Sunday, December 31, 2017

Meant To Be--Free Short Story by Crystal Inman

It's always wonderful to start the new year on a happy note.
My gift to you is this sweet short story, "Meant To Be".
Happy New Year!
by Crystal Inman

“Go away.” The voice drifted over to Max in the dark.  He stopped in the doorway and sighed.  “I can’t, Lynn. You need someone here.”
“I don’t need anyone anymore.”
“If you don’t take your medicine…” he began.
“Spare me.” The words came out dripping with anger and sarcasm. “Peddle your caring crap to someone else. Just because you feel guilt doesn’t mean I have to care.”
Max heard her move in the darkness. She skirted the window to avoid the moonlight.
“It’s done.” He reminded her as he walked farther into the room. “Please, Lynn. Let it go.”
“Don’t worry, Max. I’m not going to harm myself. You don’t need to babysit me. I can take care of myself.”
“Can you?” he asked softly. “Jerry wasn’t the one for you. I only want to help.”
“Help?” she echoed in disbelief. “How can you help? Can you give me my face back? My life back? What can you give me, Max?”
“I can help.” He moved closer to her and smelled the soft scent of her skin. His stomach clenched. How could he make her understand?  
“Lynn, please. Come here.” He stretched his hand out and touched her arm gently.
He heard the cry before she buried her face into his white, cotton shirt. Her body shook with the force of her sobs. His arms came around her and cradled her soft body next to his. Max wanted to gather her to him. So close she wouldn’t ever hurt again, but he couldn’t. His brother had seen to that—the selfish bastard.
Max’s jaws clenched as he thought of his brother with Tammy on the honeymoon that should have been Lynn’s.
“I’m not crying for him,” Lynn mumbled against his chest.
“I know, sugar. I know.”
She stepped away, making sure her hair fell across her face on the right side. “No. You don’t. But you need to.”
Lynn moved towards the window while keeping her back to him. “I don’t love your brother, Max. I don’t know if I ever did. I thought I did.” She sighed. “And he was everything I thought I wanted.”
“Don’t,” Max pleaded. “I don’t need to know this.”
“Don’t you?” she asked. “Aren’t you the one picking up the pieces? Again?”
“We’ll talk tomorrow.” Max shook two pills out of the bottle and into his hand. He held them out to her and waited for her to take them. She didn’t even look in his direction. She opened her hand, and he dropped them into her palm. Lynn washed them down and moved towards the bed.
“Goodnight, Max.”
“Goodnight, Lynn.” He shut the door behind him.
* * * *
Lynn heard Max’s footsteps recede down the hallway.
She spit the pills out in her hand and grimaced. They were bitter and unpleasant—like her life. Lynn slammed them down on the nightstand and sat up abruptly. She refused to let Max pick up the pieces of her life. She was an adult.
Jerry was a bad choice. Period. And now she would make a good choice. She had to leave here. Now.
Lynn hurriedly dressed and threw her clothes into a suitcase. Max would be in bed within a half hour. He never stayed up late. He had business to tend to in the early morning. She waited until the house was silent before she opened the door and crept down the hall. She avoided the third step because it tended to creak.
The suitcase was heavier than she thought, and Lynn cursed it silently as she dragged it across the oak hardwood floor.
“Do you hate me that much?”
The whispered words tore at her heart.
“Dammit, Max.” She stopped in her tracks. “I can’t stay here. I’m not your responsibility. If I had listened to you to begin with, none of this would have happened.”
Max walked towards her and struggled not to show his emotions as she flinched.
Lynn shook her head back and forth, careful to conceal the right side of her face. She gazed at him, praying he wouldn’t come any closer. She didn’t need his pity—never his pity.
“This is your home, Lynn, for as long as you need it. And you do need it, whether you want to admit it or not. You haven’t healed.” His fingers brushed against the scar from her hairline to her right eye.
“Don’t,” she pleaded. “Just don’t. You know they’ll be home soon, and I can’t be here.”
“Jerry is no longer welcome in my home.”
“Oh,” she snipped, flashing her eyes at him, “but the emotionally scarred and crippled chick is? This is what I’m talking about, Max. Stuff the pity.”
“And where would you go? That depressing apartment in town? Who would take care of you then?”
“I’ll take care of myself, dammit!” She kicked the suitcase and scowled at it.
“I see you’re feeling better. That infamous temper is showing.”
Lynn took a step back to calm herself.
“And now here’s the composing part. I always wondered how you could go from pissed to fine in two seconds.”
“Watch and learn.” She relaxed her face and took one deep breath. Then another. “See? All better. Now get out of my way.”
“Pardon me?”
“That would be a negatory. Lynn, you’re staying here. I’m tired of asking. I’m telling. You’re staying. Now either you or I can take that suitcase back, but believe me, it’s going back.” He crossed his arms and studied the stubborn woman in front of him. She was furious. And she was beautiful. He watched her eyes flash again as she scowled up at him. She was only five-foot-five compared to his six-two, but that never bothered her. She gave as good as she got.
Her short, brown hair hung to her shoulders and curled softly at the ends. The right side hung in front of her face to hide the scar she was so conscious of having. The left side was tucked behind her ear. Max made a concerted effort not to look below her neck.
Lynn’s body was curvy in all the right places. He knew that for a fact. Once upon a time, it was all he could think about. And now here he was, in the same predicament. And he would never be able to tell her.
“You are not my keeper,” she reminded him.
“Someone needs to be.” He stooped to pick up the suitcase and stood up. “Please, Lynn.”
“One more week, Max. And then I’m gone. No matter what. You can’t watch me all the time.”
She followed him sedately to her room and saw him place her suitcase next to the dresser. He looked at her pleadingly, but she shook her head and sat on the bed. Max shut the door behind him.
Yes. He could watch her all the time. And he would.
* * * *
Lynn woke the next day and had the same thought as she’d had the previous forty-five days. She was scarred and alone. She screwed up the only relationship that ever meant anything to her. And now she was at the mercy of a man she didn’t want to be anywhere near—lovely way to begin a day.
She sat up and touched the side of her face. The puckered skin disgusted her. The long, ridged line still felt foreign on her skin—another sign of her blatant stupidity.
Lynn knew she did it to herself, that infamous temper in action. And now she didn’t even want to touch a car. The simple thought made her skin crawl. She was lucky she hadn’t harmed anybody but herself. Pity, she thought in disgust. I don’t need it anymore in my life.
Lynn swung her legs over the bed and sat upright. The dizziness made her bite her lip to focus herself. She refused to take the drugs they were giving her. It was too easy to simply sleep. She wanted to live. She needed to live.
Lynn dressed and walked out into the hallway. The smell of breakfast made her stomach growl. Max cooked breakfast every morning for her. Lynn walked down the stairs, her hands trailing over the beautiful oak banister. She used to dream of living in this house. Having roots here.
“I was about to wake you up.”
Max’s voice broke into her reverie. Lynn glanced up and tried to smile. He watched her struggle and tried to ease her pain. “I’ve made pancakes, eggs, and sausages. Help yourself. I’m going to be working in the home office today.”
“Convenient,” Lynn remarked.
“You think?” Max quirked an eyebrow. “I guess it is.”
Lynn laughed at his surprised tone. “I’ve known you for years, Max. You’re not that subtle.”
“Sometimes I am.” The words were cryptic. He turned and walked into his office.
She walked into the kitchen and filled a plate. She needed to clear up this mess with Max before she moved on. It was past time. He had to know the truth. Lynn had one foot in his office doorway when the front door opened.
She turned to see who it was, and the tray dropped from her nerveless fingers. It was Jerry and his new bride.
* * * *
Max ran out of his office and took Lynn’s hands in his.
“Are you all right? Was it a spasm?” He massaged her hands and looked into her eyes.
“How sweet,” Tammy drawled. “I told you we should have called first.”
Max’s head swiveled around, and he stared in disbelief at his brother and new sister-in-law. “Get in my office now,” he ordered. He practically shoved the pair inside and slammed the door shut.
Lynn stooped to clean up her mess, but Max held her away from it. “I’ve got it. Why don’t you go fix another plate? I think it’s about time I talk with Jerry.”
“Max, please. I’m fine. And I’m capable of cleaning this. I’ll pack my suitcase and be gone by noon.”
“If you leave this house before the week is up, Lynn, I’ll come and get you. Believe it.” He nodded to her once and disappeared into his office.
When did he become so damn bossy? Didn’t he realize this was no longer the Stone Age? She had free will. She could damn well do what she pleased. When she wanted to do it. And she would show him a thing or two. Lynn stiffened her shoulders and walked into the office with the rest of them.
