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Old 09-19-2011, 12:17 AM   #1
Light Ice
A Real Bastard
 
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Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Upstate, NY
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Amidst the Madness - How Love Finds A Way

Flanked almost entirely by fields and taking on several sharp turns toward the town’s limits, Route 24 was the most (if not the only) truly dangerous bit of pavement throughout the entire township, and it culminated at what the kids referred to as “Pinball Alley”. Deputy Chris Haley had seen his share of accidents along Route 24’s twisting curves. The road had become a kind of infamous attraction to the teens of Royal Oaks, Michigan and the towns that neighbored it.


One of the rare portions of County Route 54 that didn’t cut through flat farmlands, “Pinball Alley” twisted an alternating set of sharp curves through a grove of trees that marked the end of Royal Oaks’s territory. On the far side, on the Otisko County side, the road straightened out once again through long flat farms and properties. The last turn, which was where Deputy Haley had strategically backed his cruiser that morning, was bordered on one side by a thick grove of elms that perfectly concealed the Ford’s black and tan lines. The opposite side of the road was bordered by a four-foot deep drainage ditch that cut back toward a small creek running along the cornfield.

The niche that Chris sat in had become his choice spot for the month, allowing him to sit almost entirely concealed from the southbound lane of the road. He’d pulled over more than a few heavy-footed out-of-townies on their way into Royal Oaks for the local wineries. Sadly, today had followed in the wake of the previous one, and Chris hadn’t a single incident in the course of his shift. It was 12:11pm, and he’d nearly five more hours that promised to be as long and as tediously boring as the previous four. And it was fourth of July. Motherfucker.

Of course, that was before the burgundy Oldsmobile ripped past him and set his radar gun to twitter excitedly. Chris looked down and watched as the digital display printed “93 mph” in big, angry red letters. He’d barely been able to register “BgDaddy” on the vanity plate before the car was too far along for his eyes to make out the letters.

Chris wanted to reach down and key on his lights and siren. He wanted to pull out and chase down “BgDaddy”, maybe fuck with him a bit out of sheer boredom before pulling him over. There were more than a few things Chris wanted to do but what he –did- do was watch as the Burgundy Oldsmobile drifted recklessly into the northbound lane and then onto the shoulder beyond until its back tires skidded dangerously close to the ditch. It drifted there for a moment, great clouts of dust kicking up as the rear wheels fought for traction, threatening to continue its skid off the road.

And then abruptly the wheels found enough pavement to grip and launched the car directly across the road like an arrow, over the southbound shoulder, and into a thick-trunked elm tree with enough force to shatter the wood and send the tree tumbling backward into the grove of its brethren.

The impact was explosive, glass and fragments of steel and fiberglass were thrown into the air in a massive cloud of debris. A tiny, blonde-haired figure was launched from the back seat and through the vehicle’s windshield as the glass seemed to vaporize. It caught the elm’s splintered stump head-first. The sound of the impact was lost amidst the clamor of the wreck, but in a sickening tangle of tiny arms and legs it went cart-wheeling into the underbrush amidst a cloud of blood.

Holy Shit. That was a little girl.

He barely registered the though as the vehicle’s back end lifted almost six feet off the ground, hung for a moment as if to register the trauma that it had sustained, and then heavily fell back to the grass with an audible thud. There was almost nothing left of the Oldsmobile’s front end. Oil and gasoline sprayed everywhere, soaking the ground and putting the stench of petrol on the air.

Chris stepped out of the cruiser almost immediately, barely able to fight off the urge to empty his stomach on the shoulder of the road. In twelve years of service he had seen many fatal accidents along this stretch of road, mostly teenagers who drove like daredevils in an attempt to show off or prove something to themselves before skidding off the road and into the trees. Twelve years of watching the coroner pull mangled bodies from the road and still Officer Haley could not recall a single scene more horrifying than the one infront of him. The car hadn’t behaved like the driver lost control. It had behaved like the driver had made a sharp turn toward the trees, as if intent to kill himself and anyone inside. He’d never seen anything like it before.

The passengers in the Oldsmobile’s front seats weren’t moving, at least not from what he could see as he approached. A man was behind the wheel, half hidden by the off-white airbag that crushed him against the seat. Brown-haired and pot-bellied, he wore a white golf polo that’s collar was soaked entirely through in blood. His shorts had been blown upward toward his crotch.

The world’s worst wedgie, front –and- back. Crotch –and- Ass. Yeouch.

He had buckled his seat belt, but the air bag’s off-white was stained by a thick and heavy sheet of blood. As Chris neared he could see the man was clearly unconscious or dead, his head hanging crookedly out the shattered window of his car door.

The passenger was a woman, his wife, and had a thick mane of blond hair. Or she had once a thick mane of blonde hair, back before the car had slammed into a tree at ninety miles an hour. Half of her scalp was peeled back to reveal her skull, her shirt soaked heavily in blood. There was more gore in the wreck than he could register, and with each second it got far worse.

She lost her arm…

Chris blinked hard, clearing his eyes, but he wasn’t mistaken. The woman’s right arm had been shorn off at the shoulder by the force of the impact, a heavy streak of blood ran down the crumpled remnants of the car’s front end and arterial spray had splattered on the brush and grass beside the vehicle. He could only guess her arm was sixty, maybe seventy yards further into the brush. Once, in a convention for police in Detroit, he’d heard of collisions so violent that the forces involved actually ripped people apart.

I thought it was bullshit…

Chris had already recognized that nobody could be alive, and certainly didn’t believe it until his eyes betrayed him once more. He could have sworn, sworn to God Almighty, he had seen the driver’s head twitch. It wasn’t a healthy movement, but it was movement.

No way, Jose’. His neck is broke clean through. Even if he was alive he couldn’t move, and I’d bet the boat he’d never twitch his finger again let alone roll his head. The airbag nearly ripped it clean off.

But the driver twitched again, and this time he continued to move. At first his blank staring eyes rolled, and then they blinked rapidly. His entire body gave a hard, convulsive shutter that nearly had Chris convinced that his brain was firing some last message to the muscles in the driver’s body. Death throws, he’d heard them be called that before. But the body continued to shake, a minute, maybe two… before finally it stopped.

And them the driver’s eyes shot wide open, the pupils swiveled onto Chris, and the man in the car screamed.

Or rather, he made –some- ungodly sound. It was hard to accept the cry as human and certainly hard to accept it as a cry. It was high-pitched, feverishly hoarse, and utterly threatening.

“Calm down, sir. I’ll get help here soon.” Chris took a step forward, intent on calming the man before he shook himself so bad something broke.

But the man didn’t calm down. Infact, he seemed to lose his mind at the sound of Chris’ voice. His entire body began to jerk savagely at the seat belt, straining it. Flabby arms lifted and fell, pounding on the airbag as it deflated away, revealing more of the man’s potmarked face. What swelling Chris expected simply didn’t exist, leaving the man’s features harshed only by the sheen of his wife’s blood that soaked them and the speckled burn of the airbag’s powder. His cry became absolutely maddened, turning more and more shrill until it was a feral shriek.

Chris was suddenly terrified. The urge to run struck him so hard that he nearly obeyed it. Everything was telling him to flee, to run. The irrational power of fear sinking deep inside him and taking hold in his balls, especially as the man began to rip at his seat belt. The driver was acting in a way that Chris couldn’t register, slamming himself against the car’s restraints like he was either hopped up on drugs or pumped full of so much adrenaline his injuries didn’t matter.

What the hell is wrong with this guy? His neck looks broken!

And Chris’ eyes weren’t lying to him. The driver’s neck was not only broken, it was ripped out. He saw it as in the driver’s thrashing his head rolled unnaturally far to the left, swiveled back almost 180 degrees, and then was swung back around to face him as if it had been fastened to a rusted hinge. But beyond the fact there should have been no way the man could have twitched his finger, let alone pound his airbag down and yank at his seat belt was the fact his throat was –torn- open. Something had ripped it clean out, revealing the rubbery tube of the man’s Carotid artery.

And not anything in the crash, certainly not glass. Something had done that while he was driving, and that’s why he drove right into the tree. Where’s the dog now?

Chris entertained the thought that he had seen the dog ejected from the car, but he knew with sinking dread that it was otherwise. The thought of that tiny girl careening through the woods was enough to nearly break his heart and could have stolen his thoughts for minutes more had the driver not defied all logic and stepped from the car.

It took a moment for Chris to comprehend what he had just watched. In the back of his mind it played like a movie, over and over, as the driver ripped his seatbelt and slammed the door open with the palm of his hands. He didn’t unbuckle, he didn’t use the car door’s handle. He simply –ripped- the seatbelt apart, and then pounded on the door so hard it jerked open with a harsh whine of twisted metal.

And then the man turned toward Chris and charged him, making that same gut wrenching cry. His face a twisted mask of some kind of intense, mad, desperate rage.

He saved his life out of instinct, some great flash that ripped through his body in a most primal moment of self preservation. Chris had never struck another human being in his life but he struck the driver with enough force to shatter his left hand. The punch was awkward but powerful, a drive from his shoulder that pistoned out and caught the pot-bellied driver square in the chin, popping his head straight back and knocking the four front teeth in his bottom jaw loose.

He expected the man to fall over, to stagger and collapse and cough up blood. He expected the driver to roll onto his back and moan in agony, and to beg for help and snap suddenly from this madness. He desperately wanted for this man to act like he recognized he had just driven his car into a tree at ninety miles an hour and broke his neck, and that he’d been ripped open by a dog or –something- and was probably moments from bleeding to death.

Chris wanted so badly for all of those things to happen, but instead, the man simply stopped in his tracks and took a single, shaky step backward. And then, with an audible crack of broken bones as the head swung freely (like some kind of carnival imitation of a man with a broken neck), the man drove himself into Chris with an incredible amount of force and tackled him to the ground.

All at once Chris was being clawed and pounded on by the driver, his voice now a dangerous, almost hungry snarl. MORE FRIGHTENING however, was the driver’s head as it rolled on the broken stump of his neck, the jaws slamming again and again in an attempt to bite him. It was like he was rabid, clawing and biting furiously in an attempt to sate some kind of madness. The man’s hand pawed down the side of his face and his nails bit in, ripping a thin line down Chris’ cheek and filling his mouth with the coppered taste of his own blood. They were suddenly tangled together now, Chris jamming his hands up into the man’s face in an attempt to push him away only to find it hinged loosely

–because that neck is FUCKING BROKEN-

and fell back. The air smelled of blood, and death, and piss. Chris had a single moment where he realized he’d wet himself, where suddenly his crotch was hot and soaked through. It was that moment that had Chris leaving his hand in reach, and it was all it took for the driver to slam his teeth down on Chris’ ring finger and bite through it.

The pain was sharp and extraordinary, and it was followed by the audible crunch of the man’s teeth biting through his second knuckle. Chris watched as the man’s teeth locked like some kind of animal’s, and in his fear he jerked his hand back. The driver didn’t release him, and instead bit down harder, and Chris jerked against the pain. The movement and the pressure was too much and Chris watched, and felt, as his finger gave and tore from his hand. The bloody stump was pinched between the bloodied, broken teeth of the driver. His face was a horrible mask of insanity and feral hatred, eyes unnaturally pale, and splattered in blood.

Chris thrashed madly, suddenly mimicking the driver as he had convulsed against the car’s seatbelt. Adrenaline coursed through him, and with all of his focus poured into one task, he slammed his hands up into the driver’s shoulders. The impact of his hands into the man’s body sent fresh bolt of pain from Chris’ missing finger… and also managed to throw the driver from him. Chris only now realized he was screaming.

He scrambled madly to his feet, the incessant bolts of pain that leapt from his severed finger had mercifully dulled into a nagging throb. The driver popped to his feet. He didn’t rise, he didn’t roll and sit up. Instead, he simply slapped his palms into the ground beneath him and launched himself into a feral crouch. Chris managed to free the pistol, a heavy .45 automatic that suddenly felt every bit as intimidating as he had been told it was. Despite the shake of his hand, he lifted it, centering the iron sight on the driver.

What if I can’t pull the trigger, what if it sticks?

But the gun –did- fire, a great blast that jerked Chris’ tired arms far too much. The slug whistled wide of the driver and seemed to remind him of where Chris was. He turned his head, that potmarked face soaked in blood and sprayed now with bits of gravel. The driver’s thin, stringy brown hair had lost the neatly-combed part that concealed his receding hairline and now hung in straggled, hap-hazard lines. His lips curled back to reveal blood-stained teeth and he gave an awful shriek.

Chris emptied his magazine, wildly pulling the trigger on the .45 to send six more of the heavy jacketed rounds toward him.

The driver’s chest exploded as four rounds clustered high on his torso, ripping his shirt out in giant, bloodied stars. Raw force lifted him from his feet and knocked him to his back, blood seeping quickly beneath him to form a thick pool. He shook, hard, struggling as bones that once supported his paunchy frame failed to answer the call that was put to them. A visible effort to sit up was mustered, but the man managed only to half-roll himself onto his side. The arms that had so furiously beat down at Chris now pawed at the concrete, nails ripping away as they caught on the cracks.

Chris reloaded, nearly dropping the old magazine as he pushed a new one into place. The driver wasn’t dead and Chris felt it as wet himself for the second time.

He has to be dead. –Has- to be.

Infront of him, soaked in blood and torn by four slugs from Chris’ automatic at point blank range, the Driver finally managed to sit up. He began an unnaturally, disjointed rocking in an effort to get up. His body swayed forward and back, gouts of blood rolling from the great holes in his chest and back.

Chris shot him twice more, both rounds hitting the driver high in the chest and knocking him flat on his back. The teeth kept mashing, that awful shriek grew huskier in its distress but persisted… and the man attempted to rise still. Turning his head, Chris leveled the barrel of his automatic at the man’s head and pulled the trigger. The pot-marked face disappeared, and a great pink-red smear splattered out across the concrete. Chunks of skull and flesh and matter formed a debris trail that followed the smear away from what little was left of the driver’s head. His body gave one last hard jerk and went entirely still.

Chris vomited down the front of his uniform, tattered and bloodstained and soaked in piss.

It was only now that his mind began to work again, slowly coming to life as relief swept through him. He forced himself to ignore his missing finger and look to the shattered remnants of the Oldsmobile. The driver’s wife was now thrashing in her seat, struggling with her remaining arm to rip off her seat belt. He had a minute, at least, before she got free in his mind and bent to take the driver’s wallet from his back pocket.

