My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding
By P. N. Elrod
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 2006 L. A. Banks
All rights reserved.
L. A. BANKS
SOUTH CAROLINA, IN THE GLEN
Hattie McCoy smoothed the front of her flowing white dress and sat down by an adjacent tree. Her gaze fondly drifted over to the pair of young lovers, and she sighed with contentment.
"Now, Hattie," a warm, familiar voice said before the apparition that came with it appeared. "We ain't supposed to be spying on kin like that, specially when they in delicate situations. Just because we spirits, and can, don't mean that we should."
"I know," Hattie said. She watched her friend of many years fully materialize to sit beside her. "But just look at 'em. So young, and so in love."
Ethel Hatfield smiled. "If them two don't watch out, they gonna make a baby this afternoon, if you ask me."
"I know," Hattie crooned, clasping her hands in joy. "Wouldn't that just be divine?"
Ethel nodded and then frowned. "But that danged celibacy spell both our families cast is gonna get in the way." She glanced up. "Gonna storm, too. Them Hatfields and McCoys is at it again! Don't make sense — always thirteen women aunts conjurin' on one side against them thirteen uncles on the other ... chile, you know how it goes through the genes on each side, but why can't folks just stop and let sleepin' dogs lie?"
"That's why I came here," Hattie whispered, standing and putting both hands on her disappearing hips. "All these years and our families are still feudin'? Don't make no kinda sense. Working roots on each other, casting evil spells, dabblin' in hoodoo — humph!"
Ethel floated toward the tree near the two lovers. "Girl, you block that tree limb and try to shoo them off the blanket 'fore it falls. I'll try to whisper some sense into these two lovebirds to try make 'em hold off until we can get this all straightened out."
Hattie covered her mouth and giggled, loving that they'd both been allowed to take on their old girlish forms once they'd crossed over to the other side as ancestors. "Chile, I don't think they'd mind right now if lightning did hit 'em. Gonna be mighty hard to get in between them two."
Ethel laughed. "Not sure that I want to, given how they's rubbing and bumping and grinding all up on each other. Have mercy!"
"Aw, girl, don't act like you don't remember those days. Love is a mighty powerful thing, magic all by itself," Hattie said with a mischievous wink.
Both ghosts laughed and danced about in the shards of sunlight, becoming shining pollen motes.
"Oooh, honey!" Ethel exclaimed. "What you think they'll make first — a boy or a girl?"
SOUTH CAROLINA, PRESENT DAY
He pulled out of their kiss like a man drowning. Odelia's sweet breath washed his lips in warm temptation, her mouth so close to his that he could still taste the mint iced tea she'd had only minutes ago. His hands slid down her shoulders, his eyes coveting every inch of her dark, satiny skin, wanting to lower the thin straps of her yellow tank top.
"I know it's hard to wait, but we can't," she whispered. "We shouldn't."
He searched her face, rendered mute for a moment by the plea within her beautiful brown eyes. But the conflict he saw in them, the passion they belied, while her body against his created a hot seal that rivaled the muggy afternoon, it was more than a man could bear.
"But we're gonna be married soon," he said quietly, his thumbs lazily stroking her upper arms. "We're engaged." He swept up her hand and kissed the back of it, then the center of her palm, as his other hand stroked her long, velvety braids.
She hesitated, glanced at the two-karat stone that picked up sunlight and splashed prism-sent color against his cheek while she gently brushed it, and then stared into his eyes. What could she say to this man?
A yearlong whirlwind college romance in their senior year had turned into an engagement. A whole year of trying to abstain, like Minister had said, had been the toughest thing she'd had to endure in her life. A year of them both mysteriously neglecting to inform their families of this new development was torture. She knew why she'd omitted Jeff's existence from her family's purview, and also knew why he'd never taken her home to meet his people.
She could only pray that Jeff's folks weren't still carrying the generational grudge that was legendary between their families, and that they didn't conjure, too. According to her family's crazy view, his folks were wicked spell-casters and so was everyone in his extended family. No. Couldn't be. Jeff seemed so logical, so levelheaded, and so removed from the old superstitious ways, it was impossible that his people were like hers.
As she stared up into Jefferson McCoy's intense brown eyes, she knew there was no way to explain the insanity she'd grown up with. Once married, they'd be his kin, too. Maybe she'd break it to him gently after the wedding. Yet, how did one explain that her daddy was as close to a Dr. Buzzard-root-master as one could get, or that her aunties all worked roots, with serious, inexplicable consequences befalling the unfortunate individuals who'd dared to cross them? She'd escaped to college to get away from all of that backwoods stuff. Intellectual pursuits and the campus church had been a cloak and a shield against the kitchen conjuring her folks could do. If her family spooked this man, she'd die a natural death.
