Man on a Black Horse
He rides into town on his black horse, the muffled sound of iron shoes treading slowly across the cobblestones. Maggie dreams about the strength of him before she feels his arrival. She dreams he’s sitting tall in the tooled leather saddle, wide shoulders squared, back straight, strong thighs pressing against a wet flank. His thighs are what she remembers best, his beautiful, sinewy thighs—each hard muscle cut—driving his divine strength home.
The road into Riata is deserted as the starless night breaks away to welcome the dawn. Horse and rider pull up to Maggie’s place and stop. The stallion raises a weary head and snorts, dark eyes glinting in the first rays of the sun. The trip was long and lonely, but a drink at the trough will quench any thirst. The cowboy gets off the horse and throws a rein around the hitching post. Neither man nor beast likes corrals.
He puts a hand in the pocket of his dusty coat, slides the other along the well-worn rail, and climbs the stairs to Maggie’s rooms. The steps are steep, the hallway dark. His silver spurs resound behind a confident stride.
Her door is ajar. And although something about Maggie spells danger, when he steps over the threshold, all the tension leaves his brow and he smiles.
Logs are burning in a fieldstone hearth. The fire casts a golden glow. He pauses to watch the shadows of the rocking chair and the fringed floor lamp. Animated by the ceiling fan, they perform a slow dance on the parlor walls, a dance like lovers might do. He hangs his hat and takes off his coat, letting it fall to the floor, and then he pours three fingers of Jack and drinks it down. The warmth of the whisky is good—so too the intoxicating sound of her voice.
“Have I got a man in the house?”
“There’s a man in the house, but you know he can’t be got.” He listens to her laugh, and sets the glass on the table before making his way to her bed.
Later, her strength back, Maggie stirs the remains of a foamy finish, and then licks her fingers until she has her fist in her mouth. It’s a consuming attraction neither has ever known before. That’s why he runs. And why she’s been willing to wait
* * *
A knock on the door interrupts her reverie. “Who’s there?”
It’s Lola, asking when she’ll be down tonight.
“In about an hour.”
Lola suggests she bring a marked deck of cards.
Maggie swings her long legs over the edge of the bed and pads her way across the cool wood floor. Another rap interrupts another reverie as she stands before the clothes in her closet. Now she sets aside thoughts of tomorrow and puts on a dress for the role she’ll be playing tonight. The dress is red, velvet like the curtain. It hugs her curves all the way to her toes. She straps on her shoes, picks up the cards, and strikes a pose at the mirror. The comb holding her hair has come loose and a sole, wet tendril coils about her neck like a black mamba. She holds onto it as she snakes her way down the hall.
Back behind the bar, Lola mixes cocktails, while Maggie turns her attention to the business of two men describing the assets of a woman named Jet. She’s got a portfolio they’d like to get into. Maggie’s intrigued by the wily ways of Wall Street, but it’s difficult to concentrate on the customers’ conversation when she’s still thinking about that cowboy who keeps riding in and out of her life.
It’s five years since she first invited him to her small suite of rooms. He stayed for a month. Now he shows up every once in a while, taking her by surprise, taking her for granted. She likes that.
She knows passion is not all there is, but it could make her resist the notion of waiting. And yet she has a job to do, a business to run. She wouldn’t have room for this man. Nor he a place for her. For even as his flesh offers up surrender, she knows his spirit, like her own, is still in a search to fulfill its desire.
Spirit and desire accompany her to the stage. And then standing on what feels like the edge of eternity, she moves into the light. An appreciative audience applauds her entrance. But her heart isn’t in it. It isn’t fair not to give it one’s all, not to care about connecting. It may be a public display, but it’s a personal thing too. People take it personal if you don’t give a damn. Maggie didn’t want to give a damn.
Roped and tied. That’s what she wanted. She wanted to be roped and tied. She just might abandon it all if he’d settle himself down and tame her. So she steps off the stage and gets on a horse to go find him.
* * *
Miles away, he’s riding hard, heaving, inhaling the scent of her like it’s still smeared all over him. The stallion responds like he can smell her too. Horse and rider gain strength from each other’s urgency, as powerful thighs encourage thundering hooves to race towards oblivion. They run as fast and as hard as they can, lest her siren song lure them both back.
It’s a long ride from here to there, he’s thinking. A lot of effort just to get a poke. He isn’t sure he wants to keep this woman on his agenda. Although, if he needed completion, Maggie could finish him off. He cuts away his concentration as he cuts a calf out of the herd. It begins to bleat.
The resonance of her laugh is what first attracted him. She sounded comfortable in her skin. And sometimes she is. Now he’s comfortable there too. He knows there’s more to the concept of love than he’s willing to acknowledge. But still, her rosy lips invite him—and her eyes, blue and wide. He loses the calf when he thinks about those lips that can make his knees buckle—and about those eyes that can swallow him whole.
* * *
Time passes. The season too. The colors are changing, along with the air and the ground.
He knows he’ll find it hard after she leaves. Even as she’s near wearing out her welcome, he knows he’s going to miss her; going to miss waking up close together; sometimes even stuck together, she turning scarlet, his own self rubbed raw.
Her presence in his bed had become familiar—so too the ambivalence of having her there. When she arrived unannounced, uninvited, he was working the herd and didn’t need that kind of distraction. It was good, though. And now, as she’s preparing to make her exit, he’s almost ready to rein in his objections.
But it’s understood she cannot stay.
They ride in silence to the edge of town, black stallion eyeing the white mare as they travel the tree-lined road. Aspen leaves tremble in the breeze, like his lower lip, which he holds steady with the press of his teeth. The clomp-clomp of the horses’ hooves echoes his heartbeat; while his trained ear listens for a misstep over the pebbly terrain. He’s in unfamiliar territory.
There’s a certain enchantment about having the power to keep a woman wanting. He’d never entertained that notion before, didn’t much like the idea of it now. Yet it’s got him thinking, even if such thoughts were dangerous.
Too much about Maggie invites peril. She may have a tough demeanor, but inside, she’s soft and warm. She says he’s the only man who could crack her shell, that if she’d allow it, he could melt her down—like chocolate. He wouldn’t want to develop an addiction to that. And yet he craves both sides of her—inside and out.
Yes, it will be hard when next he gets a hunger for her.
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