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Suspended Game


Roz Lee










SUSPENDED GAME

Copyright © 2015 Roz Lee

Published by: State of Mind

www.RozLee.net

ISBN: 978-0-9985706-6-2

This eBook is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places, and events portrayed in this work are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, places or persons, living or dead, is coincidental. No part of this eBook may be used or reproduced in any form whatsoever in any country whatsoever without the express written permission of the authors, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.



TABLE OF CONTENTS

Cover

Dedication

Author’s Note

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Epilogue

About the Author

Other Titles by Roz Lee



Dedication

For Terrell and the two Margaritas that made this story possible.



A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR


I hope fans of the Mustangs Baseball series will enjoy this step back in time to 1936 when baseball truly was America's pastime. America was still reeling from the great stock market crash and dealing with a heat wave that destroyed lives and livelihoods (the dust bowl). Amid the turmoil and heartache, baseball provided a much-needed distraction.


Ballparks didn't have lights, so all games were played during the day so attending a game was a special treat. Most listened to the play-by-play via radio (no television yet!), read about their favorite team in the newspaper or stood on the sidewalk where innovative news outlets posted play-by-play information as it came through via telegraph from the ballparks.


The hero of Suspended Game, Jimmy Doyle Walker, is the grandfather of Doyle Walker, the manager of the Mustangs in my present-day series. Readers might recall (Strike Out, Mustangs Baseball #6) that Doyle has a bat in his office that his grandfather used during the 1936 season. Jimmy Doyle walks a fine moral line. An upstanding guy, he's struggling to revive his career after being falsely accused in a gambling scandal while protecting his personal life from those who would condemn him. The BDSM lifestyle is not a 21st century invention. People have been practicing kink since the beginning of time, albeit, behind closed doors. In 1936, small, secret communities of like-minded people existed all across the country. The group of which Jimmy Doyle is a member is a figment of my imagination, but is nonetheless accurate in its depiction of the secretive nature of the members.


The heroine of the story, Evelyn Gardner, reflects the reality of women during that time. The roaring twenties brought a degree of liberation for women, but for the most part, they were subject to the whims of the men in their life and society’s moral strictures. A woman's value remained tied to her virtue, and that was subject to her marital status. Divorce wasn't unheard of, but it was a stain on a woman's character, as was any expression of sexual desire. Women had earned the right to vote, but sexual fulfillment was still a man's right.


Finding the romance of this era was a challenge, but one I thoroughly enjoyed. I hope you do too.


Roz




CHAPTER ONE

Jimmy Doyle Walker unfolded from Harvey’s 1936 Ford Roadster and eyed the open-sided tent bearing a hand-painted sign that read, “Revival of the Spirit.” Music couldn’t possibly float on the humid air, but a familiar hymn hung in the atmosphere like a boom ready to drop. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

His buddy, Diplomats second baseman, Harvey Timmons shrugged. “A little religion never hurt anybody.”

Jimmy Doyle adjusted his suspenders and slipped on the suit coat he’d abandoned for the drive. He was used to people trying to reform him. During the five years of exile from the game he loved, better people than Harvey had hinted that he could do with a bit of salvation. What they didn’t know was, clearing his name and getting back in the game was all the salvation he’d wanted.

Following his friend across the ankle-high grass trampled by the hundred or so people congregated in the shade of the white canvas, he silently cursed the summer heat. “You’re going to owe me, big time, for this.”

“Shut your yap and come on.”

Jimmy Doyle smiled at his friend’s back. It was difficult to hold a grudge against Harvey. The man seemed to smile all the time, and never had a harsh word for anyone. That made his sharp command all that much more amusing.

Removing his hat, he ducked beneath the ruffled edge of the canopy. What little air that stirred outside hadn’t found its way inside. Spying two empty folding chairs on the back row, he grabbed Harvey’s sleeve before his friend could drag them to vacant seats in the front. The last row was perfectly fine. With a little luck, an errant breeze would find them there.

The stout woman next to him elbowed him in the ribs to hand him a hymnal. Even though he knew the hymn they were singing by heart he took the book anyway, smiling his thanks as he added his voice to the song. Nothing said sinner in need of reform like non-participation. He’d play along until he could get the hell out of there.

This was the first Sunday they’d had off in ages, and the last place he wanted to be was at some holier-than-Thou tent Revival meeting. He’d grown up attending church services, but once he’d left home, he’d never felt the call to attend regularly. Harvey was one of a few teammates who didn’t go out of his way to avoid him, as if the stain on his career that would never fully go away might somehow rub off on them if they got too close. So when he’d extended the invitation for a drive in the country today, Jimmy Doyle hadn’t thought twice about accepting.

He was rethinking his decision now. The afternoon heat ramped up right along with the preacher’s rhetoric. Beyond the small stage, the breeze, no doubt held back by the hand of Satan, stirred the grass but never made it inside. Sweat trickled down his spine, dampening the back of his shirt. He pulled his handkerchief out to wipe his brow while fighting the urge to vault over the back of his chair and escape. He’d never been a fan of browbeating sinners to repent, preferring a more subtle approach to sway people to do the right thing. If his brush with ignominy had taught him anything, it was not to trust those who protested loudly. He wouldn’t trust this preacher as far as he could throw him.

Since he couldn’t bolt without calling unwanted attention to himself and Harvey, he let his gaze wander over the crowd of worshipers. It always amazed him how many people came to these things, and this one, on the outskirts of the nation’s capital, was no different. Everyone wore their Sunday best, from the housewives in their lace-collared frocks to business men in suits. A few rows up, the young woman occupying the aisle seat caught his attention, and once he noticed her, he couldn’t look away.