Jerry looked up at Lynn when she entered the room.  He glanced away quickly, and she bit her lip. It was either that or tear into his hide. Tammy smiled at her and waved with her left hand. Her wedding ring sparkled in the light. She looked at it and then Lynn. Her smile widened.
Max slapped his hands down on his desk. He looked at Jerry and then Tammy. When he was sure he had their attention, he spoke. “You are no longer welcome in this house. I believe it would be in poor taste to have you here.”
He turned to his brother. “You have enough money to stay in a rented house until you buy one. You don’t need to be here.”
“I want to be here,” Tammy pouted. “It’s the family house. And I’m family. I’m your sister-in-law, Max,” she reminded him. “Half this house is mine and Jerry’s.”
“Wrong,” Max spat out. “You have no part of this house.”
“But Jerry said…” she trailed off.
“What? That you were entitled?” He sneered at the word. “You aren’t entitled to jack. The house is mine. It always has been. The condition was that the first of us to marry would inherit the house. I’ve already contacted a lawyer. Your vows,” he laughed, “don’t count.”
Tammy turned to Jerry and opened her mouth. He held up his hand, and she closed her mouth and crossed her arms over her stomach.
“Max,” Jerry began, “I think there’s a way to work this out. Tammy and I love this house. How about I make an offer, and we share it?”
Lynn bit back her laugh. She knew good and well Max wouldn’t budge. It was that look in his dark green eyes that should have warned the two off. But Jerry didn’t know when to shut up.
“Just because you’ve taken in company,” he glanced at Lynn, “that doesn’t mean you need to turn your family away.”
“Maybe she’s more than company.” Tammy arched an eyebrow. “What is it, honey? Couldn’t get one brother so you went after the other one?”
“I could say the same for you.” Lynn looked at Tammy coolly, not letting her see the pain. Her hands curved into claws, and she told herself to breathe. The insinuation burrowed into her mind and hooked deeply.
Max came around the side of the desk and put his arm around Lynn. His smile came easily but didn’t reach his eyes. “You can stay for two days. No more. And you can keep your comments to yourself.” He turned Lynn around and escorted her to the door. “Don’t even think about leaving,” he warned her. “I still have a week.”
Jerry and Tammy walked out of the office and started up the stairs, but Max’s voice stopped them. “You two will be in the guest house. Linens are in the closet. Be gone by Monday.”
Jerry scowled at his younger brother and glared at Lynn. His eyes seemed to search out her scar, and she tried her best not to shrink against Max’s side. Tammy smiled at them both and led Jerry outside to where they were staying.
Max looked over at Lynn. Her eyes were wide in her face. She looked stunned. “I need to leave.” Tammy’s words echoed in her head.
“If I have to sleep in the hallway against your door, you’re not leaving.” Max escorted her into the kitchen and loaded up a plate with breakfast.
Lynn watched his capable hands cradle the plate. He placed two of everything on her plate and handed it to her.  When she opened her mouth to protest, he put his finger against her lips. Her eyes widened, and she stepped back.  Her life was one complication after the next. The sooner this week ended, the better.
“Thank you.” She took a fork out of the drawer and walked into the living room. The morning was cool and crisp. Max had started a fire in the fireplace downstairs, and she sat on the couch in front of it. Lynn tried to eat, but Tammy’s words stole her appetite. What did that witch know?
“I’ll be in my office for the rest of the day. If Jerry or Tammy bothers you, let me know. I can cut their visit even shorter.”
“Why?” Max echoed.
“Why are you doing this?” Lynn stood up and looked into Max’s face. “Why would you choose me over them? Am I that pitiful?”
Max stood and towered over her. “You’re important to me, Lynn. I won’t have either one of them upsetting you even more than they already have.” He nodded to her and walked into his office.
And what was she to do with her time? Lynn glanced around and sighed. She shut her eyes as dizziness washed over her again. That doctor and his damn pills. She’d done nothing but sleep for the first month. And Max had been there. He had immediately moved her to his home and arranged to care for her. His guilt was palpable.
Just because his brother jilted her at the altar. It was almost humorous. All those times she’d told herself she could do it, only to find out she wouldn’t have to—and the look on Max’s face. Lynn’s breath caught in her throat.
That’s when she ran from the church. Her car was waiting for her. And she took it for a ride. Tears. Shame. All of her emotions spilled over, and she didn’t see the curve. And then pain. Blood.
When she woke, Jerry and Tammy were in Hawaii, having their honeymoon. Lynn didn’t leave her bed for another two weeks. All her mistakes added to her shame.
Her life was one big blunder after another. The headache started behind her right eye again, and she touched it gently. The headaches not only hurt, they scared her.
Lynn’s fingers brushed against her scar, and a single tear slid down her cheek. She wasn’t vain. The scar in itself didn’t bother her. Her knees were scarred up from childhood mishaps. She had a scar on her right forearm from falling through a screen. No. The scar was a reminder of her stupidity. When would she learn?
And now Tammy and Jerry were back from their honeymoon, and Tammy was acting like the proverbial cat with the canary. She would stop at nothing to embarrass Lynn and finish what she started.
Lynn plucked a book down from the bookcase and wrapped herself in a blanket on the couch. She could hear Max talking to someone on the phone, and she smiled sadly.
One week. She would have to leave. She’d already done enough damage.
* * * *
Max finished up his phone call and walked out of his office. He shut and locked the door behind him. He didn’t trust Jerry or his new bride. One glitch in the plan, and he would never have another chance.
He walked into the living room and looked down at Lynn. She was sleeping with a book tucked up to her chest.  The firelight played over her features. Max smoothed her hair behind her ear and let his fingers trail through it.
“How sweet.” The saccharine words hissed behind him. Tammy stood in the kitchen, watching him.
“What do you want?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Just my due. I couldn’t get it from you. But believe me when I say I’ll get it from Jerry. Too bad the princess here had to get in the way. She had such a pretty face.”
Max’s jaw clenched, and he fought for control. “Get out. You may have Jerry fooled now, but he’ll see through you soon enough.”
“You think?” she purred. “Somehow I doubt it. All of Jerry’s thoughts are centered below the belt. And I can take care of that.” She sidled closer to him and pressed her body to his. “You know I can.” Tammy puckered her lips. “Did you miss me?”
“No,” he said. “Honestly I didn’t.”
“Pity.” She pouted up at him. Her tongue snaked out and licked his jaw. “I could always come back in after Jerry goes to sleep.”
“Get the hell out of this house. Now.” His voice shook with barely concealed anger. “I don’t want to see you in here again. Send your husband for whatever else you need.”
Tammy looked down at Lynn and up at Max. “She made her decision, big boy. And it wasn’t you.” With that parting shot, she sauntered out the front door.
* * * *
Lynn blinked in the darkness and waited for her eyes to adjust. She was in bed. Her arm reached out and touched the sheets to make sure. Was she losing her sense of time now?
“Don’t worry. I brought you in here.”
She gasped and sat up in bed, then reached for the lamp and clicked it on. Max was sitting in a rocker by the far wall. He watched her move her head so that her scar was covered. It angered him more than he could say.
“I’m sorry to be such an inconvenience,” she said stiffly.
“No, you’re not,” he corrected her. “You’re reveling in it. It’s your protection. Your shield. You’re on that side, and we’re all over here.”
“No.” Max stood up and walked over to the bed. He sat on the edge and moved closer to her.
Lynn felt her eyes widen as she realized his intent. And then his mouth closed over hers.
He was so warm. His lips moved against hers, and she sighed and moved closer. Why couldn’t it always be like this? Where was her happy ending? And why did she always choose the wrong one?
Max brought his hands up to thread through her hair and moved her closer to him. When Lynn opened her mouth to his tongue, he dipped inside, tasting her soft mouth.
Lynn lost track of time as Max’s mouth claimed every part of hers. He gently stroked her tongue with his and brought pleasure to each area he touched. When Max’s hand brushed against the scar on her face, she jerked back.
“Leave.” Her voice trembled, and she cursed her own weakness.
“Lynn,” he began.
“I won’t be a substitute for Tammy.” She looked him in the eye. “I know you’re hurting.”
“Don’t,” he said harshly. Max stood up from the bed in one swift motion. “Just don’t.” He walked out her door and shut it behind him with a slam.
Lynn turned off the light and lay back down. She should have left a couple of days ago, before Tammy arrived. She would never forget seeing Tammy in Max’s house. The image tore through her with sharp claws. Lynn wanted so badly to tell Max months ago how she felt, but when she arrived at his house, Tammy answered the door in Max’s robe. And smiling that smile she seemed to have perfected.
Lynn left quickly. And then she fell into Jerry’s arms.
