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Somewhere Between the Bird and the Tree

Published by T.M. Johnson

At Smashwords

Copyright 2019 T.M. Johnson

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Chapter One:

Mel had written the scene fifteen times …

He was tall, with eyes the color of deep warm chocolate. Eyes that would make any woman…”

Shit. Yeah shit was just what it was. She was never moving pass that dark hair and eyes stereotype. She maybe just needed to step away from the story and start on Thanksgiving dinner anyway. The really would hold her interest either. At this point she’d never finish it before the New Year at all. Damn holidays. Even bigger damned writer’s block. Fuck romance all to hell. She was going to need loads of coffee and wine to survive this day and all the others in the holiday season. Her heart just wasn’t in the season yet again this year. Probably never would.

Thanksgiving dinner was finally over. Mel sat down on her couch, starring into her roaring fireplace, glass of wine in one hand, and a book in the other. All she wanted was some quiet after such a busy day. Every year since she moved into her new house she received the honor, or more so the nightmare, of cooking the majority of Thanksgiving dinner. Her feet were sore, her head ached, and she could barely keep her eyes opened. The fireplace was putting off all the heat she needed to escape the cold frosty night; snow was defiantly on the way.

A loud noise awoke her from her couch slumber around 3am. Snow had obviously fallen overnight and the chill in the air was horrible. Mel tossed another log on the fire and poked at the still red embers. She began flipping on lights as she made her way to the front door looking for the cause of the noise. Right out by the street, directly in front of her mail box, a car was in the road with flashing hazard lights. A tall figure was checking out the car.

Mel still wore her jeans and sweater from Thanksgiving dinner; so, she stepped into her snow boots from the closet. She grabbed her thick coat from the same closet, her cell, and headed towards the stranger. The man startled when he saw her.

“Hey are you okay?” The man just nodded not even making eye contact. “Have you called the police? What happened?” He looked up as he finally took in the beautiful half-asleep stranger.

“Ummm no, my cell isn’t working. Someone hit me and drove off. My car won’t even start!” He looked defeated and tired.

“Hey, come to my house and use the phone, get warm, and we will wait for the police!”

He smiled, “But I’m a stranger hun!”

She waved him off, “Well I’m too tired to care; if you want to kill me now, that’s fine. Either way I don’t expect you to kill me after you call the police, too many loose ends to tie up that way!”

The stranger couldn’t suppress his first genuine smile under the street light, from what she could tell he was handsome; but it was dark, and as we all know darkness and alcohol have a way of misrepresenting a person. Maybe it was the wine that made her as tired as she was or maybe it was just life in general. Mel let the stranger in and guided him towards the living room. She stoked the fire to help thaw them both out.

“Hey thanks a lot. Your house is extremely beautiful; I hope I didn’t wake up your family. My name is Casen Walker.” Mel, for the first time got a real good look at him. Casen Walker was six foot, if not extremely close, had shaggy light brown hair, and gorgeous green eyes. He was obviously athletic and maybe late twenties or early thirties; quite damn good looking. If she was being honest and all that.

“Well I live alone; but that is rule number one to never tell a stranger.” He smiled; he really liked her attitude. “But anyways! I’m Melanie Carter, but please call me Mel. I have tons of leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner if you’re hungry and the phone is in the kitchen. Cell service is kinda spotty around here. Hey, give me your coat and I’ll hang it up to dry. Do you need a towel to dry your hair?”

He smiled that sexy bad ass, rogue smile again and for some reason that excited some old part of her. Bless his heart. “Mel I am starving, that’s probably why I am so pissed about my car not starting. I came to town to see my sister, she just had a baby, and she was planning this huge dinner. My plane was delayed so I called her and rented a car. I haven’t eaten since lunch yesterday.”

Mel smiled, “I’ll heat up your dinner while you call your sister then the police. I’m sure she is worried sick about you!” Casen smiled, she was sure he knew she found him attractive. He probably expected that every time he walked into a room. He probably had a whole flock back home wherever he was from.

“Do you have any siblings, husband, or children?” Personal questions, but not out of place; she already told him she lived alone; maybe he didn’t believe her. Or maybe he became chatty when he was nervous or aggravated.

“Well, I have a sister and a brother; also, no husband or children. I’m kicking it solo hommie!”

Casen’s eyes lit up and he laughed loudly, “Are you always this awesome when strangers wake you up at an ungodly hour of the morning?”

She made a thinking gesture, “Well to be perfectly honest with you Casen,” she faked an innocent expression, “It has been many years since a stranger has awoken me at such an hour. And it usually involves ‘have you seen my keys’ not ‘more turkey please’!” Casen was sure he had never met any woman that quick on her feet. Hell, he hadn’t met a woman worth having a whole conversation with in years.

He laughed till his eyes watered, “I must say that was completely one hundred percent friggin’ awesome! Seriously!”

Mel did a mock bow, “Thank you sir!” He rolled his eyes. “Hey what can I say I amuse myself sometimes!” He nodded and dialed his sister’s house. Two rings later and Julie’s voice came across the line.

“Hey sis I got into an accident! Well not really, I’m fixing to call the police. No don’t get out with the baby right now. I’ll find a way! This awesome woman dressed mostly in white came to save me from the cold. She offered me fattening food and warmth!” He was chuckling, and Mel smiled and rolled her eyes. She was sitting across from him at the table drinking some much-needed caffeine laced fuel. “Yeah! Her name is Mel Carter! Yeah that fits her description mostly. Okay yeah! She wants to speak to you!” Mel gave him a look, she shrugged and took the phone.

