Authors: Kristin Cross
By Kristin Cross
December 2015 Kristin Cross
All rights reserved.
Published and distributed by Spirit Dance Books. Spiritdancebooks.com
Cover design by Kaycee Chambers
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form whatsoever without written permission of the author, except in the case of brief passages for gushing reviews and for use in a classroom as an example of outstanding literature, where the title, author, and ISBN accompany such use. All opinions expressed herein are that of the author only. This is a work of fiction. The characters, names, incidents, places and dialogue are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to reality is coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or publisher.
Printed in USA
First Printing December 2015
Library of Congress cataloguing in publication data 2015958716
Thank you to the team at Spirit Dance Books who helped me take this story from idea to paper. It’s a gargantuan project to create a book, and I would never have made it without you.
And thanks to my family for always believing that I wasn’t wasting my time. I love you.
This book is dedicated to my wonderful husband. He’s wise, and kind, and patient, on top of being so handsome, which is definitely the deluxe combo! I adore him and am eternally grateful for him in my life.
Holy cats this commencement speech was boring! These chairs were torturous. Kate Birch tried to discretely stretch and tucked her feet from the left side of her chair to the right. If she had known this guy was going to drone on and on and on like this, she’d have snuck in her IPOD. This last week of finals, she’d not gotten nearly enough sleep.
She tried to stifle a yawn and glanced one more time up into the stands to where her parents and Jason’s were sitting, and then checked her watch. He was probably almost here, if his plane had landed on time. He’d have had to drive fast, but since he got the new black Corvette, he usually drove pretty fast. He probably shouldn’t have gotten it. It lent itself to getting tickets, but dang he looked good in it! And now that his band had a #1 hit on the country charts, he could afford a ticket or two. Kennen would have loved it.
Her stomach growled fiercely and she thought about dinner. Jason was taking her to celebrate her associate’s degree and his new contract. It was a restaurant she hadn’t been to, but she’d heard it was excellent. Maybe if she got payroll done at her parents’ restaurant without any interruptions, and then finished the produce order, they could go early. She should have made time for lunch.
It was going to be heavenly to have Jason home again. Even after three years with the band, she still missed him desperately when he left. And this time he’d been gone nearly a week. It seemed longer.
She felt that strange, tiresome worry set into her belly again at the thought of how popular his band Aerie had gotten. They were incredibly talented. At first, she had handled all the business for the band and she’d worked hard to promote him, although now they were too much to handle and she’d finally hired a manager to help her, who’d hired a publicist. But sometimes the sheer magnitude of the fame frightened the dickens out of her. Jason had loved her for years, and they’d been best friends nearly their whole lives, but lately there were thallions of girls throwing themselves at him. It made her worry that someday he’d decide he liked another flavor better than Kate. It was a horrible thought.
She was looking back up towards her parents when she saw him come through the dark curtain at the portal. His eyes scanned the stage and then he saw her and gave her that heart stopping smile and a thumbs up before sitting down in the row in front of their parents. Man, he looked like a movie star smiling up there. There was something about him that made her tummy nearly turn itself inside out at times like this. It was going to be heaven to be in his arms again.
After having driven like a madman from the airport, Jason Falcon strode into the stadium of Oklahoma’s East Central University, paused for a moment to assess what was going on and then took a deep breath. He hadn’t missed Kate being handed her diploma after all. In fact, his timing was perfect. He’d missed all the boring stuff, but was just in time to see her float across the stage to accept her associate’s degree. How could anyone be that pretty and graceful in those baggy gowns?
But then she’d always been that pretty. From the day she was born. He’d only been four, but he could still remember walking across the lawn with his parents to the house next door to see the unbelievably small, sleeping black haired baby the neighbors had just brought home. Even at two days old, she’d been like a tiny, raven haired fairy sent just to entertain him and his baby brother Kennen.
Of course, Kennen hadn’t been born then. He didn’t show up for another few weeks, so Jason had had her all to himself for a little while. What would he give to have Kennen back to see her cross stage and receive her diploma? Kennen would probably have been receiving one just like hers. She would have kept after him to strive until he’d made it right alongside her. There was something about her that tended to bring out the very best you had in every situation. She was like a brisk wind that blew you to greater heights without you even realizing it was happening. That’s how it had always been.
