Monday, July 9, 2012

Future of Our Past by Kahlen Aymes: Special Prologue

Julia Abbot and Ryan Matthews have been inseparable best friends since the moment they met. Each of them fight an internal battle, unwilling to risk their incredible friendship, but unable to quell their deep longing for the other. On the verge of Ryan’s departure to Harvard Medical School and Julia’s for her new job on the opposite coast, they are forced to face the undeniable truth of their deeper feelings and find themselves enthralled in a passion like neither has ever known.

The lovers are faced with forced separation, great distances and others who try to sabotage their relationship as both of them work to build the shared future they both dream of. When their lives begin to finally gel, Julia is offered a promotion that will jettison her career to new heights. Ryan is left angry and bereft as it will only postpone their reunion yet again. In light of the sacrifices she has made for him, he can hardly deny her, and Julia is faced with the most difficult decision of her life. Will she choose the chance of a lifetime or the love of her life?

The Future of Our Past is the first book in The Remembrance Trilogy, a truly transcendent love story of a powerful and passionate connection, like we all dream of.

~The Remembrance Trilogy~
~ Prologue ~

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays my classes at Stanford University ran from 8 am until noon.   I liked the afternoons free and it helped during finals week because it spread the exams, one each day.
 I didn't have any classes with Ryan this semester, but we always met for lunch.  He had organic chem at two and we generally met in the student snack bar on Fridays.  Today my roommate, Ellie, asked to join so we were meeting in the cafeteria.  I hated that food; way too much starch.
I searched the crowd for the golden brown head I loved.  Yes, loved.  I'd admitted it to myself about the second time I'd laid eyes on him.  Ryan was my best friend, my calm in the storm, my rock.   We were pretty much inseparable and depended on each other unconditionally. There wasn't a day we hadn't seen each other since we met, other than the breaks when we each went to our families and after that first year, we spent those together, too.   He was gorgeous and brilliant and funny and sensitive.  We told each other everything, which was a blessing and a curse at times.
There were easily 600 students milling around the large room filled with long tables, but I didn't want to wait until I found Ryan or Ellie.  The din was deafening, and I longed for our usual booth in the snack bar.  Sometimes I took my books to study and he'd come back to get me after his last class.
Someone pushed into my shoulder as they made their way past, almost knocking me down and slamming me into the brick wall on my right.
"Hey!" I grunted as my shoulder exploded in pain.  "Watch it, will ya?"  I almost dropped my backpack as my left hand moved to my injured appendage.
He was large and oafish, his focus obviously on the food line.  He looked back but didn't say anything, just shot a look over his shoulder, but then stopped dead when he ran into another person.  This time he fell to the floor when he came in contact with the solid wall that was Ryan.   A scowl was firmly in place on his perfect face while he looked down on the larger man now sprawled in front of him on the floor.
"Watch where the fuck you're going, dickhead!  Say you're sorry."
"Fuck off.  You ran into me," the downed man muttered.
"I didn't mean to me, you stupid fuck.  Her," Ryan growled as he nodded in my direction.  "You slammed her into the Goddamn wall!  She could have been seriously hurt as you hauled your fat ass to the trough!"
I almost laughed out loud and bit my lip as I looked on.  Ryan stepped around the kid who scrambled to his feet at the same time.  The arm that came around my waist was gentle, concern etched on Ryan's face.  "Julia, are you okay?" His hand ran over my hurt arm lightly.
"Yeah.  It was an accident," I said softy, the fingers of my other hand curling into the fabric of the back of Ryan's navy blue button down.
"The hell it was." I thrilled at the hard tone in Ryan's voice and his rush to come to my aid.  It swelled my heart even though I knew he was just being a good friend.   "Say you're sorry.  Now," he commanded of the now flustered kid.
By now we'd drawn the glances of several people.
"Look, I'm really sorry."  He was flushed and embarrassed.  He was out of shape, and Ryan was tall and strong, and even though smaller in weight, he towered over the other man.
"Stop being such a clumsy dipshit.  Look at how little she is!" Ryan was still pissed, and I longed to put the last few minutes behind us.  My shoulder throbbed, but I was over it.
