(C) 2009 BK Reeves/Short Story/LOVE ME FOREVER
The snow was just beginning to fall when Callie pulled in at the west gate. She could see that it was chained and padlocked. Rummaging in her bag for the keys, she jumped out of the pickup truck she’d rented in Abilene.
The sun dropped behind the pastureland at her back as she tried to fit the key into the icy padlock. Finally the lock gave and she was able to unwrap the chain and push back the double gates.
Cold, she was so cold. She blew on her hands before she started the truck and pulled onto the land she’d inherited, the small Caddel spread. Small for Texas, 2500 acres more or less. Callie had forgotten to call Lucas Calvert and ask if he was running any cattle on the wheat right now. She squinted, trying to catch sight of a possible herd, but they would already be down by the barns, eating and getting ready to snug in for the night.
If she left the gate open, cattle would be scattered all up and down the county road before sunup. Damn, damn, damn! She glanced at her cell phone beside her on the seat. She could call Luc if she had enough bars. His number would be easy to find in her purse. She grabbed the phone, punched it on and nothing.
Okay, Callie. Don’t sit here freezing your butt off. Think. She decided she’d shut and latch the big iron gates, but wouldn’t chain and lock them. She took a deep breath and hit the ground running. Swinging the gates together, she slammed the big latch down and made sure it held.
Her hair was wet from the snow as she sprinted back to the truck and climbed in. Pushing the heater bar over to hot, she shivered. Her lights were on high—she’d forgotten how quickly the darkness came out here. Ten minutes after sundown and she could see very little. The snow was whirling now, the big flat flakes clinging to the ground. No telling how many inches would fall before morning.
That was all right with her. She’d stopped at the grocery store in Sheldon for supplies. Plenty of food so she wouldn’t need to get out of the house for a couple of weeks. Batteries for the flashlights if snow got really heavy on the electric lines and she had a blackout. She had extra batteries for her laptop, too.
The old house was heated by big propane gas stoves, so she’d be cozy and warm, even if the electricity did go. She would shut the world away, write the perfect ending to her screenplay and maybe find some personal closure, too.
Callie let the truck whine to a stop when she came to the electric fence. Just as well she’d shut the gate; that charged fence told the story. As she’d suspected, there were cattle in here. Without thought, she left the pickup again and ran to the fence.
She bowed her head against the blowing snow and reached for the insulated wire to unhook the single-strand gate. As she took the gate and started to carry it back, she noticed the lights of a vehicle pulling in at the west gate. The driver closed the big gates behind him and started slowly down the road Callie had taken.
Her heart pounded, but she wasn’t afraid it might be some stranger. No. This was Lucas Culvert, owner of the big spread to the east and longtime sheriff of the county. He’d always leased the place from Grandma Phillips. Word had spread that she stopped in town and here he was. Not a stranger at all, but the man she hadn’t seen in seventeen years, not since he’d betrayed her.
Callie and Luc were the same age. She had loved him at six, given him her first kiss at twelve, her virginity at sixteen and her promise to marry him at the same time. They were nineteen and in college at Texas Tech when Luc had given her cousin Lana what was hers, his baby. The very baby he’d promised to give Callie after they were married.
He had betrayed Callie with her own cousin. She’d refused to listen to his side of it; wouldn’t even let him talk to her. She’d left him and gone straight to Hollywood, taking her screenplay with her. Two years later, that screenplay was made into an Oscar-winning movie, and she had two more scripts optioned. When she learned Luc had married Lana, Callie wed Sam Phillips, a famous director, but always slept alone.
Sam was a closet gay, masculine looking, a sweet guy. And he loved her. Platonically. He was upfront with Callie. No one knew about his homosexuality—not even his own family. He didn’t want anyone to know. He respected her for her writing genius, that was apparent. She told him about Luc.
They made a fabulous team, along with Sam’s lover, Gary Sanders. They worked, lived and scored success after success together. Callie the writer, Sam the director, Gary the producer. Their company was called Trifecta. It was at the Golden Globes, that the unthinkable happened. They’d just won best picture, and she was holding her acceptance speech, written on a small slip of paper. Callie was standing beside Sam and Gary was behind them. She dropped the paper in her hand, bent and reached for it, and heard the shot that blew half her husband’s head across her face. The shot came from above.