He’d guess her to be in her early twenties. No family surrounded her—no husband, no children, no parents. That, in itself, set her apart. A woman her age shouldn’t be alone.

She wore her auburn hair in a tight bun at her nape, indicating she kept it long when most women her age were cutting theirs short. A nondescript hat crowned her head. Her dress was plain, no fancy trim for her, and her white-gloved fingers clutched a small purse in her lap. They’d reached the portion of the service where they passed the donation basket. Something inside him shifted as he watched her open her purse and select a single coin. He could almost see the way it ripped at her heart to drop the coin in the basket. Maybe it was the straight line of her back, something she’d maintained throughout the interminable service. Or perhaps it was the way her fingers curled into a fist the second the coin hit the basket, as if she were tempted to fetch it back before passing the collection on to the person on her left, but he’d bet his bottom dollar that parting with the money had nothing to do with her financial situation.

When she bowed her head for the prayer, he cut his eyes to her. Sweat glistened on her nape. He licked his lips. He could almost taste her salty sweetness on his tongue.

He nudged Harvey in the ribs. “Who’s that?” he asked behind the paper program someone handed him when he arrived.

His friend followed his gaze then cut his eyes back. “Never seen her before,” Harvey whispered, returning his attention to the final hymn.

Jimmy Doyle sang the lyrics from memory. There was something about the woman that drew him to her. She wasn’t beautiful, but he’d never cared much for outward beauty. It was what was on the inside that mattered most to him. Her posture screamed of tight control. He’d seen that look before, knew the challenge of breaking through barriers to get to the heart of a woman. She’d never find the answers she was looking for until she let another carry her burdens for her.


Evelyn squeezed her eyes shut and let the nickel fall into the collection basket, passing it on before she changed her mind and snatched the money back. Only a sinner like her would begrudge God a meager coin. She stood to sing the final hymn, anxious now to escape the stifling heat and the reminders of how far she fell short of the Glory of God.

The preacher called sinners to repent. He promised salvation for those who cast their burdens at the Lord’s feet. “Cast the yoke of sin off your shoulders,” he cried, “and the grace of God will be yours.”

Several people made their way forward to kneel and accept God’s forgiveness, but Evelyn’s feet remained rooted in the soft earth of the hay field. Forgiveness was for those who renounced their sin, who cast it from their hearts and minds—things she had tried to do and failed. No matter how hard she prayed, or how righteous a life she lived, her sins remained written on her soul, visiting her in the dark of her lonely nights, condemning her to eternal damnation.

A demon lived inside her—her father and her ex-husband had said so, and she believed them. Why else would her mind and her body crave the things it did? She’d tried repenting. Had prayed for the longings to go away. Had let an entire congregation lay healing hands on her, and still, wicked desires stirred her body and disturbed her dreams. Satan dwelled inside her as surely as the sun rose in the East every morning.

Hope had drawn her to this tent today, but as the preacher laid hands on the repenting sinners, she knew in her heart his sermon had changed nothing. His words were as hollow as the ones she heard every Sunday morning at the church down the street from where she lived. Salvation was not to be hers, not in this lifetime.

Preacher Nathan placed his hands on the head of a woman kneeling at his feet. After commanding the demons to leave the woman, he offered a blessing no different from the ones

Evelyn had heard a million times over then helped the new child of God to her feet. The woman’s face glowed with life and love, her expression one of wonder as tears of joy streamed down her cheeks.

Evelyn couldn’t bear to remain there another minute. While the congregation raised their voices in celebration at the salvation of another soul, she stepped into the aisle and, head down, fled as fast as her feet would carry her.

It was a long walk back to town, but she’d rather walk than share a car with strangers the way she’d gotten there. Her emotions were too raw, her disappointment too fresh to listen to the inevitable recounting of Preacher Nathan’s success. How many souls had he added to his saved tally today? How eloquent were his words? How fortunate they all were that he had answered God’s calling and brought the Word of God to their neck of the woods today.

“Bullshit,” she mumbled to herself. It was all bullshit. Only one who knew a demon’s grip first-hand could understand that Preacher Nathan was all show. God had not been present in that Hell of a tent, and He most certainly had not cast any demons out of bodies. If He had, He would have recognized the one dwelling inside her and cast it out above all others.

She drew the cooler air into her lungs and focused on the horizon, putting one foot in front of the other. “Nothing but bullshit.” The breeze carried the softly spoken words from her lips.

“What’s bullshit?” Evelyn started at the masculine voice close behind her. A second later, the owner of the voice joined her, matching his longer gate to her shorter one.

“Nothing.” She continued walking, resisting the urge to look at the man beside her. What was he doing here, anyway? “I’m not going back, if that’s why you came out here.”

“Nope. Not why I’m here.”

They continued walking in silence until she stopped on the edge of the gravel road. The man was a full head taller than her five-foot-three inches. He was one of the most handsome men she’d ever seen, with sandy hair and eyes as green as winter wheat that seemed more amused than angry at her assumption that he’d been sent to drag a stray sheep back to the fold.

“Then why are you following me?” The last thing she needed was a goody-two-shoes meddling in her life. Her demons were hers to battle. She’d been doing it alone, and she would continue to do it without any help from a stranger.

He shrugged his wide shoulders. “Don’t know, exactly.” He looked back the way they’d come as if he wasn’t sure why he’d was standing on the side of the road instead of back there, watching the spectacle. When he turned back to her, the amusement was gone, replaced by an expression that sent a shiver along her spine. She took a step back toward the safety of the tent.

