Ghosts of Virginia
A short story from the upcoming collection: 
Dances of Redemption
By Gwen Masters

The hammock swung gently between the two enormous maple trees. The cotton was worn and soft under my bare legs. I stared up at the sky, a blanket of black peppered with twinkling stars. I watched a red dot cross the sky, then another one. Then there was another one, off on the horizon. I traced the lines of Orion with my eye until the stars became blurry and began to mesh together in a tapestry of tears.

I had fallen in love. I had done it without effort. Phil had just got that deeply inside me. He had come to know me so well, had made me so comfortable, and offered so much of his life to me. He had even fed my dreams of having another child, of building a life together on his Virginia coast. But he had neglected to mention a very important part of himself.

Phil had neglected to mention he had a wife.

By the time I learned of her existence, my heart was so deeply involved that I found it impossible to walk away. Until that day months later, when he proved to me that he was not the man I had hoped he was; rather, he was a man without principle or backbone of any kind. I had fallen in love with an illusion, and he had encouraged it.

Yet I was the one who wound up being hurt.

I lay out there in that hammock and thought of Phil, then tried hard to banish him from my mind. I dropped one bare foot to the ground and gently pushed, setting the hammock into motion. The wind picked up at about the same time and fluttered the short skirt of my dress around my thighs. I unbuttoned the top button. Then another, letting the breeze blow over my sunburned skin. It felt delightful. The air was heavy with the promise of rain.

A pristine green leaf fell and drifted onto my hair. I picked it up and twirled it on its stem, then held it up and tried to fit it in with the canopy of stars. I absorbed myself in the silly task and hardly noticed Troy approaching across the yard in his bare feet. Troy, the man who had been there for me no matter what. My confidant, my friend, the measuring stick against which I measured all other men.

Even when we were lovers, we were still friends. There was an emormous measure of peace in that fact, for both of us.

He stopped beside the hammock and watched me for a moment. A gentle nudge of his knee sent the hammock rocking a little harder.

"Are the kids okay?" I asked. My children had been sound asleep in their beds when I snuck out the backdoor to admire the night skies.

"Sleeping like angels without a care in the world," Troy said.

"That would be nice," I said wistfully.

"What is so mesmerizing?" he whispered, in keeping with the quiet night around us.

"Constellation Maple Leaf."

"Which one?"

I pointed. "See the Seven Sisters? Just below it. That really bright star?"

"That's a plane," he chuckled.

I dropped the leaf and squinted at the silvery, twinkling star. Then it moved.

"That's a spaceship," I proclaimed. "Planes don't move like that."

"Spaceship. From the Planet Maple Leaf."

"Just my luck, they stole the name."

Troy reached out and plucked the leaf from my belly. "Is this hammock big enough for two?" he whispered, and I looked up at him.

"Only if we get really close," I whispered back.

The light in his blue eyes was mischevious. "Close is a good thing."

Within a minute I was in his arms. We lay quietly on our backs, looking up at the stars. He kicked the hammock into motion and I focused on one star, feeling dizzy while we swung back and forth. His shoulder was the perfect pillow for my head. His t-shirt smelled of sandalwood and his hair smelled like my shampoo. I watched as he lifted the maple leaf and twirled it on the long stem. Clouds were rolling in quickly, obscuring the Milky Way.

"What have you been doing out here all night?" he mused.

"Waiting for the storms."

"Ah. They are on their way. About thirty minutes west, I think."

"I have been seeing lightning," I whispered. The stars began to blur again. Troy's hand on my side felt like it belonged there. He shifted just a little and the roughness of his leg made its way in between my smooth ones. We cuddled closer. The clouds began to waft over the moon. I watched another plane cross the stars. I thought about the plane ticket to Virginia, the ticket that would have taken me to Phil. The one that would sit in my desk drawer, unused.

"He didn't deserve you, baby girl," Troy said into my ear. I dashed the tears away. The sense of anger welled up inside me, followed immediately by a sense of pain.

"I am twenty-eight years old. I'm too old to be gullible."

Troy sighed. "You aren't gullible. You were in love. There is a difference."

"Is there?"

"Yes." He linked his hand with mine. I sniffled and turned my face into his shoulder to wipe away the tears against his shirt.

"Well, you were right about one thing," I said with false bravado.


"He didn't deserve me."

Troy smiled against my cheek. His hand found a button of my dress. Humid air washed over my belly button as he slipped the button loose of its mooring. I didn't mind. He loosened another and I suddenly realized that out of the five buttons, there was only one left closed. Troy slipped his hand over my bare skin. I closed my eyes against his neck.

"Do you want this?" I felt him whisper.

