tagRomanceWrapped Around Your Finger

Wrapped Around Your Finger


The official reason Caleb gave for coming to the village was pleasant memories of his grandparents' nearby farm. The real reason was his recurring dreams of Cassandra.

He didn't recognize the woman in the dreams right away. He hadn't seen her in twenty years and back then she was a child no older than twelve. Still, he was surprised it took him so long to place the thick raven hair and the green eyes—so like a cat's.

Caleb checked into The Shady Corners Motel in Green Meadow with nothing but a worn duffel bag and his toolbox. That night, he had his first full-blown wet dream since age thirteen.

The next day he walked into the general store and the locals barely gave him a glance. He had no doubt they knew exactly who he was; he looked just like a young version of his Grandfather Hawthorne.

He gathered up a few things and Pelton Gilroy rang him up. He had not changed in any significant way in twenty years except for the lines being more deeply etched in his face.

"Anything else, Caleb?" Pelton asked in a lackadaisical manner.

"Yep. Wonder if anyone is hiring or in need of a handyman."

Pelton lifted a bushy grey eyebrow but, other than that, kept his expression neutral. "Cassandra Penrose was just in and said she needed someone to help out around her place. Interestin' timin', I might add, her needin' a handyman and you comin' here."

"She leave a number?"

"Aint got a phone. Imagine you can just show up and start."

"With no interview?"

"Few people in these parts would be fool enough to take up with a Penrose, but from what I remember of ya you are plenty fool enough. My guess is that it was more than a coincidence, the timin' of you showing up here."

"I might be a fool, but I'm not a superstitious fool. I assume the town is still under the impression that the Penroses are witches. Next you'll be starting in on my family."

The old man just stared at him—answer enough.

Caleb shook his head. "Ridiculous."

"Not as ridiculous as a man packin' up and leaving the city to show up in a hole-in-the-wall town with no job lined up. Seems somethin' else had to be calling him."

The dream of the night before flashed through his mind, but Caleb's face remained expressionless. "Cassandra still stay in the same place?"

"Where else? Penroses don't leave their land and nobody would buy it off them anyhow. She's the only Penrose left, though." With that, Pelton thrust the bag at Caleb and went back to his chess game with what looked to him to be a member of the Hogan clan.

The next day he drove up to the Penrose place. He had to park down on the dirt road and walk up the overgrown path to the house.

Caleb looked around at the simple house that, he would bet anything, still didn't have indoor plumbing. He could see that the roof needed fixing and a dozen other reasons why she needed a handyman. Some would call his arrival providence.

He walked up to the screen door and knocked; there was no answer. He tried to see inside but could not make out much beyond the basic shapes of furniture.

"Hello, Caleb." Much to his chagrin, he started a little at the unexpected sound of her voice. It was the voice from his dream.

"Cassandra, you need a bell around your neck," he said as he turned to face her. Although he hadn't laid eyes on her for twenty years, he felt like he had been with her just the night before.

Before him stood a woman with impossibly thick, impossibly dark hair pinned up in a makeshift bun. Several locks of hair had fallen loose into damp ringlets. The tendrils framed a heart-shaped face with pale skin, full lips, and straight white teeth. Forest-green eyes that seemed to miss very little sparkled back at him.

From the way her dress clung to her curves and the dampness of the loose hair he guessed that she was back from bathing in the nearby creek.

Her body was ripe and lush without being fat. Woman with a capital W, Eve with the Apple, Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, Cassandra.

Local legend had it that Cassandra's great grandmother, Charity Penrose, had sold her soul so that all of her female offspring, and their offspring for ten generations, would be beautiful. She had certainly been known to insist that beauty was a woman's best currency. The woman before him certainly gave weight to the rumor.

"You hear about my need of a man and come to fill the position?" Her gaze was amused, but there was a bit of a challenge in the set of her chin.

"I think I will be more than capable of seeing to whatever you need," Caleb said with a smile and a challenge of his own.

Cassandra stepped closer until they were mere inches apart. She bit on her full lower lip and met his gaze. "Yeah?"

He moved even closer, feeling his arousal grow. "Yeah."

"Patch the roof, then!" She gave a toss of her head and walked into the house, her laughter trailing behind her. From the darkness she called out, "Shingles in the shack. And hurry, it's going to rain later!"

Caleb looked up at the blue, cloudless sky, gave a sigh, and set to work. It didn't surprise him at all to notice the sky was completely overcast by the time he finished, and that drops of rain were beginning to fall.

Just as his stomach gave a growl, Cassandra called out that the stew was ready. When he entered the humble dwelling, he noticed the delicious smell of the stew combined with the earthy smell of multiple herbs and plants he couldn't quite identify.

As they were dining, he noted that the house had a certain old-style charm. He didn't notice a radio, however, but he suspected she didn't need one to know the weather forecast. There was a box in the corner that held a cat and a litter of nursing kittens and their gentle noises were relaxing.

Cassandra looked beautiful in the candlelight. Her skin looked clear and radiant and her eyes sparkled. The simple design of her cotton dress gave just a hint of cleavage but still left little to the imagination.