“Hello! Ohhh shit, hey girl! How have you been! Seriously I had no idea you even moved back. You know I don’t get out as much as I should. A baby now that’s wonderful. My brother is still my brother what can I say. Yeah, he can stay here till tomorrow that’s totally no prob at all and then you can bring that baby to see her Aunt Mel! Okay so go back to sleep. Love you too! Bye!”

Casen watched Mel with a strange expression as she chatted with his sister. “What was all that about?”

Mel rolled her eyes, “My brother dated your sister back in the day!”

He nodded, “So seriously you are going let me stay at your house.”

She nodded, “If your sister says you’re cool than you must be. You know I realize your name now, but I’m sure I haven’t seen you before that I remember. How old are you?”

Casen searched his mind over and over! Did he ever know Mel Carter or any other Carter’s? “I’m glad my sister’s word means that much! I’m a newly turned 30 years old. So, I take it you’re a youngin,” he chuckled.

“Well do I look like a youngin old man?” He blushed, and she chuckled at him. “Cat got your tongue?”

He rolled his eyes, “Conceded much Mel?”

Casen noticed she looked confused, “Never had a reason to be conceded in my life; unlike you Casen!”

A knock on the door brought them from their stare down. Joey Miller, one of Mel’s not so friends and longtime policeman stepped in the unlocked door. “Hey baby you home?” Casen shot Mel a ‘what the hell’ look. She really couldn’t stand the ground Joey Miller walked on.

“In the kitchen Joey,” she yelled out. Casen turned, more than a little relieved, that the man was a cop. He might even add that he was not even good looking enough to be dating Mel at all. Even he could tell there was no love from Mel towards the guy.

“At first I thought you were calling me back to change your mind.” Cason could see Mel shift a little to distance herself from the ‘little too eager’ cop. Whatever he had asked her earlier she sure as shit didn’t change her mind about it.

“I’m Casen Walker and I’m the one who called. Mel was nice enough to take me in and nurse me back to health,” he offered with a wink towards Mel. The cop obviously didn’t like that one bit but, that’s why he did it anyways.

Casen quickly told the cop what happened and how to contact him and the cop promised to call him in the morning with the rest of their business and paperwork. Mel let Joey see himself out.

“That’s one damn creepy bastard,” Mel said shaking her head.

“Well it’s obvious he really likes you!”

She looked sickened, “That m’fer has been trying to maul me for years. Uuuhhhh, so not my freakin’ type. Plus, he is like 37 and I’m 26.” Oh, so she was four years younger than him; maybe that’s why he didn’t remember her.

“So, age matters to you?”

She smiled a sexy evil smile one he could totally get used to, “Nope! But he doesn’t know that. As far as he knows it matters a lot to me!” Casen found himself laughing at her goofiness.

“Girl that is just wrong,” he was really enjoying her company.

“Hey, go change into your night clothes and I’ll wash what you have on. Your bag is in the spare bedroom. The bathroom is right beside it!”

Mel was washing their dishes at the sink when Casen came up behind her. Mel could feel his breath near her ear. “What if I sleep naked?”

She chuckled, “Well then you’ll just be naked then won’t ya!” She looked him in the eyes; he thought she looked tired and a bit lonely. Maybe even a bit haunted. He wondered what her story was. He pulled her to him as she threw the dish towel on the counter; he hugged her close.

“Thanks a lot. You made a truly awful and sucky day pretty damn great. I promise I’ll pay you back for everything, and the food was delicious. You’re beautiful, kind, and a great cook.” Casen kissed her on her red cheek and made his way towards a warm shower.

Mel thought the man had to be crazy, but God was he sexy. She switched off the kitchen light and headed to her room to put on her favorite comfy velvet yoga pants in hot pink and a black tank top. She went back to the living room and laid a crossed the couch glancing at the book in her hand but thinking of Julie’s older brother Casen. Julie had a daughter now. She had dated Bradley when Mel was 16 till she was close to 20.

She never did know why they broke up, then a year later Julie moved out west. Mel really missed her for a while. She was a great friend and she was always ready to listen to whatever Mel had going on. Julie always had the best advice, even when it wasn’t what you wanted to hear.

“Hey, can I join you or do I have to go to bed?” She heard him speak but didn’t move her face from the book. She was glad that he seemed to have relaxed and adapted a laid back, playful attitude with her.

“Depends if you’re naked or not!” She could hear his booming laughter and turned to look at him. He had a great laugh. The kind every hot guy in every romance book had. The sexy- turn you on laugh that mad your heart race and your panties explode. Yeah he had that all going on.

“I can get naked if you prefer!” He made a sweeping motion to show he was dressed. Mel rolled her eyes at him and smiled.

“I’m sure you would, but I’m sure your girlfriend would advise against it! Yeah come chill!” He spread out on the other end of the couch and grabbed her blanket.

“Hey Casen, that’s my blanket and I don’t share. There is a million more over there dude!”

He smiled. “Can you cover my feet for me Mel? And share, it is big enough for the both of us.”

She covered them, “Just don’t put your feet in my face butthead!”

They laughed together, “But you’re wrong!”

Mel shot him a raised eyebrow, “About what?”

He looked into her eyes, “I don’t have a girlfriend at all!”

What, she thought. He was gorgeous; even in his tight black shirt and blue and black plaid jammie pants. He had all the typical popular traits all women liked. He was sexy. He was tall. He was flat out gorgeous. He had manners, obviously. He had a great sense of humor. And my god his eyes were to die for.