Gary grabbed and dragged Callie to the floor, and security police hurried her and her husband’s lover away.
That night she held Gary in her arms as he wept. She cried, too, for her husband, for Gary, for herself.
She waited for the slow-moving truck to pull up behind her.
It was Luc, all right. She could tell by the way he moved as he shut the gate. She’d never forgotten how he moved. What would he say?
Callie rolled down the drivers-side window when he walked up beside her truck.
“Drive around to the main house,” Luc shouted over the wind. He turned away with no greeting, only that harsh order.
Callie followed his black SUV around the long drive and parked in front of the hundred-year-old house, big and homey, and so welcoming to her battered heart. The lights were all on, every window blazing.
Luc opened her pickup door; she got out and asked, “Who’s here?”
“My daughter Coral. She stays here a lot. I didn’t think you’d mind.”
The snow was heavier now and snowflakes tangled in Callie’s eyelashes. She shook her head and looked up at him. He was everything she remembered, only more so. In that instant, Callie knew she’d never, not for a minute, stopped loving him. Now she knew why she’d come home.
Luc’s grip tightened and he opened his lips. What he would have said, she never knew. The front door of her old house opened and a girl rushed out on the porch.
“Dad, who is that with you?”
“Get back inside. It’s Callie Phillips.”
Catching her breath, Callie fought for composure. This was Luc’s daughter. The daughter he should have given her. The one he’d thoughtlessly given her cousin.
Lana had been dead since Corel was four, and Callie’s hate had burned out years ago.
Smiling, Coral threw her arms around Callie the moment her Dad shoved them inside the house. She took Callie to stand before the fire. “Open your coat. Get warm. I’ll get a towel for your hair. Oh, I’ve waited all my life to meet you!” She put her arms around Callie again and simply held her. “I’m sorry,” she said. “So sorry for your loss.”
Callie felt dazed and looked around for Luc as Coral came back and gently pressed the towel to her hair, trying to soak up the melted snow. He had gone outside to get her stuff out of the truck, she thought.
She turned her attention back to the girl. “You are so beautiful, but you don’t look like Lana.”
Coral flushed. “No, I look like you. We are cousins, after all. My dad said I should have been your daughter. I—I wish I had.”
“Yes, so do I,” Callie choked.
Luc came in, carrying luggage, her laptop computer and a large sack of groceries. His daughter was weeping in Callie’s arms. They both had tears streaming down their faces.
Callie looked over Coral’s shoulder to find Luc standing there, his expression unreadable.
He put everything on the couch, crossed the room and silently took them in his arms. He held them a long time, then pulled away and wiped at his own face.
“I’m going back to town,” he told them. “Coral, are you staying? Will y’all be okay out here?”
But Coral was shaking her head. “I’d love to stay, but I have basketball practice. I was just getting ready to leave.”
Luc’s eyes were watchful. “Callie, you don’t need to be alone tonight.”
He walked over to an old rotary phone sitting on a side table. It was a landline. Plucking the phone from its cradle, he dialed a number.
“Josie? I’m staying out here at the old Phillips place with Callie Phillips tonight. Yeah, she’s here. Don’t tell anybody, okay? Except Iggy, of course. Is he there? Good, put him on.”
“You remember old Iggy Springer,” he heard Coral tell Callie. “He was one of Granddad’s deputies; now he’s Dad’s.”
“Yeah, Iggy,” Luc said into the phone. “Hold down the fort tonight, will you? Josie has something to tell you, but y’all keep it under your hats. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Supper was sandwiches and strong, fresh coffee. And lots of sexual tension. Every time Luc looked at her, Callie’s stomach clenched. She tried not to let her eyes rest on his mouth. She knew what he could do with that mouth, how he could make her feel. They were alone. Coral had gathered her books, said her bio-dad was expecting her and left with a sandwich and a coke.
“Call me when you get there,” Luc said.
“Coral has a biological father? I thought you’d gotten Lana pregnant.”
“So did I. Turns out she’d broken up with Troy Morgan and decided to get even with Troy by sleeping with me. And get even with you. She told me later she’d always hated you.
“Look,” he continued, “I was drunk that night. Remember you wouldn’t come home from Teck that weekend? You wanted to stay in the dorm and write? It was homecoming.”