I tugged on the back of my best friend's shirt.  "Come on.  Let's find Ellie," I pleaded and Ryan finally turned and lifted my backpack off of my shoulder.
"Julia, are you sure you're okay?  Can you move your shoulder?"
I rolled my eyes and closed my fingers around his bare forearm.  His shirt sleeves were rolled up above the elbows and the soft covering of hair was like silk over the strong muscles.  My fingers weren't long enough to reach much more than half way around.  He hoisted my backpack up on his other shoulder next to his own.
 "I'm fine."
I noticed the eyes on us as we navigated our way through the rows of tables searching for Ellie; mostly female eyes.  Women envied me, even hated me.   I was used to it by now, but was still conscious of every glare.  Some of them pretended to be my friend just to get closer to Ryan.
They envied me, but I was jealous of the ones who knew what it was like to be held in his arms, to feel kisses from his perfect mouth, to make love with him.  We were close, but there were holes that couldn't be filled without violating our friendship, a friendship I wouldn’t risk.  I was so green, sometimes I couldn't stand it and worse, it was starting to become a constant ache.
We spotted Ellie on the far side, standing on one of the chairs waving her arms wildly.
"There she is," Ryan pointed out.
I laughed at her silliness.  She was more flamboyant and didn't give a shit what anyone thought.  Not that I tried to blend in, but I didn’t make a spectacle of myself.
"Took you long enough," Ellie grumbled as she plopped back down in her chair.
We each pulled out a chair and Ryan dumped both backpacks in the one to my left while I took the one between Ellie and him.  "I got sidelined for a minute, that's all, Ellie."  I wrinkled my nose at the bowl in front of her.  Cottage cheese, raw broccoli and sunflower seeds.  Ugh.
She stopped eating and looked at me.  "Why?"
"Some dumbass plowed her into a wall.  We had to have a little talk."
"Ryan knocked him down," I said flatly and started tracing imaginary circles on the table with my index finger.
"No, I didn't.  He wasn't watching where he was going.  I just didn't move out of the way.  Little bits of Newton's Laws are in there somewhere.   Body in motion, outside force, mass," his eyebrows rose in emphasis, "velocity, opposite and equal reaction.  That's me.  Outside force.  Maybe a little more than equal reaction in this case."
"You're such a science snot," I shot back.
He laughed.  "That's why you love me."  He moved a hand down the front of his shirt as he sat back in his chair, smirking.  "All this and brains, too."
"Yeah.  And your incredible humility is what closes the deal." My tone was deadpan and I stifled the urge to laugh but didn't quite get the job done.  His smile was brilliant, and it went all the way into his eyes, only making him more mesmerizing.  I soaked in every line of his face. 
Ellie glanced from one of us to the other, knowingly. "Aren't you guys eating?"
"Yep."  He got up and walked away leaving Ellie and me sitting at the table.
"What about you?" Ellie nudged me slightly.
"Ryan will bring me something."
"But, you didn't tell him what to get."
I shrugged.  "Whatever he picks will be fine."  
 "You guys are like Siamese twins.  We should go out tonight.  I want to go to The Mill.  A bunch of people were talking about it in my fashion merchandising class.  It sounds fun."
"Okay.  Sure." The Mill was a medium-sized college bar with a DJ and dancing.  It was always packed to the gills.
"Hey, girly."  I looked up to find Jason Milner hovering over us.  "Are you done with that assignment for Jelinek's class?"
It was an international marketing class in which we had to research culture from another country, write a paper on it and then in the second half of the semester we would write another to market a product pointing out the differences in process due to culture.
"Hmmph!" I scoffed.  "Yeah, right.  That isn't due for two weeks.  You?"
"Not yet.  I thought we could study together for it."
I bristled in my chair at his obvious advances.  "Uh...we have different countries, Jason, so that would be impossible."
"Yeah, but Julia..." Jason began.  He was good looking with dark hair and bright blue eyes.  A striking combination that most women were drawn to, but I was immune.  One, because when he opened his mouth it completely erased his charm and two, Ryan.
Ryan returned with a tray full of sandwiches, chips, fruit and cookies.  He set a bottle of green tea in front of me and looked pointedly at Jason.
