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       Home, p.20

           J.W. Phillips

  She looked at this deeply damaged boy who she loved beyond reason. She smiled, realizing yes, he was totally screwed up, but he was hers. Her heart sung when he returned her smile with one of his own. She started to speak when he put his finger on her mouth to stop her. He rubbed his forehead against hers and planted the sweetest kiss on her lips. “Please, Julie, please try.”

  “Truck, just stop with the please try.” She got up and whirled around on one foot. She practically fell in the car, taking with her the memory of his wide-eyed stare and melancholy expression. She was taking on his usual role by being mercurial. She sunk in her seat and gave into the overpowering emotions of the last few days. She finally released her pent up emotions as she sobbed huge gut-wrenching tears.

  “Angel,” Trucker said gently as he climbed into the car.

  She laid her head over on his shoulder. He reached across and stroked her hair with his other hand. He didn’t speak just let her cry. She needed it and it felt good to finally let it out and have him close to her. They sat there at what seemed like forever. Eventually, she was cried out.

  “Will you take me back home?”

  “Whatever you want.”

  “Trucker, fight for us,” she pleaded.

  “I am and I’ll win too,” he boasted.

  On the long drive back home, Julie contemplated the last few days, her beliefs, and most of all the feelings she had for the guy sitting next to her. They were confusing and one conflicted with the other. How could she love him, after knowing what he was? She tried reasoning with herself, but there was no reasoning when it came to the feelings she had for him.

  “Julie, are you going to get that?” Trucker startled her as he pointed down to her purse that held her ringing cell phone.

  “Oh,” Julie gave herself a mental shake and glanced at the phone. She was relieved to see it was Tiffany. She needed to hear from the normal world.

  “Hello,” Julie quietly said.

  “Hey girl, so Trucker got you a new phone?”

  “Yeah, I guess you got my text.”

  “Of course, so what else has Prince Charming got planned? Maybe, he will kidnap you, take you off to some exotic island, and will keep you all to himself for days.” Tiffany said. Julie scrambled for a thought, after the last few days she knew Trucker wanted to hide her away.

  “No, but that does sound fun. How’s your weekend going?”

  “It’s been so much fun,” Tiffany gushed. “Gene’s coming over. He’s such a gentleman.” Tiffany launched into a play by play of every detail of the plans that Gene and her had made. It was peaceful to listen to all the trappings of a completely normal life. She needed to touch base with that side of her existence. Yes, Trucker had turned her life on its head, but she wouldn’t want to imagine not having him in it. She stroked his thigh to let him know he was still number one in her life.

  “So what have you been up to?” Tiffany asked.

  Julie touched the bare skin of Trucker’s arm, to feel its coolness. What have I been up to? I had a fight over an angry demon, who I’m sure wants me dead. Found out that Truck has to marry her in six years. My life has fallen into a never ending cyclone of crazy. “Not much, just normal stuff. Trucker is taking me home right now.”

  “Oh, didn’t realize you were with him. Guess I should’ve known. Talk to you tomorrow.”

  “Bye, Tiff.” Julie hung up the phone.

  “So, even your friends suspect I want to kidnap you,” Trucker said with his lopsided smile. She should’ve known he was listening.

  “Yeah, I guess, but you don’t have to. I’m stupid enough to stay on my own freewill. Although, I have to say, she had a pretty good idea.”

  “Maybe, I’ll have to check into it. Got any exotic places in mind?”

  “No,” she said and playfully slapped at his arm. “Thanks for allowing me to give out this number to a few friends, too.” Julie said as she gave her cellphone a small shake.

  “Yeah, sorry I overreacted again.”

  “That’s your MO. I wouldn’t accept anything less.” She started ruffling his hair up. It did seem to be getting easier for him to stay around her. “I like you like this,” she told him. She did, this is what she was fighting for. “Can we go to the pond first, I’m not ready to leave you yet?” she asked. She wasn’t ready to leave him, not when he was in that state of mind.

  “Can I take you somewhere else?” he asked, pouting. How could she tell that face no?

  “Where?” She smooth her fingertips down his unshaven face.

