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HEART B movie with his permission after her


"Heart Ball 5-8" (mf pett rom MF cons m-solo f-solo toys)

IF YOU ARE UNDER THE AGE OF 18, or otherwise forbidden by law to
read electronically transmitted erotic material, please go do
something else.

This material is Copyright, 2001, Uther Pendragon. All
rights reserved. I specifically grant the right of downloading
and keeping ONE electronic copy for your personal reading so long
as this notice is included. Reposting requires previous

All persons here depicted, except public figures depicted as
public figures in the background, are figments of my imagination
and any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly
# # # #
by Uther Pendragon
Chapter 5
"Tell me, Shannon," Ken asked her Tuesday morning in school, "do
you think that the ball for Valentine's Day should have more slow
dances or more fast dances?"

"Valentine's Day? Definitely more slow dances." For that
matter, Steve and she sat out half the fast dances these days.

"Well, you know, if you were on the committee for that dance, you
could represent that view."

She laughed. Ken might play the fool, but he wasn't one. "Why
don't you ask Steve to be on the committee?"

"I plan to," he said. "I thought that he'd be likelier to agree
if you already had."

"I hadn't thought about us both being on something like that."

"Do think about it," he said. "Frankly, there are places where I
wouldn't want a pair of lovebirds like you. Get twice the
attention to the subject from one of the couple than from both.
But this dance is about romance, and that's one where *my* ideas
aren't going to be sufficient."

"I'll think about it." She would also think about a new view of
Ken. Student council was enough of a joke that having the class
prankster as president had made a twisted kind of sense, but it
had functioned under Ken as well as it had the previous three
years. And the themes for the balls had been somewhat more

English, her only class with Steve, was already over for the day;
but she mentioned Ken's question at lunch.

"We're both awfully busy," Steve said. "And we'd have to help
decorate on a Saturday morning. I work then."

"Well, neither of us has been what you'd call active in extra-
curricular activities, your chess club excepted. This might be
sort of fun. 'What did you do in high school, Mommy?' 'I
babysat, dear.' That doesn't sound like much."

The concept of Shannon with her children distracted Steve. Would
they be his children? "You decide. If you want it, we can."
He'd worked extra time for Hauksbee to cover for others; he'd
dropped the chess club because too many of their matches were on
Saturday mornings. The old man would let him off for one day.
"Tell me what you decide."

Their conversation veered in other directions, and the subject
had entirely slipped Steve's mind by the time he walked into
calculus class.

It hadn't slipped Ken's mind. "You know, Steve," he said. "The
ball for Valentine's Day is coming up. I talked to Shannon about
having the two of you on the committee. Frankly, when I think of
romance, you and Shannon spring to mind. The school has a lot of
more demonstrative couples, but I don't think that their idea of
romance would fly by the administration."

"She told me."

"What do you think?"

"It's her decision."

"For both of you?" Ken raised an eyebrow.

"You sure aren't going to get me on the committee without her."

Ken didn't get to Shannon before the end of the day; he had other
people to ask as well. The first thing he did was to raise her
left hand for an ostentatious examination. "Steve said that you
are going to decide for the two of you," he explained. "I
thought that I should check for a wedding ring."

"It's not like that." Though she didn't mind the suggestion that
it was. "He said that I could decide *this* for the two of us."

"And have you? We could really use your input. The two of you
come to the dances, so you must know what you've enjoyed and not
enjoyed. You show brains in class, which many on the planning
teams don't, quite frankly. Some of them have brains, but shut
them down for class; even so...."

"I think that Steve was just tired of your bull. If I decide,
you won't bother him. I haven't decided yet."

"You won't be disappointed if you decide to do it," Ken said.
Since she had no particular expectations, that was a safer
promise than Ken probably had intended.

Steve was still taking the bus; the weather -- while clear -- had
been windy and bitterly cold. This afternoon, however, was still
and only a degree or two below freezing. You could almost see
the piles of snow receding from the center of the sidewalks
while you watched.

On the walk home, she could stroll and think about deciding for
Steve. She had previously thought of marrying Steve, from
picturing him in a tux waiting for her at the end of the aisle,
to imagining a honeymoon with him, to considering what their kids
might look like.

She hadn't thought about couples sharing decisions; indeed, for
the last four years she had been anxious to get out of her house
and make her *own* decisions. But her parents shared decisions,
especially about her. She had a pretty good idea about the fault
lines, but seldom could use that knowledge. The last time that
her dad had spanked her, it was because she'd gone to a horror
movie with his permission after her mother had refused hers.
"You don't have permission," he'd told her, "when you cheat to
get it." But, she had figured out even then, he wouldn't have
spanked her for sneaking out. Trying to play one parent off
against the other raised the penalties.

The past few months, however, Steve and she had been sharing a
lot of decisions. School was most important. But was it really?
Several times, Steve had backed off because she wouldn't pet when
he expected her to. Was that sharing a decision? Maybe it was
that her body belonged to her, and he didn't have a right to vote
on what he did with it. Even in the meadow, when he had gone
*way* over the line, he had let her end it when she wanted to.

And, if it was her body and her decision, where did breaking in
on him in the bathroom fit? It had been his body then. He'd
tried to hide, and she hadn't let him.

She was thinking so hard that she almost walked into Mr. Markham
from two doors down. "My! Shannon," he said, "you were really
concentrating there. What do you have to bother your pretty head
about, a pretty young girl like you?"

Her face flamed. "I'm really sorry I wasn't watching where I was
going." She ducked away before he could repeat his question.

- = -

Her mother was off showing a series of houses to demanding
clients and not due back for hours. She'd left detailed
instructions for dinner, and Shannon started in on them
immediately. Half an hour later, her mother walked in saying,
"They made an offer on the first house. Now we have to see
whether the seller will come down."

"Want me to finish?" Shannon asked. If she did, she didn't have
to do dishes.

"Let's work together. We'll shove the dishes off on Dad."

So they cooked together, her mother actually taking the helper
role when the jobs divided that way. The good feelings lasted
through dinner, which was dominated by her mother's blow-by-blow
account of getting the clients to see the advantages of the house
she had been showing.

Allison Bryant broke out the mint chocolate chip ice cream that
she had bought to celebrate. Next year, they'd be celebrating
her sales and Wayne's raise with wine again. But she'd rather
have her daughter with her and stick to ice cream. For that
matter, they let Shannon drink when she was home. Better learn
moderation at home than taste her first booze in the company of
boozing fellow adolescents.

"Do you have a job tonight, Shannon?" she asked.

"No. Not even a date. I need to get on top of 'Romeo and
Juliet.'" And Steve needed that more, although she didn't want
him getting on top of Juliet. She felt her smile, and was
briefly afraid that her mother would see it.

"I was just thinking," Mrs. Bryant continued. "Your father and I
used to celebrate my sales with wine. The ice cream was to
include little Shannon in the celebration."

"Gee thanks, Mom." The response was perfunctory. She knew that
her mother only currently used the term to describe her in
earlier times. Still, it was worth some response to remind her
that she shouldn't.

"So. Should I have bought wine for the three of us instead?"

Well, Shannon appreciated the offer. On the other hand, it was a
*big* bowl of ice cream, and her mother usually poured Shannon
half a glass of wine -- sour wine, to boot.

Wayne Bryant didn't like the idea at all. He remembered the wine
less as celebration than as getting Allison in the mood for the
real celebration. He could pour his own glass of Maker's Mark
when he chose, but his diet didn't allow for ice cream unless
Allison made the exceptions. He looked longingly at the bowl of
ice cream until inspiration led him to the liquor cabinet in the
living room.

He came back to the table with a bottle of creme de menthe.
He poured a little on Shannon's ice cream, more on his own, and
passed the bottle to Allison. She took very little.

"This is good!" Shannon said. If she had known that her parents
had this stuff, she'd never have sampled he father's whiskey back
when she was in eighth grade. Of course, if she'd sneaked
samples of this stuff, she might not have stopped so soon.

They tasted chocolate, and mint, and a small celebration. They
tasted the good feelings of being in a family. "Really," said
Mrs. Bryant, "we're going to miss you next year, Shannon."

"I'm going to miss you, too, Mom. Miss both of you." And she
knew that this was true, crazy as they drove her sometimes.

"Not that we don't know that you have to grow up and leave," Mrs.
Bryant continued. "By the way, have you sent your acceptance in

"No, Mom. I haven't even decided *where* I'm going to send the
acceptance yet. I have until May first, and there are good
reasons to wait till nearly then."

"I can't believe that you are considering going to the U of I
when Albion has accepted you."

Wayne Bryant sighed for the feeling of togetherness which had
lasted so briefly. Maybe he could lighten the conversation.
"Well some people choose their schools for the faculty; some for
the student body."

"If Steven felt as strongly as she does about being together, he
would go to Albion." The two of them were going on fewer dates;
Shannon had stopped campaigning for a later curfew. Allison
could see that the first intensity was wearing off; why couldn't
her daughter. She turned towards Shannon. "Maybe he's right;
maybe it's time for you two to give each other a little space."

Shannon stared at her mother. Steve had never asked for "a
little space." A little privacy for immediate relief was the
maximum he'd wanted. He'd never said that he wouldn't go to
Albion, though he had never said that he would, either. The
point that her mother couldn't see is that asking Steve to change
colleges for her was promising to marry him. It was worse than
accepting an engagement ring. Break an engagement, and he had a
ring that another girl might not want; her mother wanted her to
ask Steve to accept a *life* that he did not want in order to be
with her.

And, of course, if they did marry, she wanted Steve to be well
prepared for his profession. They would get more money, and
Steve would be happier. He wanted to be a good chemical
engineer, maybe a good chemist.

"You know Mom," she said, "if I had to choose today between a
future in which I certainly will marry Steve, and a future in
which I certainly *won't*, I'd choose the future including
Steve. Just so you know what the choice is, if you make me

Mrs. Bryant couldn't guess what had brought that on. The last
thing that she wanted was to make Shannon choose so young. The
problem with Shannon's fixation on Steven at eighteen was
eighteen not Steven. She knew that Shannon would never admit it,
but it was her happiness they worried about. Steven was great
from a parental viewpoint -- sober, hardworking, reasonably clean
cut. It wasn't as if he wanted to play baseball professionally
or even go to medical school; chemists were paid well, but
anybody who took the classes could get the work.

She would love to see them give each other a little space
for four years. If Shannon still wanted Steven after seeing a
college full of boys, God bless her. And if Steven's eyes
wandered, better before marriage than after.

"Well, Chick," Wayne said. "I think you should consider what
your mother is saying. But this is *your* decision. If the
school will take you and we can possibly afford it, we'll send
you off and pay the tuition." Which was, he figured, the
minimal expression of what he and Allison had decided years ago.

They continued eating their ice cream as separately as three
people can at the same table. Strangers thrown together by
restaurant crowding would have related more closely. Shannon
went upstairs to do her studying; her parents stayed behind.

Wayne suddenly remembered what Shannon was going to read.
"'Romeo and Juliet'! Why can't the school system teach them *The
Story of O*? She'll be planning an elopement within the hour."

His wife wasn't amused. "It's generous of you to promise her the
college fund that I earned."

"As opposed to the money which bought this ice cream? And this
house, and the gas you put in your Taurus to take your clients
around, for that matter. That's all *our* money, the money that
I earned. Look, we agreed that your commissions would go into
college bonds for Shannon; we didn't agree that they would go
into a fund which you could use to blackmail her."

"First she tells me that I am forcing her to marry Steven, and
then you tell me that I am blackmailing her."

"No," he admitted, "you are not. If she sent a rejection letter
to Albion and an acceptance to U of I, you would agree to her
decision. But you can't have it both ways. If telling her that
fact is a betrayal, then you want to use that money to persuade
her to accept your school choice."

"I still don't see why they couldn't both go to Albion. Do you?"

"Yes." He figured that, if Allison wanted to hide from the
truth, she shouldn't ask point-blank questions. "If you want to
do something, something particular, you prepare as best you can
to do that thing. You don't buy the generic-brand education and
pretend that it is as good as the custom model. And employers
know that. Go to the personnel department of a chemical firm and
say, 'I have a good, well-rounded, education; I want to be a
chemist.' They'll ask you, 'Then why didn't you get the best
preparation to be a chemist?' And the best preparation is *not*
in a small school with no great interest in the natural

He could distinguish among her tears, even from her back. They
had been married more than two decades, for God's sake. The
tears that she took from the table were those of anger. He
finished her bowl of ice cream before stacking the dishes in the
dishwasher. He figured that he deserved the treat; he wasn't
going to get any other pleasure that night.

- = -

Steve had never bought his sister Mallory's woman-of-the-world
schtick. On the other hand, she *was* a girl. "Dad," he asked
after dinner that night, "what's so special about the way you
scratch backs?"

Apparently, the main thing was to have the nails pointing away
from the direction in which they moved. They practiced on a
wall, then on his stomach and on his dad's. After he watched JAG
and did his homework, he practiced again.

This time he experimented on his own thighs. Done right, it was
arousing. In bed, he slid his nails very lightly down his inner
thigh pretending it was Shannon's. The combination of sensation
and imagination hardened him. She would lie like this; she would
tremble like this; she would spread her legs like this. Then he
turned sideways and grabbed a Kleenex. That friction was enough to
bring the explosion.

- = -

Shannon did the minimum necessary on her other homework before
opening "Romeo and Juliet." She wished that she could look up
the notes in the big copy of *Folger's Shakespeare* that her
parents kept downstairs, but she didn't want it badly enough to
return to the front lines. The language was such a trap, both in
its beauty and in its strangeness, that she'd read passages
without noticing what was happening. This time, she put a list
of the parts of each scene down on paper, then she listed what
she knew because of that section. The flow of the play started
to become clearer.

Midway through this exercise, she got a call from Mrs. Jensen.
They wanted her for Tuesday a week from then. She checked her
calendar and agreed. While she was downstairs, she did get the
Folger's and lug it upstairs.

Apparently families had *always* resented their daughters'
falling in love. The Capulets, at least, had some excuse. The
only thing that her parents had against Steve was that she loved
him. And, for her mother, that he might interfere with Shannon's
going to Albion. She should send an acceptance to the U of I
tomorrow; that would show Mom!

The problem was that she didn't want to go there without Steve.
And Steve might get into IIT. Would he go to IIT without her?
Should he go to IIT without her, if it were her decision to make?

Well, he shouldn't because that would tear them apart. But a
degree from IIT might produce a greater income for him for their
entire lives together. And would their lives be together?

At this point, Shannon realized that she was done studying for
that night. She got into her night clothes and into bed to do
her worrying in comfort.

Albion was not that much farther from Chicago than Champaign was.
Either distance would require an overnight stay to make a visit
worthwhile. With any luck at all, IIT would turn Steve down; but
she felt like a dog for even thinking that. She added a quick
mental note to God that she had *not* asked for that. If they
accepted Steve, the same conditions applied as the ones on Albion
which anyone but her mother could see. If Steve turned down his
best chance at education to be with her, she owed him permanence.
(If he wanted it; he hadn't quite said that he did.)

Ken had thought that putting them both on his piddling committee
needed a wedding ring. Now she was making decisions for both of
them for their entire future. Assuming that Steve would go
along, and she had to assume that for these decisions. She
could sure see being married to Steve. What she'd told her mom
was perfectly true. But she didn't want to make that decision
tonight, and it was likely that Steve didn't either.

And was it fair for her to decide in ways that she would resent
Steve's doing? What if Steve had broken into a bathroom knowing
that she was there? Of course, he was really in that house under
her invitation; but that didn't work. She'd have screamed if he'd
interrupted her in a bathroom in his own house. And that didn't
even take into account what she'd known he was doing.

Somehow, it was different; but she couldn't say how. Steve might
well disagree with her on the difference, and it would be fair if
he did.

They could wait for the next step until she was ready; it was
still her body. Steve could decide to go to school where they
couldn't be together; it was still his future. She didn't want
to put the same demands on him that her mother was putting on
her. She would even give him one more chance to back off before
she put them on the dance committee.

