Welcome to the 12 Days of Romance!
For those of you who missed the back story to this posting: we started posting chapters of my National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) Contest entry back in November. The first eight chapters of that novel are up [view here] and as a celebration for Christmas we’re continuing the posting of that contest entry through December (even though the contest ended on December 1st, we just HAVE to finish it!) ending on Christmas day with the entire novel complied into an ebook, just for you. :0)
To catch you up, below are the synopsis and first eight chapters.
Waiting desperately for Chapter 9 – Errand Boy? Scroll down past the chapter list below to start reading.
Cason McPherson and his childhood friend Ryan Sparling enlisted to the US Army together. Years passed and they served on separate missions until years later when the US military sent in a ground strike team into the Kandahar Valley. Joined together again they entered the valley but only a handful of men came out. Ryan wasn’t one of them.
Back home, and suffering from war wounds himself, Cason watched as his commanding officer told Ryan’s family of his death. Watched as the mother he came to see as his own wept and reached for him. While Ryan’s younger sister, stoic and dry eyed stepped back.
Sophie Sparling lost the brother she loved to war, but pours herself into her work to hide the pain. When her mother invites Cason, the man who had once been her brother’s best friend and the last to betray him, to live with her Sophie finds a willing participant in the outlet for her pain. Her resistance and anguish to the horrific truth of her brother’s death slowly begin to come to light and eventually erode at her soul.
Sophie and Cason are forced to face their loss and work together in healing the scars that mar their hearts.
“Hot and passionate story of opposites attracting under anguishing circumstances. A true happily ever after.” – Said No One Ever
Chapter 1 – Groceries
Chapter 2 – Nigel
Chapter 3 – Friday
Chapter 4 – Brunch
Chapter 5 – Wreck
Chapter 6 – Bed Rest
Chapter 7 – Aftermath
Chapter 8 – Refill
Chapter 9 – Errand Boy
The next morning came early, Cason was up and dressed for a full day of work. The surgery was still on his mind, he was glad to be heading to work early, he needed a distraction from the significance removing a chunk of shrapnel from his body. He grabbed a granola bar from the cupboard in the kitchen and saw a package for Sophie on the counter. It had been overnighted and arrived the day before from her cell company.
It took Cason a fraction of a second to tuck it under his arm and head out the door.
At Sophie’s condo, a modern rectangle of a building made of scrap wood and steel situated on the 18th hole of the country club’s forested course, he told himself he was just dropping off the cell. Because she’d need it today if she was headed back to work.
That’s all this is about, he told himself.
Her condo was the second story of the complex and from what he’d heard it was the entire upper floor. Under the steel awning he rapped on the door.
Sophie stepped out of the shower twisting a towel over her head and wrapped another about her. Her side ached but the swelling had gone down making the pain manageable with over-the-counter pain meds. As she dried off in her bedroom someone knocked hard at her door. She glanced at the clock, it was just after six am.
She slipped on her underwear then her black pencil skirt thinking they’d go away, they obviously had the wrong condo.
As she zipped her skirt she heard the knock come again and her name.
“You have got to be kidding me,” she said to herself. She looked down, and shrugged, a skirt and bra was dressed enough for Cason the Bastard.
She went to the door, leaving the chain on, and opened it. Cason was indeed on the other side. The circles under his eyes had gotten darker, he wore his work jeans, a fitted under shirt beneath his flannel and had a package in his hand.
“What?” she asked.
“Oh,” he said taken aback looking at her from toe to towel on her head.
“Yeah, I’m getting dressed, but nothing you haven’t seen before. So what do you want?”
Cason knew then looking at her that he was kidding himself if he was just there to drop off the package and leave. “I got something to say,” he said and held up her package, “In exchange for your cell.”
“Did you take that out of my mailbox somehow?” she asked her eyes narrowing.
“No, it came to your mom’s place.”
She just looked at him.
“Can I come in?” He asked.
After a long pause she shut the door in his face. On the inside he heard the chain being removed and then the door cracked open. Her footsteps sounded on the polished hardwoods walking away from it.
Cason slowly opened the door then closed it behind him. His eyes scanned the room and he – despite them being clean – toed his boots off. The floors were dark polished wood that ran throughout the entire floor. Huge leather couches in the middle of the room looked out over the golf course woods. White fur rug on the floor and on the far side of the room a metal and white plastic dinning set with a whacked out ruffled white chandelier thing hanging over it. The kitchen was open to his left a granite topped bar ran the length of it. Polished stainless steel appliances dominated, the rest of the condo was all windows and black and white photographs. It was icy cold compared to her mother’s house that felt like a warm straight-from-the-oven cookie. He saw her across the room in the bathroom putting on her makeup, she’d found a shirt and it hung open on her. A gauzy see through thing.
She turned her head to look at him, “You can put that on the counter and go.” She said then turned back to the mirror.
Cason did put the package on the counter, but he wasn’t going. Instead he busied himself. She had a fancy coffee maker but it hadn’t been programed to make coffee that morning. He spotted the the coffee grounds next to the machine and set to work. As he dumped grounds into the filter and added water he felt his palms begin to sweat.
What the fuck was he doing? He asked himself.
A few moments later Sophie, shirt donned and towel on her head gone, came out to the kitchen and tore open the cell phone box. “You’re still here. So what is it that you wanted to tell me?” she said as she powered it on.
