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“Damn, these are good,” Braxton said contentedly around a mouthful of doughnut, fresh from the bakery that was just around the corner from the house. Becca nodded in agreement, her mouth too full of cream-filled Long John to reply verbally. “Pick some music for us, Becca. The CDs are in a case at your feet.”
“Okay.” Becca wiped her mouth on the cheap paper napkin they’d grabbed, licking bits of chocolate out of the corners of her mouth. “What do you like?” she asked, grabbing the square, hard plastic CD pouch. She plopped it on her lap and unsnapped it.
“Well,” Braxton grinned, “if it’s in there, then I like it. Hopefully you’ll like it.” She shot a grin over at Becca who returned it.
“Eh, I’m easy.”
“Yes, yes. As evidenced last night. My secret is out.” Becca sent a wicked look over at Braxton, which the blonde promptly laughed at. It felt good to break the tension wide open on that particular scene.
Soon, Bob Seger’s Roll Me Away began. “Ohh, good choice,” Braxton complimented, her fingers tapping the beat on the steering wheel as she grabbed for another doughnut. “These things are my weakness.”
Becca grinned, having her fill of the sweet pastries. For now. Instead, she sat back and got comfortable, sipping her large coffee, enjoying the morning. She thought back to her days traveling and living in New York; she was typically just getting to bed at – she glanced at the dash clock in the old sedan – seven ten in the morning. Now, she was wide awake and happy. The scenery flew by as the sun rose, spreading its golden fingers across the city.
As if reading the taller woman’s mind, Braxton commented, “Beautiful morning. Going to be a nice day.”
“Yes it is. I remember when I lived in Venice for a short time. I’d always get up, or come home, around this time. I’d wait to go to bed until I watched the sun come up, the colors bursting across the water. It was amazing.”
“You lived in Italy?” Braxton asked, wonder in her voice. At Becca’s nod, she blew out a breath. “Damn. And here I thought I was hot stuff for getting out of Ivanwood.” They shared a smile. “Would you tell me about your travels sometime?”
“Sure. Just let me know.” She sipped her coffee, fingers tapping on her thigh at Seger’s You’ll Acomp’ny Me. “Why Bob Seger?”
“Probably for the same reason that most girls like Bob Seger. Watching Tom Cruise slide onto the scene in his tightey whitey’s.”
“Old Time Rock & Roll,” Becca guessed.
“You got it.”
“Well, for me it was more of a Rebecca De Mornay thing. Can’t say ol’ Tom did much for me,” Becca laughed.
“How old were you when you knew you were gay?” Braxton asked, glancing over her shoulder to check for traffic as she made a quick lane change.
“I had my suspicions pretty early on, just didn’t exactly know what it was called, or that it was even possible. And, growing up with four brothers, I used to hear them talking about this crush or that girlfriend, and I thought that maybe I was just following their lead, you know? I didn’t truly know until I had left home and was out on my own. No influences.”
“Except for a world for gorgeous women?”
“Yeah. Pretty much.”
Braxton chuckled, but felt that strange sense of jealousy run through her again. She chewed on her bottom lip, concentrating on the road ahead, not wanting to think about just how many women Becca had been with. Undoubtedly it was a lot.
“What about you? How many boyfriends have you had?”
Braxton burst into laughter. “Oh, no. Trust me, you don’t want to know.” She glanced over at a grinning Becca, who turned in her seat enough to be able to fully take in the blonde.
“Oh, I don’t know. You’ve got me intrigued now. Tell me your secrets, Braxton.”
“Ohhhh, there aren’t all that many to tell. That’s the problem.”
When it seemed Braxton wasn’t going to elaborate, Becca grabbed the white bakery bag, shaking it’s contents. “What if I give you the bear claw?”
Braxton giggled. “You must wanna know pretty bad. You ordered that for yourself.”
“And what if I do?” Becca challenged.
“What you got to offer other than a bear claw?” Braxton chanced a quick glance over at her passenger, a honey-colored brow raised.
