Last week we announced that Carlie Sexton’s Fallen For You is our Romance of the Week and the sponsor of thousands of great bargains in the Romance category: over 200 free titles, over 600 quality 99-centers, and thousands more that you can read for free through the Kindle Lending Library if you have Amazon Prime!
Now we’re back to offer our weekly free Romance excerpt, and if you aren’t among those who have downloaded Fallen For You, you’re in for a real treat:
4.3 stars – 40 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
If you believe your life is the sum total of your choices, what do you do when things just don’t add up? You are about to find out. It won’t be pretty. It won’t be dull. And surely, it won’t be safe. In fact, making just one wrong choice could put evil at your bedside watching you sleep.
And so it is with Kate Simmons, a young woman who, by choosing to regain her life, actually puts it at risk by the very choices she makes. After unimaginable heartbreak stops her world on a dime, Kate falls into a three-year blackness of self blame that brings her to the edge of life, itself. As time finally brings light back through tiny cracks of renewed desire, Kate moves out of the prison she made for herself in her mother’s home to find a new reality, rooming with her best girlfriend, Charlie.
Yet, to be free is to be vulnerable, and Kate’s choices more than ever mark a splattered line between being happy and being dead.
Care to choose? Here’s your menu:
A strangely alluring building manager so possessed with wanting you for his own, he’ll bury more than the fact he has a girlfriend; a buff college student for whom you are clearly hot, as are all the other girls on campus; a pushy lawyer who is as handsome as he is intoxicated with conquest, who doesn’t take no for an answer, who gets what he wants — always.
Sometimes, it’s whom you choose. Sometimes, it’s who chooses you. If you’re Kate, it’s both, and it puts you on a perilous road where good looks and humor are the thin masks of jealous delusion and utter violence.
You’re in trouble when the sum total of your choices is written in blood red.
“Fallen for You” is Book 1 of this New Adult Romance series. The next book, “Taken by You” is available now. Book 3 “:Given to You” will be released on 9/24/13.
*Books must be read in order.
Fallen for You
Taken by You
Given to You
This story is a New Adult Romance that will leave you wanting more.
*This book contains adult situations and explicit content. 17+*
* * *
* * *
And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free romance excerpt:
Fallen for You
A smile the size of the Grand Canyon stretched across Roger’s handsome face as he hung up the phone, causing his dark brown eyes to crinkle. The voice on the other end of the line piqued his interest unlike he’d ever experienced before. If only he could have reached through the line and touched her. What did Kate look like? He would know soon enough as Kate and her roommate Charlie were coming to see the apartment he had for rent next door. Hearing her voice had somehow made him forget that he had a girlfriend. How could the sound of a voice do that?
He had managed Rancho Verde Apartments for several years and always judged potential rental candidates with his gut feelings. His easy conversation with Kate on the phone had been enlightening. She was well-spoken and classy, never interrupting him a single time that he had spoken. Now all he had to do was see her in the flesh. Did her face and body match her sweet, sultry voice?
But who was this Charlie? Was he her brother, boyfriend, a friend? Roger would walk on hot coals right now to find out the answer. He wasn’t good at being patient and he didn’t like surprises. Hopefully, Charlie was a gay friend or her brother. He had honed his gaydar during the eight years he served in the Army.
Right before Kate was due to arrive, he rinsed his mouth with mouth wash and checked himself in the mirror. Not too bad for thirty-eight. He had been blessed with a baby face and no one had ever guessed his age. Women swore he looked ten years younger.
As he wanted to make a good first impression with Kate, he had chosen to wear Calvin Klein jeans with a yellow polo shirt – he had been told that the color brought out the olive in his skin, and he knew that it displayed his broad shoulders.
The sound of the doorbell made his heart race a little faster, and when he pulled the door open and was faced with two goddess-like creatures, he thought: Wow. Someone up there must really like me. Both women exceeded his wildest expectations.
“Hi, I’m Kate Simmons and this is Charlie Andrews,” she said with her hand outstretched.
Roger took her soft delicate hand. He didn’t want to let go of it. He wanted to kiss and caress it, but he didn’t dare.
“It’s nice to meet you. I’m Roger Wilkins, the apartment manager,” he said smoothly. He shook Charlie’s hand as well.
