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Introduction:

Marigold and Jackson work to find a new balance.
*Author's note: This is a work of fiction. All publishing rights belong to the author Piper320. This isn't a wham bam thank you ma'am kind of story. Thanks to all who have read so far. I hope you continue to enjoy their journey.

*******************************************************

“I want to take you Christmas shopping.”
Marigold put her fork down and gave him an icy look. “No.”
“No?”
“No.”

Her voice left no doubt she didn’t like the idea. It was cold, the tone harsher than one she’d used with him in a while.

“Okay. Well, we always put up a Christmas tree. Would you like to go with me to buy one, or is that going to be a no too?”

His tone matched hers, making her eyes flash fire at him. She didn’t say a word as she got up and washed the dishes. If she did, they’d really have one hell of a fight. They’d managed to go a few days without one, she’d like to keep the streak going if she could.

Marigold hated Christmas. She always had. One time in school, the teacher and kids told this story about a man who came down the chimney and left presents for the good kids. She had spent a sleepless night waiting to hear Santa on the roof. He never came. That year or ever. Her Daddy was always behind on the bills; they were lucky to have something to eat on Christmas day.

When the kids at school asked, Marigold always lied about what she got. She came up with a name of a toy or just said clothes. She knew she was trash though, knew that’s what the other kids thought. She thought it vastly unfair the rich kids went to the same school as the poor ones. Each class needed their own school, so no kid was picked on, or let down.

She knew as an adult she shouldn’t feel sorry for herself. She’d gone eighteen years without a Christmas. Still, she could feel the crushing disappointment she’d felt as a child. A child who had no gifts under a non-existent tree, and it remind her she’d never been good enough.

“Marigold?” She heard him but her mind was in a different place; being haunted by a very different time. “Hey?”

His hand barely touched her arm, but she jerked back so fiercely the plate flew out of her grip; shattering against the floor, pieces of broken china flying over the entire kitchen. She looked at the destruction of the plate in shock, before glancing up at him. His face was set in a mixture of surprise and anger. His deep, brown eyes a combination of concern and frustration. She’d been doing so well. They’d been doing so well. She couldn’t believe she’d broken the flow by her actions. She was supposed to be strong. She was strong.

“I’m…I’m so sorry.” Before he could say a word, she walked over to the broom closet. She started sweeping, but saw the broom shaking in her hands. What was he going to do to her? Why did he bring out a gut feeling of both fear and desire? This was the second plate she’d broken. He was going to start getting her back for it.

She saw him walking toward her, her heart starting to race before he gently took the broom from her hands. She watched as he set it to the side, before picking her up in his strong embrace. His eyes remaining closed off as he sat her on the counter. She wondered what he was thinking. She wondered what he was going to do.

His finger trailed a line down her cheek, sending goose bumps along her skin. Making her pussy grow wet at the thought of what those fingers could do inside her. He’d stayed true to his word and hadn’t touched her. Her brain was grateful. Her body pouted over it frequently. His lips grazed the corner of her mouth, before he took the broom and proceeded to sweep the entire kitchen in silence.

She watched his every move like a hawk. Watched the way his strong arms rippled as his muscles flexed. Watched as confusion, anger, annoyance, concern, and finally blankness crossed his face. She’d given him much to think about. She knew he found her both frustrating and fascinating. She wasn’t trying to be either.

Once he’d thrown all the broken shards of glass away, he came over to her again. She could look into his eyes and tell she was in trouble. They were a dark brown, a certain gleam sitting in the corners. How was it they could only go a few days without something happening? She held her breath and waited for his reaction.

“Tell me what’s wrong.” His voice was calm but dominant. The tone which raked her nerves, almost as much as the condescending one.

“I’m fine.”
“Marigold.”
“I promise.”

Jackson wiped his hand over his face as he took a step back. She knew he was tired of dealing with her. Could see his control slipping as his body turned rigid. She needed to learn to answer him. He needed to learn to let her be.

“I’m asking you one more time to tell me what’s wrong. If you don’t answer me, the very thin restraint I have on my temper, is going to be gone. Do you understand me?”

Marigold nodded in response. She shouldn’t have nodded. His eyes flared with anger as his large hands wrapped around her waist. She was up, and over his shoulder in a heartbeat. She was too surprised to yell out, even as her body was jostled like a sack of potatoes as he stormed up the stairs. She just hoped he wouldn’t leave her with a black eye. He may not have hit her yet, but she knew he was capable. His eyes always let her know he was capable of anything.

Instead of going to the new bedroom they now shared, he went to their old one. She felt her heart freeze as he deposited her on the windowsill. She watched him take a step back, putting distance between them as he took deep, calming breaths. Marigold was glad. She didn’t want him too close to her.

He peered down at her with cold, livid eyes and she felt her body shrink against the window pane. It pissed her off, making her automatically jut out her chin in stubbornness. She saw the fury flare stronger and thought maybe stubbornness wasn’t such a great idea after all.

“I don’t know why it always has to be difficult with you Marigold, I really don’t. I should not have to bring you in this room to get answers from you, but you leave me no choice. You’re going to answer me and tell me what the hell is wrong. Now!”

His voice echoed off the walls and assaulted her. It made her ears ring and her body jolt from both his anger, and her desire. Marigold didn’t know what to say but knew she had to say something. He hadn’t been this annoyed with her in a long time.

“I’d love to go with you and find a Christmas tree.”

Her voice sounded too sweet even to her own ears. She saw Jackson pinch the bridge of his nose as he closed his eyes. She swore she could hear him counting. She had to remind herself to breathe.

“Marigold…I…you…frustrating…so damn frustrating…this is not about that.”
“But you asked and I’m answering.”
“But you’re not answering what I just asked.”

“Because I’m fine.”
“I swear I…I promised you I’d never hurt and I won’t; but if you don’t tell me what the hell is wrong in the next instant, I’ll revoke every deal we made and leave you in here to rot! So help me God, Marigold!”

She was up and off the window sill in an instant; her eyes flashing as her heart raced. “Well, if the deals are revoked, I guess I don’t have to stay here for five years!”

She stormed past him knowing she wouldn’t get far. Knowing good and damn well he wouldn’t just let her leave. She was going for it anyway. He could kiss her ass. She felt him grab her hand, her body being jerked against his. His eyes flashing with utter exasperation.

“Marigold, you’re not leaving.”
“I’m not staying.”
“Oh, yes you are. Deal or no deals, you’d still be here for a little while.”
“Well, I guess since you own me now, you can just make up whatever rules best suit you!”

Her earsplitting response seemed to jar him. His hands released her, allowing him to step back. She waited for the slap to come. She could see in his eyes she’d pushed him too far. She knew she’d used up every ounce of his patience and then some. She didn’t care. Exception to deal 4 never seemed to count. Just his damn rules. Well…he could get over himself. She’d help him.

“I’m leaving for a little while. When I get back, I expect you to be right here.”

She watched in disbelief as he stormed out the door, before once more taking a seat on the windowsill. She saw him floor it down his driveway, before gazing down at her shaking hands. Five more years. She had to survive this for five more years. What had she gotten herself into? Why was there nowhere safe to run?

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Jackson had a drink. Then another, then another. He’d thought long and hard about the deals he’d wanted to make with her. He’d thought five years wasn’t long enough but now, maybe it was too long. She sure knew how to press every button he had to piss him off. As he looked down into his fourth glass of scotch, he told himself he’d asked for it.

He could’ve handed Marigold over to his Daddy. He could’ve let her go after he’d almost broken her. He could’ve left her that day at her Mama’s house, and never come back. Instead, he’d chosen five years of this constant back-and-forth bickering. This up-and-down roller coaster ride of emotions. He threw back the last of the scotch, his mind on the beautiful woman waiting at home for him. Under different circumstances, he’d want to rush home to her. Now, he knew he was heading for round two.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Jackson walked into the old bedroom where he’d left her and told her to stay. Naturally, she wasn’t there or in their new bedroom. He checked the library and the kitchen, but she wasn’t there either. In fact, no one was home, so no one could tell him where she was. He never thought she’d run. He may have frightened her sometimes, but she was made of steel. She could handle his dominance. He thought she’d fight rather than run.

The sound of carefree laughter caught his attention, and he headed toward the back of the house. Outside the den window, he saw her playing with Toby. He saw the mutt of a dog get on its back legs, placing his paws on Marigold’s shoulders. Her girly giggle rang out as she and the dog danced. An airy smile crossing her face as they played together.

