Disclaimers, this story and characters are the sole possession of the author and may not be reproduced, posted or sold without the authors permission. So there! If for any reason real or imagined you do not wish to read a story with graphic descriptions of consenting adult women in a loving and sexual relationship then do not read this story or anything else I have ever written. If for any reason it is illegal for you to view this material then go away and dont come back until it is no longer a crime.
A special thank you goes out to my beta reader Mountain Girl.
As always this is for Heather.
The holidays had always been full of drama for me, when I was a child it was the way my father would inevitably end up in a fight with my mother. Nothing said Christmas like my mother screaming about how my father ruined her life. Surprisingly despite the way they bickered constantly, they really did love one another. Not the kind of love I wanted for my life. I met the love of my life, on the monkey bars when I was all of five years old. Mandy Wright had hair that was spun gold and the cutest little nose. Even at five I could appreciate her beauty.
When she missed her step and tumbled down off of the dangerous monstrosity our parents insisted that we play on, I was there to rescue her. Okay, I didnt rescue her per say but I did help her up. I felt ten feet tall at that moment; I never suspected that some thirty odd years later I would be standing in a very fashionable home trying to explain to an irate police detective, the nature of my friendship with Mrs. Dupree.
Detective Manning seems nice enough, but she does seem focused on the late Mr. Duprees widow as her prime suspect. If you havent guessed by now, Mrs. Dupree and Mandy are one in the same. It seems that her husband Steve had the bad manners to be shot in the kitchen doorway during a snowstorm, just before the holiday. To be more precise it happened at around five am on December the twenty-fourth.
Now before you go jumping on the same band wagon with the misguided Isabel Manning, let me just make a few things perfectly clear, neither Mandy nor myself had anything to do with Steves death. We were otherwise engaged at the time, which isnt helping matters. But I digress; let me start things at the beginning. I know you want to know about the murder, but just let me tell you a little something about my life with Mandy.
It was complicated right from the get go. If you havent guessed by now, I grew up in the poorer side of town. Im not ashamed of my humble beginnings. Mandy, on the other hand, was from a decidedly middle class family, whose mother thought they were much higher up on the economic ladder than the Wright family really was. Needless to say, when Mandy and I hit it off that day, Wanda Wright was furious.
I had lost count at how many times she told Mandy that I was nothing more than white trash and she should stay away from me. Mandy never listened to her Mothers warnings. This surprised everyone since she was very dutiful when it came to her mothers instructions, except where I was concerned. We were drawn to one another from that first day on the playground, and never paid any attention to the world around us.
I have to confess, that I just loved the way it upset Wandas self righteous nature that her daughter and I were joined at the hip from that first day on the playground. From that first moment I helped Mandy to her feet, I knew in my heart that our hands would be forever linked. For many years our hands were linked every time we were around one another, until we reached the age when it caused talk and concern from our parents. Then we became accustomed to holding hands only when no one else was around.
No one had actually told us we shouldnt be holding hands; instead our parents and others informed us it wasnt acceptable by making snide comments. Out of instinct we kept our feelings private. Instinct is a valuable thing when you grow up in a very small community. Looking back I feel certain that many people knew just how we felt about one another, even if we never talked about it even with each other.
I just led and Mandy blindly followed. Looking back, I realize that maybe if I hadnt taken control Mandy would have been better prepared for the obstacles life threw at us. I never thought about it at the time, I just allowed Mandy to become my shadow. I was simply happy to know that she was near. I just assumed that it was my responsibility to protect her. If someone harassed her, Id step in, if there were a bug I killed it, and if she was afraid, I was the one to hold her. It was my job, and I took my job very seriously.
Dont misunderstand; I wasnt an all-controlling ass. I never told her what to wear, or how she should act. I simply was the one who initiated things, since Mandy always looked to me for guidance. In fact there were times when I would feel frustrated that she didnt want to make any decisions, and I did try to get her to express herself more. She would just tell me whatever I wanted to do was fine.
Frankly there were times when it drove me completely nuts. Later it would become a catalyst between us. But in the beginning I just accepted my role as Mandys protector. I never questioned how I felt about her. I knew I was in love with her from the start. Even as we grew older and talked about boys, I knew that she was the one for me. In my arrogance I never thought she would have romantic feelings for another person.
My arrogance would later come back and bite me in the ass, but in the beginning there wasnt the shadow of a doubt that Mandy was my girl and I was hers. Despite our assumption that I was the butch, even though I wear make up and carry a purse emotionally we balanced each other. Whenever my home life became unbearable, Mandy would give me a look or a smile that simply melted my heart.
She had a way of handling my moods, and heartaches. She would hug me and suggest that I sleepover that night. Just feeling her in my arms was all I needed to right my world. Sleepovers were another part of our lives that seemed completely natural for the two of us. Since the first time we shared a bed, we held one another while we slept. It wasnt sexual, just comforting. Of course neither of our mothers really enjoyed it when we would spend time together.
As Ive explained before Wanda couldnt stand my presence. She still cant by the way. Last winter in fact she went out of her way to make a snotty comment about how I still wear the same camel haired coat I wore in high school. I just sneered through the pain. The truth is Ive been wearing the same long warm coat every winter because it had belonged to my beloved Grandfather. Despite the years, Ive kept it in pristine condition.
Now my mother on the other hand really liked Mandy, but hated Wandas snotty attitude. It was okay for Mandy to hang around, just so long as she didnt have to deal with the petite blondes mother.
Around the time we were twelve I kissed Mandy for the first time. I was upset about something. I forget what probably something idiotic like my father wouldnt let me wear eye shadow or some other stupid thing. We were snuggled up in my bed, I was grumbling about how my parents were the meanest people on earth. Mandy wrapped her arms around me, it felt so right and there was something in her eyes that guided me to kiss her. It was a sloppy silly kiss, even if I did manage to find her lips.
We had goofy grins on our faces as we forgot about my troubles and went to sleep. There was never a need to talk about it; we just thought it was completely natural. So natural that over the years every once in awhile it would happen again. Over the years, the innocent peck on the lips slowly became something else.
Perhaps that is why our first fight was so surprising to me. We were sixteen years old sitting on my bed just chatting when I thought that my blissful existence had come to an end. I had made the error of asking Mandy what she wanted to do on Friday night. I never expected Mandy to have made plans with someone else much less a boy of all things.
"What do you mean?" I sputtered like a moron.
"What do you mean, what do I mean?" She retorted truly confused by my attitude.
"Youre going to the dance?" I gaped at her as if she had just informed me she was going to the moon. "Why?"
"Huh?" She blinked with surprised. "Rodney asked and I said yes," she explained as she furrowed her brow.
"Oh, he asked you and you said yes," I mimicked her with a sneer not understanding why she didnt see the problem.
"Cass, what is wrong?" She snipped as I felt my insides turning in the most unnatural manner. "It is just a date."
That really floored me. I had just always assumed that she was my girl, and vice versa. Id like to say that was the last time I ever took Mandy or any other woman for granted. My life would have gone so much more smoothly if I had learned my lesson then and there. "You go on dates?" I stammered as I felt my world crumbling.
"Of course I do, so do you," she painstakingly explained to me.
"No, I dont," I argued. I really didnt view the times I would hang out with one boy or another as a date. It was just the movies, or a soda or some silly thing. In my world, when I would do those things with Mandy, that was a date. The guys I would socialize with were just my buds; again I had made the assumption that Mandy viewed things in the same light.
"You went on a date with Phil last weekend?" Mandy objected.
"No, I didnt," I protested. "We just went to the arcade together."
"Cass, that is a date," Mandy corrected me her face filled with concern.
"Wow," I gasped in a strangled voice as my stomach churned. It had never occurred to me that Mandy didnt share my feelings. The stark reality was making me sick. "I thought," I absently whispered as I prayed for death. "I have to go," I blurted out suddenly needing to get away from her.
"Cass, this is your house," she quickly informed me as she reached out to touch me. For the first time in our lives, I pulled away from her touch. "What did I do wrong?" She whimpered as I jumped from the bed and began to pace around the room.
The sight of her hazel eyes filling with tears broke my heart. I had hurt the one person I felt it was my sworn duty to protect and now I couldnt tell her the truth, because she wouldnt understand or worse she would hate me forever. I was torn between feelings of love and betrayal as I stood there staring down at her. "What did I do wrong, please tell me?" She sniffed as her body shook.
I wanted to tell her the truth that I loved her and that we belonged together. The fact that she didnt know this already wounded me deeply. It was her tears that cooled my anger. I climbed back onto the bed and cradled her in my arms. "Ssh," I whispered as I rubbed her back while she cried into my chest. I felt like an idiot at the way my body was reacting to the feel of her nestled against my body. And when she looked up at me her eyes filled with a teary pleading look, I gave into my desires and kissed her.