Kate was a stunning woman. Roger couldn’t help but notice her full, beautifully shaped breasts and tiny waistline. She had curves in all the right places and her long, wavy brown hair with blonde highlights cascaded down toward her breasts. He could lose himself for days in those big brown eyes of hers. When she flashed her smile at him, he was certain that she turned heads wherever she went.
The sound of her voice had captivated him and now seeing her, he wanted to know her heart, mind, body and soul. He didn’t believe in love at first sight, but he definitely believed in lust at first sight.
Charlie, to his relief, turned out to be a woman. But not just any ordinary woman. She too made his mouth water. She was petite with long, straight black hair. Her skin made him think of a porcelain doll. It was so smooth. Her high cheekbones would have given any model a run for her money. He was going to do everything in his power to make sure that they rented the apartment right next door to his. His search for the perfect woman might just be over thanks to a fortuitous vacancy.
“Let me show you the apartment. It’s right across the way,” he said, pointing to the door.
Kate and Charlie turned and strolled to the door across from Roger. As he opened the door he said, “I think you will really like this apartment. It is west facing so it stays cooler than the apartments across the way. The kitchen is a good size and you can fit a small table and chairs out on the balcony. I’ll let you look around. Come on back to my apartment when you are done.”
“Thank you so much,” Kate said smiling. “We have been looking forward to seeing this apartment, it sounded terrific in the ad.”
“We’ll see you soon,” said Charlie. Leaving his door ajar, Roger returned to his apartment. As he was six-feet tall, muscular with dark hair and eyes, he felt confident that Kate and Charlie would find him attractive. It was rare that any women turned him down, especially since he had worked at honing his listening skills. Women naturally confided in him, which often provided the quick route to the bedroom: his desired destination.
As Kate walked around the apartment, it had a cheerful atmosphere, or was it just the fact that she was moving out of her mother’s house that lifted her spirits? Their relationship had become strained since she was no longer a little girl that her mother could control.
The apartment was on the second floor, so it would be safer than the downstairs apartment that she and Charlie had walked through earlier in the day. With the apartment building manager living right next door, any problems that arose would be handled quickly. Roger seemed very approachable and friendly. The vaulted ceilings and balcony added a charming essence that she was looking for. Stepping out onto the balcony, she noticed the quaint courtyard with a grassy area, magnolia trees, and vibrant flowers that seemed to welcome her. It was also fragrant, with the scent of jasmine and gardenia wafting up to tickle her nose. Drinking coffee out here in the mornings and sipping wine in the evenings would recharge her batteries when low. The two bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms would work out perfectly for her and Charlie. She liked that they each had a bathroom inside their prospective bedrooms and as the apartment had two master suites, they could both have a spacious area to retreat to when they needed some privacy.
Charlie, short for Charlene, liked the apartment too and pointed out that it had washer-dryer hook-ups, a dishwasher, and plenty of cabinets. She was very practical about these things. It was close to San Diego State University, where Kate would be attending college, starting her junior year. Charlie’s job in the HR department of a telecommunications company was only fifteen minutes away, so this seemed the ideal apartment for both women.
“Charlie,” Kate called out, “what do you think of this place?”
Charlie emerged from one of the bedrooms. “I love it. I think that it will work out great.”
“Are you ready to give Roger a deposit and sign the lease?”
“I most definitely am,” Charlie said, nodding her head.
“I can’t believe that we can rent this place for only eleven-hundred a month. It’s a steal,” Kate replied. She hugged Charlie. “It’s going to be great for us to be out on our own together.”
Creating a sanctuary for herself and Charlie was going to be so much fun. She had been walking around on eggshells for long enough with her family, and stepping into this beautiful space, which she couldn’t wait to decorate, made her realize how much she needed a place to call her own. It had great potential for creating the “ah” feeling that she so needed when she walked through the door. Since they each lived with their parents, they had flexibility to move in right away. They walked out of the apartment to find Roger’s door open.
“So, what did you think of the place?” he asked with raised eyebrows.
“We both really like it,” Kate answered with a smile that reached her eyes. “We want to rent it.”
“Great. I thought you would like it. I have your lease ready here if you want to sign today,” he said as he led them into his dining area. “I just need your first month’s rent and deposit.” They each wrote a check for $1,100.00 and handed them to him. Roger went over the lease and had them initial and sign the highlighted areas. Judging by his wide smile Roger seemed pleased at their decision to rent the apartment.
As Kate was signing the lease she asked, “When is the earliest that we can move in?”
“You can move in tomorrow if you like,” he said. “The apartment is ready.”
