I know you’ve all been biting your nails in anticipation, right? Well the wait is finally over! I only had four entries for the contest, which means all four automatically make it to the final voting round. Whew. I’m kinda glad I was absolved of having to pick! I’ll post their entries below, anonymously. No names will be revealed until you’ve voted for the winner(s). Two authors named their stories, and two didn’t, so I made up names for the other two. Hope they don’t mind! So here they are, in no particular order:
#1 The Day Laborer
Katie dropped onto a hay bale and pulled off her work gloves, tucking them into her back pocket. Then she pulled a water bottle out of her backpack and took a long drink. Everyone else had left the hayfield the second they were done for the day, but Katie lingered to watch the sky paint itself pink and gold.
She ached all over, but it was a good ache; an ache that said she was young and strong, and could walk the dusty fields for hours, tossing hay bales on to a trailer.
"Got any more water?"
Katie jumped as a tall shadow fell over her, and turned slightly to see Jake standing over her. She didn't know why Jake was spending his summer doing manual labor instead of, say, modeling underwear. All she knew was he had pretty blue eyes, a smile that said he knew how to get in trouble, and a seemingly endless supply of well-worn plaid shirts that fit a little too tight in all the right places.
She rummaged in her backpack and handed him a water bottle without a word.
Katie wasn't especially quiet, most of the time, but she found herself unable to form coherent sentences when Jake was around.
He straddled the haybale, facing her with one of his knees touching her thigh, before opening his water bottle. She didn't realize she was staring at the way his throat moved when he drank until she found herself imagining kissing the hollow between his collar bones. She went hot all over with embarrassed lust, and quickly returned her gaze to the rise of land to the west. Deep green firs topped the hill, contrasting with the dull gold wheat field that clothed its side. A slight breeze sprang up and cooled the sweat on her neck, and she drank some more water and breathed deep.
"So what's it like around here in the winter?" he asked.
She cleared her throat. "It's . . . wet," she said. "And chilly."
He took another long swallow of water. She studied the long line of his thighs, the casual strength of his hands.
"You thinking about staying?" she asked casually, proud that her voice didn't shake or catch.
"Kinda depends," he said.
She straightened her legs out in front of her and crossed her ankles.
He put his water bottle on the ground and ran his hands through his hair. It stuck up in straw-colored confusion, looking exactly like the trampled remains of hay at their feet. The effect was endearing rather than comical.
"On what you think about me staying."
She froze. Her stomach plunged like she'd just driven her car too fast down a steep hill. Before she could reply, he reached out his hand.
"You've got a piece of straw in your hair."
Her face went hot, and she was sure she was red as a beet, as he pulled the tiny piece of straw free and tossed it aside.
Still watching her, he reached out again and slid the elastic from her hair, his fingers brushing the middle of her back where the braid ended.
"Do you mind?" he asked, his voice low.
She shook her head. Her breath caught as he slowly loosened the braid, his touch careful and deliberate. Every time his fingertips touched her back she had to suppress a twitch of surprised pleasure. When her hair was unbraided, the breeze lifted it around her face. She'd always loved the sensual touch of wind in her hair, and she closed her eyes.
"I've been wanting to see your hair down since I met you," he said.
Her voice cracked when she said, "Oh?"
His voice was much closer than it had been. She opened her eyes and turned her head, and his face was inches from her own. He smiled briefly before he kissed her.
He held her face with his hands. His palms and fingertips were calloused, but his touch was as gentle as his lips. He tasted like salt, and he smelled like dust and straw and sunlight. That plunging feeling in her stomach came and went in waves, and she forgot about the prickle of straw under her clothes. He kissed her slow, like he had all the time in the world, and languorous heat spread through her until she felt like she had no bones.
One hand trailed from her cheek, down her neck and shoulder, and hooked under the knee that was pressed against his. Without pulling his lips from hers, he lifted her leg and turned her so she faced him. Then he put both hands on her hips and yanked her forward, her thighs over his, their torsos pressed together. She gasped, and his tongue joined his lips in exploring her mouth. She wrapped her arms around his neck to pull herself even tighter against him, to feel his hard chest pressed against her breasts. One of his hands traveled up her back, under her hair. He grasped a handful of her hair just hard enough to tilt her head, and his lips moved to the sensitive hollow between her jaw and her earlobe.
Her nipples tightened and tingled, as if there was no barrier between their bodies. She tangled her fingers in his hair and tilted her head back as his lips and teeth wandered over her throat. The whole world was one blazing glare of gold behind her eyelids.
