Author's Note: The following story was a requested work from shybuthorney. He started a thread on the story ideas forum here at Lit and it sparked my interest. I contacted him and with his encouragement, decided to tackle his idea. I do hope you enjoy this story as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Thank you to shybuthorney for allowing me the opportunity to write something for him. ~ Red
The rain fell rapidly down the window of Tom's Hyundai Coupe. Mentally he cursed the glowing numbers on the radio that told the hour and minute. He was late and the clock did nothing but drill that fact into his sleepy head. His hand came up to wipe across his tired features. A long, drawn out yawn escaped his lips just before he vigorously shook his head.
"Come on, ol' boy, time to wake up," he said to himself. Tom sat up straighter, opened his eyes wide and stared out the rain-slicked window. Soon his lids were growing heavy again and his head bobbed up and down. The sound of a blaring horn and a pair of bright yellow lights coming toward him made Tom jerk the steering wheel, he'd barely been gripping, to the side of the road.
The slickness of the rain, the speed of the vehicle, and the over-correcting of Tom's maneuver spelled disaster. Immediately he was awake, his eyes were wide in their sockets and his face frozen in fear as the back end of his car swung around and his grip on the wheel loosened, sending him sliding across the seat.
While the car continued to spin out of control, Tom's life flashed before his eyes. He thought it ironic that it didn't take too long and how everything seemed to be in slow motion. His back hurt as it connected solidly to the passenger side of the car. The arm rest jabbed at his ribs and he cried out in pain as his elbow hit the door handle. His teeth rattled in his head as the back of his skull met the window. Just as quickly as it had happened, the car stopped moving, the engine died, and Tom started breathing again.
He sat there for a minute, or laid there, depending on how one chose to examine the situation. His tired eyes stared at his legs stretched out before him. He glanced at the seat belt, the metal hook of the unused latch seemed to laugh at him. Tom turned his body around and pulled himself back over to the driver's seat. His hand came up to rub at the knot forming under his short brown hair. When his fingers came away sticky and warm, he grimaced; he didn't need light to tell him he was bleeding. A hard knock on his driver's window made him jump in his seat. Tom turned and stared into another light, this one small but just as bright. He reached out and felt for the handle of the door, pulled it and pushed the metal open. Timidly, almost not quite trusting his feet, Tom stepped out of the car and let the door close behind him. Immediately he was assaulted by rain drops, but soon those were shielded from him by the person holding the light to his face.
"Are you alright?" a voice asked. The stranger swept the light up and down Tom's sore figure, before settling it on his face. Tom winced from the invasion to his pupils, lifted his arm and pushed the offensive glare away. The movement, though small, sent his head spinning and he stumbled back against the car. "No, I'd say you're not."
Tom groaned, but said nothing as the stranger's hand reached out and gripped his shoulder. "The phone service is down, or I'd call a truck for you and an ambulance."
"No. . .that's not necessary," Tom replied, telling himself this accident was his fault and he deserved every bruise he felt. "Are you alright? Did I hit you. . . or anyone else for that matter?" he asked as he glanced past the person with the light and looked up and down the deserted road.
"No one else was on the road and my car is fine."
Tom sighed. "Good. I'm sorry about all this though," he said and pushed away from the vehicle only to stumble again. This time the stranger caught him with a pair of firm hands, dropping the light and the umbrella they'd been holding. "Maybe I'm a little bruised up," Tom admitted to himself and then heard the soft chuckle of the person who held him up. He blushed, though it went unseen because of the darkness. He wasn't aware he'd spoken out loud, nor had he been aware until that moment that the person he'd almost killed, was a female.
"Well, you certainly can't drive. Come with me. The storms not going to let up anytime soon and I don't live too far off the main road."
Tom frowned. He didn't know this woman yet he wasn't in any position to refuse her hospitality. With a heavy sigh he accepted her offer with a verbal promise to pay her back for all her troubles. "I'm sure we'll settle it up later, right now, let's just get out of the rain. Do you have anything of importance you need from your car?"
