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UNTIL I REALLY DO CHAPTER 8

UNTIL I REALLY DO CHAPTER 8
The farm hands are threatening to quit, Matthew. If they don't get paid by the end of the month, they'll leave.” Matthew frowned at the information Stanley, his farmhand, had given him that afternoon. It was all he could think about, even if for the life of him, there was nothing he could do about it! Not only had his father forced him into marriage, he was practically avoiding coming to the farm to hand him his inheritance. How on earth was Matthew going to pay off his debt if his darn father was avoiding him?! His fingers curled into fists around the reins as he rode home that afternoon, frustrated. Perhaps he simply needed a break from the sun as well as some food? Perhaps he needed to see Sharon? Matthew didn't dare admit to it out loud, but he was very aware of his blossoming feelings for the blonde head. He didn't know what it was, but he could barely get her out of his head long enough to work on the farm, neither could he get his eyes off of her when they were in the same room. He didn't suppose his feelings were returned, but the night of their kiss, everything changed. Just as the thought of Sharon drifted through his mind, his eyes immediately settled on her, a vision of blue as she stood on the porch. Even from afar, she took his breath away. Her golden locks danced to the rhythm of the wind, reminding him of the evening they entangled themselves around his fingers, setting his flesh on fire. Even now, his flesh was set on fire by the sight of her. He urged his horse forward until he was pulling it to a halt before the house and jumping down the side. A smile claimed his lips, ridding his mind of Stanley's unpleasant news that afternoon. “Hello, Blondie,” he made his way around the horse. “Matthew,” she said, appearing a little flustered. “I—um,” He frowned, climbing the front porch. “Something wrong?” “Oh no,” she breathed. “Are you sure? Why are you standing out here alone?” “Your family hasn’t returned from their trip to town.” It did not explain her reason for standing on the porch, but Matthew didn't see the need in pointing that fact out. Instead, he nodded. “If they're not back in an hour, I might have to send a farmhand to see about them.” “Yes, of course.” She glanced down. He watched her, her beautiful blue dress doing wonders for her form. He thought he recognized the fabric as being one of the ones he had picked out for her. It appeared to him that she was quite skilled in making dresses. “And Nana?” He cleared his throat, tearing his gaze off of her body and to her face. “She's the reason I'm here, Matthew.” “Is she?” Sighing, she nodded. “She kicked me out of the house.” Confused, Matthew waited for her to offer more information, but when she didn't, he said, “What do you mean, kicked you out?” “I mean the doors are locked, Matthew.” “What?!” It sounded like something his housekeeper would do, but Matthew didn't exactly see her point. Was she trying to punish Sharon for a wrong? Even if she was, it seemed absurd to him. Perhaps he needed to speak with Nana Lois?! He groaned, dreading the thought of scolding her. Sharon shifted nervously from one foot to the other. “She insists we have a picnic by the lake." She Shifted to the side and Matthew's eyes settled on a picnic basket that sat by her right leg. “And she has also informed me that the doors will be unlocked as soon as we're finished.” He gawked, incredulous. “I'm so sorry, Matthew! I tried to convince her that this was a terrible idea, but she's quite insistent on having her way.” Of course Nana was insistent! Still, it wasn't her insistence or her action that shocked Matthew; it was the reason for it. And considering the fact that Matthew knew Nana Lois quite well, he had no doubt about what her reasons were! He threw his head back and laughed —it would seem that his housekeeper had taken it upon herself to play matchmaker to the already married couple. While it was a highly embarrassing fact, it was hilarious as well. “Do you suppose you could convince her to let us in?” Sharon frowned once his laughter had died down. “I'm afraid not, Blondie. Nana literally runs my life and from the looks of things, she's taken interest in running yours as well.” He said, laughing at the stricken look on her face. “Perhaps this was a terrible idea?” “What?” He raised a brow. “What?” “What do you find terrible about Nana's idea; going on a picnic, or doing it with me?” He asked, suddenly curious about her answer. “I— well, I do not want you to feel compelled, is all.” “I know this was Nana's idea, but I think it's a great idea. I would love to go on a picnic... with you.” He cleared his throat, glancing back. He didn't want her to see the desire he knew very well was in his eyes. “The lake is quite a mile away, so we'll need to use my horse.” He swallowed, the very thought of sharing a horse with her —their bodies mere inches from each other— filling his mind with unwholesome thoughts. After waiting a few seconds for her response, he turned back to her. “Unless you'd like to take a walk? I only have three horses, two of which were hitched to the wagon that took my family to town.” He said, rushing to explain lest she saw his excitement at having to ride with her. “I...” “I could also beg Nana to reconsider. It might take a while, of course.” A small smile settled on her lips, lighting her eyes up and knocking the air out of Matthew's lungs. “It is fine, I would love to ride and of course eat with you, Matthew Steiner.” Perhaps it was the way she said his name that forced Matthew