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       Home, p.11

           J.W. Phillips
 

  “Why?” Julie asked and sucked her bottom lip between her teeth.

  He wished she knew how that caused him to come unhinged. He wouldn’t stop her. Whatever she needed to relieve her nerves, especially as he tried to explain what he was and not lose her. Who was he kidding? He squeezed her close to him. Sure, he would never be able to touch her again.

  “Kids, come down. I’ve got a surprise for you,” Ellen screamed up the staircases.

  “Later then,” Trucker said and sighed.

  ******

  Julie couldn’t fathom what he was hiding. How a poisonous snakebite caused no ill side effects. How a man jumped nearly twenty feet and landed like a graceful dancer. How? She couldn’t bring herself to ask. She wanted him and that was all that mattered to her.

  Sliding on her flip-flops, Julie noticed Trucker pulling at a corner of one of her handmade throw pillows. “It’s all they can afford and . . .”She gestured to her bedroom with a wave of her hand. “My parents, they work really hard to afford this.”

  “Uh,” Trucker questioned her.

  “I know you hate my room, our house. It might not be much, but it’s all we’ve got.”

  “Baby, I don’t hate your room. I couldn’t hate this place.” He linked his fingers with hers. “It’s where you are.”

  She smiled as he brought their hands up to his mouth and kissed each of her fingers softly, one by one.

  “I don’t care what you do or don’t have. I just want you,” Trucker said and flashed his crooked smile.

  “Thank you.”

  “I won’t let anyone hurt you.” Trucker ruffled her hair. “Most of all, I won’t hurt you.”

  “You say that a lot.”

  “I’m hoping you truly believe me.”

  She felt herself being tongue tied, suddenly for some inexplicable reason the atmosphere between them changed, charged with an unknown anticipation. It was so palpable, they could almost taste it. It pulsed between them, drawing her closer to him. The fervent look on Trucker’s face, the way his fingers lightly grazed the length of her arms, proved to Julie that he felt it too. A sudden rush of foreboding came over her. She heard a whisper in her ear. “You’re not ready.” She swatted at her ear. Julie, you’re going crazy.

  “Julie, are you okay?”

  “Did you feel that?” She bit down on her lip.

  “I feel us, I always feel that.” He kissed her cheek softly. “Come on, momma Ellen is waiting.” His face held a strange unfamiliar expression of fear.

  “Any day now,” Ellen screamed back up the stairs. Trucker cocked his head toward the staircase and pulled Julie along.

  Julie stumbled down the stairs, mulling over everything in her head. All of the sudden, Trucker squashed her hand. She winced in immediate pain. Trucker seemed unaware as rage darted from his eyes. Julie followed Trucker’s glare and landed on him. He was as beautiful if not more so than Trucker. His hair was black with a slight graying around the edges. His eyes were black with an unnatural haunting glow. Julie could see under his designer suit was a tight, firm body. He simply took her breath away. Trucker’s arm went defensively around the front of Julie’s body, quickly shoving her behind him. Trucker’s face was taut, his body went hard. His whole demeanor went from happy and lively to brooding and protective. Julie looked across her quaint living room and saw the man gracefully moving to them. Julie often thought that Trucker had a cocky walk. Well, this man’s walk oozed of arrogance. She took in his face and could see the same sinister look in his eyes that she saw in Emily’s.

  “What the . . . Dad,” Trucker spat his name out as if it burnt his throat. That stunning man was his dad, the infamous Mr. Larry Castleman.

  “Dan,” Larry said, slapping Dan across the shoulder. “And the charming Mrs. Ellen have been trying to get me to come for dinner for quite some time.”

  Trucker caught Larry by the arm, twirled around, never letting Julie go. Trucker’s back was against hers. Trucker and Larry whispered, but Julie picked up the gist of the conversation. Larry fumed about her coming to the house that morning. Trucker tried explaining.

  “You promised me you would leave her alone,” Trucker pleaded.

  “You promised me you would live up to your responsibilities.”

  “What was I supposed to do?”