Caleb swallowed a spoonful of the appetizing stew and spoke. "The roof was in really bad shape. There are a lot of things around here that need fixing. What have you been doing?"

"Caleb," she said with slight reproach, "you've been in the city too long if you think I was going to get up there and shingle a roof! I keep plenty busy."

"My question was…how have you been making do" He knew that "plenty busy" probably consisted of ointments, unguents, and other assorted concoctions. The town might pretend to shun the Penrose family, but it was a rare young girl or woman who hadn't made the trip for a love potion from Cassie's mother, Merrideth, or her mother before that. Considering it wasn't crystal clear who Cassandra's father was, at least one man had made the trip also – if you discarded the rumors of fraternization with Old Scratch.

"I used pots to catch the rainwater until you – I mean, until I could find a handyman." She smiled as if she were enjoying a private joke. "You know, rainwater makes hair extra-shiny."

"I see that," he said with a wink. "We haven't settled on the terms of my employment, yet."

"Did you just say 'terms of my employment'? Look at you, all citified! I can pay you a little ... plus fringe benefits." There was a mischievous smile on her face. "Now if you don't like what I have to offer…"

"Suppose that depends on what the fringe benefits consist of." He could think of a few things he would like, starting with uses for the feather bed he could see in the next room.

"Meals, mostly. What did you think I meant?"

"I was hoping for something that only you could give me."

"Yeah? Whatcha have in mind that you cannot get somewhere else?" Her smile became more mischievous.

"Some history." She looked perplexed. "You are the last Penrose, and my great-Grandma Hawthorne and your great-Grandma Charity Penrose used to be girlhood friends. Thought you just might have the interesting stories passed down."

Cassandra gave him a measuring look. "That could be arranged. I hope you aren't thinking I'm going to tell you any silly fictions about witchcraft."

"Would they be fictions?"

"If it involves my people being devil-worshippers – of course, I can't speak to your people."

"So you're saying there are no love spells? No hexes? No connection between the time old Sheriff Spence pissed off your mother, and his breaking out in hives two days later?"

"I'm saying that sometimes people mistake a salve for a love potion. Take Missy Saybrooke – she came to me to get a little something to persuade Matthew Grove to propose. I told her that she needed to stop listening to wives' tales, but that I could give her something to help with her rosacea. She winks at me like we got our own special secret, goes on her way, and Matthew proposes a couple weeks later – I say it's due to the fact that she no longer looks like WC Fields on a bender; she tells her girlfriends that Cassandra Penrose made her up something special to give him a push. Who are you going to believe?" She ended with a shrug.

"You have to admit that your family's insistence on privacy, and dislike of all modern conveniences, helps the rumors to continue."

"Because I don't have a DVD player and I don't blather on about my life, this is proof that I'm a witch? All that 'modern conveniences' do is give a woman a fat rear and an empty mind."

Caleb began to protest, but when he reviewed the people he knew, he couldn't quite work up a genuine conviction that she was wrong. He certainly couldn't protest the superior shape of her rear.

She eyed him with sudden suspicion. "You aren't hung up on all those new things are you – TVs and washing machines and the like?"

"Who, me? Nah!" he protested, letting it sink in what she considered new.

Cassandra had been playing with a loose ring around her finger throughout the whole meal. She twisted it and examined it periodically in the candlelight, sliding it up and down her finger in a seemingly-absent manner. Caleb felt that this was a case of "accidentally on purpose."

"That ring's something else – looks like some sort of heirloom," he commented at last.

Cassandra looked pleased. "Yes, it was actually Nana Charity's. There was a matching one for Papaw Jeb. Let me show you!" He didn't protest as she went into the next room.

She returned with a near identical, although thicker and bigger, ring.

"Go on. Try it on. I bet it would fit," urged Cassandra.

Caleb gave a token protest but tried it on. It fit fine.

"I ... I don't have much money to pay you but you can have the ring."

Caleb smothered a smile. "Cassandra, I couldn't accept. Anything I could do around here wouldn't be worth you giving up a ring that's been in your family for generations!"

"Nonsense! My mother, especially, always liked you and I think she would be pleased with my choice."

"You mean your choice to give the ring to me?"

Innocent green eyes blinked back at him. "Of course. What else could I have meant?"

"Are you sure?" he asked, pointedly ignoring her question.

"Quite sure!"

"Thank you, Cassandra. This ring really is worth more – in sentimental value alone – than my services are worth! Tell you what – let me have your ring and I'll get it resized for you."

Cassandra's eyes widened and she was silent for several seconds. "I appreciate the offer, but it's really unnecessary. Thank you for the offer, but no."

Caleb took the ring off his finger with a surprising amount of trouble, considering how easily it had slipped on. Beyond that, there seemed to be a strong mental resistance to removing the ring – it didn't surprise him. "I can't accept, then."

"But… but you have to take the ring! I mean, it's the only way I can pay you!" She stared at the ring on the table as if she couldn't quite comprehend why it was off his finger.

