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           J.W. Phillips
 

  The way he snarled the word angel unnerved Trucker. He was around the bar and in his father’s face in a blink of an eye, growling from deep in his chest. “If you ever talk about her again without the upmost respect, I’ll finally show you what I’m capable of,” Trucker said, shoving him to the side and plopping down on the couch.

  “Son, you will go. Understood?” He growled, hovering over him with his hands planted firmly on the back of the sofa.

  “Sure,” Trucker said, somberly. The idea of spending the day without her was not as bad as the outcome if he didn’t live up to his obligations.

  I’ve had the greatest two weeks ever with her. I’m finally at peace with myself. She gave me that peace. I have so many secrets to tell. I wish I could bottle them up forever, but she deserves the truth. I just hope those secrets don’t destroy her. No matter what, she is and will always be my girl. Truck

  Trucker stared at the window overlooking downtown Franklin. It was a rather small city, but people still bustled about taking care of business. Trucker couldn’t help but envision their reaction if they knew what was living in the heart of their little city. He caught his phone lighting up on his desk out of the corner of his eye. He scooped it up, looked at the text flashing on the screen, and smiled.

  Hey my beautiful man

  Seeing if you made it in safely.

  Miss you already

  till tomorrow

  (like my new signature)

  Truck’s Girl <3

  I made it just fine.

  I missed you since I walked out the door.

  Damn right you’re my girl

  and I like you saying it :)

  PS can’t wait to hold you

  XOXOX

  Nighty Nite

  going to bed

  Truck’s Girl <3

  First, I have one

  small request?

  What?

  Truck’s Girl <3

  Dream of me ;)

  ‘That one is easy. I always dream of you.’ Julie sighed and looked at a picture she had made of Trucker and her on the phone that very night.

  Chapter 8

  Dear Diary,

  The last two weeks has been a whirlwind of school, homework, our little pond, and Trucker and not necessarily in that order. Everything in my life is absolutely perfect. The talisman Trucker gave me has kept the bad away. I haven’t felt an ounce of evil from him or seen anything unexplainable since he placed it on my arm. I just keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. My sweet Truck is hiding something from me. I know I told him I didn’t care. I just wished he understood that he doesn’t have to hide from me. Sometimes when he holds me it is like he is on top of the world. Then there are the times my lost little boy surfaces. There is so much sadness in him. I’ve yet to meet his family. He promises I will when the time is right. When will the time ever be right? He is with me from the time I get up till I go to bed every day. Well, everyday but Sunday. On Sunday, he meets me after church at the Diner. He declares he attends a service with his dad. But the way he feels about his dad, I can’t see Trucker going anywhere with him. I wish I could at least meet his mom and sister. Maybe then, I could figure out what makes him tick. One thing is for sure no matter what secrets he is hiding, he has left his handprint on my heart.

  Julie Danielle Emison

  The ring of the cellphone lured Julie out of another night of dreams both good and bad. She started the day the same way she had every day since Trucker slipped into her life - by a wake-up call from him.

  “Good morning, my beautiful Angel.” The moment he uttered the first word Julie had a sick feeling that something was wrong. The words were the same, but the sound of his voice was not. She stroked her thumb across her bracelet hoping against hope that it would erase the emptiness she felt in the pit of her stomach.

  “What’s wrong?” she asked.

  “Nothing is wrong, baby.”

  “Okay,” she replied, not believing him.

  “Angel, can you get Tiffany to pick you up today?”

  “Why?”

  “I’ve got something I’ve got to take care of.”

  For a moment she couldn’t think of what to say. Another secret she was sure, another trench between them. “I can drive myself. I have my old truck,” she snapped a little harder than she intended.

  “Angel, I don’t like you driving that old thing.”

  “Why not? It’s safer than you are.” Julie didn’t mean to be short and hateful, but something about the sound of his voice agitated her.

  “You’re probably right there. I don’t want you alone, not today. Please Angel, don’t fight me.”

