I was still in bed when Barry came calling the next morning. "Hold onto your britches," I grumbled as I went to the door, pulling a robe around my bedclothes.
"You gonna sleep all day?" he grinned, leaning against the doorjamb and looking me over. "You got that sleepy tousled look. I like it," he added.
"It's too early for small talk, Mr. Adams, I mean Barry," I quickly amended, the soreness that lingered on my backside a quick reminder. "Come in if you have to. I'll get dressed," I said as I turned my back on him ...and suddenly found myself wrapped in his arms, his mouth on the back of my neck.
"Barry!" I squealed. "You... you're awfully forward. We hardly know each other and you're..."
"Kissin you, Hope. Been thinkin about kissin you all night. Couldn't bear to wait another second. Had to come see you and kiss you again. Sweet," he murmured, turning me in his arms as his mouth found mine and I lost all common sense, his body warm against mine.
My hunger grew - his kisses and his arms sweeping me off my feet. I couldn't have stopped him if I tried. I wanted him like I wanted nothing else in this world and he knew it. He found my bed and lowered me to it, his body heavy on me, a welcome heat growing between us. At the last moment when we were overheated with desire and our union seemed inevitable, he stopped and gave me such a serious look I thought he'd changed his mind.
"I don't know what it is about you, Hope, but I want you to know that I want more than this. I want you for as long as we've got. And if lovin you like this turns you inside out and you feel a need to push me away, I'll respect your decision."
"I know I want you, Barry Adams," I heard myself say. "But I won't let you treat me like dirt."
"Like dirt?" he blinked and sat up, pulling me onto his lap. "Like dirt? Why in Jesus' name would you think I'd treat you like dirt? I told you I want you to be my woman. Maybe Yankees don't know how to treat their women but hear me on this, Hope. You listenin?"
I nodded, looked into his eyes and wondered how my universe had suddenly tilted. Yesterday, I led a simple life - free from the university and on my way to a summer of leisure. This morning, I was half-clothed, sitting on the lap of a man I had known less than 24 hours and he was about to lecture me. Life can be so odd, sometimes, you're never quite sure if you're coming or going and frankly, sometimes, you just don't care.
"You can know folks all your life," Barry said, warming to the subject. "And if you ask them, they think they know you inside and out, but the truth is they only know what you show them. They don't know the you that's inside a body's mind. They don't know what you're thinkin and they make guesses they think is what's right about you. That's okay; the world only needs to know what you want them to know; the rest belongs to you."
He paused and took a moment to rub his knuckles on my cheek, his thumb passing over my lips and he smiled at me the way he had smiled just before he kissed me - like I was something special. At that very moment, I felt like something special and it was a good feeling.
"Then there's folks you meet along the way," he continued, still holding me. "And you know them less than an hour and it's like you've known them all your life. Words come easy between you and you're comfortable with them around. And then there's that once in a lifetime kind of happening. You know what I mean?" he asked.
"Tell me," I whispered, hoping against hope that this wasn't some kind of line Southern men used to justify getting a woman into their bed - a woman they didn't really know.
"Do you believe in fate, Hope?" He didn't wait for me to answer. "I saw you drive up yesterday and I got that funny feeling you get when you know you're standing straight up but feel like you've been standing on your head and you're just a little dizzy. I pushed the feelin aside and then you started talkin and I started teasin and it was good between us right away. Then last night," he paused to smile. "Last night, I knew I was standing straight up and holdin you close and I kissed you and sugar," his voice lowered to a whisper. "I knew a sweetness I hadn't known before. I'm not gonna make promises that it'll always be this way. I just know this much. I think you're the little gal that can make me swear off every other woman on the face of the earth and if you want to meet me half-way, well... I'd consider you to be the best thing that's ever happened in my life."
"Does this mean you want to make love to me?" I asked bluntly, hearing the words pop out of my mouth and feeling my face go red.
