Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Finding Home by Ann Vaughn Chapter 1 sneak peek!

Chapter One

            Sarah Sauter wondered not for the first time, why she didn’t have more friends her own age.  As she sat at a table with her co-workers on their lunch break, she found herself struggling to pay attention to their conversations.  It was hard.  Each woman at the table was old enough to be her mother.  Granted, Terry, who sat next to her, would have had to have been eighteen at the time of her birth, but still, it wasn’t out of the ordinary. The other two ladies, Bernice and Ester both had children her age and older.  Sadly, though, this was Sarah’s life.  She’d worked with these three ladies for nearly ten years, since she was sixteen years old.  She was their honorary daughter, the ladies her own Guardian Angels ever since her parents died when she was barely out ofhigh school. 
            Ester was currently relaying a tale about the antics of her grandchildren.  Sarah tried to listen but her mind just wasn’t in it.  Their waitress stopped by to refill drinks, and it was while looking up at her that the man sitting in the booth just behind Ester and Bernice caught Sarah’s attention.  The first thing she noticed about him was his eyes.  They were really indescribable.  At first glance they appeared amber, but when she looked away and looked back, they were deeper,more like melted chocolate...and they were locked on her.  The face that went with them was rugged, but as he was wearing a very nice dark suit and tie, it was also refined.
            “Girl, that guy is seriously checking you out,” Terry said in a low tone.
            Ester and Bernice immediately stopped talking, glancing around.
            “What guy?”Bernice asked, her voice carrying slightly.
            Sarah groaned and turned her attention back to her friends.
            “No, he wasn’t,” she told Terry, trying to diffuse the situation.
            “Oh, yes he was...or, is, I should say,” Terry amended. “He’s yummy, you should go introduce yourself.”
            At that Sarah laughed.  “Oh, please!  He is so far out of my league it isn’t even funny.”
            “He doesn’t seem to think so.”
            Sarah shook her head.  “Just look at him, Terry.  He is yummy. That suit he’s wearing costs more than my entire wardrobe.  There is no way a man like him would have even the slightest interest in a Data Entry Clerk at Sunday’s Gifts.”
            “There you go, putting yourself down again,” Ester said, shaking her head.
            “Sarah Sauter, you are just as pretty as all these college girls around here,” Bernice scolded her, “now you stop putting yourself down.”
            Sarah gave her friends a weak smile, even as she saw the man in question pay his bill and then stand, shrug into his suit jacket and walk past their table.
            “Was that the guy?” Bernice asked.
            Terry nodded.  “Wasn’t he gorgeous?”
            “Honey, the backside looked even better,” Bernice said.
            “Y’all are so bad,” Sarah laughed, shaking her head. “We’d better get our checks, it’s about that time.”
            Bernice flagged the waitress down as they all gathered their purses.
            “We’d like our checks, please,” Terry said when the waitress approached.
            She smiled brightly at them.  “Your checks have all already been paid.”
            The women exchanged shocked glances.  “What?”
            The waitress nodded.  “Yes.  By the gentleman who just left,” she dug her receipt book out from her apron pocket. “A Mr. Colton Harris.”
            Sarah then experienced something she never wanted to experience ever again as long as she lived; three women old enough to be her mother squealing like a group of junior high girls.  She shook her head at them and after they left their waitress a tip, they all filed out and into her SUV.
            Back at work, Sarah groaned when the latest batch of vendor orders was deposited on her desk.  It was at least three inches thick; she definitely knew what she would be doing for the rest of the day.  It was for the best, she supposed; if she were busy then she wouldn’t be able to daydream about the absolutely gorgeous Mr. Colton Harris.
            It was nearly 4:30 when she finally was able to find a good stopping point in the orders and come up for a breath of air. She realized by looking at the clock that she’d gotten so engrossed in keying in the orders that she’d totally missed her afternoon break.  Deciding she at least needed to get up and stretch her legs, she stood and stretched her back.
            “Hey, Terry, I missed my break you wanna...” she began but stopped when she rounded the corner of her cube and saw that Terry wasn’t in hers.  She looked around and realized no one was at their desks.  She’d been so busy she hadn’t even noticed everyone leaving. Just as she was going to walk off and look for them her phone buzzed.
