Something Old, Something New (Chapter Nine, page 1 of 2)

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They went to separate rooms to change out of their wedding attire - probably the last time they would do so separately. The idea brought heat to her face. Why hadn’t she thought about that before? How did a couple get used to undressing in front of each other? In her erotic thoughts about him, the actual act of undressing had never crossed her mind.
Carmen took her time changing. The light yellow sundress had buttons down the front. It was an off-the-shoulder style with spaghetti straps to hold up the bodice and a full skirt that made her waist look small. Satisfied that she looked proper as a new bride, she pushed her feet into yellow sandals and headed for the reception room.
When she and Alex rejoined, his gaze traveled over her body, coming to rest on the buttons reflectively. Warmth crawled up her neck. Did he think she was eager to consummate the marriage? In fact, at this point the idea was terrifying. For what reason, she couldn’t say.
Alex had insisted on driving his truck. He didn’t want anyone messing up the car. Maybe word got around, because his truck was untouched. As he opened the truck door for her, she glanced back at the well-wishers. One face stood out, a shock of unruly red hair waving in the wind. Gray eyes watched her from the only face not smiling. Somehow it seemed that Josh knew her concern. She waved at everyone and tried to look confident.
Alex held her arm as she climbed into the truck, and then shut the door. That was how her new world started – with the closing of one door. Others would open, but what was behind them? Maybe it was the unknown that was so worrisome. Certainly Alex had given her no reason to be afraid - so far.
The light conversation on the way home did little to settle her nerves. Gripping the door handle as if she intended to jump out, she stared out the window.
“Is something wrong?”
His deep voice broke into her thoughts. She shook her head.
“No. I was just thinking.”
“About what?” He turned into his – their drive.
She sighed. “Oh, about how my life is changing.”
She started to shake her head, but surely he was picking up on something. He might think she was having second thoughts about getting married.
She nodded. “I suppose so.”
He pulled the truck into the yard, shut off the engine and removed the keys from the ignition. For a moment he was silent, and when she finally looked at him, he was watching her reflectively again.
“Is it the pain that troubles you?”
Heat flooded her face and she looked away. “I don’t think so. I guess mostly I just feel intimidated because I don’t know what to expect.” She lifted her gaze to his.
“That’s kind of childish, isn’t it – for a woman my age?”
That dark chocolate gaze wandered over her face and then came back to her eyes.
“Age has nothing to do with it, Carmen. You’re inexperienced. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
No, nor was it anything to be proud of. He was watching her with a strange expression. Where was the excitement now? Her mouth felt dry.
He opened his door. “Let’s go into the house, Mrs. Barnett.” Dropping to the ground, he headed for the house, leaving her behind.
She opened her door and slid to the ground. Was this where he changed? She stepped back and gave the truck door a hearty shove. For a moment she stood still, trying not to think of what was ahead. In the valley below, the old house seemed to stare at her with blank eyes, as if it too was trying to avoid seeing something. A hen was singing in the back yard. A fish flopped in the pond, probably avoiding a snapping turtle, and water raced over rocks in the creek below. It was so peaceful here.
Boots crunched on gravel and she looked up to find Alex watching her.
“Better now?” he asked.
Had he known the soothing affect the country would have on her? She was back in her element now. After today, everything would fall into a pattern. She would get used to it. She lifted her hand to his arm and nodded.
Together they walked to the house. In the time he had left her at the truck, he had unlocked and opened the door. The instant she saw the open door, she knew why. He was so romantic.
Reaching down, he lifted her into his arms and crossed the threshold. For a moment she lay still in his arms, gazing up at his handsome face. Finally he set her down.
“Welcome home, sweetheart.”
“Thank you,” she said, not knowing what else to say.
For a moment she stood staring up at him mutely. It was difficult to understand why she had been looking forward to this moment for so long, but wasn’t ecstatic now that it had finally arrived. In fact, her emotion at the moment would better be described as uncomfortable – if not outright dread. Now what were they supposed to do?
A slow smile began in his eyes and leisurely turned up the corners of his mouth. When he spoke, his voice was warm and gentle.
“It’s alright, sweetheart. I’m not going to push you into it. We’ve waited this long. Let’s allow it to happen naturally.”
She should have been relieved, but the idea of putting it off until later wasn’t exactly reassuring. On the other hand, simply getting it over with wasn’t very inviting, either.
His deep voice filled the room in a way she had never noticed before.
“Bill is going to come over tonight and do the chores so we can have the evening to relax and talk together.”
