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Monday, August 14, 2017

Novel by the Numbers - Chapter 22

Broken Souls ... by Annay Dawson

Chapter 22

Jordan checked in the twelfth patient this morning and had fielded at least twenty calls.  For some reason today was the day that everyone and their brother thought to call in for an appointment or to change their appointment.  The common cold would be the death of her.  They were so busy today that she hadn’t had time to start the coffee, thank goodness for Gillian, the physician’s assistant here.  She had put it on almost an hour later than normal but at least it had been made.  It was still an hour and a half before Jordan had enough time to run over and grab a cup.  Leaning for a moment against the wall she finally took a deep breath and a sip of the liquid gold in her cup.
“Hey Jordan,” Dr. McCoy was walking toward her. She stood up ready for the next collection of things that had to be done, after all he had a file in his hand, “Good to see you are finally getting a chance to breath.”
“First cup of the day, and the day is promising to be a four cupper,” he looked up from the file glancing towards her desk and the waiting room.
“Sorry to hear that,” and he looked around, “Have you seen Kari today?”
“Don’t think she’s been in.  At least I haven’t seen her.  She may be making home visits today,” Jordan didn’t think anything of it.  There were usually a couple days each week that Kari spent the whole day out doing visits.  She usually called and left a schedule but then Jordan hadn’t had time to check the messages on that line yet.
“Didn’t think so.  She said she was going to spend today here because of how busy we were getting with all the new bouts of colds and flus, just incase we needed an extra hand,” she had helped out on busy days and now that the doctor had said this Jordan began to think it was strange she wasn’t here.
“I'll check the messages but if nothing is there want me to try and give her a call?” as Jordan said this Dr. McCoy handed her the file.
“When you have a moment.  You can either put this on her desk or give it to her when she gets in.  This patient has just been diagnosed with diabetes and will need some extra support,” he took his cup from the shelf and filled it with coffee.
“I’ll get right on,” and before she could finish her sentence the phone began to ring again, “it after I take this call.”  Quickly filling her cup Jordan then went back to the phones.
About three hours later and an hour after she should have had lunch she thought about Kari again.  She picked up the phone again and checked the messages that would only be from office staff.  Nothing there.  Making a worried grimace she dialed Kari’s personal number.  The phone rang and rang and then went to message machine.  That was strange.  Normally if she wasn’t in she would answer a call from the office.  Maybe she was in a deep conversation with the patient or their family.
“Hey Kari, if you get this give us a call back,” was all she said.  Glancing at her watch she had about five minutes before the afternoon group started.  No time to have a real lunch so she grabbed a yogurt from the frig and ate it at her desk.
The next time Jordan had a chance to look at the clock was four thirty five.  Realized that Kari hadn’t called back she picked up the phone and dialed Kari’s number again, and again she didn’t get an answer.  Putting the phone down she quizzically looked at it.  
“Problem?” Gillian was looking at her.  
“Yah, Kari isn’t answering and that’s just not her,” and she looked up at Gillian.  “I think I am going to try stopping by her place when I leave.  Maybe she's sick with this stuff.”
“If we get to leave,” and they both looked at the pile of folders still waiting to be put back into the cabinets.  It took over an hour before they were done and ready to leave.  Jordan wrapped her scarf around her neck and stuffed it inside of her coat before she opened the door.  It was already dark, winter was about to settle in for good here.  She was going to meet her Dad for supper at the café, a short walk away.  Kari’s place was almost on the way so it worked out great.  It was just a couple of blocks out of the way.  
The first thing she noticed as she approached the apartment was that Kari’s car wasn’t there.  There weren’t any lights on in her apartment either.  It was strange but she tried knocking anyway.  As expected there wasn’t any answer at the door.  As she walked down the steps Jordan pulled out her cell phone and dialed Kari again.
“Hey, if you get this give me a call.  Just a little concerned that no one has seen you today and you’re not at home either,” she turned and walked in the direction of the café, “Hope all is okay.  If you want you can join my Dad and I down at the café for supper.”  She slipped the phone back into her jacket pocket and picked up her pace.  As she entered the café she waved at her dad.
“Hey Dad,” she called as she walked over to the table.  Giving him a kiss on the cheek she flopped down in a chair.  “Boy, it’s been a day!”
“Really?” he was still in his uniform.  Jordan knew that he was only there for supper and was back on duty after this.  This was the day that he had to do double duty because he still needed to hire another officer or two if the budget allowed.  He hadn’t found one that he liked enough to hire so here he sat on his second shift for the day.
“The phones and people never stopped today,” she smiled, “There must have been something in the air that made everyone call.”
“Cold and flu season maybe,” and his voice remained calm and level as he smiled at her.  That was one thing she loved about him.  No matter how dramatic she got or how dire the situation she could always count on him to be calm.
“Yah, you’re right.  Didn’t even have time to think today,” she took a deep breath, “Chicken pot pie,” her eyes closed and she smiled blissfully, “Definitely a must have for tonight.”
“Good cause that’s what I ordered for us,” and he glanced toward the kitchen door, “Needed to get the order in so that I can get back to work.”
“Yum, thanks.  You really need to find another officer before you work yourself to death,” she said while pulling off her coat, “In fact we were short-staffed today as well,” taking a sip of water she then continued, “Kari didn’t come in today.”
“She’s the new case manager right?  The one you've been hanging out with,” He looked expectantly toward the kitchen again as Doris came through holding two plates with steaming pot pies on them and all the fixings, as Doris call them, headed right for their table.
“Yah, and she usually comes into the office when we are busy and lends a hand.  I stopped by her place on the way over and no one answered the door.  No lights.  She’s renting the old Halethorpe apartment.  But then again her car wasn’t there either.”  
“Nice to see you two here,” Doris was standing right next to Jordan’s Dad.  She was just a hair too close but he ignored it.  Doris had tried many times to start something with him and each time he had ignored it.  He figured it was just a game now, but one he wasn't going to play. “Be careful these things are right out of the oven.  Made sure you two got the freshest ones,” smiling right at him now.
“Everything in this place is fresh Doris,” and he smiled right back at her.  
“You got that right Billy,” chuckling a bit Doris walked away making sure that her hips swayed just a little more than normal.  Jordan stifled a giggle before digging into the creamy center of the pie.  For the next forty minutes or so the conversation wandered.  They talked and ate, and ate and talked until he looked back at his watch.
“You need a ride home?” he rubbed his stomach as if he could use an extra couple of inches of waistband right now.
“No, to the clinic.  Left the car there.  Parking is too tight here,” and Jordan stood up as her Dad dropped money on the table.  They both waved goodnight to Doris as they walked out.
“You said Kari wasn’t at home and her car was gone,” his mind drifted back to the beginning of their conversation.
“Yah, but she’s probably back now,” Kari picked up her phone and dialed the number as they walked to the patrol car.  Her face pinched as the phone just rang and then went to answering machine again.
“No answer,” he said as Jordan shook her head to confirm his suspicion, “Why don’t you tell me the make of her car and I’ll keep an eye out for it tonight.”
“Would you Dad?  It would make me feel so much better,” he kissed her cheek as he opened her door for her.
“It won’t hurt to do that,” closing the door and walking around the car.  Climbing in and shutting his door, “Give me something to focus on as I drive about.”
Four hours later and almost the end of this grueling day he spotted it.  Someone had reported an abandoned car out near the state park.  Not thinking anything of it he went to tag it for the towing company to come pick up.  It wasn’t legal for it to park there overnight.  As his headlights hit the car he sighed.  It was the same make and model that Jordan had given him earlier.  Running the plates confirmed it, and he suspected  it was going to be a much longer day than he had planned. 
Getting out of the vehicle he walked up to it making sure to flash his light into all corners of the inside of the car.  The backseat was clear, no piles of papers or fast food bags.  That was pretty normal, good, but when he looked in the front passenger seat he noticed that on the floor were a pile of tissues, a lipstick, a few pens, and what looked like a compact or change purse strewn about.  It looked like someone had tipped out a purse and flung the contents about the car.  He wouldn’t be sure until he opened the car up and had a look under the seats.  The hair on the back of his neck began to twitch.  The rest of the car was too neat.  There was definitely something was wrong with this picture.  Before he did anything else he had to call for backup.  As he put the mic back into the holder he sighed.  Radioing in he asked for a search and rescue team to be readied for the morning.  They couldn’t go out yet tonight.   Walking back to the car he pulled out gloves from the kit, not ready to rule anything out yet.
It was now a little past two in the morning, they had floodlights on the car and it had been dusted for prints.  Only two sets had been found.  He was sure that one set had to be Kari’s, but didn’t know about the other.  They had gotten everything they could from the car.  There was no wallet, and nothing of value left in the car.  Not good signs.  Glancing at his watch he did the only thing he could think of as he signed off for the car being towed.  They were finished with it and the search couldn’t start for at least three hours, most likely four, but they couldn't leave yet.  He dialed his cell phone and waited.
“Uh,” came the response from the other end of the phone.
“Sorry to wake you hon but it’s kind of important,” he kept that calm and level tone, especially now.
“Dad?” he could hear the sheets rustle as she sat up.  He could imagine his little girl rubbing the sleep from her eyes, but what he was about to tell her wouldn’t be for that little girl he raised, it was for the woman she had become.  
“When was the last time you talked to Kari?”

