Familiar Lovers

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Chapter Three

“What’s a ward?” Jordan asked as they walked around to the front of the large wrought iron fence, referring to the conversation they had with her cousin.

“It’s part of the church,” Melanie explained. “There are so many church goers that they divide the neighborhoods into areas, like divisions. Each one is a different ward and each ward in the area belong to a larger group known as a stake.”

“Interesting,” Jordan said with a look that assured her, he didn’t understand a word she just said.

“Why do families have so many children?”

“A lot of Mormons believe that it’s their duty to help God’s spirit children obtain bodies. The more they have, the more spirits there are to return to heaven. Personally, I think it’s just because they are always horny, and winters are long and boring in this state.”

Jordan laughed at the woman’s explanation as they walked through the iron gate and looked at the beautiful grounds surrounding the many large buildings. The lush lawns and colorful flowers were perfectly manicured and the trees that hung over the walkways were filled with little buds. The buildings looked old, much older than he had anticipated, and the stone retaining walls were the perfect height for sitting. They walked along the concrete paths, then through another gate to the back of the largest church he had ever seen. Jordan took a step up the stairs that led to the closed door, then turned and saw the confused look on Melanie’s face when she didn’t join him.

“Come on,” he said with a smile. “What are you waiting for?”

Melanie chuckled lightly, amused by the man’s obvious display of ignorance when it came to Utah’s traditions.

“You can’t go in there,” she told him.

“Why not? I was hoping to get a tour.”

“Jordan, you really are from Mars. That’s the Mormon Temple. Only certain people can go through it, and nobody goes through on Sunday.”

“You mean it’s closed except for those who can pay?”

“I don’t mean that at all. It’s hard for anybody from another religion to understand. It’s reserved for ritual services, like sealings and baptisms for the dead, and it’s closed to the general public. Just trust me when I tell you, you can’t go through it. I’ll take you through the visitor’s center another day. Will that satisfy your curiosity?”

“I doubt it,” he told her honestly. “But at least it means I’ll see you again.”

Melanie sighed her surrender as she turned away from the dark eyes. They walked together to the front of the building, with Jordan’s strong arm around her slender waist. They stood in front of the old temple with its giant spires, gleaming windows and odd exterior symbols.

The structure echoed the architectural wonders of the ancient Cathedrals, churches and castles of old England. From the large All-Seeing Eye motif, to the clasped hands below the dedication inscription, the giant white structure stood out in glorious purity.

“It looks more like a castle sitting in the middle of the city,” Jordan said as he tipped his head back to look up to the pillars. “What do all the symbols mean?” he asked, as they walked slowly around the building.

Melanie spent the next thirty minutes, carefully explaining every detail of the Mormon Temple, from its historic beginning and the people who helped build it, to the reason behind its creation. She explained the architectural designs and how they represented many locations in England, to the many symbols he was curious about.

“The temple is made of granite and it was all mined locally, from a quarry here in Utah,” she continued. “The footings are sixteen feet thick. There’s a statue of Hyrum Smith, brother of the church’s founder Joseph Smith, standing over there,” she told him, pointing to the large figure, standing in the near distance. “See that up there?” she asked him, gesturing to the top of the steeple with the golden colored angel, with a trumpet. “That’s the angel Moroni. It’s believed that on judgment day, the statue will come to life and blow his trumpet.”

“Is it made of gold?”

“A lot of people think so, but it’s actually made of copper. He’s twenty-five feet high and weighs around fifteen hundred pounds.”

“That’s a lot of copper,” Jordan teased lightly, moving his arm from around her waist and taking her hand in his as he spoke. “What’s that building down there?” he asked her, drawing her attention to the large dome shaped structure.

“That’s the old Tabernacle. It used to be home to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, one of the most famous choirs in the world. It also contains a pipe organ that has over eleven thousand different pipes and is one of the largest ever built. The building itself was the only permanent structure completed on Temple Square before Brigham Young’s death, in eighteen eighty-seven. The dome sits on forty-four sandstone piers.”

“What did you mean by baptizing the dead?” he asked a few minutes later. “I thought all Christian faiths baptized when the person was alive.”

“We do. During genealogy research, when a Mormon finds a family member who wasn’t part of the church, they submit their names, or go to the temple themselves. They are baptized again, under the ancestor’s name, so that they become a part of the church.”

“That’s very odd.”

“Yes, and it’s difficult to understand if you aren’t Mormon. It’s even difficult for some members to understand it.”

“Have you ever done this? Being baptized for dead people, I mean.”

Melanie laughed. He had the same opinion as so many other people did, who had never studied, or belong to the faith.

“I did when I was younger, but I haven’t been to church in ten years, except for blessings or funerals,” she answered.

“Do you miss it?”

