Thursday, December 31, 2015

Cassie's Story - Letters To Myself New Year's special part three




And here is part three of the New Year's Special. Have a fantastic New Year all of you, stay safe and have a wonderful night whatever you do.



Before I knew it, it was midnight. Everyone kissed. Nathan was quick to kiss both Julia and I, kisses that were a touch too firm and a touch too long. But neither of us said anything, just exchanged a look with each other of complete understanding. Matt kissed my hand, met my eyes and said softly, “later”. I shivered in response, but my attention was drawn to Saffron, sitting by herself. Where was Ben?

I went to sit with her. “Saffie? Where’s Ben?”

“He got a call from one of his friends, who wanted him to come to another party and he left.”

“He left? When? Is he coming back?”

“An hour or so ago. I don’t think he is Cassie.”

“Oh Saffie.” I didn’t have any words, so I just put my arm around her in a hug and sat with her. Matt raised his eyebrows at me and I shrugged. He mouthed, “Ben?” and I nodded.

Saffron roused herself. “I think I’ll get the girls and go home Cassie.”

“Saffie don’t go, stay here tonight.”

“No, I want to be alone. I need to think. Thank you Cassie, I’ll come over with the girls in the morning, ok?”

I could see she was determined so didn’t argue any further. I walked her and the girls out to her car.

“You’re sure you are ok to drive?”

“Oh yes, I didn’t drink much Cassie, I was the designated driver anyway.”

I stood watching her go, my heart heavy for my friend. It was maddening really, I was sure Ben loved her, but he wouldn’t, or couldn’t, give up his single lifestyle even though they had been married for nearly fifteen years.

I turned to go back inside and saw a shadow moving near the footpath. Nathan walked towards me.

“Cassie, you look so lovely tonight. I didn’t kiss you properly yet.”

“Nathan, you’ve kissed me happy new year, go back to Lucy.”

“Lucy’s not you Cassie, she will never be you.”

“Nonetheless she’s the one you chose.”

“It was a mistake, the biggest mistake of my life. I want you back Cassie.”

I felt a tingle of fear but pushed it down. What could Nathan do here in my own front yard with so many people close by?

“Nathan it’s all in the past now. We’ve both moved on.”

“Have we Cassie, have we really? I haven’t. I still dream about you.”

I was beginning to feel annoyed, which served to drive the fear away.

“We are divorced Nathan, you are engaged to Lucy. There is no relationship between us any more except that of parents to Mark.”

Nathan came closer, slid his hand behind my neck, tilted my chin up with his other hand. “Cassie, I could always win you around.”

I stood my ground. “No Nathan, not this time.”

He rubbed his thumb up and down my neck. “Sure I can, I know what you like Cassie, I can turn you on in an instant.”

“You can’t Nathan. I don’t want you. Please leave.”

“Cassie, Cassie, Cassie. That’s just words. It’s ok, I’m your husband.”

“Nathan you’re not my husband any more, not for a long time. Please let go of me.”

He shook his head. “Not yet.”

Keeping one hand on the back of my neck he slid the other around my waist and pulled me firmly against him. In the same motion he kissed me, grinding his lips against mine. I began to feel fear, perhaps nobody had noticed I had been gone too long and that Nathan was also missing. I pushed against his chest, twisted my head away from his mouth. Nathan just tightened his grip and held my head in place.

“Stop fighting, you know you want it.”

“I don’t Nathan, please stop.”

“That’s a good idea, why don’t you let her go?”

I sagged in relief as I heard Matt’s voice. He spoke evenly, calmly, but his voice carried authority. Nathan let me go, turned to face Matt.

“She likes it rough, you should know that by now.”

Without another word he pushed past Matt, who ignored him.

“Are you ok?”

“I’m fine, he only kissed me.”

“Did he hurt you?”

“No, he was horrible but he didn’t hurt me.”

Matt wrapped his arms around me and I sank onto his firm chest, breathing in the Matt smell that I didn’t know until now was so familiar. He stroked the back of my head, smoothing my hair under the cap that was still sitting on my head. I would have to commend Saffron on her excellent pinning skills.

