Chapter 24: Declarations
Fortunately, with Jacob’s quick reflex action to swerve out of the way when he realized the oncoming headlights were in his lane, he and the young female drunk driver survived with no serious injury. She walked away from the accident and slept off her drunken state in a local jail cell, arrested for a DUI, assault of an officer, and numerous other charges. Jacob suffered a great deal of bruising—mostly from the airbag deployment—and sore, stiff muscles and joints.
After spending a couple of hours in the emergency room of the Donaldsonville Memorial Hospital, Jacob was moved to a private observation room for the night, the emergency room physician on duty wanting to be sure of no internal bleeding or other injuries missed during his examination, as well as any signs of traumatic shock. By the time Cassie, Mark, and Margo were allowed to join Jacob in the private room, he was fast asleep from the effects of the pain medication given him.
Mark and Margo stayed only a few minutes, promising Cassie before they left to retrieve her abandoned car and bring it to the hospital. Cassie insisted they wait until morning. They were all physically and emotionally exhausted, and her automobile was the least of her concerns.
Though Jacob was unaware of Cassie's presence, she stood at his bedside for several minutes, brushing back his hair with her fingertips. After gently touching the bruising on his face, she kissed him, whispered “I love you”, straightened the covers around him, and then curled up in the chair next to his bed, where she remained, watching him sleep, dozing off and on herself, as the nurses came and went throughout the night.
Waking in the chair and finding Jacob still asleep the next morning, Cassie slipped out of the room for several minutes to visit the ladies’ room to freshen up, stretch her legs, and locate a much-needed cup of coffee. When she returned, Jacob was sitting up in the bed.
“Good morning,” she said, flashing a huge smile.
“Good morning. I didn’t realize you were here.”
“I’ve been here since shortly after you arrived in the ambulance last night. I spent the night in that chair,” she said, pointing at it as she approached his bed.
“You didn’t have to do that, Cassie. You should have gone home.”
“No way. How do you feel this morning?”
“Pretty dang sore, but glad to be alive.”
“That makes two of us.”
Cassie set her Styrofoam coffee cup on the mobile tray table next to the bed, rolled the stand out of the way, then sat on the bed beside him. She reached up and touched his forehead, smoothed his mussed hair back with her fingertips.
“I was so scared last night, Jacob. I was so afraid I would never have a chance to tell you how I feel about you.”
“Yeah? And how’s that?” he asked, reaching for her hand and holding it in his own.
“You didn’t hear what I said when you were in the ambulance, right before they closed the doors?”
“Yeah, actually I did. Thought I might be hearing things, though. Maybe hallucinating or something. How about repeating it, so that I can be sure of what I heard.” He put her hand to his lips.
“I love you, Jacob. Very much.”
Jacob took in a deep breath, winced as if it hurt to do so.
“I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love you, Cassie, and how much I’ve wanted to hear you say that.”
“I know. I just needed to be sure first.”
Cassie leaned over, kissed him. A nurse entered the room just as she did, interrupting their sweet moment.
The slow, steady rain that had begun early in the morning continued into the afternoon, the drops hitting lightly against the window panes. Inside, a bottle of beer sat on one side of the glass coffee table, leaving a ring of moisture on the round ceramic coaster. A large bowl, half full of salted and buttered popcorn, sat next to it. On the other side sat a glass of red wine.
Two weeks had passed since Jacob’s accident, and while he had returned to work at Tara several days later despite objections from both Cassie and Mark, he had chosen to take time off from all work-related projects this lazy, rainy Saturday. He sat relaxed on Cassie’s sofa with his legs stretched out, feet propped up on the coffee table, enjoying the college football game in progress on her television, cheering the Louisiana State University Tigers on to victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the first game of the Fall season. In the past, he would have watched the game in his den, on his much larger-screened television, downing beers with Mark. Now he was quite content to enjoy his favorite football team on the smaller screen.
Cassie sat cuddled next to him, open paperback book in one hand, her bare legs tucked under her, Jacob’s arm draped over her shoulder. Not a collegiate sports fan herself, she was absorbed in the book, the same romance novel she had been reading during their trip to New Orleans and the French Quarter. When Jacob moved his dangling hand to brush her face during a commercial break, she reached for it, held it to her lips for a second, moving closer to him. Just as he turned her toward him to kiss her, her cell phone began vibrating on the glass coffee table.
Annoyed by the interruption, she reached over for it and checked the caller ID. Frowning, she placed the phone back on the table.
“No one important. The caller can leave a message,” Cassie muttered as she turned back to Jacob, whose attention was back on the television and the football game that had returned after the short station break.
Smiling to herself, she reached for the paperback she had dropped on the sofa next to her. Just as she did, the voicemail alert chimed on her phone.
She’d had no communication with Phillip since before his marriage to Melanie, and she couldn’t imagine that he had anything to say now that she wanted to hear. She had chosen to ignore his call, having no desire to talk to the man, especially in the presence of Jacob. She had no choice, however, but to listen to his message. What if he was calling concerning one of the kids? What if they were in trouble? But, then, what was the likelihood of him knowing that ahead of her? She had just talked to both of them the day before and had made plans to visit them at school in a couple of weeks. She had been disappointed neither had any desire to come home before starting the Fall semester of college. She missed them terribly and yearned to have an opportunity to share Tara with them. But even more than that, she wanted them to meet Jacob. Much to her surprise and delight, they had approved of her dating and had promised to visit over Thanksgiving.
She reached for the cell phone once again as she stood and moved over to one of the large upholstered armchairs, plopping down in it, bare feet in the chair, knees bent. Jacob glanced over at her.
“What’s up?” he asked, as she listened to the message from Phillip.