And she would apologize for breaking in on him and holding him
there without his permission. That, however, led to her memory
of the sensations when she did that holding. It had been hot and
firm, it had jumped in her hand when the stuff had spurted out.

That, she realized, was how it would act inside her. It would
not only penetrate her, it would jerk in her depths as it had
jerked in her hand. Somehow, the thought was very sexy. Her
nipples were suddenly hard, and she stroked them. After she
moved her right hand between her legs, when her tension was
building, she remembered the moment. Something inside her, where
that pulsing would be some day, pulsed in sympathy with it as her
time came. Her mind was still struggling with putting all these
sensations together as she curled up to sleep, but she didn't
worry much about that. Her body seemed ready enough.

- = -

She caught Steve when they were leaving English the next morning.
"We have to talk," she said.

"Here?" He turned in her direction. Her next class was clear
over on the other side of the building. Usually, she was the one
who didn't want to talk that time of the day.

"No. We need to talk at some length. But one thing. Do you
mind if I sign us both up for Ken's dance committee."

"Go ahead. I said that. But I didn't drive today." Which meant
that he couldn't drive her home. His mother, who was office
worker for a suite of dentists, worked Saturdays but not
Wednesdays. Sometimes Steve took the car.

"I'm sitting for Mrs. Green tonight. Come over after work."

That was news worth slipping half a minute late into physics
class. All that earned him was a glare from Mr. Babaian and the
next question. He had to fumble with his notes, but his answer
was correct.

- = -

Shannon caught up with Ken on her way out of lunch period. "You
can sign both of us up," she said.

"That's great! Thanks." And he was off pursuing another victim
before getting into line himself.

In AP history just then, they were studying the election of 1860.
The war itself would occupy the rest of the year. Mr. Peters
took the whole period to deal with the Constitutional Union
party, which refused to discuss the slavery issue, even though
that was *the* issue.

- = -

The Green brats were at war with one another. She had to referee
three fights and patch up a bloody nose, but it was better than
when they were conspiring together. She fixed dinner for them
while they bitched about the menu. Each of them ate twice what
she did, and then complained about the meal until she chased them
to bed. As a substitute babysitter, she assumed that their
mother was taking care of baths.

She took a second helping as soon as her nerves settled down.
Then she ran through her homework, leaving Shakespeare for last.
She made her preparations for Steve a few minutes before he was
due, taking off both bra and panties. Somehow, she always felt
hotter in the time just before her period. And, of course, the
consequences of going too far were less. Not that she was going
to go too far tonight.

She looked out when the bell rang, and then opened the door to
Steve. "Lo, what light through yonder doorway breaks?" he
proclaimed. "It is the east and Shannon is the sun." Meanwhile
she was holding the door open and getting cold.

"I'll kiss you," she said, "but keep those cold hands to
yourself." Even so, his lips and face were cold. They ended up
rubbing noses. Cute, but Steve's was a bit runny.

"Want me to wash my hands?" He figured that it had worked

"Later. We have to talk." She pointed him to the other side of
the dining room table from her books.

He took off his coat; then he spread his schoolwork out while he
asked, "What's wrong?"

"I am. Or I was. The last time you were here." She took a deep
breath. "If you ever come into the bathroom when I'm using it,
I'll kill you."

"Okay, I won't." He wondered briefly whether she would consider
that promise binding in marriage, but they never quite used that

"But I did that to you. And I'm sorry."

"Look, that's different." He couldn't say how it was different,
but it was.

"I thought so too, but I couldn't really see how."

"Let me think about it. Anyway, I accept your apology even if I
think you're making too big a deal over what you did."

She had more on her agenda. "The way that I see it, either we'll
both go to U of I or I'll go to Albion while you go to IIT. I
don't want to be at U of I without you."

"I don't want to be anywhere without you. But..."

"Yeah. But!"

"How will you tell your mother?" he asked. The trouble with
fights at home is that you have to go back there sooner or later.

"As late as possible. Now, why don't you go wash your hands?"

He used the facilities first, then left his hands under the hot
water as long as he could stand it. Instead of anticipating the
pleasures awaiting him, he thought furiously. She was standing
by the couch when he came out.

Shannon found his tongue nice and warm, even if his cheek was
still cold. Steve could tell from the softness against his chest
that she had removed her bra. Instead of diving inside her
shirt, he clasped her face to guide her response to his kiss. He
broke for air.

"About our last time here," he said while his hands began to
unbutton her shirt.


"I would rather that you *don't* come into the bathroom when I've
closed the door. On the other hand, you say three things to me
about... well, about things like this. You say 'no,' and 'not
yet,' and 'not now.'"

"And if that's all I say, how come you're so sure that you can
open my shirt?" she asked, pulling away from him.

"Oh, you say 'yes,' too. Or at least give permission. I don't
mean that you are always negative. It's just that those are the
three negatives.

"Anyway," he continued, moving over to her again, "I want you.
Of the three, I will never say 'no' to you. I can't imagine
saying 'not yet.' I might say 'not now.' So, your breaking in
on me to take us to another step is quite different from my
breaking in on you for the same purpose. Does that make any

She'd try to figure that one out later. "Kiss me."

He did. Slowly, as the kiss grew hotter, he moved his hand up
her side until he was cupping her breast through the shirt. Her
nipple firmed into his palm in greeting. Shannon, he thought,
was right; this was much more important than expressing things in
words. He gloried in her warm mouth and the soft breast in his

Shannon enjoyed the taste of his tongue on hers, and the warm
lift that his hand gave her breast. She'd made a risky decision,
however, and worried still whether it was the right one. Steve
didn't seem to be in any hurry. That was good to know in one
sense, but her nervousness increased.

When he had unbuttoned her entire blouse and she was soft in his
arms, Steve helped Shannon lie back on the couch. Even kneeling
there, he enjoyed another duel with her tongue and the feel of
her smooth skin against his fingers before he kissed down to her
breast. Once sucking on the hard nipple, he allowed his hand to
roam down her leg and back up under her skirt. She clasped her
legs together. Didn't she want this? He raised his head to see
her expression.

Shannon felt him abandon her breast. She guessed that he was
looking her in the face, but she kept her eyes closed. For
another minute, she kept her legs closed too. When she eased
them open, Steve kissed the other breast before sliding his
hand forward.

He slowly stroked back and forth on her smooth thigh while
sucking the nipple, going a little further every time. On the
one hand, he certainly wanted to clasp her panties; on the other,
he wanted to postpone the end of the evening. Finally, however,
he brushed back to the soft concavity just above her knee and
returned more slowly than ever. He stopped sucking to
concentrate on the first touch of her panties.

Shannon knew that his hand wouldn't stop this time, his stroke
was too determined, and too slow. She held her breath.

He didn't feel her panties, however. He brushed forward until
his hand was tickled by her hair. Her legs came together, not
quite trapping his hand because there was still space just there.
"Oh Shannon!" he whispered.

She couldn't help clutching her legs together, his presence was
so ticklish, and so scary. But it was exciting, too. And there
was awe in his voice as he spoke. She parted her legs to give
him more access.

He loved the warmth, loved the acceptance he felt when her legs
relaxed. He could finally feel those folds he had guessed at for
so long. But he didn't know what to do. He stroked the outer
folds lightly, acquainting his fingers with her hair. Then
another thought struck him.

"I don't have anything," he said.

It took a moment for her to understand what he meant. He thought
that they were going to....

"We can't do more than this," he continued.

"We aren't going to do more than this. Not ever. I told you
that I would wear white on my wedding day."

"Well, I can't even do this right. Tell me what to do."

She pulled him down for a kiss. "The first thing is to be very
gentle. I'm full of nerve endings down there." He nodded. She
moved his head back to her right breast. "And you don't have to
stop doing other things."

"Tell me when I'm doing something wrong." But he kept doing
things right, first clasping her mound while he kissed over the
breast. Once attached to her nipple, he slowly moved a finger
between her lips. She was nervous about the moisture down there,
but his only response when he reached it was a harder suck on her
nipple. He explored her with one finger in her valley and then

Steve was about to explode in his pants. He'd have liked to see
her, but touch was more important. He recalled the diagrams he
had seen, the hard-core pictures of women revealing themselves,
fingering themselves. He located himself on those pictures like
orienting himself on a map. He moved one finger into Shannon,
tentatively feeling the entry into her ultimate secret.

"No," Shannon said. That was too intimate, even for Steve.
Besides, she wanted him to stroke her like she stroked herself.

Steve immediately pulled his finger out. Now he'd fouled the
whole thing up. Instead of Shannon's pushing him away, however,
she lay back. He clasped her for another minute, taking that
time to kiss the smoothness of her breast again and lick around
the areola. When he dared part her labia again, it was to stroke
the inner ones. He had no problem remembering to be gentle with
these, they were so thin and delicate -- and delightful; but he
finally parted them and ventured into the wealth inside. She
was wetter than before.

Biology was Steve's weakest science by far; he knew that the
ulna was somewhere in the arm, but would have one chance in three
of locating it on a diagram. One aspect of human anatomy,
however, was imprinted in his memory. He could locate the labia
majora, labia minora, vagina and clitoris on a diagram. He could
even draw the diagram. He knew that Shannon's moisture meant
that he was doing something right, that the two of them were
doing something right. And it meant that Shannon desired him.

Which meant that touching that moisture was its own reward, but he
knew that it served a practical purpose as well. Gentle as he
tried to be, he was conscious of the grossness and roughness of
his fingers. So he returned repeatedly to the pool of lubricant
and spread it upwards as he went. The only thing he could think
to do was the same game he played on her legs. He stroked slowly
upwards, returned, stroked as slowly but just a little further.

When he actually touched her clitoris, however, he couldn't stop
himself from feeling all of it. Shannon jumped, and he stopped
immediately. "Did that hurt?" he asked.

"No. Go on." Now, his stopping had hurt, had done something;
but she could tell that wasn't what he meant. She felt his
motions resume tentatively, teasingly. He could have been a good
deal less gentle for her taste, but the gentleness was part of
Steve's care for her. She could trust him, could lie back and
let him take her where she had only gone alone.

Yet, his slow tickling was leading her past that point. She
needed something more, something now! She hugged him more
tightly to her, pulled his face and chest into her breasts.
Still, his suction was soft, still he only licked her nipple
occasionally, still his fingers moved slowly -- playing around
her instead of rubbing the bump insistently. She felt herself
moving against him, pressing herself into his hand.

But, somehow, it was too late to tell him anything. She was
growing hotter and hotter. She could feel perspiration bursting
out of her face and running down into her hair; every time he
licked a nipple, she felt a burst of fire in her breast; her
center burned like a furnace, and yet his fingers scorched her
there. When he switched breasts, the fire ran to her toes and
lifted her off the couch altogether. She pulsed and pulsed in
time to his suction.

Then his mouth hurt her nipples, the weight of his head was
crushing her breasts, his hands rasped her most sensitive parts.
She pushed him away.

Steve had been reveling in Shannon's response to his efforts.
Her nipples had hardened to his mouth, her hands had pulled him
against her, her legs had spread to his hand's approach and
thrust her groin up to meet him, her lungs had sped until he
could hear the breath rasp. Her center had run with the magic
liquid. The sudden rejection broke his rapturous mood.

But, from the end of her left arm, he saw a stranger -- a Shannon
he had never believed possible. Her skin was mottled from her
chest to her face, and the facial expression was stranger yet.
There was a wildness in her eyes, a grimness to her mouth;
tangles of her hair were stuck to her face. Then, as he watched,
Shannon reappeared in her own face. It softened and grew

He kissed her then, welcoming her back. First her forehead,
eyebrows, hair-streaked cheek; then her sweet mouth which
opened for his as always. There was only the faintest taste,
almost metallic, to remind him of the passage of that stranger
through the girl he loved.

Instead of letting his hand go, she relaxed that arm. It tensed
again when he returned his hand to between her thighs, but it
didn't push him away. He held that sweetness, warmly, closely.
He was careful, though, to keep his hand still. Gradually, her
arm relaxed. With her mouth against his, one breast pressed into
his chest, and warmth radiating from her sex into his palm, his
own arousal returned. The erection was in a new position and
even less comfortable. He staggered when he got to his feet.

She felt cuddled and comforted. She almost pulled Steve back
when he got up. Should she follow him in? He'd said that he
didn't like it; besides, she was comfortable just lying here. A
little later, though, the chill made her don her bra and
rearrange her clothes.

Steve thought of the Kleenex he had brought, but Shannon didn't
look as adventurous as she had looked the previous times. In the
bathroom, he sniffed her odor from his hand. Then he brought
himself off rapidly using his memories of her rising against his
hand and of her face afterwards. That face had scared him then,
but it spelled passion in his memory. He was determined to see
that response again sometime soon.

When he got back, Shannon was sitting at the table writing in a
notebook. "Look," she said. "I shouldn't have done that. I
wouldn't have if I'd known that it would give you ideas. We've
done all we're going to do. I *am* going to wear white on my
wedding day." She didn't know why she was being so hard on him.
Maybe she was a little afraid that she was fighting herself as

"I'm a little tired of hearing about what you'll wear on your
wedding *day*!" He said. "What about your wedding night?
Whatever you're wearing, will I get to take it off, remove each
piece of clothing? Will I see my bride in her skin?"

She thought that she'd just heard a proposal. She'd thought of
him as her future husband. All this talk of staying together was
nonsense if they didn't plan to get married, but they'd never
quite said that. He was rushing on. "Will I get to kiss you?
All over? Not just your face, not just your sweet breasts?"
When she started to answer, he held up his hand. "Because, if
that is so, Shannon, there are a lot of things we haven't done
yet. I'm not saying we'll do them before that night, though I
hope so. I am saying that agreeing that you'll wear white to
your wedding doesn't mean that we stop here."

He had no idea where that had come from. He wasn't going to tell
her that, though. And he did want to see her lovely mound again.
"Did you look? Isn't it shaped like a heart upside down?"

She was lost. He didn't quite sound angry, but almost. She
stuck to the most important question. "Are you asking me to
marry you?" If he were, she'd ask for more time.

Was Shannon really so naive as to use preserving her virginity
for her husband as an argument on him without implying that he
was that future husband? There was a limit on anyone's self
control. He could wait for Shannon to be completely his. He
certainly wasn't interested in restraining himself to see her
completely another's. "I'm nowhere near the Christian you think
I am." Turning the other cheek had its limits.

They stared at each other while she tried to figure what
relationship his answer had to her question. Then she realized
that she didn't want an answer to her question. She started back
on her homework.

He pictured a faceless stranger stripping a wedding dress from
Shannon. His stomach felt sour, and he started to harden again.
Time for him to dig into his own books.

Chapter 6
But they kissed goodbye sweetly when it was time for him to go.
Shannon returned to her books while Steve drove home.

He figured that he had taken quite the wrong tone with Shannon,
but that his basic position was correct. Shannon had been
controlling their petting, which was fine while she was drawing
new -- more permissive -- lines every time. If she thought that
they had reached the real limit, then he should take back
control. No rapist, he would honor her limit. It's just that
they could do so much more without crossing that limit.

And, one day, those limits would be gone. He lay in bed
imagining that day. Hampered a little by ignorance of what
brides wore under those fancy dresses, he got her down to some
sort of underskirt while he kissed her breasts. Then his current
needs overtook his imagination of their future.

- = -

Shannon, meanwhile, stretched on Mrs. Green's couch with her coat
over her. It had been quite an evening. Steve, she decided,
hadn't proposed to her. He just assumed -- as she did, as Ken
did, as even her parents did -- that they were headed towards

It was also too late to argue about what he had said earlier in
the evening. Really, he had said that they could *not* go
farther. Merely mentioning it had scared her, but it wasn't like
he'd said that they would. He had his own boundary; a rather
weak one, though. He worked in a drugstore, after all; he could
get protection any time he wanted.

And what had he really said about her breaking in on him in the
bathroom? He wished that she wouldn't, but that he would never
say no to her. That wasn't the clearest statement he had ever
made. She remembered his thing jumping in her hand; did she want
to feel it again?

