I was starting to think that insisting on going for a walk on my own so late at night was a bad idea. Snow had started to fall just as I’d stepped outside. It had come down in short, light sprinklings then, building on the drifts that had fallen over the past week, but now that I was too far from home it was quickly turning into a blizzard.
I could barely see beyond the end of my nose. The flakes were so big I could see their intricate patterns, each one as unique as the last. Beautiful, but given how thin my clothing was, deadly.
Turning this way and that I realised that I’d lost my way. My grand plan to follow my own footsteps back home, back to warmth and to my husband, had gone so very wrong. Snow had already filled the prints I’d made and now I didn’t know which way I’d come. This was it. I would die here, alone in this horrendous weather. My husband would look for me at first light and my heart ached at the thought of the sound he’d make when he found my lifeless body frozen and blue beneath the trees.
Though I’d been angry when I’d stalked off, our disagreement seemed so petty now. I should have just agreed to what he’d wanted. It was such a small thing, after all. But now I wouldn’t get a chance because I wasn’t ever going to see him again.
A sob caught in my throat when something else I would never get to do occurred to me. Oh, why hadn’t I said yes to him yet? We’d kissed. Held each other. Touched each other. I’d closed my eyes and slipped my hand between his thighs, wrapped my hand around the thickness there, stroked it in the way he’d shown me he liked until, with a cry, he’d covered my hand in hot sticky whiteness. I liked the way it felt on my fingers. I liked the way it felt on my thigh, too, almost as much as I liked watching him stroke himself until it erupted all over me.
Rough bark dug into my back as I leant against a tree and wondered if it was thoughts of us touching each other that had made me feel suddenly warmer. Shivers still ran through me and I could barely feel my wet feet, but I no longer felt cold. I was warm and that was making me feel happy. Sleepy, as though I could lie in the snow and sleep for a year without waking or catching a chill.
Something in the snow up ahead caught my eye. It was a small dot of light, muted by the thick snowfall. As I stared it grew in size, getting closer, larger, its sides spreading to fill my vision, though its edges were still softened by the snow despite its brightness.
I wondered if maybe this was the beginning of my end, but then I heard something. It was a voice. A man’s voice, and he was calling my name. Oh, the joy! He’d come for me. My husband had braved the blizzard, he’d left the safety and comfort of our home to come and find me.
I was smiling, watching the light through my icy lashes, seeing the shape of a man gradually emerge. I frowned. Too tall. To broad. Hair not dark enough, skin not dark enough. This wasn’t my husband, it was a tall man with shoulder length blonde hair, eyes as bright as the sun on the clearest of days and an expression that suggested he was surprised to have found me.
“Hello,” he said, calling my name again and holding his lantern a little higher. “Is that you?”
My lips felt like they cracked when I opened my mouth to speak so I just nodded.
After placing his lantern on a low hanging branch, he rubbed his hands together then approached. “I’ve been looking for you.”
As soon as he came to a stop beside me I felt the heaviness lift from my bones. I was no longer drowsy, and I was suddenly even warmer than I had been before. The way he looked at me with those fiery eyes…it was enough to melt more than just the snow.
Reaching out with an unsteady hand I said, “I didn’t think anyone would find me. Did my husband send you?”
“No.” As he shook his head he took my hand between his, rubbing a little bit of steadiness into it with his dry warm palms. “I was sent to deliver a message. It’s important. Vital. But I…”
Such a beautiful face should never look so conflicted. He opened his mouth to say something but changed his mind. Met my eyes then looked away. Shrugged his shoulders, squeezed his eyes closed, tugged on a lock of curled blonde hair and whispered what sounded like, you cannot have that, it is not meant for you.
I should have asked what he meant. Should have insisted that he guide me home right away and that he deliver his message there where my husband could bear witness. But I was caught up in his struggle, desperate to know what it was that he wanted and why being unable to have it pained him so. I watched this internal battle take place right there on his face. His features tightened and loosened, morphing his expression into despair, determination, fear. And as I watched I felt something I should not have been feeling, deep, deep down in my body.
