Author's Note: So, it's been a while, our friends. Sorry for the delay in posting. But, I swear, I think my co-author and I have found a way to keep writing. Ton and I have devised a new strategy. With eleven ongoing epics (and two more that we had not even began to post yet), we've come up with a plan. Each month we are going to concentrate on bringing you chapters of FOUR of the eleven stories we have out there. Each month, we'll alternate. Now, that doesn't mean that you won't get the odd chapter of the other seven stories ongoing during the month if the muse cooperates, but we want to bring you well written material and we think this will help. You'll also see oneshots, challenge pieces, and post eps (especially with our Shakespeare Series) during the month, too, but we'll only concentrate on four epics during any month. Make sense? I hope so.
For the month of April, we'll be concentrating on the epics, "Southern Traditions", "The Girl Who Lived", "In Sunshine or In Shadow", and "Sweet Silver Lining".
At any rate, those of you not familiar with our work, please swing by our forum, "Chit Chat on Author's Corner" for ongoing discussion threads and challenges. We'd love to have you.
The First Cut Is the Deepest
The first cut is the deepest. But it's the second cut that hurts the most.
When would she ever learn that lesson, she asked herself as she perched on her vibrant green window seat, staring out at the darkened city, only the occasional passing cab marring the peaceful quiet of the night. Glancing over her shoulder at the man sound asleep in her bed, she blinked back helpless tears.
God, why had she done it? Why had she crossed the invisible line that had been her third rail for so long? Why had she allowed either of them this momentary weakness?
She'd known better, hadn't she? She'd been aware even as their lips met that the journey they'd been poised to embark on was a massive mistake.
Of course, none of that so-called knowledge had stopped her. Not when the answer to her misguided prayers was standing within striking distance.
She wanted to convince herself that it was just the need for solace that had propelled her toward him. She'd was lying to herself, of course, but a little self-delusion never harmed anyone, did it?
Trembling, she tightened the sash of her bright pink and yellow robe around her waist, the small action feeding her need to accomplish something in light of the most recent destruction. Damn it, hadn't Emily's death been awful enough? Why had she complicated things?
She knew it wasn't her lips that he'd been kissing...her body that he'd been stroking for most of the night. It had been hers...Emily's. He'd been making love to a ghost, seeking solace in the present while mourning the past. He'd been doing all the things that he'd never allowed himself to do while Emily had lived.
And he'd done it with her.
Oh, she was well aware that he'd deny it...that he probably wouldn't remember groaning out Emily's name during climax. Or, at least, he'd never admit it…to himself or to her.
She'd permitted herself to be a second class stand-in...for one of the best friend's she'd ever had in her life. What kind of person did that make her?
Words hurled through her overtired mind.
Desperate. Pathetic. Treacherous slut.
For a few minutes mindless passion, she'd betrayed her dear friend and her own morals. Swallowing hard against the bitter taste rising in her mouth, she felt the urge to run from her own home, to hide in the secrecy that the darkness could offer. It was a pity that it was her apartment that had been closest to the hospital. Otherwise, she could just get dressed and slip away. And, if she was eternally lucky, pretend this night had never happened.
Tentatively touching the light bruise that now graced her pale neck, she recognized that she'd be carrying a reminder of this unholy assignation for a few days. Her one-time lover's lips assault on her tender pale flesh would leave a transient impression on her skin..and a permanent one on her soul.
Her hope to remove the traces of what had transpired in the darkness faded as she realized the proof would live into the bright harshness of daylight.
Closing her eyes, she tiredly rested her tussled head against her satin covered knees. How would she ever forgive herself? But more importantly, how would he ever forgive her?
She'd never be able to meet his dark eyes again and not remember how it felt to feel his strong body moving inside hers, expertly taking her to places she'd only dreamed about. When his hand grazed hers, she'd remember how they'd felt sliding over each inch of her desperate body. When she heard his voice, she'd remember every sound he'd made in passion...every groan...every sigh.
It was going to be unbearable.
And it was all for naught. Because, in spite of everything they had shared, he wasn't hers. He never had been...not even during those dark hours in the night when his body had taken hers again and again. She'd simply been a vessel to relieve his pent up love and frustration...an outlet for his pain. When he'd closed his eyes, it hadn't been her consuming his overwrought mind. It was Emily.
And, God, that hurt the most.
After years of covertly watching this man who was now sleeping in her bed...of wishing that she could be the one he gazed at yearningly, she now knew irrevocably it was never going to be. Not again.
She'd tasted heaven and gotten food poisoning for her efforts. And the resulting stomach ache was no more than she deserved.
Sighing heavily, Penelope straightened her shoulders and forced herself to raise her head. Ever the optimist, she took a moment to remind herself that eventually the illness passed and recovery could begin.
And with one last lingering look at the man she loved, she rose.
If there was one concept she was proficient at, it was putting a positive spin on a bad situation.
And the moral of her story now was that you couldn't steal love...even from death's arms.
Because love always survived.