Third time's the charm, right? This is my 3rd attempt to post this!
Thought I'd do something a little different this morning. I've been questioned about this storyline flowing from my fingertips that has even had me waking up in the morning, certain phrases and dialogue running through my brain. So here's a brief description of my cast of characters, and a rather lengthy excerpt. Enjoy:)
Angela Clayburn: Mid-thirties, reddish-blonde hair, green eyes. Co-owner of an artsy gift shop and talented jewelry designer. She's just received news that her HS ex-boyfriend as been released from prison. He served 15 years for breaking into her parents' home, stealing furniture and trying to climb into bed with her, all done while high on drugs. She's afraid of what will happen once he's back in town, and at the same time, she wonders if he's changed.
Steve Blumenthal: Six foot three, ex-HS basketball star, blonde crew-cut hair, blue eyes. Studied Culinary Arts while serving his time, and wants to prove he's turned his life around. He still has feelings for Angie, and wants to see her, to see if their connection is still strong.
Brad Morrison: Six foot five, dark brown hair and eyes, accountant. He's only been in town for 2 years, and has been Angie's boyfriend for less than one. He knows nothing of Angie's past, except knowing something has happened to make her unresponsive to the physical side of their relationship. He travels extensively with his job, and is currently in Estes Park, Colorado, where Fate has just thrown him a curve ball.
Emma Nichols: Twenty-six, five foot four in her cowboy boots, blonde hair and blue eyes. She's the manager of the Happy Trails Riding Stable, located on the Happy Trails ranch. She's burdened by her brother Ethan's drinking and gambling problem, and is concerned his habits are going to cause their family's woodworking business to fold. A good friend of the family has brought a stranger to town, and Emma resents his interference, seeing it as dissatisfaction in her abilities to handle the situation. She is also caught by her awakening feminine side, and doesn't know if what she's feeling is merely lust and gratitude, or the real thing. She certainly doesn't have the same burning desire for her cowboy/ranch hand who's just offered her his heart!
Robert Langly: Mid-thirties, he's in love with his young boss and is wise enought to know when to back off and let life lessons be learned the hard way.Excerpt:
“What am I going to do?” she asked quietly. “How am I going to explain this to Brad?”
“You’ve never told him? Angie…”
“We’ve only been together for a year. Steve’s last stunt was five years ago, and besides, Brad’s only lived here for nearly two. So of course he doesn’t know! And it’s something that’s never come up.” Tears spilled down her cheeks. “And I told Aaron not to tell him.” Her brother worked for the same company that had hired Brad, but in a different department. “And of course, Mom and Dad won’t say anything…” Her voice dropped to a whisper.
Her parents had never dealt well with the aftermath of the trial, and her mother had had to be hospitalized after each “Steve” headline appearance. Angie’s father had finally taken her to Florida, away from the public scrutiny. But Angie had felt abandoned, and with Aaron’s encouragement, channeled her energy into pursuing her dream of making jewelry. And once she and Diana had pooled their resources, everything had fallen into place. It was Diana who suggested showcasing local artisans, but Angie had been the one who made the initial contacts. And as word flew throughout the local art world, everyone benefited. Tourists dropped in to buy signed artwork or commission Angie for special jewelry pieces. Diana’s clients spanned the entire county, and every once in a while, a particular artist’s work would be bought or spotlighted in a newly decorated home.
Julie’s voice interrupted her reverie. “You need to tell him, sweetie. Brad’s a good man; he’ll stand behind you, you’ll see.”
Angie sighed, getting up to get another Splenda packet from the kitchen. Slowly, she sat down, stirring it into the now-lukewarm tea with a teaspoon.
“I don’t know,” she said softly. “I just don’t know.
Across town, another drama was playing out. Steve Blumenthal paced the length of his younger brother’s living room, chain-smoking and gesturing wildly.
“Damn it Josh! I’ve served my time; paid restitution; been clean for nearly fifteen fucking years; I’m trying to get on with my life…and what happens the minute I’m back in town? That scrawny-assed manager at the café downtown refuses to let me in his goddamned restaurant!” He paused to angrily light another cigarette. “If there’s one thing I learned in the slammer, it was how to be treated fairly. I ought to sue his ass for discrimination!”
“Maybe Angie was in there,” Josh suggested wearily. “Her shop’s down a few blocks…maybe he thought he was protecting her.”