But he was so beautiful! I’d never seen anyone like him in my life. Believing he was real was becoming more and more difficult. It may have been delirium, but I was starting to wonder if he was really what he seemed. I took all of him in, from his head down to his toes, and I realised why I hadn’t told him to see me home.
This feeling his appearance had given me…it was the same way I felt when I watched my husband stroke himself. The way I felt when he put his hand on my thigh and whispered, are you ready for this yet?
It was a need to get closer. A need to have him put his hand on my thigh, to move it higher and higher until its heat joined the heat I could feel spreading from that dark wet place my husband wanted to touch so very much.
When I pulled my gaze away from the stranger’s mouth and met his eyes I saw his expression had settled. A decision had been made, but by which of us I couldn’t rightly tell.
Heat blazed across my skin when he touched me. He moaned softly, pulling me against him by my shoulders, holding me close, bringing his lips down to mine. I had a fleeting thought that I’d been right; nothing that tasted as sweet as he did could possibly be real. Nothing that felt as good as he did could be possible.
Yet I could feel my heart beating in my throat as he kissed me. Could feel his heart thudding against my chest, and I could feel something else pulsing, too. He was so hard against my thigh, his fingers were hot on my knees, my thighs.
Would he ask if I was ready for him? If he did I would say yes.
But he didn’t ask.
He just released himself, took his hardness in one hand and lifted my leg with the other and then leant in until the tip of him touched me.
Oh, what a feeling that was! It moved with ease, helped by the wetness that had come from inside me. I knew his gaze was fixed to my face but I couldn’t tear mine away from the place our bodies touched. The very end of him brushed back and forth over the same spot, never deviating, never slowing down or speeding up. He just shook his wrist, stroking that spot, and I watched it changed colour, swelling until it was more than twice as big as it had been.
And each touch made my legs wobble, my breaths shake, soft sounds of encouragement drift from my throat with every other pant. And he was panting too. His mouth hung open, his forehead was wrinkled with lines, and he suddenly swept his hardness down until I knew he could have driven it into me with just one forward thrust of his hips.
I wanted him to. Peered up at him with pleading eyes so that he would know.
But he didn’t.
He said something in a bitter tone, words I didn’t catch, then moved back to stroking that same spot. His wrist moved faster. His breaths blasted in my face. My legs shook, my nails dug into his forearm and I cried out as the most unbelievable feeling flooded through my body. It was hot, pulsing, a release that made me want to weep almost as much as it made me want to demand that this man fill a hole I didn’t realise I had in me.
It was then he did it. Hand in my hair, he pushed my head down so that I couldn’t miss what was happening. The blur of his quickly moving wrist suddenly stopped and, just as my husband had done on my leg countless times, he sprayed me with sticky white liquid. But he didn’t do it on my leg. He did it right where he’d been stroking. I could feel it hit me, could see it sliding down my blushing, wet skin. We both shuddered when he pressed his tip against me to rub it in, and I don’t know which of us was more shocked when, for the briefest moment, he slipped just the rounded head inside of me.
Oh, the colour of his cheeks! The sound of his whispered curse!
Letting go of my leg, he tucked himself away and reached for his lantern. Neither of us spoke as he led me through the silent woods. We didn’t look at one another, but he did squeeze my hand once or twice and I did squeeze back. It seemed like a magician’s trick when my home came into view. I really hadn’t believed I would ever see the place again.
Leaning in, the beautiful stranger told me his name. He said I was his most highly favoured lady then whispered some impossible things that truly stunned me. I was still dazed when the door opened and my husband rushed out. I expected to feel shame engulf me when he thanked this man for bringing me back to him but realised when he didn’t speak that I was alone. I looked down and felt light-headed when I saw only one set of footprints instead of two.
“I thought I’d lost you,” my husband cried. “Oh, my dear wife, however did you find your way home in this?”
Taking him by the hand, I led him to the door, “I was shown the way by a very special man,” I told him. “Come inside, Joseph, and I’ll tell you everything..”
And I did tell him everything. Well, almost everything. I told him what Gabriel had said, word for word, but as for what Gabriel had done? I didn’t ever tell anybody that.