And his description of their wedding night. Now, she did want to
hear *that* again. She wanted to have sex; her reluctance didn't
mean absence of desire. She thought of it as something that
married people, all adults really, did. They did it instead of
petting, or -- rather -- she and Steve did petting instead of
sex. Steve seemed to think of it as something in addition to
petting, and the bodice-rippers agreed with him.

She was fairly sure she knew what Steve meant by kissing her "all
over." Did she want him kissing her down there? It was rather
gross to think about, especially this time of month. She knew
she wouldn't allow it when she wasn't excited, and getting
excited meant getting all messy down there. If he really wanted
to kiss her 'all over,' there were parts he hadn't touched since
the summer. On the other hand, the books made a kiss there sound
out of this world. Could it happen? What she'd had tonight,
then more? And sex was more after that?

She held the memory of what she had experienced that night in her
mind while she dozed off.

- = -

They didn't speak after English because Mrs. Foster kept Steve
back to give him a warning. The whole class had been confused by
Shakespeare in the beginning, but most of the kids who usually
got good grades were showing some comprehension. Steve was a
conspicuous exception. Shannon ate lunch with a group of girls
sharing half a birthday cake.

Steve found a table full of his friends. They weren't really
geeks -- Jeff was even on the football team -- but they were all
interested in science and got decent grades. All of them were
taking AP in either Calc, Physics, or both. "Nice you could make
it, Mr. Anderson," said Terry. Steve grinned and nodded
politely. The more he responded, the more they would ride him.

"He heard I'd made another," said Dave. The others passed a
disk apiece down towards Dave. He gathered them up.

"Actually...." Steve began. He hadn't known that Dave had made
another disk. Then he thought again. He rummaged in his
backpack until he found a disk. "Sorry. You'll have to wipe it.
Is tomorrow okay?"

"Monday morning, and you'll have to wipe mine too." said Dave.
That got a few chuckles. His father had Adultcheck; his mother
had computer ignorance. His parents had a divorce. Dave
downloaded pictures every other weekend. He packed a disk every
few visits. If you lent him a disk, he would return a disk later
-- always off school property.

It wasn't the same disk, and you'd have to remove his files to
use it for storage. If you didn't wipe it, of course, you would
see all those horrible pictures of naked women or of people
having sex. But Dave wasn't giving you those; he was returning a
borrowed disk. Whether that would persuade a principal, much
less a judge, was another question.

Steve was not wild about the pictures, many of which were fuzzy.
The colors seemed off, maybe because of his monitor; and you
couldn't take them to bed as he did the magazines. On the other
hand, disks were a lot cheaper than magazines.

They all started to tease him. "Steve doesn't need your
pictures. He reads all those magazines at Hauksbee's."

"Doesn't need magazines. He has Shannon."

"For as much of Shannon as he sees, he could read *People*."

"No. *Modern Bride*."

"Look," Steve said, "I don't read the stock at Hauksbee's. I pay
for everything, full price -- not even a discount."

"The question isn't how much of Shannon he is *seeing*. I see a
Honda parked around after dances. Steamy windows."

"So that was you creeping between the cars and peeping in the

"Get smart, Steve," said Phil. "You're a senior. You're only in
high school once. Shannon's price is a wedding ring. Find
yourself someone else, someone fun."

"Y'know, Phil," he answered. "Sometimes I think that one time is
quite enough to be in high school." There were some smiles at

He'd thought about his a lot in the past couple of months. "Most
of the girls in this school will be married in a few years.
Shannon will,..." he couldn't use the name of Phil's current
girl, Tanya. He searched for a name that he *could* use.
"Jennifer will." Jennifer was an even more notorious slut.
"Girls like Shannon will; girls like Jennifer will. And,
horrible as it sounds today, most of us will end up married,
too." There were a few groans around the table, but fewer and
less heart-felt than they would have made their freshman year,

"Now, Shannon is already taken. But I don't see girls *like*
Shannon falling into the arms of a guy who says, 'Well I'm tired
of playing with sluts; will you be my loyal wife?' Maybe it will
happen, but I don't see it. I expect that the one-guy girls will
mostly end up with one-girl guys. So who is left to marry the

"Do you really think that you and Shannon will end up together?"
Terry asked.

"I *hope* so! I'll try to make that happen, but I know that the
odds are stacked against us. On the other hand, look at the
prize I'm trying for. A less than half chance at a lifetime with
Shannon. Against what?"

"I dunno," said Jim. "Life is now. Maybe we will all end up as
old married people like Steve says. But I wouldn't trade
experience now for a comfortable old age."

"Growing old doesn't look so horrible when you consider the

"I'm not sure that Steve was talking about retirement living.
More, you know, getting married and having your own room in your
own house. No more back seats, no more picnic blankets, no more
'What if her family finds out?'"

"You're taking all the fun out of it."

"I bet I could find a way to have fun going to sleep in a bed
beside a woman, waking up beside her. I could find *something*
to hold our interest. It would be hard, I know. But I...."

"It would be hard, you *hope*!"

"I know there are people not much older than us married," Jim
said. "Heck, kids in this school. It's just that when I think
of married people I think of, you know, my parents and their

"You're here, aren't ya?"

"But," said Dave, "these days, when your parents go in their room
and carefully shut the door, they're just afraid that their
snores would keep you awake."

"You," said Jim, "are just jealous."

Everybody was quiet at once. Teasing was one thing, this was
another. Dave had asked for it, but he wasn't the only guy at
the table whose parents were divorced.

Soon, people were finishing their food or talking to those next
to them.

Shannon stopped by Steve's table on her way out of the lunch
room. "Remember the first committee meeting is today after

"I remember," he said, "and speaking of dances, Miss Bryant...."

"We'll talk," she answered and hurried out. She had to get to
the girls' to change her Tampax before class.

Steve knew that he should have invited her to the Friday dance
earlier than Thursday afternoon. The invitation was a mere
formality, but his mother had dinned into him that formalities
like that were important to girls. Still, it wasn't like Shannon
to react that way; she preferred to read him the riot act. Well,
they would talk.

Steve got to the committee meeting early. He was surprised to
see Mr. Babaian there, not who you'd expect to see as faculty
advisor for a dance. Probably the teachers were required to put
in so many hours on Mickey-Mouse stuff. There were small paper
hearts and saucers with straight pins already on the table. Ken
ushered Shannon in. He began talking before she sat down beside

"I expect a few more people, but let's get started. I'd like to
call this the Heart Ball. To get in the spirit of things, let's
pin the hearts you see here on our shirts. I would especially
like every boy here to have a heart on."

"Ken!" said Mr. Babaian. "I'd hate to write the U of C that
you'd been suspended from class. And even a one-day suspension
would mean that you lose your position as president of the
student council. And this is a committee. You may *propose*
playing 'Heart Ball' with this dance, but the committee makes all
those decisions. I had to read Robert's Rules of Order to be
advisor to this committee, and I'll play hard ball with *that*."

"Yes, sir," said Ken. And he was strangely subdued from then on.
After a half-hour of wrangling over the name, Ken's suggestion
won. The decor scheme, not something Steve thought had many
alternatives for St. Valentine's day, was not quite settled when
Ken had to call time.

Shannon waited while Steve got his bike. "Look," he began, "I
know that I should have asked you to the dance sooner...."

"If we go to the dance Friday, when are you going to study?" She
did want to go to the dance; she did want to park afterward. On
the other hand, her period rather spoiled both. And he did have
to study.

"Well, tonight," he answered, giving particular attention to the
bike he was wheeling along. "And Saturday afternoon."

"You don't know," she said, "whether Romeo or Juliet is the

"Hah! It's Juliet. I think of her looking just like you."

"I'll call you tonight," she said. She called much less often
than he did. She blew him a kiss from her door.

"Mom," she said at dinner, "you made me help the other day when
we were cleaning out the attic."

"After all, Shannon, it's your house too." Allison Bryant was
surprised. Despite a few complaints about timing, Shannon had
participated pleasantly enough in the workday.

"And that means that I should be able to invite my friends over?

"Why do I always walk into these? Anyway, who do you want to
invite over when?"

"Steve," Shannon answered. "For a study date. Tomorrow." That
shouldn't cause trouble, but who could predict her mother's

"Fine." Mrs. Bryant said. If Shannon had to be with Steven,
studying was the best activity; and their house was the best

"I'll clean up my room tonight," Shannon said.

"Now dear."

"Then where are we going to study?" Her parents pretty much
monopolized the living room evenings.

"I think we can allow you a little space, dear," Mrs. Bryant
said. "Could we watch the tv in our room, Wayne?"

"Sure." It was really the only solution, not that he couldn't
see through Shannon's manipulations.

"Invite him to dinner first if you wish," Allison finished the

- = -

The snow was already coming down, having deposited an inch of a
threatened six, when Steve arrived in his mother's car. He was
dressed in a suit.

The conversation at dinner reminded Shannon of the lecture on the
Constitutional Union Party, which proposed to solve the slavery
issue in 1860 by not discussing it. Everybody studiously avoided
the topic of Albion College. By that time, her mother was
avoiding the topic of the U of I even when she had Shannon alone.
They spent more time on the dance committee than it deserved, and
her mother expressed pleasure at their social success. Shannon
didn't mention that the prime requirement for a senior to be on a
dance committee was willingness.

"I'm interested in synthetic chemistry," Steve answered a
question. "I want to make things. There are a lot of career
decisions within that field, but there is no sense in trying to
make them when I don't have the knowledge. Even so, I suspect
that I would enjoy almost any phase of that."

Later, he helped Shannon clear the table. Mrs. Bryant filled the
dishwasher. "Mom," Shannon asked when that task was done, "can
Steve use the *Folger's*?"

Allison Bryant was perplexed and a little annoyed. Steven was
welcome to the coffee that was sitting in the pot, and he had
turned that down at dinner. But she thought that guests
shouldn't express a brand preference; this wasn't a restaurant.
"I don't think we have any, dear."

"It's right there in the bookshelf."

Oh that. It was Wayne's book, they should ask him. Why the hell
should they? "That's perfectly all right, Steven. Help

"Shannon asked me to lend your copy of Shakespeare to Steven,"
she told Wayne in the bedroom. "I told them to go ahead. After
all, what's mine is yours. *Isn't it?*"
"I brought my copy," Steve was telling Shannon downstairs. "I
don't have to borrow your mother's."

"Much better notes," she said and walked over to kiss him
briefly. "That's for your performance at dinner. Tonight we're
operating under the positive reinforcement principle."

"In that case, I deserve a longer kiss than that one. I feel
like I was being interviewed for the position of son-in-law."

"How do you think you did?"

"Didn't seem in any hurry to fill the position."

"Anyway," Shannon said, "the *Folger's* comes later. Look in
your book. What happens in Act One, Scene One?" She kept
standing while he sat down.

"Well first these two guys," he glanced down at the book, "Samson
and Gregory, trade insults." He'd needed to read that passage a
dozen times to get those insults, and some of them still went
over his head. "And then they,..." well they tell a dirty joke,
but he could skip that, "they pick a fight with guys from the
other side. And then...."

"Steve," their first kiss was scheduled for his identification of
the parts of that scene. He might be there the whole night
before that kiss. "It's nice that you're reading the book now,
but you were supposed to read it earlier. What are the three
things that happen in the first scene?"

He looked at the book to check where that scene ended. "There is
a fight, the Prince breaks it up, and Romeo shows up." A *lot*
of things happened in that scene.

She was about to correct him. Her notes put the prince in the
first third, Lady Montague's description of Romeo mooning about
in the second -- Steve had missed that completely. Then she
realized that if Steve didn't remember Mrs. Foster's summaries,
he wouldn't remember hers either. He needed to learn to do
summaries. "Okay, write that down on this card, leaving a third
of the lines after each statement. This card is for this scene."
She handed him a three-by-five card.

When he'd written it down, she put a finger on his chin to tilt
his head up. She kissed him.

The card was already labeled "Act I, scene 1" in her pretty, if
not very neat, script. He filled out the information with the
lettering he'd learned in drafting class. Her kiss was sweet,
but a little grade-schoolish. He reached out to pull her in to
it. She pulled away.

"No hands, no hands at all. If my father came down and saw your
hands on me, he'd throw you out and call the cops. Now what do
we learn in the first part of the scene?"

His answer earned him another kiss. Finally, she asked: "And
what do we learn in the third part of the scene?"

"About Romeo."

"And what about Romeo?" She felt that she was pulling it out of
him. Telling him would have been so much easier.

"Why he was so melancholy." At her exasperated look he continued,
"It was because he was in love."

"In love with who?"

"With Juliet, of course. No. With...." He scanned the page but
couldn't find the name. Shannon looked like she was going to

"Fair Rosalind." She had so looked forward to his positive
reinforcement, too. Besides, Mrs. Foster had covered that, and
it was the entire point of the play. Well, she would give him a
chance. "Extra credit. Closed book. What were the families?"

That he could do. "Montague and Capulet. RoMeo Montague," he
emphasized, "and JuliET CapuLET." Shakespeare confused the issue
with all of this fancy language and byplay, but the dramatis-
whatever in front had been in plain English.

Those had been three of her planned extra-credit questions.
Shannon figure he certainly deserved a reward. "Stand up with
your hands behind your back."

She pulled his head down into a kiss. Lip met lip, breast met
chest, tongue met tongue. Steve, with his mouth invaded and the
touch on his chest much softer than when he was in control,
hardened immediately. What Shannon felt was not a roll of flesh
pressing out from his stomach; it was still pointing down but
felt hard as wood. She twisted her belly against it and stepped

He visited the downstairs powder-room to readjust his clothes,
coming back with the jockeys pulled up high enough under his
trousers to keep the semi-erect member pointing in the right

"Now," she said, "are you ready to deal with Scene Two?" They
got back to work, and that scene was shorter.

Wayne Bryant rose while the closing credits to "Norm" were
playing. With any luck, he could make both the bathroom and the
kitchen before "CSI" got into the actual plot.

"And the last half of Scene Three," Shannon asked, "what does
that tell us?"

"Her parents are pushing her towards this Paris guy." Steve was
starting to get the hang of this.

"Oh Steve!" And she had thought that he was starting to see.
"This is what the play means! Shakespeare tells us that she has
never been in love at all. Her parents want her to love Paris,
and she'll give it a try.

"On the morning before Romeo wanders into her garden complaining of
the fate that deprives him of Juliet, he roams the outskirts of
town complaining of being deprived of another woman. He is in
love with being in love, but she.... But her love is genuine.
She has never been in love at all." Steve clearly didn't know
the play, but how could he have missed *that*?

Steve felt accused. Hell, he felt guilty. He just couldn't
figure out what the crime was. He hadn't wandered the outskirts
bemoaning another love. "And I wasn't your first love," a voice
sounded in his head. He almost said it aloud, "How about Curt?"

Wayne saw them as he came downstairs. She was standing about
four feet from where Steven was sitting. The emotion between
them was thick enough to cut with a knife, and quite different
from what he had expected. He went to the kitchen for a can of
mixer and a glass, stopped for the whiskey from the liquor
cabinet, and went back upstairs without hearing either of them
say one word.

When her father had retreated from his intrusion, Shannon sighed.
Steve had to know the test details, even if he overlooked the
point of the play. "Okay," she said, "what happens in Scene

Although her reinforcement got more positive during Act Two,
Shannon could tell that Steve had passed his limit well before
they got to Scene Six. And the class was in the middle of Act
Four! "Well, here are the rest of the cards. Don't come to Mrs.
Green's tomorrow unless you have Act Three filled out." It was
too late for the Folger's; Steve didn't need any more facts
tonight. They could try the language. "Do you want to act out
the balcony scene?"

This was the first that Steve had heard about Mrs. Green's. But
that was all right, he'd find a way to study his other subjects
on Sunday. And anything, let alone the balcony scene, was better
than filling out another card.

Wayne was thinking about getting the mixer for another drink when
the sounds reached them from downstairs. "What light through
yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun."

