AUTUMN DANCE

Chapter One

 

Cora looked out the window at the rain falling. The trees of brightening colors were a blur from the heavy drops of water. Sighing she leaned up to the front seats and touched Rachel’s arm. “Tell me we packed the rain capes.”

Rachel turned around and grinned at her. “Yes and pants and umbrellas.”

Dade turned the speed of the wipers up again. “This camp Justin found, its flat right, no hills and bridges?”

Steven sighed and looked at the back of Rachel’s head then to Dade. “From the website it looked pretty flat.” Rachel turned and smiled at him. Frowning he looked back to the man driving. “Can someone tell me again why my fiancé had to sit up there?” He scowled, they’d only been engaged for a few days for crying out loud.

Dade glared at him in the mirror. “Because, I don’t need to be looking in the mirror to see you two climbing all over each other in the back seat. It’s like hormones gone wild to be near any of you couples lately.”

Cora reached up and rubbed her hand over his shoulder. “Poor Dade is feeling, um, lonely.” She smirked.

Dade winked at her in the mirror. “Guess that just leaves you and me Honey, we’ll be alone a lot.”

Cora sat back and smiled sweetly at him. “I guess we will.”

He looked at the road then back in the mirror to study her. He hit a pothole in the road and turned his full to look out the windshield. “We need to start renting a small bus for these trips, take turns driving,” he muttered.

Rachel was sitting with her feet up on the dash flashing her new ring around in front of her face. “We could have cots in it.” Turning she grinned at Steven, he never missed a movement she made.

Cora leaned up and pulled her hand around. She studied the ring. “This is so gorgeous. It’s white but blue, not flashy but still sparkles. What stone is it again?”

Steven leaned down and kissed the hand Cora was holding. “Angelite.” He whispered against stone.

Dade cleared his throat. “Driving here people.” He groaned.

Cora smiled and sat back. She sighed. “It’s so lovely, the hand fast is going to make me cry you know.” She smiled at Rachel. “I’m going to be the old maid aunt when all of you have children.”

Rachel grinned. “I wouldn’t say old.”

Cora frowned. “I’m going to be twenty-eight in December Rach, by the time I, if I ever find a man I’ll be too old to have any children of my own.”

Steven leaned over toward her and smiled. “You won’t be too old. I’ve delivered for women that are close to forty, people are waiting later in life now.” Then he grinned at Rachel. “Unlike the sexy witch in the front seat, she’s just turned twenty-five and plans on having four long before she’s thirty.” Rachel turned and grinned at him. “You have your work cut out for you, Doc.”

He winked at her. “Oh don’t worry, I’m up to it.”

Dade swore. “A little more help watching here. Why does Justin always find places that have cow paths instead of roads? Rain’s coming down so hard I can barely see Owen’s Jeep.” He squinted. “So is Lee ok? My heart stopped when they pulled over so quickly like that.”

Steven nodded. “Yes, a little queasy, she had crackers with her to settle her stomach.” He shrugged. “Other than a few moments here and there she’s been quite lucky. I have some patients that throw up from conception to delivery.” He wondered which group Rachel was going to fit into.

“Will you hold my hand and look after me if I’m like that?” Rachel asked quietly.

“Every second.” He said quickly.

“Looks like this is it.” Dade said happily. “Lets scout out which building is registration then we’ll make a run for it.”

~*~

Fifteen minutes later all eight stood dripping and grinning at Gwen inside the warm little building. Dade liked Gwen, she was a left over hippy and always made him feel peaceful, just being in her presence and peaceful was something he could use more of. He stayed back out of the way, knowing there was going to be hugs, squeals and women stuff to take place.

“You guys are earlier than normal.” Gwen smiled.

Owen nodded. “With the rain forecasted today we wanted to give ourselves a lot of time.”

Chris pulled his jacket off with a shake. “So is Patrick here yet?”

Gwen shook her head. “No, but he should be along soon. I know he wanted to get here early to discuss things with all of you.” She looked down at her hands. “I hope what you’re planning works, I don’t know how much longer I’m going to hold it together if it doesn’t”

Leena smiled and walked over beside her. “Everything is going to be fine.” She grinned at Steven. “We have some more news you might like to hear.”

