Thursday, 16 September 2010

Excerpt Day – The Straw Man © Bonnie Dee

Excerpt

"Happy Halloween! Beware of bats tonight, children. They might scoop you up and carry you away." Marie cackled like a crone and squinted her eyes frighteningly as she grinned at the Weiderman twins. She wiggled her toes in her tight shoes, glancing down at the black leather points that clamped them into unnatural positions. Her feet were killing her and her long, black witch's dress was broiling hot on this sunny afternoon.

 

"Thank Granny Goodwitch for the pumpkins, kids." Don Weiderman nudged his awestruck six-year-olds.

 

Kevin's mouth snapped shut and he ducked behind his dad, while his braver sister, Lydia, dutifully whispered, "Thank you, Granny Goodwitch."

 

Marie smiled and laughed again. "Thank you. See you next year."

 

The twins clambered into the pickup truck and their father shut the door behind them. They peered out through the rear window at her, their pale, round faces like twin moons.

 

"Thanks again. It always makes it real special for the kids, coming here to buy their pumpkins," Weiderman said as he loaded a tawny oval pumpkin and a plump round one as bright as copper into the bed of the pickup.

 

"It's a pleasure. I love seeing how excited they are about something as simple as choosing a pumpkin. Halloween's such a special time for kids. It was always my favorite holiday. Looks like it'll be good weather for trick-or-treating tonight."

 

"Shouldn't be too cold either."

 

They both looked up at the clear, blue sky overhead and the flock of Canada geese winging in a perfect V-pattern high above. Their loud honking and the breeze rustling through the dried cornstalks were the only sounds to disturb the quiet country air.

 

Marie ran a finger under the tight collar of her uncomfortable, long-sleeved dress and wished it was at least a little cooler. The weather was unseasonably hot for the end of October. "Be sure and bring the kids out tonight," she said. "I look forward to seeing them in their costumes."

 

She waved as the Weidermans drove off, two curves of orange pumpkins visible above the tailgate of their pickup.

 

It was bittersweet living in a small town where she knew everyone and they knew her. The years slipped by but the patterns remained the same. The children grew into gawky adolescence and new wide-eyed little ones took their place, but everything else remained the same. Exactly the same. Or so it felt to Marie today. One season bled into the next and before she knew it another year was gone.

 

Sighing, she sank down on her metal folding chair at the edge of the field next to Sam the Friendly Scarecrow. The dummy, which hung on a T-frame, wore an ancient black fedora cocked at a jaunty angle and a shabby, black topcoat. Beneath the coat was a blue, cotton shirt and navy pants stuffed full of straw and tied at the cuffs. Old, brown work boots were attached at the bottom of the pants.

 

She looked up at the primitive face she'd scrawled with magic marker on white muslin and thought Sam didn't look very friendly this year. His eyebrows were thick and fierce, his eyes up-tilted at the corners, his nose a straight slash and his mouth a grim line. He definitely appeared more severe than jolly. Maybe the face she'd drawn was a reflection of her own bitter mood, which had descended on her a few months ago like a storm cloud that refused to move on. Maybe the scarecrow was her alter ego, the dark side she kept hidden from the world.

 

Snorting at her cynical self-analysis, she kicked off her confining shoes and leaned back in the hard chair. Taking off her peaked witch hat, Marie fanned herself with the wide brim then brushed her hand through her snarled blonde hair, lifting it to let the breeze swirl over the sweaty back of her neck. It was a ridiculously sultry day.

 

Marie remembered years when poor shivering tykes in Spiderman bodysuits or shiny pink princess gowns begged for candy with their teeth chattering. She was glad the kids would have good weather. There was nothing more magical than roaming the streets at night dressed as someone else, some magical, mysterious being with the power to control the night. When she was a kid, Marie thought Halloween was far more exciting than Christmas.

 

She gazed across the pumpkin patch toward the dry stalks of field corn, rattling and whispering their secrets to one another. There were many pumpkins left among the twisting vines and she wished she'd taken more to market. The number of direct-sell customers visiting the farm was down this year and pumpkins were practically unmarketable after Halloween was past.

 

Her gaze shifted to her scarecrow. "Well, another summer over. We may have actually made enough from the corn and soybeans and the stupid pumpkins to pay the taxes and heat the house this winter. Maybe even buy groceries, woo-hoo!"

 

Sam frowned down at her.

 

"Yes, I know, you were hoping for a Cancun holiday. Me too. Sometimes I'd like to sell this place, move to the city and never see anything except asphalt and tall buildings again."