  “My granny’s farm.” His million-watt smile lit up his face, even his eyes sparkled.

  “You have a granny?” Julie asked, scrunching up her face in disbelief.

  “Yes, a wonderful, sweet, human granny. She’ll love you too. That’s where Sea is spending the weekend.”

  “Let’s go.” She needed to see the human side of Trucker more than ever.

  Julie could seriously get whiplash in his world. They went from talking about shape shifters and him drinking her blood to sitting at a big farmhouse table eating lunch with his granny. Trucker’s granny, Ms. Margaret Lou, was around seventy years old and weighed probably around three hundred pounds. She had short white permed hair, a small tight lip, and enough varicose veins to make a road map with, and Julie loved her. She was the sweetest, happiest lady with the best hugs. Julie caught his granny watching her as if she was trying to see something in her.

  “Does she know?” Julie whispered to Trucker.

  “Yes,” he answered. “It’s hard to hide my temper.”

  “Is she trying to figure out if I’m human?”

  “Yes,” he whispered back, then laughed, this big robust laugh. “Granny, don’t worry she’s as human and wonderful as you,” he stated proudly.

  “She knows?” Granny screeched, her mouth drawn tight. She stared in disbelief.

  “Yeah, she’s my angel.” He beamed. “The angel you and mom always said would save me.”

  Granny’s tight lips cracked open into a smile.

  They spent the rest of the day playing with Sea and watching the animals. Julie got to feed a baby goat a bottle. The animals were terrified of Trucker. They would run as far and fast as they could from him. He told her when he was a kid it use to make him furious when his cousins would play with the animals because he could never get close to them. He explained that animals could sense danger more easily than humans. That humans have fooled themselves far too long that they were the top predators; which he added made their jobs a lot easier. She loved the smile that radiated from his face when Sea almost got close enough to a horse to touch it. Julie knew one of his biggest fears was that Sea would one day be a monster like him. She even got to meet his aunt and two cousins. They didn’t know the family secret, but they did know to be scared of him. She loved watching him and his cousins, Charles and Bill, screwing around together. It ended up turning into a happy, human day; which only verified in her mind that he was worth it all.

  Trucker came over to sit down on the grass with Julie and Sea. Leaning over, he gave her a quick kiss on the side of her temple.

  “Your glow is back,” he excitedly whispered in her ear.

  “My what?”

  “Your glow, your bright shining aura, it was dimming, but it’s as bright as ever now.”

  “The last few days have been hard, but right now I’ve never been happier.” She looked down at Sea, who was smiling up at her.

  “My luv you,” Sea said.

  “I love you too, sweet-pea.” Julie picked her up and squeezed her close to her body.

  Trucker pulled at Sea’s dress. “She’s mine, Miss Priss,” Trucker joked and let out a friendly little growl. Sea giggled and pinched his nose. With his smile beaming, Julie took in his flawless face. How could she be capable of giving someone like him the love he needed? The love was there, but she still couldn’t shake her insecurities.

  “Can I asked you something?” Julie wondered, warily.

sp; “Anything, Angel?”

  Trucker’s eyes got tight. She didn’t want to tell him, but knew he wouldn’t let it go.

  “I know I’m not beautiful, actually I’m pretty plain.”

  Trucker started to speak but Julie placed her finger over his mouth to stop him.

  “I also know when you tell me I’m beautiful you meant it. What do you see when you look at me?”

  “Angel, when I look at you I see my future. Your smile is one of the few things that truly makes me happy. I wake up every morning wanting, no make that needing to see your face. The feel of your body next to mine is indescribable. Baby, I don’t give a damn what the world sees. I only care what I see, and when I look at you I see everything I’ve ever wanted. Not just my human . . . but also my demon side needs you.”

  Not having words to say, Julie picked up a handful of grass clippings and threw it at him; Trucker jumped over on top of her. “How can you make me forget everything?” He rolled on his back, tugging her on top of him. “How is it possible for you to make me feel like this?”

  “Like what?” She slid her finger down the side of his face.

  “Like I’m finally home.” He lightly and softly nipped her bottom lip. “I’ll take you anywhere, but you belong with me.”