Gwen looked at her a moment then smiled. “You’re pregnant aren’t you?” Leena nodded. “Oh that’s so wonderful! You’ll hardly be showing at the hand fast.” She hugged her. “I’m so happy.”

Leena laughed. “There’s more.”

Gwen pulled away and looked around at the others. When her eyes settled on Rachel she held up her hand as Steven was hugging her to him. “Oh!” She jumped up and ran over to them. “You too! This is wonderful! So wonderful!” Hugging Rachel, she patted Steven’s cheek after examining the ring and then turned smiling eyes to Dade. “You better work fast to catch up here Mr. Jones.”

Dade held up his hands. “Don’t go looking at me. I have my hands full helping this bunch work things out.”

She laughed and patted his cheek next, smiling at him in her quiet way. Turning back to the table she opened the registration book. “The list of people planning to attend is still pretty much the same as always.” She frowned. “But I’m sure you’ll be happy to know the councilor’s house at this camp isn’t pink.” She grinned at Dade. “It’s yellow.”

He shook his head. “As long as it’s dry I don’t care.” He looked at Kasey. “Tell me it’s not going to be pouring the whole weekend.” She always knew what the weather planned, he didn’t ask how though, some things were better left alone.

Kasey hugged Chris and smiled. “No, it should stop before this evening and then be beautiful in a fall sort of way for the rest of the weekend.”     

~*~

Gwen hadn’t been joking about the color Dade mused as they stood under umbrellas and looked at the neon yellow building.

“Maybe it’s a good thing it’s cloudy and raining.” Owen whispered to Leena.

Leena laughed. “Better find our sunglasses before the sun comes back then.”

Dade sighed and went over to stand on the porch. “At least there’s a covered porch this time.” Opening the door, he held it as everyone filed in.

Chris grinned and ushered Kasey through the door. “Justin said this one was the ritz compared to the last one.”

Cora looked around silently for a few minutes. “Oh there’s actual furniture to sit on this time.” She peaked into the kitchen. “And a much larger table if you need to patch anyone up Steven.”

Steven frowned at her. “I don’t want to see so much as a scrape on anyone this weekend.”

She grinned at him. “Then we’d better keep Dade out of the harvest wine this year.”

Dade scowled. “It was damn cold last year, couldn’t drum if my hands were numb now could I?”

Steven laughed. “Well if your hands get cold this year at least walk away from the fire when you get up.”

Leena patted Dade on the shoulder sympathetically. “It was cold and no one blames you for almost falling in the fire.” She grinned at Rachel. “Rach tried to jump over the creek and missed.”

“I still say someone added something extra to that mead. I’ve never had a buzz like that from just mead before.” She grimaced.

Kasey smiled walking of a room. “Might have been the quantity you drank.”

Chris dropped into one of the overstuffed chairs. “What’s the bed count sweetheart?”

“Six bedrooms. Six double beds.”

“Ohh.” Rachel grinned. “We’ll have a spare bed.” She smiled at Steven suggestively.

Steven walked over and hugged her. “You can use it to nap in when I’ve wore you out, Angel.” He nuzzled her hair.

“Don’t start. You have a room for that.” Dade stated louder than probably required.

Turning Steven pulled Rachel towards the first door in sight.

Leena laughed. “Not yet Steven, we have to bring everything in, unpack and cleanse the space.”

“I don’t think any of you are grasping the task at hand here.” Steven hugged Rachel to him. “The lady wants babies! Lots of babies and that will never happen if I never get to touch her.”

“Takes a little more than a touch my friend.” Chris snorted.

Owen smiled. “You’re a doctor, figure out when she can get pregnant.”

Steven’s mouth dropped. “Where is the fun in that?”

Rachel kissed him softly. “You’ll get your fun later. Work first.”

He dropped his arms and sighed loudly. “Fine.” He looked at Dade and pointed to the door. “Let’s go.”