“Please, don’t go.” The plea in his voice stopped her. “I saw you in there, and I knew I needed to get to know you, so I followed you out.”

Her expression changed from alarm to curiosity. He hadn’t imagined the interest in her eyes when she’d first checked him out either. And now that he saw her up close, he didn’t know why he hadn’t seen her beauty before. Her skin was flawless, like the finest porcelain. Sunlight glinted off the streaks of gold in her hair, making her look like an angel. An annoyed angel, but he could work with that. The Revival would be breaking up soon, he didn’t have much time to convince her to give him a chance. He was taking a calculated risk, but some things in life were worth it. “I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t take another minute of that.”

He considered her silence a good thing and continued. “I’m glad you left.”

She glanced back at the tent where people were beginning to meander out then back to him. Without another word, she moved past him down the road toward town. He fell into step beside her.

“I don’t know what you want, but you aren’t going to find it here.” He’d heard more subtle turn downs, but she wasn’t going to get rid of him that easily. It had been a long time since he’d seen a woman who intrigued him the way this one did, and he wasn’t going to let a few barbs deter him.

“The only thing I want is to get to know you. I’m Jimmy Doyle, by the way.”

“Like I said, Mr. Doyle, I’m not interested.”

He chuckled at her mistake. “Walker. Jimmy Doyle Walker. I’m thirty years old, never been married, and I play baseball for the Washington Diplomats. I’m originally from Texas—grew up on a dirt farm there before I left to play ball.”

He hoped opening up some would encourage her to do the same. That had been his mistake. Shoulders back, she continued to walk as if he didn’t exist. A few cars passed them, kicking up a cloud of dust thick enough to choke a horse, but she continued on like a soldier marching to war. Another car passed, this one too close. He grabbed her arm, pulling her off the road and into the shade of an old oak tree.

“What are you doing? Let go of me!” She wrenched her arm out of his grasp. Her chest heaved with indignation and exertion. He had to force his gaze up to her face. The minute he’d touched her, his dick went hard. Seeing her breasts press tight against the thin fabric of her dress only made his situation worse. He’d have her, but not until she gave herself to him. Convincing her to surrender her control was going to take time and patience. He had plenty of the former and not so much of the latter.

“Those people are drunk on believin’, sugar. You think they didn’t see you leave before the show was over?” He pointed at the car disappearing down the road. His heart was beating with a combination of fear and lust, and he didn’t know which one fueled his outburst, and he didn’t care. Keeping her safe had suddenly become a top priority for him. “That one only wanted to scare you. The next one might not miss. Unless you’re prepared to plead your case at the pearly gates today, best you wait a while.”

He hated the look of fear on her face, hated that he’d put it there. He reached for her, pulling her into his embrace. “You’re okay, sugar. No one is ever going to hurt you again.”

Evelyn’s mind reeled. Pressed up against his solid chest, his strong arms holding her in a gentle, yet unbreakable, hold, she felt safe. The feeling was absolutely absurd considering she didn’t know him from Adam, but there it was. If she let him, this man would take care of her.

She’d thought that about another man once, but once he’d seen into the darkness of her soul, he’d cast her out. This one would too, but for a moment she wanted to believe his words, wanted to revel in the illusion of safety he’d built in the span of a few minutes.

His big hands stroked her back and she could feel his cheek pressed to the top of her head. He smelled of starch and fresh, clean man. She allowed herself the luxury of wrapping her arms around his trim waist. The muscles of his back were as hard as the rest of him. Just as the thought entered her mind, one hand dipped low on her back, holding her firm while he stepped into her. The unmistakable ridge of his desire pressed into her belly.

The demon inside her roared to life, flooding her body with heat and desire. The flesh between her legs swelled and her womanhood melted for him. She used to pray for this heathen need to go away, but that had proved useless. There were only two things that could make it go away, and since she wouldn’t debase herself with this man or any other, tonight, she’d feed the demon herself. She’d become adept at bringing on the forbidden pleasure. Afterwards, she’d find a measure of peace. But it never lasted for long.

“My buddy is here. He’ll give us a ride home.”

Dazed by the need clawing at her insides, she was barely aware of him helping her into the backseat of a car and joining her there. She gave him her address, which he conveyed to the driver then he wrapped his arms around her and held her close until they pulled to the curb in front of the boarding house she’d called home for the last five years.

With his arm still around her waist, he leaned down to speak to the other man. “Thanks, man. I’ll see you tomorrow at the game.”

They were alone on the sidewalk. She didn’t know what to do. Men weren’t allowed inside, not that she had any intention of inviting him in. His stomach rumbled. He squeezed her hip against his and chuckled. “I’m starving. Have dinner with me?”

Evelyn eyed the clapboard building. Lace curtains hung limp in the open windows. A record played on the Victrola in the downstairs parlor. The murmur of female voices fell in the early evening heat. There was nothing for her inside. It would be hours before the house was quiet enough for her to assuage the need inside her without fear of anyone hearing her muffled cries of ecstasy. She looked to the man beside her. Fool that she was, she trusted him.

“There’s a diner on the next block.”






CHAPTER TWO


Jimmy Doyle requested the empty booth in the back so they could have a modicum of privacy. For a moment, he was afraid she would balk, but she surprised him by squaring her shoulders and following the waitress as if his request didn’t have scandal written all over it. She took the seat with her back to the restaurant which suited him just fine. She’d be less guarded with her facial expressions if she knew only he could see them. He had every intention of learning all he could about her in the time he’d been given. Starting with her name.

