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Bren had not realized he was tense. Until walking back to the house on Mill Street he was aware of relief and was anxious to be with the woman again. He had not told her about Sundeen. He didn't like to argue with her or discuss serious matters. She was a woman and he wanted her to act like a woman, one he had selected. He did not expect continual expressions of gratitude; nor did he want her to wait on him or act as though her life was now dedicated solely to his pleasure. But she could make his life easier if she'd quit assuming she knew more about him than he did. Women were said to know and feel things men weren't able to because men were more blunt and practical. Bren believed that was a lot of horseshit. Women took advantage of men because they were all sitting on something men wanted. If they ever quit holding out or holding it over men's heads everybody would be a lot happier.

Not that Janet Pierson ever bargained with him that way. She seemed always willing and eager. He only wished she would quit thinking and analyzing why he did things and saying he wanted to be like a son to her.

Sometimes though he would bring it up, because it was on his mind, or to convince her she was wrong-as he did now, entering the front door and hearing her in the kitchen, coming up quietly behind her, pulling her into his arms, his hands moving over her body.

I missed you, she said, resting against him.

I missed you too. You think I'd do this to my mother?

I hope not.

Unh-unh. Kissing her now, brushing her cheek and finding her ear with his mouth. NoWhat you feel like to me is a young girlsoft and nice-

She said, pressing against him, That's what I feel. You make me aware of being a woman and it's a good feeling. This way acknowledging and appreciating him as a man, but knowing that what he needed now was to be comforted and held. Protected from something. The little boy come home-but not telling him this.

After they made love she would put her arms around him and hold him close to her in the silence and soon he would fall asleep. Then, as she would begin to ease her arm from beneath his shoulder, he would open his eyes for a moment, roll to his side and fall asleep again, freeing her. Though if she moved her hand over him, down over the taut muscles in his belly, they would make love again and after, this time, he would get out of bed as Bren Early: confident, the man who wore matched revolvers and loved her when it occurred to him to express it or when he felt the physical urgenot realizing the simple need to hold and be held and to believe in something other than himself.

Sometime soon she would talk to him and find out what he believed and what was important to him. And what was important to her also.

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