“Excellent. That would actually work out quite well for us,” she said.
“Good,” Roger replied, standing up. “How about I take you down to the garage then to show you where you can park your cars and then I’ll give you your keys?”
As they followed him downstairs, he informed them that most of the tenants had lived there for a long time and were very quiet. They assured him that they liked the quiet and wanted to respect their neighbor’s privacy. They arrived at the parking spaces which were directly below the apartment, right next to Roger’s spaces.
“Well, if you don’t have any more questions, then I will see you when you move in. The place is yours,” he said, handing each woman her own key.
Roger was looking for the perfect woman to complete his life. He had a placeholder for right now, who was pretty and sweet. She met his needs, but she didn’t make his teeth sweat. He wanted the kind of woman who rocked his world and made other guys jealous. Maybe then he could overcome his past and not be haunted anymore. He hadn’t exactly been given a charmed life, but he was working on changing it.
Roger couldn’t have been more satisfied that Kate and Charlie were moving in. As he sat on the sofa in his apartment, his pulse quickened. Both girls were so attractive and incredibly desirable. Kate seemed reserved but friendly. It was obvious that she had no clue just how beautiful she was, making her that much more sexy. Charlie, on the other hand, carried herself like she knew she was gorgeous. She seemed a little more guarded.
They had signed a year’s lease so he would have plenty of time to get to know Kate. He started planning his strategy, as he knew Kate would be the perfect woman for him. He’d keep his door open so that he could figure out her comings and goings. Invitations for wine at the end of the day might loosen her up a little, breaking down her defenses. Once he’d worn her down, he would break things off with Rose to garner Kate’s sympathies. Being next door was very convenient indeed. All he had to do was walk across the landing and he could see her any time he wanted. She didn’t even have to be awake. As the manager of the complex, he had a key to everyone’s apartment. He legally wasn’t supposed to go into someone’s apartment without their consent, but he wasn’t one to get caught up on legalities. It wouldn’t be the first time he watched a sleeping beauty. He would have her figured out in no time. Oh, how the plans swirled around in his mind. Despite the fact that she was a good woman and he appreciated having her in his life, he didn’t see Rose as long-term relationship material. If he had, perhaps meeting Kate would not have cast her aside in his mind so quickly and definitively.
Moving day had arrived and Charlie’s Dad and boyfriend were the official movers.
Roger’s door was open when Kate and Charlie arrived at the apartment. He made sure to greet them as they carried boxes up the stairs. He was all smiles until he saw Tom and Mitch show up. Then his face turned a little more serious. Charlie introduced her dad and Mitch to Roger and the men shook hands.
Their moving went on without a hitch. When the truck was completely empty Tom headed home and Mitch stayed to help with the unpacking. The new furniture arrived as Kate and Charlie were organizing their bedrooms and Mitch was putting things away in the kitchen. He was a whiz at organizing and made sure to put all of the kitchen essentials in the most convenient cabinets. Kate directed the delivery men as they brought in the sofas. She had bought some decorative throw pillows to accentuate them, which she got out, fluffed, and placed on the sofas. They were a beautiful tapestry with a muted floral pattern trimmed in hunter green. They gave the sofas the comfy feel that she longed to create in her home. Now all they needed to make the living room homey was pictures, candles, and some knick-knacks.
As Kate and Charlie sat on the sofa, they simultaneously said, “I’m starved.” Mitch pulled out his cell phone and within minutes, two large pizzas were ordered. After inhaling a couple of slices of pizza and a couple of beers, Kate decided she needed a good soak in the tub. Before she could excuse herself, there was a knock at the door.
“I wonder who that could be?” Kate asked as she got up to answer it. “Hi Roger.”
“Kate, I’d thought I would bring over a bottle of wine to welcome you and Charlie to the building.”
“That is so thoughtful of you. Please come in,” Kate said. Roger handed her the bottle of wine as he crossed the threshold to enter the apartment.
“I already opened it in case you hadn’t unpacked the kitchen yet,” Roger explained.
“Mitch was such a huge help and he unpacked all of the kitchen boxes. Please have a seat and I’ll get the glasses. Mitch, Charlie, do you each want a glass of wine?’
“Yeah, that sounds good,” Charlie said while Mitch nodded.
Roger sat on the love seat while Kate went into the kitchen and poured the wine.
“So tell me Roger, have you managed the building for very long?” Mitch asked.