"Excuse me, man, but you're occupying my space."
"Your space?"  Jason asked sarcastically.  "Your name's not on her, Matthews.  Besides we're talking academics."   I flushed at the implications but smiled at what happened next.
Ryan burst out laughing, over-exaggerating it by holding his stomach and wiping an imaginary tear from his eye.  
"Hahahaha!  That's the funniest thing I've heard all day, dude.  Seriously, that's a good one!" Ryan openly mocked and then glanced down at me to check if I really wanted to talk to Jason but I shook my head a fraction of an inch.  The look of trepidation in my eyes was all Ryan needed.  "But, your ass is still in my space."
Jason stood to go, but hesitated as Ryan sat down and started doling out food.  He held up some strawberries and looked at me.  I nodded and he set them down in front of me and then took one and popped it in his own mouth.  He picked up half of one of the sandwiches and traded with the other one, so we both had part of each.  None of it went unnoticed by the man now standing over us.
"Julia, I'll see you in class, I guess."
"Yep," I answered back.
 Jason moved to a table near us and sat with another guy.  I could still feel his eyes boring into my back as I began to eat the lunch that Ryan laid out in front of me.
"So? The Mill tonight?" Ellie asked again.
I nodded, picking up the sandwich.  "You up for it, Ryan?"
"Uh, can't tonight, but you should go have fun."
I waited for a reason, but he said nothing, instead concentrating on his lunch.  I noticed the occasional glance out of his peripheral vision at Jason who continued to look on with interest, while Ellie and I made the plans for the evening.
I had that sinking feeling which had become like ESP every time Ryan had a date.  My heart fell.
"Julia!" Ellie broke me out of my thoughts.  "So, we'll shop this afternoon and get something hot to wear for tonight."
I tried to lift the corners of my mouth in the start of a smile, but didn't quite make it and so contented myself with a nod.
"Ryan, is Aaron going out with you?  If so, we'll call Jen to see if she wants to come along."  Ellie was brilliant.  She knew I needed the answer even if I hadn’t told her how I really felt.
"Um, no.  I don't know what he's doing.  Maybe they'll both wanna come," he murmured softly.
The food in my mouth suddenly turned to cardboard and I put the remainder of the sandwich down on the plate and turned to him.  "Is it a secret or are you going to tell us what you're up to tonight?"  I asked, trying to lace my voice with a lightness that I didn't feel.
"I have a date with Samantha Cosen."  He appeared uncomfortable, shifting uneasily in his chair as his eyes met mine.  I remembered her.  She was pretty and he'd gone out with her a time or two before.  I figured that was a done deal because he hadn't pursued her further.  I couldn't help the way it hurt...just like it did every time he spent his time with someone else.
"Oh."  I picked up my drink and searched my brain for a way to bury the way my heart was pounding inside my chest.  My throat started to close, and I wanted to get out of there before my emotions got the better of me.  I pushed the food away and gathered up my backpack off the chair.
"Will I see you after class?  Should I meet you at the snack bar in the student union?"  Ryan's blue eyes questioned, his brows dropping over his eyes slightly.  He was puzzled by the sudden change in my demeanor, disappointment evident on his face.  
Join the club, asshole.
"Um, I don't think so.  I have to study awhile before Ellie and I shop."  I slung the bag over my shoulder.  "What time Ellie?"
"I'm done now.  Are you sure you have to study?  It's Friday, Julia."
I sighed in relief, grateful that she would exit the cafeteria with me.  "Yeah.  You're right.  I'll just need to drop off my stuff."
She smiled brightly and stood up.  "Me, too.  See you later, Ryan."  She started to put her dishes back on her tray and I took some leftovers off mine and stacked them alongside.
"I can take care of that, Julia.  Don't worry about it," Ryan murmured.
I somehow managed to smile at him.  "I got it.  Talk to you tomorrow."  I nudged his shoulder with my uninjured one because I couldn't help myself.  I hated it when we had any sort of distance between us and this was my cross to bear.  It wasn't his fault I was in love with him so I shouldn't punish him for it.
"Call you later?" he asked hopefully.