            “Sarah?” Ester’s voice sounded through her phone.
            “Could you come up front for a minute?”
            “Yeah, sure, be there in a sec.”
            As she left her section and made her way up to the front she noticed several other people were missing from their desks...and when she rounded the corner to the reception area where Ester worked, she saw all of them gathered around Ester’s desk, and all looking expectantly at her.
            “What?” Sarah asked, her steps faltering.  It was a bit daunting to be confronted by a wall of her co-workers, and even her boss.
            The group sort of parted in the middle, revealing a beautiful vase of white roses on the bar of Ester’s reception desk.
            “These were just delivered for you,” Ester said, smiling.
            Sarah was taken aback.  Who in the world could have sent roses to her?
            “For me?”
            Bernice pulled the card.  “Unless there is another Sarah Sauter at Sunday’s Gifts we don’t know about.  Shall I read the card?”
            Sarah reached for it.  “No, no, I can read it.  I just can’t imagine who...” her voice trailed off when she saw the definitely masculine handwriting on the card.
            “Well?” Barbara, her boss prompted.  “Don’t keep us in suspense.  Who are they from?”
            Sarah cleared her throat and glanced quickly to Terry, Bernice and Ester.  “It says: For Sarah, I hope you enjoyed your lunch today.  Sincerely, Colt Harris.”
            An audible gasp sounded from her three lunch companions.
            “Who is Colt Harris?” Barbara asked.
            While Bernice relayed the story, Sarah re-read the card, noticing he’d included his email address and phone number. 
            “Oh wow,”Barbara said, “you must have made quite an impression.”
            Sarah looked up from the card.  “But how did he know my name and where I work?”
            “He must have been listening to our conversation,” Terry surmised.  “You said something about Sunday’s Gifts and there at the end, Bernice called you by your full name.”
            It was unbelievable.  Things like this just didn’t happen to Sarah.  Not outside ofher dreams, anyway...and roses!  She’d never had flowers delivered to her.  As if in a daze, she gathered the vase and without speaking to anyone, carried it back to her cube.  The smell of the freshcut stems was intoxicating.  And they were absolutely gorgeous. 
            She sat ather desk and placed his handwritten card before her.  He had neat penmanship.  It was clearly legible, unlike that of most of the men she worked with.  Before she lost her nerve, she pulled up her personal email account and opened a blank email, entering his address from the card.
                        Dear Mr. Harris:
                                    Thank you so much for lunch today.  The roses are
                        absolutely beautiful.  Thank you.
                        Sarah Sauter
            She read it through a couple of times.  It was light and breezy, nothing major.  Just what shewas wanting.  Before she could lose her nerve, she hit send, then sat back and released the breath she hadn’t realizedshe’d been holding.  For a moment, shesat staring at the screen, then shook herself and began clearing her desk in preparation to leave for the day.  Terry walked back in and just as she was about to speak to her, her inbox chimed.
            Hands shaking, Sarah turned back to her computer and clicked on her inbox, seeing that he’d already replied!
            Dear Sarah:
            I’m glad you enjoyed lunch.  You certainly brightened mine.  I’m sure the roses are nowhere near    as beautiful as you.
            I’d like to spend some time with you.  Would you meet me for dinner? 
            Eagerly awaiting your answer,
            “Oh, my gosh!” Sarah gasped.
            “What is it?” Terry asked, coming around to check on her.
            Sarah picked up the card, handing it to Terry.
            “He included his email address, so I sent him an email thanking him for lunch and for the roses.  Look what he replied!”
            Terry leaned over to read the email.
            “Oh, wow, Sarah!!  How exciting!  Tell him you’ll go.”
            Sarah bit her lip.  “I don’t know, Terry, I mean...I know nothing about this guy.  He could be Ted Bundy for all we know!”
            Terry shook her head.  “Sarah, come on.  You haven’t had a date in, what, a year? And the last one you went out with was a real loser.  Take a chance.  Say you’ll meet him.  If you want, Lloyd and I can arrange to be at the same place, just in case.”
            “I don’t know...he’s seen you.  If you were to show up at the same place as us, it would look funny, don’t you think?”
