“Shae, you are mine,” he grunted the words as he pumped between the creaminess of my thighs. I don’t know if I will survive this. The pleasure is just too great. I can feel every inch of his thick erection as he takes me hard. Savagely. God, I love this.
“Yes, yours, I’m yours,” I whimpered, clinging to him as he released my mouth from his kiss.
With the one-word command, he pulled from my aching center, leaving me bereft. I turned my back to him as he directed, bending, pushing my ass against him, begging for more.
“Please, please,” I plead as he thrusts hard into me once more, his hands coming up to cup my breasts and milk my nipples. With every move he makes, my breasts jiggle in his hands. “Good, so good,” I mewl as he sucks on my neck.
“Come for me, Shae. I want to hear you.”
I shudder in his arms as he slides one hand down to my mound, his thick fingers finding my clit. When he begins to rub me in circles, I shatter. Moaning. Whimpering. Keening with bliss. My body is not my own. I am his.
“Hey, watch out, clumsy! You kicked sand in my face!”
Shae blinked, catching onto Cathy’s arm to keep from falling on top of the annoyed guy who was glaring at her with undisguised disdain.
“Sorry, I was…thinking of something else.”
“Maybe you should spend more time at curves and less time stomping around like a water buffalo. You’re a hazard!”
Shae stared at the angry man who was reclined on the sand with a six-pack of beer at his side. “I apologize, I didn’t see you.”
“Come on, Shae.” Cathy pulled her to one side and they continued their walk down the beach. “Daydreaming again? We’re supposed to be watching these kids, you know.” She pointed at the half dozen teenagers who frolicked in the nearby waves.
“I know. Sorry. I’ve been a little out of it lately.”
“You do too much. You need to take a vacation. How’s this?” She spread out an LSU Tigers beach blanket near the water’s edge. “I think we can see them all from here.”
“Perfect. And this is my vacation.” Shae laid out her own striped beach towel, glancing over her shoulder at the nice-looking guy who’d given her a hard time. “What did he mean when he said I need to spend more time at curves? I think I’m curvy enough.” She glanced down at her too rounded body, safely ensconced in a modest, black bathing suit with an attached skirt.
Cathy laughed, shaking her head. “I think he agrees with you. Curves is the name of a gym. He was saying you need to work out more.”
“Oh. Figures.” She plopped down on the towel and pulled a filmy cover-up from her bag, slipping the garment on quickly.
“Oh, don’t let that ignoramus get to you. What does he know?” Cathy murmured as she began to rub sunscreen on her arms.
“He has eyes, I guess.” Shae tucked her legs beneath her. She wouldn’t need much sunscreen, she didn’t intend to show much skin.
Trying to put the stranger’s insult out of her mind, Shae focused on the teens playing in the surf. “Cricket seems to be having the time of her life.” She smiled as the girl held up a seashell to show one of her friends. “I’m glad her mother let her come with us. With her dad in prison, I know their family has been having difficulty making ends meet.”
“I saw Cricket working at the Dairy Queen a few days ago.” Cathy offered the bottle of sunscreen to Shae, who squeezed a little in her hand and gave her arms a cursory swipe.
“Yes, she’s working there after school and on Saturdays. I spoke to the manager and asked him to get someone to cover her for this weekend.” Shae continued to watch the antics of their charges. “Oh, look, Cathy. Greg has Monica in a lip-lock.”
“No PDA!” Cathy called out and Shae laughed as the couple sprang apart.
“Daring little devils and their public displays of affection.” She did a quick head count of their church kids, then glanced over at the lifeguard station. “This is probably the last back- to-school trip we’ll make unless we do our own fundraisers from now on. I heard the Finance Committee wants to take the line item out of the budget.”
“Cranky old people. I bet they’ll find the funds for their Pilgrimage trip to Natchez.” Cathy dug in her beach bag and took out a bottle of water. “Want one?”
“Thanks.” Shae gave her companion a smile. “You’re always so prepared.”
