A warning to readers this week: don’t panic during some of this and remember I don’t write sex scenes. Just keep going. It’s all going to be okay.
That’s all I will say for this week.
Jason’s heart was racing, his palms damp with sweat. What had he been thinking? Was he really going to do this tonight? Was he really going to tell Ellie about his past and let the chips fall where they may?
He took a deep breath and tightened his hands on the steering wheel until his knuckles were white. Yes, he was. He was doing this because he needed the burden off his shoulders, and he needed to know how Ellie would feel about him after he told her. He couldn’t keep waiting, torturing himself with worry of what might be.
He and Ellie had gone to school together since junior high, but it wasn’t until his junior year he really noticed her, or she had noticed him, or he guess he would say they noticed each other. It was in history class and Mr. Prawly and placed them in a group together to work on a project. Before that they’d seen each other at 4H meetings or when Robert took Jason with him to pick up equipment he borrowed from Ellie’s dad Jerry. Late one night after working on their project about Pennsylvanian history they found themselves laughing about their shared interest in old movies.
“Cary Grant is the epitome of old fashioned suave and charm,” she’d said, pretending to swoon, her hand against her forehead two nights later when they watched North by Northwest together at his parents.
He grinned, a teasing glint in his eye. “I agree, but I’m the epitome of modern suave and charm, right?”
She’d tipped her head back and laughed and he wasn’t sure if she was enjoying his humor or mocking him.
“Ginger Rogers was a very underrated actress,” he announced after they watched Vivacious Lady at her parents’ house.
“I agree,” she had said and smiled.
Wow. That smile. That smile that was for him and only him. It took his breath away.
That soft, long black hair against that pale skin, those large dark eyes and her sweet round face all together with that smile was a knockout combination.
He’d taken her to the movies twice, dinner once, lunch three times and attended youth group with her every Wednesday for two months before he’d finally worked up the courage to kiss her. And now, here he was working up the courage to ask her to marry him.
Those two years in college when he’d been without her, when they had decided to take a break from dating and see “how things developed” as she had said, were the loneliest and most confusing two years of his life. He’d felt like a ship out at sea without a compass. Returning home from college, to the farm and to her had anchored him again. He couldn’t even imagine losing that anchor again.
God, please don’t let me lose her.
He caught sight of movement out of the corner of his eye and turned his head to see her stepping off the front porch, down the steps, watching him as she walked, her smile broad. His breath caught in his throat. His eyes followed the length of her body as she walked, and he bit his lower lip. Even after all these years she still took his breath away. She was so beautiful.
“I can’t do this, God,” he whispered as she reached the truck and opened the door.
“Hey,” she said after she slid into the truck seat and had slid her arms around his neck. Her mouth was on his before he could ask God for strength for later when he confessed to her about his past.
His mind was clouded by her kiss and her presence. She smelled of lilac and vanilla scented shampoo. The skin along her neck was soft and smooth as he kissed it and then moved his mouth up along her jawline, her ear and back to her mouth.
“We should probably head out to the restaurant,” she said breathlessly a few moments later. She tipped her head to one side, her hand against his chest. “Before we go too far.”
Jason cleared his throat and nodded. “Right. Of course.”
He grinned as he turned back to the steering wheel and she hooked her seatbelt. “But it wasn’t as if things would get too far with us parked outside your parent’s house. Not before your dad shot me.”
Ellie laughed. “Jason, Daddy wouldn’t shoot you.”
“I beg to differ.”
Ellie shook her head. “He loves you. You know that.”
“But he wouldn’t love me making out with you in my truck.”
“No, probably not,” Ellie said with a wink. “Unless we were married, of course.”
Jason swallowed hard. Married. There it was. The word. The one word hovering in his mind 24/7, waking him up at night, giving him near panic attacks daily.
“Right,” he said nervously, pushing his foot on the accelerator slightly, willing his truck to move them faster toward the restaurant where they could talk about the food, the weather, the farm, anything but marriage.
The drove in silence for a few moments, farmland and trees and open fields passing them by.
Hurry up, truck.
“Are you ever going to ask me to marry you?”
Jason’s hand jerked on the steering wheel as he nearly jumped out of his seat from shock. The truck swerved over the center line and then back again into the right lane. Ellie gasped and clutched her hand around Jason’s upper bicep as he regained control of the truck.
She was breathless when she spoke. “Oh gosh. Sorry. I just — I shouldn’t have blurted it out like that, but I knew if I didn’t say something now, I would lose my courage.”
Jason slowed the truck down and pulled off into an empty parking lot in front of an abandoned convenience store. He slid the gear into park and turned to look at Ellie.
“What would make you ask that right now?” he asked, his eyebrows furrowed.
Was she reading his mind? They’d been together so long he wouldn’t be surprised.
