by David Cain
“I’ll be keeping an eye on you,” William told Caroline as they stopped at the yawning threshold of the house. Pausing deliberately, the young socialite waited on the front step while she anxiously drank in her first visions of the night’s party. Still a young woman, Caroline smiled at the quick bursts of sound that erupted from within.
William kept his promise as he watched his wife take a deep breath; Caroline shone with an ecstatic gleam as her blossoming sense of anticipation found delight in every detail, in the whitened brick facade of the porch, the sunlit petals of jonquils and leaves of straggling ivy, set stark on a bed of freshly planted and pungent manure, the sloping arches of inward leading doorways crowded by guests, circles of conversation spreading into the wide spaces that led from the entrance of the old world mansion.
A servant, a bony fingered man with white fuzz over the dome of his soft skull, approached silently. Caroline watched him come near, waiting patiently for the awaited refreshment. A step away, the servant presented a thin platter of glasses to offer his drinks to the newly arrived guests. The ornate silver and crystal ornament floated gently in front of Caroline’s joyful gaze. Reaching forward with a quick nod of polite acknowledgment, Caroline intoned soft words of gratitude and took a tall glass from the tray.
William ignored the wine as irrelevant to the question at hand, and brusquely moved past the vaporous waiter. “Where do they hide the bar?” William asked Caroline. She took a sip from her crystalline flute. William turned a full circle, searching for some sign of liquor between the trunks of the thick forest of guests. Caroline shrugged her pale shoulders, bare above the blue silk dress, shaking her head as she swallowed.
“I don’t know,” she said, looking to the west, past a handsome young soldier with serious black eyes. “It was over there, against that wall when we was here for Emma’s birthday.”
William lifted his thick torso up onto the tips of his toes to look over and beyond the screen of the crowd. Spying a glimpse of a chrome faucet and the green glass of good gin at some distance, William recognized his goal and took his wife by the arm. “Stay with me,” he pleaded, directing her before him into the slight gap between two councilmen, each slightly angered by subtle changes in the import tax, but for different reasons. “I want to keep an eye on you tonight.”
“Hmph,” Caroline said with an instinctual tug of her bare shoulder to escape the dominating grasp of his too-familiar and commanding fingers, splashing his sleeve with a few drops of her wine. William stopped to look disapprovingly at Caroline, his frown flickering subtly between anger and hurt until the two feelings merged in a surge of anxiety. Caroline turned away from the pangs of disappointment shining cool in his grey eyes.
“You’ve let me spend the whole winter without you,” she said suddenly, accusingly. “I think I can manage one of Kurt’s parties without a chaperone.”
“Caroline, but I’m your husband,” William said, taking the words seriously.
“I’m your wife,” said Caroline with resignation. “But it’s only a party.” William frowned, looking hurt.
“I need you beside me, for guidance. How can I remember all these people’s names, if you don’t help? Besides, I think it only right that you stay close to me. People talk,” William said, stepping close to speak the last thought privately into her ear.
“And what of it?” Caroline demanded coolly. “Have you heard tales? What has your bitchy little sister been saying about me now?”
“Nothing, pet, nothing at all. You know I don’t listen to their prattle. I just want my wife beside me.”
“William, don’t play games with me. You’re the one who left me alone. I’ve made the best of it, and I hardly think it’s my fault that I’m liked. Would you lock me away just because I have admirers?
“Caro,” said William apologetically. “Let’s forget about it and enjoy the evening. I know you have admirers, and this one’s going to keep an admiring eye on you,” William said, smiling with a touch of self-amusement. “That’s all I’m saying.”
“I expect to be treated with some civility,” Caroline said, her voice low and serious.
“So do I,” William whispered as he walked past Caroline to find the bar. “Mind your manners.”
Caroline watched her husband sadly as the weary looking gentleman worked his way toward a sharp-nosed fellow surrounded by liquor bottles. The two men spoke a few quiet words and Caroline watched her husband take his first drink. As William let the glass drop from his thin, sober lips, Caroline felt the hungry eyes of another man upon her.
Caroline turned cautiously, surrendering to a prey’s instinct to search out and identify any predators, but the crowd behind her displayed a faceless wall of dress prints, starched linen and low silk backs. Doubly aware, Caroline turned back as she felt William’s fierce stare tingle her nerves. He watched his wife possessively. Caroline caught his eyes and William smiled back toward her weakly. He took another full glass from the bartender, and wound his way back to Caroline’s side.
“I needed this,” he said, rattling his ice cubes. Caroline touched her wine glass to his smaller bell.
“I’m glad you’re home,” she said sweetly.