“I’m staying here tonight.”

“OK.”

Matt pulled back. “No arguments, just ok?”

“No arguments. I don’t want to be alone tonight.”

“Oh Cassie, you’re breaking my heart. I promise, I will always protect you.”

I smiled against his chest. “I know.”

Pulling back I patted his puffy white shirt at shoulder level. “There’s a shoulder under all this puffiness isn’t there?”

Matt puffed out his chest. “The manliest shoulder you could get.”

I laughed, grateful once again that he was in my life. “We’d better go back around, folk will be wanting to leave soon.”

We walked around the side of the house back to the party. Nathan was chivying Lucy along to get going as it was time to go home. She looked from him to me, but said nothing. I felt sorry for her, Nathan had not changed, but her life was going to change in ways she could not imagine. Nor could I warn her about it, she would not listen to me any more than I would have listened to Julia.

I went over to where Julia was sitting with John and Andrew, Matt my shadow.

“Is Saffron ok?” Julia was looking concerned.

“Honestly? I don’t know. I hope so.”

She leaned in close to me. “I saw Nathan go around the side of the house and he looked angry when he came back. Are you ok?”

I patted her hand. “I’m fine Julia. I’ll tell you what happened another day.”

She nodded. “Ok, so long as you’re ok.”

“I am, don’t worry.” In a louder voice I added. “Thank you so much for coming tonight Julia. And lovely to meet you too John, I hope we see you again.”

We chatted amiably for a few more minutes, before they got up to leave. “We’d better get going. Emmie has that party for her friend tomorrow.”

Within an hour everyone had left except Matt. “I’m still not leaving. Nathan is in a snit, I’m not leaving you alone.”

“Really, I don’t think he will come back, but I’m glad you’re staying Matt. I feel a bit shaken.”

“I’m not surprised.” He looked around. “Right, let’s get this place cleaned up so we don’t have to do it in the morning.”

“I knew there was a good reason for letting you stay.”

With the house set to rights I turned my attention to Mark, sleeping on one of the mattresses in the lounge.

“Will you leave him or do you want him in bed?”

“I think I’ll leave him. I don’t want to wake him.”

“Your call. Would you like a glass of wine? Or a cup of tea?”

I considered it. “I don’t think I’ve drunk anything since just after dinner. I think I’d like a glass of wine.”

“Follow me.”

I followed Matt into the kitchen, watching as he fished around in one of the esky coolers next to the fridge. He came up with a half bottle of wine, moisture glistening like miniature diamonds on its sides.

“What’s that?”

“Champagne. The girl at the bottle shop gave it to me this afternoon.”

“Oh she did? She probably hoped you would split it with her.”

Matt shrugged. “Maybe, but I only want to share it with you.”

He poured two champagne flutes and handed one to me.

“Cheers lovely wench. May this year bring you all that you desire.”

I clinked glasses with him. “Cheers rakish pirate. May all your wishes come true.”

I sipped the champagne, which was excellent. Matt was staring at me. I looked up at him, surprised that he hadn’t tasted his yet. “Matt?”

Matt put down his glass, took mine and put it next to his, and pulled me unresistingly into his arms. His lips found mine and he kissed me gently, slowly. I sighed into his mouth, it was the sweetest kiss I had ever received. I could feel my bones melting – I thought that was just a corny line in a romance novel but it was actually happening.


Matt deepened the kiss and I responded without reservation. Sparks were shooting all over my body, I felt like I had been plugged into electricity. It was delicious, he was delicious.

When he raised his head I felt deprived.

“That’s one of my New Year’s wishes, to taste this wine from your lips.”

Oh my. “And your other wishes?”

“To taste all of you.”

Did you know that your knees really can give way? I didn’t. Luckily my groping hand found the back of a chair and I sank down into it, quite possibly the most ungraceful movement ever as I hit the edge and nearly fell off.

Matt smiled at me, brown eyes glowing. “Klutz.”

