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When Destiny Calls
She'd dressed carefully. Stepped into the room shyly. He was staring out the front window. She waited for him to turn around. The woman inside her did a happy dance at his reaction. His eyes widened as they moved over her, looking her up and down, twice!
He felt his breath catch in his throat. She was wearing a short black skirt, which showed off her long, slender legs. A thin silk blouse the same color as her amazing eyes accentuated the soft curves of her breasts. She'd put on a bit of make-up, transforming her delicate face from beautiful to absolutely stunning. "My god," he breathed. "You're gorgeous!"
She blushed. Somehow the words didn't sound trite, as if he were saying them only in an attempt to 'make time' with her. He sounded sincere, as if he truly believed them. "Thank you," she murmured.
He couldn't resist reaching out and catching a lock of that long silk between his fingers. "Where would you like to eat?"
"Anywhere is fine," she replied.
He smiled. "What's your favorite restaurant?"
She smiled at him in return. "It depends…I love Olive Garden, and Azteca, and Red Lobster."
"Red Lobster sounds good," he said.
She nodded. "There's one not too far from here."
He glanced toward her bedroom. "I need to check into the hotel first. I…" He moved past her, put the mug on the counter. Gripped the cold Formica tightly for support. "I don't want to leave you tonight," he said, his voice low. Too fast, his mind warned him. You're moving too fast! You'll scare her!
Her heart jumped in her chest. "I don't think I want that either," she whispered. "Not now. Not knowing that you're here."
Daniel turned around to face her. "Stay with me. Spend the night with me."
She nodded. "Let me pack a bag, and leave a note for my roommate."
He caught her arm before she could turn away. He needed her to know…to understand…that this wasn't going to be a one-night stand. Or a short fling. "I want forever with you, Casey," he said softly.
Her heart was doing summersaults in her chest. She reached up, ran a trembling finger over his jaw. "Whatever you want from me, is yours," she said, her voice soft. "Forever sounds wonderful to me!" She smiled again when he reached up and took her hand, pressed it against his cheek, then kissed the palm gently. She moved away slowly, made her way back into the bedroom.
His heart was pounding against his ribs. He hadn't expected this. Oh, he had hoped, certainly. Had fervently wished that she'd see him as someone she'd like to get to know. Someone she could love. But he hadn't expected her to affect him like this. To feel this way, to feel...love...so soon. He hadn't expected to do more than just...find her. He'd found her. And thanks to whatever gods there were, she'd recognized the…connection…between them as quickly as he had. Destiny. The word echoed in his head, seemed to bounce off the walls around him.
When she was near enough, she sank down onto her bed. So fast! It was happening so fast! She was about to have dinner with…spend the night with…a man she didn't even know! That's not true, her mind told her. Listen to your heart. Grandma Rose always told you to listen to your heart, that it would never lead you wrong. She closed her eyes. Listened to the rapid beating of her heart. Listened as the love began to swell and twirl, like water over pebbles in a shallow stream. He's The One, her heart told her. He's the man you've been waiting for. She stood on slightly unsteady legs, went to the closet and found her soft-sided suitcase. She packed a couple of pairs of jeans. Two sweaters. Two tee shirts. Bras and panties and socks. She tucked her Reeboks into the deep pocket on the side. Opened her lingerie drawer. Took out the emerald green teddy that she'd bought two weeks ago. Not really understanding why she had felt such a need to make the purchase. Slipped it into the bag. Put her silky black robe on top of it. She packed her small toiletries bag, put it inside the duffel. Sat down and pulled the note pad toward her.
She tapped the top of the pin against her jaw for a moment. Then smiled.
She put the pad on Kelley's pillow, tucked just beneath Pooh Bear, so that her friend would be certain to see it. She grabbed her duffel, her purse, and went back into the kitchen. He was sitting on the couch, waiting for her.
It felt as if his heart was trying to beat its way out of his chest as he watched her walk toward him, a duffel bag in her hand, the long strap of a large macramé handbag over her shoulder. She was really going with him!
"I'm ready," she said quietly. She took a long, black wool coat from the coat tree near the door.
He stood up, took the bag from her hand, held her coat for her as she put it on.
"It's happening so fast," she whispered.
Daniel stopped, reached out and cupped her chin in his hand. "I know. Destiny. It's okay; we'll be okay. I promise."
She nodded. "I believe you."
He could see her faith reflected in her eyes. There was more there…hope…excitement…dear god could that really be love there? Oh, please let that be love!
Her eyes were locked with his. He was trying hard to shield himself, protect himself. He expected…she cocked her head sideways, then smiled. He expected her to reject him, at some point in the night. It wouldn't happen, she knew that. Words wouldn't push that fear from his heart. Only her love could do that. Love…making love…she hesitated, tugged her lip between her teeth. "Daniel…you need to know…"
He braced himself. Here it comes, he thought. She's changed her mind. "Know what?" he asked softly.