“I’ve thought about that,” William said, pushing a string of hair away from his grey eyes. “You know I have to leave again, soon.”
“I’ve grown accustomed to the idea,” said Caroline, twisting her lips to express her dissatisfaction.. She could feel the stare of the hunter on her naked shoulder blades, setting her senses tingling.
“Perhaps I should find a way to remain at home, with you. For our sake, I mean. We could have a baby,” William said with a hushed whisper. Caroline gave her husband a hopeful look and then sighed. “I know. I know,” William shook his head as he continued. “I won’t earn as much leaving now, but I think it might be for the best.”
“William,” Caroline said, struggling against the distracting sensation of an unwavering glare focused on her from behind. Taking strength from William, she looked steadfast into her husband’s dark eyes. “If you really want to stop working on the property legislation so you can babysit me, that’s great. I’d love having you around. But think about what you can accomplish in the next six months and ask yourself if you’re going to let a little jealous slander scare you into giving up. Besides, with so much family around, what are you worried about? Gretchen watches me better than you could.”
“Caro,” said William.
Caroline shuddered, feeling the predator’s stare on her bare back. “We’re a team,” she said. “You told me you wanted someone who could work with you. I’ve always believed in that. You can trust me.”
“I know,” said William, weakly. “I’m just vulnerable where you’re concerned, Caroline. When I’m working, it doesn’t seem like anything could possibly be wrong between us. But seeing you here, this magnificent flower surrounded by these . . . and one look at you . . . .” William stared lost as he dove into the watery blue of Caroline’s eyes.
“Take care of business,” Caroline said, kissing William’s cheek, “and I’ll take care of you.”
“Lover,” he said in a soft moan.
“Love,” Caroline said, catching for a second the bright eyes of an admiring stare just behind William’s shoulder. Caroline took a step to one side, away from William, looking for another glimpse of the man she felt had been watching her. William followed, staying close behind Caroline, while looking for the first time at the people in the crowds around them.
“There’s Baker,” he said with a snarl in his voice. Caroline smiled at her husband, appreciative of his warrior’s thirst for battle. “Let’s go pay regards to Jim Baker,” he said, taking Caroline’s arm. She strutted slightly as she accompanied William into the field.
“I’ve been looking all over for you, Jim,” said William with a confident cordiality that seemed to accompany him into every business foray. Caroline spoke her polite greetings to the Bakers and a very tall but round man from Maine. William held Caroline’s delicate hand firmly in his fingers as he told Sylvia Baker about his darling wife. Caroline smiled and nodded. A man’s bold gaze still fixed on her from behind. She could almost feel his warm breath on her bared neck. Caroline touched her exposed throat protectively and looked cautiously backward. The phantom vanished between two young lovers, Andrew Donner and Deborah Flanders as they coyly looked away.
“Once you take possession,” William said emphatically. “Once you legally reach out and take hold of the thing you desire, society will take care of the rest.” William finally loosened his grasp on Caroline’s fingers, letting her hand fall aside as he demonstrated his possessory hold. “Possession is the law,” he said. “Only a thief can deprive me of my rightful hold.”
“But if you abandon your possession,” said Baker. Caroline heard a whisper in the noise behind her, like a soft bell calling her name. “We shouldn’t protect anyone who allows his fields to lie fallow. An owner who refuses to work his possession should be systematically stripped of his rights.”
“Nonsense,” shouted William. Caroline blushed and turned again to look behind, embarrassed by her husband’s enthusiasm and anxious to discover the fiend who plagued her. “My rights are absolute where my property is concerned. I may have a good reason to let my farm alone, and no one should be allowed to trample my rights, trespass on my land just because some would question my strategy. A lost season shouldn’t deprive me of my rights, however unwise my course may appear.”
“Excuse me,” said Caroline as she stepped away.
“Society has the greater interest,” said Baker.
“Certainly, pet,” said William softly to Caroline before her turned back to Baker. “The economics of the system chose me as owner. Society has an obligation to protect my rights. No one should be able to impose duties on my possessory interest.”
Caroline slipped out from under her husband’s oratory and past the young lovers until she reached the broad arches along the east wall. She found her predator, calmly waiting.
“You’re a pretty sight,” said Byron as he leaned against the archway. “I was wondering if I’d get a closer glimpse.”
“They didn’t tell me you would be here,” said Caroline, looking nervously back to where her husband stood. William had his back turned and gestured wildly at Baker and a balding council member
“Emma persuaded me to extend my holiday. She told me I might be able to see you.” Byron teased a small crimson bud he held in his hand.