“What do you want?” Becca asked, her voice dropping, something dangerous about it.
Braxton suddenly felt very uncomfortable, her heart fluttering. “You can keep your bear claw. It’s not a big enough secret for that. I’ll just tell you.” She flashed a big smile, their game was over.
Feeling somewhat disappointed, as she wanted to know how far Braxton was willing to go in their game, but relived for the exact same reason, Becca pressed on. “Okay, so spill it.”
Braxton sighed, dreading this very short conversation. “I’ve only had one boyfriend of any sort of seriousness. Only slept with one, too. Back home, before Jared and I left Ivanwood, I dated a couple guys in high school, but we’re talking like three dates here, maybe ten there, you know? Nothing major. I think I only kissed one of them.”
“So, why then did you sleep with the one guy? Am I to assume that was Anthony?”
Becca studied Braxton’s profile, and could easily see the pain even from that angle. She reached out and turned the music down. “Tell me about him.”
Braxton sighed, reaching for her bottle of chocolate milk, taking a sip before beginning her tale. “We met pretty much right off the bat. I was a wide-eyed Freshman, and he was a cute, experienced Sophomore. I agreed to go out with him, totally flattered by the attention, you know?”
“All too well.”
“So, we started dating, and at first he was good. A gentlemen. Then, not so much, and I gave in.”
“A sadly typical story.” Becca finished her coffee then tossed the cup into the plastic bag Braxton had in her car for trash. “Do you regret it? Giving that to him?”
Braxton shrugged. “Yes and no. I mean, it would’ve happened at some point, anyway. Did Andrew deserve to get that from me? Hell, no. But, nothing I can do about it now anyway, you know?” she glanced over at her companion. “Do you have regrets? About your first time.”
“Yes, but mainly because I don’t remember it. I was stoned out of my mind, in some rat hole in Harlem.” She grinned at the grimace on Braxton’s face. “Yeah, not real great. But,” Becca blew out, “like you said. Nothing I can do about it now, so it is what it is, and it’s a part of my past.”
“So, you never had sex with a guy?” Braxton asked, setting the cruise control as they were on the straight and narrow for awhile. She sat back in her seat, one hand casually holding the wheel steady.
“Almost. We messed around one day when my mom had a long conference to go to.” Becca scrunched up her nose. “When it came down to him actually doing anything that resembled penetration, I made him go home.” She grinned.
Braxton’s brows drew. “Okay, sorry to sound like an idiot, but if you haven’t had sex with a guy, how do you know you don’t like it?”
“Have you had sex with a goat?”
Braxton’s head whipped around to face Becca’s amused expression. “What? Of course not!”
“And there lies your answer, my friend.”
The town of Ivanwood, Colorado was a small, somewhat mountainous place. With a population of no more than twenty thousand, there was a definite “everyone knows everyone” mentality. That had been one thing Braxton had hated most about her hometown. It wasn’t like she was a bad kid and had anything to hide growing up, but she did want people to respect her privacy, something that was in short supply in Small Town America.
She hadn’t been back since her very short visit the Christmas, nearly a year ago. Everything looked the same as it had the day she’d driven away in her Orange Bomb for college.
The town was dissected by a long, main street that connected to the Interstate. On one side of the main street, called 112th Avenue, though no one knew why, as there wasn’t 111th nor 113th Avenues, was called the South Side, the other the North. Most of the folks in the farmers lived on the South side, which included the Crowley’s. The North Side was kept for those who actually had more than two pennies to rub together, though most of the country would refer to them as lower-middle class. In Ivanwood, they ruled the roost.
Becca watched the scenery go by, thinking it didn’t look a whole lot different than her own hometown, though where she came from was larger, and actually had three and four-story buildings, unlike the mostly singles in Ivanwood, with maybe a two-story or two thrown in. The town was quiet, only a small amount of traffic flowing around them. She noticed the sidewalks were basically bare, but then, at noon on a Sunday, she figured most folks were probably in church, or after church gatherings.