“Just for the last few years,” Roger said.
“Cool. What did you do before that?” Mitch continued.
“I was in the Army for many years. Got out right before the towers were hit.”
Mitch shook his head. “That was a crazy time.”
“Yeah, it sure was,” Roger said.
Kate returned with two glasses, handing them to Mitch and Charlie. She went back to retrieve the glasses she poured for Roger and herself, then joined him on the love seat.
“Thanks for serving our country Roger.” Charlie said. “What did you do in the Army?”
“I worked in the Criminal Investigation Division for most of my time.”
“That sounds intense,” Kate said. “So you helped to solve crimes?”
“Mostly domestic disputes. I took down the information from the wife or girlfriend who had been abused and filed a report.” Roger took a sip of wine.
“Were there a lot of domestic problems in the Army?” Kate asked.
“Unfortunately yes. People who have violence in their relationships rarely break free of it. Most women recanted their stories the next day and forgave the guy until the next time.”
“That’s too bad,” Charlie said.
“When I got out of the Army I applied to the police academy, but due to budget cutbacks at the time it didn’t work out, so I started my own business and began managing apartments,” Roger said.
Kate yawned and let out a sigh. “Roger, thank you for bringing the wine and visiting us, but I’m exhausted. “I’m going to call it a day,” she said with a smile.
Roger stood up. “No worries. Get some rest and I’ll see you tomorrow.” He began to make his way toward the door. Kate followed him and they all said goodnight.
“Thanks for all of your help today, Mitch. You made everything so easy. You did the biggest part by unpacking the kitchen.”
“Glad to do it. You know how I love to organize. Growing up in a sloppy family made me rebel. I have to have everything in its place.”
“Well, you made our lives much easier. I’ll see you tomorrow, Charlie.” She blew a kiss to her new roommate. She wanted to make sure to give them their alone time.
Kate entered her room and found the box labeled “bathroom.” Rummaging through it she found her razor, shave cream, body wash, and bath salts. Just enough salts were left for one bath. Soaking in the tub was undoubtedly one of her favorite pastimes.
When she started running the water and poured in the salts, the smell of Jasmine filled the air, immediately relaxing her. After adjusting the water temperature, she swished her hands through the water to spread the salts. The water felt silky smooth. She normally read a book in the tub, but had forgotten to get one before getting in. Now she had only her thoughts to keep her company.
Her mind wandered to Mitch and Charlie and how happy they were together. She had left them cuddling on the sofa, wrapped in each other’s arms. She was glad that her best friend had such a wonderful man in her life who loved her so much. He was six-foot-four, very muscular, drop-dead gorgeous, and was so in tune with Charlie’s needs. He was thoughtful and considerate, a real catch, in her opinion. She expected that one day soon she would be standing up at their wedding. Kate once had the same thing, but that seemed like a million years ago now. She sighed heavily. Seeing them together made her want what they had; someone to love who loved her back, someone who accepted her unconditionally. But after what had happened, she didn’t think she deserved a second chance at love. She rubbed her hand over her face and then covered her mouth. After all, her dad had abandoned her. The only guy she had ever loved was gone. Maybe she was destined to be alone. Working through those feelings in therapy for the past two years had been challenging.
She shifted to move the water around and she put her feet on the wall above the faucet to soak more of her back. It was a big step she had taken moving out of her mother’s house, and she felt a real sense of accomplishment. She no longer had to tip-toe around her mom or pretend everything was okay—when it definitely wasn’t. She was so thankful that she could be real with Charlie and not have to hide behind a mask with her. Her therapist, Dr. Cox, was the same but as she paid him to listen to her; it was different, he had no choice. Charlie had a choice and had decided that she was worth being friends with even after what had happened. Her throat became thick and she could feel the tears welling up.
How was she going to get over her past? Like a dark shadow, it followed her no matter where she went or what she did. She couldn’t get away from what she had done. Dr. Cox had told her that the past had shaped her life, but it didn’t have to control her life. She knew in her head that he was right, but it was transferring that information to her heart that was so difficult. Dr. Cox, a gifted therapist, was gently urging her to move forward. This was her first step in a long process – moving out, returning to college, and allowing herself to be open when she had been closed off for so long. All she could do was try. It wasn’t going to be easy, but she knew it was right thing to do.
