Wes Boyd's
Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online

Pulling Even
Book Seven of the Dawnwalker Cycle
Wes Boyd
2004, 2009, 2011

Chapter 15

Sunday, November 25, 2001

There is a trick to getting dressed and undressed while wearing handcuffs. However, in the rather drunken madness of the combination double wedding reception and season wrap party, Nicole either forgot or intentionally didn't tell Crystal what it was.

Thus it was that Crystal and Preach's wedding night was something less than it might have been. Oh, it was interesting and rewarding for all of that, but some of the dynamics were muted by the fact that Crystal didn't get her T-shirt or bra off, and couldn't use her hands in the way that she would have liked. Given that it was Preach's initial experience and she was coming off of a long dry spell, it was relatively unsatisfying and left her in a less than ideal mood the next morning in a motel room on the outskirts of Flagstaff.

"I'm going to wring that little geek's neck when I get my hands on him," were the words she used as she woke up with her bra and T-shirt all in a wad wrapped around the handcuffs. One arm was numb, mostly because she'd spent the night with her arms around her husband, and even though the mattress was soft, he'd laid on it all night. "I'll wring it like a chicken."

"Several things come to mind," Preach said gently. "'Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord' is one of them."

"You would say that," Crystal snorted. "Get off my arm; I think it's dead."

It took them both some wiggling to get free of each other. Pure pain shot through Crystal's arm as the blood started to flow back into it, causing her to let go with a loud groan. For an instant, she almost wished it really was dead. "Oh, shit, that hurts like a son of a bitch!" she moaned, breaking a promise she'd made to herself to not use that kind of language around her husband.

Without a hint of reproach, all he asked was, "Are you going to be all right, Crystal?"

"Yeah, I think so," she said, gritting her teeth as the pain began to subside a little. She sat up on the edge of the bed, naked except for the wad of clothing and stainless steel around her wrists. "I'm sorry, Preach," she managed to say. "I kind of hoped we were going to have a little more, uh, romantic a wedding night than that."

"It was fine as far as I was concerned," he smiled soothingly. "In fact, it was kind of nice knowing you were close to me all night and weren't going to get away."

"Damn it, Preach, this isn't how I wanted to start things out," she said, nearly in tears. "I wanted to make our first time together something really memorable for you."

"And this isn't?" he laughed, pointing at the handcuffs. "It's hard to believe how memorable it's going to be, especially after watching you last night. When Randy locked those handcuffs on you, he really locked them on, didn't he? There's not going to be any picking them with a bobby pin, is there?"

"One of the people Randy and Nicole know in Spearfish Lake wore a pair like this for years," she said, her anger fading with the pain in her arm. "She said they've very secure, and she wasn't fooling. Preach, what are we going to do?"

"What we're going to do is exercise a little patience," he said. "Randy was right, we're facing a long drive, it'll give you something to do."

"That jerk. No, I won't break his neck. I'll bet it was Nicole's idea, anyway, after what happened at her wedding. I'll just break her neck. Darn it, I'd sort of hoped we could do another round before we got going, but I don't know if I'm in the mood now."

"Tell you what," he laughed again. "I'll help you get dressed; we'll have some breakfast and get on the road. You can start working on those keys, and tonight we can make up for lost time. Relax, Crystal, it could have been worse."

"How could it have been worse?"

"It could have been a chastity belt. They really make those things, you know. Now, that would have been frustrating for the both of us."

"You would think of that," she snorted. "What happened, did I marry a kink or something?"

He let out a laugh. "Some wise man once said, 'We always marry strangers.' You know, I think he got it right."

"Good grief," she shook her head, only half in jest. "Now you tell me!" She sat and looked at him for a moment; he was still half-in, half-out of the covers, nude, of course. "You know," she smiled, "Maybe I am in the mood for another round after all, handcuffs or no handcuffs."

"That's the spirit," he smiled. "Isn't it more rewarding to overcome adversity?"