  “Control her,” Larry said, loud enough and clear enough it was plain he wanted Julie to hear. Trucker cringed, turned, pressing his chest to Julie’s back, and held her tightly.

  “Time to eat,” Larry said. He smiled over to Ellen and clapped his hands together, loudly.

  Julie felt a smooth, soft growl vibrate from Trucker’s chest. Trucker hesitated, his head dropped as he followed Larry to the kitchen table with quite a bit of reluctance.

  “So Larry, what draws you to our little town?” Ellen asked. Larry’s full attention was focused on Julie and her mom wanted some.

  “To raise my children in a safe place. The big city streets were too mean for us,” Larry responded, pulling out Ellen’s chair, his hard stare never shifted from Julie.

  Trucker snorted at his dad’s comment. Julie didn’t take two bites the whole meal. The pit of her stomach burned. Her parents were enthralled with Larry. Dan’s relaxed and normally calm disposition changed. He became professional and practical. Ellen was awestruck. She hung on Larry’s every movement and word. Julie was use to her mom demanding the attention, not drooling over someone. Trucker’s eyes bored into his dad. He never eased up the whole meal. Running her hand down his arm to calm him, Julie felt the tendons from his hard muscles standing out under blazing hot skin. His hand placed on her knee was clenched into a tight fist.

  Julie, relieved the meal was over, threw her napkin in her plate. She knocked her chair over as she went to stand. Larry was suddenly at her back. Julie now knew where Trucker got his speed. He tenderly grasped her hand as she spun around. Trucker snapped Larry’s hand away with such force that it shocked even Julie. His dad glowered making Trucker moan. He was defeated, the lost little boy look swept over his face.

  “Sweetie, we’re having a small party at our home in Nashville Saturday. I would love for you to join us?” Larry asked and placed a soft kiss on Julie’s forehead.

  Julie automatically jerked backwards when a shot of rage flowed from him. It wasn’t the heat that poured off Larry’s skin that startled her; it was the instant feeling of hate and despair. Hearing an unsettling groan come from Trucker, she shifted her eyes back to his depressed face, breaking her heart. She turned to her mom who was mumbling ‘awe,' over and over. She shook her head unable to process what was going on around here.

  “No, Dad, she can’t make it.” Trucker defiantly stood between them. Julie held onto his arm.

  “Don’t be silly Trucker, she would love to come,” Ellen added, as she gave Trucker a slight slap on the shoulder. Trucker twisted his head around and gave Ellen a stare that sliced right through Julie’s heart.

  “Great, our family is looking forward to meeting you.” His dad sounded pleased. He turned to Trucker. “You better not disappoint us and not bring this lovely girl.”

  Julie could see the warning behind Larry’s stare as Trucker’s arm wrapped around her waist, pulling her close to his side. Her parents stood there with this look of dorky exhilaration radiating from their faces. She wondered why she was the only one who felt the tension in the air, saw the evil pouring out of Larry’s beautiful eyes. Dan walked Larry to the door talking over his newest assignment. Trucker fell back on the couch taking Julie with him. Her back was flush against his chest.

  “Tell him to leave and he is no longer welcome here,” Trucker whispered in Julie’s ear.

  Julie shook her head. She couldn’t fathom why he would ask her to do that. Her dad worked for Larry, and Dan would have been boiling mad if she had said such a thing. Trucker groaned and drew her against him. Ellen and Dan cleaned the kitchen and talked about what a phenomenal man Larry was. The more they carried on about Larry, the more Truck
er cringed. His body slowly became a furnace of heat. Julie kissed his cheek and buried her head in the hollow of his neck.

  “I can’t take this.” Trucker kissed the top of Julie’s hair. “Will you walk me to my car, sweet angel?”

  Julie followed Trucker to his car. He pushed her against the hood, his hip restraining her. He ran his fingers around the nap of her neck and slowly twirled her ponytail around his hand. He gently jerked it, compelling her to look up at him. His lip descended on hers. His kiss was so hard, she felt like he was telling her goodbye. He pulled back and rubbed his thumb across her lower lip as his eyes soften.