He looked back down at her, unbelievably grateful for that beautiful, happy girl down there who lit up every aspect of his world. She was more than a soul mate. She was the very oxygen that gave him life. He wished things hadn’t been so weird between them sometimes lately.
On stage, the final speech ended and a huge cheer went up. As people began to stand up and head for the exits, their parents started to maneuver Kate’s father’s wheelchair out, but Jason stayed there in the bleachers as planned, rather than try to fight the crowds coming up the stairs to go down and meet her. When she finally made it up to his row and he stepped out onto the landing of the walkway, she looked radiant as she pushed through the last few people to rush into his arms.
For just a second they didn’t speak, simply held each other like they hadn’t seen each other in weeks rather than days. Man, it had been a long six days without her. She finally looked up, smiling and he leaned in to kiss the tip of her pixy nose. “You did it, Kate! I’m so proud of y’all I could kiss you!”
She grabbed her cap just before it fell off, laughed and brushed the tassel out of her face. “You just did. How was your flight? Are you as tired as you look?”
“More. Y’all look a little hammered yourself. Finals and projects must have kept you up late.”
“For several nights in a row. But I’m done! We need to do some serious celebrating!”
“We do. Can I steal you away tonight after dinner for our own personal fire in the sky extravaganza? Well, ours and Cody’s. He’s bringing some girl he just met on the plane. There’s supposed to be the best meteor shower in like a century tonight.”
“It was a little over the top to arrange for the very heavens to cater to you, don’t you think?”
He turned to look into her eyes before they followed their parents. “Kate, for you, I’d take the stars from the sky and put them into a crystal bowl.” He kissed her again. “I love you, Katelyn Birch. And I’m absolutely proud of you and the work you’ve done to get through these last couple of years. You’re amazing and it would be an honor to hand you the very heavens.”
She looked back quietly and he wondered if he was seeing worry deep in her eyes before she smiled and turned away saying, “It’s no wonder your songs are hits and the meteors obey you when you’re that eloquent. I swear you could just talk the stars from the sky, Jason Falcon. Thank you. And I’m proud of you too. I think this contract is just the start of something huge for you all. I can’t wait to watch the journey.”
He pulled her back around to face him for a minute and then said softly, “Kate, you know you don’t have to just watch the journey. You could be on the journey with me. Now that school’s out for the summer, come with us. Y’all could travel with the band and we’d have such a rippin’ time.” He searched her eyes and then whispered, “C’mon baby, how long are you going to insist that I need to spread my wings before we can move on to more commitment? We’re supposed to be together forever, Kate. You know that as well as I do. Don’t you?”
She nodded her head and he wondered about the worry again as she dropped her eyes. “Yeah, Jason, I’ve known that since forever. We both know that.” She looked back up earnestly. “I just don’t want to hold you back. You have so many opportunities and things to experience right now. And the last thing you all need hanging around is a nineteen year old girl who can’t even legally get into the clubs you play in. I know it sounds backwards, Jase, but you can grow faster and go farther without a wife in tow. All those millions of women who are buying concert tickets and now CDs are more willing to pay to see a hottie than someone else’s husband.”
She shook her head and looked back down. “We’ve been through this before, Jason. Falcons have wings, but Birches have roots. You go and fly and I’ll hold down the fort and help take care of your business from home. Just give it some time and let’s get through this transition from local band to number one hit band. I’ll keep going to school and someday I’ll be old enough to actually get in to some of your concerts.”
He pulled her face back up and kissed her gently as he watched her eyes. “I won’t always be playing in smoky clubs, I promise. But take your time if you need to, Kate. I’ll wait forever.” She nodded and looked away again as they followed their parents and walked outside.
What she wasn’t saying was that all those “millions” of women intimidated the heck out of her and even though she couldn’t say it, he knew that deep down she worried that eventually he would choose the fame and money and groupies over the girl next door with the magnificent eyes and wispy, short, dark curls. It would never happen, but how could he convince her of that? He’d been devoted to her for years now.