He pulled up a chair and sat next to me. Taking my hand in his he traced little circles on the back of it. My whole body was so sensitized it felt like small circles of fire. I had never been so deeply affected by anyone, not even Nathan at the start of our relationship.

“Cassie I’m not going to push you. I’m not going to kiss you senseless and take you to bed – although you can be sure I want to. We’ll take this slow, even if it kills me.” He shifted uncomfortably on his chair. “And it just might.”

“So where do we go from here?”

“I walk you to your room and kiss you goodnight. Then I spend an uncomfortable night on one of the mattresses in the lounge, cursing my gentlemanly ways.”

He stood and extended his hand. “Come on comely wench. Bed time.”

I took his hand and let him pull me to my feet. As he did so I realized how exhausted I was. It had been a long, eventful day. At my door Matt took my face in his hands, echoing the previous evening when Barney had ruined the moment.

“The dogs, I haven’t fed the dogs!”

“I have, and Barney is here too. I went to get him earlier.”

I relaxed. “Where would I be without you?”

“Not being kissed senseless.”

Matt proceeded to do just that. When he raised his head I put my hand on his cheek. “You don’t have to spend an uncomfortable night on a mattress.”

He smiled. “I know. But I vowed I would never push you, hurt you, or make you cry. So slow it is, and the mattress for me. Besides, I want our first time together to be unforgettable.” He winked and gave me a gentle push into my room. I went, and sat on my bed. Oh my.
 




Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Cassie's story - Letters To Myself New Year's Special part two





Change of plan. I wrote the second part of the New Year's special, but it became rather longer than I expected. So now the two part has become a three part. Here is part two, check in on Thursday for part three. Enjoy.




Saffron and the girls came over to help me set up for the party. Did I mention that I also decided to have a theme? Yes, not content with inviting potential drama, I had to add themed decorations.

“You know at the time I wasn’t sure a pirate theme would fly, but I’m liking what we’ve done here.”

Saffron stood back and admired our decorating efforts. The kitchen table was not big enough for all of us, so I had borrowed trestle tables from her which were set up on the back deck.

We had balloons, some of which said Happy New Year and some of which said Arrrr me hearties and various other pirate like things. In the same store I found some mini cutlasses which I placed on the tables between the New Year decorations. Tiny parrots perched on the edge of the wine and water glasses. Each table setting had an eyepatch and a fortune cookie. There were even little treasure chests which held sweets and nuts.

“It looks good, I hope there’s enough food for everyone.”

Saffron cut me a sideways glance. “You’ve made enough food for an Italian army. I’m more concerned about the alcohol supplies. We’re going to need a substantial amount to get through this night.” Inviting Nathan had proved to be one of my more unpopular decisions.

It’ll be fine. He’ll be fine. And the kids will be happy to have both parents here.”

“You’re insane. You’ve got Nathan bringing his fiancĂ© to a party hosted by his most recent ex-wife and attended by his first ex-wife.”

“Julia’s cool with it.” This may have been a slight exaggeration. Julia did not argue when I told her Nathan was coming, but her expression was a little like she just smelled something bad. We were becoming closer, and I was happy about that. I couldn’t yet say she was a good friend – after all a good friend would have told me that my decision making sucked – but I liked her and was happy she was coming.

“Who else is coming? With your Nathan bombshell I forgot.”

I stared at Saffron for a beat, sure that she was still making her disapproval clear but she continued to look curious so I sighed and told her, again. “Well there’s you four (for once Ben was attending a party with his wife), Julia and Emmie, Andrew, Alice – she’s bringing a friend too, Nathan Lucy and Susie (I hurried through those names), Sharon and Tony from next door, Annette and James from the restaurant, Bill and Mary from the patisserie, and of course Matt. Oh, and Julia asked if she could bring a friend too.”

“Julia is bringing a friend? Was that before or after you told her Nathan was coming?”

I thought for a minute. “I think before, not sure. Anyway, it’s a man called, um, John. It would be wonderful if he is a romantic interest don’t you think?”

“So not only do you have your ex coming, but his first wife is bringing a romantic interest, and you will have Matt. We are going to have a raging narcissist reacting badly to it all. I think I’ll start drinking now.”