Did I want this? I wanted to feel like myself again. I wanted to overcome the nights of tears and the days that moved so slowly they became maddening. I wanted to move past the disappointment when the phone rang and it wasn't Phil on the other line with an apology. Phil had once said to me, "I don't have skeletons. I am a skeleton." How true that was. I wanted to move on and leave the ghosts, the skeletons, the lies, behind.

Troy wanted that, too.

I reached for the snap on his blue jean shorts. Troy sucked in a breath as the snap gave way to my hands. I let my hand slide up under his t-shirt. I tried to banish thoughts of someone else from my mind, but it was more difficult than I had thought it would be. At least, until the moment Troy shifted his leg just a little and tilted the hammock.

"It's been too long…too long since we did this," he groaned.

"Oh, God," I breathed at the feeling of his heat in my hands.

"I have wanted you so badly," he said into my ear as the last button of my dress gave way.

"Show me."

He carefully stood up from the hammock. I watched, unashamed, as he pulled the t-shirt over his head. His lean and sculpted body glistened in the shaft of moonlight that shown through the clouds. I reached out and ran my fingertips up his arm. I felt the muscles move under his tanned skin. I watched as he stepped out of the shorts and crawled slowly onto the hammock with me.

Troy slowly opened my dress. The moonlight and humidity and his breath drifted down onto my skin. I watched as he dropped a kiss on the little belly I could never exercise away. I twined my fingers through his hair and he looked up at me from under the canopy of it. He said one word.


Then his hand slid up the inside of my thigh and I gasped. I remembered. I remembered how it felt when he touched me like that. I remembered the gentleness in hands that could become rough with just a whispered request for more. I remembered the way his hair felt in my hands when he did that…and that…and my God, when he did that, too…

He gently pushed my legs apart as his tongue touched the most intimate places. The gentle trails of wetness up the inside of my thigh lit a fire inside my belly. He tasted the inside of my knee. His fingers found the arch of my foot and I laughed out loud, the sound foreign but welcome. I jumped as he gently nipped at my hip.

"Playful, aren't you?" I breathed in appreciation.

In answer, he kicked the ground and sent the hammock into motion. I let go of his hair and grabbed the sides of the cotton to keep from toppling to the ground. His tongue suddenly delved between my legs and I cried out in surprise. His fingers came around to play. The slick, wet licking threatened to drive me over an edge I hadn't even known was close. He slipped one finger inside me and I felt him moan, the sound vibrating against my clit.

"You are so wet," he murmured in awe. I lifted my hips and he immediately slid his hand underneath, holding me closer to him as he licked everywhere he could reach. "And you taste so sweet," he teased with laughter in his voice.

"Are you sweet?" I asked breathlessly.

"You can find out later," he replied.

A drop of rain fell. It landed on my belly and slid down toward my hip. Troy caught it on his tongue. Then he used that tongue in earnest, slipping it across my clit faster than before. His finger moved slightly, then harder. He slipped it in as far as he could, then slowly pulled it out, leaving me aching for more. I whimpered in need. With that sound he pulled his hand back and gently pushed in again, this time with two fingers. I slid my hands up my sides and cupped my breasts. My nipples were so hard they hurt, so I touched them. Troy moaned his approval, and I looked down to see his blue eyes rapt on my hands. Another drop of rain slid down my throat.

I was close, so close it wouldn't take much to push me over the edge. He knew it and played to his advantage, backing away when I got too close, pushing me harder when I began to lose the need. Lightning flashed in the sky and thunder rumbled close behind it. Troy pushed his fingers as deep as he could and whispered a demand.

"I want to feel it around my fingers. Come for me."

His lips circled my clit. He sucked. Gently, then harder, and he moved his fingers so deeply I felt as though he could surely touch my heart if he tried. It was constant…steady…then he gently closed his teeth over my clit. I came hard then, with a shout that rivaled the thunder in the distance. Troy's moan told me he felt it, too. His touch suddenly became gentle, his kisses nothing but feathers. I shook with the aftermath and he held me close, his head on my belly.

The rain came faster. The comforting sound of the drops peppering the ground surrounded us. The stars were almost completely covered by the darkness. Troy settled between my thighs and looked down at me for a long moment. We could see just enough in the little bit of moonlight that was left.

"Is it safe?" he asked gently. I suddenly tensed, and a sense of disappointment flooded me. No, it wasn't safe. I hadn't taken precautions in the wake of the heartache Phil had left with me. I shook my head slowly. Troy reached up and brushed my hair back from my forehead. His hand lingered on my jaw for a long while.

"I wonder," he whispered. "I wonder if you still want another child."

I stared at him in surprise. I had often said I wanted another child before I turned thirty. I had two beautiful little ones but one more…the mother in me needed one more. I had often thought there would be no better father than Troy. I thought of the way he watched over my children, the way he had moved so easily into the role of father figure for them. Raindrops fell onto my face and I blinked hard. He looked at me with an expression of thoughtful concern.

"Are you sure?" I whispered.