Timothy Arganna, and his wife Mrs. Arganna, and little Suzy-Q Arganna were tragically killed when Mr. Arganna went absolutely insane and drove their car off the road.

Chris laughed but he hated how it sounded. The fear was too palpable, too real. He forced himself to drop the wallet and walk to the Oldsmobile, thinking suddenly of his own wife and daughter. In his mind he could imagine some stranger putting a bullet in Ally’s head, he could see her beautiful face erased by the force of a .45 caliber pistol.

She was weaker than her husband, but whatever had taken his mind away had claimed her own. Standing beside the door, Chris watched as she suddenly turned her attention from the seatbelt and to him. One of her eyes was missing, or rather it had been popped like a bloody little balloon in the socket. She looked far worse than her husband, her face shattered and hanging in places where fine bones once maintained a feminine structure. She’d been pretty but it was hard to imagine it now.

She was snarling and snapping like an animal out the shattered window, lurching her body against the seatbelt. There was a mindless desperation in her, a compulsion to attack that Chris recognized in the husband. He put a bullet though her forehead, emptying her head on the seat and airbag and leaving her to slump lifelessly in the seat. The pale eyes, so furious a moment before, had the vacant look of the dead about them now. Chris leaned against the car and vomited for a second time, holding his knees and bowing his head forward while wretching forcefully onto the asphalt.

Between the summer heat and sheer terror Chris had sweat himself through. It was hard to look down and see himself in such a state and he could only imagine what he looked like to the outside eye. The seat of his cruiser felt infinitely more comfortable than it ever had, and he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so happy to pick up the radio. Pressing the button down, Chris turned his mouth into it, speaking through a gag as the transceiver began to slowly stink of vomit from his breath.

“844 to Base, come in Base. Marcy, I’ve a fucking mess out here.”

The radio crackled once before a woman’s voice came, and Chris suddenly felt the urge to cry build up in him. A touch of normality at this moment seemed so out of place. “Chris, what happened? You alright?” The concern in her words was real.

“I’m alright,” he said. “I’ve got a collision at Pinball Alley…” he trailed off. Chris was unsure what to say.

“I’ll send EMS.” The radio answered. “How bad is it?”

His words failed him, and Chris answered after a long hesitation. “Two fatalities, possibly a third. There was a passenger in the back who was ejected, I’m about to go see if I can help. And Marcy?”

“Yeah?”

“Call Alan, will you? Get him out here? I think he has to see this.”
Marcy’s patient voice immediately dissolved into concern as it came over the radio. “What’s wrong, Chris? You alright?”

He was crying now. The tears were thick and hot as they ran down his face, and it took every once of strength for Chris to keep it out of his voice. “I’m alright, Marcy. Just get the chief down here, alright? I’ll be in soon to tell you about it.”

“Roger. I’ll call him, Chris. EMS is on their way. Base clear.”

“Clear.” He echoed, and dropped the transceiver. All at once Chris was sobbing. his pistol laid across his lap as he buckled forward in his cruiser and laid his head on the steering wheel.

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Rebecca Arganna had been suffering for hours by the time her panicked father had crossed to Otisco County, laid out in the back seat of her father’s Oldsmobile as it rocketed down Route 54. She had her mother’s blonde hair, and her mother’s build. Her entire life she’d been called beautiful, and at the tender age of eight she had just begun to believe it. Nick Page had bit her on the way home that afternoon, enough to break the skin, and she had only gotten away because she hadn’t drank her milk at lunch and her thermos was full. When she swung her backpack at Nick’s head it’d hit with a dull thud, not a hollow thunk, and she’d managed to get up and run into her yard and close the gate behind her.

Nick had pounded on it for a bit, howling terribly, before taking off down the street to terrorize someone next door. She remembered all this clearly, but it began to get fuzzy after that. One moment she was sitting in the kitchen while her mother washed the bite on her wrist out and covered it so she wouldn’t get blood on her new T-shirt, and then the next she was laying in the back of her daddy’s car while he and mommy argued over where they were going.

It was all fast, and confusing. She felt worse and worse until finally it was easier to keep her eyes closed.

When Rebecca woke up she attacked her mother first, ripping a mouthful from the side of her throat and severing the carotid in a great geyser of blood. The taste wasn’t satisfying and she didn’t contemplate why. She simply obeyed the hunger that drove her on and turned on her father. It was her bite to his wrist that broke his grip on the wheel and sent them out of control.

Now, Rebecca Arganna woke for the second time to the insufferable hunger pawing at her. It was all she knew. One of her eyes couldn’t see but she couldn’t feel why. She didn’t know her name or knew what a name was. It was swinging from her ocular nerve against her cheek, popped out of her little head when it slammed into the tree. There was no memory of Nick or school, of mom or dad… There was nothing but the hunger. She smelled him and heard him first, and then she saw him finally. He was crying on the steering wheel of his cruiser, but Rebecca no longer understood what crying or a steering wheel was. She knew only that the hunger demanded him and that she had to answer.

At fifty-three pounds Rebecca was not a particularly strong girl but at a full run she managed to not only strike Chris with enough force to send his pistol onto the passenger seat’s floor but send him sprawling over the center console.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

He was screaming now and had he anything in his bladder he’d have lost it in that instant. It was the daughter, the realization was all the more terrifying and she’d caught him unaware. Her teeth sunk into his cheek and her head jerked back, and suddenly Chris felt pain lacing through his face. The tiny girl swallowed, only to bite him again, her little fingers driving into his face pushing his chin up with strength he’d not have expected. He felt her fingers close on his tongue and gagged, and then without explanation bit down. Bones ground beneath his teeth and Chris bit harder and the little girl didn’t scream or relent in her attack. She only snarled that animal sound that her father and mother snarled and slammed her other hand into his eye.

He bit her little hand clean off, the taste of her blood unnatural and wrong. It wasn’t the coppery taste of blood, but something fouler. He opened his mouth to scream, but Rebecca’s teeth found his throat and sunk deep. All at once Chris felt his air cut off and his hands fell down to knot in the girl’s blond hair. She was shaking her head like a little pitbull, and Chris felt his throat stretch to its limits and then the skin tear free.

Hot blood fountained in the air, a thick arterial spray that soaked the ceiling and windshield of his cruiser and bathed Rebecca as she sat up on his hips. Eyes wide, Chris lifted his hand and pressed it to the gaping hole in his neck only to feel the rush as blood spilled against his palm, over the stump of his missing finger and between the others. All at once the strength drained from him, and his other hand dragged a futile protest against the front of Rebecca’s shirt.

She tilted her head back and swallowed, a thick chunk of Chris’ throat sliding into her stomach. If her eyes had been beautiful once they weren’t any longer, the deep green color now so pale they hardly registered anything but the most iced of grey. Chris watched as she bent and abruptly took his wrist into her mouth but he couldn’t feel her bite down and take a chunk from him.

She looks just like her mother.

He thought, but there was no serenity now. Chris wanted to scream and thrash but his body would not answer him, he felt trapped and terrified as he watched this little girl take chunk out of chunk from his arm. Every moment slipped by with a prayer for death, and when it finally came he could find no solace in it. The last thing that Deputy Chris Haley saw before he died was the girl (about his daughter’s age) bend down to his face for a moment and sit up amidst a spray of his blood, the stump of his tongue protruded from her split lips as she chewed on it and the tiny ball of her eye watched him as it swung against her cheek from the bloodied nerve.

It would be nearly three hours before little Rebecca Arganna reached Royal Oaks.

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The town was just starting to wake. Just starting to find that hum of excitement that always precipitated the July 4th Celebration. Kids heckled their parents for sparklers and smoke-bombs, illegal fireworks that they knew the teenagers had but wouldn’t share with them nomatter how many pleases they muttered or how many times they threatened to tell mom and dad. The town was just starting to wake up and he was just starting to get tired, hulking over a picnic table after the last seat was mended and the last bunting hung. Six hours and counting of preparation, a great deal of it on his own, the kind of hard diligent trying work that most men and women feel obligated to see to.

But it wasn’t obligation for him. Not at all. The rest of the town sank steadily into excitement, throbbed and pulsed with life and vigor and the contented happiness of all things American while he? He sat there. He watched them. And he got angrier. To say that the rage was making a dent wasn’t fair, not in the least. The anger had been growing so long and so quietly now that there wasn’t any doubt that it’d the ability to turn liquid in order to stay contained. He’d mastered the art of loathing everything and everybody without giving them the scarcest of hints. It curled up through him with the brutality of a snake bite, infecting everything. It’d consumed so much of him that he felt but a shill to what had once been John Shepard’s son, pride of Royal Oaks.

They certainly wouldn’t have loved him if they knew just how desperate he was getting and just how empty he was. The Christian tenants of the church, a literal Hail Mary effort to save himself, had fallen brutally short of their promised salvation. He’d found the church so uncomfortable he’d almost lost his cool, broken the façade, let the stoic face crack and all the darkness slip out of him and spread along infront of the neighbors to whom he was ordered to provide.

Owen Shepard was barely keeping himself cared for. Sure, by the looks of him, you’d never find a healthier man. The lean plane of his body was carved by daily exercises, daily movements. His grooming was meticulous. Each were a part of the daily rituals that helped him navigate the nagging emptiness swirling and growing inside him. Each of those little motions, from flicking the light switches on and off to counting every push-up in time was a connection to the world he was so quickly falling away from.

So many happy faces. A mockery. He loved them and hated them for their ignorance. The purity of partnership and family and peace fell on these people in buckets, drenched them with the kind of fortune he had been unable to obtain. The rottenness came from envy. He wasn’t proud of it. Infact, the cold nature of it all never failed to announced itself to him. The lack of pride often crossed to outright shame, which shred what confidence he could ever manage to gather and spun him right round into the darkness again. Mondays were the easiest days. Friday’s the hardest. And each weekend he’d get in his truck and drive to the only relief he’d let himself have besides the work.

And fuck, did he work.

Six hours. Two barrel cookers. Enough ribs and wings to feed the small army of men and women that’d beset the plaza. The Royal Oaks All-American Independence Day Parade, a joyful little slice of Americana, paraded the Grape Queen and King from George Washington High on the backs of pick-up trucks. Music, food, fireworks and fun. A carnival atmosphere that was supported by the stalls manned by most of the town’s vintners.

It’d started to draw a crowd ten years ago. Back then, of course, Owen had still been a happy man. He was a soldier and a son, a husband. Things made sense and felt real, tangible, achievable. Anyway, Earl Botts had been the first to lay out a table featuring his wines. The others followed. And what had once been a town-wide celebration turned into a wine-lover’s holiday getaway. The tourists rolled in. Old and white, young and rich. They pissed money out of their pockets and into the town and left feeling better for it.

It was a beautiful thing. A little slice of celebrity for a town good enough to deserve it.

Kipper’s Tavern had donated kegs. Owen had set them in big plastic tubs colored in pastel red and blue, buried them in ice. He’d had a couple to calm his nerves, calm the ocean of feelings churning through him. Calm the memories.

“You alright, Shep?” His dad’s nickname. He wore it unwillingly.

But the rest couldn’t know by the way he smiled. Owen gave it his best as he stood up, reclaiming his full height and moping his sweaty brow with the back of a flannel-clad arm.

It was Don “Kipper” Manischevic. The man’s broad face and round nose was distinctly polish and his balding head a consequence of being in his fifties. He clapped Owen’s shoulder.

“Sure.” Owen nodded. “But I should get to taking orders and making up plates.”

Don shook his head and lifted a hand, pointing at Paula. “She’s all over it, Shep. Try and relax. The old man would be proud.”

“Thanks, Don.” He said, managing another smile. It was sincere enough to disarm his father’s friend. “But I have to get to the shop real quick. I had a surprise to set up.”

Fireworks. His dad’s old tricks reborn. He doubted Don had forgotten. When his dad had died Owen had done his best to slip right into his place, keep things going. The fireworks display that he managed every summer had gotten bigger and bigger and with Owen it was no different. If he hurried he’d be finished by seven. That’d give him two hours to have a hotdog and a couple drinks before it was time to set them off.

The world helped him stay balanced. The tight schedules and endless focus on the tasks at hand grounded him from the grief and the loneliness. He knew that. None of it escaped him. Owen was bright enough to understand that he was barely hanging on. The issues were deep rooted. He couldn’t break the cycle.

But he refused to let it make him unproductive. A man could suffer unhappiness. You learned that in the Army. Suffering unhappiness was a life skill, a reality. It was a way of accepting that in so many ways your lot was chosen for you and the fates were cruel.

“I’m sure it’ll be the best one yet, Shep!” Don called. A big smile on his face.

Owen loved Don like an Uncle. Like so many of the townspeople being kind to them was easy, even with his unhappiness, because they were tremendous neighbors. After all, deep down, he knew it wasn’t their fault that thins had turned out this way. Sometimes the world just dealt you a folding hand and waited to see what you’d do.

Owen wasn’t the folding type. He bluffed.

His phone rang before he reached the door to the store, vibrating angrily in his pocket as he struggled to fish them out of his jeans. The haste in his deft hands robbed them of their dexterity, turned them dumb as he pinched them together around the phone’s plastic and struggled to slip it free. It was an old flip-phone that Marla had gotten him before he’d shipped out the second time, a way to try and get ahold of her. Neither of them had known that the phone didn’t work across the ocean without a special calling plan. They couldn’t afford it. He’d kept it with him anyway, a reminder.

By the time he got the phone out of his pants the call was gone. A number blinking in reply.

He unlocked the store and went in, moving past the racks. Outside there were calls, muffled through the glass. A firecracker went off in the street. Owen ignored it, lowered his head and dialed Sarah’s number, unconcerned with the children beginning to lurk outside. His attention fixed as he stood amidst the racks of his store. Wishing, just wishing, that the day was over and he could make his lonely drive up to Detroit.

( This thread is closed. Readers are invited to send comments through PMs but are encouraged not to post in this thread. )
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Old 09-19-2011, 05:54 PM   #2
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"You need money –again-? Didn’t your mom just give you something for the bar the other night?”

There was annoyance in the tone of Jonathan Whitman, Sarah’s step-father. She was actually quite familiar with that tone; she heard it often. Jon was at the wheel in the family’s Explorer, driving into town with her mother in the front seat, while she and the satanic creature that was her step-brother were in the backseat. He was currently crashing and banging two of his toys together as he held them out if front of his body, but the other three seemed to have zoned him out long ago. He was a cute little shit, but a stranger to Sarah since she had been away for four years to live on campus at the University.

