~Anyone ready for Chapter 6 to Hopes and Destinies?~

So chapter 6 is done. It is a little shorter than the rest of the chapters, only because this is where it gets serious. How is everyone enjoying the chapters so far? How did you all like that twist and cliffhanger at the end of chapter 5? Story isn’t over yet! Anyway, I have decided I am going to dedicate this novel to my aunt that is passing away when I publish it. On my off time, I’ve been struggling with this. Anyway, chapter 7 will be done early next week. Expect it to be longer because this is when everything starts to happen. Chapter 6 is kind of just the middle pulling it all together. I hope everyone enjoys their weekend! Please leave comments or like the blog page. You can even follow me here on my blog site if you like what you read. Otherwise stay tuned  because the next few chapters you don’t want to miss! We will be coming to a close soon and I am going to publish it so be sure to look for it on the Amazon kindle (I will be sending out updates of when I’m finished with it.) Don’t worry we have a few more chapters yet! Enjoy reading!!

Chapter 6:

The jail cell is dirty and cold. There is one cot next to the wall that is harder than a rock, and cold to the touch. I have to pee, but I am not sitting on the crusty old toilet bowl in the cell, especially when there is no privacy.

I continue to watch the two detectives that brought me into the police station; they are talking frantically to someone on the phone only five feet away from me. I am scared; this must do something with my father. My father…My heart stops because I suddenly recognize the two detectives. I remember them like it was yesterday; it was ten years ago at the Perkins restaurant that I had seen them last. How could I forget?

“Miss Connor,” one of the detectives say to me once he has hung up the phone. “Your father has been looking for a long time for you. He will be pleased to see you again.”

“He’s in prison!” I spit out at him through the bars.

He takes a quick step backward, and then says with caution, “No…Not anymore. He is actually on his way here to pick you up.”

No, no, no, no. How can this be? My father was supposed to be in prison for life. What is happening? I feel my whole world being ripped out from underneath me, as well as all the air in my lungs.

I grip the bars in front of me and bow my head, trying to breathe. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. I remind myself with every breath of the next step. Once I’m calm enough to stand straight, I look around. Every cop in on duty seems to be in the office today; talking on phones, playing on the computers, chatting in the corner by the coffee machine. Why is no one fighting with these detectives? These cops know me, they know Aunt Bethany.

A bald middle-aged cop by the Name of Carl Sanders walks by my cell just then. I know him because he’s always Aunt Bethany’s partner on cases they have to solve together. I reach out to him suddenly.

“Carl!”

Carl turns and looks at me surprised. “Hope, what are you doing?”

“Help me!” I whisper to him frantically. “You know this is wrong. You know me! You need to get me out of here!”

He looks hurt, then. Like I had just stolen his favorite puppy. “Hope…I…I can’t…I’m sorry.”

“What do you mean you can’t?”

“These detectives are the FBI from Chicago. We don’t have a say anymore. Therefore, there’s nothing I can do to help you. I’m sorry.” He continues walking away like our conversation never happened.

I hear the slamming of the double doors and look over to see none other than Angst Connor storming through the police station with two other detectives following behind him. My father. What is this madness? How can he be strolling in here like a free man after what he did to my mother ten years ago? Something doesn’t add up…

He looks the same as I remember him. Salt and pepper hair slicked back with tons of hair gel, wearing a grey business suit looking like he came straight from the court house. He walks up to my cell and stares at me with a big grin across his face. His beady eyes staring right into my soul burning a hole there.  It is at this point I can see some of the old age wrinkles starting to form on his face.

He continues to stand there and stare at me, smiling for a moment. I take a step backward, my heart pounding wanting out of my chest.

“Hello, Destiny. It’s been a very long time, has it not?” Angst sneers with a smile still on his face.

I am frozen. It has been ten years since I went by that name. Destiny…I gasp.

“I am here to take you home. Where you belong.”

“I am home. This is where I belong,” I spit out in a defensive manner. I am beside myself at how confident I am standing up to my own father. This same man whom murdered my mother in front of my eyes and then tried to murder me as well. This same man whom is supposed to serve life in prison. This same very man whom is standing in front of me now…Ten years later.

“My, my, Destiny,” he says to me, shaking his head. “Have you forgotten where your roots lie? Chicago is your home. Not this tiny town in the middle of nowhere. Your home is with me, your father. We have so much time lost to catch up on. These detectives have been working around the clock for the last ten years trying to find you to bring you home to me. Where you belong!

I jump when he says that last sentence. His voice is familiar, but so unfamiliar it startles me.

My cell door is opening, suddenly. Two men are stepping inside towards me. I am backing away frantically. Hands are all around me; all over me, pulling. Pulling me out of the cell. Handcuffing me. Dragging me out to the black Escalade my father apparently arrived in. I am stopped short right as the back door to the Escalade opens. My father is jumping in. I am being pulled again towards the vehicle, and I see my chance. I start to resist by pulling the other way, kicking and screaming. The two detectives that have a hold on me keep their firm grip and start dragging me even more.

“LET GO!” I am screaming, but no one is around that can help me. “HELP!”

“Shut her up, now!” I hear my father snap from the open door of the Escalade.

“HEL-“ I am on the ground, head hitting the cement hard. I can feel the wind being knocked out of me as well as the throbbing start on the side of my head. I close my eyes and concentrate on the pain. It is the only thing in this moment that lets me know I’m still alive.

“What did we tell you, you little bitch?” I hear one of the detectives hiss at me. It is in that moment I feel something hard hit me in the side knocking more air out of my lungs. A foot, I would assume, with a hard steeled-toe boot.

The pain hits my stomach and I must hold back tears and vomit. My eyes remain closed; squinted now from the pain.

“Get her up before we start to create a scene.” My father’s voice sounds far away, now. Almost like we are in a tunnel. Must be the pain in my head that is messing with the sound around me.

The sun is shining so I can see shadows behind my closed eyelids. Therefore, I can make out the shadows of the two detectives walking over me to pick me up off the ground. Right as I feel their hands grip both my wrists, I hear something. A familiar sound. A familiar voice.

“Don’t touch her!” The familiar voice says with clarity and confidence.

“Boy, you have no business being here. Would you like us to revoke your badge and gun?” One of the detectives say in response to the familiar voice as they pick me up off the ground.

I keep my eyes closed because I refuse to look at my reality around me. My life being ripped apart from where I stand.

“Oh, you mean this gun?” I open my eyes just then to see who that familiar voice belongs to. Jason is standing only a few feet in front of us looking exactly the same as earlier, holding a gun to the two detectives. “Now, I said to let her go!”

I see out of the corner of my eye my father descend from the vehicle and stand in front of us facing Jason.

“Ah, Mr. Steth. How are you on this fine day?” He asks Jason very calm-like. I can see the expression on Jason’s face is downright confusion. As it should be, because I have no idea why my father is being so…civil?

“Fine, and yourself?” Jason answers in a stern manner never once putting his gun down or breaking eye contact with anyone. He doesn’t even flinch. Damn, he’s good! I think I’m even deeper in love with him, now.

“Very good. You see, I think there’s been some sort of confusion, here. Why don’t you put your gun down so we can explain?” My father says acting very professional like he’s back in a court room again.

I’ve never witnessed my father at work. I’ve never witnessed him being civil with anyone. This is a complete new side that I am seeing. The professional one that says “this is just business”. Seeing this side of him makes me even more afraid of what is going to happen next…or at some point. I am more scared for Jason in this moment, though. He has no idea what my father is capable of or even who he is.

Jason doesn’t say anything; his poker face remains.

“You see, Mr. Steth, this girl you are risking your life to save,” my father points to me, “she isn’t the person you think she is or ever was for that matter. I am here to take her away back to where she came from. Now, it is in your best interest to put your gun away and walk away while I give you the chance. Think about it, you can’t take all of us.”

“You have no idea what I’m capable of,” Jason says as he turns the safety off on the gun. His finger already on the trigger as he points the gun at my father.

My father takes a step toward him laughing. I recognize that laugh. That is the laugh he used to make right before he would beat my mother; like he thought she was being ridiculous or something and he found it funny.

“Give up, son. You’re not going to win this fight.”

“I give up the moment you let her go,” Jason says, nodding toward me.

“Very well, have it your way. I warned you,” my father says as he pulls a gun out from his belt the same moment Jason fires his gun.

I watch in horror as my father stumbles backward a few steps and falls back. He is clutching his shoulder while the blood comes pouring out. Jason doesn’t miss a beat, though. As soon as my father hits the pavement, he is aiming his gun at the two detectives holding me, and he shoots them in the chest right before they have the time to think about grabbing their weapon. They both let go of me as soon as they are hit, and I am running again. Instead of running to Aunt Bethany’s house this time, I run for Jason. He is motioning for me to run across the street toward the only car parked there as soon as more police officers come barreling out of the police station to see what the commotion is all about.

A brand new black Dodge Charger is the car I’m sprinting to. When I reach it, the driver side window rolls down and Shayna is smiling up at me.

“Shayna?” I ask out of breath and surprised.

“Who else would come save your butt?” She says sarcastically. “Hurry, get in! It’s unlocked.”

I wait for Jason to reach me so he can open the car door for me. He opens the door to the backseat and waits for me to slide in, then slides in after me. The car is peeling away from the police station before Jason can shut the car door.

As soon as we are safely away from the police station, Jason grabs a bobby-pin off the floor board of the car, and unlocks the handcuffs from my wrists.

“Shayna, take us to my place,” Jason orders, never taking his eyes off me. He looks hurt; genuinely hurt. I know I have a lot of explaining to do, but I don’t know where to start or how to start.

Shayna doesn’t respond as she drives the car toward Jason’s house. I know she is ashamed in me as well, and I need to make it up to them. If it wasn’t for them, I would be on my way back to Chicago in cuffs to face whatever fate my father had in store for me. I am forever in their debt since they put their lives in danger for me without even knowing who I really am.

Minutes pass like this until we reach what seems to be Jason’s house. We are back in Arlington, parking in his driveway. I look out the window to look at his beautiful two-story house. There’s an indoor porch right out front going into the house. A white picket fence surrounds the yard; like every girl’s fantasy dream house. The house is a beautiful beige color. I’ve always dreamed of having a house like this someday. A two-car garage the same color as the house is what stops us from going any further into his driveway.

“I’ll go open the garage doors, Shayna. When I do, pull the car in. We want to keep it hidden for a while,” Jason says as he pulls his seatbelt off, and opens the car door to get out.

Shayna nods, no words which is unusual for her, and Jason slams the door behind him as he gets out of the car. We watch him walk up to the house and disappears inside of it. The awkwardness is tense in the car which makes me want to open the door and run away from all of this that much more. I can’t keep putting them in danger like this. It isn’t fair to them, but somehow, I stay glued to the car seat and wait for Jason to come back.

As directed, Shayna drives the car into the spacious garage as soon as Jason opens it. He is standing in the garage off to the side waiting for her to pull it inside and shut it off. Once inside, Jason shuts the garage door as soon as the car is clear of the door. Shayna shuts the car off and gets out of it, I follow suit. Jason doesn’t say a word, instead he motions for us to go inside the house. We do as directed. I follow Shayna out the side door of the garage to the front porch of the house. I can’t help but notice the lawn care done; very well maintained like seen on rich property. My breath is instantly taken away. He can’t possibly take care of all of this himself?

Shayna holds the door to the house open for me once we are inside the indoor porch. I walk into the house and am instantly taken back by how fancy the house looks. There is a spiral staircase in the middle of the walkway we are standing in, now. There are rooms on both sides of this area. The house looks very well kept, almost like he’s barely here. Which makes me wonder where else he would be…

“Upstairs,” is all Jason says as he walks in behind us and locks the doors.

There is no time to look around anymore than I just did as I’m being pushed toward the stairs by Shayna. I grip the railing tight and slowly make my way up the spiral staircase, trying to peak around at what I can see of the house which isn’t much. All I’m able to see is part of the kitchen which appears to be one of the rooms on the side, and the dining room which happens to be the room right across from the kitchen. The higher up we go, the less of the downstairs I can see. Once we reach the top, we are met with another room. The living room? There is a flat screen TV on the wall across from us, a stereo system with surround sound sitting on a shelf next to it. There is a two-piece black leather sectional couch that separates the stair case from the TV; a room divider. I notice the floor is polished wood and the walls are an off-white color, nothing hanging on the walls.

Shayna slips by me once we reach the top of the stairs and plops down onto the couch, waiting. I follow her assuming this is where Jason wanted us to sit. Jason appears at the top of the stairs seconds later, and follows us to the leather couch. He sits down next to me leaving a few inches in between us. Shayna is on the other side of me, eyeing me up and down also a few inches away from me. I suddenly feel like a disease in this house that nobody wants. I want to go home.

“Hope, I need you to be one hundred percent honest with us right now, OK?” Jason says at last, putting his head in his hands.

I hate seeing him hurt like this all because of me. I nod and wait for him to continue with the interrogation.

“Who was that man that I shot?” He asks quietly and as calm as possible.

I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I don’t open them as I respond with, “My father.”

“Your father?” Jason asks as if he doesn’t believe me.

I open my eyes this time and raise my voice a little bit. “Yes, my father. I haven’t seen him in ten years.”

“Did he abandon you or something?” Jason sneers. I hate his tone right now, but I know I’ve hurt him.

I don’t respond right away because I don’t want to be honest with him anymore. I’m scared.

“Hope, you need to tell me,” Jason says when he realizes I’ve clammed up.

I gulp down my tears and say, “Do you remember when I told you that my mother had died when I was a kid?”

Jason nods.

“My father was the one that murdered her…right in front of my eyes. I was twelve…”

Shayna gasps. She covers her mouth once she realizes she made sound, her eyes wide and full to the brim with tears.

Jason sits all the way back against the couch cushion, his expression soft now. He feels bad.

“What does that have to do with him taking you away?”

“I’m originally from Chicago. After he murdered my mother, he came into my room and tried to kill me, too. I was smart, though. I had a pair of scissors and stabbed him in the neck…almost killed him. I moved in with Aunt Bethany afterward, and we moved out here to be protected…and safe…”

Jason shakes his head. “Hope, that still doesn’t explain anything to me…”

I put my hand on his lap to stop him from talking. “I lied to you, Jason. This whole time because I needed to be safe…”

“I don’t understand…”

“My name isn’t Hope, Jason. It’s Destiny. Destiny Hope Connor, a wanted woman in Chicago for the attempted murder of Angst Connor; the best defense lawyer in Chicago and my father. I am also considered a runaway fugitive, have been for the last ten years.”

Jason stands just then, putting his hands on the back of his neck, and walking away from me towards the TV.

He turns around slowly and stares at me. “Can’t they see it was self-defense?”

I shake my head. “No, because it wasn’t the police that issued those offenses. My father was. I was so surprised to see him here! He was supposed to be in prison for life. Being Chicago’s best lawyer its perks, I guess. He can do stuff like that. So many criminals walk the streets in Chicago because of him.”

“I can’t believe this.”

“Jason…”

“YOU’RE A WANTED PERSON, HOPE!” Jason shouts suddenly, making me and Shayna jump a little in our seats. “There’s nothing I can do about it! Not to mention you lied to me instead of being honest with me in the beginning. Even when I told you that you could tell me everything. I wanted to know everything, Hope. I feel like I don’t even know who you are.”

“Jason, I’m sorry,” I choke out as the tears break free.

“Don’t. You’re lucky I came after you today, especially after leaving me speechless in the parking lot of the hospital. Do you have any idea how that felt? Watching them take you away like that, and knowing there was nothing I could do? It was like the biggest slap in the face you could’ve ever given me, Hope…sorry, Destiny, if that is even your real name I have no idea.” I instantly hate how he says my real name. It rolls of his tongue like it leaves a bad taste in his mouth. It makes me wince at the sound of it.

Jason starts to walk toward the stairs without even looking at me.

“Jason,” I plead trying to get him to stop and listen to me.

“You know what, Hope? I trusted you! I told you everything and things that I have never told anyone! For once, I thought I found a girl that was worth being with, but it turns out you’re just another girl,” he spits at me. “You can sleep in the guest bedroom for tonight. Shayna will show you where everything is. As of tomorrow…” He shakes his head like he can’t bear the thought running through his head right now. He descends the stairs two at a time. We hear a door slam shut downstairs moments later. I assume it was his bedroom door.

I look to Shayna whom is still wide eyed with shock at the confessions just made.

“Shayna, I’m sorry. You know me! You’ve worked with me for the last seven months! You’re my best friend…” I plead to her.

She closes her eyes like it hurts too much to look at me. I wait until she opens them again.

“You’re right, Hope. I do know you…or the person you were being…”

“I’ve been me this whole time, Shayna. Just a different name. You have to believe me!”

She puts a consoling hand on my shoulder to stop me from talking.

“I know. You must understand something…my brother doesn’t like breaking the law. He follows it pretty well. Do I believe he thinks you’re at fault? No. Do I think he is never going to speak to you again? No, you just have to give him time. This was a big blow to him, Hope. It was to all of us. He killed two men tonight because of you. FBI men to be exact. My brother has never pulled his gun on anyone before let alone shoot somebody with it. Do you have any idea what kind of trouble he is probably going to be in because of you? Just to learn the truth about you…I’m on your side, Hope. I believe your story. I’m sorry all of that happened to you and that your past is now catching up with you. Let my brother toss and turn over it tonight, OK? I’ll talk to him. I’m not letting him turn you in.”

“Thank you, Shayna.”

“I’m going to go to bed. I’m going to sleep on the couch downstairs tonight. Let me show you your bedroom.” Shayna gets up and I follow.