It was still pretty awkward, but nothing like as bad as it had been the night before. In fact, it was a lot more fun. More than an hour later, they lay side by side under the covers, pretty well worn out but satisfied. "You know," Crystal said, "I was a little worried about going into this blind, so to speak. I mean, well, not knowing what was in the package. But that wasn't bad, and I think I might be able to train you up to the point where you're not half bad."

"You're not dissatisfied?"

"No, no way," she grinned. "You know, I half suspected it was true, but all those people are right. It is better with the one you love. That proves it, in my book anyway."

"We'll have plenty of chances," he said, "And without the handcuffs, too. That ought to make things better for the both of us. Maybe we'd better think about getting up and getting moving. We can still get to Oklahoma City or someplace like that if we don't waste the day in bed."

"I can't think of much better ways to waste a day, but perhaps I can get the handcuffs off, too. Maybe we can waste the day in Oklahoma City tomorrow." She let out a sigh and continued, "I need a shower, but I guess I don't get to take one."

"Why not?"

"Until I get these handcuffs off I'm going to be stuck with wearing this bra and T-shirt," she told him. "I really don't think I'd like to get them wet."

"How about if I wrap a garbage bag or something around your wrists and wash you down myself? That ought to do the job," he suggested. "Besides, it might be kind of fun."

"That isn't quite what I had in mind for bathing with a friend, but it ought to work."

It did work, fairly well at that, and both of them figured it would be a lot more fun without the handcuffs. After Preach dried her off, he helped her untangle the mess of bra and T-shirt and get them back over her. She could have dressed her lower half by herself, but it was more fun to have Preach help her.

It was chilly in Flagstaff that morning, too chilly for just a T-shirt, so Preach wrapped a jacket around her shoulders and zipped it up partway to keep it from coming off. "Would you like some breakfast?" he asked as he started hauling stuff out to his car.

"Yeah, I would," she told him. "I'm hungry and I have every reason to be. But somehow, I don't think I want to go into a restaurant with these things on. Let's just do a drive-through someplace and get on the road."

"I think that will serve," he agreed. "I'd just as soon get on the road, too."

A few minutes later golden arches were fading in Preach's rear view mirror. Fortunately the handcuffs didn't impede Crystal's enjoyment of a couple sandwiches and a large cup of coffee. "This is kind of weak compared to what we're used to on the river, but it'll do," she sighed as she took a deep sip of the hot coffee. "I guess I'm just as glad I didn't drink that much last night. As bad as everything was it would have made everything worse, and I don't think I'd be up to dealing with a raging hangover."

"I noticed you were staying away from it pretty good," he agreed. "I had a couple myself, but just in the spirit of sociability. I noticed that Nanci didn't drink a drop. She and Kevin were hauling some of the more notably plastered back to wherever it was they were staying."

"Good kid," Crystal smiled. "I'll tell you what, a few years ago, back when we were both in college, she wasn't happy unless she was drunk out of her mind. I mean, she was either drunk or hung over, no in between. Boy, has she straightened out her act."

A few miles up the road, with coffee and sandwiches consumed, Crystal turned to the white bucket of keys. "They all look alike," she complained. "It's going to take all day to get through all those keys, if I can manage it then."

"Not much you can do but get started," Preach opined. "There's a duffel bag in the back seat. I think you can squirm around and get it when you get the keys. Just dump out what's in it. That'll give you something to put the keys in that you tried already. Otherwise, we're going to be finding useless handcuff keys everywhere around this car for years."

It took some squirming around, but in a few minutes Crystal had the open bucket of keys between her feet, and the duffel bag on the armrest next to her. Most handcuffs are pretty simple, made of stampings riveted or welded together. The internal lock is simple, and with a little bit of time and the right tool – which need not be much more than a correctly bent paper clip – they're easy to pick. The Soliels were anything but easy. They were mostly made of castings and designed for long-term wear, and to be very hard to pick, with a pin-tumbler lock not unlike the one in a front door or the ignition key of a car. Although Crystal suspected there might be another answer, the simplest way to do it seemed to be to just work her way through the huge pot of keys, one key at a time.