The scene in front of him made him smile, reminding him of an old fashion painting or postcard. A girl and her raggedy dog. If only she acted that way toward him. She never would. He grinned again as her laugh rang out, before heading outside to join.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Marigold giggled as the dog licked her on the face. Jackson saw a sparkle in her eyes he’d never seen before. As the dog got down on all fours, she turned and he gave her a wave. He walked toward her, noticing she stepped in front of the dog. He didn’t understand what she thought he’d do. She didn’t say a word as he looked her over. Cold eyes and an icy expression, the only expression to greet him. He shook his head before glancing at the dog, and back to her.

“I see you met Toby.”
“Toby? Yes, he’s very sweet.”
“He belongs to Dwight Evans.”
“Doesn’t he live a good ways away?”
“About eleven miles.”

“Then what’s Toby doing all the way over here?”
“I guess he likes to roam.”
“Hmm.”

The dog barked, nudging her hand like he knew they were talking about him. She smiled, petting him in response. Her smile small, a lesser variation of the jubilant one he’d seen moments before.

“I recall telling you to stay in the room.”
Her cold, blank eyes bore into his. No expression crossing her stone like face. “I know.”
“But?”
“But…I saw the dog and came outside.” She gave a nonchalant shrug.
“I see.”

“I don’t want to fight with you. I survived the first three months here and another six shouldn’t kill me. There’s no way I owe you more than six. No way my Daddy owes you more than six, since it’s his sins I’m supposedly paying for. On my last night of freedom and being able to wear clothes; I’d like to play fetch with Toby for a little while longer if you don’t mind…sir.”

He peered into her eyes and saw she was serious. She would willingly go back to the hell she felt she’d left, in order to be done with it all. If she did, he could fuck her again. He could take her in all the ways he dreamed of. All the time if he wanted, but it wouldn’t be the way he fantasized.

He reached out, pulling Marigold to him, and in one fluid motion he kissed her. He heard her surprise intake of breath, but she didn’t tense up. Her muscles didn’t turn rigid in his embrace as they used to do. He knew he was breaking his end of deal 2, but he liked the way her lips felt. He enjoyed the way she tasted. He enjoyed the feel of her muscular, lean body pressed into his. Knowing her nipples were rubbing against his chest, her perfect ass just a hand slide away.

He gave her one final kiss, before leaving butterfly ones on the edges of her mouth. He pulled back but didn’t let her go from his grasp. She looked up at him with huge question filled eyes. Every new day a whirlwind of adventure for them.

“You can stay out here as long as you want.”
He saw a look of hesitation and uncertainty. “Umm…thank you?”
“And tomorrows going to be the same as it has been. The deals are staying, okay?”
“Okay.”

Jackson nodded, before letting her go. He’d leave her be so she could enjoy playing fetch with Toby, and not be worried by his presence. He gave a quick smile before heading back toward the house. He suddenly felt her hand touch his, and he turned to her. In her cobalt eyes, he saw a bleakness he didn’t understand. One he hadn’t seen in a while and hated seeing now.

“I don’t like Christmas. I’ve never received a Christmas present. I’ve never had a Christmas tree. No Christmas lights or any decorations of any kind were ever put up. Christmas was no different at my house then a regular day. Every year, I believed in something and someone, that was never going to come. I used to lie to the kids in school about what I got. I probably couldn’t name five Christmas songs.”

“I don’t care I’m poor. I just wish I hadn’t been dumb enough to believe in Santa. I don’t like gifts; I’ve never given a gift. It’s all I know about the holidays. Everything about them makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want to shop for gifts with you or anyone, for that matter. I’ll do anything else but please don’t make me do that.”

Marigold’s tiny grip let go of his hand as she took the stick Toby was offering her. She threw it through the air, the dog giving a happy bark as he ran to fetch it. Jackson took her cold hands back in his, rubbing them to warm them up. His actions made her deep eyes turn to him. He saw a frown on her face, but not anger or disdain.

“I won’t get you anything and I won’t make you go with me.”
“Thank you.”
“I’m going to buy a Christmas tree though, because it was my Mama’s favorite thing about the holiday. If you’d like to go and then help decorate it, you’re welcome too.”

“Okay. Where…where did you go when you stormed out?”
“The bar.”
She smiled, but it seemed somber to him as she quickly pulled her hands from his. “Okay.”
“Why?”
“Just a question.”

She threw the stick for Toby to fetch as Jackson looked her over. She was so tiny out here compared to the huge field. Her petite frame shivered in the crisp air, but she refused to wear a jacket. It’d been an argument he gave up on after the third time.

“Marigold?”
She met his eyes once more, seeming to tense as she waited to hear what he’d say. “Yes?”
“I’m sorry about your Christmas’s.”
“Don’t be. They just got me ready for real life.”

She gave him another downcast smile, the reality of Bayou hanging in her every word. He watched her playfully run to Toby, grabbing the stick and teasing the mutt with it. He ran in circles barking until she threw it. They both watched him run after it before he suddenly veered off from where the stick fell. He seemed to stop short, pawing at something on the ground.

“Toby? Toby!”

The dog looked over at her, but paid her no mind. She glanced at him, a look of confusion on her pale, elfin face. He gave a shrug before they both walked over to where Toby was. On the ground, was hunkered a tiny black kitten. It was too scared to move, even though the dog was pawing at it.

“Oh poor baby.” She reached down, gently scooping the kitten up. It fit in the palm of her hand and made tiny mewing sounds. She held the shaking thing to her chest to warm it up, a loving smile he’d never seen playing across her lips. The little kitten started to purr and Marigold’s longing eyes fell on him. He peered at the kitten, back to her eyes, back to the kitten, before letting out a long tired sigh.

“Okay.”
“Really?”
“Yes really.”

Marigold’s smile reached from ear-to-ear, lighting up her whole face and making her look like the angel he’d once imagined her to be. She held the kitten in her hand as she threw her free arm around his neck. Her soft lips found his, a simple kiss but it did so much to his body. He felt his cock come to full attention; making him want to lay her on the ground, diving into her pussy as the fight and tension from earlier faded to nothingness.

She pulled away from him, her eyes still glowing with happiness. It was a look he’d do almost anything to see again, not that he’d tell her so. She nuzzled the kitten under her chin and started for the house.

“Let’s call her Sierra.”
“Okay.”
“She’s so tiny but her purr is so loud. How sweet. I just adore her.”
“She’s going to have to stay outside, you know.”

In his haste to keep up with her, he almost mowed her down as she stopped dead in her tracks.

“But-“
“No buts, not on this.”
“She’s so tiny and young, and it’s cold out here.”
“No.”

“Oh please, just for a couple of weeks until she’s bigger? She won’t be a problem, I promise. I’ll take care of her. You won’t have to do anything.”
“Marigold.”
“Please.”

There was so much emotion behind that one word. Jackson knew it wasn’t just about the cat. There was so much she wanted to ask for but wouldn’t. He was beginning to realize he always gave in to her. Sometimes, he just wanted to give his answer and there be no argument. She always said he had all the power, yet he was the one saying yes to her every demand.

“It’s a cat. It can take care of itself.”
“But-“
“Animals survive without humans all the time. At least she has you to feed her.”
“I know.”

He heard the disappointment in her voice. He thought it was thick with unshed tears but all he saw were deep, dejected eyes. Jackson sighed once more as he shook his head. May God give him strength.

“No matter what I say; you’re just going to worry about the cat all night, aren’t you?”
“Yes…but if you really want her outside, I’ll leave her.”
He let out another long sigh as her eyes bore into his. “Just bring her in.”

“And Toby?”
“Now Marigold-“
“Just for tonight and tomorrow you can take him home.”

“He’s a dog. He’s fine.”
“Just one night.”
“I do not run a boarding house for animals, Marigold. That’s damn final.”

She opened her mouth, then shut it. He figured she was probably going to snap a snide comment. He felt his own temper flare as he readied himself for an argument.

“Okay.” She turned from him, stooping to pet the dog on the head. “Goodnight boy.”

She stood, stiffly walking past him toward the house. They both heard the sad whimpering at the same time. Jackson saw her take a deep breath as she willed herself to keep moving. She politely held the door open for him, the light from the kitchen bouncing off her face; letting him see her forlorn expression. He sighed, shaking his head even as he gave a whistle. Toby flew through the open door.

“One night.” Marigold’s smile lit her face once more as she put her hand in his, and gave it a squeeze. She leaned into him, not against her will; as they walked into the kitchen. Jackson pulled down a small platter, filling it with warm milk. They both stood silently, watching as the kitten drank and drank of the sustenance. Toby ate some scraps he found before they all headed up to the bedroom. For a brief second, he felt like a normal couple.

Marigold began fixing a little nest on the floor for Sierra and a pallet of blankets for Toby. Jackson looked at all of them but didn’t say a word. She cooed at both of their new guest, smiling and laughing at them as they played. He tried to read while she entertained the kitten with a piece of thread; the mutt patiently laying his head on her knee, watching the kitten too.