“I’m a mom, which means I have to be ready for anything.” She pulled several things out of her purse to show Shae. “Emergency whistle with a compass. A Swiss army knife. Boogie wipes.”
Shae laughed at her pretty red-headed friend, who’d given up her career as an English teacher to stay home with her small children. “You’re a Boy Scout as well as a great mom. At least you have babies of your own, I have to mother the church kids.”
“Yes. Count your blessings, you get to leave them at the end of the day and go home alone for some peace and quiet.”
Alone. Always. “Peace and quiet is overrated.” She took a sip of water, staring blankly out into the Gulf of Mexico. “I have two funerals next week.”
“You and your funerals. I don’t see how you do it. My mother wanted me to sing at my grandmother’s memorial service. I couldn’t, it was just too hard.” Cathy placed a hand over her eyes to shade them as she monitored the swimmers.
“I’m used to it. I can’t count how many funerals I’ve done. Playing piano, singing a hymn, or both. Hundreds, probably. Funerals and weddings. My funerals tend to stick better than the weddings.” She smiled and smirked. “So many marriages end in divorce.” Shae sighed. “Anyway, our little town is so behind the times, other places use canned music for those big moments.” Shae sat up straighter, watching to see if Grady came up out of the waves. She’d seen him go under, but now she’d lost sight of him. The young man was her favorite. He suffered from Down’s, but he had the sweetest disposition of them all.
As Shae stood so she could see better, Cathy continued the train of thought. “I’m sure folks could use canned music if they wanted to, but everyone who’s anyone wants Shae St. John to serenade them. You’re an institution in our part of the world, girl. You’ve been the church pianist since you were eight years old. You’re the children’s choir director, the Bible School Director, you’ve played for Christmas services, graduations…bar mitzvahs.”
“There he is.” Shae breathed a sigh of relief. “I’ve never been to a bar mitzvah. We’re Episcopalian.”
Cathy laughed. “We’re a lot of things. Country. Conservative. Redneck.”
“Speak for yourself.” Shae picked up her hair and wound it into a ponytail around her hand. The movement made her think of the sex scene she’d written last night.
“Yes, you’re a closet liberal. I know. A ghost hunter. A rebel in disguise.” Cathy took a moment to look at her friend. “You are sunburning really fast, your cheeks are beet red, St. John.” She handed Shae the sunscreen, then eyed her suspiciously. “Why do you look so guilty? Are you blushing?”
“No! No. No.” She took the tube and spread a tiny bit of lotion on her cheeks, trying to cover the flush. She was embarrassed Cathy’s insight was hitting a little too close to home. “I’m having a hot flash. Early onset menopause.”
“You’re not that old, you’re not even thirty.”
“If this was the 1800’s, I’d be considered an old maid,” Shae mused, thinking of the historical story she was working on, the one about a runaway slave and the Texas pioneer who saves her. “A spinster on the shelf.”
“Yes, but this isn’t the 1800’s, you’re an independent woman.”
“I’m a twenty-eight-year-old virgin. I’ve been on two dates in my life.” She held up two fingers. “Two dates. And that was eons ago, right out of high school. I’m going to die with my maidenhead still intact.”
Cathy laughed, then leaned over close to Shae. “Your hymen wouldn’t still be there if you used a dildo. Lynn ordered me one off Amazon.”
“Cathy!” Shae smiled, surprised. “Good for you!” She was slightly jealous of her friend who seemed to have it all. Two beautiful children and an adoring husband.
Shrugging, Cathy giggled. “Besides, the only reason you don’t get dates is because of your reputation.”
“What?” Shae looked at her quizzically. “What reputation?”
“Your sterling reputation. You’re a saint, St. John. All the local guys are scared of you. You’re too good. You’re intimidating. They think you think you’re better than everyone else.”