Steve stopped in front of the window overlooking the swimming pool, the cigarette halfway to his mouth. Carefully, he sank into the nearest chair and ran his free hand through his blonde crew cut.
“I didn’t think of that,” he muttered. “You told me she’d opened her own business and was downtown. You’ve seen her; how’s she doing?”
Joshua winced. “Look, man. Don’t torture yourself. We need to figure out what you’re going to do next.”
“What I’m going to do,” Steve said firmly, crushing out the cigarette. “Is go see her, talk to her…God, she’s been on my mind for fifteen years! I want to know why the hell they charged me with attempted rape, for Christ’s sake! I loved her…and she loved me. So why the fucking rape charge?”
Josh groaned, covering his green eyes. As far as he was concerned, his older brother hadn’t changed. Every month for the entire time Steve had been incarcerated, he had insisted he had been falsely accused on the rape count.
“Steve, listen to me. I’ve told you; the lawyers told you; hell, even Angie herself admitted you were trying to rip off her clothes! Yeah, nothing happened,” Josh leaned forward when Steve opened his mouth. “That’s why it’s called attempted! Good Lord, get that through your fucking head! I’m tired of explaining this to you every goddamned time!” He stood up, green eyes blazing and breath coming in pants. “I said you could stay here. You’ve got your degree; the law says you’re a free man now. So get on with your life! Angie’s got a new man in her life, dude…she’s moved on! And so should you.” Josh held his little brother’s gaze for a moment, seeing a flicker of defeat, then more defiance. “Fuck it. I’m going back to work. When do you meet with your parole officer?”
“Tomorrow.” Steve lit another cigarette. “I won’t do anything more today, I promise. Go on back to work; I’ll fix dinner tonight. Thanks for picking me up and letting me stay.”
Josh looked at him, then shook his dark head and left the room. He thought about calling Angie, but decided against it. She’s probably already seen the papers, he reasoned. Hopefully, that pig-headed brother of mine will lay low for a while! He sighed, then realized he was driving toward Angie’s store, the opposite direction from his mechanic’s job at the Ford Dealership. He admitted defeat and found a parking spot. But the store was closed. Josh sighed again and went on to work.
Meanwhile, back at the apartment, Steve had no intention of just sitting around. He grabbed the phone book and looked up his ex-girlfriend’s phone number and address. He thought about calling, then decided he’d rather confront her face-to-face. He took note of the address; shit. He’d have to get transportation. And he couldn’t do that until he met with his parole officer. Steve slammed the yellow phone book shut and lit another cigarette, planning what he was going to say when he saw his lost love.
Snap! Brad’s digital camera clicked as the car snaked along Highway 36.
“I just can’t get over the scenery out here,” he enthused, deleting a few blurry shots. “That elk back there, just at the side of the road, was impressive!”
“And that was a small one,” the older man chuckled. Gavin had lived his entire life in Colorado, and it never ceased to amaze him how the tourists reacted to the wildlife. “Come back in June, and you’ll see the bighorn sheep.”
“They’re still up in the mountains. For some reason, mid-June they all come down to the lower elevations in the park, near the entrance. Can’t damn near get up to the Falls because everyone’s parked alongside the road.” Gavin slowed for another turn. “There’s a coyote. See him?”
Brad couldn’t locate the small animal.
“That’s okay. You’ll see a lot of them in the park.”
Some time later, they were passing Nicky’s Resort. “Best Prime Rib, hands down,” Gavin informed him. “We’ll go there tonight.” He drove on into Estes Park, and laughed when Brad gawked at the huge ark. “Noah’s Ark. It’s a Christian Bookstore.” He found a place to park beside a strip mall and beckoned to Brad to follow him. “I thought you might like to stretch your legs a bit, and get something to eat. I know I don’t have the cabin stocked yet.”
An hour later, they were strolling through the shops. Brad’s eyes sought out the woodworker’s store, and was surprised to see a young woman behind the counter. At the sound of the clanging bell above the door, her head snapped up from the ledger she was scanning.
“Did I leave the door open? I’m sorry…we’re closed,” she said brusquely.
“I’m sorry…I’m only going to be here until tomorrow,” he smiled. “I just wanted to have a look around, if that’s okay.” Without waiting for an answer, he entered and began to appraise the furniture against the wall.
“I can’t sell you anything,” the girl replied, sounding irritated. “I’m sorry you can’t stay in town longer, but I really should lock the door before anyone else wanders in.” She put down the ledger and moved to intercept him before he moved farther into the shop.
