In The Victim's Shadow

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Chapter 5

On Monday morning, Katherine sat at her desk perusing the contents of the paternity case against Austin Reynolds. She looked at her watch and sighed in disgust—nine-fifteen and still no sign of Austin.

At nine-thirty, she reached for the phone to call him. The intercom buzzed before she could lift the receiver.

“Yes, Beth.”

“The idiot is here.”

Before she hung up, Austin burst through the door. “Can she talk about me that way?” he whined.

Katherine took in his appearance: disheveled hair, shirt untucked, pants unzipped, and wondered where Austin had gone. She sighed. “She’s your sister. Sisters are supposed to talk about their brothers that way.” She resisted the impulse to add, “Especially if it’s true.” She shook her head. “What happened to you?”

He patted down his body. “I’m having issues here. Do you mind not riding my case?”

“Sit down, Austin.”

He did as told. Without warning, he smoothed back his hair and smiled flirtatiously at Katherine. “So, that was some date Friday, huh? I could tell you were into me.”

“Don’t call it a date. We aren’t even in the same league. I only did it as a favor to my father. And now I think he owes me one.”

“Should I be offended by what you just said?”

She shook her head. “Have you told your father yet?”

“About what?”

Katherine waved the petition in frustration. “The paternity case, have you told your father that you are being sued for child support?”

“Oh, that. No, I haven’t told him yet.” He brightened. “But I told Beth.”

“Beth doesn’t count. She’s not going to pay your settlement—or your legal fees.”

He slumped over. “Gee, Katherine, I was really hoping you could make this whole thing go away. Then we wouldn’t have to bother Dad.”

“That all depends on what the blood test shows.”

“What blood test?”

Katherine raised her hands in frustration. “The paternity test, that’s how they determine if you’re the baby’s father or not.”

“How can they tell with a blood test?”

“The baby’s DNA will match yours.”

She held up her hand at his look of confusion. “Never mind, Austin, let’s just get the blood test and get on with it. Now, I’ve already set up an appointment with Dr. Ling. He’s the doctor her attorney has requested. However, I will want to confirm the results with a lab of our own choosing. I have requested them to send a sample of the mother’s amniotic fluid to Complete Pathology Group on 5th street. The mother has agreed and will go there herself tomorrow morning. I want you to go there today.”

She stopped when she noticed that Austin’s attention had wandered out the window.

“Austin, are you listening to me?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, I heard…blood test today at pathology something or other. Will this take long? I have a tennis lesson at ten and a lunch date at noon.”

Katherine stared, incredulous. “Do you have any idea how important this is?”

“Not as important as my tennis lesson. Misty, that’s my instructor, thinks I might be able to go to the state championship if I perfect my backhand. She’s giving me extra lessons.” He stood and proceeded to demonstrate his backhand.

Katherine buzzed the intercom and asked Beth to step in.

She was there in seconds. “Yes, Katherine?”

“Can you give your brother a ride to 5th and Mason?” She handed her a slip of paper with an address on it. “I want you to take him there and wait for him until he’s done.”

“No problem. Let’s go, Austin.”

“What about my tennis lesson?”

Katherine picked up the phone and handed it to Austin. “You’re going to have to reschedule.”

He looked at the phone, then at Katherine, who sat stern-faced behind her desk, then at his sister who stood beside him, arms folded, tapping her foot, and knew he was beaten. He snatched the phone and asked for Misty.

After they had gone, Katherine sat back in her chair and reminisced about the weekend. She couldn’t stop thinking about Chad. A smile spread across her face.

The phone rang and she snatched up the receiver, hoping it would be Chad. “Katherine Winters speaking. How may I help you?”

“Good morning, Ms. Winters. This is Charmaine from The Winters Corporation. I’m sorry to disturb you, but I have an unusual situation here, and I can’t get hold of your father.”

“It’s all right, Charmaine. What can I do for you?” Disappointment rang in her tone.

“I have a Mr. Spencer Simon here who claims to have been told to report to work in the maintenance department this morning. He has all the paperwork, but no one remembers hiring him, or even interviewing him for that matter.”

The name startled Katherine. “Did you say, Simon?”

“Yes. Spencer Simon. Do you know him?”

“Does his paperwork list his next of kin?”

She heard papers shuffling in the background.

“Yes, a daughter in Orlando.”

Katherine sighed in relief. “If he has the proper paperwork, then what’s the problem?”