“I remember.” Only too well.
Luc blew out his breath and drew another. “I don’t have a good excuse, no excuse at all, really. I was mad at you, got drunk at the homecoming dance, Lana climbed all over me and I got us a motel room in Spur.”
“Why didn’t you use a condom? You were always super careful with me.”
“Lana lied, said she was on the pill.”
Callie looked at him a long time. He held her eyes, determined that she know the truth.
“One time, and it ruined our lives.” Her tone was bleak.
“No. I was with her all night, Callie.”
Her anger flashed brightly again. “That was my baby, you bastard. Coral should have been mine.”
“If I’d gotten Lana pregnant but I didn’t. We’d been married two months before Lana told me she was already pregnant with Troy’s child when she slept with me.”
After a while, Callie said, “So Coral is not yours after all. And she knows. She said Troy was her biological father.
He and Lana were her parents.”
“Yeah. She calls me A. I’m her adoptive dad and Troy is B, her bio-dad.” Luc grinned. “She’s a great kid.”
“I wish she was mine. And yours.” Callie sighed.
They were quiet a while, and Luc poured them another cup of coffee.
The phone on the kitchen wall rang. Callie picked it up, wondering if it might be Gary. Luc was tracking her with his eyes. “Oh, Coral. Did you want to talk to your dad?” Pause. “Okay, I’ll tell him.”
“Coral says she got to town okay.”
Luc nodded and asked, “How long are you staying? Are you moving home?”
“Yes. I plan to use this as my home base. I can write anywhere. For the next few weeks, I’ll be finishing the screenplay for Trifecta’s next film. Gary had just gone into pre-production when Sam was killed.”
Callie hesitated. “They caught the murderer, you know. Right there, that night. She was Sam’s longtime secretary, Agatha Turnbow. Aggie had become more and more irrational the last couple of years. Sam finally had to pension her off. She thought he should have made her part of the company instead of me. She resented me from the first.” Callie found her voice shaking. “Aggie was shooting at me, Luc. She was trying to kill me.”
“Yeah, the story was all over the papers.”
Callie got up and cleared the sandwich remains away. Finally she faced him, leaned back against the sink and crossed her arms over her breast.
“You might as well know. Gary was Sam’s lover. They had a long-time relationship. They were a couple, and I was odd man out. Or odd woman. They loved me like a sister, taught me the business, made me a full partner in Trifecta, their movie company.”
“Why did you marry him, Callie? Didn’t you want to have a life?”
Callie straightened. “When you married Lana, I didn’t care what I did.” She shrugged. “There was no place for me here. Lana was starring in my role. She was your wife and lover, or so I thought. When I learned she was pregnant, I finally gave you up. That’s why I was willing to marry Sam. He and Gary became my family; they took very good care of me. And I was the perfect wife. Never played around on Sam like some Hollywood wives.”
Luc came to his feet. “Are you telling me you’ve been celibate all these years?” His voice had a husk in it.
One corner of her mouth quirked in a tiny smile. “I’m telling you that you’re the only man I ever slept with, Luc.”
“That’s impossible. You’re beautiful. Don’t tell me men didn’t try to . . . I know how the world is. When Lana died in that motorcycle wreck, why didn’t you come back to me?”
“What would you have done, Luc? Would you have taken me in?”
Luc snorted. “Taken you in and had you under me in two seconds flat. I never stopped wanting you.”
“Maybe I was afraid,” she said. “Grandma had written that Lana was dead. And you had Coral. What was she? Four when her mother died? And I had a husband. We were shooting a movie in Ireland. I decided to ask Grandma to come for a visit. She was my one remaining link with home. I enjoyed those three months she was with me very much.” Callie smiled, remembering. “She got the biggest kick, meeting all those Hollywood folks, especially the two famous stars who were the leads in our film. A movie crew becomes a tight little family for the duration of the shoot, you know. Grandma loved being part of that. Then she died suddenly. She loved Ireland. That’s why I buried her there.”
Luc leaned against the counter, his arms crossed over his chest. To keep from reaching for her, he thought. “The time was never right for us.”
Callie nodded. Until now. She was wandering around the big kitchen, touching things. Restless.
“Thanks for keeping the place up, all the painting, the necessary repairs, and everything. It’s like new, or as new as an old house can be. My room looks exactly like it did the last time I saw it. It’s beautiful. Did Grandma do that?”