“Yes, but that was for the bar. This is for food. C'mon, you can't deny me a hot dog. And Margie's potato salad." Sarah groaned just at the memory of those wonderful potatoes. "And fine, maybe a beer.” Sarah shrugged and grinned, leaning against the door beside her as her blonde head turned to look out the window.

Royal Fucking Oaks.

While Sarah may have dreamed about the day she left this quaint little town, whenever she came back, she couldn’t deny the sense of comfort she felt when she was back in the city limits. This was her home, always had been. And if she ever did leave, no one would ever come close to being a family to her like the locals in town had earned in her heart. Sure, it was a little sappy…but a lot of people in town took care of each other. Whether they wanted the care or not.

"What ever happened to your job search? I thought you said that you had one lined up for you."

Now Sarah's mom was chiming in. Or ganging up on her, it felt like.

Truthfully, Sarah Whitman thought that she could easily get a job in town. Of course, it would be something temporary until she really found the right career to match her recent degree. But she knew enough people around town that would be happy to hire her...the only thing was, there was only one place she wanted to be.

She'd been in Owen Shepard's shop enough times and hung around him long enough to get the jest of how he ran things at his job. If there was anything he was good at, it was his work. And pushing her away, but that was a whole 'nother story. His shop was the only place that she had really applied for, though she didn't dare to tell that to her parents. For goodness sake, she'd only been in town for two weeks, and after the first week they were already pressuring her to get a job. God, if she heard the story about how they were preparing her for the 'real world' one more time...

"I'm workin' on it." Was the only thing Sarah mumbled as she continued to stare out the window as they drove closer into town. Traffic was picking up on the streets with cars and jaywalkers as other locals were heading in, preparing for the food and festivities, and the fireworks show later on. Sarah waved behind the window at a familiar face when her cell phone began to ring. Or rather, play an annoyingly upbeat song that may have been personalized so that she knew exactly who was calling her.

Speak of the Devil...

Leaning backwards, Sarah raised her hips and began to fish for her cell phone in the front pocket of her short blue jean shorts. When she succeeded, her green eyes stared down at the name on the caller ID for a while. As payback, she wondered if she should let it go to voicemail.

Damn it, Owen was her friend. He'd often go out of his way or drop everything to do something for her, and no one else. Even sometimes when they were in a room full of people, he looked back at her if she were the only one there. She, and maybe a few others who weren't completely oblivious, knew that there was something going on there. Then yet, why the hell was it so hard for him to return her phone calls and hire her? Did he really not think she could do the job, and wanted to spare her feelings?

The first week that Sarah returned from college, the two met up for drinks, and she stopped by the shop a few times to catch up, or to convince him to go with her to the lake with a few other friends. It was so easy to fall back into the routine of looking for excuses to hang out, or run into each other. But the day she set an application down in front of him...he cut off all contact. She knew he was avoiding her, and it frustrated her to no end since she couldn't figure out why. He was pushing her away again, as if he was afraid to get too close, and she'd push right back if she had to.

So, finally, Sarah answered her phone before it stopped ringing and she brought the screen to her ear.

"My answer is yes, Owen." Was Sarah's greeting, never one for a simple 'hello'. "Yes," She repeated, before he could begin to start on his own. "I will start working as soon as possible. How about today?" She offered cutely, her bright smile visible even through the phone.

"Hey, pull over here, will ya?" Sarah called out to her step-dad, seeing as they were slowly approaching the same shop that Owen was calling from.

"I'm assuming that's why you're calling." She returned her conversation back to Owen again. A disappointed little sigh escaped as she began to unbuckle her seatbelt that was strapped over her lap. "Unless you're planning on telling me why you've been avoiding my calls for a week. You know, I don't like looking like a crazy ex-girlfriend. Especially when you have yet to even ask me on a date."

After thanking her step-dad distractedly for handing her a twenty-dollar bill, she gave that mischievous step-brother of hers a kiss on the cheek before she was stepping out of the vehicle and onto the sidwalk directly in front of the store. Her phone was still to her ear as she grinned and stepped inside that store like she owned the place.

The draft as she walked inside caused her blonde hair to blow over her shoulders and out of her face, and Sarah just brushed a few strays out of the way as she found her target and set her phone down on the counter in front of him.

"So, what do I need to sign?"

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Old 09-20-2011, 12:06 AM   #3
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There were many times in his life where Owen simply could not keep up with the pace of the people around him. He was, and had been, a very precise man. The rhythm of his day was established neck-deep in the rigors of his routine and he was devoted to it. In many ways life inside the Army had been easier. There, by benefit of service's nature, he had excelled in the manner of all things. The storied success and ease of his adaptation to the life had begun in Basic Training where he'd set himself apart when it came to the minutia of military dogma. It'd continued when his tireless attention to detail and routine had gone, unflagging, once he'd graduated to AT. Life as a civilian had proven more difficult. More complicated. And as Sarah's voice filled his ear with the babble of assumptions he was taken off guard, driven quiet, and left to listen as she asserted a position he'd never had an intention to offer her.

Outside, in a steady stream, the street was beginning to fill up. At first, as always, it'd been boys on their bikes with firecrackers and curiosity in hand. The Fourth of July celebration had inspired in all the kids of Royal Oaks a sense of curiosity and wonder. It was different for the sleepy town. It invited strangers of all walks, ran late, ended with fireworks. The promise of candy apples and pie was icing on the proverbial cake.

But sooner or later, this year sooner, the rest of the town began to creep from their shops and the comfort of Kippers and the local Diner to the street. Many claimed tables early for their families, some brought spreads and began to add their own vision of decorations. The stalls and tents set up for the local wineries (and those that didn't -quite- count for local) were already bustling with help as they prepared for the influx of tourists certain to come.

Royal Oaks did not need the extra traffic to survive. Small, or not, it enjoyed a comfortable revenue stream generated by the wineries and farms that flanked its cozy place in the Michigan countryside. The buildings were clean and maintained, brick Colonials that inspired the shared love of Americana in most and communicated the genuine strength of the town's community. There was a lot to be proud of when it came to the Fourth of July and the town. Most felt it. It radiated in their faces, in their voices, on days like this one. Especially on days like this one.

Owen didn't feel that pride. He felt very little save the prickling of dread along the back of his neck as the younger girl rambled cheerily into his ear. For all the good that words did, Owen was bereft. He'd seldom been one for long conversation. A listener by nature, and more importantly, a man whose comfort with words had always been shaky at best. They'd abandoned him too many times. Actions never had. And so Sarah was allowed to run her course through the phone and he found himself convinced that she knew, exactly, what she was doing.

The car that pulled to his curb was visible through the shop's large glass window and he recognized it immediately. He'd never been particularly lucky, he realized, and quietly cursed himself for picking up the phone. It played out like a movie as she slid out of the car, all long legs and country jean shorts that ran up to the top of her coltish thighs and lent emphasis to the prettiest and girliest set of stems he had ever seen. Legs for Days, came to mind, as his eyes raked helplessly over her before she reached his door.

Spaghetti straps and blonde hair, lean shoulders, the promising swell of youthful breasts. These were amongst the many other things that Owen's masculine eyes did not miss. Beauty, soft and natural, did not wait for a man's interest to take notice. It gripped you by the head and stole the show, lit up all things in its glow. All at once the summer sun seemed brighter and warmer. All at once the breeze from the door as it swung open seemed sweeter, scented of her hair and whatever faint spray of scent she'd laid on in the morning.

Beauty, like that of Sarah Whitman, was as brutal as it was radiant.

"So, what do I need to sign?" She said.

And Owen stuttered, watching her, free hand lifting to paw at the dark stubble lining the squared stretch of his jaw.

"What?"

It was only then that he realized he was still speaking into his phone. Owen lowered it, flipped it closed, and found himself setting it beside her own only to pull it back from the counter's battered surface and stowing it underneath. She made him angry and not angry all at once. The kind of reluctant and constant forgiveness that only a man could feel for a beautiful woman when her only offense was to intoxicate him with her presence and stupefy him with her insistence.

"What are you doing here?" He finished and found himself immediately abandoning the counter for the shelves and racks beyond her.

It was damned hard to remain focused, to keep himself from stammering, when she was infront of him. The familiar mess of camping goods and work attire a welcomed ground, a means to settle himself, into the stoic and reserved man that she and everyone else in town was familiar with.
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Old 09-20-2011, 12:53 AM   #4
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That blue-eyed blonde looked forward to seeing Owen’s face when she walked into that store of his that he always seemed to hide out in, unwarned. Well, there was no hiding from her right now. This was his home, his comfort zone, and she was wel aware that she was probably invading that space right now. Just like she had weaseled her way into his life and formed a friendship that she didn’t regret for a second. Even if he was completely impossible, and just as stubborn as her sometimes. Perhaps if he hadn’t avoided her phone calls the past week, he wouldn’t have to deal with the firecracker that was Sarah Whitman right now. Royal Oaks' fireworks show would go off in that shop, if he wasn't careful.

But still, Sarah smiled as he finally lowered that phone from his ruggged, stubbly cheek. He looked surprised to see her, and once again, as always, he could barely make eye contact with her longer than three seconds. As if he stared too long at her, he’d turn to fucking stone, or something!

Sarah knew she wasn’t repulsive, and that he couldn’t deny his attraction…but she found it challenging to get what she wanted from him when she couldn’t even get him to focus on her. She was a young woman who was used to attention by the opposite sex, and she almost didn't know what to do to herself when she was denied that very thing from someone whom she wanted it from the most.

"What are you doing here?"

Sarah’s smile faded, and she rolled those pretty blue eyes as she groaned and followed him around the store. He’d be stupid to think that she wouldn’t follow.

"What am I doing here?" She repeated, sighing with impatience. "Are we really going to play that game? You called me, remember?" With a shrug, Sarah stood there next to him with a hand on her hip, a defense mechanism she tended to have without realizing it.

"Owen," She called his name, to get him to look at her. Or stop whatever it was he was arranging idly on the shelves. Anything. Anything to get him to recognize that she was there beside him. "Hey," She pressed on, and her small hand reached forward to grab his arm, but instead her fingers found his hand and she pulled it back to keep him from avoiding her further. She had gently grabbed the back of his hand, but didn't hold it for long so she could still give him his space. Sorta.

"What's going on? Is it so weird that I gave you my job application? C'mon, it's me." She smiled sweetly up at him, her head having to tilt back just a little so she could look up. She'd try the gentle approach, for now. Even if that firecracker's fuse was getting shorter and shorter.

"You know you could use the help in here, so why not me? I'll stay out of your way, I promise. You'll never know I'm here." Well, that was a lie, but she made the promise anyway. Sarah thought about telling him she needed the money, but didn't want to look that pathetic. Besides, he was supposed to be her friend, it shouldn't be this hard to get him to help her out. He'd done already with so much, so why not this?

"Unless you can give me a reason right now of why you don't want to hire me." She finished, and this time both of her hands came down to rest on that slender waist of hers. She shifted her weight to one leg, a raised brow burning into him as she continued to stare back up at him.

"A good reason."
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Old 09-20-2011, 01:12 AM   #5
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The vision of her, cocking a softly-rounded hip to the side, with those delicate hands cinching her slim waist was a damned good reason. She'd tugged at him, left him unable to take up the mundane straightening that so often consumed his time in the store. It'd been hard for him to stay static when he worked. There were always things that needed his attention. It was that meticulous nature that betrayed him now as their eyes met. He saw into the pretty blue of her stare, saw the need for him to come through for her swirling cloud-like and undeniable and found himself thankful to be distracted from it by the worry that she'd read into his own. Meticulous, that's what his appraisal of her had always been. There were a thousand little things that he noticed about her like the way the sun lit up the soft glow of her tan or how in darker light her eyes stood out bright and sensual - betraying the girlish facade that so many boys in Royal Oaks had fallen for.

For a moment her small hand had clutched his. Warming. She'd never been intimidated by how quiet he could be, or how elusive he could get. It hadn't stopped her from talking to him when they'd their run-ins and it hadn't stopped her from being warm. That was the real hook, beyond the pretty package, that had sunk deep. She'd forced her way into his life and hadn't refused to step aside when she'd realized just how boring he could be.

There was no escape, though, when it came to her. He could have lifted her over his broad shoulder and tossed her onto the street like one of the rucksacks on display in the back and she'd have come right back in. The most difficult fact for him to deny was that she'd be a good addition. He did need the help. The season had been uncharacteristically busy leading up to fall and the town's traffic had never been higher. Her hands, as distracting and beautiful as she might be, would allow him the chance to catch up on repairing the shelves and storeroom door.

Hell, he might even catch a football game on Sunday.

Owen found himself angry at her again. Frustrated by her unwillingness to slip off and find somewhere else to work. She'd have made more money at Kippers, that was certain, where tips alone from the town's men would have filled her wallet. No, she'd set her mind on his store and that was that. He'd have to let her down to tell her no and even though he thought it was best, even though the thought of her long legs slicing past him for the rest of the summer was an intolerable distraction, he couldn't.

"I'll need a copy of your license." The words were a surrender. His jawline tensing as he turned away from her and headed back towards the counter. "And it's full-time, so be here at open."

Beneath the counter there were two applications. Ron Driver, a local kid who'd featured as a stud linebacker for the Royal Oaks high football team until he'd dropped out his senior season to help his father on the farm, had been the second to put in his application. Owen had intended on telling Sarah that Ron had gotten the job. A courtesy call for a friend.

Ron Driver was devastatingly handsome. Pretty. Well-built, strong, and charismatic. He'd taken up at the Community College after earning his GED and was on his way to scoring a scholarship to Michigan if his play continued. Owen, and the rest of town, loved him. Owen, however, also loathed him. The boy's talent had come with a bit of a wild streak. A bit of arrogance.

And he had asked an awful lot of questions about Sarah when he'd stopped in yesterday.

Owen grunted to himself, low and displeased, as he put her application on the counter and filled out the section at the bottom marked "Employer Only" before pushing it across to her with the beat up Papermate Pen.

"Sign it."
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Old 09-20-2011, 12:40 PM   #6
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This was going to be good, real good. Sarah wanted to hear what was going on in that handsome, but mysterious little head of his. She was ready, waiting for him to give her a reason, any kind of reason at all as to why she wasn't good for the job. Or why he couldn't hire her. Because she was damn ready to fire a rebutal right back at him. Of course, if he stayed true to his stubborn ways and still refused to let her in or give in to her...well, she hadn't exactly thought that far through of what she was going to do. She thought'd she'd done a pretty good job winging it so far, so her confidence in the situation was still pretty high.

