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       Home, p.12

           J.W. Phillips

  Julie realized she had forgotten to breathe as she often did in his presence. She took a deep breath and smiled at the friskiness in his mannerism.

  He stormed the door and abruptly seized her. “Wow, you really do look breathtaking.” The world might have viewed her as ordinary, but he made her feel like she was everything but. He slowly rubbed his hand down her side, and started lightly trailing her neck with the most delicate of kisses.

  “You’re too perfect,” she said in embarrassment.

  He laughed. “And I haven’t even released my magic on you.”

  “Then don’t.” If he hadn’t released his magic on her yet, she could begin to imagine why her parents were so crazy about him.

  “I won’t. I want you to see the real me.” He nibbled down the length of her jawbone. “Come on, its time you meet the other two ladies in my life.”

  Julie watched him effortlessly race down Main Street. He drove one handed, his other hand was twined tightly around hers. His eyes never left her face, her eyes, her lips, yet the car never drifted from the center of the road. It still amazed her how every task seemed to come easy and without thought to him. She often wondered if there was anything he couldn’t do.

  “Slow down?” Julie screamed as she realized the speed they were going. No matter how infallible his driving skills were, she didn’t want to chance becoming road kill.

  “I got it, babe. I would never let a car hurt you.” He winked and bit his tongue.

  Hearing his suppressed laugh sent her over the edge. She stuck her tongue out at him. She knew her unnatural fear of traffic was absurd to him. A smile split his face whenever her foot would slam on her imaginary brake, her hands would fly in the air, or when she tried to hold back a scream when another car pulled too close.

  “Relax, Angel. We’re almost home,” Trucker said as he lovingly stroked her hand. Julie wanted to reach over and wipe the smirky smile off his face.

  “You’re going a stinking hundred and six miles an hour,” she said and pointed to his in-dash GPS; which clearly stated his miles per hour.

  “My reflexes are above normal.” He cocked his head and smiled. “Furthermore, I don’t want to slow down. I find your completely human reactions enduring,” he said and gave a smug shrug of his shoulder. Julie crossed her arms and let out a deep breath. She knew she had been defeated. She just prayed he didn’t kill them.

  Trucker’s phone vibrated noisily in his cup holder. Julie clearly saw the name Emily light up across the screen. He hastily snatched it up.

  “Later,” he seethed, slamming the phone down.

  The phone sounded back off immediately, Trucker quickly turned it off and chucked it in the backseat. Emily meant something to him. More than that, Emily knew what he wouldn’t tell Julie. That thought was depressing. His words came back to her, “No baby, you can’t. I’m not the kind of person someone loves.” Even more than his words, were Emily’s, “Don’t forget who you are, Trucker.” Was he Emily’s first?

  “Truck, is she,” Julie started to ask, and shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “Is Emily an ex or . . . even current girlfriend?”

  Trucker skidded to the side of the road and slammed on his brakes, bringing the car to a screeching halt. The seatbelt tightened around Julie, crushing her into the seat. Trucker moved toward Julie, she clamped her eyes shut as his scent washed over her already weakened exterior. The close proximity was excruciating. He moved his nose down her delectable neck. Julie arched her head to give him access. His skin only centimeters from hers never made contact.

  “It’s only you, you’re all that matters.”

  She tried pulling back, her body unwilling to obey her frazzled brain. “Then why do you not want me loving you?”

  Trucker looked completely and utterly lost. It was as if she sucker punched him. His eyes widen with pure, undiluted horror. “Baby, you can’t . . . It will be hard enough when you leave me as it is,” Trucker whispered, his eyes filled with fear.

  “I’m not going anywhere,” Julie replied. Trucker didn’t speak. He switched on the radio as he sped off. His stare was penetrating. The storm clouds in his bewitching eyes finally swept down and blew through her heart leaving her needing.

  Still draped in silence they pulled up to a set of enormous gates, Julie gathered they were finally there. The entrance was ornate; his family name ‘Castleman’ was spelled out overhead in iron. He rolled his window down and punched some numbers into a little box. The gates opened up to a perfectly manicured yard. Sitting on a hill was a massive house, more ostentatious than the one they were building back in Promise Land.