He was right there to tell her how pretty she was and how much he loved spending time with her—until Tammy.
Jerry proposed to her within two months of their meeting, and Lynn accepted. Max would smile at her politely, not at all like the times they had before he met Tammy. Lynn thought he cared for her, but she had been mistaken. She’d known Max for two years, and not once did she see him date anyone. And when she had decided to make a move to pursue the relationship, she was stopped dead in her tracks.
And the wedding—the almost wedding: Lynn was having second thoughts long before her wedding day, but she convinced herself to wed Jerry. And then everything fell apart. The look on Max’s face when he brought her the note from Jerry said it all. His girlfriend ran off with his brother.
Max started to say something, but Lynn ran—away from her shame, away from her life, away from everything, and into the abyss of her life now. He was obviously still attracted to Tammy. It must hurt him to be so close to Tammy and not be with her. But Lynn wouldn’t be a substitute. Not even for Max.
She fluffed her pillow and lay in the darkness. Less than a week and she would move on with her life. Without Max or any part of his family.
* * * *
Lynn dressed and walked downstairs into the kitchen. Bacon, eggs, and toast were piled on the table. It was supposed to smell wonderful, but she wondered if she could keep any of it down. Max was sitting at the table, brooding over his coffee cup. He looked up at Lynn as she entered.
“Morning,” she replied. Lynn took a plate and put some eggs, two pieces of bacon, and a piece of toast on her plate. She sat down stiffly and tried not to wince at the pain in her head. Her headache was back in full force.
“You don’t have to be so damn polite all the time.”
“Pardon me?”
His green eyes bored into hers. “I said you don’t have to be so damn polite all the time. Your head hurts. I can see it in your eyes. But here you sit, at the breakfast table, enduring my company.”
“Please, Max. I don’t want to fight.”
“I know.” He stood up and pushed his chair into the table. “And it’s a pity.” He nodded once and left the kitchen.
“Cryptic men,” she muttered. Lynn bit into a piece of bacon and chewed it slowly. Would she ever understand them? Probably not—no instruction manuals, no guides, nada—it was ridiculous. If she was so easy to read, why wasn’t he?
Lynn was finishing her breakfast as Jerry came in. He avoided her eyes but moved to make a plate for himself.
“Don’t I rate a ‘good morning’?” she asked.
Jerry’s head came up, and he nodded. “Good morning, Lynn. How are you?” His eyes lingered over the side of her face her hair was hiding.
“I’m fine,” she assured him. “I was simply wondering why you decided not to marry me and take off with Tammy instead. Any answers?”
He sat down across from her. “Tammy and I are more compatible.”
“You mean she’ll screw your brains out whether you’re married or not. I thought I explained that.”
“It’s not about sex, Lynn. Though Tammy is more than willing to do whatever I ask.”
The thought of Tammy’s body next to Max’s had her clenching her already tense jaws. “I bet.” She bit the words out.
“I’m sorry you were hurt, Lynn.” Again, he gave a quick glance at her face. “But I’m happy now.”
“And Max?”
“What about him?”
“Never mind.” Lynn stood up and walked over to the sink. She put her plate in it and turned around. “Enjoy your marriage.” She strode out of the kitchen and walked outside.
The fall leaves littered the front yard, and Lynn walked through them, enjoying the crunch under her feet. The cool air soothed her head, and she blew out a breath. She didn’t want the medications the doctor prescribed. If she kept taking them, she’d be in this house for another six months.
She wandered down the path that wound around the house and into the pasture. Max owned one hundred and twenty acres of farmland. He was slowly implementing plans for cattle and other livestock. It had been his dream since he was in his early twenties. When his parents passed away a couple of years ago, Lynn met him at the lawyer’s office. They began talking. She had recently lost her last parent.
Max had been sad, but he wasn’t the bitter man she saw this morning over breakfast. Did he want her to fight for Jerry? What kind of nonsense was that? She didn’t want him. As soon as she came back to consciousness, she knew that. Her accident lifted several veils off of her eyes. Jerry wasn’t the man for her. She was simply sorry that Max had to be hurt in order for her to see it.
“Shouldn’t you be resting your head or something?”
Lynn’s head snapped around, and she sighed when she saw Tammy. “I’m fine, thank you.”
Tammy was wearing tight, blue jeans and a turquoise sweater that fit like a second skin. She sauntered closer to Lynn and grinned. “I’m so happy you’ve recovered. It’s a pity about the accident.” Her eyes searched out the hidden part of Lynn’s face. “I heard you had quite the scar.”
She looked at Lynn with glee. “Is it hard? Knowing I’ve had both of them, and you’ve had neither?”
Lynn looked the woman in the eye. “It’s hard to stomach your presence. Period.”
Tammy’s face twisted into hatred. “Ah. I see the gloves do come off. How interesting.” She walked beside Lynn down the path. “I was wondering if you had a backbone.”
They rounded the curve and kept walking.
“I don’t really want any company, Tammy.”
The path became denser, and they ducked to avoid low branches. Lynn sighed. “This is ludicrous. I don’t like you. You don’t like me. Go back to the guesthouse. Visit your husband. Whatever you want. But leave me alone.”
“Maybe I want to be friends.”
Lynn snorted and looked at the other woman. She stopped in her tracks and shook her head. “Do you honestly think I’m that stupid?”
Tammy cocked her head to the side. “Yes?” She took one step towards Lynn, and Lynn felt her feet slide in the soft dirt. Her arms pin-wheeled as she fell backwards.
Tammy watched as she fell and slid down into the ditch.
Lynn landed with a thump and blinked repeatedly. Her head was aching terribly. She tried to call out, but her shout came out as a whimper. The dirt fell around her, and Lynn tried to pull herself up. Her fingers clawed the dirt, but she was too late. The dizziness overcame her, and she slumped back into the trench.
* * * *
Lynn woke and shivered in the darkness. Her body was bruised from head to toe. She tried to sit up, but it made the pounding in her head worse. Tammy. That witch left her here. Where was Max? Jerry? Hell, anyone. She huddled tighter into the dirt and tried to listen for footsteps of any kind.
The moon was only a sliver. It filtered through the trees and barely made a dent in the night. The leaves rustled underneath her as she shifted to try and make herself comfortable. Someone would come for her, wouldn’t they?
* * * *
Lynn watched the sun peek through the canopy of leaves above her. Her throat was parched, and she tried to speak just to make sure she could. The pathway was far above her. She squinted in the light and tried to move herself again. The dizziness made her vision blur, but she bit her lip and edged herself against the soft ground. She slid her body fully against the dirt and tried to get her legs underneath her.
The pain was excruciating, but Lynn would be damned if she’d allow herself to fall back into being a victim. That part of her life was over. And when she finally laid her hands on Tammy, that woman better have exceptional medical care.
She wriggled slowly up the slope, pausing now and then to catch her breath. She clawed her way, inch by inch, almost to the top of the pathway. Her breath was coming in great gasps, and she prayed she wouldn’t lose consciousness as another wave of dizziness washed over her. Lynn only closed her eyes for a second, but that was enough.
She could hear someone call her name as her hands loosened their grasp, and she began the descent down the slope again.
* * * *
Lynn blinked slowly and opened her mouth to ask where she was, when she saw Max out of the corner of her eye. He was sitting in the rocker in her room, watching her. As soon as he saw she was awake, he perched on the edge of her bed and spoke.
“You need to leave.”
“What?” she asked in disbelief.
“You’re right. You were all along. I’m sorry I didn’t listen.” He wouldn’t meet her eyes.
She threw up her hands. “Oh, that’s great! Now you want to boot me out. And they say women don’t know their minds.” Lynn plopped back against her pillows and moaned softly as pain shot through her temple.
Max stood abruptly and looked down at her. “That’s what I’m talking about. You don’t need to hurt yourself.”
“Hurt myself?” she echoed. “What in the hell are you talking about?”
“Tammy told me what you said before she left.”
Lynn thought back over their conversations and knew it wasn’t going to be good, whatever it was. She took a deep breath to steady herself and asked, “What exactly did your sister-in-law have to say?”
“She explained to me how you felt. She said you two had talked before about your feelings for Jerry.” He turned his back to her. “I realize now that I can’t keep you here against your will. I don’t want you to hurt yourself.”
“So I’m going to harm myself...over Jerry. That’s what you’re saying?”
“Yes.” His voice was harsh.
“Now let me tell you something, Max Branton. I don’t love Jerry. I never did.” Max turned to watch her speak. “I don’t give a tinker’s damn about him or her. Well, actually, since she let me fall into that damn ditch, I’d like to wring her neck. But I’ll be okay with never seeing her again.”
His mouth dropped open. “What?” he yelled.
