“I’ve got a favor to ask.”
“I need a woman for this new one. You’d be absolutely perfect. You get to wear clothing,” Issy rushed to add. Would you like to see the dress?”
Issy led her to a rack of dresses. The one Issy took off the rack was dark red, trimmed in black lace. It was a severely cut dress in the style of the Old West, complete with a bustle.
“It’s something called the Cowboy and the Schoolmarm,” Issy told her. “Dumb title, but it’s a great book.”
“You’ve read it?”
“Yes, to get ideas for the artwork. I insist. A lot of artists won’t, and they make crappy covers. This one is special. A friend of mine wrote it. I helped her get it published and insisted on doing the cover art.”
“I’d love to,” Hana agreed. “I think it would be fun.”
“Great! While the boys play with horses tomorrow, you and I will do this. Now, I need to get the kids to bed or they will never wake up for the bus tomorrow.”
They left the studio in darkness. Hana held the photo of Jasper to her chest, remembering the feel of his skin under her hands. While Issy got the children inside and lined up for showers, Hana tucked the photo in her overnight bag. Jasper came in a moment later, walking up quietly behind her as he slipped his arms around her waist. Hana leaned against him, loving the pressure of his chest against her back.
His lips drifted down to the base of her neck, gently caressing. The sounds of the household faded and all she could hear was the beating of her heart. His breath was warm, his lips soft. Humming softly, he moved slowly behind her, dancing to the song he sang.
Hana wanted to stay in his arms. It felt so right having him hold her, singing and dancing with her. His muscular body made her feel secure, like nothing could possibly hurt her.
Jasper found the curves of her body under her clothing and it was driving him mad. He wanted to be with her more than any other woman he’d ever known. His hands traveled over her clothing as he sang to her, dancing with his eyes closed. Her body fit just right against his. He could fantasize what it would be like to make love to her. He had a good imagination, which was more of a curse than a blessing.
“Y’all want a cup of coffee?”
Mitch’s loud, booming voice startled them both, making them jump. Hana tightened up, hopping into him. Jasper’s hand slipped up, grabbing her breast without meaning to.
“Yes,” Hana recovered first, taking Jasper’s hand from her breast, putting it around her waist instead.
“Sorry, Mitch. I guess the day is catching up with me,” Jasper apologized, trying to find a reason for his behavior.
“Kid, I don’t forget being your age. I ain’t that old.”
“Probably bad to be groping in front of the kids. Sorry,” Hana apologized, taking a step away from Jasper.
“Hell, kids’re in the back. I only thought you might like a cup of coffee. I’m not the most subtle man in the world.”
“Coffee’s good,” Jasper agreed. “Hana?”
“Didn’t mean to interrupt,” Mitch said.
“Sure you did,” Jasper laughed, punching his friend.
“Thanks for protecting my virtue, Mitch.” Hana kissed his cheek. “It’s very sweet of you.”
“Not necessary, but sweet. I do have some self-control,” Jasper griped.
“Buddy, you ain’t got the self-control of a polecat.”
“Don’t start telling my secrets, Mitch. I might have to tell a few of yours.”
Mitch became businesslike immediately. “Let’s find that coffee, shall we?”
After the children were settled, the four of them sat around talking about a variety of subjects. Eventually, they came to the subject of the Mustangs.
“I’m still advocating barefoot. What I’m seeing doesn’t indicate problems. Their hooves are healthy and strong. A little overgrown, but I can come out and give them a trim from time to time. I’d really like to see how we can do without shoes.”
“Well, all right, Jasper. I’ll bow to your decision. God knows, I ain’t seen you be wrong too often.”
“I’ll get the rest of them done tomorrow.”
“It’s late,” Issy said. “I imagine you’d like some sleep after that long drive today.”
Hana stifled a yawn, smiling shyly. “I didn’t realize how tired I was until you said something about bed.”
“I wasn’t too sure about arrangements earlier. Am I correct in assuming that you’re not sharing?”
“Not sharing,” Jasper sighed, his gaze fastening on Hana with longing.
Her eyes left his, dropping to the floor.
© Dellani Oakes 2022