When she put it like that it did sound like I had made a bad, bad decision. But still, surely by now Nathan was no longer threatened by anyone Julia had in her life, and me too for that matter.

“It’ll be fine, I’m sure it will be. And on the plus side we get to dress up like pirates!”

Saffron smiled at that. “We do, and I bet Matt will make a smoking hot pirate.” She winked at me and I grinned, happy she was distracted from the subject of Nathan.

“Let’s go get ready.”

“Sure, and then we can open a bottle of wine.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Several hours later I was in the kitchen refreshing the snack plates. The party was in full swing, with so far no incidents. Dinner had been eaten and praised by all, the tables were cleared and reset with the snacks, and I had loaded the dishwasher with all the dirty dishes.

“You’ve been hiding in here for long enough. Come out and enjoy yourself.”

I turned to see Matt grinning at me from the door. Saffron was right, Matt in pirate gear was smoking hot. As I stared his grin widened. He straightened up and swaggered into the room. Arms held wide he spun on his heel, before coming closer to where I stood.

“Like what you see wench? You sure do look fetching in that outfit, I think you should wear it more often.”

I pulled self-consciously at the shirred top of my wench outfit. “This was Saffron’s idea. I wanted to be a first mate.”

“Then I must thank Saffron for her foresight. You are a most comely wench.”

I blushed. “Thank you, and you are a rakish pirate.”

Matt took a couple of steps closer and tweaked the cloth hat that was part of the costume. “I like this too, and I do like the sleeveless look.” He leered down at my cleavage.

“It’s not sleeveless, it’s off the shoulder.”

“And beautiful shoulders they are too.” Matt ran a finger along the top of my shoulder, giving me goosebumps and causing a flicker of fire to run through my body.

“Cassie is there any more…wine, sorry to interrupt.”

I looked past Matt to see Nathan standing in the kitchen doorway, looking annoyed. My heart sank to my toes, but Matt’s hand settled on my shoulder and somehow the weight of it gave me courage. Nathan was my past, he could not hurt me any more.

I pasted a hostess smile on my face and stepped past Matt. “Yes of course Nathan, I was just about to bring some. How’s Lucy, is she enjoying the party?”

“She’s having a great time, thanks for the invite Cassie.”

I pulled a bottle of red from the carton in the corner and handed it to Nathan. “Here you go, take that one back to your table and I’ll be out soon with some more.”

Nathan took it, brushing his hand over mine as he did so. “Thanks Cassie. You look fantastic by the way, that outfit is great on you.”

His eyes rested for too long on my cleavage so I turned away to go to the fridge. “The bottle opener is on the counter, or there are some pirate ones on your table if you want to open the bottle out there.”

I could feel the intensity of Nathan’s gaze, but kept myself focused on sorting the wine bottles in the fridge. There was beer in a cooler on the deck, I decided to check how much was there too. After a long few seconds I heard Nathan leaving and sagged internally with relief.

Pulling a bottle at random out of the fridge I turned and walked straight into a wall of Matt who wrapped his arms around me and leaned his chin on the top of my head.

“You did good, wench.”

Despite the anxiety spiraling inside I snickered. “We wenches have to stand our ground you know. Pirates are pushy.”

“Pirates are only pushy with beautiful wenches.”

I leaned back and met his eyes. “Push away captain.”

Matt’s eyes widened, he looked dumbstruck. I fiddled with the top button on his ridiculous puffy white shirt.

“Only you could make a girlie shirt look manly.” I fluttered my eyelashes at him, even while the rational part of my brain stared in outrage at this flirt.

Matt’s hand captured mine as I began undoing the button.

“Cassie, how much have you had to drink?”

“Not sure, Saffron’s been keeping my glass full.”

“Saffron, that woman can be a menace.”

“No she’s not, she’s been worried about tonight, that’s all.”

“With good reason. Make sure you are not alone at any stage tonight, ok?”

“Even after everyone leaves?”

“Especially after everyone leaves.”