"I'll need a copy of your license."

Even though he had turned to head back toward the counter, Sarah's eyes were wide and beaming at him as he laid down his defenses and gave in to her. Her glossy lips wore an excited smile, and with his back turned she even did a little girly jump and skip as she followed him back to the counter where she had set her phone.

"Thank you so much, Owen. You won't regret this, I promise." That smile showed no signs of fading as she placed her elbows on the opposite end of the counter and leaned forward, while one of the thin straps to her tank top loosely fell over her shoulder a little. The cleavage of her breasts that were just barely a C-cup was pushed together, though Sarah didn't exactly pay much attention to how much skin she was showing when she was watching him pull out a few papers and set them down in between them. He could no doubt smell the hint coconut on her smooth, young skin as she leaned in closely and waited patiently. Sunscreen had been oiled up on her arms, legs, and face before she had headed out earlier. Now, she smelled like a beach.

Reaching behind her, Sarah slipped her license out of the back pocket of her jeans and added it to the pile on the counter, before finally, she lifted that strap back up over her shoulder again.

Ron Driver. She didn't know the guy very well, but she knew the name. He was only a little younger than her, but she knew him enough to know that like her, he was well-liked in town. And his reputation was definitely worth something being proud of. His physical appearance didn't hurt him, either, which is why Sarah had been debating her answer if and when the young man actually asked her out. It was only a matter of time.

Looking up from the paper on the counter, Sarah could still see a little bit of reluctance, and maybe even regret in Owen's face as he filled out his portion on the application. She didn't point it out, she only shook her head slowly and continued to wait.

Sarah wasn't exactly sure when Owen's behavior became what it was today. Maybe it was always there inside, and maybe he already acted a bit closed off to certain people before...but she remembered meeting him in high school, when he was married and in the Army. She didn't know him very well, nor did she really talk to him. But from what she did know, he seemed happy, or at least smiled a hell of a lot more than he did now.

God, she loved to see him smile. It didn't come too often, at least the real ones, but when he did...it was hard not to notice. A true smile from him lit up his whole damn face, even his eyes, and it was hard not to smile in return. Because when he was smiling, he smiled with all of himself. It was damn infectious. And she loved it the most when he didn't know she was looking.

Standing up straighter, Sarah reached for that old, worn out pen and her fingers turned the paper around so she could sign her name cutely and date it.

"There, it's official." She was grinning as she set the pen back down on her application, and she slid it back to the center of the counter.

"Now, are you going to close up shop, or what? It's a holiday, let's finish up here. Your first beer is on me." That cheerful, upbeat mood was back as Sarah flashed Andrew Jackson on her loaned twenty dollar bill.

"I'll be outside." Since she had practically barged in on him, she had least was always good about giving him space when she thought that he needed it. And with a quick turn on her heels, her long blonde hair was whipping around her head, and those long legs drove her hips to sway purposefully as she walked back toward the exit to wait for him outside.
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Old 09-20-2011, 02:07 PM   #7
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She moved fast, too fast. It was a torturous collection of images. Full breasts pressed together, soft curves swaying and a flicker of legs scissoring through the door in one last flash of swaying blonde ponytail and summer sweet jean shorts. Owen felt regret twist through him, sharp and creeping, as his eyes finally tore from the door and laid back heavily on the application resting on his counter.

It hadn't always been this hard, he realized. There had been a time when Royal Oaks felt as much as home as any place, warm and soothing. Now, even though the store was as familiar to him as his own bed, everything felt foreign. Distant and strange; like he was just beyond reach of it. It took a few minutes before Owen pulled from his thoughts, took his keys and phone, and swept her application back behind the counter. He put the "Closed" sign up in the window and shut the door behind him, locking it, before stuffing his hands in his jean pockets to deposit his things into their abused compartments. He found himself at her side in the sun.

She didn't wait for him but she stayed close, close enough that he could smell suntan oil on her skin and watch the gentle, rounded sway of her hips.

"How broke are you?" He asked.

If there was one dramatic difference in the Owen of five years ago and the Owen today, he realized, it was how harsh he sounded. In the past, quiet or not, he'd always been gentle on the rare occasion that he had something to say. There were manners, a softness in his voice, that simply did not exist now. He could hardly remember what it sounded like, let alone felt like. All he knew, all he could grasp, was the man that he was. And while Sarah was afforded what few dimensions other than his typically stoic manner, he still suffered for whatever had changed in him.

But she'd never held it against him. More importantly, she'd never asked him about it. Usually, gruff or not, she skipped over his manner with a trademark smile and easy ripple of words. It was why he did like Sarah so much, really. She never felt the need to dig. She never strayed away from him, either. She hung in there, as she was - reliable in her own feminine way.

The street beneath them, around them, was immaculate. Main Street was never messy but it was only this clean when the Fourth of July was on its way.

Kippers Tavern loomed as their destination, already growing crowded with the town's men as they settled in to wait for the day's festivities. Most were the husbands or brothers of the women setting up the tents they'd pitched earlier, stealing a moment to themselves. They socialized. Their conversations drifted up to fill the place with a pleasant, murmuring din; but a hint of anxiety hung in the air. Anticipation, thick and hot, for the day upon them.
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Old 09-20-2011, 07:26 PM   #8
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Wow, it was such a beautiful day. The Michigan sun was blaring down brighter than ever, making everything in town look that much more cheerful on that celebratory holiday. Sarah wished she would have brought her sunglasses to shield her pretty eyes from the sun, but she at least enjoyed the warmth it gave her on her already tanned skin.

As she waited for Owen to join her outside on the street, the traffic of cars and crowds of people slowly picked up as well. She waved to a few familiar faces, and was just finishing up giving someone directions when Owen had stepped up to her side and walked with her down the sidewalk. They didn’t walk too close, often times separating when someone in the opposite direction would walk between them…but she stayed close enough to hear him asking how broke she was.

What kind of question was that, anyway? Kate didn’t look at him after he asked her so bluntly. A sensitive person with no thick skin would easily take offense to most things that came out of Owen Shepard’s mouth. Sarah, however, didn’t take offense to much. Truth be told, there just weren’t many things that people could say or use that would hurt her. She wasn’t sensitive on any particular subject. And usually when things got too serious or troubled around her, she preferred to break the tension with a joke, or a cute smile to distract herself and others from the situation. And Owen’s tone didn’t reflect how he truly meant for things to come out, sometimes. At least that’s what she told herself.

“I never said I was broke.” She replied, finally, and slowly turned her head to look over at him with squinted eyes before she shielded them with her hand flattened across her brows. “Don't worry about it, I have money.” Sarah didn’t say much after that, and left that to be her answer even if she technically wasn’t giving him one.

Sarah Whitman wasn’t a moocher, by any means. In college, she had worked at a coffee stand on campus and earned enough money hourly and with tips to pay for food, booze, and a car payment that her parents refused to pay for. But when she was home…well, could she really help it when people offered to pay for things for her? A drink here and there, maybe a meal when out on a date, and of course, free rent when she stayed with her parents. That twenty dollars that her step-dad had loaned to her would have gone a long way with Sarah, usually. But she already had her mind set on just exactly what she’d be using it on. Or who, for that matter.

Stepping inside Kipper’s Tavern, Sarah wasn’t all that surprised to find that it was fairly busy. Of course, she was outnumbered when it came to male-female ratio, but that never seemed to bother her too much. With a bright, happy smile, Sarah walked ahead of Owen up to the bar and leaned against the counter, choosing to stand and letting him sit in the last vacant barstool. There she was beside him, leaning those elbows again against the bar counter, her tank top just sliding up an inch to expose the soft, sensitive flesh at the small of her back as she waved over at Don, who seemed busy as ever.

“Go ahead and pour me the lightest one you got on tap!” She called out an order for Owen as well, and her hand reached into the back pocket of her jean shorts, her fingers grazing over her denim-covered ass as she pulled out that twenty-dollar bill and flattened it out on the damp bar.

Around her, Sarah could hear people excitedly talking about the some of the festivities going on today, while some dreaded it. One even approached Owen to ask and talk about the fireworks, and Sarah could only smile and listen in as she turned her back to the bar. She'd always admired him and thought that it was nice that Owen stepped in where his dad was missed, even when he didn't really have to.

When those beers were ready, Sarah reached back and took her own and gave it a long sip. What? She was thirsty. A drink was exactly what she needed to get through the night, even if she was already in good company.
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Old 09-21-2011, 01:38 AM   #9
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It wasn't that Sarah willingly spouted bullshit. She was, by any account, one of the more genuine people he'd ever known. The truth, however, was that her pride sometimes got in the way of her sense and in this case it'd mixed tragically with his own, mangled, attempt to make a chivalrous offer. There'd been a time when he'd been easier with women. It'd never been easy, he'd never been a comfortable conversationalist, but it'd been easier in that the words that needed to come out did. That wasn't the case now.

Don was swamped but he managed a hello, most did. They came over and exchanged handshakes. Owen wore his best smile, kept quiet and polite, as they all knew him. Brady Garston, a man of his fathers age who had worked for Jackie Ferra's winery, was the most pressing.

"Ready for the fireworks tonight?" He asked, hands wrapped around Owen's own.

"I hope so."

"Best one yet?" He pressed.

"I think people will enjoy it."

"I bet it will be. Take care, son." Brady finished, flashing a broad smile.

The exchanges didn't annoy Owen. They fatigued him. It was in those little expressions of warmth that the reminders came of how far he'd strayed from the man he'd been. Beside him, bent across the bar, Sarah unwittingly cast her spell on those nearby. The soft slope of her spine flared out at the hem of her jean shorts, hugging tight to the lean and girlish swell of her backside. He stared, forgot the conversations around him, and turned sidelong at the bar in an effort to rip his eyes from her.

Between them the empty stool loomed a saving grace, paying distance between her long legs and his own. In some world the doting hero held chaste and pure, devoted in his affections. The reality was that Owen had spent a few dark moments imagining the youthful strength of them hooked about his hips, pulling desperately at him in the dark. A woman like Sarah, unknowingly, shook men to their core. Flirtation to them was a game, a hint of acknowledgment into the little doors they opened in the minds of boys. But, for all their confidence, they couldn't really grip what it did to a man. They weren't wired that way. He couldn't blame her even though he desperately wanted to.

It'd be so much simpler if he could resent her.

The Driver boy entered and Owen caught it, a flicker of movement from the door and the towering, farmer's bulk of Royal Oak's favorite son. He was twenty now, well on his way to being a University fella, with a Nebraska smile and the kind of handsome every man soured to see. Owen felt stupid, silly even, when Ron's eyes found the jean-clad backside of Sarah. Jealousy, green and ugly, ripped through him so potently that for a moment he felt boyish and rough again.

It should have been easy to act like a man and turn from it. Sarah was younger than Owen, young enough that Ron was closer to her than he was and more importantly she was happy, bright. They'd have been a handsome pair. But even as he thought of it, talked to himself out of envy, Owen's hand took hold of Sarah's twenty from the bar.

The decision was made in some dark, primal place that he hadn't felt in too long. Denim glided beneath his fingers, taut and unyielding, so his fingers had to force their way into the tight stretch of her back pocket. Four of them, barely fitting, hugged the round curve of her ass and pressed the twenty deep into place. Ron's eyes widened and Owen found himself meeting them, watching the boy's face intently, as his calloused fingers briefly hugged the most beautifully girlish backside they had ever known. Heat spread, bold and sure, knotting in his belly and briefly dragging his breath husky with desire. He stifled it, smothered it so that nobody could hear (even her), and slowly dragged his fingers from her and laid them on the glass infront of him.

"I've got it." He said. The explanation simple, remarkably level despite the sudden and brazen intimacy he'd summoned. "That's all I was saying."

His Blue Moon didn't muffle the sudden explosion of thoughts in his head.

Where the FUCK did that come from?

Owen Shepard had never, in his life, done anything remotely close to that. It was the boldest action he'd ever taken. Sudden, startling. And still, despite the bolt of cold panic ripping through him, he felt a smile tug small and private on his face. He wanted to laugh.

He didn't.
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Old 09-21-2011, 04:03 PM   #10
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Owen Shepard was just as likable in that town as Sarah Whitman was. Of course, people had much different reasons for liking each of them, but still. Owen's family name had given him a reputation, and Sarah could only watch and listen, maybe respond a few greetings that were directed their way. But just because people liked Owen, didn't mean that they understood him. Hell, even she didn't completely understand him. She didn't even really know him like she wished she could. But that wasn't for lack of trying. She may not have known his life story, what his dreams were, or what he laid in bed thinking about at night, or even what his favorite color was...but she knew a few things.

He was impossibly stubborn, and incredibly hard to read. She knew that when he was bored, he looked at the door a lot. When he was frustrated, his jaw tightened. If he was ever uncomfortable, he moved away, sometimes fidgeted, and changed subjects; she was the most familiar with that one. And with the exception of him hiring her, he had her back when she needed help. No matter what, she accepted him as he was, rather than trying to snap him out of whatever it was that made him this way, or change him. This was who he was now, and it didn't matter because she didn't really like him any less.

The one reaction that Sarah wasn't familiar with of Owen's...was jealousy. But what would why she ever have reason to see that side, right? She was well-aware of his attraction to her, but was even more aware that he wanted to do nothing about it.

Sarah hadn't even seen that hunky football player step into the bar, nor did she feel the eyes on her. She wasn't oblivious to her beauty, but she wasn't exactly staring around to see who was watching her, or what part of her body they were particularly looking at. She was just at a bar with a friend, drinking beer, in good spirits about being employed and having a damn good time. The only attention she really cared for, was the man who had came in with her.

Someone's hand--No, fingers, were sliding into Sarah's back pocket. Who the hell would boldly do such thing in a public place had a lot of balls, and she hoped that Owen could come to her defense...until she turned her head to see that it was Owen's hand. She looked down, feeling his palm just barely pressed against her denim-covered ass, and those pretty blues looked back up at him when he pulled his hand away. It took her a few seconds to realize that he had put her bill back in there.

"I've got it."

He's got what, exactly? The bill, or her ass? Well, he got her heart racing, that was for sure. There was still a little surprise on Sarah's face, trying to study his own as she tried to figure out if he was trying to make a pass at her, or if he truly didn't know what the hell he was doing. Talk about oblivious. But his face was unreadable, like it always was, and instead of being frustrated, Sarah only smiled and finally thanked him.

