Poison's Bend: Chapter 11
Warnings: partial nudity, implied sex
Poison's Bend: Chapter 11
Time passed, and the General was as good as his word.
Hardly a day went by in little Catherine’s life without her Grandpere there with her... helping her to learn to walk, reading to her, singing with her, and bringing her gifts.
And, in the natural course of his becoming closer to Catherine, Ripp’s father was also becoming closer to me.
I did not discourage a relationship with him.
Indeed, I welcomed it.
He told me to call him Buzz, as calling him “General,” or “Sir” was far too formal, he said, and referring to him as Father was odd and rather moot at this point. Ripp was dead, and Buzz was actually closer to my own age than his son had been.
Plus, our affinity was nothing like that between a daughter and father.
The first time he kissed me was in Catherine’s playroom. She had drifted off to sleep while amusing herself with her many toys, and Buzz had turned to me, probably intending to say something else, I’m sure... but whatever it was I did not ever find out. Our lips met; his arms found their way around me, and it was as though I was being kissed by Ripp’s youth and passion, tempered with Pascal’s maturity and finesse.
My knees grew weak.
“I’m so sorry, Aerin,” Buzz said in a strained whisper, gently pushing me away from him. “That was completely out of line. But you’re so... and I’m...” He stopped and took a deep breath, the military man in him surfacing as he squared his shoulders and gazed at me with a face expertly wiped clean of emotion.
“I promise it won’t happen again,” he said in a tight, even voice.
“Non… I think it will, ” I said suggestively, ignoring his frigid demeanor. “...and sooner than you think. Right now, as a matter of fact...”
I reached for him.
The cold, aloof exterior he was so adept at displaying quickly fell away.
So it began.
Catherine started school shortly after Buzz's youngest son left for college.
And, as it seemed silly for Buzz to continue paying the mortgage on his home when he was spending nearly one hundred percent of his time at mine, he took the next logical step, sold his residence and moved in with me.
I was elated, although I did think it odd that a man who had lived such a life as his had so little in the way of material possessions.
“It’s the military way,” he told me, when I asked him if the one trunk he brought was all he had, my voice filled with disbelief. “You learn not to get too attached to possessions.” He opened the trunk and I saw him bring out a faded, gold-framed photograph of a young woman with blond hair and a distinct resemblance to Ripp.
He stared at the picture for a moment, tracing his fingers across the image. “Or people, either,” he muttered.
“Is that picture of your wife?” I asked softly. “Ripp’s... mother?”
“Yes,” Buzz answered, then sighed deeply.
“What happened to her?”
He shrugged. “Typical situation, I suppose. I was working until all hours on base... while Lyla stayed home with the boys. I thought I was doing the right thing. A man’s supposed to provide for his family, right?”
“I learned... too late... that ‘providing’ doesn’t just mean with money,” he said simply, turning the picture over and placing it carefully in the topmost drawer of the dresser.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered.
“I’ve made mistakes, Aerin, and I’d be lying to you if I told you I wasn’t afraid I’d make more, but I’ve decided that I can’t keep hiding from myself forever.”
He closed the lid of his trunk and sat close beside me on the bed.
“I never did thank you for allowing me so much time with Catherine,” he said, his voice rough with emotion. “It has meant so much, in ways you probably can’t even imagine.” He sighed again. “I see Ripp in her, and Lyla too, so in a way she gives me back some of what I lost, and I can give to her what I didn’t give to both of them. Does that make any sense?”
“It makes perfect sense,” I answered, embracing him. “You mean just as much to Catherine as she does to you, and do you know what else?”
He shook his head.
“I think Catherine might like to see that picture of her grandmother,” I told him. “Why don’t you show it to her?”
Later that night, as Buzz and I lay together in bed, he shocked me by telling me he didn’t think we should get married, no matter how strongly we felt for each other.
“I want to be up front with you, Aerin,” he said. “I love you, and I would love for you to be my wife,” he said, “but we have to think of our family... and especially of Catherine.”
I sat up and gazed at him fully. “Buzz, she’s hardly going to care that we’re...”
“She’ll care,” he said grimly. “Even now, she’s beginning to wonder exactly what our relationship is. Aerin, don’t you understand? She’ll want you to remain true to her father, even though she doesn’t remember him. And if you get married to me, that will make her feel all the more betrayed. Her own grandfather, who she trusts? No...” he shook his head firmly. “As much as I love you, Aerin, we can’t get married. I just wanted you to know that.”
I lay my head on his chest, feeling the steady thump of his heart under my cheek. He was right, of course. Not only for Catherine’s sake, but for his own... mine... and his other children’s... we could never let it officially be known we were romantically involved. It would cause too much confusion and too many hurt feelings on both sides.
Why did that upset me so deeply?
I had not intended to marry him, had I?
“Well,” I said after a while, “...we can still feel married where it counts... right here.” I traced my finger over his chest where I knew his heart lay and then kissed him deeply.
“You know, Aerin... there are other ways to feel as though you’re married,” he said in a decidedly suggestive tone when I let him come up for air. “...and seeing as how Catherine is fast asleep at the moment, I think we ought to explore a few of them... what do you think?”
“I think, mon cher,” I replied, smiling and pulling him down over me, “that you read my mind...”
Afterward, I lay curled in his arms, watching the silken curtains flutter in the late-summer breeze from the open windows, guilt assailing me from every angle. I had just lain with my dead husband’s father... my own daughter’s grandfather!
And I wanted to do it again.
Gods help me, I did.
I loved him.
I loved this side of him.
Yet I knew of another side of him that lay in wait! The side that had made life miserable for his middle son! He had not displayed that side of himself to me or to Catherine, true, but that did not mean it couldn’t surface at any time!
It was that side I feared.
It was that side that had to pay!
I felt Buzz’s steady even breathing, warm against my back, and his strong arms holding me close. I felt so snug... so safe...
Ripp had believed this man was incapable of love.
Ripp, I hope you were right.
I was doing this for him!
Ripp, I hope you were right.
To Be Continued...