"Jeff," she said quietly, unable to draw her body away from his, "I don't want anything to mess up what we have. I don't want to tempt fate, or draw down The Wrath. If we just get married quickly, privately, me and you ... I —"
"You want to elope?" he asked in a ragged murmur, bringing his lips to her neck and breathing out the words. The more he thought about it while caressing her, the more her idea had merit. It was stupid to think that two weeks before graduation they could just drop this announcement on their families and turn what were initially supposed to be individual graduation parties into a combined, surprise wedding. At the time, it had seemed like a reasonable concept; there would already be a cake, food, people gathered, and a minister present — all that would be needed was a license, a few flowers, and a dress. He already had a good suit.
"Okay," Jeff finally choked out, unable to stop kissing her. "I can't stand a long engagement and all the drama of a wedding, anyway."
His ardent attention to her earlobe under the private canopy of trees, where they were just supposed to be having a picnic lunch, was making her forget everything Minister had said, and about the family dangers of going too far. The way Jeff's hot breath scored her ear sent tiny shivers along her spine. He smelled so good ... deep, rich, male, and earthy ... and felt divine; his tall, six-foot frame was like solid oak. Lawd. She couldn't help but allow her lips to taste his Hershey-toned skin, and before she knew it, her fingertips began to tingle as they grazed his short-cropped, thick hair.
"You'd do that for me?" she whispered, as he made her breath hitch with a slow kiss on her shoulder.
"I'd do anything for you," he said into her ear hotly. "Anything. I love you, girl."
It was almost too good to be true. She'd escaped. They might be able to have a life together. He'd be fresh out of law school and practicing at his first big job with his new degree in Seattle. She'd have her master's, could go there as his wife, and could pursue social work, far, far away from home. They could make love day and night, without fear of reprisal, because the union would be under the protective cloak of the Almighty; even her folks couldn't mess with that — or could they? she wondered. Maybe her children with Jeff might even be born "normal," and not have the conjurer gene or the proclivity.
When his kiss became more aggressive, she returned it in kind, knowing full well this was foolhardy. All the nights that they'd come close to breaking their vow to wait began to come crashing down on her. The ache he'd produced within her was a fire that hadn't burned out since the day they'd met.
Each near miss had only made it worse. Each chaperoned get-together, dating in a church group from campus, now made her ready to shriek. Each time they'd gone to either his or her apartment, supposedly to watch movies, they had ended up in a passionate tussle of way-too-heavy petting on the sofa, the movie neglected. The past two months, they'd both agreed not to tempt fate by doing that, citing church tenets as the reason — but there was more to it than that. Then he'd messed up and given her a ring during a quiet, unplanned dinner for two. That had almost broken them down. But today ... she couldn't take it. Her willpower was gone.
"Jefferson, we can't," she gasped, stopping the next kiss and leaning her forehead on his chest. She could feel his heart thudding against her skull and connecting to the thud of desire between her legs. His USC T-shirt clung to his hard torso, dampened.
"Baby, I don't know how much more of this I can take...."
The fact that Odelia had used his full given name made him nervous. That was a no, for sure. Right now, he couldn't hear that word. He didn't care what his momma and her brothers promised would happen if he ever, in his life, hooked up with a Hatfield woman.
"You know there's no sense in us getting ourselves all worked up," she said breathlessly. "That's why I stood up and got off the darned blanket."
"I can't help it," he said, kissing the crown of Odelia's head, panting. "Ain't nobody gonna see us. Won't nobody know. We could fly to Vegas and get married tonight."
"The woods have eyes," she said, resting both hands on his shoulders.
"Then let's go back to your place," he said, hugging her to him hard, still unable to stop touching her. He had to make love to Odelia or heart failure was probable. It was already nearly impossible to breathe, he wanted her so badly. His family could conjure all they wanted, but this woman was the one. He refused to let them throw bones and chase her away like all the others before her.
"We can't fly to Vegas ... I know you spent everything you had on this ring."
"Don't worry about it," he murmured as his hands slid down her back and began to caress her bottom.
Just feeling the rise of her firm behind beneath his palms made him shudder and close his eyes when her tight butt muscles clenched to the rhythm of his touch. Who cared if he was two months late in his rent and had used the last of his book money, food money, and student loan living expenses to put a rock on her hand — she was worth it. It didn't matter that he was currently flat busted. The condition was temporary, any ole way. She didn't need to worry. When he turned twenty-five in a couple of months, he'd come into a little inheritance money that had been put in trust for him by his dearly departed father. He'd use that to start their lives, buy their first home. Never in a million years would he take that home to plow it into a conjuring business with his uncles. Odelia Hatfield was worth every penny he had to his name.