“My husband came home. I’m afraid I won’t be dancing much this evening.”
“I know,” Byron said. “I spoke with him on Tuesday. We’re hoping he can help us with the campaign to get NorCom. Nice fellow. I don’t think he cared for me, although we should still do business.”
“Someone’s been talking to him about the birthday party. I was warned that just standing near you would cause a scandal.”
“Bah, they only say what they wish was true.”
Caroline looked back again at William. He stood quietly while the tall, heavy man spoke in low tones that turned his cheeks red. William finished his drink and looked around. In a panic, Caroline pushed back into the narrow alcove, brushing a large red and gold heraldic flag aside.
“I could use some air,” she said. Byron nodded with a mischievous grin and opened the door at the back wall. The fresh night hugged them both with a swirl of a breeze and the fragrant emptiness of mid spring. Caroline leaned against the rock wall that enclosed the walkway.
“Escape,” said Byron. “Sometimes all life requires is an escape.”
“We can’t get away,” she said.
“They can’t see us here.”
“They can talk.”
“About what?” said Byron, laughing as he spoke. “I assure you, Mrs Lamb, my life has deserved more than a few comments. But witty conversation and a few dances at a birthday party even with a married woman hardly justifies a raised eyebrow when measured up against my reputation.”
“Yes,” said Caroline. “I’m not even a name in your black book. But you have to understand that just a few words with you endangers my life at the core.”
“You may spend your time otherwise.”
“No,” she said. “I can’t.”
“I don’t see why not.”
“This,” Caroline said, standing up straight to bring herself close beside Byron, a tear gleaming in her eye. “As terrible as it all seems to me, I love you.” She kissed him gently. Byron put his arms around her, and clasped her sobbing face to his bosom, forming a damp spot on the shoulder of his blue cotton jacket.
“I love you, too,” he said, his voice fading as he kissed the woman deeply. They stood still, indulging in the moment and a door opened beyond them. Byron casually slipped from Caroline’s side. She turned to face the dark oak forest that loomed toward the house and carefully wiped her damp eyes, cautious of her mascara.
“What ho!” cried a lumbering fellow with his tie pulled loose, his rounded belly pressed perpetually forward. A billowing cloud of cigar smoke poured from his gaping mouth and surrounded him as he stumbled toward the garden. “I want you to see this, Jerry,” he muttered, oblivious to the quiet pair in the corner. “My niece planted the berries, but I’ve been taking care of them.” His voice remained sonorous while the big man turned behind a voluminous larch.
“Don’t touch Emma’s plums,” Migro called out. “Those are hers, Jerry. I don’t want Emma accusing me of touching her fruit. I’ve been taking care of these over here. These are Migro’s. Look at those beauties. Those are mine. Have one.”
“Mmm,” an ecstatic moan filtered softly through the hedge.
“Ain’t they delicious?” the smoker asked proudly.
“Let’s go, somewhere else,” said Byron. Caroline nodded and followed as the lean young man headed back toward the front door of the house.
Caroline looked past Byron and into the surging bowels of the living party. She felt William’s eyes on her, although she couldn’t see him.
“I’ll keep a look out,” said Byron as they stood at the threshold. “Go up these stairs and then down the long hallway. Third room on the left. I’ll be there in an instant.”
“But what if?” she said, her voice choked.
“Go,” said Byron with feisty encouragement. Caroline bolted up the cream carpeted stairs, moving more quickly than she knew herself capable. She stumbled on the seventh step. “Careful,” hissed Byron with a smile.
The party sounded distant as Caroline walked deliberately down the long hallway. Voices lost their distinct verbal quality and turned into a steady moan of excitement and gossip mixed with the low wails of tedious boredom. The music pounded on the thick floors like a rubber mallet echoing dully with solid strokes of power against substance. Caroline tried to slow her heartbeat as she counted the wooden doors down the hallway. She turned, nervous at the thought that William stood behind her, watching. Byron slowly ascended the stairs.
Pushing down the handle, Caroline opened the door to a small library. Stepping into the leather bound vault, Caroline trembled as she leaned against a small embroidered chair. Byron pushed the door. Caroline gasped and sat down, more afraid in each passing moment.
“It’s all right,” he said, putting a strong hand on her bare shoulder. “No one saw us.”
“I can’t,” Caroline gasped as she tried to speak. Byron knelt beside her, placing his dark curls into her silken lap. He kissed the soft fabric.
“Let’s linger a moment,” he said. “Paradise is a hidden treasure. Our dreary lives will find us soon enough.” He leaned forward to kiss Caroline lightly.