“Dad?” she was still half asleep but waking up fast.  The silence was stifling.  “What did you find?”

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Novel by the Numbers - Chapter 21

Broken Souls ... by Annay Dawson

Chapter 21

Addy laid there eyes tightly closed as the alarm went off.  She so wanted to pull the covers over her head.  The mornings were getting darker and it was getting harder to get up.  Resisting the urge to stay in her warm bed, she cracked one eye open before whacking the alarm with her right hand.  Rolling out of bed with a small sigh she felt chilled.  Soon they would need the heat on full time.  Coffee, she wanted coffee before Mia got up and the day really began.  Shivering she pulled on her robe that laid at the end of the bed as she walked out the bedroom door toward the stairs that would lead her to that lifesaving brew.
She shuffled down the stairs in the dark, afraid to turn on a light so as not to wake anyone.  Usually Holden had turned on the small light by the coffee pot in the kitchen by now but it was still dark.  Usually it would be the second pot of the morning as he would have already made one and set it up for her to brew another one fresh.  He must have either forgotten to turn on the light or he wasn’t up, or home, yet.  She smiled as she reached the bottom step.  All bets off, he was probably still in bed after his date last night, it was just a matter of whose bed he spent the night in.  That might be a strange conversation to have with Mia if she found out.  Hopefully she wouldn’t find out until she was much older.  Kids grew up too fast these days, she saw that everyday in school.
Walking into the dark kitchen she made her way over to the coffee pot.  Switching on the light above the stove she pulled the canister of coffee off of the shelf with one hand and grabbed the coffee pot with the other.  She turned toward the sink to fill the pot.  Out of the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of a man sitting at the table.  She screamed and dropped the pot.
“Sorry,” Holden looked toward her as the pot hit the floor and shattered, but he didn’t move, didn't even flinch.  “Didn’t mean to scare you.”
“What,” and then she stopped.  Even in the dark his eyes looked empty, red and puffy.  He was wearing the same clothes that he had left in last night, and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to know that things hadn't gone well.  “Oh,” was all she said as her shoulders dropped.
“Yeah, oh,” Holden got up and walked over.  He grabbed the broom and dustpan from the corner.  “I blew it Addy.  I really blew it.”  She could hear the slight tremble in his voice.
“Oh honey,” carefully and quickly she walked around the broken glass and pulled him in for a hug.  The broom fell to the floor as he wrapped his arms around her for support.  The look on his face was had been more broken than the glass carafe or when he had first arrived.  His eyes were empty and her heart ached.
“I,” and he stopped talking pulling himself away.
“Sit down.  Let me clean up this mess and then we can talk,” she picked up the broom, “Maybe we can figure something out.”
“What, that I was a,” and he stopped as he watched Addy make quick work of corralling the glass into the corner, “jerk.”  Addy quickly put the broom down before grabbing Holden by the arm and pulling him back over to the chair at the table.
“Do you want to talk about it?”  Addy could see his pain and she placed her hand on his arm.
“No,” slightly shaking his head as he said it, “We both said things...”
“Every couple fights,” as she said that he looked up at her, “I know I’m not one to talk but Cindy’s relationship is strong and I know for a fact that they argue.  Some real biggies.”  She knew she should stop talking, but she just couldn’t get her mouth to stop.  Holden gave her a sad smile.
“Addy,” running his hand through his hair, “Thanks, but I think I need some time.  I know she needs some time.  Maybe it will work, maybe not, but I do know that I have been spinning my wheels here and maybe that should stop.
“That’s what I have been sitting here thinking about for the last four hours,” and Addison could hardly contain her surprise.  “Yes, four hours.  There have been a lot of things that have happened in the last six months.  Some of them I never want to think about and some, just recently, that could have led to better things.”
“Okay,” she wasn’t sure of where he was going with this but she wasn’t going to stop him from talking.  Her hand gently rubbed his arm waiting for him to continue.  She didn't like the fact that he was using the past tense though.
“I could talk with her Addy,” his voice cracked a bit, “really talk with her, and not like I talk with Dr. McCoy.  I could tell her about the helicopter accident and the good men that died and the ones that were hurt, but now,”  Now Addy was listening carefully.  He had never told her any of this and she tried not to show any shock.  She could hear Mia beginning to move around upstairs and wished this was one of the days she would oversleep.
“Just tell me what I can do to help?” Trying to distract him from the noise above and not succeeding. 
“Tyler, my editor, wanted to know if I’d take on a different type of project.  It keeps me here in the States,” he half laughed, “Think he was trying to keep me from getting my ass blown off again.  The more I thought about it last week or so the more interesting it sounded,” if she could Addy would have fallen to her knees and thanked God for Tyler.  Had it really been that bad that she could have lost him for good; but Holden wasn’t finished talking yet, “But now, I think I need to head back to Baltimore and see what my options really are.  Figure out what is right for me.”
“I know I don’t have to say it, but Mia and I would love to have you around more.  I’ll understand if that’s not what you need or want, but,” Holden held up his hand as Mia came bouncing down the steps.
“Uncle Den you’re here for breakfast,” and she ran toward him throwing her arms around him.
“I am Me-Me, but I’m afraid I have to go back to my apartment to check on things today,” he watched as the joy slipped from her eyes and her mouth drooped into a small frown.  
"Is that why you look so sad?" Mia was staring at his face.
“Yup.  I'm going to miss you so much," and he pushed her hair out of her face trying to smile as he did it.
"Miss Kari will be sad too," she said it so innocently but Addy caught the tremble in Holden's bottom lip.
"Don’t worry, I’ll be back in a few days, a week at most,” he saw Addy give him the ‘don’t lie’ look she had perfected in the classroom.  He gave her a small nod, “not more than a week, I promise,” and Addy tried to relaxed.  He had never made a promise he hadn’t kept to Mia.  
“Okay then, let’s get breakfast going,” and Addy started to pick up the broken glass.  Holden grabbed for the bowls as Mia pulled out the silverware.  
“Why do you have to leave again Uncle Den?  Are you going to go out on another writing job?”  Holden handed the bowls to Mia after she had put the spoons on the table.  
“I need to talk to my editor, Tyler, about a bunch of jobs he has for me,” pulling down the cereal from the top cupboard he turned to see Mia just staring at him.
“Will it be dangerous?” her voice small was trembling.  Holden hadn’t thought about how these last few months may have affected her.  It carved out a little piece of what heart he had left looking at the pain in her eyes.  Going down on one knee in front of her he took her hands.