As soon as the waitress left to fill their beverage orders, he said, “I don’t even know your name.”

He saw the lie in her eyes. There would be honesty between them, if nothing more. “Don’t even think of lying to me.” He tempered the authority in his voice, knowing somehow that unleashing his full dominant nature on her at this point would send her running, and he wasn’t going to lose her.

She opened her mouth then closed it. Finally, she said, “Evelyn.”

He raised an eyebrow, silently demanding more.

“Evelyn Gardner.”

“And, where are you from, Evelyn Gardner?” He’d drag every scrap of information out of her if he had to, but he hoped by the time he said goodbye to her this evening, she’d feel comfortable enough to answer anything without hesitation. Gaining her trust would be the first step to owning her.

The waitress set two sweating glasses of iced tea on the table then pulled an order pad and pencil from the pocket of her apron. “What’ll it be?”

He nodded at Evelyn. “Anything you want, sugar. My treat.”

“I—”

“You can. Let me buy you dinner.” He hoped his tone conveyed that there were no other expectations connected to the offer. He simply wanted to feed her. Letting him take care of her basic needs was something she would have to get used to.

She raised the menu, looked it over quickly then placed her order. It wasn’t much, but he’d see that she ate it all. He ordered, handed the waitress both menus and turned his attention back to the fascinating woman across from him. He couldn’t remember wanting to know every little thing about a person the way he did her. She was going to be a challenge. Once he could restrain her, he’d devise ways to make her talk. Ways they’d both enjoy. His dick stood at attention, ready to heed the Master’s call.

He lifted his glass to his lips. “You were saying?”

Evelyn’s lips caressed her glass. He watched the muscles in her throat work as she swallowed. Christ, he couldn’t wait to wrap his hand around her throat and feel those same muscles contract as she swallowed his cum.

“I grew up in Central Virginia.”

Patience. Her answer was vague, but he sensed that she was telling the truth. He prodded for more. “Family?”

Her gaze flitted away then her eyelids closed and she shook her head. He recognized shame when he saw it. He’d seen it often enough. “I won’t think less of you, no matter what you tell me.”

She pressed her lips into a thin line. So, she wasn’t ready to tell him her story. He couldn’t blame her. He wasn’t ready to tell her everything yet either. He backed toward safer ground. “What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a switchboard operator.”

There were few jobs a respectable woman could hold, and that was one of them. He laid his hand on the table, palm up. “Let me see your hand.” He was a perverted fuck, and he knew it. Wanting to see the hands that shoved things in and out of tiny holes all day amused him.

She rested her gloved hand on his palm. There was a tiny stain on the tip of her index finger—a small imperfection on an otherwise perfect canvas.

His eyes met hers, held her gaze. “I want to see your hands.” He tugged on the fingers, one at a time until the worn glove slid free, leaving her bare fingertips resting on his skin. Fuck. He was going to lose it right there, and that was not acceptable.

Sliding his hand beneath hers, he clasped his fingers around her wrist. Her pulse raced as fast as his, another reason he shouldn’t be doing what he was. Neither one of them was ready for what he wanted to do with her, but it was only her hand, he reasoned. Touching her this way was inappropriate as hell, but he couldn’t stop. He needed to feel her skin, and it was imperative that she get used to him touching her. It was never too soon to begin teaching her to accept him.

“Keep your eyes on mine, sugar. Don’t look away, no matter what.” He explored her fingers with his thumb, rubbing it along the length of each one before repeating the process, this time gently nudging into the soft flesh between each digit as he went from one to the next. When her eyes dilated, and her breath grew shallow, he almost came in his pants. Shit, she was a natural submissive, and he couldn’t wait to have her completely under his spell. The things he’d do to her body. The pleasure he’d wring from both of them.

“Your hand is incredible, sugar. I can imagine these fingers shoving in, pulling out. All. Day. Long.” He turned her hand over and began massaging her palm with his thumb. “Does your hand cramp at the end of the day?”

“Sometimes.” Her lips barely moved as she formed the word.

He pressed his thumb hard into the center of her hand. Her fingers instinctively curled inward, encasing his thumb in the sweetness of her embrace. He returned to stroking her skin. “And do you massage the ache away? Alone? In your bed?”

Heat crept from the prim lace collar of her dress to her neckline, yet she held tight to his thumb. God, he could do this all night, tease her, stroke her need. One day soon he’d take care of her himself, but tonight, it would be enough to know that the hand he held in his now would be between her legs tonight, massaging away the ache he’d put there.

The clatter of plates and squeak of rubber soles on linoleum alerted him that they were soon to be interrupted. He glanced up and noted the waitress headed their way. With a gentle smile, he tugged his thumb from her grasp and pulled his hand to his side of the table. Turning her face to the wall, Evelyn tucked her hands into her lap.

Once the waitress left, he reached for her again. “Give me your other hand.” She hesitated for only a second before presenting her gloved hand to him. He stripped the garment from her fingers, set it atop the other one. “Eat.”


Evelyn rubbed the palm of her hand where he’d touched her. It wasn’t much more than two people holding hands, but it had felt much more intimate. The demon inside her had come to life, humming inside her, heating her core, planting an unholy need between her legs every time his thumb pressed into the soft webbing between her fingers. The demon inside her had begged for another part of him to press deep into her core. The wicked flesh between her legs pulsed with need. Her breasts strained against the confines of her new brassiere. She’d never owned one before, but now she was grateful for the concealing fabric, even if the stitching rubbed painfully against her nipples. At least he couldn’t see what his touch had done to her, and she’d never tell.