“I — I don’t know. I just —” Tears rimmed her eyes. “I’m sorry, Jason. Are you angry?”
Jason shook his head. “No. Not at all. I’m sorry.” He reached over and took her hand in his. The frightened expression on her face sent stabbing guilt shuddering through him. He let go of her hand and cupped his palm against her face.
“It’s not that at all. It’s just that I was actually going to talk to you about that tonight and I was surprised that it was on your mind too.”
A tear slipped down Ellie’s cheek and his heart ached even more. He swiped at it with the palm of his thumb.
“Of course, it is on my mind, Jason. I’ve wanted to marry you since high school. I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want to have your children. But sometimes I feel like you don’t want any of that at all.”
“No, El, that’s not true. I do want that. All of it.”
“Then why aren’t you asking me to marry you?”
“I — well, I was going to —”
Ellie’s eyes grew wide and her eyebrows shot up. “Oh! Were you going to ask me tonight and I totally ruined your plans?”
“Well, I —”
“Oh, Jason! I’m so sorry! I ruined your plan.”
“No, that’s okay. It’s just —”
Her mouth was on his again before he could explain. The expression of sheer delight on her face when she pulled back, her arms still around his neck, sent warmth bursting through his chest.
“You know I don’t need a big fancy proposal. All I want is you and of course I’d say ‘yes’ no matter how you asked.”
She was kissing him again and he was forgetting what he’d been going to say. Her body was so warm and solid against his and her lips so soft. Her hands were in his hair as they kissed and he couldn’t focus. Slowly his thoughts began to clear and that’s when the panic set in.
Wait a minute. Did she think he had just proposed and she was saying yes?
She peppered his cheek and neck with kisses. “Oh, Jason! I’m so excited! I’ve been waiting for this moment for years!”
Yes, she did think he’d just proposed, and she was saying ‘yes’.
“I know. I have been too, but I —”
She cut his sentence short again. “Are you okay? I’m so sorry I ruined the surprise.”
“No, it’s okay, I mean — It’s just that I —”
Her large brown eyes were watching him with hopeful expectation, with joy, with complete and utter adoration. There was no way he could tell her about his past now; ruin her night completely.
“I don’t have a ring,” he blurted.
She tipped her head back and laughed. “I don’t care about a ring, silly! We can worry about that later, or not at all. You know I don’t care about stuff like that.”
“But, it’s a symbol and it’s important, El. I should get you a ring.”
Ellie kissed him gently and shook her head. “Later. I just want us to enjoy this moment together for now.”
Jason swallowed hard. He wanted to enjoy the moment too, but he knew he couldn’t keep his secret forever and Ellie needed to know sooner rather than later. He wouldn’t tell her tonight, though. He’d already made his mind up about that. They would go to dinner, celebrate their engagement and then later, another day, he’d tell her what she needed to know and let her make up her own mind about whether she still wanted to spend the rest of her life with him or not.
The front door banged open hard against the wall and Alex stumbled inside with a giggling Jessie Landry pressed up against him. He was glad Jason was out for the night with Ellie.
Fumbling for the lights he slid an arm around Jessie and pulled her slender, warm body against his hip, leading her into the living room.
I’m going to forget about Molly Tanner once and for all, he thought, turning to kiss Jessie hard on the mouth, breathing in the smell of alcohol and cigarettes she’d brought with her from the bar.
Jessie was breathing heavy in his ear as his mouth found her neck and shoulder. “Oh, Alex. That feels so good.”
She pulled back, her mouth curled up in a seductive smile, one finger making a trail down his chest as she hooked a finger from her other hand in his belt loop and pulled him toward the couch. He grinned as she roughly shoved him down on the cushions and straddled him, the tiny mini skirt she was wearing pulling up around her slender, tanned thighs. She lifted the small halter top she’d been wearing over her head and dropped it on the floor, revealing a tiny pink flowered bra.
His hands instinctively slid up her back as she kissed him hard. Her hands were in his hair, clutching tight as they kissed, when it hit him. He wasn’t in college anymore. He had just turned 30. Was he really doing this? He didn’t know Jessie at all beyond flirtatious comments at the bar and now he was groping her on his couch? Suddenly Alex saw Molly in his mind’s eye, her sweet smile, the sun hitting her hair, the way she laughed when he created voices for the cows while they were being milked.
Jessie’s mouth moved to his earlobe and then his neck. Any other time his hands would have been sliding up her back to unhook her bra but in that moment all he could think of was how more than anything he wanted something real, something pure, a relationship not built only on physical attraction and he wanted it with Molly.
When Jessie moved her hips against him and moaned his name in his ear, he pictured Molly that morning when she’d left for her Bible study, her green eyes bright as she told him she’d see him later in the barn. Maybe she felt something for him too but was too afraid to admit it. Maybe if he told her how he felt, he’d have a chance to . . . To what? Corrupt her the way he’d corrupted so many others, even himself?