  Chapter 16

  I could kick myself. I fed from her. I took a piece of her soul for my enjoyment. But for once in my life feeding didn’t bring me joy. Her glow dimmed because of my selfishness. How much more will I damage her precious soul before this weekend is over? Will I ever truly deserve her love? Truck


  Dear Diary,

  I made it through the last few days on fumes. I’m so ready for what’s next. Trucker has hardly left my side. I know he’s still scared I’m going to bolt. He said he has a surprise for me. He wants me to see the good along with the bad. But something about his surprises scare me. Got to go and get ready, talk to you later, and will let you know if it was a good surprise or not.


  Julie found Trucker studying the pictures on a corner bookshelf in the living room. He was fingering over some old trinkets she had made as a child. One particular trinket seemed to catch his eye. It was a wooden star with the center hollowed out. It held a picture of Julie when she was about six years old at the church’s vacation bible school. She was dressed as an angel.

  Julie leaned against the door facing, taking in the view of the powerful and impressive presence that was Trucker Castleman. She swooned. His rear view was as outstanding as the magnificent smiled he turned to flash her. He caught her with his penetrating gaze. Obviously, he knew she was there. His skin stung when she was near, but it was more. The air whirled with a sense of hope and longing whenever they were near each other.

  They stood and stared at each other. His gaze scorched with heat. The effect Trucker had over Julie hit with such force it rocked her. He started toward her; his commanding and authoritative nature was strong and powerful. Holding up his finger, he motioned for her. She started backing up, feeling overpowered by his mere presence. With his long stride and fast speed, he had her pinned against the wall almost instantly.

  “Don’t run, Angel.” Trucker nibbled at her ear with his teeth. “I’ll always catch you.”

  Julie felt her knees buckle and started to fall. Trucker’s hand caught her and urged her tighter against him.

  “Always,” he whispered in her ear. He ran his tongue along her earlobe easing the burn left from his most recent bite. For the first time in weeks, her breath hitched in a rush of fear. He let go of his tight grip around her wrist and grasped her hand.

  She paused, took in a deep and shaky breath. The mouthwatering scent of him was her drug and he was one habit she had no desire to give up. Julie needed Trucker more than she needed her next breath. She pushed up on her tiptoes as she shoved her fingers through the dark mane that was his hair, and kissed him.

  “Grab your jacket, I don’t want you getting cold.” He studied her in a way that let her know, he saw her down to the deepest core of her being. Suddenly, he flashed a smile. “By the way, thanks,” he said and dangled the handmade star in his hand. His boyish grin glowed. She shook her head as he dropped it into his shirt pocket. He appeared happy and carefree, but Julie could tell something else was laying below the surface.

  Pulling up in the driveway leading to his new house for the first time since the day that she met Emily, she felt all her insecurities creep up on her. Trucker was still on edge, trying to suppress the darkness in him. She didn’t know what it was but he was off and she felt uncomfortable with him.

  “Everyone is gone, it’s like my other home. I want you to feel like this is your home too.” Again, he knew exactly what Julie was feeling.

  “I will. Would you understand if I said I was only human?”

  He winked at her. “Yeah, I think I would.”

  He was around to her side of the car in a flash, opening her car door. He guided her not to the house, but around back. They followed a trail of wildflowers and tall grasses. It was as beautiful as the gardens back at his home in Nashville but less formal, more organic. When they got to the back yard it was as if she stepped into the ultimate playground. In one corner was a full size basketball court and tennis court, a swimming pool with waterfalls and different rocks shooting out to jump off of, a line of 4-wheelers with trails leading off into the woods, and even a wooden swing set for Sea.

  “I can’t wait to get you into a bathing suit,” Trucker said.

  Julie shivered, and looked out over the swimming pool and wished it were summertime. Trucker in swim trunks would eclipse any view.

  All of the sudden, Jake appeared out of thin air and quickly kissed her on the cheek. “Hey chickadee.”