“Well that’s odd because usually all the sexy one’s are taken. Or unless you have multiple girlfriends! Or maybe a boyfriend!”

Casen was floored, she thought he was sexy. Hell, he thought she was more than sexy. The first time he saw her she was in a huge jacket and loose jeans. Now she wore tight fitted yoga pants that showed off her ass and hips; and a really tight tank top that showed her full chest and shape. She wasn’t model skinny, she was womanly, curvy, and even sexier than his usual typical blonde stick thin girlfriends. Her hair went down her back in a layered curtain of dark auburn. A color that fitted those ocean blue eyes perfectly. She was heart stopping. Yeah, she was pretty damn sexy.

“Well as much as your view of my pimpness warms my heart, I’m a one-woman man. I have nothing to prove to myself by lying to several women and playing games, but you thinking I’m sexy didn’t go unnoticed. I actually like that very much!” He wiggled his eyebrows at her.

“Easy there Casanova.” He swore he hadn’t laughed this much in years nor had the company of one woman been so relaxing. Maybe it was because he was officially completely wore out or maybe it was just all Mel’s doing.

“See Miss. Mel you have me truly intrigued I must admit. First off, I have never heard my sister so happy to talk to anyone. Second, you’re extremely beautiful why in the hell are you living in this house all alone? I’m sure you have tons of men beating down your door. And third, you need to buy a life time supply of those damn yoga pants!” He finished his rant with a chuckle and a wink. Mel’s face burned bright red and so did her neck. “Awww, so I embarrassed the beautiful Mel Carter!” She shielded her face with her hand and shot him the middle finger causing him to laugh again. “An invite I just couldn’t turn down!” That got him two middle fingers. “Obviously you’re not aware of how beautiful you are darlin. I’ll be the first to tell you that you’re too modest for sure. You are really breath taking! Okay I’ll stop! Just take your hands down lobster!”

She peered at him between her opened fingers, “Asshole!”

Casen loved how his charm didn’t work on her, “So every man who admires your beauty is an asshole?”

She nudged him with her foot, “Shut up Case!” He loved the way she called him Case. He grabbed her foot and tickled her. She was screaming and thrashing as he moved to her sides ticking her. He always hated being tickled but, like any person alive, enjoyed tickling other people. His little sister Julie hated it just as much as Mel did.

“Hey stop! You suck! I hate being tickled. I’ma kick your ass!” He finally stopped, tears in his eyes from laughing at her threats. She really seemed to capture the laid-back style his life was missing at the moment.

“You want me to kiss it and make it better little baby!” He continued to make kissing noised at her, adding to the laughing.

She flipped him off for the third time, “Only if I can pick the spot!”

He laughed, “I figured that!” He smiled, “Maybe would I be lucky enough to assume that the part you wanted me to kiss was your lips?”

She shook her head and giggled, “Well since I have been feeling more charitable than normal I might let you assume that you’re correct!” He raised one sexy eyebrow and Mel felt her pulse quicken everything seemed to be over attractive about him. She could count on one hand the men she was attracted to. She’d not really been opened to attraction and men in years. But he was the best-looking man she had ever seen. All most too damn sexy for everyone’s good. She couldn’t keep those thought from circling around in her head.

“I know, and I deeply appreciate your charity and your company. I’ve never met a woman like you before!”

Cason motioned for Mel to come to his end of the couch and she shot him a look. “I’m not going to hurt you I was just hoping we could sit here and talk. If you feel safer at the other end that’s fine too.” Mel wondered why she trusted this man like she did. Mel was always weary of men, but she was sure he could have any woman he wanted. She slid down to the end of the couch and he moved so she sat in between his legs and her back was leaned against his chest. He placed his chin on her head and his arms around her. “See is this so bad Mel!” She didn’t trust her voice, so she shook her head no. It felt wonderful encased in his strong arms. Every fantasy she ever had come to mind. It had really been a long time. She couldn’t even remember the last time she allowed anyone, or herself, the luxury of her physical contact.

“Casen you have to be extremely tired; you sure you don’t want to head to bed?” He could tell by the way she relaxed in his arms that she was comfortable; but she was fighting it. Well some women take it slow, but she seemed like a more of the ‘grab the bull by the horns’ kind of girl. But he knew all too well that everyone had a back story and he was going to try his hardest to find out hers.

“Only if it’s with you,” he chuckled, and she punched him on the arm. “Hey, you asked for that Mel! You know I was kidding. We can talk for a while before I head to bed. I am tired, but I don’t want to waste any time with you, because I’m not sure I could convince you that you should go on a date with me. I mean years from now when I’m still fantasizing over the luscious Mel Carter I want a lot of things to recall!” God he was smooth and was he serious about the date? But mostly, she knew he was completely full of shit.

“Well I could give you tons of things to remember me by!” Mel was sure she heard him choke and then try to cover it with a cough. She loved the reaction she felt from that. “Come on now Casen are you always so dirty minded?”

He smiled down at her, “Honestly usually no; but in your presence yes! Like do you know from back here I can see down your shirt!” She punched him again and tried to sit up.

“OOhhhh no you don’t hot stuff. You’re gonna stay here in ‘ole Casen’s arms and fall in love with me!”

She snorted with mock anger, “Does that usually work for you?”

He shrugged, “Never tried it before. Well, does it make you wanna run around naked?” She nodded no, “Well then I guess it didn’t work!” Mel laughed so hard at the idiot she felt the tears running down her face. “Hey is the idea of falling in love with me that horribly funny? Damn Mel what a way to bruise a man’s ego!”