"Yeah.  If I don't answer, I'm out and didn't hear the phone but I'll call you back."
He nodded as Ellie and I turned to make our way to empty the tray and then out of cafeteria.


Ellie was disappointed, even pissed that I changed my mind.  I didn't feel up to going out, even though it was probably in my best interest.
My heart hurt and I didn't feel strong enough to put on a happy face.   Even for her.
I wandered aimlessly around the apartment after she left, wrapping my arms around myself and trying not to cry.  I didn't want to watch TV, I didn't want to study.  I tried to eat a sandwich, but it tasted like dust in my mouth and I ended up throwing three-quarters of it in the trash.   The clock on the cable box blurred in front of my eyes as I starred at it for what seemed like hours.  My throat tightened in protest and the huge hole in my chest expanded.
I closed my eyes and pressed my head back into the cushions, trying not to let the tears that threatened to choke me, spill over.  I gave it a good fight, swallowing the pain over and over until I couldn't take it anymore.  My lips started to tremble and the fat tears that were building in my eyes, fell in two heavy drops down my cheeks as a soft sob broke from my chest and erupted into the room.
I tumbled over on the couch and pulled my knees up, wrapping my arms around them, hoping that if I could keep the shaking sobs from becoming more pronounced, I could somehow manage to contain the misery I was feeling.  Epic fail.
My eyes squeezed shut, forcing the tears to push out even faster.  Why did it hurt so fucking bad?  I knew when the sun came up; he'd call and probably come over.  I'd see him and nothing would come of his date with this woman.  I knew it.  Yet every time, I was in literal hell.  It was getting worse as time wore on.  It was to the point I couldn't breathe and I was barely able to keep it to myself.
I wanted him to be with me.  I wanted him to kiss and touch and make love with me.  Jealousy burned with the desperation and despair that ate away at my insides.  Finally, I just gave in to the torrent of tears and cried my heart out.
Ryan, please don't make love to her or even fuck her.  Please, it kills me.  I'm the one who loves you. I'm the ONE.
The words replayed over and over inside my head as I silently begged the man I loved to see me for who I was.  My heart knew that no one would ever love him this much.  It wasn't possible.
Seconds, minutes or hours passed.  I wasn't sure how long I laid there sobbing in the darkness, but finally my tears ebbed, silently dripping from the corners of my eyes, leaving wet trails down the side of my face to pool into the poor pillow beneath my head.
My eyes were so tired.  At least the crying exhausted me so maybe I'd be able to sleep.  Sleep, my one true place of solace; if I was lucky enough not to dream...
 I pushed myself into a sitting position.  It was dark and the clock read just after eleven.  Not even midnight yet.  I stood and walked to the kitchen to find some candles and get some water.  My sore eyes couldn't take the full blown light, but I felt the need to draw.  
My secret saved me on nights like this.  Over the years, I’d drawn his image over and over again.  A world I created where he belonged only to me; my beautiful, perfect Ryan; gorgeous, yes, but brilliant and giving, funny and warm.  I needed him like I needed air to breathe. No matter how many times my head tried to deny it, the truth rocked me to the core.
I moved around the room lighting the candles and then to the drawing table.  I pulled out a piece of the expensive linen paper I saved for his portraits and my charcoal pencils.  I sat there for a moment, staring at the blank page, my fingers running lovingly along its starkness while the image I would put down formed in my mind.
When his features began to materialize on the page in front of me, calm finally settled.  I inhaled so deeply I thought my lungs would burst as my right hand drew the outline of his face, the strong jaw, the crooked smirk on those full lips that I loved.
Ryan was mine.  He'd always be mine.  My heart couldn't accept anything else.

It was a nice spring night and I was sitting across from a beautiful woman at a casual Italian restaurant near campus.  Maybe the moon was out and a soft breeze rustled the leaves of the trees that were situated around the patio where we were sitting.  There could have been a conversation going on and a waiter may have been by with an appetizer and fresh drinks.
My eyes skittered over the smooth expanse of creamy skin visible above the low cut neckline of the red blouse of my dinner companion, but I wasn't really seeing her.  I tried to shake myself back into reality and concentrate on her words.