She was all the way in his lap now, his erection pressed against her jeans, his breath as uneven as her own. She wrapped her legs around him. His hands tugged at her shirt until it came untucked, and his fingers traveled under the fabric, setting fire to her spine. He unhooked her bra with a deft flick of his fingers, placed his palm and fingers on her ribcage and stroked one nipple with his thumb. She bent and kissed his neck, and he made a surprised, aching sound, pressing her hips closer with his free arm.
He stood up with her still wrapped around him. She opened her eyes to protest as her legs swung free and her feet touched the ground. But before she could complain he sank to the ground and tugged her hand until she joined him. He rolled her onto her back, and his pelvis pressed into hers, moving slow and smooth. Her head fell back, her hair snagging on the shorn grass. As he pulled the neck of her shirt aside so he could kiss her collarbones and shoulder, her hips rose to meet his. They moved in rhythm. She ran her hands over his back, feeling his muscles tense and release through the thin fabric of his shirt.
His lips moved back to her mouth, and their rocking together increased in pace. The light behind Katie's eyes brightened, and she came like mad in the middle of a hay field with hawks flying overhead and grasshoppers buzzing in the heat. Jake stopped kissing her, and she opened her eyes to see him watching her face. She felt the blush spreading over her cheeks. He grinned.
"So, it's okay with you if I stick around?" he asked.
#2 Love in the Time of Dystopia
Harsh fluorescent lights blink overhead. I look up. The fixtures rattle to warn us of an incoming subway train. My hands turn clammy; beads of sweat dripping off my fingers even though it is below freezing tonight. I shiver on the bench and wait.
The tiles are stained and grimy underneath my worn-down boots. Down the length of the station, Patrol officers monitor the comings and goings of the Citizens. Soon they’ll stroll down my way and I’d have to make myself scarce. I have no papers to explain my presence in the subway, for how do you put on paper the word love? Society bans such notions of feeling. We’re a well-oiled community, a place of gears working seamlessly with each other. Each Citizen has a purpose, a reason for existing. Mine was to fix broken clocks in my father’s workshop, marry someone of my own status when I reach eighteen, and bear one child to continue the business of mending time. This is what my papers show. This is the fate Society decided for me even before I was born.
Not this. The anxious loitering in the subway halls. Waiting to catch a glimpse of him.
The train shudders to a stop. I tuck my numb hands inside my oversized coat and tug down my woolen cap to cover any stray curls. A mass of identical gray coats and hats emerge from the doors. How will I find him here? A Patrol Officer is staring at me two yards away. I retreat into the shadows. A horn blares, announcing the train’s next stop. My eyes blur and a lone tear escapes despite my will to stifle it. Tomorrow I turn eighteen.
He’s one of the Privileged. I knew this the morning he first came to the shop to have his watch fixed. It was a rare event to have a Privileged Citizen visit the clock shop. They usually send their servants to run their errands. His hair was as golden as the gigantic pendulum swinging in my father’s office. Eyes like the endless blue of the ocean. His watch broke several times in the course of a year.
But tomorrow, my papers will be stamped. My future sealed. I clutch my stomach as my insides churn.
“Hey, you there!” calls the Patrol Officer. I bolt, and footsteps thud on the tile floor behind me. My breath catches in my throat. My cap falls off, releasing a cascade of bright red hair. There, shouts an Officer, and more steps echo around the tunnel.
I run, never looking back. A train screeches past me and the rushing air pushes me backwards. A gloved hand grabs my arm before I could hit the ground.
“In here,” says the man, pulling me into a darkened room. The lock clicks in place. We listen as the sound of the officers calling to each other mingles with the onslaught of new noises: passengers embarking and disembarking. For the moment, I am safe.
“Thank you,” I mumble. “If you’ll excuse me, I must be getting on.”
I squint in the dark. He doesn’t move from the door.
“If you please, sir, I know I’m indebted to you. But I must go. My father will be looking for me.”
He raises an arm and pulls something above my head. A tiny orange light bulb pops to life, illuminating the old washroom which has somehow escaped Society’s renovations. We must be deeper down the tunnel. I look up.
“You!” I cry, my mouth hanging open. His lips widen into a smile. I trace his jaw with the tips of my callused fingers. He takes my hand and kisses the center of my palm.
“How did you…?” My voice wavers. If he’s here with me, then he’s not where he’s supposed to be. Fear pumps through my veins, my heart gripped in ice. “You have to go”.
“It’s too late. I’ve already done it. Soon they’ll find out and everyone will be looking for me. But you…you’ll be safe and that’s all I can ask for.” His eyes are dulled. Saddened.
“What did you do? Tell me!” My hands clench around the lapels of his coat. I breathe him in, his familiar clean scent mixed in with the faint smell of aftershave. His fingers get lost in my tangle of curls, sending ripples of electricity through my scalp.