“No, this one is not dangerous.  I won’t get hurt this time and I will be back with you before you know it,” and he kissed the top of her head.  No matter what his night had been like, and it had been awful, seeing the fear in his niece’s eyes was a pain he hadn’t felt before and couldn't stomach.  He didn’t dare look at Addy.  She must have known the stress that it had put on Mia and never told him.  Tyler’s book offer was looking better and better.
“Okay,” but he could tell by the quiver in her voice that she didn’t quite believe him.  
“How about I wait to leave until after I do reading groups today,” and that brightened her eyes a bit.
“Really?” and she started to smile again.
“Yes, really.  How could I miss that!” Addy started to smile as well.
“And maybe once you get back we can fix some other things as well,” Addy was half smiling at him.  Although he smile quickly disappeared when she saw the pain and loss in his eyes.  Even though it was next to impossible she ignored it and with that the morning really got started.  
When Kari moved her arm she winced.  It was sound asleep and she could barely feel it, the pins and needles would soon follow.  She almost wished she couldn’t feel the kink in her neck.  Oh she was sore.  She knew better than to sleep on the couch, but after what happened last night she couldn’t even step in her bedroom.  Kari rubbed her tear swollen eyes with the hand that she could still feel as she unwillingly remembered the events that lead up to her crying herself to sleep here.  Her mouth was all fuzzy and tasted of old food.  That did nothing to ease the pain of the memories.  She winced even now when she thought about all the mean words she had said.
Last night, after Holden had gone, Kari stood staring at the door that she had slammed closed behind him for a long time.   She hated him for what he'd said and lashed out at him in the only way she could.  As she stood there she realized the problem.  He was right and her words had just been mean, meant to hurt and anger him.  He had been living with his ghosts as well with every ache and pain he felt, but he had been trying to come back to life.  She had just been spinning her wheels, pretending like she was making progress.  
After getting over the fact that he had stormed out she had slumped into the couch and cried.  Shock was over and reality had set in.  Not only had she lost Trevor in a horrible accident she may have just pushed the only good thing to happen to her since away, and with those thoughts crystal clear and ever present she had cried herself to sleep.
Forcing her body to stand up she moved toward the bathroom.  To get there she was going to have to go through the bedroom and face facts.  She had still been trying to hold on to Trevor.  She may have tried to start over but she had carried him with her, letting him be the excuse for not doing it.  It was time to let him go for good and to move on with her life.  The realization now wasn’t quite as painful as it had been last night.  What really hurt was knowing that she was somehow going to have to try and undo the hurt that she had caused Holden.  The very least she could hope for was that he would forgive her, but as she looked in the mirror she understood what she really wanted.  It wasn’t just forgiveness, she wanted him back. 
Glancing at her watch she wondered if he had gone up to the hiking paths today, to the pond where he spent the mornings away from his family to hide his pain from them.  If he were there would he really want to see her?  Could she blame him if he didn’t?  Splashing water on her face she came to grips with the fact that no matter whether or not he wanted to see her, she owed him an apology at the very least.  Grabbing at the towel she quickly dried her face and brushed her teeth.  She would have to hurry if she was going to catch him.  As she hurried back through her bedroom she stopped, turned, and walked over to the picture.  Opening the nightstand drawer she gently placed the picture of her and Trevor inside it.  Then with a resolve she didn't know she had, she closed the drawer and walked away.
The morning was going to be colder than it had been over the last few weeks.  She pulled on a heavy sweatshirt and went into the kitchen to fill her water bottle.  As she walked over to the door she pulled her heavy coat from the peg and put it on.  Locking the door as she left she wished she had picked up some pastries yesterday that she could have taken as a peace offering, but as it was it was just going to be her and the feeble apology.  With only that and a handful of tissue, she got into her car and drove away.
It was now eleven thirty and Addy looked at the door of her classroom.  Holden had been standing there quietly as she finished giving directions to her class.  Even though not all of them looked excited to do the assignment, they all reluctantly got to work.
“Heather, what do you need to do first?” Addy gave the girl her full attention.
“Write the sentences on our papers,” she seemed sure of her answer.  
“Good.  Now what does everyone need to remember to do when you write a sentence?”  Addy reviewed the directions so that each kid would know what to do.
“Use a capital at the beginning,” a boy that Holden didn’t know blurted that out.
“Nice, and what else?” This time Addy held up her hand to remind the students to do the same.  She called on another boy in the class, “Kyle.”
“And a period, and we have to underline the describing word too,” Kyle seemed happy with his answer.  
“Okay, now everyone get started,” moving toward the door Addy only stopped briefly to get a couple more kids started.  
“Just wanted to let you know I was taking off now,” and he gave her quick hug and a peck on the cheek.
“You going to be okay to drive?” there was a little worry in her eyes.  He looked tired, and sad.  Not the best describing words she could come up with but the ones that popped to mind as a second grade teacher.
“Yah, I’ll be fine.  I will catch a nap at the apartment before my meeting with Tyler *tomorrow,” he smiled but it didn’t quite reach his eyes.
“A week to cool off will be good for both of you,” she ruffled his hair as he turned to leave, “Just drive safe will you.”
“Will do,” and then he stopped and turned just a little, “and you might be right about the other as well.”  Giving her a half smile he then turned and left.
Addy walked back into her classroom to see most of the kids working hard, a few looking towards the door, and two trying to talk without being noticed.  Sighing she didn’t bother to stop it as she thought about what she had told Holden.  Boy she hoped she was right.  
Holden got in his truck and shivered.  Today was going to be a cold one.  In just another week winter would be setting in for good.  He turned up the heat a bit as he drove out of the parking lot.  Even though he was tired, and he knew what he had said last night was insensitive but right, he couldn’t help himself.  He just had to try for a glimpse.  Driving past the clinic Holden looked to see if Kari’s car was there.  It wasn’t.  That wasn’t too unusual but it did nothing for his mood.  She went out on a lot of home visits and even walked to work occasionally so why would her car be in the lot.  Trying to comfort himself he reasoned that he would not have stopped to see her anyway as his shoulders drooped just a bit more and his truck rolled past.  He wasn’t sure what he was hoping for by just seeing her car, but he knew that when he got back he would do anything to try and patch things up.  It would have to start with the biggest apology he had ever made though.