  Julie suddenly felt relaxed and calm. Then remembered Trucker telling her about what Jake’s kisses could do. Of course, they calmed her, but it wasn’t that fact that made her love him. Jake had always been there for Trucker. Jake was another myth, the eternal one. He was plunked from his mortal life during World War II at the Battle of the Bulge, and had never aged a day since. He was a guardian. First, he served as the caretaker for a mischievous little boy and now as his best friend. Jake was the one constant good in Trucker’s life. Even when Catherine lost hope, Jake believed in him. He gave Trucker hope in himself and his future. Julie could never repay him. Her Trucker was the man he was because of Jake’s guidance.

  “I wanted you to have a fun normal day before you face tonight.” He shifted her body and pointed to the front yard, where she saw Tori, Tiffany, and Gene walking up. Then she looked over her shoulder, where she saw Catherine and her mom coming out with a platter full of food to be bar-b-cued.

  “Hey guys,” Tori yelled over to them. Trucker waved and squeezed Julie’s shoulder.

  “I love you, Mr. Castleman,” Julie whispered, knowing how hard this was on him.

  She instantly understood his mood. He wasn’t off, he was scared. After all, he didn’t normally have humans at his home. Trucker didn’t open himself up like that, but he made an exception for Julie.

  “What about me?” Jake whispered, leaning in and giving Julie’s shoulder a nudge.

  Trucker knocked him over with a big shove. “Watch it, boy, I would hate to hurt you.”

  Jake jumped up, swept the grass off his pants, and gave Trucker a push. “Just messing around, chill.”

  “Did we get here at a bad time?” Gene asked, eyeing the confrontation.

  “Just goofing off. Jake, this is Tori, Tiffany, and Gene.” Trucker pointed to each one of them. “Gang, this is Jake.” He pointed his thumb back over his shoulder.

  “Truck, no wonder you like it here so much with all these beautiful ladies around.” Jake sashayed over to Tori, taking her hand and planting a kiss on it. Tori’s eye sparkled. Jake was supposed to be neutral and less than appealing, but he had more than his share of charm. Rolling her eyes at Jake, Julie noticed something she had never seen before. Tiffany and Gene
holding hands.

  “Trucker, you said you would help grill if I got the food,” Catherine hollered as she motioned for them.

  Even with it being unseasonably warm, there was still a nip of coldness in the air. Trucker lit a bonfire in the fire pit on the west end of the patio. As they all gathered around it, Trucker grabbed Julie’s hand and pulled her to the other end of the deck.

  “I need to feel you close to me today,” Trucker said. He squeezed his eyes shut. The force of his will broke her. She was his comfort in the world. He needed her and she was determined to not let him down. He pulled out a chair by the table closest to the grill. “Don’t go far.”

  How could she ever leave his side? She needed him as much as he could have ever needed her.

  “Mom, what are you doing here?” Julie asked Ellen when she took a seat beside her.

  “Trucker noticed you’ve been down the last few weeks and wanted to cheer you up. So, his mom and I got together and came up with this. Don’t know why Trucker insisted it be a cookout. Oh well, you’re definitely his number one concern.”

  Trucker doesn’t allow humans in his home. It’s amazing you got in.

  “Do you like his mom?”

  “I love her and, sweetie, she’s crazy about you,” Ellen said as she patted Julie’s hand.

  Julie sat back and watched everyone around her. Ellen and Catherine was busy laying out the buffet with all the toppings for the hotdogs and hamburgers that Trucker was grilling. Julie concentrated on everyone at the fire pit. It was apparent that Gene and Tiffany were hooking up; he was sitting in a lawn chair with her on the ground propped up against his legs. However much that revelation thrilled Julie, it was Jake’s reaction to Tiffany that captured her attention. He hung on Tiffany’s every word. Occasionally, Jake would reach over and fluff up Tiffany’s hair. At no shock to anyone, Tori was not going to lay back and accept she was not center of attention. Tori did her best to let Jake know she was willing and single. Jake must have finally took Tori’s obvious hits because he finally pulled her over onto his lap and laughed. Julie had to laugh too at the homecoming princess and the demon-healing angel. Trucker walked up behind Julie, and quickly kissed her temple.

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