Thank you to VillageWordsmith, for editing this work for me. I'm enjoying working with you on these stories, as well as future ones I hope you'll continue reviewing. Thanks, Red
Elizabeth looked out the window of the log cabin; rain was pelting the window. Another day of muck and mud would await her tomorrow. She turned from the cold glass, and slid off her robe. Her bed called to her, an empty place that she went to each night. It had been empty for the past three years, her soul mate long gone.
He'd died in a car accident, coming home to her from a business meeting. Her fingers ran over the pillow that always rested on her bed, the one he never used again. She pressed her palm to it, feeling the coldness against her skin. She'd known when he'd died. Though they had been miles apart, she had felt him leave her. That afternoon, she had been found clutching her stomach and screaming in agony.
They had come to her home, friends and officers, to tell her what she had already seen. She'd known what they were going to say, that she'd lost him. Elizabeth felt the tears flow again. She struggled every day of each year but today, the anniversary of his death, was the hardest. Her heart had not let him go. It was as if she didn't know how. Something kept her tethered to him.
She had tried to date, but no one in town approached her, knowing that her heart still belonged to him. So the men she did date were ones from outside of town. They would take her to dinner or a movie, but she always returned home alone. Her bed always remained empty. Elizabeth slipped inside the covers and curled up next to his pillow, and sleep came easily to her.
The day had been long and tiring. She had worked in the mud, hoeing her garden and harvesting some of its gifts. Her body had pulled and yanked at the stubborn horse that refused to do its part and help her with the pulling of the large tree branches that had been blown down in the storm the night before. The rain had been coming for three days, but tomorrow was supposed to be beautiful. There would be storm damage and mud, but the sun was scheduled to shine.
Elizabeth slept a full and peaceful rest, her body physically and mentally drained. A presence watched her as she slept; he kissed her lips, and left her. He had hovered and watched since that day. His body had been damaged, but it hadn't been his time; he'd been pulled from this Earth, and then forced to wait until he could come back. He'd watched her work and toil the land. Watched her lose weight from the lack of eating, her depression sometimes so deep that he feared she'd join him before it was her time.
It would be tomorrow, they had told him. He'd be allowed to go back to her tomorrow. She wouldn't know him; she wouldn't recognize him. He would be a stranger to her, a nobody. It wasn't fair, he had told them. It wasn't his fault; the accident hadn't occurred because of something he had done. A child had run out into the street. He had to avoid her. The truck had slammed into him when he turned the wheel. He thought it unfair that he had to start over his life with her. It had been perfect before; how would he make her realize she could have that again with him, with his new self. Eyes of blue gazed down one last time on the sleeping woman. One last time, his finger ran over her brow and traced the feel of her lips.
When would he do this again? When would he touch her? When would he be able to hold her within his embrace? He'd lain beside her for three years, but now she spent the night alone. How could his heart be breaking when it wasn't even there? He shook his head and turned to leave. His body stopped and turned back with a final look around, and then one last look on her body. When would she let him back in? The answers would not come; they would not tell him if she would be his again, or if he'd remember her. He disappeared and the room filled with the coldness of the storm, as his presence left her for the final time.
Elizabeth woke the next morning, her body refreshed and ready to start the day. She looked at the spare pillow and rubbed her hand over it. Her fingers touched her lips and she kissed them, and then placed that kiss on his picture. "I miss you," she whispered to the photo. Grabbing the robe from the floor, she slipped it over her firm body. The three years had taken a small, soft woman and turned her into a small, thin woman. Years of working the ranch had been hard, and she knew this year would be ending just as roughly.
As the coffee brewed she made her breakfast and looked at the stack of papers with the red PAST DUE notices stamped on them. The life insurance policy had paid off the ranch, but it had left nothing for upkeep of the animals or the grounds themselves. She had sold almost all the livestock, keeping only Blaze, and a few chickens. Her eyes looked at the proud black horse that had found himself a home years ago. He had melted Eric's heart, and he had immediately purchased him. The beautiful creature had become her anchor; as the others animals were sold off one by one and as the measly crops she produced brought in horrible prices, she still kept the anchor of her life, refusing to lose him also.