"It's good that he wants to go into engineering," he told

She chuckled. "He does sound like a ham." It was the warmest
moment they had had together in more than a week. He put his hand
over to her bed. She held it until he got up. They couldn't go
any further, after all, both were fully dressed; and not only
Shannon but also Steven was downstairs.

He got up. He'd go around the kids and get another can of diet
ginger ale. He was silently cursing his diet when he got to the
head of the stairs. Shannon was, reasonably enough, using the
stairs as her balcony. He retreated to the doorway of his room.
He didn't mind the kids declaring their love, so long as they
were on different levels. Besides, he could hear Shannon from
where he stood. She wasn't bad, not projecting like an actress,
but not hamming it up like Steven either. He'd seen the book in
her hand, but she *sounded* like she knew her lines.

Steve had long had that first speech by heart, the second less
so. And, after he had sailed upon the bosom of the air, he had
to sail upon the bosom of the book. That was fairly choppy
sailing. He, having most of the longer speeches, could rarely
even look at her. Still, it was fun; and it was a chance to
declare his love in a way that would have been utterly mawkish if
they hadn't been playing parts. Finally, he read, "O, wilt thou
leave me so unsatisfied?" She didn't respond.

When he looked up, she was grinning impishly and slowly nodding
up and down. Tease! He slid his book through the bannisters to
have both hands free, then seized the hand she had resting on the
rail. He kissed the back, kissed down her middle finger to the
end, and then kissed the end of the other fingers as well. When
he looked up, she looked pleased but embarrassed. He drew the
index finger into his mouth for a gentle suck and lick.

Her first thought was where her hand had been. She would have
washed them before putting them on one end of a spoon whose other
end would go in her mouth. But the kisses were exciting
nevertheless. By the time that he was licking and sucking her
palm, her nipples hardened. And then her father came out.

The recitation was over. Wayne figured that he could get his
mixer now. Steven was still hamming it up when he got to the top
of the stairs, kissing Shannon's hand. He knew it was a real
kiss pretending to be a Shakespearean kiss, but so what? They'd
done worse on his front step for the neighbors to see, and God-
knew-what in Steven's car. His daughter rushed past him up the
stairs to the bathroom, while Steven pulled his book off the

When he came back from the kitchen, he told Steven, "I don't mind
your borrowing my Shakespeare, but be sure to bring it back.
Okay?" On the other hand, he could keep the book at home if he
let Shannon alone. But Wayne could see that this wasn't in the
cards; Shannon was flying out of the nest sometime soon. Getting
rid of Steven would disappoint her -- he could still remember the
month after she dumped Curt, but it wouldn't keep her in the

"Uh? Sure I will." When Shannon got back he told her, "He says
that I can use the Shakespeare, but I should put it back."

She couldn't see what was so important about putting it back in
the same place. She'd already used it, and put it back in the
hole she'd made removing it; but her father hadn't said a word
about that. "It's too late for the footnotes tonight."

Parting was more sweet than sorrow. She flowed into his arms,
put both hands on the back of his neck, opened her mouth for his
kiss. When he clutched her hips and placed his leg between hers,
she arched a bit to reduce the pressure on her too-sensitive
breasts. That increased the pressure of her groin on his thigh.
His tongue played with hers, and she rubbed against his leg. Her
belly warmed; her nipples firmed. She felt lovely, though there
was no danger of the desire spiraling out of control.

They stopped saying good night, however, long before it was
morrow. It was, indeed, well before her eleven-o'clock weekend
curfew that he drove home. Now how would he do his other
homework and still have time for this? Well, he could do the
calculus tonight.

- = -

"Tell Mrs. Green," Wayne told his daughter the next day after
lunch, "that school is back in session. She can't have Wednesday
*and* Saturday. Why don't you two just agree on Saturdays,
anyway? It's better for school. Or some Fridays?"

"Well, she can get permanent second shift; but she can't get
permanent choice of days." Besides, Fridays and Saturdays were
date nights. But Mrs. Green *had* agreed to a limit of one day a
week -- way back in the fall.

"I don't want to seem selfish; I don't think I've opened it in a
decade. But when is Steven bringing the Shakespeare back?"

"Bringing it back? Isn't it where it belongs?" They looked, and
it was on the shelf. "If that's not where you keep it, it's my
fault. We didn't get to the footnotes last night. We didn't get
anywhere near the amount of studying done that I had hoped for."

"Spend too much time kissing?"

"Didn't get near the amount of *that* done that I had hoped for
either." Shannon figured that, if her father didn't want to know,
he shouldn't ask.

"When is the next meeting of your committee?" her mother asked.
"Is there anything you have to do to prepare for that?" Shannon
didn't think so. It was hard to see where the plans were going,
and she hadn't thought of it since walking out of the door of the
school. Her mother's question, though, gave her an idea.

"Well, there is one thing I could do, Mom." She called up
Heather Swenson, the girl who had been holding out on the decor
model. "Look, Heather, this is Shannon Bryant. I'm on the dance
committee with you. You know those cupids you want to use?"

"And Ken ignored my idea completely. I campaigned for that,
that..." (Heather obviously had parents within hearing range) "I
carried the junior class for him. He called it a return favor.
But when I have an idea different from his, see who doesn't
return favors. Just watch!"

"Thing is," Shannon didn't know whether calm reason would
penetrate that sort of anger, "I can't see how we would make
them. They might look great, but people aren't going to vote for
something when they have to do it and they can't see how. Do you
see at all what I mean?"

"You're against me, too."

"I'm not against you, not really against your idea. But you
could bring in a couple of examples and tell us how you made
them. I might vote for it then. So might a lot of others."

"You think so?" Heather sounded a lot less attached to her
design plan than she had been attached to the idea of being

"Can't hurt. And Heather..." Shannon had seen some odd looking
cupids in her time. "make them decent. Know what I mean? That
Mr. Babaian talked like an awful prude."

"I'm not like Ken. Anyway, thanks."

At half-past three, She rang Mrs. Green's bell. Her employer
handed her a check on the way to her car. The hospital was about
five miles away. Once the demons were in bed, she wiped up the
worst of the mess on the kitchen table before having a second
helping of the dinner she had fixed them. The kitchen looked
better when she left it than it had looked when she arrived. She
scooped up the loose toys in the dining and living rooms, dumped
them in the toy box, and managed to force down the lid.

She spread out her homework on the dining table and filled out
her own cards. A little before Steve was due, she ducked into
the downstairs john to remove her bra. She rebuttoned the shirt,
tucked it back into her jeans, and checked herself out in the
mirror. But Steve didn't come. Well, she had told him not to if
he hadn't finished the homework. Still, she was worried; that
edict had been supposed to motivate study, not prevent the visit.

An hour after she had given up hope, Steve knocked at the door.
"Sorry," he said, "Mom's car wouldn't start."

"You walked here?" The snow and slush made bicycling impossible.

"Only from the garage." The guy had driven out a new battery in
the tow truck. Steve had hitched a ride back with him.

But he still would have to walk home, she thought. Maybe she
could prevail upon Mrs. Green to drive him.

Meanwhile, he had shed his coat and a sweater. He took her hands
in his and kissed each of them. Then he kissed her left hand as
elaborately as he had kissed her right the night before. He
kissed her palm, licked it, kissed up the inside of her arm,
finally licked the inside of her elbow. Not until she shivered
and pulled her arm away did he pull her into a real kiss -- mouth
to mouth.

Shannon was flustered. The shivers from Steve's kisses weren't
only because his face was cold against her arm. When he kissed
her, she opened her lips; but he ignored the invitation, licking
her lips until she pushed her tongue to meet his. Then he pulled
her hips forward until her groin pressed into his leg, and
she could feel his hardness against her stomach. Letting that
grip and her own hands around his neck support her, she slumped
against him. Her sensitive breasts were pressed against his
chest by her weight. His big hands were opening and closing on
her jean-clad hips. Conscious as she was that he could bring her
no relief tonight, she was deeply turned on.

Steve finally broke the kiss because he had to breathe. Then,
however, he headed reluctantly for the john. Shannon's
responsiveness had been a joy, her tongue's reaction to his
teasing no less than the hardness at the end of the softness
against his chest. Her jeans were probably a message, but she
had worn no bra under a blouse that could be unbuttoned. As he
waited for his erection to soften enough to use the facilities,
he removed his own shirt and undershirt. His shirt was buttoned
and neatly tucked in when he came out, but he carried his
undershirt in his newly-warmed hands.

"Put that in your backpack," Shannon told him. "We have a play
to review." Shannon drilled him on the first two acts sitting
in a chair half-way across the room from his place on the sofa.
"And 'wherefore' means what?" she asked.

"It does? I thought it meant 'why?'"

"It does. I meant, 'What does "wherefore" mean?' You are right.
It means 'Why are you Romeo?' She loves him. Her love would be
easier without that name."

"Okay." They'd covered that in class, and less confusingly.
When they had covered the first scene in Act Three, however, he
rebelled. "Just because I did these at home, doesn't mean that I
don't get a reward." He walked behind her chair. He kissed the
top of her head before pulling her chin upward to expose her face
to his. While they kissed upside down, his hands cupped her
breasts outside her blouse. The nipples firmed into his palms in
the way he loved so well.

"Hey," she said when he moved his kiss to her ear. "If that is
just for a scene, what reinforcement will you want for a whole
act?" He pulled his face back to give her a leer. "Well, you
can't have it!" He pulled a dramatically sad face and pouted.
The faces were ridiculous upside down. He kissed her forehead
while unbuttoning the second button of her blouse.

For Scene Two, he repeated the performance. Her breasts were so
soft against his hands that he had to hold himself back from
crushing them. When he unbuttoned the next button, she pulled
the edges of the blouse forward, letting him see her hard
nipples. Somehow, he resisted the impulse to grab them. While
he returned to the sofa, she rebuttoned the one he had unbuttoned
the first time.

The small gap from that loose button was more disturbing than the
direct sight of the naked breasts. He swallowed and managed to
go on. When they reached the fifth scene, she had only one
button holding the blouse closed over her breasts.

"Boy!" Steve said. "He's as bad as TV. All those dirty jokes in
the beginning, and then he deals with the love scene by having
them come out early in the morning."

"You just have a dirty mind." Did he really believe that she
hadn't thought about love, their love, in terms of a bed? She
wanted that, she would have that, just not quite yet. And Romeo
and Juliet had been married by that time, too.

They finally returned to studying and agreed on the information
conveyed in the last scene.

Steve unbuttoned his own shirt while approaching slowly. She
held both her hands towards him. He kissed each knuckle before
helping her up. He pulled her blouse out of her jeans, undid the
last buttons, and swept both of their shirts open. They were
skin to skin for the next kiss, the first time since summer.

His hands were on her warm back, technically not an erogenous
zone. He had sworn, however, to make love to all the parts he
had neglected recently. If their culmination was denied him
until the wedding night (and he was in no position to argue about
that) he would rehearse the first act of that night until she
felt as deprived as he did. The feel of the skin stirred some
memory. When she broke the kiss to catch her breath, he
scratched gently over that lovely warmth.

Shannon sagged against him. Her breasts warmed by his naked
skin, her mouth explored by his warm tongue, even her back
scratched by his nails, she was equally conscious of what was not
happening. Her freely exposed breasts had not been grabbed --
for one thing. She had no objection to Steve's attraction to her
sexy bits; on the contrary, she regretted that the messiness
below would limit their petting. But Steve was interested in
*her*. Feeling that, she grabbed his face between her hands to
kiss him again, kiss him fiercely and possessively. She kissed
him, in fact, the way she'd just been grateful that he hadn't
kissed her.

If Shannon's kiss was even partly a response to her back being
scratched, Steve was willing to scratch forever. He ran his
fingernails up either side of her spine, then spread his hands to
the corners of her shoulder blades. As the intensity of her kiss
waned, he moved her towards the couch. He brushed his notecards
onto the floor. To hell with the play, he thought. He had the
real Juliet.

He eased Shannon down and back. Then he knelt among his spilled
cards to kiss her. He started on her forehead and eyebrows.
continued to her temple and ear, and reached her neck before she
pulled his face into a mouth kiss. During that kiss, he smoothed
his hand down her belly to her belt, slid it up again to cup her

Then he kissed her in the same way he ate caramels; he feasted on
the smooth skin of her neck and ribs and belly, but he mostly
resisted the greater attractions of her breasts. Even when he
yielded to that temptation, he kissed the slopes lightly instead
of sucking on the peaks. He chose his spots like caramels from a
bag, too, spending some time on each spot, but choosing the next
one arbitrarily. He loved her, all of her. He wanted all of
her, too. Tonight, the top half was his; and he was claiming it.

Shannon read some part of those feelings from his actions. She
felt loved; he was kissing her everywhere. She also felt all
tingly; the extra sensitivity of her breasts (she'd actually
started the evening afraid that she would have to call the
petting off) made these light kisses the more exciting. She felt
dominated. At no time had his will clashed with hers, yet Steve
was running this show in a way that he had never seemed to run
any previous one.

Steve kissed the bridge of Shannon's nose, and then returned to
her mouth. Her tongue greeted his eagerly, and the swirl of his
desire almost made him forget to move on. He went all the way to
her navel, where she wriggled provocatively to his kiss. When he
moved his mouth up a little, he stroked her legs with his nails.
He used the same nails-reversed stroke on inside of her thigh as
he'd used on her back, figuring the denim would provide the

"My belt is buckled," Steve said. "So is yours." He climbed
between her legs on the couch and kissed her navel once more.
This time Shannon's wriggle threatened to dump them both. She
quieted as he kissed up her body. He was ready for his darkest
caramels, her nipples. "Tell me when I am too rough," he said.
He only used gentle licks and tiny, tentative, sucks on them,
When his passion grew beyond that limit, he thrust his face
between her breasts to suck the firmness there.

She shook as he kissed and licked her breasts. They felt a
little sore, but the kisses felt a *lot* sexy. She took his kiss
between them as an expression of gentle care combined with wild
passion. When he kissed her mouth, his elbows barely on the
cushion, his hardness pressed against her groin, she accepted
him. Her hands stroked his back, her thighs hugged his, her
mouth opened wider. It was finally Steve who broke the kiss.

He dropped back until his butt hit the armrest. He kissed her
mound through the jeans, first at the zipper and then on either
side of it. "Aren't girls' jeans supposed to have a zipper on
the side?"

"Some do."

"You can't guess what I have."

"What?" Please, she begged silently, not some protection. Her
first time wasn't going to be on Mrs. Green's sofa.

"I have notes on the *fourth* act," he said.

Chapter 7
"I need a break," Shannon said

"Don't tuck your blouse in, please," he asked. And, while she
took her break, he did a little adjusting of his own clothes in
the kitchen. He retrieved the tissues from his coat, then
returned to find his note cards a mess. They looked as if some
fool had tossed them on the floor and then knelt on them.

She changed her Tampax, straightened her clothes -- obediently
leaving her blouse out, and looked closely in the mirror. Once
she'd cleaned up around her eyes, she looked a little strange but
not too bad. Why messing around affected her eye makeup, she
couldn't figure. Lipstick sure, not that she wore lipstick to
babysit, but why eye makeup?

She decided to leave it off. It would only get messed up again.
And if Steve was going to run screaming when he saw her without
makeup, she had better learn that now.

Steve didn't even seem to notice. After each scene, he would
turn her so her back was to him, lift up her blouse to hold her
breasts in his hands, lick and nibble some part of her that he
could reach from that position. It was nice, sometimes it was
very exciting; but when had he taken charge of the reinforcement?

When they had compared their answers for the last scene, he
turned off the lamp next to his side of the couch. "We are ahead
of the class. I can't believe it." He stowed his notecards
carefully this time. Then he kissed her from behind once again.

"Lean over," he said, "there are still parts of you I haven't
kissed." She leaned on a table while he pushed up her blouse. He
sprinkled kisses all over her back. His position was awkward,
but hers evoked some memory. He straightened and pushed his
groin against the bottom of her jeans. When he scratched her
back, she pressed back against him. Only the very bottom of his
cock felt the pressure. "It didn't matter when I said that my
belt was buckled. I should have said that my fly was zipped."
He slipped his hands around her sides to hold up her breasts.
"We could make love just like this." Well, he thought, not like
this; her legs were awfully short. She would stand on something
or kneel on a sofa. "Your pants down, but mine just unzipped."