His words acted like a dose of cold water. Surely Matt didn’t think Nathan would come back here tonight? Surely he wouldn’t. I shook my head.


“Right, well let’s go back out and refresh everyone’s drinks.”


Out on the back deck I checked the dynamics of our little group. All the kids had gone inside to play the Xbox. Anticipating that I had earlier spread several mattresses and pillows in the lounge room. The younger ones could fall asleep there if they got too tired.

The people from the restaurant and patisserie were friends and were chatting with Nathan. Well they weren’t chatting with Nathan, they were listening to Nathan holding court, Lucy sitting silently at his side. My neighbours were sitting with Julia, her friend John, and Andrew. I spotted Saffron sitting with them too and looked in vain for Ben. Shrugging, I decided he must be in the bathroom.

It all seemed to be going well so I relaxed. Everyone’s drinks refreshed, I joined Andrew’s group. He smiled as I sat next to him, Matt sitting on my other side.

“Thanks for inviting me Cassie, I’m glad I came.”

I hugged him. “I’m glad you came too Andrew, I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you too Cassie, but I had to take the time to say goodbye to Bev properly.”

Tears stung my eyes as I met his sad ones. “I miss her Andrew, her wisdom and her kindness.”

He smiled, and looked past me at Matt. “Well it’s good to see you’ve taken her advice about him.”

“Well I kind of have, taking it slowly.”

“You’ve got time, at least you’re going forward Cassie and you’re putting the past behind you.”

I looked behind him to where Nathan was still holding court, talking loudly and rapidly. I could see the slightly glazed expressions on the people sitting with him, and Lucy’s blank face. It was all so familiar. I looked back at Andrew and smiled, a wash of happiness filling me with warmth.

“I have Andrew, I believe I have finally have.” I felt Matt take my hand and squeeze it and I smiled at him and squeezed back.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Cassie's story - Letters To Myself New Year's special part one


I know, I missed last week altogether. It wasn't intentional, I did have a Christmas Cassie partly written. But I went away and couldn't get it finished in time before I left. 

So, instead, this week I have a New Years Cassie special. Today is part one and on Thursday will be part 2. Enjoy, and Happy New Year to you all! 




Oh, and as a by the way, I've had some new, 5 star reviews on Letters. As always I'm thrilled and humbled that people read and liked my book so thank you to all of you who have read it, and to those who have left a review.






It was early in the morning, the flying foxes had finished their squabbling for position in the trees behind my house and all was still. Outside, the earth took a deep breath before the dawn chorus broke the silence and the new day began.

Inside, it was organized chaos in my kitchen. I stared around, not knowing where to start.

“Why did I think this was a good idea?” Nobody answered my question, there was nobody else there. I checked my list, which even though I had started this ridiculous process last night, was still full of unchecked boxes. I took a sip of coffee and tried to calm my nerves.

“Mum? Is something wrong?”

Mark stood at the kitchen door, his blonde hair on end and his blue eyes clouded with sleep.

“No Mark, I’m just getting organized for the party.”

“Isn’t the party tonight? Why are you starting now?”

“I just want to be sure everything is ready. You go back to bed.”

Mark shrugged, his expression one that said he didn’t understand my madness but wasn’t going to argue. Going to the sink he poured himself a glass of water, downed it, and shuffled out of the kitchen, lifting one hand in salute as he left the room.

I stared at my list, wondering if I was as crazy as he thought. Probably. I still don’t know what possessed me to throw this party. At the time, sitting at Saffron’s kitchen table and debating with her what to do for New Year’s Eve, it seemed like a great idea.

“You cooked Christmas lunch Saffie, it’s only fair that I do New Years. And after all, I do have a professional kitchen in my house.”

She had shrugged and agreed, and we spent an enjoyable time choosing what to have and who to invite. At some point after that it snowballed a little. Not that there were a lot of people coming, it was more who was coming than how many. I had, in a moment of total insanity, invited Nathan and Lucy, along with Lucy’s daughter Susie. Nathan accepted for them all without hesitation and so now I was up at dawn preparing for a party where my past, present, and possible future were going to collide.