  “It’s beautiful,” she said almost flabbergasted. She saw what they were building back home, so why was she so surprised about that stupendous home?

  “I’m glad you like it,” he said with a nervous laugh. He leaned over and whispered in her ear, “It’ll be ours one day.”

  Her heart stuttered at what he said. It wasn’t the house that put the smile on her face, but the fact he was visioning a ‘them'. He pulled into the garage, where she counted eight more cars, each as spectacular as his; if not more so. They went into the side door of that stately home and walked into an enormous kitchen. It was bright and cheery. The south wall was entirely made of glass and overlooked an enchanting garden. The island itself was bigger than her whole kitchen. On the massive slab of granite were at least a dozen white roses if not more. Trucker dropped her bags on the tile floor. Julie’s breathing got heavy as it dawned on her that she was spending the weekend in that home. Julie finally would get to meet his mom and see him clown around with his sister. And if she were lucky, maybe, she would be one step closer to solving the puzzle that was Trucker Douglas Castleman. A woman walked in, yanking Julie out of her contemplations. The lady struck Julie as being very beautiful, but surprisingly not as beautiful as Trucker and his dad. Julie noticed her eyes. They were the same shade of blue as Trucker’s, but they were warm and soft. Her hair was blond, but a fake color blond. Her face was very appealing and kind. Julie couldn’t see the malevolent look that Trucker and his dad often had.

  Trucker slowly turned. “Mom,” he said as he flashed his marvelous award-winning smile. “This is my Julie.”

  He walked toward her dragging Julie with him. His mom offered him her cheek. Trucker kissed her lightly yet sweetly. It was obvious that she adored Trucker and Julie could see the love Trucker had for his mom. So she found it odd that they didn’t touch.

  “Julie, this is my mom, Catherine.”

  Catherine beamed at Julie before reaching out to hug her. Julie couldn’t help but smile, when she noticed the difference in his mannerism with Catherine, than she witnessed the night before with his dad.

  “It’s nice to meet you,” Julie acknowledged, stuffing her hands in her back pockets.

  “It’s great to finally meet you. He never quits talking about you.”

  Julie cut her eyes over to Trucker and noticed she wasn’t the only one capable of blushing.

  “Thanks, mom,” he said, giving her his adorable lopsided smile. “Where’s my little girl at?” Trucker asked with a playful gleam to his eye. He grabbed a soda from the fridge and threw one over to Julie.

  “She’s asleep, don’t go waking her up.” Catherine answered, pointing her finger at him. “I’m the one who will have to see after her if she’s all cranky.”

  “Who me? Never.” He pointed to himself and laughed. Jumping up, he planted himself on the counter top, pulled Julie between his legs, and popped a grape in his mouth.

  Truck, I love you like this. Why are you just now letting me meet your mom?

  “Julie, Larry told me you were coming to our little dinner party Saturday night?” Catherine said. Julie heard a faint growl come from Trucker when Catherine mentioned the dinner party. “Baby, it’ll be okay. I’ll help watch out for her.” Catherine reassured him. Julie wondered if he hated for his family to meet her or if he hated for her to meet his family. About that time she heard a fa
int sound of ‘mommy’ come from Catherine’s pants pocket. Catherine reached down and pulled out a baby monitor.

  “She’s awake now,” Trucker said, excited. “Come on, Angel. It’s time to meet your competition.”

  He dragged her down a long hallway that led to a grand staircase. Julie touched the banister at the bottom of the stairs. It was made of a finely polished wood. Her fingers easily glided over it. She was marveling at all the small but exquisite details of the house, when Trucker easily threw her over his shoulder and bolted up the stairs. He put her down when they reached the top and slowly traced her waist with his fist. His intense stare never left her eyes.

  “She’s crazy about you, you know?” He had a soft, but serious tone to his voice.


  “My mom. I haven’t seen her this happy in a long time.”