She stood. Moving his hands to hold the bottoms of her breasts
instead of the peaks, he pulled her back against him. "Not the
first time," he continued very softly. "Our first time will be
the full monty. Not standing, not the back seat of some car."
He had a sudden vision of the back seat of his mother's Civic.
"Not even the Cherokee. Y'know how, at the end of a wedding, the
groom lifts the bride's veil; he kisses her; and they sort of
roll the credits...."

She sidestepped his grasp, then turned to face him. She needed a
bit more room. "Lutherans might roll the credits. Methodists
have a recessional and then head for the reception." Not that
the weddings that either of them had seen broke down on
denominational lines.

"That's what I meant. Anyway, what it is is a symbol. In front
of everybody, he removes one piece of clothing and kisses what is
revealed. Once they get privacy....

"But that's not tonight. Tonight, that stays buckled." He
reached out to tap her belt buckle. "Right?"

She nodded.

He took a deep breath. He so wanted her hands on him. "Well,
one belt should. English is done for tonight. The question is
whether you want to study math..." He tried to sound casual.
"... or biology."

Did she, Shannon thought, want to see it again? She could still
remember it jumping within her hand. And she needed to get back
in control. He was watching her intently. She smiled and

He stripped off his shirt and then his shoes. Lying down on the
sofa, he unbuckled and unzipped. He pushed his undershorts down
to the base of his cock before covering himself again with a flap
of his jeans. He'd lost some firmness during the pause in their
playing, but now he was so hard in anticipation of her hand that
he was afraid that he would shoot. "Want to explore?" he asked.

She used the weight of the belt ends to keep the fly wide open.
So this was what he looked like: a head that looked a little like
a heart -- more than she did really, a shaft that was the same
thickness from the head to his groin, some blood vessels were
visible in the shaft and one pale vein seemed to run its length.
His thing was arched a little above his lower belly and his
groin. The groin was covered with hair. None of this was really
surprising. It wasn't as if she was some sort of Victorian girl;
she'd seen pictures in sex-ed.

What was different from the pictures that she had seen was that
this was the bottom part. Things like the cleft in the head with
the big vein running into it. She pulled it up between finger
and thumb and moved her head to see the top. It jerked back.
"Don't do that," she said.

"It's not my fault!" She was lucky that he hadn't blasted her in
the face. "Or were you talking to him?"

"I was talking to you. Why do you treat it as if it were
different?" She could almost see it as different, though. As
some separate live animal. And, as she petted it gently, it
jumped for her.

"He has a mind of his own; that's a fact. And he loves the way
you touch him. Do you think you could give *me* a kiss before
you bring this to a close?"

She adjusted her position and gave him a deep kiss. Their
tongues played in a far sexier activity than the one she'd just
left. "I like being kissed," he said as she raised her head.
Well, she liked being the one kissing him, too. She attacked his
right nipple with a sucking kiss.

His response would have surprised her; he murmured something and
hugged her head to his chest. Except that her own response
shocked her; there *was* something sexy in being the one giving
the kiss. Her nipples got almost as hard as his did.

The break wasn't relaxing Steve's cock as much as he had hoped,
but he no longer cared. "Oh Shannon," he sighed. "Oh Shannon,
I love you."

"Nope." She rested her head on his chest. In this position, she
could hear his heart thump. "Tonight, I'm loving you." She
sniffed. He'd worked since showering, walked in the freezing
weather, been chilled and overheated. He didn't smell bad, just
a touch masculine, maybe a little Steve. His penis looked like
it was lying down more; maybe she could see the top part.

When she tried, she could get it straight up away from his body,
using her thumb and forefinger. The top part was no surprise,
not heart-shaped at all -- maybe like those shields in old time
history. But it stiffened while she was holding it, and she
could hear his heart speed up.

It had been so hard that first time, and hot. Well, it was
hotter than the rest of his skin now. She moved her fingers up
and down the shaft. Again the skin moved on top of something
harder. It was something much harder now, and his heart went
"Kabump." But the shaft escaped her fingers to lie further
towards her. She wrapped her whole hand around it. His heart
was louder for another beat.

"I hope your father doesn't make you clean his guns," Steve said.

"He hasn't gone hunting in years, and he won't let me touch
them." She thought that girls should be allowed to shoot, and
she thought that this was an odd time to bring up the subject.

"Because you are staring straight down the barrel now." Oh,
that. Steve laid a tissue down on his belly. "I have some more
in my hand. I'll catch it, but you won't see me come from that

"How long do I have?" She probably should watch it shoot. After
all, he wanted to do that inside her. On the other hand,
listening to his heartbeat every time she made his penis jump was
fun too. She squeezed a little and moved her hand back and
forth. It sort of pushed back at her squeeze, and his heart
jumped again. "What should I do?"

"Why ask me? It responds much more to you. The most sensitive
part is on the bottom, just under the head." 'Bottom' and
'under' weren't the clearest words just then.

Guessing, she brushed her fingertips over the notch in the heart.
The reaction of both penis and heartbeat showed that she's been
right. Having decided that these experiments were fun, she
brushed other parts at random. His breath was starting to come
rapidly, too. Before getting into position to see the whole
show, she kissed the nipple she hadn't kissed yet. His breath
hissed at that. Too bad that she couldn't listen to his
heartbeat while doing that.

Steve's hands were clutching the sofa cushions on both sides of
him. Sometimes, he had tried to make it last. But even in the
summer before Shannon's, when that had been his usual morning
preoccupation, he had never treated his cock the way Shannon had.
It was glorious; it was agony. "Anyway, when we do it for real,
you will be around me, gripping me all the way from top to
bottom. What I usually do," hint, hint, please! "is try to
imitate that, moving my hand up and down."

Shannon knelt in a good position to see. She tried to do what he
had said, holding it down on the base. However light her grip,
however, her fingers seemed to bring the skin with them instead
of sliding over it.

Steve was in heaven; Steve was in hell. Shannon slid her hand up
to the top and tried again. The same thing happened, and --
anyway -- the thing was jerking around. She took a firmer grip
and pumped a little harder. "Oh Shannon. Now. Now. Now!" And
it was now; and Steve, feeling his whole body pulse out through
her hand, reached the tissues out to catch it.

The sight of the drops squirting out didn't impress Shannon,
especially as Steve was catching them very close to the source.
What *was* impressive was the sight of his body as he clenched
every muscle and rose off the couch. His head and feet must have
touched, but Shannon saw -- even felt -- his belly and groin
rise. His face looked odd as well. A minute later, all of him

The part in her hand relaxed so much that it got some of the goo
on her fingers. Babysitting had taught her not to mind bodily
wastes. She dropped it and looked into Steve's smile. "I love
you, Shannon," he said. She moved back to her old position where
she could hear his heartbeat. It was strong, but slowed while
she listened.

Steve had never come like that. And, in the aftermath, Shannon
cuddled him where he lay. This was love; this was bliss. After
a while, though, he had to get up to wash the mess off. That was
fairly clumsy. He got to the bathroom with a lot of wet tissue
in his left hand while holding up his pants with his right. When
he came out, it was time to go home -- past time really.

He'd come to a decision, though. "When we really do it, I'm
going to cuddle you all night afterwards. This having-to-leave
bit sucks."

"I'll miss you, too," she said. "Can't you stay here and let
Mrs. Green drive you home?"

"What if she won't? What if she does, and then says, 'Steve was
a real burden last time; he can't visit you any more'? Besides
my mother expects me home. They don't set a curfew like your
parents do, but they do have their limits. Dad said once that
your having a curfew was enough to get me home. Anyway, where do
you sleep here?" If they could share a bed, even fully dressed,
it might be worth the hassle.

"She has real trouble finding babysitters. I doze on the couch."

"I've walked it before. Just don't get dressed any more until I
go. Do you want to see it limp?"

When he got it out, however, it was partly firm, angling down.
"It's limp as a string most of the time," he said. "Just not
around you."

He finished dressing: undershirt and shirt, shoes, and sweater.
For their last kiss, he tightened and loosened his hands on her
hips while pulling her against the near-firmness of his organ.
He put on his coat, had one more brief kiss, and walked out into
a serious snowstorm.

She shivered in sympathy, made sure that the door was bolted, and
went into the john to get her bra back on. Dressing fully to go
to sleep, she thought, was a silly act. She checked on the boys,
who were -- unfortunately -- perfectly safe. She repacked her
backpack, adjusted the lights, and pulled her coat over her.

After flicking a brief prayer upward about Steve's immediate
future, she thought about his -- and her -- immediate past. How
had he got control?

She remembered all his kisses, his tender holding of her breasts.
Beyond kisses, she recalled those nibbles with his lips on the
back of her neck and the corner of her shoulder. She shivered
once again. What had he said about her rules? No, not yet, not
now. Well, the jeans were a 'not now'; and he had conquered her
by showing all his love to the parts above her waist.

You would never cast Steve as Romeo. He was more a can-do kind
of guy. Configure Shannon's computer? Steve could do that;
had done that when they had hardly begun to date. Reduce Shannon
to a puddle of lust? That seemed one more task he could do.
And, if he needed to do it without going below her waist, that
only made Steve's problem more difficult. Or, she thought
suddenly, did he think of that sort of problem as 'more
interesting'? She'd heard him use that term.

Yet she *had* exercised control at the end. He always claimed
that she made his heart beat faster, and now she had. With the
hospital not far out of town, there must be some place you could
buy a stethoscope around here. She wondered how much one cost.
Why did her alarm clock suddenly have a bell? She slapped out to
shut it off and almost fell to the floor. She was on a couch;
the ringing was a doorbell; She was at Mrs. Green's. She
staggered to the door and peered out. It was Mrs. Green.

"Damn lock froze. I'll check the kids while you get dressed.
The car's running." She trotted down the hall while Shannon
struggled into her coat and gathered up her backpack. "Took you
long enough to answer the bell. What if kidnapers had broken

"You wish!" They walked out into a blizzard, the snow coming
sideways at them. Steve! He'd walked home in this. "My
boyfriend visited tonight," She said as hey got in the car. "I
told him that you would be glad to give him a ride home."

"In this? Why don't you put him up? Where is he?"

"Walking home... in this! Dad says to remember that I can sit
for only one night a week." They were there.

"Get home. I'll call you in a few minutes." Shannon had to
struggle to open her door as well, but she was inside and
standing on the hot-air grate when the phone rang,

"Bryants. Shannon Bryant speaking." Her mom had drilled
telephone technique into her long ago.

"Hi. This is Mrs. Green. Look, I have a social life, too. What
about if you sat for a few hours, not all night?"

"Eleven o'clock is my curfew, firm. And *I* have a social life,
too. But I'll ask my dad. And we have a dance coming up this
Friday. The big one is February. 10. And, of course, other customers
can always get there before you." Driving Steve home in this
weather would have been a *big* favor, but that didn't make
Shannon happier about the refusal. She was glad to give her all
the bad news she could think of right then.

She couldn't sleep without knowing that Steve was safe. She
couldn't call at one in the morning. Well, there were only two
choices. She called.


"Mrs. Anderson? I'm really sorry to call so late, but I just saw
the storm outside. Steve walked home through that, and I have to
know that he made it."

"A little late to worry. Yes he made it, and I gave him a piece
of my mind. Shannon, the two of you haven't a brain cell between
you. Normally, I wouldn't scold you, but you did call me up,
What time is it anyway?"

"A little after one. I'm really sorry to call at such a time,
but I had to know that he was safe."

"Well, I can understand that. Good night Shannon."

Before she could respond the phone clicked.

And now Steve was really going to hate her for calling.

- = -

"Steve! Steve!" Rachel Anderson shouted outside the door of her
son's room. She opened the bedroom door halfway. "Oh, Steve."

At that point, he would have screamed if he were even half awake.
She marched up to the head of the bed. "Oh, Steven," she called
in a saccharine voice, "time to wake up." She squeezed gently on
the soaked washcloth she held. The falling water splashed off his
forehead. He pulled the covers higher. Pulling them back down
until his total face was out in the light, she squeezed harder.

"Holy hell!" said Steve.

"Shannon called this morning. Said she was worried about sending
you out in the blizzard."

Shannon on the phone? Steve started to pull himself out of bed,
then realized that he was stark naked under the sheets. He
pulled the covers back up again. "Mom! Tell her I'll be there
in a minute."

"Tell who? Shannon? She called about two. I told her that her
concern was a little after-the-fact." Steve was probably awake
now, but a little more effort now could save her from another
wake-up in thirty minutes.

"Dammit, Mom."

"That's 'Mother dearest' to you." His concern over the nudity
taboo was silly. She'd seen all that he was hiding, washed the
poop off a good bit of it.

"Mother dearest, maternal source of my very being, would you
please grant me the favor of a little privacy? Before I wet the

"If you do, you'll clean it up." She waved goodbye from the
doorway, but she shut the door after her. When she did, Steve
clambered out of bed, pulled on the trousers that he'd left on
the floor the previous night, and hurried into the bathroom.
After showering, he returned to his room and dressed.

He logged on. Nothing from Shannon, something from Dad.
"Dearest," he wrote Shannon,
"Don't concern yourself about me.
"The storm is messing everything up, of course,
"but not causing me any trouble personnaly.
He was never sure that Shannon would keep his e-mails out of her
father's hands.

His dad wrote that he had stopped in Mattoon, and also that he
had written mom separately. He, despite a good amount of
computer literacy, had a blind spot about carbon copies.

"Dad wrote," he told his mother on his way to the kitchen.
"You'll have a copy in your mailbox."

- = -

The snow had stopped falling by the time that Wayne and Shannon
Bryant left church Sunday noon, but it was still blowing around.
"Isn't it silly that the one waiting on the sidewalk wears
special boots?" Wayne asked his daughter, "And the driver has to
get by with simple galoshes over office shoes?"

"Well, they make practical dress boots for men. Let me drive,
and I'll go get the car for you."

"And let the whole congregation decide that I'm a cripple? Tell
you what, we'll walk out together. You can still drive."
Shannon wasn't too skilled a driver in the snow, he thought, but
she had to learn. Today was extreme in one sense, but nobody was
going fast enough to make a collision really dangerous. "And my
clothes budget doesn't run to fancy boots."

"Look, Chick," he continued while they stumbled over the covered
ruts in the ice, "if you have decided that you *won't* go to
Albion, keeping your mother in suspense is really pointless."

"Absolute secrecy?"

He hated that, but he had brought the subject up. "My lips are

"Steve may still be accepted at IIT," Shannon said. "If he is,
and he accepts, then I *do* want to go to Albion. It's no
farther from Chicago. But choosing Albion *because* of

They reached the car at that point. "Let it warm up," he told
her when they were both inside. "You know. most people *don't*
end up marrying their high-school sweethearts."

Unless they married them right after high school, but Shannon
didn't want to do that. "Dad do you think that I don't know
that? Do you think that we don't? Look at this hand; notice
that there is no ring." She revved the car once and then
relaxed. "We never quite say the word -- well, almost never.
We've spent a year together, if you can call that 'together' --
and you and mom treat it as if we spend every minute with one

"Anyway, I haven't quite stopped changing *physically*. We're
going off to college where everybody is supposed to change
mentally. Steve and Shannon love each other now, but what will
be left of Shannon and what will be left of Steve in four years?
And then, of course, it doesn't really stop.

"I can't see to drive," she finished suddenly. Her eyes were
full of tears.

"That's okay. I got gas yesterday."

"Thing is. What did the preacher say about God last month?"

"Talks a lot about God. What in particular?" If she wanted to
change the subject, he would let her; although it was a long time
since they had talked this way. He missed that.

"He makes people with free will because he loves free will.
Well, one thing that I love about Steve is that he is changing.
If he stopped changing it would be a change for the worse. Does
that make any sense?"