For the first time my kiss lacked the friendship and the bond we shared; this time I kissed her passionately. I needed to possess her to show her that we belonged together. Again, if I had just told her how I felt things might have turned out differently. Instead, I slipped my tongue inside of her mouth thinking that my actions would speak for me.
My body trembled as I felt Mandy returning my kiss with the same passion. I felt a nagging sense of jealousy as I wondered where she had learned how to kiss so well. Fueled on by my insecurities and desire my hand drifted from her back to her breast. Butterflies danced in the pit of my stomach as her body arched in response and I felt her breast filling my hand. Mandys tongue teased my own, as I caressed her breast enjoying the feel of her nipple scrapping against the thin material of her nightgown. Another pang of jealousy shot through me as I pondered who else she had allowed to touch her this way.
The clouds of doubt slipped away when I felt her hands on my hips lifting my nightshirt up. I lowered her down onto the bed, rolling on top of her while my own curious hand slipped under her nightgown. The feel of her skin quivering from my touch was magical. I couldnt imagine that she would ever dream of sharing this with another.
Instinct guided us once again as I captured her nipple with my fingers and our legs slipped between the others thighs. Our hips began grinding slowly against the others body; I could feel her desire on my flesh as my own passion escaped. We never slowed our movements as we lifted our bodies so we could remove the others nightgown.
My hips never slowed as I gazed down at her half naked body. I was captivated at the sight of her pert nipples, and the way her body was squirming beneath me. Her fingers lightly traced my shoulders, as the rhythm of our youthful bodies increased. I was surprised when I cried out as she cupped my breasts in her tiny hands. My nipples became erect as she teased me, while my body thrust against hers. I could feel our passion growing, her wetness painting my skin as I hovered above her.
I licked my lips as my focus once again drifted to her breasts. I need to taste her skin, to feel her against me as we gave in to the fire. I roughly cupped her breasts, as I lowered my hungry mouth to her flesh. Mandys needy whimpers filled my ears as I suckled her. I was consumed with a need to touch myself as I felt her nipple hardening in my mouth and her hands groping my ass.
I quickly dismissed the idea of pleasuring myself, when I felt my breasts pressing against her skin. I decided that Mandy was the one I needed to touch. Shy hands tugged my panties down to my hips as my mouth kept teasing her breasts. I would move from one to the other unable to release either for very long. I ground my throbbing clit harder against her firm thigh as I felt her hands massaging my bare skin.
Strange when I think about it now, there we were rolling across my bed, wearing nothing but our panties groping each other and neither of us questioning what was happening. Instead of thinking about the step we were taking, we just gave into our hormones. I never thought twice about slipping my hand between our gyrating bodies and into her underwear, and once I felt her passion greeting my touch, I was forever lost.
I had known that she was excited, I was still unprepared at the abundance of wetness that filled my hand or by the way it drove me further into a lustful haze. Mandy was so soft and wet as my fingers glided along her swollen lips while she mirrored my actions. I was filled with a sense of peace as I felt her throbbing bundle brushing against my fingers as her hot breath tickled my neck.
In my mind Mandy was already my lover, and by the way we were stroking the others clit, I felt safe in the knowledge that she understood that I was her lover. Dimly in the back of my mind, I think I understood that she was still going to the dance with Rodney, but it really didnt matter. All that mattered was the way our bodies melted together as our touch slipped deep inside the others warmth.
Our bodies tensed as we felt one another for the first time. I recall how our movements slowed and we stared deeply into the others eyes as we pleasured each other for the first time. I smiled down at her as I wiggled my fingers inside of her while her thumb teased my clit. Neither of us spoke as we began to glide and tease the other. I felt as if I was giving myself to her, as our innocence gave way when the need for more consumed us.
Our hands and bodies rocked wildly as we plunged deeper exploring all that the other had to offer until we cried out as our young bodies convulsed. I was amazed at how our bodies refused to yield even after we experienced our first orgasm. We didnt sleep a wink that night, as we caressed and kissed until it was time to get ready for school the next morning.
From that moment on I once again assumed that Mandy was my girl, and I was hers. And all through high school we were a couple, even though we ended up going to great lengths to hide the true nature of our feelings. Despite the fact that I never expressed my feelings, I never doubted that we would ride off into the sunset together. Reality is such a let down.
Mandy was everything to me. I still remember the first time I tasted her. It was a Saturday afternoon; we went up to her room after spending the day at the mall. Safe in the knowledge that no one else was home we began making out. I was a little surprised when she stepped out of my embrace and gave me a coy look.
Our lovemaking had grown leaps and bounds from that first night still our knowledge was limited. I stood in the middle of her bedroom; she was standing at the end of her bed lowering her shorts. "There is something I want to try," she shyly offered as she stepped out of her shorts and kicked off her shoes.
"Anything," I promised as I watched her slipping her panties down her slender body. "Damn you are so beautiful," I whispered helplessly as she revealed herself to me. I may not have been able to tell her how madly in love with her I was, but there wasnt a day that passed that I didnt tell her just how beautiful and smart she was. At the time, I thought it was the same as telling her I loved her.
I could see that she was already excited as I spied her glistening passion. I took a deep breath as my gaze drifted up to her breasts that were straining against the thin material of her emerald cotton top. I inhaled sharply when she turned from my appreciative gaze and bent over. Once again instinct took over and I fell to my knees and filled my hands with her backside. She released a throaty moan as I massaged her firm flesh while she parted her legs. The scent of her arousal filled me as I began to kiss her skin. "Is this what you wanted?" I asked still dazed by the sight of her offering herself to me.
"Yes," she hissed as my touch grew bolder. I tasted her passion for the first time and lost all sense of reason. It was pure ambrosia and I needed more. I could feel her swaying against me, as my lips and tongue feasted upon her while my hands groped and fondled her. I buried myself deeper inside of her nectar when my tongue brushed against her clit and she thrust against me.
I couldnt believe how completely turned on I was just by tasting her. I had to have more. She fell onto the bed when I spun her around and parted her with my tongue. She draped her legs over my shoulders, as I cupped her backside and drew her to my lips. My tongue glided along her swollen lips drinking in every drop of her desire before I captured her clit in my mouth. I had never thought about making love this way before and from that moment on it was something I was certain I would perish without.
I had always enjoyed feeling Mandy climaxing against my body, but when I felt her release this time my body shuddered along with her. I kept drinking from her as she rocked in my arms, finally she begged me to stop. Before I could catch my breath Mandy pushed me down onto the bed and was removing my clothing, informing me that it was my turn. I willingly gave myself to her.
Our lives were filled with bliss until the inevitable happened. It was just a few days before graduation. Things had been tense between us because I was planning on running off to Europe and bumming around before starting college. I just assumed that Mandy was going with me, despite her parents refusal. We were in the safe confines of her bedroom one night making plans for our future, which is odd since we still didnt talk about our relationship.
Still I felt confident that we were a couple. I was bolstered by the fact that Mandy had secretly purchased a plane ticket and gotten her passport so we could fly off to Italy together. We had worked long and hard to get the money together, and we knew that we would have to work once we began traveling. Mandy was upset by the fact that our departure date was coming soon and her parents still refused to budge.
We didnt end up talking for very long, one look and a simple touch led to kissing, which of course led to more. There I was on my back, the both of us naked as Mandy straddled my body while plunging her fingers in and out of me, and the door opened. After carrying on for over two years we finally got caught and it wasnt pretty.
Wanda screeched up and down as I blocked her from getting anywhere near my lover. After we had managed to get dressed Mr. Wright joined in on the screaming match. They tossed both of us from the house, telling Mandy to never return. I didnt bother going back to my own home, except to pick up my belongings. We held up in a dingy motel room. We did sneak back to Mandys house only to retrieve her belongings when her parents were absent. We skipped graduation and headed directly to Italy.
Europe was great; we bummed around finding work when we could. Even though the places we lived were most decidedly slums, I thought we were happy for the year and a half we wandered about. What I failed to realize or notice was that we were growing up and apart. I still cant believe that I was so stupid. I spent three years with someone and never told her I loved her or offered her a commitment, and never once introduced her as my girlfriend.
By the time we were working in a small restaurant in the South of France, I was an arrogant ass who just assumed that Mandy would always be there, even when I strayed. It didnt happen very often since I was still deeply in love with Mandy, but it did happen and it was beginning to happen more and more. I was so wrapped up in myself that I chose not to see the hurt in her eyes or how our relationship had grown stagnant.
I was on my way to work, when our landlady Madame Ledger stopped me with some disturbing news. I thought Mandy was already at work, since she had left so early that morning. Mandy had been so moody and distant for months that her early departure had been a relief that day. Until Mrs. Ledger raced after me and informed me that Mandy was in the hospital. I almost collapsed when she told me. I gave no thought of my employer; hell we just washed dishes and cleaned up. It was all we were really qualified to do, since we barely spoke the language and didnt have working papers.