"I wonder how many there are," she said absently as she dropped perhaps the twentieth key in the bag. "It looks like there could be thousands."

"I suppose we could figure it out," he said. "Or you could keep count."

"I don't think I'll bother," she snorted. "This is going to be bad enough as it is."

It took a while to get a routine worked out, but soon Crystal was at the point where she could try a key every few seconds, but hours rolled by, and the depth of the pile of keys only seemed to diminish slightly. Preach put a light rock CD in the car's stereo, and soon Crystal was to the point where she could test keys and talk at the same time. For the most part they talked about the near future; the first of their church visits was only a few days off, and there would be one and sometimes two most days for the next month. It looked to be a grueling grind to both of them, and they were going to have to stay upbeat and cheerful as they gave the same presentation over and over again, and then were asked the same questions over and over again.

But they talked of other things, too. The plan was to be back in Flagstaff for Christmas, then in Spearfish Lake for Myleigh's wedding, then to Florida for the surfing trip. Because of the timing and the fact that there would be some more church visits after the holidays, they planned to leave the car in Orlando when they headed back to Flagstaff after finishing this round of church programs. They would fly to Phoenix and ride with Jon and Tanisha to Flag when for what had become the new traditional Christmas dinner at Al and Karin's. After they finished up with Myleigh's wedding, they'd fly to Orlando, pick up the car, and drive to Buddha and Giselle's for a few days, and then get back to the church visits and the outdoor show in Atlanta until it was time to leave for the Bahamas. Only after the sailing trip would they head back to Flag, and by then it would nearly be time to start rigging rafts and gear for another season.

They figured the house would look pretty good to them by then. At this point they had no idea what Jim and Scooter planned to be doing after they returned from Mexico, and they didn't think Jim and Scooter had any idea, either. At some point all of them would be together in "the house" again, but by the time that happened, some of the "new" of the marriages would have worn off and it would be time to be thinking about getting on the river again. In the short term, it was an odd life that they had planned. They didn't think it would last forever, but it seemed pretty good to them right now.

In spite of the traffic moving fast, and Preach mostly keeping up with it, it was still after noon before they pulled into Albuquerque and did a drive-through lunch; by then the depth of the keys was noticeably lower. It was getting pretty small as they rolled through Tucumcari, and New Mexico was coming to an end. Of course, as luck would have it Crystal was down to the last couple handfuls of keys when she hit the jackpot. "Got you, you little bastard!" she cried as the key turned in the lock on her left wrist. In seconds, her hand was free, and very soon the other cuff was, as well. "Oh, that feels good," she said, spreading her arms about as wide as she could get them in the car. "I was starting to think I might have missed the key or maybe Randy had pulled another fast one on me."

"Well, that's a relief," Preach said. "I was beginning to think I was going to have to go through another night of you complaining about it."

"I wasn't complaining, I was just, well, uh, complaining," Crystal replied. "Randy kept Nicole in handcuffs for four or five days after their wedding, I don't remember now. I have no idea how Nicole could have managed to stand it. Man, that's a pain. Now we can have a really good shower and a really good time in bed tonight."

"Amarillo isn't all that far ahead," Preach observed. "What do you say we skip the idea of pushing on to Oklahoma City tonight, since we had a late start and all. We can have a good dinner, maybe find a motel with an indoor pool, and sort of make up for last night a little."

"Sounds like a winner to me," Crystal agreed, "Especially the part about making up for last night."

Preach grinned, "Now why did I think you were going to say that?"

What with everything, both of them were about ready to stop by the time they hit Amarillo, especially Preach, who had done all the driving. Both of them were used to long drives that lasted well into the night if not all the way through it, but there was no big rush this time. It still seemed like it took forever to make it the last fifty miles or so. "Wonder what Scooter and Jim are doing," she said at one point.

"Probably about the same thing we are, but in Mexico," Preach yawned. "It's about the same distance we've come, as I recall. I don't remember the name of the place, but it's down near Guaymas somewhere."

