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Just One Taste Part 34

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It was the ultimate joke to present a curse with a Bible, but the Reverend Porter Gosford had taken great satisfaction in doing so. Once Daniel had touched it, his life was changed forever.

Perhaps it was time Daniel wrote Gosford's words on fresh paper so Alice could help him. He brought the book into the kitchen and placed it gently on the round oak table next to a new notebook. He busied himself with the woodstove, putting in a few logs to take the chill off the room, ate some toast, drank some coffee, brushed his teeth afterward over the kitchen sink. He'd take a shower later, although truth to tell, he was reluctant to wash the sweet scent of Alice from his body.

He was almost finished copying the odd poem into the notebook when he heard a car pull alongside the house. He looked through the wavy glass windows and saw Alice get out and march toward the mudroom steps. Her wild hair was now tamed into an actual librarian's bun and she looked all business. And pissed.

He checked his watch. It was a little after eight. Not much time before she had to turn around and drive back into town. He pushed himself away from the table and opened the back door before she had a chance to knock.

"Good morning." He smiled at the sight of her. She was bristling in anger, a little hellion in brown knee-high boots. He was very sure she'd like to kick him, and he wasn't even trying to read her mind.



She poked him instead, kind of hard. "You left!"

He took a step backward. "Didn't you see the note on the kitchen counter?"

"What good is a note when I wanted you?"

"You've got me. Better late than never." He bent down and she threw her arms around him, greedily kissing him almost senseless. For a man who had led such an ascetic life, he was now a walking, raging, hormonal mess. He wished he had the time to get used to it.

Backing her into the mudroom wall without breaking contact, he pulled her jacket off, palming her breasts beneath her brown turtleneck, sliding his hand under her plaid pleated skirt.

"Why, Ms. Roy," he said, his mouth curving in delight against her throat, "you're not wearing any underwear. Whatever will the selectmen say?"

"Shut up." Her hands were working furiously at the buttons of his jeans to free him. He picked her up and was sheathed within her in seconds, her hot wet heat another delightful surprise. He held her tight and tried like hell not to tumble them both to the floor. Her legs were wrapped around him, her hips surging. Her tongue, her teeth, her lips, every inch of her brought him pleasure. He'd never imagined fucking anybody against a wall, but it was clear from the starbursting thoughts in her head that she had. He felt her crossing one more thing off her bucket list.

He was wrong about the quickie. It could be done. And done well.

"Happy to oblige," he gasped, once the shuddering stopped and sense started.

She smoothed her pleated skirt down, looking for all the world like a parochial school girl. A naughty one.

"Why did you leave?" she asked, still pouting.

"Something your mother said." He smiled at her confusion. "Thought, I mean. When she left for work this morning, she was thinking about the full moon, how some kids act like little werewolves and go crazy."

"I've heard that theory."

"It reminded me of Gosford's curse and I came home to get it. I was going to bring it to you in the library."

"Where is it?"

He grabbed her hand and led her into the kitchen. The wood was spitting and crackling in the kitchen range and the room seemed almost cheerful. But maybe that was because Alice was here. She'd bring cheer anywhere.

"I was just rewriting it before you came in and so rudely interrupted me. The paper it was on is kind of grungy. And the ink of the original curse in the Bible is so faded now you can't really read it."

Alice's rosy cheeks drained of color. "In the Bible? He cursed you with a Bible?"

"Yeah. Go figure. He and his buddy Satan."

"Don't talk like that." Alice shivered. "I'm not terribly religious, but I guess I'm superstitious. I'm getting rid of those portraits downstairs too. They're bad karma or something."

Daniel gave her a quick hug. "I don't think you have anything to worry about. You're a good person."

"I try to be." Alice looked at the notebook with interest. "You finish up. Where's the bathroom? I have to put on my underpants." She fished them out of her purse.

"Damn. Just when I thought of you going commando behind the circulation desk all day."

Commando! For an old guy, he was pretty hip to the lingo. She followed him through a butler's pantry into a large, old-fashioned bathroom. There was a rusted, clawfoot tub with a jerry-rigged shower hose. The toilet and sink were not as old, and seemed to be in working order.

He left her to straighten up. Alice looked into the speckled mirror when she was done. Her bun was a hopeless disaster, but the wall sex had been worth every lost bobby pin. She wet her hands and combed her fingers through her hair, trying to calm things down.

When she returned to the kitchen, Daniel handed her a sheet of lined paper he'd torn from the notebook. She checked the time. "I'm going to have to read this at work. Can I give you a ride?"

He winked. "I think you already have. No, I'll be late today. I've got a couple of things to do. And I'm going to take a shower. See you in a little while."

When he kissed her good-bye, she experienced the urge to ask Jamie to cover for her so she could stay in the Merrill Mansion all day. But then she remembered his words. He only had two days. They only had two days. Unless she could make some sense of the paper she clutched in her hand, by midnight tomorrow he'd disappear, and she'd be back with her books and her vibrator.

Chapter 7.

When Alice got to the library, she didn't quite have the heart to do her morning spin. Someone had smashed the perfect pumpkin by the main door that she'd gone to so much trouble picking. Pumpkin guts were all over the steps and sidewalk, and she had to call the town office to have one of the maintenance guys come over to clean it up before someone tripped, fell and sued.