  Trucker twirled Julie around before they started walking down a long hallway. He would point out different rooms, but all she could do was stare at the walls in the hall. Which were covered with old world paintings of different scenes. They were set in modern day settings, but the subjects were beautiful creatures. They were half human/half monster. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but it was something about them that were so familiar. Focusing on the paintings, she never realized they had gotten to the end of the hall. Trucker opened a door to what she guessed was Sea’s room. It was decorated like a castle with all the fairy tale princesses hand painted on the wall. Julie looked over and saw a bed shaped like a crown. That’s when she saw a little bobbing head in the bed.

  “Princess,” Trucker said with such love and devotion.

  “Trucky,” Sea popped up and took Julie’s breath away. She was the most beautiful baby Julie had ever seen. Her hair was the exact color as Trucker’s, but was full of curls. The curls fell in ringlets around her perfectly shaped round face. Her complexion was light, it was so smooth and flawless it looked like a pearl. On her classically radiant face were ruby red lips, they were so red and picturesque they look like a make-up artist applied them. Julie noticed her eyes they were a bright vivid blue, but unlike Trucker’s they glowed. They were his eyes without the ominous look in them. Trucker was at her crib looking down with a big grin. He picked Sea up in one big swift motion, and turned around facing Julie, who was still standing in the doorway.

  “What’s wrong?” His face slackened; his eyes darted in concern.

  “She’s beautiful, she looks unreal.” She was stunned that a child could’ve been that ravishing and been human. Her feelings had never betrayed her and they were screaming that family was off. Something deep down told her to run, and fast; but her heart froze her feet in place.

  “Yeah, she’s perfect.”

  He strolled over as Julie took in the picture of exquisiteness that was Sea and Trucker.

  “She looks just like you.” Julie stood there trying to take in their beauty and the oddity of perfection.

  “Yeah, but she’s prettier, almost as pretty as you.” Grabbing her hand, he said, “Come on, it’s time to play.” He leaned down with a gigantic grin on his face and gave Julie a quick kiss on the cheek. Truck, my sweetheart, I know something is off with you, but I don’t care. Your smile means everything to me.

  She followed him across the hall to the playroom. It was painted like Sea’s room. One wall was covered with a painting of Belle and the Beast from Beauty and the Beast.

  “That’s my favorite fairy tale too,” Julie said, pointing over to the painted mural.

  With a mischievous grin on his face, he said, “You’re my beauty.”

  “So are you calling yourself the beast?”

  “Most definitely,” he answered with a look of regret.

  “I’m glad my prince is the beast.”


  “Because he’s the most interesting prince. I’m tired of the boring and predictable.”

  “Baby, stay with me and I promise your life will never be boring and predictable.” His breath was heavy as he lowered his face into Julie’s hair and skimmed his hand down her arm.

  “Trucky,” Sea spoke, sweetly and adoringly.

  Julie giggled when she caught Sea biting down on her lip.

  Sweetie, whatever your problem with lip biting is, get over it. It’s hardwired in me and looks like Sea has the same condition. Sea yanked at Trucker’s pants leg. Julie reached over and traced Trucker’s jaw. The way he was staring down at Sea with such fondness and tenderness tugged at Julie.

  “Sea hungry,” she said.

  Trucker had an extra tenderness when it came to Sea. Julie was used to seeing him standoffish with everyone, but that was not present with Sea.

  “She is, what does my little monster want to eat?” he asked.

  Trucker knelt down and placed his hand in Sea’s curls and softly caressed them. Julie was transfixed at the sight of this often-brooding man melting around his little sister. What was it about him? One minute she swore he was on the verge of turning into a monster, then the next he was the gentlest of all knights in shining armor. Julie couldn’t answer that question herself, but she knew her heart was melting around him too. He was truly her light and dark knight.

  “Lupo,” Sea answered and gave him the sweetest smile. Julie marveled at the similarity between them. The only difference was Sea glowed. The look that often kept her up at night was void from her eyes.

  “You want Italian? You want some fettuccine?” he asked. She bobbed her little head up and down bouncing her curls everywhere and laughed. “What do I need to hear first?”

