Lacy Dolan always knew she was different. How she was different, why she was different, she didn't know. A late bloomer, she got a clue when she spied on her older sister and her boyfriend, who had snuck out to the barn one Sunday after church. Lacy hadn't really intended to catch them 'in the act'. At the time, she was mostly focused on being a pest, getting a little payback because her sister wouldn't let her borrow a shirt she liked. Things didn't go quite as she planned, though, because when she saw what they were doing, she was struck into silent immobility by the rush of feelings that she didn't quite understand.
When her sister looked up and saw her and started yelling, Lacy was released from the paralysis, and she ran ... straight to the paddock where her horse was ... and without waiting to try to saddle the animal, she climbed up on Murphy's back and off they went with Lacy clinging to the horse's mane and a precarious seat.
It wasn't long before disaster struck, as mount had picked up on his rider's turmoil of emotions. A sudden sound, and he shied and bucked, and Lacy was thrown. A bit of deadfall probably saved her from a broken bone or two, but jagged edges left her with a scar on her cheek and another on her thigh. The one on her face eventually healed into a thin, pale line, but the self-consciousness over the ugliness of those first days of healing was imprinted on her psyche, as was her jumbled feelings of guilt and blame.
Claire Evans was Lacy's best friend in school, though the two of them couldn't have been more different. Lacy was smart enough to figure out that a good part of her appeal to Claire was the contrast. Lacy's tomboyish looks, her prickly, suspicious demeanor, made Claire's 'girl next door' looks and behavior all the more striking, and the contrast almost never showed Lacy in favorable comparison. Claire was an early bloomer, filling out early and well, the quintessential barbie doll measurements while Lacy remained lithe, a tomboy. Claire's efforts to 'help' only solidified Lacy's feelings of inadequacy. She found some measure of triumph, guilty triumph, when one of Claire's boyfriends came on to her after a party. That encounter, Lacy's first, led to another and another, until most of Claire's boyfriends had at least gotten to 'second base' or hit a home run with Lacy, until Lacy, sickened by her own behavior, determined to stop.
Which she had ... even though she'd had a crush on Brad Underwood for two years before he asked Claire out. Lacy had been the maid of honor at their wedding, and Lacy had burned in silence, never confessing the dreams that haunted her at night, or how her fingers had, in her fantasy, become Brad's in the darkness. She'd avoided him as much as she could, until he and Claire had had a fight and he'd ridden off to cool off. When his path crossed Lacy's, the old pattern had established itself again ... but once her itch had been scratched, the desire for her best friend's husband was gone, burnt up in that one moment of stolen passion ... but the guilt remained.
Lacy didn't know, didn't even suspect, that she had succubus blood in her veins. Perhaps if her mother had lived, the knowledge might have been passed on, but she'd died shortly after Lacy was born. Lacy didn't even know that there were such things as succubi - to her, the term was just a word she'd heard a time or two in horror movies. All she knew is that the feelings she had both lured her and repelled her ... and rather than seeking to understand them, she buried them.
They just wouldn't stay buried. Her dreams made sure of that.
It was a perfect day. The sky was the perfect shade of blue, a hair darker than a robin's egg, and the clouds that were strewn along the horizon were the white, fluffy variety with only a shadow of grey. The air was warm, but clean and light, like sheets fresh out of the dryer. In a week, maybe less, it would be time for the first haying, a time that Lacy looked forward to without quite knowing why.
It didn't feel perfect, however. Lacy paused in her self-appointed task, that of hunting down the nest of a stupid hen that always seemed to get it into her head that laying her eggs in the high grass was better than in the chicken coop, with its wire fence and door that closed at night to keep out the predators who thought eggs for breakfast, or a midnight snack, was the perfect gourmet treat. Intelligence seemed to be a characteristic that had been bred out of the stock, though the hen possessed just enough shrewd animal cunning to have led Lacy on a less than merry game of hide and go seek.
The sound of a high performance car roaring by at reckless speed attracted her attention, and Lacy straightened, and used the opportunity to take off her hat and wipe away the thin sheen of perspiration gathering under her bangs as she frowned at the light cloud of dust left in the vehicle's wake. Some city slicker, lost on his way from point A to point B, a tourist looking for a bit of relief from urban sprawl? It didn't much matter, she told herself as she shook her head, but the faint surge of excitement mixed with dread tickled at her nerve endings like teasing fingertips belied her assurance. The image of herself in that car, foot pressing the gas to the floor, knuckles clenched and an eager, devil-may-care grin on her face was just below the surface, just below conscious thought.
Her head dropped on an exhalation, a shiver sending gooseflesh across her skin in a manner that was familiarly pleasant and unpleasant all at once. She swallowed, her hands slipping up to hug her arms, the feel of her own touch imparting just a hint of an ache ...
The cackle of the hen broke her from the half-formed reverie of longing. "There you are, you ..."
she muttered, and returned to her task. The genie was, for now, back in its bottle. It could damn well stay there ... but she knew the lie, deep down, even as the silent mantra bought her a brief reprieve.
"What are you doing here?"
Lacy's voice wasn't friendly in the slightest, and neither were her eyes as she held the hose pointed down toward the flowerbed, the one planted by her mother. The irises, vibrant purple and white and kinder pastels of peach and cream, were in full bloom. She was tempted to turn the hose on Brad, and would have if not for the twist of guilt in her stomach as he smiled at her, cocksure as ever."You used to be glad to see me,"
he returned, his handsome face going sullen, petulant as some of the flash faded out of his smile.
"Yeah, well ... my Pa always says I need to have my head examined. Guess he's right."
In her mind's eye, she could see the two of them, melded together, lips to lips, skin against skin, their clothes wrenched up, down, anyway, just enough, the constraint making the fill of his thrust all the tighter, pleasure and pain combined. The sound of their grunts, ragged breath, a silent beat that she could have danced to, a heat that had dissipated and left nothing but ice in its wake.
"Look, Lacy, I don't want to fight with you. Things are .. not so good. Claire, she's not adjusting so well."
He dropped the charm, and the petulance, opting for a little boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar. "She could really use a friend right now. I was wondering if you might come over for dinner, cheer her up. All the talk in town, you know how people are."
You know, his voice suggested, rightly, because they talk about you too. Don't think they don't know.
They knew some, but not all, and if Lacy had any say in the matter, they'd never know it all. It was that thought more than any that made her bite down on her refusal. She nodded, closing her eyes against the shame.
"Yeah, I expect having your husband lose the family farm to pay a fucking gambling debt does reflect on your status in the community."
When she looked up again, her lips pressed in a mutinous expression, the glint of anger in Brad's eyes was sweet, even heady, in an unfathomable way. It was her own reaction to it more than any fear that had her saying, "No. I'm sorry. Ain't got much room to cast stones. I'll come."
It wasn't a hair shirt, and there were no scars that you could see, not from this. Maybe this time, she'd finally learned her lesson.