to lean forward until their lips were only inches apart. Fighting the urge to kiss her as her warm breath grazed his skin, he whispered, “Are you sure about that, Blondie Steiner?” She flashed him that smile again; the one that knocked the air out of his lungs and made it impossible to desire anything but to pull her into his arms. “Quite.” “Good,” he murmured, succeeding in his fight against the desire to kiss her, yet, unwilling to fight the desire to pull her into his arms. Grinning, he leaned down and scooped her into his arms, turning to carry her down the stairs. Her loud giggles filled his ears, accelerating his heartbeat as he carried his bride to his horse. His thighs pressed against hers, her back to his chest as the faint smell of hay and aftershave drifted to her nostrils, mercilessly torturing her senses with images of the man seated behind her. She sat trapped in his arms, his nearness filling her with an unfamiliar feeling of warmth, even if she tried to attribute it to the sun that shone down on both their heads. Surely her accelerated heartbeat had more to do with the trotting horse than the man whose arms held her steady on the horse! Sharon fought to rid herself of the unfamiliar feelings that were now taking over her mind, but with every second that ticked by in Matthew's arms, her efforts proved futile. Indeed, the need to lean back against his firm chest became nearly undeniable. They reached the lake sooner than Sharon would have liked, ending their moment on the horse together. Matthew climbed down first, before turning to retrieve the picnic basket from her. Once he had placed it on the grass, he turned to her. Reaching out, his hands settled on her waist, sending a shockwave of emotions down her spine. Pressing her lips together to keep from gasping, she placed her shaky hands on his shoulders as he carried her down the horse. “I should set things up,” she said, desperate to put some distance between them. Picking the basket from where he had placed it, she hurriedly turned from him and made her way to the lake. She found a cool spot under a tree, and retrieving the blanket from the basket, spread it out on the grass. She had began serving their mashed potatoes in their plate when the sound of reed breaking behind her drifted to her, alerting her of Matthew's presence. “Need help?” He said. She opened her mouth to ward him off, desperately needing to maintain the distance between them if she was going to succeed in keeping her composure throughout their lunch, but just as she turned around, she was suddenly face to face with him. He knelt there, hazel eyes staring back at her as his warm breath tickled her skin, rendering her completely speechless. She could only kneel there and watch him, his lips inches away from hers. The memories of their kiss came rushing back, helping to further heighten the feeling of warmth on her skin. And how could Sharon forget their kiss? She had relived it every day for the past one week, secretly desiring more of it. Even now, as she stared at Matthew, she desired to kiss him. She stared into his eyes, searching for signs that he desired a kiss just as much as she did, but before she could find the answers she sought, he pulled away, rising to his feet. Embarrassed, Sharon turned sharply around, replacing the emptied bowl of potatoes back in the basket. Perhaps she was wrong to imagine he would want to kiss her again? What was she thinking?! It was true that they had kissed, but it had been spontaneous, brought about by their heightened emotions. Perhaps he had kissed her as some form of apology for the kiss he had shared with Gretchen? And how could she forget Gretchen, the woman he was in love with? Surely she was being silly for dwelling on a kiss that had happened a week ago and had failed to happen again. Swallowing her emotions, Sharon went about filling their plates. She ignored Matthew as he sat on the blanket, and once she was done, she handed him a plate, barely making eye contact with him. She instead focused on eating and on fighting the silliness of her thoughts. For it was silly to be hurt by the idea of Matthew being in love with Gretchen, or the idea of him wanting nothing to do with Sharon. Wasn't that what she always wanted; to be independent of every man? Why did the idea of being separated from him suddenly hurt?! She didn't need him, she thought, clenching her teeth. She had survived alone for several years with an absentee father. She could do it again. She didn't need these silly emotions either, they only helped to make her feel weak and vulnerable and weakness was not a thing Sharon was willing to give into. Feeling Matthew's gaze on her, she kept her eyes on her plate. “Nana was right; it's a good day for a picnic.” He said and she shrugged, unsure of her ability to speak without exposing her emotions to him. “And this is a great spot to have one.” “Hm,” she murmured, chewing on a carrot. She didn't dare look at him throughout their time together, neither did she dare respond to his words beyond a shrug, afraid he would take one look at her and see how vulnerable she really was. She instead focused on trying to eat, but once she saw the futility in that as well, she abandoned her plate and waited until Matthew was done. She replaced the dirty dishes in the basket, rising to her feet. “We should head back.” She said, smoothing her skirt with her eyes fixed on nothing in particular. Silence followed her words. When she was almost certain Matthew had somehow disappeared, he finally said, “We should.” He rose to his feet and turned from her. Following him silently, she