~*~

The rain finally stopped falling by the time everything had been brought inside. The grounds seemed quieter without it. A more peaceful area Cora thought, as she looked out the window in her room. Her nerves weren’t as steady as she let everyone believe. She’d had nightmares since Lammas about men grabbing her from behind. Some nights they were bad enough that she didn’t bother going back to sleep.

She tried a few times to seek out more information, hoping that from the contact with the killer she’d be able to, but had no success.

A couple outside were holding hands dodging the puddles leading to a large building. Her heart ached for that. She didn’t hold any ill will towards the three happy couples downstairs. Each and every one of them deserved that happiness. Smiling to herself, she knew it was even more perfect that they were couples now together after having yearned for their partner for many years.

Cora sighed, she knew about yearning. Having lived that feeling every day. Dade Jones she thought with her lips in a pout. She’d watched him even when she was a young girl and should have been interested in much simpler things. He’d always sat with his dark brooding eyes and silently observed those around him. Of course, as he got older the other females at the temple, at school, and anywhere else he stepped had always hovered near him.

She remembered the day she returned to the temple after being away at school for two years. Walking in, she had greeted those she knew, then saw him sitting there leaning on his drum. When he’d smiled at her she’d actually had to wait several minutes before going over to speak to him. If she’d been any other type of woman she would have thrown herself at him, but that wasn’t her style.

Her cheeks grew warm whenever she recalled the few times he’d really kissed her in the last few years. His kiss told her everything she already knew, the man had the experience that she lacked and she would never be able to make him happy for long. No woman seemed to.

“Everyone’s waiting for you downstairs, Honey.”

She jumped when Dade spoke from the door.

“Oh sorry, thought you heard me come up the stairs.” He offered her one of his easy smiles.

Cora turned and shook her head. “Was lost in thought.” She rubbed a hand over her stomach to sooth the knots.

Dade frowned. “You all right Coralee?” He stepped away from the door towards her.

She shrugged. “Nerves mostly I think.”

Stopping in front of her, he rubbed his hands gently down her arms and then held her hands gently. “You don’t have to do this, not if it’s upsetting you.” He searched her face.

Cora smiled and squeezed his hands. “It would upset me more to not help and have this man continue.”

“If it gets to be too much for you at any point, you let me know and I’ll get you away from it.”

She frowned. “How are you going to do your job with your drum if you’re rescuing me?”

He caressed her cheek, letting his hand trail down to play with her long curls. “Once you feel him and I’m able to call him out, the others take over. I want your word, Honey, if you need distance from it all you’ll let me know.”

Cora loved when he talked to her with his voice soft. It was deep and vibrated through her. “Always my white knight?” She looked down at his tanned skin against hers. “Well, almost white.”

“Could be worse I could be ghostly white like Rach.” He grinned.

She touched his cheek lightly. “I like your skin color just the way it is Dade Jones. And yes if things get to be too much for me I’ll let you know.”

He nodded, but continued to hold her hand and play with her hair.

Cora watched his dark eyes looking at her. There was always so much in them that he never said.

He lowered his head slowly towards hers until their lips brushed together softly. “We had better go down. Doc is whining again.”

“Poor man, we’re always interfering with his sex life.”

Dade closed his eyes and sighed dramatically. “Well, at least he has one.”

She turned and picked up the bag she’d need and smiled at him. “Should I have said poor lonely Dade? All this killer hunting and meetings with all of us must have really interfered with your social life.”

He shook his head. “I’ve been telling you for two years, Honey, I don’t run around like that anymore.”

She quirked an eyebrow at him as they stood in the door. “If you’re going to try to make me believe you haven’t had a date in two years Dade Jones, I’m going to really struggle to believe that.”

“It’s the truth Coralee Avery, I’m a changed man.” He smiled at her. “No woman out there could ever hold a candle to you, so why look.”

Cora laughed. “Are you trying for more free meals?”

“No, well, no. What I’m trying to say to you is…”

“Hello!” Steven bellowed from the bottom of the stairs. “Cleansing! Waiting!”

She turned and walked towards the stairs. “That is one determined man.”