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Russian Fingers and Roman Hands

“Look at him. Isn’t he the hunk of the century? And you think you’ve got him all to yourself?” Linda leaned over Shasta’s shoulder, and all but breathed those words in her ear. Shasta wiggled uncomfortably.

John looked her way, smiled and winked, then went back to turning the chicken on the bar-b-cue. He was the hunk of the century, or at least the hunk of Baybridge, although Shasta didn’t much like that word hunk. It made him sound like some kind of playboy between the pages of Playgirl Magazine, not to mention that she thought of ground hamburger when she heard that word.

“You just wait until Lee Ann Dalton gets to this little backyard party. Every male within a hundred mile radius will have their eyes on her, including John Blanton.” Linda eased back into her lounge chair with a satisfied smirk on her face.

Shasta wanted to protest, defend him in some way, but the truth was, she knew John. He liked women, and he didn’t hide that fact. Besides, he hadn’t really given her any indication that she was anything special. True, they’d been dating for the past six months, but he hadn’t told her he loved her.

Of course, Linda was probably jealous. She’d dated John too, but only for a month. Shasta was sure the fact that John still seemed interested in her after six months tore at Linda’s insides like a crazed cat.

John gave the chicken one last shove around the bar-b-cue, then walked toward Shasta. He looked stunning in his white T-shirt and jeans. He lifted his black cowboy hat, and ran his fingers through thick, brown hair that curled slightly at his neck. When he reached Shasta, he leaned down and touched her lips in a tender kiss. “Is my angel enjoying herself?” he asked.

Shasta sucked in her breath. Would she ever get used to the way her heart hammered against her ribs every time he came anywhere near her? Or the way her blood raced through her veins? The way her hands shook? Or how her body trembled every time he touched her?

“Hey, John, we d like to be able to eat that chicken sometime in the next century, and preferably not burnt!” Harlan Cole hollered from the other end of the backyard. “You can kiss your girlfriend later.” A wide grin covered his face from ear to ear. A few of the other men let out whoops and hollers, while the women rolled their eyes.

John clasped Shasta’s hand with his, pulled her to her feet, and led her toward the smoking bar-b-cue.

Shasta glanced over her shoulder, and noticed the scowl on Linda’s face. There was also something else in her eyes, just below the surface, something resembling ice. Shasta shivered in spite of the heat, which was still going strong even in late September.

A slight breezed kicked up blowing smoke from the bar-b-cue into her eyes. She coughed and fanned her face. Her eyes watered and stung. She moved away from the direction of the smoke, but it followed her like the eyes of Mona Lisa.

John laughed. “Sorry about that, babe. Do me a favor and turn the chicken, while I go in and get some more sauce.” He kissed her on the nose. “Thanks, hon.”

“Don’t be gone long or I’ll miss you.” She smiled mischievously.

“I’ll miss you more.”

Nope, not possible.” Shasta enjoyed this little game they played when they had to leave each other for even a second. It made her feel all warm and mushy inside.

“You wanna bet?” John winked, sending her pulse into the red zone again.

“Naaa, I wouldn’t want to take your money.” She laughed, and turned a chicken leg over. The grease hissed and snapped when it dropped down onto the charcoal.

John kissed her lips, then let go of her hand and headed for the back door that lead into the kitchen.

Shasta felt eyes on her, and looked up to see Linda shooting daggers in her direction. She quickly averted her gaze. When she next looked up, Linda was gone. Ten minutes later, John still hadn’t come back from the kitchen. She wondered what was keeping him.

“Harlan, could you watch the chicken, while I go see what s keeping John?” she asked.

“Sure thing, darlin,” he drawled.

“Thanks a bunch.” She trotted toward the back door and eased it open, then poked her head inside. John wasn’t in the kitchen, but she thought she heard muffled voices coming from the front room. She walked across the kitchen and was about to make her presence known when she heard Linda’s voice.

“When are you going to tell her about us?”

Shasta froze. Her heart leaped into her throat.

“There’s nothing to tell,” John answered.