I raced to the hospital and found that my Mandy had been beaten up. "What happened?" I wept as I knelt by her beside. I started to cry when she refused to look at me as I stared down at her battered body. "Baby, please tell me who did this to you?" I pleaded as I silently vowed to kill the bastard. I was in a daze when the nurse led me from the room.
I was so far gone that I failed to realize that the nurse had introduced a police officer to me. The both of them began to ramble on begging me to tell them what I knew. What could I tell them? I didnt know anything except that I had failed to protect Mandy. I wanted to throw up as they continued to barge me with questions, that I was having trouble translating. The words that filtered through my muddled mind made no sense. Bebe, cheri, agresseur, fausse couche, certainly I wasnt hearing them correctly, they couldnt have been saying those words. There was no way on Gods green earth they were telling me that Mandy had been attacked by her sweetheart and lost her baby.
"What are you saying?" I demanded as they gave me blank looks, forcing me to actually repeat the question in French.
I stood there in the busy dingy hospital corridor as Officer Renault slowly explained that Mandy had a miscarriage, after her boyfriend had beaten her. Now he wanted to know who the man was. Renault seemed to think that as her friend and traveling companion that I would know whom her lover was. Up until that moment I truly believed that I was her lover, and I still couldnt believe what he was saying.
I tried in vain to explain to them that it was impossible, since Mandy didnt have a boyfriend and she couldnt possibly be pregnant. I felt numb as the nurse reassured me that it was the truth. Renault further explained that witnesses had heard a man screaming that she was a slut and the baby wasnt his. Each of them implored me to reveal the mans name.
Although I had no idea who the man was, I had every intention of finding out. I stumbled back into the ward and once again knelt by her side. "Who?" I choked out my demand as Mandy turned to me her eyes narrowing with anger.
"Why?" She managed to squeak out through her swollen lips. "Im nothing more than a friend, your roommate, it doesnt matter."
"Is that all I am to you?" I gasped as I felt my body reeling.
"No," she said with a hard swallow as an errant tear rolled down her face. "But it is all Ive ever been to you."
"Do you love him?" I bitterly inquired as the truth of her words made the bile rise in my throat.
"Never," she sniffed. "It was always you that I loved."
"Then why did you find someone else?" I spat out.
"Why did you?" She flared before turning away.
I stumbled to my feet and fled the room, still feeling the verbal slap from the truth in Mandys words as I staggered into the first washroom I could find. My body wrenched as I threw up repeatedly until there was nothing left expect my convulsing body and the harsh reality.
I stormed out of the hospital knowing that I had to make this right. First I had to make him pay. I stormed towards the restaurant determined to find out who he was. Jean the junior chef would know, I reasoned since Mandy had only met people through our job and she and the cook were close. I was filled with fury when I burst into the kitchen, startling Jean, Henri the head chef and Michel the bus boy.
Much to my surprise Jean bolted in the opposite direction. "Dont be rash Cassidy," he pleaded with me.
"You?" I fumed as leapt over the prep table and cornered him by the stove.
"Shes a slut," he mistakenly argued. "Who knows who she was screwing?"
Henri managed to step between us just as I was reaching for the weasels throat. "What is this?" The older man demanded.
"Im going to kill him," I blurted out in English, which Michel quickly translated.
"No," Henri adamantly interjected.
"I see," I sputtered. "So, it is all right to seduce a girl then beat her into having a miscarriage after you knock her up? Is that what passes for a man in this country?"
"No," Henri agreed as he stepped aside allowing me to throttle Jean.
"Wait," Michel argued trying to be the voice of reason amidst the mayhem. "We dont know if this is true?"
"You dont believe me?" I hissed as Jean and I scuffled about the kitchen. "Just go to the hospital and ask Mandy for yourself."
"The angel?" Henri gasped with horror.
Michel didnt take the news very well either. Id like to say I pummeled Jean senseless, but if Henri and Michel hadnt decided to hold him down, I would have ended up in the hospital myself. The two men were so outraged by his cowardice not only did they hold him down they added to his punishment.
Sadly the authorities took a dim view of our actions. Since Jean was hesitant to confess as to why we kicked the crap out of him, and one of the policemen was Officer Renault none of us were charged. But it was suggested that I leave the country as soon as possible. I didnt immediately, I needed to see Mandy and convince her to come with me. I still loved her and I knew deep down that she loved me.
She was less than pleased when I arrived with a black eye. She told me to get out. I did, but I returned every day. Mandy was retreating further and further within herself. Each time she refused to see me, I could see that she was blaming herself. It tore me apart that she wouldnt listen to me. Finally, the Wrights showed up and I was barred from seeing Mandy, not to mention that the police went from suggesting that I leave France to insisting.
I made one last plea, with Renaults help. He snuck me into Mandys room late one night. It had been weeks since I had seen her. I had my backpack since I was to be delivered to the train station after my visit. The French Government wanted the entire situation to go away before the Wrights turned it into an international incident and the best way for it to happen was to make me go away.
I slipped my pack onto the floor before I knelt beside her. She looked so small curled up in that hospital bed as I brushed a lock of hair from her bruised face. "Cass?" She whimpered. "It has been so long, I was afraid you were in jail."
"Not yet," I sighed as I tried to smile. "But I will be if I dont leave. I hate leaving you like this. Im so sorry I hurt you. Find me when you get out, Ill write to Henri."
"No," she sniffed. "My parents are taking me home. I just want to go home. I didnt mean to hurt you."
"You could never hurt me," I vowed as I kissed her cheek. "I love you, I always have."
"I love you too," she tearfully whispered as she clung to me. "I just cant do this anymore. It is for the best."
"No it isnt," I flatly argued as I slipped from her embrace. I knew I had to let her go and it was killing the both of us. "Dont forget me."
"Never," she vowed as we exchanged a tender kiss and I was forced to leave when her mother stormed into the room.
That is how we met, fell in love and broke up. Over the years I always felt our ending never fit our beginning, but that was what life handed us. Now dont start getting worried; I havent forgotten that I promised to tell you about Mandys dead husband. I just wanted you to understand how passionate we felt about one another. I also wanted to explain how each of us, never forgot the other. Both Mandy and I carried around a sense of guilt over the way things ended between us. My biggest feeling of guilt stemmed from the fact that I felt that I had failed her, and us.
My reasonable side understood that we were just a couple of crazy kids caught up in a whirlwind. My heart never quite forgave me. After I fled France before I ended up in jail, I traveled around for another few months. Despite the wonders I discovered, I couldnt shake a certain feeling of ennui. The splendor meant nothing without Mandy by my side. I decided it was time to grow up and head home. I did try to contact Mandy, long before I returned to the States. All of her letters came back unopened, with her mothers handwriting sprawled across the address with the words return to sender.
When I came home, I didnt return to the same small town I had grown up in. As much as I wanted to see Mandy, I knew that it was for the best if I left her alone. I hated it, but it really was for the best. I worked hard, put myself through school and ended up becoming a successful accountant. Thats right, Im a bookkeeper. Im good at it, I enjoy my work and I make a good living.
I did travel home for the holidays to visit my family who had managed to mellow out over the years. Every once in awhile during one of my visits home I would see Mandy out at a shop or walking around town. Sadly her mother was always lurking about. But Mandy and I would always share a friendly smile and a brief wave.
I still laugh at how one time when I was visiting after my Dad had passed on when Mom and I were out shopping and Mandy and I shared a smile before Wanda dragged her off. "I see Wanda still has the stick wedged up her ass," Mom snorted as her fellow patrons gaped at her outburst. "What?" She shrugged before we went about finishing our shopping. "I would have loved to seen the look on her face when she caught you and Mandy naked."
"Mom!" I squealed with a blush. I had long ago explained everything to my parents. I think it pleased her to know that I had taken the smug look off of Mrs. Wrights face even for just a second.
"Maybe you should call Mandy?" My mother encouraged.
"They changed the number years ago," I sighed.
"Youve tried?" My mother gloated.
"Yes, Mother I tried," I confessed. "Mandy was very special to me and even though it didnt work out, I still would like to know how she is doing."
"I think you still have feelings for her," my mom challenged.
"You just want to annoy Wanda," I snickered.
"No, I just want you to be happy," Mom corrected me. "I always liked Mandy and the way she made you smile."
"And you dont like Shelia?" I inquired about my new girlfriend.
"Shes nice," Mom frowned informing me that she didnt like Shelia.
I can always tell when Mom does or does not like the women in my life. My trips back home ended after Mom decided she had enough of the snow and relocated to Arizona. She likes it there. She has a small house which she shares with Roger a very nice man who treats her right. Of course I cant resist teasing her about the fact that she is living in sin.