"Plenty of sense. And you're changing too; even if he stopped,
it wouldn't guarantee a match. You love Steven desperately,

"You think it's puppy love." She didn't think it was puppy love.

"Not at all. It's just that he might be out for something else."

"That doesn't change things. Yes, Steve wants into your baby's
diapers, but it's *my* diapers; he wants to make love to Shannon.
That's my one gift from Curt."

"Must you be crude? And I didn't know you got anything good from
Curt." Concern for your daughter doesn't stop. He didn't think
of her as a baby, she was just the woman who *had* been his baby.

"Nothing he intended. Curt told several stories about me, after
we broke up; but, even to the guys who wanted to think the worst,
one thing was clear. He tried to get something from me, he
didn't get it, and he made me walk home. So, when Steve
expressed interest, he wasn't looking for a quick lay. He may
want my body, but he didn't choose me because he thought that I
was an easy target.

"Anyway, we talk. We don't talk nearly enough since the summer,
but we talk about things. Lots of things, not only that. There
is no way that Steve would talk the way he does if he only wanted
one thing from me. And, as I said before, if he only wants one
thing, he could find plenty of places to get it more easily.
Even now, though it's awfully late, he could probably break with
me, find another girl, and get her into bed. So, if getting
Shannon into bed was his only goal -- which it isn't, it would
still be about Shannon.

"Does that make sense?"

It made quite enough sense that Wayne didn't want it explained
and more. Okay, Steven wanted -- beyond the obvious -- a
sympathetic ear. When Wayne had been his age, he'd have taken
any sympathetic ear offered. And, if they didn't *only* talk
about "that," pretty clearly they talked a lot about "that." On
the bright side, while he wanted to thrash Steven for daring to
want to get into Shannon's panties, the wording implied that he
had failed.

Shannon, of course, was guileful enough to use that wording
deliberately. If that was the case, what was he going to do?
If, weeks before her eighteenth birthday, their daughter was
still a virgin, Allison and he were luckier than most. Hell,
they had Shannon, they were luckier than most anyway.
"Meanwhile, you help Steven on his English."

"And he helps me in math." Having sad that, she hoped Dad
wouldn't ask when. "Really, he wasn't doing so bad until
Shakespeare. Now, I think he's got it."

"How long do you have?"

"The test's Friday-ten-days." Neither Bryant was bothered that
no Friday comes ten days after a Sunday; they both knew what she
meant. "Coming week's Act Four and start of Five. Week after
ends the play, then review, and the test."

"And you got through what the other night? Act Two?"

"But Steve got the idea. He's worked more since."

"But how do you know that he understood the later part?"
Wayne didn't really want Steven to fail English.

Blabbermouth! she thought. And she just hated to lie, especially
since she hadn't talked with Dad like this in ages. "We talked
on the phone."

"Well, if you want to have him over again, I'll speak to your
mother." Not that Allison would object, but this conversation
was under seal.

"Thanks, Dad." She put the car in gear. "By the way, you know
you said only one night for Mrs. Green?"


"She wants to know whether that applies to shorter nights?"

"How will she manage that?"

"Well, she dates sometimes. If she gets home before eleven, does
that count? I don't see that it should, but I said that I would

"Do you want me to say yes or to say no?" Sometimes kids
deserve the excuse, 'my parents won't let me.'

"What do you mean?"

"I thought that those kids were monsters. And she won't pay so
much for shorter hours."

"But I'll start later too, so I won't see the kids so much."
Shannon said.

"I know that you can study during some babysitting times, but you
need to study more; and you need to enjoy yourself, too. I was
afraid that you were going to cut way back on babysitting when
you figured out the size of your surplus. You seem to be going
out of your way to get more."

"I like to see money coming in."

"And a penny saved?" He wondered suddenly whether Shannon had
ever heard that term.

"Is just sitting there. It's only real when it is coming in or
going out."

"I haven't talked to your mother about this."

"You said you wouldn't!"

"I'm changing the subject. I haven't spoken to your mother about
this suggestion which I am about to make. You know all this talk
about your babysitting money. I'm going to propose that you set
up a budget for the next year, what's coming in and what's going
out. I think that you should calculate special expenses and
regular expenses -- some mad-money too. Then I think that your
mother should dole out the money according to that budget."

"An allowance." Shannon had *not* enjoyed those days.

"Not quite."

"You want to put me back on an allowance, only an allowance that
I have earned. And you are nice enough to mention it to me
before you and mom decide."

"No! This will be much harder on you than that.

"What I'm suggesting," Wayne continued, "Is for you to decide
this allowance. I want you to budget it. I'll ask your mother
to help; I suspect that I'm not the best choice for knowing what
a girl will need her first semester in college."

"Can I think about the idea, or are you going to tell mom now?"

"Think away. Now, let's go in; she'll think we've died out

- = -

Rachel's e-mail ran:
> Dearest,
> I couldn't out run the storm and got stuck here. It was a
> long night -- much too late to call. The phone here is
> 217-677-1116 The extension is 236, which since the room #
> is 36, must be direct-dial in. It's direct-dial out, so call
> me, and I'll call back if you hit an operator.
> I'll want to make the rest of the run in the early after
> noon. So call when you can get privacy and we'll chat.
> Only local trips for the two weeks after this swing.
> I keep telling myself. And home Wednesday. Keep that in mind
> Until then, kisses evrywhere.
> Roger, WLY

She looked out Mallory's window to check the sidewalk. It was
buried nice and deep. Steve was coming up the stairs carrying an
ice-filled glass of root beer. In January! She shivered. "Well
dear, your walk home last night must have worn you out terribly.
Maybe you should stick to essentials for the next week."

Steve knew the drill. Either he was exhausted and needed to cut
back on his dating, or he was full of pep and ready for any
chore. Probably it was shoveling the walk. "Oh, I think I'll
recover by tomorrow."

"Why don't you test your recovery with the snow shovel? Now!"

"Let me log on and finish this drink."

"Okay," she said. "Fifteen minutes." If only all negotiations
were so easy.

Half an hour later, Steve pressed the shovel into the first bit
on the top step. From the door to the street was a pleasure; it
was untouched and fluffy from the cold. He didn't mind the
exercise, really.

His mother had the special phone with the headset in her room.

"Roger? It's Rachel."

"Darling! Give me a minute." She lay back and adjusted the
headset so the earphones were comfortable. The sound quality
wasn't quite so good, and she did love the sound of Roger's
voice. But, really, talking to your husband was a two-handed

"So," she said, "you'll be home on Wednesday. Before school
let's out? You're son will be home for dinner."

"That's strange. I was planning to eat at the Y."

"After two weeks away from home cooking?"

"As an appetizer for home cooking," he said. "God bless old
Hauksbee! And where is he right now?"

"Shoveling the walk." While she was here in the warm bed
stroking her own smooth breasts and wishing that they were
Roger's hairy arms instead.

"Unnatural mother! Sending your poor son out into the cold so
you can listen to dirty phone calls."

"Your poor son walked home," she told him, "apparently across
town from Shannon's house, at the height of the blizzard. Got
home near midnight. He crashed. Then she called me up at one-
thirty -- I checked. Said that she hoped he got home all right.
Gertrude had battery problems. Earlier in the night, I mean."

"He walked there, knowing he'd have to walk back?"

"He's your son." She'd ignore the garage man; the story was long
enough as it was.

"You sure about that?"

"Absolutely, totally positive. We came home tipsy. You drove
the babysitter home while I checked on Mallory. And you came
back just drunk enough. You lasted and lasted and lasted. I
came, and then I came. And when I was climbing again, I reminded
you that I was open for your seed...."

"And you held my nuts to show what seeds." His voice showed that
he was in it, too.

"And you shot and shot and shot. I felt that you'd filled me
twice over. First you, then your seed. That was the night.
That was the fuck." The memory excited her. His cock had rubbed
her right there, where her finger was now, and rubbed there

"Talking dirty are we? Did I fuck you then? Did I screw you?
Did I dick your cunt? Make love to you? Swive you? Put the old
sausage in the hole?"

"No," she said. "You Rogered me. You drove me up the peak, and
over. Not once, not twice, you rogered me to climax *three*
times. Oh Roger!"

"Is it on?"

She flicked the switch on her magic wand. "Is now."

"Rub it over my favorite creampuffs. First the left one.... Now
the right." She brushed the wand over her breasts to his
directions. The rush was building, she felt her skin get warmer
under the cold sheets. "Don't touch the strawberries until...
Now! Are they nice and puffy for my lips?... Are they straining
upwards for my teeth?" He had never actually bitten her there;
neither of them wanted it. But the *idea* of teeth slicing into
her nipples drove her wild. She dialed up the speed on the wand,
which drove her wilder as she stroked those nipples.

He crooned to her over the phone lines. She wanted more; she
needed more; if he didn't speak, she would break away to get
more. "Now your thighs. Let them carry the vibrations to your
lips. You haven't touched your lips yet, have you?" She hadn't,
but it was a struggle. The vibrations shook her thighs, which
shook her lips, which shook her clit; but she needed more, more
force, more directly.

"Put the vibrator on your right knee, slow it down. Is it
there?" It was, and the slower vibrations shook her whole leg.
"Now draw it towards you, slowly, slowly, more slowly yet as it
gets closer.... Tell me when it touches your labium." As she
drew the wand downward she lost all consciousness of anything but
those vibrations.

And then the wand touched her groin. Fire sprang though her,
fire filled that lip, fire burned her clit. "Oh yes!" she said.

"Now take it up to the left knee and move it downward again.
More slowly this time." She tried to keep it moving slowly. It
sure *felt* like a longer time; it felt like damn-near forever.
She was on the edge, so close that she couldn't catch a breath.

"That's me you're holding, Rachel" he said. "Turn it down now;
turn it down, and put it in." He didn't have to tell her to do
this part slowly; she was stabbing herself.

But she did ease it in. She did feel those vibrations fill her.
"Tell me," she gasped. "Oh Roger, tell me."

"I love you, Rachel. I love all of you." The wand was almost
filling her. She let go to clutch the sheet. "I love your
luscious cunt. I love your daring spirit." Her body lifted
itself, thrusting the wand's handle towards the ceiling. "I love
you. Oh, darling!" She was spasming now. He kept cooing over
the phone, "Come for me, That's it. Come again."

She spasmed, spasmed again and again. Finally, she pulled the
wand out and almost flung it away. Roger, who had been
encouraging her the whole time, said a final, "I love you, all of
you; and I always will." Then he left the phone while she tried
to gather her breath and then her mind.

Roger returned to the phone. "Yours?" she asked.

"No hurry," he said. "You almost carried me with you. The
lotion is too hot, anyway." Well it would cool fast enough on
his hand.

- = -

Steve took a ten-minute break to warm himself when the walk was
more than half-way shoveled. When he came back the second time,
his mom greeted him. "Did you get it all?" she asked.

"Not that the wind won't cover it over."

"My hero." Just because she had to reach up to kiss his jaw,
just because it was a little bristly when she did, didn't mean
that he wasn't still her little boy. Steve moved back to unzip
his coat. These demonstrations embarrassed him, and he suspected
that his embarrassment only added to Mom's enjoyment.

"Don't like my kisses?" she asked. "Now, I know how to get you
some you'll prefer. Save one of your brownies for Shannon."

"Brownies?" He could manage Shannon's kisses on his own, thank
you. On the other hand, a pan of brownies -- with both Dad and
Mallory out of the picture -- were worth shoveling a walk any

"After lunch. They aren't even done yet." But she was laughing
when she said that. She didn't act like this often, especially
when Dad was gone; but she did have these funny moods. She
looked excited, with a high color. Of course, that could simply
be from the heat of the stove -- or the heat of the shower, he
could tell she'd taken one from the smell of her special soap.

"Going somewhere tonight?" he asked. Why shower in the middle
of the afternoon?

"Tonight? Those guys are lucky I'll show up for work tomorrow!
Speaking of which, you'll never get home and back to Hauksbee's
on time. Do you want to pack a dinner?"

"I'll get something in town." He had taken a bit extra out of
his paycheck. Unlike Shannon, he didn't need to be spending
money to enjoy it. On the other hand, learning that much of his
check wasn't available to him had been something of a shock. An
extra thirty dollars in the back of his drawer would cover
emergencies like a gift for Shannon's birthday.

Lunch was great. It wasn't really Sunday dinner with Dad away,
but the stew was plentiful. He only had room for two brownies
afterwards, so he carried a plateful up to his room.

- = -

The bus took forever to get to school, and he totally missed Dave
that morning. He was late for English, too; but he took another
minute by his locker to shuffle Shannon's cards and get the book
into his hands. "So Steve," Mrs. Foster said, "finally honoring
us with your presence?"

"The bus was late."

"Sarah was on the same bus, and she beat you here." The girl,
who still had her coat with her, gave him an apologetic look.

"I stopped at my locker, Mrs. Foster. I had to do it sometime."

"Perhaps you could tell us what is going on in the play."

"Which scene?" he asked. "I just walked in through the door."

"Act Four, Scene Three." Her tone implied that knowing the scene
wouldn't help him.

"It's a very short scene," he said. "First she gets rid of her
nurse. Then she comments on all the dangers of the poison --
fake poison, but she's not sure of that. Then she drinks it."

"What are those dangers?" Mrs. Foster used a much gentler tone,
but he could tell he wasn't out of the woods yet.

Carefully, he kept his eyes on her. He knew this wasn't on the
cards anyway. "Well," he said, "she's not sure that father
Lawrence didn't give her a real poison to hide that he'd married
her." That didn't sound right. "Her and Romeo. And maybe the
potion wouldn't work at all. And maybe she would wake up locked
in a dark tomb surrounded by the corpses of her family."

"Very good, Steve. I just hope that you'll read the rest of the
play, now that you know you can."

Steve brought out three brownies at lunch. He cut one of them in
half and passed the whole lot over to Shannon. She took the two
halves. "You can have more, really," he said. "I'm saving two
for supper."

"Two brownies apiece. Just that mine are smaller. Really,
Steve, that's not an adequate dinner."

"Yes, Mama. I'm eating at Terry's Diner. That's just dessert.
Mom thinks I couldn't get home and back in time. I agree."

"Want company?" she asked.

"Love it."

"I felt like kissing you in front of the whole English class,"
she said "You did great!"

"Well, we could find another time. Anyway, I didn't do anything.
It's all your doing. Almost said so, but she might not have
liked hearing that you cleared up the play for me when she'd left
me totally in the dark. You're the one who deserves kisses."

"Well, I'm sure that we could sort out that problem. Get my
message about babysitting?"

"What's this about not wanting to see me?"

"Ask me there, okay?" She suspected that what was bothering Mrs.
Jensen was nursing Peggy in front of Steve. She could understand
her embarrassment; heck, Shannon didn't want to discuss this in
the lunchroom. Even though, she thought suddenly, it was about

That flicker of a smile accompanied by downturned eyes and a half
blush got Steve every time. Phil could have Tanya. Shannon was
sexier. She never explained what had caused those looks, but
he'd triggered them a few times himself.
Dave caught him as he walked out the door with Shannon. He gave
back the disk on the sidewalk outside of school.

He ordered the chili-mac with a side order of hashbrowns when
they got to the diner. "Cherry pie if you have it," said
Shannon, "a cup of coffee -- plenty of cream, and a separate

"Come on Shannon! You're my guest."

"I suggested the whole thing. If you'd let me, I would pay your
way too. Don't fight about this, and I won't ask what's going on
with Dave." Not that she, and most of the girls, didn't know
about Dave's little porn game. boys had the weirdest taste!
Even Steve. She saw that she had won.

"You're as bad as my dad," she continued. "You know the money
that I saved up from babysitting." She decided that amounts
would embarrass Steve; she made more than he did. "Anyway, I
made a good deal more than I've spent. He wants that money doled
out to me like an allowance again. Instead of seeing something
and buying it, he wants me to budget everything ahead of time."
She looked over at Steve for sympathy, forgetting that this was

"You want polite?" he asked, "or you want true?" She turned her
hand up.