I met with my Financial Manager yesterday, and he showed me statements from North Carolina State for both Patricia and Paul’s tuition and living expenses. Out of state tuition. Not cheap. I’m starting to wonder why I’m expected to finance their college education when neither one of them even acknowledges my existence anymore, thanks to you turning them against me. Grow up, Cassie, and get a life!
“Because you fathered them, you sorry son of a bitch. And I have one, thank you!” she said under her breath.
“What? What’s going on, Cassie?”
Frustrated, as well as infuriated by Phillip’s message, she dropped her phone on the chair and hugged her knees close to her chest.
“I can’t believe I could have loved someone so much not that long ago, and now absolutely hate him!”
When Jacob said nothing in reply, she realized what she had just said.
“I’m sorry, Jacob. You didn’t need to hear that.”
He sat up straight, removing his feet from the coffee table. He shrugged his shoulders as he took a sip of his beer. “No, it’s fine. Especially the hate part.” He hesitated for a second, and then added, “As long as you’re sure that’s what you feel for him.”
“It is. I do not love Phillip anymore. I love you.”
She moved from the chair to his lap, placed her arms around his neck.
“I love you, and only you. You believe that, don’t you?”
“Yes,” he said, wrapping his arms around her waist.
“Do you really, because sometimes I’m not sure you do.”
“I want to, Cassie. It’s just—”
“Just that it wasn’t that long ago you said you weren’t sure how you felt about Phillip. And now you get all upset over a phone call from him. And—well, it’s hard for me to believe that someone like you would love someone like me, no matter how much I want it to be true.”
“Jacob, why in the world would you feel that way? You have so much to offer any woman. You are the kindest, sweetest, most gentle, caring man I have ever met—”
“Right. And guys like that are boring. Just ask my ex-wife. They don’t attract women like you.”
“So, what are you saying, that you think I’m too superficial to appreciate those qualities in a man?”
“No, of course not. That’s not what I meant.”
“Good. And anyway, you didn’t let me finish. You are an amazingly talented carpenter, a successful contractor, and a gorgeous hunk! I don’t think you even realize how attractive and sexy you are. Your ex-wife must have done quite a number on you. She and Phillip must be related. Heck, Jacob, you had Margo drooling over you that first day we all met at Tara.”
Jacob grinned, his blue eyes bright, his dimples deep. “Yeah—it did seem like she was coming on to me that day. What happened with that?”
Cassie laughed. “Mark happened, that’s what! Disappointed, are you? Lost her to your foreman?”
“No. I did find Margo quite attractive, of course. I mean—what man wouldn’t?”
Cassie gave him a look of warning, leaning back away from him, letting him know he’d better watch where he was going with that.
“But,” he continued, pulling her back toward him, “you’re the one who got my attention—and my heart—from the moment I saw you.”
“Nice save.” She leaned in, giving him a quick kiss. “You’re missing the end of your football game, by the way.”
“What football game?” He ran his hands up under the back of her tank top, already aware of her lack of a bra, having noticed the outline of her nipples through the thin fabric earlier. As his hands moved to her front and those bare nipples, he asked, “So, anything else about me on that list that might boost my poor, deflated ego?”
“Let’s see—” she said, finding it hard to concentrate. “You’re wonderfully romantic, and last, but certainly not least, an incredible lover.” She closed her eyes and moaned with pleasure before continuing. “Seriously, Jacob, what more could I want in a man?”
“Well, when you put it that way!”
He threw her onto the sofa, himself on top of her.
Looking deep into his eyes, her arms still around his neck, his hands on each side of her bracing himself, she asked, “Have a told you about my dream?”
“What dream is that?” he asked, holding her gaze.
“The one I started regularly having shortly after that first meeting at Tara. The one where I always woke drenched in sweat, and horny as hell.”
His eyes lit up. “Sounds like quite a dream, wish I’d been there.”
“Oh, trust me, Jacob. You were.”
“Really? Tell me more about this dream.”
“Well—we’re inside Tara, late at night, and you have me pinned against the wall, and there’s soft, sensual music playing in the background—and your T-shirt is on the floor—”
She worked her arms between his, grabbed the fabric of his tee shirt with both hands, and began pulling it out from his jeans. Once she had removed it over his head with his help, exposing his firm, muscled, still-bruised chest, she tossed it on the floor.
“And this top button is undone, and open, and this one, and this one—”
She licked her lips as she slowly unbuttoned each button of his jeans.
He became more aroused with each gentle touch of her fingers inside his jeans.
“I’m interested in what you’re wearing in this dream.”
Cassie reached for the hem of her tank top, quickly raised up from the sofa enough to pull it over her head, and tossed in on the floor on top of his, revealing the bare breasts Jacob had been enjoying moments before.
“Absolutely nothing,” she lied, as she released the one button from her cotton shorts, lowered the zipper, revealing the lack of panties.
“I like this dream!” Jacob said as he began kissing her between her breasts and below.
“You know what the best part is, Jacob?” she said as she ran her fingers through his hair.
He raised his head, kissed her lips, parting them with his own.
“I think I have a pretty good idea.”
“In the dream,” she began, cupping his face in her hands, “I always woke before it ended, which was always so disappointing, so incredibly frustrating. Not only are you making my dream for my future come true with Tara, you made that dream come true that first night you made love to me. You fulfilled my dream, completed it, and now I no longer need it, I now have the real thing with you, and it is so much better than the dream ever was. I love you so very much, Jacob, please don’t ever doubt that. You are the best thing that could have ever happened to me.”
And with that, she pulled him to her so that their lips met, raising her hips toward his as the rain began to beat hard against the window panes and the Louisiana State Tiger fans cheered in victory in the background.