Now I bet you are wondering just how I ended up meeting with Mandy again? I couldnt write to her, call her and I didnt visit our old hometown anymore, but I am a bookkeeper. About a year ago I was working for the same small accounting firm I had started out with. One of our clients small business was about to be taken over by a larger company and the books had to be perfect. The work I did was so impressive that the owner of the larger company offered me a very lucrative position, which my old boss told me Id be a fool to pass up on. I took his advice and went to work for Dupree Industries.
I really liked Mr. Dupree, he was an older man approaching his sixties and despite his business sense he was a nice guy. He was also from what I heard on his third wife, who according to the rumors was a bombshell. The first time I ran into Mrs. Dupree I couldnt have agreed more. Then again she was my ex-girlfriend and first love. I was just returning from lunch when a ruckus in the lobby drew my attention. I instantly recognized Seana and Tracy Mr. Duprees daughters from his first two marriages.
Steve Dupree may have possessed an honest work ethic but his off spring were nothing but a pair of spoiled brats with an attitude. Neither girl had ever worked a day in their pampered lives nor, from what Ive heard; they only agreed on one thing, their new stepmother had to go. Then again the new Mrs. Dupree was dangerously close to their ages. I dont know how I would handle it if Mom shacked up with some guy who was my age.
I chose to ignore the Dupree girls and their snippy comments as security asked them to wait. "We wont have long to wait," a voice pleaded with them. There was something about her voice that made me stop in my tracks.
"Bite me Mandy," Tracy snarled as I turned and discovered Mandy was rubbing her brow as her stepdaughters circled her.
I know that I should have just kept walking and ignore the fact that my ex-lover was standing just a few short feet away. I didnt, instead I called out her name in an effort to save her from the girls. Perhaps I still felt a need to protect her.
"Cass?" She beamed as I crossed the lobby. "What are doing here?" She asked as she engulfed me in a hug. I didnt miss the groans or eye rolling from the demon spawn as we hugged.
"I work here," I explained carefully stepping out of her embrace. I was thrown for a bit of a loop at how good it felt to have Mandys arms wrapped around me.
"Who is this?" Seana demanded in a snide tone as Tracy clicked her tongue in a disgusted manner.
"Seana this is an old friend of mine," Mandy scolded the girl. I found it amusing that Mandy chastised the girls. They werent really girls, in fact Seana is just about a year older than Mandy and myself, and Tracy was only ten years our junior.
"But she works here," Tracy cringed.
"I know it is a foreign concept," I taunted the younger girl much to Mandys delight. Throughout the entire exchange, I kept praying that Mandy was also the hired help and not the owners wife. My heart sank when the security guard addressed her as Mrs. Dupree. Mandy frowned and looked slightly embarrassed when it happened. "I need to get back to work," I offered in an effort to ease the sudden tension. "It was nice seeing you again."
"We should do lunch sometime?" Mandy blurted out quickly as I tried to make my escape.
"Sure," I shrugged never expecting to hear from her again.
I know what you are thinking, there I go assuming again. Serves me right, of course, we had lunch and then dinner, and shopping. We became close friends all over again. And I started falling for her again. At times I could have sworn that she felt the same way. I managed to keep things friendly without giving into my feelings. What else could I do, she is a married woman. Not only is she married, but also she is married to my boss who is a really nice guy.
So, I have to ask myself why did I invite her over to my place the other night for a home cooked meal when her husband was out of town. For the past year I had fooled myself into thinking that I was handling my friendship with Mandy. At times it was admittedly uncomfortable for the both of us.
For example whenever I would show up at a company function with a date, Mandy was never rude but I could see the hurt in her eyes. Another added joy to the company functions was that Mandys mother and stepchildren always attended each trying their best to hold Mr. Duprees attention. When they failed to garner the old mans attention their focus remained on either Mandy or me.
I knew why the old lady didnt like, me but I hadnt quite figured out the spawns problem other than I was a working stiff who got along with their stepmother. "I knew I liked you Cassidy," Mr. Dupree offered at the company picnic.
"Why is that sir?" I respectfully responded, I may socialize with his wife but I never forgot he was the boss.
"My mother in-law cant stand you," he laughed as I cringed wondering just how much the old lady had told him. "She said that you were a bad influence on my wife when you were growing up. What did you do, teach her how to smoke?"
"Yeah," I lied as I blew out a heavy sigh, happy that he had just assumed it was teenaged shenanigans that had caused Mrs. Wright to disapprove of me.
It was more than apparent that Mrs. Wright did approve of her daughters marriage to such an affluent man. Mandy had confided in me that her mother had pushed her into dating her husband. I had to give Mandy credit, although I didnt sense any passion between her and her husband, the two did seem genuinely fond of one another.
So there we were just a couple of nights ago relaxing by the fire after dinner. As my body warmed I began to think that opening the second bottle of wine just might have been an error in judgment. "So, Mrs. Dupree," I began slowly. I did that a lot, calling her by her formal name in an effort to remind myself she was spoken for. "When is your husband coming home?"
"Steve will be back on Christmas Eve," she sighed as she traced her wine glass with the tip of her finger. My throat felt suddenly dry as I watched her tiny digit swirling around the glass. "I hate it when you call me that."
"I know," I sighed as I lifted my gaze and drank in her soft golden hair illuminated by the firelight. "I just need to remind myself," I explained. "Dont you mind him traveling so much?" I asked in an effort to change the subject.
"No," she shrugged. "Why do you need reminding?"
"It would bother me living in the great big house and having my partner away all the time," I responded ignoring her question along with the gleam in her eyes. "Not to mention being trapped with his over grown brats and your mother."
"You forgot Charlotte the maid and Milton the butler," she smirked. "Mother is happy living there and the girls ignore me. My husband works very hard; his first two wives objected to his need to run the company and left him."
"I see," I grimaced. "Mommy finally gets her big house, you get respectability and you dont actually have to see your husband that often. Must give you a lot of free time."
"I dont cheat on my husband," she coldly cut me off. "Not everyone thinks infidelity is something to be entered into lightly."
"I deserved that," I sadly admitted.
"No, you dont," she grumbled. "I just gave up on hoping that I was the one for you and found someone who I thought cared. Sometimes, I find myself wondering if it was a boy or a girl."
"I think about it too," I admitted as I looked over at her. "You would have been a great Mom."
"I will be," she smiled at me as my heart skipped a beat.
"Are you?" I asked excited by the news suddenly worried that she was drinking alcohol.
"Not yet," she smiled at me. "We still have time."
"That has got to make the terrible two nervous," I laughed. "I still dont understand why they are living at home; Seana is older than we are."
"I dont understand them at all," Mandy groaned. "Ive met their mothers. Both are really sweet women who loved Steve. They just couldnt stand the neglect. I mean they are not fond of me, but they are polite. I cant really blame them for disliking me. Im the third wife who is young enough to be Steves daughter."
"And you dont mind the neglect?" I pried once again. There was something in her eyes that was drawing me in. "Do you love him?" The both of us shivered at the haunting question.
"We care very much for one another," she tried to explain as I felt her body inching closer. "You dont understand."
"No, I dont," I agreed as my own body slipped closer to her. "I remember how we were, how it showed in our faces, I dont see that with him."
"When I got home from France, my parents didnt let me out of their sight," she began as she held my gaze. "I went to school, to work and then straight home. I was allowed to date on occasion but only with men they approved of. They never let me forget the mess I had made of my life."
"The mess?" I blurted out in horror. "I hurt you and you made one bad choice. What the hell you were over twenty-one why didnt you just leave?"
"I was going to," she protested. "I met this woman, you see I did manage to sneak real dates in, but my father got sick. I couldnt just leave, my mother was helpless and my father needed help. I was still going to move on with my life, but the woman I was seeing dumped me. I stayed, I took care of my parents until my father died, and then I took care of my mother. I settled for someone I truly enjoy being with, but dont love. He knows there isnt any passion between us. The great love of his life was Sharon his first wife; I see it in his eyes every time he talks about her. Steve is a good companion, true we still behave like man and wife but it is a rare occasion that we share a bedroom."
"Tell me something does he know he married a lesbian?" I curtly inquired.
"He never asked," she snarled down at me.
"Very convenient," I sneered and yet despite the heated words we were exchanging I could feel my body warming beneath her inquisitive gaze. We just sat there staring at one another, the weight of ours words and the past slipping away. My heart and body was feeling the way it did each time she laughed, crinkled her nose or looked at me.
"This cant be happening," she gasped as we felt the distance slipping away. "Tell me why you have to remind yourself?" She pleaded as she placed her glass on the table and cupped my face in her hands.
I couldnt speak at first all I could do was enjoy the feel of her breath on my skin. "Because Im in love with you," I confessed as my wine glass slipped from my hand and crashed against the carpeting. We didnt care or notice the broken glassware we were far to busy kissing. It felt far too good to be holding her in my arms again.