Pulling my thoughts back to now I again consulted my list. I was mentally checking the contents of my pantry when a knock pulled me from my thoughts. Who would be at my door at 5:00 in the morning? The dogs weren’t barking, but were nosing excitedly at the base of the door, which gave me all the information I needed.

“You fell out of bed, or you smelled my coffee?”

As I expected, it was Matt, Barney panting at his side. As soon as I opened the door Barney barreled in to greet Pebbles and BamBam. I opened the door wider.

“Well at least you have better manners than your dog, come in.”

Matt stepped forward, offering me a deep red rose as he did so. “A rose for a rose.”

I snorted derisively at his corny words, but took the rose and sniffed it.

“This is one of mine isn’t it?” I mock glared at him and Matt grinned back, unabashed to be caught out.

“Yours are the best roses in the street. I smell coffee, is there any left?”

I sighed, opened the side door for all three dogs to go out, and followed Matt into the kitchen. He was already pouring himself a coffee. I refreshed mine, put the rose into water, and sat back at the table. Matt was studying my list of things to do.

“You’ve started preparations so early? The party’s tonight right?”

“Yes of course, I just wanted to be sure everything is ready.”

Matt gave me his intense policeman stare which, as always, had me shifting uncomfortably in my seat.

“What’s going on Cassie? Why are you stressed?”

I attempted to prevaricate. “Nothing, really. I just like to be prepared, you know that.”

He kept on staring at me, a trick he had employed before and which always worked even though I knew he was doing it. I fidgeted, sipped my coffee, drew circles on the table with my finger and then cracked.

“Ok, ok, I invited Nathan.”

Matt’s eyebrows shot up and his mouth dropped open. “You did what? Why?”

“I invited Lucy and Susie too.”

“Again. Why?”

I attempted, and failed, a nonchalant shrug. “I don’t know, I guess I thought new year, new start.”

Matt said nothing, just waited.

“Ok.” I caught myself pleating the edges of my tablecloth and forced my fingers to still. “I saw Nathan the other day, and he wanted us to start again, as friends.” Seeing Matt’s face darken I tacked on, “For the sake of the kids. He said they would be happier if we were friends.”

Matt’s face did not lighten. “And you believed this?”

“Well it is reasonable. The kids would probably be happier if Nathan and I were friendly. And now he and Lucy are engaged they will be seeing more of Susie. So if we are friends it will be easier all round.”

“You really believe this?”

“I’d like to believe it. We’ve been divorced for a long time now. Surely we can be friends, or at least civil.”

“Cassie, it all sounds reasonable. But you know Nathan is not like other people. You can’t expect reasonable from him, he’s unpredictable.”

I gazed down at my coffee. Matt had just cut to the heart of my anxiety. Nathan, with his disorders – particularly the narcissistic personality disorder – could not be predicted. Reasonable is not something he has ever been unless it is about something that does not affect him. This, clearly, would affect him and so his reasoning was bound to be, at the very least, in some way geared to benefit him.

I looked up at Matt who was gazing at me with such compassion that I could feel tears welling. “I just wanted to believe that we could be friends. He’s been the bogey man for so long Matt. I wanted to believe he doesn’t have an agenda this time.”

“What does your gut tell you?”

I sighed, a sigh that pushed the tears out of the corners of my eyes. “He has an agenda. It’s not just so the kids will be happier. It never is.”

“No, it never is. Cassie, I understand why you want to do this. I’m not sure what put the idea into your head mind you, but I understand.” He reached forward, captured my hand in his, wiped away the tears with his other hand. “Cassie, I can’t forget what he did to you, I’m sure you can’t either. Sometimes, well sometimes it’s best to let the past stay there.”

I had missed out the part where Nathan had phoned several times wanting to meet up for coffee. Up until now there was always a plausible excuse to say no. But, thinking back to our last conversation where I ended up inviting them to the party, I realized that Nathan had manipulated me into issuing the invitation.

I looked at Matt’s worried face, down to our linked hands and back up to his face again. “Well, it’s done now. I’m sure Nathan will behave at the party.”

