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           J.W. Phillips

  “That’s beautiful. I didn’t know you could sing.”

  “It’s all part of the perfect facade. It’s only skin deep,” Trucker whispered and trailed a line of kisses down her neck and across her shoulder.

  “Hold her tight, A little tenderness, you gotta treat her right, She will be there for you, taking good care of you, You really gotta love your woman, And when you find yourself lying helpless in her arms, You know you really love a woman.”

  He sung so lightly it was the perfect mixture of singing and humming. His grip grew painfully tight. Julie turned her head, her nose tapped against his.

  “Have you ever loved someone?” Julie asked.

  Trucker kissed the tip of her nose. “No, I haven’t. I never really believed in the whole concept of love. But I believe I might’ve found the one girl who could teach me something about it.”

  Remembering where they were, she pushed off his body and jumped up out of bed, startled. “My parents?”

  He propped himself up and laughed. “They left for church about an hour and a half ago,” he answered. “They told me I was welcome to wake you up.”

  “What?” she asked, confused. “What time is it?” She reached for her cellphone to check the time when he guided her back onto the bed beside him. He cocked his head to the side; a deep crease formed on his forehead, and he started tracing his thumb under her eye.

  “What happened to your eye?” he asked, sternly but with a voice still too enchanting to be real.

  She wondered why it seemed to make him mad. It was really no big deal. It did hurt a little, but the mark had to barely be noticeable. “I got in a fight with my diary and lost,” she answered as she slid his hand away. “I can’t believe you noticed it.”

  “I notice everything when it involves you.” His eyes softened. He kissed the tip of his finger before placing it over the mark. His sudden and frequent mood changes left her dazed and often confused.

  “I should really get ready for church,” Julie said and held her head down, letting her hair fall around her face like a veil. His stare left her feeling insecure with herself. Trucker tucked her lose hair behind her ear.

  “Julie, you’re my girl. Don’t ever hold your head down again,” he demanded. Julie’s head snapped up. It still dumbfounded her how her body automatically responded to his commands.

  “Trucker,” Julie started to say.

  He pulled her over onto his lap and nudged his nose across the base of her neck. She could’ve sworn he took in a deep breath. She wondered why. She didn’t smell half as appealing as he did. “Yes,” he said and smiled.

  She cleared her throat and continued, “You said so yourself that I should be scared of you.”

  “Yes,” he said and roughly rubbed the side of her hip.

  “I know you have secrets, and I can’t start to comprehend what happened to you last night. All I know is, I went to sleep in your arms but when I woke up . . .” She shook her head and her body followed. “All I know is . . . I don’t care.” She cut her eyes up and met his. “Whatever it is or whatever you’re hiding is your business.” She laid her head on his hard chest. “I just want this.”

  Julie couldn’t denied it after what she saw the night before, Trucker was no ordinary man. She shouldn’t had been excited about snuggling in his lap, his arms wrapped tightly around her. Yet, she was. There was nowhere else she would rather be.

  “Oh, Angel, you have no idea what you are saying.”

  She did know what she was saying and knew it was a lie. She cared too much. The future was close and that future brought a world of unknowns. She would face it as it came but right then she only wanted him. “I don’t care.”

  “You don’t care?”

  She nodded her head and buried it in his chest.

  “Baby, I’ll take care of you, and you have no idea how much you mean to me,” said Trucker.

  “I’ve got to get ready for the late service at church. Do you want to go with me?” she asked, more to change the conversation than anything.

  “My sweet Angel, I would follow you to the ends of the earth, but no church.”


  Taking in his clothes, something she had never done before; honestly, it was hard getting past his face to concentrate on anything else. He appeared to be already dressed for church. He had on khaki pants, a pale pink button up shirt, and a dark brown blazer that perfectly set off his amazing complexion. She assumed he had already been to church or was planning on going.

  “One of those you don’t care issues,” he answered.

  She did want to know what was really going on with him, but decided she wanted to be with him more. She would focus on the very human, very loving Trucker. Maybe it was nothing more than an extreme case of bipolar disorder.

  She heard her parents coming in downstairs. “Truck, we need to go.”

  “Okay, babe.” He gently pulled at one of her curls. “Julie, I’m trying.”

  “Try harder.”

  She got up with his hand in hers and headed downstairs. Julie went to touch him and he twitched. “Does that hurt?” she asked.

  “What, baby?”

  “My touch,” she answered.

  “Nothing hurts worse than not having your touch.”

  Julie noticed he didn’t answer her and was not ready to let it go either.

  In the kitchen, her dad was putting away the groceries; he had picked up on his way home from church. Trucker stepped in and started helping. Julie grabbed a can out of the bag and tossed it across the room to Trucker. He caught it in midair with a lightning-quick grasp, never taking his eyes off of hers and smiled. Trucker and Julie were lost in the moment when Dan started rattling on about work. It dawned on Julie that Trucker and Dan had already formed a bond. She wondered how much Dan knew about Trucker. More than anything she was curious how much he might know about the part of him, she said she didn’t care about. Trucker winked at her, tossed the can in the air, and started stashing the groceries away, knowing exactly where they went.