"I almost wish we were with them," she sighed. "Hanging out on a beach in Mexico sounds a little more appealing than in a lot of church fellowship rooms. I've spent so much time with Scooter the past few years it isn't funny. Except when we were on separate trips, hardly a day went by when I didn't see her. She was more like my sister than my sister was, and now it looks like those days are going to be over with."

"Do you think I'm going to be an adequate replacement?"

"I hope so. At least you have something she doesn't have, if you know what I mean."

"You're saying you married me for my body?"

"Among other things," Crystal smiled.

"We both know that this is going to mean a lot of change for both of us," he replied. "Much of it will be in ways that we can't foresee. I don't know that I don't agree with you about the church visits. I can think of other things I would rather be doing, and lying on a Mexican beach is one of them. But we're going to make some money from this trip. Not a lot of it, but it'll pay our way and may even help out Canyon Tours a little. We'll get some time lying on the beach too, but these church shows are important to me in a number of ways."

"How's that?"

He let out a sigh. "I still feel a little guilty about leaving the ministry. Don't get me wrong, I believe it was what I was supposed to do. I still feel my ministry lies in other areas than the church. Crystal, it's going to be hard enough for you to act like a sort of minister's wife for the next month or so. Let's face it – you aren't exactly the churchy type. But you're going to have to act like it if we're going to make the impression on these families and kids that we're being asked to make. In other words, you're going to have to be on your good behavior."

"I know that," she said slowly. "In fact, it scares me a little. But it's only for a few weeks, and I'll give it my best shot."

"I know you will," he said. "But I think it's something we're going to have to work on."

"I suppose," she sighed.

Eventually they pulled into Amarillo. They were both tired and had their fill of riding in the car for one day, even though it had been a relatively short one for them. She'd made a round trip to Chattanooga with Preach back in the spring, when he first had agreed to come to Canyon Tours, flying there and driving back in this car, but since then, most of her seat time had been in a raft, getting a lot more exercise. They soon found a motel that obviously had an indoor pool, a restaurant and a "vacancy" sign, and that was about all they could have asked for. It felt good to get out of the car; Crystal dumped the keys from the duffel bag back into the bucket and threw the handcuffs back into it as well, with the right key still in one of the locks. "That's that," she said, dumping it in the back seat. "I wonder if we ought to call up Randy and ask him if he'd like to use these with Myleigh. It'd save him a few bucks."

"Have to think about it," Preach replied noncommittally as he gathered up the stuff Crystal had dumped out of his duffel bag and put it back in the bag.

Even before dinner, they got swimsuits on and headed to the pool. Crystal took a few easy laps, then got out and settled in the hot tub, where Preach was waiting for her. The exercise and the hot tub did a lot to take away the stiffness of riding in the car all day. It would have been easy to stay there longer than they should, but eventually they got up, got dressed, went to dinner, then went back up to their room and got undressed again. Needless to say, it was a while before they got to sleep, but they enjoyed themselves immensely. It went a long way toward making up for the fumbling of the night before.

Since they were raft guides and used to timing their lives by the sun, they were up early. After a little morning lovemaking to get things going, they got dressed, went to breakfast, and loaded up the car for another day on the road. This morning, Crystal was wearing jeans and a sweat shirt, which was a little more appropriate for the north Texas weather. "You want to flip over who drives the first leg?" she asked her husband.

"No, I'll drive," he said as he loaded things into the trunk. She got into the right front seat, and could hear him fumbling around in the back beside her. After a moment, he opened her door and said, "Close your eyes. I've got a surprise for you."

Figuring it was a kiss or something even more intimate, she did what he asked. What she felt, though, was not what she expected – the feeling of the handcuffs being slipped over her wrists again. She opened her eyes and yelled, "Preach, what are you doing?" It wasn't in time – he already had the cuffs closed.

He didn't say anything, mostly because he couldn't have gotten a word in edgewise. Finally, he stepped back, grabbed the bucket that he'd set on the ground, tossed the key inside, closed the lid and gave it a good shake. Then, he set it on the floor between her feet, like she'd ridden the day before. "Preach!" she yelled, "What in hell did you do that for?"