She suddenly realized that with the paper-thin walls and the fact she could hear Mitch and Charlie’s voices, that there was a downside to this new arrangement. She heard the water come on in Charlie’s shower. Mitch and Charlie’s muffled voices caused her mouth to drop open. They were going to conserve water by showering together. How resourceful!
As she pulled the plug to let the water out, she realized that she hadn’t even washed herself, so quickly got the body wash and began rubbing some all over, splashing water to rinse off. She finished just as the last of the water drained. As she stood up and began toweling dry, she could hear Charlie’s unbridled praises and her completely satisfied cries of “Yes, Mitch!” over and over. From what she could tell, Mitch was a wizard in the sex department. Hearing them making love awakened her own desire. Her lips parted and she thought about having a man to satisfy her. Charlie was having unadulterated, hot, steamy sex. As she went into her bedroom, she imagined being with someone, screaming out his name, feeling the world fall away like Charlie was experiencing right now. She put her hand on her throat and let it slide down to her chest. Feeling a little light-headed she wasn’t sure if it was the steam from the tub or the steam from the adjacent bathroom.
She was too embarrassed to tell Charlie that she could overhear them making love, so she opened a box labeled music and took out her CD player. This was the perfect solution to muffle the erotic sounds of Charlie and Mitch’s passion. Finding her favorite Chris Isaak CD, she put it in the player, and hit play. His songs about unrequited love were soothing. Her loneliness was somehow alleviated whenever she listened to him croon about his broken heart.
Kate had spent the first week in her new apartment unpacking and organizing, and working her full-time job. She had picked up a few pictures for the living room and a beautiful vase for the dining room table at Ross. She gazed up toward the ceiling and allowed herself a small smile, basking in the comfort of her new home, and thankful that living on pins and needles was no longer required.
She had been fortunate that her boss was going to let her cut back to four days a week so she would have more time for school. She had signed up for two morning classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and three classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays were her days off from work, so she ended up working the weekends. Not ideal for a social life, but finishing college was more important than that for now.
She had been working in retail since she was fifteen. Now, she was employed with Nordstrom, which was the best company that she had worked for. Working in the children’s department for the last four years, which was such a fun place to work, she loved her co-workers. They were a tight-knit group. The customers were mostly great too. It wasn’t like being in the ladies department, constantly dealing with figure flaws and women’s insecurities about their bodies. In general, babies and children were pretty easy to fit into clothes. It had been comforting to have her work routine and be surrounded by people that she knew genuinely cared about her, especially through her difficult time.
The first week in the new apartment was very relaxing. She ran into Roger three or four times, but it was always when she was in a hurry to get to work or run errands. He had invited her in for coffee twice and another time a glass of wine, but she had declined since she was headed out the door. She made a mental note to find the time to accept his invitation. She didn’t want to hurt his feelings. He seemed to understand and remained persistent.
It was Monday, the first day of the fall semester and the alarm clock went off early. Kate got up extra early on purpose to give herself some reflection time before embarking upon her new adventure. After brewing some coffee, she went out to the balcony to enjoy a few moments to herself. Charlie wasn’t up yet. It was a glorious morning with the sun peeking through the trees in the courtyard. The grass was damp with dew that glistened in the morning sunlight. She noticed a mama bird feeding her young. The day somehow felt fresh with new possibilities. She almost felt like she was floating. Could that be hope filling her heart for the first time in ages?
Kate leaned against the railing of the balcony. Time had a way of going on whether she wanted it to or not. Because of the tragedy, she had dropped out the summer after her sophomore year. Shuddering to think about that time in her life, which now, strangely had become her past, she knew that it was right to be focusing on her future; creating a new life for herself her top priority. Her past had ensnared her for far too long. But who is to say how long someone needs before they are ready to move on? She allowed herself to reflect only for a moment on the heartbreaking event that took place almost three years ago and had completely overshadowed her life. It would have been great if life came equipped with a rewind button. Her eyes stung as they filled with tears. She was almost to a place where she didn’t blame herself anymore. Almost.
She needed to get ready for the first day of the rest of her life. Feeling optimistic she was going to have to open herself up to new ideas and opportunities. A nervous pit in her stomach, but she felt giddy at the same time. She took another moment to embrace whatever the future held and remember what Dr. Cox had said about leaving the past in the past.
She went back inside with her empty coffee mug and set it in the sink. It was time to start getting ready. After rinsing her cup in the sink, she showered, ate her breakfast, and dressed, in what she considered the right outfit for the first day of school. Not having to worry about work, she went with casual and was ready to go after a subtle application of makeup. As she crossed paths with Charlie, she said, “I’m heading out early today, Charlie.”