She had taken a hot shower after her breakfast and now found herself ankle deep in the mud. Her eyes looked over at the ruined rows of corn. Sighing, she picked through what was left of her garden. The wind and pelting rain had blown many of the corn stalks down and her pole beans now rested on the ground, instead of on the metal rods they were supposed to grow on. After several hours of working on her muddy mess, she pulled her gloves from her hand and didn't notice that the diamond ring and the gold band had stuck inside the glove. As she stood and pressed her hands into her back, she didn't see them fall out. When the beautiful, muddy woman turned to see who was driving up her driveway, she didn't realize she had stepped on the bands and buried them deep within the mud.
The truck pulled up and Elizabeth covered her eyes against the glare of the sun. "Mrs. Wallace, I brought you a present!"
Elizabeth chuckled at the young man, and walked toward him, "What have you brought me today?" The young man, only 18, often unloaded something she really didn't need. One day it had been a dog; she had been able to feed it until the neighbor's dog came into heat and then her pooch was gone. Another time, she got home from town and found an injured fox in a cage on her front porch. She wondered what animal the young boy was bringing her now.
Her boots made sucking noises as she worked her way out of the garden. She closed the distance between her and Scottie and hugged him gently. Her hug froze as she looked at the man that was coming out of the passenger side of Scottie's truck. "Surely, not!" she thought to herself. Elizabeth released Scottie and looked at him, her brow cocked at an odd angle. "Scott Micheal Allan, he had better not be my present," she hissed under her breath.
"Yep! Dad told me to bring Uncle Jack out here right away to help you out." Scottie turned and introduced his Uncle. "Uncle Jack, meet Mrs. Elizabeth Wallace, and Mrs. Elizabeth meet my Uncle Jack."
Elizabeth took in the man with the sea-green eyes, and black hair. He was taller then her late husband and his body was hard and chiseled, as if he'd been carved of stone. She furrowed her brow, but extended her hand. "Hello, it is nice to meet you." Elizabeth pulled her hand away quickly; the electric shock of his touch felt like a burn on her flesh. She turned back to Scottie, "Come inside, and have something to drink and tell me how, after all these years of you bringing me lost or hurt critters, you suddenly bring me a man!"
She heard the stranger's chuckle, and chose to ignore it. He wouldn't be staying long, so there was no reason for her to hear his voice. Her fingers and palm still burned from his touch. She looked down, and saw no difference in the color of her skin. Elizabeth could still feel his hand in hers, and the burning sensation suddenly ran up her arm and into her body. She shook herself, both mentally and physically. The screen door squeaked as the three of them moved into her home, slamming shut as the stranger moved in last. Elizabeth cringed as the crashing door rang in her ears. She rolled her eyes over the loud noise and grabbed a soda for the young man.
"Would you like a soda or something stronger, Uncle Jack?" she rolled the name sarcastically, in hopes he would take the hint and leave when Scottie left.
"A beer if you have one," he nodded his head. He gazed at her as she pulled a cold beer from the fridge and handed it to him. "Thanks," he told her, watching her fill a glass of water for herself. He had seen her as they pulled into the drive. She was about five foot three, maybe four if she stretched. Her long brown hair was escaping in tendrils along her neck, and his first thoughts were to kiss them away from her flesh. Jack had been shocked by the violent reaction his body had when he saw her. His sex had almost leaped out of his jeans, and when they shook hands he had to restrain from seeing if there wasn't a brand on his flesh.
Jack's eyes took their fill of the rounded hips, and the short little body that seemed to wiggle everywhere. He suddenly wanted to touch and explore her. He shook himself from his musings and tried to remember why he was here. "Mind if I have a seat."
"Oh, I'm sorry. Yes, please do, as you can see Scottie all ready made himself at home," she laughed as she saw him look perturbed at seeing his nephew with his nose almost pressed to the glass of her TV.
Shaking his head, he asked, "Is he always like that?"
Elizabeth laughed, "Yes!"
Jack leaned back in his chair, and looked at her, "I'm here to help you out, while I spend time visiting with my sister and her family."
Her hazel eyes looked at his and she raised her brow, "I'm fine, but I do appreciate the offer."