I follow her to a door off to the right side of the living area. She opens it and turns on the light to reveal a master bedroom with a king-sized bed, and walk in closet. Walls are white with beige color carpeting. There is a bathroom connected to this bedroom that I can see from the doorway. A full bathroom with a sink, toilet, shower and…is that a jacuzzi tub? I think I’m in love…no, I think it’s shock. I look at Shayna and she smiles and turns away toward the stairs.

“Oh, he may have told you it’s the guest bedroom, but it’s actually his bedroom he gave you for the night,” Shayna says before she starts to make her way down the stairs.

I stand in the doorway of the bedroom with that new piece of information, and ponder the idea of sleeping in Jason’s bed for the night. He really does care…even if I have hurt him deeply.

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~Chapter 5 to Hopes and Destinies! We are half way there people!~

Welcome my readers to yet another spectacular chapter in my novel Hopes and Destinies! I am excited to announce I quit my job so I am now working from home which means I have alot more time on my hands to write and to finish the books I write! Like promised though I have chapter 5 finished for you all to read for the weekend! I am going to be starting chapter 6 tonight! Hoping to have it done by Tuesday! Until then, like always thanks for reading and enjoy! 

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping…What time is it?

I roll over, pull the blankets off my face, open one eye to realize the clock on the microwave reads 09:45AM. I jump off the futon in a hurry. Oh, no! I am forty-five minutes late to my breakfast date!

I scramble around trying to gather myself, wishing I had grabbed the cop’s number last night so I could call him now and apologize about being late. I can’t believe I overslept!

Forty-five minutes gone out of our date…am I feeling saddened by that? Yes, I think I am.

KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!

I stop in my tracks realizing the knocking sound is coming from my front door. Who could that be this early in the morning? No one ever knocks on my door…

I walk cautiously towards the door on high alert. This is the part where I wish I had a peep hole on my door…but I don’t. There are two chains that lock the door; top corner and right above the door knob. I open the door slightly without removing the chains. What I see on the other side of the door baffles me. I am shocked because on the other side of the door staring back at me with bright grey eyes on this sunny Tuesday morning is Jason with a big smile across his face.

“Sorry, I would’ve called, but you didn’t give me your cell phone number,” Jason says when he sees my face appear through the space of the opened door.

I am speechless and frozen. I stand there looking like an idiot not saying a word, eyes wide.

Jason starts laughing and continues talking. “I’ve been waiting for almost an hour downstairs in my car. I figured I’d come up here and check on you. Did you know your stairs are very dangerous?”

I nod, still unable to speak. Nodding Is all I got going for myself right now. Oh, my goodness he looks so fine in the street clothes he’s wearing today. He must be off duty today because he appeared at my door wearing Oakley sunglasses, khaki shorts, a plaid button up shirt that hung tight to his muscular body, and tennis shoes. His medium brown hair was even spiked in the front with a little bit of hair gel. Wait…did he just say he was waiting an hour for me? I think I’m in love…no, that was yesterday. Today, I’m definitely in love with this guy. Oh, this is bad…

“Are you going to be a good house guest and let me in, or am I going to have to stand out here all day looking at your beautiful morning face through this space in the door?” His voice brings me back to reality.

I close the door suddenly, scaring myself even, and undo the chains. When I open the door again, he’s still standing there, but he’s holding something out to me. Roses. A dozen of pink roses. I take them cautiously, watching him as I do.

“What’s wrong? No one ever give you roses before?”

I shake my head. I’ve dated other guys in the past, but none of them were ever “gentlemen” enough to do anything like that for me or even wait almost an hour for me. Anyone else would’ve given up after fifteen minutes.

“Well, I would’ve gotten you a single rose for every time I thought of you last night, but I don’t make that kind of money, yet. So, I hope you’re OK with a dozen roses,” he explains with a sincere look in his eyes.

Why does he have to be so charming?

I am suddenly embarrassed because I realize I am standing in the middle of my doorway holding a bouquet of roses, dressed in my black sweatpants and white camisole; the clothes I fell asleep in last night. I am now self-conscious to the fact that my nipples are clearly visible through the white camisole because Jason is staring right at it with the biggest grin possible spread across his face. I turn to walk toward my clothes bin that is sitting next to the futon, setting the flowers on top of the counter as I pass. Jason follows me into the apartment and closes the door softly behind him.

“Wow. Small,” is all Jason says after he has had time to look around a little bit. I think he says it more to himself, though because it came out more like a whisper.

I turn back around to watch him for a moment as he takes everything in, then I dig through the clothes basket to find a sweatshirt I can put over my camisole to cover up the thin, see-through fabric. I find one near the top and put it on quick; my favorite purple zip up sweatshirt from Aeropostale. When I turn back around to look at him, he’s standing in the middle of my living room/bedroom staring at me with a confused look on his face.

“You look even more beautiful in your pajamas and morning hair than when you’re dressed up for the day. Please don’t cover up,” he begs. That comment alone with how honest he was about it has me numb in every place of my body. Wanting more.

I fold my arms across my chest indicating the sweatshirt stays on…for now. He doesn’t argue, instead he gives a simple nod and turns his attention to my tiny one-person kitchenette.

“So, since you slept in today, which is perfectly fine, how about I familiarize myself with your closet sized kitchen over here and cook you breakfast,” he suggests as he walks into the kitchen and starts opening cabinets.

“Like breakfast in bed?” The only thing that pops into my head.

“Yep, exactly like breakfast in bed. Now, do you prefer pancakes or waffles?”

Is he serious right now? First, he waits almost an hour for me outside in his car. Then, he gets this brilliant idea of walking up the rickety steps to my apartment to check on me. He doesn’t stop there, though. He comes into my apartment, compliments my pajamas in a way that make me love compliments now, whereas before I used to hate hearing them. Now, he insists on cooking me breakfast. There is no way somebody can like me that much…what is he buttering me up for?

“What about our original breakfast plans?” I ask, trying to get him to stop digging around in my cabinets.

“I just made new breakfast plans with you. Now, go sit down and let me make you the Breakfast of Champions,” he says it like it’s a real thing. He says it with such dramatic effect as well and it makes me giggle a little. I try hard to hide it, but he notices the sound and his eyes light up like lights on a Christmas Tree.

“I’m so glad I decided to come up here after all,” Jason says as he finds all the ingredients he needs to cook with.

“Why’s that?” I ask as I make myself comfortable on the futon.

“Because I just got to witness the cutest sound I think I’ve ever heard come from you since I’ve known you.”

That makes me smile, so I try to hide it with a sarcastic comment. “Yeah, well to be fair, you’ve only known me for like three days.”

He gasps. “Wow, way to kill the mood.”

I roll my eyes and turn the TV on. Oprah is on. I never watch TV this early on any day, so all the morning shows are new to me. I get even more comfortable, and decide to chill with Oprah while Jason figures out “the Breakfast of Champions” in my kitchen.

Oprah is talking about politics right off the bat this morning. The presidential election to be exact. The rumor buzzing around the media these days is how Oprah, herself, is going to run for the next presidential election. Now I know why I don’t watch TV this early in the morning. Who wants to hear about the elections and whose running for what this early in the morning? Not unless you’re ninety-years-old and this is the only drama you can get in your life…Who wants drama, anyway? I turn the TV off after leaving it on for a few minutes, and that catches Jason’s attention.

“Nothing interesting on?” He asks.

“Not unless you find politics and Oprah’s speech about herself running for president enjoyable and interesting,” I retort.

“Not a fan. What about any other channels?”

“That is the only channel I get. I usually don’t watch TV this early in the morning. Whenever I watch TV it is right before I go to bed at night and I watch the reruns of the show The Bachelor,” I explain.

“What about movies?”

“Don’t have any.”

“Who doesn’t own movies?” He exclaims, taken back by the fact that I might be the first person he’s ever met that doesn’t own any movies.

“This girl!”

“Can I ask why?”

“I never watched movies growing up.” This is true. I never watched any kind of television living with my mother and father. My father said the television was only for him to watch; my mother wasn’t even allowed to watch it, although she did occasionally when he wasn’t around. He would always find out, though. When I moved out here with Aunt Bethany, we hardly ever watched movies. We always found a better way to spend our time together through conversation and doing things together such as shopping, or gardening, or walking around town. I even picked up stitching when I lived with her because she loved to stitch and it was something we did together almost every night until I left for college; she still does. When I left for college, I was always studying or out partying with friends. Aunt Bethany doesn’t know I partied and she will never know.

“When did you grow up, in the stone age era?” Jason jokes.

“No, as a matter of fact, I grew up in a decent household where we did other activities together that made us laugh and grow stronger together rather than miss out on all those opportunities by sitting in front of the television screen watching dumb movies!” I defend.

“OK, OK, I’m sorry,” Jason says as he puts his hands up in defeat. “I didn’t mean to offend you, Hope. I see you take pride in that aspect of your life and I think that’s awesome, therefore I will not be the one to shoot it down. Besides, I would make a very bad breakfast date if I did so.”

That is one hell of an apology I wasn’t expecting.

“Will you please answer my question?” Jason suddenly asks after his apology that rendered me speechless and feeling like a jerk for exploding on him.

I look at him with confusion because I know he didn’t ask a question just now.

“What question?” I ask.

“Do you like pancakes or waffles better?” He says the question with the voice of a two-year-old and it makes me laugh. He is cute and I know I’m falling deeper and deeper for him every day. I just can’t believe he’s going through all this trouble just for me.

“Waffles,” I say with a smile on my face using the same childish tone he had used.

“Good answer!” He turns toward the cabinet where I have all the equipment to make waffles such as the obnoxiously large waffle maker. It takes him a moment to dig it out, but when he does he turns it on right away and starts beating the waffle mix in a plastic bowl.

A few moments of silence pass between us with me sitting on the futon fiddling with the strings in the pocket of my sweatshirt, and Jason standing at the counter concentrating on cooking. I watch him maneuver around the kitchen as he’s cooking. I want to melt into this futon cushion every time he moves; his muscles in his arms, sides, and abdomen contrast with every movement and are clearly visible through the tight, thin fabric of his t-shirt. Living my life as invisible as I could, I never thought would result in a sexy cop standing in my kitchen cooking me breakfast.

“Do you cook often?” I ask out of the blue. I am genuinely curious if he’s going to poison my food or if it’s going to turn out burnt.

“I do, actually. You see, I have to survive since I live on my own,” he says sarcastically with a smile on his face as he pours batter into the waffle maker, and closes the lid.

“Oh, I thought you lived with your parents…Just how Shayna talked about you and all…You never mentioned you lived by yourself…” I say as I stumble over my words nervously, trying not to sound like an idiot, but failing horribly at it.

He is laughing now. He throws his head back in a fit of laughter. The sound of his laugh makes me jump; loud and boisterous.

“You never asked me, silly,” he responds once he’s finished laughing. “You don’t ever ask me anything about myself. If you would’ve asked, I would’ve told you. Besides, where do you think I take all the ladies to get what I want?”

My eyes are wide now as I stare at him in shock. Did he just confess to me there are more girls besides me, and that he’s after one thing only? I can feel my body tense up at that comment as I watch him pour the rest of what’s left of the pancake batter into the waffle maker after he’s taken out the already cooked waffle. He looks at me as he pours the batter into the maker. His eyes grow dark and serious as he notices my body posture now; I’m holding myself at the knees with a terrified look on my face.

“Hey, Hope,” Jason says softly. “It was a joke. There is no other girl, you know this. I’ve told you everything. If I wanted you for sex only, do you think I would’ve waited an hour outside your apartment? Do you think I would’ve bought you flowers? Do you think I would be standing here right now in your tiny ass kitchen making you waffles?” His voice getting louder with every question he asks. I know I hit a nerve this time.

I nod. I am still frozen on the futon, lost for words. Jason brings the plate of waffles over to me with the butter and syrup. He sits down next to me on the futon, turning his body so he’s facing me.

“Today, it’s your turn to ask the questions, OK? I promise I’ll answer them honestly. I don’t care what it is because I don’t want to lie to you, Hope. I don’t want to hide anything from you. I want you to be able to look at me and trust me. I want you to stop seeing me as that cop that pulled you over the other night and see me as Jason. That is why I took today off work and showed up at your apartment in khakis and a t-shirt,” he explains, his eyes are soft and sincere as he looks at me. I know he’s being as truthful as he can be.

The smell of his cologne is strong and sweet. I inch closer to him to catch more of the scent. Intoxicating. Why does he have to smell so intoxicating as well?

Next thing I know, there are hands on me. On my shoulders. These hands are big hands that look like they have been worked with a lot. Rough and calloused. I realize suddenly to whom these hands belong. They belong to Jason as he sits there holding me at the shoulders, his eyes are wide. It looks as though he’s trying to say something; his lips are moving, but I hear no sound.

“HOPE!” I heard that sound. That was the sound of Jason yelling my name. He is shaking me vigorously. “Are you OK?”

“Yeah…sorry…it’s just that…you smell so good, and I couldn’t help myself,” I stammer as I shake my head to clear it from his scent so I can concentrate on the present.

I look up at him ashamed, and see him smirking. He is having the time of his life right now.

“Wow. I didn’t know my scent had that kind of an effect on someone before. I’ve never had girls fainting over it,” he chuckles. I was fainting?

I feel my face flush and turn away from him.

“What are you doing? No, no. Don’t you dare turn away from me, young lady,” Jason says, grabbing my face with his hands to ensure I look back at him. “Let me see that beautiful face get red. That means you have feelings, you know.”

I pull away from him with all my might, but his grip only tightens on my face. I start using other methods such as my hands and feet to push him away, but his body is made of stone so he doesn’t even budge. He starts using his feet to hold mine down. We do this for a few moments until we are entangled in each other, and out of breath.

“Are you finished? Can we eat now?” Jason asks once he notices my body relax from underneath him. He slowly removes his hands from my face and his legs from my legs.

Once we aren’t entangled anymore, Jason gives me a plate with a waffle on it. He stays facing me on the futon as he dresses the waffle for me before giving it to me.

“Bon appetit!” Jason says when he’s finished dressing up the waffle with butter and syrup.

“Thank you, but I can dress my own waffle, you know,” I tell him sarcastically.

“Yes, I am aware of that, but what kind of chef would I be if I didn’t do it for you?” He counters.

“But, you’re not a chef. You’re a police officer.”

“Only on my days to be a police officer, otherwise I am Chef Steth!” He says with an Italian accent as he puts his fingers together, kisses them, and puts them in the air like the chefs do on TV.

That makes me laugh which makes his eyes light up again. I love seeing the glow in his eyes. They bring life to his face.

“OK, what about the other days, though?” I ask as I finally take a bite of the waffle.

“What do you mean?” He asks in return, taking a bite of his waffle.

“You know, the days you’re not a police officer or Chef Steth.”

“Well, I guess you’ll have to go on more dates with me to see, huh?” Jason states, winking at me. Why did I have to go there? Now, I have to open my calendar to schedule more dates with this guy. Aunt Bethany is going to be so mad at me, but I don’t even care anymore. I want more dates with this guy. I want them all…

“You’re sneaky.”

“You asked.”

We finish our waffles in silence. A good silence, though. Not an awkward heavy silence. It’s the kind of silence that is heavy with emotion; the kind that has visible love and lust in the air that would make the hair on your arms stand on end. It is tempting to push aside our plates and attack him right here on this futon because my body aches for his touch with every passing second of silence.

I put my plate of half-eaten waffle on the floor, and push it away.

“The food not to your standards, Miss?” Jason asks in that sweet hot Italian voice he used moments ago.

“No, it’s delicious. I’m just never usually hungry in the mornings,” I say as I fold my feet in underneath me.

Jason eats the last bite of his waffle, sets his plate on the floor also, and looks at me. He swallows his food before he proceeds with his next question.

“Can I ask you something without you getting offended?”

“Sure,” I nod.

“Do you have feelings for me?”

I’m not sure how to answer this question. Do I tell him no? Do I keep him guessing? Do I tell him hell yes, I do…? I am frozen in thought which builds anticipation.

“I mean…I have to know, Hope. I have to know before I put my heart any deeper than it already is with you…”

What? Did he just confess his love to me? I mean, I already had an idea with his comments and the way he’s been hanging around…but it’s too soon, isn’t it?

Jason scoots a little closer to me on the futon which has my heart racing. “Hope, I can’t help it…the night I pulled you over and you freaked out on me the way you did…it did something to my heart. It woke my heart up, and I never thought I would ever find anyone ever again that would have that effect on me. I’m not ashamed to say that I am falling deeper in love with you every single day, and it tears me apart inside not knowing how you feel. I saw your face turn read earlier, so that must mean something? Don’t leave me guessing, Hope…please. Every night I lay down in my bed I’m wishing you were there beside me. All I do is think about you…I can’t seem to get you out of my head. It drives me crazy, Hope. You drive me crazy…and what it did to me seeing you in nothing but sweat pants and a camisole when you opened that door for me…” He shuts his eyes, hurt by the thought running through his head right now. “I need to know if I can keep seeing you like this…or if I should just move on…”

I should tell him how I really feel because all of this is clearly tearing him apart, and I hate to see him like this. Fighting everything he feels for me because he doesn’t know if I feel the same way. I’m just afraid he might eventually find out who I really am, and I don’t want to have to lie to him. I must be careful.

I put my hand on his face softly and watch as he opens his sad grey eyes to look at me.