waited until he had untied the horse and allowed him help her mount the horse once more, her heart doing a little flip at his touch. She ignored it, stiffening as he settled behind her. Tension filled the air as they rode back in silence. Fighting the urge once more to lean back against him, Sharon instead focused her attention on the building ahead, even if thoughts of Matthew and his rejection still plagued her. She was so lost in her thoughts, she didn't notice the commotion that awaited them at home, until Matthew was swearing loudly behind her and kicking the horse into a run. It was then she saw the small crowd of people standing before the building. The closer they got, the easier it became to recognize some of the farmhands. Gretchen, Elle, Grace, Nana Lois and an older man Sharon could not recognize, stood on the front porch staring down at the scene. Afraid she would fall off of the horse, Sharon leaned into Matthew, his arm immediately curling around her waist to hold her in place. When they finally reached the house, Matthew jumped down, turning briefly to help her down, before hurrying over to the scene. Sharon walked slowly behind, confused. “What is going on here?!” Matthew yelled, gaining the attention of his farmhands. They turned around, parting to give him a clear view of what it was that had managed to gain the attention of the entire farm. Matthew paused in his tracks, his back stiffening. Curios, Sharon made her way around him, a loud gasp immediately drifting from her lips the second her eyes came to rest on him; her father! Pinned to the ground with his face half buried in the dust, George Freelance stared back at her, eyes dazed by alcohol. A bulky man knelt over him, holding both his hands behind him. Horrified, Sharon covered the distance between them. “What are you doing?! Get off of my father!” She cried, trying and failing to shove the farmhand off of him. Still, the farmhand maintained him position over her father, unmoved by her command. “Now!” She pounded against his back, furious. Something in Sharon was desperate to free her father from the man who was obviously much stronger. It was an instinct she had; one that had thrown her into action whenever her father got himself into trouble with his debauchery and gambling. It was an instinct to protect him, the only family she had left —even if he was undeserving of her! Even if he was less than a good father! Even if he had so cruelly exchanged her for the cancellation of his debt! He was her father. This damaged, disgusting human being was her father whether she liked it or not. And for god's sake she was his daughter! Decency demanded that she protected him! Decency —the damned thing— demanded that she fought for him. And so she fought with tears blurring her vision as she engaged in a futile battle to free him from his oppressor. Something curled around her then, holding her against himself. “Sharon,” Matthew. She gave into her grief, crumbling in his arms as he held her firmly against himself. She cried for her father, who was condemned to live such a wretched life and imprisoned by his cruel addiction. She cried for herself; condemned forever to be the daughter of the town's drunken gambler, even if she had fought for many years to gain a reputation independent of his. But her fight was futile. Matthew tightened his hold on her as she wept. “I'm sorry,” he whispered solemnly against her hair. She wanted to tell him that it wasn't his fault but she found it impossible to speak. Leaning further into him, she let out a shaky breath and closed her eyes. “Do you want to lie down?” He asked, drawing her attention to the pain that was now slicing through her skull. Exhausted, she nodded once as he leaned down and swept her into his arms. Snuggling against his chest, she heaved a soft sigh as he turned and began carrying her into the building, away from the father she had fought and failed severally to save. And as they went, Sharon admitted to herself that she could never save George Freelance, but perhaps it was time to save herself. Would you like for me to stay with you?" Matthew asked, staring down at a visibly shaken Sharon. She sat on the bed before him, tears streaming down her cheeks as she shook her head. "Please." He nodded, understanding her need to be left alone. He wasn't certain what George Freelance was doing on his farm, neither did he understand Stanley's reason for pinning the old drunk to the ground, but Matthew knew there had to be a good reason for it; not only was George Freelance bad news, Stanley was a sensible man. If Stanley saw the need to keep George restrained, then surely there was some sort of sense in it. Still, he could barely fault Sharon for standing up for her father like that. He knew it was her instincts to protect him that kicked in and it was those same instincts that seemed to be weighing her down right now Leaning down, he planted a kiss on her head, before turning to leave the room. He made his way down the stairs and out of the building where his entire family still stood glued to their position on the porch. They turned to look at him, a frown on all their faces, but it was the new face among the bunch that forced Matthew to a halt on the porch; his father. Stunned to find his father on his front porch, he shrank back at the look of disapproval that dimmed the older man's eyes. When did his father get here? How long had he been standing there?! Dread immediately raced down Matthew's spine at the realization that his father was witnessing the incidence with Sharon's father. He could only imagine what his father would think. Knowing