By ChicagoTunnelKid


Inspiration: Sandy Tew’s art, “Is it hot in here?”


The last thing Vincent wanted to do was stop by Mouse’s chamber on his way to his own, yet if he didn’t, he’d regret it in the morning when Mouse forgot the work detail. At least Mouse wasn’t a chatterer. Today’s chores on top of a rockslide along a tunnel wall proved to tax his strength and endurance. He thought of his bed fondly. Soon, he thought.


Mouse was concentrating on his latest invention. A hydraulic something or other that Vincent knew would need careful vetting. “Mouse,” Vincent stood in the doorway. “See you at the morning work detail?”


Mouse nodded not looking up, “Okay, be there. Get Jamie. Need her.”


Vincent could hardly believe the words coming out of his mouth on a sigh. “Do you need help?”


Again, Mouse nodded. “Not yours. Hands too big. Jamie’s small. Work better. Besides, on your way, no trouble.”


His head bowed in being bested. “I’ll send her to you.”


Mouse was correct. Vincent didn’t need to go out of his way to deliver the message. His call was met with silence, and he quietly entered her chamber to see if she was sleeping. She wasn’t there. He looked around to leave a note, and saw some paper on her table. As he wrote the message, he noticed a book sitting nearby, much thumbed and, if he were to guess, read many times.


The cover got his attention. A handsome man sat beneath a tree in a meadow; his shirt was off showing his sculpted musculature, his jeans unbuttoned, and his arms rested above his head that was covered in long flowing blond hair. The man in the picture gazed with eyes so sultry toward something – or someone – not seen in the picture. An eyebrow quirked up. If I am correct, he thought, Catherine calls this type of book a ‘bodice ripper.’  Now, he wasn’t quite certain what exactly a bodice was, why it was being ripped, or why a woman would rip it, or why other women would want to read about it. But she admitted to reading them, and laughed about it, as if she was a bit embarrassed to admit it.


He put the book down and went on his way, glad at last to head toward his bed. He opted to forgo bathing and decided to dress for bed. He toed off his boots and took off his vest, his sweater, and his shirt. As he tossed them in the laundry basket, his gaze caught his pants, a pair of well-worn jeans, alongside was his arm, bared to the air. Vincent thought how much he resembled the male model on the book cover. His muscles were sculpted by hard physical labor. Fine swirls of hair covered his back and chest, and his arms showed more hair than most men. But the hair seemed to accentuate the definition of his muscles. His hair was certainly long, although with more of a reddish tint than the model. Overall, he could modestly say the comparison was fairly equal.


Hmm. Why not? He undid his jeans (not quite lowering the zipper as much as the model) and sat on top of his bed, leaned back against the pillows propped up against the headboard. He looked about. Something isn’t right, he thought. Ah, yes! His arms lay on the bed. He raised them above his head and clasped his hands together loosely. It felt good, stretching out his shoulders.


He wondered how he would look to someone else. Perhaps Catherine. He closed his eyes and imagined looking across his chamber in that sultry way of the model. He saw Catherine walk in and stop dead in her tracks. Her face registered shock, then disbelief, then pleasure, and came to rest upon hunger. Could this be? She didn’t find his shirtless body too different? That would be his turn to look surprised. The look of hunger was one he masked nearly every time he saw her. Maybe this pose had merit. Perhaps one day he would try it and show Catherine for a laugh about her books. Yes, that would be the …


Vincent gradually became aware of activity announcing the start of another day. He raised his arms above his head and stretched, finding he was stiff from sleeping sitting up against his bed. He savored the feeling as he tried to remember why he was sleeping in that position. The fog in his brain cleared at the same time a noise in his room brought his eyes open with a snap.


Catherine stood in the doorway. Only her expression wasn’t so much shock or disbelief as it was hunger: raw, naked hunger that she had no time to disguise and no desire to. A jolt passed through Vincent as he held her gaze and a part of him marveled at the feeling while he told his brain to be quiet and listen to his heart.


Her hand reached behind her to loosen the tie holding his privacy curtain. Blue eyes stared into green, matching hungry look for hungry look. The last cognizant thought Vincent managed was that it wasn’t Mouse who would miss the work detail, and that he was finally going to find out what bodice ripping meant.