The sunlight intruding through the uncurtained French door was not a welcome visitor. I’d slept poorly and didn’t feel at all rested or ready for the big day. I’d been far too excited to fall asleep, and when I finally drifted off my slumber had been haunted by dreams. Wild dreams, with a cornucopia of naked women dancing around the fire, led by the pirouetting Sabrina, the howling Chai Fox, and Nimue going through a sexual pantomime that would have made a stripper blush. Mr. Lust getting his two cents worth in, I’m sure.
I finally got Beltane jump started with a second pot of coffee. Tried to work on my novel to keep my mind distracted, but instead my distraction kept me from working on my novel. And besides, I’d probably have to revise the whole thing after tonight, so what was the point? But I made it through the morning somehow, with the help of some heavy-duty meditation and a double lap around the wheel.
Sabrina came over straight from work, getting there around two. A welcome interruption if I ever saw one.
“Sabrina! What are you doing here? What’s today? Did we have a date I forgot to put on my calendar?”
“A date with you? In the middle of a Wednesday afternoon? What the heck would I want to do that for? No, a little birdie told me you were shacked up with your voodoo honey, and I felt obliged to come warn her what a bad deal she was getting. Where is she?”
“A little birdie my ass. Must have been a seagull, to be spreading chum that old on the water. Jonathan Livingston, perhaps. Help yourself, look around and see if either one of them’s here.”
“Help myself? Why thank you kindly, mister. I think I’ll help myself to a kiss, if you really don’t mind.”
“Mind? It’s Beltane, woman. Adeline’s not due for a couple of hours. How about a quick romp in the sack?”
“The next time I get in the sack with you, bud, there’s going to be nothing quick about it. I’ve taken off work tomorrow and Mama’s got the kids. Hope you got a good night’s sleep.”
“How the hell could I sleep? I kept dreaming about you dancing around the bonfire naked while Chai Fox howled at the moon.”
“I think it’s you howling at the moon, Silly.”
“You sound just like Samantha.”
“Out of the mouths of babes, like it says in the good book.”
“So, Sabrina, what are your plans for the next couple of hours, if you’re totally eschewing anything carnal?”
“Well, Rick, truth is, I’ve about had all the foreplay I can stand. And the other truth is, I’m a little bit nervous about tonight. So I’m going to take a bath, change clothes, and then go out and walk the wheel.”
“Sounds like a great plan. Can I come?”
“I really need a little alone time if you can stand it.”
“You bet I can stand it. I don’t really like you all that much anyway.”
“Well, the feeling is mutual, bud.”
We kissed again and off she went.
I fixed a shaker of martinis, poured myself a healthy drink, and took it out on the patio. Along with a book, which must have been totally fascinating, considering I read the same three paragraphs about forty times.
When Sabrina stepped back out on the patio, she was wearing a long skirt. Startling, since she wasn’t much of a dress person. I had an instant flashback to Chai showing up in a similar garb the day we’d built the wheel. Except that Sabrina’s skirt, while cut full, was simple and khaki colored with a darker brown thread woven in. She’d set it off with a cream top, a brown and gold shawl, and a simple leather headband. Whatever result she was shooting for, the net effect was drop dead gorgeous. The only slightly incongruous effect was from a pair of practical Nikes rather than some dainty leather sandals.
“Good God, woman. Who are you and what are you doing here? Or perhaps you’re not a woman at all, but a goddess. And what did you do with Sabrina? She’d never wear a skirt out to the island.”
“Ah, puny mortal. Little do you know the mind of a woman. She is devious beyond comprehension, unpredictable as the March wind, capricious as fate. Are you going to stand there with your mouth open, or did you plan to kiss me before I headed out to the wheel?”
I never turn down an invitation like that, lingering over the moment to make sure that my admiration was appreciated. Hopefully stopping just before we crossed the line into foreplay.
“So, goddess posing as a mortal, what do you have on under that outfit?” I asked as she turned to head toward the woods.
“Well, I’m not sure. Let’s take a look.”
She pulled the hem of her skirt up to mid-thigh, then flashed me a quick peek of Sabrina au natural. “Oh, my. It seems I’ve forgotten my panties.” She dropped her skirt and shrugged. “Truthfully, I decided that on purpose. I wouldn’t want to forget them and leave them out on the island and have Nimue accuse me of littering.”
Well, I sure as hell couldn’t argue with that logic.
So Sabrina headed down the path toward the wheel, and I fetched the rest of the martinis. Slid down low in my chair, with my head resting on the back of the seat. Watching the wind in the oaks, with an occasional sip of gin to mark the passage of the clouds.
“Well, well. What do we have here?”
The words jerked me awake. And there was JD, standing about eight feet away, holding a tire iron that he kept tapping into his palm.