"You know you don't have to, Owen. But thank you." She replied, and that smile spread. "Any more bills you wanna put back there, be my guest. One pocket is feeling kind of jealous and left out--I mean empty." She teased, but this time hid her growing smile by bringing her beer back up to her lips, while her eyes peered over the rim of the glass to watch him.

That's when Sarah heard particular voices from across the bar, and questions about football, there was no doubt who had joined them inside the bar. Sarah made eye contact with Royal Oaks' most eligible bachelor, but as Sarah offered a polite smile to greet him with, she sensed reluctance on Ron's face, though she couldn't decipher why. Why anyone would feel reluctant to approach her, or even offer a smile or a wave back was beyond her. She wasn't unapproachable, or intimidating...well, depending on the person. But she got bored easily trying to figure it all out. She already had one man's mind she was trying to crack, she wasn't going to bother with another.

With one of the locals leaving, that emptied a stool for Sarah as she finally sat down next to Owen, and turned so her knees would just barely bump and hold its touch against the side of his own leg.

"You gonna need any help setting stuff up today? I can help, if you need it." Sarah quickly realized that giving him the option to turn down her offer to help probably wouldn't work well to her advantage.

"At least let me help you with something, you've already done enough for me today."
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Old 09-21-2011, 04:25 PM   #11
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Owen watched her lips form the words, comments, gentle provocations about empty pockets. He felt the slight pressure of her lean leg against the inside of his jean-clad thigh. Chemistry, sharp and sudden, arched between them. For a moment, precious and brief, the awkward distance that had always existed melted under the bar's hazy atmosphere and the din of nearby voices. For a moment he saw her, looking at him, with interest sharp and clear glinting in the soft blue of her eyes.

He wanted to kiss her. He wanted to slip his fingers into her hair and pull her up from that stool until she was on the toes of her sneakers and kiss her; he wanted to kiss her until she made a sound against his lips and her foot lifted in a cinematic gesture of want. The urge ripped through him, spirited him, emboldened him until for a brief moment the men and women of Kipper's Tavern faded away and he was left with the blonde-haired girl next door that had stubbornly worked at taking his heart.

But something happened.

Something always happened.

Just as soon as the urge came - it went. In its place he felt only the familiar frustration and an absence of words. There was no inspiration to lift her up and make his claim. There were no witty words or gentle banter to invite her in further. Instead, as they stood at the bar, Owen slipped into his old and familiar quiet. The warmth of stoic silence wrapped him up like a blanket, left him a reserved shape at her side.

The Blue Moon lost its taste and he drank it methodically, coming back to the world in which they resided together from his own private one only when she spoke of work. Frustration, a constant companion, raged violently inside him. The feel of her beneath his fingers hadn't been enough to rip him out of his own shoes and if it had failed nothing would succeed. He warred with himself, scolded himself, continued the dark and angry dialogue even as he answered her with that same level-headed cadence she had always known.

"I left some things at home. Consider yourself on the clock if you come load up the truck with me after we're done with this drink." He said.

His empty glass was set on the counter and Owen suddenly felt in a hurry to leave this place. Ron floated by, never too near now, and did not say hello to Owen. It was his fault. A stupid, foolish mistake that had left him half-in/half-out in this place where he had no business. True to form, his jaw was slowly clenching, and his desire to abandon Kipper's manifested as he lifted the broad stretch of his hands and smoothed it down the flannel chest of his collared shirt.
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Old 09-21-2011, 05:17 PM   #12
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Sarah was acting today as she would any other day that she was with Owen. She was cheerful, talkative to make up for his lack-of, and flirtatious. But she never expected any of the same from in Owen in return. While she would have liked to seen all three of those come from him, especially the last, she was perfectly content in playing that part.

But sometimes--rarely, but still sometimes, she saw what she thought to be glimpses. Or hints. Just something in his eyes that tried to tell her that he wanted to say something. Do something. That maybe, just maybe, he was holding back. Or maybe it was what she wished he was doing, because how he could just sit back unphased by her flirtations, and sometimes teasing, was beyond her. She loved being his friend, and would be happy to stick to that relationship...but it just bothered her not knowing why the hell she wasn't good enough.

After he had finally answered her question, Sarah was smiling again and nodded her blonde head. It may have been a round-about away to accept her offer to help, but it was still a yes.

Sarah felt rushed to finish her beer after he already slammed the rest of his own. But because she could, Sarah took her time with it. A few small sips here and there, sometimes a long slow one. He was itching to get out, she could sense it because it made her feel a little anxious too. And when she finally did drink up the last drop, she finished it off with a lick, her tongue swiping her top lip before she set her glass back down on the counter.

Looking up at Owen, who was still standing and looking at the door, Sarah smiled at the familiar behavior and slowly began to stand up.

She stood beside him between those two stools, her body forced to just barely brush against his own between that little space. He was taller, and she could feel his warm breath against her cheek and her hair, warming her on that already hot summer day. It had always felt nice to her, being so close to him. He may not have been built like Ron Driver, but he still felt safe. And not even his cold words or cold exterior could deny the warmth that his body gave when his arms were wrapped around her. Although, she'd only known about that from the few times that she'd forced a hug on him.

But she didn't let him enjoy it for too long before she was sliding away and letting him take care of the bill and tip, like he'd offered.

Sarah met him by the door, waving goodbye to a few others before she was holding the door open with the shifted weight of her hip. Her eyes were squinted again as they adjusted to the bright sun blaring even hotter than she remembered. She already longed for when that sun would fade away in the distance, though she wasn't exactly wearing the right attire for cooler weather.

"Thanks for letting me help." She said as they walked, the only other sound was of other voices around them, music, and their own footsteps on the hot cement. They moved further away from the tavern, and Sarah was always willing to fill in their silence with questions to get him talking and in a better mood.

"You're okay, right?" She asked, sensing something a little off with him back in the bar. "I know this probably isn't how you were expecting to spend your day, but I'll make it worth it for you." There was promise in Sarah's tone, and in her bright smile.

Within no time, they were at his truck that was parked close to the shop, and they separating as she moved to the other end to climb up into the passenger seat.

Sarah loved his truck. He took good care of it, and looked damn good in it. So did she, she thought, but that was irrelevant.

"So, what are we loading up? Or is it a secret?" She asked curiously, always in the need-to-know.
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Old 09-21-2011, 10:37 PM   #13
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A lot of a person lay in the cadence of their day. They spent time together, here and there, and the story had always been the same. When it came to energy Sarah had an abundance, youthful and radiant, that caught in the people near her and lit them up. It'd never been more true than with him even if most couldn't tell the difference. He could. It infected his usually purposeful stride and forced him to take a slight hurry in his step as he flanked round the truck's muddy front to climb in after her.

He had, always, been struggling to keep up with her. The endless enthusiasm, the tireless cheeriness, was as effective as any hammer. It provoked him to try, to pay attention, to take note of all the little gestures and smiles she laid from one moment to the next. In a way he resented her for it. Unrequited desires had a way of turning that way, dark and grim, like a toiling frustration that he couldn't shake free of. But mostly, even on his bad days, he admired her. She hadn't seen the things he'd seen. She hadn't lost the way he'd lost.

But her adversity had come in other shapes that he couldn't know, he was sure of it, and the warmth she had faced it all with was the kind that you couldn't help but admire.

"They threw in a lot of sparklers with the fireworks when I ordered them."

The implication that they were for the kids was clear but he didn't elaborate. Instead, securing the door, he leaned briefly across the center console only to abruptly freeze.

Her legs stretched out, tanned, girlish, and gorgeous just beneath the glove compartment. Looming, his hand hovered over them, the temptation to reach down and glide his palm down the silk interior of her thigh, to feel her legs pinch against his grip, sudden and certain. Instead, he exhaled heavily before opening the compartment and pulling an old pair of sunglasses from inside.

This entire thing was a mess, he realized. There'd be no escape from her now. Already, maybe even visibly, a few short minutes trapped close to her had begun to take dramatic effect. His gut tightened, ached, as desire ripped a knot there and twisted on it roughly. The length of his prick stretched impressively down the leg of his jeans, thickening, throbbing against the denim prison that confined it. His mind swayed into thoughts of how good she smelled. How soft she'd felt under his hand in the bar.

It was a miracle he kept his face a mask of steely resolve. It was a miracle he kept to the road.

There was no CD player but the radio was the only distraction he could consider. All at once it filled the truck's cabin as it left the concrete of Main Street and he turned onto the dusty, winding dirt road that lead up to his family's house. They'd once owned a farm, generations ago, but since then they'd taken up to the more modest living of the store and kept the land wild. High grass stretched for acres, wild sunflowers reached skyward and the house was a quaint, neat rustic colonial atop the furthest hill.

"I kissed Katie Shelly under that tree." He confessed suddenly.

The memory hadn't come to him, no visions of awkward pauses and teenage ambitions. Instead, like a fact from a text book, he recited it on reflex as they passed the tangled swamp maple rising crookedly and alone amidst the field. It'd been his first moment with a woman. Terrifying and wondrous. They'd done more than kissed. Not much more. But enough that he'd been burdened by the secret of it.

Quietly, Owen cursed himself for speaking. There was no reason for it to come out, for the subject to lift between them.
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Old 09-21-2011, 11:26 PM   #14
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Sarah's perfectly round, firm ass made a home in that passenger seat of Owen's truck, and those long tanned legs extended and stretched out in front of her as she crossed one leg over the other at her ankles. She sat up a little straighter when Owen reached a hand over into his glove box, almost seeming a little hesitant to do so. As if touching her, even accidentally, would harm him in some way. God! He could touch her ass body, in a bar full of their friends, but heaven forbid he actually touch her in the privacy of his vehicle. And he thought she drove him crazy.

To keep her sanity, Sarah tried to think of those sparklers that Owen had mentioned. It may have seemed childish, but she loved them. Well, who didn't like to light up or blow up shit?

Reaching over, Sarah's index finger pushed the button on the side panel of the door, making the window beside her roll down completely. The warm summer air began to blow through the cab of the truck, just the slight sound of the wind and the radio filling the silence.

Those golden locks began to blow around her shoulders right with that open air, and Sarah sat up a little straighter in her seat. Her breasts pushed out as she raised her arms, and she pulled that long, pretty hair up into a ponytail behind her head to prevent it from blowing around further. It left the soft, sensitive flesh of her neck, shoulders, collar, and some of her chest exposed now that it was out of the way. And Sarah coldly, and secretly thought that it drove him just as crazy as it did to other men.

"I kissed Katie Shelly under that tree."

Whipping her head around, her ponytail flying with it, Sarah looked out the window to look at this supposed tree...as if to find him there, with Katie Shelly.

"Wait, what?" She breathed, turned her head back to him with a raised brow. Now it was her that felt a sting of jealousy as she tried to imagine someone else kissing that perfect mouth of his. What made Katie Shelly better than her?

But then Sarah remembered.

Katie Shelly was happily married, with four kids and another on the way. He had to have been talking about something that happened a long time ago. Hopefully! And Sarah began to smile with relief, and a little amusement.

"With tongue?" She asked, that smile growing wider as she looked over at him. What He brought it up, she had every right to ask him to elaborate.

"C'mon, you can tell me." She pressed, nudging him playfully a little with her elbow. "Let's hear it. Was she good? Details, Shepard." Maybe she really wanted to know if he was good. But one thing at a time. Even if all she could do was wonder something she'd already spent many days thinking about; just how good of a kisser was Owen Shepard? Apparently, she'd need to ask Katie, if she wanted to know.
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Old 09-21-2011, 11:58 PM   #15
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"We were young." Was all he had to add.

There were things a man didn't share - or so he'd been taught. Principles, little lessons, that had hung with him since he'd been small enough that they'd no real bearing. Sarah's questions, though, provoked memories now. Katie had been wearing a yellow sun-dress and had stopped by on the pretense of handing out flyers for the bake sale going on at the Church. He'd been young. She'd been pretty and kind, soft-spoken like he was. His father had told him to walk her down to the street and he had, holding her hand when she reached for his amidst the tall-grass.

She'd been aggressive and it'd surprised him. The gentle urgency of her touch and the way she leaned her body against his, hot with need, desperate and hurried in the short time they'd managed to steal alone. Her mouth had been tight to his, her breath short and hot against his lips, when her hand pressed down the front of his shorts and found him.

"Christ! She'd whispered as her tiny fingers fought to circle him, to restrain his tremendous girth. Owen remembered how small her hands felt against his length. How bad the need was.

She'd pumped him like that while he kissed her, relentless with her small hand until his limited restraint gave out and his rangy frame bristled against her own. "Please!" She'd urged him, coaxing him to let go until his prick flexed hard against her fingers and his cum left him in hard, hot jets. The entire encounter had taken short minutes, breathy and wanton ones that had educated him about women. They had never shared a kiss again. There were no further encounters. In school she remained quiet and kind. Owen had told nobody, would tell nobody, even when she'd rejected him after he'd asked her to the Church Formal and rebuffed him when he'd attempted to call her.

He didn't spite her for any of it, though, because he'd learned that women had the same desires that men did. He'd learned that sex wasn't some dark seed planted alone in his mind. It'd been freeing.

Owen parked the truck infront of the porch and paid one last glance over to Sarah before he climbed out. Reclined, beautiful. The slender curve of her neck bare, her collar gentle and feminine, her breasts pressed up in her tank and full. She had long legs, soft hips, the kind of girl-next-door beauty that suckered itself into a man's heart. There was no denying it. He reached out, closed his strong fingers on her thigh and squeezed the lean muscle and silk softly.

"Come on." He said.

As gently as he could manage before he was gone towards the house and the truck's door closed after him.
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Old 09-22-2011, 12:39 AM   #16
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"We were young."

That's all he was going to give her? Really?

Sarah growled at his answer once she realized that he wasn't going to give her any more details. What a tease.

"Oh, man. You're no fun!"

But still, she crossed her arms in front of her chest, her arms unknowingly pulling her tank top town to reveal a bit more of that perfect cleavage as she hid her smile by staring outside the truck. Enjoying the feeling of the air blowing against her face.

She'd just have to imagine it herself; about how he probably kissed Katie under that shaded tree. She imagined that kiss to be slow, even sweet at first. His wonderful hands touching her cheek, then the side of her neck before his fingers slid into her hair and he pressed more firmly against her...but Sarah's images of Katie in that fantasy slowly turned to the vision of herself under that tree. And his hands on her.

God, the things she'd let him do to her, if given the opportunity...