Mel was sure by the semi-playful cut that some of what he was saying was true. She maneuvered around to look at him, “Come here! I was just playing. I’m sure there is nothing horrible about falling in love with you,” she wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug.

“Thank you, that makes me feel a little better. Will you kiss it better sweet thang?”

She pulled away and eyed him, “Sweet thang? You’re starting to sound like a dirty ass old man there buddy!”

When their eyes locked Mel could sense the desire in them. Casen was seriously hoping she would kiss him. He was going to make it the most passionate kiss she had ever had; whatever it took to get her to go on a date with him. She was the first woman who seriously made him curious. He could use such a relaxing woman at the end of every hectic day and they were getting more hectic as they passed. Sometimes when he was honest with himself he wasn’t sure if he was living the life he actually wanted anymore.

“Okay Casen you win! I’ll kiss you but……,” she paused.

“Tell me the ‘but’ because I’m dying over here babe!”

She chuckled, “Whatever, I’m not sure about the ‘but’, just figured I’d throw it out there!” She was sitting next to him now a bit nervous. This was a lightyear speed when she was usually only going in sloth mode. It was as confusing as it was exciting.

Casen reached over to stroke her cheek the way he’d been wanting to all night, “Mel you are absolutely beautiful. Something about you moves a part of me I’ve never known to move before. Corny as hell as that sounds and all.”

He leaned in and pulled her chin up gently and kissed her lips. At first the kiss was soft, and Mel felt her lips tingle from the contact. Casen was sure someone had sat him on top of a pile of burning wood; the feel of her lips made his whole body hot. Mel finally loosened up and put her hands on both sides of his face and then slipped them into his hair; she pulled him to deepen the kiss.

The room was ten times hotter and Casen knew he’d never forget her velvet smooth lips and the way she gasped every time his tongue touched hers. He wasn’t an overly passionate man when it came to kissing or even sex. After you’ve done it so many times and so many ways with the wrong person it losses sight of what is supposed to make it special. Sex now was just a means to scratch an itch that he couldn’t reach himself. He could, but that never any fun.

Mel had practically climbed into his lap. She knew this was the most passion anyone had ever made her feel. He was gorgeous and if the way he was kissing her meant anything he must like her too. Casen finally made one hard tug and she was straddling him. Mel found that having him under her that way brought a new wave of feelings. He ran his hands over her butt, hips, and all over her back. She moaned every time his hands made contact with her bare skin. Finally, they both needed air; they pulled apart and sat forehead to forehead trying to slow their breathing. Casen was the first to finally break the quiet spell they were under.

“Fuck, that was the best kiss I have ever e-v-e-r E-V-E-R had in my entire life, seriously Melanie Carter!” His green eyes were vivid. She found herself wondering what she could do to keep those green eyes glowing like that.

She smiled up at him, “Really the best ever,” she winked at him and he grinned back boldly and nodded. Mel sat still straddling him and started running her fingers through his hair affectionately letting her nails scrap his scalp. Her mind was wondering all over the place, past and present were colliding in a jumble of thoughts.

“Hey, that feels really good; got me all tingly,” he smiled with his eyes closed. Mel enjoyed his closed eyed smile and wondered why she enjoyed seeing him happy. She leaned down and started kissing his neck and he startled. She must have temporarily lost her whole damn mind but, she figured she owed herself this moment. She would forever regret the ‘what ifs’ if she didn’t. After all no one knew how to hold onto regrets like she did.

“You got me all tingly too,” she mouthed into his neck and he moaned.

“Good Lord Jesus girl that is criminal. You’re going to have to stop before I embarrass myself.”

She stared him in the eyes, “What is there to be embarrassed about baby?” He took her breath away with his glowing green eyes. Mel swore she heard him growl and then he crushed his lips to hers. She figured it was due to the fact she came out him with the same flirty banter he came at her with.

“Baby, now I’m your baby! Say it again; even if you don’t mean it, I fucking love that!”

Mel loved the way his kisses on her lips took her breath away and made her heart pound so hard her rib cage hurt. He was ecstasy; something stronger than the usual high any man had ever given her. It was a high she avoided for years because it could make you stupid and crazy and leave you extremely lonely when it ended.

“Baby that feels good! Damn, baby you’re so sexy Casen. Even your name is sexy.” Casen loved to hear her say his name. Was this seriously a dream? Was he reading one of those romance novels his sister always loved?

“It’s only sexy when you say it babydoll! I know you want me Mel. Fuck, I want you so damn bad right now.”

The statement drew her up short and she felt his big strong arms come around her and pull her to his chest. Why in the hell was she acting like this? Never in her whole life has she ever thrown herself at some man. One she didn’t even know at that. Julie’s older brother at that.

“What’s not to like,” she said playfully.

“I’m serious; will you let me take you out tonight after we get some sleep and I finish up at the police station? I know this sounds nuts, but I feel a connection with you. You bring me such peace. I feel like I already know you. Maybe I was meant to breakdown here and meet you. I don’t really believe in that kind of thing; but it’s hard not to while I’m sitting here holding you in my arms. Damn I’m going to scare you away! I really do sound like a complete lunatic.”

Never has his mouth gotten away from him like that in years. Mel didn’t even move in his arms and he feared he went too far. Finally, she moved a little and he felt something wet on his shirt.