Mandy pushed me backwards until I was lying beneath her. Mandys hands never released my face as the kiss deepened. My hands caressed the soft curves of her body, bunching the thick material of her black turtleneck as they made their descent. Just as my fingers tickled the soft skin she pulled away. I could see the tears welling up in her eyes as she hovered above me. "We cant," she choked out breaking both of our hearts.
"I know," I blew out with regret my hand retreating from the warmth of her body. The hardest thing to deal with at that moment was the doubt lingering between us. I could feel the heat surging off of her body, and I knew it wasnt about the past. It would have been easy to laugh it off as the effects of the wine or old feelings, we both knew that the heated make out session was born from a new passion.
If it had been a simple mistake I wouldnt still be under her warm inviting form and she wouldnt be looking at me with such intensity. "I want you to hold me," she panted her hazel eyes boring into my soul. "But if you do, Im afraid that I will lose my way."
I wanted to scream, to tell her to leave her sham of a marriage behind and run away with me. We had been down that road before; could I offer her a better life this time? Or would I simply cause her more pain? I ran my fingers through her long golden hair as my mind screamed for me to let her go.
One of us needed to move; yet we remained there suspended in time trying to make the moment last a lifetime. I knew all I had to do was slip out of her embrace and it would be over. Instead I lay there helplessly feeling her heart beating rapidly against my chest. The shrill sound of a phone ringing shattered our bliss. "It is my cell," she nervously stammered as she slipped away from me.
I jerked my body away as she retrieved her phone from her long woolen coat which was hanging by my doorway. I felt sick as I listened to her talking to her husband. Her hand trembling as she kept brushing her hair from her face.
I could feel my anger rising as the conversation continued. "Im just doing some last minute shopping," she squeaked out her voice cracking as she tried to deceive him. I frowned as I glanced at my watch, knowing that he wasnt going to believe that she was shopping at this late hour. "Shit, that was a mistake," she muttered after snapping the phone shut.
"Which part?" I grumbled as I sat up and swung my legs around. "The lame excuse you just handed your husband or kissing me?" My howling in pain cut off any response Mandy could offer. When my stocking clad foot hit the carpet it was greeted by the shattered stem of my wine glass.
I was clutching my foot as she rushed to my side. She carefully knelt beside me. "Damn it Cass," she fearfully sputtered as she snatched my injured foot from my grasp. "Stop it," she scolded me as I tried to pull away from her. "Lean back," she firmly instructed me as she slowly slipped my trouser sock from my foot. "It doesnt look bad," she reassured me after carefully inspecting my injury.
"Good," I muttered as I tried to remove my foot from her hold.
"Will you just sit still?" She scolded me. "I swear you can be such a pain in the ass." I snickered at her comment as she stood. "What?"
"Now you figure out that Im a pain in the ass?" I laughed. "I thought you would have realized that back when we were living in that one room hovel in Spain."
"Stay still," she repeated as she crossed the room. "Im going to check your medicine cabinet to see if you have anything useful in there. And it wasnt a hovel," she admonished me as she ducked into my bathroom.
"Yes it was," I argued once she reemerged with what appeared to be a box of band-aids and a tube of antiseptic. "It was smaller than my closet, we couldnt walk around, and there was just room enough for that lumpy mattress."
"I thought it was quaint," she corrected me as she tended to my wound. I shivered as I felt her fingers gently cleansing the small cut.
"Right, sharing a bathroom with twelve other people was quaint?" I snickered as she continued tending to my needs.
"Ill agree with you on the bathroom," she laughed before blowing a warm breath across my foot. I fought hard to repress the squeak that escaped my lips. "What was that womans name?" She babbled on, blissfully unaware of the effect she was having on me. "The one who never locked the bathroom door, and always seemed to be in there?"
"I forget," I mumbled as she gently put a band-aid on my foot, while my stomach clenched. "What did she weigh, three, four hundred pounds?"
"Now if the sight of seeing her naked didnt scare us straight nothing could," she teased as I gaped at her. I watched as she stood, mesmerized by the sight of her I reached out. "All set," she said clearing her throat. "You just relax and Ill clean up the broken glass."
I was speechless as I withdrew my hand and she disappeared into my kitchen. Once again she was kneeling by the sofa as she swept up the broken glass. "Good thing it broke into two pieces," she casually offered keeping her back to me as she went about her cleaning. "Id still be careful until you get a chance to vacuum. Lucky that you prefer white wine."
I just sat back and listened to lilting sound of her voice as she rambled on. "It wasnt a hovel," she said suddenly finally turning to meet my gaze. "I dont remember the mattress being lumpy; I just remember making love almost every night by the light of that candle we kept burning. Do you remember?" She asked in a pleading tone.
"How could I forget?" I whispered once again lost in her eyes. "We lit a candle in that wine bottle every time we made love. That poor old bottle was caked in wax. It was the first bottle of wine we shared. We bought it in Italy the day we arrived and drank it that night and used it for a candle stick almost every night that followed."
Her eyes misted over as she stood and retreated once again into the kitchen. I was pleasantly surprised when she returned to the sofa and placed my feet in her lap. "You are going to think Im silly," she started slowly as she rubbed my calves. "When I went back to our apartment in Provence, to get my things I wanted to take it with me. It was gone. Madam Ledger must have tossed it out."
"No, she didnt," I sighed as I slipped my feet from her lap. I was careful as to where I stepped as I climbed off of the sofa. She stared at me quizzically as I held my hand out to her. I limped slightly as I guided her into my bedroom. She squeezed my hand tightly as we stepped into the dark room.
"Cass?" She nervously quivered as I snapped on the light. Her eyes widened with delight as I pointed to the multicolored goby ball resting on my dresser.
"I took it with me," I shyly confessed as I felt her hand tightening around my own. My heart stopped as she turned so that she was facing me.
"Have you?" She asked as looked up at me with a dreamy expression.
"Never," I reassured her as my arms magically wound around her waist. "I never burned another candle in it."
"All this time, I never knew you were such a romantic," she whispered as her arms encircled my waist.
"I didnt learn how to show it, until I lost you," I confessed. "I just assumed that you knew how I felt."
"No," she blinked with surprise as her fingers caressed my back. "You ask me about how I felt about everything, except you or our relationship. I kept waiting for the day that it would happen, when you would tell me that you loved me, and then the other women drifted into our lives. I ignored it at first, certain that you would come back to me. I started to change, and I could feel the way we were drifting apart. I felt alone, and Jean began to shower me with attention. I needed to feel special. I should have just told you how I felt."
"Ive been saying those very same words since the day you were hurt," I softly responded as my eyes misted up. "I was a stupid kid, who didnt know how to express herself and thought that sleeping with other women wasnt a big deal."
"Oh it was a big deal," she scolded me with a frown her hands still gliding along my back.
"Why did you put up with it?" I asked knowing if she was the one who had strayed I would have went ballistic.
"Because I was also a stupid kid," she sighed as I felt my hands slipping down her body. "And as much as I hated it, I knew our time was coming to an end. As magical as our time together was, the both of us were changing. That doesnt explain why I am in your arms now."
"No, it doesnt," I agreed thinking that would have been the perfect opportunity for us to end the conversation and let go. "As good as it was for us in the beginning that isnt what I am feeling now."
"I feel the same way," she whispered as I felt her hands kneading my back. "I felt the attraction from the start, but I could not make love to you again and be alright. I just cant let you out of my life. Damn it Cass I fell in love with you again, and not because of the passion we once shared. You are an amazing woman. Then again it is easy to refuse your bed, when we stay an arms length apart. The fact that you are groping my ass isnt helping."
I hadnt even realized that I was indeed fondling her backside. I was caught up in the feel of our bodies pressing together. During the lengthy chat about our past and present our bodies had melded together. "I should stop," I breathily offered as my hands continued massaging her firmness.
I should have stopped but I couldnt. Her hands slipped between our bodies and as she nuzzled my neck she began to unbutton my blouse. After everything we had just said, about the past and the pain I was tugging that turtleneck out of her slacks while she was slipping my blouse down my shoulders. Just this once, my mind deceptively argued as my hands slipped under her top.
I caressed Mandys soft skin as her lips brushed against my chest. With my blouse dangling from my arms, I unsnapped her bra strap while she worshiped my skin with her mouth. The only sounds I could hear was our heavy breathing as we slowly caressed the others body. I was amazed by the tender slowness of our movements that had been vacant during our youth. My fingers tingled as I traced the soft supple curves of her body and shy fingers brushed against the lacy material of my bra.
All thoughts of stopping vanished as I felt her suckling my neck while her fingers teased my nipples in a slow agonizing fashion. My head fell back as her tongue flickered along my neck. My world spun out of control as I gave in to the warmth surging through my body. I didnt care if it was wrong; all I cared about was the feel of her tongue slipping further down until she was teasing the swell of my breasts. My clit was throbbing, as my caresses grew bolder.