The book return slot had been jammed with a bag of trash.

And Daniel would be gone for the next forty years. She was feeling disoriented enough without involving her endolymphs.

She turned on the copier in her office so she could make a second copy of poem for him. Maybe between the two of them, they'd crack the key to the curse.

Now that sounded like a Nancy Drew book. But if Daniel hadn't had any luck in almost two centuries, she didn't think she'd be any help. Sure, she read mysteries, but was almost always surprised by whodunit.

The phone rang, a few patrons came in, the UPS guy delivered. He'd switched to long pants, but Alice wasn't interested anymore anyway. Not after seeing Daniel's legs. Not after seeing Daniel's...oh, it was going to be a long day.

Her first hour was filled with a bunch of inconsequential tasks. By ten o'clock she still had not brought herself to read the curse. Nor had Daniel arrived. But Jamie had. Alice left her upstairs with strict instructions to tell Daniel Merrill to meet her in the Meeting Room as soon as he came in.

Jamie had stopped magnetizing the returns.

"No hanky-panky with the hunk in the basement, Alice," she teased.

Alice could tell Jamie had more than a few questions, but she scooted down the stairs, taking the curse and the extremely dusty History of Merrill's Mills with her for good measure. The book was part of the reference collection, and as such, couldn't be checked out of the library.

It was so old Alice required visitors to wear white cotton archive gloves when they looked through it. Not that she could remember the last time someone had wanted to see it. They would have had a fatal sneezing fit. She had two pairs of gloves with her just in case she and Daniel had to touch it. She put on one pair and carefully cleaned the book binding, setting on the mahogany table with the papers.

As far as she knew, he'd simply sat still and subverted it with his thoughts. Alice wondered how he knew he hadn't succeeded without picking it up and thumbing through it. She couldn't imagine having that kind of power.

If she did, she'd probably change the ending to Gone with the Wind and her Visa bill first thing.

How easy it would be just to tell Porter Gosford that nobody cared about the damn book anymore. People were much too interested in the Kardashians and Unreal Housewives to wonder about historical inaccuracies in Nowhere, Maine.

She took a peek at his sour puss and quickly glanced away. Uh uh. She wasn't going to tell him a thing.

Keeping her gloves on, she removed the old devils from the wall without really letting herself look into their beady eyes, put them down none too gently in the storage closet and locked the door. She'd figure out to do with the portraits later. The elaborate gilt frames were much too nice to throw away, but she felt a little queasy about cutting the canvas out of them. Now that she knew the power of these two men, she didn't want to come at them with an Exacto knife. Let them fester in the dark. Maybe rats would get them.

She took off the gloves and her glasses and rubbed her eyes, which were probably pretty beady, too. She'd never been so exhausted-or so sexually satisfied. Not that she had a cast of thousands to compare him to, but Daniel Merrill was a superb lover. She giggled. She had a lover, even if he was the ultimate older man.

She heard Daniel's tread on the squeaky linoleum stairs and tried her best to look alluring. He came into the room, holding two HotCups.

"Tea for you, right? And no, I didn't read your mind. You had no coffee pot in your kitchen at home."

Alice was pleased and took a sip. Three sugars. Just the way she liked it. "Thanks. So you're not going to do the Vulcan mind probe?"

"I'll try not to." He gestured toward the papers on the table. "What do you think?"

"I haven't had a chance to read it yet. I thought I'd wait for you."

Daniel sat down in the chair next to hers and looked up at the wall over the boarded-up fireplace. Two pieces of tape and two picture hangers were the only trace of what had been there just yesterday. "I see you've been busy."

"I couldn't stand the have them here one more minute. I hated them before and I really hate them now. You don't want them, do you?"

"Lord, no. I believe it was I who donated them anonymously to the town in 1895. My first failed foray into forgery."

"Ooh, I love alliteration. It's a weakness."

He reached for her hand, circling the palm with a fingertip. Alice had read all about that in books. My word. Its effects were not exaggerated. She felt little licks of pleasure race up and down her arm.

"There's nothing weak about you, Alice. I'm not going to forget you."

She snatched her hand away, despite his delicious assault to her senses. "Don't sound so defeated! You can do it this time! I know you can, you have to."

Daniel sighed. "I'm used to failure, Alice. I've been here three times already. My father built this library, you know. It was his proudest achievement, after getting the book printed. I think he wanted to make sure there would be a place for people to read it. Merrills Mills was one of the first towns in the state that had a free public library, decades before Carnegie started the public library movement."

"I know. The cornerstone of the original building says 1845."

"Of course you do. You know everything."

Alice laughed. "Not quite. But at least I know where to look it up. Let's get started. Suppose you read this to me. I'm not used to your handwriting."

Daniel cleared his throat. He really didn't have to read it. He had committed it to memory long ago. The last stanza still meant almost nothing to him; it was as murky in the twenty-first century as it had been when he first saw it.

"'The sins of the father, The sins of the son, Chastisement endureth; Thy work is undone.

Wander the wilderness Each forty years 'Til all books are cleansed, Each falsehood made clear.

The hand of the Devil, The hand of the King Conspire together In fruitless seeking.

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About Just One Taste Part 34 novel

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