“The employment referral form isn’t signed. It’s supposed to be signed.”

“Who hired him?”

“According to the form, James Paperman.”

“Have you asked Mr. Paperman?”

“Jim’s on vacation for two weeks.”

“Well, there you have it. Mr. Paperman, ah, Jim….was distracted by his vacation and forgot to sign the papers.”

“Should I go ahead and let him start working?”

“Do you need maintenance personnel?”

“Do we ever!”

“Then I guess you’d better give him a uniform and put him to work.” She added as an afterthought, “Does he know anything about elevators?”

“I’ll ask. And thanks again, Ms. Winters.”

“You’re welcome.”

She hung up and thought about the peculiar coincidence of the names. She shook it off. Simon was a common name.

She bent over the file on Brenda Cooper. This was going to be a difficult case.

“Knock, knock. May I come in?”

Katherine looked up and smiled welcomingly. “Andrew.” She stood and came around the desk. He opened his arms and she stepped into them.

John walked in and caught them in the embrace. He blushed with embarrassment, and something else. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but he felt uncomfortable with the display of affection, which was no different than any other day.

Katherine saw him over Andrew’s shoulder and broke from the embrace. “Hi, John.” She felt a blush rise to her cheeks. Where had that come from? She’d never felt embarrassed hugging Andrew before.

Andrew turned around, spotted John, and broke out into a grin. He stuck out his hand in greeting. “Hey, John, how’s Felicia?”

John looked at him and his eyebrows came together. “Who?”

Andrew laughed deeply, from within his belly. “Felicia, the girl you were dancing with at the Metro last month.”

John flushed with embarrassment and glanced sideways at Katherine. He raised his shoulders and shook his head, speechless. Katherine laughed and punched him playfully in the arm.

“John, are you picking up girls at night clubs now?”

John rubbed his arm, even though it hadn’t really hurt, and cast a disgusted look at Andrew. “Hardly. Our friend here dragged me along for the fun.”

“I couldn’t stand watching you sit there in abject loneliness.”

“I was working!” John shouted in frustration. “I had just won that big case and was trying to tie up the loose ends.” Then he softened his tone to a teasing manner. “Besides, I didn’t see any hot babes dragging on your arm that night.”

Andrew’s grin faded and Katherine gave him an amused smile. “I guess he got you this time,” she said.

John smiled proudly.

John and Andrew were not exactly the best of friends. They were, in fact, more like friendly cohorts. Still, they got along well enough to grab an occasional beer together and catch an occasional football game at the same local hangout.

The girl Andrew referred to was a fluke. John did not typically pick up, or even engage in conversation with, the girls who hung out at the Metro. That particular night, John had been feeling especially energetic and was in a celebratory mood after just winning a big case.

Andrew had come to see Katherine about a client she had sent him. Not finding her in her office, Andrew had sought out John to determine her whereabouts.

John was poring over the documents for the case, trying to close it, when Andrew rapped on his door.

“Come in,” John had called.

Andrew entered the room and immediately noticed John’s exuberance.

“Won a big one, did ya?”

“A million dollar suit,” John said.

“Well then, let’s go celebrate.”

“I can’t. I’ve got to finish up all this paperwork.”

“The hell with the paperwork. It will be there tomorrow.”

John hesitated for only a moment. “You’re right. The paperwork isn’t going to sprout legs and walk away. Let’s go.”

Andrew slapped him on the back as he walked by. “You’re buying, Mr. Millionaire Lawyer.”

John shook his head. “Figures you’d work that to your advantage.”

Felicia had approached him at the bar where he was engrossed in an engaging game of basketball on the big-screen television. He had thrown his hands up in the air after an exuberant play and collided with her face.

“Oh, I’m so sorry!”

“It’s okay. No harm done.” She smiled and pointed at the TV screen. “Are you a Kings’ fan?”

He shrugged. “Only when I watch, and that’s not often.”

“Well, how about a dance instead?”

He was about to decline when Andrew nudged him in the side, egging him on.

He’d smiled at Felicia and nodded. “All right,” he said.

They danced several times that night, but she honestly didn’t hold his interest. He told them both that now.

“Well, I would have gotten her number, that’s for sure.”

“Oh, I got her number all right. I just haven’t called her.”

“What! Are you out of your mind? She was drop-dead gorgeous.”

“I told you, she’s not my type.”

“Then give me her number. They’re all my type.”

John looked at Katherine, who shook her head.