"Ryan? Are you with me?"  My eyes met hers briefly and I forced the corners of my mouth to lift in a wry smile.  I'd met her in chemistry when Professor Jannis assigned lab partners.  I think it was sometime during the first semester of my sophomore year.  
Since then, I'd seen her at parties, had a couple more classes with her and we might have even screwed once; I couldn't remember.  I grimaced slightly at the thought.  She was a nice girl; intelligent, with a taut body and beautiful features.  Very beautiful, but the problem was; none of that mattered in the slightest.  She wasn't the woman I wanted to be spending this evening with...or any evening, for that matter.
I found myself longing for long, flowing chestnut locks instead of shoulder length blonde hair; warm green eyes and not icy blue ones.  Those deep green eyes saw right through me, let me be me and disparaged me whenever I doubted myself.  I tried to swallow, but it felt like something stuck in my throat.  Whatever it was; physically hurt.  My repeated attempts to push it down were pointless and I resisted the urge to claw at my neck with my hand.
What in the hell am I doing here?
My heart pounded in my chest, a slight sheen of perspiration broke out on the surface of my forehead, while my fingers itched to pull out my phone and check for a call.  I must have, because I found myself staring down at the blank screen and blinking several times to try to change the image.  My heart dropped into my stomach.
Well, what did you expect, asshole?  She knew I had a date tonight and Ellie planned a girls’ night out at one of the campus hang-outs.  She was bright with an effervescent personality that drew people to her.  She was fun and exciting and she thought about shit like I did.  She had opinions and they were solid.  Wherever she was, she'd be surrounded by people clamoring to get some of her time.  She wasn't just beautiful, she was incredible.  She was good.  People flocked to her.  Men didn't just want to fuck her.  They wanted to know her and that fact scared the shit out of me.  I was terrified that some nameless guy would sweep in and try to replace me in her life.
Julia.  Her name reverberated in my brain and shivered through my soul.
Who was I fucking kidding with this shit?  I ran a hand through my hair and sat back in the chair, praying that the evening would end so I could check on her.
What was she doing?  Who was she with?  Where was she?  When would she be home?  Would she be alone?  I couldn't shut off my mind and I was tormented with not knowing.  The tightness in my chest got worse, and I sucked in a deep breath in a desperate attempt to keep from suffocating.
  My thoughts were consumed with her more and more lately, but still trying to tell myself that she was my best friend.  I tried to shake it again, but nothing I did could change my feelings.  Nothing.  My eyes roamed the restaurant and longingly passed over the front entrance; the portal for my escape.
I knew that I needed to get my head on straight, but my heart wasn't listening.  My body wasn't listening.  I was fucking consumed, day and night.  When I was away from her, I couldn't wait to get back to her and when I was with her, I was dying to touch her.  And her mouth...Jesus, I wanted to taste that mouth.  I was starving to finally kiss her.
"Ryan!"  This time the voice was irritated and it was another mouth speaking.  I forced my blurry eyes to focus on her face.  It didn't matter that I wanted to bolt for the door or it felt like my fucking skin was crawling off of my body.  I was here and I owed it to Samantha to get through the evening.
"Uh, sorry, Sam.  What were you saying?" I flushed guiltily and tried to carry on the most basic conversation, hoping she would want the end of the evening as badly as I did.  She prattled on and on about mind-numbing bullshit that I couldn’t recall five minutes later.
Somehow I made it through the next two hours, but the last few minutes were the worst.  I'd peeled the girl off of me when I'd taken her home, telling her the food made me feel ill so I could make a hasty retreat.  She was disappointed, she wanted more, but it was impossible.  It couldn't happen.  I just couldn't do it anymore.  Something had happened to change me.  No longer could I act on instinct and pure animal need.  Someone had happened, and that someone was all I could think about.
I was such a fucking coward.
Tell the fucking truth, for God's sake!  Just admit it!  You're head-over-heels in love with your best friend.  Be a man.  Make her see you for more than her friend.