  She had hurt him. She heard it in his voice. “I’m sorry. I just don’t want to spend a day without you.”

  “Oh, my sweet angel, never. I’ll be at your house as soon as can.”

  “I miss you already,” Julie said.

  “You’re everything to me.”

  The phone went dead. No goodbye, no see you later, just nothing.

  ******

  Julie sat in English I glad no one had asked her about Trucker. Even Tiffany didn’t question her on their way to school. Julie had put up her defensive wall. It wasn’t as impressive as Trucker’s, but it did the job. What really got her was not that Trucker had something to do; it was the fact she swore she saw his car in town that morning. He still had not moved into his home and was staying in Franklin. So why was he in Promise Land, if not to go to school? Courtney bumped her shoulder as she walked by and mumbled something. Julie shrugged it off. She had better things to do than worry about Courtney.

  “I knew he didn’t really like her. Look at her,” Tracey, Courtney’s best friend, said loud enough for the whole class to hear.

  “The girl in his car this morning was definitely more his speed,” Courtney said.

  Courtney’s group hovered in the corner eyeing Julie. Their death glare had turned to a look of gloat. Julie no longer looked over her shoulder for the provincial knife in her back, but something told her a physical blow wouldn’t hurt as bad as the fact he might be with another girl. Even worse she might know what Julie was too afraid to ask. Julie tried tuning them out, but couldn’t. He was in town. She had seen his car that morning. Why was he and who was with him?

  “He went to his house. It looked like they were having some kind of party. Cars were everywhere,” Ian said, slinging his arm around Courtney.

  After class, Julie couldn’t get out of there fast enough. She headed to the gym hoping Tiffany would already be there. She finally found her standing outside talking to some boy. Julie slung her around in a haste.

  “Please, let me borrow your keys.”

  “Why?” Tiffany asked.

  Julie debated how much to tell her. She decided to just tell her what she heard Courtney’s goonies say in class and the fact she saw his car that morning.

  “I saw it too.”

  “Why didn’t you say anything?” Julie asked and realized she had her fingers dug into Tiffany’s arm. “Sorry,” she said, releasing her.

  “I saw he had a car full, and I didn’t want to hurt you.” Tiffany paused. “Julie, you remember last year when I was crazy about Scott Sanders?”

  “Yeah, what does that have to do with the price of apples?”

  “You told me if I had to chase after him he didn’t deserve me.” Tiffany shook her head no. “I won’t let you chase after Trucker either,” Tiffany said and flipped around to follow the boy she was talking to.

  “Ugh,” Julie said and kicked the side of the flagpole.

  Without warning, Gene appeared beside her. She jumped and placed her hand on her chest as her heart did a double take.

  “You scared me to death,” Julie said as she gave him a friendly slap on the forearm. “Where did you come from?”

  “Right over there,” Gene answered, pointing to a dark alleyway leading to the back of the school. “Here,” he said as he held out his keys for her. “I overheard. Sorry.”

/>   “Thanks,” Julie said.

  He lightly gripped her loosely fisted hand. “Be careful. Don’t be scared to ask questions, you can handle it.”

  “Thanks Gene,” Julie said and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

  Gene’s truck was older and dustier than Julie’s. Who was she to complain? He was nice enough to let her borrow it. Julie steamed as she realized Trucker didn’t want her taking her truck so she would be stuck at school and couldn’t chase after him. The madder she got, the faster she drove. In no time at all, she caught herself driving up the long driveway leading to his home. Sure enough, pulled over under a tree was his car. She parked beside it. Julie slammed the door; a shower of rust rained down on the unfinished driveway. She hesitated before walking up to the massive set of stairs that led to the front door. Even in its unfinished state, the house intimated her. Something about that house was alarming.

  “What are you doing here?” Trucker stormed down the front steps.

  He told her she should be scared of him. Well, she finally was. Her body retreated and she took a step back.