I leapt up, but couldn’t think of what to do after that. Lucas’ words when he gave me the Taser echoed in my head. “It won’t do you a damned bit of good if you run into JD and don’t have it. So you need to carry it pretty much all the time when you’re not in a crowd. I know that’s going to be a pain in the ass, and after awhile you’re going to get careless.” And I had. Didn’t think that meant on my own back porch, although why the hell not? Home is where JD had beaten me up last time. I tried to remember where I’d left the damned thing. Sitting beside my recliner, probably. For all the good it would do, it might as well have been in the back of Lucas’ truck.
“I can’t tell you how often I’ve dreamed of this moment. All those days with a fucking broken hand in a cast. But I’ve learned that lesson, city boy. Not gonna hit you with my hand this time, no sir.”
“The best thing you can do is get back in your car and get the hell out of here. The sheriff’s department is looking for you, and they come by here all the time. Only thing you can accomplish by hitting me with that is get locked up for ten years for assault with a deadly weapon.” As I talked I looked around for anything I might use as a weapon of my own, but didn’t see a thing. I would have given a lot for a nice, sturdy length of oak firewood, but the pinyon pine chunks were about five inches long and totally useless. Martini shaker, glass, paperback book, and my wit. I was just about as unarmed as a man can be.
“You know, you’re right about that. If they’re gonna put me away for ten years for assault, might as well be 25-to-life for murder, don’t you think? ‘Cause there’s no way I’m leaving without a piece of your hide. You and your slick-talking college boy ways, horning in on my woman. MY woman, asshole.”
He took a step toward me and I quickly moved to put the chair between us. Decided my best bet was to flip the chair at him when he got a little closer and take off running toward the front door. Might get enough of a head start to make it inside. Grab something, anything. Didn’t sound like much of a plan, but it was all I had.
“Scared, college boy?” He took another step, swinging the tire iron back and forth a couple of times. “This here tire iron’s battle tested. I hit a nigger with it one time, broke his arm. Greatest feeling in the world, way better than fucking. I’ve hung onto it ever since, hoping I’d get a chance to use it again.”
I tensed. One more step and I was going for it.
“JD, you’re a mouthy asshole and that’s my man you’re threatening.”
Sabrina stepped out the back door and just stood there, shaking her head. Cool as ice, unlike me at the moment. Incongruously holding a roll of duct tape.
“You shut the fuck up, bitch. I’m your man, not this jackwad. You’re getting yours next. Once I’ve taken care of your boyfriend, I’m going to fuck you so long and hard you won’t be able to walk for a week. Nothing like some good hard lovin’ to get your head straightened back out.”
“But John David. If everybody gets what’s coming to them, when do you get yours?” He glanced back at her cold tone of voice, just as she pulled the Taser from behind her back and pulled the trigger.
JD went down like he’d been poleaxed.
“Quick, this doesn’t last forever.” Sabrina straddled JD, laying the Taser down within easy reach. “Hold his hands behind his back.”
In about twenty seconds we had his hands and feet securely taped up. That’s about how long it took before he starting stirring around. “You bitch!” he screamed, when he finally regained a little of his nastiness.
“Here, tape his mouth too. Don’t want to be listening to that crap all day.” She grabbed a handful of his hair and jerked his head up off the porch. Didn’t see any clean way to do it, so I just wrapped him up, hair and mouth and all. Was going to be a bitch to get that tape off his hair. At least he wasn’t yelling anymore.
“JD, if you give me any more shit, I’m going to Taze you again. You just lie there and be quiet.” Sabrina patted him on the shoulder.
“I’m calling the sheriff.”
“Rick, don’t.” The chill in Sabrina’s voice sounded like something from a horror movie.
“What do you mean?”
“Do you think that will end this? They’ll book him and put him in jail, he’ll be out in a couple of days on bond. Think he’ll decide to stay away next time? Of maybe they’ll deny him bond as a threat to flee, try him and convict him and give him a year or two for assault. He’ll be out on good behavior by fall, and we can do this all over again.”
“So it never stops.”
“It stops today. We have a plan.”
I started to ask who “we” was, but my adrenaline was plummeting back toward normal and I got a good case of the shakes. Thought for a minute I was going to pass out, but I sat down with my head between my knees and it went away. Then, when I’d actually recovered enough to think, I realized that none of what had happened—her slipping back from the wheel and showing up with the Taser and the duct tape—had been spontaneous.
“You knew he was coming. How?”
“She told me. Nimue. Came to me in a vision last night. While you were busy dreaming about naked women.”
“Well, you saved my ass. And I didn’t notice you having any second thoughts about it.”
“JD is a loud-mouthed, ignorant asshole who doesn’t give a shit about anybody but himself. What I ever saw in him is beyond me. You, on the other hand, are caring, sensitive, and the man I love. When it came down to it, it didn’t seem like much of a decision after all.”