“Yeah, until she left to go be with you, she turned your room into, I don’t know, a shrine. Then I sort of took over.”
Callie straightened. Her nipples tingled; her body was ready for him. “Tell me why you did that, Luc.”
She put her arms around his lean waist and eased close to his body. Her breasts were touching his chest. He was so tall and smelled so good, like she’d always remembered. “Tell me what you want from me,” she breathed.
Luc held her against him, his hands rough on her back. “No, first you tell me the real reason you’ve come home. Why are you in my arms right now?”
Before Callie could answer, he lowered his head and kissed her, his tongue aggressive. He was hungry for her, seventeen years hungry.
“Why, Callie?” His hands were hard and he shook her a little.
Callie shook her head. “I’m tired, Luc. Exhausted. I thought I could rest here, regroup. It was a good excuse. But what I wanted, needed, was you, your sex, your arms, your wonderful body I could never forget. I came for you, Luc.”
“Ah, God,” he gasped after another deep kiss. Suddenly he held her away and shook her. “I’m warning you, Callie. Don’t start this unless you mean to stay.”
Callie laughed. “No, I mean yes. I want to stay.”
He swung her up in his arms, walked with her into her old bedroom. “I’ve dreamed of this.”
Callie clung with her arms around his neck, barely aware that he had tossed the covers back. He stripped her heavy sweater over her head, removed her bra and followed her down on the bed. His mouth was hot on her breasts and Callie gasped as he unsnapped her pants, pushed them off and kissed her all the way down her body. He penetrated her with his tongue and she thought she would climax before he could get out of his clothes.
“No, Luc!” she cried. “Inside me; I want you inside me. I want us to come together, like we always did. Together.”
Luc’s eyes never left her face as he tore off his shirt and stepped out of his pants. Then he was on her, pushing between her legs, ready to enter. But he stopped, went still and collapsed on her.
Callie was frantic to feel his hot skin, his body on hers. Everything was so good, just like she remembered. Her arms were around him, pulling him against her. “What’s the matter?”
“I don’t have anything; I don’t have a condom.” His mouth caught hers again; he was carrying her along on a crest of passion, his shaft pushing at the moist entrance of her sex.
Callie thought later that she’d screamed. He couldn’t deny her now, not when she’d waited so long. “Luc, don’t stop. I want you. Now.” Her arms left his neck and grabbed his hips as she tried to pull him into her.
Still kissing her, Luc shoved his hands under her and tilted her body up to receive his thrusts. “I can’t wait, sweetheart. I’m coming,” he growled just as Callie shattered.
Silence, the silence that marked the end of a long separation. The sweet silence of reunion.
His cell phone on the bedside table rang. Luc grabbed it, cleared his throat and muttered, “What?” He was still on her, still in her, still hard as he pressed Callie into the mattress.
Callie could hear every word. “Hi, Dad.” Coral’s voice came loud and clear. “I just wanted to make sure you know I’m not coming home tonight. In fact, I’ll probably be staying with Daddy Troy for several nights, if that’s all right with you. Are you and Callie okay?”
“Yeah, baby, we are.” Luc laughed. “I’d say we’re better than we’ve been any time these last seventeen years. Thanks for calling.”
Luc flipped the phone shut and began loving Callie again. “Where was I?”
After a moment, Callie said, “Stop.” She ran her hands up and down his ribs. “Stop, Luc. I want to ask you something.”
Another long thrust before he slowed, his body protesting. “Anything, Sweetheart. The answer is yes.” Luc locked his mouth with hers again, kissing her until she was breathless.
“You aren’t paying attention,” Callie said. “You haven’t heard my question yet.”
“Oh, you’ve got my attention, I promise.” He shoved even deeper into her body.
“Will you marry me?” Callie asked
For one instant, Luc was absolutely still. Then he caught her mouth with his and began moving inside her with even greater force, greater intensity, until they both rolled over the edge.
In the aftermath, when their hearts slowed, Callie stirred. “I’m gonna take that as a yes.”
Luc laughed and so did she. “You knew the answer before you asked. How can I say anything but yes?”
It was a very good ending to their story, Callie thought. What any writer worth her salt would call an earned ending. #