Jackson finally gave up the pretense of reading, smiling as he watched all three of them. They both laughed as the kitten rolled and batted at the string. Its tiny paws trying so hard to attack the wily thread. Soon, it was time to go to bed and Marigold reluctantly crawled under the covers. He gave her a smile before rolling over to turn off the light.

“Jackson?”
He looked over his shoulder at her. “Yes?”
“Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.”

She lightly touched his cheek with her fingertips, her tiny body leaning in to kiss him. She tasted like Heaven, her lips a soft cloud to get lost in. She let his tongue barge in, hers dancing against his demands. His hands gripped her hair as his longing for more ran through his every nerve. He wanted to roll on top of her, pounding into her with his need. Hearing her quiet moans and erotic gasp. He wanted too, but didn’t.

He held onto the kiss for as long as he could before breaking away. In her eyes, he saw true gratitude. It made them the brightest blue, almost aquamarine in their beauty. He kissed her softly again as the kitten preceded to jump on the comforter, clawing her way up onto the bed. He shook his head with a sigh once more, but gave her a sweet smile.

Somehow, Sierra ended up curled on the comforter between them. Her tiny body rising and falling as the sounds of her loud purring serenaded them. He reached to turn off the light with a smile on his face. It wasn’t how he’d seen the day going, but it had. The lights went out and he gave thanks that this was what he’d come home to now.

*************************************************************************************

“Which one do you want?”
“How tall can it be?”
“Fourteen feet.”
“Really?”
“Yes.”
“Wow.”

Marigold looked at all the trees surrounding her at the Christmas tree lot. There were so many kinds to choose from and she’d never had to worry about such a thing before. She shrugged, breathing in the wonderful scent of the pine and spruce. She had her arm linked in Jackson’s and she saw him giving her a smile.

She was still surprised about Toby and still shocked Jackson was a good enough person not to leave the dog to suffer with Dwight Evans. She still felt the burning rage that had consumed her when she’s learned the cowardly man had kicked Toby and yelled at him for running off. Who could blame the mutt? Now, he belonged to them and she respected Jackson a shade of a fraction more for letting it happen.

“I kind of like this one?”
“Kind of?”
“How many ornaments do you have? Does it need to be thin or wide?”
“Tall and wide is fine.”

“Then yes, I like this one.”
“This one it is. I’ll go get Harold to pack it for us.”
“Okay.”

Marigold gazed around her and she was surprised at all the people who were here. Apparently, many celebrated Christmas in the town of Bayou. Mr. and Mrs. Howard waved at her and she saw Herb Johnson as well. She smiled, waving back as Jackson and Harold walked over.

“This one?”
“Yes sir.” Harold picked up the tree, starting to walk off toward the netting machine.
“Mari?” She turned to see Calvin Pugh strutting toward her.

“Hey, how are you?”
“Good. You?”
“Good.”
“I didn’t see you at the lake much this summer.”
“Oh yeah. I…I had a lot going on.”

“Well, you look real nice. That blue sweater is real pretty on you.”
She glanced down at her shirt and blushed. “Umm… thank you.”
“Come by the house later and let my Mama feed you. She’ll have a cow when she sees how tiny you got.”
“I’ll make sure to do that. See you later, Calvin.”
“See you, Mari.”

He gave her a kind smile before strolling off to look at the trees. She watched him walk off, turning to face Jackson, whose eyes she’d felt on her the entire time. She slowly made her way toward him, noticing he didn’t say a word as Harold put the tree in the back of his truck.

He opened the door for her, before closing it soundly. Jackson said nothing as they drove down the road, causing her to sigh as she looked over at him. How in the world would they make it five years without driving each other insane? She sighed again as she shook her head.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

“Just tell me.”
“What?”
“How mad are you?”
“Why would I be mad?”

“Because you’re you.”
“Well I’m not.”
“Good.”

He glanced at her, noticing she sat with her arms crossed, all while gazing out the window. He hadn’t liked Calvin talking to her. In truth though, he didn’t really know her, so he didn’t know what Calvin was, or wasn’t, to her.

“So…how long have you known him?” She shot him a glare and he saw her take a deep breath.
“Awhile.”
“What did you guys talk about?”
“The lake and his Mama cooking for me.”
“Does she do it often?”
“Did.”

He heard a mixture of ice and exasperation in her voice. He pulled into the driveway, watching in disbelief as she hopped out of the truck before it was even stopped. He saw her letting the door of the bed down before standing, and patiently waiting. He took a calming breath, before getting out and standing on the other side. He gave her a warning look and saw her shoulders go back as her chin jutted out.

“What?”
“Nothing.”
“Good. Shall we?” Marigold gestured toward the tree. He studied her face in silence a moment before starting to pull it out.

“Will you get the front door please?”
“Of course. Do you need help with the tree?”
“I’m just going to drag it the short distance.”
“Okay.” He saw her run off and wondered how this entire experience was about to go.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -
“This glass angel is so pretty.” Marigold held up the ornament with the painted poinsettia’s on it. He smiled, a nostalgic expression on his face, as he touched it lightly.
“My grandmother handed it down to my Mama. She always wanted Shane or I to hand it down to our wives, to give to our kids.”
“That’s a sweet idea. Here, you hang her up.”

She handed the collectible to him and stooped to get another ornament from the box. They’d both finally gotten the eleven-foot tree up and situated in the corner. Marigold had unpacked the boxes from the closet while he put the lights on the tree. Jackson had told her the lights were his favorite and his least favorite part about decorating. Apparently, they were tiny strands of glorious hell on earth.

Claude Broussard had walked by, giving both of them an exasperated look. She hadn’t acknowledged him and Jackson just ginned, both going about with their business. Some of the girls had gone by as well, but none stopped to help. Marigold didn’t mind. She had nothing in common with them now, making it awkward to talk to them. Not that she ever had before.

They’d gotten all the colored ball ornaments up, as well as some glass pinecones and bells. The glass bells were covered in painted pansies and holly berries. She’d never really seen such ornaments before. She’d seen decorated trees in stores of course, but she’d never really had a reason to go to stores at Christmas time. The Cheap Mart in Bayou always had a fake tree decorated in fake flowers. She’d always found it horrendously tacky. These glass ornaments were beautiful.

She handed Jackson a gold piano while she hung up a gold elephant. These were so special, they had their own cushioned boxes and everything. Marigold was flabbergasted by this. Jackson had just smiled, all the while shaking his head. She seemed ignorant to him, not that he’d said so, but she had no reason to be an expert in all things Christmas.

“Did your Mama play piano?”
“She did.”
“Do you?”
“No, I can’t play any musical instrument.”
“Can’t or haven’t tried?”
He smiled, the simple reaction making her heart skip a beat. “Haven’t tried.”

“Hmm.”
“You?”
“Never tried. Does Claude like the Christmas tree?”
“He thinks it’s sentimental and childish.”
“Oh.”

“I’ve come down stairs before though, and caught him just staring at it. I don’t think he’ll ever admit he likes having it up.”
“Sounds like my Daddy. Lord, men are so stubborn.”

Marigold picked up an old wooden nutcracker, admiring all the painted on bright colors and tiny buttons of his jacket. When she turned to hand it to Jackson, he was giving her an incredulous look that brought her up short.

“What?”
“Men are stubborn?”
“Yes.”

“But women aren’t?”
“Oh, I’m sure they are. I just have more experience with men and their stubbornness.”

Jackson took the ornament with a smile and quiet laugh. “You’re a very different girl, Marigold.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” She grinned, before hanging up another ornament.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

A knock at the front door caught both their attention. Jackson finished hanging the ornament in his hand, leaving her balancing on the step ladder to go see who it was. Dallas stood there in his freshly pressed sheriff’s uniform, making Jackson smile as he gave his old college friend a handshake.

“Hey, come on in.”
“Hey Jack. Hope it’s not a bad time.”
“Nah man, we’re just decorating the tree we bought. You know about Ole Harold’s tree farm?”
“I don’t.”

“You need to go get you one, man. Best prices, best trees.”
“I’ll make sure to do that. He got small ones that’ll fit in my place?”
“He does.”
“Good deal.”
“Want anything to drink?”
“Nah, I’m fine.”

Marigold came around the corner, giving Dallas a small smile. She’d only seen him a couple of times since the day they’d met. If he came over for dinner and drinks, she’d go upstairs so they could have their “boys” time together. Jackson instinctively knew it was a way to avoid his friend, he just didn’t understand why. A part of him didn’t want to know the reason.

“Afternoon ma’am.”
“Sheriff.”
“Enjoy the tree shopping?”
“I did, thank you.” Dallas smiled at her, his eyes raking her over; before turning to him.

“Uh Jack, I’m actually here on business.”
“A week in, and you’re already making house calls huh?”
“The law never sleeps as they say. Is there somewhere we can go?”