“But he and they . . . .” Caroline spoke without conviction.
Are no where to be seen. Even a caged animal needs a few hours in the sunshine.” Byron smiled greedily. Caroline stroked his black rings of hair as he kissed her breast through the silk covering.
“It isn’t like that,” she said. His lips hardened her nipple, creating a wet circle in the shimmering fabric. “William just . . . .” Caroline stopped speaking as Byron used a strong hand to squeeze the tender flesh of her breast. A shudder of pleasure rippled through Caroline. Byron licked the stiffness under the cloth with his pointed tongue.
“My dress,” said Caroline, pushing Byron back. “Stop that. I can’t leave like this.” The boy kneeling beside her licked his lips and laughed heartily, studying the wetness that stained Caroline’s tit.
“Take it off,” he murmured. Caroline kneaded her breasts in her hands, releasing the tension that he had built within her.
“No,” she said. Byron ran his hands up her stockinged thigh and lifted the hem of her dress slightly so he could kiss the creamy white flesh above the edge of her silk stocking. “Someone might see,” she began. Byron reached back and locked the library door.
“Take it off,” he said playfully. Caroline looked at the handsome young man with a bit of offense in her eyes, but then reached back to unfasten the collar of her dress.
“I’ll hang it up, to dry,” Caroline said. Byron nodded seriously, his gaze fixed on the descent of her dress as the white lace of her brassiere illuminated Caroline’s heavy breasts. Byron bit his lip as the virginal curves of her long stomach emerged from behind the silk curtain only to be caught by the elastic waistband of her fragile panties. Caroline read the lusty compliments in Byron’s eyes and smiled as a furious heartbeat stole her strength. Her pussy grew damp as she watched the man watch her. She draped her blue silk dress on the shade of a tall lamp, casting the room in an azure tint. Byron watched sternly as Caroline toyed with the back of her scanties, stretching the thin lace across the fleshy bulbs of her bottom.
“Do you want me?” he asked while Caroline blushed. The bulge in his trousers twitched indecorously.
“Not really,” she said coyly, turning to look out the window into the garden. A couple kissed while sitting on the wall and Caroline felt her heart float away as she touched her tingling nipple.
“I mean, do you want me for a little while longer?” Byron scratched his prick gently through his trousers. “I can’t promise more. I have to leave town in the morning.”
“Take me with you,” she mumbled dreamily.
Byron took Caroline in his arms and kissed her. “You’re mine,” he said and he took the fabric of her panties in his hands. The fragile cloth tore with a start.
“Oh my God,” said Caroline. Her panties jerked hard against her firm bottom and then fell into scraps in his fierce hands. Byron slipped a finger along the moist line of Caroline’s pussy while he carefully shoved her torn panties into his pocket. She spread her thighs eagerly, granting his finger ingress into her folds.
“Luscious bitch,” he said.
“I want you to show me,” Caroline said between kisses, “how you would treat your woman.”
“I love you,” Byron said dramatically as he pressed her down onto the desk, pushing a large volume of Johnson out from behind her to send it to the floor with a thud. Caroline wrapped her arms around Byron and leaned back onto the walnut surface, pulling Byron on top of her. He struggled with his belt while he bit at her lace covered nipple. Caroline unfastened her brassiere while Byron pressed his purple-headed cock against the golden wisps of curl at the portals of her fleshy lips. Caroline screamed madly as Byron plunged inside.
“Hush,” he said as he began to stroke himself into Caroline’s wet cunt. Caroline moaned without a semblance of inhibition, focused on the passion that had gripped her. Byron fucked her, delighted by the beauty that shuddered with each stern blow of his prick. “Good thing Emma’s having a loud party,” he said with a laugh.
“Watch me,” she said, her breasts bouncing, rosy tints added to the creamy globes. Caroline pulled Byron down hard against her and then as the hammer fell, she rolled them over, pushing Byron onto his back while she knelt above him on the walnut desk. Byron extracted a long fountain pen from his side.
“Almost stabbed me,” he said, holding the implement up for inspection and then tossing it to the floor. Caroline raised her hips and fell down quick along Byron’s meaty shaft.
“Stab!” said Caroline, rubbing her thighs as she began to assault Byron’s prick. “Stab, stab, stab.” Byron placed his strong hands around the flesh of her rounded bottom and pulled her harder into his ride. His bright eyes drank her beauty and he sighed.
A commotion began with shouts outside the window and Caroline leapt from her mount to see what had happened. Migro of the berries stood shouting at Emma at the edge of the garden.
“Uncle Migro!” Emma said, disapprovingly.