I'd known it for years, but somehow admitting it put the relationship we had at risk, teetering on the precipice of uncertainty.  And, I wasn't willing to risk the fall...I wasn't willing to risk the loss.  I'd been forcing myself to continue with business as usual, but was precariously close to slipping up on so many occasions; so often almost touching her face, pressing into her when we hugged goodbye or spilling my guts on the floor at her feet.  All of that was dangerous.  
We knew each other inside and out.  Julia and I didn't have secrets...except for how crazy in love with her I was and how desire and jealousy were eating me alive.  One thing I was sure of, I did not want to lose her.  I needed her.  She was everything and I...well, I was seriously screwed.
I sighed deeply as my fingers tightened around the steering wheel of my car.  I realized that I was sitting in front of the apartment building where Julia shared a place with Ellie, but without any memory of how in the hell I'd gotten there.  
I glanced up at the second story window of their living room and there was a low flickering light.  Candles.  I closed my eyes as my heart constricted.  I knew she had boyfriends but it never got any easier.  In my mind and heart, she belonged to me and the thought of anyone else touching her ate away at my insides like acid.  I'd never touched her like that, but still, it was killing me that anyone else would.  That she would allow it or want it was more than I could bear thinking about.
The clock on my dash said 11:32 pm.  Before I knew it, I was bounding up the stairs three at a time until I was standing, heart pounding, on the outside of the oak door that led to Julia's apartment.  I couldn't hear voices but there was music filtering softly through the walls.  My fists clenched at my sides in protest.
I'd seen that bastard, Jason Milner, ogling Julia in the cafeteria when she and Ellie were discussing their plans for the evening.  He'd known where they were going even though he wasn't part of the conversation.  
My hand hovered over the door and I dropped it.
"Fuck, Matthews.  Make a decision," I muttered under my breath and then let my fist connect with the wood three times before I could change my mind.
"Julia, it's me."  I waited and heard some rustling behind the door.  Please let her be alone.  "Julia?"
The chain rattled on the other side of the door as she struggled to open it, and finally the door flung open.  She was standing in front of me, her eyes wide and questioning, her hair messed up, without make-up.
"What are you doing here?  I thought you had plans…."  Confusion flitted across her features.
My eyes soaked in the site of her.  Her hair was in a knot on the top of her head and she was wearing pink and blue striped pajama pants and a white wife beater.  I tried to ignore the expanse of bare skin and her hip bones that were showing above the waistband of the pajamas.  Her top was skimpy and the obvious lack of bra was harder to avoid.  My body reacted and I shoved my hands into the front pockets of my jeans.
I didn't wait for an invitation and brushed by, my eyes scanning the apartment for any evidence of a man's presence.  There was a glass of wine sitting on her art table, but no other.  I smiled in relief and then turned back toward her.
"Uh, crash and burn."  I readily dismissed the subject and noticed the candle burning on the end table by the couch.  It was the only light.  The music was recognizable, a compilation she'd done of Sara Barelies, Sia and a few other softer artists.  "It's awfully cozy in here.  Am I interrupting something?"
Her eyes narrowed as she hesitated momentarily before shaking her head and closing the door.  Her head cocked and I noticed her hair was damp on one side of her face; her eyes were red-rimmed and swollen.  Her hand came out to rest briefly on the front of my shirt as she passed.  
The familiar electricity shot through me at her touch and the sweet coconut scent of her shampoo enveloped me.  I longed to take her hand and press it into the muscles on my abdomen, to feel her fingers spread out over my body.  I never wanted her to stop touching me but I was anxious about the obvious signs of her tears.  I grabbed her hand in mine and stared intently down into her face.
I was just drawing and trying to relax.  Are you hungry?  Do you want some wine?"
"Wine, sure.  Are you okay?  Have you been crying, Julia?"  I felt my skin flush with heat at what her tears might mean.  "Did you go out with Ellie?  Did Milner bother you at the bar?  I knew he'd show up there.  Did he...touch you?  Julia, tell me!”
She smiled but went about the business of pouring me a glass of wine.  
"No, Matthews.  That's sweet of you to worry, but relax.  I just....I didn't feel like going out tonight."  She lifted her right shoulder in a half-assed shrug.  "My uh...allergies are bothering me."  She handed me the glass and we both moved into the living room.  Something felt off.  She was fidgeting slightly which wasn't like her.
