-- by Stephanie
Disclaimer: As always, this is just for fun! I do not own the characters of Jessica Fletcher or George Sutherland. Thank you to MCA/Universal and Donald Bain for creating these two wonderful characters. And like everyone else who is participating in this Writer’s Challenge, my intent is not to infringe on anyone’s copyright, nor is it to make any money.
The Challenge: How many times could I use the word ear(s)?
Jessica smiled as she watched George who was eying his
mount with what could only be described as skepticism. He had weighed in at just below the two
hundred pound weight limit but was still concerned that Cinnamon, the mule,
would not be willing or able to carry his six foot four inch frame
“George, is there something wrong?”
George turned to look at her, already seated atop Jake, and immediately detected a hint of laughter in her eyes. “Perhaps it would be best if I hiked down,” he suggested.
“It’s ten and a half miles,” Jessica began to protest just as one of the trail hands approached.
The bright morning sun reflected off the galloping silver horses that dangled from the ears of the young woman, whose hair was pulled back in a pony tail and tucked beneath a pale pink cowboy hat. “Howdy, folks. My name is Heather,” the young woman said with a welcoming smile before turning to focus her attention on George. “It looks like you might need some help getting up on Cinnamon?” she said to him as she reached up and scratched Jessica’s mule on the forehead.
George shook his head. “I believe I can manage,” he answered a bit reluctantly.
Jessica smiled again and shook her head. “I’m afraid my friend is concerned that Cinnamon might not be the right horse…I mean the right mule for the job.”
At the sound of her name, the mule lifted her head high. Her long, narrow ears stood at attention, and she whinnied. Much to Jessica’s surprise, the whinny ended with a hee-haw.
The trail hand laughed. “Quite the contrary,” she assured them, “old Cinnamon here is the perfect mule for the job.” She reached out a hand and scratched the animal on the withers, “as long as you know her secrets.”
George looked at her expectantly, hoping for some advice. “I’m all ears,” he said.
“Cinnamon loves to be scratched – not petted and not patted.”
“Any special place?” George wanted to know.
“Well, like most other mules, she likes to have her forehead scratched, and her withers,” she explained as she moved her fingers over each area. “But her favorite spot is right here,” she said as she ran her fingers along the base of the animals mane, beginning at the head and moving downward toward the saddle.
George reached up and repeated the gesture. “And if all else fails, whisper sweet nothings in her ear and she’ll do anything you want.”
George looked at her skeptically.
“I’m serious. Cross my heart,” the young lady promised as she made the shape of a cross over her own chest. “Cinnamon is a big flirt. She likes men, especially with deep voices like yours.”
Once George was in the saddle, Heather moved on to the
next group, a family of four from
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” George eventually asked Jessica.
“That Cinnamon isn’t the only one who is a big flirt?” Jessica replied, much to George’s dismay. Obviously he wasn’t the only one who had noticed.
She laughed when he didn’t respond. “I’m just teasing. What were you thinking?”
Relieved, he answered. “I was thinking that if we survive the next seven hours, we should find a bottle of champagne and celebrate - with a moonlit walk along the Bridge Loop. And I’ll whisper sweet nothings into your ear.”
After a long yet pleasurable day on the hot, dusty
When Jessica returned to their cabin, which was nestled between two tall trees, giving them some modicum of privacy, she had fully expected to find George waiting for her, but he was nowhere to be found. She deposited her small bag of toiletries on the dresser and dug out a small bottle of lotion.
Hopefully he’ll be along any moment, she thought as she massaged the cream into the skin on her arms and legs. Certainly he remembered that they were to eat dinner at the early seating that evening. They had discussed it just before leaving for the shower house.
Just as she began to slip her robe back on, George opened the door. A wide grin spread across his face as he slipped inside and closed the door behind him. “I see my timing couldn’t be more perfect,” he said as he crossed the room. “Here, let me help you off with that.”
Jessica laughed as she secured the belt around her waist. “I’m afraid you missed your chance,” she teased as she picked up her brush and began to pull it through her damp hair.
“Where have you been?” she asked as she watched him roll up his sleeves to his elbows to wash his hands. He had already showered, shaved, and changed clothes, so she suspected that he was up to something.
He stepped up behind her, meeting her eyes in the small mirror that hung above the dresser. “I had a couple of errands to tend to,” he explained before gently laying a kiss just below her ear.
A sound of exquisite pleasure escaped her lips, making him smile. “Mmmm. I see you enjoyed that.”
“Yes, very much,” she replied, laying her had back against his chest.
George lifted his arm and looked at his watch before kissing her on the top of the head, as one might a child. “Dinner in ten minutes. You had best get a wiggle on.”