            “Well, yeah, probably...but come on, Sarah. Take a chance.”
            Sarah took a deep breath then nodded.  She hit reply and after an encouraging pat on the shoulder from Terry, she started typing.
            Dear Colt:
            I would love to have dinner with you.  Where would you like to meet and what time?
            Awaiting your reply,
            Sarah released her breath and turned to face Terry. 
            “OK, well, I guess we’ll...” Her inbox chimed.
            “That was fast,” Terry said.
            Sarah opened his reply.
            How soon can you leave?
            She glanced at the clock then hit reply.
            I can leave now.
            She waited a total of forty-eight seconds before his reply came back.
            Meet meat Diamondback’s downtown in 20 minutes.
            “Oooo, Diamondback’s,” Terry said, her tone indicating she was impressed.  Diamondback’s was one of Waco’s exclusive restaurants.
            Sarah looked up at Terry.  “I’ve never eaten there.”
            “It’s a steakhouse.  Very posh.  You’ll love it.  And honey, don’t be paranoid about what to order.  If you’re unsure, ask him to order for you.”
            Sarah nodded.  Terry knew her so well.
            “OK, here goes.”
                        See you there. ~ Sarah
            She shut her computer down and gathered her purse and phone. 
            “Do I look all right?” she asked Terry nervously.
            “You look lovely.  Don’t forget your roses...and call or text me as soon as you get home!!!”
            “Yes,ma’am,” she replied, pulling her keys from her purse.  “OK. I’m really going to do this.”
            “Yes, you are and you will have a good time.  Just relax and be yourself.”
            Sarah nodded and gave Terry a quick hug before leaving.  She googled the address for Diamondbacks and plugged it into her GPS.  It was roughly fifteen minutes away, depending on traffic, so she took a moment to touch up her lipstick and fluff her hair in the vanity mirror on her visor. 
            She had no idea what a man as handsome and obviously successful looking as him would want with a girl like her, but for once in her life, she decided to take a chance and not over-analyze anything.  It was only dinner, and the man did pay for hers and three other people’s lunches just to break the ice with her.  She felt she owed him dinner in person at least.
            When she pulled into the parking lot, she saw that he was seated on a bench just outside the restaurant.  He still wore his suit jacket but he’d removed his tie and opened his collar.  He looked absolutely stunning with the setting sun picking up the bronze highlights in his hair.
            “This is crazy,” she murmured as she grabbed her purse and exited her truck.  As if the movement from the door caught his eye, Colt stood, a lazy smile touching his lips as she approached.  Good gravy, he was even better looking than she remembered!
            “Sarah Sauter,” he said, his voice deep and rich, melting over her like honey.  He took her hand in his and raised it to his lips, kissing her knuckles and sending her heart soaring.  “Thank you for agreeing to meet me.”
            “Thank you, for lunch and the beautiful roses, and the invitation,” she replied, smiling up at him.  It was a thrill to her to be smiling up at him; at five feet ten inches tall, she rarely looked up at a man, but she guessed his height to be around six four, if not six five, so she was definitely looking up into his face.
            “You’re even lovelier up close than you were across the way,” he complimented her.  She blushed, but before she could speak, he tucked her hand into the crook of his arm. “Shall we?”
            “Please,”she replied.
            He opened the door for her and shifted his hand to the small of her back to lead her in.  It took a moment for her eyes to adjust from the setting sunlight to the low light of the restaurant but what she saw was a pleasant surprise. Diamondbacks was built in an old warehouse.  The exposed brick and ductwork and polished hardwood floors gave it a posh but rustic feel. Soft music played and tables were spaced far enough apart that diners wouldn’t feel they were sitting right on top of one another.
            “Hi, Mr. Harris,” the hostess beamed as they stepped up. “You’re table is ready.  Right this way,”
            “Thank you, Jennifer,” he replied.
            Sarah noted that Jennifer was not much younger than her, most likely a Baylor student.  They followed her to a secluded corner table, Sarah vividly aware of Colt’s hand on the small of her back through the thin fabric of her off white dress.  He held her chair for her and to her surprise, seated himself in the chair next to her rather than across from her.
            “Brian will be your server, he’ll be by in just a bit. Enjoy your meal,” Jennifer said, leaving them.