Tom turned back to look at his vehicle. It was drive-able, he knew it was, but he also knew the woman was right, he was in no shape to drive. He made a mental sweep of what was in the car and then shook his head, sending a fresh wave of nausea through his system. The woman must have sensed his discomfort because her firm grip on his arm increased. "Good then, let's go," she said and gently led him toward her Vauxhall Astra.
Constance Simmons opened the passenger side of her car, helped the young man in and then shut the door securely behind him. She knew she was being stupid. She didn't know this man. He could be an axe-welding, drug lord, on his way to off some man, woman or child who hadn't paid their latest hit. Constance rolled her eyes and laughed at herself as she darted back to the man's vehicle. She felt the rain continue to beat down on her, plastering itself to her clothing which was already soaked through. She grabbed the flashlight and her umbrella, closed the one, turned off the other and half jogged/half walked back to her car. She climbed in and sighed heavily. "Here," she said, turning in her seat and reaching into the back. "It's dirty, but it's dry."
A blanket, rough and somewhat smelly, was passed over to Tom. She watched his pale features blanch as the odor of rubbed down horses filled his nostrils. A soft chuckle escaped her lips as she settled it around his wet body. "When we get back to the house I'll find you something clean. Honest." Constance's car had been running and now she swiftly put it into gear, checked her windows and glanced back at her passenger. "Can you buckle up? Or do you need help?" she asked.
Tom hesitated for a moment, recalling how he had sailed across the seat of his car because he hadn't been buckled. "I've got it," he said. He reached around, grabbed the strap and pulled it across his blanketed form. When the snap was heard, Constance secured herself and then took off.
The drive began in silence. Both occupants very much aware of the other and the fact that they were strangers. "My name's Tom."
Constance smiled. "Constance," she said and turned off the main road. "Are you alright? I can't really tell if you're bruised up real bad or not, but you sure were unsteady on your feet back there."
"I banged my head and got jabbed in the ribs, but all in all I'm okay."
"Well, banging your head doesn't sound good. You could have a concussion, so I'll take a look when we get back to the farm. It means you'll have to stay awake for a while."
Tom agreed. "I'll stay awake." At least he hoped he would, after all being tired was what got him in the situation he was in now. Tom leaned his head back and let his lids close slightly. His gaze shifted over the dashboard of Constance's car. There were no frilly things dangling from the mirror, no bobble heads shaking too and fro. The floorboards seemed clean, free of fast food wrappers and various empty Starbucks cups. Completely unlike his car. His hazel green eyes glanced at the woman driving the car. Her hands gripped the wheel with confidence. Her fingers were long and well-manicured, but the nails short as if she had no time for painting and polishing, but was willing to keep herself healthy looking.
His gaze traveled up her arms and he didn't fail to notice the strength in them. When his assessment reached her face he was surprised by how pretty she was. She'd mentioned a farm and the blanket she gave him reeked of animals, he just assumed she would look like a hardened and seasoned farmer's wife. She didn't though. She looked confident, mature, and very much aware of herself as an individual. Tom sighed and turned away to study the raindrops sliding down his window. He wouldn't mind being confident, more mature and more aware of his own appeal. He snickered softly... "nothing appealing about me," he muttered.
"Huh?" Constance's voice filtered into Tom's mind.
He jerked around, grabbed his head and muttered, "Nothing, just talking to myself."
Constance smiled, but said nothing else. She watched Tom from the corner of her eye as he pulled the blanket up closer around him and snuggled into it. She took the opportunity to study him, using the glow of the dashboard lights to aid her. He wasn't a tall fellow, she remembered how he barely cleared her five-foot-four height. She estimated him to be an inch taller than her and he weighed less than she did too. She sighed, bound and determine not to focus on her weight, after all hadn't she lost five pounds this week and she knew her jeans were less snug. A smile lifted from her lips as she thought of how fun it had been that morning when she slipped the notch on her belt tighter.
"So Tom, where were you headed?"
Tom blinked away the sleepiness and answered Constance's question. "I have a meeting up in Hampshire tomorrow morning and I was trying to make the hotel on time. I'm a stickler for time and I was running late, so I was fighting sleep. I really am sorry about almost running you over."