“Aw, come on, guys,” Andrew protested, “I haven’t had a decent date in months.”

“It isn’t proper dating etiquette to pass on numbers. If she wanted you to have it, she would have given it to you.”

“Besides, I’m doing you a favor,” John said. He pointed at each ear simultaneously and made a hollow blowing sound. “There’s nothing in between.”

“Aw, man, they’re the most fun.”

“No,” Katherine firmly stated.

Andrew leaned over and whispered to John, “I’ll come by later. You can slip me the number.”

John nodded and Katherine sighed. “Well then, Andrew. Let’s get on to business. What’s your progress?”

John pointed at the door. “Shall I leave?”

Katherine shook her head. “It’s okay. I’m presenting her case at roundtable this afternoon. It’s going to be high profile.”

Andrew owned the best security firm in the Bay area, and probably all of Northern California for that matter. He extracted his notebook from his briefcase and began to relate his findings to Katherine.

“The house is huge. It’s almost like a palace. My whole family, distant cousins included, could fit in half the house. They have a butler—she actually called him that, a full housekeeping staff for each floor, a full-time nursemaid for the kids, five gardeners, a pool service, full kitchen staff… Oh, yes, and a person employed full-time to look after the dogs.”

“No way!” John exclaimed.

Andrew nodded. “Trust me, I had the same reaction.”

Katherine sighed. “I knew the estate was quite large, but I had no idea. No wonder she was so reluctant to leave him.”

“Oh, and by the way, I’ll be staying in the pool house for the duration of the assignment, so take your time.” He grinned and Katherine rolled her eyes.

“How many guys is it going to take?”

“I’ve got four guys working twelve-hour shifts 24/7, two in the front and two in the back. He’s not getting by them. Honestly, Katherine, I have to ask…how serious is the threat. It’s just a divorce case, right?”

“A nasty divorce case. You probably saw the bruises on Brenda Cooper. Allen Cooper put them there. Brenda’s pretty sure he’ll stop at nothing to get the kids away from her and stop the divorce.”

John started, snapping his head toward Katherine. “You’re taking on a case against Allen Cooper? Are you out of your mind?”

“I couldn’t turn her away. She was battered and bruised.”

“You do know what line of work he’s in, don’t you?” John angrily paced the floor. “Mr. Walker will never let you take the case.”

“Too late. We already signed the agreement. If I back out now, she could sue us. Besides, Mr. Cooper’s line of work is just a rumor. There is no evidence linking him to any San Francisco crime organization. He runs a legitimate tax business.”

“Oh yeah, is that why the IRS is breathing down his neck all the time, because he runs a ‘legitimate’ business? Wake up, Katherine!” He was screaming and Andrew had to put an arm on him to restrain him.

Katherine waved him off. “You’re overreacting, John. It’s not that big a deal.”

John looked to Andrew for support, found none, and gave up. “Andrew, can you at least spare a guy to look after Katherine?”

“No way, I don’t need protection. Allen Cooper is not going to harm me.”

“Tell that to Brenda Cooper,” he spat out and stalked away. The walls shook as the door slammed behind him. Katherine turned to Andrew.

“Do you think he’s overreacting?”

“I think you better watch your back. Why don’t you consider the bodyguard? I can spare a guy.”

She pondered the idea for a moment. “Not yet. I’ll let you know if I get uncomfortable.”

He kissed her on the forehead and walked to the door. He turned as he opened it. “I’ll keep you posted.”

He closed the door behind himself. Katherine sank down in her chair and mulled over John’s concern. She didn’t want to admit she hadn’t fully thought out the risks. She couldn’t abandon her client now, though.

A moment later, Arthur Walker knocked on her door. He didn’t wait for a reply but walked in uninvited. John followed on his heels and looked sheepishly past him. Katherine glared at him.

“Good morning, Katherine.”

“Good morning, Mr. Walker. Did you have a pleasant weekend?”

He smiled at her attempt at small talk. “Yes, I did. Thank you for asking. I spent the weekend gardening with my grandkids.”

“How nice.”

“Yes, it was. My son and daughter-in-law took advantage of the sunny weekend and drove up the coast. Bea and I had the pleasure of keeping the grandkids for the entire weekend.”

She smiled. It really did sound inviting. “I guess I know why you’re here,” she said, getting right to the point.

“John tells me you’ve taken on a rather precarious case.”

“I think John’s being a bit pugnacious,” she said, scowling in John’s direction.