My hands slid down her body while her mouth captured my nipple in her mouth, suckling it through the delicate material of my bra. I laced my fingers through her hair drawing her closer as my body arched pressing more of my flesh against her lips. Her breathing was labored as her head lifted and she greeted me with a smoldering gaze. "Light a candle," her husky voice requested my body clenching in response.
I did as she requested as she made herself comfortable on my bed. I allowed my blouse to fall to the floor as I beheld a vision revealing her body for me. I reached behind my back unclasping my bra, before dropping the unwanted garment to the floor. I stood there watching as her clothing slipped from her body; she was even more beautiful than I remembered. When had she become a woman? I wondered as I slipped my clothing from my overheated body.
She leaned back, beckoning me to join her. I crawled slowly across my bed, hovering above her allowing my eyes to drink in her beauty. We shared a curious smile before exchanging tender promising kisses our bodies separated only by the night air. Our nipples brushed lightly sending delightful tremors through our bodies. If only for that moment in time, we belonged to one another.
My flesh sank into hers as Mandys arms encompassed me drawing me closer. I moaned into the vast warmth as our skin touched and our bodies became one. The raw youthful passion absent as a slow mature need guided us. I could feel her everywhere as I tried to touch all of her, our desire mingled as our bodies began to dance as one. I slipped my hand between us our bodies never stopping as I caressed her flat stomach. I delighted in the feel of her skin dancing beneath my touch as my caresses drifted lower.
She released a throaty moan as I brushed against her wetness. My touch remained tender as I parted her with my fingers, gliding along the soft slick folds. Mandys body wriggled beneath me as soft promising words fell from her lips. I refused to believe in the promises, as I dipped deeper into her passion. That night was all I could dare hope for as I felt her hand greeting my wetness. I rocked against her touch, as we stroked one another.
The room was filled with the sounds of our bodies meeting and the musky aroma of our desire. Kissing her was the only thing keeping me alive, as we slipped inside one anothers warm wet center. I could feel her filling me, her fingers wiggling playfully as I teased her throbbing nub with the pad of my thumb. I could feel her body tensing against mine.
I needed more of her and soon I was kissing and tasting my way down her body. With each flicker of my tongue I could feel her body dancing, as she moaned with pleasure. She whispered my name, as my tongue tickled the inside of her thighs. Her taste was once again causing me to lose my way. I cupped her firm round backside and guided her to my eager lips. I murmured into her wetness as I drank from her, Mandys body thrusting as she pressed her passion against me.
I took her with long slow strokes as my fingers once again slipped inside her core. I could hear my name being chanted over and over again as I drove her higher. I captured her throbbing bundle between my lips, our bodies now thrusting urgently. I didnt release her from my grasp even after I felt her exploding, and I followed her over the edge. My fingers slipped from her body, I curled my tongue and plunged inside of her.
Her blunt nails dug into my scalp as I drained the last ounce of passion from her. "Cass, baby, please," she sputtered helplessly as I licked the passion from her thighs.
"Anything," I vowed as I felt her guiding me up to her loving embrace. There was always something about the way Mandy held me in her arms that made my heart swell. She guided me onto my stomach, covering me with her body. My hips jerked in response as I felt her wetness entering me. Her agile fingers slipping between my thighs teasing me as I begged her for more.
Our bodies rocked in a perfect rhythm as she filled me. She released my unbridled passion as she plunged deeper and harder. I was screaming her name as her body rode mine until the both of us were screaming. We fell into a quivering heap as the ecstasy tore through our bodies. Once again she was in my arms as we kept giving into the others touch and kisses. I never wanted to stop knowing that when we did we would be forced to say goodbye.
Finally, our bodies had nothing left to give even if our hearts were begging us to never cease. Mandys head nestled against my chest, the shrilling of her cell phone echoing from the other room brought tears to our eyes. I let her go, so she could go back to her life. I stood in the darkness listening to her arguing with her mother on the cell phone.
Mandys strength impressed me as I listened to her standing up to her mother. Apparently by becoming Mrs. Dupree she had given her mother what she wanted, the big fancy house and a rich son in-law but it was Mandy who had become the lady of the house. "Not that it is any of your business," Mandy fumed as she stormed into the bedroom and began collecting her clothing. "I am visiting a friend. None of your business."
I wrapped my robe around my body, reclined on my bed and just watched Mandy fussing about. "Tell her its me that ought to get her panties in twist," I eagerly suggested with an evil smirk.
"Im in Cassidy Richards apartment," she smirked her eyes dancing merrily before she jerked the phone from her ear as the old woman screeched. "Wow," Mandy winced as her mothers tirade continued. "Mother!" She finally fumed tiring of the womans ranting. "Im an adult," she spat out. "Now, Ill be home when I get there. In the meantime, Im sorry Charlotte has retired for the evening, but you are more than capable of going down to the kitchen and making yourself a sandwich," she triumphantly concluded before snapping her phone shut and tossing it onto the bed. "Ugh," she shivered while shaking her head furiously.
"She called you in the middle of the night, because she was hungry and the maid is off duty?" I blew out not believing what had happened.
"Yes," Mandy hissed as she continued to get dressed. "Mother seems to think that the staff should be on duty twenty-four hours a day, like theyre an appliance and not a human being. When she informed me that she was selling her house and wanted to stay with us, I said no. Steve said no. We were newlyweds, for goodness sake. After the girls moved in, she bullied us into it."
"How did the girls end up moving in?" I asked before I could think better of it.
"Sharon finally kicked Seana out hoping she would grow up," Mandy prattled on as she slipped on the last of her clothing. "She went crying to Steve. Tracys mother got wind of it, and decided it was fabulous idea," she paused for a moment and gave me a curious look. "This is the oddest after sex conversation I have ever had."
"What talking about your family?" I quipped trying to make light of the situation.
"So, is this your way of avoiding talking about what happened?" She accused.
"Yes," I confirmed in a frank tone. "We cant make promises and I refuse to feel guilty."
"We could?" She began.
"No," I cut her off. "I cant handle any false promises. Im in love with you, which is why I cant see you again."
"I love you too," she whispered before placing a promising kiss on my still trembling lips. "If I did leave him, do you think hed keep mother?" I laughed heartily at her attempt to cheer the both of us. After she was gone, I was left wishing she hadnt joked about leaving her husband it just gave me false hope.
The following day I kept telling myself that it was just one night, and until the day she moved on with her life I could never be a part of it. I had just about convinced myself that it was all for the best when I walked up to the door of my apartment and found her waiting for me. We spent another long night rediscovering one another. When we parted we agreed that we had to stay away from each other. The following night I was packing my bags, getting ready for my morning flight to Arizona. I hated flying on the day before Christmas but my time off didnt start until the twenty-fourth.
What I hated even more was when my phone rang in the middle of the night, I knew it was Mandy calling and I answered it anyways. Not only did I answer her call, and talk to her for hours, but also I ended up agreeing to drive up to the Dupree estate so we could see one another before Steve returned the following afternoon.
"Just park around back, the girls are out and mother is asleep," she whispered her instructions. "Knock on the kitchen door; Ill be waiting for you."
"Ill get there as soon as I can," I promised.
"What do you want?" I heard her question someone as we were disconnecting the call.
I must be in love why else would I drive through a snowstorm just to visit a married woman? Then again due to the weather the roads were empty and I arrived much earlier than I expected. I parked in the back of the palatial estate and knocked on the back door. Mandy as promised was waiting for me. The kitchen was dark as I shook the snow from the fedora, which had been my fathers. I was filled with a sense of dread as she reset the alarm and led me out of the large kitchen and into a study just around the corner.
She closed the study door behind us before taking me by the hand and leading me up a staircase in the back of the room. The staircase emptied out onto the second floor. I followed her blindly into her bedroom. I tossed my hat onto a small sofa as she wrapped her arms around my body and began to kiss me senseless.
I shrugged out of my coat before taking her into my arms and guiding her towards the bed. My hands froze as I began to undo the knot on her silk robe. "I cant make love to you in his bed," I confessed.
"This is my bedroom, the master bedroom is next door," she reassured me as she pointed to the oak door that separated the two rooms. The fact that they had separate bedrooms shouldnt have made a lick of difference, but in my muddled mind it became a get out of jail free card. Mandy encouraged me further by informing me that her mothers and the girls rooms were in a separate wing on the opposite end of the house.
I know what you are thinking making love to a mans wife under his roof is still rude. I was weak, and completely focused on ridding the both of us of our clothing. We lost all control as we pleasured one another in ways neither of us had thought possible. We had been making love for just over an hour, Mandy was bent over in front of me and I was riding her.
Both our bodies froze when we heard a strange popping sound. "What was that?" I asked slipping my hands from her body.
