Venus in blue jeans, p.15

Venus in Blue Jeans, page 15

 

Venus in Blue Jeans
 


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  It had taken them considerably longer to leave Docia’s apartment than they’d originally planned. It had been worth it.

  He kept his arm around her waist as they walked, tucking her into the space along his side. Her hair was loose, flowing down across her shoulders. As they moved through the bright pools cast by the streetlamps, he saw flashes of white throat and arm against the black of her T-shirt.

  “Turn here.” He guided her gently into the lane that led to the barn.

  Docia strolled, unconcerned, humming faintly as they walked until they reached his front door.

  She stared upward. “It’s a barn.”

  “Was a barn. Damn fine one too. Great construction. It’s now my house.” Cal jiggled his key in the recalcitrant lock, then opened the heavy oak door.

  The vaulted ceiling rose high overhead to the sleeping loft that extended half the length of the room. Cal felt a little defensive suddenly—he hadn’t had the time or money to do much with the place yet. He hadn’t even gotten a rug, although he had his eye on one from the weaving shop downtown. The weaver owned some goats and Cal figured on a barter. The wood-paneled walls were still bare since he hadn’t yet figured out what to hang on them.

  He had his old brown plaid couch from Kansas City and a vinyl and aluminum kitchen table and chairs from the basement in Lander. The only other piece of furniture of note was his Great Uncle Ollie’s bird’s-eye maple rocker in the corner. Great Uncle Ollie was another of the giant Toleffsons. His rocker was proportioned accordingly.

  Cal also had his oversize bed, of course. He never went to a new location without it.

  Lucky him, in this instance.

  “Amazing,” Docia breathed, staring up at the ceiling far overhead. “You’ll never whack your head in here.”

  “Nope.” Cal grinned in satisfaction. “Highest ceilings ever.”

  She walked around the room, touching the rough wood walls, glancing up at the loft. “How did you find this place?”

  “It belongs to a friend of Horace’s.” Cal shrugged. “I’m renting for now, but if I like it, I can put in a bid.”

  “Do you like it?”

  Cal grinned again. “Yeah. Can I afford it? Maybe, if they’ll let me do it in stages. That’s the wild card.”

  “Real estate prices up here are brutal.” Docia turned to smile at him. “I’ve got a balloon payment you wouldn’t believe.”

  Mention of balloons sent Cal’s unruly brain racketing back to her black T-shirt and what was underneath. He took a breath. “You want something to eat?”

  Docia raised an eyebrow. “You cook too?”

  “Oh yeah.” Cal headed for his refrigerator. “I’m a regular renaissance man. The problem is I haven’t been to the store lately, renaissance or otherwise.” He checked the shelves, his brow furrowing. “I’ve got some eggs. A few of Bethany’s fresh tomatoes. A pepper that isn’t too far gone. I could make a veggie western omelet.”

  “Cal?”

  Docia’s voice was soft behind him.

  He turned back to look at her. She gazed up at him from beneath her lashes. “I’m not really hungry for food.”

  —

  Docia lay next to Cal in the shadowed depths of his loft bedroom, feeling his hands moving along her back. His lips whispered across her nipple. It had only been a couple of hours since they’d made love the last time. It didn’t matter. She wanted to do it again. Multiple times again.

  She rolled against him, pushing him back against the sheet. No time for nerves now. After all, she’d initiated this. For very good reasons.

  “Lie back,” she whispered.

  His head fell back against the pillow and he lay watching her, his hair a pool of dark coffee around his head. Docia moved across him, planting her knees on either side of his hips.

  He really was one of the biggest men she’d ever been with. Every time she saw him naked, she caught her breath. Sort of like Mount Everest—you do it because it’s there. Really, really there.

  Go for it.

  She pressed the broad head of his erection against her own soft opening, hearing the hiss of his sharp inhale.

  For a moment she played with him, running the tips of her nails down the underside of his shaft until she heard his moan. Then she moved her hips to take him in.

  He slid in easily, but she kept it slow, sinking down upon him inch by inch. “Oh, dear Lord, Docia,” he groaned. “Have mercy.” His face twisted with the effort of letting her have her way with him.