“Jason,” I say softly, and he sucks in a breath at the sound of his name coming from my mouth. Like it was the sweetest thing he has ever heard. I realize it is the first time I’ve called him by his name as well. “The day you pulled me over, I hated you. I swore up and down I never wanted to see you again. Then, you show up at my work days later and kidnap me for a dinner date.” He is even more saddened by this statement and tries to pull away from me, but I don’t let him. I put both of my hands on his face firmly to make him look at me. “I still refused to like you that night. It was that same night, however, that you made me start falling in love with you. I was deceived by my own emotions. It is also in this same moment that makes it so very hard for me to sit here next to you with these emotions running through me without ripping all of your clothes off, and giving all of myself to you.”

I am shocked in myself that I said all of that with pure confidence. I don’t want to see him hurt anymore. I want him to know what he does to me every time I’m in his presence.

His eyes grow wide with shock. Then, his lips are on mine like a freight train. Warm, soft lips that mesh perfectly with mine. He parts his lips, and I take full advantage of it. He tastes so good in every crevice my tongue touches.

He slowly pushes me down on the futon so I’m lying on my back, never breaking free from my mouth. He crawls on top of me and braces himself up on his arms that are now on either side of me. I see the muscles bulge in his arms and that makes me moan. He swallows my moan as his lips grow more rapid against mine. He fixes his posture so he can brace himself on one arm, and with the other arm he unzips my sweatshirt slowly. I can feel the blood racing in my veins with every kiss, and every movement he makes.

Once he has my sweatshirt all the way unzipped, he slowly slides his hand underneath the camisole, and lets it rest flat on my stomach, holding me there as we make out.

“Your skin is so soft,” he says quietly against my lips.

I giggle and he’s back on my mouth, kissing all the giggles my body is capable of producing. Then, his hand that’s resting on my stomach starts traveling. It travels northward little by little, tracing circles all over my skin. His mouth never leaves mine as he does this. He gets to my breasts and, without thinking about it, he grabs onto one. He squeezes and rubs repeatedly which has me in a fit of pleasure. I grab onto his hair; fistfuls of brown hair, and start yanking as I kiss him deeper than before. He moans into my mouth, the sound so sweet and addicting. That is when I feel it between my legs; his erection hard as he rubs his body against mine. Oh, this moment is so perfect, bad, and everything I want…

RING! RING!

A cell phone is ringing. Jason doesn’t stop right away, so I make him stop by pushing him off me.

“What’s wrong?” He asks as he sits up.

“My cell phone is ringing. Help me find it,” I say, trying to roll off the futon in search of my phone.

Instead of arguing with me, he straightens up and starts searching for my phone as well. I like the way he doesn’t push anything. He has respect, and I feel like I just fell even more in love with him because of that.

“Found it!” He says as he hands me the cell phone.

I look at the number, not a number I recognize. I hit the green button to answer it.

“Hello?”

“Is this Hope Connor?” A tiny female voice asks on the other end of the call.

I look quickly at Jason hoping he can’t hear. He Is gathering the plates on the floor and taking them to the kitchen.

“Uhm, Morris. Hope Morris…but, yeah this,” I correct quickly in the event he did hear.

“Hi, there, Hope. This is Doctor Dalorez with UW Health in Madison, Wisconsin. We have a patient that checked in here early this morning by the name of Bethany Morris…”

“Oh, my God! Is she OK?” I interrupt frantically. Jason can see the worry on my face and comes back into the living room to sit next to me again.

“Well, that is why I’m calling. Is there any way you could make it in to the office today to speak with me?” The tiny nasally voice says.

“Yes, I can leave my house right now.”

“OK. When you get here, go straight to emergency and ask for Doctor Dalorez.” Then the line is dead.

“What was that about?” Jason asks when I put my phone down away from my ear.

“The hospital in Madison. Aunt Bethany was admitted there this morning.” Tears start to swell up in my eyes. Jason sees this too, and he wraps me in a tight hug.

“I have to go…” I start to say as Jason stands up and grabs his things.

“I’m going with you. Let’s go.”

“What? You really don’t have to…”

He’s cupping my face in his hands again. “Yes, I do, Hope. You need me whether you want to admit it or not. What kind of boyfriend would I be if I wasn’t there with my girlfriend when she needed someone the most?”

I cringe a little. I don’t know if I like how loosely he uses the terms boyfriend and girlfriend. We haven’t even discussed what level we are on, yet.

“Oh, come on! You can’t tell me that after what just happened between us there’s nothing there,” Jason explains obviously noticing the cringe.

“We haven’t discussed it yet, Jason. Your tongue wouldn’t leave my mouth long enough for us to discuss it.”

“No need to. It’s obvious how we feel about each other, especially after our confessions. You can’t tell me that if we went all the way that we wouldn’t be anything.”

He has a point. I am too confused, and worried to even care at this moment. I put my messy brown hair up into a messy bun, zip up my sweatshirt again, grab my purse, and walk out the door. Jason follows suite locking the apartment door behind us. He grabs my arms quickly before we walk any further.

“Hope, don’t make me beg. I want to be a part of your life and I want you to be in mine. I think I proved that enough to you already, and by the way you kissed me back in there moments ago, I know you feel the same way.”

I stare at him, speechless because at this point I don’t know what I want or what is anymore. He has clogged so much of my thinking, I’m afraid I’ll start to get careless with it just like what I did a few moments ago.

“Think about it, OK?”

I nod in agreement just to get him to let go of me. He is everything I want, and the way he makes me feel is out of this world. Am I ready to give all of myself to that? I did tell him that a few moments ago. I need to tell him and it should be soon because I can’t keep doing this to him or to myself.

We make our way down the rickety steps, and across the street to his parked car. I look around for his squad car, but don’t see it. He points to the red Toyota Camry parked right next to my Honda. He unlocks the doors and we hop inside. The scent of new car meets my nostrils.

“New car?” I ask as he starts it up.

“Nope. You’re just used to seeing me in my squad car.”

“But the new car scent?”

“I don’t drive it much. I’ve had this car for about two years now. This is literally the third time I’ve driven it,” he explains as we drive out of the parking lot and down the road toward the highway to Madison.

As soon as we get on the highway, Jason puts his hand in my lap. I take it carefully in mine and squeeze it tight. I do want him in my life, but I know I shouldn’t. I should be truthful with him first…about everything. Now is not the time, though.

Thirty minutes later, we are pulling into the hospital parking lot. He finds a spot in the second row of parking. We get out of the car, he locks it, and together we walk up toward the hospital doors. Once inside, we make our way toward the emergency room. There is a fat old woman with hair as white as snow perched at the reception desk in the emergency room.

“Can I help you?” She whispers very quietly you have to lean in all the way to hear her.

“Yes, we are here to see Doctor Dalorez, please,” I whisper back.

“Please hold one second.” The fat woman stands and wobbles away down the hall leaving Jason and I alone in the waiting area.

Cartoons are being played on the big flat screen TV in the waiting area. Spongebob to be exact. I’m surprised I know that because I never watched that show. Probably because everyone these days knows who Spongebob is. Even elders. His face is everywhere; on pillows for kids, posters, lunch boxes, the internet.

A moment later, the fat lady appears in the walkway.

“Come this way.” She motions for us to follow her. We follow her all the way down the corridor to the last room on the right. An ICU room. Immediately I start crying. I can feel Jason’s hands on my back, rubbing. Soothing.

“Wait right here,” the fat lady says as she enters the ICU room. Please let Aunt Bethany be OK. Please let Aunt Bethany be OK.

A moment later, the fat lady walks back out followed by who must be the doctor. She is at least four-feet tall and scrawny. Her face is sunken in from either lack of sleep or maybe she drinks a lot. Her hair is salt and pepper colored, and pulled back into a ponytail. She wears absolutely no makeup so every wrinkle line is noticed.

“Doctor Dalorez?” I ask in an unsure manner.

“Yes, Hope? Right?” Her voice sounds even more nasally in person.

“Yes, how is my aunt?” I ask in a rush, tears still spilling down my face.

“She’s stable now. Can I ask you how much you knew about your aunt’s medical condition?”

“Medical condition? What medical condition? She’s fine…she always was, I mean. There was never anything unusual.”

“Did she ever look sick or pale to you?”

I take a moment to reflect on the past with Aunt Bethany. She always seemed fine like nothing was ever wrong with her. Normal. Except for last week when I had dinner with her. She looked exhausted, like more than normal.

“I had supper with her last week. Friday to be exact. She looked a little more exhausted than usual, but I thought it was just because she had worn herself out cleaning the house or something,” I explain to the doctor.

Doctor Dalorez sighs. It’s not a good sigh either. It’s one of those sighs that you hear right before bad news is delivered.

Jason grabs onto my hand and squeezes it to let me know he’s here for me. Perfect timing because I nearly forgot he was.

“Hope,” the doctor starts to say with a saddened tone. “Your aunt fainted this morning at work. Her coworkers called 9-1-1 to get her here right away. She wasn’t responding to anyone. After she arrived, I hooked up the IV and started running tests because her body wasn’t stabilizing at all. I found bruising all over legs and arms which led me to do one more test on her hoping I was wrong…” She takes a breath and lets it out before saying, “Hope, Bethany has Stage Four Leukemia.”

I am truly frozen in my spot and lost for words. The hospital feels as though it is closing in on me. How can this be? When did this happen? How could I have not known?

“What are you saying?” I whisper.

“I’m saying your aunt knew for a while she was sick and never told anyone. If she would’ve told someone a lot sooner we would be able to do bone marrow transplants, but Stage Four Leukemia is impossible to treat. I’m saying I’m sorry, Hope. Your aunt is dying,” Doctor Dalorez explains to me very calmly. She touches my arm showing me sympathy, then guides us into the ICU room.

Aunt Bethany is barely visible underneath the blankets and tubes she’s hooked up to. I can immediately tell she has lost a lot of weight; she was petite to begin with.

“Bethany will stay here in this room for the remainder of her time,” the doctor whispers to me before leaving us alone. “If you need anything, I’ll be out by the nurse’s desk. Let me know when you decide to leave.” Then she pulls the curtain closed to give us privacy, and walks out of the room.

“Hope? Is that you?” Aunt Bethany says in a weak voice that nearly rips me in half.

I walk up to her bedside where she can see me, Jason following right behind me. The look on his face is sorrow. He isn’t a bad guy that Aunt Bethany makes him out to be. He’s a little curious, but mostly he has a big heart he just wants to share with everyone. He means well.

“Yeah, Aunt Bethany, it’s me. I brought a friend, too.” I turn to look at Jason. His expression just went sour at the sound of the word friend. I give him a look that says I need him to understand and not do this right now.

Aunt Bethany is strapped down to the bed by buckles. My guess is so she doesn’t move due to all the machines and tubes she’s hooked up to. Her eyes, though, can travel. They travel to the person standing behind me.

“Is there something you want to tell me, Hope?” She asks angrily.

“Aunt Bethany, no, don’t do this,” I protest.

“Do what?” Jason asks in my ear.

I shrug him off and pay attention to Aunt Bethany whom, in her sick state, still looks aggressive when she is angry.

“Why did you bring him here?” She spits at me, her eyes still locked on Jason.

“Aunt Bethany! Stop! You need your rest!”

“Tell me!” Her shouting voice is like a loud whisper now with how weak her body is.

“Why don’t you tell me why you never told me you were sick, huh?” I counter back, leaning over her so I’m in her face now.

She starts tearing up. “Because I didn’t want you to know I was dying. I wanted you to believe everything was going to be OK.”

“They could’ve helped you, Aunt Bethany! The doctor just told me so.”

“It doesn’t matter, Hope, because sooner or later we all die. Even if they could help me, I would live another five, maybe ten years but that would be it…”

“Yes, but that would be another five to ten years from now. You would be old enough and ready! You’re too young to die, Aunt Bethany. You can’t give up this easily.” I feel water on my cheeks. I wipe at it and notice I had been crying this entire time, just too worked up to notice.

“Hope, honey, the day I found out I was sick was the day I gave up. I’m ready to go be with your mother,” she says to me through tears.

“When did you find out you were sick?” I ask her quietly.

“The day your mother died. I had just gotten back from the hospital to receive my test results and moments later you came knocking on my door. I was going to fight it, but when you told me that my sister was dead, I knew I didn’t want to fight it anymore.”

“How did you live this long with it?”

“When I took you to the police station to talk to Chuck Grady, he pulled me aside and told me I had to do everything I could to ensure your safety. I told him I couldn’t because I was dying. I told him I had given up and that I wasn’t going to ask for help because my sister was dead. He told me to at least ensure I live long enough to make sure you make I through school safely. He said once I knew you were safe, I could go peacefully. That was his last mission for me.

“So, I would go to the hospital twice a month to receive blood transfusions. The week I told you I took off for vacation? Was spent in the hospital on and off receiving blood transfusions. I received them more often as time passed because the worse it became,” she explained to me softly. “That’s why Chuck Grady would call me all the time to check in. He wasn’t just checking in, he was making sure I was still alive and protecting you.”

I take a step back feeling like I was just slapped in the face. I can’t believe this…

“Now, you promised me you wouldn’t hang around this boy. He’s a snake, Hope…” She starts to say, but I’m quick to interrupt her.

“What do you know about him? Probably not near enough as I do!”

“I know well enough of what he’s capable of.”

“What? Capable of caring? Capable of love?” I sneer.

I see out of the corner of my eye Jason has moved back slowly, the look on his face horrifying. I instantly feel bad that he has to hear all of this. Now he will know the truth no questions about it. He needs to after this.

“After all this time of trying to protect you, you go off and risk it by hanging around a cop. Has my life meant nothing to you? Has your mother’s life?”

“Don’t you dare throw my mother into this! Is it such a crime to be happy, Aunt Bethany? Is it really that much of a crime to be happy with someone! To be in love!”

I can’t help but notice Jason’s eyes light up at that last part. That should be all the indication he needs about how I feel about him.

“Be in love with someone else, Hope. If he finds out, you can kiss your life goodbye.”

Just then the nurse comes in and says she has to feed Aunt Bethany. I say my goodbyes and walk out the door, Jason trailing right behind me. None of us says a word until we are outside the building, walking to his car. He grabs my arms to stop me and spins me around so I’m facing him.

“You mind telling me what I’m not supposed to know? Why doesn’t your aunt want you to see me?” He explodes in my face.

“Jason, you wouldn’t understand. Yes, I believe I’m truly in love with you which makes all of this hurt so much. It is also why I can’t keep putting you through this. This is why I refuse to tell you what we are or what I want us to be,” I explain as truthful as I can. I turn to walk away the moment he shouts back at me.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean, Hope? Don’t walk away from this, dammit! Talk to me!”

Just then, two men dressed in black come at me from both directions. I notice they are detectives right away by their ear pieces and badges hanging from their belts.

“Miss Connor, please come with us,” one of them says to me as they approach me.

I start to fight them and scream for help as they grab both of my arms. Jason tries to step in, but is confused on why the detectives are taking me away.

“Stay out of this, Mr. Steth. We will have you fired for hiding a fugitive if you don’t,” the other man says to Jason. Jason takes a step back completely dumbfounded at the situation happening right before his eyes.

“Miss Connor,” the first one says to me. “You are being transported back to Chicago, tonight. For now, we have to take you into the town police station to sign your release papers to have you transported back.” He puts my arms behind my back and handcuffs me.

I can’t believe this is happening right now. I can’t even look at Jason because I feel too ashamed and the look on his face will break me into pieces knowing I hurt him. I lied to him. No, I just refused to tell him the truth. The whole truth.

“Please follow us, Miss Connor.”

I am being thrown into the back of a squad car. I am crying now as I watch Jason get smaller and smaller until he’s no longer visible. I am crying because for once in my life I felt safe. That no one would ever find me, but they did. Ten years later.

~Nature and Peace~

To all my readers before I begin, no this is not Chapter 5 yet, but it is coming. I’ve got a good start on it and hope to have it out by the weekend! I am simply taking a small break to write a nature blog because I’ve got to keep the money rolling in. 

As many do not know, I live by the lake. A big lake at that. Lake Wisconsin to be exact. I walk out my front door and…THERE IT IS!! We have a lot of nature such as wild life, trees, and such many different things I’ve never even seen before. For example, the dark fishing spider. I am so afraid of spiders it’s not funny and the dark fishing spider is as creepy as it gets! (I dare all of you to google it. The picture on the bottom is what the look like and they get so much bigger out here by the lake!)Image result for dark fishing spider

Spooky, Right? Like every day is Halloween except without the candy.

Not every day is like this, though. Most days are very calm and relaxing. Peaceful. You go outside and hear nothing but coyotes howl at night; during the day the birds are chirping and you hear the WHOOSH of the lake. Like every day is paradise. Doesn’t that sound enjoyable? Like Heaven, especially when you get days like this:    

Doesn’t that look beautiful? Doesn’t this picture make  you want to build a fort by it and never leave? Looks almost like one of those pictures you see of people relaxing by the ocean with a beer in their hand. Well, I’m sorry to inform you all that this picture IS NOT photo shop like the ones you see in magazines or on social media. This is an actual picture I took myself while fishing on this beautiful lake last summer. This spot is actually right down the road from my house. These are the moments in nature that make it peaceful. These are the moments in nature to cherish. I don’t think we caught any fish on this particular day, but it was such a gorgeous day to sit out and relax. Act like those people relaxing on the beach with a cold beer in my hand. These are honestly the days to live for, people. Instead of stressing about what to wear on your next date night, or about your employer cutting your hours, or about if you’re going to be able to afford your bills for the next two weeks, think about the nature you all could be enjoying. Go on a hike somewhere you’ve never been and take lots of pictures of anything and everything. Go spend the day on an actual beach somewhere, or even grab your grandfathers’ old boat and coast it down the river and soak up everything.

That is the problem with society these days. Everyone focuses on the things they can’t control and they go through life with their head down. Look up for a change and experience all life’s little things such as the nature around you. At least before it passes you by. Me, for example, I’m not afraid to stand on the shore of the lake and look up to the stars because no matter what, I am always looking up.                     