“Not really. There are times I feel guilty for not going, but I really enjoy sleeping in on Sundays, and I like coffee and tea, and occasionally wine. I’m what a lot of people call a Jack-Mormon.”

“What else do you enjoy, that’s against your religion?” Jordan asked as they continued walking.

“Not as much as a lot of people. I don’t do drugs, and never will. I don’t sleep around, and I try not to swear, but it’s difficult. Especially when a strange man sneaks up behind me in a dark hallway.”

Jordan laughed as he wrapped his arm around her waist again. She was beautiful and intelligent, and he loved how relaxed she was with him. It was just as he had always hoped they would be.

“How do you know so much about this place?” he asked a few minutes later.

“I was born in Utah and raised in the Mormon religion. Besides, my class has been studying Utah history the past three months. I have to know a lot.”

Jordan chuckled, bringing a slight rise of color to the young woman’s cheekbones.

“What else do you know about the Tabernacle, Miss Kent?” he asked her, his voice suddenly husky with hidden emotion.

Melanie walked slowly toward it as she explained the unique construction of the building in question. She told him how it had been built over a century ago, using no nails in its construction. She explained how the interior benches had the grain of the wood painted on them with such magnificent detail, it was impossible to tell the difference between them and natural wood grain.

“I should come to your school, just to learn the things fourth graders know,” Jordan teased with a sigh of exhaustion, causing Melanie to laugh as they walked around yet another corner.

“You wouldn’t be able to get in,” she assured him. “It’s a private school and there’s a very strict dress code. No tee-shirts allowed.”

“Hey, I can clean up…when I have to,” he smiled.

Melanie laughed, feeling more relaxed than she had in a very long time. They continued to walk the grounds while Jordan listened intently to her narrative description of what was called Temple Square.

The sights and sounds of Salt Lake were calm and relatively quiet compared to the excitement and noise of weekday life. Jordan turned to the sound of the trax train as it passed. Soon, a number of curious visitors filed through the gates and they found themselves surrounded by a large family of out of town sight-seers.

Jordan sat on a retaining wall with Melanie to avoid getting in the pictures that were being snapped around them. He closed his eyes and drew a deep breath, inhaling the sweet aroma of flowers and blooming trees. A gentle, warm wind brushed across his tanned features, whispering the promise of hope and new beginnings. For a very brief moment he was able to forget the real reason he was in Utah. For a very brief moment, he felt like he had come home.

The afternoon was spent with Melanie playing school teacher, telling her new friend all about Utah. Starting with its history of the first Mormon settlers, who were fleeing persecution and threats of death in Illinois, Missouri and New York, to the present day of political and religious upheaval.

Protestors stood on street corners around the temple, handing out flyers to anyone who would take them. They wanted to inform all who would listen about their fight for legalized marijuana. Jordan listened and took the pamphlets and fliers, then thanked the people and continued to walk.

Melanie told him of the church’s founder, Joseph Smith, and of the infamous Brigham Young, polygamist and leader. She explained the idea behind polygamy and how it had been outlawed, but how there were villages and towns specifically built for those who still practiced it. She told how Utah had once been known as Deseret, and how it expanded all the way to California, during the nineteenth century.

She told him about the present-day life of the city and the government and the political aspects of the upcoming elections. They discussed the scenery, the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains and the large amount of acreage taken up by canyonlands, state parks and ski resorts. He drove through the streets of Salt Lake then farther west to where the copper mine stood. Shortly after four o’clock, they found themselves walking the stores of Southtowne Mall, looking in windows and discussing things like the Sundance Film Festival, the state fair, and once again, religion.

Melanie explained what conference was, as they sat in the food court, sipping on Orange Julius’. They laughed over the pronunciation of several counties and cities in Utah, then finally ended up on the land southeast of Salt Lake, known as Vernal. The excitement and passion of Dinosaurland National Park, echoed through her voice as they made their way back to the car, making Melanie aware of how much she longed to travel again.

Every summer as a child, the Kent family would load up in their old van and head out to destinations unknown. The four corners, as well as the western half of the United States, were frequently invaded by the large clan. Their cameras loaded, and their tee-shirts displaying their latest stop. The memories of her youth brought a smile of delight to her full lips and a tear of sadness to her clear blue eyes.

“Are you alright?” asked the man, aware of the distance that had grown between them in the small confines of the automobile.

Melanie smiled shyly, sniffing back the tears, before they could escape their blue prison.

“I have a habit of spacing off from time to time,” she apologized.

“Low blood sugar can do that,” he explained, taking up the role of teacher. “How about an early dinner?”

Melanie’s smile widened as she thought of spending more time with him. She was enjoying being with this man, and she wasn’t ready for it to end.

“I’d love to, but I have dinner set out at home,” she declined, reluctantly. “You’re welcome to join me, if you’d like to. Of course, I’m far from being a gourmet cook, but I promise it will be edible.”