He peered at his friend, realizing whatever was going on, was serious. “Just come on in the living room.”
“I’ll go upstairs.”
“No, you can keep working on the tree.”

She shot him a questioning look, but briskly walked back toward the tree as she began decorating. Dallas and Jackson took a seat on the couch. He kept one eye on her, but his attention on his friend.

“What’s going on?”
“I got a call from Beverly Harris. Apparently, her husband Billy is missing.”
“I see. Well, he didn’t show up to work Thursday or Friday, but I didn’t think too much about it. Billy likes the liquor so….” Jackson shrugged. A lot of people fought that particular demon in Bayou.

“That’s what I needed to know. No one said anything about him?”
“I’m afraid I wouldn’t know. Kenny Dobbs is my right hand man. He let me know Billy wasn’t at work, but that’s it. You might want to talk to him.”
“Kenny Dobbs?”
“That’s right.”
“If you think of anything, give me a call.”

“I will. Beverly should be used to him not showing up by now. I don’t see why she’s concerned this time around.”
“According to her, they had plans he’d never have skipped out on. Also, she just found out she’s pregnant.”
“I’ll be. Well…maybe Billy was so excited, he went out to celebrate and had a little too much.”

“That’s what I’m thinking, but I had to stop and ask. Figured since he worked for you, you might know something or heard something.”
“Can’t say I have. Wish I could be of more help, man.”
“You did just fine, Jack.” Dallas stood, sticking out his hand with a smile as Jackson shook it.

“Staying for dinner?”
“Nah, I’m going to run by Kenny’s place and then head back to the motel.”
“When will you have the house?”
“Wednesday.”
“Well, come on by whenever you want a home cooked meal.”
“I will. Thanks man. Goodbye ma’am.”

Dallas nodded toward Marigold as she gave a tight smile. Jackson had seen a look on her face. He’d seen her body go completely still at the mention of Billy Harris’s name. He knew when he walked back inside, they’d be having a serious conversation.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Marigold gazed at her hands and realized they were uncontrollably shaking. In fact, her entire body seemed to be rattling. She knew nothing would make it stop until she got answers. She didn’t want answers. She wanted things to remain neutral, as they had been. She just wanted to survive her five year prison sentence and move on.

She glanced up at a movement, to find Jackson standing in the doorway. His very being filling up all the space in the room. A sense of power radiating off him in waves. Neither said a word for a minute, as they stared at one another. Blue eyes on brown eyes. A fight was brewing. The room even seemed to steady itself against what was to come.

“Marigold?” She shook her head in response. Jackson crossed the barrier into the room, moving closer to her. “Hey, it’s okay.”

She shook her head again, slowly moving away from his advancing form. The step ladder suddenly digging into the back of her thighs, stopping her progress.

“Stop shaking your head at me. You know it drives me crazy.” His eyes shot fire at her, she gladly reciprocated.
“Stop shaking my head? Are you outside of your damn mind? What is wrong with you? I mean…you…he…oh my God!”

Her yelling rang loudly in her ears, as he stood gawking at her like she was the crazy one. Her heart was racing and her mouth was so dry, she couldn’t even swallow her spit. This day had just been turned upside down. Why? They’d been doing so well.

“Everything’s fine.”
“Fine? How…I…fine.”

She nodded her head, picking up another ornament with shaking hands. If that’s how he wanted to play it, fine. She could pretend everything was okay. She was great at faking what she was feeling. She’d had plenty of opportunities to learn how over the past few months. She felt his eyes on her as she began digging through another box for more ornaments.

“Marigold?”
“Hmm?”
“Look at me, please.”

She peered up, making her face a mask; allowing just her blank cold eyes to glare at him. He came toward her then, his broad body moving with too calm a manner. She instantly stood up and felt her body go on high alert.

“Don’t.”
“Don’t what?”
“Come near me.”
“I’m not going to hurt you.”

“Tell me what you did.”
“I didn’t do anything.”
“Don’t lie to me.”
“I haven’t done anything.”

She studied his face as her eyes became colder. He didn’t even have the decency to try to tell her a good lie. He was an ass. She hated him. “Fine.”

He stalked toward her, reaching out as he gently touched her hand. Marigold didn’t care. She didn’t want to feel him. She didn’t want to pretend or fight. She jerked away, the step ladder falling over in her haste.

“Don’t touch me.” Her voice cold, her tone full of disapproval and loathing. She ran past his hand as it reached out to stop her. She flew like the wind up the stairs, heading toward the bedroom. She knew he would follow. She hoped he’d let her be for a little while. What had he done? She was genuinely scared. It’d been a while since she’d felt the rock settling so deep in the pit of her stomach, but settle it did.

*******************************************************************************************************************************


Marigold was standing at the window, her arms wrapped protectively around her waist. She looked like the picture of innocence but he didn’t give a damn. Jackson stormed in, slamming the door behind him; making her body jump as she whirled around. He tried to keep ahold of his temper as he stared her down from a safe distance.

“I’m not fighting with you again today. Am I clear?”
“Okay.”
“I said everything’s fine. I meant it.”
“I believe you.”

Her voice came out sounding like a robot. The same monotonous tone she’d used when she’d first come here. It took him back to the bad times and he couldn’t stand it. He was in front of her within seconds, but she didn’t back down. Steel all the way. Stubbornness and snobbishness out in full glory.

“Stop it.”
“Stop what?”
“Marigold, so help me God.”
“Yes?”

Jackson put his hands around her face; his grip tight and painful. He saw her flinch, but he didn’t let go. It was the only thing keeping him from taking her over his knee.

“Stop it.”
“Stop what? I told you I’m fine. I swear.”
“You sound like a robot.”
“Well…I wasn’t fine a few minutes ago but now….”

She made a waving motion with her hand, pulling away from him as his grip loosened. He watched in disbelief as she turned back towards the window; dismissing the conversation like it was nothing. Frustrating as all get out. He ran his hand down his face as he reminded himself to breathe.

“I mean, it’s a total coincidence I tell you about Billy Harris and he goes missing, right?”

Her sudden question in the silent room made his heart skip a beat. She turned to stare at him with cold eyes; her voice accusing and yet, somehow tinged with sadness.

“Right.”
“There you go then. Let’s go downstairs and finish the tree.”

She smiled, starting for the door with an air of calm. He stopped her, taking her shaking hands in his. She didn’t flinch or even acknowledge the action, as she met his eyes.

“Hey?”
“Hmm?”
“What you don’t know, can’t hurt you.”
“What I don’t know, I can make up.”

“And your theory is?”
“He drinks too much.”
“And?”
“That’s it.”
“Marigold.”

His voice let her know he was in no mood for games. He knew she was lying, and he wanted her to say what she had to say. Instead, it was fiery blue on brown. The story of their relationship thus far.

“Yes?”
“I’m two seconds away from losing my patience.”
“Okay.”
“So you need to spit out whatever it is you need to say, so we can move on.”
“Did you kill him?”
“No.”

She studied his face, and for a split second, he saw the mask slip. In her expression, a mixture of relief and melancholy.

“Good.”
“Do you believe me?”
“Yes and no. No, because it’s so close to when I told you what happened between us. Yes, because what do you care what happened all those years ago.”

She shrugged, the weight of the world situated on her petite shoulders. Once again, she started for the door. Once again, he stopped her. He couldn’t let her leave, knowing he could make the sadness go away. Knowing he could prove something to her, here and now.

“Has anyone ever told you they cared about you?”
“My Mama the last time I was there. Only because she feels bad I’m paying for what my Daddy did. It was the first time she said something kind.”
“Before that?”
“No.” The melancholy in her voice is what broke him.

“Billy Harris is dead because of what he did to you, but I didn’t kill him myself. I just made sure it happened. His body was dumped somewhere away from here. Dallas shouldn’t find it.”

He saw a mixture of confusion and bewilderment. He understood both. “Why? I don’t understand.”
“Because he hurt you.”
“So?”
“He couldn’t get away with it.”
“What does it matter to you? It was so long ago.”

Marigold was slowly backing away as she stared at him with frightened eyes. The deep cobalt peering at him beneath her furrowed brow. He wished she wasn’t scared, but he was glad her eyes weren’t cold.

“I had to.”
“No, you didn’t.”
“Yes, I did. Marigold, I care about you.”

She gawked at him with completely stricken eyes. Her mouth gaping as if she’d seen something horrible. His brain couldn’t comprehend her reaction. While it tried to get a sense of what she was thinking, he watched in surprise as she disappeared from the room. It took Jackson a second to realize she’d run. Marigold had finally run.

His body kicked into gear, propelling him down the stairs. He saw her hand reaching for the door, every muscle in her body tensed to spring. He caught her just as the knob turned; his hand jerking her around and against his chest. Both their eyes glaring, warring for a brawl.