That fantasy was torn away when that hand she'd been daydreaming about was now grabbing her warm, smooth thigh, getting her attention. He got it, all right. Even after he had pulled his hand away, she could still feel it. It was like he had left a hand print on a part of her body. A mark. His mark.

"Coming." Sarah nodded, unbuckling her seatbelt before she jumped out of the truck after him and slammed the door closed.

She'd been to Owen's house a few times. Not a lot, and she never stayed for long. But she only liked coming over because she thought it would make her feel closer to him, or like she could know him better by looking at his surroundings. His home.

After a quick jog, her blonde ponytail bouncing behind her head, Sarah caught up with Owen at the front steps to his house as he unlocked the front door and let her step inside first.

Sarah noticed the air conditioning first when she stepped inside, and it felt damn good as she sighed happily. The place was clean, as always. It had a homey feel, but anyone who walked in could definitely tell that a man lived there.

But she didn't see any boxes. Secretly, she hoped that there were none. It wouldn't be the first time she'd been asked to come into a man's house for 'coffee', to 'hang out', or some other bullshit excuse. But when he mentioned that they were in the basement, Sarah just nodded and hid her disappointment with another smile.

Walking down into the basement, which was much cooler, Sarah let him flip the light switch on to reveal the boxes that were stacked in the corner.

"Holy shit," She laughed, sliding her hands into her pockets that made those jean shorts slide a little further down her hips, exposing a low hip bone and flat, tanned skin of her stomach.

"You weren't kidding." Was all she said before she eagerly stepped forward to help.

Sarah wasn't the strongest girl in the world. What she lacked in strength, she made up for in cardio. But still, she wasn't completely useless. So, that helpful young woman leaned over, unknowingly showing off the curve of her ass cheeks as she bent over and picked up one of the boxes. She thought maybe she could grab two, but no. One was enough, and she had to adjust it her arms as she kicked up her knee to balance it.

"Got it," She promised, when Owen gave her an uneasy look. And to prove it, she carefully carried that box back up the stairs and outside to his truck.

After going back and forth a few times, even catching Owen's eyes on her rear end when going up the stairs, he'd soon find that she was no longer helping with the loading.

Sarah's ass had found a new home; on the counter of Owen's kitchen. Drinking a glass of iced cold water, with another glass on the counter that was intended for him. Resting between her open thighs.
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Old 09-23-2011, 10:59 PM   #17
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It was strange to feel at home in a place that made him feel so lonely. The dichotomy between the two feelings, the bold contrast, highlighted in the quiet reminders of his mother and father and the spartan cleanliness that had overtaken the Shepard home since their passing. Of the three only Owen had been unable to tolerate mess. The lived in quality that so many found comforting made him uneasy. The house was some gaunt reflection of this. It made it seem sad. To Owen, it was always so, terribly and oppressively so. It simply didn't feel right to leave it for sale and so he was trapped in a state of half-residency, splitting time between the home that life had taken from him and the quaint, tiny apartment over the shop.

Time passed and boxes were moved, some faster than others, until inevitably Sarah yielded to the monotony of labor and vanished from the steady conveyor they'd formed from stairs to truck. It had not surprised him. There were many, many boxes and none of them were light. The truth was that he had invited her to come with him only because he knew she would have come anyway, because the bar was more dangerous a place. She was more helpful away from the boxes, absent from him, because in that absence he was not distracted by the feminine sway of her hips and the subtle rise and fall of her gorgeous backside.

When it was done, for a moment, Owen lingered at the truck's tailgate before closing it. The sun was high and the sky was clear. He thought of Sarah when he looked into it, bright and bold all at once, and found himself forced to remember the many generous smiles of their summers together and the glint fashioned in her stare when she looked at him. The sigh was a silent one, rolling through him to the breath before he dutifully smothered it under a back-handed swipe that dragged his sleeve across his stubbled jawline and cleared beads of sweat from his face.

Inside, he found her on his counter, long legs spread until the creamy interior of her thighs were bared to straddle a glass. The invitation was bold. The inference clear. For a moment his mind slipped, pulled away from him, and all that he knew was an old daydream of her slender form trapped upon that very place with those long, tanned legs twined about his hips and her breath a ragged, sweet whimper against his ear. He'd fucked her there a hundred times before in his mind. The vision was a bold, unyielding reminder of her danger and for a moment, just a moment, he thought he saw recognition of it in her face and feared she had somehow learned to read his mind.

But all she offered was another bright smile.

"What's your mom think of you working for me?" He asked.

Anything to distract them both as his hand reached, strong fingers coiling around the cool, perspiring glass to pluck it from between her thighs. The heat of her surrounded his hands, emphatic in the contrast of the glass against his palm, and for a moment he imagined his stubbled cheek dragging against the soft skin while she arched herself against his mouth and wound her fingers in his short hair. Again, sudden and rampant, his prick ached down the length of his thigh and forced him to ignore it.
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Old 09-24-2011, 02:31 PM   #18
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Despite the warmer weather outside, Owen's kitchen was rather cold. Or at least, that kitchen counter was as the back of her thighs pressed against it, and those long legs dangled over the edge. It made her feel almost like a kid, being unable to touch the floor as she swung her feet boredly and waited for Owen to return.

When he did, Sarah smiled happily at his arrival, and could swear that he paused for a moment at the sight of her. For a man who never expressed freely what was really on his mind, sometimes she caught climpses of something in his eyes when he was caught off guard and didn't know that he was being watched.

But she couldn't quite figure out just what that look was. All she knew was that when he looked at her like that, so intensely, her hearbeat picked up. And embarassingly enough, her cheeks flushed a little too. Before she could study his face long enough to figure out just what was going on in that man's head, the expression was gone and he was throwing a question at her. Forcing her to answer, and think of something else.

"My mom?" She repeated, making sure she heard his question right. She'd been a little distracted when he'd asked. Slowly, Sarah shrugged her shoulders and looked down at her own glass in her hands.

"She doesn't understand why I want to, but will be happy to hear that I'm doing something productive now that I've graduated."

Hell, not even Sarah could explain why she wanted to work in that shop with Owen. If he didn't work there, it definitely wouldn't have been her first choice. And sure, she could come up with a few excuses to defend her decision, but not even she would know the truth of them. Or at least admit to it.

It wouldn't be all that surprising that people didn't understand her wanting to work with Owen, especially when people had a hard enough time as it was in understanding their friendship. Was she hanging around him to get closer? Did she want him? Was there something to him that he wasn't letting others see? Or was she only there because it bothered her that the stubborn man was clearly attracted to her, yet did nothing about it? And maybe once he finally made his move, she'd get bored and finally leave.

Owen's hand reached down for his glass, and Sarah looked down at it in slow motion as he pulled his drink away. She just watched him as he took a long sip of what she had been nursing between her warm thighs.

"I'm going to need to save up all I can. Especially if I plan on moving out of here when the summer is over. Mom's going to help me find an apartment in the city, hopefully close to wherever I'll be working." That pretty blonde shrugged again, shutting up her mouth with a long sip from that glass in her hands.

She hadn't really discussed with him much about her moving away. For now, it was just all talk and planning. She still was undecided about her move. With her nursing degree, it wasn't like there was a whole lot of opportunity and room for growth for her there in Royal Oaks. And Sarah Whitman was the type of the girl who should be out in the city. Around people. Where things were more exciting. Not hiding away in a small town. But, again, her whole heart wasn't in the move yet. Nothing was official.

She swallowed that water gently down her throat, her head tilting back a little to expose the warm flesh of her neck...and a large drop of water fell from the sweating glass, landing on the top of her left thigh. Sarah wiped it with her free hand, her palm rubbing over it, but she only ended up spreading the liquid more as it seemed to glisten over the top of her leg.

"Do you worry about what my mom thinks of you?" She asked next, curiously, with a tilt of her head. "It's probably my step-dad you should worry about it. He thinks you're a bad influence." Sarah grinned, still in disbelief at the memory of her step-dad accusing Owen of such a thing. "Clearly, he doesn't know you very well. I think it's the other way around." Smiling, almost proudly at that fact, Sarah set her glass back down and crossed one leg over the other. The moist one on top as she hid the inside of her thighs.
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Old 09-27-2011, 12:42 AM   #19
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Rebecca had crossed miles upon miles of countryside at the same, lazy walk that she had so often made when she had returned home from school. Of course, she didn't know what walking was. She'd no memory of school or her teachers. She did not remember the boys in class or her best friend, Kristin. Her body knew the smell of life, however, and her legs obeyed the urge to follow it. The dress that she wore was a tattered ruin now, shredded in the accident she'd caused when she'd killed her first two meals. It'd been torn further by the walk through the fields, burs and snags taking chunks of it as she brushed past relentless. The tiny tears in her flesh going unnoticed.

The loss of her dangling eye paid no mind when it snared on a wild rose bush and torn free.

It had taken her two hours to come across the Samson farm. Chuck Samson was nearly sixty, well-respected, and church going. His wife Emma had been with him since they were fourteen. His boys were grown and gone to college, one on a football scholarship (he didn't play but it didn't matter. His education was taken care of.) and another studying agricultural sciences. The farm was his passion now. His love. He worked hard, had rough hands, and was strong enough that boys half his age would have had more than their hands full with him.

Rebecca did not know or care for Chuck Samson and his kind heart. She knew only that he could not see her when she saw him from the field, his eyes fading and the light playing into them. He did not run when the child exploded from the wheat grass, screaming, her arms outstretched and her bloodied face twisted in a feral snarl. Rebecca did not know the look that he gave, or have the mind to care to look; but it was pure terror and surprise. It had swept over Chuck like a blanket, confusing and confounding him.

She killed him where he stood, scrambled right up his body even as he tried to push her away and sank her teeth deep into the meat of his broad shoulder. He'd struggled to get a hold on her before lifting her off him, hollering as her teeth cinched down like a miniature pit-bulls and took with it a great mouthful of his flesh. It stretched, grew thin, before finally tearing free in a glout of his blood.

He tossed Rebecca like she was a rag doll, hurling her across the porch until she struck a oak column support that had notches drawn into it from where his boys had stood and been measured. The impact was brutal, echoing the audible crack of shattering bones as Rebecca's spine snapped like a matchstick and her legs became useless to her.

There was no pain. There was no acknowledgment as she rolled across the porch besides the home's backdoor. There was only the desperate crawl she made across the wooden plank decking, nails tearing free as she pulled her little body with skinny arms.

Chuck crumpled, struck the bannister and leaned heavily on it. He called for Emma, hand pressed to the worse of his wounds, before nausea struck him and he fell clean over the railing into the grass below the porch. For a moment there was pain, red-hot and unyielding. And then there was darkness.

Rebecca watched it, unaware and unconcerned. She knew only to pull herself across the porch towards him. She knew only the hunger. The desire to feed. It raged even as the back door swung open and Emma Samson hurried out, looking for her husband and finding only a young girl. She could not have known better. Bloodied. Tattered. Her surprise yielded to terror which yielded to pity and she bent, looked to roll the child over.

Rebecca had two meals now, one delivered. Her small fingers closed on the woman's arm as she bent, pulled her up towards her as she leaned close. Rebecca bit her throat, tore it free, bathed in the hot fountain of her blood as it plumed from the rent in great arterial spray. Emma's eyes wide with shock, face paling as she bled out.

The virus that had created Rebecca killed Chuck while he lay in the grass; killed him and brought him back. Rebecca had devoured most of Emma's face before the old women had gone stale and woken, came back much like her husband. Like Rebecca. Unknowing. Without memory.

And hungry.

While, in the meantime, Owen admired the soft shape of Sarah's legs as they remained poised across his countertop.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

He was not worried about Sarah's stepfather, no. The man presented no threat to what mattered. Owen couldn't imagine himself hitting the man - even in defense. He'd taken beatings before. He might one day take another. They were not new, mysterious, or terrifying. She, on the other hand, was all of those things. Her beauty had a hold on him he could not describe. It tugged at him, every fiber of him, as she scissored her legs into a feminine cross and watched him with her blue eyes.

"Come on." He said. "Let's go back."

A moment longer and he was apt to make a fool of himself. Apt to rush in and kiss her, taste her lips against his, and feel the softness of her body stretch its way across his rugged front. Foolish dreams. A boy's fantasy. It haunted him with his inability to shake it and the incessant persistence of its image. Instead, he reached for her, closed his strong hands on the rounded curve of her trim hips and lifted her from the counter as though she were a child. Weightless.

Protected.

And for a moment she was left there, standing close. The space between them filled with heat and longing, cavernous and precarious all at once. For a moment her breasts heaved in that strappy tank, his heart pounded, and beneath his fingers was the softest and most girlish set of hips he had ever known. For a moment it was heaven. For a moment it was perfect.

And then Owen Shepard let her go and turned, gave her his back, sucked in a deep breath and fought thorugh the unyielding power of his erection on his way out of his home and towards the truck waiting in the yard.
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Old 10-05-2011, 01:57 PM   #20
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"Come on." Owen had said, and Sarah raised a brow. "Let's go back."

But what if Sarah didn't want to go back? Maybe she wanted to stay perched up on that counter-top of his, looking back at him from across the room. Even if each passing second frustrated Sarah Whitman to no end.

While that long-legged blonde was not vain, by any means, she knew when men were attracted to her. And more importantly, she knew of Owen's attraction toward her. Some men showed it by finding reasons to touch her, or get close to her. But Owen usually only touched her with his eyes. She saw the way he looked her, with his eyes always taking in whichever part of her body that stood out at a particular moment. And she'd see the way just one of her simple smiles could calm him, or bring light onto his face. And when she got him to actually laugh loudly...well, that was the real game winner.

And yet, despite his attraction, and her young body screaming touch me as she sat on that kitchen counter, he wanted to go.

Sarah's lips formed a frustrated little pout, and during the moment that she had pushed her glass aside so she could hop down, Owen had moved in front of her and grabbed her hips. She gasped, then laughed as he easily lifted her from the counter and set her feet carefully back down on the ground again. His strength had surprised her, and she'd be lying if she said that it didn't turn her on.

The second she was on her feet in his kitchen, Sarah looked up at him with a smile, and a breathy little laugh as his hands stayed on her in that moment. Maybe it was only a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity as she tilted her head back to meet his gaze. She could feel the warmth and strength of his body pressed just lightly against her own, and for a second, she thought this would be the moment he'd kiss her. Finally. Just get it over with. Sarah's heart raced with anticipation, and her lips parted to exhale softly.

