In my story “Pulling” (which is also included in the collection) the erotic charge is very much a matter of opposites attracting, which happens to be the theme of my bi-weekly post over on ohgetagrip.com. Ree is a horse trainer and veterinarian showing her draft horses at a county fair. Carla is a midway barker luring farm boys (and men) to her dart-and-balloon concession with sultry banter, but with no intention of letting any of them get under her short skirt. A big farm girl, though, is a different matter. When she and Ree get together at a cheap motel, Carla brings vicious clamps and mardi gras beads from the balloon game, while Ree brings a tube of horse lube. Vive la difference! What happens later? Carla disappears after their second night together. Not surprising. But the two-years-later sequel, “Findng Carla,” brings them together again, Ree more sexually experienced now, Carla with a desperate need for ordinary respectability. Here’s an excerpt:
“Keep your skanky hands off me!” The words sliced through drifting aromas of coffee and pancakes and bacon. “Touch me again, and those fingers won’t be able to
fuck your own sorry dick!”
I’d know that voice, that attitude, anywhere. A truck stop where Vermont slopes into New Hampshire wasn’t high on my list of places to look, but how much, really, had I ever known about Carla? Apart from the way she sounded in hip-swishing, femme-top command of any situation—or with her hips so entirely out of control she couldn’t shape gasps into words—or steeling herself to mount my huge draft horse. We hadn’t had much time for the getting-to-
I couldn’t see into the dining area past the family with fidgety kids ahead of me. Getting by without trampling them didn’t seem likely, but I was giving it a try anyway when a skinny whirlwind shot from around the cashier’s counter and whacked me from behind.
“Ree Daniels, move your butt!” The manager forged her way through the milling kids like an icebreaker. I was twice Lyddie Brown’s bulk and a foot taller, but I followed in her wake anyway.
It was Carla, all right, her pot of scalding coffee poised right above the hastily withdrawn hand—and crotch—of a middle-aged truck driver I’d seen around before. On the skuzzy side, usually on the make, but Carla could’ve handled his kind in seconds with a sly quip, back when
she’d been working arcade games on the county fair circuit.
Now her face and body were tense, brittle, close to panic. She looked as near to being spooked as any horse I’ve ever handled. What the hell had got into her? And what was she doing here?
It was my turn to shove Lyddie aside, with a look meant to convince her I knew what I was doing. “Hey, Carla.” I moved in close. “Let me help you out with that.” My hand curled around her fingers on the coffeepot’s handle. My body edged hers away from the customer. “Let’s put it down over here, okay?”
The wildness in her dark eyes mellowed into recognition, and something I hoped was deeper. That last morning, while I was still asleep, she’d cleared out without any clue as to how
to find her. For nearly two years I’d figured all she’d seen in me was just a hot enough two-night stand to pass the time with. If she’d thought that was all I’d seen in her, she’d been
dead wrong. Okay, I lied about the getting-to-know-you bit. Two days and nights was enough for me to discover the vulnerability behind the bravado, the steel determination that
overcame fear—and to want to know more.
“Sure,” she said now, “anything you say, big girl.” Her voice shook, but the old low, intimate tone was still there.
Remembered lust surged back in a rush. Carla had always radiated sparks of bad-girl eroticism. Even with her waves of black hair confined in a knot and her waitress uniform just skimming her curves, she shot off pheromones that could pierce a Humvee. I’d have felt some sympathy for the driver if he hadn’t started to bluster.
Lyddie rolled her eyes, jerked her head toward the office, and went into damage control mode.
I got Carla to the coffee station and deposited the hot pot. In spite of interested observers at every table, my hand settled into the sweet spot where waist curves to hip as I steered her into the office and kicked the door shut.
She was shivering when I put my arms around her. I’d never imagined Carla so shaken. Physically wary, sure—my big horses had scared her before she’d discovered the delights
of naked bare-back riding at midnight—but nothing like this melt-down. “Oh, honey, what’s the trouble?” I used my soothing-skittish-fillies tone. “It’ll be all right.” I stroked her black hair, glossy as my Percherons. It came loose from its prim knot, falling into the wild mane I remembered whipping back and forth over my sweaty tors o as she rode me.