            “This place is nice,” Sarah said, glancing around, “I’ve never been here before.”
            Colt nodded.  “It’s one of the first places I came to when I moved here.”
            “Not a native Wacoan?”
            He smiled,dimples flashing in his stubbled cheeks.
            “No, ma’am.  Military brat.  My sister and I were born in Germany.  We’ve lived all over.”
            “Whatbrought you here?”
            “My sister’s husband passed away suddenly three years ago.  I moved here to help her with my two nieces.  Claire, my sister, went to Baylor, met her husband there. He is from Waco and opened his own business, so when they got married, she stayed here. The girls had just lost their dad and she didn’t want to uproot them after such a big loss, so I came to them.”
            The waiter came with glasses of water.  Colt took the dilemma out of her hands when he asked if she would like him to order for them both.  She smiled and asked him to please do, thankful she wouldn’t have to worry about what to get.  He ordered steaks, only pausing to ask how she’d like hers prepared, then asked for a bottle of wine to be brought from his wine locker, which totally blew her mind. He had his own wine locker at a restaurant?  She didn’t tell him that she rarely drank alcohol, deciding she’d sip her wine and try for once to just go with the flow.
            “I think it’s great that you were able to come be with your sister.  Where did you move from?”
            “Fort Benning, Georgia.  I was in the Army.”
            “Really?  Kept on with the family tradition?”
            He chuckled, “Yeah, was one of those no-brainer things.  Took the tests, went through the training, became a Ranger.”
            She felt her eyes bulge.  “A Ranger?  That’s pretty impressive.”
            He shrugged.  “I was basically a footsoldier.”
            “But’d have to be pretty good at what you did to end up in the Special Forces.”
            “Or just be extremely stubborn and refuse to fail,” he said with a wink.
            “What do youdo here?”
            “Little bit of this and that.  Contract work designing computer systems for local companies. I teach a computer course at the community college every other semester, help with Claire’s company.  Occasionally take contract jobs with some former colleagues who run a private securities firm. Just enough to keep me busy, but that will allow me enough flexibility so I can help with the girls...although, I’m not needed as much these days...Claire got married best friend from the Rangers, actually.  He came for a visit, took one look at Claire and the rest is history.”
            “Will you be going back to the Army, then?” she asked. It would be nice to know if he had one foot out the door before anything went any further, if it even was going any further than this dinner.
            “No, no.  My Service career is over.  Civilian life suits me, and I’d miss my girls too much.  That’s pretty much me in a nutshell,” he said, nodding to the waiter when he offered to pour the wine for them.  “What about you?  I confess to listening in to your conversation at lunch, that’s how I knew your name and where you worked.”
            She smiled.  “Yes, I gathered that.  And again, thank you for the roses.  I’ve never had flowers delivered to me.  It was nice.”
            “Never?” he asked, clearly taken back by her admission.
            She shook her head.  “Today was the first time.”
            “You must have dated some pretty thoughtless guys.”
            That had her laughing.  “No, just non-existentones.  I don’t really date much.”
            “And why is that?  Not that I mind.  It’s my good fortune to find you unattached and available.”
            She felt her cheeks heat and knew her face was probably ten shades of red by now.  Her eyes were drawn to his warm brown eyes and for a moment, all she could do was gaze into them.
            “Well, I’m not exactly the social butterfly type. The only men I work with are all married, most old enough to be my father.  I’m also one of the youngest people in the company.  Two are younger than me but both married with kids, so we don’t exactly have a lot in common.”
            “What do you do on the weekends?”
            She sipped her wine, finding it surprisingly delicious, which was a first for her.  She had never tasted a wine she liked before.
            “I read, occasionally babysit my neighbor’s son, and during baseball season I go to allof his games.  Once or twice a season we make it to Dallas to a Rangers game, and catch Baylor’s home games when he doesn’t have a game.”
            His smile broadened.  “You like baseball?”
            “I love baseball.  The Rangers are my favorite American League team, but my heart lies with the Braves.”
            He clasped his hands over his heart, raising them up and down like a beating heart.  “Just say you’ll marry me now,” he teased.  “The Braves are my team, too.”
