She had feelings but no experience in the matter of love. An Unlikely Arrangement.

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Chapter 8 – 3

His hand lay atop hers. The heat of his touch consumed her focus, and she struggled to hear his words. She lowered her gaze and looked at the muscled hand clasped around hers.

“Peter, I don’t…I just…please. I don’t know what I feel at the moment. I am only seventeen. I’ve had no experience in the matters of love. I haven’t had a proper boyfriend, yet. Yes, I have feelings, small flutters of excitement. Heat settles in my body in unmentionable places. It’s all so confusing. Is it love or simply desire? You will have to help me sort this all out. You have much more experience at this sort of thing than I.”

Peter removed his hand from hers and stood up. “Of course, forgive me. You are but a girl. Although, if you think I have experience with women, you are sadly mistaken. My father died as I was going out into the world. He had been a hard taskmaster and insisted I concentrate on my studies. There was little time to think about women. After his death, I became the head of the household, and every waking moment is spent on how to secure this family’s future. Maybe we are both naïve when it comes to matters of the heart, but we have no time to figure it out. Our parents will push us to make a decision.” He sat beside her again and turned her toward him. “You said you felt desire, heat, and flutters. That’s a start. You must have an attraction to me. I’m not utterly repulsive to you. Maybe it’s enough. Maybe it is all my mother and father had. They built their love on just that. Shall we try, Ruth?”

She looked into his eyes. “I suppose we can try, Peter, although, I must warn you, I’m very headstrong. I have a bad temper; I’m an only child, used to having the focus on me. You are such a loving family, I’m not sure I’ll fit.”

“You’re a breath of fresh air. Mother never had a daughter. She will love having you around, and the boys adore you already. You’ll fit in fine.”

They were silent for while. Peter removed his hands from her shoulders and covered her folded hands. After a moment, he raised a hand and lifted her head to meet his eyes. “May I kiss you, Ruth?”

Panic engulfed her, and she wanted to run. She turned away and felt him stiffen at the rejection.

“I don’t think I’m ready. It’s not that I don’t want to, but I have never kissed a boy before.”

Peter relaxed a little and touched her face, softly. “I’ll not rush you, I promise. With your parents’ return tomorrow, I am afraid we will have little time for privacy to actually find out about each other. This might very well be one of the few times we have alone before our wedding night. Do you understand what I mean, Ruth?”

Her face warmed at his implication. The wedding night loomed ahead of her…it was unfathomable. She stood up and broke the spell cast over them.

Instead of dropping the subject, Peter encircled her with his arms and kissed her full on the mouth.                                                                                                                                               She stiffened, but he did not relent.

His lips were hot, but soft and yearning. Shock rippled through her as his tongue began to flit around at the opening of her mouth. Just as she was ready to yield, to allow him in, he pulled away.

He hung his head. “I am so sorry, Ruth. I couldn’t help myself. I have wanted to taste those ruby lips all day. While on my route, I could think of nothing else. Please forgive me. I’m ashamed, and I wouldn’t blame you if you ran like the wind and had nothing more to do with me.” He turned away.

“Wait.” Ruth didn’t recognize her own voice. “Peter, wait.” She touched his arm.

He turned back to her. “Yes?” he replied.

She couldn’t meet his gaze. “It wasn’t altogether unpleasant. I mean, it was rather nice. I wonder if we might try it once more.”

“You mean it? You liked it? How wonderful, because I thought it was amazing. Oh Ruth, maybe, just maybe this will work for us.” His eyes sparkled like sapphires in the crisp night air. He reached out gently for her, and this time, she dared to put her arms around him. To reach him, she stood on tiptoes, and the closeness of his body excited her. He pressed against her lithe frame, and she fought the desire to melt into him. His lips touched hers, lightly at first, and then more demanding. It lasted an eternity, and she forgot, a few feet away, sat his mother and her best friend.

They parted, and neither spoke, only gazed into each other’s eyes.

“You feel it too, don’t you?” Peter whispered.

“I’m not sure what it is I feel. I only know I want to feel it again.”

“I think we should go inside before Mother becomes suspicious. It wouldn’t do to look undisciplined in the eyes of her or your best friend.” He reached down and pecked her on the cheek.

“Wait, what’s that? There in the bushes…someone giggled.”

Peter moved toward the sound, reached into the bush, and drew out his younger brother by the ear. “Charlie, does Mother know you’re out here spying on us? Where is your brother, Joseph? The two of you are inseparable, so I know he’s close by,” Peter admonished.

“Here he is, over here, behind this shrub.” Ruth parted the branches and out stepped the younger Kirby.

“What are we to do with you? Are you going to run and tell Mother what you saw?” Peter asked. “I will thrash you myself if you breathe one word. Now, off with you both.” He smiled. “Well, it looks like we’ve been caught. Nothing to do now but to marry, I suppose. I wouldn’t want to soil your reputation.”

“I…I do not know what to say. Do you suppose they will tell?” she gasped.

“I’m teasing you, Ruth. Those two are too afraid of my wrath to say one word to Mother.”

“So, you have a temper? Do you get very angry?” All of a sudden, the heat she experienced, only moments ago, turned cold, and the doubt and anxiety returned.

“I’m the only male authority they know. They were very young when father died. No, I don’t have a terrible temper. I am firm, and they know what I say is what I mean. I have tried to treat them as Father did me. He was my only example. Please don’t worry. That is not my nature. Now, I think we need to get back to the house before Mother does get suspicious.”

They walked, hand in hand, through the sleeping garden—back to reality, the two younger boys nowhere in sight.

Chapters of the novel appear on Monday and Wednesday.

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