“Oh, come on! We spent the whole night making love, and you say there s nothing to tell?”

Shasta couldn t breathe. She felt something cave in around the regions of her heart. She almost let out an anguished cry, but clamped her hand over her mouth in time.

“I was drunk, and we had sex. I don’t call that making love.”

“Oh, please! You couldn’t get enough of me that night.” Linda sounded pleased with herself.

Shasta imagined that little smirk on her face, a smirk she d love to smack right off her mouth.

“Linda, you are delusional. I don’t even remember it. I just want to forget it ever happened.”

“It was only three months ago, John. Let’s face it, you can’t be faithful to a woman, it’s the kind of man you are,” Linda said.

“Maybe I’ve changed, Linda. Ever think of that?”

Three months ago? But that means …. Shasta let the rest of the thought go unfinished. She drew in a painful breath.

“Do you think Shasta is going to want to share you? Whereas I don’t care, as long as I have you in my bed. What more could you want from a relationship?”

“A lot more than you have to offer. This conversation is over.”

Shasta scurried back to the kitchen door, and barely made it outside, before John slammed out the door. She hadn’t known she was crying until she felt the moisture on her cheeks. She reached up and angrily wiped the tears away. How could she have been such a stupid fool? Everybody had warned her about him. But, damn it, she still loved him!

“Well, well, well. What’s that saying about people who eavesdrop?”

Shasta whirled around to see Linda standing behind her with her arms crossed over her chest, the self-satisfied smirk she’d imagined earlier on her face. She clenched her fists at her side. It took all her willpower not to slap that look right off Linda’s face.

“Do you remember how we used to joke about him having Russian fingers and Roman hands? I never knew just how thrilling those fingers and hands could be until they rushed and roamed all over my skin.”

Shasta closed her eyes and counted to five. She clenched her teeth so hard she was afraid she’d chipped a few of them. She would not let Linda get to her.

“Makes one wonder if Lee Ann’s body has been explored by those same fingers and hands.” Linda laughed. “I think the food is ready.” She spun around and headed straight for John.

Shasta took a deep breath. She wasn t going to give Linda the satisfaction of witnessing a break-up. No, she had a test for John. Then, if there was any breaking up to do, it would be done in private. She pasted a smile on her face, walked over to John, and slipped her arm around his waist.

“There you are, babe. I was starting to get worried,” John said.

Before she could respond, the men erupted into catcalls and whistles. Lee Ann Dalton had arrived. It was all Shasta could do to keep the disgusted look off her face.

Lee Ann slipped through the back yard gate, wearing a pink halter top and blue jeans and lace. Wherever there was a hole in the seat of her shorts, pink lace barely hid the flesh beneath.

Shasta watched John through veiled lashes. She decided to go with the joking approach. She smiled and covered John’s eyes with her hands. “You can’t look,” she said, trying to keep her tone light.

“Awww, please! Just one peek,” John joked back.

“Nope, can’t let you do it. Sorry.”

“Please?” John said, on a ripple of laughter.

Shasta sighed dramatically. “I suppose one little look won’t hurt.” She removed her hands and waited with bated breath.

John turned in her arms and gazed into her eyes, then bent down and whispered in her ear, “I thought you were never going to let me see your pretty face again.”

That was all the proof Shasta needed.

John’s mouth traveled from her ear to her lips, and he kissed her softly. “You know, I think I want you around for a long time to come,” he said.

“I’d like that very much,” Shasta whispered. She wound her arms around his neck and pulled his lips back down to hers.

“John! The chicken!” Harlan hollered.

Shasta and John pulled apart and laughed with everybody else.

©1998 Margaret Marr

Margaret Marr lives in the mountains of western North Carolina with her husband, two sons, one dog and eleven cats. In addition to FRIENDS and Lovers, she has been published in: Dusk & Dawn, Strictly Romance Magazine, Alive, Standard, CZ’s Online Magazine, Phantom Fantasy Online Magazine, The Storyteller, and the storyteller online magazine*.