Brad changed course and headed toward the counter. He picked up the catalogue and flipped through it, noting the good quality depicted. “Can I take this with me?”
She tried to take it from him, but he resisted. Her blue eyes turned smoky. “I told you, we’re closed,” she said, her teeth clenched.
Brad cocked an eyebrow at her. Her long blonde hair was pulled back in a thick French braid, and the top of her head barely reached his shoulder. “Just let me take this with me, and I’ll order something when I get home,” he cajoled, turning on his charm.
Fire seemed to shoot from her eyes, but she restrained herself. “Fine,” she snapped. “Take the damn thing. I hope when you call, we’ll have it. I doubt we’ll be able to custom-make something, but you never know.” She ushered him toward the door.
“Tell me, are you as rude to all your customers, or just me?” Brad asked when he’d reached the door. His answer was the door slamming in his face and the sound of the door lock clicking into place. Shaking his head, he continued down the row of shops, buying souvenirs for Angie, his parents, and some friends.
Bob watched as a cloud of dust appeared at the entrance to the trail and relaxed. He’d been stunned when Emma furiously saddled Misty and galloped off without so much as a ‘see you’. He knew better than to follow her, though. After becoming lovers, she had ridden off her anger at her brother, and his presence on the trail had only fueled the rage.boiling up inside of her. Two days later, she had calmed down and welcomed him back in her bed, and asked him not to ever follow her again when she was that angry.
He finished rubbing down his own gelding and when Emma dismounted and led Misty into the barn, he tipped his head at her, but said nothing. Emma mechanically removed the saddle and went about her own rubdown chores. Suddenly, she threw down the currycomb and walked over to him, throwing her arms around his waist and nearly upsetting his footing.
He caught his balance and automatically held her tightly, feeling her stiff muscles begin to soften with his gentle circles. A sob caught him off guard.
“Em?” He asked in surprise. He tipped her chin up and saw the tears pooling in her baby blue eyes. “What’s wrong?”
“Everything,” she sighed. “Just hold me.”
He enjoyed her slim form against his hard body; that was the easy part. But what was tearing him up was the racking sobs that shook her body. He shifted his weight, his growing erection getting uncomfortable. God…of all the times…she needed comforting, not proof of his desire! But the contact was unavoidable, and hell, she looked beautiful when she was angry. He bent down to kiss her head and she chose that moment to lift hers. His lips, full and strong, met her soft ones, salted with tears. They clung to one another, each taking the silent comfort offered. Tongues softly entwined, each promising more to come.
Dragging his mouth away reluctantly, Bob gathered her close. “God, Emma!” he whispered fiercely. “I wish I didn’t have another group coming!”
“I know,” she whispered back. “And I’m sorry for running off like that.” She pulled away with a gentle peck at his lips and stepped back, scrubbing at her eyes and cheeks. “I went in to town and ran into Gavin. I told him about Ethan, and he threw me a curve ball.” She picked up the currycomb she’d thrown and resumed her grooming of her horse, unlooping the reins and leading her into the stall.
“What curve ball? And Gavin’s here?” He checked his watch. Twenty minutes until the last batch of riders were due to reappear.
Emma closed the gate to Misty’s stall and gave her a carrot. “He brought some finance wizard who’s always wanted to see the park,” she explained, taking her saddle and putting it on the shelf. She walked over and helped him finish grooming Jester. “And Gavin told him about Ethan and his lousy bookkeeping, so now I have to go meet them for supper and let this…this stranger decipher my idiotic brother’s spending habits!” She stopped to take a breath and raked a hand through her hair, sending several strands flying as they sprang free of the braid. “Why can’t that man just let me handle it?”
Bob led Jester into the stall and slid the gate shut before gathering Emma in his arms again. “He knows you’re overburdened as it is,” he reminded her. “He’s only trying to help…”
“He’s got a funny way of showing it,” she fumed. “He didn’t even ask me! Just said, ‘oh, meet whatever-his-name-is; he’s the answer to all our family problems’…well, I handled them last time, didn’t I? Why does he think I’m incapable? Is it because he still sees me as a twelve-year-old? I’ll show him I’m grown up! I’ll…”
Bob kissed her to silence her and got his lip bitten in the process. “Ow,” he grimaced. “Don’t try to shut me up that way,” she said hotly. “Next time I won’t stop with your lip!” She stalked away, halting at the door. “Here comes the last batch. I think they’re early. I’m going to shower.”