“Your girlfriend. She let me stay in that ditch and didn’t go for help. She would have probably let me rot there.”
“I don’t understand. She told me you ran off.”
Lynn’s voice was edged with disgust. “Of course she did. Then she could have the both of you again. How nice for her.”
“What?” His yell was even louder than the first. “What are you talking about?”
“Does density run in your family or what?”
“Before you insult me again, could you please explain what you’re talking about? I’ve never had anything to do with Tammy.” His jaw clenched and unclenched. Lynn watched it in fascination.
“I don’t know why you’re so mad.” She crossed her arms over her chest and looked at him stubbornly.
“Lynn,” he warned her, “either you explain what you’re talking about, or so help me…” he let the sentence trail off.
“What?” she asked sweetly. “Are you going to let me fall in a ditch, too?”
“Enough!” he shouted. Max clenched his fist and hit the doorjamb. “Tammy is not my girlfriend. She told me you informed her you were going to run away. You said I was overbearing and pushy. You couldn’t wait to leave here.”
“Did it ever occur to you she was lying?”
“Why would she lie?” Understanding slowly dawned in his eyes.
“Yes,” Lynn said bitterly. “Tell me why that pathetic excuse for a human being would lie about this whole situation. Please. What could she possibly gain? Oh, that’s right,” she snapped her fingers, “Jerry, you, and this house. Where is she?”
“They left last night. She was in a hurry. Said she felt guilty for you leaving.”
“I bet,” Lynn muttered.
Max looked down at Lynn and sighed. “She also told me several other things. I assume those are lies, too.”
“I can’t wait to hear this.” She sat up straighter in bed and motioned for Max to continue. “Please. Don’t leave me hanging.”
“We don’t have to go into this right now. You’ve been through a lot the last couple of months. We can do this later.”
“Like hell.”
“Why are you so stubborn with some things and not others? It drives me crazy!”
Lynn cocked her head to the side and grinned. “Spill it, Max.”
“She said you cared about me.”
The words hit Lynn hard, and she felt all the color leave her face. She knew she should have simply shut up and let it go. But no, not her, she couldn’t lie to Max. Maybe she could worm her way out of the truth.
“Oh, did she?”
“Yes.” Max’s eyes met hers. “I thought it was rather odd for her to tell me that.”
“Why?” Lynn asked.
“You’ve always seen me as more like a brother. Someone to talk with.” His eyes searched hers before she shifted them away.
“You’re pleasant to talk to.”
“So is a damned stuffed animal. Help me, Lynn. Tell me what’s going on.”
She moved around in the bed, buying time. What did she have to lose? Lynn sighed once before she spoke. “I might have become a little more attached to you. But that ended when I came here to talk to you, and Tammy opened the door in your bathrobe.”
“Hell,” he muttered.
“Quite,” she agreed. “So I left. And then Jerry began paying attention to me. And you had Tammy.”
“I never had Tammy in any sense of the word. One of my friends dumped her on me at the club. She was drunk. I drew the short straw.”
“But she said…” Lynn trailed off in absolute horror. “Damn it. I really do loathe her.”
Max walked over and sat on the bed by her side. “Talk to me, Lynn. What else haven’t you told me?”
The weight of the past two months crushed down on her. “I’m tired, Max…all the time…and dizzy. And I keep making the same damn wrong choices. I think I’m cursed.”
He chuckled softly and moved to hold her hand. His fingers stroked delicately over her palm. She shivered as the heat moved through her. Her eyes widened when he moved forward. Lynn put her other hand out and held him back.
“Didn’t you hear me explain that I’m cursed?”
“Lynn.” His voice was husky. “I don’t give a damn.”
“Max,” she pleaded. Lynn moved her hand and pushed her hair back off of the right side of her face. “This is me. I’m scarred. I’m not talking only about physically. I don’t know what I’m doing!” She threw up her hands and felt the tears slide silently down her face.
“Don’t cry.” Max wiped the tears with his thumbs and leaned forward to kiss her forehead.
“Did it ever occur to you that I’m seriously damaged? My head aches continually. I could have brain damage. I might keel over at any given moment. You don’t know.”
“Yes,” he corrected her, “I do. Why do you think I pushed for you staying here so often?”
“You’re inherently bossy?”
Max chuckled. “That, too. But no, doctor’s orders, I assured him you’d rest and take your medicine.”
“It makes me sleep non-stop.” She scowled in disgust.
“It’s supposed to! Woman, you’re driving me stupid.” He shook his head. “The medicine is for your headaches. You take the recommended dosage, and then you can slowly wean yourself off of it.”
“I’m not going to have an aneurysm or something?”
“You’ve been thinking you’re dying?” he asked in disbelief.
“Maybe.” She avoided his eyes. It felt like a giant weight had been lifted from her. She peeked up at him and sighed in relief when he didn’t look too agitated.
“Your body will heal,” he promised her. “I’m sorry I didn’t talk to you sooner. I was being selfish.”
“Selfish?” she echoed.
“I want you here, Lynn.”
“Why?” Her question was blunt.
“Because I want you in my life. I need you here. When I thought Jerry was going to marry you, I was dying.”
“Why in the hell didn’t you say anything?” she demanded.
“You quit talking to me. And Tammy was there to assure me you picked the brother you wanted for your husband.”
“Did I already say that I hated her immensely?”
“Yes.” He grinned at her. His grin soon replaced by desire.
Max’s thumb traced the soft curves of her mouth, and Lynn closed her eyes and savored his touch. His thumb was replaced by his mouth. Lynn eagerly welcomed him. He finally drew back, breathing heavily. She moaned a little as he sat up straighter and looked at her. Her cheeks were flushed from his kisses, and he smiled satisfactorily.
“You’re staying.” Max’s eyes blazed. “When I look at you, I see the woman who holds my heart in her hands. And this,” he traced her scar with his hand, “is part of you. And I won’t take anything less.”
His words burned brightly in her heart. Max wanted her—all of her. Lynn looked over at him and smiled contentedly. She was home. Her place was with Max. And nothing would push them apart again. Lynn opened her arms, and he moved into them. He held himself back so that he wouldn’t flatten her, but she pulled him tighter to her until there were no seams. And for that, she was grateful.

© Crystal Inman 2017

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Free short story by C'ann Inman

Hello all!

Welcome to my blog!

My gifts to you this holiday season are two short stories--one naughty and one nice.

Naughty will be first.  😀

DISCLAIMER:  The following story contains explicit adult language, content, and themes.


Please enjoy Elf Mistress.
C’ann Inman
“I think the cock should be a bit bigger.” Jennifer tilted her head to the side and studied Santa’s private dimensions.
Her assistant, Tracy, nodded. “I agree.” She tweaked the mold to allow Santa a little more length. “How’s that?”
Jennifer pushed her russet hair back behind her ear and narrowed her blue eyes. “Works for me.” She picked the mold up.  “Make at least a dozen more. Then we’ll get started on the elves.”
She watched Tracy hurry away and sighed. They had about three days to come up with all the molds and implement them. The candy wouldn’t stay fresh if they did it sooner. Plus, she had to worry about all the other sections of her candy store, Wicked Indulgence.
There were tooth fairies to stock. Wedding items. Both naughty and nice. Those were year-round. And now that Thanksgiving was over, a whole two days ago, Jennifer needed to concentrate on Christmas. Her clients were already asking her when the display would be ready.
She rubbed her temple and told herself she would complete everything in time. She always did.
Tracy hurried back with the list of the other candies they would make. “We’re working on snowmen, elves, and the reindeer.”
Jennifer blew out a breath. “Give me a sample of the deer nuts as soon as possible. Have John whip up a batch this evening, and I’ll set out samples tomorrow. If they disappear, then we’ll stock them as an item.”
Tracy nodded and made a note. Her brown eyes leveled on Jennifer. “You sure you don’t need a break from this?”
Jennifer arched an eyebrow. “I’m sure. Not quit worrying. Sleep is overrated anyway.”
“Sleep and sex.” Tracy shook her head sadly. “Two things no woman should have to do without.” Her brown eyes studied Jennifer’s face. “Been too long. Don’t you want to have someone to go home to?”
Jennifer shrugged. “Business first. Pleasure later.” She would never admit aloud that sleeping by herself was a depressing reality. One she had no idea how to change. At least she helped others let their wild side loose.
She glanced toward the partition that separated her regular business from her somewhat wayward candy. Naughty Novelties was emblazoned across the top in large, crimson letters. And behind
that partition?  Candy you certainly wouldn’t find at a mainstream distributor.