“Marigold, what are you doing?”
“Let go of me.” He held tighter to her arm, pulling her out of the entrance way. She fought like a wildcat to get out of his grasp.

“Marigold!” He shook her to get her attention, making her only fight harder.
“Don’t, just don’t. Let go!”

She hit him on his chest with her tiny fist, leaving what he knew would be small black bruises on his skin. She began fighting like a true maniac to get out of the house, to get away from him. Jackson grabbed her waist in his large hands, tossing her lithe body over his shoulder. He knew the only thing to do, was start back up the stairs. She kicked at him, her fist pounding like mad on his back.

“Put me down! Stop! Jackson Broussard, put me the hell down!”

Her voice echoed around the narrow hall, before filling their old bedroom. He unceremoniously dumped her on the floor, before shutting and locking the door. Something he hadn’t had to do in a long time. She glared up at him with fire in her eyes.

Toby began barking outside the room, uncertain of what his people were doing. Neither moved, or said a word, as their tempers swirled around them. She simply glared, defiance turning her eyes a dark, flashing blue. When he moved toward her though, she moved away.

“Get up.” His voice came out in a deathly whisper. There was nothing holding down his temper now. Red was the one color Marigold could make him see. No one else had ever made him feel this way.

“You had a man killed.”
“He wasn’t my first.”
“Yes but-“
“I said get up.”
“What do you care if I’m sitting on the damn floor!”

Her voice echoed off the walls. Her body still tensed with the fight or flight adrenaline. She looked like a snake ready to spring.

“I told you, you didn’t want to know.”
“What I didn’t want to know, is you care. That fact changes everything.”

“Why? Why is that so bad?”
“Because what does it say about me? I’m still here! Knowing exactly what you’re capable of. I’ve been on the other end of your cruelty and yet, here I sit. What the hell does that say about me?”

All the despair in the world seemed to fill her question. Every connotation of her voice, both angry and weary. He peered at her huddled on the floor, a position she hadn’t been in for a while now. It hurt him, as did the knowledge she’d asked herself that question often.

“Marigold Fontenot, stand up. I will not ask you again.” She glared, before standing as she was told. He brushed her cheek with his hand, turning her into a block of ice.

“Maybe it says you’re capable of seeing the good in me, instead of just the monster. Maybe it says you’re a decent and kind person, who’s willing to give second chances.”

Marigold shook her head, backing away from him until she hit the bedpost. Her body jolting at the sudden impact, a surprised exhale escaping her lips. She seemed so tiny and lost. Jackson knew he shouldn’t, but he couldn’t help himself. He took the final steps between them, grabbing her face in a tight embrace.

He pressed her into the bedpost, kissing her like his life depended on it. He kissed away Dallas’ questions. He kissed away her cold, forlorn eyes. He kissed away the hurt he felt, the accusations on her face. He kissed away the memory of the Christmas tree lot and the image of how Calvin looked her over. The way Dallas raked her over with his hungry gaze.

He kissed away the memory of her face when she spoke of Billy Harris, and the agony in her eyes at her Mama’s flippant response. He kissed her, until the only image he had; was of her smiling face by the tree. Looking like the spitting image of an angel. Reminding him exactly why he cared for her.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Marigold moved her head in order to break the kiss. Somehow, the moment had escalated. Chemistry crackling along both their bodies, shocking her with the intensity. Jackson pulled back, but his eyes stayed glued on her. In them, she saw longing and a need for love. She didn’t know how to answer his pleading gaze. She didn’t care for him at all.

“Forgive me. Please Marigold, forgive me. I know I hurt you. I know you think I’m a monster, but I couldn’t stand the thought of him hurting you. I couldn’t stand the thought of his hands on you; the knife cutting into your skin. The look on your face when you told me what your Mama said; I hated them both in that instant for you. Please don’t hate me for it though. Forgive me.”

Marigold nodded, she didn’t know what else to do. She felt like she was on autopilot, but still seemed to have enough sense to feel worried. Her own thoughts a million miles away from this room. He’d killed for her. He’d been upset in her honor. Her body grew wet with the thought.

“Answer me.” His voice was like a loud shot in the silent room, making her jump.
“I forgive you.”

Jackson kissed her again and as her lips answered; she felt her cardigan sliding off. Marigold tensed as his kisses moved to her cheek and throat. How was this all leading to sex? Why wasn’t she running? Why was her pussy growing wetter, sending a longing hunger through her nerves?

“I won’t hurt you. I told you I’d never hurt you again.”
“I know.”

The cardigan hit the floor and he was pulling off her shirt. Before she could say a word, his lips were back on hers. She didn’t know how things happened so fast. He cared for her? Had she somehow known that? Marigold knew she was sick because she was staying. Who in their right mind would stay after what he’d done? What was wrong with her? Why didn’t she stop him and run? She felt her pants and panties slide down. Once more, the final barrier between sanity and insanity joined the rest of her discarded clothes on the floor.

He led her to the side of the bed and she simply lay down. Her brain yelling at her to get a grip, as her body pleaded with her to let the moment happen. As she saw him sink to his knees, her body’s pleas won the war. She felt his lips brush her ankle, smooth caresses moving up her muscular calf to her thigh. Butterflies began to flutter in her stomach as his kisses moved to her other leg.

Marigold lay with her eyes closed, taking in the sensations. He’d killed a man because of her. Did that make her a murderer too? She should be frightened he’d kill her, but she wasn’t. His kisses felt good and she’d never truly felt anything before. Not for this man anyway. Sex had always been hard, rough, and fast. Pleasure meant for him and pain meant for her. She never knew her body could shiver from kisses and it be in a good way.

“Marigold?”
“Hmm?”

Her eyes were closed as she took in deep breaths. If she didn’t see it was him, maybe her body would let go as it should. If she didn’t think about this room, maybe her body could be set free.

“Trust me.” Before she could say a word, she felt his mouth on her pussy. She jumped at the sensation but his hands held her thighs tightly. She couldn’t move, and this time; she didn’t want too. Marigold knew what his expert tongue could do. She still remembered the waves of pleasure washing over her as his tongue devilled in. Taking her nodule hostage, making her moan for the first time in his room.

In and out, the rhythm of his tongue moved until he found a spot she never knew existed. Marigold felt her back arching as it left the cool sheets. What was this sorcery? How on earth did he know such a place existed deep inside her? How hadn’t she known?

Her hands clenched the comforter above her head as she moaned. This time, she didn’t try to stay quiet. It wouldn’t have worked anyway. She smelled her pussy scent, a mix of salt and spice as it whirled around her. The smell of her coconut lime shampoo tickled her nose, adding to the fragrance of the moment.

Her swollen nodule was being battered but not on purpose. Oh no, Jackson’s tongue was working on the special spot. She felt it being pulled, felt sensations rocketing through to her very core. An exhilarating feeling encasing her cunt, making her breath hitch with a neediness she didn’t know she was capable of.

How did he know how to do this? How did he know a woman’s body could feel this? She took a deep steadying breath, feeling his movement speed up before suddenly slowing down. Marigold flung open her eyes as Jackson stripped out of his clothes quick as lightening.

His chiseled, naked body appeared above hers. His eyes were hungry, a dark coffee brown in their need. She felt his hard erection against her leg, even as she wondered why he’d stopped.

“I won’t hurt you.”
“Okay.”
“I want your permission.”
“To fuck me?”

She saw sadness cross over his face. She didn’t understand why he’d be upset now. It was what he wanted. What he’d always wanted.

“I…well I wouldn’t have…yes, that’s what I want.”
“Okay.”

His eyes bore into hers as her pussy lips ached. They were reaching out for him. Begging her to scream at him to fill her up. They wanted the release of pleasure they’d been denied so many times. Her brain was on board with her body. It’d gotten a taste of desire and now wanted the payoff.

She saw him nod before his body covered hers. Her nipples rubbed against his bare chest as his large hands wrapped around her thighs. She felt her legs being thrown around his fit waist. This time, she didn’t protest. They wrapped around him, holding him in a tight embrace. She felt his cock at her cunt entrance and knew once this happened, there was no going back.

Did she wish she was with someone else? Yes. Maybe him if it was under very different circumstances? Yes. She was here though. This moment was going to happen because her body wanted it to. She wanted it to. How had everything escalated so quickly?

She felt his thick cock as it slid between her pussy lips. It had always been so tight, so painful and dry. Even when he’d made her pussy juices flow, his size had been too much for her smallness to handle. She felt full now as he glided all the way to his hilt. His balls against her ass, rubbing them before he pulled away. Her wetness enveloped him, allowing for a smoother ride. Allowing for her to feel immense pleasure between her thighs.