“I know exactly what you’re saying Casen. It’s been a while since I gave any man the time of day, but when I heard your voice outside something inside me clicked. Then when you walked in my door and I actually saw you my heart stopped. You are the best-looking man I have ever seen in my life and then I find out you’re actually a cool dude too. What odds are those of ever happening in real life?”

She sighed, and he pulled her chin up to inspect the beautiful blues eyes rimmed in red. “Awww babe don’t cry! That means a lot coming from you. You are awesome, sexy, witty, funny, and an all-around awesome girl. I wasn’t even sure they made those; you’re the first I met in thirty years!”

Casen and Mel spent the next hour holding each other close and stroking each other’s face. Nothing was more intimate than this for Casen; they hardly kissed just looked into each other’s eyes. “Hey, the sun will be up soon let’s go lay down and get some rest! We got a lot to do and you better go on a date with me after all this sweet talk I been spitting out like a damn Hallmark card.”

She chuckled and offered him her hand to pull him off the couch. They walked hand in hand down the hall. Mel went right, while he was going left to the guest room. The pull of their arms made them stop and look at each other. “I guess I better kiss you goodnight so you don’t forget about me while you’re sleeping!”

She shook her head, “That will be hard to do when you’re lying next to me.”

Casen’s eyes widened, and a huge smile graced his face, “I would like that!”

Mel was excited about how happy Casen was just to hold her in his arms. Mel had no problems kissing him, but she was nowhere mentally ready to sleep with him. She always found that hard to do after Alex’s death. She swore she’d never ever love anyone enough to give them everything. Casen shook that promise and she started to worry.

Casen drifted off to sleep a happy man. A little more than twenty-four hours ago he was sitting behind a desk signing bonus checks for his employees and preparing to spend another Thanksgiving eating take out from Bamboo Panda’s on 9th Avenue. But his sister called for the fifteenth time that day and begged; he knew he couldn’t tell her ‘No’ again. Plus, he wanted to see his baby niece; she was only a few weeks old.

Mel couldn’t remember the last time her sleep was so peaceful; just wonderful images of twirling snowflakes and twinkling lights. Peaceful! The bright sun was shining into her eyes. She felt something stir and instantly remembered Casen.

“So, it wasn’t really a dream,” Casen murmured through smiling lips and one opened eyes.

He was defiantly totally adorable in the morning. “I hope your dream women look better than me!”

He pulled her down, “You’re sexier than any women I have ever dreamed of Miss. Carter!”

A giggled slipped her lips. “Hey, it’s probably noon, when is your sister expecting you? She has probably called a hundred times!”

He groaned, “Please don’t get up yet! Let me pretend for a few more minutes.”

She lay back down and snuggled into his side, “Only because you asked so nicely!” She felt his big strong hand rubbing her back. Something was so soothing about the contact.

“You’re so beautiful first thing in the morning. You’re one of those naturally beautiful women. Damn I’m the luckiest man in the entire world right now for real!”

Mel slipped her hand up under his shirt and started stroking his chest. She was shocked at the muscles she felt against her hand; she shouldn’t be, but she was. She knew he was in shape, but he looked built but not way over done. He moaned and closed his eyes. “You have really soft hands. As much as I love the way you are making me feel right now, there is only so much a man can take. And right now, I’m way too excited for my comfort and even thought I’d be willing to I know that’s not exactly what you want. But when you’re ready- tomorrow, next week, two months, or ten years from now call me!”

He kissed the top of her head, “I know you’re the type of woman that needs to feel safe before she can give more of herself than kissing. And I plan to wait and make you lust me. No matter how long that is; even if I have to camp out in your front yard!” That made her chuckle.

Mel knew deep down he could make her fall in love with him. He was like her very own early Christmas present. “Damn I could have gone Black Friday shopping instead of making out with you all night!” She laughed as she pulled out of his arms and off the bed.

“Well damn thanks doll I feel so much better. Hell, I’ll buy you a half priced TV if that’s what you want.”

She smiled and waved him off, “I wanted a new pair of boots. I’ll get them some other time!” She really had no plans to go shopping she was just giving him hell.

“I’ll buy you twenty pairs of boots if you kiss me again. And that’s no lie. I’m made of money and if boots is what it takes to get you on a date I’ll buy you a pair every day for the rest of my life!”

She smiled, “You know you really are quite precious!”

He nodded, “You know you sounded extremely southern! I love the way you talk!”

She rolled her eyes and leaned down and briefly kissed his lips and headed to the shower. Utterly gorgeous he thought; the woman of my dreams. His plans for wooing her were forming and he needed his “A” game. Wasn’t quite sure what his “A” game entailed but he’d figure it out. He was going to make it his mission to win Melanie Carter even if he wasn’t sure when that actually became the mission.

Chapter Two:

Julie left a message on Mel’s machine. She was playing it and fixing lunch when a newly showered Casen came into the kitchen. “Wow I better call her! She sounds worried.” Mel nodded, “Officer Bryan called too! He said all the paper work was in order just needed to go sign it whenever you had the time. They faxed everything to your rental company.” Casen had totally forgotten about the rental company.

“Well thanks! Need any help with lunch?” Mel was making some turkey salad that he thought looked wonderful. She added walnuts, grapes, some fancy mustard, and a few other things. He really couldn’t get over how beautiful she was. Casen walked behind the counter and hugged Mel around the waist. He rested his chin on her shoulder while she chopped her ingredients. “No thank you, I got it!” He rubbed his nose on her ear, “You look absolutely stunning baby. How can you get more beautiful every time I look at you?” She giggled, “Call your sister before she thinks I killed you!” He grabbed the phone off the counter, “She might think I seduced you with my sexy body and smooth words. Maybe she thinks we need our privacy right now!” Mel was laughing, “Yeah whatever stud muffin!”