“Ah, Emmy, let him have his berries,” said Byron to no one, plunging into Caroline from behind.
“But Byron,” said Caroline, adjusting to accept the thick stroke between her legs. “It’s her garden.”
“She ignored them. Migro made them blossom,” Byron said, fucking Caroline with intensity, her curious ashen face leaning out the window.
“Her garden,” said Caroline, excitement welling inside her. Byron slapped her upturned bottom as he drove hard into her pussy.
“Mine,” he said, feeling the tremble begin inside him. Caroline let go with a sudden burst into madness and let loose an excited squeal that echoed through the garden below. Faces turned up to search the windows and Caroline dashed herself below the sill, still exploding with the washing waves of her orgasm.
“Oh, shit,” said Byron, spraying his thickened creamy seed over Caroline’s bare shoulders and back. She looked up at the quivering man, holding his dark cock over her.
“I think Gretchen saw me,” Caroline said, reaching up for her dress. The pale blue light turned a harsher yellow as the fabric fell away.
“Nobody saw you,” Byron said, fastening his trousers.
“If Gretchen saw me, I’m fucked.” Caroline spat out the words as she struggled to pull the silk dress past her hips.
“No one saw anything.”
“She’s his sister. I’ve got to get out of here.”
“Does it really matter that much?” asked Byron, helping Caroline with her zipper.
“William loves me,” Caroline explained. “And I’m his, even if I don’t love him.”
“And you’re mine, even if I don’t love you.”
“Beast,” Caroline said, pulling at her stockings.
“Did you ever doubt it?” Byron tugged at his hair, gazing into a small mirror by the door.
“You told me you loved me,” Caroline said as a matter of fact while she struggled with the straps of her brassiere.
“Some things are said as a matter of course.”
“But you don’t mean any of it.”
“Some more, some less. Caroline, I do love you, but not in the sense that he does. He’s been blinded. I can still see that I want you without believing I must always have you.”
“You shouldn’t say things like that.” Caroline pulled at the door’s latch.
“I always speak my mind. People like to know where they stand.” Byron smiled complacently and fixed his collar.
“Don’t you ever dream?” Caroline asked, stepping into the hallway.
“I don’t like to play roles,” Byron said, striding confidently. The couple walked together toward the staircase.
“I know,” said Caroline with a quick kiss to his rosy cheek. “You’re always fresh. That’s what I like about you.” They reached the edge of the stairs.
“Life is for living,” said Byron, gesturing to Caroline that he would follow her down the stairs.
“You go,” she said, falling back into the black tapestry that hung on the wall. “I’ll follow when you’re gone.”
“Good plan,” Byron said. Caroline watched nervously as he descended to vanish into the party.
William stood in the exact same spot where she’d left him, although the crowd around her oratorical husband had changed considerably. The Bakers had been exchanged for the Appleworths and the big man from Maine had gone for a thin man from the Yucatan. Caroline slipped in beside William. He took her hand and smiled.
“I’ve been keeping an eye on you,” William said as the gentleman from the Yucatan began to explain his theories on agriculture in a low, tedious voice.
“I thought you were,” said Caroline, blushing slightly.
“Prettiest girl at the ball,” he said, squeezing her hand.
“And at the same time, the workers who must finish the harvest are under the complete control of the plantation bosses.”
“I’m tired of this,” she said, feeling a spot of coolness on her bare back. Caroline reached back and touched the wetness and touched her finger to her lips. She grimaced and spat with irritation. William looked at her. “Bad wine, damn fool spilled it on me,” she said.
“We’ll go soon,” William said, putting his arm around her and kissing her neck. “I love you,” he whispered.
“Don’t,” said Caroline, pulling away gently.
“It’s all right,” said William with a squeeze of her hand. “Beautiful. I’ve been watching you.”
Caroline felt a quiver in her stomach. Looking back, she saw the alluring figure of Byron standing by the wall, laughing as he watched. She held her husband more tightly.
“I’m yours,” Caroline sang in William’s ear. “Forever yours. Give me a baby and stay here. Our garden needs tending.”
The conversation stopped while the others looked curiously at Caroline and William.
“Behave yourself, Caroline,” William said quietly, masking his emotions with a self-conscious smile. “We’ll go soon. Now, behave yourself. You know how these people talk. We don’t want to cause a scandal.”
Caroline sighed and leaned on William’s arm as the fields of conversation required an extended harvest. She looked back, but Byron had gone. Gretchen stood talking to Emma who held up a small dark plum.
“No,” Caroline said to no one. “We don’t want any scandals in Paradise.”