His better judgment in shreds, his body continued to move against her softness, stoking the ache that swept through his groin and radiated sheer agony through his abdomen. They were not gonna force him to come back home and join the family conjuring business, in exchange for them lifting the celibacy spell.
Try as he might to forget the threat, the more Odelia moaned and yielded to his affection, the more his mother's words rang in his ears: You're young, baby, and sooner or later you gonna need to get that spell lifted or lose yo' natchel mind. It was your uncles' idea, not mine. Don't shoot the messenger. Your uncles was jus' angling for a compromise, suga'. So, meet 'em halfway; go on to school, and then why don't you jus' stop fighting your birthright and come on back to us after college and work with the family, like family should. Marry a nice girl from down home who understands our ways.
It was extortion, pure and simple.
Jefferson tried to push it all out of his mind as he deepened the tender kisses that Odelia's lush mouth demanded. So what if the clan claimed he was the strongest conjurer that had been born into their family in generations? How in the world could he bring a soft, gentle creature like her home to his insane kin? She'd bolt for the hills, and he couldn't live without her. Odelia promised a normal, ordinary life, with normal, happy children. He'd be a big attorney one day and would figure out how to get a restraining order on his entire family. He'd sue them for criminal trespass! Paranormal home invasion.
His hands soon found Odelia's face, and he cradled it as he stared into her eyes, speaking in a low, urgent tone and lobbying hard for his cause. "You and me are meant to be, 'Delia. What are the chances that we're both only children? You lost your momma on the same day and year I lost my daddy, we're even born on the same day, July twenty-first, and just so happened to be at the same university at the same time from the same part of the world, graduating the same year, and both feeling things the way we do? We practically breathe the same breath ... can finish each other's sentences. Girl, we have the same favorite color, sky blue, and like the same music, believe the same things, and both want to be together like nobody's business; what are the odds? Tell me this ain't meant to be."
* * *
His argument was hard to deny as she stared into his eyes. They had a hypnotic quality to them that she'd seen before but just couldn't place. And the things his touch did to her body just didn't make any kinda sense. She opened her mouth to speak, but only a rush of breath exited where words failed. He pulled that same air into his mouth through his barely parted lips. Just seeing him do that made her nipples sting so sharply that she crushed her breasts against him, forcing him to wince and close his eyes.
"I know," she finally said, swallowing thickly as the ache sent slingshot spasms of desire between her thighs. "We're a perfect match."
He nodded. "That's what I've been trying to tell you. Can't nothing break us up."
"My people got funny ways," she said, practically swooning as his palms slid up her arms until his fingers were able to tease the edge of her tank top. She could barely catch her breath while his fingertips danced beneath the straps and across the swell of breasts, but not daring to go beyond the fabric border.
"Mine do, too," he admitted in a rough whisper. "You wanna go to my place? It's gonna rain."
She could only nod and gently stroke his cheek. He had no idea how serious funny ways could be. Her folks took the meaning to a whole new level. Yet he'd made the statement about the weather without even looking at the sky, just like her daddy always did. Heavy-laden clouds had indeed formed, now pregnant with pending doom. Yes, it was gonna thunder and lightning and rain cats and dogs, and all hell was gonna break loose, once her family found out she was dating a McCoy. But marry one?
Odelia almost cringed at the thought but kept her expression serene as she stared at him with love. They'd put the hoodoo on her Jefferson, would throw every conjure in the mojo book at him, just to get back at his family for possessing the wrong gene pool and because of an old Hatfield versus McCoy land score unsettled. If she slept with him, they'd know.
"We can't go back to your place. ... You know what's likely to happen if we do." It was all a conjangled web of spell versus counterspell. Her aunties had cast a conjure that only a legit marriage could shield. They'd promised her that they had from the moment she'd begun to bud with puberty ... and the insidious roots that had been worked promised that if any boy went too far, he'd fall dead away. It was their insurance policy that she'd return to the fold, bring her dead momma's inheritance with her to add to the Hatfield larder, and work alongside them one day. She believed them; her aunties didn't play. She'd never tested the theory, until Jefferson McCoy made it hard not to. The way he was looking at her now made it next to impossible to hold the line, even for his own safety.
He kissed her again and didn't answer the charge. What could she do but kiss him back? There was no way to explain this nightmare. Determined to get away from all of that family drama, she'd up and gone to college, hoping that root conjures had distance limits. But her daddy told her he'd redoubled his efforts and gone in with his sisters on that front — to supposedly protect her virtue. She couldn't chance it, not the way she loved her Jeff.
"We're gonna get wet if we stay out here." Jefferson's voice was a quiet rumble, his gaze penetrating. (Continues...)
Excerpted from My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding by P. N. Elrod. Copyright © 2006 L. A. Banks. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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