Green Grass by Gemini Judson
Buy eBook from Whiskey Creek Press Torrid July 1!
Contemporary Erotic Romance
“Devil with the blue dress, blue dress, blue dress, devil with the blue dress on.” Kevin flailed imaginary drumsticks in the air and paused to regain his balance. He forgot his iPod again and had to rely on his own singing to entertain his hike down Jackdog Mountain.
As much as he loved his research, the weekly trek to his air quality monitoring station grew tiresome. Especially when the weather sucked like it did on this day. His raincoat smelled musty and it was his own fault. The last time he wore it, he’d balled it up and stuffed it in his backpack, soaking wet. Today the rain dribbled down his neck and shlogged in his boots. All he wanted was a hot shower. He’d felt lousy when he left his apartment, and this weather didn’t help.
The October colors flooded his senses, despite the muting effect of the rain. He passed through a stand of maples and paused to fill his lungs. The oaks and aspens harmonized to produce a color palette he could almost taste. He drew another deep breath to capture some of their energy.
The New England colors peaked early this year and with this lingering rain and wind, they wouldn’t last long. Hurricane warnings were posted far south of the Maine coastline, but any East Coast storm would dump a load his way too. He’d spent an extra amount of time at his data collection tower to reinforce the cables and check the battery pack. There might be some interesting blips if he could keep the sniffers operating during the storm.
He headed down the trail and looked for the short cut that would take about twenty minutes off his hike. Sometimes he took it, sometimes he didn’t. The steep descent had fewer switchbacks—not a straight shot down, but damn near it. Today he figured he’d slide most of the way down in the mud. He just wanted to get out of the miserable rain. A shiver of icy wind assaulted him and he felt a cold trickle between his shoulder blades. Ah, the life of a graduate student.
When Kevin came to the stream crossing, the usual easy flow roared with vigor and gave it a new face. Normally he would skip across on the rocks. Today he would need an alternate route or risk washing away in a torrent. He stooped to look at the beautiful sight and daydreamed of another place and time, another beautiful rushing river. Jessy Tanner—now Jessy Manzey, was never far from his thoughts these days. The last time he spoke to her, he’d laid it on the line. He didn’t expect anything from her, but she needed to know how he felt. Maybe she could help him move on.
“I know you’re Conrad’s girl and I know you two are meant to be together. I just can’t get you out of my head. I love you, Jessy. I really do. What do I do with that?”
“Kevin, what you and I shared together, no one but the two of us could ever understand. It’s special. And Conrad knows that and has come to accept it. But he’s the light of my life. He’s the very reason I take my next breath.”
This wasn’t a news flash. The depth of Con and Jessy’s love was inspiring to Kevin. But it still needled him.
“I love you too, Kevin. But we have to love each other deeply, as friends. You know a part of me that only two other men on the planet know. I like to think it’s an exclusive club, and you’re a life-long member.”
“Some club. I can’t even get in the door anymore. Did you change the secret hand shake?”
“I think Con resents that you were ever a member. I have to always keep that in mind.”
“Can you say you don’t think about me? About how good we felt together? God, you were so amazing in my arms.”
“It would be dangerous for me to think about that. You know how important loyalty is to Con.”
“I know. I shouldn’t have asked. You’re too good a woman to be sniffing around me.”
“Wait until you meet that girl, Kev—she’ll light up your life. Out of nowhere, she’ll hit you like a ton of bricks. Wait and see.”
Kevin stood and felt dizzy from the rush. “She hasn’t come yet, Jess. I’m losing hope.”
It’s not like he hadn’t been with a lot of women since Jessy. It had been four years, after all. They just left him empty and longing for—something. The first year of graduate school had been grueling and now he was up to his neck in thesis research. He felt grateful he currently had little time for women anyway.
He walked along the banks to search for a place to cross the rushing water. The muscles in his legs felt like tissue paper and his backpack weighed more than the contents would suggest. He felt a tug of apprehension when he looked upstream and saw a wall of rocks. I don’t remember that.
When he stepped out farther to see around the bend, his boot slipped on the slick surface. He landed with back-jolting thud on a boulder, then plunged into an icy pool. Frigid water clutched his limbs and a searing pain shot through his ankle. The wet rocks provided little traction as he struggled to get a purchase and climb out of the water. Finally he sat on the bank, wet to his waist and eased his hiking boot off his already swollen foot.
He tried to stand and winced in pain. “Double fuck.”
The wind ripped through his soaked clothes and the rain couldn’t decide if it would rather be snow. “I’m gonna be in deep shit if I don’t get going.”
He hobbled along on his excruciating ankle with the muddy boot under his arm. There was no way it would slide back on. Stupid stupid stupid. Pretty basic Boy Scout know-how. You don’t take the boot off. The trail weaved in and out of focus beneath his feet while the trees swirled and laughed above his head. Between his throbbing ankle and his dizzy head, he made slow progress.
In the distance the canopy of trees lightened and he bushwhacked with an erratic path toward the openness. The woods were gnarled and angry, deliberately impeding his efforts as twigs grabbed his jacket and jabbed his skin. Finally he looked down and saw a road far below. How the hell am I gonna get down there?