Her gaze had drifted to the floor, but it shot back to his face.
His laughter sent a flood of warmth up her neck and into her face. What an utterly stupid thing to say.
“I’m sorry,” he said, still chuckling. “I didn’t mean to make fun of you.” He put an arm around her shoulders. “Relax. You’re as stiff as a board. What are you so concerned about?”
“I don’t know,” she said.
He finally managed to sober. “I suppose it’s normal under the circumstances.”
“Then why do I feel like such a fool?”
His hand slipped down to hers and captured it. “Because you’re in uncharted territory with someone you think has a map with a big red X on it, I guess.”
Warmth raced back up her neck again.
“I never . . .”
“I know,” he interrupted.
Her face grew warmer. “I mean, I never thought that way about you.”
Amusement danced in his eyes, but he managed to keep his face straight.
“I know you never thought of it that way.”
He motioned to the window seat. Why don’t you sit down? I’ll get us something to drink. Without waiting for an answer, he headed for the kitchen, stopping briefly to turn on the stereo. The soft music and light clinking of glass were soothing. She leaned her head back against the wall and closed her eyes. All this tension was ruining the evening for both of them. He was trying to be romantic. The least she could do was cooperate. Maybe if she would focus on assisting him in that, it would be less intimidating.
Sensing motion, she opened her eyes to find Alex leaning across her, placing a long stemmed glass on the window sill beside her. The liquid was a light amber color and had bubbles in it.
She looked up at him quickly. “I don’t drink liquor.”
He lifted a brow. “That’s a relief, because I don’t have any.” He sat down with his glass. “It’s basically carbonated white grape juice.”
“Oh,” She picked up the glass and sipped the sweet bubbly liquid.
“It’s good.”
He leaned back.
“So, have you changed your mind about spending our honeymoon here?”
She shook her head. “I finally get to stay here. Why would I want to leave?”
He sat his glass on the window sill and stretched out his legs.
“It’s hard to believe a person would turn down a trip to the Bahamas.”
“We can go some other time, can’t we?”
Picking his glass up, he took a sip before answering.
“I suppose so.”
“Are you disappointed?” She asked.
His smile was slow. “Not really. Everything I want is right here.”
For a while they made small talk and listened to the radio. When a slow song began, Alex lifted a brow.
“Would you like to dance?”
In answer, Carmen set her glass on the sill and stood. Alex did the same and they came together awkwardly, like teens at their first dance. When they danced, they were careful to maintain the proper distance. His hand lightly touched her back, gently guiding her around the room. His other hand held hers as if it were a rare butterfly.
It was silly – two adults dancing around an intimate moment. She moved closer to him, laying her head on his chest. He smelled faintly of cologne. His hand caressed hers and pressed it to his chest. For a few minutes they moved as one to the music. He kissed the top of her head and leaned down, whispering in her ear.
“I love you.”
She lifted her face to him and gazed into his eyes.
“I love you too – more than I ever thought it was possible to love anyone.”
The dance forgotten, they stood transfixed, lost in emotion. In that moment he became more than a mature male – more than Alex. For the first time she thought of him as a lover. There was no guilt or embarrassment in the thought. This was her husband.
His sultry gaze traveled over her face, probably searching for some kind of signal. Apparently he found it. He released her hand and cradled her face in his hands. Lowering his head, he brushed her lips softly with his. They left a trail of burning desire.
She moved closer, seeking his lips again. For a few moments he teased her with light quick kisses, until she captured his neck with her arms and forced him to hold still. His arms surrounded her, pulling her closer. He returned her kiss with equal passion, pulling away only when they both were short of breath.
His lips left hers, softly planting warm kisses on her neck. Even his fingertips felt soft and warm as they pushed the straps from her shoulders and fumbled with the buttons on the front of her dress. When her breasts were finally released, she knew a moment of panic that they had gone too far. But they were married now. She relaxed, enjoying the gentle way he caressed and suckled her breasts. There was nothing suggestive about his demeanor, and the trust he had cultivated during their courtship was now paying off.
When passion brought a moan to her lips, he finally lifted her into his arms and carried her to their bedroom.
Alex knew how to make love. It wasn’t wild sex, but gentle respectful lovemaking. Maybe it was a practiced art, but it seemed to be in his nature. When they undressed, he kept her so distracted that she didn’t even think about being embarrassed. It seemed so natural - as if they had always been intimate. With every look – every touch, he cherished her.

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