But just like every other time, Owen pulled away and shut her out.

Sarah wanted to scream at him, and ask him what the fuck was wrong with him. What the hell made Katie Shelly so special that he could kiss her under that tree, but each time he got close enough to Sarah, he pushed her away? God, this is why she was warned that a guy and a girl couldn't be friends when they were so attracted to each other. But perhaps he needed a girl that was more...aggressive. If she wanted to kiss him, she should just take it and claim that wonderful mouth of his.

"Hey," Sarah called out and reached for his hand. But with his long arm, her fingers closed around his wrist instead. With a little tug, she pulled him back to her to keep him from leaving. Her breath caught in her throat a little as that blonde head tilted back once more to look up at him quietly. She knew that he was waiting for her to stay something. To do something. But once she had him in front of her again, her hand still holding on to his arm, Sarah's nerves got the best of her.

Damn it, perhaps she was a coward, too. But the last thing she needed was to cross a line and completely get shut out forever.

"Nevermind, you're right. We should go." Sarah nodded, her chest tightening a little. She didn't agree with the words that were coming out of her mouth, but she let go of his wrist anyway and brushed passed him toward his front door. Air, she definitely needed air. When she finally made it outside, she took in a deep, frustrated breath as she walked over to his truck.

The drive back to town was a quiet one, and Sarah idly waved her arm out the open window beside her as she rested her pretty blonde head back against the headrest. In hardly much time at all, she was starting to feel better, even more calm on that drive. When she rolled her head to the side to look back at Owen, she smiled to find his eyes concentrated on the road in front of them.

Sarah Whitman smiled because she had a secret; before this night was over, she was going to kiss Owen Shepard.


----------------------------------------------------------------------


Brooke Bailey had only turned 16 years old three months ago, when she finally got her driver's license. Her mom, Sharon Bailey, was the school principal at Royal Oaks High, and assumed her little girl was out with friends enjoying the Fourth of July festivities in town. Well, she may have been right on one account; Brooke was definitely with her friends.

Driving about 50 mph, Brooke sped down a side road that would lead her, her best friend Jamie, and two other guys from school, out of Royal Oaks. There was a concert about 15 miles south of town, in Detroit, and those four teenagers had been planning their escape for months. With so much going on in town and their parents involved in so many events, those mischievous teenagers knew that slipping away would be easy. And it had been, as that 1999 Honda Accord sped passed the numerous housing developments, and now just had to make it through the many miles and acres of farm land that separated Royal Oaks from its neighboring city.

Music from some punk-rock band blared through the speakers as all four windows were manually rolled down. The two boys in the backseat were smoking something that Brooke recognized not to be tobacco, and she quickly turned the music down so she could scold them.

"Shit! Will you guys put that out? You know how my mom is! She's like a Bloodhound, and I swear to god, if--"

"Brooke, watch out!" Jamie screamed from the passenger seat, her arms pressed to the dash instinctively.

But Brooke was too late.

Even as that curly-haired redhead slammed her food on the brake, the front end of her car violently hit the pedestrian that had came out from the side of the road out of no where. As soon as the car made contact with the body, they all watched in horror as it rolled over the windshield, bounced on top of the car, and fell off the other end. The car spun three times until Brooke had it back under control and it came to a harsh stop. The guys in the back groaned from being bumped around due to not wearing seatbelts, and Jamie beside her sounded as if she was having an asthma attack; her panted, panic-like breathing was far from normal.

"Where the hell did he come from? Is everyone okay? She asked, looking back at the guys since they seemed to be the most affected by the impact. The guys just nodded, but it was Jamie who was wide-eyed, looking ahead of them in the road where the body of an old man lied. The body was still for a moment, and they had all thought the worst until an arm moved. Then his head.

"Oh my god, he's alive." Brooke exhaled a breath that she didn't know she'd been holding, and she quickly unbuckled her seat belt and ran toward the victim that she had accidentally ran over. Almost immediately, she could smell burnt rubber, and...and other smell that she couldn't quite point out. All she knew was that it was a foul stench, and it made her sick to her stomach.

"Someone call 911, will you?" Brooke shouted out to her friends, and she hunched over the body twitching there on the ground. Just as she turned her head to look over at her friends in the car, she gasped in surprise as a bloodied woman came out from the side of the road, out of no where, and charged at the car. With one of the guys in the back searching frantically for their phone, the woman practically dove into that backseat head-first, wailing loudly. Emma Samson clawed and kicked her legs that hung out of the window, until finally her teeth found what she was searching for; flesh.

Brooke watched in horror as her high school crush was bitten and attacked, and she just stood up straighter to run to her friend's defense when that body on the ground came to life again and grabbed her, tripping her. Brooke's body fell to the pavement hard, and her hands came out to protect her fall. Her wrist snapped back, and the young teenager screamed, crying out in pain before old man Chuck was pulling her harshly toward him. Just enough so that he could get a good bite out of her calf, through her jeans. That red-head's nails scratched and tried to dig in to the cement beneath her, but her nails cracked and bled, and there wasn't much she could do to crawl away. She kicked her legs furiously as that old man wailed out a sound so horrifying, that it was almost inhumane. It was then that Brooke looked down to see that blood poured from his lips as he gurgled each sound, and she cried out again when that bloodied mouth dug in to her leg again and held on to her body so tightly, forcing her where she was.

Blood-curdling screams filled that old Honda, in the backseat as Brooke's friends were literally feasted on. Jamie's screams were the loudest, and most disturbing as she watched it all happen in front of her eyes from the passenger seat. She had no weapons to defend herself or her friends there in the back seat of the Honda, but the only thing her body told her to do was run.

So, Jamie Sparrows, captain of the Royal Oak's volleyball team, rushed out of the car and took off in a sprint down that long, paved road. Cowardly, she didn't help her friends in the car, and she certainly didn't want to risk helping her best friend that was squirming violently on the pavement. She only did what her brain told her to do; run, and find help. So, that's exactly what those legs did as they carried her down the road to take her back into town.

While all three of her high school friends chased after her.

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Old 10-14-2011, 01:35 AM   #21
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Around the time that Owen's truck was rolling steadily towards town, John Grismond was stepping into the contained laboratory deep in the bowels of CDC Atlanta. At the heart of the world's fight against deadly contagions, Atlanta was one of three Level 4 Biohazard Containment Labs in all of North America and one of two in the world to house the Small Pox virus. Doctor Grismond, as he was called, wore on his resumé many unique qualifications regarding the many bugs and bacteria of the world to which man could quantify as lethal. The most important of these, however, was the nearly thirty years of experience he had with Level 4 Containment.

Beneath his pressure suit, which was a small marvel to behold, he was bound in three layers of sealed protective laboratory equipment. His hands, the most vulnerable to exposure, were bound in layers upon layers of gloves that had been rinsed with sterilization fluid. The last of these, puncture resistant and tough, were hard on most to get used to. They were clumsy at times and unwieldy always but to John, over time, they'd become as natural to work in as his own skin.

His pressure suit was Robin's Egg blue, shiny, and filled with oxygen pumped from the hose that attached to it. The steady hiss of air as it moved through the suit contributed, often, to fits of claustrophobia and panic. Doctors, even the very best in the world, often broke down in the course of working within the confines of Level 4 Containment. The pressure of certain death, the knowledge of how it could come and how little a man could do to stop it, was a hard thing to triumph.

John had faced Ebola Zaire and Marburg's. He'd handed Swine Flu and SARS. The latter killed about one in twenty that they contacted. The former, particularly Zaire, would kill 19 of 20. They had, in the course of thirty years, continued to scare him.

He'd never seen anything like this.

And it terrified him out of his mind.

The three subjects, once living and relatively healthy human beings, were dead. They had all been bitten on the hand by an infected subject, brought to the CDC where they had volunteered themselves as specimens. John had watched, both through his own eyes and the equipment that made up a great part of his life as a scientist, as the unknown contagion travelled into their brains and killed them. And then, defying nature and everything they understood of it, brought them back.

It had been sixteen weeks since they had turned over through death. That was, in the laboratory, what they had taken to calling it. "Turning Over" had taken all three less than six hours from their bites. Attempts to grow the contagion in non-human cultures had failed. Attempts to grow the contagion in living human cells had succeeded when brain tissue had been used. However, the contagion had grown too quickly and destroyed the tissue. They had tried everything in those sixteen weeks and made no progress, found no cure, found no treatment.

Save one.

The subjects were all men in their mid-twenties. Healthy, at one point, and happy. They had been infected when a fraternity brother had come home ill, went to bed, and woke up with an appetite for human flesh. He'd killed two in the house before the boys attacked him, trying to get him off another companion. He'd bitten them all in the hand as they'd attempted to pull him away. They had, save for the trace amounts of cocaine and marijuana in their system, been in peak physical condition.

He shot them all. One, after another, in the head. The nine-millimeter automatic bucked each time, spit an empty cartridge to the sterile floor, and silenced their inhuman snarls. John found no comfort in doing so. He felt no certainty that they would not wake again. Perhaps, he thought, they would wake and be much worse. True ghouls. Perhaps, just perhaps, death and its comforting quiet was gone forever. The world would become a place of monsters, ravenous and unrelenting, of which there was no cure or solution. He decided that God was real and that Science had been a bad joke upon the world. He decided that Hell was real and he would most likely end up there. And this, this nightmare, was purgatory. In the clean room, he prayed.

And then John turned the pistol on himself and pulled the trigger, shooting straight through the plastic visor of his suit. The last thing he saw was a flash of fire before the bullet plowed into his head under his left eye and everything was black.

He'd time to think that there would be a great deal of that fire in hell.

------------------------------------------------------------


Main Street was almost entirely full of people by the time they returned, packed from one side to the other with hordes of tourists while the townspeople waited in their tents and stands and along the sidewalks. Owen had soured some as they passed the long line of parked cars leading into town; they took every inch of space. He was forced to pull the truck into the narrow ally between his building and the one behind it. He was the first to step from the truck and he realized, almost too quickly, that he would miss the soft scissor of Sarah's legs as they carried her from the pick-ups cab.

His mind did not let him rest. It churned visions of her, young and willing, upon his counter. The image of her gripping its edge with tiny, white knuckles while her legs twined high around his waist was a haunting one that would not let him be. His prick ached, ferociously, and the friction of it being trapped inside his jeans a frustrating torment to which their was no immediate relief.

They moved boxes and she spoke of college. He nodded, made faint acknowledgments, and found himself cursing his inability to turn her away. The noise of the people outside a droning, frustrating hum that could not take his attention entirely away. It distracted him, wore him down, until he couldn't contain his thoughts and they escaped him to visions of her gripping that counter. Bent over. Her little shorts at her knees and her cheek against the granite, crying out. His hips slamming into her perfect backside. A young girl being taken by a dark, quiet, ruin of a man.

"Don't you want to spend time with the girls?" He asked. Barely, just barely, hiding the petulant frustration in his voice.

She drove him beyond his usual control. Left him, unapologetically, bereft of suitable action. He could not escape her now. He would not take her. The result was this wavering, uncomfortable place that he could not find relief. The girls he spoke of had been her friends from High School. He did not know their names. He knew, however, they were out amidst the crowd sampling wines and getting ready for lunch. They were flirting with boys, talking about boys, and school, and shopping, and the many mysterious things to which men did not find themselves concerned.

He knew she would not go. She knew it, too.

But his cock was a length of hard steel in his pants, hot and merciless. The shape of it outlined clearly in worn denim, proud against the corded muscles of his thighs. Sooner, or later, she'd see it. And she'd know, without question, that it was the many little details of her that had inspired it. The many filthy thoughts in his mind to which he could not escape. And then, Owen worried, she would say something that would be enough for his guard to drop.

Something that'd turn his mind off just long enough for him to take her to the floor and fuck her, right there.

This was a nightmare.
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Old 10-18-2011, 07:13 PM   #22
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While the drive back into town may have been in silence as the two of them collected their thoughts before they both went mad, Sarah realized she couldn't take it much longer. It wasn't so much the silence that bothered her, but the noise going on inside that pretty blonde head of hers. So, to keep her mind busy and focused on something else besides the curve of Owen's lips, or his large hands that gripped the steering wheel, she went right back into talking once they were out of the truck and began unloading the boxes in the back.

College was the only topic that came to mind since that's where she had recently gotten back from, and it wasn't like she could include him in on any town gossip, since she hadn't been around to hear any of it. She told him stories about the college sports games, the frat parties and the pranks, and about her classes. And even while she could feel his eyes on her whenever she walked in front of him, or bent over the bed of the truck to reach in for a box, she knew he wasn't interested even a little in what she was saying. But it didn't matter. She was going to continue on anyway, until he interrupted her with tone of frustration in his voice.

"Don't you want to spend time with the girls?"

A smart person would take that as a sign that they were unwanted, but Sarah had learned long ago the difference in Owen when he was annoyed with her, or annoyed with something else. There was something else on his mind and he wanted to be left alone, she knew. But she wouldn't give it to him. He'd been alone for the weeks it had taken him to finally call her, that had been enough.

With her own frustrated sigh, Sarah dropped the box roughly down on the ground, and she turned to face him while her hands made their way up to her hips. She thought about walking right out of there to join her friends while he stayed back. Making him regret he ever said anything, or possibly even making him jealous while she flirted with the other boys in town. But they both knew she didn't want to leave. Besides, that all seemed a bit too dramatic for her taste, even if she didn't know if any of that would have made him jealous.

"Do you think if I wanted to hang out with the girls I wouldn't already be over there now, instead of loadin' up boxes on a holiday where I should be drinking?" In simpler terms, her answer was no. "Besides, I kinda want to see how this turns out. I have a bet goin' on my head, trying to figure out if you're going to be staring at my ass all day, or if that's just something you do when we're alone."

Sarah had called him out, and it satisfied her to no end to see him look away. Busted. She was flattered, more than ever. It wasn't like she hadn't felt a man's eyes on her body before, she'd had much more than that on it. But the fact that it was Owen, her good friend who often drove her mad, well...it made her smile as she looked back at him.

"You don't have to tell me now, I've got all night to find out." She shrugged, stepping closer to him. She let him know that she was aware of his attraction to her in hopes that he would try to stop hiding it. Although, she wasn't really one to talk in that case.