Cason wanted to start with an apology but couldn’t, “Did you know your mom is dating?” he asked resting his good hip against the counter and crossed his arms.
Sophie’s eyebrows shot up as she looked up at him, “Are you kidding me?”
“Last night, I got back to the house and she was doing the crossword with him.”
Sophie’s warm chocolate gaze studied his face.
Oh, yes, he thought. He was in deep shit, just talking with her was easing the feeling of tightness in his chest. When he did move out he’d have to move very, very far away.
“I don’t believe it.” Sophie said looking at him and tried not to feel like he was a giant mold of masculinity in all her polished glass and reflective surfaces. He was the accent piece to it all, the solidifying point.
“His name was Martin Lowe. He said he knew you.”
Sophie’s face brightened and she laughed out, “Oh my god! She asked him out?”
Cason shrugged a shoulder, “They didn’t look like they’d done much else but the crossword.”
Cason and Sophie looked at each other, the idea that Helen would do anything other than just the crossword, simultaneously crossed their minds.
“Oh gross.” They said in unison. “You don’t think… she doesn’t…?” Sophie asked.
Cason shook his head as if to rid himself of the thought, “No.”
“But she’s still a wo-”
“Oh god, what if she does – he’s my pediatrician!”
“No. No. No. I still live there… No.”
That brought a smile to Sophie’s face, “You better find a new place fast McPherson otherwise you might walk in on some geriatric make-out sesh.”
“You have no idea.” He said then added, “Just so you know, I am moving out. I told Helen that I’d have a place before the honoring ceremony.”
Sophie turned on her phone and put it down on the counter before looking back up, “I’ve heard that one before.”
“I know.” He said then blurted, “I’m sorry.”
Sophie had started to tuck her shirt into her skirt, she paused half way around, “I’m sorry?” She asked, then added, “Did I hear you right?”
Sophie looked at him, met his gaze, “And what exactly are you apologizing for?”
“For Sunday. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have went at you like I did.”
“Why did you?”
Cason shook his head, “You’re a complicated person for me Soph.”
Sophie waited for him to continue and when he didn’t she asked, “You mean I come with baggage, baggage that’s Ryan?”
He took a deep breath, “Something like that, but not in the way that you think.” He rushed on before she could ask what he meant, “Sometimes it’s easier to… I’d like to be friends again.”
He held her gaze, it was apparent that she didn’t have time to dive into the whys but she’d take his apology.
There was much more to him in that moment to Sophie than there had been on Sunday and the day’s before the crash. That moment however was nearly as it was the day of the crash, a clear connection with him, but just one clear moment wasn’t enough.
“I have to get ready for work.” She said and walked back to the bathroom. Her mind went round and round as she dried her hair and made last few ministrations. A few minutes later the smell of coffee wafted through the condo.
She expected when she came back out that he’d gone but he wasn’t. Instead he was rummaging through the kitchen. She ducked into her bedroom, slipped her pumps on and came back out. Cason had found two to-go cups and was filling them.
“Read my mind.” She said, then added as she checked her schedule on her cell, “What else is on your mind Cason. I have a feeling that you didn’t come all the way out here to tell me my mom is making out with my pediatrician. Or just to say you’re sorry about Sunday.”
He just grunted and finished pouring out the coffee, “Smells good. You buy the nice stuff.”
“No sense in drinking dirt everyday if you don’t have to, now spill.”
“Do you know Dr. Mathers?”
“Yeah, I’m working his place up in the Heights. Nice folks, moved down a couple years back from New York so he could start his cosmetic surgery business. Word has it he’s in the clinic in town. Why do you ask?”
He just grunted again and twisted the top down on the containers.
“Goddamnit…” she said staring at her phone. “Someone shoot me.”
“Philip Nigel,” she said by way of explanation, “My boss scheduled me to meet with him later this morning. Ugh.”
“That the guy you were going to have sign something on Saturday?”
She rolled her eyes, “Yes. This day just got to be a giant crap sandwich.”
“Sounds bad – this is the client I heard from your mom that beats his workers?”
Sophie rolled her eyes, “No, but he’s an A-grade a-hole.”
“Better than me?”
Sophie smirked, “He makes you look like second grader tattle-tailing.”
Cason handed her one of the to-go mugs, “You taking someone with you?”
“I’m not ‘taking someone with me’ like it’s a bar fight Cason, but yes I am meeting my associate Casey there.”
“Ten. Is that concern I hear in your voice?”
“More like possessiveness. I don’t like this guy to use his asshole tricks on you.”
Sophie scoffed, “That trick is reserved for just you then?”
“Asshole.” She mumbled.
“Thank you.” He said smothering a smile by taking a sip off the mug.
Sophie looked at him then a puzzled look on her face, “You were asking about Dr. Mathers just a bit ago. What are you seeing him for?”
“I didn’t say I was seeing him.”
“But you did see him.” She pressed.
“He subbed for my doc yesterday.” He looked at his chunky black military spec watch and announced, “Gonna be late. Catch you later Soph.”
Sophie watched him stride to the door and slip on his boots.
“Cason. I’ll figure it out.” She said over to him.
He just toasted her with his mug as she’d done to him a million times before, then headed out the door.
She smiled absently, then looked back at her cell, “Philip Nigel… this is ridiculous.”