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       Home, p.31

           J.W. Phillips
 

  “Me too, but we can’t. We have to learn to live our new life.”

  A few moments ago Julie laid there trying to figure out how to comfort Dan, but as always he was comforting her.

  “Daddy, momma wouldn’t want us to wail in our own misery. Can we go do something fun, just you and me?” She wiped her face with the back of her hand and tried to smile.

  “I would like that, baby girl.”

  Julie and Dan spent the day trying to have fun. They took in three movies at the Cineplex, where they were running a Christmas marathon. They saw A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Julie’s favorite, Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation. They had their Christmas Eve supper at The Diner in town and even voted on making it a new tradition.

  Julie was exhausted when they got back home. When she went to bed that night, she prayed for her dad’s heart to heal, for breaks in her feelings, and the silliest of request was for God to watch over Trucker. She also prayed he would one day find the girl who would complete him and it wasn’t Emily. That was the hardest thing she ever prayed for, because she wanted to be that girl, but it was too late for them.

  The week between Christmas and New Year’s was a constant state of limbo. Ellen and Trucker’s gifts were left unopened under the unlit Christmas tree. Dan replaced Julie’s broken cell phone with a new one. She was adamant she kept the same number, in case Trucker called. He didn’t. She heard not a peep, saw not a mere glance of him. It was if he had vanished into the unknown. He was mythical after all. The next day would be New Year’s Day the start of a New Year, a new life. She didn’t stay up that night to ring in the New Year. Sleep was her only peace.

  *******

  His angel sleeping was a breathtaking sight. He didn’t know how he would go on without her. The feel of her hand in his, her lips running over his, her curls wrapped around his fingers. He came to give her the rest of her feelings back and leave her one last gift. How can he say goodbye to his mate? He didn’t know the answer, but he did know he would become a vessel of good for her.

  “Happy New Year, my love,” he whispered and with one last bittersweet feel of her lips on his, he flew out of her house and never let up on his pace until he was in his room.

  *******

  Julie woke up that morning with a horrendous ache in her chest. It was the first day of a new year. A year without her mom, a year without him. If she could have any New Year’s wish it would be to spend it with Trucker. That was impossible, she had to let him go and move on with her normal life. Plus, it was Sunday she was going to church. That was the one place he could never go.

  Something caught her eye. On the side of the bed was the green pillow with Trucker’s name on it. She went over to touch it and saw a small box with a note.

  My love,

  Happy New Year, Angel!!!

  I came to give you the rest of your feelings back and to leave you one last gift. I will try to leave you alone. I won’t promise because I might break it, but I will try. My heart still beats for you and always will. Take care of yourself and do me one favor. I noticed you took off your charm bracelet. Angel, I have to protect you, so I made you a smaller one without the other symbols of our love. Please wear it!!

  I will always love you,

  Trucker

  PS I left you my pillow, holding yours brings me solace. I guess I was hoping one day you can hold mine and find some comfort too. I tried to be crafty, and sowed some buttons in the corner. It will give you something to twist when you get nervous.

  She pulled the pillow over in her lap, gave all four buttons a tug, and opened the tiny box to find a dainty and beautiful bracelet. It had a minuscule charm, the symbol of the mighty brotherhood. That was not what got her attention. It was the clasp. The clasp was his symbol, a crown. She could almost stomach the idea of wearing that detestable symbol, but her heart couldn’t handle wearing his symbol. She wasn’t his and part of her knew she never was. She put the bracelet back in the box and shoved it under her mattress with the other one.

  She pulled the pillow up to her face. It still lingered with his scent. The pain smacked her in the gut. It was indescribable. She finally cried for herself, Trucker, her mom, and her dad, but most of all for the life that should’ve been theirs. This was grief and it was worse than anything she could experience under the hands of Larry Castleman.

  “Hey, baby girl, why are you crying?” Dan asked, sliding down beside her.

  She laid her head over on his shoulder when he started tracing the outline of her ear with his finger as he had done numerous times before. She was hurting. She had never known pain like that. It ached to her very core. When she was thrust into Trucker’s world she asked what she was left with. Now she knew, she was left with nothing. She wiped the tears with the back of her hand. She felt a hundred percent responsible for her dad’s pain and didn’t want to add her own to it. She held her chin up and let the last of the tears fall down her cheeks.

  “A new year without mom,” she said the thought that laid so heavily between them.

  “She would want you to be happy.” Dan tugged her closely under his arm.

  “I will be. We need to get ready if we plan on making it to church.”

  “Are you sure you want to go?”

  “There is nowhere else I would rather go.” She put on a fake smile and kissed his cheek.

  ******

  It had been weeks since she sat foot inside the church door, but she instantly felt at home. Her mind continually drifted to Trucker, but luckily not one person asked about him. The message that day was what she needed to hear. The pastor preached on forgiveness both on forgiving others and most of all, forgiving yourself. She was going to try to forgive herself for the last few months and all the mistakes she made. The last few months were riddle with mistakes except for loving Trucker. She would never believe that was a mistake. After getting kissed and hugged by every old lady there, she collected her stuff.

  “Happy New Year!” Tori jumped on her back.