He was still laughing when Julie picked up the phone. “Wanna tell me what is so funny,” his sister asked. Casen really enjoyed Mel’s company. “Mel keeps talking shit to me. She keeps putting my ego in check. I seriously think I’m in love sis!” Mel was rolling with laughter! “Hey, shut up girl you’re killing me. I’ma break that middle finger then you’ll be screwed. I’m positive that’s where your sign language stops!” Julie found their playful banter exciting.

“Yes, big bro Mel is really awesome. Her sense of humor is really great. You really slept late. But I figured you would. So, do you have a ride?” Mel brought him a plate, “Do I owe you a tip?” She rolled her eyes, “I got a tip for ya!” Casen couldn’t hide his smile. “I got to call the rental place. Maybe they’ll have something to better suit my taste than that piece from last night. Everything was out except that. Wonder why?” He could hear his baby niece crying, “Hey take care of her. I’m going to eat, go by the police station, then go buy Mel twenty pairs of boots so she’ll go on a date with me tonight.” Julie snorted, “Good luck! Ohh yeah and I wear a size eight in boots! Love you. Bye!” Casen rolled his eyes, “Woman and boots. Okay love you too sis. Bye!”

Casen looked over at Mel, “Now Julie wants boots too. Y’all two tryin’ my man hood today!” She smiled over at him with her hands up in protest, “That was all you, not me Case!” Mel was texting someone on her cell while she ate lunch. She had her legs bent in her chair, so her chin rested on her knees. Casen was trying to figure out how in the hell she was sitting like that. She was smiling away in bliss.

“Who is putting such a huge smile on that beautiful face over there?” Mel looked up at him like she had forgotten he was there, “Umm my sister and my agent!” Casen wondered what she did for a living. “You’re an actor?” She shook her head and laughed, “No; a writer!” Oh, so she was smart and sexy. Whatever she wrote, if it was a presentation of her, it had to be funny. “Well what kind of stuff do you write?” She looked a little embarrassed, “Mostly paranormal romance type stuff. Kinda lame really, I guess! I don’t discuss it a lot with people!” It had to be med hot if she was getting embarrassed, right?

“I have got to check my checking account. Be back in a second Casen!” She jumped up from the table, kissed Casen on the cheek, and headed towards the spare room that was her office. He sat there touching his face in shock. The easiness of the way she did that as if she didn’t even have to think about it made his heart swell. She was wonderful.

“Ohhh shit! Ohhhh shit! Thank You! What! What!” Casen was laughing and yelled, “What is it babe!” She ran down the hall and launched herself into his arms. “They bought my book! I mean…and….wow…that’s a lot of money! I’m so happy Casen!” She wrapped her arms around him so tightly he thought she might break her arms.

“Wow baby that’s awesome. We should celebrate. How about dinner and some fun; the movies or whatever else there is to do around here.” She pulled back and looked into his eyes. She took his breath away every time he looked into her eyes. Her eyes were red, she was crying. Mel couldn’t help herself, she was so freakin’ happy and Casen was praising her without even knowing the details.

“You’re such a sweet guy; for all you know my book sucks. But I appreciate all the praise.” Casen looked into her eyes, “Well Mel I will give you all the praise and love you need if you only give me a chance. Having someone buy your book is a huge achievement and I’m positive that it’s awesome!” No one other than her sister praised her writing and maybe Karen! Everyone thought writing cheesy romance novels was a flop; but Mel had made it ‘more than’ by over the years. She’d write free-lance stuff for websites, magazines, and any other paying job she could find.

“Casen you are so friggin’ sweet!” It occurred to her that she didn’t really know anything about him. “Where do you live and what do you do for a living?” He was glad she wanted to talk about each other’s lives because he really wanted to get to know her better. “Well I know looks can be deceiving but I’m a lawyer. I have a small firm in Orlando now. I was in LA, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. As you know I lived in North Carolina for a while when my dad was stationed here, then I left for college.” Mel was surprised he looked more like a model than a lawyer. “Do you have a partner in Orlando?” He nodded, “For now I do, we’re fixing to open another office. So, we will have our own firm but under joint names; Walker & Williams.”

Casen thought Mel looked impressed. “Nice! I didn’t picture you a lawyer; a model maybe, or a professional athlete, but never a lawyer; that’s pretty hot!” Casen gave her a sexy smile, “And who would have thought my sexy life saver was a steamy romance writer. Can I help you work on some sex scenes? How about us? I bet our meeting and love story would make a great romance novel!” Mel was laughing at his enthusiasm as he was working out the details of their love story. Which Mel couldn’t help but notice most was shit he made up. “Case babe you realize most of that stuff is shit or haven’t even happened yet!” Casen winked, “You wait babe. I know you like me! I see it in those beautiful blue eyes!” Mel shook her head, “Man I swear you ain’t right!”