Matt did not look convinced. “I hope so, I’ll be watching him.”

“He will know that, he won’t try anything in front of you, or in front of Lucy.”

“He knows I’m coming right?”

I thought about it. “He would surely know, you’re my friend.”

“You didn’t tell him?”

“No, he didn’t seem interested in knowing who else was coming.” And wasn’t that typical Nathan. Determined to get his own way, not really interested in anyone not directly connected to that.

I half smiled at Matt. “It’ll be ok, there’s safety in numbers right? And I’m probably making a mountain out of a molehill anyway.”

“Maybe so.” Taking a sip of his coffee Nathan changed the subject. “Is Andrew still coming?”

“Yes, this is his first outing since he shut himself away.”

“He didn’t exactly shut himself away Cassie.”

“No, but you know what I mean.”

Matt smiled, a gentle smile that lit up his eyes and showcased the dimple in his left cheek. I felt a tingle run along my nerve endings. He was so handsome when he smiled like that, and he was the kindest man I knew.

“Cassie? Where did you go just then?”

Jolted, I stared at him. I was horrified to realise that I had started to weave a fantasy about him – while he was still there. A blush swept up my face, so fast I failed to take my usual evasive tactics.

“You’re blushing! What were you thinking?”

“Nothing.”

Matt smirked. “You were thinking of something, and now you’re blushing. Was it something to do with me?”

I attempted a derisive snort. “As if, how big is your ego! Anyway, why are you here so early?”

Matt’s smirk widened. “You’re changing the subject, so it is something to do with me.” He winked, which made me smile despite my embarrassment.

“You’re the one evading the subject, why are you here at dawn?”

“Well, I was taking Barney for an early walk. It’s still a bit uncomfortable sleeping so I was awake anyway. And I saw your light on, and wondered if everything was ok here, and decided to check. Also, I hoped you would have coffee.”

I was more touched than he could know. Those few words encompassed Matt. Even though it was a minor thing it underlined his character. He thought of others, was caring in a way that Nathan could never understand. I squeezed the hand that was still holding mine, grateful to have this man in my life.

Matt squeezed back, his expression quizzical. “What did I do?”

“You were just being you.”

“Huh.”

He drank the rest of his coffee, unlaced our hands and stood up.

“I’d better get going, I have work this morning.”

“You’re still coming though right?”

“Wild horses wouldn’t keep me away.”

I got up to walk him to the front door, where Matt surprised me by taking my face in his hands. I froze at the contact, staring up into gentle brown eyes.

“Don’t stress about tonight Cass. Everyone who’s coming here is coming for your company, not your hostess skills. And anyone else doesn’t matter.”

He leaned in and pressed a gentle kiss on my forehead, pulled back a little way and stared into my eyes. Hypnotized, I stared back. Something was happening, it was like there was a thread binding us closer. Matt’s eyes became more intent, his stare focused. I realized that he was going to kiss me and my heart raced in fear, or excitement, or something. I didn’t know but my whole body was tingling. He leaned in closer, his eyes focused on mine, his lips tantalizingly close.

“Cass.”

His voice was little more than a whisper. I had no voice, I just stared. I wanted him to hurry up and kiss me, and my hands reacted to the thought. I reached up, putting my hands on the back of his head. And that’s when it happened.

Cyclone Barney that is.

“Oofff!”

“Ouch!”

Barney had run to us, hitting Matt on the back of his legs. Matt stumbled forward, standing on my toes. Both of us glared at the canine mood spoiler.

“Barney!!”

Barney smiled up at us, tongue lolling out of his mouth, eyes shining with happiness.

“I should go anyway.”

“And I should get on with party preparations.”

Snapping his fingers at Barney Matt strode down the path. Before opening the gate he turned back to me.

“Cassie?”

“Yes?”

“Hold that thought ok?”


I smiled but, flustered, had no words. Matt grinned, and left. I went back into the kitchen and picked up my list. Tonight was either going to be magical or horrible. I guessed I’d have to wait to see which way it went.