"I told him, I wanted to make him something, something he'd really like," the blonde-haired woman leaning on her elbows said to her friend beside her. Before the other woman could reply, the blonde continued. "You know what he did?" She didn't even notice the shake of the woman's head, nor the slight eye-roll and the smile she was trying to keep from morphing into a laugh. "He said there was pimento cheese and strawberry cream cheese spread. Store bought I might add. When I stressed I wanted to do something just for him, he shrugged me off."
Silence fell over the table for a few seconds before Anastasia and Marni Blackwell walked up. "Hey, Jen, Pat. What's the matter?" Both women ignored Jennifer's silent plea for her friends not to ask, but to no avail.
"I asked my dad if he wanted a special dish for Christmas, like the cherry cookies mom used to make or Danish pudding or I could make mom's angel biscuits, but he brushed me off."
"How long has it been?"
"She passed away around this time of year?"
"And how long were they married?"
"Almost fifty years." Patty's shoulders slumped. "I guess I'm expecting too much, aren't I?" Patty looked around the table at her friends. She held her breath for a second then asked, "I should back off a little, huh?"
"Honey," the women said in unison. "You're just worried about him."
"I'm not trying to take mom's place or push him too fast, but I... I've lost one parent I'd like to keep my other for a few more years."
"What do your sisters say?"
"Penny lives in Oregon and he refuses to travel that far. We all know the unsaid part, now that mama's gone. And Susan and Bill are overseas since July and will be for another eighteen months, at least. So it's just dad with our family. He feels a little unwanted, no, not needed now that Brittany has her license, driving herself to and from school, and Jeff is in college. Tom has him helping around the ranch, but dad gets aggravated when he has to ask a hand to help him with the heavier jobs." She sighs.
"To change the subject, sorry, girl." Marni patted Patty's hand and continued on. "Have you all seen the new man in town?"
"Forrest? He's been..."
"Nope. This guy rented our cabin last week. He's bought a piece of land on the north end of town and is building."
"He's using my cabin? The cabin I need for my cover shoots?"
"Now Stasia. He's only in town for the weekends..."
"I need that cabin. I can't believe you'd..."
"Oh, pooh." You'll thank me."
"He's perfect for one of your covers..."
Marni patted Anastasia's arm. "Trust me." She leaned into the table, her voice lowered, "He's a hunk and...just our age."
"Shut up," Jennifer blurted out.
"I'd say forty-five maybe fifty."
"What's his name, what's he look like?"
"I'm going to get a hot toddy, any of you want one?"
"Where do you think you're going?" Marni clutched her friend's arm.
"This sounds suspiciously like a set up."
Anastasia laughed. "Thanks for being up front, and, no. I'm not interested."
"I am." Jennifer leaned closer to Marni.
"He's not your type," Marni said sweetly. "But, he's yours, Stasia."
"How do you know..."
"Trust me dear, he's out of your league."
"Marni if this you being a big sister..."
"No. I..." Marni glanced at Jennifer, then at Anastasia standing by the table trying to free herself from Marni's grasp. "He's into kink."
There was a collective gasp. Anastasia felt heat race through her body, collecting in her face. "Ooh, how kinky?" Jennifer asked.
"Very," Marni said, never taking her eyes off her friend. She wondered if the blush filling her fact was one of embarrassment, but immediately dismissed it. They'd all discussed Stasia's bdsm menage romances quite candidly since she'd moved to Landmark.
Marni felt a jerk and noticed Stasia had freed herself from her grasp. "Still not interested, now I hear they've got a nice butterscotch toddy here that's to die for. Can I get you girls something?"
"Sure, I'll come with," Jennifer said, standing. "We'll bring you all back one."
Anastasia hurried toward the bar situated at the end of the tent. She jumped when she felt an arm slip into hers. "Slow down, girl. I know you're running, but there's no need to hide from us. We're you're best friends. We've shared so much."
"I know," Anastasia said. She slowed her pace, looking at Jennifer. "You were so open about the abuse you lived with for years. It helped me to open up about my..."
"Ha. I wouldn't really call it that."
"I would. Those books. If you're half as freaky as you portray your heroines in your menages then you should consider this guy." Jennifer pulled Anastasia toward the bar and ordering four hot butterscotch toddies as Anastasia thought about her friends' words. Could she go back to that lifestyle? It wasn't a matter of not wanting to, but finding the right... it was about trust and the pain and betrayal from her last... the hurt was still fresh.
"Come on. Grab those two and let's get back to the table." Jennifer's words interrupted Anastasia's thoughts. Grateful not to dwell on the pain of the past that had been a huge reason she'd moved to Landmark, she picked up the cups and moved toward the table.
The tent was filling up as the sun was setting. More and more citizens sat at tables. Plates and drinks sat before them from Vendors' Christmas Street food. Mostly barbecue, but also pretzels with cheese dip, smoked sausage links on buns, cakes and pies.
Turning her attention toward the table just a foot away, Anastasia came to a sudden halt. Her heart stuttered to a stop. Doc Blackwell stood behind his wife's chair, but it was the man in the dark suit that she couldn't seem to tear her gaze from.
He was out of place. He might look at home in a boardroom in New York in the Brunico suit and leather Derby shoes, but not Landmark.
Anastasia's mind raced. She could feel his strength, control and dominance rolling off him in waves. His deep voice commanded attention, and it was all she could do to stop from dropping to her knees into position and ask him how she could serve him. God, get a grip. She drug her stare from his back, darting her gaze around the room. There had to be somewhere she could hide.
Spying Tamara and her friends across the way, Anastasia sat the cups of hot liquid on the table beside her and hurried toward the trio, praying her friends wouldn't notice she'd ditched them.
"Tam, dear, I need a favor."
"No, I don't need you to leave, but I do need you t not tell anyone you saw me."
"Just..." Anastasia took a deep breath. ..."I'll be back soon, I need a moment alone."
Anastasia hurried down the boardwalk away from the festivities. She didn't notice the lights glowing brighter as dusk gave way to night. Puffs of mist filled the space in front of her mouth as she panted as she hurried toward Calico Cuts. She wasn't sure what she'd do when she got there, but the time it would take for her to get her gramma and grandpa out of the beauty salon and back to the tent would give Anastasia time to control the emotions firing though her body. Want, not just for the man, thought his body rivaled those of any pro football player; it was want for the life she'd lived with... Anastasia halted. She didn't know what type of Dom he was, or if he was into polyamory.
"Enough, Stasia. You're getting way ahead of yourself." She inhaled deeply. She slowed her steps. She didn't want to be too early picking up her grandparents. They'd both ask what was wrong. But, Stasia also didn't want to dwell on the man she'd run from.
Why the hell had she done that? He didn't know her. Probably was into younger women. Men like him wanted someone smaller and half his age to make him feel young. Yeah, she'd overreacted.
Satisfied, she strolled toward the beauty shop. She'd get her grandparents and then head on back to the tent. Feeling foolish at overreacting. She, Marni, Jen, and Pat would laugh at this after Christmas.
Still, she couldn't help feel a little disappointed that she wouldn't get to know the mystery man moving to Landmark, but, she knew from past experience her type of lifestyle just didn't work, and certainly not in little ol' Landmark, whether it was founded by a Madame or not.