His eyes bore down into hers, deepness staring into brightness. His large hands continued to hold her thighs as his cock tantalized her cunt. The sound of her pussy juices sloshing between them, the smell of their combined salty scents, had Marigolds mouthwatering. In a split second decision, she pulled Jackson’s lips to hers. She felt their softness before his tongue barged in. Both of theirs swirling against each other, pulling, fighting to be the dominant one.

The force between her legs became powerful, his lunges becoming more frantic as she felt an eerie pull. Her stomach began to grow warm, little zings of pleasure ricocheting from all the nerves in her body. She felt his cock grinding into her enlarged nodule, his thick head raking her sensitive spot. A moan built up deep inside her as the beginnings of her climax started.

With a guttural yell, Marigold jerked her lips away from his. Her back arched into his body, her nipples and pelvis grinding into him as an orgasm she’d never believed she’d feel, ripped through her tiny body. Her fingers dug into his broad back, her nails scraping his skin. She heard his yell of climatic pleasure join hers. An animalistic sound in the confines of the small room.

Wave after wave of intense ecstasy crashed over her. Marigold’s pussy clenched onto his cock, milking his seed deep inside her. Taking every ounce he had to offer, adding to the cunt juices which flowed between them. She felt their stickiness on her thighs and still her legs stayed wrapped around him. If she let go, the pleasure would be gone. Maybe never to be felt again.

She felt tears well up in her eyes. The burning in the back of her throat making it feel like fire. She knew he’d never do this again. She never wanted to do this again. She never wanted to let him go. Marigold was confused. Her emotions a jumble of questions. She watched as his glazed eyes grew concerned. The worry adding another layer of emotions to her already haywire ones.

“I’m sorry, baby. I didn’t mean-“

She pulled his face down and kissed him deeply. Her legs stayed wrapped around his waist as his mouth devoured hers. His hands filled with her hair as he kissed her, the pulling and tugging sending different kind of vibes to her pussy core. She ran her fingers up and down his back, eliciting groans from him which made her inwardly smile.

After what felt like hours without air, she pulled her lips away. Her turned face, his clue to let her breathe. She felt him brush her hair away from her sticky face, a gentle motion which made her heart flip. What was this man? What powers did he have?

“Did I hurt you?” His voice, though kind, startled her in the quiet room. She shook her head. “Are you sure?”

She nodded in answer. She saw the brief change in his eyes, the cruelness and anger so easily accessible. These were the eyes she was used too. These she understood and it made her sorry. She flashed him a shy smile and he smiled back, before laying a small kiss on the edge of her lips. No one had ever done that before. It was his thing for her. She decided she liked it.

“Marigold, I didn’t mean to…but you…you’re so beautiful.”
She gave him another shy smile. “I didn’t know it could feel that way.”
“No one has ever…you’ve never had sex before?”
“I’ve done things before, but you’re the only one who’s ever fucked me.”

A look passed over his face she couldn’t explain or name. He seemed almost ill but only for a split second.

“I’m the only one?”
“Mhmm.”
“I…I didn’t know.” She nodded, as he reached out to run his hand through her hair.

“I’m sorry.”
“For what?”
“For what I did.”
“Okay.”
“I’ll make it up to you. I promise.”
“I’ll let you.”

She smiled, but knew her eyes were serious because she was. Jackson nodded, before kissing her over and over. They were the soft little kisses and Marigold basked in them, giving him a sweet smile of her own.

“I want you again.”
“Okay.”
“I’ll be gentle.”
“If…if you’re gentle, will I…will I still feel, you know?”

She felt herself blush. This wasn’t a normal conversation to have with him…or anyone else for that matter. He seemed to know so much more about her body than she did. It was both frustrating and fascinating. Maybe he could teach her, and she’d know what to expect once she was gone.

She saw a sneaky smile cross his face. It was the first time she’d seen it. Her heart skipped a beat, her stomach fluttering. The grin almost made him boyishly handsome. She could see how it’d charm the socks off of other girls. It could have done the same for her if he’d tried, instead of simply hurting her first.

“If I’m gentle, will you still cum? Is that what you want to know?”
“Yes.” His laugh filled the room, causing her to furrow her brows. “What?”
“You were so hesitant to ask but had no problem answering.”
“Right.”

“Such a mercurial girl.”
“Says the most mercurial man I’ve ever met.”
“Touché.”

She felt his fingers breeze over her thighs, a trail of goose bumps following the lovely feeling. Suddenly, two fingers dove straight into her saturated cunt lips; pushing all the way inside, making her yelp at the sudden fullness. She felt them brush past her nodule, on a journey to somewhere better. She felt the special spot getting grazed, her back arching her body into his.

“Do you feel this, Marigold?”
“Yes.” Her voice sounded like a whispered moan. A wanton woman. A whore. She didn’t care.
“This will let you cum, gentle or not.”

She nodded as his fingers harassed the spot. Pulling and pushing on the deepness in her body. Making her juices flow more, thicker even. The smell of her desire swamped her senses, making her heart beat erratically as she saw his pupils growing darker with his need.

The roughness of his fingertips moved unhurriedly over the spot, emitting moans of pleasure past her lips. Making her nails run down his spine. She felt her body pressing farther onto his fingers, in her mind it seemed as if his hand was already inside her. Stroking her, fondling her toward a point higher than she’d ever been. Her toes curling, grasping the comforter in blissful enthrallment.

This man was making her body feel so much. It needed him. Her sexual awakening needed him. The way his fingers felt inside her, the coolness across her tongue as she sucked in lungful’s of air. All of this was due to his knowledge. To his ability to make her body come alive, her pussy quivering as he rubbed her special, magical spot.

His strokes began to slow, her eyes flying open to see a smile on his face. One she didn’t understand. One she didn’t like. “What are you doing?”
“Teasing you.”

Once more, she felt the tears build up in the back of her throat. She felt them well up in her eyes as she turned away from him. He was going to tease her. Torture her now that he knew he could. All of this had been for naught. She’d let her guard down. Let her body control her brain. She should have known better. Now, he had power over her. Now, she had nothing. She felt her tears gliding down from the corner of her eyes. She felt defeat.

She moved to close her legs, to block him out. She willed her body to run. She willed it to stop pressing into his exquisite touch. She willed it to snatch back what pride and power she had left. He couldn’t use her again. She refused.

“Marigold?”

She shook her head as she tried to move. His rough hand jerked her chin in his direction; a yelp of surprise escaping her. His eyes were angry, but his face held an expression of concern. He made no sense.

“Baby, don’t cry. Why are you crying?”

She shook her head again. The darkness of his pupils enlarging as his temper flared. More tears fell in response. She saw his brows furrow as he took a steadying breath.

“Hey, I’m sorry. Am I hurting you?”
“No.” Her voice sounded thick with her tears.
“Tell me what’s wrong.”
“I don’t want you to tease me. You’ll…you know more about my body than I do. It’s…unfair and you get to have all the power and just…stop touching me. Please, just get off me.”

She tried to push his broad body off her tiny one. His didn’t budge. She felt her own temper taking over, this fantastical break in reality vanquishing as she glared up into his eyes.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Jackson had no idea what went on in her head. One minute, she was arching her back into his hand. The next, she was crying and angry. Oh, he’d seen the flare of her eyes and knew they were heading for a fight. Two stubborn ass people did not need to be together…but here they were.

“I won’t tease you, okay?”

Her eyes only grew angrier and his cock grew harder. He felt his body shake with quiet laughter, making the expression on her face turning to loathing. He hadn’t missed those eyes.

“Marigold, I won’t. Let me make it up to you.”
“By fucking me? So you get off too? How gentlemanly.”

She tried to push him off her, but once again to no avail. He refused to budge an inch over this tantrum.

“That’s not what I meant.”
She cocked an eyebrow in annoyance. “Isn’t it?”
He felt the laughter again but kept it tamped down. “Well…yes but…please.”

She didn’t say a word, but he saw her give a slight nod. He knew she was fighting her own battle within herself. He understood. It’d taken all the strength he possessed to not fuck her every day. Every time she was near, he wanted to be lost inside her. He wanted her mouth on his cock. Wanted to be buried inside her welcoming pussy lips. Wanted to eat her cunt, making her yell in ecstasy.

He didn’t though because he knew it’d make her mad. He knew she wouldn’t participate the way he dreamed. Knew it’d be as it was before. He didn’t want before. He wanted new and now. The way her blue eyes had looked up at him, a shy smile on her face. The rosy blush that spread across her cheeks, and the pink flush caressing her body as he made her cum. That’s what he wanted to see when he looked down at his Marigold.

He rolled completely on top of her, throwing her legs over his shoulder. He saw a flash of surprise on her face, her mouth partially open in wonderment. He held her hands above her head, allowing him better leverage. Her eyes bore into his, a mix of anger and lust staring back at him.