  Have a nice day everyone! Go and enjoy world’s nature and find peace around you!      

~Chapter 4….Already??~

For those whom are ready for Chapter 4 to my novel Hopes and Destinies, here it is. I know, you all are probably thinking already?? Yep, I had more time to write this week plus this chapter I already had in my mind so I was all about writing it down. Please be sure to comment or like my page!! But also for those who are tuning in for the first time, you can go back and read all the other chapters on my site as well. I do ask that everyone keep my aunt in their thoughts…she is not doing very good which is why I had more time to write this week (I had to take a few days off work). As an update on the following chapters, now is the time to keep up with what’s going on because some major things are going to happen! So make sure you are following if you aren’t and if you can’t don’t worry…I’m publishing when I’m finished with it so stay tuned for updates concerning that. I will be starting Chapter 5 tomorrow. The plan is to have Chapter 5 done by the weekend (I will be taking this weekend off again due to having our son this weekend). So be prepared for some weekend reading as well to any of those that are interested. Until then, I hope you all enjoy Chapters 1-4 so far!! 

Chapter 4:

What would happen if I opened the car door and did the “tuck and roll”? Would he come back for me? I’m being ridiculous, I think to myself as I watch tree after tree pass by on the side of the road.

“Where are you taking me?” I ask, shakily. I am scared.

“I never kiss and tell,” Jason says with a big grin on his face. “Plus, you told me to pick the place because I’m driving, so you as the passenger get to sit there in anticipation and enjoy the scenery.”

I realize now I should’ve sucked it up and picked the place because I hate surprises. I really hate surprises. I look back out the window and try to enjoy the scenery like he said. Farms and the occasional house is what we pass by. Nothing too spectacular, but is peaceful to look at all the same. Every few minutes, an eagle out in the distance flies away from the tree it’s perched on; it was spooked by something. They look so graceful as they spread their wings and take flight.

The sun is almost set now; the darkness has just about consumed our part of the country. I look at the clock on the dashboard which reads 7:25PM. Jason notices me glancing at the clock.

“Don’t tell me you have a certain time you eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day?” He asks with a sigh.

“Do you really think I live all of my life on a schedule?” I blurt out without thinking. The sarcastic comments come easy with him, I don’t know why.

He laughs and looks at the road again. My guilt starts to kick in. Why do I have to be such a bitch?

I take a deep breath, and continue with, “I don’t eat breakfast because I don’t have time to. Every now and then I’ll eat lunch. I usually go to my aunt’s house to eat dinner. So, basically I eat whenever I’m hungry.”

“The night I pulled you over in front of your aunt’s house, you were going there for dinner?” He asks, curiosity in his voice.

“Yep,” I nod.

“How often do you go there?”

“Usually four or five times a week.”

“Do you have specific days?”

“Nope. Whenever I feel like going over there, I go.”

“Good to know,” he mumbles more to himself than to me, I think.

“Don’t tell me you’re going to start stalking me at my aunt’s house, too?” I say flatly, a little anger in my voice.

“Maybe, maybe not.” He smiles. He thinks he’s being alluring, but he’s being downright annoying.

Silence again as we continue to drive down the quiet, lonely road. What feels like hours later, ends up being five minutes later, we are arriving in a town. Madison, Wisconsin.

I look at him. “Why did you bring me to Madison?”

He looks back at me with a sincere look on his face. “I thought we were going out for dinner? Don’t tell me you have short term memory loss or something. Where you only remember up to five minutes’ prior…”

“No, I remember,” I snarl. This guy knows how to push buttons. It’s like I should spell everything out for him. He knows exactly what he’s doing; if this is his way of trying to pry and “get to know me” I see right through it. Time to start turning the tables around on him. “What I meant was why are we going to supper in Madison?”

“You told me to pick a place, and I did.”

I roll my eyes. What he’s doing is such a turn off and I hope he sees that.

“You should’ve picked the place, then. Like I asked you to,” Jason responds to my eye roll with a solid voice.

I cross my arms and watch the traffic roll by as we drive straight into the city.

Anger is an emotion just like sad, happiness, and love. Love. What is the true meaning of love? Or is it lust I’m confusing it with because I can’t help but feel more attracted to this police officer the angrier I am with him. He is annoying, and very much into invasion of privacy, and anything else that should be a turn off to women, but I can’t help but want to be with him the angrier he makes me. This isn’t right. I need to go home and lock myself in my apartment for a few days until I don’t feel for him anymore. I shouldn’t feel for him…but I do.

The car comes to a stop at a red light. We are in the turn lane to turn right. We turn right onto a separate side road and drive all the way down it. We see hotel after hotel, a side mall of restaurants, and more hotels. Oh, no, he’s going to get us a hotel and try to get in my pants. NOPE! Not happening!

I stat to hyperventilate, and grip the door handle. He notices and the look on his face goes from smiling to pure concern.

“Hope? What’s wrong?”

“Why did you bring me here?” I blurt out.

His expression is confused. “I thought we went over this…Are you sure there’s nothing wrong…?”

“NO! The…hotels…!” I point, breathing in and out, in and out. I close my eyes and hope this is all a dream.

“What?” He asks still not understanding. “Hope…”

He touches my arms and I start to scream. “TAKE ME HOME! I SAID TAKE ME HOME, NOW!”

I open my eyes to see him wide eyed and, maybe for once, terrified. More at my outburst than at the situation. The car is now parked in a parking lot, which I assume is whatever hotel he picked out.

“Hope, what is wrong?”

“Do you take every girl here? Is that what you do? Go and seek out a vulnerable girl you can take advantage of and tell her you’re taking her out to dinner when in reality you take her to a hotel where no one can find you and have your way with her?” I’m rambling now, ready to make a run for it.

“You’re making no sense, Hope. What girls? What did my sister tell you about me?” Jason is now fighting back. He’s hurt and I can see it on his face as he fights back. He is in my face now. It is taking everything I have to not lean all the way over and kiss him. I close my eyes again and take another huge breath.

“Huh?” He’s impatient now. I open my eyes again to see him sitting all the way back by his door, all his attention on me, waiting.

There’s a lump in my throat and I swallow hard. “I don’t know anything about you, and the next time I see you after you gave me the ticket and tried to pry on my family you say you’re taking me to dinner…”

“So, you automatically assume I’m going to take you to a hotel and have my way with you?” He’s disgusted by that question.

“Well, look at you. You are young, hot, and you know how to have your way with people by bossing them around and intimidating them.” My voice is rough sounding, small.

“Intimidating people is what I’m trained to do, Hope. I take my profession seriously. I do not ever use my profession for my own idiosyncrasies. I’ve never once taken advantage of a girl and I don’t plan to. For your own thoughts, it’s been a long time since I’ve even been out with a woman. Have I had girls at the bar try to get with me? Yes. Have I been drunk and tempted? Yes. Have I taken a girl home before? Yes, but nothing happened. My plan with her was to, use your words, take advantage of her, but once I got her back to my place I couldn’t go through with it. I made her a cup of hot tea, and told her she could sleep it off in my guest bedroom. That’s exactly what she did, too. She left the next day with no goodbyes and no numbers left,” he explains in a calm voice, staring right into my soul the entire time.

I suddenly feel ignorant for my outburst; embarrassed to use a better lack of words. I feel my face get warm, so I try to hide it by turning away from him in shame.

“Can I ask you something?” He asks as I turn away. I don’t answer him, so he continues anyway. “Why are you always so quick to overreact and assume?”

I slowly turn back to look at him, and say, “Because I don’t trust easily.”

He puts a hand on my knee and makes me look at him by bending low to look me in the eyes as he says, “Well, even if you don’t trust anyone, trust me. I’m not here to hurt you. All I want is to have a nice meal with a pretty girl.”

I can’t help, but smile. My face instantly flushes the color of roses at his comment, and there is no way to stop it. I don’t want to stop it. I want him to see how that comment lights me up.

“There’s that beautiful smile,” he says, smiling with me. “Are you ok, now? Are you ready to eat? We are here.”

I turn around to look through the back window of the squad car, and see a sign next to a dark green building that says PERKINS. Perkins? He’s taking me to a breakfast shop?

“Perkins?” I say, not sure how that sounded coming off my tongue. I crinkle up my nose.

“The best place to eat fresh baked pie,” Jason says creating the biggest smile on his face I’ve witnessed in all the time knowing him. He looks like a little kid at Christmas. Lighting up like fireworks from excitement. “Come on!”

He gets out of the car faster than I can unbuckle my seatbelt. I get out of the car cautiously.

“You’ve never been here, have you?” He asks me, gauging my expressions and my movements.

“Once when I was a kid. I was with Aunt Bethany, though.” The memories come flooding back as soon as I say that. Aunt Bethany and I always came here to eat breakfast every morning when we moved out here. It was also here at this restaurant that an undercover detective that was working with my father almost spotted us. That was the last time we ate here. Having those memories has me stopped in my tracks and fighting for air. I must keep reminding myself that that was ten years ago, there’s no way my father would have people still looking for me not to mention at the same place for ten years.

Jason meets me at my side of the car after I get out of it. Looking at him has my emotions going in all sorts of directions they don’t even know which way is the right way.

“Hope you brought your appetite,” he says in his low sexy voice as he loops my arm around his and walks us inside the restaurant.

Inside it smells like fresh baked bread and pastries. We wait a few minutes to be seated by our waitress. He chooses a booth; he sits on one side and I sit opposite him. He stares at me the entire time I’m studying the menu.

A few moments pass, and our waitress named Katie comes back to take our order. She is middle aged and loves to flirt with the newbie cop. For some reason, I hate that he flirts back. Jealousy. We order our food; I order a diet coke and the chicken tenders basket, and he orders a coke and the mushroom burger basket. The waitress walks away to give the kitchen our order and to fill our drinks.

“She flirts with me every time I come here,” Jason says as he spots my angry expression.

“And you said you don’t date girls often,” I scold.

“I said there are many girls interested in me, but I am not into them. She is one that is interested in me and tries very hard. But I keep it at a friendly level.”

“Why did you turn that girl down? The one that you took home?” I ask the question that’s been festering in my head since he brought it up. If he wants to flirt with other girls in front of me and pry in my life, I get to at least pry in his.

“I told you, I just couldn’t bring myself to take advantage of her,” he says flatly.

“Yes, I know, but why?” I lean in so no one else around us can hear our conversation. “I mean you’re a typical young guy with…urges. I’m sure she was hot, especially if both of you were drunk…”

He stirs in his seat. He’s getting uncomfortable. Good, pay back is a bitch.

“I just wasn’t into her, OK?” He fights back, but I don’t take that for an answer so I keep prying.

“Why?”

“What is your deal?” He shouts back, darting me an angry look I’ve never seen before.

“You said to trust you, but how can I trust you when you’re flirting with every girl we run into? You say that you don’t date much and that you haven’t been interested in anyone, but here you are. With me. And you don’t even know me. You give me a ticket, then take me out to dinner and flirt with waitress right in front of me. So, what I’m saying is that something doesn’t add up with you and if you want me to trust you, you better stop lying to me.”

He takes a deep breath and covers his face with his hands for several seconds as if doing so is calming him down.

“Doesn’t feel so good, does it? When someone pries into your personal life,” I say as he’s trying to find the words to say.

“You want me to be honest with you? Fine, here it goes,” he preps himself for a long speech by taking a sip of his pop that the waitress brought over not even seconds before this conversation started, and sits back against the back of the booth. I do the same, waiting patiently for his story.

We are seated by a window, so he looks out the window before starting his story. He looks at me when he’s ready to talk and doesn’t take his eyes off me the entire time he’s speaking to me.

“I was sixteen and when I thought I met my soulmate. We were in all the same classes, and did everything together. I knew this was the girl I wanted to marry. I even had it planned on the day of our college graduation I was going to propose to her. I decided to take a year out of school after we graduated high school to work and save up money for her ring while she went off to college here in Madison for nursing.” He takes another sip of his drink. I’m staring at him barely breathing. I wasn’t expecting him to talk about his dead girlfriend, but he is.

“It was around the time I was trying to figure out what I wanted to go to college for when I got the call. She called me first,” his voice starts breaking. “She was underneath her car. Her car had rolled and she was ejected from her car…”

“What happened?” I ask in a tiny voice that I don’t recognize as my own.

“She was on her way home during a snow storm. She called me from campus and told she wanted to come see me. I told her to be careful because I didn’t know how the roads were. She was driving next to a semi and he lost control of the semi and the trailer was loaded. He swerved, the trailer unhitched and smashed into her car making her car smash into the guard rail and flip over it. She was ejected from the car when it flipped over the guard rail and the car landed upside down on top of her. She had just enough energy to call me and say she loved me and she was scared. She was in so much shock she couldn’t remember where she was and the more she freaked out the faster she would die.

“I hung up the phone and ran out to her just in time to watch her die. It was hard to distinguish her features because the car smashed every bone in her body and her face. Watching her die made me lose a part of myself I never got back. I went into a deep depression that I still think I’m in. Anyway, it was that day I decided to become a police officer because it makes me feel closer to her,” he explains softly with no emotion showing.

“Shayna says it was because you felt the need to make everyone obey the law.”

“That too, but mainly because it makes me feel closer to the dead. That was the only thing I looked forward to everyday, and Shayna doesn’t even know that. I don’t tell her because I know she would only think I’m crazy and admit me to a psych ward or something, knowing her. Looking forward to being close to the dead was the only way I could feel something again…until the day I pulled you over and met you.” He’s still staring at me like he has been through this entire conversation, a little glow in his eyes as he says that.

At that moment, the waitress brings us our food. She asks us if there is anything else she can get for us, mainly speaking to Jason the entire time. He waves her off never taking his handsome grey eyes off me, waiting for my response to what he just said. It is so easy to get lost in his eyes, and that’s exactly what I just did because I can’t remember what I was supposed to say to him. All I want to do is stare at those eyes forever.

I am lost in thought, watching him eat; watching him stare back at me. The atmosphere around us starts to become thick with intensity; thick with awkwardness.

“Are you going to eat?” His voice brings me back to reality. Where am I? Oh, Perkins.

“What?”

“Your food is getting cold, and you haven’t taken a bite yet,” he says, noticing my uneaten chicken tenders.

“Sorry,” I mumble, taking my eyes off him finally. I am picking through my food, still thinking about his comment a while ago. He’s happy to have met me…I make him feel something…

I take a few bites of my chicken in silence, still in thought when he says, “Tell me about you.”

I look back up at him in mid-chew, swallow, and say, “Like what? What do you want to know?”

He leans in, arms folded out in front of him on the table next to his plate of half-eaten food, and says in a deep, seductive voice, “Anything you want to tell me.”

The sound of his voice makes me want to tell him everything; tell him how I lied to him about my real name and why, tell him about my past life in Chicago, tell him about my father…But I don’t because I’m not sure if I can trust him or not, yet. Aunt Bethany would be so angry with me for telling him. If she ever found out I had dinner with him today, she would have my neck. What do I tell her if she asks? She can always tell when I’m lying to her and I hate it because I can’t hide anything from her.

“I went to college in Stevens Point for Business Management,” I say the first thing that I think is safe to share with him.

He takes another bite of his burger, chews, swallows, and then asks, “What made you decide to go to school for Business Management?”

I take a sip of my diet coke. “I don’t know. Aunt Bethany says she thinks it was because I have this thing where I always feel the need to fix things and make them better.”

“Make them better, how?” He says, intrigued by my answer.

“Like the grocery store where I work for example. We used to go there all the time when I was a kid, and as I grew older I grew an understanding of the fact the store wasn’t making any money and hadn’t for some time so they were in the process of shutting it down. I just reopened it when I started there because I believe with enough hard work and dedication the wrong can be righted. Not to mention, I know how much that store means to the local people, so I made a promise to bring it back to life,” I explain, all the while fingering my food in front of me that has barely been eaten, without looking at him.

“Is that why you chose to stay here after college?” He asks, clearly making small talk as he finishes his burger and starts in on the fries.

“I guess, and to take care of Aunt Bethany. I like it here,” I respond, finally deciding to nibble on another piece of the chicken tenders.

“You didn’t grow up here, did you?” He asks this like he is curious, but a part of me thinks he already knows the answer.

I swallow hard, refusing to look at him because my expression might give me away, and then I’ll be forced to tell him.

He must sense the sudden fear in me because he continues explaining, choosing his words wisely. “I’m just saying I grew up in Arlington, and I would’ve remembered seeing you if you did as well.”

I take a deep breath and close my eyes. “I moved out here when I was twelve so I might as well have grown up here.”

“Hmm,” he nods while he eats his last French fry and then takes a sip of his cola. “I wonder why I never seen you until now…”

Probably because for one: you had a girlfriend you were tremendously in love with, and for two: I didn’t draw attention to myself because of my situation, I thought to myself rather than speak aloud. I know if I said that out loud to him that would’ve opened a different conversation path I didn’t really want to go down in this moment.

To prevent him from going any further in this conversation, I start eating more of my food. It is cold now, but filling. It keeps my mouth preoccupied so he doesn’t feel the need to keep asking me questions about my past life right now. This is what Aunt Bethany didn’t want to happen, and now it is, so I must try to anything I can to make sure it doesn’t go any further.

RING! RING! Someone’s cell phone chimes as an incoming call. It startles me, and I look around to see whose it is. The sound is coming from Jason’s pocket. He realizes this as well and pulls out his cell phone. He looks at it, makes a disgruntled face, and pushes a button to answer it.

“Hello, Dad,” he says, unenthusiastically into the phone. He pushes his plate to the edge of the table indicating he’s finished with his food.

