Convictions: Kelly and Stephen

BOOK: Convictions: Kelly and Stephen
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Convictions

 

 

from

 

Delinda Dewick

 

 


He who believes is strong; he who doubts is weak.

Strong convictions precede great actions.

Louisa May Alcott

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kelly wore jeans, work boots, and a long sleeved denim shirt bearing the logo of Hawley’s Hardware.  There was nothing she could do about that; it was standard work attire.  But she had taken the time in the car to unpin her hair and run her fingers through it.  Her soft auburn curls framed her face, accentuating wide green eyes.  She had also unbuttoned one more button on her shirt. 

When she was young she had been thin.  It had been hard for her five foot two inch frame to reach, much less top, the one hundred pound mark.  But thirty-five years and a child later her shape had filled in quite nicely, giving her curves she had never had in her twenties. 

She pulled into his driveway parking next to his rusted blue pickup.  Down a short flight of steps to his front door, she knocked softly on the wood, her hands shaking slightly as her heart raced.  He opened the door, wearing a pair of Levis with moccasins on his feet, and nothing else. 

There was no surprise on his face, just a warm smile.  He had always known that eventually, when she was ready, she would come to him.  Their connection was just that strong.  From the first time he had locked eyes with her in the hardware store, he had known that their desire for each other was more than just physical.    

As he stood aside to clear a path his bare chest captured her attention.  She found it hard to tear her eyes away from the lean hardness of his body.  Until this moment she had only seen him fully clothed and, while he looked good in his flannel shirts, standing here before her without one gave Kelly the opportunity to fully appreciate his physique. 

He was lean and toned, with long sexy sinewy muscles.  Not the out of proportion kind carried by weight lifters, whose vanity is achieved through their sheer size.  No, Stephen’s muscles were the muscles of a man who used them every day, a working man’s muscles.   They rippled with his movement; they were strong, purposeful and ideally suited to his form. 

His chest was peppered with fine dark hair that came together where his rib cage ended, forming a single line that traveled down over his abs across his flat stomach disappearing into the top of his jeans.  Kelly’s mind wandered, wondering shamelessly about places she couldn’t see. 

She wondered about a lot of other things too, like what it would feel like to be held in those arms, and how his muscles would move under her fingers.  Breaking away from her appraisal of his torso, she finally met his eyes.  She read in those eyes that he’d only be too happy to oblige if she were simply to ask.

The next thing that she noticed was the stubble on his face.  Whenever she had seen him in town he had always been clean shaven.  But now he wore a two, maybe three day growth.  Kelly thought that maybe she liked the sexiness of his stubble better, at least for tonight.

He watched the way in which her wide green eyes appraised him, not at all self-conscious, but not with conceit either.  Neither of them had spoken yet, but his smile appeared to be genuine.  He was no doubt happy to have her here.  From his smile she drew courage to enter. 

And when she did enter his home, for Stephen, there was no going back to yesterday.

 

Chapter 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three weeks past, a Friday, made it a half dozen times in the last two months that she had seen him in the store, the ruggedly handsome man with incredible steel gray eyes.  Kelly had not spoken with him during any of the first five occasions.  She had been busy helping other customers.  With the help of another salesperson he had found what he needed, checked out, and then left with new found purpose.  But he had noticed her, and she had noticed him. 

The intensity of his gaze could not be missed nor could the raw sensuality with which he carried himself.  Each time her eyes locked with his, her breath would catch in her throat and her heart would beat faster.  No man had ever had that effect on her before, not even her ex-husband.

On this day, Friday, when he had come into the store Kelly was at the register, and there were no other customers.  Her heart began to race the moment she recognized his silhouette entering through the wash of sunlight that covered the front door. 

He found what he was looking for without help and brought the items up to cash out.  As he placed them on the counter, his eyes never left Kelly’s face.  Trying not to blush from the frank way in which he appraised her, she rung up his purchases; two boxes of roofing nails, a bucket of tar, and a charge slip for the roofing shingles to be picked up at the loading dock out back.  The butterflies in her stomach were in full flight when she met his eyes to give him the total.  He gave her cash. 

While counting his change back she made a lame attempt at conversation “looks like you’ve got quite a project planned?” 

His smile was humorous, and a bit cocky, seemingly mocking her.  “I bought a dilapidated cabin several years back.  I have a lot of projects.”

“Are you new here?” he probed her.

“I’ve been in Hanlon for a few years, but just started working for Bill four few weeks ago.  I’ve seen you in here before, recently.  Do you live nearby?”

Again the quirky smile “about 30 miles north of town, off of Old Henry Road.” 