“You are so beautiful,” he says in a low voice. My heart quickens. For the first time ever, we’re no longer separated by the wooden counter in the workshop. He cups my face with his hands. “So lovely.”
His thumb runs over my lips, parting them. I reach out to feel his broad shoulders, my fingers getting bolder with their exploration. He leans forward, slowly, slowly, the ache inside me expanding until our lips kiss. Warm and soft and moist. His tongue gently prodding mine, coaxing it out…tasting me. I press my body closer to his, hungry for a feel of his skin through layers of clothing. He responds by peeling off my coat and letting it drop to the floor. The cold underground air sends goose bumps prickling over my bare arms. My nipples harden and push through the thin smock I’m wearing.
He nibbles my ear, his tongue darting in and out, sending fire to simmer down between my legs. I moan. At the sound, he shrugs off his coat and pulls my hips toward him. I feel his longing grow, hardening against the fabric of his pants.
“I want you,” he whispers, his breath grazing my collarbone. My back arches. He rubs his hands over my nipples until my breasts feel heavy and full. Another moan escapes me and the sound excites him, making him grind harder against me. The ache down below intensifies, and I slowly move my hips up and down to match his rhythm. The sensation sets me on fire, and I feel myself melting, opening for him. He groans.
“I want you too,” I say, straddling him with one leg. He leaves a trail of feathery kisses across my eyes, the bridge of my nose, my cheeks. Our lips meet again, and this time, I let him devour me. His mouth moves down my chest and closes in on my nipple, sucking its tip through the smock. I gasp.
A horn blasts, followed by an announcement of the train’s departure time. The last service train for the day. He shakes his head as if waking himself up, and puts me down gently on my feet.
“No, don’t stop,” I whimper. He smiles and pushes a curly strand off my face.
“I love you.” He picks up his coat and places it around my shoulders. “Inside one of the pockets are the papers you need. You should catch that train.” The five-minute warning bell sounds as if on cue. He unlocks the door. “Go.”
“What’ll happen to you? I can’t leave you.”
“I’ll find you. Now go.”
I step out of the room, but then he pulls me back and kisses me one more time. Hard. Desperate. I brush off a tear, and drunkenly stagger back to the glaring lights of the station in the distance. When I try to sneak a glance at him, there’s no one there. I clutch the papers with trembling fingers.
I show the papers to the train conductor and he waves me in without ado. Once inside, I peek at the words and my knees threaten to buckle. I plop down on a seat. My composure fizzles and I break down, sobbing. For the papers hold my freedom, at the price of my lover’s life.
The doors shut tight.
#3 Breathe (Jello says: When evaluating the sizzle factor, keep in mind that this entry is geared toward the Young Adult audience!)
The auditorium is larger than I thought it would be. This is my first time at the Regional High School Scholastic Competition and I’m surprised by the number of kids here. Our school doesn’t even compete until later in the day. I glance around the space as I follow the other kids from my school’s scholastic team down the steps of the auditorium. The purple banners that reflect the college mascot adorn the walls of the local university we’re using for the competition, but the lights aren’t focused on them. The lights are set on the center stage and that’s when I first see him. I stumble a little on the steps and slide into the third row and take my seat. I cannot take my eyes off of the stage.
On the stage there are two schools competing currently with five students on each team. The topic is Greek Mythology which means that they’re on their second to last series of questions. The last set of questions is always Chemistry. It’s usually the round that allows the smarter school to gain the points to win against their opponents.
As I watch the competition in front of me, all I hear is a slight buzzing. Teams are answering questions but my hearing has apparently left me. My vision has focused on the one boy on the stage that does not look like he belongs. All the students on stage are sitting ramrod straight in their chairs, arm poised to ring the answer bell. All of them but him. He’s lounging back in his chair, legs spread out under the table, like he’s at home in his kitchen. His arm rests near the bell but it seems so casual, not tense like everyone else’s. He’s tall and has slightly long shaggy hair. Not the typical style that I’ve seen from past competitions. I can’t help but think that he must be a fill in, someone the school grabbed at the last minute to make sure they had enough team members to compete.
He must have been able to feel me stare at him because he glances at me, winks, and hits the bell. I didn’t even hear the question. His answer is Pelopia, which the mediator says is correct. The question must have been “Who was the daughter of Thyestes”. He certainly knows his mythology. He glances at me again and smiles. I quickly look down, embarrassed. There goes my idea that he was a substitute just for numbers. And he noticed I was staring! I get up to escape from the embarrassment, mumbling something quickly to my teacher about using the bathroom.