“I know you don’t.” Cathy patted Shae on the arm. “It’s just this little hick town we live in. They’ve seen you grow up and devote your life to the church. Your daddy was a deacon, your grandmother is the pillar of the community. You spend your time reading history books. They think you’re…off-limits. Heck, if you moved anywhere else, men would be all over you.”
Shae had to smile. She certainly read things other than history books. And men being all over her sounded pretty darn good. “I can’t move anywhere else. Not even if I wanted too,” she added quickly. “Grandmother needs me. She’ll never leave Longleaf and I can never leave her.” Shae was stuck in the tiny sawmill town where everyone knew everything about everybody.
They didn’t know what Shae dreamed about when she was alone in bed. They had no idea she entertained such fantasies.
Cathy checked her watch. “They’ve been in the water for two hours. Do you think we should take them back to the hotel to clean up before heading to the movies?”
Shae looked out over the water, doing her headcount again. And again. “Oh, shit.” She jumped up. “I don’t see Grady again.”
Cathy jumped up too. “Oh, my gosh.”
Together they walked toward the surf’s edge. “There he is!” Shae shouted. “He’s too far out. Looks like he’s in trouble.” She threw off her cover-up. “I’ll get him.”
“Dang worthless lifeguard,” Cathy mumbled, noticing the young man was being entertained by two bikini clad women. No worries, though. Shae would save the day, she always did.
Running into the waves, Shae dove into the water. She was a strong swimmer and she knew the waters off Galveston Island like the back of her hand. This was her family’s go-to place when anything happened that knocked them off kilter. Only a hundred miles south of Longleaf, the beach was as far a cry from the piney woods of East Texas as any contrasting landscape could be. Maybe that was why her folks gravitated here in times of trouble – a change of scenery, a change of mind, a change of habit. Regardless, Shae had spent countless hours in the less than crystal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. She knew the currents, the ebbs, the flows, better than any lifeguard on the beach. Hell, she’d been weaned early from the bottle because her folks neglected to watch how far she’d floated out in her innertube. She’d been halfway to Cuba before they thought to check on her.
Okay, she was exaggerating. A little.
Stroke after stroke, she plowed through the waters in time to pull a gasping and flailing Grady’s head above water. “Easy, hon. I’ve got you.”
“Shae!” He threw his arms around her and they both sank.
“Relax, Grady or we’ll both drown.”
Thankfully, her words seemed to reach him, and he went limp in her grasp, giving her the chance to take them both safely to shore.
“Thank God!” Cathy cried as she ran to meet them. “Grady, are you okay?”
“Yes.” He coughed up a little water. “Ick.”
“Let’s get you back to your room.” She looked up at their group all standing around in concern. “Let’s get everyone back to the hotel!”
Shae gathered her bag, the towel, and her cover-up, not bothering to put it on. When she walked past the sneering guy who’d insulted her earlier, she fought an uncontrollable urge to shoot him the finger. “Great, Shae,” she muttered. “Fine example you’d set for the youth group.”
Oh well, if anyone knew Secret Shae, they wouldn’t consider her any kind of good example.
* * *
“Thanks, Cathy. I owe you one. I love the beach at night.” She brushed her hair, then slipped on the ever-present cover-up over her bathing suit. “I just don’t think I could sit through Ant-Man, it’s not my kind of movie.”
“I know you like spooky movies. What was the last one you went to see?”
Shae didn’t like to lie, but there was no way she could admit she’d driven two hours from home to watch Fifty Shades of Grey. Now, that was her kind of movie. Racking her brain, she came up with the name of a recent horror release. “The Woman in Black 2, I think. Anyway, I’m grateful you’re allowing me to skip out on this evening’s activities.”
“No problem. Lynn and the kids driving in to surprise me was a big treat. They’ll love the movie and he’ll help me corral the troops. You don’t mind me leaving you alone tonight, do you?” She gestured to the beds behind them. “I could bunk in here with you if you want.”
“Nonsense. Sleep with your husband.” Shae laughed. “I certainly would if I had one.” Hell yes, she’d wear the guy out. Take out all her pent-up sexual frustration on his manly body. “Whew! Is the air not working in here?”