She picked up her fork and speared into the meatloaf. The man across from her made her body hunger for more than food. She’d be wise to never see him again.

“When’s your next day off?”

His question startled her from her sinful thoughts. This was her opportunity to tell him that she didn’t want to see him ever again, but when she opened her mouth, she said, “Next Sunday.”

A frown marred his handsome face. “I’ll be in Chicago next weekend.”

Relief quickly gave way to disappointment. She could never let this man get too close, but at the same time, she didn’t want to let him go. “I get two days off the following week. Friday and Saturday.”

He consulted a worn scrap of paper he pulled from his wallet. “I’ll be in New York.” He refolded the paper then put it away. “Do you have a telephone?”

She shook her head. “There’s one in the parlor. It costs a nickel a call and there’s a five minute time limit. I rarely use it. There’s no… privacy.”

He looked up from his meal and nodded. “I’ll write to you then. You’ll read my letters, won’t you?”

Her heart skipped a beat. “Yes. I’ll read your letters.”

He didn’t touch her again, not even when he walked her back to the boarding house and bid her goodnight on the sidewalk. Alone in her room, she stripped then pulled a thin cotton knee-length gown on. At the front of the house, her room absorbed the afternoon heat and held onto it like a skin-flint. In the winter that worked to her advantage, but not so much the rest of the year. Fortunately, she had two windows, one overlooking the front yard and the other a little used side yard. Tonight, she opened both, hoping a crosswind would blow across her bed, situated between the two portals.

Evelyn turned out the lights and stretched out on top of the covers. Minutes seemed to drag into hours as she waited. Eventually, the household sounds gave way to crickets chirping and the rattle of the occasional passing car. Only then did she lift her gown to her waist and touch the aching flesh between her legs.

Behind closed eyes, she saw the man she’d met at the revival. He’d held her tight against him, tight enough to prove his desire for her. Evelyn stroked her swollen tissues imagining her fingers were the steel rod she’d felt pressing into her belly. A sigh escaped her lips as felt the weight of his body bearing down on her, opening her, filling her.

How wonderful that would feel. She spread her legs wider to accommodate his hips—scraped the heel of one foot along the calf of the other leg, imagining hairy legs scraping alongside hers. Everything hard about him rubbing against everything soft about her.

With her free hand, she shrugged the thin strap off her shoulder and pushed the fabric aside to expose her breast. A gentle breeze teased the filmy curtains and brushed across her heated flesh causing her nipple to pebble. Evelyn pinched the hard tip, imagining his hand there, massaging, testing the weight. She wet her fingertips with her tongue then dampened the tight peak. Cupping the soft mound, she offered her breast to her imaginary lover’s mouth at the same time the fingers of her other hand slipped lower, into the damp, heated recesses of her sex.

Stifling a groan, she rolled to her stomach. Careful not to rock too wildly and set the bedsprings to squeaking any more than they normally would, she rolled her hips against the heel of her hand while her fingers speared inside her, feeding the demon with slow, thrusts.

A breeze unfurled the curtains then danced like a lover’s caress across her heated backside. Evelyn clenched and released the twin globes. The tight bud hidden there pouted, wanting attention, too. She ignored the sullen hole. Tonight the beast would have to be satisfied with what she was willing to give.

Thrusting her fingers deeper, she ground her pelvis against her hand. She repeated the movement again and again until the demon finally had enough and released its grip on her insides. Evelyn buried her face in her pillow, silently screaming at the Deity that had cursed her to a life of carnal need and sin.

~ ~ ~

Jimmy Doyle strolled away from the old house in the residential district where Evelyn lived. He could catch the streetcar a few blocks over to take him across town to the small apartment he’d rented when the Diplomats offered him a contract. It wasn’t anywhere near as nice as the one he’d had six years ago, but it was quiet and clean, and close to the ballpark. He didn’t need to use his car often these days, but he kept it anyway. No doubt, he could find a car to borrow when he wanted to go out to the farm, but the less questions asked about where he was going, the better.

An image of Evelyn popped into his brain and stirred his blood. She was a temptation he knew he should resist, but as soon as he touched her, there was no going back. Looking into her eyes across the table while he made love to her hand told him a lot about the woman. She was all prim and proper on the outside, but he’d seen the banked heat in her eyes. She was trying hard to deny what her body wanted, but anyone who took the time to look could see the prize waiting for the man who broke through the walls she’d put up.

As the trolley carried him away from her, he wondered what had transpired in her life that she was alone in the big city instead of some farmer’s wife with a passel of kids and one on the way. Behind the passion, he’d seen fear. She’d been cautious with the information she shared. A woman alone couldn’t be too careful, he supposed, but that hadn’t stopped him from trying. He wanted to know everything there was to know about her. He’d have his answers, eventually, but he’d have to take his time. Slow was the only way to go or he’d scare her away. And that wouldn’t do.

She was still on his mind the next day when he arrived at the ballpark. The Diplomats season was going well. If they continued to rack up wins, they had a real chance of winning the pennant this year and going to the World Series. For as long as he could remember, he’d wanted to play baseball. For most of the kids he’d grown up with, the game had been nothing more than a way to pass the time in the summer when there was nothing to do on the farm but watch the crops grow. Later, the ones that had stayed in school found that girls liked a guy in uniform, even if it did have a number on the back.