"Look. Look down the road a few years. You're married. Maybe
not to me, but to somebody. You make a salary; he makes a
salary. You say to him, 'Don't worry about me; I'll pay for my
clothes and such. All you have to do is pay the mortgage,
groceries, car, insurance, things like that.' Do you see a
little problem there?"

"I'm not as selfish as you think I am."

"Shannon, there isn't a selfish bone in your body," he said.
"The problem isn't selfishness. The problem is that everybody is
on a budget. Somebody is going to control what you spend. It
can be you; it can be someone else. We could set it up so that
you get so many dollars a week, even so many dollars a day. When
that's spent, it's gone; and you wait for the next amount.

"But you already have two parents, and that's not what I want to
be. I don't think anyone else is looking for that job either.
Will you try out a budget? Just try it for me?"

The waitress saved her from answering. When she sipped her
coffee, Steve said: "That would keep me awake all night. I
don't know how you do it." He was going to let the question
drop, which somehow pushed her more than insistence would have.

"Somehow doesn't go with cherry pie," she said when he offered
her another brownie.

She went home to a real dinner. He went off to work.

Chapter 8
Shannon spent a good deal of thought on the budget issue in her
spare time over the next day. In the first place, she'd been
right when she told her dad that Steve was thinking about her as
a wife -- well, that wasn't quite what she'd told Dad, but close.
That was very nice to know, but it was not so nice that he was
thinking about her in a wifely role where she didn't meet the

She was far from as stupid as people seemed to think she was.
She knew she was irresponsible about money; half the fun was
flaunting her irresponsibility about money. Besides, she was
responsible as a driver and as a student. She was quite
responsible answering the phone, which was important to her mom
and an area in which Steve was simply awful. She was responsible
in managing the business of babysitting, and -- especially --
responsible in how she dealt with her tiny charges.

If you were responsible about *everything*, what was the use of
being seventeen? And she wasn't one tenth as irritating a
daughter as her parents were irritating to her.

But Steve had raised an important point. She was quite
prepared to go on as a flibbertigibbet daughter for the next four
years; she had no interest in becoming a flibbertigibbet wife.
And there were two side issues.

In the long run, if she did end up married to Steve, she wanted
to be the one buying his clothes. Wives did that, and it wasn't
as if Steve cared. It was more that he bought the first thing
that fit. Lots of wives bought their husband's clothes, but
probably not many wives who couldn't be trusted with the family

In the short run, it was the white wedding thing. She would
never say, "I went on a budget to please you; stop there to
please me." Steve would probably change his mind about budgets
*fast*. But making a few sacrifices to keep them together set a
pattern. More accurately, *never* making the sacrifice set a

She was fairly certain that she could operate within a budget if
she had to. Right now looked like the time to prove it.
Besides, if she found it really hard, her parents would give her
more leeway if she had proposed the plan herself. Steve, also,
would be a lot happier with a plan that she had accepted because
he asked it than with a plan her dad had forced on her.

She'd thought this out during tv commercials, while walking to
school, during class, and other spare moments. She broke it to
Steve when classes ended on Tuesday. They were on their way to
a dance-planning meeting. "You win. I'll talk to Dad about
setting up a budget."

"It's not exactly winning," he said. She looked at him. "I'm
not on his side against you. I'm on your side against the world.
I just think that this is something that you really should do.
And I told *you* so. But we're not all ganging up on you. I'll
never gang up on you."

"You think that I should do it, but you don't think that I should
do it because you want me to?" She could almost see that. There
were things she wanted like that; his phone calls for instance.

"Oh, it's perfectly all right that you do it because I want you
to. Better if you do it because it makes sense, but I'll take
what I can get. It's just that I didn't *win* anything.
Certainly not win anything against you."

"Well, you and one part of me beat another part of me. I really
enjoyed being a spendthrift." Her mournful tone was mostly a
joke, but not quite all of it.

He caught the tone and the past tense. "Well," he glanced
around, "this isn't the place to kiss the spendthrift goodbye.


They got to the meeting after it had already begun. Heather
Swanson was talking and holding up a picture of a Cupid. "Well
Shannon -- oh there she is -- asked me to make one and find how
long it took. This took me five or six hours for just one. So
I'm withdrawing my suggestion. It's way too much work."

"That's a problem," said Ken, "but it's not the problem that I
saw." Shannon saw Mr. Babaian wince, but Ken ignored that and
went on. "Heather can draw this, and it is beautiful. Who else
thinks that they could make one?" There was only one hand raised
in the whole meeting. "So we can't have a lot of them. On the
other hand....

"Heather, could you make one more? A reflection in the vertical
line, but not quite?" Heather looked pleased but puzzled.

"I so move," Steve began, "that the committee ask Heather to make
another drawing and to let us use both of them in our decor. The
drawing could be a mirror image, and she can ask for suggestions
from anyone she wants to."

That passed. "Do I have a motion to go with the hearts as our
main decor?" asked Ken. Several people moved that, and that
carried as well.

"Now," said Ken, "how many slow dances? I'm going to assume that
everybody wants some percent. Lets vote with our feet this time.
Mr. Babaian, will you be our midpoint? Everybody who wants more
slow dances than fast come to this side of Mr. Babaian, and
everybody who wants more fast dances go to the other side of him."
By having people move past the advisor, Ken got the committee to
show that slightly more than half wanted more than 65% slow dances, and
a solid majority wanted fewer than 70% slow.

"Well, can I have a motion to play 65% slow dances?" Shannon
made that motion, and it carried.

"Work session the next three days after school," Ken said. "Make
two of them."

Gary had a ride for both Ken and Steve, "if you're leaving right
now." Still on school property, Steve and Shannon said good bye
without a kiss. Ken and Gary were both surprised how brief that
parting was.

"I'll call you, Heather" Ken shouted.

"I owe Shannon big time!" Ken said in the car. "You can tell her

"What happened there? We got in one minute late."

"Heather's been bugging me about her decor scheme. Much too
fancy. Instead of telling her why it wouldn't work, Shannon
called her up and asked her to show how it would. I'm supposed
to have the brains in this school. But, anyhow, Heather tried it
out, figured out the hours involved, and could see that it
wouldn't work. But isn't it a work of art?"

They agreed that it was a work of art. Ken got out first, and
then Steve.

- = -

"About this budget idea," Shannon asked at dinner, "what did you
have in mind?"

"Well, we're springing it on your mother, for which I apologize.
My idea was to take your income -- including current surplus --
for the next eighteen months, subtract extraordinary expenses,
and break the rest into seventy eight equal amounts. Then your
mother would dole out those amounts and the budgeted
extraordinary expenses as well."

"Sounds awfully complicated," Shannon said.

"Sounds a little complicated to me as well," her mom said. "The
budget at college is the problem, and there is no sense deciding
that now. Why don't we set up a budget to the end of school? We
can figure out where that causes problems, and do another for
over the summer. You'll really need less when you aren't buying
school lunches, dear."

Her dad loaded the dishwasher while she and her mom figured
things out. Some things, mom pushed her to pare back; but
others, like desserts at school and snacks elsewhere, she
insisted would cost more than Shannon thought. They had
everything down on the list when Dad got back. "And what for
incidentals?" he asked. Shannon thought that there couldn't be
incidentals -- they had covered everything. "Would five dollars
a week be enough? And put the church pledge down, too."

"Shannon remembered that," her mom said. "Four-twenty-three will
even the total out."

"Is four dollars and twenty-three cents enough for incidentals?"
her dad asked.

"I don't understand you guys," she responded.

"Look, Shannon," her dad said, "you have to learn to live on your
budget. Someday, you'll need a new pair of pantyhose."

"Pantyhose is on the budget."

"So it is, but you'll need one more pair than has been budgeted.
So that week you won't have incidentals, or you won't join your
friends for a soda after school. I don't care what, so long as
you don't starve yourself at lunch time. The time is coming when
you'll have to live on a *tight* budget, but that isn't today.
Let's take one step at a time. Talking of which, what are the
extraordinary expenses which you can foresee?"

"I'll get the expenses for the pictures and that sort of stuff
tomorrow if I can. The yearbook's going up, but I forget how
much. And then there are the dance dresses. Not the regular
dances but the balls."

"The yearbook, cap and gown, that sort of stuff, we can put on
the budget just under their names," her dad said. "We'll need
more information later, but you'll go through the graduation
formalities. It will cost, but we'll fill in that amount later.
Do you really *need* a new dress for every ball?"

"She needs one for the prom," mom said. "She has enough for the
other dances."

She had worn a prom dress her junior year. Wayne didn't see why
she couldn't wear it again, but he wasn't going to fight that

"I need a new dress for this coming ball," Shannon said. She
needed a front-clasp bra, too. "I might need one more."

"So," her dad said, "we're cutting out what? Two dresses?"

She counted the remaining balls in her head. "Yes, two. Anyway,
can we put dollars on that another day? I want to get some
things done before babysitting."

When she got to her room, the panty-liner was virtually clean.
Still, she wiped herself, inserted a new tampon, and donned fresh
panties. The last thing she wanted was to have Steve touch some
of her blood. She dressed in a loose skirt and a worn flannel
shirt which had her dad's until the sleeves had to be cut short.
A sweater over that was all the preparation she made until Mr.
Jensen called that he was on his way.

"We'll get you home by eleven," he told Shannon when she got in
his car. It was later than she had ever started an evening for
them, but nothing extraordinary for her most of her other
customers. She had told him of her babysitting curfew. Telling
him was her duty, since Mrs. Green had already used up her late

"Well, if you run late, call and warn me. You do have a phone
machine?" Once she was there, she couldn't do anything until
they did get home; and she didn't care.

"Well, Theresa -- and Peggy -- are going to be less permissive
than you are. She's feeding her now, though."

"You don't mind about Steve?"

"Not when you're taking care of the girls. Just when she is."

Amy was already in bed, and Mrs. Jensen was at that end of the
house. Mr. Jensen kept his coat on while he checked her out once
again. "We'll be at my sister's house, Sandra Foster. Here's
the phone number. It's her wedding anniversary, so ask for Bill
or Theresa. The place will be crawling with Jensens.

They stood there awkwardly. Shannon didn't feel she could ask
about Amy's future, and couldn't think of another subject.
Suddenly Mr. Jensen spoke again. "You're willing to take a check
aren't you? I should have asked that before."

"I'm willing, especially from you; but I prefer cash." After
all, she wasn't quite certain about this budget business.
"Checks are fine, but if somebody asks about using me as a
babysitter don't tell them that."

"Well, we probably have the cash between the two of us. You're
right, though, my employer frowns on writing rubber checks more
than other employers. And knows about it faster."

Shannon hadn't meant that at all. The Jensens had always treated
her fairly. She trusted Amy's father, Mrs. Jensen's concerned
husband, the guy who waited in the car until she was inside her
door, not the bank teller.

Mrs. Jensen came out. "I was only able to express half a bottle
this afternoon. She's going through a growth spurt. Even so,
she should sleep a good long time, but you won't be so lucky
after the next feeding. Call me when it's done. We're going to
be at a family party, and they know I'll need to come home."

Theresa Jensen had bottle-fed her first child. More bottle-fed
babies developed asthma, and she knew -- whatever Dr. Wyatt said
-- that this was the cause of Amy's illness. That wasn't going
to happen to Peggy, and she actually found the nursing restful

On the other hand, having people see it, even talking about it,
made her feel like a cow. Her sister-in-law, Sandra, had fed her
baby in front of the whole world, or at least family of both
sexes; Theresa hid from Shannon, and was bothered by even having
Shannon's boyfriend in the house while she did it. Anyway, it
was time. "I'm ready, Bill; let's go."

- = -

"I thought that you were going out tonight," Rachel Anderson said
to Steve. It was not that she didn't enjoy the companionship of
her son, not that she wasn't pleased to see him studying this
early in the evening. It was just that she felt safer talking to
Roger when she was *certain* that Steve wouldn't impulsively pick
up the phone.

"Shannon is babysitting. The Jensen's said they don't mind me
coming over, but they don't want me to until after they leave.
Honest!" Sounded kinda weird to him, but it was true.

Rachel didn't worry about that. Steve was perfectly capable of
making up a plausible story; implausible ones were likely to be
true. "Is she breast feeding?"

"Shannon said something about that, but she leaves bottles in the

"You make formula as you go. Must be her first child."

"No, the second. I told you about Amy. Peggy's the baby

"Strange. I was rather shy about Mallory at first; but by the
time you came along, I'd whip it out in front of anybody." She
almost laughed aloud at Steve's evident discomfiture. At the
time, he'd been quite in favor. "Anyway, you're a guest in their
house. If it bothers her that you are there, you leave
immediately. Is that clear?"


"I'm serious about that. We let you run about at all hours...."

"That's the deal. I keep my grades up. So long as the results
are satisfactory, you don't decide the methods."

"But you have to do what we say. And I won't have a son of mine
embarrassing some lady generous enough to let him visit her
babysitter. I'll tell you this, I never let a babysitter have
guests in my house." Although at least one had. Which, after
all, might have persuaded this woman. She knew Steve's name,
knew where he lived.

"It's Shannon. People trust her, and with good reason." At this
testimonial, the phone rang.

Steve got the phone before the second ring. "Anderson residence.
Steven Anderson at your service." Damn it! He'd forgotten the

"Steve?" It didn't sound like Shannon at all, but he had been so
sure that it was. "This is Heather. What did you mean about
asking for suggestions?"

It took him a minute to figure out the context. "Ken has some
idea. What I meant was that you could ask him about it. He was
really impressed with your art. Last time I saw him that
excited, genuinely excited, was about Abelian groups."

"More exciting than a beel-whatever group. What every girl wants
to hear."

"Well, I think you're more exciting than Abelian groups. I
wouldn't even mind Shannon's hearing that. But Ken's thinking
that you are more exciting than Abelian groups is a whole
different story. It was really your Cupid. He kept saying that
it was art. Anyway, your Cupid gave him an idea. Listen to it;
Ken's ideas are always worth listening to.

"On the other hand," he continued, "what the motion said was that
you could *get* suggestions from anyone you chose. It didn't say
that you would follow Ken's suggestions." Ken's ideas were
always worth hearing; they weren't always worth following. He'd
been to the principal's office twice learning that -- to say
nothing of the tee-shirt that they'd tried to make into

"You guys go back a long ways, don't you?... I'll give him a

The phone rang again almost immediately. "Yo?"

"Steve? This is Shannon. You can come over now if you want."

"Quarter hour." But he made it to the Jensen's doorstep in just
about ten minutes.

"Your phone was busy" was Shannon's greeting.

He kissed her briefly. His coat was in his way. "I was talking
to another woman," he said as he stripped off his outerwear,
including his shoes. "Talking to her about Eros, telling her
that she was hotter than an Abelian group."

"Am I supposed to be jealous?"

"It wouldn't hurt."

"All right," she said. "I'm too jealous to kiss you. And I
won't give you my news."

"It was Heather whatsername, the junior. Eros is another name
for Cupid, and we mostly talked about Ken. Your news can wait."

She held up her hand. "What about saying she was so hot."

"I told Heather that Ken got as excited about her Cupid as he'd
gotten over anything since Abelian groups. Those are math
thingies which Ken explained to me several times. It didn't
take. She didn't think it was much of a compliment. We joked
about that. I'm sorry I mentioned it. Now can I have my kiss?"

She figured that his face would have warmed up a little bit, and
he might have learned that making her jealous didn't pay.
Anyway, it was time that *she* got a kiss.

This kiss was for real. Her mouth opened for his tongue, and
her breasts were soft against his chest. Her butt was firm under
his hands, and then softened as she leaned against him. He
turned her in his arms. He kissed the backs of her ears while
lifting her soft breasts.

"My news is that Ken says he really owes you one," he said.
"What's your news?" He brushed his fingers over her nipples,
hardening below in response to their hardening.