“It’s a risk I’m willing to take.”

Melanie’s smile widened, feeling that familiar strange tingle travel along her lower limbs as she looked at him. It was a new sensation, one that she had never experienced before, but one she was quickly associating with the handsome man beside her. All she had to do was think of the gorgeous stranger and she began to feel warm all over.

Jordan James was more than a stranger though, she thought. He was new and exciting and more stimulating then she ever imagined a man could be. He was kind and gentle, but oddly very familiar. Melanie couldn’t understand it, but she was certain she knew this man from someplace. She tried forcing her mind back through the years, without success. It seemed like her memories were blocked by a wall that started and ended with Donald.

She knew she had never met a man, or boy named Jordan James, but there was something…perhaps it was his eyes. They seemed to caress her soul, igniting a fire inside her that had been layered beneath years of ice. Jordan James. His name may have been unfamiliar, but the man definitely wasn’t.

“You wouldn’t happen to own a DVD player by any chance?” Jordan asked, breaking through the confusion of his partner’s cluttered conscious.

“No, why?”

“I was just thinking that a movie might go well with dinner.”

“I have satellite and Netflix.”

“Great. What would you like to watch?”

“How about, Mama Mia,” she teased, receiving a discontented growl in response.

“I was thinking more along the lines of, Friends With Benefits.”

“Pervert,” she snapped.

Jordan laughed, aware of the embarrassing position he had put the shy woman in, and secretly thought of another position he longed to have her experience with him.

He parked in the stall behind the refurbished Victorian mansion and shut the roof once again, before switching off the ignition. He was eager to continue their time together, but the dim confines of the car’s interior gave him other ideas. He pushed them aside and mentally slapped himself. This girl wasn’t the type to be rushed and he knew he would have to bide his time. He couldn’t cause her to be suspicious or scared of him.

“Can I bring anything to dinner?” he asked in a husky whisper.

“How about dessert?” she suggested politely.

Jordan nodded, briefly kissing her cheek before getting out of the car and walking to her side. With each step he took, he had to remind himself to go slow. He’d waited a long time to get to this point and he was not about to blow it over an awakening libido.

“I’ll run to the store and grab something and be right back,” he said, as he walked her as far as the steps, then winked at her before turning and leaving again.

Melanie watched out the window next to the door as the car pulled away. She could feel his lips against her flesh, even with him gone, and the tingling just didn’t want to stop. With a confused sigh, she went to her apartment and opened the door. Dinner may be more interesting than she thought, when she sat the meat out to thaw that morning.

Jordan glanced in his rear-view mirror, as he turned out of the driveway, watching Melanie disappear from the doorway. He knew he had gone too fast. First the kiss at the restaurant, then the brief kiss before opening her car door. He had never wanted to make love to a woman as desperately as he did Melanie, but he had to be patient. He had waited twelve long years to have her all to himself and he wasn’t going to blow it. Not now that he had come so far.

He found the grocery store just a few blocks away from the apartment. Thank God for GPS, he thought as he parked the car and locked it, then hurried inside. The smell of fresh fruit met him as he walked in and he realized he was hungry. He made his way through the store, looking at the fruits, the frozen pies and ice creams, then finally into the bakery. He spotted the fresh peach cobbler and smiled as memories flooded back to him.

Jordan remembered the last time he was with Melanie before she left his life for Prescott. They had taken the horses out into the orchard where they spread a blanket next to the small creek. He had brought a picnic basket with him and picked two fat juicy peaches from the tree they were sitting under. Melanie took a large bite and giggled as the juice slid down her chin. Without hesitation or thought, he reached forward and licked it off, smiling as she gasped.

It had been the best day they had spent together. They lay on the blanket, their arms around each other as their lips met and their tongues sparred. Melanie admitted that she had never been kissed like that, and he was very happy. In his young mind, he was one step higher than Prescott.

If it hadn’t been for their ages, Jordan would have made love to her, but she was timid and frightened, and he wasn’t about to cause her any grief. Even then, he knew he was in love with her, and he wasn’t experienced enough at the time, to make sure she was so satisfied, she couldn’t remember her boyfriend’s name.

The sound of children crying brought him back to reality and he looked around, watching a woman with two children in the cart, and another one beside her, walk into the area. He quickly took the cobbler, then went into the frozen section, where he grabbed a carton of vanilla ice cream, then headed to the register.

He and Melanie had spent the better part of seven hours sightseeing as she explained nearly every detail of Salt Lake City to him. He loved listening to her and loved the way her eyes sparkled when she was talking about her home, even though he didn’t really need the lessons. He just didn’t have the heart to tell her he had been to Utah more than a dozen times over the past decade, each time trying to find her.

Jordan’s phone began ringing as he sat down in his car and started it. With the press of a button on the steering wheel, the phone connected to the radio, and he quickly answered it to stop the annoying buzzing.