“Okay. Have a great day. I know that everything is going to be just awesome.”
“Thanks. I’ll see you tonight when you get home,” Kate said as she turned the doorknob.
“See you then.”
She saw that Roger’s door was open. He came to the threshold to talk to her, all smiles as usual.
“Hey, Kate! Would you like to come in for a cup of coffee? I’m currently brewing a fresh pot,” he asked enthusiastically.
“I would love to, but it’s the first day of school and I want to get to class early to get a good seat. Plus, I heard that parking at SDSU is a nightmare. Can I take a rain check?”
“Sure. Some other time,” he said, sounding more than a little deflated.
“How about after I’m done with my classes? My second class ends about ten. I should be home by ten-thirty.”
“That would be great. I’ll be waiting. Do you like anything special in your coffee?”
“Well, I’m a fan of hazelnut, but I don’t want you to go to any trouble. I am a coffee fiend so really anything will be great,” she said.
“Well, it’s a date then,” he said, a glimmer in his eyes. “See you later.”
“See you then, Roger.”
A pit grew in her stomach. Had she just accepted an actual date with Roger or was he just using that word as a figure of speech? Sure, he was good looking and she did find him attractive. He seemed like a nice guy, always inviting her over. He definitely wanted to get to know her better. But what were his intentions? Dating him was probably a bad idea. If things didn’t work out, she would still have to see him on a regular basis. She was going to have to make sure he realized that nothing was going to happen between them. Then again, what if they hit it off and it worked out? Too bad life didn’t come with a crystal ball.
Kate made it to campus with forty minutes to spare. The parking garage was a nightmare. She hadn’t found a space until she rounded the fifth floor of the structure. Wow, how many people attend SDSU? The extra time to find parking and walk to class turned out to be critical to keep her from having an anxiety attack. The campus was larger than she remembered and she needed the additional time just to find her first class.
The campus was buzzing with the excitement of returning students. One thing was for certain, electricity filled the air. Everything seemed bright and new. She could feel in her bones that something exciting was coming her way. She felt ready.
When Kate walked into her first class, she immediately noticed the beautiful guy sitting near the window. He was difficult to miss. Tall, muscular and definitely swoon-worthy. Maybe he could be a new opportunity? Her mind flashed to the sounds of Charlie and Mitch in the shower. This guy would definitely fit the bill for chasing away her loneliness. He would unquestionably scare Roger off too.
With his dazzling emerald green eyes, he caught her looking at him and he flashed her his panty-bursting smile. Kate smiled back, but looked away quickly. The intensity of his eyes was more than she could handle. A warm sensation flooded her body as she blushed. How could one smile make her feel so flushed?
Many other students entered the classroom. All of the girls were in a whirr. Several were talking softly about Mr. Gorgeous by the window. Kate chuckled as she heard some of the comments about him. Apparently, she wasn’t the only one he had squirming in her seat.
As her professor took roll, she paid attention to the names so that she would know the name of the best looking guy in class. Mark Baxter. His movie-star looks attracted the attention of every female within a hundred feet. During class, he was at ease discussing ethics with George, their professor. His confidence was so sexy. Oh dear, looks like I’m in trouble!
George had asked the class to call him by his first name since he was Greek and his last name had at least five syllables—something that most of the students fumbled with when they tried to pronounce it. It was a mouthful, to say the very least. George was very entertaining and easy to listen to. Time flew by. When class ended, Mark was immediately surrounded by co-eds. It seemed that he was a ladies man. He worked the room like a politician running for re-election. What a turn-off. Kate discarded the idea of dating him. The last thing she needed was to be involved with a womanizer. At least she had found a man attractive and felt desire well up deep within her. It had been a long time since anyone had caught her eye. Maybe she really was ready to be with someone again. She hadn’t had this kind of reaction to a guy since — she wouldn’t let herself go there. That was in the past. Time to leave it there, where it belonged.