  Docia braced her hands on his chest and began to move more quickly, bringing her hips up and down again so that she slapped against him. She could feel his thickness, his hardness, stretching her so that she could hardly breathe. Her hips moved now without her control. The room filled with sighs, moans, the rhythmic smack of bodies coming together.

  “Oh, Christ, Docia,” he cried. “Docia!”

  He was pulsing inside her then, deep and hot, filling her, soothing her, but not bringing her with him.

  She held herself above him, staring down into his eyes, panting.

  So close. She was so close.

  And then his fingers were moving, rubbing her clit, pulling her legs further apart, pushing himself deep, and she shattered. Her hands slid away from his chest and she collapsed against him, her breasts pressed against his damp pelt of dark hair.

  Like some primitive Amazon, subduing her captured mate, taking what she wanted. Of course, capturing a mate this size would probably require an entire squadron of Amazons—and she wasn’t interested in sharing.

  And then she heard it again, that little voice singing deep inside her brain. Mine, mine, mine.

  Oh, shit.

  —

  Cal watched Docia dozing beside him. He should probably wake her—it was after eight in the morning. Horace had already told him to take the day off, but she might need to be at her shop.

  She was so beautiful. Even sleeping. Even with her hair tangled about her in a mass of ringlets. If he woke her, she’d get dressed, and he wasn’t through looking at her. He didn’t want to let her go yet.

  He’d had girlfriends since junior high. Sweet, funny, sexy girls he remembered fondly. But it had never been serious before. Not like this.

  Docia murmured and moved in her sleep, snuggling closer.

  The pressure of wanting her shot straight to Cal’s pelvis. He wasn’t going to make love to her again, no matter how tempting it was. They’d already done it three times. No wonder she was exhausted. He was a sex-crazed brute.

  He really wanted to make love again.

  Docia nuzzled lazily at his throat, a sleepy cat waking up. “Morning,” she mumbled.

  “Morning.” He took a few liberties, squeezing her nipples between thumb and index finger until they peaked.

  Docia didn’t seem to mind. She rubbed herself against him, purring. Then her eyes popped open. “Oh, God, it’s Saturday, isn’t it. What time is it?”

  Cal sighed. “Eight-fifteen.”

  Docia sat up abruptly, pushing a hand through her hair. “I need to get back to the shop. We’ve got that reception thingy tonight.”

  “Reception thingy?”

  “Wine and cheese party, with poetry and dancing and stuff.” Docia yawned. “Janie can run the shop on her own, but I don’t want to saddle her with all the preparations for tonight. And I really need to make sure it works. It’s my first big Konigsburg event—I mean, the first time I’ve ever tried to do something for the town.”

  Cal rubbed his hand across her shoulders, admiring the smooth line of her back. “Want some help?”

  Docia grinned. “Getting dressed or getting ready for the party?”

  “Both.” Cal grinned back.

  Docia furrowed her brow. “I can definitely use help at the shop. I probably don’t need help getting dressed. But…” The corners of her mouth edged up again. “It would certainly be more fun with your assistance.”

  —

  When they arrived back at the shop,
Janie gave them a relieved grin. “Oh, thank God,” she said. “I was afraid you’d stay out all day, and I don’t know what all you want done for the party.”

  “We’ll take care of everything.” Docia glanced at Cal then back to Janie. “You just run the shop. Yell if you need help. We’ll be out back.”

  Janie grinned at Cal. “Have fun, Doc.”

  Cal didn’t have as much fun as when she’d sent him off to the dance with the same words. He spent the morning dragging tables and chairs under the trees, while Docia darted about, spreading tablecloths, giving each table a candle and a small vase of flowers, and telling workers from Brenner’s how and where to set up the bar.

  Ken arrived around four with cases of wine and boxes of glasses. Allie showed up a few minutes later with several cartons full of bread and a pair of stunning, dark-haired beauties who stood watching Cal with bright eyes.

  Allie gave them a good-natured shove toward Docia. “My nieces, Juana and Kit. On summer vacation. They can serve food, but don’t let Juana near the wine—she’s underage and TABC will have a fit if they catch her pouring.”