            Sarah laughed, feeling her heart do a backflip. “What do you know?  Kindred spirits.”
            “How did a Texas girl end up being a Braves fan?”
            She shrugged one shoulder.  “My dad was a Braves fan.”
            “I lost my parents when I was eighteen.”
            “I’m so sorry,” he said, his voice somber.
            She looked up from her salad and offered a soft smile. “Thank you.  They were never ableto have kids.  They tried for years and it just wasn’t meant to be.  They adopted me when I was three months old when they were in their mid fifties.  It took them that long to save up the money needed for all the legal fees.  Daddy had a weak heart.  He died two weeks after my high school graduation.  Mama was devastated.  Her health began to decline rapidly after he passed.  I lost her just six months later.  Cancer took her.  They had no close family.  They were both an only child and their parents long gone.  So, I’ve been alone ever since.”
            “What about your birth family?  Have you ever tried to locate them?” 
            She shook her head.  “I know that my birth motherwas only fifteen when she had me.  She lived in Wyoming, I believe.  Mama and Daddy never really talked much about it.  I’ve always known I was adopted.  They never pretended otherwise, but any time when I was little, if I asked about it, they’d just say I was their special Angel from God and that was it.  It wasn’t until Mama got sick that she gave me the box that held all the paperwork from the adoption.  I’ve never opened it.  They were my parents; they were all I needed.”
            He nodded ,accepting what she said.  When their food arrived, they were quiet for a few moments while they ate, and Sarah was surprised to realize it wasn’t an awkward silence, but an amiable one.  She was exceedingly at ease with him, which totally baffled her.  Usually, she was a tongue-tied mess around guys.  Not so with him.  Colt was relaxed and easy to talk to, and oh, so beautiful.  She studied his profile as he spoke to Brian the waiter and thought she could easily stare at him all day and not get bored.
            “So, tell me, what is it you do at Sunday’s Gifts?” he asked when he’d finished eating.
            “Well, my official title is Field Rep Liason.  I also hold the title of International Accounts Liason and House Accounts Liason,” she said, her tone dripping with sarcasm.
            “Impressive,” he chuckled, obviously picking up on her sarcastic note.
            “Isn’t it, though?” she laughed.  “Basically, I am a glorified Data Entry Clerk.  The Liason titles just sound better,” she said with a wink.
            “So, you sit at the computer and what?  Key in orders all day?”
            “You got it.  It’s pretty dull, routine work.  I get to talk to our International clients when they call in an order, and that’s a lot of fun.  My Australian accounts like to hear my accent.  As do my Irish accounts.  And of course, I love hearing theirs, and getting little snippets of what their day is like.  But I usually only talk with them every six weeks or so.  Most orders are faxed or emailed in.  Then I just have to key them into our system.”
            “How long have you been working there?”
            “Since I was sixteen.  The owners, Julie and Mark, were really good to me when I went through all that with losing my parents.  The job is low stress and lowpay, but it keeps the bills paid so I stay with it.  Unfortunately, though, they are getting ready to implement a system where the field reps and other accounts key their orders directly into our system, which would in effect, eliminate my job.”
            His eyes darkened as he narrowed them.  “Would yoube laid off?”
            “I don’t know.  They’ve assured me that I won’t lose my job, but I don’t know what else in the company I could do.  All other positions are filled.”
            “Surely they would find some way to keep you on. You’ve proven to be a loyal employee, given them how many years on the job?”
            “Ten as of last month.”
            He was quiet a moment.  Sarah felt a subtle change in the air around him and met his gaze over her now nearly empty wineglass.  No telling what he was thinking about her, the little orphan who still worked for the first place that hired her.  He grew up in the military and enlisted himself.  He’d lived all over the world.  She’d only been out of the state of Texas twice in her whole life; once to Louisiana and once to Oklahoma.  Again she wondered, what a man like him could possibly see in someone like her.
            “The lobby’s getting crowded,” he noted once Brian delivered their check.  “We should probably clear out.”
            She nodded and stood once he’d settled the bill.  He again led her through the restaurant to the front door with his hand on the small of her back.  The sun had set while they were dining, leaving a fresh, Spring chill to the air.  She shivered as they stepped outside, drawing her arms close and rubbing her palms over them.