Keeping with the western, outdoorsy theme of the ranch, their steak dinners were served with corn, baked beans, garlic mashed potatoes and fresh corn bread. They lingered over coffee until they were the last couple in the canteen. “Your dessert,” the server said to George as she approached their table with a small picnic basket. He stood, discreetly slipped her a large tip, and accepted the basket.
“Ready?” he said, turning to look over his shoulder at Jessica, whose curiosity was piqued now more than ever.
Jessica smiled as she took his arm. “Shall I even ask what’s in the basket,” she queried.
George shook his head ‘no.’ “In time, Love,” he replied as he opened the door and they stepped out onto the fieldstone steps that led from the main lodge to a path that would lead them towards the Colorado River. They followed the river upstream and crossed the black bridge, before heading up several switchbacks. After reaching the junction with the River Trail, they followed the trail downstream. The trail sloped gently downhill and after continuing a short distance, George stopped and surveyed the area.
“This is perfect,” he decided before setting the basket down on a large rock.
“Perfect for what?” Jessica wondered, aware that the sun would soon be setting and the temperatures dropping.
“To watch the sun set,” he answered as he rearranged a few items in the basket. He pulled out a large blanket and spread it over another large, flat rock. “Up you go,” he said as he held out his hand to help her up three naturally formed steps.
She took a seat near the center and waited for him to join her. “Eyes closed,” he instructed as he got comfortable next to her.
“But George…” Jessica’s words trailed off when he pulled her close and nuzzled her neck, just below her ear. “Just one moment more,” he beseeched her.
“Oh, all right, but I’m not entirely comfortable with the prospect of having to hike back in the dark.”
“Shhhh,” George said, placing a finger to her lips. “There’s a full moon tonight. The walk back is supposed to be rather…magical.”
Jessica smiled. “Magical?” she repeated as she closed her eyes. George wrapped a second blanket around her shoulders and then dug into the basket once again. Suddenly, she heard the distinct “pop” of a cork and her smile broadened across her face.
George watched her out of the corner of his eye with pleasure as he poured a single glass of champagne. “Magical,” he added as he held the glass just in front of her lips.
Jessica laughed as the golden liquid effervesced, rising to tickle her lips and nose. George savored a drink and then kissed her, gently at first, on the tip of her ear lobe, and then slowly making his way down to her neck, and eventually to her lips, all the while leaving a trail of tingling sensations along his path. After leaving her nearly breathless with a deep, sensuous kiss, he poured a second glass of champagne for her and then settled in to watch the setting sun.
She cuddled up close, within the circle of his arms, and sipped contentedly from her glass. “Is there anything else in that basket?” she wondered as they watched nature paint the sky with vivid strokes of gold, pink, and red.
“Aye,” George replied, giving her a small kiss on the top of her head.
The pair sat quietly, enjoying their privacy below millions of stars overhead. “George?”
“Tell me a story.”
Jessica scanned the night sky before deferring to him.
“Alright, then, I’ll tell you the story of Bethulah.”
“Virgo the Maiden.”
George gently turned Jessica’s shoulder to the right. “Follow the arc of the handle of the Big Dipper to the East a bit until you find the kite-shaped figure of the Herdsman. You’ll have to tip your head because he is lying on his side. Got it?”
“Continue to follow that line to the brightest star in the next cluster. That is tzemach and if you look closely, you’ll see that tzemach sits amongst a group of stars shaped like an ear of corn. And that is Virgo the Maiden holding the ear of corn in her left hand and a sheaf of wheat in her right.”
“I see her. Isn’t she the Greek Goddess of Agriculture.”
“Very good – Virgo the Demeter. Or Ceres as the Romans called her, or Isis, Ianna, or Eostre.”
“Right again. But she was also called Astraea for innocence and purity…”
After George finished his story, the couple enjoyed a moonlight walk back to their cabin where they shared fresh strawberries and a second glass of champagne. “How did you manage it?” Jessica wondered as she wrapped her leg over his and rested her palm on his warm, bare chest.
“What?” George mumbled in response.
sat up a little. “How did you manage to
get fresh strawberries and champagne down to the floor of the
George laughed. “No, it most definitely is not on the menu in the canteen.”
“The staff helped me smuggle it down,” he finally admitted after some prodding.
“George, you shouldn’t have. I’m sure it was expensive.”
“Not like you might think.”
Jessica eyed him suspiciously. “You had to work it off, feeding Cinnamon her nightly snack.”
Now George rolled to face her and propped himself up on one elbow. “How did you know that?”
Jessica laughed. “When you came back from your shower, you immediately washed your hands. You also had dark red mud on your shoes and a small piece of carrot greens dangling from your shirt pocket.”
George laughed before he kissed her on the tip of the nose. “Jessica, you’re amazing!”