  “I’m sorry, but you have to go Saturday night.” He started playing with the few curls that had escaped her ponytail. His eyes were so passionate that she saw only a trace of the evil she saw in his dad’s eyes.

  “It’s okay, as long as I’m with you.” She sensed the danger to come, but relaxed in his arms because she knew he would protect her.

  “I’ll never leave your side.” He promised, but she heard the hopelessness behind that promise.

  “I know.”

  She halfheartedly smiled at him, her hands automatically reached for the button on his shirt. She toyed with them almost absently.

  “You’re my world.” He hugged her into a strangling embrace that pinned her to his heaving chest. His skin was scorching. For the longest, he just held her. She listened to his ragged breathing as it slowed and returned to normal.

  “Will I see you tomorrow?” she asked, her cheek shoved into his chest as he squeezed her body to his.

  “I never want to spend a day without you.” He held her back and rubbed her face with the back of his hand. “Would you like to meet my mom and sister?”

  “I would love too,” she responded, standing on her tiptoes for one quick peck on the cheek.

  “I’ll pick you up at noon. Be ready.” He pressed his lips to her forehead and took a long deep breath as he caressed his hands up and down her arms. He turned to open the car door and paused. Slightly turning his body back to her. “Angel.” He held out his blazing hot hand and tickled his fingers down her arm.

  “Do you have any idea what you mean to me?” He turned instantly on his heel, not giving her time to answer. Jumping in his car, he quietly revved his engine.

  She bypassed her parents and headed to the safety and solitude of her bedroom. They were still talking about how lucky she was about getting involved with Trucker and about his exceptional family. She wondered why they did not see what she did. Maybe they were under a spell and if they were she wished she could’ve been under it too. Her hand rubbed over her swollen lip, a reminder of how hard his kiss was. She collapsed on the bed unwilling to accept what was right in front of her eyes. She knew that his body heat went hand and hand with his temper. Grabbing her journal to write, she couldn’t help but wonder what he was doing at that very moment.

  Dear Diary

  I know the world I live in is crazy and unpredictable, but I also believe there is no true evil. I don’t know what is going on around me. Who he is or even who I am. I do know I need to make sense of my life, of him. Most of all I know, I don’t want to live without him

  Julie

  That night she not only dreamed of Trucker Castleman, she accepted what he was.

  Chapter 9

  Aware in some deep area of her conscience that she was dreaming, Julie clamped her eyes shut. It was easier to be blind, than to let the light shine in the corners and expose the darkness. Holding her head back, the wind whipped lightly around her face. The soft crackling of leaves caused her eyes to pop open. She found herself in an unfamiliar, but breathtaking place. The flowering wisteria dangled from the trees tickling her face. She had a sudden unnerving nagging in the pit of her stomach that someone was watching her. As she walked along a bank of trees, she let her hands trail along the bark to steady her. The full moon had an extra sparkle and seemed to be smiling upon her. Its glimmering light danced gently through the treetops. She turned a corner and smiled as she came up on a clearing and their pond. It was surrounded by tall ornamental grasses and wildflowers that swayed in the wind. She walked slowly through the soft grass, overwhelmed by its beauty. Unexpectedly, an unknown intense but solemn emotion started whirling around her. She felt a presence behind her and warm breath on her face. "I won’t hurt you," Trucker’s husky, lyrical voice whispered as he nudged his nose along her neck. She whipped around, but he wasn’t there. She turned to walk away, but a hand lightly caressed her hair. “I won’t hurt you . . . but they will.” She turned faster and stumbled against a tree trunk. Trucker was there, and his eyes not only flashed black; they were a hard, unforgiving black. He smiled, exposing teeth that perfectly mimicked the Doberman pincher she had as a small child. He was emotionless as he motioned for her to come closer. She took a step toward him . . . the grass withered under her feet. The moon vanished, cloaking her in darkness. Flanked instantly by Larry and Emily, he laughed a bone-chilling laugh. The feeling of a cold death drowned her.