"Oh... Sis demanded it. It wasn't an offer. Her exact words were, 'Jack Alex Wilcox, get your butt over to Widow Wallace's house and for the next three weeks you help her out!' So here I am." Taking a swing of his beer he waited for her obvious retaliation.
She swallowed the words that almost escaped, for once she heard herself accepting his "ordered service" from her friend Sarah. "I'm sure I've got plenty for you to help me out with. The last three days have played havoc with everything around here." Elizabeth couldn't believe the words that had fallen from her mouth. She moved from the table, and looked at Scottie. "Scottie tell your mom, that her brother is more then welcome to back tomorrow and I'll put him to work."
"Oh, mom says he's to stay here, so he can get more work done." Scott looked at the time, "Oh shit, I gotta go! I've got to pick up my girl!" He shot out the door, before Elizabeth could recover over his words, concerning her new house guest. Her hazel eyes looked as if she were a deer caught in the head lamps of a fast moving car. She saw out her window, a couple of duffel bags hit the ground and Scottie's truck cruising out of her drive-way. Elizabeth turned to look at the man at her table. "Oh, I don't think so."
Her arms were soon found crossed over her chest, and she stood there looking into the handsome man's face. "You're not staying here," she told him. What had Sarah been thinking, she couldn't just send some stranger over to her house and expect her to put him up for three weeks. "I'll drive you back over to your sister's place, after I gather the eggs, finish your beer and meet me out front when your ready." She left the house, and headed to the coop. The idea of having some strange man staying under her roof was nothing she was even thinking about agreeing to. She gathered up the eggs, and shoveled out the food, then watered the small number of chickens she had kept.
When Elizabeth walked back out, leaving the dust and smell of chickens behind her, she told herself she shouldn't have been surprised that Jack wasn't waiting outside for her. She did see the duffel bags were gone, and she got an uneasy feeling in her stomach. Sighing and putting a determined face on, that would match her stance, she went back into the house. Jack wasn't anywhere around, but she did hear shuffling coming from upstairs. "Oh, he did not!" she said out loud, anger evident in her voice. She put the basket of eggs in the sink and headed toward the stairs.
Her fingers curled around the banister, and she headed up the steps, taking them two at a time, her anger evident on her features. Elizabeth headed straight for the guest room. "What are you doing?" she asked, though the answer was obvious. She took in the open bags, and dresser drawers, not to mention all the things that he would be using as toiletries.
Jack looked back at her, his hands deep in the top drawer, where he had just placed his briefs and socks. "Moving in." He turned back, closed the drawer and gathered up his shaver and cologne. He moved into the bathroom, as he felt her following him with her eyes. Jack held back the chuckle and the grin he wanted to aim at her, he'd known she'd be pissed that he hadn't left, but he could tell she needed help. His sister had told him about her, and since he would eventually get bored on her ranch, he decided to help where he would be needed. Widow Wallace needed his help, so he was going to give it to her, he had no reason not to, and really she had no reason to not let him. "Pride," his sister had told him. Pride was a good word, but sometimes it was ugly also.
He returned to the bedroom, and stopped. There she was, taking his things from the drawers and stuffing them back in the bag. "Well, that will work to. I've unpacked twice before, and lived out of my bags a time or two also." Jack walked back and sat down on the bed, watching her undo all the work he had done.
She glared at him, and put both her hands on her hips. "Your leaving!"
"No, Mrs. Wallace, I'm not," he told her. His voice and his eyes told her he meant it. "I'll stay in the barn, if you'd rather. I know having a strange man in your house, isn't the safest things these days, but I will be staying. Sarah seems to think you need a helping hand, and I'm free to do it, so here I'll be. Now you can either accept it, or not, makes no difference to me, but I'll be helping you out for the next three weeks."
Closing her eyes, she tossed the last of his socks in the bag, and left the room. Her feet carried her to her own bedroom, and she picked up the phone, dialing Sarah's number. The conversation was one-sided most of the time. Elizabeth's "No" and "Yes" and "Fine" were really all that Jack could hear, as he started unpacking again. He wasn't surprised when he heard her grumbled, "Fine, stay."