“Where have you been?” the man on the other side of the speakers asked. “I’ve been trying to reach you all day. I even came by your place to see if you were there.”

“I was out with a friend. Believe it or not, I do have a life, and I like to take Sundays off.”

“This friend wouldn’t happen to be Melanie Kent, would it?” the man’s voice asked.

“What do you want Craig?” Jordan asked, ignoring the man’s question as he pulled out of the grocery store’s parking lot.

He knew that discussing Melanie with his boss was going to prove complicated, but he wasn’t ready to answer his partner’s questions. He was in love with her but explaining it to anyone who didn’t understand about their pasts, was going to be difficult.

“We found out he’s been staying at a cheap motel in Salt Lake,” the man said through the radio. “He’s been there for two days. I’ve sent Marshall over to talk with the manager, but he’s on vacation until next week.”

“At least we know our lead was correct. What about the money? Does he act like he’s got it with him?”

“If he does, he’s not showing it, which is very unusual for him. We’ve got the bureau searching into the accounts at the surrounding banks, and we’ve set up a surveillance on his known accounts, but so far nothing has turned up. I suspect he’s dropped it off somewhere. I just hope, putting a tail on him will prove beneficial.”

“Alright, keep in touch,” Jordan said, pulling back into the parking lot of the apartment. “I’ve got some personal things to take care of, and unpacking to get done, before I call it a night. I’ll meet with you tomorrow.”

Jordan disconnected the call and grabbed the bag he had set on the front seat. He climbed out of the car and locked it, then headed to the back door of the complex. If it hadn’t been for Melanie, he would have shot the bastard in Virginia when he had the chance, but using him as an excuse, made it easy to get back into her life.

He hurried up the stairs and into his apartment, retrieving the bottle of wine he had in the fridge, along with the corkscrew he found in a box last night. With a wicked grin he left and locked the door again, then walked to Melanie’s apartment. Glancing over his shoulder as Mrs. Walsh opened her door, he rang the doorbell. Melanie opened it and let him in before the old woman had the chance to see him. The last thing he wanted was to cause any embarrassment or grief for Melanie with the other neighbors.

“Hope you don’t mind, but you did say you drank occasionally,” he told her, holding the bottle up for her to inspect.

“Not sure if white wine goes with spaghetti, but we can give it a try,” she answered, smiling as he chuckled.

He walked with her to the kitchen and set the bottle on the counter, along with the bag, and opened it up. He pulled the cobbler and ice cream out as Melanie drained and rinsed the noodles.

“I forgot to ask if you liked peaches,” he said, watching the smile pull her lips apart as his pants tightened around the bulge.

“I love peaches.”

Jordan’s smile continued as he placed the ice cream in the freezer, then began uncorking the wine. He watched her out of the corner of his eye as he wiggled the cork up the neck of the bottle, then jumped when it made a loud popping sound.

“The glasses are next to the sink,” she told him.

Jordan retrieved two beautiful cut crystal champagne glasses and poured them completely full. In the back of his mind, he hoped he would be able to get her drunk, or even a little tipsy, though he doubted she would be very pleased with him the next day.

He turned to watch her assemble the noodles and sauce in a ceramic bowl, before setting the pans in the sink. She moved around the kitchen with ease, cleaning up behind herself as she went. She wiped down the splatters of spaghetti sauce from the stove, before moving the bowl to the counter.

“Do you enjoy cooking?” he asked her, smiling as she laughed.

“Not really, but I like cooking for other people. I once thought about starting my own catering business, but I doubt I’d have the patience to see it through.”

“Why would you say that?” he frowned, watching her remove two plates from the cupboard, and set them next to the bowl.

“I hate messes, and I’ve seen those shows where people make cakes and meals, and their places are always a mess. It would drive me insane.”

“In other words, you have OCD?” he smiled, handing her a glass.

“Only when it comes to dirty kitchens and messy homes.”

Jordan watched her place the glass to her lips before he took a drink of his own. He loved to watch this woman. Everything she did held a certain degree of seduction, and his body was far from being immune to her.

“We can eat in front of the tube, or at the table,” she suggested, setting the glass down as she dished up their supper.

“Let’s eat on the sofa,” he told her, hoping to have a few minutes with her in his embrace.

Jordan took his plate and glass into the living room and placed them on the white crocheted cloth, then quickly lifted them when she joined him, pulling the material out of the way of getting messy.

He sat in the corner of the sofa as he flipped on the television. Being with her like this was a dream come true. He had spent the better part of twelve years thinking about her, dreaming about her, wanting to be with her. Now that he was with her, he wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. This time he wasn’t going to let her go. It didn’t matter that she didn’t remember him. Melanie was his dream, she had been for many long years, and once this was over, he had plans of telling her everything. If she would still speak to him, that was.

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