 

Again she looked across the fields at the stand of woods that marked her property line. Gold, orange and an occasional scarlet maple flamed in contrast to trees with dark green leaves that hadn't yet changed. One of the neighbors was burning leaves and a smudge of smoke blossomed against the sky. Marie could smell it from a quarter mile away, sharp and tangy. It smelled like fall and made her crave a cup of cider and a doughnut. No, she wouldn't really give up her land, but lately a need for change took hold of her and shook her like a north wind rattling the eaves on a blustery day.

 

The need for something new was so strong inside her today that it almost felt as if she was poised on the cusp of a great void, about to take a plunge. It was an odd feeling, and silly, because nothing was going to happen. Nothing ever did. Tomorrow she'd wake up to the same life as today.

 

"I should put in sunflowers next year. They're a big seller." She pointed out to Sam, picturing a sea of yellow faces turned to the sun, moving in unison to track the passing of yet another day. The image depressed the hell out of her. "Next year. Will anything be different? Or will I still be sitting here talking to you?" She glared at the scarecrow.

 

He gazed impassively back at her.

 

"Stupid, useless thing. You can't even keep the crows out of the corn. What good are you?" She rested her chin on her hand, elbows on knees and stared glumly ahead. She had to get out more. Holding conversations with inanimate dummies was a little too Anthony Perkins in Psycho.

At only thirty-two Marie already felt old and worn out, too exhausted to face the dating game. She'd tried all the unattached, local men she knew and no one was the one. Lately, she rarely went out with anyone except her female friends. Meeting a guy at a club in the city was even worse. You set yourself up for a one-night stand, not a relationship, and at this stage in her life Marie was more than ready for the real deal, someone who wanted to share a life and not just a night with her.

 

She examined the straw-padded body and stern face of the scarecrow. "If you were a real man, you'd know that I just insulted you. You wouldn't stand for being called useless and you'd come down from there and show me just how useful you could be."

 

If you were a real man.

Marie pictured her ideal lover. He should be physically strong and solidly built, but not muscle-bound. Dark hair and deep brown eyes were a must. She glanced at her stuffed man again. Those tilting, almost Asian eyes were extremely appealing, but the mouth she'd gotten wrong. What she'd drawn was a mere slash. What she wanted was a pair of full, soft lips, perfect for kissing. In fact...

 

Marie rose and walked to the sales stand where she found a permanent black marker, then returned to climb up on her chair beside the scarecrow and work on his face. Making the lips fuller softened the cold, disapproving line of his mouth. She drew longer lashes around the eyes and blackened the irises, leaving only a single white spot to make a sardonic twinkle. A faint dash on either cheek delineated the cheekbones. When she stood back to regard her artistry she was pleased. He was hot for a scarecrow. And, oh my God, how pathetic was that?

 

But in the privacy of her mind, she could fantasize all she wished. It was no one's business but her own. What other qualities would her perfect lover possess? It wasn't enough that he look a certain way. He had to have the right personality; good-natured but not bland, perhaps a little dangerous streak to leaven out the good nature. He should be quirky but not weird, serious yet with a great sense of humor, possess a masculine toughness tempered with sweet vulnerability. She wasn't asking for much, just a little bit of everything, her very own male potpourri containing all the best elements of man.

 

Sitting in her chair with her black dress absorbing the sun's rays made her hot, sleepy ... and horny. She closed her eyes and drifted into an erotic fantasy starring her perfect, dark-haired, dark-eyed stranger.

 

He found her lying in the field with a twisted ankle, scooped her up and carried her toward the house, like that scene in Sense and Sensibility. She was embarrassed to be a damsel in distress, but also extremely aroused when he lifted her in his strong arms and held her against his rock-hard chest. She slipped her hand around the back of his neck, feeling the sinew and the pulsing life beneath his skin, the soft hair brushing the back of her hand. He looked at her with eyes the color of midnight. The intensity of his gaze made her feel like prey being carried off by a predator--but in a good way. Her heart raced and her breathing was shallow, almost panting.

Inside the house, he laid her on her bed, removing her shoes and stockings--yes, stockings not sports sox. It was a period piece. Maybe he even unfastened garters first. His gentle hands slid down her calves to cradle her ankle, turning it slowly from side to side, as he asked if it hurt.

Lower lip trembling, she bravely told him she would be fine and " thank you, kind sir, for coming to my aid."

Her hero carefully placed a pillow under her leg and asked if there was "anything else" he could do to make her feel better. She could almost hear the snare drum roll at the double entendre.

"Well, if you'd really like to soothe my pain, handsome stranger..."

 

His eyes were hungry, devouring each uncovered inch of flesh as he worked his way down the long row of buttons on her shining, satin gown. He peeled away layers of delicate undergarments; petticoats, bloomers, a chemise or maybe a corset, to reveal her lush curves. Yes, in her daydream she could have lush curves and bigger breasts. His hands caressed her naked skin, trailing over her shoulders, her chest and the plump mounds of her breasts, down her rib cage and stomach. His erotic touch sent her stomach leaping, her skin twitching. He stopped when he reached the triangle of dark hair marking her sex and framed it with his splayed hands as though framing a work of art, while she waited breathlessly, for him to continue.