“This building right here,” Braxton said, pointing to a single story, spread out brick building, “is where I went to high school with Jared.”
“Was there ever anything between you two?” Becca asked suddenly.
Braxton shook her head. “No,” she said softly. “He wanted there to be. It caused us problems for a short time during our Freshman year of college.” She sighed with a shrug. “Sometimes I’ve wondered if that was one reason why I agreed to go out with Andrew. And sleep with him.” Braxton sighed, never wanting to admit that to herself, let alone anyone else.
A few minutes later, Braxton pulled the sedan into the driveway of a small, yellow house. The front yard was covered in dying grass, a few bushes littered the path up to the brown front door.
“Is this where you grew up?” Becca asked, pushing her door open, glad to finally stand and stretch. Her back, legs and arms were grateful.
“Yep. I lived here for seventeen years, ten months and three days.” She gathered their trash and popped the trunk, allowing them to gather their bags. Taking a deep breath, Braxton headed up the walk, her gaze moving toward the kitchen window, trying not to think about what that man found when he came looking for his minister. Her fingers trembled slightly as she tried to slip the key into the deadbolt.
“Here,” Becca said gently, laying her hand over the blonde’s. “Let me.” Braxton stepped back, allowing Becca to let them into the house. Their gazes met. “You ready for this?”
Braxton nodded. “Yeah. I think so.”
The house was exactly as Braxton remembered, even down to her mother’s shawl draped over the back of the couch. If she didn’t know better she would think she’d find her father tucked out in the backyard reading his bible, and her mother in the kitchen, either cooking or cleaning up from the cooking she’d just done.
“It’s so quiet,” she murmured, almost to herself. She dropped her duffel bag in the living room and headed for the kitchen.
“Wait,” Becca said, a hand on Braxton’s arm. When she had the blonde’s attention, “Are you sure you want to go in there? I seriously doubt it’s been cleaned up.”
“I’m sure it hasn’t. I can smell his blood in the air,” Braxton said, gently tugging her arm away and continuing on her way. She could feel Becca behind her. The kitchen doorway loomed ahead, the rest of the room opening as they got closer. Braxton’s gaze was immediately drawn to the linoleum floor. A deep, dark stain had settled into the textured surface, most of it smeared away, though the lines in the pattern of the linoleum were outlined in reddish brown.
“Jesus,” Becca whispered. She could only imagine just how much blood had actually been there after the incident. As it was, there was enough of a stain to nearly cover half of a full grown man’s body. She could imagine Fletcher Crowley lying there, bleeding to death. She shivered involuntarily, trying to imagine what had brought a woman like Margot Crowley to not only do something like that, but to leave him there to die.
Braxton said nothing as she moved further into the room, her eyes riveted to the spot where the menace of her whole life had lost his. “I wonder what he thinks of his god now,” she said quietly, almost a reverent whisper in the stillness of the room, “now that he’s frying in Hell.”
Becca glanced up at the blonde over the space that would have been her father’s body. She said nothing, as she had nothing to say. This was something Braxton had to deal with on her own, no matter how much Becca might want to take that pain away.
Braxton turned away from the stain, her nose twitching at the smell of death in the air. She’d have to clean that up before it brought bugs, if it hadn’t already. She looked around the room, noting, just as Margot had said, everything was in order and perfect. It was so eerie imagining the scene the cops must have found. How strange and cold. She noticed that certain things were missing, such as one of the dish rags that usually was dragged on the hump between the two sinks. She figured the cops must have bagged that. Maybe it had blood n it.
“I wonder where the chalk outline is,” Becca said, amusement in her voice. At her companion’s questioning look she explained. “Well, on all those cop shows, they always draw an outline around the body.”
Braxton chuckled. “This ain’t no movie, lady.”
“No, suppose not.” She let out a heavy breath, trying to rid herself of her own heebie jeebies. “Okay. What’s the plan?”
“Well, I’m going to clean this up, then I intend to pack up everything. All their personal stuff, you know, clothing, that kind of stuff.”