"I have no idea," she said in bewilderment. We shrugged in unison and began kissing. The alarms went off, at first I thought they were in my head. "Oh God," she panicked as she broke from our embrace and the sounds of feet trampling down the hallway echoed through the house. "Theres an intruder," she gasped as she peeked at the control panel.
"Stay here," I instructed her as my protective mode kicked while I pulled on my pants and sweater.
"Cass, I really doubt we could explain that," she smiled as she pulled open her dresser and yanked out a pair of jeans and a sweater. "The police are on their way, we can use the staircase in Steves room and sneak down to the study."
"The police?" I questioned as she threw on the jeans and sweater. "Dont they usually send a couple of rent a
"Not when your last name is Dupree," she explained as we carefully slipped into the master bedroom leaving her room in complete disarray.
We slipped into the study unnoticed and joined everyone in the kitchen. Steve had been shot dead while trying to enter the house through the kitchen. The alarm went off because he hadnt had time to deactivate it, since he hadnt managed to fully enter the house and left the back door open.
Are you all caught up now? Good.
"Im sorry?" I wearily respond to the detective.
"I asked where were you at the time of the murder?" She repeated. The house had been a flurry of activity and now it was just two detectives and the rest of us. She had asked me the same questions over and over again, and frankly it was working my nerves.
"For the last time detective I was in the study with Mrs. Dupree," I sighed as the detective looked around.
"This is the study right?" She asked pointing to the doorway.
"Yes," I responded in exasperation.
"And there is the kitchen?" She continued with a knowing smirk as she pointed toward the kitchen door.
"Yes," I answered not seeing her point.
"How is it that not only didnt either one of you see or hear anything but you were the last two to enter the kitchen?" She trumped me as my jaw dropped. "Everyone else had to rush downstairs; stumbled around for a bit until the maid discovered Mr. Duprees body and the two of you were just ten feet away and missed everything."
"Oh boy," I muttered. She smiled at finally seeing me crack. Everyone else was nestled safely in the sitting room with her partner. They had already been questioned; Mandy and I were the only ones she kept dragging out for more questioning. Frankly I couldnt fault her reasoning. Mandy had just become the rich widow from her much older husbands demise. If I were watching this on Court TV, Id be screaming the wife did it.
"Shall try this again?" She toyed with me. "Tell me again how you know Mrs. Dupree and what you were doing here tonight?"
"Mandy and I grew up together," I repeated suddenly feeling like I was on a sinking ship. Of course it didnt help matters that the murder weapon was found in the snow outside the house. Oh and you are going to love this, the gun belongs to Mandy. Seems good old Steve felt safer if she was armed while he was away. She swears she kept it locked in the library safe. I paused for a moment before completing my answer. "I stopped in for a visit before the holiday."
"At this hour of the night?" She almost laughed in my face. "You know what I find interesting, that everyone else was tucked in bed and the two of you were down here in the wee hours of the morning."
"How do you know they were in bed?" I protested.
"Everyones bed is a mess, except Mrs. Duprees," she shrugged. I blushed when I realized that they must have assumed that Mandy slept in the master bedroom.
"It could have been an intruder or someone lying in wait," I threw out in a completely lame manner.
"We found a shell casing on the kitchen floor," she smirked.
"The shot came from inside of the house?" I sputtered. I really hadnt wanted to believe that it was someone in the house who had murdered my boss. "Why?"
"Why what?" She curiously inquired.
"Think what you want about Mandy and me," I groaned. "Mr. Dupree was a really nice guy; I cant believe someone in his family would want to harm him."
"Hes worth millions," she bluntly informed me.
"So?" I countered. "Look if money is the motive then why is Mandy the only person who isnt trampling all over the house looking for the will."
"Speaking of trampling, is it true that you and Mrs. Dupree traveled across Europe together?" She pressed on. "And you fled from France to avoid an assault charge?"
"Dont answer that," a stern voice instructed me.
"Oh, great now youre lawyer is here," Detective Manning groused. "Ms. Hastings always a pleasure."
"My what?" I stammered like an idiot as the rest of the household piled out into the foyer. "I dont have a lawyer."
"Hush," the formable Ms. Hastings cautioned me.
"This is Sharon the first Mrs. Dupree," Mandy explained her eyes still swollen from crying. "I called the girls mothers. I thought they should know and that the girls would be more comfortable with them."
"Were leaving?" Tracy whined seemingly oblivious to the fact that her father was dead.
"Yes, Tracy," Sharon groaned. "Your mother is flying in from Aspen, you will be staying with me until she arrives and we can make the arrangements. And before either of you go into a snit, you cant stay this is a crime scene."
"We have to go?" Wanda groused. "But it is Christmas?"
"Mother?" Mandy gasped. "Steve is dead; surely you dont expect to go on as if nothing has happened. I dont want to stay in the house where he was murdered."
Maybe it was just my imagination, but the detective seemed to take notice that Mandy and Sharon were the only two people other than the staff that seemed to give a damn. "Ms. Hastings, just so there is no misunderstanding youre not here in an official capacity?" Detective Manning interjected.
"Not yet," Sharon threatened. "How long have you been interviewing everyone? Have you done a paraffin test? And just when can everyone go?"
"Since my arrival, yes, the killer must have been wearing gloves and when I say so," Manning fumed.
"I dont think so," Sharon argued.
"Mom, why are you helping them?" Seana objected. "It is obvious who shot Daddy. Come on shes twenty-five years younger than him and shes been trolling around with this one. And shes not the only woman shes been with back before Daddy,"
"How dare you?" Wanda screeched.
"Oh God, Mothers defending me Im screwed," Mandy muttered in a horrified tone.
"Tell me you didnt have your stepmother investigated?" Sharon demanded.
"It was Tracys idea," Seana blurted out before cowering behind her sibling.
"Fine," Manning shook her head. "Now about France?" She turned her attention back towards me.
"Enough," Sharon protested. "Miss . . .?"
"Richards," I offered to my savior.
"Ms. Richards has been through enough, every one has," Sharon concluded. "Any more questions can wait. In the meantime Im certain that you want to escort everyone as they collect their belongings."
"Fine, you have ten minutes," Manning conceded assigning her partner Fred to escort the staff, the girls and Wanda. She decided that she wanted to be the one to escort Mandy. Sharon followed after her daughter.
"I would have been just leaving to meet him at the airport," Mandy whispered as she glanced at the grandfather clock in the foyer.
"Wait?" Manning stammered as Mandy reached for the doorknob. "This isnt one of your stepdaughters rooms?"
"Would you want them that close?" Mandy snapped. "No, this is my room. It is connected to my husbands He tends to work late at night and often paces so I have my own room. If you ask Sharon she will confirm that all of his wives did for the same reason," Mandy explained as she swung the door open the scent of sex and the vision of scattered bed sheets greeted us. "Is this what you wanted to know?" Mandy defiantly hissed. I was so proud to the way she was standing up Manning.
Manning didnt respond she just kept gazing around the room with a thoughtful eye. Mandy ignored her and packed a quick bag. I felt the heat rising to my cheeks when I spied my hat and coat. I had to get them, there was no way I could pretend I didnt wear a coat in the middle of December. We had been caught in a lie and now Mandy and I were in deep trouble.
Lets be honest, if you were Manning who would you suspect? Thanks to Wanda, who I was more than certain had blabbed about France, the detective had already heard that I have a violent temper, which by the way was the only time I raised my hand in anger. Fat lot of good it will do trying to explain that now. Oh and now the detective knows I was screwing the widow. I hope the food in prison is at least edible.
I conceded defeat as I retrieved my hat and coat. "Wait?" Manning stammered as I shrugged on the coat and planted the fedora on my head. "Are those yours?"
"Yes," I groaned as my shoulders slumped. "We lied, okay? We werent in the study we were up here when it happened, that is why we were the last ones downstairs."
"Im sure you can figure out why we lied," Mandy defended us.
"You wear those all the time?" The detective pressed on ignoring Mandys statement.
"Only when it is cold," I responded slowly as Mandy and I gaped at one another. "The hat was my fathers and the coat was my grandfathers Im sentimental."
"Detective Manning, I know it looks bad," Mandy forcefully began. "I may have been unfaithful, but I didnt murder my husband."
"Oh my God," Tracy gasped as she and Seana stared at me from the doorway.
"Manning she didnt even stand to inherit that much," Sharon argued. "The girls get almost everything. Personally as the ex-wife Id love to blame his young widow, but I dont think she did it."
"Neither do I," Manning said thoughtfully. "Everyone follow me to the kitchen."
A few moments later we were all huddled in the kitchen. The poor girls looked sick, and I didnt feel so hot either. There was blood on the floor and an out-line from where Steve Duprees body landed. Frankly everyone was uneasy. I could still recall when we entered the kitchen and seeing Mr. Dupree lying on the floor. His tan wool coat sprawled out around him; the black felt hat covered with blood.