Tooth fairy suckers with large breasts. Jennifer made sure she was rather well-endowed. The trick was to make sure her wings didn’t fall off while they made her. She came in cherry, orange, and blueberry. There were also chocolate suckers.
Hard candies that depicted breasts, pussies, and cocks. And even a large sucker that depicted people having sex. There were heterosexual, homosexual, and even a ménage a trois. Quite a mouthful.
There was flavored whipped cream in cans safe to use anywhere on a person’s body. Homemade Jell-O shaped like penises and pussies. And different flavored syrups that lovers could use all over willing bodies.
Jennifer hadn’t started out with the naughty side of business.
But soon demands rolled in from friends who asked if she could make candy just a bit sinful. And she found that she could. Word soon spread, and her business picked up considerably.
She now had a website and a catalog she sent out twice a year.
Several of the sweet treats were mainstream. But there was a growing popularity for the somewhat seamier side of candy.
Tracy tapped her pen on the  notepad. “John says no problem on the deer nuts. He’s going to use that recipe you gave him.” She chuckled at the thought of her husband’s craftsmanship. “He seems to be having a good time.”
“Excellent.” Jennifer closed her eyes for a second. “How about we make miniature elf suckers? Both naughty and nice. I think the kids will like those.” She snickered. “The nice ones.” She glanced at her assistant.
“Great.” Tracy made another note, nodding. “And we’ll do the snowman poop?”
“Sure. Giveaways at the front door for the first dozen kids each day. But I also want the snowman flasher. John still has the molds, right?”
“Already on the table.” Tracy laughed. “He’s got the kitchen all decked out right now. Like a kid in a candy store.” She glanced at Jennifer, and they both laughed.
“I want the display ready in three days. No later than.”
“Sure.” Tracy assured her one last time and left the room.
Jennifer watched her go and looked around. Three days wasn’t impossible. And it would be well worth the effort. She yawned and stifled it quickly. No rest for the wicked. Or at least for the owner of Wicked Indulgence.
* * * *
Jennifer opened her store to utter chaos. There were at least a dozen people on the sidewalk already waiting for her to unlock the doors. She did, quickly, and stepped back. The customers filtered through, and Jennifer watched them.
At least half headed straight back behind the partition to check out what naughty items had been made this year. Jennifer tried her hardest to come up with new and unique ideas for the holidays. She also employed at least three more helpers than usual to help with all the customers. There was a cash register on the naughty side so all her customers could purchase their items without scandalizing others.
And one person who specifically stayed at the partition so no little person wandered through and was educated prematurely. She snickered and turned back to the counter.
Jennifer looked outside and smiled. There was a light snow falling. Just enough to make her long to be out in it. To catch a snowflake or two on her tongue. Winter was absolutely her preferred
season and Christmas her favorite holiday. Hands down.
Red and green ribbons and tinsel decorated every inch of her store. Silver and gold tassels hung from corners. And there were silver and gold bells draped throughout from wall to wall.
Wicked Indulgence utterly embodied the holidays and all that was good in them. The smells, the sights, and the sounds.  Jennifer picked out an instrumental compact disc that she adored. It was upbeat but mellow. The tunes wove through the store fostering the exact ambience she craved.
She watched a mother with two small girls step inside and smile as a helper gave the children a gift bag with marshmallows and a couple of suckers in them. The woman inhaled deeply and
immediately began shopping.
John was making gingerbread right now, and those aromas drifted through and helped create the perfect mood.  Jennifer didn’t stock the gingerbread houses. But she took orders for personalized gingerbread.
One of her oldest clients ordered family gingerbread every year. Each cookie handcrafted to reveal the recipient’s likeness and hobbies. Matriarch gingerbread for her customer. Wide-brimmed hat and clutch for the cookie. And a small string of pearls around its neck.
Jennifer snuck away briefly and went back to the kitchen to talk to her head chef. She inhaled deeply at the combination of chocolate and gingerbread. Jennifer was certain it was what Heaven smelled like.
She chuckled at the sight before her.
If she thought the front was chaotic, then the back was pure madness.
“Put the sugar in after. After!” John scowled at one of the assistant chefs, a boy in his teens. Easygoing and mellow away from the store, John was an absolute terror in the kitchen.
“Yes, sir.” The boy nodded nervously and fixed his mistake.
Jennifer’s lips twitched. “Santa’s going to bring you coal if you keep scaring the shit out of my employees like that.”
John scowled. He would probably be pulling out his hair if he had any. His blue eyes darkened dangerously. “I don’t care what the old guy brings me. Maybe he’ll gift me with someone at least
knowledgeable enough to handle simple directions.” He glowered at the boy again.
Jennifer tugged on his sleeve. “Come here, taskmaster.”
“Make it quick.” John glanced toward the ovens. “I have another batch coming out in five minutes. And if I don’t decorate them then…” He let the sentence trail off.
“Yes. I realize what a catastrophic event that would be.” Jennifer nodded. All the candy would be ruined.
“What do you need?” John glanced around the kitchen one more time to make sure all his instructions were heeded.
“I’m going to need more Santa sticks and Santa sacks. Double the order on the deer nuts.”
John rubbed his hands together and grinned. “I knew those would go over great.” He smiled, showing the dimples Tracy was so fond of. “All gone?”
Jennifer had come up with the idea to join two almonds with a bit of syrup. Then the almonds were lightly covered in granular sugar. They looked just like a miniature replica of deer balls. Customers were going crazy over them. One company already ordered five pounds for their annual Christmas party.
“Anything else, boss?” John looked at the oven again, and Jennifer smiled.
“Just more of the same. Lots of happy customers.” She hugged him quickly and stepped back out front.
There were two lines out front with at least four people each in them. Jennifer hummed a Christmas carol under her breath and opened another register.
* * * *
Mitch stepped into the candy shop and looked around. It was decked out to the hilt with Christmas decorations. There were angels and Santas in every corner. No elves. He snorted. Go figure. Highly underrated workers.
He tugged the hat down self-consciously on his dark, brown hair and glanced around again. The proprietor was doing good business. He lifted his head and inhaled deeply of the lovely scents
in the shop. Too bad he’d probably have to close it down.
His hazel eyes roved over customers and workers until they narrowed on a woman who seemed to be giving orders. Mitch shook his head. The owner is a woman?
He reached around in his pocket before he found his cheat sheet. J. Eve. Well, shit. No first name. He assumed it was a male. Next time he would ask for a complete name. No surprises that
Mitch moved forward until he was within a foot of the woman. Pretty. As far as mortals went. Brown hair with striking blue eyes. Curvy underneath that sweater and jeans. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and stepped back abruptly as she moved forward.
The last thing Mitch needed was a distraction. He would take care of business later. First, he would check out exactly what the store had to offer. He glanced up at the Naughty Novelties sign.
Mitch rubbed his jaw against the slight stubble. He’d been in town for three days and was rather sick of it. He wanted to go home as quickly as possible. Thank God this was the last of his six
stops he had to make before he could go back. Where the real work was.
His hazel eyes moved to the calendar, and he cursed under his breath. Being the manager had its ups and downs. Customer visits sucked. But the rest was great. Except Nick was pressing Mitch to make a choice with family plans.
Family plans, for chrissakes! Mitch scowled. Just because the old codger had been happily married forever didn’t really mean Mitch wanted to follow in his footsteps. Nick warned Mitch that love would find him no matter what. But Mitch planned to put that moment off for as long as possible. He had duties. A job. A life not bound to another. And he liked it that way.
Mitch stepped behind the crimson curtain, and his jaw dropped.
If the main shop was sedate, then this was wild. Suckers of every description filled the wall on his left. He stepped closer, and his eyes widened. Couples in every sex act possible were depicted. And the crotch candy was unbelievable. Mitch leaned in closer and marveled at the intricate design.
“See something you like?”
Mitch jerked upright and glanced behind him. The lady from out front stood behind him, smiling. “We have all sorts of candies to suit every person’s taste.”
“I see that.” Mitch’s voice was gruff. The last thing he needed was the owner to see him ogling her naughty candy.
Jennifer moved forward and grabbed one of the smaller suckers off the counter and handed it to him. It was a small, cherry elf butt naked. She grabbed one for herself and stuck it in her mouth.
“These are popular right now.” She took it out and licked it from top to bottom. “Tasty.”
Mitch scowled as he looked down at the small stick in his hand. The poor elf’s cock was small and rather pitiful between its legs. The small proportions would offend every elf he knew.
Jennifer looked at the scowl and took the sucker back out of his hand. “Or you can have the female version.” She placed an orange sucker in his hand. Another elf, but this time with female
proportions. Her breasts were high with protruding nipples and a smooth pussy.