Turning his focus back to the road he contemplated his new job prospects and it helped to lessen the ache in his chest.  The book deal would give him the freedom to be around and pursue a relationship with her and give him more time with Mia and Addy.  It would also be challenging, in a new way, and that was what he wanted.  He had never thought of himself as a novelist, or settling down and having kids.  He had always had Mia for that.  After all she was the closest thing to a daughter that he had, and he hadn’t expected more.  His thoughts froze for a moment, kids, where had that come from?  Pushing his fingers through his hair as his truck left the city’s boundaries he wondered just how he was going to get back into Kari’s good graces.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Novel by the Numbers - Chapter 20

Broken Souls ... by Annay Dawson

Chapter 20

“Want to come in for,” was all she got out as they reached the top of the stairs before Holden grabbed her and pulled her into him enjoying the feel of her softness against him.  The night had been almost perfect and after a tasty meal, which he couldn’t remember what he ate even if his life depended on it, and a lovely walk back to her apartment he was where he wanted to be.  He smiled as he swung her around putting her face to face, nose to nose, with him.  She giggled a little nervously.
“I know what I want,” and he moved his face closer to hers and slowly brought his head down to kiss her.  His lips, slow and gentle at first, tasted her before thoroughly covering her lips as his hand moved around to the back of her head lacing his fingers into her ponytail.  He could feel the softness of her hair as he played with it wanting nothing more than to pull it loose allowing him total access to each golden strand.  The sweetness of her lips and silkiness of her hair was a heady combination.  As his mouth worked happily away on her lips, his tongue slowly parted them to allow him better access.  Giving in to temptation his hand gently pulling at her ponytail holder freeing the strands.  
Removing the band fueled his efforts as he cradled her head with his one hand enjoying the silkiness of her hair.  His other hand traced a path down her back and around to the zipper pull on her jacket.  Deliberately, slowly, he pulled at the zipper on her jacket.  Her jacket gave way and he finally slipped his hand inside and around to the small of her back where it settled.  He was rewarded by the warmth that greeted him.  He loved the feeling of her soft silky hair that smelled of apples and berries bunched up in his fingers, and the warmth of her body was intoxicating.  Smiling he moved even closer to her until their bodies were pressed tightly against each other leaving no questions about what he wanted.
He wanted nothing more than to stay the night with her.  They had come so close so many times and he had always backed away, allowing her space she seemed to need, but tonight it looked as if the time for caution was over.  Her slender, leith body was leaning into him and her hands had slid around his neck opening herself up to his advances.  One of her hands had a firm grip on his hair, the fingers of other played a sensual symphony on the back of his neck.  He was happy, really happy and he thought she felt the same.  It had been weeks since he had first seen her and it had all built up to this moment.  During the meal her fingers had played with his nonchalantly as she talked about her day.  Now as he let his hand caress her spine he felt the shivers it invoked in both of them.
Letting go of her hair he slipped his hand up behind his head to take the keys that hung from one finger.  Not willing to stop his exploration of her lips and mouth he fumbled with the lock blindly behind her.  Smiling only slightly as the door opened he pulled away simply for a second.   It was just long enough to wrap both of his arms around her and lift her from the ground walking them both into the dark apartment.  Kicking the door closed with his foot he threw them into semi-darkness with just the soft glow of the street light peeking between the slits of the closed curtains.  This time he leaned back against the door letting her weight rest on him with the tips of her toes barely touching the ground.  His hand resumed it’s mischievous exploration of her hair.
“Am. I.  Hurting.  You?” Kari whispered against his lips between kisses.  After all she had seen some of the scars, not all of them, and she wasn’t sure where he was in the recovery phase.  When all she got for a reply was a low throaty growl, she relaxed back onto his solid frame.  He felt warm and strong and how he had rested her against him left no doubt in her mind that he wanted her, tonight.  She could feel his hands return to their slow and thorough exploration, igniting sparks wherever his fingers touched this time slipping under her shirt meeting up with her already molten skin.  
Her hair now fell about her face in an unruly frame blocking out everything else but him.  She could feel Holden’s one hand toying with the ends of her hair so gently it set the rest of her nerve endings alight.  The heat emanating off of his body warmed her and felt so right.  When the rough tips of his fingers finally reached her soft skin she shivered, but not because it was cold.
Holden picked her up taking the hand from her hair and swinging her legs up onto that arm for support, and without missing a step started to walk toward the bedroom.  All the while never letting his mouth stop it's heavenly delicious assault.  Her giggles only heightened his desire for her but he was careful not to hurry too fast toward the bedroom.  After all tripping in the dark and landing on top of her would definitely kill the mood.  His lips slipped from hers as he tentatively explored her jawbone, nibbling his way up to her ear.  The fruity smell that wafted from her hair wrapped around him as his lips reached their goal.  His teeth gently tugged on her earlobe as he gracefully moved around the couch and toward the bedroom.  He was rewarded with her giggles being replaced with a moan of pleasure.
Kari was happy.  Holden’s touch, the way he looked at her, the way he kissed her, the way he held her had her wanting more.  The warmth from his body made her bones melt into his as he picked her up and started to carry her through her apartment.  His kisses were soft, sweet, and then passionate leaving no question in her mind that he wanted more as well.  It had been so long since she had even wanted someone to touch her and now all she wanted was to feel his hands all over her body, his skin touching hers.  Wrapping her arms tighter around his neck she realized she wanted him more than she had ever wanted anyone.  At that moment she froze.
Holden was almost to her bedroom.  He was already fantasizing about laying her down gently on her bed, slowly undressing her and taking the time she deserved.  He had all night and he smiled as he thought about how he was going to spend it.  He had been with other women, but this was different.  He wanted to take his time, make her understand how special she was to him.  Kari had found a way into his heart when he though no one could.  It was a new feeling for him.  They had talked and shared so much.  Things he never thought he would tell anyone.  The psychologist  didn’t even know some of the things he had told Kari.  That was why he had to go in routinely to Dr. McCoy.  If Dr. McCoy hadn’t been in town they wouldn’t have allowed him to leave.  Dr. McCoy had experience with cases like his.  As it turned out he needed Kari, not the good doctor.  This caring loving person that listened to him and listened to all the bad memories he had.  Letting him release them and let them die the way they should, and with the reverence that they should have.  Kari understood him, she had experienced tragic loss as well.  A person that needed him as much as he needed her.  He felt more connected to her than he had ever felt to anyone and that in itself scared him.  He wasn’t sure of all of his feelings for her but he knew this was more than just a casual hook-up for him and it was this new fear that he welcomed.  Taking a deep breath and breathing in her scent for courage he moved toward the doorway.
Holden felt her muscles tense, her body freeze but he was totally unprepared for her hand to fly out and grab at the doorframe to stop him.  He felt and smelled fear.  It was the smell, a smell that he had experienced too many time before and it wasn’t what he was supposed to be getting from her right now.  In fact she had such a grip on the doorframe that it stopped him in his tracks.
“We can’t do this,” she breathed into his ear.
“Are you okay?” Holden stood frozen, afraid to move, holding her and hoping for some answer he could fix.
“No,” and he could feel her panic begin to boil up from the pit of her being.  She was breathing like she had run a marathon and she had paled so much so that even in the little light he had he could tell.  Her voice pitched high as the panic took hold, “No, put me down.  I can’t do this.”
“Okay, okay.  Relax, we don’t have to do anything,” now he could feel her hands pushing him away as soon as her feet hit the ground.  
“I can’t,” Kari started to push at his chest almost frantic to get away.  Her head was spinning with questions that she didn't have the answers for.  How could she feel like this for someone else?  Did Trevor have no meaning to her anymore?  Holden moved away but that didn’t stop the feeling of the walls falling in on her.  She placed one hand on her chest trying to catch her breath.
“Calm down, it’s okay.  We don’t have to,” and that’s when it all came tumbling down, or out.
“I can’t do this,” and she started to pace the room.  Holden jumped back and turned on the light.  “I can’t ever do this.  I don’t know what I was thinking.”  She hadn't stopped moving.
“I’m a little confused here,” Holden was trying to keep up but she was pacing so frantically that he stopped.  He was standing by the bedroom door just watching her.  Out of the corner of his eye he saw it.  On the nightstand there was a picture.  It wasn’t just a picture though, it was a picture of her and another guy looking very happy and very much in love.  This guy had to be Trevor.  He got it, and as the clouds left his head he understood what was going on.
“You have to leave,” Kari was standing still now, her arms wrapped tightly around her.  The color had completely drained from her face, her hair still a mess from when he had set it free from it’s ponytail.
“Kari, let’s just slow it down,” Holden walked toward the couch.
“No.  Just leave,” she was rubbing her arms unconsciously and staring at the bedroom door.
“Leave,” her voice went up an octave or two panic rearing its ugly head.  Holden could tell that everything he had, everything he thought he wanted for his future, was slipping away.  Hell, he didn’t even know exactly what it was he wanted but he knew that it wasn’t this.  He wanted to try to find out if they had a future and right now that wasn’t looking good.
“Kari come sit down and let’s talk about all of this.  Tell me what's going on.  I can help,” Kari walked purposefully over to the front door and opened it letting the cold air breeze into the room.
“I said leave,” this time she was louder, firmer.  Holden stood with his hands on his hips, face set.  The cold air fueling his anger.  He wasn’t smiling as he walked toward her and the door.  Keeping his eyes focused on her the whole time as he moved deliberately.  As he reached out his hand to touch her she shied away.  It was then that his temper boiled and he could no longer contain it.  The trust they had built, everything that had happened, all the talking had just fell away.  One picture, that was all that it had taken, and she hadn’t even looked at it.  Just the idea of it had completely made her fold in upon herself.
“Kari,” this time his voice sounded strained, hard.
“Please,” and she looked at the floor as she shivered from the cold breeze now filling the room, “I can't do this.  Please leave.”
“Sooner or later,” this time Holden stood in the door with his hands clenched at his sides.  All he wanted was to touch her, try and bring her back to the easy understanding that had built between them, and that wouldn’t be happening right now.  He hurt, and although it wasn't right, wasn't who he was, he wanted her to hurt too.  To understand just what was happening, “you are going to want to sleep with something more than a ghost.”  With that her head shot up and her eyes widened in her pale face.
“How dare you!” Color was flaring up in her face now, “Get. Out!”
“Really?  How dare you?  You come here to start your life back up again and just when it starts to get real you run,” something in the back of his head said to stop there but his mouth wasn’t listening to that part of his brain, “Run back to the ghost that was your past.  Back to the ghost that you sleep with each night and away from the life you could have,” and that was when she slapped him, his head snapping to the side.