"Do you need me to run out and get you some medicine?  I wouldn’t mind."  Julia walked to the art table and began to put her things away, her back to me.
"I'm okay, Ryan, thank you.  It's early for you to be in for the evening.  What happened on your date?"  She was still putting her drawings into her black portfolio, setting it on the floor, up against the table leg, when she finished.  I couldn't see her expression but the tone in her voice was hesitant.
"Nothing."  I shrugged.  "Just...wasn't interested, I guess.  And..."  I sat down on the couch and kicked off my shoes.  I didn't have to ask.  If I wanted to crash here for the rest of the night, Julia would allow it.
"And, I saw how that bastard was after you earlier and I was worried he'd do something you didn't like. I wanted to make sure you were okay.  He practically licked your skin today and I know what kind of man he is.  Aaron told me he's a user.  I don't trust him and I don't want to see you get hurt."  That was the truth, but there was more.  I can't bear the thought of him touching you. He's filth.  "I don't want you near him, okay?  Just stay away from him.  There are plenty of other guys"
She finally sat at the other end of the couch and pulled her knees under her.  Sipping from her glass, she watched me over the rim, letting her eyebrows raise in question.
"Giving me orders now?" she asked.
"Yes." I smirked at her and she laughed out loud.  All was right with my world.  "Taking orders now?"
"In this only, because I agree he's a sleaze.  Just don't get used to it," she admonished with a teasing lilt.
I chuckled as I relaxed. It was so like Julia to put me at ease.  "I won't.  But stay the fuck away from him," I said again.
We both sobered as we looked into each other's eyes and I was aching.  She looked so soft and inviting, her mouth dropped open slightly and my breath rushed from my lungs.  I wanted to reach out and touch her, to sink into her softness, to kiss her.  I'd wanted it for years ...wanted it so badly I burned with it.  My eyes dropped to her mouth and I couldn't tear them away from those sweet lips.  She licked them once and then her top teeth appeared, biting down on the lower one.
"Why?"  She looked at me for a few seconds more, her eyes intent on mine and I wondered if she could feel the same pull that I did.  She threw down the challenge and waited, daring me to tell her the truth.  Knowing me like she did, I was certain she knew that I was in love with her.  How could she not know?  I gravitated to her like the tide to the moon, but like me, she never said a word about it.
"I don't want his hands on you."  The admission was ripped from inside my chest before I could stop it.  I tried to recover by sitting back a little and reaching for the wine glass again.  I cleared my throat.  "Uh, he's not good enough for you."
"Who is?" she asked softly.
I knew that if I didn't say something fast, I was going to give in to the need and while the thought thrilled me, I was concerned what the next day would bring.  "Exactly."
She looked down at her glass and nodded ever so slightly.  Did she understand how consumed I was, that I couldn't take anyone being with her, save me?  The skin on her cheeks infused with a rosy blush as the uncomfortable silence hung between us like a storm.  She was so fucking gorgeous, she took my breath away.
"Do you feel like watching a movie with me?"
"Of course.  HBO or DVD?"  she asked softly.
"It doesn't matter.  Anything."  I grabbed the remote from the coffee table as she settled in next to me.
"You choose."
We weren't touching, but I could feel her in the air around me and contentment settled over me like a blanket, the heat radiating between us.  My body relaxed next to hers and I could breathe easily for the first time all evening.   It was as I needed it to be.  She was right here.  With me and no one else.

Kahlen Aymes grew up in the Mid-Western United States and was educated at a private university. She is divorced with one daughter, has a B.S.B.A. degree in business/marketing and began writing as a way to network a business venture. Soon, writing turned into her passion and morphed all other career goals.  Her readers have told her they want to read angsty, passionate love stories that put them into the pages.  She does her best to deliver!  Her work was described by her publisher as "...a female fantasy - the intersection of perfect love, tragedy and raging intimacy."   

Nominated for numerous writing awards in the second largest derivative fiction community in the world, she has won several, including Best Author, Best Angst, Best Love Scene, Best Indie Fiction & Best Series.   Kahlen enjoys communicating with her readers far and near, and encourages them to contact her personally! 
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