“No it won’t,” she muttered against my chest. When her head lifted I saw that the glitter of tears in her eyes came as much from rage as from despair. It was oddly reassuring. “There goes another job! That bastard! But I can handle his kind without lifting a finger. Usually.” Carla searched her breast pockets. I took pity and grabbed the box of Kleenex from Lyddie’s desk.
I dabbed at her damp eyes. No makeup beyond a subdued shade of lipstick. She still exuded that seductive air that had grabbed me the first time I’d seen her, but something else as well that grabbed me harder, even as I shied away from examining it too closely. “So, what went wrong?”
“Me. I went wrong. ‘Sorry, I’m not on the menu’ didn’t do the trick, but I could’ve just smiled and moved away. When he put his hand on my butt, though, I felt…I wanted…dammit, Ree, I needed to be touched so bad it hurt, but not by his kind!”
I could recognize a mare in heat long before I earned my veterinary degree, and my experience of women had tuned me to the similarities. Women aren’t as easily ruled by their hormones as mares, though. For Carla to go off the deep end, there must be as much turmoil in her head as in her body. Dangerous territory.
Just the same, my hand went to her thigh and would have traveled farther if Lyddie hadn’t charged into the office just then.
Carla tried to pull away. I kept an arm around her shoulder. “How’s it going, Lyddie?” I hoped my grin still had the tomboy charm that used to get me extra pie as a kid. The manager had known me all my life, and my family even longer. We’d always stopped here when I was helping my dad transport horses to New Hampshire farms and fairs. The grin could have got me a whole lot more than pie if I’d been so inclined, once I’d grown up, cropped my straw-yellow hair short, and shown that I knew who I was and where I was going.
Lyddie looked us up and down, hands braced on hips, head shaking in exasperation. “Might’ve known you’d be acquainted. There’s gotta be an explanation behind this, but I don’t have the time or patience now.”
“It’s the old story,” I said. “Farm girl meets carnival huckster at the county fair. The Lancaster Fair year before last, when my team was in the pulling trials.” I realized too late that Carla might not have included the midway balloon/dart concession on her résumé.
“Judging by such a touching reunion, maybe you wouldn’t mind taking Miss Volcano-mouth off my hands for a couple of days until all this drama blows over.”
Carla stirred under my arm. “I’m sorry, Lyddie. I should just move on. Thanks for taking a chance on me, but I’ve always been bad news.”
I wanted to shake the old arrogance back into her. On the other hand, if it had been just a shield, I wanted to know what was behind it.
Lyddie softened. “You’re not bad, honey. You’re just drawn that way.”
Carla was right on it. “Thanks, Lyddie. Jessica Rabbit is my role model.”
“You’re a fine cashier and waitress,” Lyddie added. “Never did figure out what you’re doing in a place like this. You could make a lot more tending bar in the city or the tourist area over by Mt. Washington. At least bars have bouncers.”
Carla’d begun to relax, but now she tensed and glanced away from Lyddie. “Can’t blame a girl for wanting to try out respectability for a change.”
I was tired of being left out of the conversation. “If riding in the cab of a horse van rates as respectable, I’d be glad of the company. I’ll be back this way tomorrow or the next
day. We’ll see how things look by then.”
“Just let me get out of this uniform and grab a fewthings.” Carla wriggled out of my grasp. Lyddie and I watched her go, both our gazes fixed on her slender back and swaying ass, both of us exhaling when she’d gone. But Lyddie’s sigh was somber.
“Can’t get a job at a bar these days without a background check,” she said. “A police record will shoot you right down. She’s a whiz with numbers, too, took some accounting
courses she says, but the same goes there.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” But I knew.
The story ends with them together, but some rocky times ahead. I intend to take them through those in another story, still very different characters. You never know, maybe a novel will come of it.