"I…well…I…well, you can see for yourself…I mean I'm not…well…I've never…" she dropped her eyes, stammering in her embarrassment.
Daniel forced a smile. "It's okay, Casey. Just say it. I promised I'd leave if you wanted me to."
Her eyes went wide as she looked up at him. "No! Oh, god, no! I don't want you to leave! It's just that I'm scared to death that you'll be disappointed because I'm a virgin!" The words were out in a rush before she realized it, before she could stop them. Embarrassment flooded her eyes, put a tinge of pink in her cheeks.
He stood stunned. "You're a virgin?"
She lowered her eyes once again, nodded slowly. "You'll be disappointed," she whispered. She was suddenly crushed against a strong, broad chest. He smelled so damned good! She couldn't resist wrapping her arms around his shoulders. She felt so safe…so warm! Had never felt this safe in her life, never felt the warmth that wrapped around her like a soft blanket.
"You could never disappoint me," he whispered. If he thought his heart had been trying to beat its way out of his chest before, he expected it to hit the floor any second now! "You're a beautiful, sensual woman, Casey. You'll do just fine. I swear to god I'll try not to hurt you."
"You could never hurt me," she whispered. Gave in to the urge to put her head on his shoulder. Felt him hold her even tighter. It felt so good…so…right!
He pressed his lips to the side of her head. She smelled so sweet, tasted so sweet. Felt like heaven in his arms. He closed his eyes, surrendered to his need and buried his face against her elegant neck.
"Destiny," she whispered, clinging tightly to him. The sudden growling of her stomach echoed around her. She could feel her cheeks burning. And could feel his shoulders begin to shake as he laughed.
"Let's go check into that hotel, and then get dinner," he said, pulling slowly away from her, grinning down at her.
A sudden thought, seemingly from nowhere, forced its way past his burgeoning love. "Did you have lunch today?"
She pulled her lip between her teeth, shook her head slightly.
"Okay, dinner first," he said determinedly.
Before she opened the door, the phone rang. She froze, her eyes widening the slightest bit.
Daniel didn't miss the look of fear that filled those beautiful green eyes. He was about to ask if she needed to take the call when the answering machine clicked on.
"Hi, you've reached Kelley and Casey. We're not home right now, so leave a message and a number after the beep." It was a feminine voice, not hers.
"Casey, I know you're there! Pick up the goddamned phone!" a male voice demanded angrily.
Casey looked at Daniel. "I swear he was just a friend! Nothing happened!"
He reached out and caressed her cheek. "I know," he said softly. "You're afraid of him."
She started to deny it, then nodded. "He…we were just good friends. I could…relax…around him. Until he found out I was a virgin. Now he won't leave me alone…I'm…I don't want to be alone with him…he came by last night and started pounding on the door, and Kelley wasn't home from her mom's yet…I hid in the bedroom until he left."
Anger, and a rush of protectiveness that surprised him raged through his veins. "It's okay, babe. I’m here. He won't hurt you. Let's go get something to eat. Then we'll check into the hotel."
She nodded. Instinctively reached for him as Kenny continued to rant into the answering machine, wrapping her hands around Daniel's arm and holding tightly.
In that instant he knew he was in love. Had felt himself falling from the moment she opened the door and looked at him with those beautiful green eyes. But her hands, wrapped around his arm, gripping him as if he were her only means of support, pushed him completely over the edge and headlong into love. He grinned, leaned over and planted a kiss on her forehead. "C'mon, babe."
The endearment made her shiver slightly with excitement. She'd never been called 'babe' by any man, not seriously, anyway. He'd used it twice now. She looked up at him, saw love shining down at her from those incredible blue eyes. Turned loose of every lingering doubt, flung herself headfirst into that raging torrent known as love. Was totally unaware that her emotions were reflected in her eyes, that the depth of blossoming love there nearly knocked him to his knees. She locked the door, pulled it closed behind her, and let him lead her to the black Grand Prix that was parked in the visitor's area.
He held the passenger door open for her, closed it when she was settled safely in the seat, tossed her duffel into the trunk, the sight of it beside his making his insides do funny things, then slid into the driver's seat. He reached over and took her hand. "Are you okay?"
She smiled. "As long as I'm with you," she replied. And knew that it was the truth. As long as she was with this man, nothing could ever harm her.
He raised her fingers to his lips. Knew that she had no idea what her faith was doing to him. How it made him feel invincible. He managed to get the key into the ignition. He backed slowly out of the space, then turned toward the street.
Casey gave him instructions to the nearest Red Lobster. "You said you're an archaeologist?"
"That's right," he said, watching the traffic around him.
"So, where do you work? Are you involved in any important digs?"