"I have been thinking about it for a very long time," he admitted. "I'm not getting any younger, you know."

"But we aren't-" I searched for the word. His eyes took on a hint of amusement.

"Aren't what?"

"We aren't…well…"

"We aren't married," he said helpfully. I smiled.

"Not that. We aren't even…well…living together."

"Do you want to?"

The question instantly sent a spiral of emotions through me. Anticipation. Fear. Surprise. Hope. Love…


"Yes," I whispered.

Troy's lips gently brushed against mine. Lightning cracked, sending branches of white-hot light across the sky. Thunder boomed. "Be sure," he whispered against my lips.

In answer, I slid my hands down his back and pulled him against me. With one gentle thrust, he slipped as deeply into me as he could go. I gasped at the feeling of him, the way he fit me so well, the way he stretched me just enough. I wrapped my legs around his hips.

"I want you to come inside me," I whispered.

"Make me," he taunted lovingly, and we both dissolved into giggles. Until he began to move, and then we both fell into a reverent silence, the only sound around us the pattering of the rain.

I watched him as he made love to me. The hammock moved back and forth with every thrust of his body into mine. He pressed deep and moved slow, then faster. Then faster. He tangled his hands into my hair and nudged my hips with his. I knew what he wanted. My legs fit just right around his hips, then around his waist, as I pulled him deeper. The rain slid between us and made our bodies slick.

I rocked with him. He moaned how tight I felt; I whispered that I loved how hard he was. I kissed his throat. He thrust harder. He found my hands and held them above my head. The rain dripped from the leaves above us. It fell over him and then onto me. I opened my mouth and drank it from his throat, from his earlobe, from his shoulder.

"I want you to come at the same time I do," he whispered. "I hear that makes it easier to get pregnant."

I looked up at him. "You've heard that, huh?"

"Yep. I read, you know."

I laughed and he smiled. His hands tightened on my wrists. His eyes suddenly drifted closed and he slowed down. I bucked up against him and he moaned.

"Baby girl, I'm going to come too fast…"

"I'm right with you," I whispered as I kissed his chin. "Don't stop, Troy, please…"

He opened his eyes. I remembered that, too…he loved to watch me come. His cock was harder than I had ever felt it. I encouraged him. "You feel so good inside me, Troy," I whispered. "I want to feel you come…I want you to slide as deep as you can when you do it. I want you to fill me up. Then I want you to do it again later. And then again. I want you to make me pregnant, Troy…I want a baby with you. I want you to come for me. I want you to come so hard…"

My own words pushed me to the edge. Troy suddenly let his power go, thrusting into me hard enough to make the hammock creak in protest. I met him with every thrust. His eyes never left my face.

"Baby girl…I'm going to…now…"

His cock suddenly throbbed inside me. Troy called my name. His pleasure was enough to topple me right over the edge with him. I cried out under him, my whole body bucking hard, waves of the orgasm slipping over me like that rain that fell from the heavens. We could both feel the wetness inside me, the pulsing of his heat as he filled me again and again, the power of his body as he sank as deeply as he could and held there. I was suddenly greedy, arching up to pull him deeper. The orgasm seemed to go on forever.

I opened my eyes moments later. The lightning streaked across the sky and thunder rumbled at the same moment. The storm was right above us. Troy lay cradled in my arms, my legs wrapped around his thighs, his head resting between my breasts. I ran my hands through his hair and felt him smile against my skin. The hammock was saturated with the storm. Water dripped from the leaves and slid down our bodies. Troy murmured something I didn't hear.

"What?" I said, just loud enough to be heard above the storm. He slowly moved up my body. I felt him slip out of me. We shifted until I was lying in his arms, his lips right next to my ear.

"Morgan," he whispered. I grinned.

"For a boy or a girl?"

He contemplated that for a moment as water dripped from his eyelashes. "Both," he finally decided.

"Thomas?" I offered.

"Hmmm….maybe." Troy looked at me for a moment, thinking.

"What names do you veto?"

He laughed out loud. "Junior. I am not saddling a kid with that one. And…old names. Like Homer or Edgar or Wallace."

"Fair enough."

Troy traced my eyebrow with his fingertip. "Can I ask you something? Something you might not like?"

I nodded and watched him struggle with it.

"Do you still love Phil?" He asked with a whisper.

I looked at Troy and saw the man I had known for so long, the man I had confided my heart and soul in. The man who made me believe life was nothing but shades of grey and that soul mates really did exist. Though I would think of Phil from time to time, though the pain might never be completely gone, there were some things I knew were true. Troy was one of those things.

"I love you, Troy."

Suddenly he held me so tightly it was hard to breathe, while the rain fell down and the thunder rumbled in the distance, and the ghosts headed back to the coast of Virginia.

Copyright 2004 by Gwen Masters. All Rights Reserved.