“Are you going to keep it? Donate it?”
Braxton met Becca’s gaze. “Burn it.”
Becca came back into the room, the box of black, plastic yard bags in her hands. “Figured I’d just bring the whole thing this time. No sense in running back and forth with it.” She sat back down on the bedroom floor next to Braxton, who she wasn’t even sure had heard her. The blonde was intently going through her mother’s jewelry box.
“I didn’t even notice she wasn’t wearing her wedding ring when she got to the house,” she muttered absently, holding up a simple gold band, the metal barely gleaming in the light. “Pretty shitty gold,” she muttered, noting the dull shine. “As much as Mom’s hands were in water all the time, this puppy should shine like a torch.”
“Yeah. Looks like bad quality, for sure.” Becca looked at the stacked piles of plastic bags, filled with both Crowley’s clothing. “Are you sure you want to burn this stuff, Braxton?”
“Yes. Very. Nothing but bad memories in all that. I don’t want someone else to be affected by that because they buy a shirt from Goodwill for ten cents.”
Becca said nothing, just continued to do as asked.
The sun was steadily going down, burning the horizon. The two roommates stood in the backyard of the old house, a large, metal trash bin in front of them, chasing away the cold air. Braxton’s gaze was focused on the burning pile before her, the flames licking eerie shadows across her eyes and face. Becca’s gaze was on her. Braxton could feel the weight of her stare.
“I really appreciate you coming with me today, Becca,” she said softly, her eyes never leaving the flames. “It means a lot to me. I know I wasn’t the easiest to deal with today, either. I really wasn’t sure what I’d feel, going through all that stuff. Seeing it all.” She sighed, finally meeting Becca’s gaze. “There’s still so much to do tomorrow, but I’m glad we got all this done,” she gestured toward the burning clothing.
Becca said nothing as Braxton turned to her, wrapping her arms around the taller woman’s neck and silently asking to be held. Becca obliged, She wrapped Braxton up in a tender hug, tucking the shorter woman’s head under her chin. She could feel the chill in the smaller body, pressed to her own, despite the warming fire they stood next to.
Braxton snuggled in further, craving the heat she felt emanating from Becca’s body. She found her face buried in her neck, inhaling the clean scent that she’d learned to associate with the taller woman. It filled her lungs and made her feel safe. A wave of warmth ran through her, making her sigh against the warm skin. She was surprised to feel an corresponding shiver run through Becca. Braxton’s heart accelerated, a need building deep within her that she didn’t understand as her mind shut down, instinct taking over. She was tired of being alone, feeling so alone, and Becca made her feel cared for and safe. Safe. She needed safe.
Becca’s eyes closed, a sigh escaping as she felt soft lips on her neck, moving a slow trail up to her jaw. Her arms around Braxton tightened, fingers clenching and unclenching, almost like the kneading of a cat. Her body had been put on a slow boil, though the heat was rising.
Braxton’s mouth was taken in a sudden hard kiss, Becca demanding, her mouth unforgiving. Braxton met her passion with her own, grabbing handfuls of Becca’s jacket, pulling the taller body closer into her own.
Braxton was trembling with need Becca got the motel room door open. She flat refused to sleep or do anything else in her childhood home. Too many ghosts. They stumbled into the room, and immediately Becca had her mouth again, and the blonde found herself pushed backwards until she fell on the one bed. She pulled Becca with her, the taller woman’s body covering her own. She barely registered the sound of the door slamming shut from Becca’s violent kick.
Becca was on overload, never wanting someone so bad in her entire life. She reached down, unzipping Braxton’s jacket and roughly pushing the ends aside until her hand covered a t-shirt covered breast. She moaned in response of the guttural groan that filled Braxton’s throat. She thrust her leg between the blonde’s, pushing their bodies together.