A long, anticipating pause on Jason’s end, then he says, “No, I made other plans for tonight, Dad. I told you I didn’t know…”

Another long pause as he listens to his father, whom seems to be on the other end of the phone call.

“Tell Shayna she’s wrong, then. She’s stupid for thinking I was going to be there. She should know better than to expect especially with my work schedule and all.” Jason starts to get angry about the conversation that is happening over the phone between him and his dad.

Jason takes a deep breath, then says, “Dad, I’m sorry, I have to go. I’m busy.” He hangs up the phone call before his father is prompted to say anything else.

“Sorry about that,” he says to me as he puts his cell phone back into his pants pocket. “My sister apparently told my dad that I was joining them for dinner at their house. He was calling me to talk about it.”

“Shayna mentioned something about seeing you today,” I tell him as I remember my and Shayna’s conversation about him at the store today.

“She’s dumb. I feel sorry for you having to deal with her every day.”

I push my half-eaten food to the edge of the table as well indicating I’ve finished eating, and take a sip of my soda. “She’s actually not that bad. She keeps me in line almost every day, and I can’t tell you how many times she’s saved my butt at work. I like to think of her as my lifesaver.”

“Well, at least one of us does,” he says, smiling. “She does have a good heart, I suppose. You are the first person to give her a chance at being an assistant. She’s a hard worker, and takes pride in her work, but has never been given the opportunity to have this kind of position until you came along. It really makes her happy to have you in her life.”

“She’s not the only one,” I say. I am shocked at the same time knowing that Shayna has never been a manager at any job. She’s got the experience, sometimes more than I do. “She’s got the experience…”

“That’s because people would always take advantage of her. She would let them, too. She started to believe that she was never good enough for anything higher until you came along and reopened the grocery store. She always tells me every time she sees me that for the first time in her life she found a job she can be truly happy at and have a boss that doesn’t take advantage of her abilities like the others used to,” Jason explains, drinking the last of his soda. He puts the glass on top of his empty plate.

On cue, the waitress walks by and picks up our dirty dishes, and slides Jason the bill. Jason opens it up after she walks away, takes a piece of paper from inside it, and crumbles it up in haste.

I am staring at him in confusion.

“She always gives me her number every time I come here. I’m not interested. The only person I’m interested in is the one sitting across from me right now,” he explains as he puts a couple twenty-dollar bills inside the black envelope where the bill is and closes it.

“Why me?” I croak out feeling the lump in my throat getting bigger with each comment of his. Soon, I’m not going to be able to breathe for real.

“I don’t understand…” His confused expression I think is my favorite of his because his eyes look so innocent which makes his face look at least five years younger than what he really is. I can feel it all the way down to the bone.

“What’s so special about me? You tell me all about your past girlfriend whom is dead, and how you haven’t felt anything since then until the day you pissed me off with that damn ticket…” I could go on, but the more I think about it the more I get lost in my own thoughts again, and I would hate to say what’s really on my mind right now out loud to him.

He stares at me for a moment trying to find the words to say.

“I don’t know,” he starts. “I just felt this sense of pull towards you. He way you fought back with me that day had me falling head over heels for you because I thought ‘damn, this chick is feisty and fights for what she believes in’. I didn’t know you, but I knew I wanted to get to know you. In some ways, you remind me of my ex-girlfriend, but in others you are your own person and you make people know it. I like that quality about people. Shows that they are as real as real gets, and like you, I don’t trust easy. I want to trust you. You’re beautiful, smart, and keep me on my toes with your feistiness. It makes me laugh, and it’s been a very long time since someone made me laugh the way you do. I don’t want that to go away, Hope.”

I think my heart just completely stopped for good. Did he just open up to me without knowing who I really am? I know if I go any further than this with him, both of us are more than likely going to get hurt. I wish I could trust him because I so badly want to tell him the truth; all the truth…

“Anyway,” he says quickly, like he’s embarrassed he shared that part with me. “We better get going before my boss yells at me for taking too long of a break.”

He stands and so do I. We walk together back out to his squad car. We get in, he starts the car, and pulls it out of the parking lot. We are heading back home to Arlington.

“Tell me more about you,” Jason says minutes after being on the road again.

“I’m really not that interesting,” I say. “But if you insist, what else would you like to know about me?”

“Well, you say you grew up with your aunt…what happened to your parents?” A deep question that will probably lead to the conversation I was trying so desperately to avoid.

“My mother is dead. My father didn’t want me,” is all I say. A vague answer and I’d like to keep it that way.

“How old were you when your mother died?”

“Twelve.” I am looking out the window so he can’t see me face. I’m hoping he’ll get the hint and drop the conversation, but he doesn’t.

“How did she die?”

This time I don’t answer. I can’t answer because I’m so tempted to be honest with him and I know the moment I am, my undercover life is over. My life will be over.

He’s looking over at me now, concerned. “Hope, if you don’t want to talk about it that’s fine. I’m sorry for stepping over the line.”

At least he’s apologizing and understands that I don’t want to talk about it…ever…and I hope he never finds out either.

“If it means anything, I’m sorry about your mother.”

“Thank you,” I whisper.

“My father and I don’t see eye to eye anymore,” Jason says, changing the subject. I’m relieved because that means he’s not thinking about my life at the moment.

“Why’s that?” I ask trying to sound interested so he stays away from interrogating me about my life issues.

He takes a breath indicating it’s a long story I should be preparing for. I wait patiently for him to speak as I watch the town of Madison disappear out my window.

“My father is a typical man,” he starts by saying. “He always wanted what was best for me and my sister. He expected us to settle for nothing less. With that being said, he had this idea in his head that Shayna and I had to go to the best schools and graduate with the best grades possible, but with the major he picked for us. Shayna went to the community college part time for nursing, which was alright with my father. She’s clearly the daddy’s girl who can do everything right and no wrong. But me? His only son that went into police academy to become a police officer and save lives did everything wrong.”

“What do you mean?”

“I would’ve been daddy’s favorite son if I went to Harvard instead and graduated top of my class, and became a lawyer instead.”

That statement hits me hard. My father graduated from Harvard and top of his class AND became a lawyer. Chicago’s best lawyer…

My head is spinning. I can’t see the road in front of us right now…Are we even on a road anymore?

“Hope, are you ok?” Jason asks. I can barely hear him now. It takes me a moment to gather what I can of myself. He is a police officer, now. He is a police officer, now; I keep saying to myself repeatedly.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m sorry about that, though. That you had to deal with that.”

“My dad just doesn’t understand is all,” he shrugs.

Silence again. This time awkward silence. What could I say? At this point in the conversation, there is nothing I could say. Instead, I do something that goes against all the emotions I’ve been working so hard to fight today. I reach over slowly and slide my hand into his free hand. He responds by intertwining his fingers with mine and squeezing. Holding his hand feels so right, but wrong at the same time. I squeeze harder trying to reassure him. He responds by looking at me with sad eyes, a faint smile forming at the corners of his lips.

We ride like this all the way back to Arlington. The moment so perfect, yet shouldn’t be, but I don’t care anymore. He’s a lost boy who just needs someone true to love him, as do I. Even though it is so hard to trust him right now, I feel a little part of me slowly start to trust him…maybe one day I’ll be able to tell him my real story without it affecting me and my safety. Until then, I can tell him the story I’ve lived by for the last ten years of my life; the one that matters. I’m sure I’m starting to fall for this guy. I secretly like the way he’s so intimidating in his job profession; how he’s bossy and pushy when he wants his way, and especially how he goes out of his way to seek me out. I like the way he trusts me enough to tell me how he feels, like he doesn’t even have a care in the world that he just met me not even a week ago.

I look continue to look out the window, but it is now getting too dark to see anything. I suddenly don’t want to go home, but I know I should and I know he should get back to work.

I see the welcome sign for Arlington letting us know we have reached the town limits of Arlington again. Home. A few minutes later, he’s stopping the car in the middle of the road outside the grocery store again. He throws the car into park and looks at me, his hand still intertwined with mine. He’s rubbing his thumb over the top of my hand; making circles.

“Well, this is my home,” I say awkwardly, not sure of how to break the heavy silence.

“Yep,” he responds with a sad tone to his voice.

None of us move a muscle, though. His stare has ne pinned to the passenger seat of this squad car. I watch him, wondering what he’s thinking in this moment. His grey eyes hollow, staring into me like he already knows all the answers about me.

He clears his throat suddenly, and says, “Sorry, I don’t mean to stare…is it bad of me to say I don’t want you to go home? I wish you could drive around with me all night…it would definitely make my night better.”

I continue to stare at him unsure of how I’m supposed to respond to that comment. Am I even breathing?

“Would I be intruding if I asked you if I could see you again?” He asks innocently, the face of a child.

It makes me smile and I’m literally hating myself for it, but I can’t help it. HE LOOKS SO DARN CUTE WITH THAT INNOCENT BABY FACE!

“I take that as a yes?” He asks smiling with excitement it literally lights him up inside and out.

I reach for the door handle and open my door. I don’t get out until I look at his smiling face one more time and say, “I have tomorrow off”. Then, I’m out of the car, closing the door behind me, leaving him to his own thoughts about tomorrow.

I walk around to the other side of the road toward my apartment when I hear him shouting after me. I turn around to see him still parked in the middle of the road with his window rolled down, waving for me to come towards him.

“HOW ABOUT WE DO BREAKFAST, THEN?” He’s shouting at me from his car. “YOU’RE CHOICE THIS TIME! I’LL SEE YOU AT 9:00AM!” Then, he closes his window before I can protest, and drives down the road until I can no longer see him.

What am I getting myself into? Is there any way to turn back time? Yet, is there any way to make time go by faster so I can see him again?

I make the journey up the rickety steps to my apartment. Once inside, I shower and wrap myself in a warm blanket on the futon. Tonight will be the night I get zero sleep because the cop is all I can think about. I glance at the clock which says 8:45PM. I groan, roll over, and close my eyes hoping sleep will consume me before my dangerous thoughts do.

~Chapter 3 to Hopes and Destinies is out! EEEKKK!!!!~

Finally chapter 3 is here!!! It is a little longer than the other 2 chapters because so much starts to happen. So brace yourself and maybe set aside a little more time to read it? (That’s why it took me a little bit to finally post it). Plus it gives everyone time to read the chapters or even reread them! I am excited to be getting further into this novel and to be getting closer everyday to publishing it. I’m not going to say much today because this chapter is super long. Don’t be afraid to tell others about it after I get it published or even now! Hope you guys enjoy this chapter and all the different emotions it starts to bring in and don’t be afraid to leave any comments for discussions or whatever you feel 🙂 . Thanks again you guys for reading!! OK, I’m going to post this chapter and get started on chapter 4 🙂

“You mind telling me what happened out there just now?” Aunt Bethany is drilling the moment I walk through her front door.

She is leaning against the door frame to the kitchen with her arms crossed across her chest. If looks could kill, I’d be dead a million times over right about now. There would be no bringing me back to life.

“Chill out, please. I’m not in trouble or anything,” I say as I try to forget about the incident with blowing the stop sign as the reason the cop pulled me over in the first place.

“That ticket he gave you didn’t look like anything,” she says with sadness seeping through. It is at this point I realize she’s scared for me because now my name is in the system.

I roll my eyes and throw my hands in the air in exasperation. “If you must know, it is a twenty-dollar ticket for blowing the stop sign down the road.”

“ARE YOU IGNORANT?” Aunt Bethany exclaims. She turns and walks half way into the kitchen leaving me with the uttermost shocked expression on my face. What?

Her house is beautiful. It is where I grew up for the last half of my life with a real bedroom that has real windows that look out to the spacious backyard. There is a narrow hallway by the front door that leads to the kitchen where an army could fit comfortably in to eat. There is a big dining room table that sits on the other end of the kitchen. I never understood why Aunt Bethany needs such a big table for just her and I; she always said it was in case we had company. Aunt Bethany always plans for the “maybes” and the “what-ifs”.

Through the kitchen there is another hallway with many openings to the decent sized living room that nobody really occupies, and to the two bedrooms; Aunt Bethany’s and mine, which is now referred to the guest bedroom. Although Aunt Bethany never has any guests sleep over, she still refers to my bedroom as the “guest bedroom”.

“What did you just say to me?” I ask, too shocked to move from my position by the front door.

Aunt Bethany peers her head around the corner to look at me. “You need to be careful, Hope. That rookie may just be a rookie, but he is very good at what he does in the force. If he finds out who you really are, Destiny Hope Connor, you mind as well be packing your stuff and head back to Chicago.”

I don’t say anything. I just keep staring at her like she’s crazy. She can obviously see the confusion on my face and continues, “You are a wanted person in Chicago for what you did to your father. You may have been only twelve years old, but they are saying you are psychotic and belong in an institution. Chuck Grady may have told you that you were using self-defense, but only to help protect you. The media and the courts don’t see it that way especially since your father is the top attorney in Chicago. Not to mention you are also the top of the boards for missing persons. Do you see now? You can’t be messing around with the authorities like that. Hope, we moved out here and changed your name so you could live a normal life and be protected. Not so you could go around being careless and getting into trouble every chance you get. This is exactly what I was afraid of happening when you decided to move into that dingy apartment of yours.”

Silence. The only thing heard when she stops talking. I’m left at a loss for words at this point. She can see that by the shameful expression on my face and; I don’t know if it’s out of pure curiosity or if she is trying to get a reaction out of me and lighten the mood; continues in a calmer tone, “What was that other piece of paper he handed you aside from the ticket?”

A moment is all it takes for me to realize I should answer her this time. I clear my throat and respond in a tiny voice. “His name and phone number. He wanted me to call him sometime.”

She is leaning against the door frame now, and staring at me with a hard expression. I take advantage of this moment where she isn’t scolding me and explain.

“I’m not going to call him. I don’t even want to see him again. I think he gave me the ticket because I wouldn’t give him any dirt on us. So, I threw the paper in the road,” I say in a rush of words.

“What do you mean by ‘dirt on us’?” Aunt Bethany asks as she crinkles up her nose at even the thought of someone in her field prying for information.

“Just that. He was trying to drill me on information about you because he said he didn’t know you had kids, and about us and our lives. I gave the ID that says ‘Hope Morris’ and that’s when he started drilling me. He wouldn’t let it go so I freaked out on him after he gave me the ticket.”

“I saw that part…” She starts to say, but trails off in thought; more like shock that the newbie was trying to play detective on us. She looks back up at me and says in a stern voice, “I want you to stay away from him. I don’t care what you have to do to avoid him, but do it. Understand?”

I nod once in agreement. Good thing she didn’t ask me if I liked him because she’s always trying to set me up with random people at the grocery store, on her daily walks around town, almost anywhere she goes so I was kind of expecting to hear about how I should date someone from her work. She’s always telling me I need to find a good man to settle down with, one that is going to take care of me. I hate to think about where that conversation would’ve led to at this point. For now, I’ll keep my feelings a secret from her…WAIT! WHAT AM I THINKING?! I’M NOT ATTRACTED TO HIM…am I? More like I don’t want to be attracted to him…I dismiss the thoughts before they even begin to make me start feeling things I don’t want to feel for this guy. I don’t ever want to see him anymore, remember?

“OK, come in so we can eat a nice meal together. I made tater tot casserole, your favorite dish. It may be a little cold now, so I’ll put it back in the oven for a few minutes,” Aunt Bethany explains as she turns to walk into the kitchen.

Aunt Bethany has the one rule about her house; do not walk through the house with your shoes on. She has a rug sitting in front of the front door for that reason, so people have somewhere to take their shoes off before walking through the house. I take mine off on the rug and walk into her kitchen.

The smell of her house makes me reminisce growing up here; the smell of freshly baked bread and lilacs. To some people, the smell may remind them of an old lady’s house, but to me it is home. The moment the smell reaches my nose, I instantly feel warm and cozy.

Aunt Bethany is putting the casserole back into the oven when I walk around the corner into the kitchen. Plates and silverware are set up for two on the dining room table. When she stands up and faces me, this is the first time I notice how seasoned she looks under the lights. Her hair has gone from a light brown to more of an ash color now. Wrinkles are starting to form around her eyes, corners of her lips, and cheek bones. Her eyes look more sunken in than the last time I saw her which was only a week ago; she looks tired. Her brown eyes that remind me so much of my mother and can look right through anything have gone to more of a pale brown color. Has she lost weight?

“Let’s sit down. The casserole has to heat up for about ten minutes,” Aunt Bethany says, motioning toward the dining room table.

I follow her to the spacious table and we sit down next to each other. She crosses her legs and folds her arms across her chest, almost like she’s cold.

“So, how was work?” She asks matter-of-factly.

“I don’t know. There is so much paperwork I must get figured out by the end of the month and I have no idea how I’m going to do it. If it wasn’t for my assistant manager keeping me going, I would’ve quit a long time ago,” I answer, thinking back on everything I was doing before Shayna told me to go home.

“You have had so much passion for that store, Hope. Even growing up it was your favorite place to be. I have no idea why given the state it has been in for years, but you always saw potential in it. The moment you came to me and said you were going to college for business management, I knew you were going to end up being the next manager of that store. That is one thing about you I have always admired, Hope. You always find the good in things no matter how much of the bad there is, and you always try to fix it and make it better. So, don’t let me sit here and get in your way and tell you that sometimes the bad can’t be fixed. I believe in you, Hope. I always have and I always thought that you can make the bad better because of your passion for making the world a better place. Maybe you just need to take a day or two away from it to figure it out, but don’t give up,” Aunt Bethany explains. She has become so much of a believer in miracles over the last few years. She says it is because she finally found God; I’m not even sure I know what that means. I don’t know if it is because of her old age nowadays or because she’s lost so many people over the years.

