She spent most of the day in the fields and came home hot and worried about the lack of rain. Thoughts of lost crops and the coming winter with no money to buy feed for the livestock or food for the table kept her occupied till after supper, when she looked out the window over the kitchen sink and saw that dusk had crept up and caught her unaware.
Her brothers had already said good night, turning in right after supper to be up before the sun for milking and other chores. David, on the other hand, hadn't appeared at the supper table at all. Was he skipping meals and starving himself on purpose? Trying to make a point or punish her somehow? She didn't know him well, but that seemed outside the shape of his character.
Maybe he dreaded their next encounter as much as she did. Either way, she had no desire to keep her promise to Trey. But keep it she would, damn her own stubborn pride to hell and back again.
Forty-five minutes later, with the dust and grime of the day washed from her skin and a few gulps of her grandpa's hooch sloshing in her belly, she stepped barefoot into the barn. The full skirt of mother's blue linen dress swished about her knees, and the evening breeze touched her in new and ticklish places. Was it the liquor's influence that made her ditch her underwear at the last second? Probably. She tried not to regret it now, as she stood at the bottom of the ladder and stared up into the dimly lit loft. When she licked her lips, she tasted whiskey and the cherry-flavored lip balm she'd dug from the pocket of an old denim jacket.
At the sound of Trey's voice, she gripped the ladder's rungs and hauled herself up. Her heart pounded to the beat of the butterfly wings in her stomach, but she kept climbing till she could poke her head and shoulders through the hole in the loft floor.
David sat on the edge of his cot with his hands clasped between his knees and his face averted. Trey stood just outside the lantern's glow, watching them both. Neither man smiled, or greeted her, or offered her a hand. The eerie quiet dropped like a weight on her shoulders.
She took a breath. The liquid heat of the whiskey had worked its way into the muscles of her legs and back, loosening and warming her even as it gave her the courage to push herself up and into the loft.
She faced down the men with her hands on her hips and the scent of ripe hay in her head. "Well, you've got me here. I hope it was worth the trouble."
Now Trey smiled, but Hannah was more interested in the way David's gaze traveled from her dust-covered toes to the hem of her dress, then to the tops of her breasts curving above the square neckline. When his eyes finally made it to her face, she blurted the first thing that came to mind: "Are you sure about this, David? No second thoughts?"
His eyes widened behind his glasses, and his throat made a dry, clicking sound when he swallowed. He looked away before he spoke. "Yes, I'm sure."
"All right, then." Trey stepped out of the shadows. He gestured toward the straight-backed chair that stood a few feet from David's cot. "Have a seat, Hannah."
Hannah hesitated, ready to argue. Part of her enjoyed Trey's highhanded ways, the part that had thrilled at giving up momentary control to his hands and mouth. But she was still the boss in her own barn, on her own land.
"I'm thinking about it."
Trey crossed his arms over his chest, the threat of a smirk twitching in the corners of his mouth. A few seconds passed. In the end, curiosity won out over pigheaded pride. She crossed the creaking floorboards to the chair and sat.
Trey turned toward David. "Last night, we gave you a free show in the kitchen. Now it's Hannah's turn to watch."
David blinked at him, but didn't answer.
"Stand up." Trey's tone was kind, but he looked at David with an expression of patient, practiced determination on his face that made Hannah wonder if this wasn't his first rodeo. How many other couples had Trey "helped" this way?
The cot's rusty springs creaked as David got to his feet. Trey approached him, and David held his ground. Hannah watched as emotions flickered across his face like light playing over still water. When the two men were mere inches apart, she compared them, Trey's compacted muscles of a prizefighter and David's sleek form of a long-distance swimmer.
"Remember what I told you last night?" Trey asked, his voice pitched just loud enough for Hannah to hear. "Remember when I said you're a man like any other, with a man's heart, mind and body?"
David jerked his head in something like a nod.
Trey smiled and used the tip of his finger to touch David's forehead. "You just need to find the connection between here," he said and used the same finger to poke at David's chest, "and here. Not to mention here." He let his hand drop so it brushed the region below David's belt for a bare instant. "Take off your clothes."
"What? No!" David looked horrified.
"You agreed to let me help you."
David cleared his throat. "Yes, but you didn't say anything about nudity."
"I think it was implied." Trey leaned in closer, trapping David between himself and the cot. The silence stretched taut, broken only by the restless shift of the cows abiding beneath them. This was the critical moment, the make-or-break instant.
Hannah gripped the seat of the chair. "David, please."
David flinched. His eyes flashed to hers. Whatever he saw in her face made his own expression harden to a grim, pained resolve. When he spoke, he addressed only Trey. "Would you step back and give me some room, please?"
It took him nearly a minute to fumble out of his shirt, boots, socks and trousers. At the end of it, he stood in nothing but his shorts and glasses.
"Those, too." Trey indicated both underwear and eyewear.