  “Oh, my gosh,” Ellen said across the room. She had the laptop perched on her lap, and reading some kind of article. She rubbed the back of her neck in obvious distress. “Didn’t you two go to the movies last night?”

  “Yeah, why?” Julie answered and moved closer to her mom.

  Ellen flipped the computer screen around, and flashing on the screen was a picture of a girl who could have been Julie’s twin. Her curls were looser than Julie’s, but her upturned nose and wide set eyes were spot on.

  “They were talking about it at church. A girl was found dead behind the theater last night,” Ellen explained.

  Julie took the laptop and read the short news snippet:

  At 1:07 am while emptying the garbage cans, the cleaning crew at Regal 8 in Franklin found the body of a young girl. She appeared to have been attacked by an animal. She had numerous bite marks on her body, especially around the neck area. At this time no further information is available.

  Update on the Leading Headline: The body has been identify as 17-year-old Jodi Moore of Nankipoo, TN.

  “Ms. Mary at church, her grandson was one of the poor souls who found the body. She said the body was savaged, but the oddest thing was the absence of blood. It was as if she never had any running in her veins,” Ellen said.

  Trucker stared in disbelief over Julie’s shoulder; his body heat was boiling. Julie’s skin had the same painfully alert feeling she’d had the first day she met him. He reached for the laptop and Julie swore she saw a vein slither in his hand.

  “May I?” he asked.

  Trucker read over the article, slammed the computer shut, and headed to the bathroom. The house rattled as he flung the door shut. Julie sat for only a few minutes, but it seemed like hours, waiting for Trucker to emerge.

  “Would it be okay if I took Julie somewhere?” Trucker asked Dan and gave him a superior smile. He was not normal, but was not anywhere close to what she imagined either.

p; “You might want to ask me if I want to go,” Julie said and stormed off to her room. No matter how much he was used to controlling, she was not going to be his puppet. Who was she kidding? She stomped up the stairs, knowing she would do anything he asked her to.


  Julie felt his eyes on her before she heard him. But she often felt his eyes on her without ever seeing him.

  “Angel, I'm sorry, but the thought that it could've been you scares me,” Trucker said as he entered the bedroom.

  Julie had changed and was brushing her hair. She sat her brush down on the vanity. She was getting ready, knowing that she would go anywhere with him.

  Sitting down beside her, he manually turned her body to face him. “I’m sorry I acted like that.”

  “I was with you. I may not have all the facts on everything. But I have no doubt in my mind that as long as I’m with you, I’m safe from anything.”

  “You weren’t always with me, you left me.” The look, that made her very core cry, rung strong from him.

  “I’m with you now.”

  He gazed at her as if hypnotized. Her heart pounded violently. It was as if he spoke to some part of her that was buried deep within her soul, and that part was screaming ‘Danger, he knows what happened to that girl. Be careful.’ Some instinct older than time was telling her to flee, but she didn't move. The same force that terrified her was drawing her closer to him. Even though frightened, she had never felt more alive. She saw his eyes grow darker and felt the wild leap of her own heart as he slowly stretched out one of his hands and trailed his fingers down the base of her neck.

  “Where are you taking me?” Julie asked.

  “The pond,” he answered.

  “In case you didn’t realize it, it’s raining.”

  “I’ve got you covered.”

  “You can’t control the weather, can you? You’re not God, are you?”

  He laughed a very genuine and happy laugh. “I am most definitely not God.”


  Trucker had left her bedroom dazed and numbly confused. He walked outside, holding her hand. The night before slapped him with such force, it stopped him dead in his tracks. He wasn’t quite sure why but something about hearing the rain hitting the umbrella he held over her head, the way his hand ever so lightly touched her lower back, him guiding her to his car, whatever it was, he realized the girl laying in a cold morgue somewhere was supposed to be Julie. He let the umbrella fall to the ground. Standing there in the rain, he had the strongest yearning to fist his hands through that massive mound of her silken curls, pull her tight against his body, and press his lips against her throbbing temple. Above all, his greatest urge was to hide her from all that was around him. The rain stung as it pelted his face, but he couldn’t register the pain. His life was falling apart, and he couldn’t do anything about it. Stopping it would mean he had to let her go, and that was not an option. He examined her face, making the color red creep across her cheeks.

  He cringed as random scraps of memory floated around his mind. The feel of his tongue as it brushed back and forth over long and dangerous canine teeth. The feel of soft skin as his teeth punctured the hollow of a neck. He remembered spotting the girl, so much like his Julie. He scraped his fingers through Julie’s hair. He hadn’t chased that girl. That he was sure of. Instead he’d followed Julie, unable to chance her being hurt.

  “Trucker, you okay?”

  Immediately his body temperature rose. His torso radiated sultry heat through his clothes. He nuzzled the side of her face, his lips brushed over her ear, and then he forcibly pressed his lips against hers. He wrapped his arms achingly around her midsection, lifting her tightly against him. She yielded to him. Keeping his mouth against hers as he gentled his touch, he mumbled, “I’ve wanted to kiss you like that since I woke up this morning.”