He thought about all of this as they walked to where their parents were waiting. He was sure about Kate. He never had doubts. Sure, it was easy to push her more to the back of his mind in the thick of things when the crowds were screaming almost as loud as the guitars and drums. It was an incredible high to have girls--lots of girls, throwing themselves at him. In a way, she was right and that was all part of building the business of this band. It sold music. But, at the end of the night, his heart firmly belonged to Kate and he couldn’t even imagine it any other way.
He didn’t mind playing the game of wild boy musician when it came to the fans and the concerts and the travel. It was kind of fun to laugh a little too loudly sometimes and play the Hollywood game. He could admit it. Heck, he’d been friends with Cody, the ultimate wild boy, since he was a kid, and it was a rush sometimes. Nobody questioned that Cody was a party going somewhere to happen. He was a maniac and they had a great time together. But Jason had always been the designated driver. Right from the start, and he was as committed as Kate was to the solid religious values they both had been raised with. He’d never let her down before. Why wasn’t she as sure as he was?
Kate hadn’t always worried like she did now. In fact, Jason didn’t ever remember seeing that look deep in her eyes until just the last several months. Always before, she’d looked at him with a sort of hero worship.
When she was really little, Jason had been like the big brother who did things for her. Then over the years, that had slowly changed. Eventually, he began to notice that she wasn’t just a skinny little kid anymore. He began to notice that she was sweet and smart and funny and was growing into an exquisite young woman.
By the time he was in high school, he felt somewhat silly for being so attracted to the little girl next door, but there was something about her that had him forgetting all the other girls in the county, let alone the high school and he got past his qualms in a hurry.
Neither of their parents had been very happy that Jason and Kate had become an item as young as she was and they’d agreed jointly to insist that they wait to date until she was sixteen. Even then they only let her group date for awhile, and she had to have at least one date with another boy between every date with Jason.
Kate was a woman grown now and though the friendship was still as solid as ever, there weren’t any doubts in either of their minds that what they were was in love. They’d known it long ago. In fact, they’d made a promise to each other when she was sixteen and he was twenty that had made more of an impact on his life than nearly any other thing that had ever happened.
They’d dropped Kennen at a dentist appointment and then had driven out to a peaceful spot near a nearby lake. Jason had brought his acoustic guitar and Kate had brought sandwiches and they’d sat and watched the sun go down in a blazing ball of glory across the water. While they watched, a pair of falcons began to soar on the wind currents that sunset brought on and Jason had turned to her, looked into her eyes and then looked away and whispered, “Falcons mate for life, Kate. Did you know that?”
He’d looked back at her and wonder had dawned in her eyes as she realized what he was trying to tell her. He’d never looked away as he said it again, “Falcons mate for life.” That was all he’d said, but it was all he’d needed to.
As evening had turned into dusk and then into twilight and night, Jason had played for her and then sung her a new song he’d written for her about forever and a love stronger than this world and a friendship deeper than eternity. It was a ballad of commitment and devotion and hope that made her cry. He’d pulled her into his arms and hugged her, waiting for her to tell him what was wrong.
She never did. All she had done was snuggle closer into his neck and cry quietly as she whispered that she loved him. He’d already known it, just as he’d known how he felt about her, but other than his lyrics, they’d never admitted it out loud before.
They’d talked for hours about forever and God and what they each wanted out of life. In the end, they’d made a wish on the first star of evening and then sealed it with a pinky promise to carefully guard their virtue until she grew up and they could get married. Like the falcons. For life. For forever.
It had felt so right and good then. And never once since then had there been any second thoughts as far as Jason knew. He knew there weren’t any for him. He’d meant what he’d said about the falcons.
Kennen had always seemed to understand what Jason and Kate had and although he’d become the third musketeer, it was definitely all for one and one for all.
Right up until the day he’d died. They’d been dirt biking on the gravel road up South Fork wash and Kate had been riding behind Jason. To this day, Jason didn’t really know what happened. One minute Kennen was there in front of them on the road and the next, his bike had swerved and gone off the edge into the wash. One minute he’d been there laughing as they rode and the next he was laying under his motorcycle gasping for breath with punctured lungs and broken ribs.