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           J.W. Phillips
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  Home

  By

  J.W. Phillips

  Copyright © 2015 J.W. Phillips

  All rights reserved

  Smashwords Edition

  ISBN

  All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of events to real life, or of characters to actual persons, is purely coincidental. The author acknowledges the trademark status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction.

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  There are not words available to properly thank the people who made this dream possible.

  First, I want to thank my Lord and Savior for giving me a crazy mind that can spin tall tales. Scratch that, I want to thank him for everything because, without him, nothing is possible.

  Secondly, the greatest husband in the world, mine: Who didn’t fuss if the house were less the perfect or when I ignored him to type away for hours. But mostly for teaching me my self-worth, loving me when I was less than lovable, and for showing me what real love is. I’m capable of writing about true love because you show it to me daily.

  Thirdly, my greatest blessings, my two rugrats: Thank you for sharing momma with her imaginary friends. But mostly for being all-around great kids.

  Last, but certainly not least: Julia and Rachael. This story would still be shoved in my computer if not for them. Though I have never met either one physically, they both have become two great friends. It was worth every hour I spent writing this story just to have them in my life now.

  DEDICATION

  For my hubby,

  My everything and more

  There are three things that amaze me – no, four things that I don’t understand: how an eagle glides through the sky, how a snake slithers on a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, how a man loves a woman.

  Proverbs 30: 18 - 19

  Finding Home

  By

  J.W. Phillips

  PROLOGUE

  Trucker Castleman saw the light breaking through from the line of trees leading to her house. He could pretend he was there to check on her but it would be a lie. He wasn’t simply going to watch her this time; he was going to take her. His dad said it was the only solution, but how could he hurt and force anything on Julie Emison, the girl who had swooped into his life and changed everything. He laughed to himself. She had changed him, and she didn’t even know he existed. But soon she would know all too well.

  Julie was curled up on a wooden porch swing. Her head rested on her hand as her other one wrapped around a book, her mouth partially open but not quite smiling, her cheeks were flushed from the afternoon sun. Trucker closed his eyes. Oh, how he loved the way her porcelain skin often flamed. She beckoned him like a soft siren, sending an unknown chill down Trucker’s back. He listened to the sounds of her breathing, thinking it would make an excellent CD to sleep to.

  He quickly stepped out of the shadows and stood in a clearing as he overlooked her backyard. . . Now she was smiling, and he wondered what book she was reading to make her whole face light up. Grazing at her, he knew everything was about to change. He was going to give into the primal and animalistic urge to claim the pure and angelical Miss Emison. She was there, calling him. The genteel scent of the very blood coursing through her body was almost more than he could bear.

  His mind moved at lightning speed as he envisioned holding her in his arms, kissing her, biting her. He would be gentle. Possibly even take her to his home, and enjoy her in the confines of his room. He would feel her pulse race through her body and found himself strangely calm at the thought. She would be scared at first. He would tame her nerves, whisper words of sweet seduction into her ear. He would tell her whatever she needed to hear, and she would against her better judgment believe every word. His hands would trace over every inch of her beautiful and innocent curves, marveling at the way she would blossom under his touch.

  Eventually, she would be eager to please him. The thought sent a thrill through his groin. Damn, how he wanted to kiss down her lovely neck and feel her vein thump under his tongue.

  He’d tease her out of her clothes, make her believe what they shared could lead to a forever. He would make her believe in him, a belief that would be entirely false. He snapped a nearby branch off. He wanted the “forever” with her, and for that moment, he would convince himself it was possible.

  Chapter 1

  The small town of Promise Land, Tennessee was experiencing record heat, yet Julie Emison had never felt colder. Staring out over Main Street and the little town that stood still, she sipped on a strawberry milk shake at Priddy’s and sighed. It was a town where a person found themselves prisoners. Farmers were king, and everybody else just got by. Newcomers were frowned upon and were believed to be up to no good. After all, who would choose to move to the groin of the Bible belt? There was not even a single red light in the entire county. Here there were sturdy old farmhouses, children roamed freely down the street, and old men still met to play checkers and gossip.

  A little boy’s laughter caught Julie’s attention. He tiptoed around trying to avoid the many cracks in the original hardwood flooring.

  “Step on a crack and break my mommy’s back,” he sung as he skipped around the building between aisles of over the counter medicine, medical supplies, candy, and small iron tables and chairs. Yes, Priddy's was not only a soda shop, but also Promise Land’s one and only drug store. It was a perfect mixture of a 1950s ice cream parlor and an old fashioned apothecary's shop. It was so old that the first pharmacist there probably was called an apothecary. It held a special spot in Julie’s heart. Her grandma brought her there every Saturday for ice cream and to review the church’s prayer list or, as Julie’s dad liked to call it, “Promise Land’s local gossip rag.” She had celebrated every birthday there since she was five. It hadn’t changed a bit in all those years. She squeaked the straw in the lid of her cup. Nothing ever changes in Promise Land.