While they’d dreamed of ways to ask a girl out, he’d dreamt of playing for a real team, in a real city. He couldn’t see settling down with any of the girls he knew. They wanted a man with simple needs. They wanted kids and someone on their arm at church every Sunday. Ever since that night when he was sixteen, he knew he would never be the man they wanted, but as certain as he was of that, he was also certain that there was a woman out there for him. One that would look at the dark side of him and see the bright side of her.

After years of looking, he thought he’d found her—in of all places, a holy-rolling tent Revival meeting.

Evelyn had looked in his eyes and though she’d been wary, she hadn’t run. When he’d made love to her hand, she’d looked as if she might melt into a puddle right there in the diner.

The first few innings went as expected. A short stop in his former life, since returning to the game, he’d been assigned to play first base. He supposed it suited him now. He’d worked hard during his time off, and his body reflected the manual labor with strong muscles and power at bat, but the years away had stolen some of his agility along with his good name. Little had been said of his return other than that all charges against him had been dropped. Legally, he was out of trouble, and his suspension had been lifted, but trust and friendships couldn’t be restored with the stroke of a pen. He’d come to expect the animosity from the other players in the League, so in the sixth inning, when there was little hope of the opposing team winning the game, he wasn’t surprised when the first pitch came right at him, instead of over the plate. He dodged, but his efforts proved to be too little, too late. The ball glanced off his forearm, sending him spinning to one knee in the dirt.

The umpire inquired of his ability to continue then sent him to first base. Before his slide into infamy, a beaning like that would have brought his team manager out to protest, but not now. As he made his way to first base, the Diplomat’s dugout was eerily quiet. Most of his teammates grudgingly accepted him on the team, but few actually thought he belonged there. He’d earned the trust of a few, like Harvey, but not even they raised a voice in his defense.

He couldn’t get the girl from the previous day out of his mind. When he should have been following the game from the bench, he was reliving every minute he’d spent with Evelyn Gardner. He loved her hands. Delicate yet strong, they said a lot about the woman she was. As a switchboard operator, she probably barely got by, which explained the stain on her glove. His mother certainly never would have worn a glove with a stain on it unless she’d had no other choice. When a person had to choose between room and board or frivolous things, the former would win every time.

Her responsibility should be rewarded.






CHAPTER THREE


Evelyn rarely received mail, but every day when she arrived home, she stopped at the long table in the entryway to scan the letters and packages there. Nearly a week had passed since Jimmy Doyle had promised to write, and each day there was no letter, her disappointment grew. When her gaze landed on the envelope addressed to her, her breath caught. Picking it up gingerly, she couldn’t believe the small box beneath it was for her as well. Her eyes darted around. No one was around to see her open her pocketbook and place the items inside, away from prying eyes. She considered some of the other boarders to be friends, but she wasn’t ready to explain to anyone about the man she’d met. For as long as she could, she wanted to keep him all to herself.

Two meals a day were included in her monthly rent, breakfast and supper. Most days she ate both, but tonight she breezed through the kitchen for some fruit and a glass of milk to take to her room. For reasons she couldn’t explain, she wanted to be alone with her thoughts.

She took the stairs to her room, and shut the door, turning the key in the lock for good measure. Most of the time she didn’t bother with the lock. No one would dare enter without knocking first, but it seemed the right thing to do on this occasion. Leaning back on the door, she clutched her handbag to her chest and closed her eyes. A smile broke across her face as she recalled the time she’d spent with the baseball player. To anyone observing them, he’d been a perfect gentleman, but when he held her, when he touched her, there had been an undercurrent of desire she couldn’t have mistaken. Her body had responded to his in a way she hadn’t felt in years.

In her dreams, she dreamt of a man wanting her the way the men did in the trashy novels all the women in the house were reading. The men always arrived and swept the women off their feet. And that’s just the way she’d felt from the first moment she’d seen Jimmy Doyle, like the ground was shifting under her feet. His touch had awakened the demon inside she’d tried so hard to cast out.

But somehow, the feelings that had felt so wrong when she was married, didn’t feel wrong at all when she was with Jimmy Doyle. There was something about the way he looked at her that made her think he saw her deepest, darkest secrets and instead of denouncing her for them, encouraged her to open the windows of her soul.

Pushing away from the door, she undressed, hanging her work frock on the hook next to her Sunday dress—the one she’d been wearing when she met Jimmy Doyle. She let her hand drift over the crepe fabric, reliving that day as she had a hundred times since he’d walked her home after buying her dinner. When she closed her eyes, she could still feel the way his fingers stroked her hand, like he held precious china instead of a working woman’s hand. Just remembering how he’d pressed his finger to the sensitive skin between her fingers, nudging in a manner reminiscent of another act—one she ached to experience again.

She shouldn’t have let him touch her that way, but it had been years since she’d felt the caress of another human being, and oh, how good it had felt. His skin was warm, and the strength in his callused fingers had made her feel feminine. There was nothing feminine in her day-to-day routine. She worked long hours that left little time for anything else, and though she worked with other women, there was never a minute for them to converse on topics of interest to them as females. Exhausted at the end of each day, they parted ways without fanfare. So, having Jimmy Doyle treat her like a lady, buying her dinner, holding her hand, walking her home, reminded her of the days before she married when young men her age came courting.

She’d thought she’d marry one of them, but her father had other ideas. The man he’d chosen for her had been nearly old enough to be her father, and there had been no courting. Curtis had shown up to dinner one night, and her father had told her they were to be married. Seven days later she became a bride then a wife in a matter of hours. A year and a half later, her husband denounced her as a sinner and her father took up the cry, casting her out of the family without ever hearing her side of the story.