He stroked her cheek, “I really want you to like me Mel! I know I sound all conceited, but most of that is just bravado. I have no idea if you’re attracted to me at all; but I’m defiantly attracted to you. Tell me more about you! I want to know everything!” Mel went to the couch and sat down; Casen followed. He set next to her and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. “I don’t know what to say really that you don’t know. I’m 26, I’m a writer, my favorite color is black, I hate being cold, I have a brother and a sister, my Mom died of cancer when I was 21, and my Dad is an ass. That’s about everything dude!” She rolled her head to the side and looked into his eyes. “I’m sorry to hear about your mother. They are very important people; I lost my mother six years ago. She had cancer too; breast cancer. She was a wonderful woman full of warmth and spice. God she would have loved you. You both act just alike.” Casen saw the tears in her eyes; obviously she had a lot of pain still inside her.

“I was engaged once!” Casen wasn’t really shocked; after all she was incredibly beautiful, “What happened?” Mel felt her tears streaming down her face. She thought she handled Alex’s death well, but now it was obvious she just tried to avoid it all together. Some of the best and saddest novels came after his passing. She locked herself in her house and wrote for almost a year. Everyone thought she was crazy, but that was her outlet for her pain. His passing was what jump started her career as an indie author.

“His name was Alex Sutton. I met him my senior year in high school; he just moved here.” Casen didn’t know if she was going to say any more, but the distant look on her face made his heart hurt. “I was always shy, but once I opened up, my mouth always shocked everyone. He thought I was the funniest person in the world. We were lab partners in Chemistry class. He was the first guy to ever really try to get to know me as anything other than a piece of ass. We were inseparable. Julie was dating Bradley and they would take Alex and me with them on dates. We all had such fun together. When I was 20 Julie and Brad broke up; and two months later we found out Momma had cancer and no amount of treatment would save her. Julie was gone, Brad turned into an alcoholic, and Sharon wasn’t gonna help much because she had kids of her own. All I had in the world was a Momma who was dying and Alex. He was wonderful. When I had to work he took Momma to the doctor!” Mel’s words were coming out in-between sobs. All Casen could do was hold her.

“Barely a year later Momma passed away and my heart broke. It was like half my heart was gone and everybody acted unmoved. Now five years later I understand people grieve differently but it still hurt. Alex and I spent every dollar we had to take care of Momma. He didn’t have to, but he did it because he loved us. Daddy left right before she died and showed up at my door out of the blue one Fall day. It was the day after I had buried Alex. Alex died six months after Momma. He worked third shift at the hospital; he was on his way home from work. He was hit by a drunken truck driver on the highway. I was so messed up I can barely recall any of that year; between Momma and Alex I was completely dead. I was lost. I didn’t want to live. If it wasn’t for your sister I wouldn’t be sitting here right now!”

Casen was shocked at how much pain she had been threw in such a brief period of time. He was at a loss of words to comfort her. “My dad was beating down the door for almost an hour. I could barely drag my drunken ass off the hallway floor, let alone answer a fucking door. So, he kicked my door in at mine and Alex’s old house. He took me to the hospital.” Mel chuckled sadly, “The nurse said I had the worst case of blood alcohol poisoning she had seen in twenty- five years. It was a rough night. I spent the next three days after being discharged asleep in the grave yard against Alex’s head stone. That’s where Julie found me.”

He could guess that’s why Julie was so happy to talk to Mel. They were close at one time obviously. “Julie pretty much kicked my ass and told me Alex would shit if he seen me like that. I really didn’t care; I was so ready to die, her words didn’t mean shit to me. We actually had it out in the graveyard!” She snorted and chuckled, “That crazy bitch punched me in the face. Lucky for her I was so wasted I couldn’t fight back much; because damn it I’m a baller!” Casen laughed, she was trying to lighten the mood.

“I got my shit together, sold our house, and moved a county over so I wouldn’t drive by it and cry every day and now here I am still kickin’ it solo hommie!” His heart truly broke for this beautiful and strong young woman. “You must be the strongest woman in the world baby! Only a strong woman could have survived all that!” Mel shrugged, “Barely!” He shook his head, “No! You have so much going for you right now; achievements, a beautiful house, and friends and family who love you. Julie was thrilled to hear from you. I’ve never heard her sound so happy in my life. I’m sure Alex would be proud and so would your Momma, you sold and wrote a whole damn book! Now that is impressive baby!” Casen held the weeping, beautiful, strong woman in his arms. He whispered encouraging words until her tears stopped and kissed her on the top of her head.

She turned to look him in the eyes, “You must think I’m completely crazy now!” He nodded, “No I think you just needed someone to unload on. You just can’t live by going thru the motions Mel. You need to let some happiness in, so it can unbalance all the sadness. You deserve love, caring, praise, and all the intimacy that comes along with a full living life. I know I’ve been talking a lot of shit to you. I may not be the man of your dreams, but you need to find someone who can admire you and help you feel the love again you so need. You have a great heart so now go share it with someone!” Mel couldn’t believe she was crying again. How could a stranger’s words touch her so deeply? It was really true; she was tired of being alone. She placed her head on his shoulder, “I’m tired of being alone.” He wondered when the last time was a man had held her and gave her comfort. She deserved a shoulder to cry on.

“Any boyfriends;” he was almost positive he knew the answer. “No, no one! You’re the first man I’ve even been attracted to since then. I’m pretty pathetic!” He rubbed her back, her sobs muffled by his shoulder, “No, loyal and that’s a damned honorable quality. Hey, how bout we go sign the papers and go by my sister’s. We can order take out or something and go play with my new niece. I’ll call the rental company and have them bring me a car. Then you can finally be free of my horrible company!” Mel jerked so fast in Casen’s arms he wasn’t sure what happened. “I’m sorry I am ruining your family time. I’ll just take you to the police station and then drop you off at Julie’s!”