  “I’m sorry, I should’ve known that I’m not wanted,” Julie said. The tears filled her eyes making it hard to see. Turning her back on him, she shivered. Instinct told her that was a dangerous move.

  “Julie, wait,” Trucker said, his voice calmer.

  As always her body obeyed him even as her mind told her not too.

  “Come here. You’re not leaving thinking I don’t want you.”

  She flipped around and against her better judgment took his proffered hand.

  “Come on in,” Trucker said as he threw open the door.

  Julie stepped into a colossal foyer. It was light and airy. Even with obvious construction going on, she could still see the ornate beauty of it. The walls, the high ceilings, and the hardwood floors were each made of the finest materials. The back north-facing wall was dominated by a massive curving staircase.

  “It’s beautiful,” she said.

  “Well, well, what do we have here?” Came from a baritone voice, deep and beautiful.

  She glanced up to see who the voice was coming from. A boy no older than her was perched on top of the staircase banister. He leaped gracefully to the ground. A catlike fall of at least twenty feet. Julie started to dart toward the door. Trucker held her firmly in place. The boy walked toward her with an ease she had never seen. His eyes were green and his blond hair was short and messy. He was gorgeous. Julie believed no one could be more beautiful than Trucker, but this boy gave him a close race.

  “Good afternoon, I’m Todd.” He circled around her, tapping a finger against his lip. His incredible emerald eyes locked with hers. She was unable to break the hold his intense gaze had over her. “Trucker, if you haven’t already claimed her . . .”

  Julie jumped as she heard a growl come from deep inside of Trucker’s chest. It was the most menacing sound she had ever heard. Fear coursed through her already numb body. She fought against the violent shaking that rendered her incompetent. Trucker grasped her against him. She was in an ironclad cage of heat, hard muscles, and Trucker. She was safe from all the craziness around her.

  Hearing footsteps, Julie flipped her head to see a girl descending down the staircase. It was no doubt the girl Courtney saw Trucker with that morning. She was exquisite with long dazzling black hair and radiant brown eyes. They were right; Trucker and she did fit together. Julie nudged Trucker to hold her tighter as her body trembled with torn emotions. Trucker belonged to her and she would fight to keep it that way.

  “Trucker, your bed here is even more comfortable than the one you have in Memphis.”

  “Emily,” he seethed.

  “New toy, Trucker?” Emily glared at Julie with curiosity and a touch of gratification, and cast her a malevolent smile that sent shivers down Julie’s spine. “Innocent, isn’t she?” Emily said. “Does it hurt much?” she whispered in Trucker’s ear.

  The room spun in a storm of utter confusion as Trucker seized Emily’s arm. Julie gasped in shock. His actions were so fast she never registered movement. Every muscle in Trucker’s body was tense, the tendons down his arms snapped to attention. Emily’s head jerked up to meet his glare.

  “She’s off limits to everyone,” Trucker roared.

  “Don’t forget who you are Trucker,” Emily snarled. “Or do I need to remind you?”

  “I know exactly who I am.”

  “Good,” she shot back, yanked her arm away, and smiled.

  Julie felt Trucker’s temperature rising. His muscles became like stones. He pulled her close to him and tucked her head under his chin. He had her ensnared within his grasp. The room disappeared around her as her skin crawled with discomfort and fear.

  “Do you really think it’s safe to let that side out around her?”

  “Safer around her than you,” Trucker said, his voice harsher than Julie had ever heard.

  “Whatever,” Emily said, rolling her eyes. “Nice to meet you, Julie.” She kissed Trucker’s cheek before swiftly departing.

  “Leave. Now.” Trucker shot over to Todd. Who raced out of the room in less time than it took Julie to blink.