Constance reached over and gently squeezed her traveling companion's leg. "No worries. I'm fine; you're somewhat fine and tomorrow you'll make your meeting. I'll drive you up there, unless it looks like your too injured to go. Then you're stuck at my place till you're all better."
Tom stared down at the firm grip on his leg and licked his lips. He coughed gently and glanced at Constance. "Sorry," she whispered, pulling her hand away. Tom smiled but said nothing else. They drove in silence, Tom lost in his own thoughts, still feeling the warmth of Constance's hand on his leg and wishing he'd not coughed and brought attention to her personal space invasion.
Constance chewed nervously on her lower lip, wondering why she'd reached out and touched the man beside her. It'd been a long time since she'd been with a man. The farm she ran, she ran alone, her father having passed a few months ago, had willed it to her and her mother had refused to return to the place where her life had been horrid (according to her). Constance left her friends behind, including an ex-lover, and she'd made a new life for herself in the thick woods of her Daddy's land. "Yes," she told herself, "you've just been without for too long."
Constance made the final turn down a long gravel drive. "I've got several guest rooms. I inherited this place from my Dad. He passed a few months ago."
"I'm sorry," Tom answered back, surprised by the sincerity in his voice. He didn't know this woman, but he generally felt empathy for her. She'd been kind to him, taking him in, not screaming her lungs out for his inept driving ability and he could tell in her voice and the quietness in the air that she had cared for the man who had deeded her this land.
"Thank you," she replied. Her hand came up and Tom watched her push a button on the visor. Light flooded the front of the car. Tom winced from the invasion and watched as the door to a garage rose up and Constance drove her car into the structure. Soon the door was closing behind them and the sound of beating rain was drowned out by the protection they were surrounded in.
Simultaneously they both sighed then glanced at each other. "Let's get you inside and let me take a look at your injuries." Constance opened her door and walked around to Tom's side, where he had already climbed out. She watched him cautiously, to make sure he was steady on his feet. He smiled shyly and waved her away. "Just be careful, these steps are steep." Tom assured her he would and Constance frowned but turned and made her way toward the connecting door that led up to the main part of the house.
She unlocked the steel structure, pulled it open and stepped in. Tom followed, his arm brushed casually and innocently across her chest. "Sorry," he muttered and quickened his step to make his way past her. Constance chuckled softly as she watched him nervously scurry into her kitchen. She closed the door, locked it, pulled off her wet jacket, and kicked her muddy and soaked tennis shoes off. "Tom, come back over here and take off those wet clothes. I don't want you tracking mud and water through the house."
Tom's eyes grew wide and he shuffled back to her. He pulled the blanket off; Constance took it and sniffed. "Oh, wow... I'm sorry I gave this too you."
Tom laughed. "It wasn't that bad," he told her as he took off his shoes and then peeled off his socks. He stood there, in a wet shirt and soaked slacks. Constance stepped back and lifted a brow.
"Tom... the laundry room is right there. You're not tracking through this house in those clothes, so strip."
"But... right here?" he asked, still not quite believing this woman was expecting him to disrobe in her entryway.
"Yes," Constance rolled her eyes and turned around. "There is that better?" she asked. "I'm forty years old, for God's sake. I've seen men in all shapes and sizes." She heard Tom shuffling back and forth and knew he was finally disrobing. "Keep your boxers on if it makes ya feel better," she added, knowing in a way in made her feel better too. She had seen naked men before, after all her profession before taking over her father's little horse farm had been in nursing. There was something about Tom though, she wasn't sure what it was, but she desperately wanted to turn around and get a good look at the man behind her.
"Umm... you can turn around now," Tom whispered, coughing quietly to clear his throat. He knew he was being foolish. The woman in front of him was not going to harm him, or attack his lanky form. He wouldn't mind if she did, but realistically he knew it wasn't going to happen. Now that they were in a place where light was ample he could tell the woman before him was not your everyday run of the mill dame. Constance seemed to carry herself with determination and confidence, something Tom had noted earlier in the car.