Braxton broke the kiss, her eyes shutting as pleasure swept through her. She reached down, clutching at Becca’s ass, pulling her deeper inside. Unable to wait, as she was on the verge of release, she thrust her hips up into Becca, who caught on quickly. Soon their breathing was heavy and thick, the springs in the bed squeaking with ever thrust and counterthrust. Braxton could feel Becca’s hot breath against her neck as the taller woman whimpered against her skin, her release close.
“Oh, Brax,” Becca groaned, her hips thrusting once, twice, then she ground herself into the smaller woman, who cried out beneath her, claw-like fingers digging into the denim covering Becca’s ass.
Braxton exploded, her body, her emotions, her very mind. She couldn’t stop the sobs as they tore through her, riding a wave of confusion, anger, fear, arousal and grief. She felt like a child as her chin quivered and eyes squeezed shut. As Becca rolled off her, she curled up into a ball, unable to control her sobs.
“Hey,” Becca said, her immediate fear turning to regret. She should have controlled herself, should never have taken advantage of Braxton’s fragile emotional state. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, curling up behind the blonde and wrapping herself around her. “God, I’m so sorry.”
Braxton couldn’t speak, couldn’t tell Becca that it wasn’t her, wasn’t what they’d just done that had her crying. Well, not totally, anyway. She had absolutely no explanation to give the taller woman as to why they’d just fucked in a random motel room in Ivanwood, Colorado. So, instead of words, she simply reached back, grabbing Becca’s hand and tugged until she was fully in Becca’s embrace.
Relieved, but still somewhat concerned, Becca held the crying woman, resting her cheek atop Braxton’s shoulder, letting her cry it all out. Her body was still trembling, still reeling in aftershocks. She hadn’t had sex since she’d left prison, and she knew for a fact that even the women before doing her time that she’d been with, that she thought she had cared for or even loved, had lacked in comparison to what she’d just shared with Braxton. That thought rocked her world for a moment. Tossing the thought aside, she just held the blonde, almost needing to feel her close as much as Braxton apparently needed it.
She felt the crunching under her feet of what sounded like gravel. Dirt, maybe. The smell of pine trees filled the air around her, rich and clean. It was dark, the night pure in its seemingly infinite darkness. Even so, she didn’t feel afraid. Somehow she knew she was safe, that the one person who personified that for her was near
Off to her left she heard the call of an owl, Whooo! Whooo! She followed the sound, noting that a lone figure stood, the moonlight leaving them in silhouette. A smile spread across her lips, the need to see her savior almost painfully deep. She hurried her steps, the stones crunching louder under foot. She wanted to call out, cry out for her savior, her guide, to turn to her, come to her, but she stopped, brows drawing.
“I don’t know your name,” she whispered, panic seizing her insides. “What’s your name?” she called out. Still, the figure did not turn around or acknowledge her presence. “Please!” She ran, but it seemed that no matter how close she got, the figure got further away, even as she stood still. “Please! Don’t go!”
“Don’t leave me!” Braxton shot up, breathing heavily, eyes wide as she took in her surroundings. She was in a strange bed in a strange room.
“Hey,” Becca said, startled from her own dreams. She sat up next to the panting woman, placing an arm around her shoulders. “It’s okay, Braxton. It’s okay. I’m here. No one’s going anywhere.”
Braxton looked at Becca’s gentle face, only a sliver of it could be seen from the slice of moonlight coming in through the closed drapes. She raised a hand, still feeling as though in a dream daze. She brushed her fingertips along Becca’s jaw. “You’re still here,” she whispered, hand falling back to the comforter.
Becca nodded. “Yeah. I’m still here. Are you okay?” Becca wanted so badly to hold her Braxton, lay her down and kiss her, make love to her, make it all go away. She didn’t dare, a sense of dread in her gut where Braxton and her were concerned.
“Okay. Yes. I’m fine.” Braxton scrubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands. “So tired.”
“Come on. Lie down.” Becca gently pushed Braxton back to the mattress, once again curling herself around her. “Sleep, Braxton. I’ll stay here with you,” she murmured, sleep already beckoning her.
“Good,” Braxton sighed, closing her eyes.
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