Colonel Sherman T. Rufus pulled back the duvet cover and breathed deeply.

It was the smell of his wife, Claudia Mae, which fed his starved sense more than any other after being gone for the month. Hints of rose water and juniper berries filled his nose and excited his passion for his wife of 17 years. Her creamy, voluptuous body gently heaved as she slept. This was his world as he leaned over and woke her with a single kiss.

Her blue eyes filled the room with light as she awoke to find her errant husband. Rufus refused to smile outside of his home, but the corners of his mustached lips brimmed in joy as he surveyed her uncovered body. Slowly dropping to one knee, he kissed her again and slid his hand around the small of her back to push her breasts into his chest. Beads of anticipation formed on his brow as he rediscovered the curves and mysteries of his black haired vixen.

“You’ve come home,” Claudia Mae said breathlessly. “You’ve come back to me.”

Gently pulling away, Rufus stood up and loosened his necktie. The weight of thousands of miles slipped off his shoulders as he removed his jacket and unbuttoned his vest.

“I never left you, dear Claudia,” the Colonel said as anticipation pulsed through his body. “Even when I am on the other side of the world, I am with you always.”

Standing over her, his heart swelled. Her body demanded to be ravished and the good Colonel followed orders. As she begged him to join her in their marital bed, Rufus fed his eyes and his soul with her heaving breasts and perfect alabaster skin. The swelling in his body reached epic proportions as Rufus slid both into bed and his wife. Ecstasy exploded throughout the house with husband and wife panting in unison as harmonious cries roared in their bedroom.

“Promise you’ll never leave me again, Sherman,” Claudia Mae begged as she rolled over onto all fours as he took position behind her. “I don’t know if I can bear to be away from you for this long.”

The sturdy headboard became dislodged with each thrust from the Colonel, clamoring into the wall and disrupting the framed Oriental art above the bed. His wife braced herself as Rufus had his way with her in fashions both loving and unnatural. Even with her face buried deep in the pillow, she didn’t resist as their two bodies became one. With each subsequent burst of pleasure running down her leg, Claudia Mae could hear her husband march towards a state of frenzied bliss as he exploded and fell off of her.

“Never have I felt closer to you,” the Colonel whispered as he desperately tried to recapture his breath. He pulled her close to his hairy chest and he held her in such a fashion as to never let her go. “You are the song that sings in my heart when I am afar. My life is only complete when I am with you.”

“The children and I feel the same way,” Claudia Mae said. “I dare say they might have missed you as much as I have.”

They made smaller and smaller talk as a deep sleep took over their bodies. Neither one awoke until long after the first rays of sun came over the Marmalade Hills bordering their large home.

The routines of Blackthorn Estates slowly regained normalcy with the return of the Colonel. Mornings on horseback filled his time as he examined both the large patches of fruit and almond trees lining the property. After breakfasting with his family, he retired to his study for correspondence and continuing studies of ancient texts from Greece and Rome interspersed with modern journals of subjects ranging from warfare to manufacturing. His business was manufacturing textiles and producing high-grade rubber material for the new automotive industry. The Colonel believed it was essential to feed his mind as well as his body with literature.

The afternoons were filled with calisthenics to keep his muscles thick and his body trim. Even on occasion he joined the children in the Roman pools where they swam and laughed. By nightfall, he would retire with his wife on to their large wrap-around porch for brandy cocktails watching the sunset before supper.

It was a life better than any of his contemporaries and something he treasured more than he could ever know.

But to provide, he needed to leave this paradise he had built for himself.

He knew work demanded his attention away from Blackthorn Estates and it took the stiffest of upper lips not to demand his driver to deliver him home when he was required to depart on business. Rufus prided himself in all fashions of acting honorably and never more as when tending to the needs of his family. But the road took a toll. Railcars to New York, Pittsburgh, Miami and San Diego drained him. The steamships through the Caribbean and throughout Venezuela and Guyana satisfied his adventurous spirit, but the weeks at sea took a toll. Even standing at the bow of the ship with the waves cresting over him, witnessing a world of endless opportunity was nothing more than the cost of living a life less ordinary.

Now home for the first time for an extended period, he worked in secrecy with Blackthorn’s staff to plan his wife’s 32nd birthday. Friends and family were notified of the upcoming event and it proved to be a glorious evening. Claudia Mae was stunned with the wide variety of people from her past attending the grand affair. Oysters from Montauk, champagne from France, bison from Wyoming and caviar from Russia filled the dining hall as women dressed in opulence and glamour while the gentlemen worn formal evening suits or military uniforms signifying their rank. Music filled Blackthorn Estates as folks drank and danced before late supper was served. Servants rang sterling silver bells as guests made their way to the grand ballroom. Wine glasses were filled Spanish and Italian offerings as roasted duck and venison was served on newly imported bone china plates. Fig puddings and turtle soup, roasted squab and wild mushrooms, and foie gras were plated by white-gloved servants as chamber music played softly in the background.

