All day she had been making pepper jelly. Jalapenos, habaneros, pablanos, sweet reds and yellows. The steam from the rendering pot made her eyes sting and her face flame. Into mason jars she poured the jelly, sealed, chilled, solidified. She opened the windows to air the kitchen, and the pepper scent puffed into the yard, spread along the sidewalk, mysterious and alive.

Her lover came home, salt crystals dotting his skin where his sweat had dried. She kissed him, and the peppers were on her tongue and on her lips. Her blaze lingered on his high cheekbones after they had separated.

That night they twined together, and where her fingers spread the tang of capsaicin remained. It coated them, bound them in sweat and torment. Every gliding surface flared with gentle pain, every clutching limb vibrated with the inescapable burning. She tangled her fingers in his hair, bent his head backward and set his throat alight. He scattered tiny crystals over the bed, to sparkle in the light from the street lamp outside the bedroom window.

In the refrigerator the peppers jelled slowly, quivered in time to their movements. Long threads stretched through the dark house, between jellies, between rooms.