his father, he knew he would judge Sharon based on the scene he had witnessed today. Groaning, Matthew did not dare consider the implications of his father's presence on such a terrible day. He didn't dare consider what it would mean for him or for his inheritance. He instead turned stiffly from his father, taking the stairs two by two until he was standing before Stanley who still held George Freelance prisoner. Only, George was no longer on the ground with his face buried in the sand, he was instead on his feet, his hands still bound behind him. "What happened?" He directed his question at Stanley, running a weary hand through his hair. "Old fool showed up here yelling something about his daughter. Tried to get into the house, but Nana wouldn't let him through. Then he attacked her with a knife." Wincing, Matthew jerked his head up to Nana Lois who simply shook her head in response to his unspoken question; she was not hurt. He let out a soft sigh of relief, before turning his attention back to Stanley. "Got into the building and went about kicking furniture to the floor. It was a good thing Nana Lois got to me before he could cause any major damage. I dragged him out here kicking and screaming just as the rest of your family returned from town. We were about to send word to you when you showed up. I kept him pinned to the ground because it was the only way to keep him from causing further damage." Stanley finished. Nodding, Matthew let out a tired breath. He turned to George who simply stared back at him through eyes dazed by liquor. "What do you want, George?" He asked. "First you take my house, then my Sharon." George slurred, kicking his boots in the sand. Matthew imagined it was his feeble attempt at trying to kick him but he appeared too weak to reach him. "I didn't take anything. Your showing up here is a trespass to my property; a crime for which I can get you arrested." He threatened, seriously considering going through with it. It seemed logical to have George locked up for a few days. Perhaps then he would get his act together. But George didn't respond. He instead staggered forward, nearly falling face down in the sand if Stanley hadn't maintained a strong hold on him. "What would you have me do with him?" Stanley asked, glaring at George as he struggled to keep him upright. Matthew considered the question for several seconds, unsure of what to do with George Freelance. If he returned the man to his home, there was no guarantee that he would not show up again to cause a much more terrible scene. And didn't Stanley just say George was wielding a knife when he arrived? Who knew what George planned on doing with the knife, or what could have happened if someone had gotten hurt? No, Matthew could not let George Freelance go just yet. He needed to sort things out and he couldn't do it with George roaming the streets unchecked. "Nana, please take the rest of the family back inside." He said, turning slightly to Nana Lois. He waited until she nodded in agreement and began ushering his family into the building, before turning to the other farmhands that stood watching the scene curiously. "And the rest of you can get back to work —except you, Steve." When he was left alone with his two farmhands and a now snoring George, he faced Stanley, "tie him up in the barn and lock the doors. I want everyone out of there. No one goes in there but me. Do you understand?" Stanley nodded his agreement. "Good." He murmured, before turning around and making his way to the stable. He busied himself with feeding the horses, dreading the thought of facing his father that evening. He was simply exhausted and the last thing he needed was a scolding from his father. He stayed in the barn all evening until he was certain his family would have retired to bed. Then, he made his way into the building through the back door, nearly bumping into Nana Lois. "Are you alright?" She examined him, concern creasing her features. He shook his head. "It was an awful day." "Indeed, your father's arrival being the worst part of it." A small smile tugged on his lips at her attempt at making a joke. "I believe the worst part was the thought of you getting stabbed." She scoffed, waving him off. "He was too drunk to aim right." "Hm," he leaned forward, pulling her into his arms. "I cannot be more thankful for that fact. I might even consider rewarding him with a bottle of whiskey." Nana giggled, patting him on the back. "Of course," she pulled away, her eyes searching his. "How are you, really?" "Tired," he admitted. "You should eat." He shook his head. "I can't, I believe I'm too exhausted to force food down my throat." "You and Sharon." Matthew nodded, knowing he should have expected it from Sharon; with all that had happened that day, it was understandable that she was reluctant to eat. "We just need to rest." He sighed. "Would you please have Stanley take food to George? I have him tied up in the barn." Nana gawked, her lips falling open as if she intended to question him further about it. Then, as if seeing the fatigue in his eyes, she closed her mouth and nodded instead. He turned his attention to the stairs, reaching the room and pushing the door open. Sharon's figure laid motionless on the bed, her knees curled up to her chest. Believing she was asleep, he closed the door gently behind him and entered the room. He had barely settled on the chair and taken his shoes off when the sound of her soft sobs reached him, tugging on the strings of his heart. Rising to his feet, he made his way slowly to where she laid and settled on the edge of the bed. "Blondie," he frowned, slightly