Once I’m in the main corridor, I start to breathe normally again. I laugh a little to myself. Sure, he was a surprise. You don’t always see cute guys at the scholastic competitions, but I shouldn’t have been that dumbstruck. He was just a guy. There are tons of them around. There are even cute ones in my high school. I’m not sure now why I reacted the way I did. Like I couldn’t breathe once I saw the way the light bounced off his hair. And his smile. It was so impish. Like he knew I had been staring the whole time without breathing. And he winked at me! My face still feels flushed. Jeez, I’ve got to pull myself together. It’s not that big of a deal.
My hair falls like a curtain as I bend to get a drink from the water fountain. I reflexively push it behind my ear and notice movement out of the corner of my eye. I straighten up quickly and look to my right. Leaning his shoulder against the wall a few feet from the drinking fountain, the boy from the stage is facing me. He smiles. I look behind me, certain that the rest of his team must have shown up and he’s smiling at them. But no one is in the hall but us.
“Hi,” he says.
“Hi,” I respond. I’m brilliant and this is the best I can come up with? Get a grip!
“What school do you go to?”
“Kennedy. What about you?” I ask.
“The 35th and the 3rd presidents,” I say automatically and then wince. I am such a geek.
“Personally I like number 26 the best,” he quips.
“Teddy Roosevelt was a man to be admired,” I agree.
“So, what’s your name?” he asks me.
“Emily. Yours? Wait. Is your competition over?”
“My name is Sam, and yes the competition is over for now. We won this round and move ahead in the bracket,” he says as he pushes away from the wall and walks towards me. He is tall, at least a head taller than me. I step away from the water fountain and back up a step as he walks towards me. In a quick second he is standing in front of me and I find my back to the wall, which is convenient since I think I’m going to faint.
“What’s your IQ?” he asks me as he places his hand on the wall to my right. Normally I would never brag but he’s got me so flustered I respond before I can even think. Which is funny since thinking is one of the things I do best. “Wow. You’re a couple of points above me,” he states. He doesn’t seem upset by this information like most guys would. “Maybe we should go out.”
“Go out?” Again with the brilliant conversation skills. My mother would be so proud.
“Only if you’re interested. Maybe we could go to the new art exhibit at the museum this weekend? Or even to a movie.”
I’m speechless at this point. I think my mouth is hanging open in shock because the next thing I know, he’s moved his other hand and brushes it against my jaw. My mouth snaps shut as my eyes rise to his. He isn’t smiling anymore even though his eyes crinkle with humor. His fingers trace a butterfly’s kiss along my jaw and down my neck to my collarbone.
“Smart and pretty,” he murmurs as he leans down to gently press his lips to mine. It’s the softest of kisses. Just a brushing of lips. He continues to trace the same path with his mouth as he did with his fingertips a second before. Once again I have forgotten how to breathe. Obviously being smart doesn’t help very much in these circumstances. I guess a girl has to rely on her instincts, then.
I slowly lift my hands up to his chest and I can feel his heart beating quickly. He’s not as nonchalant as he appears. That makes me smile. He is trailing small kisses along my jaw line and hesitates when he reaches my mouth. I tilt my face towards his so he knows that I’m with him in this desire. His hand holds my face as he kisses me deeply. My arms have a mind of their own and are wrapped around this stranger, encouraging the kiss to go on.
The door to the auditorium opens and a girl sticks her head out. “Emily, it’s our turn. Come on!”
I quickly drop my arms from around Sam’s body. I’d step back but I’m already against the wall. Sam drops his arms and steps back from me. “Good luck,” he says.
I’d respond but I still haven’t figured out how to breathe.
#4 Sunshine and Sea Magic
I press my face to the glass of my prison; the humans don’t know my tears mingle with the salt in my tank, would probably never guess that I can cry. But I can. No matter how many times I hear freak, it always hurts.
Being in a circus, on display like an animal, consumes me. I watch little girls walk around on two legs, their smiles sweet and happy. I witness lovers kissing, their hands woven together. And the clothes; I envy the rainbow-colors of human cloth.
I can never walk. I’ve never been kissed. I don’t have clothes, except for a seashell net, which barely covers my breasts. My prison-tank is too small for me to swim, forcing me to float limply in the tepid water. Every single day is motionless torture.
But I have memories of a better time.
My family had treasured me, telling me often how beautiful I was, how special. How gifted. But I’d gotten caught in a tidal wave and had been swept away. Waking up on the shore had been terrifying. Air had cracked my skin and dried my lungs.
And then the circus found me.