Kate did everything in her power to ignore Mark as she walked to her political science class. However, he was there as well. He had noticed her and seemed to want her attention. When he smiled at her, she gave a brief smile back and then turned her head. She wasn’t about to become part of his harem. Her brave thoughts earlier of being open had quickly dissipated. Fear of intimacy had taken over her body. Being hurt again was something that she couldn’t wrap her mind around. She had loved so deeply and completely her first time and then it was ripped away from her abruptly. Giving her attention to Mark would just be a complication that she wasn’t sure she could handle. The rapid beating of her heart seemed to create a warning sign that flashed in her head, making her realize that she wasn’t ready to open herself up to a man. Especially not this man who seemed so sure that he could have anyone he wanted whenever he wanted. When class ended, she hurried out, preventing “Mr. Gorgeous” from approaching her. It wasn’t too hard, and besides, looking around the room, there were other guys that could provide acceptable eye-candy.
As Kate approached the stairs to her apartment, she could smell the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Roger’s door was open and he was waiting for her. He stood in the doorway when he heard her approaching.
“How was your first day of school?” he asked cheerfully.
Did he really care, or did he know that women wanted to be heard and loved to talk? That was going to be difficult to discern.
“It was great to get started again. I love being in the academic environment. Both of my professors were very engaging. One was a downright comedian. I think it’s going to be an amazing year,” she replied as he ushered her into his apartment.
“I have the coffee ready. I’ll pour you a cup. I set up the sugar and hazelnut creamer on the coffee table. Let me take your purse and you can make yourself at home.”
“Thanks, Roger. Did you already have the hazelnut creamer?” she asked warmly.
“Oh, yeah. I love hazelnut. It’s my favorite coffee flavor.”
“Ahhh. Something we have in common,” she said with a smile. “I’m not going to be able to stay long. I need to start outlining chapters for my classes. I have a full schedule this semester.”
Roger didn’t seem to care as he stared at her mouth. “No problem. I understand that you need to study. I’m just glad we could finally do this,” he said handing her the steaming cup. She sat down on the sectional, added sugar and creamer, and took a sip. A soft moan escaped from her throat.
“Glad you like it. I tend to make strong coffee.”
His apartment was laid out just like hers. He had a black sectional that took up most of the living room. The motif leaned toward the Spanish influence. There was a picture of a matador on one wall. His coffee table was dark wood with a glass top. It was a total bachelor pad complete with a big screen and surround-sound speaker system. A lava lamp completed the look.
He seemed interested in finding out everything he could about her. He asked her about her family, school, and work. As they chatted, she eyed an enormous picture of a rose on the dining room wall.
“That sure is a beautiful painting,” she commented.
“Thank you. My girlfriend Rose gave it to me last month. She found it at the flea market and thought it would go nicely in my dining room. She really loves this painting.”
“How long have you and Rose been dating?” she asked.
“Nearly nine months.”
“That’s terrific. How did you two meet?”
“Rose worked with my best friend, Rick. He thought that she and I would hit it off so he set us up on a blind date. He was right; we’ve been together ever since.”
“You said ‘worked’.” Do they not work together anymore?” she questioned.
“Unfortunately, a terrible thing happened. A couple of months ago Rick went missing. We’ve known each other since we were in the Army together ten years ago. No one knows where he is. I think that he took off to get some perspective on life. He and his wife separated last year. They were having marital problems. Darcy was cheating on him and he found out about it. The police suspect foul play. His wife and family are frantic with worry about him,” Roger said, shaking his head.
“Wow,” Kate said, placing her hand on her chest. “I’m so sorry that your friend has gone missing. I hope that he comes back or is found soon. Do the police have any leads?”
“No. It’s like he vanished without a trace. I keep in touch with his wife so that I know what is going on. She is hanging on by a thread. Their two daughters cry themselves to sleep every night.”
“Oh, that is such a tragic situation. It is so sad when people cheat and marriages are destroyed. Is Rick the kind of guy to abandon his family?” she asked.
“No. That’s why it’s such a shock to everyone who knows him. He was a good family man.”
She noticed that Roger had used the word “was” to describe Rick. That sounded odd. Why would he use the past tense instead of the present tense? She didn’t question him about it, but decided to change the subject. Looking around the room, she noticed a picture of a curly haired little boy on the entertainment center. She got up to take a closer look at the picture.
Picking up the picture, she asked, “Who is this adorable little guy?”
“That’s my son, Jacob. He’s my pride and joy. I couldn’t imagine life without him,” he said, tilting his head to one side.
“How old is he?”
“Do you get to see him very often?”
“Not really. His mother recently decided that she wanted to move back to Germany,” he explained. “I used to see him all the time, but now he’s thousands of miles away.”
She set the picture back on the shelf. “That’s so difficult. I’m sure you are missing him like crazy,” she said, returning to where she had been sitting.