“It’s Texas, you can’t escape the heat.”
Can’t Escape the Heat. Oh, that would be a good title for an erotic romance novel.
“True.” Shae hugged her. “Thanks again and take good care of the terrors. I’ll have my phone if you need me.”
“Go. Have a good time,” Cathy called to her as she left the hotel room. “Find a man!”
“Right!” Keeping her gaze on the carpet, she made her way to the elevator. When the doors opened, she pressed the Lobby button, then found refuge in the back corner. Even with the elevator empty, she gave in to her habit of making herself as invisible and unobtrusive as possible. Crossing her arms over her breasts, she leaned her head back against the wall, letting the vibrations of the moving elevator hum through her body.
She wasn’t like this all the time. Give her a crowd and the function of a teacher, singer, or musician, and Shae had no qualms putting herself out there as the center of attention. Why? Because she was offering something of value to the audience. Lessons. Inspiration. Entertainment. One-on-one was what she had a problem with. Life had taught her a valuable lesson; her worth lay in the intangible things she could give others. Not her for herself.
She wasn’t physically appealing to men, not that she really tried to be. The work she did as a bookkeeper and church secretary didn’t warrant provocative clothes. She dressed conservatively and only owned three pairs of low-heeled dress shoes – black, brown, and cream. There wasn’t a garment in her closet that cost over fifty dollars. People in her little backwater town didn’t dress up. Only the blue hairs went to a beauty salon. No, she was about as boring as boring could get.
Truth be told, Cathy was the only person she was really close to. The rest of her acquaintances were what she called ‘church friends’, which were a whole different ball game. They were just familiar people she associated with during church sponsored activities. Other than Cathy, she didn’t have anyone to take shopping or out to eat and with her friend’s family responsibilities, those occasions were few and far between. Usually, Shae spent her evenings alone or with her grandmother.
No wonder she spent half her life living in a fantasy world.
Once she reached the bottom floor of the Sand and Sea Hotel, Shae left the elevator and made for the outside. The beach was just across Seawall Boulevard, all she had to do was wait for an opportunity, then race over the asphalt and down the steps of the seawall to have her toes blessedly covered in sand.
“Ah, now I can breathe.”
She held up her arms and embraced the sky full of stars. Night had fallen, and she could prance unnoticed and unobserved to her hearts content. There were a few others on the beach, but for the most part, she could have some blessed solitude away from the giggling teens they’d brought on their final outing before buckling down to their studies in the new school year.
Heading west on the beach, she kept her eye on Pleasure Pier. Last night, they’d taken the kids to the historical amusement park and the little rascals loved it. Shae had enjoyed herself also. Eating at Bubba Gump Shrimp. Riding the roller coaster called Iron Shark. Crashing around in the bumper cars. But mostly she loved the scary ride, Texas Star Flyer, the one that flung its riders out two-hundred-fifty feet over the ocean. She’d squealed like one of the kids.
Such glorious mayhem.
There’d been so much activity, so much noise and motion that she hadn’t been able to properly appreciate the totality of the experience.
Now, from a distance she could view the magical lights, the myriad of colors, the reflection of the glorious spectacle in the waters of the Gulf.
Yes, from a distance.
As she walked, kicking sand, Shae grew introspective. She spent most of her days viewing life from a distance. To be so immersed in the activity of a community, she existed as an outlier in many ways. Even though they observed her week after week, sitting behind the grand piano in the church sanctuary, most knew very little about her – the real Shae St. John.
And that sorta sucked.
Keeping her eyes on the glittering display of Pleasure Pier, she followed the lights like a beacon. There were a couple of jetties separating the expanse of the water she walked by from those occupied by the historical pier. Over the years, the pier had been home to two amusement parks and the first hotel built entirely over water. The original amusement park, which featured an aquarium and a ballroom was destroyed by Hurricane Carla in 1961. The grand hotel, the Flagship, was destroyed by Hurricane Ike in 2005. Shae wondered how long before the next storm blew in and destroyed everything she was seeing. “Man, their insurance has to be astronomical.”