  Julie stood there in shock. Her mind unable to process the scene her eyes just saw and her ears heard. Trucker pulled Julie tightly into his body. The otherworldliness of both the room she stood in and the man beside her made her shake, not just shake but convulse. Her entire body trembled, her teeth chattered, the flooring swayed under her feet. Stroking her hair, Trucker held her so close it was hard for her to breathe. It wasn’t what she saw that terrified her. It was the sound of their voices, the coldness that poured from their eyes, but mostly the feelings that swirled around her. She felt as if the seven deadly sins had taken root in that very room and was slowly trying to slip into her consciousness.

  “Julie, are you okay?”

  “No,” she shook her head.

  She felt his body getting cooler, making her want to hold him even closer. She couldn’t allow herself to go there. The feeling of despair and hatred that emitted in that room smothered her. She tried to think of a logical explanation of what she just saw . . . without being diagnosed clinically insane. There was none. Even though it pained her to do so, she turned and walked away. Not just walked, but ran. She couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

  As usual, Trucker had her in his clasp with his preternatural speed. He placed his hands on either side of her body and leaned into her. His lips were inches from her mouth. His breath was hot and heavy on her skin. She clamped her eyes closed unwilling to look at his too-perfect face. A lonely tear slid down her face. He brought his fingers to her cheek, lightly stroking it. She could barely feel the touch, just the warmth and tenderness. He was something different than she had ever experienced. The power she had always felt from him was somehow sharper and stronger than ever before.

  “What are you?” she asked.

  Her eyes popped open and she looked deep into his. Befuddled, she pushed him away. The close proximity to him only clouded her mind.

  “Not here, not now,” he said with a shake of his head. “Can I come over later?”

  “Yeah.”

  His crystal blue eyes blazed. He unleashed the full, remarkable power of his eyes on her. “Go home and sleep, my Angel.”

  She nodded her head almost trancelike and yawned. “I’m going to go take a nap.”

  *******

  Julie flinched involuntarily in her sleep as Trucker snapped the bracelet back on her wrist. If only she had an idea of how it protected her. He still couldn’t put into words the way he felt whenever he was near her. How content and happy just one simple touch from her made him. Her small, fragile body was wrapped tightly in an oversize comforter. Her skin was pale, but her cheeks and lips glowed with a rosy hue. He knew he would find her that way. After all, he gave her no choice. He convinced himself that coercion was for the best. She needed to sleep and ease her ravaged nerves. But seeing her lying there defenseless and vul
nerable unnerved him. He had to quell the protective nature surging through him. He traced his finger over her nose. Asleep, she appeared even more angel-like. He had never responded to anyone the way he did her. She was sweet and caring and no matter how hard he tried; he couldn’t resist her. He was playing the most dangerous of games. One she was sure to lose. But for some reason, one he couldn’t explain, he just knew; they was no way he would ever let her go.

  She wanted answers. She told him so, outside his house after meeting two people who shouldn’t even had been breathing the same air as her. He told her to go home and sleep. He never wanted to use his power on her, trick her into anything. She left him no other option. He had to tie up a few loose ends and come up with a plausible story. He had nothing. She wasn’t ready for the truth, but what other option did he have? He wouldn’t erase her memories. He wouldn’t take anything from her again.

  Julie woke with a start. Hopping up in the bed, she clutched Trucker’s hand, pressing it against her cheek. He kneeled down beside her amazed by the devotion in her face. His green-eyed angel.

  “How did you get in?”

  “Your mom let me in. She told me I could come up and wake you.” He wiped a stray tear falling down her face.

  “Do you ever plan on telling me?”

  Sitting down beside her, he pulled her firmly in his lap. He noticed the veins in her neck pulsating as her heart rate quickened. “Yeah, I don’t think I have a choice.”

  She nestled her head against his chest. An indescribable burn raced along his skin where she laid. He held her closer. The pain was nothing compared to losing her. She was helpless in his arms and she trusted him.

  “My sweet Angel, you make me feel things I shouldn’t feel. Someone like me isn’t supposed to have this.” Trucker stopped and kissed her forehead. “I don’t deserve you.”

 
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