He grinned. "I'm degreed in linguistics and anthropology as well. I work for the Air Force, in Cheyenne Mountain. That's in Silver Springs, Colorado. About thirty minutes west of Colorado Springs."
Her heart sank a bit. He was a doctor of archaeology. Had two other degrees, both fields that she was sure aided in his work. "Wow, pedigreed, as Grandma Rose would say," unable to keep the sudden sadness that she felt from coming through. So close to paradise, she thought. So close. But I'll never get there, not now.
Daniel didn't miss the tone of her voice. He glanced at her. "What's wrong?"
She shook her head. "I…I went to Western in Bellingham for two years. But I couldn't afford it…I was working so hard to make enough to pay tuition that I didn't have time for homework …my grades…well, anyway, I dropped out. Went to a technical school. Got a 'degree' in business management, which basically means I'm capable of being an office manager."
He could hear the quotations around 'degree'. "Sounds to me like you've done pretty darn well for yourself."
"I'm not…" she took a deep breath, already mourning the loss of his love. "I'm not in your league. Not-" she broke off, turned to look out the side window, fighting the tears that threatened to fill her eyes.
He looked over at her. "Not what?"
"I'd never want to be an embarrassment to you…a mistake that you made," she said softly.
"You think that I could…just because you don't have a four year degree from a university? Casey, I'd never be embarrassed by you! Mistake? Not very likely, lady! Not when you're the woman I'm destined to be with, that Fate has been kind enough to bless me with! You're a beautiful woman, and I'm already falling in love with you!" He stopped, felt his cheeks get warm. He'd had no intention of declaring his love to her…at least not like that! He'd wanted to wait until they were in a more…romantic…setting.
Her eyes went wide, then filled with the tears she'd tried so hard to hold back. "I think that is the sweetest thing that anyone has ever said to me," she said softly. "And just so you know, I'm falling in love with you too."
"I know this is happening quickly. I can't explain how I feel…how right this feels. As if I've been looking for you all of my life," he said quietly.
"I've been waiting for you, all of my life," she said softly. "It's like…like our hearts have been reaching…searching for each other all of this time. Maybe things are moving so fast because we've finally found each other, and we…or our hearts at least, are tired of waiting."
He smiled. "Makes sense to me. As much as any of this does. I don't know how much Casey…the other Casey, explained to you."
"She said that she was me…sort of…from another reality, a branch of this reality that had split off at some point. And that no matter what reality you and I are in, we're destined to be together," Casey replied. "She said that you and your…team…had been moving through a wormhole when there was a solar flare that…rerouted you. Into her time and reality. That they…the people there, were able to get you home safely. And that she'd encouraged you to find me right away."
Daniel nodded. "It happened three days ago. I'll explain more when we get to Colorado. For the next few days, all I want to do is be with you, get to know you."
Her eyes had gone wide at the mention of Colorado. "You…you want me…to Colorado…me …with you?"
He grinned. "Yes. You. Me. Colorado. Together."
She smiled. He was teasing her. "We'll talk about Colorado later. You. Me. Food. Now."
He chuckled. She gave him the final directions, he could see the restaurant just up the street. And if he wasn't mistaken, the hotel sign just a block or so farther down was for the hotel he had reservations in. He grabbed his notebook and checked. Looked around for a street sign. Yep. That was it. How convenient was that?
There was a line of people waiting to be seated. Daniel gave his name to the hostess, and was told that the wait for a table for two was only about fifteen minutes. He agreed, took the 'pager', and went to stand with the woman he was falling…no, had fallen…in love with. He put his arm around her shoulders, the need to touch her too much to deny. Pressed his cheek against the top of her head when she put it on his shoulder.
One of the groups waiting was a family with two young girls, pre-teen from the way they were dressed and acting. They stared at Casey, whispered between themselves. Their mother insisted that they stop staring, telling them that they were being rude. One of the girls heaved a pained teenage sigh, and in a stage whisper told her mother that she couldn't remember exactly where she'd seen the woman, but the gorgeous blonde was a model, and used to being stared at. The mother replied that she didn't care if the woman was a model, she deserved privacy and to be treated with courtesy and respect. She tossed an apologetic look toward Casey, and herded the girls to a different area.
Daniel was grinning, looked down and caught the astounded expression on her face. "Told you so."
"Told me what?" she asked, still a bit overwhelmed by the comments.
"I told you that you're gorgeous."
She shook her head. "Those little girls would think that about most…older women. They were just teasing."
"No, they weren't. They're convinced that you're a model. You could be, you know," he insisted.
Something told him that she suffered from a serious lack of self-esteem. That she'd been hurt deeply. Probably as a child. Casey, the other Casey, had written in her letter to him that she had been abused in her childhood. He tightened his arm around her. They had a lifetime together. He'd help her to see what a beautiful woman she was.
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