Sarah thought that she had done a good job hiding her own attraction to her friend. With Owen, it had started out as curiosity. He had been married before, and that was intimidating to her. Hell, it still was. While she may have been a great catch to anyone, even the thought of a serious relationship had her running toward the door. But, Owen just made it easy to be friends with him, while other people found it impossible. He was quiet, even if he sometimes spoke his mind at the worst times, and more importantly, he didn't hit on her every five seconds. Be around him was refreshing, and it still was...and there was never any pressure of it getting too carried away. They never let each other close enough to get to that point.

But somehow, she can't even remember when, where, or how things started to turn. Things became different when she began to later question why he didn't hit on her every five seconds. What about her wasn't good enough that was keeping him from thinking about her that way? Well, Sarah knew better now than to question anything Owen did. Answers didn't come easy with him, so why bother? She later began to notice his attraction to her, and that's when she realized that she, too, was in to him. Whatever level of their friendship that they were on...it wasn't enough. Not until she knew for sure what it could be like if things were different. If he'd put his guard down, rather than keep her behind that last wall after the few she had already kicked down.
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Old 10-24-2011, 10:22 PM   #23
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She stepped closer and all at once it was as though the room's temperature ratcheted up, blistering from one degree to the next, until the space between them was filled with the hot tension of want. For all his many faults, Owen's control had never been amongst them. In times of need it had never served to let him down or come near failing him. The nearest he had been to yielding to impulse had came with his ex-wife, Emma, when she'd sauntered up to him in the midst of one of his many drunken binges at the time and given him the softest smile her face could manage. It'd been enough to break his heart and not enough to break his resolve.

This was harder.

Here, in the empty stretch of the store, they were flanked by stocked shelves and tired counters. The light from the day filtered through the shaded windows and stretched itself along the hardwood floors. She was so close. Soft skin. A lean body. Gentle curves. The collection of all things feminine and harbinger of his collective failure as a man; loomed just beyond his grasp. He could have touched her. Reached out. In a moment his strong fingers could have closed on the arch of her rounded hip, sunk into the denim of her shorts, and pulled her into him. It'd been so long. In his mind it played out like some movie. She, swept up in his strength, yielding to him. Her chin tilted upward, her eyes on his, watching as he descended to claim her mouth.

But instead he remained. Watching her. Feeling the dryness of his mouth as she called on him for what he'd thought been discreet glances when she'd moved nearby. It was one of his many faults. His intentions, not always dictated by his eyes, followed through only after his desires had been known. Infuriating, his ex-wife had said, to know that he'd meant so well after doing so poorly. The answer abandoned him. Words, fickle as they were, slipped through his fingers like grains of sand until he was left bereft and empty their company. In a moment longer he'd be exposed as exactly what she said. A hypocrite. A man who saw the most beautiful girl he'd ever known and wanted for her without the means to take, or give, what was deserved.

The agony of the moment drew on, one minute to the next.

And then God, the Devil, or the cruel twist of fate and circumstance intervened. Deborah Messins, a mother of three whose family had deep roots in town, ran past the door with a terrified shriek.

It was enough, just enough, to rip his eyes from the gorgeous blue of her own and the way her elegant features (accusatory scowl and all) were framed in the blond eof her hair. He watched her, transfixed, as she ran past the big glass window of the storefront and down the street. Her arms were above her head, waving, frantic. And then, after her, came Don. Her husband. He charged on, blood-covered, in the middle of the day with a mindless certainty.

Just beyond the window he must have caught her, beyond where Owen could see, because Don's voice gave an inhuman growl of rage and Deborah shrieked again, in pure terror, screaming "No NO NO NO NO!" over and over amidst the sound of a struggle.

He should have went to the door and out to help her. He should have charged into the fray and saved his neighbor. But, instead, the phone rang. The aging rattle of the hardline enough to nearly make him jump and serving to snap his attention from the scene. He gestured, unable to help himself, from Sarah to the phone.

And once moving kept his momentum by moving through the front door and onto the street; intending to help Deborah survive her husband's attack. Expecting Don to be drunk, as he had been known, and to have finally lost his discretion and seen to hitting her now.

The lunacy of it all lurked in the back of his mind. Improbable. Gnawing.

And still he moved. Despite his instinct - not because Deborah was in trouble but because it was an escape from Sarah's words and the acknowledgment that despite his best efforts she knew how badly he had come to want her.
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Old 10-26-2011, 12:41 AM   #24
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There had always been a line drawn out between Sarah and Owen, and when Sarah had taken that step toward that stubborn man, she'd crossed it. Both literally and metaphorically. And she dared to go even further over that line when she took her second step. Oh, no. There was no turning back now. Here she was, standing right the in front of him, her bright blue eyes burning into his own as she demanded some sort of response from Owen Shepard. And damn it all, she was going to get one.

Owen was staring back at her, and just a look from him was making her heart beat faster than ever in her chest. She worried he could hear it pounding so loudly, but her face stayed strong and determined. Standing so close to him, she could feel just the faintest touch of his hot breath brushing over her bare shoulder and Sarah tried her damn hardest not to notice the goosebumps that filled her arms in response to that. She wasn't cold, she was burning up. And the silent tension was only burning her hotter as they continued that emotional dance.

Sarah stood there, watching his eyes as she recognized what she thought to be the look of want in his eyes. He wanted her. And she could only imagine that his hands ached to touch her just as badly as she wanted to reach out to him.

But those strong, calloused hands never stretched toward her to take what he knew she wouldn't deny. His thick lips didn't even open to speak a word. Not even a sound.

Just when Sarah thought nothing could tear her gaze away from that man, the sound of a scream so horrifying made the couple both turn their heads in sync to watch Deborah Messins run by with her husband in tow. It wasn't the sight of them, but the tone in that scream that had caused Sarah to almost forget her purpose in standing in front of Owen. That scream. That loud, piercing cry...it still echoed in Sarah's ears, and it didn't stop.

When the phone rang, Sarah whipped her blonde head back around to Owen. Her blue eyes glared, daring him to answer the phone and walk away from her. But instead, he dared to motion that she pick up the phone. Well, she was an employee now, wasn't she?

"Wh--" She started, and her mouth literally hung open as Owen brushed passed her and headed to the door.

Whipping her ponytail around her head, that frustrated girl stormed over to the phone to shut it the hell up. Of course, if Deborah hadn't interrupted their stare down, that stupid phone would have. So, yes. She was taking her anger out on that.

"Uh, oh, hello?" Sarah spoke into the phone. She stammered her words a little since she hadn't exactly thought about how she was supposed to answer that phone. It was a fucking holiday! Who the hell was calling, anyway?

There was no answer on the other end. Over the noise and commotion going on outside, all Sarah could make out was someone shouting in the background and what sounded like glass shattering.

"Hello?" She shouted louder with a raised brow, and it took her another moment to realize what was being shouted. It was her name.

"Mom!" Sarah exclaimed, clenching the dirty phone tightly as she recognized the voice, but not the tone. Or maybe she did. It was the same terrifying tone that Deborah had. "Mom!" She repeated over and over, even after the call had disconnected. "Shit, shit! Mom!"

Worry covered Sarah's pretty face, and she dropped the phone so both of her hands could frantically pat over her ass, then the front pockets of her jeans. Where the hell was her cell phone? Nausea came over Sarah as she just had that feeling in her gut that she knew something was terribly, terribly wrong. Had their been an accident? Was that what Deborah was running away from?

Leaving the phone off the hook, Sarah rushed out of the store to find Owen. He'd know what to do. He may not have known how to talk to a woman, or many people for that matter. But he was always strong and collected, and the only person she could turn to right now until she figured out what the hell was going on.

As soon as Sarah stepped out of the store, the glass door shutting behind her, her arm was grabbed roughly. She gasped in surprise, then recognized the face of a family friend that her mom had grown up with; Mary Cowell. The nausea didn't disappear when Sarah looked down to see bloodied fingers grasping on to her arm, pulling at her. And Sarah gasped again when she saw the blood all over the Mary's clothes, soaked in the red fluid.

"Sarah! Th--they're dead! We need to go, we need to go." The woman panted, and Sarah pulled her arm away roughly.

"Mary? Who's dead, my mom?" She choked, shaking her head furiously. "Where is she?" Sarah gasped for air, unable to find the oxygen in her lungs as she panicked. But she was being grabbed at, pulled again and forced to follow this woman to an unknown destination for an unknown reason. And then Mary's husband ran right up to her side, and grabbed Sarah's other arm. "Who's blood is that? Wait! What the fuck is going on?" Sarah spat out, jerking away and trying to squirm her body free until she got some fucking answers.

Sarah's head twisted, looking behind her until she recognized Owen still in the street, kneeling over something. Someone. With wide eyes, she shouted his name. He didn't hear her. She screamed it the second time before she was pulled out of sight around the corner.
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Old 10-26-2011, 02:03 AM   #25
Light Ice
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"Get off her, Don!" He warned.

The man didn't acknowledge him and Owen closed the distance, suddenly running, churning his legs to close the distance between them. In the back of his mind came the vague awareness of the scene. Men, and women, running in all directions. The crowd not entirely dispersed. Many standing around, calling out, some with cameras and phones recording as small bloodied pockets of people scattered through the alleyways and down the street. A riot, maybe. Some nightmare. The thoughts sparked in the back of Owen's mind and provoked the innate certainty of instinctual fear to swell in his belly.

But he only, truly, understood Don was atop his wife. Pinning her to the ground. And she was shrieking, kicking, begging.

Owen was only a few steps from them when Don bent his head down. On any other day it'd have been natural to believe he was kissing her neckline. Deborah was not a small woman but she was pretty and Don had loved her. It was the drink that had made him violent. Turned him ugly. It brought out the anger and insecurities lurking within him. Owen had never pitied him but he -had- understood him. Only now, in the moment, Owen knew immediately somehow that Don was going to bite her. As unbelievable as it seemed, he knew it.

But Don didn't just bite her. He ripped out her throat. He trapped the soft column of her neck in his teeth and jerked his head away like a pitbull would, snarling, as for a moment her flesh turned elastic and stretched before tearing away in ribbons of skin and veins and meat. Blood geysered into the air, six feet worth of arterial spray that soaked Don and the concrete around them. She would bleed out. The wound was fatal. But Don turned to go back to her, to bite her again.

Owen didn't hit him so much as rode him into the ground. His large hand cupped the back of Don's head, cradled his brown hair, and all at once he fell forward and drove his arm out to break his fall with the man's face. The crunch was savage. Sudden. He felt the man's nose shatter against the concrete, Don's body give one hard, sudden twitch before going still.

But he paid him no mind. His hands immediately tore the flannel of his button-down shirt free, leaving him in the simple white cotton T-shirt beneath, and he balled it up and pressed it to Deborah's throat. Her face was deathly pale, filled with terror, green eyes looking to him as her big arms waved at his sides and her pudgy hands pawed at his arms.

"D-d-dead." She stuttered.

And as Owen had done in the war, over and over, he answered her with a familiar lie. His eyes bold and certain on her own.

"No, you'll be fine, Deb. I just have to keep pressure to it."

She tried to shake her head. She was weak, his hands strong, and he wouldn't let her.

"N-no. D-Don. D-dead." She said. Her eyes intent on his own.

Guilt struck him. Sudden, and certain. He shook his head, unable to meet her eyes, and looked to the man laying beside her.

"I didn't kill him."

But as he looked at Don, laying upon the concrete, he suddenly knew otherwise. Unmoving, Don was on his face upon the concrete. His head wreathed in a spreading cloud of blood. From here, beside him, Owen could see that the entirety of Don's face had been crushed into the sidewalk. His skull broken. Panic struck him. Grief. Of course he was dead. He weighed what? Two-twenty? Two-fifteen? He'd kept his body in tremendous shape since the war, he was strong, and he'd drove Don's face into the sidewalk as hard as he could with the momentum of a dead sprint behind him.

Somehow, he forced himself to look at Deborah. Ready to apologize. Ready to break down and tell her that he'd killed her husband and that he was sorry, so sorry, and he'd go to jail for it. But Deborah was gone. Her eyes vacant, staring through him, and the chalk-white of her eyes sudden and certain.

Owen felt for a pulse and didn't find one.

Falling back into a seat at Deborah's feet, Owen attempted to forge his mind to a cohesive thought. A moment ago he had been troubled by Sarah, seductive and certain, drawing so close. Close enough that he could have had her. But he'd run. Run away. Had he stayed, had he reached out to grab her - had he kissed her? He'd never have killed Don.

"OWEN! OWEN! OWEN!!!!"

The voice broke sudden, shook him from his thoughts. Shrill, shrieking, it was still absolutely hers. Sarah. Around him, the world was slowly descending into madness. What had only a few moments ago been pockets of chaos was slowly stretching into clouds, rambling on.

Her shriek saved his life. It got him up, to his feet, just as Deborah woke up. Came back. Her eyes pale, undead gray. Her mouth opening, closing, and then unleashing a savage cry of feral rage and hunger. She struck him in the back before he managed to turn, nearly drove him to the ground. But Owen turned, on instinct, and twisted away in time to avoid the snapping of her teeth.

There was no reason she should have been up. No reason she should be snarling and snapping at him. But she was. And Owen, veteran of several conflicts, was more scared than he'd ever been in his life. It defied everything he knew. It tore at him until his instincts sharpened and he was moving, running from her, nearly running past the alleyway until Sarah's voice lifted again.

Concrete pounded beneath his sneakers, his jeans worn enough to keep from restricting him. His adrenaline coursed through his veins as he realized, from the sounds behind him, that Deborah chasing him. Still, somehow, it didn't matter. Somehow all he knew was that Sarah was calling for him. Screaming.

Up ahead Mary and Steve Cowell were dragging her through the alleyway.

Owen reached them, reached Sarah, and all at once broke their grip on the girl that he'd abandoned in the store and whirled on him. They both screamed. Steve immediately put himself infront of his wife, hands up. It was then that Owen realized he was holding his police pistol and bringing the barrel up towards him.

For the second time Owen hit one of his neighbors. His fist struck Steve, a local deputy, square in the chin and at a full run knocked him clean on his ass. The pistol fell, skittered on the ground, and Mary Cowell began to sob.

"What are you two doing?!" His voice ripped from him in a low, rumbling roar.

He reached for Sarah, caught up in the moment, unable to help himself and unwilling to think twice about it as relief surged through him and his arm curled about her lissome waist. All at once he pulled her into his side, embraced her in the shelter of his rugged frame with his body between her and her would-be abductors. It felt good to have her, felt good to know she was safe. That, for the moment, was his only dominating thought.

But despite it all, Mary's eyes cleared the moment he shouted at her. And Steve, dazed but away, looked at him with what appeared to be relief.
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