  “My ticker,” she answered, innocently. She pointed to her chest then squeezed his nose. He lifted her up and put his ear to her little chest. The biggest grin shot across his face. It was a bizarre exchange, but it seemed so natural to them that it didn’t bother Julie.

  “Let’s go.” He kissed Sea’s sweet little cheeks. Julie looked at his eyes and could still see something, something that alarmed her. She tried to convince herself that no one could be a monster with that much love in his heart. Trucker smiled. “Lupo is the Italian chef at The Chop House here in Nashville. I know I told you I would take you and you alone one day.” He reached over, his fingers traced over her ear, and he very softly tugged at her earlobe. “Hope you don’t care if I bring a cute little girl along too.”

  “I don’t care at all,” Julie said and shook her head. “I didn’t know there was another Chop House.”

  “My dad and Emily’s dad own six of them.”

  Emily, again. Julie had self-doubt about what kind of relationship Trucker truly had with Emily and if he would ever be truthful about it.

  “Forget about Emily, I only care about you,” Trucker said as if he could read her mind. He leaned into her, his lips parted. “Do you have any idea how much I need you? How much I want you?” he whispered, caressing her chin. The muscles in her stomach clenched together. She closed her eyes to avoid his hypnotizing stare. His lips molded into hers. Her heart pounded as the blood rushed through her veins.

  “Trucky kissed you.” Sea pointed at Julie, busting the bubble they were lost in. Trucker pinched Sea’s cheek and rained kisses down on her face, making her shake with laughter.

  “Come on, jealous, let’s get mom.”

  Chapter 10

  “I’m not the kind of guy someone loves. It will hurt too bad when you leave,” played over and over again in Julie’s mind as she watched Trucker. His mom had tagged along to the tremendous delight of Trucker. Instead of eating in a booster seat or a chair, Sea ate perched on Trucker’s leg. Julie was to his right, her hand on his knee. Every time she let it slip, he quickly placed it back with a firm pat of his hand. A man with a truly dark soul would not find the scenario pleasurable, but that is exactly how Trucker found it. He went above and beyond to make them happy, and Julie for the first time in days, started to relax. She had never felt more at home than she did at that moment. She even managed to truly belly laugh when Trucker tried to kiss her with a noodle hanging o
ut of his mouth, after she cracked-up at Sea’s pitiful attempt to feed him.

  “Want to go play?” Trucker whispered in Julie’s ear. She answered with a fervent nod.

  To her surprise, Julie found herself at the city park after lunch. Somehow when she thought of a weekend with Trucker, she never imagined them pushing his baby sister on a swing set. Julie caught herself scrutinizing not Trucker and his family, but the other people around them. People were enticed by his family. They moved and adapted themselves around them. He seemed desensitized by the people. Even his mom, who didn’t have the same draw herself, seemed not to notice. She wondered why she was the only one who noted those little idiosyncrasies. Julie observed as Trucker pushed Sea on the swings. She envisioned Trucker at that age. He had to have been that beautiful, maybe even more so. She could begin to understand when he told her that he always got everything he wanted. How could anybody ever turn that face down?

  “I’m getting a drink,” Trucker said, squeezed Julie’s side, and head to the nearest Coke machine.

  “Juwie,” Julie heard come from Sea’s enchanting voice. She twisted back around to see Sea motioning for her. She couldn’t help but want to make that exquisite child happy. She rushed toward her, tossing her in the air.

  “Hey, sunshine,” Julie said as she hugged Sea to her chest.

  “Swing me?” Sea asked.

  Julie put her down and ran after her. She believed nothing could bring her down. The day was perfect in every way.

  Glancing over her shoulder, Julie caught a glimpse of Trucker who stood against a vending machine watching her. His mom leaned against the corner of the machine.

  “Hey, mom.” Trucker swayed in Ellen’s direction, but still did not touch her.

  “Hey, baby, are you okay?”

  That deep-seated moral conscience told Julie she shouldn’t listen to their conversation, but she couldn’t stop herself. She not only eavesdropped, but strained to hear them.

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