He turned just as she spun around and left his doorway. Her ass quickly bringing his eyes a luxurious view as she walked away. His cock tingled, and he told himself that he wasn't about to play in the Widow's box while she still hungered for another man. Jack had heard plenty from Sarah about Elizabeth and Eric Wallance, and he had no qualms that he'd be having a fling with her. Her heart, they said, was strictly prohibited from being touched, for the love of her husband ran deep and strong. Jack envied that in a way. He had wanted a connection like that, but it seemed always within his grasp, but then something or someone would rip it away from him.
After he had unpacked, he headed downstairs, and found her just putting the last of the eggs in cartons. He helped stack them in the refrigerator she kept on her back porch, and he watched her take a log book down and track how many eggs she had collected that morning. "Where do you want me to start?" he asked her.
Elizabeth looked at him, and shrugged. "I could care less. I have work to do." She left him standing there, as she grabbed a ball cap from the nail on the wall and headed toward the barn. Gathering her hair up, she pulled the cap over her head, and began the climb up to the loft. Her fingers dug into her pocket, and she slipped on a pair of work gloves. She pulled the hay down, and tossed it over the loft edge, and watched it fall heavily to the ground. Her eyes ran over the barn floor, and she saw Jack grabbing a hammer and a bucket of nails.
She was curious, but decided she'd figure out what he was up to later. Her feet hit the ladder and she made her way back down. Once on the bottom she hauled the hay up and headed to feed Blaze. The black animal came up and nuzzled her cheek, then began to pull on her cap. She laughed and pushed past him, finally emptying the hay onto the ground. Elizabeth patted his jet black body, and rested her forehead on him.
"Do you ride him?"
She spun around and noticed Jack for the first time since she came out of the barn. Realizin he must have gone through the back entrance of the barn, she now saw that he was working on the fencing surrounding Blaze's corral. "No," she said.
"Aught to sell him then, or turn him into a stud."
Elizabeth's jaw clenched tight. She had not once considered selling Blaze, and as far as making him a stud for the local ranchers that was out of the question. Eric had bought the horse with no papers, just wanting the pure pleasure of riding him. "I'll not do either."
Jack shrugged, "Well its just a waste of horseflesh if you don't ride. You do know how don't you?" He glanced briefly at her, as he bent and picked up a piece of the broken corral, and hammered it back into place. Standing fully erect he moved along the row of fencing, and waited for her answer.
"I haven't in a long time, and I've never ridden Blaze."
He watched her leave and his eyes fell on the black horse. Sarah had told him about the horse being Mr. Wallace's and how Elizabeth and he would ride all over the place enjoying the day, and after his death, she had sold almost everything, including most of her land. Now what she had resembled a modern day small farm. Just enough to keep her fed, and a few critters taken care of. It was sad when one thought about it. He'd always heard that people out here took care of their neighbors, but from what he understood no one had tried except Sarah and her family. Then when he learned more about the Wallace land he knew why. Mrs. Wallance was sitting on prime land. She had sold most of it to pay for the upkeep of the place after her husband died. The mortgage paid off by life insurance, so she didn't have to worry about that. But after the first year, and the first winter, her life had been a constant struggle.
He stayed out by the corral working on its broken or loose boards, before he realized he had worked most of the day away, and early evening would be approaching. Jack stretched his arms and back, then picked up the shirt he had shed earlier. He wiped the sweat from his body, and headed back to the barn returning the hammer and the nails. Though the corral was the only thing he had gotten done, he still felt as if he had accomplished something. The fencing had been a mess, and how the magnificent creature, hadn't run off or gotten injured was beyond him. He took in the barn and noticed what would be a few costly obstacles to clear, in order to repair the place.
Jack cleaned up a small bit, in Blaze's water trough, then heading toward the house. His jeans were sweaty at the back, and his chest had been bronzed darker by the sun. He pushed through the screen door and smelled heaven when he walked into the main part of the house. On the table sat heaping bowls of every country man's last meal. Pototoes whipped to perfection, and brown gravy in a bowl. Piping hot biscuits nestled in a basket with a plate of butter on the side. His mouth watered as he smelled chicken coming from the oven, but when he looked and saw the well rounded hips, and the firm ass hidden beneath a pair of jeans, his breathing hitched in his throat. Jack shook himself, and wondered why he suddenly had an obsession with this woman's rear end.