They named me “Demon of the Deep” and ripped my dress, my lovely seaweed-silk dress, so they could wrap me in their scrap of embellished netting. They’d thrown me into my prison, the stagnate saltwater rejuvenating me only enough to keep my heart beating.
It’s been years since then, a horrible half-life. I am no longer a child of the sea, but a woman. Human men, lust brightening their eyes, seem to recognize this.
Only one man is different. He’d been a boy the first time I’d seen him, a small youth in metal cuffs working near my tank. I had screamed and yelled for my family for months after my imprisonment; most people would laugh or mock me, but the boy never did. He would watch with sad eyes. The humans were cruel to imprison me, but even more so to enslave one of their own children. Although I didn’t learn their language for several years, it took only days to learn that the boy was property, a creature not unlike myself. That bonded us, and now my man – for that’s how I think of him, after countless kind gestures on his part – has begun to sleep near my tank, his bruised body just another shadow in this strange land-world.
But tonight is different and he is not just a still shadow. He’s crawled to me, a single finger pressed to his lips. I nod fearfully; the other circus men would hurt him if they found him wandering around at night.
He climbs up my tank, surprising me with his agility, and offers me a hand. I peek above the water, questions in my eyes, but he remains silent. I lift one hand, afraid and excited, and let him grip my fingers.
His skin is soft and warm, like sunlight. I haven’t touched another creature in years, and his hand sends tingles down my arm. My eyes close in ecstasy. Imagining the rest of my body enveloped in soft warmth is easy, and shivers race through my blood.
Slowly, so that the water doesn’t splash, he pulls me from my tank. One strong arm bands around my waist, so close to my breasts that they ache, and then slides lower to cup the length of my tail. I moan and writhe in his arms while his breath caresses the shell of my ear, a sweet sea-breeze that has me arching towards him.
I feel him move, gently climbing down from my tank and then walking, but I don’t care where he goes. Every motion is bliss and heats me further. My pleasure must have been obvious, for he chuckles, his hands gripping and then smoothing out the delicate scales of my tail. His other hand inches up, almost touching the underside of my breast through the net. My nipples pearl and I moan louder.
He whispers in my ear, probably telling me to be quiet, but I’m lost. My skin is afire with sensation and I want more. I curl into him and let my face rest in the hollow of his throat. A human smell, unique and musky, fills my nose. I breathe him in and skim my lips over his pulse. He hisses, but not in an angry way.
I want to taste his sunlight, so I flick my tongue over his pulse. His moan raises goose bumps on my skin and I wrap my arms tighter around his neck, pressing my now-tender breasts to his chest. My head falls back when my nipples meet the rough material of his shirt through my net, and his lips press down on my exposed throat, kissing and licking as I pant for air.
My skin starts to dry and panic fills the back of my mind, but I want a real kiss before I die. I want to experience the fiery heat of the sun in this brief freedom he’s gifted me with – a gift I would never have asked for. I lift my head to gaze at him. His brown hair is tousled, curls flopping over his brows. His eyes, which have always been blacker than the deepest ocean depths, sparkle. I lean close to him and he watches me, tripping over something and then blushing. I smile and brush my lips over his, then suck in deadly air to gasp in pleasure.
He groans. I feel him stop moving as I press forward again, merging my mouth to his. When he sweeps his tongue forward, surprising me, I open my mouth and I’m filled with a passion I’d never known existed.
Passion worth dying for.
As if he can hear my thoughts, he breaks the kiss. Some of the sparkle is gone from his eyes. He kneels with me still in his arms and his face gentles into a smile. He places a last kiss to my lips before lowering me into water.
I hadn’t heard the waves, or smelled the salt, but I gasp in joy and then whimper helplessly as my body sucks in the life-giving essence of the sea. My eyes squeeze close as energy builds within me, power I’d long-since lost. Once again I’m lost in sensation, unable to control the moans and gasps falling from my lips
He’d brought me home.
I flutter open my eyelashes, needing to look at him. His face holds tenderness and love. I reach for him and he reaches back, weaving our hands together. I seal my eyes shut again and use the gift I’d been renowned for as a child. Sea-magic seeps from my body into his and he shudders before falling bonelessly into my arms.
I watch his body transform; his pants rip as his legs fuse and a beautiful green fin replaces his feet. When he stirs hesitantly in my arms and looks at me with wonder, I use his fingers to trace down his body, showing him the changes.
His beautiful eyes sparkle again.
And there you have it, my loyal readers! Thanks for sticking with me through all four stories. Now tell me, which tale of fully clothed sexiness did you like best? Vote in the poll, located in the top left sidebar, and compliments welcome in the comments! EDIT: Voting is closed, and the poll has been deleted.