“Prudent is probably a better word,” Mr. Walker said.

She blushed and fell silent. After a moment, the silence felt awkward. She said, “Doesn’t this firm stand on the integrity of helping even the helpless?”

“You have a valid point.” She smiled. “But so does John.” Her smile faded. “Look here, Katherine…I know you have to do what you feel is right. I applaud you on your morals. However, it’s my responsibility to protect the reputation of this firm, not to mention the safety of the people it employs. This is going to be an extremely high-profile case. I fear Mr. Cooper is not going to be happy, no matter what the outcome.”

“I can handle the case, Mr. Walker.”

He regarded her for a moment, seriously considering her statement. “I believe you can.”

He turned to John. “I’m sorry. We can’t turn away every case that doesn’t appeal to us.”

John started to protest but clamped his mouth shut.

“John, how’s your case load right now?”

“Fairly light, Sir. I just finished up the Baker divorce.”

“Good job on that one.”

He beamed. “Thank you, Sir.”

His glance traveled from John to Katherine, then back to John. “Work together on this one.”

“But I’m corporate law. I only did the Baker divorce as a favor.”

“And it was much appreciated. Work together.” His tone grew serious, letting them both know it was not an option.

They both stared at Arthur Walker’s departing back as he walked out the door, pulling it firmly shut behind him.

John flashed a grimacing grin and smiled innocently at her. “Oops,” he said.

She sneered and threw the file at him. “Read up,” she said with sarcasm, “we have to be in court in four days.”

He picked up the file and opened it. When he saw the photos, he gasped. “Oh, Katherine, I can’t believe this. He did this to her?”

“Yeah, pretty sick, isn’t it?”

“What about the kids?”

“So far she’s been able to shield them from him. But she’s pretty nervous about it.”

“I can see why.”

“Now do you see why I have to represent her?”

He nodded slowly.

She sighed. “Well, if we’re going to be ready in time we’d better get started. We have to present this case to the board in two hours.”

She had a moderately sized office. Standing in the center of the room was her desk, two guest chairs facing it. Behind the desk were a credenza and a file cabinet for her personal files. She kept the client files in a larger, locked file cabinet in a central file room. Against the wall was a personal-sized refrigerator for all her late-night munchies, and a conference table that held residence in front of a large picture window overlooking Mission Street.

She walked to the table and sat down, spreading the documents out before her. John took his cue and followed.

After an exhausting, neck-breaking hour of examining the file, John sat back, deflated.

“This is shaky,” he said. “We have photos but no proof he’s the one who inflicted the damage.”

“She’s been to the emergency room six times in the last three years.”

“She’s never filed a single complaint against him,” John pointed out.

“She was too frightened,” Katherine defended.

***

Four days later, the two of them were standing in the courtroom arguing these same points with opposing counsel.

“Your Honor,” the counselor began, “I don’t see a bit of evidence against my client.” He indicated the evidence files. “He hasn’t seen his children since his wife barred him from his home.” He gave his client a sympathetic smile. “He has had to take up residence away from his family because of this pointless restraining order,” He flipped a folded document with his thumb and third finger. Katherine rolled her eyes, “and his wife won’t even discuss the issue with him.”

“She doesn’t have to,” Katherine interrupted, shaking her head. “That’s why I’m here.”

Try as she might, the judge could not hide her amused grin.

“With all due respect, Your Honor, my client doesn’t think this is funny.”

The judge snapped her head in Blair Bryant’s direction and addressed him firmly.

“Mr. Bryant, with all due respect,” she said, “Ms. Winters is correct. The whole purpose of a restraining order is to prevent contact with an opposing party. Mrs. Cooper has every right to direct all negotiations to her attorney.”

Blair Bryant blushed. “Of course, Your Honor. I offer my apologies to the court.”

She looked down at the file spread before her. The courtroom stood quietly while she read. The silence was unnerving and twice Katherine glanced at Allen Cooper, only to find him glaring at her. Goosebumps crawled up her spine.

After several moments, the judge spoke. “While I agree with Mr. Bryant that there is no proof Mr. Cooper actually inflicted these rather severe wounds, there are substantial grounds for assumption here. The plaintiff has accused the defendant of this violent act. Moreover, while she clearly did not inflict these wounds upon herself, I have no choice but to take precaution regarding the children. Quite frankly, I’m confused as to why there is only a civil suit here, and I wonder why the district attorney hasn’t filed criminal charges.”