“At least I haven’t run away from my ghosts leaving, trying to forget them and their pain,” this time she watched as Holden turned his head back slowly, the spot on his cheek where she had struck him had started to turn red and she instantly felt remorse.  Kari could tell by looking in his eyes that any and all feelings had drained from him, and he looked more like stone than a man.  This time as he turned his back to her he said nothing.  He walked away, and he didn’t look back.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Novel by the Numbers - Chapter 19

Broken Souls ... by Annay Dawson

Chapter 19

“Where’s Uncle Den?” Mia was waiting by the car with her arms folded and her toe tapping.  
“He just called and said he would be here in a couple of minutes,” Addy had to smile as she kneeled down and pulled the zipper up on her daughter’s jacket.  The wind was getting that familiar chill in it just before winter really started to set in.  Addy stood up.  It was the first time Mia had had to share Holden with anyone.  She had done well last weekend on first meeting Kari.  Mia hadn’t even been bothered that all through the week Holden had been gone each morning to meet up with Kari as well, but tonight was pizza and a movie night and he was late.  This might be the straw that broke this little camel’s back.  Addy heard it a split second before Mia screamed in delight.
“There’s the truck!” Pointing at it as it came down the street.
Holden turned onto the street and saw the house, saw Addy, and saw the bouncing figure of his niece.  Smiling he thought about Kari.  He had invited her along for pizza and a movie but she had just smiled and shook her head at him.  For a moment he had thought he had done something wrong as they had snuggled on her couch.
“I don’t think so,” she pulled out of his arms and stood up.  They had started the weekend with an early morning walk that had turned into a late lunch and movie back at her apartment.  It had also included some serious kissing and snuggling.  He could still feel some resistance from her, especially here, and the last thing he wanted to do was spook her.  He looked quizzically at her.  
“Did I...” he didn’t finish, almost afraid to. 
“Don’t worry," she kissed the top of his head, "I just think that Mia wants some Uncle Den time,” she paused and noticed he was still looking quizzically at her, “without me around.  She has given up a lot of her time with you this week.  That’s a lot to ask of one eight year old.  The least I could do would be give her her pizza and movie night,”  Kari picked up the bowl off the table that had been full of popcorn. 
“I guess you’re right,” and he picked up his glass and took a sip as he watched her walk towards the kitchen.  Getting up slowly he followed her.  It had been a great day, a great week, and he had smiled more than he thought he ever would again.
“I know I’m right,” she put the bowl in the sink.  “I have really enjoyed getting to know both of them but truthfully I feel like I’m stealing you away from her.”
“Stealing?” he savored the word as he let it slid off his tongue.  He liked that idea.
“Yes, stealing.  She’s never shared you before,” and Kari walked the few steps back into the living room plopping back down on the couch pulling him down beside her, “Anyway, I have made plans to go out with Jordan tonight.  She has been wanting to get together and do some shopping.  Girl time,”  shrugging her shoulders.  He was looking into her eyes and the feelings he saw there were mirrored in his.  Happiness.  
“I guess,” and pulling her toward him to give her a kiss, “but I hope Mia will have to get used to you being around.”
“Really?” She questioned as she smiled into his kiss.
“Really,” he nearly growled against her lips as he deepened the kiss.  After that all talking was done.
Holden tried to wipe the goofy smile off of his face, but not too hard.  As he pulled the truck to a stop he also stopped trying.  Getting out of the truck he was just in time to catch his niece as she jumped into his arms squealing.  Addy looked relaxed, smiling, not like she was walking on eggshells anymore.  Maybe Kari was the one.  He missed a step.  He had never thought of spending forever with anyone.  Addison looked at him.  He smiled, even larger this time and waved her off.  He had a feeling that he wasn't going to be paying attention to the movie tonight at all.
Kari briefly caught her reflection in the mirror at the store and stopped.  She turned back and looked closer.  She was still smiling long after they had been shopping for hours.  Not remembering a time in recent history that she was smiling this much surprised her.  They had been to at least seven stores and neither one of them had spent too much money, a scarf here and a pair of gloves there. What they had done was talk and talk, or Jordan had.  There was about eight years difference in their ages but it seemed like they had been friends forever.  Jordan was easy to get to know and was a person with an open heart, room for all.  She would have made a great counselor and Kari wondered why she hadn’t gone for the training she needed. It really wouldn’t have taken her away from the town she loved for very long, not in todays world.  She could have done many of the classes online.  When she could get a word in edgewise she would mention it.  
They had just gotten out of the shoe store when Jordan turned and looked at her one bag hanging from her arm making some silly comment that they weren’t being any help to the local economy.  They both laughed.  In fact, Kari couldn’t remember the last time she’d had so much fun.  It was turning into a great day.  It was true Jordan had done most of the talking, but Kari hadn’t minded.
“Shall we grab something to eat?”  she pointed toward the small bistro.  “I hear that it serves some really good soup and excellent sandwiches.”
“Sounds good,” Kari couldn’t help it, she was smiling from ear to ear.
“Then we can really talk about what’s going on with you and Mr. Tall, Dark and Cute,” Jordan smiled and winked at her.
“Really Jordan,” and she did her best to give Jordan her 'you must be kidding' look but it didn’t have the effect she wanted since she couldn’t wipe the goofy smile off her face.
“Hey, you have to give me something.  You have been spending so much time with him,” Jordan pushed through the door of the bistro first and as she turned she finished her thought, “And I haven’t seen that goofy smile leave your face for days,”  Jordan laughed, “Yah, that one.”
“I have to admit, he does make me happy,” Kari busied herself looking up at the menu.  Without thinking she continued, “It’s been so long since I have been happy.”
“Why?”  It was a simple question, but Kari had noticed that Jordan’s whole attitude had changed.  Kari had become a friend, but most of it had been superficial until now.  Jordan had sensed that Kari had been keeping a part of her hidden from the world.  Jordan’s calm tone and relaxed manor let Kari know that it was okay to share, her secrets would be safe with her.  Another reason she should go for that degree. 
“I had a fiancée,” Kari still focused on the menu but she continued in a somewhat muted voice.  It was easier to talk about it if she didn't make eye contact, “He died in an accident.”
“I’m sorry.  That had to really be hard,” Jordan wasn’t sure what to say.
“Thanks,” Kari gave her order to the clerk.  Jordan did the same and they went to sit down.
“That’s why you came here,” Jordan fiddled with the salt shaker.
“I tried to stay.  It’s was about a year before I knew I had to leave Richmond.  I just couldn’t seem to get my life back together there.  Everywhere I looked, everywhere I went I was reminded of him,” Kari shrugged her shoulders, her smile definitely gone now.  “When I saw the job here it looked like a good way to start again.”
“I think we are the ones who got lucky,” the soup and sandwich platters were placed in front of them.
“Let’s talk about something else,” her smile had slipped away.
“Dr. M. has posted pictures of James on his Facebook page.  Have you seen them?”  It was a safe topic.
“Yes,” and Kari’s smile started to return, “He’s so cute.”
“I know.  I can hardly wait til he brings him in the office for us to spoil,” Kari chuckled at Jordan's comment.
“I can’t think of anyone better to do that,” and she took a bite of her sandwich.  After a few minutes Jordan continued on with her favorite topic.
“Now, about the handsome Holden,” and Jordan watched as Kari nearly choked on the bite, “Don’t leave out any details please.”
“Don’t you think I should keep some of the details secret?” and her smile was back.
“Excuse me, but hell no.  You two have been spending a lot of time together and I want the scoop,” Jordan was back to her bubbly self, “Anything you want to add or should I fill in my own blanks?”
“He’s a very good hiker.  Really knows the trails,” she knew that wasn’t what Jordan wanted.  Picking up her sandwich she took a bite avoiding her eyes intentionally.  The fresh dill mixed with homemade mayo made the sandwich.  This was definitely a place to put on her list to try again.
“That’s not what I meant,” Jordan had almost completely forgotten her sandwich as she folded her arms in front of her.
“I know,” and Kari smiled.  “Anyone in your future?”
“Nice change of topic, but I’ll go with it.  Just remember I’m not finished with the other one,” she took a small bite before she continued, “Had a couple relationships that might have been promising but have you ever tried to date when your Dad’s the lawman in the village,” she added a small southern accent to the last few words.
“Ooo, that could be hard,” Kari hadn’t thought about that.
“Hard may be putting it mildly,” Jordan took another bite before continuing, “I’m sure when Mr. Right comes along he’ll scare him away too,” Jordan could see that Kari was about to say something and she waved her off, “I’m only kidding, well sort of.  The last guy lasted almost six months before he got run off.  That’s pretty good don't you think.”
“He’s really...” 
“ my best interest at heart,” and she smiled, “Heard it all, at least I know he loves me.”
“That’s a good way of looking at it,” Kari finished.
“Now, back to what's happening with Mr. Tall, Dark, and Yummy.” Jordan put her sandwich down and looked at Kari, “Any future?”  Kari had to wonder why the change from cute to yummy, but she was afraid to ask.
“Don’t really know yet.  He’s lots of fun to be with and he makes me smile,” and that is where she stopped.  Jordan wiggled her eyebrows but didn’t ask anymore.  They finished their sandwiches and the soup and went back to shopping.  Kari picked up a few more items that she needed for winter, it was coming fast.  When she got home at about eight thirty that night and dropped the items on the sofa.  As she walked around  her apartment she couldn’t help but think about the afternoon.  The bowl was still in the sink and his warmth still hung in the air.
Kari cleaned up quickly.  Tomorrow was a new day and for a long time she hadn’t really looked forward to them or even thought about it.  
Kari hesitated only slightly when she went into the bedroom.  Quickly she grabbed her pajamas off the end of the bed and went into the bathroom.  As she routinely picked up her tooth brush and spread the toothpaste on it she caught a another glimpse of herself in the mirror.  And just like that she stopped and really looked at herself more deeply than she had in the store.  She did look different.  Some of the frown lines that she had gotten used to on her forehead were gone.  The corners of her mouth were tilted up in a slight smile instead of their normal depressed downward slant that had become way to common.  Was she really beginning to move on, to accept what had happened?  Did Holden have this effect on her?  She suspected that he did, but she also knew it wasn’t only him.  Kari went to bed knowing that she was rebuilding her life, her friends, and herself one small step at  a time.

Laying in the dark and staring up at the ceiling, as she did each night, she waited to fall asleep.  In the haze between wake and sleep she still saw Trevor’s face, but this time it was different.  Kari didn’t see all the cuts, bruises and stitches.  She focused on his smile in the dark room, something she missed.  Relaxing she began to drift off to sleep, and as she did saw Holden’s face slowly come into focus as Trevor’s face faded away.  