  “Auld Lang sine, Julie-bug!” Tiffany handed her a small wrapped package. “Late Christmas present.”

  “Thanks.” Julie saw Dan on the church doorsteps. “I’ve got to go, guys. Love you, miss you.”

  As Julie bounced off to get her dad, Tori noticed a pretty red sports car parked in the cemetery. Trucker was there to get a glimpse of his angel, coming out of the church building, glowing in all her glory. ‘Happy New Year, my beautiful Angel,’ silently slipped from his lip. He promised himself that one day soon, he was going to go inside those church’s doors with her.

  ******

  The Diner was almost empty, but Julie and Dan still sat at the same table as always. They sat in their customary and safe quietness. Julie knew her dad was picturing Ellen and how she looked on Sundays after church. Julie was remembering her times with Trucker as well. How he made her feel and how those feelings have only grown. They heard the bell on the door jingle and she looked up, halfway hoping it would be Trucker.

  “Jake!” It was the next best thing. Jake walked in and straight to her table. She didn’t realize it, but she had been on his radar long before she ever laid eyes on Trucker.

  “Hey dad, you remember Jake?”

  “Yeah, we met at the hospital after the wreck.”

  “Do you mind if I take a walk with him?” Julie knew her dad wouldn’t mind, but she thought it would be polite to ask.

  “Of course, how about I head home. If Jake doesn’t mind bringing you later?”

  “I don’t mind. Dan, I’m still praying for you.”

  Dan slapped Jake on the back and went to the counter to pay for the ice cream.

  “I don’t really have a car,” Jake leaned in and whispered to Julie.

  “I still think you got it covered.” She let her head fall back on Jake. She tried to hold in the tears, but they flowed freely. Jake held onto her shoulder and let her cry. Dan walked over and took her hand. It felt good to finally let it out.

 
I’m sorry, Daddy.”

  “For what, baby? It’s okay to hurt.” He wiped his hand over her tear soaked face. “Go have some fun with Jake. It’ll do us both some good.”

  Jake took her hand as they walked down Main Street. Julie felt like she was betraying Trucker, but she had made her peace with him. It was time for her to move on.

  “Julie, his dad and his men had nothing to do with the wreck. It was a complete accident. I swear. They also promised Trucker to protect your dad.”

  “He’s safe?” She pulled herself over on Jake’s arm, and let out a deep breath. She never realized until that moment, she was terrified of losing Dan too.

  “Yes.” Jake kissed her head, easing her nerves with one of his many tricks.

  “I still don’t understand. Larry threatened me.” Her nerves might’ve been calmed but her questions still needed to be answered.

  “Gorgeous, how can I explain this. We all have a time to be born and a time to die. Larry learned your mom’s time was drawing near.”

  “How?” Did he have a direct line to the Angel of Death?

  “He saw the Angel of Death around her.”

  Crap, he does. “Okay.” Julie clung to Jake. After everything she had learned the last few months, she couldn’t understand why knowing there was an Angel of Death scared her so much.

  He thought if he warned you, when she finally passed on, it would scare you and you would leave Trucker for good.” He kissed the top of her head. “He called your dad in early that morning to keep him from being in that car too. They had no idea you would take his place. Larry never wanted to hurt you. Just rid you of Trucker’s life.”

  “How is he?” It hurt too bad to say his name.

  Jake shrugged his shoulders. “He’s been better. He’s been spending all of his time at the pond. I’m surprised it’s still a pond to go to.”

  “Oh.” She wanted to go to him. Maybe, she could take a drive up to the pond one day. Who was she kidding, she was sure she was no longer welcomed there.

  “Why did you leave? I know you guys are made for each other,” Jake asked and stopped dead in his tracks. He turned to face her and wrapped one of her curls around his finger.

  “I love him more than anything. I can’t do it anymore. I can’t put anymore hurt in my Dad’s eyes.” She raised her head so they were facing each other. “I can’t fight what’s in him, Emily, and my sanity for the rest of my life.”

  Jake couldn’t argue with that, but they belonged together. She was born purely for Trucker.

  Jake turned Julie’s hand and looked at her wrist. “Where’s your bracelet?”

  “At home,” she answered and hung her head to avoid his stare.

  “Sweetheart, I know you don’t want to wear it, but it’s for your protection.” Jake put his finger under her chin and raised her face so she had to look at him.

  “It’s not what you think. I could get passed it and wear that symbol but . . .” Her eyes shot over Jake’s shoulder so he would not see the tears in her eyes. “The clasp is his symbol. I can’t wear something knowing it means that I’m his girl when I’m not, and in some ways never have been.”

  “Little lady, that’s where you’re wrong. You’ve been his girl since the first day he laid eyes on you and will be his girl until the day he dies.”

  “You can’t say that.” She shook her head, the thought was more then she could bare to think.

  “I can, and I’m positive about it too. I know how his kind thinks. I know him. Even if you fall in love with some other lucky guy, get married, and have tons of babies, you’ll still always be Truck’s girl.” He pushed her hair behind her ear and wiped a tear from her cheek. His touch reminded her of Trucker’s. Julie finally felt it, her heart breaking. Trucker warned her, that you needed emotions to be human. He was right because she had been a heartless monster. Now she had lost the one person she wanted. She might always be his girl, but how could he ever trust her again. He didn’t leave her when she needed him the most. She left him.