She’d been a month shy of her twentieth birthday when she landed in Washington, D.C. with two dresses, no skills, and a dollar in her pocketbook. She’d been fortunate to find employment and a place to stay within the first week. Ever since, she’d maintained a low profile, not letting anyone get too close. Shame and guilt were constant companions along with fear. She doubted her father would come looking for her, but she had no intention of making it easy for him to find her if he did. That part of her life was over, and until she’d met Jimmy Doyle Walker, she thought the chapters of her life would be reduced to those two—before and after. One afternoon spent with the baseball player and she felt more alive than ever before. He’d held her hand, and in that simple gesture renewed her hope.

She ate the snack she’d brought and drank the milk before it got warm. Placing the empty glass on the dresser next to the door so she wouldn’t forget to return it to the kitchen, she opened her purse and removed the letter and parcel. Which one to open first? Unable to decide, she placed them both on the bed then sat staring at them. Her hand hovered over the letter. Jimmy Doyle’s handwriting was strong and surprisingly neat. The return address was a downtown apartment, near the stadium and not far from where she worked.

Had she seen him in the area and not known who he was? She thought of all the anonymous people she encountered walking from the trolley stop to her job. He might have been one of them or perhaps he was one of the men who ate at the diner around the corner where she bought her lunch most days. Her heart sped up imagining the two of them crossing paths and not knowing.

She smoothed the rumpled envelope with her fingertips then moved to the package. The course brown paper gave no clues as to the contents. Like a Christmas present, the mystery called to her. Without giving her decision another thought, she picked up the package. The twine binding came away easily. Evelyn peeled the wrapping away.

She stifled a gasp with her fingertips to her lips. She’d never seen a more beautiful box. The glossy black, embossed cardboard with gold lettering indicating an exclusive ladies-wear shop downtown, took her breath away. The displays in their window drew women like flies, but few ventured inside, and fewer still made a purchase. Whatever was inside this box had to be dearer than angel’s wings.

With trembling hands, she pried the top off.

“Oh!” Inside, wrapped in the thinnest tissue possible, printed with the store’s name in gold, lay the most exquisite gloves she’d ever seen. Without touching, she noted the quality in the simple, graceful lines. Daring, she reached out. The tip of one finger skimmed the impossibly soft leather. Never in a million years could she afford something like this for herself. Sadness washed over her. As lovely as they were, she couldn’t wear them. Doing so would invite questions she couldn’t answer.

Sighing, she left the box open and picked up the letter. The seal slipped open easily enough with just a fingernail beneath it. Evelyn pulled out the folded sheets of paper and sat back against the headboard to read.


Dearest Evelyn,

I hope this finds you in good health. I wanted to thank you for the other day. I can’t remember a time I enjoyed more. I wish I could be there with you when you open my gift, but by the time you receive this I’ll be on a train with the team. Our first stop is Chicago then on to Detroit and Cleveland before returning home. Wish me luck.

I miss you already. I hope I’m not too forward saying that, but it’s true. You captivated me from the moment I saw you in that God-forsaken tent.

I feel confident in calling it that since you seemed to have felt the same about the place as I did. Despite my skepticism about a Holy presence there, I will forever be grateful that I went, because I met you there.

Lovely Evelyn. I can’t get you out of my mind. When I close my eyes, you are there. Your eyes seem sad, but when you smile, they light from within. Your lips tempt me to taste you. Even now, alone in my room I long to make you smile. I hope you smiled when you opened my gift. Please accept it, my wonderful girl. They are the finest I could find because a woman such as you should have fine things. The clerk assured me you would love the way they feel against your skin.

I want to think about you wearing them, even if you only wear them for yourself. Please, if you haven’t already, put them on. If I close my eyes, I can see them on your slender fingers, holding my letter. Thinking of you doing so makes me breathless.

I hope they fit. When I held them, I envisioned your hand in mine and thought they were a perfect match.

Are you wearing them sweet Evelyn?


She glanced at the gloves, wishing with all her heart she could keep them, but knowing she couldn’t. Accepting an expensive gift from a gentleman, especially one she’d met once, just wasn’t done. Returning her attention to the letter, she read the first page twice over, hardly believing his words. He missed her? He couldn’t stop thinking about her? And the things he said. A woman such as you should have fine things. Why, that was positively scandalous! And talking about the way the gloves would feel against her skin!

As she committed the words to memory, her body heated from within. Even in her dreams she’d never hoped a man would say such things to her, but Jimmy Doyle had. She held the proof in her trembling hands.

Eyeing the gloves, she fought the urge to see if they felt as wonderful as the clerk said they would. She could still return them. What would it hurt to try them, just once? Giving in to her curiosity, she set the letter aside and pulled the gloves from the box.

The soft leather felt like a second skin, softer even than her own. She never wanted to take them off, but she would, of course. Yet, for a few minutes, she would indulge herself with the fantasy.


Are you wearing them, sweet Evelyn?


“Yes, I am.”


I would love nothing more than to feel the heat of your hand through the fabric, but since I can’t be there to touch you, will you do something for me? Will you touch yourself? I want to imagine your hands stroking your beautiful body. Will you do that for me, sweet Evelyn? Remove your clothes and lie on your bed. I’ll wait, breathless, for you to do as I ask.