Monday, July 31, 2017

Novel by the Numbers - Chapter 18

Broken Souls ... by Annay Dawson

Chapter 18

“See you tonight at supper,” Holden was walking Kari out to her car.
“Yah,” and she grinned, “It was really nice of Addison to invite me.”  Stopping at her car she turned to look at Holden, “And I don’t feel even the slightest bit embarrassed now,” her voice betraying her real feelings.
“Addison is nosey so don’t get it into your head that she invited you just to be nice.  She will probably be giving you the third degree tonight, and if not her then Mia,” Holden took her hand and gave it a squeeze, “And we were lucky that Cindy didn’t invite herself and her husband over as well.”
“I think if there had been a good opening she would have,” and Kari smiled.  Holden loved it when she smiled.  The small crease in the center of her forehead vanished and he could imagine all the cares and worries she carried with her vanishing as well if only for a moment.
“It wasn’t the evening I was envisioning but it will be nice,” and he gave her a peck on the cheek.  Dropping her hand he turned to walk back to his truck, “I’ll pick you up at six?”
“Okay,” and she watched him walk away.  As Holden got into his truck his cell phone dinged.  Right on time, he thought.  Addison must be looking out a window.  Looking at the text it was a list of things she needed from the grocery store for tonight’s meal.  He knew what he was going to be doing for the next hour.
Addison pulled into the driveway with Mia babbling beside her.  She swore that Mia hadn’t stopped talking about Kari and Holden since school had stopped.  She had plenty of questions and Addison had to admit to her that she had no answers, but maybe after tonight they would have a few more.  Before the car could even come to a full stop Mia was out of her seat and trying to open the door.  
“Hey, wait a second,” but it was too late.  Mia was halfway to the house, “Come and get your backpack,” she said to no one.  As she got closer to the house she could smell something wonderful.  Walking into the kitchen she just about dropped her entire load of paperwork on the floor in front of her.
“Uncle Den is cooking supper tonight!” Mia was beside herself.  Holden could cook, Addy knew that, but he usually stuck to the basics.  What she smelled and saw was not basic.
“That’s right.  Thought your mom deserved a break,” he turned and winked at Addy.
“Well,” was all she could muster.  Whoever this Kari was she definitely had her vote.  She had all but destroyed the wall Holden had built around himself and all in a few days.
“Are we having meatloaf?  Mom said we were having meatloaf,” Mia was doing her best to try and get a look at what he was making.
“Not tonight Me-Me.  I’m roasting a chicken and cooking up some rice,” this time he looked over at Addy, “Summer squash risotto and a nice salad.”
“I had no idea,” Addy started to put everything down.
“Not much calling for it when I’m here but I have learned a few things in all my travels.  Wine's cooling in the frig as well as a couple boxes of grape juice.”
“Just want to let you know,” Addy said as she walked out of the room, “you may have a whole new job here!” 
About an hour and a half later Holden came to a stop in the driveway with Kari nervously sitting beside him.  She couldn’t decide if this was a good idea or something else entirely.  Usually meeting the family was a whole new step, but she guessed that she had jumped off that cliff in the school parking lot earlier today.  As she got out of the truck she could almost feel the eyes from the house looking at her.  It had been a long day and she was tired, so how good of an idea was this.  This was only their second date if you didn’t count all the meetings up by the lake, the coffee shop, and the school.  If you counted those it had to be closer to a dozen.  In most situations it would be time to meet the family.
“You can relax,” Holden took her by the hand, “I made them promise to be on their best behavior.”
“Can you tell I’m that nervous?” She was surprised and she stopped and looked at him.
“Only I can,” and he opened the door.  During the meal it was mostly polite conversation and a few stories about Holden when he was younger, which Kari thoroughly enjoyed and Holden didn't.  When he got up to clear the dishes Kari tried to help. 
“No, just sit and relax,” Addy said as she got up and picked up the empty chicken plate.
“Are you sure? You made such a wonderful meal and after a long day as well,” Addy looked like she was going to laugh.
“It wasn’t me.  Just found out myself today that Holden’s culinary skills went way beyond hamburgers and hotdogs,” she smiled at Holden before continuing, “Yes big brother that was delicious so you need to be on the rotation more often.”
“Yes ma’am,” but he was looking at Kari and the surprise in her face.  “Now, how about some coffee and a slice of store bought cheesecake?”
“Yuck!  I don’t like coffee.  Can I have more grape juice instead?”  Mia had been quiet until now.  Holden stifled a laugh.
“That’s up to your mom Me-Me,” Holden disappeared into the kitchen after that.  Addy nodded yes and then disappeared as well.  
“Your uncle cooks very well,” Kari was going for small talk.
“His hamburgers and fries are better,” she stated it so matter of faculty that Kari had to smile, “Do you love Uncle Den?”
“Well,” now this was a question she wasn't sure she was ready for and it had been asked by an eight year old, “your uncle is a very sweet person and he is really kind...” but that was all she got to say.
“But do you love him? Sean says you only go out on dates with people you love and he should know his mom's been married a couple of times,” her focus was all consuming.  Kari wasn't surprised that she had been the topic of conversation on the playground, she was surprised at Sean's level of knowledge.  Kari certainly didn't want to know what else Sean had said.
“Yes, I do like him a lot,” she hadn’t noticed that Holden had come back into the room.  She caught sight of him and blushed a little.
“Never leave an eight year old in the room.  The interrogation can be brutal,” he set down the coffee cups and the pot as Addy followed with the cheesecake.
“Mom, Miss Kari says she loves Uncle Den,” and it was then that you could see the embarrassment on Addy’s face as well.
“Well then its all settled,” Addy recovered first, “we all love Holden.  Hope that was the only information she got out of you.”
“I was good.  I didn’t ask if he had kissed her,” although she was looking at Addy when she said this, Mia then peeked over at Kari.