            “A bit crisp out,” he said, turning to face her.
            “A bit,”she agreed.
            Colt glanced to his right and nodded toward Waco’s historic suspension bridge. 
            “Walk with me?” he asked, removing his jacket and draping it over her shoulders. 
            A chill spread through Sarah that had nothing to do with the night air and everything to do with his warm jacket and his scent enveloping her.  He offered her his arm and after only a slight hesitation, she placed her hand on his biceps and allowed him to lead the way.
            “This bridge is a real jewel,” he said as they approached it.
            Sarah nodded.  “It’s a focal point of the community.  It was once a toll bridge and part of the Chisholm Trail.  Now, it’s just a footbridge.  People take family pictures here, weddings have been performed on it.  The Waco fireworks display is here every year.  It says Waco as much as Baylor University does.”
            “When Claire came to college here, I came here for the 4th of July.  We were walking on the bridge after the fireworks ended and it was swaying under the weight of so many people.  She got scared and to this day has not set foot on it again.”
            Sarah laughed.  “It is an eerie feeling when there are a lot of people on it.  When I was in high school, the city used to put on Laser Light shows off the side of the Hilton building.  They were really neat.  But, like everything else, the novelty of it wore off.  The city wasn’tmaking an effort at that time to keep the riverwalk policed and crime was a problem.  Mama and Daddy used to love to come watch the show, though.  We came every Friday during the summers they did them.”
            “I think part of the reason why Claire wanted to stay here after her husband died, was because she wanted her kids to have a sense of community.  We moved around so much, she just didn’t want that for her kids.”
            “What school do her kids attend?”
            “Big school.  I went to Connally.”
            “Smaller school,” he said, “good football team.”
            She nodded.  “They used to have a good baseball team...but those days are long gone.”
            A gentle breeze blew her hair into her face.  She reached up to push it out of the way but he beat her to it.  For a moment, Sarah thought as cliched as it was, that time stood still.  She was looking up into his warm brown eyes under the soft glow of the bridge lights and he was looking down at her and making a million butterflies take flight inher stomach.
            “When Ilooked up from my phone today and saw you across the tables,” he started, still holding a lock of her hair between his thumb and forefinger, lightly stroking it, “it was of those scenes you see in a movie, where everything else in the world just disappears.  The sun was shining in thru the window and hit your hair and time stood still.  And then you laughed.  I thought it was the best laugh I’d ever heard.”
            She ducked her head a moment, feeling her cheeks heat, then looked back up at him. 
            “I had that know, that you get when you know someone is watching you?  I looked up and met your eyes...and my heart stuttered, and my breath caught.”
            He stroked a finger lightly down her cheek, sending a shiver through her. 
            “Pretty much the same reaction I had to seeing you. I couldn’t quite tell what color your eyes were.  I thought green at first, then I looked againand they seemed almost turquoise.  Now, I see flecks of gold...they are just...beautiful.”
            “Colt,” she said softly, just before he leaned down and brushed his lips over hers.   He pulled back and studied her for a moment, then cupped the nape of her neck in his hand to pull her closer and kiss her more deeply.  Sarah rested her hands on his chest, feeling his strong heartbeat under her palm.  It had been so long since she’d last been this close to another person, much less kissed. She felt her knees growing weak, especially when he captured her lower lip between his, running his tongue along and sucking it in like a ripe cherry. 
            When he pulled back, he rested his forehead against hers, his breathing not quite as steady as it had been before. 
            “What are your plans for tomorrow?” he asked softly. “I have a busy morning and early afternoon, but I’m free after that.  I’d like to see you again.”
            “Um...I am going to my neighbor’s son’s baseball games. He has two pool play games, at ten and noon.  I’m free after that.”
            He smiled.  “ old is he?”
            “What team does he play for?”
            “The Storm.”
            “I should be free by two-thirty.  Can I see you tomorrow?”
            “I’d like that.”
            He took his phone out and pulled up a new contacts page. “Put your number in.  I’ll call you when I’m done.”
            She did, then sent a text from his phone to hers so she would have his number.  She gave his phone back to him and quickly saved him into her phone.  He again tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear when the soft wind blew it across herface.