  Jake saw the emotions on her face and knew it was time to show her where her home truly was.

  “You ready to go home, beautiful?”

  She shoved her tear filled face into his chest. “Yes.”

  “Close your eyes tight.” He kissed the top of her head to calm her and took her on what she believed would be her last dip in the magic pond. She rode through space not in the arms of her monster, but in Jake’s as he finally took her home.

  Prologue

  To

  Lost

  Trucker gripped the vodka bottle tighter. He was back at the pond. It was the one place where he felt close to her. Fuck, it hurt to remember. It hurt worst to forget. The way she looked as she stood at the front of that church telling her mother goodbye left deep gashes in him. Every time he pictured it, he wanted to destroy someone. The only tree left standing at the pond was the weeping willow they always laid under.

  Julie was the only one who knew who he really was. He would have run, too. Why would anybody in their right mind what to build a life with a motherfucking monster? He was the star of many of nightmares. Not a damn love story.

  The sight of Jake appearing, holding his angel in his arms twisted his insides so damn hard it was earth-shattering. Jake stepped away from Julie and nodded his head. Trucker found it hard to believe she had come to see him. She was so damn perfect. Too damn perfect. Her curls had an extra bounce to them, and the puffiness of her green eyes told him she had been crying. No. She was crying because of him. An angel should never cry over a demon. He fucked-up everything he touched. Why did he ever believe he could protect her? He stood up, fighting the sway his body wanted to take as the earth moved around him. He chucked the bottle he was holding and closed his eyes. He had to face his angel drunk.

  “Open your eyes, Angel.”

  Her eyes fluttered open. She looked around as if she was confused as to where she was. Fuck, she didn’t want to come. She hates me. He tried uttering her name but she broke through his daze with a few simple words.

  “I’m sorry, will you ever talk to me again?”

  The pain in her voice was not lost on him. She wanted to be there. She wanted to be with him. Not only did she want him, she was worried he no longer wanted to be with her.

  “Always, my love,” he said and reached out his hand for her.

  She crawled up him, slung her legs around his waist, and wrapped her arms around his neck. He held her tight and carried her to the weeping willow, the only tree still standing. He sat down on the little clearing of grass and pulled her over on him.

  “Julie, I’m royally screwed. I was born with more burdens than any human should ever have to bear. But I’ve always handled them, but do you have any idea what it was like to be beaten for days until you finally change, having a father that is incapable of love, your only worth is some predestined future, seeing that same father beat your mom daily, and know she stays for two reasons; one, she is addicted to his blood, and two, because she wants to protect her children. Scared to death that the only person you could possibly ever love is going to walk away, but just as scared, she is going to stay and get hurt because of you.” Trucker was drunk, and saying things he had never even admitted to himself. “My life was in complete darkness, and one glorious day, a bright light broke through and started shining in the deepest, darkest corners of my life.” He needed to stop but he wanted Julie to hear every word he was saying.

  “The world falls at my feet. All I have to do is look at a girl, and she will start undressing. I don’t want that. I want the one that will tell me no, will tell me when I am being a screw up, the one who sees the true me, the one who makes me want to be a better person, the one who makes it worth fighting this evil in me. I have never deserved you, but hell, baby, I need you more than I need air to breathe.”

  Tears started running down her cheeks. It wasn’t right, his sweet angel crying over him but damn, it felt good. She owned him. No one should have the power to
control someone like him, but she did have the power to control him.

  “I should have known better than try to hold an angel in my arms. You are too damn good for me. Hell, you are too damn good for anyone. But there is nothing I want more. I love to see you smile, hearing your laughter makes everything inside of me feel whole. All the shit in my past, all the evil in me fades when I’m around you. You have a light inside of you that it is so fucking bright it would bring anyone to their knees. I was a empty shell before you. I was so cold. Please stay, and know there is nothing that will keep me from loving you.”

  She froze. He didn’t know if he would survive if he lost her. Losing her would break him forever.

  Trucker dropped his head into his hands. No longer able to look her in the eyes.

  “Truck,” came from Julie’s sweet voice. She wrapped her arms around him. “I love you. Right now, I can’t make heads or tails of life, but I do know I want to figure it out with you. I don’t want to be cold anymore either.”

  The vodka and multiple shots of tequila where screwing with his head. She couldn’t have said what he thought she said. He forced himself to raise his head and saw his precious angel was crying. She clung onto him as if she was scared of losing him. He wrapped her tightly with his grasp and buried his face in her curls. She smelled simply mouth-watering. His teeth partially extended. He clamped his mouth together. They had so much of each other to explore before he bonded with her.

  “Baby, I will never let you feel cold again,” he said against her neck.

  “Good, because you are the only one I want keeping me warm.”

  He tightened his grip on her and fell back against the willow tree, cradling her in his arms. She was here to stay. He smiled, knowing he was not losing his angel. He buried his face in her curls. His scent was intoxicating. They were finally home.

 
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