“Did your mother ever call you Shulamith,” Jared asked innocently. He had been watching her for a short time as she methodically and efficiently chopped the onions, carrots, and potatoes for their stew. She was more adept with the large knife than even he was. He wasn’t quite sure why kitchen work made such a difference. Maybe it didn’t, and Shula was just very good with her hands.
He didn’t know why he enjoyed watching it.
She gasped as the knife slipped from her grasp and she nicked the tip of her finger holding down an onion. He was at her side grasping her hand with muttered apologies. He had meant to shock her with his new found knowledge, but he hadn’t meant to hurt her. She pressed her lips together, because she knew her place. She gasped again when he pressed her finger to his lips. “I won’t tell anyone,” he whispered.
“How did you find out?” She was afraid she might cry. She hated being named for a harem girl. She liked to believe that her mother did it to make a point.
“I didn’t really. Your name. Shula. I’ve never heard it. I looked through your family Bible and no one on either your mother or your father’s side shared that name. But, everyone had sacred names. First and middle. I saw a smudge by yours.”
“Father. He was ashamed. He tried to change it. But, it was too long–”
“Shh. Not now. Later.” His hands moved to both hips. He gripped tightly, and lifted her easily onto the counter. She sucked in a breath and held onto him tightly. The light in the room was waning, but it was the brightest light he’d ever been so close to her in.
He loved it when she was supplicant under him, trying to hide, trying not to spread her legs wider. He loved that by the end, she’s panting into his mouth, with her hands gripping his shoulders tightly. Maybe he went about it the wrong way, but she was his completely, and he never had to ask.
Except he found himself wanting her to want him. He was taught that it was her duty to make sure she was available to him and so far she hadn’t denied him. Was it fair for him to ask for that when she hadn’t a choice previously? He frowned and stepped back a few inches.
She dropped her hands from his shoulders. “Have I done something to…displease you?”
He opened his mouth, then closed it. It took a few moments to speak. “You are my wife.”
She nodded, unsure of his point.
“We didn’t get to choose, but I wasn’t…unhappy at the wedding, unexpected though it was.” He stepped in close to her again, and her legs spread for him. He pressed both fists on either side of her hips.
“I hated the entire thing,” she said in one breath, then stiffened. “I apol–”
“No.” He shook his head. “I want to know about now, Shulamith. Speak freely. I want you to always speak freely. I apologize for not making that clear. I apologize for having to make that clear.”
She relaxed minutely, but her eyes darted to his hesitantly. “I imagine that my life is much easier now than it would be if you were your father. I was going to end it…” She looked away suddenly.
“When I saw you at the church, I thought that you might. I’m not going to stand here and tell you that it would have been a waste, because my father would have been cruel.” He ran one hand through her very short hair. It was growing in unevenly, but he didn’t care. “Do you know why he chose me and not Josiah or Judah?”
“I thought it was because they were already betrothed.” She was a little caught off guard by how comfortable she was around Jared.
“Well, yes. But I was betrothed as well. Or nearly. I found out the day before we wed that the Johnston’s daughter in Gillespie County was going to be meant for me. She’ll be fifteen at Christmas, and they were going to sign her over. They have six girls, so they were putting them on the market early.” He pressed his cheek against her head, feeling the short strands.
She took a deep breath. “That’s horrible.”
Jared laughed. “Yes, well. I had a tantrum. Said that I wasn’t going to marry a child. I also might have mentioned that Mama would have been disgusted with him if she were alive and that he’d better hide all the knives because there was no way a beautiful girl like you would willingly share his bed. I might’ve given myself away right then.” He put his hand on her cheek.
She ducked her head a bit, not wanting to shake him off, but to avert her eyes. Submit. As she’d been taught. “Given yourself away?”
He laughed. “Josiah was born with a wife. Our family had a contract with the Hutchinson’s. Any girl they birthed within five years of him, then subsequently us, would be ours. There were a handful of considerations for Judah since they had only one daughter, and I remember that it was your name that came up. You Shula, were a household name. But then your mother died.”
“And that meant father could keep me until I was 18,” she whispered. He was so close.
“Yes, and Judah’s bride was picked and I knew that you would be the one for me. Except last year, Dinah died, and my father decided differently. When he saw you at the church, and what you’d done, you became my punishment.”
“I wasn’t aware that females had that sort of power.” She was speaking out of turn now. Even with his encouragement, and her desire to be heard, she was still habitually obedient.
He laughed quietly, and moved in slowly. “I am your shepherd,” he whispered close to her ear.
She felt desire so complete and finally undeniable that her knees squeezed his hips. Her breaths were harsh to her ears. “My shepherd? I don’t understand.”
“Do you know what Shulamith means?” He breathed against her cheek.
She shook her head, more to clear it than to exclaim a negative. “Father says that it was just another woman in Solomon’s harem. I tried to read more about it, but Father kept the Bible under lock and key.”
Jared hadn’t any sisters, so it was a strange concept to him. “Shulamith was married to Solomon, but she was in love with a shepherd. I think your mother named you thus, in protest.”