She dropped the letter as if the paper had suddenly caught on fire then stripped the gloves from her hands and tossed them carelessly beside the box they’d come in. The warmth of the afternoon had become oppressive. She moved to the west-facing window, opening it wider and pulling the shade down, casting half the room in a purplish gloom. Glancing at the scandalous items on her bed, she blew out a frustrated breath.

What was her problem? No one could see her. No one would know, not even him, if she followed his instructions. What harm would there be in touching herself if no one was there to witness it? A nervous laugh escaped her lips. The preacher they’d heard on Sunday would probably say it was a sin to engage in such activities, but she’d never understood that type of reasoning. Why would God have given people the ability to enjoy corporal pleasure if He didn’t mean for them to experience it?

She stared at the letter. It would be hours before the sun went down and in this sweltering heat, who could fault her for wanting to cool off?

Before she could change her mind, she went to the other window and pulled the shade low, deepening the gloom to twilight. Once she’d discarded her slip and panties, she crossed to the bed. Flicking on the lamp on the nightstand, she picked up the gloves then set the box carefully aside before pulling the covers back and lying down. It felt positively wicked to lie naked in the waning daylight.

Evelyn pulled the gloves on then picked up the letter.


I can see you in my mind, beautiful woman. Your skin is like silk, cream all over with dusky pink rosettes. Am I right, my darling? If so, touch yourself there. Draw your fingers over those peaks. Tease them with your fingertips until they stand tall and proud. If I were there, I’d take them in my mouth and worship them. I’d cup them in my palms like the precious globes they are. Can you imagine my touch, sweet girl? Does it feel good when I touch you? Do you want more?

Move your hand lower, darling. Stroke your palms over your stomach to the swell of your womanhood. God, you are so lovely. It’s hard to write this with my eyes closed, but I must see you as you are now. Do the gloves feel good on your skin? Do they add to your excitement?

Breathe deep, my lovely. Can you smell your arousal as I can?


Evelyn inhaled, filling her lungs. Indeed, the musk of her arousal hung heavy in the air. She let the breath out on a groan.


I wish I had something of yours, a handkerchief or a pair of panties, to carry with me. Maybe it is best that I do not. I don’t think I could bear to breathe you in and not touch you. That’s why I held your hand the other night. I had to feel your skin against mine, darling. It was a need as real as my need to breathe.

Did you feel the same way? I think you did. You could have pulled your hand away, but you did not. Could you feel my need as I could feel yours?

Move your hand lower, dear girl. You must be aching for release by now. If I were there, your waiting would be over, but since I am not, you will need to ease the pain yourself. Do not be shy. There is no one but you and I here, and I want there to be no secrets between us.

Find your clitoris, Evelyn. That little nub of desire needs your attention. Rub it lightly. Doesn’t the leather feel wonderful, as if someone else’s hand is there between your legs? Can you see me there, sweet woman, my body alongside yours, my hand cupping your mound of Venus?

You need more, don’t you, darling? I’m going to give you everything you need. Open your legs wider. Let your middle finger find the wellspring of your honey. That’s it, sweet girl. Dip your finger inside for me. Flex your wrist so the heel of your hand is flat against your clitoris.

Ah, yes, that feels so good, doesn’t it, sweet thing? Rock your hand. Do you see me, Evelyn? Am I there with you, giving you pleasure? You are near to coming, I can feel your body tensing, preparing to fly. Work your finger in and out. Faster. Harder. So near to the edge you can taste the air of freedom. Just one more thing, and I’ll let you come, my darling. Arch your back, baby. Show me your beautiful breasts.

Yes, that’s the way. Thank you, darling. You are so perfect. I knew you would be. Force that finger deep and hard. Yes! Come for me, sweet Evelyn. Let go. I’m there to catch you.

Evelyn rolled to her side, clamping her hand between her thighs and burying her face in the pillow to muffle her scream. Her vagina clenched and released over and over again, rocking her body with hard jolts that felt like cramps but were too wonderful to be anything so vile. She’d made herself come before, but those had been nothing like this. This was cataclysmic. She was weak and soaring all at the same time.

When her body calmed, she extricated her hand from between her legs. “Oh, no!” She sat up, staring at the soiled glove. What have I done? Her heart ached, but there was nothing to do for it now. The damage couldn’t be undone. She picked up the letter she’d dropped in the throes of the most powerful release she’d ever experienced, and began to read.

You are magnificent, my darling. I feel as if I were there, but ache because I was not. I can almost see the frown on your face. Are you worried about the gloves? Don’t be. Wipe away the dampness with a cloth then lay the gloves on the dresser to dry. They’ll be as good as new in the morning.

Did I please you, Evelyn? I should not tell you this. No gentleman would, but I am so hard for you, I cannot walk. I must end this letter now and take matters in hand before they get out of hand.

Until I see you again,

Jimmy Doyle Walker






CHAPTER FOUR


He couldn’t stop thinking about her. Worst of all was the uncertainty. Sending the gloves had been inappropriate and the accompanying letter, downright scandalous. But she made him forget propriety. For the first time in over five years, he had something on his mind besides proving himself on the baseball field. Up until he’d met Evelyn, he’d thought of little else but clearing his name and getting back on the field.

As he stepped up to bat against the White Sox, his tension had nothing to do with the scorn pouring from the opposing team and everything to do with worry over what, if anything, he should do next in regards to Evelyn. He had no idea if she had done the things he’d asked in the letter. For all he knew, she might have burned the scandalous letter and returned the gloves to the store and taken the cash instead. The amount he’d paid for those was ridiculous, but as soon as he touched them, felt the soft doeskin against his skin, he knew he wanted her to have them.


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