She didn’t want him to leave but could think of nothing else to say.

After a moment of strained silence he took his register receipt, turned it over, and searched for something to write with.  Spotting the pen she had nesting in her front shirt pocket he reached for it without hesitation, removing it before her brain could register his actions.  The brazen move sent a shockwave up her spine.  Scribbling something on the back of the receipt he handed the paper and pen back to her adding “stop in if you’re ever out that way.”  His eyes locked with hers, signaling everything she needed to know about his intentions.

Embarrassed by the overt invitation Kelly clumsily responded “Sorry, I don’t get out that way much, but thanks for the offer.” She tucked the receipt in the front pocket of her shirt.  His eyes followed the movement, lingering a bit longer than she was comfortable with but her body’s involuntary reaction to his suggestions could not be confused with discomfort. 

When his eyes finally returned to meet hers he shrugged “OK then, see you around.”  Picking up his supplies, he left the store without looking back. 

Stunned by the intensity of the desire he had stirred uo within her, she took a moment to catch her breath.  He was a perfect stranger. 

Looking around and noting no other customers in the store, she headed back to the employee break room.  Her hands were shaking when she pulled the receipt out of her pocket, turned it over, and read what he had written:

 

Stephen

3914 old henry rd

(907) 855-5515

No need to call first

 

Feeling less like an intelligent woman and more like a foolish school girl with her first crush she crumpled up the receipt and threw it in the trash.  The last thing she needed was to get involved with a man who would no doubt see her as just another conquest.  

But a voice in her head told her not to jump to conclusions about this man.

 

***

 

It was a Wednesday, one week later, Kelly had the unusual experience of waiting in line at the post office.  She had just finished what she hoped to be final edits on her latest manuscript, and needed to send it on its way to her agent, whose calls were becoming annoyingly more frequent. 

With just one person ahead of her it wasn’t really considered a line but Kelly’s impatience was beginning to show as she tapped the toe of her boot softly.  An older woman was being assisted by the post mistress and although Kelly couldn’t recall the woman’s name she recognized her as a neighbor down the road who kept to herself most of the time.  Today this woman was obviously catching up on gossip after a long winter of solitude.  She and Alice, Hanlon’s post mistress had long ago concluded their business but remained locked in an intense conversation, their voices low enough that the subject of their concern could not be identified.

The bells attached to the post office door rang out, interrupting Kelly’s thoughts, and signaling the entrance of a new customer.  Immediately the hair on the back of her neck stood at attention.  Kelly had no need to turn around to confirm her suspicious of the new entry’s identity.  The electricity in the air told her all she needed to know.

Her neighbor turned, and noting the addition to the line behind her abruptly ended her conversation with the post mistress.  Picking up her package she left the one room building without a glance to either Kelly or the newcomer behind her.

Alice, following a nervous glance over Kelly’s shoulder, greeted Kelly with a warm smile announcing “next” as if the line were a dozen people long.  Happy to take care of business Kelly took a large step forward but as she did her boot heel stuck on the corner of the rubber mat protecting the building’s old wooden floors from the slush and mud that is a Spring Time norm for Hanlon.  With dread she felt herself beginning to lose her balance and, with her hands full of her exceptionally bulky manuscript she held as if it were an infant, there was no way to stop the impending fall. 

As Kelly was preparing to hit the floor, an event that she was sure to find more embarrassing than painful, her fall was suddenly halted in mid-air by a strong grip on her upper arm.  With little effort she found herself up righted and as she attempted to sort out how this was possible, the answer quickly became apparent as she noted that the strong hand that had helped her was still firmly in control. 

Kelly turned to thank her hero, meeting, as expected and dreaded, those intense gray eyes which were now slightly lit by humor.  Turning several different shades of red, she glanced in the direction of his hand so warmly wrapped around her arm and mumbled “thanks, but I’m fine.” 

The corner of his sensuous mouth turned up slightly as he whispered “yes, you are”.  But he released his hold of her as their eyes locked for a moment longer, just long enough for both to take in the impact that this moment had had on the other.

Turning back to the counter Kelly noted that Alice was watching every moment of the encounter as if she were deeply involved in the latest episode of her favorite day time drama.  Finishing her task of submitting her package for mailing, Kelly’s fingers shook ever so slightly. 

When she was done she turned and made her way to the door, careful not to repeat her misstep and without further eye contact with the handsome stranger.  He said nothing but watched intently her every move as she made her way to the door and closed it behind her.