David glared, but removed the glasses and shorts and tossed them onto the cot. All at once, Hannah found it impossible to look at her own husband. How stupid was that? Instead she stared at Trey, watching as his gaze wandered over David's body.
"See how beautiful he is, Hannah? All man. Every inch of him."
Hannah let herself glance at David in time to see him lift his chin and square his shoulders in defiance, like a stag brought to bay. Her breath caught in her throat. Trey was right. He was beautiful, his skin the color of winter-pale wheat, his hair like autumn corn, and his eyes the perfect shade of summer grass.
Still, she found she couldn't make her eyes travel lower than the firm muscles bracketing David's navel, which was even more ridiculous. She'd seen his privates before, sort of. In silhouette, as he unbuttoned his trousers before she lifted her nightgown.
This was different, yes, but she was hardly an ignorant, blushing virgin. She'd grown up on a farm, for gravy's sake, where sex was an everyday event. And he was her husband.
On the other hand, David had barely managed to look her in the face since she'd climbed up to the loft.
What a pair they made. Whatever kind of help Trey was offering, they were in no shape to turn it down.
Trey reached out and pressed a hand against David's chest. "His heart is pounding, fast and strong. He's strong all over-his body, his mind and his will. There's a resilience in him, like a tree that bends but doesn't break."
David scowled. "You know I can hear you, right? I'm standing right here. Kind of hard to miss, what with all the nudity."
Hannah bit her lip to repress a grin. The good doctor had a sense of humor. How had she missed it? Biting and sarcastic, true, but she could live with that.
She watched as Trey slid his hand from to David's chest to his shoulder and pulled him forward a shuffling step or two. Then Trey moved to stand between David and the cot. David shuddered, his muscles jerking like the pelt of a startled animal, and Hannah knew Trey had pressed himself all along the length of David's naked body.
David kept on avoiding her gaze, as if he were ashamed. It made her want to slap the stupid right out of his handsome head. They needed this. Without it, their marriage would fail, disappear, be made null and void by some faceless Commission drone who didn't know and didn't care what they might mean to each other if only David would loosen up and give them half a chance.
Trey ran his large, tanned hands over David's shoulders and down his arms. "Now I'm going to touch you, and Hannah's going to watch."
Hannah felt the words like a punch to her gut. She made a soft sound, something between a moan and a whimper, and David's eyes locked on her face as if he'd only just noticed her sitting there. She stared at him and licked her lips.
Trey's hands moved again, and she followed their progress as they drifted down to David's hips. The circle of light cast by lantern threw everything into sharp relief, and she beheld her husband in all his glory for the first time. A remnant from the biblical Song of Solomon wandered through her head. As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons.
For all his obvious agitation, David was aroused. The sight of him made Hannah press her knees together and shift on the hard surface of the chair.
"Do you touch yourself when you're alone, David?" Trey's question was almost clinical. Except for the gritty pitch of his voice, he might've been another scientist taking notes on a laboratory subject.
David cleared his throat again, never looking away from Hannah's face. "That's a stupid question. Everybody does."
"Yes," Trey agreed, "everybody does. But I want to know how you touch yourself." He wrapped his big hand around David's erection, fisting him tight. David's body stiffened as if in protest, and he made a choked noise, but he didn't fight Trey's grip. Hannah watched, fascinated, as another man caressed her husband in the way she'd never had the courage to try.
"Hannah likes this," Trey whispered down the tight column of David's neck. "Her breaths are shallow. Her cheeks are pink and her eyes are dilated, all the fully documented signs of arousal." He directed his dark gaze at Hannah. "Show him. He needs to see how much you want him."
To Hannah, it seemed as if her hands moved to the hem of her skirt without her knowledge or permission. All she knew was weight of David's gaze on her and the sound of Trey's voice coaxing her to give up her inhibitions. The breeze from the open haymow was cool on her thighs and belly as she lifted her skirt.
Trey laughed, a deep, rough sound that buzzed to her marrow. "You two are full of surprises."
Hannah could only imagine he meant her lack of underwear. She was too busy watching David's reaction, the flush that traveled from his face to redden his neck and chest, and the way his breathing quickened. The weight of his attention felt heavy on her skin and molten in that empty place between her legs.
Her eyes locked on David's, she let her fingertips trail over the flesh of her inner thigh. The sensation made her tremble. David gave an answering shudder she could see from six feet away.
"Not yet," Trey murmured and released David from his grip. "We're just getting started."
Thanks again for the opportunity to use and abuse your blog, Tawny. You're very generous. :)
I wanted to mention that "Hard Harvest" is part of a multi-author paranormal series that focuses on the adventures of Trey, a time-traveling dude whose mission is to make sure certain couples throughout history get down to business, so to speak. Each novella visits a different couple and shows how Trey works his special magic. (Lots of threesome-y goodness and voyeurism in this series, as well as some very well-crafted romance.)