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Steady as the Snow Falls(48)

By:Lindy Zart

Beth's family adopted Harrison in a single day, strengthening his allies against whatever came his way.

Christmas Day was at Harrison's house, with his parents. Beth was  nervous-more than nervous. She couldn't sit still. She'd changed her  clothes ten times and tried three different hair styles. In the end, she  chose gray slacks and a pink sweater, deciding to keep her hair down.  All in all, she felt quite plain. She could have avoided hours of  indecisiveness if she'd elected to not lose her head for a while.

"Unless you're willing to fix whatever grooves your incessant walking  over the hardwood floor is going to produce, I suggest you stop. And  sit."

It was so like the antagonistic Harrison from the first days of their  association that Beth paused and blinked at him. He kept his head  lowered as he looked at the weekly paper, but she saw the glimpse of a  smile in the curve of his cheek. Dressed in black jeans and a forest  green sweater, he looked casual and sharp. Beth marched over to him and  snatched the paper from his hands. When he protested, she threw it  behind her.

Harrison shot to his feet, towering over her as his firecracker eyes  glared down at her. Her mouth went dry, her palms turned slick, and Beth  eagerly met his harsh mouth as it descended, swooping down to steal her  breath and any bit of her that wasn't yet his. It was all his, nothing  but dust left to mark it as anything other.

His hands roved up the inside of her top, across her bare stomach and  back. Harrison's fingers brushed over her breasts, teasingly, taunting  her, maddening her pulse. Down her sides, sliding the length of the  front of her pants, pausing with inches between his fingers and the  place she throbbed. Harrison crept closer, and she gasped in  anticipation, all of her numb and tense, shaking and out of control.         



Hot and demanding, he latched his mouth once again to hers, slanting his  head to deepen the kiss. Beth arched her back as she moaned, pressing  closer to him, feeling him through his jeans as he bent his knees to fit  against the juncture of her legs. Her fingers grabbed the short strands  of his hair, pulled. He growled and hitched his body up, his lower half  rubbing against hers.

"Harrison," she murmured, and he kissed her more fervently.

Where they were, the day of the week, even the imminent arrival of his  parents-it all faded away in the heat of their want. He spun them  around, and they fell onto the couch with Beth beneath him and their  lower halves off the couch. It was an uncomfortable position and Beth  didn't care. His hand went between them and Beth gasped at the feel of  his fingers as they skimmed the waist of her pants, dipped down past her  underwear, and into her.

Her head fell back and Beth closed her eyes, loving the feel of him,  even his fingers, especially his fingers. Panting, dazed and a ball of  excruciating sensation, Beth moved against his hand. She froze, hearing  something, faint but real. Like tires on gravel.

"Harrison." Urgency entered her voice.

"Keep moving, Beth. Don't stop," he said against her neck.

"Harrison." Beth shoved at him. His hand fell away, emptiness filling her at the loss of his touch.

He stared at her, his hair mussed, his eyes unfocused and throbbing with  desire. "What's wrong?" His words were thick, and Harrison shook his  head as if to clear it.

"I heard something."

"What?" He frowned. His eyes were sharper, some of the fog gone from the blackish brown depths.

"Hello? Harrison?" a woman's voice called, adding in a quieter tone, "Go  see if you can find him and Beth. I'll start unloading the food in the  kitchen."

They stared at each other for an instant, and then they propelled into  action, Harrison adjusting himself as Beth tried to fix her hair and  straighten her clothes. Color bloomed in his cheeks, and his eyes  sparked with heat when they met hers. Beth shifted anxiously, wondering  how things had gotten so out of hand at the worst possible moment. She  took in Harrison's rumpled appearance and bit her lip to keep from  laughing. He gave her a lopsided smile that shot yearning through her  quicker than any kiss could.

"Well, it's good to know some things don't change," a brown-haired man said from the doorway, looking between the two of them.

Harrison's features turned sheepish. "Hey, Dad."

"Hello, Harrison." He studied his son, shifting his eyes to Beth before  returning his gaze to Harrison. His eyes were dark brown like  Harrison's; as warm as melted chocolate. "Why don't you go and get  situated? I'll distract your mom for a few minutes."