Not only did she lose her only sister ten years ago, but last year Chuck Grady called us to tell us he was retiring because he was sick with stage four liver cancer. He’s been on the donor list for ten months now, and Aunt Bethany knows as well as I do his time is running short. A week ago, she had to bury five of her best policemen due to a car chase near Columbus, Wisconsin. They were the ones that had been on the force for fifteen years plus. The car they were chasing at the time hit one of the squad cars head on going anywhere between seventy to ninety miles per hour which caused a huge ten car explosion on the main highway. They all were involved in the explosion along with seven other innocent people and nobody walked out of it alive. That story hit the top news broadcast right away; five policemen and seven others including two children under the age of five lost their lives in major car explosion on Highway Sixty.

“Chuck called today,” Aunt Bethany says when I remain silent after her speech.

I look up at her with worry in my eyes. “How is he?”

She takes a deep breath before answering, then says, “OK, I suppose. Still the same. He’s getting real sick and tired of waiting so long for a donor. He misses us. He always asks me how you are. He says he’s very proud of you for your achievements so far.”

I close my eyes to hold back the tears that are about to spill over any second. It takes me a moment to regroup before I can respond.

“I want to go see him, Aunt Bethany.”

“I know, me too, but you know as well as I do we can’t exactly do that…”

“So, tell him to come here,” I say, interrupting her. My own voice sounding urgent.

“Hope,” Aunt Bethany sighs. I don’t know if it is for her own sake to keep herself from crying or to comfort me or both, but she lays a reassuring hand on my shoulder and looks me deep into the eyes as she continues, “he can’t drive anymore. The cancer is starting to take over his motor skills…” She can’t finish because tears are now deceiving her as they fall down her face in a little stream.

“No…he can’t…” I choke out.

Aunt Bethany nods. “His family is admitting him into a primary care facility tomorrow morning. That way someone is always there to watch him.”

“He’s giving up. He’s waiting to die…”

“No, Hope, in his eyes he’s fought as hard as he could and he still is. He hasn’t given up…it’s just that…his body is dying faster than he can fight.”

My eyes become blurry as the tears I was trying so hard to hold back come bursting their way through and over the barrier. I lay my head in my hands and Aunt Bethany lets me cry. Chuck Grady has become more than a family friend, he has become family. Aunt Bethany has always looked up to him as more than a friend; she’s always seen him as an uncle to her in an odd sort of way. He has always been there for her whenever she needed advice or someone to talk to which is why he was the first person she thought of ten years ago when everything with my mom, my father, and I happened. After that, he turned into that father figure I’ve never had because he genuinely cared about me…about us. Knowing that his time is coming nearer every day has Aunt Bethany thinking more and more about what she is going to do when he is gone. Seeing her like that breaks my heart into a million pieces.

I hate crying even though it is a simple way to show emotions. I feel weak when I cry and I hate to show people my weakness, but crying in front of Aunt Bethany is a different story. I don’t feel weak crying in front of her; I feel like we are sharing a sad moment together and she never judges my feelings or the fact that I’m crying because she cries with me.

I cry for what feels like ages, but really only a few minutes. I cry until the timer on the oven buzzes indicating the casserole is warm enough to eat again. Without any of us saying a word to the other, I go to the bathroom around the corner to clean up while Aunt Bethany shuts the oven off and puts the casserole dish on the table between us.

We eat in silence. I think Aunt Bethany knows that silence is the best medicine right now especially after the conversations we’ve had tonight. Silence is my friend.

When we finish eating, I help Aunt Bethany clean up; my nightly duties whenever I have supper with Aunt Bethany. She always tells me I don’t have to help her because I’m her guest, but it feels wrong to sit there and watch her slave away by herself when she worked hard in the first place to put together a nice meal for us to enjoy. The least I can do is help clean up, I always say back to her. After a while she stopped saying anything at all, like she expects it now because it has become automatic routine for me to chip in and help. I clean the dishes while she puts everything into smaller bowls, and cleans the table and the counters.

A few hours have passed by the time we finish eating and get everything cleaned up. It is now almost 9:30PM and I realize I have to be at work by 8:00AM. I still have to shower and get my things ready for work in the morning which means by the time I finally get to bed tonight, it’ll be almost 11:00PM if not later. I am tired and have a lot on my mind; I have a lot more on my mind now after Aunt Bethany told me about Chuck. I hope she is going to be OK…I hope I will be OK… Her and I need each other in times like these which is why I will obey her orders about staying out of trouble…or trying to at least. Drawing more attention to us in a time like this could only end badly. It would end badly anyway…but I don’t want to upset Aunt Bethany more than she already is right now. Stress ages her and that is why she aged so much more than a regular person would have over the years.

“I should be going, Aunt Bethany. It’s getting late and I have to work in the morning. Are you going into work tomorrow?” I ask her. She took the last week off work for vacation time she hadn’t used up yet. I told her she deserved a vacation and that she needed to take one before all her stress put her in an early grave. I’m glad to see she listened to me for once.

“What day is tomorrow? Saturday? I might make an appearance for a few hours tomorrow if I get bored. If not, I’ll be going back Monday morning,” she says. “You have to work on a Saturday?” She sounds surprised.

“Yep, well this Saturday I do for a few hours. I usually don’t work Saturday’s, but my main cashier took the weekend off so I have to cover her shift tomorrow.”

“What about your assistant?” Aunt Bethany asks, curiosity perking in her voice.

“Shayna has to do the inventory counts tomorrow. She can’t run the counter and do counts unless it’s slow. Saturday’s are usually our peak days. So, it’s just me and her tomorrow.”

“Do you ever think about hiring some more help?”

I suck in a breath and exhale as I respond. “Yeah, but it has to be part time help right now. Just until I figure out our numbers and what we can afford to do and can’t afford to do. I put an ad in the paper for part time help thinking maybe a teenager looking for a first job or even a part time job would come in, but not yet,” I explain.

“Oh, OK. What time do you have to go in?” Aunt Bethany asks. She hates it when I have to leave after supper every night. She’s always trying to get me to stay the night or even just a few more hours.

“8:00Am.”

“Oh.” Disappointment.

“I’m sorry I was late today, Aunt Bethany. If I wasn’t late we would’ve had a few more hours to spend together, but I got caught up in my work. You know where to always find me, why don’t you come visit me?” I ask, putting a hand on her shoulder telling her to stop with the disappointment.

“Yeah, I guess I could come see you, but I never know when you’re home.” Here we go with the excuses.

“OK, well I’m just saying.” I give her a hug and make my way to the front door to put my shoes on. She follows right behind me.

“What are your plans after work tomorrow?” She asks, watching me put my pink tennis shoes back on.

“I don’t know yet, why?”

“Well, if I go to work tomorrow, it’ll be for a few hours in the morning. Would you want to come over for supper again if you aren’t doing anything?”

I think about my answer for a minute before I respond. As much as I love spending time with Aunt Bethany and eating her home cooked meals, I think I want to spend the night alone in my apartment. I haven’t been in there for more than five minutes every day for the last week, so I really should stay home tonight. Plus, after Aunt Bethany’s freak out on me about the cop, I need a night away from her to get my thoughts straight.

Instead of telling her how I really feel and risk upsetting her, I decide to go with a safer answer. “Can I call you and let you know? I don’t know what time I’ll be getting off work tonight…”

“OK,” is all she says to my comment. I hate it when she says very little with no emotion because it’s like having a very good poker face; hard to read and easily misinterpreted.

“I’ll text you when I get home,” I say as I’m opening the front door to walk outside.

“I hate when you do that, Hope. You know I don’t like text messages…”

“I know you don’t, but you’re going to have to get used to them, Aunt Bethany. After all, we live in the technology era.”

“I know.”

“I love you.” I give her one last hug and walk out to my car. Once I’m inside my car, I start it up and throw it in drive. Before I pull away from the curb, I look up at her house and see Aunt Bethany standing on her door step just like she was when she was watching me fight with Jason, the cop. I wave quickly to her and drive away. From the rear-view mirror, I watch her walk back into her house safely.

Driving back to the apartment there is no sign of the cop anywhere. Maybe he is taking a lunch break somewhere? One can only hope…

Minutes later, I am pulling the car into the public parking area across the street from the store and my apartment. I park in the back of the parking area like usual, I shoot Aunt Bethany a text message letting her know I made it home, and shut the car off. I know she doesn’t like texting, but it saves me from having to listen to her cry for the next two hours because I had to leave. This way, she knows I made it home and I can spare myself from the guilt she always makes me feel. I don’t expect a response back.

I lock up the car after getting out of it, walk back across the street toward the supermarket, walk around back to the rickety stairs that lead up my home, and make my way up the stairs slowly.

Inside my apartment, it is cold. The heat must’ve gone out again; the joys of having gas heat. I check the furnace that is in the living room/bedroom and notice the flame has gone out again. I open the furnace door on the bottom, careful not to burn anything, and reignite the flame. The furnace makes a loud WHOOSH-ing sound as it is reignited. I close the furnace door once I make sure the flame stays going. The furnace is so old it has a small rust hole that formed over the many years the building has been standing so air slightly gets in. If the wind hits it just right, it blows out the flame in the furnace. This is home, I remind myself.

I decide to take a shower to feel relaxed. I go into the bathroom which has no door; it is literally big enough to fit a one person stand up shower, a toilet, and a small sink. I can’t turn around without touching one of them. If I sit on the toilet, one knee touches the edge of the sink and the other knee touches the crusty white shower curtain that was left here. I always forget to buy a new shower curtain. Mental note: Buy a new shower curtain. This one does the job for now.

I turn the shower on all the way hot even though it never does get hot; it barely gets warm. It starts to get cold after a few minutes so I make sure to take quick showers otherwise I’ll be showering in ice cold water. I jump in, soap up, rinse off, and I’m out just as the barely warm water starts getting colder.

I’m dressed in sweat pants, a camisole, and my favorite sweat shirt from American Eagle. I walk back into the living room that is also my bedroom, and lay on the futon. I don’t even turn on the TV tonight. I don’t get many channels the way it is; only the local ones like the news channels and your average soap operas. I’m addicted to the show called The Bachelor, probably because I always fantasize myself as being one of the girls the guy chooses to be with at the end of the season. Tonight is the second to last episode of the season and both the girls that are left I want to punch in the face. The one cheated on him and admitted she didn’t love him the way he loved her, and the other one claimed she didn’t know if she even wanted to be on the show anymore. What the hell? Therefore, the couples only last a few months after the season is over, and then the next season the same girls are on the show again with a different Bachelor. That is Hollywood TV.

I don’t turn the TV on because my mind is swimming with the events of today; finding out more sad information about Chuck Grady, arguing with Aunt Bethany about my “carelessness”, getting pulled over and yelling at the sexy cop…The cop. He is now consuming all my thoughts as I lay on the futon in the dark, staring up at the ceiling. What is wrong with me? I roll over to look at the clock; 10:50PM. I close my eyes, hoping sleep will come because 8:00AM will come even faster, but it is impossible with the thoughts of the newbie cop rolling through my head. I replay what happened, and the exact words spoken over and over again until I’m no longer seeing images of him, but focusing on his voice; his sexy, movie-worthy voice until sleep finally grabs onto my consciousness and doesn’t let go.

*             *             *

A few days have gone by since my ticket incident. I haven’t seen the newbie in his patrol car riding around, thank God. I am not ready to see him again because I’m still peeved about the damn ticket he gave me; all because I refused to feed him any information on my and Aunt Bethany’s life. I am saddened all the same, though, because a part of me was also hoping to see him or at least a glimpse of him.

Aunt Bethany went back to work on Saturday, and ended up staying the whole day. It turns out she had a lot more paperwork to sort out than she thought because the guy she put in charge didn’t feel like doing his job while she was gone on vacation. She called me later that night and told me how upset she was about it. She stated she would never take vacation again. I had my choice of words with her after that which led to upsetting her even more until she made some excuse of being busy and had to let me go. I didn’t argue with her. I told her I would see her sometime this week for dinner, and then hung up.

Saturday at the store wasn’t as busy as I thought it was going to be. Shayna finished up her counts early so I had her watch the counter for the last half of the day while I tried to sort through more of my paperwork on my desk. At least make a little headway. Come 4:00PM that day, I realized I still wasn’t getting anywhere with it so I decided to leave it for Monday’s work load. We closed the store at 4:30PM that day. I called Aunt Bethany shortly after locking the doors, and told her I had other plans for the night; that I wasn’t going to make it for supper. By “other plans”, I meant going to my own apartment, changing into pajamas, ordering pizza and watching the reruns of The Bachelor until I fell asleep that night. Having a peaceful night to myself.

Today is Monday, the start of a new week. Pay day is Wednesday and I planned to pay the twenty-dollar ticket for running a stop sign on pay day. Monday, the day I was dreading because all the paperwork must be turned in before I leave work tonight. I called Shayna yesterday and asked her if she would come in on her day off today to help me get all the paperwork straightened out for the month. She is my life saver.

“Hope, you take all the miscellaneous receipts pile and I’ll do everything else,” Shayna says as we start to tackle the pile of paperwork in my office at 8:00AM sharp.

“You think we can get it all done today?” I ask while sorting through the piles.

“You’ve got me. I’m superwoman.” She throws me the biggest, cheesiest smile I’ve ever seen on this girl.

I smile back and get to work. I can’t help but laugh at her. She truly makes my work days better, and she’s always there to save my butt when I need her. I think it is safe to say I love this girl.

“I heard you got a ticket the other night out by your aunt’s house,” Shayna says after a few moments of silence. One thing I know about this girl is that she cannot stand silence for more than five minutes.

I sigh. “Yeah.”

“You want to talk about it?”

“What is there to say? The cop was a dick. He simply gave me the ticket because I wouldn’t give him any information about my aunt. How did you find out anyway?”

“It’s a small town, Hope. Everyone knows everyone and everything,” she replies without missing a beat. “Plus, that dick of a cop is my brother.”

I freeze. What is happening to all the air? I suddenly can’t breathe, like I’m being suffocated by her words. I take a moment to collect myself before I respond hoping she doesn’t notice my sudden hesitation.

“I didn’t know you had a brother,” I say attempting to make small talk that will hopefully lead away from this conversation.

“Yep. We are identical twins. Two minutes apart actually. Which reminds me, our birthday is this Thursday. I guess I’ll have to get him a ridiculous gag gift.”

“How old will you be?” I ask more on the fact I’m curious as to know how old he is rather than her, but I play it off like I’m more interested in her than him.

“Twenty-five,” she says without looking away from her pile of paperwork. It sounds rehearsed like she’s had to tell so many people.

“Looks like I’ll have to get you something for your birthday, you old fart,” I say, laughing to let her know it was meant as a joke.

“You’re funny,” she says, “but seriously, where’s your ticket?”

“In my purse, why?”

“Give it here,” she demands as she holds her hand out.

I stop what I’m doing, and dig through my purse for the crumpled-up ticket. Once I find it, I’m handing it to her with a confused expression on my face.

Shayna notices the look on my face and explains. “I’m going to throw it at my brother’s face tonight when I see him at Mom and Dad’s and tell him he’s an idiot. His ego sometimes gets the best of him.”

“That’s really unnecessary, Shayna. I was going to pay it on Wednesday and be done with it.”

She waves me off as if I’m being ridiculous. “Don’t worry about it. I told him he was a dumbass anyway for pulling you over. He should know better…”

“He was just doing his job,” I interject. It is then I realize I’m sticking up for him, and the look on Shayna’s face tells me she isn’t stupid either. She knows what I’m doing.

She sits back in her chair and folds her arms across her chest, still eyeing me suspiciously.

“You’re hiding something, Hope,” she says softly.

I’m staring at her without saying anything. Oh, no, she knows.

“What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” I tell her because it’s true. Nothing is going on.

“Are you sure? Jason told me you guys got into a pretty heated fight…”

“I may have yelled at him for my ticket and trying to pry, but that’s it.”

She’s staring at me hard now. One thing I’m not so sure I like about her anymore is she can see through all the bullshit.

“That’s it?”

“Yes, Shayna that’s it.”

“Then why are you defending him like you like him or something…?” Then it clicks in her head. “You do! Oh, my God you have a crush on my brother!”

“Shayna…”

“I knew it! Just by the way your expressions changed when I started talking about him, and by the way you were defending him. Oh, my…I’m definitely taking this ticket and throwing it at him…” She is full of life and excitement now.

I grab her by the arm to stop her from her excitement for a moment. “No, Shayna, you can’t tell him. I don’t even know if I want to see him again.”

She looks hurt by this. “Why?”

How do I tell her? “Because I’m not even sure how I feel yet. I just met him yesterday. Do I think he’s hot? Yes. Is he all I’ve thought about since then? Yes, but doesn’t excuse the fact that I’m not sure what is going on yet.”

“I’m sorry, I just got excited because you would be the first girl since his girlfriend of four years died in a car accident five years ago,” she says, and that completely guts me. “That is why he wanted to join the force because he thought he could help save lives, and help people obey the law so they don’t get killed or kill someone else. I guess it was kin of his way of remembering her or making sure she didn’t die in vain. He loved her dearly…”

That explains why he was so hard on me the night he gave me the ticket. With that being said, I am reaching over the table and ripping the ticket from her hands.

“I’ll pay the consequences for my actions,” I reply seeing the shocked look on her face. I suddenly feel my heart go out to him knowing what he’s been through. Maybe him and I aren’t so different after all.

“OK, I was just saying I could get him to take it off your record for you…”

“I’m no different than anyone else.” We both don’t say anything for a while after that. The atmosphere a little thick with awkwardness.