No one spoke and the judge looked from one attorney to the other. The unspoken words ‘crime boss’ hung heavy in the air.

“Well, counselors…,” the judge prodded.

Katherine spoke. “My client doesn’t wish to see her husband in jail. She only wants the divorce and would like him to get therapy so that someday he may reconnect with the children.”

Blair Bryant laughed and the judge snapped her head in his direction again. He stopped instantly.

The judge sighed and looked at her calendar, flipped a few pages while she thought. “I am reinforcing the restraining order against Mr. Cooper in regards to Mrs. Cooper—”

“I object, Your Honor,” Blair Bryant interjected, slicing the judge’s words.

The judge glared at him. “However,” she continued, “I see no reason not to grant supervised visitation with the children.”

Brenda gasped. Katherine grabbed her hand in support. “It’s okay,” she whispered, “he won’t be alone with them.”

The judge continued. “Visitation will be coordinated by the attorneys and the Department of Child Protective Services. I am also ordering both parties to go into counseling, especially Mr. Cooper. I will see you all back here in one month after I have reviewed the counselor’s statements. I will make my decision regarding the dissolution of the marriage and custody at that time.”

“You’re good,” John said after they had left the courtroom.

“Thanks, but we’re not out of the woods yet.” She looked at Brenda, who was shaking. “We need to come up with some evidence that he hit you. It’s a shame you didn’t file any police reports.”

“I was afraid to,” she sobbed.

“So you’ve said.” John looked at her accusingly. Something about that statement was wearing weary on him. He was having a hard time grasping how a woman could be so frightened of reporting her husband for abuse one minute but filing for divorce, citing abuse as the reason, the next.

Brenda Cooper stared at him and then looked at Katherine. “Does he have to be here?”

“Yes, he does. I explained it to you. The only way my firm will represent you is if Mr. Wheaton and I work together.”

“Well, I don’t like it,” she said, snapping her words. An image of an angry bird came to mind when Katherine looked at her.

Katherine sighed. “Think of it as two for the price of one,” she tried to joke.

“I wasn’t looking for a bargain,” she retorted and stalked away.

“I don’t trust her,” John said. “Some of the things she says don’t make sense.”

“That’s true, but abused women often get confused. They put up with the abuse for years because they are either threatened or don’t have any other place to go. And then one day they’ve just had enough and they start talking.”

“I’m still uneasy about it. And I really don’t like the way Allen Cooper keeps staring at you.”

“He’s just trying to intimidate me.” Katherine glanced back toward the courtroom as if he might be watching her now. “He can only succeed if I let him.”

John looked at her with concern and said, “I’m sure he won’t ask permission before he puts a bullet in you.”

She laced her arm through his and chuckled lightly. “You worry too much. Come, buy me lunch.”

They exited the courthouse. Allen Cooper was waiting for them on the courthouse steps. John watched in a worried frenzy as his eyes watched them.

He turned to confront the gargantuan man but was surprised to find he was not where he expected him to be. He stood face-to-face with Katherine, instead.

“Might I have a word with you, Ms. Winters?”

“That would be improper, Mr. Cooper. Any information you wish to convey to me should come through your lawyer,” she said sharply. She started to walk past Allen, but he reached out and grasped her arm. She gasped and John stepped forward, ready to intervene if necessary.

Allen looked down at his hand on her arm and withdrew it. “Please, Ms. Winters,” he tried again, in a tone somewhat akin to begging. His eyes looked like a sad puppy. “Please, just hear me out. I do fear for my children, but not from me.”

She wavered for a moment and then sidestepped him and ran down the steps, John following close behind.

She came to a stop at the bottom of the stairs and collapsed against a railing. Her heart pounded as her breath became shallow and rapid.

“What the hell was that all about?” John asked, coming to a stop just beside her, waving like a madman toward Allen Cooper’s retreating back.

She worried and bit her lower lip. “It’s probably just a ploy. I’ve seen it a dozen times. He’s desperate and he lost. Come on, let’s get out of here.”

***

Later that night, she lay on the sofa, stroking the cat. Her thoughts wandered back to the confrontation that afternoon. Try as she might, she could not expunge the memory of the desperate look in Allen Cooper’s eyes.

The cat let out a cry and she looked down, realizing she was mashing her furs between her fingers. She let go.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Rainbow.”

The cat jumped down in protest, walked halfway across the room, turned, and glared at her. After several seconds of a stare down, she turned her back on her and trotted off to see what trouble she could get into.