"Because I wanted to," he said. "And because you need an object lesson in how to be a wife."

"What do you mean?" she yelled. "I think I ought to know how to be a wife."

"No, you don't," he said. "At least, not one who's going to be a partner in a marriage," he told her gently. "I'll explain it while we're on the road." He walked around the car, emptied his stuff out of the duffel bag again, and set it on the seat where it had been yesterday. He then got into the car, put on his seat belt, and started it up.

They were back out on the highway before anything was said. Crystal was obviously fuming. "Just what the hell do you mean I need a lesson in how to be a wife?" she said sharply.

"Just that," he said. "The first thing I'm going to say to you is a paraphrase from Ephesians 5, where it says 'Wives, be subject to your husbands.' I could quote the whole passage to you and probably will have to sometime before we get this all worked out. The important thing we need to work out, Crystal, is who is going to run this marriage. On the river, you're the trip leader and I respect that. I don't argue with you when you decide something in a way I'm not happy with. I may make a suggestion, but more often I just keep my mouth shut, because you are the leader and I am not going to contend with you over it. However, off the river, I pretty much have to be the leader, and that's especially true in the church atmosphere we're going to be in for the next month. If you are mouthy or bossy or outspoken, if you contend with me, it will not look good in the eyes of the people we're trying to impress."

"I know that," she said angrily.

"You know it, but you don't feel like it or act like it. That's not surprising; you're used to leading, to being in charge. However, a lot of the people that we will be meeting take Ephesians 5 seriously. Most of them are going to believe that in a marriage the husband has to wear the pants in the family, at least ostensibly. Realistically, that's how it has to be. Let's just suppose I hadn't left Glen Hill Road, and we'd gotten together. Say, when you were sniffing around me back when we were messing around on the Ocoee. After a few years at a church like Glen Hill, I'd be expected to move on. Suppose you had a career, you had friends, we had a house, and we had to drop it all because I had a calling to go to some place you didn't particularly like. Wouldn't you resent it, and resent me?"

"Well, yeah. Like, if you decided you had to have a church after all and left the river, you'd expect me to follow."

"And would you?"

Crystal was silent for a moment. "Boy, that would be a hard choice, wouldn't it? There are some real good reasons for me to stay on the river, and the fact that I stand to take over the company in the next few years is only one of them. I'd have to think about it real hard, and I'd probably put up a fight."

"And that wouldn't be very good for either of us, would it? In Ruth it says, 'Whither you go, there I shall follow also.' That's supposed to be the credo of a wife. Now, Crystal, I promise I will never present you with an ultimatum like that. We have to agree to something like that, and it will deserve careful consideration on both our parts. But there are going to be many times in our lives when I'm going to have to be the one to decide to do something, and it will be your duty to follow me without question. I'll try not to do something stupid, just like you try not to do something stupid when you're leading on the river. That's going to be the way it has to be, and it's especially true for the next month or so. We are a couple, Crystal. We need to work together. But at the same time, there can't be two leaders and no followers. Since we both tend to be leaders, we're going to have to be careful not to overstep our bounds with each other."

"Yeah, I guess," she shook her head. "You've got a point. I guess we're going to have to knock the edges off each other a bit, and realistically, since you see it this way, there are probably more edges to knock off of me."

"You said it, I didn't. The fact that I agree with you shows that we're both in fundamental agreement over Ephesians 5, anyway, even though we may not like the implications."

"But Preach!" she frowned, "You didn't have to lock the handcuffs on me to make that point. It's going to take all day to get them off again."

"I did it for a couple reasons, the first of them being that I needed to get your attention and then give you some time to think about it, to reinforce my point."

She thought about it for a moment, then said, "Yeah, I guess you're probably right. I can be a little hardheaded at times."

"How about a lot of the time?"

"Well, yeah," she sighed. "So what was the other reason you locked them on me again?"

"My own pleasure," he grinned. "You look cute in handcuffs, and watching you struggle with them yesterday made the miles go by quicker."

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To be continued . . .

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