We spend the rest of the work day in silence. I think she got the hint I didn’t want to talk about him anymore. Not at work anyway when we are already piled high with paperwork. It takes us the rest of the day to finally get down to the bottom of the pile. See what silence and focusing on work can do?

“It’s 5:00PM and we are finally finished with your gigantic pile,” Shayna says. I don’t know if she was trying to be funny or if she was using a sarcastic eye roll tone.

I ignore it and say, “Thanks, Shayna. I can’t thank you enough. You literally are my lifesaver.”

“Do me a favor and take a few days off for vacation. You need it. You’re here way too much. And the only way you can repay me is if you give me that damn ticket.”

I’m staring at her, unsure if she’s serious or not.

She holds out her hand waiting for me to hand over the ticket. “Don’t make me come over there and find it myself.”

I think I hate it now when she bosses me around. I hand her the yellow piece of paper.

“Shayna, it’s only twenty bucks…” I am starting to say with an upset tone to my voice, but I am interrupted by her bluntness.

“That’s an extra twenty bucks that can stay in your pocket.” She’s standing up and stashing the ticket deep inside her jeans pocket.

I am standing as well, and starting to put stuff away for the end of day clean up.

“Oh, Hope!” Shayna exclaims, suddenly full of energy again.

I look up at her in a panic thinking something happened. My eyes wide with fear.

“Are you wanting to come to my wedding next month?” She asks. That was the panic?

I crinkle my face up because I am confused again. “You’re getting married?” I say it like it’s a surprise because it is a surprise to me.

“Yep! Been engaged for almost two years now! So, are you coming? I can give you an invitation when I see you next.”

“How did I not know…?”

“I may be talkative and a ball of energy, but I don’t go around blabbing my personal life to people at work. Only to the people that matter, and not everyone matters to me,” she explains so easily.

“Well, I’m glad I’m one of those people that matter to you,” I respond with a hint of a smile on my face. It does feel good to consider her my best friend.

So?” She’s waiting impatiently on my response for the invitation. I can literally see her bouncing up and down like a puppy excited to play fetch.

“Yeah, of course! I’d love to come.”

“Oh, my gosh! Yay!” She squeals as she’s wrapping me into a tight hug while bouncing up and down. “OK, I’ll bring you an invitation next time I see you. Maybe you and my brother could go as dates,” she whispers.

“Let’s not go that far,” I say as I’m stepping away from her. “I’ll definitely be there, though.”

“OK, awesome! I’m going to go home now. You got everything or do you need me to stay to help clean up?” Shayna asks right before she reaches my office door.

“I should be OK. Thanks, though. I am going to take your advice and take tomorrow off, though. I probably should go see my aunt. I haven’t seen her since Friday.”

“Good. Glad to hear I can get through to you.” She smiles. “See you Wednesday, Hope. Tell your aunt I say hi.”

“Will do. Have a goodnight.”

Then she’s out the door leaving me alone in my cluttered office. Silence is the best way I work. An hour and a half later, the clock on my cell phone says 6:37PM, and I’m walking out of the store. I’m locking the front door when I hear a familiar voice behind me.

“There she is.”

I instantly freeze and close my eyes. Please don’t let this be him. I turn around to come face to face with the sexy newbie cop. He is smiling and walking towards me from his car that is parked in the middle of the road. The sun is setting so there’s more light in the sky tonight to see his face clearly. His grey eyes are sparkling like he’s excited to see me. That damn smile brings out his dimples…he even has dimples! I must remind myself to breathe in and out so I don’t pass out. I don’t want to give this guy any thought that he gets to me the way he does.

I turn to walk away from him toward my apartment stairs when I feel him grab me by the arm and spin me around.

“Wait! I’ve been waiting here in front of the store since my shift started three hours ago, hoping to get the chance to see you. Are you seriously going to turn me away like that?” Even upset his voice sounds sexy.

I look at him wide eyed and in shock that he just touched me. Not only touched me, but grabbed me and made me look at him. His expression even makes him look genuinely hurt. I muster up everything I’m feeling and use it against him.

“Yes, I am. What makes you think you deserve any of my attention?” I snap. The moment the words are out of my mouth, I’m instantly hurt. I think about what Shayna said to me a few hours ago, about what he’s been through and my heart is being torn in two. I close my eyes and I think he sees the hurt on my face because he let’s go of my arm.

I open my eyes a moment later and see him standing a step farther back than what he was, looking at me with a serious expression. He stands like that for a few moments studying me, and it’s at this point I think I’ve seriously hurt him.

“OK,” he says softly, “maybe I deserved that. Truth be told, I just came to apologize and to see that you were OK.”

“I’m fine, thank you.” I start to turn around again and head back toward the stairs.

“Wait!” He shouts after me.

I stop and turn to face him again.

“I’m not going to chase you…”

“Good, because I never expected you to,” I interrupt him.

“Can we just talk? I think we started off on the wrong foot,” he says. He looks genuinely concerned and I hate it. He’s trying to make things right.

“Fine,” I say, walking back toward him. “What do you want to talk about?” My arms are crossed across my chest indicating I mean business.

He lowers his voice almost to a whisper as he says, “For starters, let’s talk about how you lied to me.”

My heart stops and starts again. The expression on my face instantly goes angry.

“How did I lie to you, Officer?” I spit.

“Bethany Morris is your aunt, not your mother,” he says still in a whisper. “I asked my sister, Shayna, about it.”

I take a step back. “Are you going to give me a ticket for that, too?” I ask in a sarcastic tone. I don’t like where this conversation with him is going.

He sees the fear in my eyes and knows he has me where he wants me and continues, “Why did you lie to me, Hope?”

The way my name rolls off his tongue sounds so perfect. Why is my heart doing this to me right now?

“She raised me, so she mind as well be my mother,” I say matter-of-factly.

He nods, dropping the subject for now. Instead, he holds up the yellow ticket Shayna took from me.

“My sister threw this at me and called me a dumbass. Said you weren’t paying it?”

I should’ve walked back up to my apartment when I had the chance. Why do I feel like I’m being interrogated all the time by this guy? What is his deal? I now see where Shayna gets her bossy attitude from.

“She told me she was going to make you take it off my record,” I respond in a flat tone.

He nods and then starts laughing like he just thought of something funny.

“She did, huh?”

I nod. “Yes, can I leave now? Is this what you wanted to talk to me about?”

“Actually, I wanted to ask you out to dinner. If you didn’t have any other plans, of course. Then, I’ll think about dropping your ticket.” He winks at me. Is he seriously holding my ticket against me to make me have dinner with him? Forget it.

“In that case, I’ll just pay my ticket. Can I have it back, please?” I say, holding my hand out.

He holds his higher so I can’t reach the ticket. He’s smiling like he thinks this is a game that he’s having fun with.

“If that’s what you want, but you’re still having dinner with me. I’ll give you the ticket back after we eat if you decide you still want to pay it. By the way, has anyone ever told you how cute you look when your mad?” That comment has me heaving for air. Did he just call me cute?

I can feel my face flush, and I try to look away so he doesn’t notice. He gently grabs my face by the chin with one hand and makes me look at him. Dammit! Caught!

“Why do you always look away from me?” He asks. The expression on his face tells me he’s just trying to figure me out. What if I don’t want him to?

I don’t say anything. We continue to stare at each other this close for a couple moments. His eyes I can feel stare right through me, and it makes me nervous. So nervous I start to fidget and he notices. He let’s go of me and takes a safe step backward. He scratches at his chin and that’s when I notice he has a little stubble which looks like he hasn’t shaved in a few days.

He clears his throat and looks back at me. That’s when I notice he’s just as nervous as I am. Is he nervous about dating again since it’s been so long? Or do I just have the same effect on him that he does on me?

“Are you OK?” I ask. I’m surprised by my own sincerity in my voice. I actually sound concerned about him.

“Yeah,” he nods. “Is that what you’re wearing to dinner with me?” He eyes me up and down.

I’m still in my ripped jeans and t-shirt that says Arlington Supermarket on it. I look down suddenly embarrassed when I shouldn’t be. I should be proud to show off where I work. Why does he make me feel so many things including embarrassment about my job? He needs to stop…or I need to start taking control of my feelings.

I look back at him with confidence. “Is that a problem, Officer?”

He starts laughing. “Will you please stop calling me that? My name is Jason…”

“Yeah, but you are in an officer uniform. So, until I get to know you more and you’re not in uniform anymore, I will keep calling you ‘Officer’. That is what you are,” I explain with a hint of sarcasm.

“OK, fine. If you’re going to be like that, I’m going to start calling you ‘Supermarket Lady’. After all, that is what you are.” He narrows his eyes at me as he says the last part of that sentence. I definitely feel like falling over now.

He’s smiling as he notices the sudden flush of my cheeks. He is flirting with me and I think he enjoys seeing what it does to me.

                “Fine,” I say as I’m trying to keep my emotions in check.

“OK, Supermarket Lady, please follow me to my car so we can go get something to eat. I don’t know about you, but I am starving,” Jason says.

I put my apartment keys back into my purse and start to follow him to his squad car. “Only if you insist, Officer.”

He shakes his head, laughing again. At least he’s getting some amusement out of this. To the point where he’s no longer interrogating me finally.

We get into his car and as he puts the car in drive he looks at me asks, “Where to?”

“Wherever you’d like, Officer. After all, you are the one driving so for all I know you could drive me to a corn field and leave me there,” I shrug.

“Why would I do that?” He asks, amused.

“I don’t why you would, but you could. I don’t know you that well, remember?”

“Well, let this dinner with me allow you to get to know me as Jason, not the Officer,” he says smiling.

“Fair enough.”

“By the way, I must say I’m very fond of your feistiness,” he says as he looks at me out of the corner of his eye.

With that comment that leaves me speechless and fighting for air to reach my lungs, he drives away from the grocery store and down the road. I can feel him stealing glances at me as I watch the town of Arlington disappear out the passenger side window.

I try to relax and enjoy the scenery, trying not to think of where he could possibly be taking me. How did this happen? What am I doing with him in his car? He likes me and I think I may like him too, but I’m not supposed to for safety reasons…oh dear, what am I going to do? The most important question is, what if he finds out I’m really Destiny Hope Connor, a wanted person in Chicago, not Hope Morris? All these questions flash through my head frantically as I close my eyes and try to trust this guy I barely know. The same guy that waited hours outside my store to see me today…

~Just a little bit of…babble??~

It has been a few days since I posted a blog so I figured I’d write a babble today. Yea, I know it’s no chapter 3 yet…but no worries it is coming! I’m about half way done with chapter 3 to my novel Hopes and Destinies (to all my readers out there no fret! Just hang tight because you won’t regret it!). I’m kind of at a writers block for the moment so I figured..why not write a short blog! It helps me think anyway…kind of clears the block. To all my readers as an update on chapter 3…it is going to be a little longer than the other 2 chapters, and has so much more emotion. Now we are getting into the story 🙂 Ok Ok!! I can’t spoil everything!! My plan is to have it posted in the next couple of days so please be as patient as you can 🙂 something to look forward to though!  

Weather in Wisconsin sucks..alot. I live right by the lake and I am literally counting down the days with my boyfriend til we get to go fishing again. (Hopefully I’m working from home by then and have quit my job. I’m working really hard to get there! Thank you to all my readers 🙂 ). They are calling for 5 more inches of snow in my area tomorrow…boo!!! I hate snow but I live in Wisconsin?? Yea lol. 

Did everyone have a splendid weekend? I hope so. I hope you all were safe as well. My weekend consisted of having the boyfriends kid. We baked cookies YUM!!! Dark chocolate chip and peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. I love to bake when I can. My work schedule right now has it hard for me to really do anything. but I survive and we make the best of it while we can. We really did have a lot of fun this past weekend. We are trying to save up for a family vacation trip…maybe to the Dells?? Or maybe we can travel somewhere we’ve never been before…that is what makes life so exciting. Just never know what’s in store or if your able to pack up everything on the drop of a dime and leave town unexpectedly for a few days. I love to travel and hope to get to sometime soon. I also love spending time with my little family 🙂

Writing and getting the chance to share my stories with everyone is something I’ve always been passionate about. With dedication and hard work it pays off :). I love fishing too. Spending a warm sunny day out on the lake is definitely a good way to think and clear your head. I kind of feel like a caged animal right now because I’ve spent all winter inside my house. It gets super cold out by my house plus with all the icy weather its hard to get out and do anything…hence CAN’T WAIT FOR WARMER WEATHER AND FISHING!!! We usually catch anything, but we like to do more of the cat fishing. Just talking about it gets me excited…yes I’m sure you all have noticed from earlier blogs and posting my chapters I am an overly excited person. It’s better than being grumpy all the time right?? 

I’m going to start wrapping this up so I can get back to writing chapter 3 so you guys don’t have to wait a full week to read it. Speaking of chapter 3…there are new characters that appear. I know it’s hard to choose right now but I want you all as you are reading the chapters to my novel to think about your favorite characters. Who do you relate most to? And why? Or who do you guys fall in love with more? Think about it as your reading and comment when you feel like it. I’m very interested to see everyone’s answers down the road!! And the discussions! It is always exciting to see everyone elses point of view because every person is different. 

I’m going to end this now so I can get back to work for a little while longer anyway. Thanks for reading my babbles lol!! And keep a look out for chapter 3 to make its appearance in the next few days!!!! UBER EXCITEMENT!! 

~Who’s ready for Chapter 2 of Hopes and Destinies??~

Chapter 1 did so well and I am so excited to release Chapter 2!! Before the weekend at that! I will be starting Chapter 3 tomorrow (Friday), but won’t finish it until next week sometime. The pro to working from home and writing is that you can make up your own hours. So, don’t worry readers! Chapter 3 will come! I am taking the weekend off because this is the weekend we get the boy. I may write here and there this weekend but don’t expect chapter 3 until next week. I will keep updates going so please make sure you follow me to get the latest news on the novel! Below is Chapter 2 to Hopes and Destinies…what you all have been waiting for!! 

It’s been ten years since I witnessed my father murdering my mother which means it has been ten years since I buried her. The Judge was in shock about my father’s actions because my father is a very well-known defense attorney back in Chicago, where I am from. He told my father he was going to spend life in prison without the possibility of getting out early on good behavior. My father was furious. If he was not chained to himself, he probably would’ve killed the judge as well that day. I was twelve years old when I watched the guards take away my father in an orange jump suit. I didn’t even get to say goodbye nor did I even want to. That man may have been my father by blood, but he was far from father material. I know that now, ten years later. Right after the court sentencing, Aunt Bethany and I jumped in her car and drove away…far away. We drove all the way to this small town in Wisconsin. Arlington, Wisconsin. This small town from then on would become my home with Aunt Bethany. I was happy, though, because I was finally in a place where I could lay outside in my yard and see the stars. You could think here. There was wildlife like no other near our new home in Arlington, Wisconsin. I was so happy, I was soon to forget all about life in Chicago. I think Aunt Bethany wanted that. She wanted me happy and to be able to live somewhat of a normal life after going through what I witnessed as a child.

I started and finished middle school in Arlington with barely any friends and still scared of my father ever finding me. Shortly after, I moved onto high school and slowly started to gain my confidence in myself and the realization of my father was never getting out of prison so I was truly one hundred percent safe here. I graduated high school with high honors and started right into college in Stevens Point, Wisconsin for business management. I wasn’t going to drive from Arlington to Stevens Point every day for classes so I decided to rent a five-bedroom house in Stevens Point with a few friends I made before leaving for college. Aunt Bethany was a nervous wreck the day I moved out. She told me call twice or even three times a day so she could make sure I was still alive and well. I always told her she was overreacting. Four years later, I graduated college with a perfect GPA with a bachelor’s degree in business management and moved back home to Arlington, Wisconsin only to become the next general manager at the local supermarket. I know I could’ve went off to bigger and better places, but I’m happy living in this small town, using my degree just to manage the tiny, run down grocery store. To me, it’s home and like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz always says, “there’s no place like home”.

I did not move back in with Aunt Bethany, of course. She cried when I moved back home and got my own little run-down apartment. She begged me every day for a whole month to move back in with her.

“It’s your home,” she would say. “Plus, you won’t catch any diseases like hepatitis like you can from your tiny apartment.”

I would just roll my eyes at her and tell her to stop.

“You’re just saying that because I chose to live on my own versus move back in with you,” I would tell her.

I admit, my apartment isn’t the best place on the planet to live, but I can call it home for now. It’s a good little place for starting out. My apartment is a little studio apartment above the grocery store I work in. One window that overlooks the small town in the living room/bedroom, but that’s it. I guess it feels more like home to me because it reminds me of my childhood bedroom with no windows and looked as though it could’ve been part of a storage room. Better yet, a room that wasn’t supposed to be there.

After climbing two sets of stairs behind the grocery store building, the door to the apartment opens first to the small kitchenette area; big enough for one counter that is attached to the stove and a tiny refrigerator that is big enough to barely hold a gallon of milk, eggs, and a loaf of bread…the essentials. There is one cabinet above the stove that holds half dishes and the other half canned food. The door to the cabinet is barely holding on by one little screw. There isn’t enough room for a small table, or even a microwave. Moving farther into the apartment, is the living room/bedroom area with a desk in one corner, the television set on the floor by the wall in the center, and a small futon I sleep on every night in the opposite corner. The bathroom is off to the side of the room without a door; privacy was not believed in by the past tenants, apparently. Not great, but it is home for now, considering I’m never home. I’m either working late or having supper at Aunt Bethany’s house which is only a few blocks down the road from my apartment. I like being on my own, but it does get lonely from time to time. Believe it or not, I do miss Aunt Bethany; she saved my life and gave me the best childhood I could ask for.

