The tree fort

He tugged her hand.

She followed.

He said nothing as he led her out of the pasture, keeping to the shadows beneath the trees as they walked at a brisk pace down the main drive. She was very aware of the gravel beneath her feet, the tiny, hard pebbles digging into the soles of her high heels.

It was late afternoon. The sun was low on the horizon. The warm breeze was scented with eucalyptus and fresh-cut hay. Familiar smells. She wanted to stop for a moment. She wanted to drown in the scents surrounding her.

The party music grew fainter as Jake veered off the drive and strode down a familiar dirt path that wound its way through an old apple orchard. The narrow path forced her to walk behind him, but he didn’t release her hand. His grip tightened when she tripped a little, but he didn’t shorten his stride.

She was out of breath when he stopped at the foot of the oak tree. Their favorite oak tree. The tree that held in its noble, strong branches the fort they’d built together when they were children.

“Take off your shoes.”

She guessed his intent. She eyed the rope ladder. “I’m not going up there.”

“Yes. You are.” Still holding her hand, he bent down and took her right foot in his free hand. Agile fingers undid the ankle strap and removed her shoe. He tossed it aside with a careless gesture.

She was forced to hold onto his shoulder for balance as he swiftly removed her other shoe. She couldn’t find her voice. She couldn’t find the strength to protest when he rose to his full height, grabbed her by the waist and lifted her onto the second wooden rung of the sturdy ladder.

“Climb,” he ordered, his hard chest pressing against her back as he put action to words and stepped onto the rung below her.

She had no choice but to climb the ladder, clutching the thick rope as the ladder swayed a little. His breath was warm against the back of her neck as he followed her with effortless movements. When she reached the trapdoor, his arm brushed against her head as he pushed the door open. Then, setting his hands on her hips, he hoisted her into the tree fort.

She scooted across the smooth, planked floor and sat down, her limbs shaking a little from exertion. She sat with her legs tucked beneath her, her back pressed against the wall. She watched as he followed her into the one-room fort, his broad shoulders barely squeezing through the opening. He hunkered down across from her.

The thud of the trapdoor closing behind him echoed in the sturdy wooden structure.

For a few moments, the only sound was their breathing, hers fast and agitated, his harsh but steady.

Sunlight filtered through the thin gaps between the wood wall slats, casting a pattern of leaves and branches upon everything inside.

Annie’s eyes were captured by the band of light that cut across Jake’s angular face. His features stood out more sharply than usual. His cheekbones were prominent, the skin stretching across them was ruddy. His tense, square jaw emphasized the severe line of his firm mouth.

She still couldn’t meet his eyes. Those beautiful silvery blue eyes that saw too much.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve been in here together,” he spoke at last, his voice low and sandpaper rough.

An excerpt from  Annie and Jake
Copyright © 2018 Margaret Desmond

This post is in response to the Daily Prompt: Thin


Don’t marry him, Annie.

“Those were his dreams, Annie. Not yours. Why can’t you see that? You persist in being so damn obstinate that you can’t even see what you’ve turned into.”

Somewhere deep inside of her a tiny voice whispered that he was right. She knew that she’d changed. She knew that she was holding on to her stubborn pride. Diminished as it now was, it was the only thing that she had left.

When she continued to stare at him mutely, not allowing that voice to speak, something softened in his expression. He caught her close to his chest, wrapping his arms tightly around her. He buried his face in her hair, his mouth grazing her ear as he entreated quietly, “Don’t marry him, Annie. Don’t marry him. I’m selfish too. I’ve always wanted you for myself. But don’t think that’s why I’m begging this of you. Listen to me as the man who’s been your best friend for most of your life. Maxwell Fischer is bad for you. He’ll never keep his promises. Please. Trust me on this. Don’t go back to New York. Stay here. Come back to the things you seem to have forgotten. Be the Annie I know again.”

She couldn’t. She couldn’t. To do that would be to give up completely. She heard Maxwell’s voice in her head, his stern advice, his words that came from experience, power and influence. He’d helped her so much already. Jake was wrong. Maxwell would keep his promises. Maxwell would help her realize her dream.

“I can’t,” she whispered.

“You can,” he persisted. He pulled back slightly and cupped her face in his hands. “You can.” He pressed his mouth to her forehead, her eyelashes, her cheeks. “Please, Annie. Stay.” Then he took her mouth, kissing her roughly, urgently at first, then sweetly as he continued to whisper pleas against her lips.

An excerpt from  Annie and Jake
Copyright © 2018 Margaret Desmond

This post is in response to the Daily Prompt: Slight