  Julie bounced to her feet, ready to leave, only to be abruptly knocked back down by a hard body of muscles.

  “Excuse me,” said a raspy, smooth voice.

  Julie glanced up to catch a glimpse of him. He was a force of control, power, and devastating beauty. How she hadn’t already noticed him was beyond her. He wasn’t a person so easily overlooked. His hair was dark brown, almost black; it wasn’t too long or too short and had a slightly untidy look. Yet, it still fell flawlessly around his unnaturally beautiful face. His eyes were a striking blue and seemed to look directly into her soul. He demanded respect and focused all his attention on Julie. What could a boy like him find fascinating about me? With a shake of her head, she told herself to snap out of it. He wasn’t there to watch the town’s plain Jane. Yet, that was exactly what he was doing.

  “Is this seat taken?” he asked, motioning to the chair closest to her. She focused on his massive hands as he pushed his hair off his face. For a fleeting second, she speculated what it would feel like to have those hands hold hers. A smile faintly lit up his face as he took a step closer. The way his head inquisitively tilted to the side made her heartbeat quicken, her breathing hasten, and she blinked rapidly. He reached over and ever so lightly pushed a loose strand of hair behind her ear. His fingers felt like a butterfly, softly fluttering down her neck. With a shaky breath, she fought the urge to run her nose along his wrist to take in more of his smell. He smelled sinfully delightful. Yet, she couldn’t put a finger on it; it wasn’t the normal freshly clean smell or even the smell of high-priced cologne. Whatever it was, it was mouthwatering and almost as heavenly as his savagely gorgeous face. She stared at him, hopelessly speechless.

  He reached out his hand as if to touch her face, but offered it up for a ha
ndshake instead. “I’m Trucker Castleman, by the way.”

  She reached for his hand and let out a little cry of pain; his skin burned hot, unnaturally hot. Julie was sure her hand would come away blistered and scarred, but she found she couldn’t let go. The feel of his hand in hers felt natural and right.

  “You’re hot,” she babbled.

  Julie tasted a drop of blood where her teeth bared down onto her bottom lip. He slowly licked the corner of his lips, and a little half grin appeared across his face. Trucker ran the pad of his thumb across her lip. His eyes closed. He seemed to be fighting an impromptu craving.

  With a firm shake of his head, his eyes popped open and he whispered, “Thank you, you’re not so bad yourself.”

  “Um ... I meant your skin feels hot,” she managed to get out. She stared at him like an idiot. She was sure he thought she was mentally incompetent.

  “I like your first take better,” he answered.

  Noticing they were still holding hands, she slowly pulled her hand back, and he reluctantly let go. He flipped the chair around and took a seat. Julie saw a spark of something flash across his eyes. She jumped and almost toppled out of her seat. His hand moved entirely too fast as he steadied her. The sensation of death and rage spilled out from his touch. Julie always had the unnatural ability to feel the emotions of those around her. Her mom told her it was just a very sensitive sixth sense, and she went out of her way to act as if it was a cool quirk to have instead of something freakish as Julie knew it was. Julie could feel everyone’s emotions but she had never had an awareness so strong and real as she did at that moment. It was as if she was choking on misery. Trucker gradually slid his hand away, and the feeling went to a small trickle only playing on the fringes of her mind.

  Julie started fidgeting with her granny’s cross necklace and prayed her most recent feelings were her fears and nothing to do with the boy sitting at the table with her. Trucker was fixated on the necklace. Julie slouched in her seat as he concentrated on her fingers twisting around the cross.

  “Do you believe there is something out there greater than all this? Greater than you?” he whispered.

  “Pardon?”

  Her face scrunched up and she sunk father down in her seat. Why would he ask such a question? Where did it come from?

  “I noticed your necklace,” he said and nodded toward her neck.

  “Oh, yeah, I do believe. Do you?”

  “You could say that.” He reached over to touch her and stopped himself.

  Mr. Doyle, the pharmacist and owner came over, tousled Julie’s hair, and placed a cupcake in front of her.

  “Thank you,” she whispered, sweeping her hair behind her ear.

  “Special occasion?” Trucker eyed the candle flickering on top of the cupcake.

  “I guess,” Julie murmured, tucking her chin onto her chest.

  “It’s my birthday.”

  Her teeth slid over her bottom lip. She felt the heat rush to her face and knew the redness was soon to follow. She always hated the spotlight, and the way he was scrutinizing her brought those qualms to the surface. Crawled up tight into her shell, she felt him willing her to look up.

  “Julie,” he snapped. His tone had a stern, authoritative bite to it. “Look at me.”

  She tried to resist. The sheer will of his glare forced her gaze to travel up the length of his body.

  He stared back, revealing a scorching force of superiority that caused her to gasp. Dominance. Command. Despair. Longing. Fondness. Confusion. All of those spilled from his eyes and straight to her heart.

  “Julie Danielle Emison, never hold your head down in shame again. You’re too special and beautiful to ever feel less than.”