RING! RING! The phone rings. My cellphone. It is 7:00PM on a Friday night and I’m supposed to be having supper right now with Aunt Bethany at her house for the fourth time this week. I know it is her calling me right now, so I forward her to voicemail. I make a mental note to call her when I’m off work. I have so many receipts from vendors and returns to figure out right now; finding a routine with this job since I left college has been difficult and Aunt Bethany knows that. To be fair, I walked into this mess when I took the job as the new general manager.

“You’re still here?” A voice says from the door way of my office.

I look up to see one of my employees whom was about to leave for the day I assume. The glare from the window due to the sun setting makes it hard to see the face of this person.

“Someone has to straighten out this mess and get this place making money again,” I say with a little bit of an attitude.

“Hope,” the person responds as they step into my office and close the door. That is when I see that it is not just an employee, she is my assistant manager. “Call it a day, OK? You’ve been here since five this morning. That’s twelve hours plucking away at whatever mess this is. If you don’t leave now, you’ll be here another twelve hours.”

I know she’s right, that’s why I hired her as my assistant manager to keep me in line. I am just so sick and tired of coming into work every day staring at the same mess from the day before. It’s almost like I’m not getting anywhere with it.

“Go home, take a hot bath and enjoy your night with your aunt. This mess will be here tomorrow,” the girl says. She has such a sweet, soft voice. After all, she is only five foot tall and petite. So am I, but she is almost see-through skinny. She did mention she works out three times a day. I at least have some muscle tone to my body. Some people would mistake me for an athlete; always having my long brown hair up in a ponytail and a body with the perfect muscle tone to it.

“Shayna, thank you,” I respond, whole-heartedly as I make to stand up from my desk chair.

Shayna, my assistant manager, looks confused like I just spoke Chinese to her. “For what?”

I grab my coat from the back of the desk chair and when I turn around, I respond with, “For being the best assistant manager any general manager could ask for.”

“Well, thank you for the compliment…” she sputters, trying to figure out the meaning of my words.

“You keep me in line. Just like an assistant manager should do for her boss,” I say to clarify the confusion as we walk out the office door.

“Oh,” is all she says as I lock up the office and we head out to the front door of the building.

It’s a perfect night out. The breeze isn’t too cold, yet not too warm as the fall season approaches. It is a mid-September night, perfect night to sit next to the fire and gaze out at the wilderness. Maybe see a shooting star or two; listen to the coyotes sing their nightly song as they prance around along the fields. None of us say anything as I lock up the doors, both of us too engaged in appreciating the night outside.

“Must be nice,” Shayna finally says after a few moments, still staring out at the fields across the road.

“What must be nice?”

“Living right upstairs. I mean, you lock up the store every night and then all you have to do is walk upstairs.”

I turn to face Shayna. The way the sun is setting behind her, it has this neat way of making her blue eyes shine even bluer at this moment. Her shoulder length blond hair can’t even do justice right now.

“Not really. It gets lonely considering I don’t have any neighbors. My apartment is the only apartment up there,” I respond in a semi-sarcastic tone. I’m tired so my attitude tends to come out often.

“That’s dumb,” is all Shayna says. I love how sometimes she is a woman of a few words, especially when she has nothing to say but must say something anyway.

“It is what it is. OK, well I’d better be going. I’m sure Aunt Bethany is close to having one of her panic attacks because I’m not there by now and haven’t answered any of her phone calls,” I say just as I look at my cellphone again in time to see her name pop up on my phone as an incoming call. This is the fifth one in the last hour. She needs to calm down, I think to myself as Shayna is walking to her car and waving her goodbye.

“Promise me you’ll sleep tonight, Hope. Don’t you dare go back to the store when you get home tonight,” she yells at me from her car as she’s getting inside it.

“And what if I do?” I yell back, a smile appearing on my face because I know just as well as she does she will come back tomorrow and rip out my soul…if that were even possible. I don’t have any friends that I talk to anymore, so I’d like to think of Shayna as my best friend at times. She acts like it more than any of my other friends ever did. I can always count on her when I need her for something and lately that something has been keeping me in line with my work. I don’t know what I would ever do without her anymore.

“Do you want to find out?” She counters. “Go have a goodnight with your aunt, Hope. Enjoy the night while it’s still young. I better see you walking in the door at 8:00AM not before that!” She points a finger at me like I’m five years old again and in trouble for the first time.

I wave my agreeance and she waves back right before she slams the car door shut behind her and drives away down the road. I stand there a few moments taking in a few breaths of the fresh air as I watch her tail lights disappear around a corner. It is peaceful out here.

I play with the keys in my hand until I find my apartment key and head for the rickety stairs that head up to my apartment. I wonder how many people have fallen off these stairs or worse…killed themselves on these stairs. They are wooden stairs that are worn out and falling apart with every other step. This is a law suit waiting to happen. Good thing there are only ten steps to climb before I reach the door to my apartment. Once I’m inside the apartment, I decide to call Aunt Bethany back. If I don’t, she will eventually send a rescue search team out to find me.

“WHERE ARE YOU?!” A frantic Aunt Bethany sounds as soon as the first ring hits my ear.

“At home…”

“WHY?! OH, MY GOSH! ARE YOU OK?”

“Yes, Aunt Bethany, I’m fine. I just worked late tonight. I just walked into my apartment…” I start to say, only to be interrupted again by her frantic voice.

“You know we had plans tonight. I tried calling you and calling you, but you never answered. If you would’ve told me you were working late tonight I would’ve waited a little longer to start supper. Now, it is cold,” she explains.

“Aunt Bethany, I love you and all, but sometimes you’re such an old lady,” I respond without thinking. As soon as I realize what I’ve said I quickly respond with, “I’m changing now. I’ll see you in a few minutes,” and hang up the phone call before she can respond to what I’ve just said to her.

I throw the phone down on my futon so I’m not tempted to answer it if she calls back. She can keep calling back and talk to my voicemail. She can wait a few minutes to talk to me. I grab a clean shirt and jeans and quickly change out of my business attire. Once I’ve changed, I grab the keys and my phone again and make the journey back down the rickety stairs outside. I was in my apartment no longer than five minutes today aside from sleeping.

There is a public parking area across the street from the grocery store. That is where all the employees and customers park. That is where I also park my brand new black 2016 Honda Accord that Aunt Bethany bought for me as a graduation present from college. I barely drive it; only to Aunt Bethany’s is as far as I drive nowadays. Whenever I don’t drive to her house for supper, my car sits so I usually park it in the back of the parking area so it isn’t in the way of customers being able to get a good parking spot. I tell all my employees to do the same thing, but some of them like to make up their own rules. One day the store will have enough money to redo that parking area and I swear all the time I’m going to invest in signs for designated parking for certain people.

Living above the supermarket and being the general manager there has its perks. The best one is I don’t drive anywhere for groceries or things I need. I can easily walk down the stairs rain or shine, snowy and cold or hotter than the tamales, and pick up groceries for no more than a few dollars which makes it a lot easier to save money faster. All my savings goes into an account I have designated for buying a house one day; doesn’t have to be anything spectacular, but something small and decent I will be able to make my “forever” home. Aunt Bethany has no idea my plans and she won’t know until it happens because I know she won’t like my decisions at all. It was a fight with her just to rent this tiny apartment because I chose to be on my own versus live with her again. I am a twenty-two-year-old woman who needs to start branching out on her own. I want to tell her that she can’t protect me from life forever, but I choose to not have that sort of conflict with her right now that is why I make her happy by eating supper with her almost every night after work. She has done her best to raise me from a hard age without having any children to begin with and I will never take her for granted, it is just that she needs to find her way to let go and allow me to be a young adult at times.

I notice the sun has set the rest of the way as I make my way across the street to the parking area. The moon is full and rising big, high above the sky. It is indeed a beautiful night.

I spot my car in the back of the parking lot and make my way toward it. It is nice living in a small area because there is no fear about being attacked by someone or robbed. Back in Chicago, that would be a different story. Walking forward ten paces at night on the streets in Chicago was grounds for being attacked or robbed. There is absolutely no fear in this small town of Wisconsin and it is lovely.

The car unlocks when I hit the unlock button on the key ring remote. I open the door and hop inside. I’ve had this car for a few months now, the new car sent still like the first day I drove it. Aunt Bethany always says that this car should last me a lifetime considering I barely drive it. I think it was her way of reassuring herself I would be fine and that I would be set for life.

Minutes later, the black Honda Accord is rolling nicely down the quiet streets of Arlington towards Aunt Bethany’s house. I’m enjoying the scenery as I pass by each residential house; each family sitting at their big dinner room table enjoying a big family meal, laughing and telling stories. All of them have big smiles on their faces like tonight is the best night they’ve ever had with each other. I wish I knew what that was like with my parents; being able to be happy and laugh while enjoying a big family feast Mother cooked. She was an amazing cook; the best there ever was. However, I was not destined to grow up with that. No matter how hard Aunt Bethany tried to give me that life, nothing in this world compares to having both parents there to enjoy life with.

House after house I pass, as I watch each family in their own home doing the exact same thing as the previous family. The car rounds the corner, goes straight for a few seconds, then I pull it over to the curb in front of Aunt Bethany’s house.

TAP! TAP! TAP!

There is a loud tapping noise on my window as I shut the car off. I look over to see what it is and notice it is a police officer standing outside my car window, shining his flashlight in my eyes. What the hell?

I try to keep calm as I’m putting the key back into the ignition, and roll my window half way down; enough to talk to him.

“Is there a problem, Officer?” I hesitantly ask. I hope he doesn’t pick up on my hesitance. He might construe it as something else.

“Ma’am, are you aware you ran a stop sign about two blocks back?” He says to me, still shining that damn light in my eyes.

His voice sounds sexy, like something you would hear from the main guy character in a major motion picture film. His voice makes me wonder if he is as hot as his voice makes him out to be. That would be a real shame if he wasn’t…What am I doing? I can’t be having these thoughts right about now; nobody has ever had this sort of effect on me. I must stop these teenage thoughts right now! Take a breather…OK, back to reality and being an adult, I think to myself, closing my eyes a few times to regain myself.

“No, Officer, I wasn’t aware…” I say, but no excuses come out of my mouth. My sentence trials off as if the wind took a hold of it and whisked it away in mid-sentence.

“I’m going to need to see your Driver’s License and Proof of Insurance, please.”

I hope Aunt Bethany isn’t watching. I’m sure if she was she would come storming out here like a bat out of hell, yelling and screaming; causing a scene.

Instantly, I freeze up. The sexy-voice cop is asking for my ID. I’m fumbling in my purse for the correct ID card, stumbling across both; one that says Hope Morris, an extra Alias Aunt Bethany made up for me, and another that says Hope Connor, my original name that was legally changed by the detective when I was twelve before we left Chicago forever. Aunt Bethany always said “there is never a such thing as having too many Alias’s”.

I hand the officer the one that says “Hope Morris” along with my Proof of Insurance card. He takes both and walks back toward his car. Paranoia is real. I am hyperventilating as I’m praying he doesn’t find out who I really am; Destiny Hope Connor.

Long minutes pass, and I’m still waiting…. Oh, no. I should make a break for it. Just as I’m about to get out of the car on the passenger side and run, the officer reappears at my window without his flashlight this time. He is tall, maybe six-foot and lean, the kind of guy that could easily be an underwear model. Why is he a cop?

“Can you get out of the car please?” He says as he reaches my open car window again.

I do as he says. “Is there a bigger problem, officer?”

“I would appreciate it if you lose the attitude with me and cooperate, OK, Ms. Morris?” Even when he’s stern and laying down the law he’s sexy. Why is this happening to me tonight? Is it because I was a few hours late to dinner with Aunt Bethany? If that is why I’m being punished right now I swear on my life I will never be late again.

As I’m standing directly in front of him, I notice he can’t be more than twenty-four years old; a newbie on the force that recently graduated from the police academy.

Neither of us say anything as we stare at each other for a moment or two. Is he sizing me up? The awkwardness starts to become apparent, so I clear my throat showing I’m uncomfortable.

“You live here?” He finally asks. What an odd question for a police officer to ask a suspect he just pulled out of the car. He notices the confusion on my face and adds, “it’s what your Driver’s License say.”

“No, I live down the street. Above the supermarket,” I say with a crackled voice.

“Oh.”

“My…mother lives here,” I say hesitantly, thinking my story all the way through my head as I speak to him.

“Your mother is Bethany Morris? The town sheriff?” He sounds surprised. Even with his deep, sexy voice it makes me melt inside.

“You sound surprised.”

“Yea, well…I didn’t know she had any kids. Especially ones that are grown adults. She doesn’t talk much about her life. She’s more about her work than making small talk,” he explains.

“Maybe that’s how she likes it to be. That way nobody can put their nose in and start drama,” I say, confidently.

He takes an unconscious step forward as I take one backward.

“You don’t look like her, though. Like at all.”

“I look like my father,” I respond just as quickly as his question is out of his mouth.

“So, she is married?” He asks.

“You know, this is kind of personal for a cop like you to be asking,” I say with attitude. “Is this why you pulled me over? To snoop on my mother and her personal life?”

“No, I was just…”

“Look, you look like a newbie fresh out of school and this may be a small town where everyone knows everyone, but that doesn’t mean you get the right to pull someone over and snoop. No matter your looks and how charming you can be,” I blurt out.

The moment it all comes out of my mouth, I realize what I’ve said and freeze up. It’s a good thing it’s dark out so he can’t see me blushing. I can barely make out his face expression; shock, like he’s never had anyone, especially a female talk back to him like I just did.

“OK,” he straightens up after a few moments of silence again. “Let me get your citation for running the stop sign.”

Is he serious? Even knowing I’m “the daughter” of the town sheriff? It’s probably because I hurt his ego after everything I said just now. This guy is such a prick; such a newbie.

He’s walking back toward me with the citation in his hand and another piece of paper in his other hand. “Here is your citation for the running the stop sign. And this,” he hands me the other paper that looks to have his number scrawled across it, “is in case you need anything. I usually do the night shift around town. I assume you live alone so…feel free to call me if you need anything. That number is my personal number so I do get text messages as well.”

I’m staring at him with this blank “are you serious” stare the entire time he’s talking to me. He’s so close to me I didn’t even realize his eye color; grey, too hard to read. Eyes that are easily lost in.

“Are you serious?” I blurt out.

“What?”

“After giving me the citation, and everything I said to you, you’re still giving me your number and expect me to call you?” I don’t notice I’m yelling until I see out of the corner of my eye Aunt Bethany, whom looks seasoned now, is standing on her doorstep watching this entire episode. Great, I’ll have to answer to her now when he’s gone.

“No need to yell at me, Hope.” He just called me by my first name and I think I melted the rest of the way. “Look, your right and I think we got off on the wrong foot.  I’m sorry. I’m just trying to make it right by being a nice guy here.”

“A nice guy who still hands out tickets! A nice guy would be a guy who lets you off on a warning!” I’m yelling louder this time and I don’t even care. He’s backing off and that’s what I want from him. I am so furious with him I’m seeing red everywhere. “Thanks for ruining my night.”

“I didn’t mean to ruin your night. I’m just doing my job. I can’t just not give you a ticket because you’re the sheriff’s daughter…” he starts to say.

“Whatever,” I say, interrupting him. I’m done arguing with this newbie. He officially has ruined my mood for the night, and I am not wasting anymore time or energy on this prick tonight. I want him to leave me in peace.

He sighs, “OK. I see this isn’t going anywhere tonight.” He turns to walk back to his car, lights still flashing away. Blue and red, blue and red. He turns back to me when he reaches his car door and says, “Have a good night, Hope. I’ll see you around,” then gets in his car, shutting the door hard behind him.

I hate how he says “I’ll see you around” like it’s a promise not a threat. Thinking about it sends chills down my back. I don’t want to see that gorgeous face or hear that hot, sexy voice again.

He waves and pulls his car out into the middle of the road. I watch him as he drives down the street and rounds the corner when I can no longer see him. Even though I don’t want to see him again, a part of me hopes I do. I hate that part of me right now. How can I allow my brain to deceive me like that? Not just my brain, but my heart as well. Where did I get the nerve to fight back with cops? Probably from the fear of him finding out who I really am, and sending me away or having the media involved. It has been ten years, I don’t need someone like him screwing up everything I’ve worked for since that day.

I look up at Aunt Bethany, whom is looking down at me with the sternest look possible, her arms are crossed across her chest. She is angry with me. I decide to deal with her when I go inside, but for now I motion to her to give me a minute of peace. She nods and walks back inside the house, shutting the door behind her leaving me completely alone. I lean against the car and look up to the night sky. There are more stars out now than before. I wonder if my mother is one of them always looking down on me. I wonder what kind of advice she would have for me now. I don’t want to be afraid to fall in love, but I am. I am always afraid my past will eventually catch up to me. Aunt Bethany always says it won’t if I play my cards right, but what cards do I play now to keep safe? I suddenly feel like my life has been dealt with a bad hand of cards and instead of trading them in I’m forced to play with them. No matter what move I make I lose the hand.

I take a few deep breaths of fresh air to calm down a little so I can think more clearly. The coyotes are out prancing about, their song can be heard all over town at this time of night. I listen to them bark and yowl for a little while as I feel my heart rate start to slow and my face begins to cool. Suddenly, I have the urge to look at the piece of paper the cop handed me with his number on it. It reads, “Call me anytime. 608-715-2335. Signed by Jason Steth”. I crumble up the paper and throw it on the ground, furious again. What makes him think I’m going to call him? I take one more huge breath of fresh air and slowly make my way up the concrete steps to Aunt Bethany’s front door. I must face her sometime, what better time than in this moment?