“Didn’t we tell you that was something we weren't going to talk about?” Addy was trying to get control of the situation but not too hard.  Holden sat back and watched all of this with his arms folded in front of him, legs stretched out, and his eyes twinkling.  Kari was feeling bad for Addy.  They must have gone through a whole list of questions not to ask.
“And I’m not supposed to ask if they are going to get,” that’s when Holden jumped in.
“Me-Me do you want some cheesecake?” and this time he was turning red.
“You know I have an idea,” Addy stepped back into the conversation, “Why don’t we have our dessert in the other room with the TV and Cinderella.”
“Yea!” Mia yelled.
“That way we can give you two some privacy,” Addy finished.  Mia looked straight up at her mother.
“So they can kiss?” Mia was on a roll.
“No honey,” Addy said as she grabbed two pieces of cake and her daughter, “to talk.”
“Jimmy says it's to kiss, and that’s what his,” the conversation trailed off as they walked out of the room.
“I love her dearly but,” Holden smiled.  He was cute with a tinge of redness lingering on his cheeks.
“I think she’s sweet,” and Kari grinned as she took the piece of cake he offered her.
“I’ve always been around for her.  Even when I was on assignment,” and he took a sip of coffee before taking a bite of cheesecake.  He could see the questioning look in her eyes, “Skype is wonderful.” 
“Yah.  She seems really close to you,” Kari was ignoring the cake.
“Her dad’s not in the picture,” he didn’t elaborate.  He watched as Kari fiddled with the cup of coffee.  “Not a fan of cheesecake?”
“Oh no, it's a favorite, I just,” and she smiled as she put the fork into the cake, “like learning more about the man I’ve been seeing.” Taking the bite of cheesecake slowly to her mouth she made sure that her eyes never left Holden.
“Oh,” and he swallowed as he watched her slip the bite into her mouth and slowly pull the fork back out as she wrapped her lips tight around the tongs.  Holden could hear the TV in the background and he could see the flashes of color blinking through the doorframe, but he was truly focused on one thing.
“Are you going to finish yours?” smiling she took another bite.  He was cute when he was unsure of what to do.  Tonight she had learned a lot about him.  He was exactly what he seemed to be, good, kind and genuine.  Holden made her think of the future, happy days, and desire.  The feeling of desire was a surprise to her.  She never thought she would feel that particular emotion again, but here it was and the object of it was sitting in front of her.  Best of all he seemed to be just as interested in her.  Clearing his throat he dug the fork into the cake again.
“Sorry got distracted by something,” he wasn’t going to elaborate.  “Going to be up for a walk in the morning?”
“What? No swim?”  This time she licked the fork and watched his Adam’s apple bounce once again.  Oh she was playing with fire and she knew it.  She just hoped she was ready for it.
“A little cold today, so was thinking about skipping it tomorrow,” but he was feeling like he might need that cold water for other reasons.
“Oh,” and she looked a little sad.  It made Holden wonder if she had ever seen more than he had thought.
“Skip the swim only, not the walk.  Can I pick you up in the morning?”  Holden took another sip of coffee as he watched her finish her cake, his totally forgotten.
“I think that would be nice,” finishing off the last bite she picked up the coffee and took a sip right before a bundle of energy came swirling into the room.
“The prince just kissed Cinderella.  Have you kissed Miss Kari yet?”  Addy bolted into the room after her.
“Sorry, nodded off.  Now, young lady,” she took hold of Mia’s hand, “time for bed.”
“But Mom,” she whined.
“No Me-Me I haven’t kissed her yet,” and he looked back at Kari and whispered, “tonight,” and it was now her turn to blush.  While Addy drug off her curious little girl, Holden cleared the dishes from the table.  Kari picked up the cups and followed.  It felt right and walking into the kitchen she was pleasantly surprised.  The kitchen was rather large for the size of the house but it was obviously the heart of the house.  The window over the sink looked out over the backyard.  Bright yellow curtains were pulled back with frilly ties that gave the sink area a happy inviting look.  The small center island with the counter made of butcher block had small pots of basil and other herbs sitting in the middle ready for cooking.  The pale yellow walls were covered with photos and country style art with feel good phrases.  She brushed up against Holden as she put the dishes in the sink.  He didn’t seem to mind as he turned and gave her a hug in response.
“Thank you,” and he kissed her on the cheek very gentlemanly.  Noticing the funny look on her face he glanced in the direction his niece and sister had gone off in.  She smiled her understanding about the staid kiss.
“For what?”  She still wasn’t sure why he had thanked her.
“For putting up with my family, especially Mia,” and at that she smiled.
“Just made you more human, more,” and she stopped.  Kari was going to say lovable.  She wasn’t sure about that step yet, it might be going too far.  “I should go.  Tomorrow will be another early morning.”
“Let me get my keys,” and he took her hand as he grabbed the keys from the counter.  Leading her out the back door he suddenly stopped before they got too far.  That was when he turned her toward him pulling her in close.  When she didn’t resist he wrapped both of his arms around her.  
“Aren’t you afraid Mia will see us?” She asked sounding a little more breathy than she planned as she felt the warmth of his breath against her skin.
“Their rooms are on the other side of the house,” he said softly as he leaned in slowly to kiss her.
“Oh,” and with that being said she met his lips halfway.  Slowly, gently he kissed her.  He didn’t hurry his explorations of her lips and she didn't mind expanding her exploration either.  Taking his time, after he had thoroughly tasted her, his lips moved slowly, deliberately around to nibble on her jawbone and up towards her ear.  Kari sighed as he reached his goal and his teeth nibbled at her earlobe.  Getting a positive response he continued his slow torment for only a few seconds and then made his way back to her lips.  Savoring the moment like a fine wine he felt her weight sink into him as he continued.  Slowly his lips pulled away from hers and as he gradually released her making sure she was steady.
“Can I walk you to the truck?” Kari marveled at how steady his voice sounded. She wasn’t so sure hers would be.  She opened her eyes to his warm smile.  
“Um, yah,” and he took one step back and moved in beside her, slipping his arm around her back.

