Excerpt, Southern Man
Thanks again, LASR, for this fantastic opportunity to be in the spotlight. I hope you and your readers have enjoyed this week as much as I have. I'd like to end the week with an excerpt from Southern Man that illustrates the relationship between Troy and Patty Stevenson.
Patty poured bubble bath into the tub and turned the shiny chrome handles. While it filled, she tuned a portable radio sitting on the towel rack to Troy's jazz station and adjusted the volume. Both the pleasant scent rising from the tub and the music filling the air were at the perfect level of subtlety for relaxation.
She piled her hair on top of her head and fastened it with a barrette. Without haste, she undressed, stepped into the tub and carefully eased down into the hot water. She had been there several minutes, enjoying the music and waiting, when she heard her husband enter the bedroom.
"Tro," she called.
"What?" He came through his bathroom into the tub room.
"Get in." She tilted her head to give him an inviting smile.
He stood just inside the door and looked down at her. Only her head and shoulders showed above the froth. "You shameless hussy."
"It'll make you feel good."
He shook his head. "Real men don't take bubble baths."
But one side of his mouth quirked up as he unbuttoned his shirt and pulled it from his trousers. The half-smile changed to a mock leer and in moments he was naked, his clothes tossed carelessly onto the hamper. He stepped into the tub, grimaced at the temperature of the water and sat down gingerly, pulling air through his teeth.
"Turn around and I'll rub your shoulders," she said.
"I won't argue with that. This water's hot."
"It only takes a minute to get used to it, wuss." She squeezed water from a bath sponge across his neck and shoulders, kneaded them gently and listened to his not entirely put-on moans and groans. His left shoulder had begun to give him trouble intermittently. It had been dislocated three times during his football career, once each in junior high, high school and college.
"Goodness! What's going on at work? Your muscles feel like cables!"
"Ohhh, there's talk of building a new distribution complex, which means expansion, new employees, and the change will stress everybody out for a while. Sales are down a little. Max is still trying to socialize the company. But we'll weather it. Mmmmm. Scratch, too."
"Well, you try to relax and don't let it get to you." Patty lightly scraped her fingernails across his back.
"I haven't had a chance to work out much lately. It wouldn't be so bad if I had. Over to the right. Down a little. Little more--oh yeah, right there. Mmmm. Anyway, I'm relaxed now. This feels so good I might go to sleep in the water."
"Told you it would." Patty leaned back against the slanted wall of the tub, pulled him against her and crossed her arms around his neck. Troy grasped her feet and stroked her insteps with his thumbs. They lay there in silence, eyes closed, as the last of the day's tension from fussing children, radical feminists and plummeting sales dissipated seemingly into the water.
After a while, he rolled over toward her, making their diminishing blanket of bubbles rock and slosh. She studied his face--the dark eyes, the exquisitely shaped lips, now slightly parted, the fine coating of sweat. Her steadfast love for him began to stir into ardor.
You beautiful, sloe-eyed man! It's a miracle that you love me and belong to me!
He studied her face, too, and murmured, "You're so sweet and you look so cute covered with bubbles and your hair done up like that. I wish I could stay with you all night--we could have so much fun together--but I have to go."
She blinked. "Go? Why?"
"I promised my wife I'd be home by ten-thirty. If I'm not, she'll pitch a hissy-fit."
"The bitch," Patty said caustically, her brows lowering. "You are completely henpecked."
She filliped the water, sending a small splash toward him. He jerked his head to the side but not quickly enough. With drops rolling down his face, he flashed her a menacing grin.
"Oh, you bad girl, you have done it now," he said, giving each word exaggerated enunciation. "You better watch it 'cause you never know when I'm gonna get you for that."
She put the tip of her forefinger in her mouth for a moment and said, "You won't, though."
"Prob'ly not. But I ought to. Think how pissed you'd be if I'd done that to you."
"Yes, but you know I would mind, and I know you don't."