  Docia nodded. “Ken’s got the wine service covered. Okay ladies, let’s get you set up.”

  After that, events whirled by. Ken reappeared in his wine steward get-up, followed by Lee and his crew, carrying plates of cheese and sausage and fruit.

  A very old man arrived in the most extreme cowboy regalia Cal had seen outside a Tom Mix movie—leather chaps, a ten-gallon black hat and a crimson silk scarf knotted around his neck. He turned out to be Claude Standish, resident cowboy poet.

  Docia found him a seat and poured him a glass of wine.

  Standish was followed in short order by Junior Bonner and band. They were the same bluegrass group who’d played at the street dance, and Cal watched Bonner give Docia a hug that was somewhat more enthusiastic than he liked. He started to step forward until Docia laughed, extricated herself and showed Bonner and the boys where to set up.

  The guests were supposed to start arriving around five. Cal took a quick look at himself. He was dusty from the tables and sweaty from having dragged furniture around all afternoon.

  “I need to go change,” he told Docia.

  “Oh.” She looked at him blankly. “Really?”

  He nodded. “Really. It won’t take long.”

  He drove home, washed his face, hands and armpits, changed into clean jeans and a white dress shirt, and returned to Docia’s backyard.

  Docia stood at the gate, greeting people as they arrived, while one of Allie’s nieces discreetly took their tickets. She wore a loose silk shirt and skinny jeans with high-heeled sandals, her curling hair pulled back from her face with a silk scarf. Cal thought she looked terrific. Also, given the way she kept checking to make sure everyone was finding a seat along with wine and cheese, a lot more nervous than usual.

  He was in time to hear Claude Standish hold forth with his poem. It sounded vaguely like “Dangerous Dan McGrew Meets Pecos Bill”, but it brought enthusiastic whistles from the considerable crowd. Docia’s shoulders seemed to relax slightly at the sound.

  All the tables were full, and people without seats milled around the open grass. Ken poured wine. Allie and her nieces passed plates with bread and olives and cheese. Docia moved around her backyard, pausing to smile at one person, to shake hands with another. A few people smiled back, others nodded. Cal felt like shaking them as he watched the tension return to Docia’s shoulders.

  He stood in the shadows, watching her, remembering Janie talking about the party in the Dew Drop. She just wants the people here to accept her. As far as he was concerned, they’d be crazy not to. And from what he could see, the party was a tentative success. If only Docia didn’t look like it mattered so much to her.

  In the background, he heard Bonner’s instruments tuning up. He’d have to remember to ask them to play “Midnight on the Water” at least twice. Should he take Docia back to the barn tonight or stay here?

  “I’m looking for Miss Docia Kent.” A man’s cool, professional voice cut through the crowd noise. Docia turned, and Cal began moving toward her, dodging around her guests.

  “I’m Docia Kent.” She smiled, her jaw tightening. “What can I do for you.”

  The man pulled an ID card from the pocket of his somewhat rumpled blue suit. “Brent Carlson. With TABC. We’ve had a complaint you’re selling liquor here without a license.”

  Cal watched Docia’s smile fade. “I’m not selling anything here. This is a benefit for the Konigsburg Library Fund.”

  Around her, people paused to listen, the conversation ebbing.

  “Did these people pay to enter?” Carlson surveyed the crowd.

  Docia swallowed. “They bought tickets.”

  Carlson stared at Docia again, eyes cold. “That’s close to selling liquor, ma’am.”

  “But we’re not doing that.” Docia’s lips thinned while a line appeared between her brows. “The money goes to the library fund.”

  “Are those girls underage?” Carlson squinted at Juana and Kit, who stood at the side, holding trays of cheese and bread.

  Allie stepped beside Docia, leaving Wonder to stand with Cal. “They’re my nieces, and they’re volunteers. And they haven’t had a damn thing to do with the wine. They’ve been too busy carrying bread and cheese to everybody.”

  “Now, now, Mr. Carlson.” Arthur Craven buttoned his suit coat, pushing his way through the crowd. “Surely, this can all be taken care of. The Konigsburg Merchants Association lawyer checked into the correct procedure for the benefit before we became sponsors.”