Because another storm would come. They always did. It wasn’t a matter of if, only a matter of when.
Usually, Shae loved bad weather. Feeling the power of the wind. Watching the rain fall, the lightning flash. Hearing the roar and roll of the thunder.
She just didn’t want to be in the direct path of such a storm.
Immediately, her attention flew out into the dark water. Someone was in trouble.
“Help me! Dad-dee!”
A little child’s voice.
With adrenaline pumping in her veins, Shae slung down her things, and ran straight into the surf. “Where are you?” she screamed. “Keep yelling!” God, this was impossible. Dark. She knew there were riptides by the jetties. Deadly riptides.
Shae fought the current as she swam. “I’m coming!” she called.
“Oh, God, my daughter! She fell off the pier!”
A voice met her ears from some distance away, but she didn’t take time to look around. Shae swam, then every few yards, she let her eyes search the waters around her. People standing on the end of the nearest jetty were shining flashlights like beams of hope into the darkness. She used those faint pools of light and the slight illumination of the quarter moon to locate the child. “Oh, lord, help me,” she whispered as she spotted a little hand held up in a breaking white cap, a last flag of desperation. Pushing herself, she dove underwater and began feeling frantically in front of her. Where are you, she thought? Let me find her, please, she prayed.
Shae refused to give up, she refused to rise above the waves and waste the time for a gulp of air – knowing the child probably wouldn’t resurface again.
Left. Right. Up. Down.
She thrashed through the water that was about fifteen feet deep at this point. Riding the surge, she kept searching frantically – until her fingers touched the hem of a small garment. Closing her fist tightly, Shae yanked and paddled furiously, pushing herself to the surface, towing what she’d caught below the waters.
When she broke the surface, Shae pulled the child up into her arms. She didn’t know whether the little girl was breathing or not.
“My daughter! Oh, God! Let me have her!”
A man came swimming up to them, grabbing for his child. Shae relinquished her, swimming on toward the beach. “I hope someone called 9-1-1. Bring her up, I know CPR.”
By the time they got to shore, and the little girl was placed on the sand, people were gathering around. Shae didn’t hesitate. She felt for a pulse, then began breathing into her mouth as the father instinctively did chest presses. After a few moments the little girl coughed, and Shae turned her head sideways so she could spit out the seawater.
“Are you okay, baby?” For a couple of long seconds, their faces were close. Shae looked into a pair of beautiful eyes, that looked steadily back into hers.
“Are you an angel?” the girl asked softly.
“No, baby. I’m not.”
In the next heartbeat, her father snatched his child up into his arms and looked toward Shae. “Thank you.” The shadows were thick, the moonlight was pale, and the flashlights of curious bystanders created very little visibility. She couldn’t make out the details of the man’s face, but what she could see of his expression told her he was kind and very grateful.
“You saved her. How can I thank you?”
“You don’t. Rescuing her will be one of the things that makes my life worthwhile.”
The next second, they were separated as EMT’s arrived to take control of the situation.
Relieved and out of breath, Shae rose to retrieve her things from where she’d dropped them, then headed back down the beach while the surf rolled and the endless breeze blew.
* * *
“She seems fine, Mr. Alden. I don’t think we need to take her in.” The medic stood from where he’d been kneeling by the small girl. “What happened?”
Derek combed trembling fingers through his hair. He was having a hard time catching his breath. As relief swept through him, the adrenaline leaving his body made him weak in the knees. With the wave of a hand toward the fishing pier a few dozen yards away, he searched for words. “We were walking along the jetty. I, uh, was baiting her hook. I turned my back on her just a moment and she…disappeared.”
The medic smiled down at the adorable little girl who seemed oblivious that she’d experienced such a close call. “What’s your name, honey?”