“Santa’s going to bring you coal.” Mitch tried to get the image of her licking the small elf out of his head. If she wanted to lick an elf’s cock, he would be more than happy to produce one.
“Do you give every customer this level of attention?”
“Sure.” Jennifer shifted the sucker to her cheek and grinned. “You seemed rather lost. So I thought I would come and help. First time in?”
She nodded. “Thought so.” Jennifer motioned to his hat. “Aren’t you hot?”
“No,” he lied.
“Okay.” Jennifer started with the suckers. “As you can see, we have lots of different flavors and predilections.”
“What possessed you to start this type of shop?”
Her eyebrows arched. “This type of shop?”
Mitch motioned. “The Naughty Novelties part.”
“High demand.” Jennifer winked. “And it’s fun. Our chef enjoys the challenge.”
He scooped a small handful of nuts into his hand from the small glass on the counter and read the label. “Deer nuts?”
Mitch held them up and shook his head. “Dancer and Prancer would be pissed.”
Jennifer threw her head back and laughed. “You think?”
“Pretty sure.” Mitch fought back his answering grin to her laugh. He would not fraternize with her. Refused to. No matter how pretty she was. He forced the thought of the sucker out of his
mind with a great deal of effort.
“Is there anything in particular I can help you with?”
He shook his head. “Just looking. Thanks.” He watched the woman retreat back to the main part of her shop. Mitch bought two of everything and carried his bags back to the hotel.
* * * *
Jennifer watched the stranger leave loaded down with bags and immediately walked back to the naughty side. She approached the register and smiled at Dana.
“What did the last customer buy?”
“The pretty one with the hat?”
“Yes.” Jennifer nodded.
“Two of everything. Quite a sale.”
“No kidding.” Jennifer’s blue eyes narrowed. There were only a couple of reasons that someone would buy two of everything. He either wanted to become a major customer, or he was ripping off her ideas.
“Did he pay with a credit card?”
Dana shook her head. “Cash. Over three hundred dollars worth. He seemed fascinated with the elf suckers. Bought quite a few of those.”
“Thanks.” Jennifer walked back to find Tracy, currently chatting with John in the kitchen.
John had three large cookie sheets full of gingerbread people.
Adults and children decorated to suit every taste. Tracy sat on one of the empty counters and nibbled on a small one with red boots while John leaned back against one of the industrial ovens for a minute to rest.
“We may have a problem.”
They both frowned.
“What do you mean?” John stood upright and crossed his arms. “Something I need to take care of?”
Jennifer’s lips twitched. “Simmer, studmuffin.” John had taken Jennifer under his wing like a protective older brother. He and Tracy pretty much adopted her.
“There was a guy in here a couple of minutes ago who bought two of everything.”
John scowled. “Did he now?”
Tracy shook her head. “So?” She took another bite of her gingerchild.
John looked at his wife and chuckled. “Stick with us here, Tracy. If the guy wanted to be a customer, he would have asked for a business card or catalog. If he were trying to start his own
shop…” He trailed the sentence off.
“He would have bought two of everything.” Tracy jumped down off the counter, and her brown eyes snapped. “Well, I damn well don’t think so.” She brushed her hands together.
Jennifer nodded. “We don’t know for sure, but there was something different about him. I can’t quite pin it down.”
“What did he look like?” John had his notebook out, ready to take notes.
“Tall.” Jennifer closed her eyes. “Hazel eyes. Dark brown hair. Angular face. Strong jawline.” Her blue eyes opened. “He wouldn’t take off his hat, though it is warm in the store. He wore a black jacket. Black jeans.”
Tracy frowned. “And I missed that?”
“Careful, woman.” John pulled his wife to him and kissed the top of her head.
She laughed and ran her hands along his smooth scalp. “Who could compete with you?”
Jennifer smiled at the pair. “No sex in my kitchen.” The smile faded. “Let’s just keep an eye out for him, okay?”
She walked back out front and tried to put the stranger out of her mind. But he never quite left.
* * * *
Mitch took his two bags from Wicked Indulgence and sorted everything out on his bed. Then he simply closed his eyes and wished to be home. The generic hotel room faded completely, and he
found himself back in his bedroom at his house.
He relished the crimson comforter laid over his large, oak bed. Its gilded edges matched the rugs placed on the hardwood floor of his bedroom. A large dresser sat on his right wall while his bathroom door was situated across from it. Directly across from the foot of his bed was a large rock fireplace that even now had logs burning in it.
Mitch sighed. He made the other visits to the shop owners, but none stuck with him as the woman of Wicked Indulgence did. He glanced down at the bag’s contents. Nick would probably be upset about the contents of her store. He couldn’t see Nick offering her the job. Mitch picked up all the merchandise and started for the main house.
* * * *
Jennifer sniffled miserably and dabbed her nose. She was not a good patient. And this damn cold pissed her off. It wasn’t a large one by any means, but she refused to go in to her shop even slightly sick and risk contaminating everyone else.
Tracy assured her everything would be fine. She would handle it. Jennifer knew she could. And would. But sitting at home in her holiday pajamas didn’t do it for her.
She glanced down at the erratic Santas all over her legs and across her chest. They seemed to dance up and down her legs while smiling genially and offering presents. This was only one pair in her ever-growing collection of holiday nightclothes.
Jennifer shuffled to the kitchen, feeling sorry for herself. The biggest season for her store, and she was stuck at home. She grimaced and poured herself some hot tea. Then she started to walk
back to her bedroom to wallow in misery when someone knocked on the door.
She tilted her head to the side. Jennifer never had visitors. All her business associates came to the store. Tracy and John were at work. She looked out the peephole and almost choked on her tea.
It was the mystery guy from the shop.
She hurriedly unlocked the door and stared at him. “What are you doing here?”
The man stepped inside and looked around. He was clearly displeased. When he looked down at her, his hazel eyes flashed. “I have a proposition for you.”
* * * *
Mitch dreaded this meeting above all else. He would have to come clean about his visit and reveal a secret that could alter the mortal’s world forever. The woman was driving him crazy, and she was totally unaware of it.
The night he arrived home, he dreamt of her. Her mouth. Her body. Mitch groaned and shifted in the doorway. In his dream, she did things to his body that drove him to the brink of insanity.
When Nick chose her, Mitch didn’t know whether to curse or cheer. How could he handle being around her all the time? Because in her new role, they would work side by side. His cock
twitched in his pants, and he almost groaned. His annoyance made his voice gruffer than usual.
* * * *
“What?” Jennifer eyed the stranger warily. “And please,” she added sarcastically, “come right in.” She shut and locked the door. “What do you want?”
“To offer you a job.” The man yanked on his hat self-consciously, and Jennifer frowned. “Do you have an earache or something?”
“No.” The word was abrupt and annoyed.
“What kind of job?” Jennifer dabbed her nose carefully and scowled at the man. “I don’t even know who you are.” Her blue eyes studied him carefully.
“You’d be doing the same thing you are now.”
She scowled. “Leave.” Jennifer started to the door when the man’s hand shot out and closed around her arm.
“Please.” His hazel eyes sharpened. “Give me a chance.”
Her arm tingled where he touched her, and she attributed the sudden dizziness to her slight cold. “Who are you?”
“Mitch.” The man tried to smile. “Mitch Sheldon.” He sighed. “Screw it.” He reached up and pulled the hat off his head.
Jennifer’s eyes widened at the sight of two pointy ears protruding from his head. “You have…” She trailed off and motioned to his head. Her hand moved and traced the soft protrusions. “Wow.”
At the first touch of her hand, Mitch closed his eyes. All the blood rushed to his cock, and he didn’t wonder about the reaction. Something about this mortal called to him. And the sooner he got her out of his system, the better off they’d both be.
He reached up and covered her hand with his.
“Did it hurt?” she asked softly. “The surgery?”
“What?” Mitch looked at her. “What do you mean?”
“When they did that to your ears. Did it hurt?”
“Oh shit.” Mitch raked his fingers through his dark hair. “I haven’t had surgery, mortal. I’m an elf. Do you get it now?”
Jennifer gauged the distance between herself and the phone. She rushed around the side of the couch, but Mitch tackled her onto the cushions. She kicked and struggled to no avail. Panic crept
up, but she didn’t understand the other odd feelings she had.
Breathless. Excited. Safe.
Her blue eyes looked up into the man’s hazel ones, and she stilled. “Let me call you some help. Okay?”
The man shook his head. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” He covered her eyes with his hands, and Jennifer felt the room shift. When he removed his hands, she looked around in amazement.
Her living room was gone. She was in a bedroom of sorts. Her hand traced the soft crimson coverlet beneath her fingers. And the man still lay on top of her.