The answer came to him suddenly as the ground beneath him softened and gave way. He fell onto his butt and slid and tumbled and rolled, branches scratching him all the way down. At the bottom he lay in a heap in a puddle of water. He rolled over and looked up at a mean, gray sky. A quick survey of limbs—nothing broken. Just that damn ankle. He stood, wobbled and fell back into the puddle with a splash.
A weak light illuminated the mist around him. Kevin swiped at his eyes. A vehicle was coming. He stood and fell and stood and fell again, vaguely noticing the forest tipping sideways around him. When he arrived in the middle of the road he stood tall and waved his hands in the air. The lights approached slowly—no, just one headlight. At the last second he prayed they would see him in the gray fog. And the world went dark.
Kevin blinked the clouds from his head. What was that smell? It smelled like freshly mown grass. He blinked again. His skin tingled and felt warm.
Then he saw her.
Sitting at his side was a vision unlike anything he’d every seen.
“Are you an angel?”
The angel giggled.
“God, you must be.”
“I’ve been called a lot of things, but never an angel.”
“You are too.”
But Kevin meant it. He looked closely for the flutter of wings behind her. Her eyes were as blue as the ocean and her skin creamy white. She looked as if a puff of wind would send her entire image scattering to the wind. The pearly blonde waves dashed and played at the nape of her neck. He reached out and touched her hair, certain it would feel like eider down. It was soft to the touch. “Wow. You’re real.”
The angel giggled again.
“Where am I?” Memories floated in and out of his head as he tried to piece together a history. “How did I get here?”
“You stepped into my headlights. And then fell to the ground. I brought you home. You've been asleep for a few hours. You had a fever and I think you have a nasty sprain.
Kevin had forgotten. He tried to move his ankle and winced. “Oh, shit.”
“I’ll try to get you to a doctor tomorrow.”
“Who are you?”
“My name is Adrian. Who are you?”
“Kevin Shepherd. I’m a graduate student at UMaine. I’m doing research up on Jackdog Mountain. Not a good day for a hike I guess.”
“It’s always a good day for a hike on Jackdog.”
“It smells like a garden in here.” He looked around him and above his head. Where exactly was here?
“You shivered so terribly when you came in. I rubbed you down with oil.”
Kevin lifted the sheets and realized he wasn’t wearing a lick of clothes. He looked again at the sweet blue eyes that looked like an angel. Maybe not.
“Let me get some more ice for your ankle.”
Kevin raised his arm to his nose and inhaled the oil while he took in the details of his surroundings. It looked like some old shed. Two raggedy floral blankets hung from beams to make a corner room that separated his sleeping quarters from wherever she went.
“Yeah?” She reappeared with a bag of frozen peas. “I don’t actually have ice.” Her smile sent a spark straight to Kevin’s heart. She lifted the blanket off his foot and gently touched his ankle. “The swelling has gone down. Maybe it’s not such a bad sprain after all.”
“You never told me. Where am I?”
“Well, I’m Adrian Culpepper and this is my house. I own it.”
Kevin noticed she emphasized this as if the statement might be debated. He glanced around the small space visible to him. Dark wooden walls with no insulation? No window? Was this a chicken coop? He laughed, still not clear on his whereabouts. “What part of the planet am I on?”
“We’re on the outskirts of Hatfield.”
“Hatfield? That’s on the ocean side of Jackdog. How the heck did I get here?”
“Beats me. I think you were delirious when I picked you up. Kept asking for Jessy. Did I know where Jessy was.”
Kevin swallowed hard. “Hope I didn’t make a fool of myself.”
“Not at all. Who’s Jessy? Is she your dog?”
Kevin laughed again. “No, not a dog. She’s a friend of mine. And nowhere near Jackdog. I guess I was delirious.”
He noticed a look. She hoped Jessy wasn’t his girlfriend. This was good. “No, I used to work with Jessy and her husband. Just good a friend.”
The angel felt his forehead. “I think my oil worked. Your fever is gone. How do you feel?”
“I’ll make you some tea in a bit. You rest a while. I’ll be just on the other side of the curtain if you need anything. She disappeared.
* * * * *
Now what do I do with him? A guy that good lookin’ ought to have a warning beacon on him.
Adrian flumped into her flea market chair and contemplated her houseguest. When she saw him wave his hands in her one functioning headlight and fall to the ground, she smelled trouble. When she knelt down and saw his soft brown eyes blink up at her with confusion, she felt a tingle.
True, she was lonely. But she kept busy with her oils. And keeping an eye on her little sister was her number one priority. She looked around her home with a wave of anxiety. A one-room garage was not a home by most standards, and probably a guy like this Kevin Shepherd came from a rich family. He was a graduate student, for Pete’s sake.
No college for her. She wanted to—so badly. She was a self-taught chemist, distilling her essential oils and learning as she went. She sold them at a local natural foods store and earned very little money. Her dad left her nothing but a garage on a tiny square of land on the edge of a run down town. She turned it into a home. Good enough for now.
Maybe this Kevin Shepherd would be fun for a weekend. It was mating season, after all. She giggled as she unbuttoned her oversized flannel shirt.
Buy eBook from Whiskey Creek Press Torrid July 1!
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