 

***

 

The encounter at the post office remained hotly imprinted in her memory two weeks later, when, on Saturday, Mr. Hawley asked Kelly if she could run some things out to the Calhoun farm.  Hawley’s regular errand boy was home sick with the flu and the Calhoun’s had an emergency.  Their water pump broke.  With a baby due any minute Mr. Calhoun was anxious to get it fixed but needed some replacement parts to do so.  Kelly graciously agreed and loaded the supplies into her old Jeep Cherokee.

The Calhoun’s farm was forty minutes out of town, north of Hanlon, and it was a beautiful day for a drive.  It was still early in June, but the air held the hint of a warmer than normal summer to come, a welcomed event after the extremely harsh winter they had just survived. 

Hanlon, the sixth largest town in south-eastern Alaska, with a population of only fifteen hundred within its town limits, also served as the nearest town for supplies and services to several thousand more; people who were mostly transplants, like Kelly, from the lower forty-eight.  These were people who chose wildlife over people, privacy over community and preferred a life with the freedom to succeed or fail on their own, that only the Alaskan wilderness offers. 

A writer and successfully published author, Kelly had recently taken a part time job working for Bill Hawley, of Hawley’s Hardware.  She had known Bill for a number of years and they had become good friends.  When Bill suggested that she get out of the house by working for him at the store a few days a week Kelly saw it as an opportunity to interact with new people.  But not for the same reason she suspected that Bill intended; to meet men.  No, Kelly wanted to meet people whose personalities and stories might unknowingly serve as inspiration to her for future books. 

Since her divorce Kelly’s life had included time for only her stories and permitted relationships only with the characters she created in her books.  One could fall deeply in love with the characters in a great novel, without worry of the pain caused from a breakup.  Having failed miserably at love the first time around, she worked hard to ensure that she would never travel that path again. 

The complete sense of failure she had been left with at the dissolution of her marriage convinced her that the only safe place for her to pour out her heart was into the lives of her characters.  Currently she was working on a new book expected to be completed by late summer and due to be published the following spring.   If past history was a prediction of future results this would be her seventh best seller so money was not a problem for her. 

For five years Kelly had lived and written her books in the relative solitude that Hanlon offered.  She loved the people here, hardworking and friendly, but despite their friendliness it was still a place where a person could maintain their privacy, if that were the goal.  And, until about a month ago, Kelly had fiercely protected hers. 

That was until she had first laid her eyes on him, the man with the steel gray eyes; eyes that would search her out and lock onto her whenever they entered the same space.  She couldn’t ignore the strength of the connection that they shared, nor where it would lead if she were to allow it to continue.  Each time that their eyes locked she felt the searing imprint of gray steel. 

He came out of nowhere, this man Stephen, and set off a longing for something she didn’t have and may never have known.  He stirred up a desire within her that she had previously convinced herself wasn’t possible for her.  But she had been wrong.

Over the last four weeks she had woken up each night in sweat, embarrassed by the wonton nature of her dreams, and more so by how badly she wanted to feel his touch.  His piercing eyes had pierced her soul and she found herself daydreaming about him in lurid detail at the most inconvenient times such as when she should have been helping customers in the store.  No matter how hard she tried, she could not keep thoughts of him out of her head and it had proceeded to the point that she no longer wanted to try.

And now here, on her way to the Calhoun’s, all she could think about was how fast she could make delivery, and how conveniently close the road back to town would pass her near Old Henry Road.  She may have thrown away the receipt with his name and address but his scribbled words were burnt into her mind forever. 

Kelly delivered the emergency supplies to the Calhoun’s and received their gratitude.  After a few last minute instructions delivered at the request of Mr. Hawley, they thanked her again and she was back on the road to Hanlon, thinking only of her next move, thinking only of what his lips would feel like.

Cautious Kelly, that’s what her dad always called her.  She never willingly put herself into any unknown situation, never made a move that wasn’t planned well in advance. Her parents always said she was too cautious, that she needed to take chances in life if she was ever to find a true happiness.  The day she told them she was moving to Alaska they were stunned.  There were adventures, and then there was plain craziness.  A man alone might move to Alaska for adventure, but not a woman. 

Five years later here she was still in Alaska, but she was the same overly cautious woman in Alaska that she had been in Seattle, at least until now.  What would they think of their daughter if they knew what she was planning to tonight?

Maybe it had been the right person her heart had been waiting for.  Maybe now was the time and Stephen was the man with whom she could finally take a chance.  She had already made up her mind so there was no sense in turning it over in her head.  The forces that drew her to this man were stronger than her, stronger than anything she could control.  For the first time in her life she threw her caution to the wind as she turned her Jeep onto Old Henry Road.

BOOK: Convictions: Kelly and Stephen
13.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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