Jennifer glanced up and arched an eyebrow. “If you’re having a delusion, apparently I’ve joined you.”
“No delusion.” Mitch slid down her body, and Jennifer bit her lip to keep from asking him to move right back.
“Welcome to the North Pole.”
* * * *
Jennifer sat upright with blue eyes wide and disbelieving. “What?” she shrieked.
Mitch looked down at her sprawled across his bed and forced himself to stay at least three feet away from her. It was damn near torture. “The North Pole,” he repeated.
She exhaled and lay back down. Jennifer closed her eyes and counted to ten. Then she slowly opened them. “Holy shit,” she muttered. Amazingly, her cold was gone. She dabbed her nose and
glanced up at Mitch. “I’m dreaming.”
Jennifer shook her head side to side. “Impossible.” She sat up again and moved her russet hair off her shoulders. “I have no cold. I’m at the North Pole. You’re here.” She ticked the items off on her fingers. “I’m dreaming.”
Mitch moved closer, unable to help himself. “And if this were a dream, mortal, what would you do?”
“Jennifer,” she muttered. “My name is Jennifer.”
“Jennifer.” She watched in fascination as the elf moved closer. What she wanted was simple. To taste the tall, dark stranger in front of her. To have those hands cover her body. It was her dream. Why can’t I do as I wish?
She patted the comforter. “Come here.”
Mitch sank to the bed beside her, and she cupped his cheek with her hand. Slowly, so slowly, she brought his mouth to hers.
At the first touch, her body jumped, as if in shock. And then all the pent-up desire she had poured out of her.
Their lips rubbed together, and Jennifer felt Mitch’s tongue flick against mouth. She willingly let him in and groaned low in her throat at the erotic duel in her mouth. He seemed to find every
crevice, every recess that brought her pleasure.
Jennifer lay back on the bed and purred as Mitch covered her body with his. She had no doubt that he wanted her. His cock pulsed against her thigh. Ready and willing. The knowledge filled
her with a feminine power she didn’t know she had.
Mitch moved from her mouth to her neck, where he found her rapidly beating pulse and flicked his tongue against the soft flesh. Jennifer’s pussy ached as she imagined that tongue elsewhere,
pleasing her. She shifted to try and move him where she wanted him.
But he wasn’t having any of it. His hands moved up her arms and pinned them above her head. One hand stayed there while he halfway sat up and moved her tank top higher. Jennifer’s breath
heaved in her chest while Mitch’s large hands skimmed across her belly and up higher. He moved the tank top over her breasts and gazed down at her. When he was certain she watched, he bent his head and took her taut nipple into his mouth and sucked gently.
She arched up against him, wanting more. Her body tightened as he flicked his tongue against the hard nub, and she cried out. But he still kept her hands above her head. Jennifer could have moved them from beneath his, but she didn’t want to. She would let him control the game. To do what he wanted to with her. The thought excited her even more.
Mitch moved his other hand from hers and brought it down. He cupped her breasts together and moved his mouth from one to the other, sucking and licking. Jennifer writhed under his ministrations and clutched the comforter in her hands. Such a talented mouth against her body.
And then those magic hands moved down to her hips and tugged gently on her pajama bottoms. Jennifer hadn’t bothered wearing underwear. And she watched as Mitch’s eyes darkened considerably as they gazed on her pussy next to his hand. He slid the pants off and moved his mouth to her left ankle. And then her knee. His tongue tracing some invisible path that left her breathless and wanting.
She spread her legs as she felt his head move higher and higher. Jennifer arched her body up, silently asking him to use his mouth on her. His mouth was against her in an instant, and she
shuddered as she felt his tongue stroke her pussy folds and flick against her swollen clit. She moved her hand then and clutched the back of his head while he pleasured her pussy.
The ache built and spread throughout her body, and she brought her other hand down to pluck at her taut nipple. Every nerve in her body stretched to the limit until Mitch gripped her
hips in his large hands and worked her steadily against his mouth. Fucking her with his tongue. Making her scream in pleasure as her body spasmed over and over again.
Jennifer lay limply on the bed and licked her lips. Little aftershocks of pleasure still filtered through her system. She opened her eyes and saw Mitch stroking himself in front of her. She scooted to the edge of the bed and wrapped her legs around his waist.
His eyes widened for the briefest moment before he placed the tip of his cock against her slick opening.
“What do you want?” His voice was hoarse and strained.
“Your cock.” Jennifer lifted her ass up and rubbed herself against his hard length. “Inside me. Fucking me.”
Mitch groaned and grabbed her hips. He slid his large cock between her legs, and Jennifer tightened around him. He fit her perfectly.
Mitch slid his hands under her ass and stroked her pussy with his hard cock. She moaned as she felt tension build in her body again. She would be happy if he never quit fucking her.
“Please,” she moaned.
Mitch’s body shook as he tried to restrain himself. Tried to postpone the inevitable. Jennifer smiled a wicked smile and tightened around him again. His groan told her everything she wanted
to know. She worked her hips against him until she felt her body begin to spiral again.
“More,” she told him, breathlessly. “Give me more.”
The bed shook with the force of their bodies, and the headboard slammed against the wall. Jennifer watched Mitch’s cock slide in and out of her body, and she shuddered. The pleasure built again until it was all she knew. All she felt. Her orgasm ripped through her, and she called out his name over and over again.
Mitch shuddered, and she felt him collapse on top of her; her legs still wrapped tightly around him.
Jennifer blinked. “Wow,” she murmured.
He shifted and smiled down into her face. “Indeed.” He propped himself up and looked down at her. “So you’ll stay? Run the candy department here?”
She frowned. “What?” Her body still hummed, and she had problems concentrating. “What are you talking about?”
“You will stay. Accept Nick’s position. Be my Elf Mistress.” His hazel eyes looked deeply into hers.
Jennifer halfway sat up. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Mitch scowled. “You’ve lain with me. Come to this world. You will accept the position.”
“You will kiss my ass.” Fury lit deep within Jennifer’s eyes. “We had sex.” Great sex, her head amended. But no need to feed his ego now. He thought she would simply come to this world and
make a life? Leave her family? Her friends? Her everything? He had lost his fucking mind. And besides, she was dreaming. Aren’t I?
“I don’t know what you’re blathering about.” Jennifer sat up and yanked her tank top on. She pushed him out of the way and reached for her pants.
His large hand moved to hers. “Please.”
Jennifer stopped in mid-movement and looked at the man next to her. Elf, she silently corrected. He’s an elf. She bit her lip. “I have a life. A business. And just because Nick offers me
some job in the candy department at the North Pole doesn’t mean diddly. We are talking St. Nick, right?”
Mitch raked his hand through his hair, obvious frustration in every stilted move. “Obviously,” he snipped.
Jennifer pulled her clothes on and stood up. “I believe in Christmas magic. I do.” She glanced down at the elf in the bed. “But I don’t believe this is for me. Can’t believe this is for me.” She
put her hands on her hips. “I want to wake up now.”
Mitch pulled on his jeans and jerked his head down. “I see.” He put his hands over her eyes. “As you wish,” he whispered.
* * * *
Jennifer woke up on the couch with a serious headache and no cold. She ran her hands down her body and told herself it was a dream. A sexy, sinful dream. She glanced at the clock and saw it
was only a little past nine. She would go into work. Make a difference. Make some candy. Make her forget the erotic dream she had.
The elf who made her body ripple with pleasure.
She growled low in her throat and shot off the couch with a scowl. “I’m going mental,” she murmured. Jennifer dressed quickly in jeans and another sweater. She tugged her brown suede boots on and pulled her hair back into a loose bun. The store needed her. And just because her subconscious was having a slight breakdown, that didn’t mean she could ignore her priorities.
* * * *
Jennifer walked into her store and smiled at the customers.
Tracy hurried around the counter and bombarded her with a huge hug. “Oh my God! Where have you been?”
“What?” Jennifer’s blue eyes widened in confusion.
“I’ve been trying to call for two days. And you never picked up your phone. I was going to call the police today.” She frowned. “Or bust down your damn door myself.”
“It’s Monday, isn’t it?”
“Monday?” Tracy eyed Jennifer slowly. “It’s Wednesday, sugar.”
“Wednesday?” Jennifer shrieked.
Several customers turned their heads, but Tracy waved them off and hustled Jennifer quickly into the back. “Okay. Tell all. How in the hell could you lose two days?”
Jennifer’s lips flattened. “I was busy having wild elf sex and being offered a job by Santa Claus.”
Tracy reached up to feel her forehead. “Do you have a fever?”
She slapped her friend’s hand away. “No. I don’t have a damn fever.” Jennifer closed her eyes. “I don’t think I do.” She sighed. “Remember that guy who bought all those items? Two of each?”