"I talked to Dad about budgets. It's too complicated for words,
but they don't seem to want to cut out all my pleasures. They
put in everything, and then money for 'incidentals.' I thought
that they would cut me way back." This was an odd way of
talking, but rather pleasant. Steve talked into the back of her
head -- she could feel his breath blow her hair -- and then
kissed her ear while she spoke. "I can't think of anything which
hadn't been already counted in the budget."

"How about buying coffee and pie to share a table with your

It wasn't the best position for thinking, but she went through
the budget categories. "You might be right! Anyway, Dad said
something about your being welcome for another study date. He
said that on Sunday."

"Not instead of dancing, I hope." He pulled her back against
him. They really should do dances this way, with him holding her
front instead of her back. "Speaking of which, might I have the
pleasure of your company at the dance this coming Friday?"

"Well, you can have my company. The pleasure is your own

"Having you in my arms is always a pleasure." He touched his
finger to her face. "Still too cold?"

"Yes. Why don't you wash your hands?"

They kissed good bye to compensate for the two-minute separation.
Her hands went to the buttons on her shirt. "Don't unbutton it,"
he said.

He came out with his own shirt unbuttoned, though, and with his
undershirt in his hands. He opened his backpack on the table,
stashed the undershirt in a plastic bag in the pack, and took
the opportunity to spread out the evidence of his studying.

He took her hand in his warm one and kissed the inside of her
wrist. From there, he trailed kisses up to the inside of her
elbow. She shivered. It was ticklish and a bit sexy, not like
when he teased her breasts, but a little bit sexy nevertheless.
"Why do you do that?" she asked.

"You are sexy, sexy all over. I just decided that I was missing
out on parts of you." He kissed her mouth, then the bridge of
her nose. "Do you mind? Does it bother you?"

"It bothers me, but not in a bad way." He pulled her like a
dance signal; she followed until he back was against him. He
cupped her breasts again, then began to unbutton the shirt. He
kissed her right ear. "Isn't that why you kiss me? Like that
especially? To bother me?"

"Only half the reason. I enjoy kissing you. I've seen you kiss
the kids. Are you trying to turn Amy on? Peggy?"

"She's just so cute," she said. It was different, but she
couldn't say how. Steve was holding her breasts in his hands,
now. It wasn't a time for deep thinking.

"And so are you."

He spun her to his front again. Carefully spreading each shirt,
he pulled her against him for a long kiss with her breasts
pressed into his hairy chest. She was conscious of that touch,
of his tongue exploring her mouth, of his hands squeezing her
hips. Last, but quite strongly, she was conscious of his
hardness pressing into her stomach. Finally, he broke the kiss
to grab her head with both hands; he kissed her on her forehead.

"You are a sexy woman," he said. "You look like a woman; you
feel like a woman; but, somehow, you are just the way those
babies." Needing protection, he meant, something like that.

- = -

Bridge had been Theresa's life once, she and Bill had been cut-
throat bridge partners for the bank before they had any other
dates. There were two bridge tables at the party, and couple of
Jensens yielded their seats gladly to Bill and Theresa. Jerry
and Michelle (Mike) Foster who had taken little too much pleasure
in their edge in skill, or -- perhaps -- been just a little too
open about that pleasure.

"I may have to leave early," Theresa said. "If the babysitter
calls, I'll just go."

"You don't have to do that for us," Jerry said. "When you've
lost your limit, just tell us. We'll let you go."

Bill looked at Theresa. She nodded. They weren't going to say
anything; their entire response would involve the play.

- = -

"Lie on your face," Steve said when they reached he sofa. First,
he scratched her back. Then, he moved down. With one arm across
her hips and the other across he lower calves, he kissed the
inside of her knees -- first a little suction on the right, then
a tickling lick on her left. She kicked a little against his
grip. The feeling was somehow sexy, and she didn't fight hard..
When he started kissing up the inside of her thigh, though, it
felt much too sexy suddenly. The arousal was all wrong, and she
turned over. He didn't give her much resistance.

He brushed her hair off her forehead and kissed her there. He
kissed the bridge of her nose. Then he settled into a nice long
kiss, tongues playing with tongues while he cuddled her breasts
with his hand, first one -- then the other.

"What's with this business of kissing everywhere, anyway?" she
asked. Now this, her left breast in his hand, his thumb brushing
the nipple occasionally, turned her on. But that was a
comfortable feeling. She could hardly remember when it had been
almost as disturbing as the kiss on her knee was now.

He shifted so that he could hold one breast in each hand, then
kissed her nipple in promise. "Well, really, you started it. I
used to imagine making love to you; but it was sort of the
highlights, if you know what I mean. I wanted you; you wanted
me; I would go inside you. And then all I imagined was moving
back and forth until I came -- which was usually damn soon." Was
he really discussing masturbation details with Shannon? Well,
after all, she had -- in a fashion -- been there.

He glanced at her face. She looked interested, rather than
disgusted. "Anyway," he continued, "you got off on this kick of
being virgin on your wedding night."

"Wedding day," she corrected. All this emphasis on the wedding
night was Steve's. Not that his version wasn't sexier. Really,
that decision, while she was still determined to keep it, had
seemed the opposite of sexy. Steve, however, had turned it into
an erotic dream.

"Were you really planning to have a quickie before the
reception?" She hissed and moved his hands away from her
breasts. "If not, you were planning to be a virgin on your
wedding *night*." He put his hands back where they belonged.
She didn't resist. He kissed each nipple until it hardened.

"Anyway, you started me thinking about the wedding night -- and
our first time. Sliding right in doesn't really work. 'Shannon
wants me, too,' isn't really enough. So I started picturing
taking that white stuff off you, and kissing what I uncovered,
and other stuff. You have rules, and I follow them. Well, I
want our first time to be slow, and private; and I want to hold
you to me and kiss you again afterwards."

He went back to kissing her breasts. His hand brushed her skirt
down, and then up. "And I want to see all of you," he said.

- = -

Wayne Bryant shook the last of the can of ginger ale over his
glass. It wasn't enough mixer for another drink.

"Do you really need another drink, Wayne?" Allison said. He
mixed them weak, but the whiskey bottle had dropped more than an
inch that night.

"Well, if I had someone in my lap, I wouldn't be able to get to
the kitchen? Now, would I?"

She came over to sit on his lap. She was an old married woman,
for heaven's sake. "You are an insatiable letch."

"You, on the other hand, are a sexy blonde." He shifted her
weight and cuddled her by her arm, not even touching her breast.
They watched the next segment of the show like that.

She dimmed the sound for the commercial. "I'm sorry that I
screwed up your plan for Shannon's budget, it's just...."

"It's just that it was totally over-complicated," he said. "I
should have run it by you, I would have run it by you. But I
mentioned it to Shannon first, and she asked for some time to
think about it. I was going to run it by you when she first
babysat next week. Who could have dreamed that she was actually
thinking about it?" Sitting like this, he could feel her laugh
all through his body.

"Anyway," he continued, "the reason she needs a budget is next
year, and I was right. But the time to learn to budget is this
year, and you were right. Shannon got to see her father make a
blunder, but it's not as if that was a shock to her. She thinks
it happens even more often than it does." That earned him a kiss
on the forehead. She got up after that kiss, but still the
cuddle was well worth the lost drink. He shouldn't drink when
Shannon was babysitting, anyway, any more than he should when she
was on a date.

- = -

Steve teased the milder petting out as long as he could stand,
but the thighs he stroked were drawing his hand towards their
juncture. The breasts he kissed were drawing his lips toward
their peaks. He kissed her on the mouth and drew his hand down
her thigh as slowly as possible. When he reached her panties
this time, he stayed there. His hand cupped her mound while his
tongue licked the underside of hers again. When he abandoned her
mouth for her nipple, his fingers began stroking her.

Shannon had been feeling trembly for some time. Already warm
under the sheer cloth of the panties, her groin heated when
clasped in Steve's hand. The strokes there heated her whole
body; the suction on her nipple pulled that heat upwards until
her face was on fire. She knees raised and spread, her belly
tensed for what she knew was to come. Suddenly, the motions

Shannon's position was too suggestive. Steve climbed between
those spread legs. He kissed the other breast. "Hug my waist,"
he said. "Hug it with your legs." When she did put those lovely
thighs around him, he moved forwards tentatively. With her legs
pushed back by his body, he moved his groin back and forth across
hers. He kissed her chin on the top of those strokes. The
friction, even through the layers of denim, drove him closer and

She felt the position was totally awkward, then as she shifted
her body and tightened her legs, totally natural. He was rubbing
across her almost as excitingly as his hand had. But the idea
was more exciting. They were, but for a few pieces of cloth,
doing it.

Close to coming in his pants, he had to stop. He climbed back,
kissing thighs to right and left. Back in the kneeling position,
he kissed her breast yet again. He sucked the nipple while his
hand returned to her pantied mystery. Her responses made him
think that his gymnastics had ruined her edge, which was
understandable. A minute later, however, she was moving as
sexily as ever.

She felt herself burning and freezing. Feeling her belly tense
against his arm, he began stroking her panties with the backs of
his nails. The sensation made her gasp. He sucked harder and
licked the top of her nipple. He inhaled half her breast, then
let it pull out of his mouth, tightening on the nipple as it
left. Fire burned her belly, the pain in the nipple only one
spark of it. The fire pulsed, lifting and twisting her torso
each time. He claimed her other nipple, sucking each time she
gasped. His hand tried to ride her mound, abandoning regular
strokes to respond to its motions.

Her gasps became moans; her twists became shudders. She felt
herself burn, convulse, and then collapse. When she lay still,
he moved to cuddle her. Letting go of her panties, freeing her
nipples, he curled over her with his head on her stomach a little
below her breasts. From there he could hear her heart slow and
her breath even, She pushed his hand down below her waist, but
there she held it.

They lay like that for a timeless moment, until Peggy cried.

She pushed him away. "Warm the bottle, won't you?" She'd had to
teach him how to do that, but he was a help sometimes.

By now, Peggy was telling the world that she hadn't simply turned
over in her sleep. She was awake, hungry, almost certainly wet,
and demanding to know what Shannon was going to do about it.
Shannon fumbled with her shirt buttons -- they went the wrong way
-- as she walked down the hall. All the strategic ones were
buttoned by the time she reached the girls' room with its
distinct coolness from the humidifier.

Shannon found a pacifier clipped to Peggy's sleeper. Slipping it
in, she lay her on the changing table. Working in the weird
shadows cast by the night light, she opened the bottom snaps.
Peggy was dirty as well as wet. She got most of it with the
Pamper, most of the rest with a wipe. A second wipe cleaned
Peggy right up, and then Shannon applied the lotion.

"All I can find is an infant bottle," Steve said from the

Mrs. Jensen had said something about expressing only half a
bottle. "That's right. Use it."

Dressed in the fresh Pamper, with her snaps all closed again,
Peggy still had to wait for her meal. She wasn't used to that,
and started to fuss immediately. Shannon got that response
every time. She re-stoppered Peggy and cuddled the baby in her
arms. Here, having Steve handle the warming was a real help.
She left the room in a sort of dance, turning around as she went.
Amy's breathing showed that she had slept through her sister's
noise, though Shannon didn't like the sound of it otherwise.

Anyway, Peggy was distracted by the movement. Maybe she was just
entertained. Shannon's breast was a bit tender where Peggy's
head was pressed against it, though. Steve must have been
rougher than she had noticed at the time. She missed a step,
which was probably just a more complicated dance to Peggy.

She handed the baby off to Steve, who held her against his
shoulder and danced the same three-step he danced with Shannon.
The milk in the bottle was neither too hot nor too cold against
her arm. She took Peggy back, settled her down, took out the
pacifier, and replaced it with the bottle.

Now that things were being done right, Peggy settled down to
her meal. The speed of her feeding, however, threatened trouble
when the bottle was done before she was. "Well, gal," Shannon
said, "you can be a demanding kid. Still and all, I'm glad you
waited as long as you did."

"Speak for yourself," said Steve. Poor guy, he'd been cuddling
her when the siren went off. Probably expecting something for

"I was. Anyway, if you want to take a break in the bathroom, you
may. We can keep ourselves entertained out here." She walked
over to the chair which was most comfortable for this process.
She eased herself down. Peggy kicked at the disturbance, but
didn't let go of the bottle. The kick hurt Shannon's breast and
reminded her.

"By the way," she said, then paused to arrange her thoughts. "I
think that you got too enthusiastic in your sucking back then.
I'm a little sore."

Steve winced. "I'm really sorry. I know better. I think I got
carried away."

"I'll forgive you. I was too excited at the time to notice."

"Still I need to learn. I can hardly expect to be less excited
when we do it for real."

"You know," she said, "you talked about 'our wedding night'
once." And she still remembered that. "Ever since, it's been
'when we do it for real.' Sometimes, it's 'our first time.' You
don't take my desire for a white wedding seriously, do you?"

"Quite seriously. And doing it for real is different from doing
it for the first time. Remember I talked about doing it standing
up -- maybe you kneeling. That's not for the first time, not by
my plans anyway. Things are just more complicated. I don't want
you getting mad at me."

"Well," she said, "I have a feeding baby in my arms. You
probably won't get me more content than this." Then, too, he'd
done a lot for her contentment himself.

"Well, I'm a boy and you're a girl." Which, she thought, was
convenient, but hardly to the point. "We think about this sort
of thing a little differently. I've talked about my dreams for
our first time, and they are very real. *But* if you said, 'I'm
ready. Let's do it on Mrs. Green's floor the next time I sit
there,' I probably would agree."

"Not going to happen," she said.

"Good. Not that I thought that it would. Anyway, my dreams are
negotiable. I really have only one requirement."

"Birth control."

"Well," he admitted, "I probably have several requirements: not
without birth control, not on the auditorium stage during a pep
rally, not lying naked on a snowbank in the middle of a blizzard.
But those aren't real requirements; you want them too. My real
requirement is that I have to have your.... Permission is the
wrong word."

"Permission is a fine word."

"I want more. I want your enthusiasm. It's not enough that you
let me. I want you to want me." She wasn't sure about this. He
didn't have her permission ten minutes -- no it was closer to a
half hour -- ago. She had really wanted him, though. "So," he
continued, "as long as a white wedding is still your rule, we
won't do anything until then.

"And, much as I want you -- want you right now -- the marriage
rule does have one positive from my side. Lots of girls don't
enjoy their first time. If we sneak an air mattress up to the
meadow this summer before dawn, if we undress each other and I
kiss you all over in the dark, if you open yourself to me just as
the sun is rising, if -- as I finally enter you and fill you..."

"You've thought about this, haven't you?"

"Of course, I've thought about this. I've dreamed about this.
And, may I mention, several other versions including the wedding
night. I love you, which definitely includes desiring you.
Anyway, what happens if -- after all that -- you hurt horribly
and get no joy whatever? Would you give me a second chance?"

"I think so," she said. "After all, you don't sound like you're
trying to hurt me." He'd sounded, indeed, like he was trying to
be as romantic as possible.

"Well," he said. "You would be a lot more likely to give me a
second chance, and third and tenth chances, if we were married.
You wouldn't really have anywhere else to sleep, really."

"Well, keep that in mind. They should have that in the wedding

"They do," he said. "'I, Shannon, take you, Steve, and give you
a year's trial period to make intercourse as pleasurable as
petting has become.'"

"Is that a proposal? Because it sounds an awful lot like taking
me for granted."

"That's the other side of it. I can't imagine being married to
anyone else. But, the thing is... I can't imagine being twenty-
two either. Can you?" He sure couldn't imagine being a twenty-
two year old virgin. He was aching to do it now. But he
couldn't see doing it with another girl; Shannon would know,
and she'd never forgive him. But he couldn't really see doing
it with Shannon any time soon.

"It's scary," she said.

"Mommy!" Amy said. "I'm sick. I want my mommy."
Continued in Chap. 9
Heart Ball
Uther Pendragon
This is one of a series of pages holding the novel
*Heart Ball*. The novel isn't completed as yet.

The next page in the series is:
Chapters 9-12

The first page in the series is:
Chapters 1-4

The directory to all my stories can be found at:

While you're waiting for the next chapter to be completed on this
story, you might read another story about another couple:
"April's First"


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