As she looked at him, the desire building inside her fountained upward to show in her face and glow in her eyes. She didn't try to conceal it, but took his face in her hands and pulled him closer to kiss him.
She kept it going a long time. He stirred but made no move away from her, no attempt to break the seal of their lips. At last, she did, and tilted her head back enough to see his face, to lose herself in the sweetness of his expression and in the beginning of passion and desire her kiss had put in his eyes.
He blinked and inhaled, as if breaking out of a mild trance, and slid forward to follow up with a kiss of his own. He murmured against her mouth, "Darlin' darlin' baby...I'm gettin' in the shower."
Troy believed tubs were for relaxing in and showers were for getting clean. Patty watched him step out and walk through doorway to his bathroom. Naked or clothed, he was magnificent, exquisitely proportioned, like Michelangelo's David, like da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, except for the slight extra length to his legs, which enhanced rather than detracted from his perfection.
She smiled and shook her head at the trail of drips and puddly footprints he thoughtlessly left on the floor. Some things just didn't occur to men.
She laughed softly when he stepped into his glass-enclosed shower, turned the handles on the wall and gave a little yelp as cold water hit him.
But it was no laughing matter when she thought about the tension in his muscles. He had mentioned several problems at work but Patty knew only one was really bothering him--the drop in sales.
He was always aware of the responsibilities his job put on his shoulders, aware that all the employees of Shearwater-Ingram depended on him and his department for their livelihood. He worked hard to live up to his responsibilities. He averaged over fifty hours a week at the office but actually worked more, counting what he brought home at night and the time he frequently put in on Saturdays.
At home, his money, earned by his labor alone, paid for it all--not only the floor but the water puddled on it, the roof over their heads and everything under it.
Except for the help he received from Providence, Troy singlehandedly sustained the lives of four human beings and contributed to the upkeep and wellbeing of numerous others. And he did it willingly, lovingly and with good humor.
Thus, he was entitled to demonstrate a little male thoughtlessness about something as harmless as water dripped onto an impervious ceramic tile floor.
Patty finished bathing and flipped the drain lever. She wrapped herself in her terry robe, stepped onto a towel spread on the floor and shoved it around with her foot, soaking up the puddles. She turned off the lights and music. Everything else could wait.
In her bathroom, she got ready for bed. Passing over her usual nightwear, tailored tricot pajamas, she shimmied into a a short, slinky white negligee, because Troy was needful tonight and she was wantful. And because it was the last thing a bitchy, hissy-pitching wife would wear.
She put a dab of Parthenope into the hollow at the base of her throat, removed the barrette and let her brown locks fall uncombed to her shoulders.
In the cool, dim bedroom, she checked to see that Troy had shut the door to the hallway. The children knew not to come into their parents bedroom when the door was closed unless it was an emergency, and to knock first in any case.
Troy emerged from his bathroom, dried off but slightly damp and naked but for the towel around his waist because naked was how he slept. He kept a pair of pajama bottoms under the mattress for quick access on the nights when storms or bad dreams brought the little ones scurrying to sleep with Mama and Daddy.
Patty stepped up to him and gave him a petulant look. "You said you'd be home by ten-thirty. Where were you? Who is she?"
He shook his head, grinning. "You're not a very convincing harridan, sweetheart. You just don't have it in you."
Their little game had been fun, but his smile faded and the look on his face said he was ready to get back to reality. A sultry flame leaped to life in his eyes as they went down her body and moved back up to her face. With a forefinger, he pushed aside the thin strap of her negligee, trailed his lips along her shoulder and nuzzled her neck.
Patty shivered and broke out in goose pimples.
She gave the towel a tug and it fell to the floor.
Troy put his arms around her, pulled her to him and kissed her. He took a soft, uneven breath and murmured, "She's you. You're all the women I want--my sweet wife, my children's mother, my helper, naughty girl, best friend.... and I love every one of y'all to death."