  She nodded in agreement as the most overwhelming feeling of all washed over her, apprehension. He’d called her by her name. Not just part of it, but her entire name. How did he even know it? She’d never told him.

  He smiled and started questioning her about being alone on such a special day. Her speech, her reactions, and her mood shifted into automatic. She explained that her parents unexpectedly got called into work. How her friends and her had been planning a trip to Nashville to celebrate her coming of age, but how they had each given one lame excuse after another to bail on her. She smiled and answered him, but her mind stayed firmly on the fact he already knew who she was. She never noticed the look of guilt and regret at the sadness in the tone of her voice when she explained about her new found loneliness.

  Julie couldn’t take it anymore. His draw was unmistakable. Something deep in her said he was something. What? She didn’t know. She wanted to reach out and touch him but remembered what emotions his touch revealed.

  “I’ve got to go,” Julie said.

  She flipped around and stumbled out of the seat, falling over a chip display. As he knelt to help her up, she looked once more into his sinister eyes.

  “Don’t,” he said. His voice changed to almost a humbling tone.

  A hole formed in her chest at the outpouring of grief and seclusion she felt ripping at him.

  “Don’t go. I’ll take you to Nashville, wherever. Just don’t leave me. Not yet.”

  His eyes were blue and clear as a cloudless sky, but the storm clouds were there, rolling in the background ready to swoop down and cause untold destruction.

  “How did you know my name?”

  “You told me.”

  “No, I didn’t,” she answered vigorously shaking her head.

  He suddenly became agitated and confused. “Someone said it then,” he blared out, “Ugh.” He raked both hands through his hair.

  “No, they didn’t,” she muttered barely above a breath.

  Their eyes met. There was something in him that wasn’t right. If eyes were the windows to one’s soul, he had a soul she didn’t want to tango with. There was no way she would ever go anywhere with him. She shook her head, unable to answer him, and got up to leave.

  *******

  Trucker watched Julie get into an old rusted-out pickup truck and drive away. He craved her touch. The feel of her small body under his. The taste of her. Trucker had finally found his other half, and for the first time ever she made him doubt himself. He wondered if she would ever willingly go with him. What he was doing was wrong? But he knew pain, and no pain was greater than staying away from her. He turned to hit the side of the wall, remembered where he was, and left.

  *******

  Trucker tapped a pen against his journal. The day had not gone as planned.

  Well, I fucked up her birthday. How can one small insignificant human girl cause me such turmoil?

  Trucker slammed his head on the back of the chair. He finally decided to see why he couldn’t get her off his mind. Being with her, talking to her, touching her, only brought more questions. Every other person crumbled at his feet. Not Julie. Not the one who finally brought color to his world. She sensed what was truly in him. How? He couldn’t understand. No one had ever seen through him, except her.

  I won’t fight it. If she doesn’t want to be with me, that’s her loss. I’ll just leave her the hell...

  Screw it...

  The pen snapped in Trucker’s hand. Black ink tickled down his knuckles. He couldn’t walk away. Not from her. Ever since the moment he first saw her, she had consumed his every thought. He had to get one last glimpse of her. Maybe then he could leave her alone.

  *******

  Julie woke up with his name on her lips, “Trucker,” as she had every morning for the last two weeks. She rubbed her eyes and looked around the room. Trucker Castleman walked into her life for a mere second but was slowly becoming the vein of her every thought.

  Ever since he had shown up out of nowhere, she saw him everywhere. She ran into him at the oddest places. He seemed to be wherever she was. Her closest friends, Tori Phillips and Tiffany Mansfield, were thrilled to consistently have him around. She was torn in two. He was the first guy to ever appeal to her. Of course, his incredible good looks were a
definite plus. But something deeper called to her. He was troubled. He appeared to be wandering through life. He had everything the world said would make him happy. His car alone was worth more than her house. He had it all, except hope.

  She shivered thinking about the draw he had over her. His pull was marked and powerful. She was determined not to get sucked in. After all, unhappiness was not the most potent emotion she felt coming from him. For once in her life she wished she didn’t have her unusual sixth sense. She wished she could block off her feelings and take him up on his offer for a small piece of her time.

  “Julie Danielle Emison,” her mom, Ellen, yelled from downstairs. “You promised you would help outside today.”

  “Coming, Mom,” Julie said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. She stretched before falling back on the bed. Ugh, just what I wanted to do, hang out in the heat, digging in the dirt with my mom.

  She had promised to help her mom work in the flowerbeds but really would had preferred to hide out under the covers and forget the last few days. She tossed her pillow across the room. Knowing her mom would never let her lie around and sulk; she got up, threw on some clothes, sat at her dresser, and started to pull back her massive mountain of blond curls. The mirror showed her what she already knew. She wasn’t ugly, but she wasn’t pretty either. Her skin had a translucent quality and was clear of any blemishes, but her humdrum green eyes were too wide set and her nose reminded her of Miss Piggy’s. Julie pushed up her nose and gave a small snort. Yeah, Trucker is dying to be with me. But something deep down let her know he did want something from her.

 

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