SNARKY RESPONSE: Except for brussel sprouts. Oh! Nor anything intentionally containing insects as an ingredient.
Try everything once, even the things you don't think you will like.
You might be expecting me to take back my snarky response, but I'm standing by it. Now that that's out of the way, here's the next section of my story, By Tears Bound. I hope you're discovering that, unlike brussel sprouts, you like this.
By Tears Bound
Dressed in a gown of flowered cotton, Annaree left her black hair loose about her shoulders. When she dabbed a drop of perfume in the hollow at the base of her neck, the touch of the dropper sparked memories of other touches.
Gravel crunched outside and she stoppered the bottle. Setting it on the shelf, she turned to the door.
A knock, and it opened.
Erskine stood on the threshold, his hat pulled low over his eyes, his smile a flash of white.
She forced herself to cross the room calmly, her voice casual. "Why is it you only come to see me when a storm's brewing?"
He pulled her into his embrace with a laugh. His cloak blew around them while the storm broke over Random Bay, sending rain and wind racing through the village.
"I guess the wind just pushed me this way," he said before his lips made conversation impossible.
Life in the village revolved around the pub during a storm. Life on the beach depended upon hiding from the ravages of the storm. And life in the house at the edge of the village consisted of languorous kisses, passionate sex and drowsy conversations.
"Tell me another story," Annaree asked, snuggled against Erskine, her hand on his chest.
"I almost think you bed me for my stories as much as for my dashing good looks," Erskine teased, his voice rumbling against her ear. He yelped as she tugged on a handful of chest hair. "I yield! I yield. What would you hear?"
"Another story of your people and mine," Annaree said, hoping her voice would not betray her. "Something with a happy ending."
"My people's experience with yours seldom ends happily, Annaree," Erskine said. "Selkie magic is linked to his pelt and that link is our greatest weakness. We cherish our time as humans; the contacts we make are treasured and savored for their rarity and brevity. But humans have persisted in using it to trap and control us for centuries. And even without that, there's the spell--the one you cast to call me from the sea."
Annaree paused, the words of the spell rolling through her memory. Standing knee deep in the waves, she had cried her grief for one man and cast a spell to call another.
With seven tears shed in the sea"To a selkie male, the tears of a human female are like ambrosia to the gods, and yours the sweetest I'd ever tasted." Erskine stroked her cheek with one finger. "Such sorrow, such longing, such determination." He rolled her over onto her back, his brown hair falling forward to curtain their faces. "But I've no complaints. Have you?"
I call a selkie man to me.
From the ocean far and wide
My tears will call you to my side.
With seven tears shed in the sea
I call a selkie man to me.
Annaree fought the urge to tell him, then shook her head as she drew his face down to hers. "None."
For a second, tears prickled the back of her eyes and she squeezed her lids tight, willing the moisture not to betray her. Only when the battle was won did she open her eyes.
The pillow beside her was dented from his head and her questing hand felt a trace of heat on the mattress. She drew a slow breath and rolled over. He stood before the window, naked, staring out toward the sea.
Pushing herself up on one elbow, Annaree watched him, admiring his unconscious grace. "I've never known a man so comfortable in his nakedness as you, Erskine," she said. "Though, to be honest, I've seen only one other naked man in my life. And while Donnie shared my bed and my body, he never would have stood so before my eyes."
"Why should I not be comfortable like this?" Erskine asked. He turned, his face in shadow, his skin gilded by the morning sun. "Should I get dressed?"
"No!" Annaree bit her lip, embarrassed by the breathless denial. She smiled. "No, I like it. But I'd like it better if you were over here with me."
"You're a wanton woman, Annaree Velton," Erskine said, laughter dancing around the edges of his voice. "I like that about you."
"It's all that sunlight, my bonnie lad." Annaree smiled and slipped back under the covers to clear a space for him. "Now come and show me how much you'll miss me when you leave."
I hope you enjoyed this section and that you'll come back by next week to read the conclusion of By Tears Bound. Until next week.