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Authors: Carlie Sexton

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BOOK: Fallen for You
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Chapter 3

The start of school was right around the corner. 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 was finally beginning to bask in the comfort of home. Living on pins and needles was no longer required. She gazed up toward the ceiling and allowed herself a small smile.

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.

She had been working in retail since she was fifteen. Now, she was employed with Nordstrom. It was the best company that she had worked for. She had worked in the children’s department for four years. It was 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 was 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.

***

The alarm clock went off early in the morning. She got up extra early on purpose to give herself some reflection time before embarking upon her new adventure. It was Monday, the first day of the fall semester. 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 smelled fresh with new possibilities. She almost felt like she was floating a little. Could that be hope filling her heart for the first time in ages?

She was ready to begin her junior year. She had been out of the loop with school for the past couple of years. She had dropped out the summer after her sophomore year because of the tragedy. She shuddered to think about that time in her life. Now, strangely it had somehow become her past. How had that happened? She leaned against the railing of the balcony. Time had a way of going on whether she wanted it to or not. Focusing on her future and creating a new life for herself was 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. She couldn’t take back anything that she had done as much as she wanted to. It would have been great if life came equipped with a rewind button. Her eyes stung as they filled with tears. Dwelling on the past would only worsen her heartache and keep her from getting on with her life. 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. She felt optimistic. She was going to have to open herself up to new ideas and opportunities. She had 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. She jumped in the shower. The warm water was comforting as she imagined her cares flowing down the drain. Then she ate her favorite breakfast of egg whites, wheat toast, and enjoyed another cup of hazelnut coffee. She perused her closet to find the right outfit for the first day of school. She didn’t have to worry about working afterwards, so she could go casual. She chose her favorite jeans with the bling on the back pockets and a fitted pink tank top. She applied her make-up, grabbed her backpack, and headed for the door. She crossed paths with Charlie, who was up and getting ready for work.

“I’m heading out early today, Charlie,” she said as her roommate turned from the stove. She was making some breakfast.

“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 40 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 was ready for anything to happen.

When she walked into her first class, she immediately noticed the beautiful guy sitting near the window. He was difficult to miss. Tall, muscular and drop-dead gorgeous. 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.

With his dazzling emerald green eyes, he caught her looking at him and he flashed his panty-bursting smile at her. She 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. She 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. Perhaps the best looking guy at school. His name was 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.

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. She discarded the idea of dating him. The last thing she needed was to be involved with a womanizer. At least she had found someone attractive and felt desire well up deep within her. It had been a long time. 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.

She 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. She decided in that moment that she wasn’t ready to open herself up to this man. Especially not a man that seemed so sure that he could have anyone he wanted whenever he wanted. When class ended, she hurried out, preventing “Mr. Smiles” from approaching her. It wasn’t too hard since he was swarmed by several women who wanted to talk to him or just be in his presence.

***

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.

“It’s delicious.”

“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?”

“He’s six.”

“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.

“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 poured in a cup of Epsom salt and slid in. 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.

BOOK: Fallen for You
5.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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