worried. The events of that day had been bad enough, it was especially worrisome to know that not only had she endured a tough day and completely neglected to eat dinner, there was also the possibility that she hadn't stopped crying since he left her side a few hours ago. He touched her hair, feeling sorry for her. A strong desire to take her pain away washed over him; a desire so strong, it caused him to take hold of her arm and pull her forward until he was wrapping her in his arms. She leaned into his embrace, her arms tangling around his neck. "I'm sorry," he breathed. Her body trembled slightly in his embrace as she shook her head. "It's not your fault." "It's not yours either." He kissed her neck, her arms tightening their hold around him as she leaned further into his embrace. Matthew felt himself respond to her closeness, a low groan forming in his throat. "Blondie," he whispered, knowing he needed to pull away, yet finding it impossible to do so. Sharon remained in his arms as well, further weakening his resolve. Slowly, his hands moved up her back, her soft moan urging him on until his fingers were combing through her hair. His lips found hers, her lips parting to welcome his. He tilted his head to the side, their kiss deepening as his eyelids flickered shut. He urged her forward until she was seated on his lap, both knees on either sides of him as her hands moved slowly up and down his chest. Knowing full well that if he didn't stop now, he was never going to stop, Matthew reluctantly pulled away. He knew she didn't want the marriage and he feared if he took advantage of her weak emotional state, she would wake up the next morning to regret it. And what was even worse, he feared she might never forgive him. "Blondie," he breathed, opening his eyes. She sat before him, her face only inches from his, helping to heighten the desire that pumped through his veins. He swallowed. "You do not have to do this." He watched as color sprang to her cheeks, turning it crimson. She ran her tongue over her bottom lip in a manner that made him desire to claim those lips once again. Shaking the thought away, he instead replaced her on the bed and rose to his shaky feet, his emotions cursing him as he turned his back to her and made his way to the window. The room suddenly felt stuffy, his lungs seemingly incapable of receiving oxygen. His body ached for her but he ignored it, leaning instead against the window as he took a deep breath. The longer he stood by the window with the cool evening breeze washing over him, the more his folly became quite apparent to him. He should not have kissed her, he groaned, inwardly cursing himself. He should not have let things go as far as they had gone tonight. The kiss they had shared a week ago was bad enough, its memory sticking to him and plaguing him wherever he went. He could only imagine what the memory of tonight would do to him in the coming days. He was so lost in his thought that he did not hear her light footsteps against the floorboards until her hand was settling on his shoulder. Gasping, he turned sharply around, stunned. She stood before him, her hair falling to a mass on her shoulders and helping to frame her oval face. Her eyes shone like sapphires in the dim light, the look of unconcealed desire in them knocking the air out of his lungs and slowing his heartbeat. "Perhaps I do not have to," her soft whisper drifted to him, sending a shockwave of beautiful emotions down his spine. She stepped forward, closing the space between their bodies as her gaze held his captive. "Yet, I want to." Matthew shook his head in a failed attempt to push his nearly maddening desire aside. "You're sad about your father, Blondie. Maybe you simply need time to clear your head?" Even as he spoke the words, Matthew immediately regretted them. He watched the light in her eyes die out, pain flashing through her eyes briefly before she concealed it once more. Nodding, she straightened. "Perhaps," The word came out as a broken whisper, helping to tear his heart further apart. She turned stiffly around and Matthew watched her make her way to the door. He groaned, hurrying after her and pulling her into his arms just as she made to leave the room. For the life of him, he could not let her go, he thought, pushing her hair aside as he ran his lips down the length of her neck. Common sense be damned! He let out a low groan as she leaned back into him, throwing her head back so that he had better access to her neck. He grabbed her hip, pulling her further against himself as his lips traveled up to her ear. He bit down gently on her earlobe, evoking a soft moan from her lips. "You're going to be the death of me, Blondie," he said as she turned fully to him, extinguishing the words from his lips when her lips laid claim to his. She clutched his shirt, his fingers warring with the buttons of her dress as he fought to take it off. The damn thing seemed to fight back until what seemed like hours later, when Matthew was nearly certain he could rip it off. It was then he undid the last button, shoving the dress off of her shoulders. It fell to a heap around her legs, leaving nothing but bare skin for his fingers to explore. And explore they did; every inch of her. Hoisting her up in his arms, her legs wrapped themselves around his waist. He carried her across the room, their lips still connected as he placed her on the bed. Then he ripped his own shirt off and tossed it to the side. Once he had succeeded in completely taking his clothes off, he leaned down once more, claiming her as his wife.
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