  Standing in the pouring rain, Julie was left speechless again.


  The rain was still steady when they pulled into the lane leading to the pond. He hated the fact it was such a dreary day, but all he could think of was getting her to the safest place he knew of, the pond. He put the car in park and took a deep breath. How he wished he could force her to stay close so he could always protect her. He warned her that if sin knocks, don’t let it in. How was she to know he was the greatest sin out there? He caught her flipping her hair out of the corner of his eyes. He might have been the epitome of sin, but there is no way he could’ve ever caused her harm. Even if it killed him, he would keep her safe.

  Trucker opened the car door and Julie kicked her foot around, letting it hang out the door. She wiggled her toes in her flip flops as she scanned the mud caked around his shiny dress shoes.

  “Damn it, Julie Emison, even your toes are cute.”

  “Uh,” Julie said. She looked up at him with big, innocent, doe eyes. He ran his hand through his hair and before she had time to say another word, he had her slung over his shoulders as though she were weightless.

  Trucker had experienced things that most people would only dream about, but the greatest surprise in his life was having her pinch his behind. He twisted his head around and caught the smile on her face. He nearly tripped over his own two feet as shockwaves of feelings coursed through him.

  “You shouldn’t have thrown me around like I was a rag doll,” Julie said with a small laugh.

  He growled at her, maybe a little too lifelike before softly throwing her down in an off-road ATV and fastened the seatbelt around her. “Hold on,” he explained with a quick kiss and a sparkle in his eyes.

  They rode through the field slinging mud, and came upon the other side of the pond. Tucked under the old weeping willow tree, a large sturdy tent stood. She stared at it.

  “You didn’t think I was going to make you sit out in the rain. Did you?” he asked, and came around to her side, holding an umbrella. He threw her over his shoulder once again. “Feel free to touch anything you find appealing.”

  Julie slapped him across the back. He jumped as if it hurt and gave a small, “Ow.” His laughter was infectious as he carried her over to the tent. Opening up the front flap, he crawled in and nestled up beside her. She started slowly nibbling on her bottom lip, oblivious to what it did to him. He stared at her with unfathomed emotions, and pulled at her lip with his thumb. Her teeth released it. Then her lips formed his favorite grin.

  “You’re driving me crazy, Angel,” he said with a moan.


  “I’m not,” he answered, and leaned into her until their foreheads touched. “My beautiful Angel.” He sighed.

  “Yes,” she replied, weaving their fingers together.

  “I’ll keep you safe. You believe that don’t you?” he asked.

  “Yeah, I do,” she answered, unable to look him in the eyes.

  His eyes blazed as he ran his tongue over the edge of his blunt teeth. There were so many questions he had left to ask, so many aspects of her life that were still unknown. He wanted to know everything about the girl laying on his chest.

  When he first saw her, he swore to himself he would walk away and never bring her into a life she was not ready for. But he simply couldn’t do it. He was drawn to her like a moth to a flame. She was his. As much as he desired to protect her from his life, he needed her. So, being the monster that he was, he put her safety aside and opened the door to her new destiny.

  He pressed his face into her mass of tightly rounded curls and breathed her scent into his lungs. He had never had such a strong reaction to anyone, stronger than any he’d ever known. But it was more. He liked her, too. She was headstrong, forgiving, playful, and his. One day they would go their separate ways. He felt certain that when she finally learned the truth of what he really was, what they wanted him to be. She would leave him at a speed so quickly; that it would baffle even him. His other side balked at the thought.

  The monster in him grew increasingly agitated every time he shoved the inevitable fact in its face. Trucke
r’s more sensible side told him there was no way around it. He didn’t get to keep her. Though there was no doubt in his mind she was meant to be his. No one had ever called to his very being like she did, but chances of it lasting were slim.

  “Trucker, are you in la-la land?” Julie asked.

  The sound of her voice jerked him from his most recent and disturbing thoughts, tugging him back to the moment at hand. The thought of leaving her side for just a moment put cracks in his long lost, frozen heart. But he needed to talk to the only normal person in his life. He had to get his head together before he showed his kind what was the most important in his life: not them, their plans, but her.

  “Baby, I need to get you home. I have to meet my mom and baby sister. I haven’t seen them since classes started.”

  “What?” Julie asked. “I didn’t know you had a little sister or for that matter that you didn’t live with your mom.”

  Trucker noticed the hurt in her eyes at the knowledge of how little she did knew about him. “Baby, my sister is three and is a beautiful princess like you. My mom and she are staying in Nashville until they finish the house in Promise Land.”

  “Why didn’t you stay with them?”

  “I have my reasons.” He winked. “Aren’t you lucky too? If I haven’t, you wouldn’t have met me.”

  She reached over to touch his face and his breath hissed. Her pure aura wrapped around him with a piercing jolt. He fought back a lopsided smile while he leaned forward and snagged her lower lip with his teeth. She tangled his hair through her fingers and kissed him. His teeth burned in his gums, eager to draw a drop of her delectable blood. She moaned as one fang descended into her tongue causing her blood to pool in his mouth. He was about to go to a place he could never come back from. He jerked back. She grabbed her tongue.

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