  Carlson’s jaw was set. “A formal protest has been lodged. It has to be investigated.”

  “Fine.” Craven patted him on the shoulder. “You just go right ahead and investigate. We’ll go on with the dancing part of things.”

  Carlson raised his chin, ready for combat. “I don’t think that would be a good idea. In fact, I think it would be best if you sent all these people home.”

  “What?” Docia’s hands closed into fists. Cal moved behind her, one hand resting on her shoulder. Her body trembled slightly beneath his fingers.

  “Oh, for Christ’s sake, Carlson. This is bullshit and you know it!” Ken had stepped to her other side.

  Carlson squinted at him, his jaw rigid. “I repeat, a formal protest has been lodged. There are questions.”

  “What if I give back the money?” Docia’s voice was low, but several of the guests turned to stare at her. “If I give the library my own money, and refund the money these people paid for tickets, then it’s just a party I’m throwing for a hundred of my friends, right?”

  Carlson blinked at her. “I suppose it is.”

  “All right then, that’s settled.” Docia took a deep breath and blew it out. For a moment, Cal caught her gaze—her eyes were frightened.

  “It’s okay,” he murmured. “Go for it.”

  Docia nodded once, then hopped up on the makeshift bandstand, motioning Bonner for the microphone. “Junior? I need to make an announcement.” She turned to the crowd, raising her head high. “Folks? As you may have just heard, it’s a free party now. Before you leave, please stop at the front table and we’ll refund your money. Now let’s get this party going again!”

  She handed the microphone back to Junior, smiling a brilliant smile that never reached her eyes, then hopped down again, jamming her hands in her pockets.

  Cal wondered if he was the only one who noticed the tightness in her shoulders and around the line of her jaw.

  “Problem solved.” Docia raised her head, stretching her lips in another thin smile. Cal put a protective arm around her waist.

  Carlson gave her a hard look, as if he couldn’t quite accept anything that was so simple. After a moment, he shrugged, sliding his notebook into his pocket. “I’ll let you know when my investigation is complete, Ms. Kent.”

  Docia nodded, watching him walk toward the gate. Bonner picked up his fiddle and began to play som
ething sprightly in swing time. One by one couples drifted back onto the lawn, shuffling to the music.

  Docia still held herself stiffly, her mouth a narrow line as she watched people dance by, her body rigid.

  Cal pulled her into his arms, more for comfort than to dance. “You did good, kid,” he whispered against her hair. “We’ll work it out later. Don’t worry about it. Maybe I can help out with the money.” Of course, about the only way he could do that would be by panhandling on Main.

  For a moment, they stood together, Docia’s forehead resting on his collarbone. Then she pulled back and gave him a slightly wider smile. “It’s okay. Really. As long as the money goes to the library. I just don’t want people to be upset. I thought they were enjoying themselves.”

  Somewhere Junior Bonner played “Ida Red” and everybody whirled around Docia’s backyard.

  “They still are. The party’s a success, in spite of the TABC.” Cal tightened his arm around her shoulders, keeping her against his chest. “How much money are we talking about here?” He glanced around the yard. Maybe a hundred and fifty people, all told.

  Docia blew out a quick breath. “Around three or four thousand, I think.”

  Cal whistled softly.

  “It’s okay,” she repeated. “If I can’t cover it myself, I can get a loan. Or I can ask my mom for help.” Her mouth twisted slightly in a parody of a smile. “I’m good at that.”

  A hand touched Cal’s arm, and he pulled back to see Horace Rankin and Bethany standing beside them. Horace turned to Docia. To Cal’s amazement, he managed a more-than-courtly bow.

  “Ms. Docia, that was one beautiful gesture, if I do say so myself. I’m pleased to be considered one of your hundred friends.”

  Docia grinned. “Gee, Horace, I’m delighted to think of you that way myself.”

  Horace waggled his moustache. “At any rate, I wanted to let you know that you don’t need to refund my donation because I’ll be donating it right back to the library again.”

 
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