“Ready?”
“Yes.”

He plunged his erect, hard cock straight into her welcoming pussy juices. He plowed all the way down, his balls resting against her ass cheek. Her breath hitched as he pulled out, lunging back in with a dominating force. Her cunt walls licked at his cock, holding him snuggly in a tight embrace. Now, he understood her tightness. He wouldn’t let it ruin what he could do for her, would do for her.

He pulled out once more, before plowing back in. Her legs wide open, her cunt spread for the taking. He felt the tip of his cock brushing against her swollen nodule. Felt it searching for her perfect spot. Her ankles bounced off his broad back as he pounded into her. Grinding his dick as far in as her body would accept. Their combined juices coating his cock, sending salty, spicy smells up to his nose.

He felt his mouth watering as he gazed down at this beautiful girl. Her eyes half closed as his cock raked her cunt. Little gasp of air escaping her lips every time he dove back in. He felt her fingers clenching against his as he held her hands down. He wanted to suck her perfect, pert nipples but he couldn’t draw himself away from her face. From the perfect O shape he saw forming.

He sped up his movements, his thrust turning more frantic. He felt her pussy lips milking his cock and with a yell; Jackson exploded his cum straight into her. Her back arched upwards, her climax causing the flush to spread across her body. Turning her pale skin pinkish. A moan of ecstatic pleasure erupted from her lips, the perfect O forming as he’d always wanted. As he’d always fantasized.

He felt her body shaking, withering beneath his. Their climax taking them higher and higher as the pureness washed over them. He felt her juices against his legs. He’d filled her to the brim and beyond. Their ragged breathing the only thing he heard. His heart pounding the only thing he felt. He saw her lashes flutter across her cheeks, before beautiful blue eyes peered up into his.

He gave her a reassuring smile, receiving her shy one in return. He’d do anything for that smile. Anything for a single moment of kindness from her. He let her hands go, holding himself up on his elbows. Her hair was once more stuck to her face, his fingers gently pushing it away. Still, he kept her legs around his shoulders. The weight of them making him feel like a man. Like he’d somehow done right by her.

“Feel better?”
“Yes.”
“Did you like it?”
“Yes.”

“Care to explain why you were crying?”
“I did.”
“You know teasing is a part of sex. It can be fun.”

Her eyes searched his and he wondered what she was thinking. He knew she wouldn’t say, not without him dragging it out of her. This afternoon had been too pleasant to pull answers from her. He began to realize she really was clueless about sex and relationships. She’d never been in one, so all of this was new to her. Maybe he needed to go slower. Give her a chance to catch up on what he’d known for years.

“But will you do it to be mean?”
Her sudden response in the quietness of the room, made him jump. “You thought I was trying to be mean?”
“I think…I liked how sex felt for the first time since I’ve been here.”
“And I’m going to use that against you.”
“Are you?”

He saw a mix of fear and questioning in her eyes. He didn’t like the fear; hadn’t wanted to put it there ever again.

“No Marigold. I’m not going to use sexual pleasure against you.”
“Promise?”
“On my word.”

She nodded but her once sparkling blue eyes, now remained closed off. He wanted the dancing ones back. He wanted the shy ones back. He wanted the glazed ones back.

“I’ll teach you about your body and I swear, I won’t use it to hurt you. Okay?”

She nodded, sending pings of frustration down his every nerve. He saw her eyes change in response to his. “Okay.”

He gave a kind smile, leaving tiny kisses along the corner of her mouth. It’d somehow become his favorite spot to kiss her. She seemed to like it as well, considering her eyes lit up after every one. He pulled back, gazing down into an inquisitive face.

“Want to learn another lesson?” Her quiet laugh filled the room as she nodded, a blush growing across her cheeks. This he could get used to.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

“Shouldn’t we finish the tree?”
“Yes, it would probably look better without all the boxes surrounding it.”

Marigold gave a quiet laugh and stretched. He watched her movements closely to see if she was hurting. He’d already asked her five times, until she’d gotten beyond frustrated with him. He’d let her eye rolls go, the afternoon too much fun to get angry.

“I’m going to the restroom, then I’d like to know what a real Christmas tree looks like.”
“Absolutely.”

He watched her walk off and smiled. He didn’t know how it happened but he felt so good. He’d been holding in that he cared, afraid it might scare her. He hadn’t thought she’d run because of it, but he’d caught her and now she was staying. Now, he’d showed her what sex could be like. Not the painful hell from before.

Nothing they’d ever done could compare to this afternoon. Getting to look into her blue eyes, seeing her instead of a mask. It’d been the greatest, most rewarding feeling he’d ever experienced. He still felt sick he was the only one she’d ever been with. He didn’t know teenagers still tried to protect that part of themselves.

No wonder she’d hated him so much. Maybe now it wasn’t hate or like. Maybe she was content enough for the five years not to be so hard. He rolled over to her side of the bed to get his clothes from the floor. There was a spot on the comforter and he knew. The clamp on his control, gone.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Marigold came out of the bathroom dressed and ready to finish the tree. She was worried because she didn’t know what this afternoon meant. So he cared, that was a good thing. Maybe it meant she wouldn’t have to worry about internally flinching every time he came near her. They didn’t know much about each other, and trying to learn while staying true to their own personalities; was going to make for one hell of a ride.

“What’s wrong?” He was still undressed and sitting on the edge of the bed.
“Nothing.”
“Right. How is it that I have to answer you, but you don’t have to answer me? As I recall, I made the exception to deal #4 which you like to ignore.”
“That’s very true.”

The room grew silent as they stared one another down. What had changed in the span of time it’d taken her to put on her clothes? She felt the fury building. She crossed her arms, eyebrow arched, as she gave him a look letting him know she was ready for the fight.

“As nice as this afternoon was, I’m about five seconds away from losing all my patience with you.”
“Was it nice?” His voice was calm, his eyes cold and harsh.
The question threw her off and she uncrossed her arms. “I’m going downstairs.”

“Wait.”
“Why?”
“I asked you over and over if I hurt you.”

“So?”
“You said no.”
“Right.”
“So why is their blood on the comforter?”

She looked at the spot beside him and saw a small stain. Half of her felt bad because a comforter was a pain to wash, and she’d be the one washing it. The other half thought he should have let it go.

“I’m fine.”
“Marigold.” Her name sounded like a curse word when it fell out of his mouth. She instinctively took a step back.
“Yes?”
“This is not a game.”

“I didn’t say it was.”
“You lied to me.”
“No, I didn’t.”
His body flew off the bed, propelled by his anger at her. “I can see I hurt you!”

“This is the hurt you want to fight about? Seriously? I can walk. I can move my legs without crying. I can go to the bathroom without bleeding. Today’s hurt is not the one you need to feel sorry or angry about. Of that, you can damn well be rest assured.” She shot him a go to hell look, storming out the door in a whirlwind of fury.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Jackson laid back, staring up at the ceiling. It would be easier, he’d thought. Now that they’d shared something intimate, she wouldn’t be so difficult, he’d thought. He had to laugh at that assumption. Man, they were good at going ninety to nothing in a blink of an eye.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

He found her downstairs hanging ornaments. Toby sat close beside her, Sierra was batting an old pinecone around on the floor.

“Marigold?”
“Yes dear?”

She looked at him and smiled. If someone was looking in on them, they’d think they were just another happy couple decorating the tree. He didn’t have the energy to argue with her. He felt his head shaking as his hand ran down his face.

“I’m going to go make dinner.”
“Alright.”

She went back to decorating the tree as Jackson watched her. Every move she made was stiff and jarring. When his hand landed on her arm, she felt like stone.

“Stop.”
“Decorating the tree? It needs to get done.”

She moved away from him, opening the last box. He stooped down, taking her hands in his. He felt them shaking in his large palms.

“Please stop.”
“Stop what?”
“The cold shoulder. I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what?”
“For everything.”
“Okay.” She took her hands from his. Her eyes remaining blank.
“We’re going to talk about this.”
“But we don’t have to right now.”

Something in the way she said it, made him hurt. He nodded, standing to give her space. He peered down at her before walking off. She continued to dig through the boxes, he started on dinner.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Marigold put the last box away as Jackson set their food down on the coffee table.

“Want me to light it up?”
“Sure.”

She waited while he turned all the lights in the living room off, before turning on the tree. The colored lights shone beautifully, the ornaments sparkling from the light beams bouncing off them. She smiled. It really did seem magical.

“It’s beautiful.”
“I’m glad you think so.”

She daintily touched a couple of the ornaments as he smiled at her. She looked like a kid in the candy shop. It was hard to imagine she’d never had a Christmas tree of her own before. It was easy to imagine in Bayou.