He seductively stroked her inner thighs, tickling her with his fingertips until she moaned. Then he gently parted the folds of her sex to reveal the pink bud of her clitoris. His exotic, slanted eyes feasted on the sight of her spread open before him then he slowly leaned to place his mouth on her pearl of desire.

Gasping, she rose to his touch, lifting her hips off the bed and toward his hot mouth. Just one kiss, he pressed there, then pulled away to watch her reaction to his touch. The light pressure of his lips wasn't nearly enough. She wanted, needed more. She wanted his lapping tongue and delving fingers stimulating her in ways a lady shouldn't know anything about. Desperate for more of his touch, she arched upward again and whimpered.

He smiled, a wolfish baring of white teeth that lit his dark face and made his almond eyes glow like fiery coals. Once more he bent to her sex and kissed it, then his tongue darted out and flicked over the erect nub of her clit, the wellspring of her delight. She twisted and moaned beneath his exquisite torture...

A car horn honked and Marie almost fell off her chair. Her eyes flew open and her hand dropped away from her crotch, which she'd been massaging idly through the fabric of her skirt. Thank God, she hadn't hitched up her skirt yet and really gone to work on herself! Cramming her feet back into her shoes and the witch hat on her head, she stood to greet her customers.

 

"Welcome to Granny Goodwitch's pumpkin patch..." She went into her spiel, her voice aged and cracking. The family wasn't one she knew. The children were young and scampered through the pumpkins choosing and rejecting one after another, looking for the "perfect" shape and size. It was like picking a Christmas tree ... or a man.

 

After the family had made their choices and left, Marie turned the sign on the stand to "Closed." She returned to the garden to fold up her chair for the day, thinking about her erotic fantasies. They were getting out of control. She lived too much inside her head and found satisfaction in her own hand or her trusty vibrator far too often. Sighing, she stared up at her stuffed man. "It's all your fault. If you were real, I wouldn't have to make up this stuff."

 

The gangly figure regarded her with a cool expression.

 

A wave of intense yearning swept through her. The emotion seized and shook her like a fall wind shakes the trees, loosening showers of dead leaves. She was tired of fantasies and daydreams and longed with all her heart for a real man to hold her, his scent, his touch, his heavy body covering hers. She craved the intimacy of sex followed by cuddling, whispering and laughing together. She simply wanted a man, the perfect man for her, wanted it with all the strength of her soul.

 

"I wish you were real," she muttered at the scarecrow. "I wish I could have someone--just for a night."

 

The moment the words left her mouth the balmy breeze blew into a sudden, strong gale that whipped grit and dirt hard against her face and swirled her long skirt around her legs. The air shimmered strangely although the sky was as sunny and clear as it had been all afternoon. She shielded her eyes, looking for the source of the sudden gust, the odd light, but just as quickly as it had risen, it died and the shine in the air evaporated.

 

Turning in a circle, she looked across the sun-baked fields and up at the bright, blue sky. "What the hell?" A flock of birds flew overhead, but no other movement disturbed the stillness.

 

A shudder went through her at the strangeness of the moment. It had been like one of those Weather Channel stories about frogs raining from the sky; an anomaly she wished she'd captured on video for proof she hadn't dreamt it. For a moment, she imagined the weird wind was a portent of something, then scoffed at her own fancy.

 

Unsettled, she grabbed her chair and headed toward the house, but even indoors she couldn't shake the odd mood that shrouded her. Something's coming, her mind whispered. She closed the windows and even locked them, but the sense of impending change still haunted her.

© Bonnie Dee

 

The Straw Man

Author: Bonnie Dee

Publisher: Liquid Silver

Buy Link

Enjoy an early Halloween treat featuring a paranormal hottie like none you've read about before.

Marie is a lonely woman, who lives an isolated life running her family farm. She hasn’t found a special someone among the local men. As she fantasizes a sexual encounter with the man of her dreams, a strong wind comes up from nowhere, stirring the ragged clothing of the scarecrow that guards her fields.

Later that evening, after the last of the pumpkin-buyers and trick-or-treaters has gone, there’s a knock on the door. Images from the horror movie she’s been watching whirling in her head, Marie cautiously answers. A handsome stranger with a magnetic gaze waits on her doorstep—and claims he’s come for her.

Magic has brought love in a most unusual package. Logic and common sense evaporate under the spell of the evening and Marie experiences the love of a lifetime all in one night. But in the morning her visitor is gone. What sacrifice will it take to turn her fantasy man back into flesh and blood?

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