I removed my hat and scratched my head in an effort not to look at the outline. Mandy buried her face in her hands as she lingered by my side. "Alright I want everyone to think carefully when you found the body were the lights on or off?" Manning sternly began.
Everyone with the exception of Mandy and me answered that the lights were off. By the time we got downstairs the lights were on. "I turned the lights on," Milton confessed.
"Okay, Mr. Dupree entered the kitchen when it was dark," Manning surmised. "Did he normally enter through the backdoor?"
"Only when he took a taxi," Tracy answered with a sniff the reality of the situation finally hitting her. "It is easier for the driver to turn around in the back. That way the driver wouldnt have to back down the long driveway."
"That was very thoughtful," Manning nodded. "A man who would do that is the type of man who would fly home early on Christmas Eve just to surprise his family. Who knew he was planning on returning early?"
"We did," Charlotte explained as she pointed to Milton and herself. "He wanted it to be a surprise."
"And you told no one?" Manning pressed.
"No," Charlotte asserted. "He was worried about Mrs. Dupree. Im sorry Maam."
"The phone call the other night," Mandy whispered sadly.
"He thought she might be having an affair?" Manning encouraged.
"Yes," Charlotte reluctantly admitted.
"Well duh," Seana piped in only to be swatted by her mother. I liked Sharon more and more.
"So, you didnt tell Mrs. Dupree or anyone else?" Manning pressed.
"No," Charlotte responded embarrassed by her actions.
"You and Milton live in the cottage way in the back so you didnt see or hear anything?" Manning continued, as I grew bored.
"Not at thing, we were asleep by nine," Charlotte answered as I started to slip off my coat as the heat in the room started to get to me.
"Leave that on," Manning demanded. "Im just getting to you."
"Great," I grunted as shrugged back into my coat.
"Who knew you were coming?" Manning requested as she waved from me to step closer.
"Mandy," I explained as I sidestepped the blood.
"Anyone else?" She continued as she snatched my hat away from me and plopped it on my head.
"No," I fussed as the lights went out and several gasps filled the room. "What the hell was that about?" I demand as she flipped the lights back on. "Youre really tall. Anyone else see what I saw?"
"She looked like Daddy," Tracy confessed. "I noticed it upstairs. The coat and hat are very similar; youre about the same height."
"Hey," I fumed as I snatched the hat from my head back over to Mandy whose eyes were as wide as saucers. "What are you trying to say?"
"Just that no one was expecting Mr. Dupree, you on the other hand were invited," Manning concluded as she slipped a Polaroid from her pocket. I had to admit in the dark anyone could have mistaken us. But then that would mean I was the intended target.
"That is ridiculous," I argued as Mandys head snapped. "Mandy was the only one," the words died on my lips as I followed Mandys line of vision. "Son of a bitch," I gasped as Wanda glared back at me.
"Mother knew," Mandy spat out. "I caught her lurking outside my bedroom just as we said goodbye. Why?"
"You wicked old bitch," I snorted as I pulled Mandy back before she could lose her temper.
"Mrs. Wright?" Manning smirked. "Oh wait is she your client?"
"Fuck no," Sharon hissed apparently the attorney never took a liking towards Wanda either.
"Who are you going to believe detective this deviant or me?" Wanda smirked confidently.
"Oh, Mother," Mandy sighed painfully. "It is such a pity you never developed gaydar."
Manning snorted and smirked as she approached the clueless bag of bones. "Wanda Wright you have the right to remain silent and I suggest you use it," Manning gleefully explained.
Two years later
Im sitting in my mothers backyard enjoying the sunshine. Roger and I are drinking champagne while Mom and Mandy are in the kitchen. "Now this is Christmas," I sigh happily.
"Must be nice to get away from all that publicity," Roger pipes in as he refills my glass. "We watched the trial every day on Court TV. Youre mother said the most god awful things about that Wanda person."
"She tried to kill me," I squeaked. Wanda was convicted last month and I for one was glad it was over. So many secrets were revealed and it hurt everyone. The defense used Mandys and my past and present relationship in an effort to convince the jury that I was the guilty party. It didnt seem to matter that Mandy and I didnt get together right away. We both felt guilty over what happened to Steve. Funny thing, the more Wandas attorneys and the press turned against us, the closer we became. Weve confessed our feelings again, and began dating one another. We just havent been physical.
"Now about that," Roger baited me. "If I hadnt known the truth I might have had my doubts. No getting around that gunpowder thing. The police checked and none of you had it on your hands."
"Nope," I confirmed smiling as I recalled how Manning said something about the killer wearing gloves on the night of the murder. "What Wanda didnt know is they didnt stop there, they took the clothing from everyone including the nightgown and a pair of gloves Wanda had stuffed in her hamper. Her lawyers just couldnt explain how the lab found traces of gunpowder on them." I often wonder how Wanda missed my entrance was it because I made good time getting to the house, or had she simply missed me when she was getting the gun out of the safe?
"Enough about that old bitch," my mother screamed from the backdoor. "Its Christmas for Christs sake. Dinner is ready."
Dinner with Mom and Roger was surprisingly pleasant. They were still a little upset that we were staying in a hotel. "I got a call from Seana the other day," Mandy informed me as I joined her out of the balcony to look at the desert sky.
"I talked to her before we left," I added. "Strange seeing her working at the company. Shes doing really well. So is Tracy from what I hear from Audrey." Audrey Summers took over the running over Dupree Enterprises. I had known the pleasant woman for years; I just never realized that she was the second Mrs. Dupree.
"They are," Mandy smiled. "The night Steve was murdered I never would have guessed that they were reaching a turning point. When all of us started planning the funeral it hit them. The loved their father very much, it is just a shame they never showed him until after he was gone."
"Regret is a terrible thing," I sighed as I wrapped my arms around her from behind.
"We are never going to make that mistake again," she cautioned me as I smiled into her hair. "Besides now you got yourself a rich old woman," she teased me.
"Oh, Baby you might be very well off, but you arent rich and you most certainly arent old," I laughed. "However you are sexy as hell."
"I love you so much Cass," she sighed as I pulled her closer.
"I love you too, Mandy," I asserted proudly. "Come to bed."
"With pleasure," she purred as she clasped my hand and led me back into the bedroom. I laughed as she twirled me around like a princess before nudging me down onto the bed. "Hello, beautiful," she smiled down at me cutting off my response with searing kiss.
"Merry Christmas, baby," I panted as she nuzzled my neck.
"Do I get to open my present now?" She teased me as I felt the silk nightgown I was wearing gliding up my body.
"Didnt like the earrings I got you?" I teased her as I wrapped my fingers in her hair.
"I love them, and I love you," she murmured as her body slid lower and she began to kiss my quivering stomach. "Weve been patient, weve been good, weve taken things slowly and gotten to know one another again and now I want to make love to you."
"Oh God," I cried out as she emphasized her point by licking the inside of my thigh. I swooned as I felt one hand creeping up my abdomen and another lowering my panties. My body trembled as nimble fingers captured my nipple and hot breath caressed my wetness. With my panties still clinging to my thighs she parted me with her tongue as she teased my nipple.
I clung to the bedding as she glided her tongue along my sex still pinching and teasing my erect nipple. I clung to the bedding as she feasted upon my wetness never ceasing the delightful torture she was inflicting upon my nipple. I whispered her name as she captured my clit in her mouth. Both of her hands drifted to my ass. Squeezing it tightly she guided me closer. Hazel eyes sparkled up at me as she suckled me harder. My body rocked as I felt her touch slipping inside of me.
I struggled to keep my eyes open so I could watch her as she drank in my fire. Her eyes never broke contact with mine as she drove me closer to the edge. I released a strangled cry as she freed me. "That was a very nice beginning," she murmured as she kissed my thigh.
I crooked my finger beckoning her to join me. She smiled as she followed my lead. I kissed her deeply tasting my wetness on her lips as we sank down onto the bed. Time moved slowly as we delighted in each caress and kiss. Undressing one another became a work of art as we kissed and removed our limited garments with incredible patience. Finally free from all barriers we pulled back the sheets and nestled our bodies together. My senses reeled as I felt her skin touching mine.
Our hands glided slowly along each dip and curve as we tried to memorize the others body. We parted one another, stroking slowly stoking the fire for tonight and every night that followed. She was so wet as I slipped inside of her, knowing that she was experiencing the same feeling as she filled my core.
Our hands moved in unison as they taunted and teased one another. I captured her nipple in my mouth and teased it with my teeth and tongue as we thrust in and out of one another wildly. "Im yours," I whispered my promise against her skin as we clung tightly to the others body. She cried my hands never stilling as the walls tightened against my fingers.
"Forever," her strangled cry promised as I rolled on top her our bodies grinding together in a wild rhythm. My breath grew heavy as I followed her into the abyss as we collapsed against the mattress.
"Forever," I echoed her promise holding her in my arms.
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