She had named the cat Rainbow because that is precisely what she looked like the morning she found her. The cat, having obviously wandered a little too close to a game of tagging by an unscrupulous gang of boys, had been spray painted with a myriad of colors.

Katherine had laughed at the poor, pathetic, mangy-looking cat, but she had scooped her up and carried her home. She dutifully placed an ad in the paper advertising the lost pet, but after two weeks, no one had claimed her, so she kept her.

Katherine sighed, stood up from the couch, just a little hurt at the cat’s rebuff, and paced around the room.

The look in Allen Cooper’s eyes hadn’t been one of threat, although at the time she had construed it as so. If her memory served her well, she would have to say the look was much more pleading.

The cat trotted back into the room. She took one look at Katherine and let out a loud meow. Katherine crossed the room, scooped up the cat, and buried her face in her fur.

“What do you think, Rainbow? Is Mrs. Cooper playing us for a fool?”

The cat obviously forgave Katherine’s earlier transgression and began a very loud purr.

“See, you agree.”

She set the cat back down, shook some food into her dish, and turned on the teakettle.

When the kettle began to whistle, she turned off the heat, placed a tea bag into a cup, and poured the boiling water over the bag. She dunked the bag several times, lost in thought, before carrying her cup to her desk where she sat back and stared at her blank computer screen.

“What are you thinking?”

As if they had a will of their own, her fingers reached over and turned on the main switch on the computer. After several seconds, several lights flashed across the screen and the Windows logo appeared. She clicked on the icon that would take her to her internet home page, ignored the message that told her she had ten unread emails, and typed Brenda Cooper in the field for generalized searches.

She skimmed the titles that her search populated. Brenda Cooper wins award for charity worker of the year—Brenda Cooper lobbies for computers in every classroom—Brenda Cooper runs for chair of the school board—Brenda Cooper launches campaign to stop the termination of school’s principal. The list seemed endless. Katherine frowned. Something really bothered her about this list, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it.

The cat cried and jumped onto her lap. She petted her and stared some more at the screen. The cat cried again.

“What is it, Baby? What do you want?” The cat jumped down, walked to the entrance of the hallway that led to the bedrooms, turned around, and cried again. Katherine glanced at the clock and chuckled. “You’re right. It is past bedtime.”

She turned off the computer and all the lights, picked up the cat and headed for the bedroom. She was just laying her head on the pillow when the phone rang. Surprised, she reached over and snatched it up.

“Hello,” she tentatively said into the receiver.

“Hello, Katherine. I’m sorry to call so late, but you were on my mind, and I just couldn’t sleep until I spoke to you.”

“Who is this?”

“It’s Chad.”

“How did you get my number?” she asked, irritation edging its way into her voice.

“It’s not a secret. You’re listed as an emergency number on my lease.”

She thought for a moment but couldn’t remember if this was true. She rather thought they wouldn’t have listed her, but she couldn’t be sure.

“I’m sorry, Katherine. It’s just that your beauty torments me so much I couldn’t sleep. I wanted to know if you would have dinner with me tomorrow and thought…well, I thought I might be too late if I waited until tomorrow to ask. Please say you will.”

She hesitated, torn between her irritation over the late-night phone call, and flattery of the admiration.

He sensed her hesitation. “I know it’s late,” he begged. “But someone with your charm surely must have a full social calendar, and I don’t want to be left out in the cold.”

She smiled, amused. “Well now, how can I resist such persuasion? Okay, dinner it is. How shall I dress?”

“Have you ever line-danced?”

She chuckled. “No, I can’t say I have.”

“Wear jeans. Do you have boots?”

She smiled with a gleam in her eye. “I can get some.”

He laughed. “Great, and wear a little bandana around your neck. That’s so sexy.”

She laughed. “Okay.”

She hung up the phone. She laughed again and hugged herself. She leaped from the bed, picked up Rainbow and swung her around, pretending to dance with her. The cat didn’t like it. She hissed and ran under the bed.

“Oh, I know, Rainbow. I’m acting like a giddy teenage girl. I’m sorry.”

She bent down and coaxed the cat out from under the bed. She hugged her tightly and crawled under the blankets, shifting her body sideways. The cat snuggled down beside her, purring loudly, content to be with her master, each taking in the other’s warmth. Her last thoughts were of Chad. What if he were the one? What would it be like to kiss him? What if…and then she fell fast asleep, a smile frozen on her face.

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