They didn't need any more encouraging. Feeling like a teenager getting  caught in her boyfriend's bedroom, Beth sprinted from the room and up  the stairs. Harrison was right behind her. At the top of the stairs, she  whirled around and planted a kiss on his lips, laughing as their heads  clunked together. He chased her down the hallway to the bathroom,  pinning her against the wall and stealing another kiss.

"That was awkward," Beth told him, his hands set against the wall on either side of her head.

"Just wait. It'll get better." The way he said it didn't comfort her in any way.

He kissed her again, a soft, lingering touch that tantalized her mouth and body.

"We have to stop." She didn't want to stop.

"Yes," he agreed. "For now."

Beth's stomach dipped at the promise.

"Not touching you is killing me, and I foresee an evening of torture, and it won't stop until I'm inside you."

"Harrison, don't talk like that when there is nothing we can do about  it," she moaned, her body jerking at the thought of him and her in bed.

"Nothing we can do about it now." Harrison stroked willful strands of hair from her face. "Later."

Later was a boring word. One that indicated an interval sometime in the  future. No specification designated to it. It was lazy. But when  Harrison said it, later was the most beautiful of words, especially  coupled with its intent. Later had never sounded so perfect. Later was  presently her favorite word.

"Later," Beth confirmed, ducking under his arm and into the bathroom to douse her face with handfuls of cool water.

Somewhat composed, but no less nervous, five minutes later Beth held  Harrison's hand as he introduced her to his parents. They were in the  kitchen, their backs to them as they worked around the kitchen, setting  out a feast of rolls, baked ham, pasta salad, pies, and other delicious  looking and smelling foods. Earlier in the week, Harrison let Beth know  his mom insisted on bringing all the food, and told them not to worry  about preparing anything. Her one request was a hug in exchange for the  meal, he told her grudgingly, looking apprehensive about her reaction.         



Beth merely smiled.

And when his mom, tall and slim with large gray eyes and chin-length  black hair, turned and opened her arms to Beth without a word, Beth  smiled again. Mary Caldwell gave Beth the best kind of hug-one of pure  warmth. She kissed her cheek as they separated, her eyes shining at her  like Beth was one of her most favored people. "It's so, so good to meet  you. You have no idea how good it is to meet you."

"T-thank you," she stuttered, surprised by the welcome. Beth's face was  hot, and when she looked up, Harrison winked at her from where he stood  next to his dad. They were imposing men, both tall and broad-shouldered  with dominant presences. In some ways, Harrison took after Timothy  Caldwell, and in other ways, he was solely his mother.

"Harrison talks of you fondly, and often," Timothy said as he shook  Beth's hand, giving her back a few meaningful yet still awkward pats  before stepping away.

"And you got a tree," his mom exclaimed, gesturing toward the entryway. "It's perfect."

"It was Beth's idea." The tree was fake, eight feet tall, and wrapped in  white lights and deer ornaments. It added a spark of life to the  otherwise empty foyer.

"Harrison, what do you say about going for a walk in the woods?" his dad asked.

Harrison looked at Beth. "Sure. Are you okay with that?"

Mary set back her shoulders and eyed her son. "Of course she's okay with that. She's with me."

She nodded, smiling at Mary. "I'll help your mom. Maybe you'll spot a deer or two."

Harrison lightly gripped her face between his large hands, pressed his mouth to the skin above her eyes, and left with his dad.

As soon as the front door shut, Mary narrowed her eyes at Beth and Beth  instinctively took a step back. Cold with apprehension, she looked at  the woman who gave Harrison life. How must she feel, knowing it could  end before hers? Beth's heart stung and she shifted her feet, needing  noise or movement instead of this silence.

His mother tilted her head, studying Beth like she wanted to see into  her heart and know its truth. Beth would gladly show it to her, if she  could.

"Harrison's changed," she stated, looking down to straighten the red  with white snowflakes tablecloth she brought. Mary leveled her eyes on  Beth. "He's better. He's living like he should be."