Broken Souls ... by Annay Dawson
“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.