A bit of a weight lifted. “How would she have known?”
“She had many brothers, did she not?” Jared asked patiently.
“Yes,” Shula breathed. She felt tears prickle her eyes. Her mother wanted her to love. Of course she did. What mother wouldn’t? “Our children. I don’t–”
“Shhh. We’re not having children until my father is dead. There wasn’t a child clause in the contract your father signed with mine, and there wasn’t a new one.”
Shula breathed out, relieved. Then she remembered. “You want to be my shepherd.”
“Yes,” he hissed, and pressed his hands against her hips. He slid his denim-clad erection against her. “Are you fertile, right now?”
“Oh,” she gasped and shook her head. She would start in the next seventy-two hours. Her breasts were already achy. She lifted her head to look at him. She hadn’t done that, yet. Not while he was awake. She realized that had she told him that she wasn’t ready, he would have waited for her. He’d been loving, kind, and gentle in their lovemaking. She raised her hand to his face and sucked in a breath when he nuzzled her palm. “Why?”
“I won’t lie, Shulamith. You could have me begging for your touch within a second. I would worship you, if you commanded it.” He kissed her palm.
Her body seized with the blasphemy of it all. “Oh, God, why?”
He pressed his forehead to hers. Why wouldn’t she just kiss him already? “Is it so hard to believe that I desire you?”
She raised her hand to her hair. She shook her head to deny the possibility. He gripped her wrist and pulled her hand toward his heart. “I fell in love with you on our wedding day. I admired your beauty before, but it was your blatant disregard for beauty that made me want you. That makes you beautiful to me. The most beautiful thing that owns me utterly–”
She opened her mouth against his, just to breathe in his breath. Never would she let herself believe that love would be her fate. Duty had been drilled into her head since she was a child, but never this. Never something like this. She understood the significance of her name. She melted completely against him. She felt his moan before she heard it. She raised her arms as he lifted the shirt from her. He touched her with fingers and palms everywhere he could reach. Her bra had five hooks in the back that he pawed at ineffectually, before he growled and held her still. She felt the cold, blunt metal of the knife against her back, but before she could panic, she heard the blade sing and her full heavy breasts were freed of their confines.
Jared dropped the knife with a dangerous clang, and cradled her breasts. He’d not seen them in the light, and they were glorious. He knew at that moment that he was meant to worship her. He pulled her toward him and his hands went to her bottom. He was going to lift her, and take her to their marriage bed, but she’d spread her legs wider and moaned.
He was going to have her in the kitchen, next to the chopped vegetables. He kissed her deeply before pressing her backward. Her back arched against the coolness of the granite and the knife’s blade still under her, and his mouth found her nipple. He didn’t care if it was taboo. Her back arched even further.
He moved his hand up her skirt and began to pull the elastic of her knickers over. He was suddenly compelled to see, so he stood. And he stared.
Shula’s white lacy panties were soaked through, and he understood that to mean that she was ready for him. He moved his thumb over the wet cotton, down, then all the way up. Her hips bucked on the upward graze, and he did it again, curious at her reaction. He was taught that a woman was only fulfilled when he was inside her, preparing her for his seed.
He moved her panties over and saw an engorged protrusion, and he thumbed it curiously still. She bucked and moaned, and he moved his thumb rhythmically over it, torn between watching her face, or watching the moisture gather around his fingers as he grazed her.
“Please, Jared. Please,” he moaned.
“Shula, what do you want?” He asked with a reverent whisper.
“I don’t know. Idon’tknowIdon’tknow! Just–” She broke off with a sob and spread herself impossible wider.
He grabbed at his jeans, and effortlessly unbuttoned, unzipped and pushed them down. He settled into place, and pulled her panties to the side, thrusting in smoothly. He delighted in her arch and sudden shriek.
She was all laid out for him, nude from the waist up, breasts moving with each thrust, and he wanted to see more. He paused in his thrusting and grabbed a paring knife from the wooden block. Shula stared at him with wide eyes.
He smiled and looked down. The material was digging into her skin, so he quickly slashed both sides of the elastic in the thighs. He made a point to put the knife back into the block before thrusting into her again, then ripping off the rest of the cotton.
She was bared completely for him.
She felt her blush intensify. She was sure he wasn’t meant to look at her like that. It wasn’t right. She wasn’t meant to enjoy it so thoroughly. Was she supposed to deny him? He was her husband. She had pledged her obedience to him.
There was so much she didn’t know and didn’t understand. All she knew was, wrong or right, at that very moment, she felt free and happy, and she smiled. She smiled at Jared. “Thank you,” she whispered.
“I’m meant to be thanking you, I’m sure,” he said, quite out of breath. He looked down, and thumbed her clitoris until he developed a rhythm, before looking up again.
She closed her eyes tightly, confused by the tidal rush of pleasure. It was so intense that she wanted him to stop immediately, but she found herself asking for the unknown. “Jared, I need–”
He sped up, slammed into her harder, and pressed her clitoris.
Shulamith found God. And when she opened her eyes, her slack-jawed lover stared at her in awe.