"Hell yes! I want you, sugar," he laughed. "But I'll wait a while if that would make you more comfortable with me. What do you think? You want to wait a bit? Please don't make me wait too long," he groaned, the thought obviously painful since he frowned when he said it.
I made a serious mistake.
"Oh, you think this is funny, do you?" he asked. "Let's see if it's still funny after I warm your butt."
"Don't you dare spank me again, Barry Adams!" I yelled and tried to get off his lap but he held on to me and in no time I was across his knees, my robe pushed out of the way and he was smacking my buttocks so hard I thought his hand would go straight through my flesh.
I screamed and then I screamed obscenities - "Filthy dirty skunk, lowlife scum, bastard! He laughed and stopped spanking and pulled me up close to his chest and held me while he continued to laugh at the epithets I had thrown his way.
"My ma and pa were married when I came along," he assured me and I got three sisters that came first. I may be a lot of things but bastard isn't one of them. And what did I tell you about cussing, sugar?"
"You..." I sputtered.
"I'd say that little paddling took care of the cussing. Now, I'm gonna spank you for not takin me seriously."
"No!" I cringed at the thought of more... my rear end was still sore from the spanking he delivered the previous night and now this spanking... I burst into tears. I couldn't take any more.
"Hush sweet woman. Don't you go cryin. Let me kiss you and make it all better. Kiss me, Hope," he said when I backed away from him.
"Promise you won't spank me again?"
"I promise not to spank you unless you cuss again or forget how to say my name," he murmured as his mouth captured mine and I was sucked back into his embrace and his Southern charm.
"I didn't say anything about seeing you steady," I told him when I could breathe without gasping, his kisses draining me of oxygen.
"You fixin to see other men?" he asked in a dangerously soft voice.
"No, I mean... I just wanted a quiet summer - no obligations or... I just wanted to be by myself and regroup. I need some time alone."
"A woman alone is not a good thing," he announced as if he were preaching the gospel. "I expect to see you, little lady. You gonna tell me not to come around? Wouldn't do much good if you did," he added, hugging me tight and dropping more of his magic kisses on my mouth.
"So sweet you are, Hope. So very sweet."
"Ya sure ya don't want more of this here pie?" my mother-in-law asked as she started to clear the table. "There be plenty here an I can't be eatin the whole thing m'self. Ya could use a bit of flesh on yore bones, girl. Eat up. It's the Christian thing to do."
One thing I had learned in the four years since I moved to Habersham County was that when somebody wanted you to do something, they always dragged Jesus or Christianity into the conversation. It was their way of insuring your guilt if you didn't want to partake in whatever it was they were trying to convince you to do. I had been raised to respect people's religious faith - whatever that faith was. But in no way, shape or form did I believe that Jesus or any other deity cared about what I did or didn't do in life - and that included eating another piece of my mother-in-law's pie.
"No thanks," I smiled, trying not to clench my teeth. "I need to be getting home."
"Jus hold up there, missy," my mother-in-law spoke up, steel in her voice. "Ya spendin the night here an that's that. Not gonna have ya drivin over creation this late hour - storm's a brewin. God'll strike me dead if'n anything happened to ya. Ya hear me?"
"Do you really care, Mrs. Adams?" I asked softly, finally facing up to her and forcing her to tell me honestly how she felt about me.
"I care," she said, her voice suddenly gone soft, her eyes lowered as she twisted the worn apron in his hands. "Don't mind sayin I was dead set against ya when Barry brung you home. A Yankee woman!" she shook her head. "Thought how he shoulda hitched up with a Southern gal, one of our own. But Barry, he always been one who went his own way. Never could get a lick of sense into that boy's head once it was set."
"Then," she paused and took a deep breath as she slid heavily back into her chair. "Ya never give me nuthin but respect. Ya don't smart mouth like these young gals do with their men folks' mamas. I ain't got no fancy book learnin but ya always treat me like I'm good as you. Most 'portant though," she looked at me and I was shocked to see tears in her eyes. "Ya love my boy an I can tell that love is somethin' fierce."