Constance studied the young man before her, tilting her head one way then another as she walked around him. "Just checking for bruises," she told him as she ran her gaze down his form. She let her eyes rest on his chest, before sweeping her gaze down his hips, across his groin and then his legs. Her inquisitive stare moved back up and she took in his wet hair, plastered to his head and then she caught his questioning eyes staring back at her. She felt herself blush as their gazes held for several seconds. "Do you hurt anywhere?" she asked, stepping back and putting some distance between them.
"I banged my head pretty good, but all in all that's it."
"Oh, yeah, I asked you that already. Let me show you up to a guest room, find you some warm and dry clothes, then I'll take a look at your head."
Tom followed her through the kitchen, a dining room, and a well furnished den, before they took the stairs up to the second floor. His eyes wandered from the various pictures that littered the walls, to the antique furnishings. Tom forced himself to concentrate on the scent of the wood that made up Constance's home instead of the scent and sight of the woman that walked in front of him. Her perfume was light, something he hadn't noticed in the car, and the way she moved made his body respond instinctively. He groaned as he took in the gentle sway of her hips. His stomach muscles tightened and he felt his sex thicken slightly. "Great," he thought to himself, "she sees that, she'll kick you out and you'll be walkin' back to the car naked."
Constance suddenly stopped and Tom brought himself to a halt. "I think you'll like this room. I just aired it out a couple days ago. Dad never used it after he and mom split up. That was over twenty-two years ago." She opened the door and walked in. Tom followed. "They stayed together until I was eighteen. Then mom took off; I went with her since she was moving to the same city I was going to go to nursing school in." Constance blushed, suddenly realizing she was divulging more of her personal life to the stranger than she had meant to. "Well, anyway, you wait here and I'll go find you something to wear. My dad was a slim man too, so I'm sure I've got something of his you can have. There is a connecting bathroom, if you want to get the chill out of your bones with a hot shower."
Tom thanked her and then realized he was cold. Being around Constance, watching her, listening to her, had made him focus on something besides his own discomfort. A shiver suddenly rolled through him and he shut the door behind her before turning to take in the room. It was a simple place in a simple home. The furnishings were old and he would bet a year's wages that the quilt on the bed was handmade. He walked over to what he assumed was the door to the bathroom, opened it and was rewarded with exactly what he wanted, a welcoming room with running water.
By the time Constance returned to Tom's room, she was chastising herself for taking her time in finding just the right clothes for her houseguest. "He's probably still standing in his wet boxers and shivering to death," she muttered to herself. She knocked softly on the door, but no answer came to her from the other side. Constance frowned, fearful the young man had lain down and fallen asleep, something that wasn't wise if he suffered from a concussion. She opened the door and stepped in, clutching the clothes against her. The sound of rushing water filtering in from the bathroom, brought a sigh of relief from her parted lips. Constance placed the clothes on the bed and stepped over to the bathroom. "Tom," she called out.
"Yes?" his voice came to her muffled by the water that was spraying from the shower nozzle.
"I put some clothes on the bed for you. I'm going to be downstairs warming up coffee and something for supper. I don't want you falling asleep until I look at your head, so please come downstairs after you get dressed."
"Sounds good," Tom answered back.
Constance left and hurried down to the kitchen where she quickly started a fresh pot of coffee and rummaged in her fridge for whatever easy leftovers she had available. When Tom presented himself to her, he was greeted with the rich aroma of coffee and the mouth watering essence of beef stew. His stomach growled loud enough to alert his hostess of his arrival. Constance turned from the sink and smiled. "Have a seat," she said, nodding her head toward the small table in the center of the room. Tom took a seat and waited patiently as Constance presented him with a steaming bowl of soup and a large mug of black liquid. He took a deep breath, enjoying the mingling aromas that greeted him.
"This looks and smells wonderful," he said as he lifted his spoon and took a bite of the thick stew. "Tastes good too," he replied then shoveled in more.
Constance grinned as Tom devoured the first bowl and didn't balk at being served a second. She was also surprised at the pleasure she was receiving by serving him and seeing him enjoy her cooking. It had been sometime since she'd cooked for a man; she'd forgotten how pleasurable it was to be praised for her culinary skills.