“Yeah, it’s been really hard so far,” he said, nodding his head. “I miss seeing him every day, but it’s understandable that Paulina wants to be near her family. She’ll have more support living with her mother. It just wasn’t working out for her here in the States. I’m planning a trip to visit him soon.”
As she looked at her watch, she realized that she had stayed a little too long. “Oh, my goodness, look at the time. I better get myself home. I have a ton of work to do for school. Thank you so much for the coffee. I’ll know where to come when I need hazelnut creamer,” she said, smiling. “I really enjoyed chatting with you.”
“Please feel free to come over anytime. My door is always open.” Yes, I’ve noticed that.
“Thanks, Roger. I’ll see you later.”
“Yeah, see you later.”
Hearing that Roger had a girlfriend had been a good turn of events. She wasn’t sure what was behind all of the invitations to come over. Was he being friendly or was he actually interested in her? Now she could relax around him. He was just a friendly guy who liked to flirt. If he was attracted to her, she would feel uncomfortable. His use of the word “date” earlier probably didn’t have any hidden meaning to it. It was just coffee.
She spent the afternoon outlining chapters for the classes she had attended today. While taking a break for a snack, she couldn’t help mulling over some of the things that Roger had shared while they had coffee. It was so tragic that Rick was missing and his family was suffering. But Roger hadn’t seemed too choked up about it. He was very casual about the whole situation. And his use of the past tense to describe Rick made her uneasy. Goosebumps covered her arms as she replayed their conversation.
Charlie had texted that she wasn’t coming home after work because she and Mitch had dinner plans with his parents, so Kate had some alone time. She did her workout and then set up a bath to soak her tired muscles. She ran through her mind the activities that she had scheduled throughout the week. She had signed up for an alumni mentor to show her around San Diego State on Wednesday. It was a program that SDSU offered to connect alumni with current students. A mentor would be helpful and save her time trying to figure things out. On Thursday, there was an open house for all of the clubs and organizations that she could join. Her time was limited, but she hoped to get involved with something. She closed her eyes and let her mind wander as her skin began to soften in the water.
After Kate left his apartment, all Roger could do was imagine her becoming his. She wasn’t only smoking hot, she was sweet and kind. She showed genuine concern for people she hadn’t even met. He really liked that about her. The only problem was that he already had a girlfriend. He had told her about Rose before he was ready. But she had asked about the painting and he somehow found himself having to explain why he had a giant rose painting in his dining room. It wasn’t exactly masculine. Now he had to figure out if he wanted to keep Rose around or pursue his enticing new interest. He had already fantasized about undressing Kate and exploring every inch of her tight body. Of course, if Rose was in the picture that wasn’t likely to happen. Kate didn’t seem like the kind of girl who would go after another woman’s man. She made that clear with her statement about cheating and marriages breaking up. She had integrity. He had a lot to consider.
Rose was loyal to him no matter what happened, sticking by him through all of the messiness with his best friend.
Rick and Darcy were separated and fighting over custody of their two children. Rick knew that Darcy had been having an affair and had planned on using that information in court to prove that he was a better parent. The last time Rick was seen alive was at Roger’s apartment. Rick had disappeared in May. Even though the police had questioned him about Rick vanishing, they didn’t have any evidence that he was involved in his friend’s disappearance. Rose had stood by him through the whole ugly mess and had defended him when Darcy accused him of making her husband disappear. Darcy had even told Rose that he had cheated on her, but she wouldn’t disclose who the woman was that Roger had been unfaithful with. Rose chose not to believe a single word that came out of Darcy’s mouth. She never even considered that he could have killed his best friend let alone been unfaithful to her. That was unfathomable. She had blind faith in him. This was one of his favorite qualities about her. She believed in him.
The downside to Rose was that she had two daughters, ages eight and ten. Rose’s ex-husband had been physically abusive, making the girls painfully shy and timid around him. The older girl had scars on her back from her dad’s abuse. Roger didn’t feel comfortable being around the girls. He viewed them as damaged goods. He couldn’t see himself being their step-dad or being responsible for them in any way. Since they were a package deal with Rose, he had a tough time envisioning a future with her even though she was good in bed. The question was, could they have a clean break-up? Only time would tell. Meanwhile, the thought of getting to know his new next-door neighbor was increasingly enticing. Rose would serve his needs until he could get Kate between the sheets.