“I’ll turn on the lamp so we can sit here, and enjoy it.”
“Okay.”

Throughout the meal, she just stared and stared at the tree. Sometimes, he saw a smile cross her face but she never said a word. Toby lay at her feet and Sierra sat on the arm of the chair. He was just glad she was eating. Though he hated to agree with the punk from the tree lot, Calvin was right; she was too tiny.

His Daddy walked in, glancing from them to the tree. “Looks good, even if it is pointless.”
“Thanks Daddy. There’s a plate of food in the frig.”
“Okay.”

His Daddy walked off, but they could both hear him messing around in the kitchen. A minute later, he was back and sitting on the couch. Jackson hadn’t expected him to join them. It was odd and surprising.

“That Dwight’s dog?”
“Yes sir, but he’s ours now.”
“Okay. You hear about Billy?”
“Yes sir, I told Dallas to talk to Kenny.”

“Probably just liquored up somewheres. Hell, Beverly aughta be used to this by now.”
“I told Dallas that too.”

“He still gonna buy Ned and Gayle’s old place?”
“Signs on it Wednesday.”
“He gonna follow the same rules as Johnson?”
“Far as I know. Said he would on our place.”

“This one?”
“Yes sir.”
“Hmm.” The room grew quiet and he noticed Marigold was now picking at her food. He could tell she was uncomfortable and he couldn’t say he blamed her.

“Thank you for dinner. It was lovely.” She stood, walking out of the room without a backwards glance; Toby and Sierra following close behind her.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Jackson glanced over and saw his Daddy giving him a look. “What?”
“Nothing.”
“Daddy just say it.”
“You know how I feel.”
“I do, but she isn’t a waste.”
“To you.”

“That’s right, Daddy. I like her.”
“I see.”
“Is it going to be a problem?”
“I don’t know. Is it, Son?”
“I don’t see why, considering she has nothing to do with this house, the Mills, or our business together. So, I would say not.”
“Okay.”

He took a deep breath. Apparently, this was the day to have mini fights. “She’s going to be here awhile.” His Daddy just stared at him and Jackson felt his blood beginning to boil.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Claude peered at Jack and saw how serious his son was. He knew he liked the girl. She was nice to look at, but Claude had never really heard her speak. If his son wasn’t going to marry her though, then what good was she besides the obvious? He just didn’t get it.

He and Tammy married when she was fifteen. Jack was born a year later. Shane followed two years after, then a baby that died. At fifteen, Tammy was all looks and sex. At sixteen, she was a cook, a maid, a mama and his wife. Claude knew how to get worth out of a woman. He just didn’t understand what was going on with Jack and his obsession with the Fontenot girl.

“I figured as much.”
“You still need my help Monday with the problem?”
“Yep.”

“Okay.”
“You know anything about the Billy Harris thing?”
“Just he didn’t come to work for two days.”

Claude nodded. He knew his son well and there was something he wasn’t telling. It would come out eventually, and Claude figured it probably had something to do with that girl.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Jackson looked at the tree and thought of his Mama. Of course his Daddy didn’t get his relationship with Marigold. He’d never had a real relationship with his Mama. He’d treated her like an object for his pleasure and anger. He thought his Mama would have liked her, or she might have been jealous of her strength.

“I’m going up for the night.”
“Alright.”
“Night Daddy.”
“Night.”

He put his dishes in the sink, before walking toward the stairs. He peeked around the living room wall, watching his Daddy run his hand over one of the ornaments. Sometimes the man surprised him.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Marigold had gotten in a hot shower, letting the pelting needles beat away all the aches and pains. She let the tension slide down with the water and disappear into the drain. She thought everything was better, until she got out of the shower. Her legs were shaking and so were her hands. What was wrong with her? She just wanted to go to sleep and wake up in five years.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Jackson walked in and heard a noise. He walked to the bathroom door, softly knocking in the hope of not startling her.

“Marigold?” She didn’t respond but the sounds stopped. “You okay?”
“Yes.” She didn’t sound okay.
“Hey?”

There was no answer, but he heard her moving around. The door suddenly opened, and she was all smiles as she stood there wrapped in a towel. The smile didn’t reach her eyes. He knew it wasn’t real.

“Yes?”
“I was just checking on you.”
“I’m great.”

Her eyes were red, but he wasn’t going to argue with her. If she didn’t want to talk now, he’d let her be. Sometimes, he could follow the exception to deal 4; he just didn’t like too.

“Want to read some?”
“Sure.”
“Why don’t you read out loud? Dances with Wolves is one of my favorites.”

She smiled as she nodded. He waited for her to get dressed, then they both sat on the bed. Marigold started to read as a couple of hours passed in contentment. Half way through the story, he took the book and shut it.

“You look tired.”
“Gee thanks.” She gave him a smile while he gave her a look.
“Ready for bed?”
“Yes.”

She turned on her side, away from him, as Sierra curled up against her stomach. He turned off the light, gently putting his arm around her. He felt her tense before eventually relaxing. For tonight, it was enough.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Jackson woke up and realized he was alone. He didn’t see Marigold in the window and the bathroom light wasn’t on. He looked toward the end of the bed for Sierra before gazing down at Toby’s pallet; both were empty. He rubbed his hand over his sleepy face, his tired legs leading him downstairs. He silently cursed his Daddy when he saw he hadn’t remembered to turn off the Christmas tree lights.

Jackson walked in to do it, deciding to look for Marigold when he was done. He turned the corner to the living room and there she was. She sat staring at the tree, with Sierra in her lap and Toby’s head on her knee. Tears were sliding down her face, but she wasn’t making a sound. The Christmas lights made her tears sparkle, and though she was breaking his heart; she looked like a lost angel.

He walked in the room, Toby perking up his head at his entrance. Marigold jumped at his intrusion, quickly wiping the tears from her face. He sat on the other side of her from Toby, carefully taking her hand in his.

“I’m sorry.” She nodded, another tear escaping before she could stop it.
“Tomorrow, we’ll go look at the property I own and we’ll start making designs for the new house. I’ll have it up and ready to go as fast as I can.”

A questioning expression crossed her face, but she didn’t say a word. She turned away from him, dismissing what he’d said. Lost in her own sad thoughts. She continued to stare at the lights and the way they shone against the ornaments.

“Marigold, please.” She peered back at him and he saw the tears swimming in her eyes. He pulled her close, felt her thin shoulders shaking. No sound ever left her lips, but he felt her tears hitting his shoulder. He held her tightly and kissed her soft, silky hair.

“I’m sorry.” He felt her nodding and it drove him crazy, though now wasn’t the time to be bothered by it. He rocked her slowly, his fingers running languidly through her hair. He felt her taking a couple of deep breaths and it seemed to calm her down. They continued to sit in silence as Jackson stared at the lights. He’d promised her no gifts, but he wanted boxes under the tree with her name on them. He wanted to do whatever it took to make her sadness retreat.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Marigold turned her head on his shoulder, allowing her to see the lights. She’d tried to be quiet when she came downstairs, but now that he was here, she was kind of glad.

“Hey?”
“Hmm?”
“Feel any better?”
“Yes.”

He lifted her chin up, dreamily kissing her with deliberately slow movements. It was simple and sweet. Her lips responded back to his gentleness, before pulling away.

“We still need to talk.”
“I know.”
“Later?”
“Please.”

“I’ll take care of you. I won’t let anyone hurt you.”
“What if it’s you that does it?”
“I won’t. I’ll try anything not to. I’m not a bad person, Marigold. You have to trust me. Believe in me enough to see I’m trying. I really am.”

“I just feel so much and so many things keep happening. Every day is something new.”
“I know. Tomorrow, I’ll answer any questions you have.”
“Okay.”
“If you’ll be open and honest with me as well.”
“Deal.”

He kissed her softly, over and over again. She kissed him back without fear or worries. For that moment, Marigold let all the questions go. For one moment, she let hope tickle her fingertips. Tomorrow, would be a brand new day. Tomorrow, she might learn something new. Tomorrow, was one step closer to the end of five years. The promise of tomorrow was what she’d always hold onto.
12 comments

SexyStudent4youReport

2017-10-21 04:32:41
Can't wait for the next chapter

SexyStudent4youReport

2017-10-21 04:32:31
Can't wait for the next chapter

PandaKingReport

2017-09-30 19:06:20
Hey piper, I just wanna ask if you're alright. You haven't updated in a while and I just hope life is going great.

Piper320Report

2017-09-13 02:23:52
I'm sorry to have been gone so long. Life has been crazy. I'll try to turn in the next chapter by this weekend. Thanks for your patience!

FeatherMamaReport

2017-09-12 06:59:42
Pleeeeeease don't forget about Marigold and Jackson! Great read so far!

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