Casen could see the joke had hurt her, “Baby I was joking. I still owe you boots and you still owe me a date.” He winked, “Plus I didn’t even get your number. Like hell if I’m leaving without that. I told you that you’re going to fall in mad lust with me sexy!” She rolled her eyes. “Does your sister have room for you at her house?” Casen liked that maybe she didn’t want him to leave. “Why you want me to stay with you? Is my company that friggin’ awesome?” He was so arrogant. “Yes,” he was shocked at how she said it so matter of fact, “To staying or my company?” Mel had this unforgettable look and evil grin she shot him, “Yes to both. How can you make me fall in lust with you over the phone? I prefer to talk face to face.”

He was shocked at how fast the stuff at the police station went. Lord why did he even have to come down for that? Mel walked to the bakery to pick up Julie a cake to congratulate her on her new baby. He found that sweet; he liked that his new woman, hopefully, and his sister liked each other. He exited the station as she was exiting the bakery. She was headed across the street to a lingerie store; that shocked him. “Mel,” she stopped when she heard his voice. “Hey where are you going?” She pointed to the shop, “Figured I’d pick up my order since I’m here and it’s finally here.” What would a single woman with no ‘male friends’ be buying at a lingerie shop. Ohhhh hell! “It’s not even anywhere close to what you’re thinking you perv. God your horrible! I ordered some bras, panties, and yoga pants. The ones you like so much and just because I’m single don’t mean I don’t like to feel sexy!”

Casen knew his smile was a mile long and kinda lustful, but he couldn’t stop it. “I totally agree with you babe! Let’s go check this place out!” Mel just shook her head and smiled. He looked sexy as hell with that smirk and he had ‘horny’ flashing on his forehead in neon lights as he spoke about checking the place out. “Whatever dork come on, but please don’t get all worked up because Karen would eat you up for lunch! And don’t think I don’t notice how you call me baby or whatever endearment you think of instead of my name. People are going to think we’re together!”

He grabbed her and spun her around crushing her lips to his right in front of the shop window for everyone to see, “We are together!” Casen was sure that was going to earn him a ball shot; but she shook her head and smiled, “Incorrigible, I tell you!” He smiled, “Just face it doll baby you want me! And you are liking the fact I’m going to buy you loads of lingerie from here to model for me on all these cold nights I’m going to be with you at your house. And admit that you are excited about it too. I’m going to make it worth your wild. Just keep in mind I like my lingerie sexy not trashy. And I’m sure your figure will be smokin’ in anything.” Mel couldn’t believe what she was hearing, “Get real Casen you are totally dreaming; me in lingerie is a sin!” He winked, “I am sure it’s hot as sin, but it isn’t a necessity; because you turn me on in anything! Geeze you’re even sexy in the morning. What can I say I’m going to be a very lucky man. Now come on Miss. Sexy as Sin daylights’ a wastin’!” Damn he’s such an ass; a very sexy and full of himself ass.

Karen’s eyes lit up when she saw Casen and she could see a few women looking and exchanging glares and chatter. “Who do we have here Mel? Such a nice fine piece of….!” Mel waved her hands, “Hey chill it down girl!” Casen laughed at both women. “This is a friend of mine Casen Walker, Julie Walker Reeds’ older brother from Florida!” Karen winked at Casen; he was sure the older lady was around her late forties early fifties. She was dressed in a tight low leather top and a leather skirt; with matching thigh-high boots. Casen whispered in Mel’s ear, “I take that back, you need an outfit like she has on. You’d look all bad ass and sexy in that. Plus, your boobs are a hundred times nicer than hers. Totally hot!” She elbowed him in the side, “Shut the hell up! I’m getting my order and I’m out!” He giggled, “Can’t a man dream. I already know you’ll never have sex with me! Mel, I like you, but I am not dumb. I’ve never even bought any woman lingerie, or for that matter, even been in a lingerie shop. I’m just fucking around!”

Karen came from behind the counter, “Casen sexy, don’t you think Mel would look smashing in this lace nightie. I’m sure you’d adore her sexy little body in it too!” His eyes went from her, to the nightie, back to her again. “What can I say Mel is beautiful and would be beautiful in a burlap sack! Of course, baby I’d buy it if you want it; could be fun!” His outrageous eyebrow wiggling made her laugh. He was utterly the craziest man she’d seen. “I’m too fat for stuff like that. Karen I’m just here to pick up my order!” Casen gave her a mean look, “You are not fat! What’s wrong with women today?” That earned him a few claps and whistles. “Darling is there anywhere Mel can try this on at?” Karen winked at him, “Sure baby y’all come back this way!” Mel didn’t move and gave him her best ‘drop dead’ look. “Just trust me for a second okay. I’m not going to watch you try this on!” Finally, she let him tug her into the room and Karen left with a huge smile on her face.

“Are you crazy, now everyone in town is going to think we are sleeping together!” He rolled his eyes, “Hell usually that idea excites women. I’ll have you know I haven’t received a complaint. My customer service is outstanding!” She giggled, “Man shut up!” He kissed her on the cheek, “Now listen to me for real Mel, let me finish before you talk. I want you to take this thing, whatever it’s called lord help me, and go in there and put it on. Look into the mirror and see how sexy you look. You have curves that will melt into the fabric. You are the sexiest woman I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been all over the world. And if you’re feeling risky come show it to me. I swear I can die a happy man then! Okay go now; do it!” She rolled her eyes, “I’ll humor you at the cost of my self-esteem!” She felt sickened; women like her never looked good in shit like this.

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