It was noted later in Buford Feathermucker’s diary to be the best feast he’d had experienced.

Colonel Sherman T. Rufus paused the entertainment with the tapping of his glass with his gold-plated salad fork.

“I do declare today to be the most fulfilling of my life,” Rufus declared lifting his goblet of wine and toasting the assembled guests. “My victories on and off both the battlegrounds and boardrooms nary register a simple, single nerve ending when I look upon my beautiful family.”

The guests quickly nodded in agreement and muttered amongst themselves the importance of providing for one’s wife and children. The men gave satisfactory ha-rumphs while the women swooned to their host’s comments.

“There is no challenge that I have not bested when I’ve applied my energies and intellect. Enemies have been conquered through the trenches and wily carpetbaggers have been sent north with a sore bottom after I’ve removed my boot.”

The table erupted in laughter.

“I want for no earthly treasure for I have Blackthorn to fill with both my wealth and deeds and nothing showcases the richness of life I have had the privilege of living than my darling, Claudia Mae,” the Colonel said proudly.

The room was filled in applause and congratulations. Tears welled in Claudia Mae’s eyes as she gazed upon her loving husband. She could feel his heart beat with pride as he continued his toast.

“My wonderment never ceases with her ability to surprise me. Even her more radical hobbies such as suffrage and scrapbooking are things to behold. But nothing compares to her gifts as a mother,” Rufus declared. “Clementine and Raymond Foster! Please join your mother as we finish our celebration.”

A little girl in a country dress and pigtails and her younger brother dressed as a sailor joined their mother at the table. There was a polite round of applause for the children.

“My angel and my little soldier. Never forget that your father loves you and that you have the kindest of all mothers,” Rufus said. “Clementine, you’ve been the best little girl and a good big sister to Raymond Foster. But now, little boy, I am going to ask you to grow up and be as good as your older sister to your newest sibling.”

The room filled with sighs and oohs. Thomas Henderson from Henderson Refinery and Die Cast stood up and celebrated the expecting mother with a rousing rendition of Irving Berlin’s “Oh! How That German Could Love!” as the assembled guests joined in song.

The Colonel walked to the end of the table and gathered his family in his arms. Laughing and singing with everyone. He whispered, “I love you” into his wife’s ear as he demand more champagne and cigars and singing. Oh, the singing was fantastic! Claudia Mae wrapped her arms around the Colonel as they waltz around the table. It was to be the night she would remember for the rest of her days.

But tragedy struck late in the evening.

Claudia Mae developed a furious fever, ravaging her body. The doctor was called but didn’t arrive in time. Both her and the unborn child died in Rufus’ arms. It was later discovered she succumbed to a couching fit diagnosed as consumption.

She was buried three days later. The estate was draped in black.

The Colonel was devastated, broken and destroyed. His heart beat on simply out of habit for no love pulsed through his body. Friends and family did their best to raise his spirits but it was to no avail. Colonel Sherman T. Rufus, commander of the Raging 69ers, president and CEO of Buckwheat Industries, husband and father was simply a shell of a man. Unable to love, he only found solace in his parlor, drinking away whatever life left in him while staring wistfully at photos of his beloved Claudia Mae. The routine chipped away his mind and tore his heart to shreds.

It was only in the barrel of his hunting rifle placed against the side of his head did he find any relief.

His body was found the next morning by the staff, shock but not surprised the Colonel had ended his life. Minnie Jane, the young servant who tended to the children, mopped her eyes equally in grief and relief.

“Mr. Colonel has gone to heaven to be with Mrs. Claudia Mae,” she whispered. “The Lord made him a perfect partner and he couldn’t stand to be away from her for a moment longer.”

Sadness filled Blackthorn Estates longer than anyone could imagine. The halls were silent when the children were sent to boarding school in Sassafras County. The staff dwindled away eventually leaving only Minnie Jane and her husband, Ben, to tend to the grounds. What was once the happiest home in Utah fell into abandonment and loneliness.

It wasn’t until nearly 60 years later would there be a smiling face walking on the old grounds again.

Ben Raskin is a writer, part-time bartender and full-time raconteur. Moist is his first attempt at Harlequin-styled stories. Yeah, it was a little embarrassing to write, and he guarantees you’re not gong to like the second chapter. It gets dark. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin.

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