“Sure.” Tracy still eyed her warily.
“He’s an elf.”
“Okay.” Her friend drew the word out so that it sounded as if it had four syllables.
“Never mind.” Jennifer blew out a breath and patted her bun. “I’m here now. Ready to work.” She smiled reassuringly at her friend. “Everything else best left forgotten. Right?”
* * * *
But Jennifer didn’t forget. Because every night for the next week, she had a visitor in her dreams. An elf who touched her body and made her tremble with desire. And one who knew exactly how to touch her. To make her cry out his name while his hands skimmed over her body to bring her unspeakable pleasure.
She woke every morning with an ache that made her edgy and irritable. Her days at work didn’t fill the ache. They brought it closer to her. The edges sharp and painful. What if she hadn’t dreamed of Mitch? What if she actually was there?
The thoughts went round and round in her head until she thought it would explode.
Tracy and John watched her silently, but she felt their worried glances more than once. She was, quite possibly, losing her mind.
How could she explain her overwhelming attraction to a man—elf?—she only saw once?
Jennifer drove home on Friday and slammed her car into park. She had another headache from hell, and irritation peaked about three hours ago. She was full-blown pissed off right now. How dare some guy finagle his way into her thoughts? Disrupt her life?
She slammed the door behind her and collapsed on her couch in the dark. Life sucked. Instead of being excited about Christmas, she was beginning to dread it. And there was no logical explanation for any of it.
Jennifer wanted to sleep. To sleep and dream of her elf lover. She closed her eyes and breathed in slowly. And out.
“Jennifer.” His voice whispered across her skin.
She shifted and moaned. “Mitch.”
“Tell me what you want.” His hand moved restlessly over her bare skin, and she trembled.
“I want you. Only you.” Jennifer opened her eyes and took in the glorious sight of Mitch’s body lying next to hers. She threw herself into his arms and molded her body next to his. She wanted
to give him as much pleasure as he gave her.
Jennifer slid down his body slowly, letting her mouth and tongue trace a path along his muscles and hard planes of his body. His stomach tightened as she nipped below his belly button and moved lower.
She took him into her mouth inch by agonizing inch. He threw his head back and groaned as she moved her mouth up and down his hard length while cupping his balls in her hand.
Jennifer licked all the way around his cockhead and flicked her tongue across the tip. Mitch threaded his fingers through her hair and whispered her name as she sucked him deeper and deeper down her throat.
“Enough,” he groaned.
He moved her up higher, spreading her legs on either side of his hips while he drove his hard cock into the core of her. Jennifer trembled as he pistoned in and out of her while clutching her hips tightly. She rocked back and forth, savoring the friction between their two bodies.
Mitch moved his hand between their two bodies and found her swollen clit. He moved his finger in tight circles around the bud until Jennifer was helpless and unaware of the sounds coming from her throat. She bucked against him wildly, searching for the release she needed.
“Come for me,” he murmured. “Come for me.”
Jennifer’s body jerked, and she felt the orgasm shudder through her with a force that left her blind and deaf to everything around her.
“Come back to me, Jennifer.” Mitch’s voice was soft in the darkness. “Come back to me.”
She jerked upright with her heart pounding and cursed the darkness. Jennifer lay back down and tried to sleep. But it was no use. Sleep wouldn’t come.
* * * *
Jennifer looked like death warmed over the next day at work. She avoided Tracy and John with single-minded determination. She would take her defective mental faculties and deal with them herself, thank you very much.
The day dragged on interminably while Jennifer stayed behind the counter out front. She must have rung up forty people before noon. But she didn’t remember a one. Her mind was preoccupied with a dark-haired demanding elf.
Jennifer was lost in her own thoughts when she heard the bell over her front door ring. She glanced up, and her jaw dropped completely open.
The curvy, older woman with wire-rimmed spectacles stepped inside her store and looked around. Her gray hair curled riotously around her head and framed her sweet face. Her blue eyes
twinkled as they took in the sights and sounds of the store. A simple ivory shirt was tucked into the waistband of her black skirt, which tapered to shiny, black boots. She covered herself from the cold with a black leather jacket.
Jennifer loosed her tongue with a great deal of effort. Surely not. She came around the side of the counter with a great deal of effort and approached the older woman.
“Just Nan, dear.” The older woman smiled and patted her curls. “Just Nan.” She picked up a likeness of herself cast in chocolate and smiled.
“Nan,” Jennifer repeated faintly.
“Don’t look so stricken, child.” Nan’s lips twitched. “I’ve only come because I was curious about you and your shop.” She arched an eyebrow. “And a certain moody elf.”
“Mitch.” The name rolled off Jennifer’s tongue of its own volition. She bit her lip.
“Aye. That’s the one.” Nan unwrapped the sucker and bit delicately into the smooth chocolate. “I had heard he offered you a position with us.”
“Oh, he offered me a position all right.” Jennifer’s cheeks flooded with anger. “After he practically ordered me to stay.”
“Ah.” Nan grinned. “That boy always has been a bit impetuous.”
“Don’t forget headstrong and pushy.” Jennifer bit down on the adjectives, sexy and sinful.
“Wouldn’t think of it.” Nan took another bite of the sucker and looked around again. “Nick really would appreciate it if you would think over his offer.” She studied Jennifer again. “And I’m sure you realize all the other elves would appreciate it if you would give Mitch another chance to not act like such an ass.”
Jennifer looked at her blankly, and the older woman winked. “Rather lot to wrap your head around, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” she managed.
“Think on it.” Nan held up the sucker. “Do you mind?”
“Not a bit.” Jennifer watched Nan look around one more time and nod approvingly. And then she was gone.
Tracy walked by and shook her arm gently. “Jen. You okay?”
“Huh?” Jennifer looked at her friend with large, blue eyes.
“That’s it.” Tracy steered her toward the back of the store.
“Go home. Now.” She bundled Jennifer up in her coat and shoved the car keys in her hand. “John and I’ve got it.”
* * * *
Jennifer drove home with her mind a million miles away. Mrs. Claus came to her store today. She did. Jennifer nodded to herself. Sure. And she mentioned the fact that her husband offered me a job. And Mitch was moody. She went over the facts as best she knew them and
sighed while she sat in her driveway.
Mitch was real. Her heart embraced the fact while her head kept pounding. She had approached the tinselly twilight zone. Not a comforting thought. But Mitch’s body next to mine? Rubbing against me?
Jennifer’s head fell back against her car’s headrest. “Help me,” she murmured, pleading to anyone who would listen.
“Will I do?”
She jerked her head to the side and clapped a hand over her mouth before she could shriek.
Mitch sat in the passenger seat calmly studying her. His dark, shaggy hair curled around his black collar while his ears pointed toward the roof. Those hazel eyes seemed to dissect every feature.
“You’re real,” she muttered.
“Aye. I’m real. And these.” He reached out to take one of her cold hands in his. “These are real, too.”
“Oh.” The word came out short and confused.
“I’ve made a mess of this.” Mitch leaned forward and rubbed his lips softly against hers. When he pulled back, he sighed. “I didn’t expect you.”
“That goes double for me,” she mumbled.
Mitch chuckled. “I can only imagine.” He was silent for another minute. “I want you to be my Elf Mistress.”
Heat flooded Jennifer’s cheeks. “Your mistress?” she repeated. All the nights she dreamt of pleasuring and being pleasured by this elf came flooding back. She forced herself to remain calm. “And if I choose not to?”
Color drained slowly from Mitch’s face, and he set his jaw. “You are still able to take Nick’s offer. To be the candy maker.”
Jennifer held her head high. “I deserve more than to be someone’s mistress.” She looked at him sadly. “Even yours.”
Mitch blinked and a slow smile spread across his face. “I think I’ve miscommunicated my desires, Jennifer.”
Her smile was wry. “I don’t think you have, Mitch.”
“A mistress is the head of a household. A woman who has power and authority.”
“Power and authority?” she whispered. “Not a…” She trailed off and searched for the right term.
“Not the ‘other’ woman,” he supplied for her. “The only woman.”
The only woman. The words wrapped tightly around her heart.
“I would be your Elf Mistress?” Jennifer wanted to make sure there was a bit of clarification before she utterly made a fool of herself.
Jennifer threw her arms around his neck and held tightly. “I’ll have to make arrangements at the store.” She pulled back. “I will be able to visit, won’t I?”
“Anything.” Mitch stroked her cheek with his fingers. “Anything you want.”
“Anything?” Jennifer slid him a heated glance.
He nodded.
She brought his mouth to hers. “I have a Wish List inside. Let’s start at the top.”

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© C’ann Inman 2017