“Just June, honey,” Derek said, finding the strength to chuckle. The cool breeze coming off the Gulf felt warm on his skin that was still icy with panic. “She’s four.”
Four! His baby was four and she’d almost died.
“She’s a lucky little girl. You were on your toes and saved her. You’re a good dad.” The medic began to pack up his gear.
Derek groaned, picking up his child when she held her arms up to him. “I didn’t save her, there was this woman who got to her first.” He looked around but didn’t see her. “She must’ve left.”
“She was nice, Dad-dee. She saved me.” June laid her head on her father’s shoulder. “I like her. She had a pretty smile.”
“What was her name?” Derek asked her. “Did she say?”
“I asked her if she was an angel, but she said no.”
The medic picked up his case, handing it to his partner to load in the emergency vehicle. “Well, you’re fortunate this woman was at the right place at the right time.”
“Fortunate, yes, very,” Derek answered, cradling June close.
“June! June! My baby! What did you do, Derek?” A frantic, willowy blonde came rushing up and grabbed June from her father’s arms.
“She’s fine, Blair. We had a close call, but she’s fine.”
“No, thanks to you, I’m sure!” she screeched at her husband.
The medics eased out, appearing to choose to get away while the getting was good. Derek didn’t blame them. An upset Blair was someone to be avoided at all costs.
He put a hand on his wife’s shoulder. “Let’s just be thankful she’s okay.”
“Weren’t you watching her?” Blair turned on him viciously. “What were you doing? Flirting with some woman?”
Derek glanced around self-consciously. Other people were moving down the starlit strand of sand, some stole curious glances at them. “I was watching her, it was an accident. And no, I wasn’t talking to anyone.”
“I don’t believe you!” she screamed so loudly that June squirmed in her arms trying to get down.
“Come on, let’s go back to the hotel. There’s no need to cause a scene.” He attempted to steer his family farther down the beach toward the hotel where they were staying.
“I am not causing a scene!” she shrieked. “Yes, I’m going back to the hotel, but you’re not welcome. You’re a failure as a father and a husband!”
Blair stalked off and Derek stood where she left him. Seeing June hold her hand out for him, tears streaming down her cheeks almost broke his heart.
Hell, maybe Blair as right.
He was a failure.
* * *
“Mommy, I want Dad-dee.”
“Hush. You’re too young to know what you want.” Blair stormed across the beach, then waited impatiently at the crosswalk until the light changed. As she hurried across Seawall Boulevard, her phone rang.
Seeing the identity of the caller, she couldn’t help but smile. Raising the phone to her ear, she smiled. “Hey, I found her. He almost let her drown. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. When can I see you?”
“Patience. I’ll see you in class,” a deep voice told her. “Use this. When the time comes to put our plan into motion, Alden needs to be out of the picture.”
“Are you sure it wouldn’t be better to just let him have her?” Blair climbed the steps to the hotel, ignoring her daughter’s insistent tugging on her collar.
“I want Dad-dee!”
She slapped at the little girl’s hand. “Stop it.”
“No. She’s your child, Blair, therefore she’s mine. I want to be surrounded by my family.”
“The classes aren’t enough. I need more of you. I can’t wait to learn all about your plan. A man with a gun is so sexy. I love that picture you sent me.”
The man chuckled. “I love my AR-15. Almost as much as I love you.”
Blair almost purred, “Oh, you say that to all your women.”
“Yea, I do. All men should have a harem. Bring me another candidate and I’ll give you a reward.”
As Blair entered the hotel lobby, she shivered with delight. “What kind of reward?”
“You can be my favorite. When I come into my kingdom, you can sit by my side.”
“I have to get rid of my husband first. Mr. Straight and Narrow could ruin everything.”
“No worries. We can set him up and you can file for divorce. I’ll take care of the rest. After all, Bastrop is my county. I rule here.”
Blair patted June’s back to quiet her. “Yes, Judge.” Powerful men were such a turn-on. “I’ll do whatever you say.”