            “I have to warn you...I text...a lot.  Habit I got into with Claire when I was in the Army. I text more than I call.”
            Sarah laughed.  “Then we will get along just fine.  I’m the same way.  I hate talking on the phone but I can text with the best of them.”
            “God, I love your laugh,” he said, raising her hand to his lips to kiss her knuckles.
            Sarah studied him a moment, shaking her head in amazement. “Are you for real?  I mean, seriously, you aren’t part of a practical joke on me or something, are you?”she asked, laughing. 
            He laughed, too, squeezing her hand.  “I assure you, I’m not.  Is it so hard to believe, that someone could be attracted to you? You’re beautiful.”
            She closed her eyes as a chill spread through her at his words.
            “OK, now I know I’m dreaming.  I’m going to wake up with my dog sitting on my stomach ready to be let out for the day.”
            “You have a dog?” he asked, and she could tell by his tone that it pleased him that she did.
            “I have the best dog ever.”
            He chuckled, tucking her under his arm as he led her back across the bridge. 
            “What kind of dog?”
            “A Border Collie.  She’s two years old and she is amazing.  The smartest dog, ever!”
            “A baseball fan and a dog lover.  I struck gold today,” he laughed.
            “Do you have a dog?”
            “I have a chocolate lab.  Scout.”
            “Hunting dog?”
            “The best.”
            “Dogs and baseball…we may be kindred spirits after all,” she said.
            “Thank you for coming out with me tonight, Sarah,” he said when they stopped beside herSUV. 
            “Thank you for lunch and for my roses, and for dinner,” she replied.
            He tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear then let his fingertips lightly skim along her cheek to her chin, tipping her face up as he lowered his head to once again touch his lips to hers.
            “Goodnight, Sarah,” he whispered against her lips.
            “Goodnight, Colt,” she answered.
            He kissed her once more then stepped back so she could get into her truck. He waved to her as she started the engine then walked away. How she ever made it home, Sarah had no clue, her hands were shaking so badly.  Nothing like today had ever remotely happened to her.  Several times, she reached up to touch her fingertips to her lips, still feeling his against hers. 
            When she got home, she let Izzy outside, pulling her phone from her purse as she headed to her bedroom to change.  To her surprise and delight, she had a text message from Colt.
            Hey, pretty girl…let me know when you’ve gotten home.  Want to make sure you arrived safely.
            Her eyes widened.  How sweet was that?  Taking a deep breath, she typed her reply.
            You’ll be happy to know, I am home safe and sound.  
            As soon as the “Read” message appeared on her text, she saw that he was in the process of replying.  Excitement bubbled in her as she placed her phone on her dresser and began to strip out of her work clothes.  She decided to soak in her tub so pulled on her robe and picked her phone up while she walked back to her door to let Izzy back inside. Her phone chimed and she smiled as she opened his text.
            Good to know.  I had no idea when I woke up this morning that this would be such a significant day. That when I went to lunch today, I would look up and literally feel the earth move and time stand still.  Pretty sappy, huh?
            Sarah gasped.  Was this guy for real?  Guys didn’t say things like that…did they?
            I think I like sappy!
            Then be prepared, fair warning!  I have a twin sister, sappy runs in my veins!
            He was a twin?  Granted, a fraternal twin but…wow. 
            You didn’t mention that Claire is your twin.
            Didn’t I?  I take for granted sometimes that everyone knows.  Claire is younger than me by ten minutes. 
            No wonder you are close.  I envy you. Must be nice to have a sibling, someone who will always be close to you.  Being an only child stinks, let me tell you, especially when you lose both your parents.
            Her heart melted when she read his next words:
            I don’t have a large family, but what I have, I would love to share with you as we get to know each other better.
            Tears pooled in her eyes.  How could someone she just met touch her so deeply?
            Thank you, that would be very sweet of you.
            You’d be surprised what I would do to make you smile.
            Her breath caught and she thought it wise to move on from that subject, afraid of baring too much of her heart too soon.
            I should let you go, I’m sure you have a nearly start to your day in the morning. Thank you again for lunch and dinner.
            I look forward to seeing you tomorrow, Sarah.  Until then, sweet dreams.
            Good night, Colt.

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