“Much longer and I will be grilled relentlessly until I give up all the details,” answering her silent questions.  Like a gentleman he opened the door for her and closed it after she got in.  As he walked around to the driver's side he smiled.  He could hardly wait for morning. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Novel by the Numbers - Chapter 17

Broken Souls ... by Annay Dawson

Chapter 17

“Kari,” Holden hollered at her but she didn’t stop.  Holden broke into a jog to try and catch up with her before she could leave the parking lot.  “Kari,” this time his voice was deeper, more insistent.
She heard his voice behind her and she just couldn’t deal with it, couldn't deal with him.  Picking up her pace she wanted to, no needed to, get to her car before he reached her.  Had she known that he was involved with someone else she never would have what?  She still wasn’t sure what they had.  No, had had.  Whatever it was it was over.  She felt her eyes begin to tear up.  The last thing she wanted was to let him know that he had touched something so deep within her that she felt loss.  No, she wasn’t going to listen to him; listen to him give excuses or reasons why she shouldn’t just go running away.  
“Kari wait,” this time she could tell the voice was much closer, more commanding.  There wasn’t going to be anyway to avoid this, to avoid him, so she turned and faced him, head on.
“How dare you!” Her voice came out stronger than she suspected it would as she glared at him.
“If you give me a moment,” and he saw her temper flare up in her eyes.  Although he didn’t want to be arguing in front of the school, God knew that anything type of relationship they had that had been private would not be now.  If he wasn't so afraid that he was losing her he could have enjoyed seeing that spark.  It meant one thing and one thing only, she cared for him.  When he saw a tear balanced on the edge of one eye, stupid man that he was, he smiled.  
“What,” she was incredulous.  Her voice went up an octave, “You’re smiling? You think seeing me on the side is funny!”  The more she talked the madder she got and the more Holden smiled.  She just couldn't believe it.
“Kari, it’s really not what you’re thinking,” but it was hard to say with a straight face especially since he could see Addison warily approaching them.
“I can’t,” she saw the woman approaching them.  Quickly she turned to move toward her car again and Addison picked up her pace, “I just can’t deal with this now,” but as she got to her care but before she could open her car door Addison touched her shoulder.
“You forgot this,” and she held out the scarf.  Kari exhaled and turned to face the woman that had Holden’s heart.  She had seen it in their eyes.  “Hi, I’m Addison, Holden’s sister.”
Time froze.  Holden’s what?  It was as if her brain short-circuited right on the spot.  She didn’t see Holden approach until he had his hand under her arm supporting her again.  She could feel his warmth and that warmth began to seep through her body bringing her focus back to the here and now.
“His sister?” okay, that wasn’t quite what she wanted to say.  She couldn't look at Holden so she kept her focus on Addison.
“Kari,” this time it was Holden, his voice softer, caring, trying to save the situation, “this is Addison, my sister.  She teaches here.  Addison this is Kari.  The one who has been keeping me from having breakfast with you and Mia,” and he turned and looked at Kari again, “my niece.”  As if it were on cue, Mia came running out.
“Uncle Den is this your girlfriend?”  She stopped in front of all of them and put her hands on her hips.  Kari almost chuckled.  It was enough to break the tension.
“Well,” and Holden let go of Kari and kneeled down to talk with Mia, “I’m not sure Me-Me.  We will have to ask Miss Kari but I don’t think now is a good idea.”
“Oh, okay.  Hi Miss Kari.  Do you like my Uncle Den?”  Holden had to give her credit; she was focused.
“Wow,” and Kari absentmindedly pushed an imaginary strand of hair from her face, “I do like your uncle.”  
“Well then,” and Holden could see Mia was winding up again for another question.
“Who told you to come out here?” Addison said in a scolding tone as she took hold of her daughter’s hand.
“Mrs. Warren thought I could help,” and it was then that they all turned to look at the front door of the school.  Cindy stood there smiling and leaning up against the doorframe.  Penny was peering out behind her.  Cindy gave a little wave.
“Holden, we are going to head back in.  Don’t worry about joining us for lunch if plans change,” and as she turned she looked at Kari, “Kari it was so nice to meet you.  I hope we get to see you again soon.”  
“Me-Me you need to eat and get back to your class.  Tell your teacher thanks for me,” Holden winked and then waited until Addison and Mia were out of earshot.
“Kari?” the look on her face was priceless.  It was a mixture of dread, embarrassment, shock, and his personal favorite, relief.  The color was beginning to return only this time it wasn't the red rage that he had first met up with.
“I owe you,” Kari paused and pulled her bag closer to her.  She was embarrassed all right and even though some part of him was enjoying this he needed to put her back at ease.
“I’m not, nor have I ever been, that kind of guy.  I just wasn't going to introduce you to the family until well," and he hesitated a bit, "later.  I didn't want to pressure you,” and he took Kari’s hand.  “I know the perfect way you can make this all up to me and since you are already here it will be easy.  Why don’t you come in and join us for lunch,” Kari glanced quickly over at the school like it was a house of horrors and then back at Holden.  He could tell that she was nervous, “I brought sandwiches already so we won’t be eating a school lunch if that’s the worry.  I’d be happy to share mine with you and,” he let his thumb gently rub the side of her hand watching how it relaxed her, “I’d like you to get to know Addison.”
“But,” and she paused.

“You’ve got to eat and the food is here and ready.  Plus the word will be out in the next thirty minutes or so that we are seeing each other whether or not you stay here and eat.  Better that the story ends with lunch as a group than a row in the parking lot,” he smiled and pulled her gently in toward him and back toward the entrance to the school .  When she didn't resist he knew he had won.