He willed the image of Molly away and clutched at Jessie’s hair, kissing her harder, sliding his hands up her back, his fingers on the hooks of her bra. He flipped her fast onto her back on the couch and she gasped and then laughed as he stood over her, pulling his shirt over his head. She reached up and trailed her hand down his bare chest.
“Get down here, sexy, and show me what farm boys are good at besides milking cows,” she said, her voice thick with desire.
She giggled as he lowered himself and kissed her throat. He should have been excited, but instead he felt a cold chill rush through him. He didn’t want this. He didn’t want another cheap, one night stand. He wanted something real. He paused for a moment over her before sitting back on the couch.
He rubbed both hands over his face. “I can’t do this.”
Jessie’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion as she leaned up on her elbows, still laying on her back. “Excuse me?”
“I’m sorry Jessie but I can’t do this. . .to. . . with you.”
Jessie sat up straighter on the couch, her eyebrows dipping lower as anger began to replace confusion. “Why not? Did I do something wrong? Are you having,” her gaze drifted down his torso to his unzipped jeans. “some kind of issue?”
Alex stood from the couch, zipping up the zipper Jessie had been lowering as she kissed him.
“No. I’m fine. You’re fine. Very fine. It’s just . . .Listen, it’s not you, it’s —-”
Jessie scoffed. “Oh my gosh! Are you giving me the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ speech?! Me? You are really giving me that speech?! Are you serious right now?”
She jumped from the couch, snatching her shirt off the floor and pulling it over her head to cover the pink bra with the white flowers.
“You have some nerve Alex Stone! Why did you bring me all the way out here in the middle of,” she flung her hands in the air. “Nowhereville if you just wanted to toy with me?”
She pulled her jacket on, still yelling. “You are such a jerk!”
“Jessie, wait . . .”
“For what? For you to give me the ‘you’re a nice girl, but,’ speech? No, thank you. I’m out of here!”
The crash of the slamming door reverberated in his head, already aching from the alcohol he’d consumed earlier in the evening.
But it is me, Alex thought as he watched Jessie’s car tear down the dirt road away from his house, dust billowing around it. It is me and it’s Molly Tanner.
He punched the wall by the window hard. Blast that Molly Tanner and the way she’d worked herself into his mind. She’d ruined him for anything fun and spontaneous because all he could think of was his developing desire for something real, something special, and a relationship deeper than a one-night stand.
He cursed under his breath and snatched his shirt off the floor, sliding it on. What was he even thinking? He’d just brought a woman home from the bar with every intention of having sex with her and now he was actually considering taking his friendship with Molly to a deeper level. He had to be disillusioned at best, crazy at worst.
I’m not good enough for her, he thought, looking out the window toward the Tanner farm. God, if you’re real, keep me from hurting Molly. Don’t let me show her my feelings and hurt her somehow. I can admire her from afar for the rest of my life if I have to.
Alex knew just being near Molly would make him happier than meaningless acts with women he barely knew.
Still, he’d been pushing these feelings down for more than three years now. He didn’t know if he could hold his feelings back much longer. He was cracking and he knew it.
He had to know if Molly could or did feel the same for him. He had to know if her lips tasted as sweet as they looked. Shaking his head he knew it was wrong to think of her mouth, to think of her in a physical way like he had other women, but he hadn’t allowed himself to see her that way when they had first met five years ago when she was just his best friend’s little sister. The physical attraction to Molly had come gradually for Alex; slowly over the years. He knew he’d fallen in love with something deeper in Molly before he fell in love with her looks.
Alex felt like a cheesy fool thinking it, but he’d been attracted to her spirit before he had ever been attracted to her body. Something about her was different than any other woman he’d met and he’d wanted to know what it was as soon as he saw it. He wanted to know what she was thinking, how she felt about subjects he had never really even thought about before he’d come to the Tanner farm.
When they talked in the barn in the mornings and evenings he saw the world through her eyes and it was brighter, more hopeful and more beautiful than it had ever been through his own.
He felt like a dirty farm boy daring to touch the pristine skin of the fair maiden, even on the days her hands were covered in the same mud and manure his were.
He walked upstairs to the bathroom, tugging on the pull string, a feature that made it even more obvious Jason’s grandparents had never remodeled the farmhouse that had originally been built in the early 1920s.
He turned the water on in the sink full blast and splashed cold water on his face, rubbing it into his hair, growling in frustration.
Some days his biggest fear was that Molly would love him back, or that she already loved him, and that he would somehow ruin her with his imperfections, destroy the beautiful innocence and tenderness he saw in her.
But he knew he’d have to take the risk someday, let her know how he felt about her, end the torture he was putting himself through. Maybe telling her how he felt wouldn’t be the worst thing. Maybe she would corrupt him — in a good way.