"Then let me get your ring resized and we'll be square! I'll take good care of it, and have it back in two or three weeks, tops."

Her forehead wrinkled as she seemed to do some sort of calculations. "Two weeks. You can have it if you return it in two weeks."

"Done!" he said, slipping the ring back on his finger and holding out his hand for hers. "Now that wasn't difficult, was it?"

The weeks passed, and Caleb's dreams became more intense and erotic than ever. During the day he worked hard, punctuated with brief flirtations with the Lady of The House.

Caleb couldn't help but smile at the catlike Cassandra toying with him as if he were a mouse.

Speaking of cats, Caleb had found something oddly familiar about the nursing cat he'd seen his first night. She'd looked exactly like the same cat Cassandra'd had as a child. While the similarity of looks could be attributed to the commonness of domestic cats, or being a descendent of that cat, it struck him as a strange co-incidence that she had a rip in her ear in the exact same place as the other cat. Not to mention having the same name – Felicity. When Caleb commented on the incredible resemblance, the beautiful woman quietly agreed that it was uncanny.

He dined with her every evening, and she told him stories of her family and the town that were entertaining, if incomplete. That was just fine by him. There was something satisfying in working hard all day and spending his evenings with a beautiful woman. He was content to wait.

Every couple of days Cassandra would ask if he had her ring back, and he knew that, as calm as she acted, she was becoming nervous. Then he noticed her swallowing back anger, reminding him that he'd promised it would only be a couple weeks, and that the ring was dear to her.

Finally, he returned the ring to her and she slipped it onto her finger, quickly checking that he was wearing the matching one. He pretended not to notice, pointing out that it would be a full moon that night. Cassandra's green eyes narrowed in slight suspicion, but when he gave her an innocent smile she relaxed and smiled back.

"He wondered what, exactly, she was thinking, but figured he would probably find out soon enough…"

Cassandra stood naked in the clearing, the full moon shining down on her pale, womanly body. She had just finished her prayers and blessings, and now she knew it was time to summon Caleb to her. At last! All she needed was to say the words out loud and he would obey, the spell on the ring would see to that. She imagined that it would take him about twenty minutes to leave the motel and get to the clearing where they would consecrate their love, and he would then be bound to her forever.

Her voice rang out in the night air, "Caleb, come to me."

"Thought you would never ask, love." This time it was her turn to start at the unexpected voice behind her. She whirled around. He was also nude. And aroused. And Surprisingly Large.

"Caleb? How did you get here so fast? What's going on?"

He approached her. "I was in the neighborhood and thought I would stop by – I'm glad that I was right about the dress code. I didn't want to feel overdressed." He moved closer.

"Stop right there," Cassandra commanded.

Caleb instantly stopped. Cassandra expected him to be confused. But he just laughed.

"Well, if I cannot come to the witch I guess the witch will have to come to me. Come here, Cassandra."

Cassandra found herself walking toward him, quite unable to stop herself. Confusion filled her. She found herself before him, gazing up into his eyes.

"But how?"

"I told you that our great-grandmothers were friends. I think the main thing the friendship was built on was a mutual love of spells – particularly love spells.

"My great-grandmother was kind enough to keep a diary that I found under some floorboards in the family farm when I was a kid. It seems the girls were the best of friends until they both fell in love with Jebediah Penrose.

"Apparently, Charity was willing to go just a little bit farther to get him. Are you aware that there is a spell you can do with a ring to bind someone to you—to the point that they not only fall in love with you, but have to obey you completely?"

Cassandra stared at him in amazement. "You..."

"Used the same spell on your ring that you used on mine? Absolutely. I figured it was prudent—town legend has it that Charity henpecked Jeb into an early grave.

"I can live in a shack with no electricity, and I can live with my wife being a witch, but I am modern enough to want a marriage of equals. Well, at least we can take turns. Now I believe that you brought me out here so we could fuck under the full moon. I love you, baby – now get on your knees!"

Cassandra fell on her knees as his words sank in. She couldn't have stopped herself if she tried. She found herself eye level with his truly impressive erection. She looked up and watched his eyes close in expectation.

A devilish smile curled her lips. "I love you too, baby – now on *your* knees!"

Caleb's eyes popped open and his mouth formed a perfect "O" as he dropped down before her. They gazed into each other's eyes for a moment before they broke into simultaneous laughter.

"I can't believe you double-crossed me! You knew all along what I intended!" Cassandra said, reluctant admiration in her voice. She knew that it was just possible she'd met her match.

"Look at the bright side," he said. "My great-grandmother was every bit as powerful as yours. While yours was doing a spell to make the Penrose women beautiful ... mine was gifting the *male* members of the Hawthorne clan – or would that be the male members' members?"

Caleb smirked and Cassandra comprehended.

Cassandra's gaze flickered down and she bit back a comment about it being a gift that would keep on giving.

This was not at all the way she had expected things to work out, but she somehow could not bring herself to mind all that much.

Besides, the moon was full and there was magick to be had. The End

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