in me. No one else has ever wanted to make love to me."


"Well they haven't! So I'm sorry, but I just don't buy it, okay? I didn't fall from the very top of the ugly tree, I s'pose, but I know I'm nothing special. I know I'm not--"


Melissa fell silent, aware he was no longer laughing. Oh God, why had she said all that? It was one thing to think it, quite another to say it and make a complete fool of herself. But all day, she'd felt as though she'd been living in a dream. A magical, wonderful dream where she'd been the star of the show, a new all-singing, all-dancing, confident Melissa, unexpectedly cast as the leading lady instead of the leading lady's best friend. And all day, she'd known it couldn't last. How could it? This time tomorrow she'd be back home in her tiny flat and in a few days Matt would be back in Singapore. Doubtless, he'd soon move on to the next woman and she'd...

She'd be alone again.

"Sweetheart, look at me."

She tried to swallow the lump in her throat. "I can't."

"Yes you can." Suddenly she felt his fingers in her hair, his palms sliding down over her cheeks until he cupped her chin, forcing her to meet her gaze. "You," he began, then shook his head with a smile. "Oh hell, Lissy." And leaning forward, he kissed her, his mouth so gentle, the contact so sweet, she felt her eyes fill with tears. "You're beautiful," he said softly, drawing back just enough to look at her. "You, Melissa Susannah Barton. You're beautiful."


He shook his head again, slipping a finger over her lips. "Beautiful, Liss. You look in the mirror and see short, dumpy redhead. I look at you and I see petite, curvy, Titian goddess."

"Pur-lease." Despite herself, Melissa felt a smile tugging at the corners of her lips. "Goddess?"

"Hell, yeah." Matt mirrored her smile before kissing her again. "Slayer of the gods. One look at you and all men are lost."

"Bullshit. Men never look at me."

"Oh yes they do, believe me." He gave her a wicked grin. "All the time."

She grimaced at him, disbelieving. "Then how come I've never noticed? How come I'm still single? Explain that."

"Ah, that's an easy one. You never look back at them."


He caressed her cheek. "You never look back, sweetheart. You don't see them looking at you. I don't know what the hell happened, but somewhere down the line, you stopped believing that anything good could ever happen to you."

Stunned into silence, Melissa stared at him for several seconds, the continuing restriction of his hands making it impossible to avert her gaze. "The thing is," she said at last, her voice rather croaky, her eyes filling with fresh tears, "it's been a long time since anything good did happen to me. Until--until now, that is." And even this isn't going to last, she added silently.

"Until now?" Rather to her surprise, he suddenly looked as uncertain as she felt. "You mean, this is a good thing? Us, here together, right now?"

Us... Oh, how she wished she could believe there was any future in that 'us'. But she knew she'd be a fool to start chasing that dream. And also that she'd be a fool to tell him that without doubt, the events of the last twenty-four hours had been the best things to happen in her entire life. "Really good," she whispered, nonetheless finding it impossible not to smile. "Really, really good."

Matt's face cleared. "Thank God," he breathed, releasing her abruptly and rising to his feet. "Well, in that case..." When he bent to scoop her off the bed, Melissa gave a yelp, finding herself unexpectedly airborne. "I think we should make things even better."


He laughed, sweeping the letters to the floor with one hand before depositing her full length in the middle of the bed and following her down. "Much better," he murmured, gathering her into his arms and finding her lips once again.

And it was. As he teased her robe open, slowly revealing her body to his admiring gaze, Melissa couldn't help but wonder why she'd been anxious about this moment all day. But then, last night, their lovemaking had been as tumultuous as the storm raging all about them. Wild, reckless, impulsive. In the cold light of day, she hadn't been able to stop worrying that Matt would be turned off by her inexperience, that he'd find her naivety more frustrating than endearing. More than anything, she'd found herself wishing she'd paid more attention to the articles in those glossy magazines Gemma had thoughtfully donated to the housing association's waiting room. Articles with such pithy titles as 'How to drive your man wild in bed'.

But if the look in his eyes right now was anything to go by, it appeared that might not matter. "Wow," he murmured, at last tugging the robe out from beneath her. "If I didn't want to make love to you so much right now, I'd have to paint you."

Melissa gave a nervous giggle. "In chocolate sauce?"

"In oils." Matt shot her a mock-reproving glance. "On canvas." But then he grinned. "Though actually, chocolate sauce could be one hell of a lot of fun. Hmm..." He surveyed her breasts thoughtfully. "Chocolate sauce would go well with these."

"Yeah? Oh God!" She gulped with laughter as he kissed them, each gentle brush of his mouth sending ripples of pleasure straight to her groin. "That--that tickles!"

He smiled at her across the rise of her breasts. "Ah yes," he said consideringly, as though struck by a new revelation. "My Lissy's ticklish, isn't she?"

"Oh no." Melissa had seen that look in his eyes before. Far too many times... "Matt--no. No. Please? No-oh!"

He laughed as she shrieked, his fingers already attacking her mercilessly, moving from her waist to her underarms and back again, pinning her to the bed with his lower body as she writhed beneath him. And as her squeals turned to giggles, he tormented her with his mouth as well as his hands, interspersing kisses with playful bites everywhere he could reach until she was a breathless, quivering mess of desire. "Stop!" she pleaded as he raised his head at last, seeing that at some point his towel had fallen away, leaving him magnificently bare to her gaze. "Oh God, Matt--please!"

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