  “No!” Julie screamed, and vaulted upright on the bed. She grabbed her bathrobe and pulled herself up to stand. Her head spun as the blood drained to her feet. She wiggled her toes and heard his voice telling her ‘even your toes are cute.’ It took her back to that happy day at the pond. He was playful, loving, and carefree. It didn’t matter how many joyous memories she had with him, she couldn’t deny it anymore. No matter how desperately she tried to avoid the inevitable truth. Trucker wasn’t the good guy. He wasn’t the prince. He was something she didn’t quite understand, but he was hers.

  Taking her netbook out of the top drawer of the bedside table, she slid down on the bed and opened it. She had to know what she was up against. She logged on the Internet. In the search engine, she typed: black eyes, extreme speed, inhumanly beautiful, hard blazing skin, canine teeth. She scratched the teeth. That was something in her dream, not anything she had witness first hand. All she got was a list of sites on gods. Trucker already said he was no god. Whatever he was, he was something outside the possibility of rational thinking. Flustered, she slung the netbook on the bed and got up to take a bath.

  Trucker would be there shortly. That thought sent shivers up and down her spine. It wasn’t the shivers a sane person would have. It was shivers of pure unadulterated joy. Against Julie’s better judgment, she was elated. Before climbing into the bath, Julie checked her cellphone and saw a text flashing on the screen. It was from Trucker; he’d sent it just a few minutes before.

  My sweet, sweet angel

  words cannot express how much you

  mean to me. Seeing you lay in my arms is the most

  beautiful thing my eyes have ever seen. I never

  wanted to hide anything from you.

  I am not scared of telling you.

  I am scared of losing you.

  If I lose you, I lose everything!

  You own me

  Julie was not positive about much at that moment, but she was positive, she was not going anywhere. Trucker was what she wanted. She loved him. Her thumb stroked over the phone’s keypad as she thought how she would reply to his most recent text.

  I don’t want to own you.

  I want to love you.

  I do love you.

  Truck’s Girl <3

  NO BABY, YOU CAN’T!!!

  I’m not the kind of person

  someone loves.

  Too late.

  I already do.

  No more texts.

  I will see you soon.

  Truck’s Girl <3 (ALWAYS)

  Julie switched her phone off and sunk down in the tub. She couldn’t fathom why he would say that ‘he was not the kind of person you loved.’ He was exactly the kind of person she wanted to love. He was kind, generous, and always put her first. The beauty of his face though inconceivable had nothing on the beauty of his heart. The depravity of his soul, however, was marked and heartbreaking. How he could not see his worth was beyond her. “I love you, Tru
ck and nothing you do or are can stop me,” Julie silently told herself. Pulling the stopper out of the drain, Julie fought back tears. She wished there was a way to drain Trucker of his grief. She gladly would fill him with all the love she had in her.

  She sat at her makeshift vanity wanting to make a good impression on his mom. Julie felt a touch of resentment to her. A small part of his unhappiness had to lay on his mom’s shoulders. She was his mom. She should have showed him his value.

  Never the less, Trucker loved her and Julie wanted to make him proud. She also wanted him to think she was somewhat pretty. For the first time in her life, Julie decided to dress up. Knowing Trucker’s favorite color was green, she wore a kelly green wrap dress with black thong flip-flops. She raided her mom’s jewelry box and picked out a simple pair of pearl stud earrings that had belonged to her Grandma Emison. She topped off her outfit with a powder blue shawl that reminded her of Trucker’s eyes.

  On cue the doorbell rang, if Trucker was anything, it was punctual. Julie checked herself in the mirror one more time before running toward the door to let him in. Trucker smiled as Julie flung the door open a little too fervently. Julie’s eyes traced over the unblemished planes of his face. The soft curve of his lip, the straight slope of his nose, the hard square of his jawline, the impeccable clarity of his eyes framed by a thick fringe of black lashes, the chocolate hue of his tousled hair all called out for her touch. She wondered if she would ever grow immune to his perfection. He was wearing his customary linen button-up shirt and blue jeans. She felt lightheaded.

  “You’re a stunner,” Trucker whispered as he bent down and ever so lightly kissed her forehead. “Inhale,” he murmured against her skin with a small chuckle.

 
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