Familiar Lovers

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Chapter Seven

The following weeks seemed to fly by. Melanie found the wounds Jordan had sustained healing rapidly. He barely had any bruising left, and the only thing to remind him of the event was chapped lips around the split he had endured. It was his attitude concerning the questions that surrounded the incident that frustrated her the most.

He seemed normal enough, although evasive whenever she brought up the burglary. She knew there was more to the story then he was letting on, but he always avoided the subject. Despite being cleared to move back to his apartment, Jordan chose to spend his nights with Melanie. About the most he would do at his place, was check on his fish and gather another clean outfit.

“My mom called and asked if I would go to the hospital with the family this afternoon,” Melanie said, standing in front of the bathroom mirror as she pulled the brush through her long hair.

“Hospital?” Jordan asked with a frown.

“My brother and his wife finally had their baby. The family is getting together to go visit them. It’s kind of a tradition.”

“Sounds like fun,” Jordan said as he put the toothbrush away, frowning when he considered how long she would be away from him.

“I was planning on staying until after Stephanie’s wedding, and I was wondering…” she began, then paused as he turned to look at her.


“Well, if you didn’t have anything else planned…it’s not that long of a drive, and we can stop for supper on the way back.”

“Are you asking if I want to go with you?” Jordan asked with a half grin.

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to. I know it’s kind of weird meeting my family…”

“I’d love to go,” he told her, pulling her into his embrace.

“Are you sure?” she asked shyly, as he began kissing her neck. “I don’t want you to think I’m pushing you into meeting my parents.”

“I’m looking forward to it. What time do they want to leave?”

“Around two o’clock.”

“Perfect,” he told her, then took the brush out of her hand and pulled her out of the bathroom. “That will give us two hours to make love, before we have to leave.”

“We just made love,” she told him with a bright pink tinting her cheeks.

“And your point?” he asked, walking her into the bedroom.

“Don’t you ever get enough?”

“Never. Now get out of those clothes before I’m forced to buy you another outfit.”

Melanie giggled as she pulled the tee-shirt over her head, watching him kick his shoes off and reach for the snap of his pants.

“Do you just want me to make you cum, or are you willing to play?” he asked her, watching her remove her bra and toss it to the foot of the bed.

“What did you have in mind?”

“There’s something I want to teach you, but you have to be willing to play.”

“I’m willing,” she blushed, slipping her jeans off her slender hips.

Jordan’s smile widened as he tossed his clothes to the bed and reached for her hand. He pulled her into his embrace and kissed her. His mouth was warm against hers, his tongue minty with the toothpaste he had just used. He slid his hands down her back to her bottom and gently caressed the flesh, smiling at the eruption of goosebumps that covered the firm globes.

“You know I would never hurt you, or make you do anything you don’t want to do, right?” he asked her, walking backwards toward the bed, pulling her along with him.

“Yes,” she told him with a soft frown.

“I want you to explore every aspect of sex. I don’t want anything standing in the way of our pleasure.”

Jordan led her to the bed and turned her around, sitting her on the edge of the mattress. He lifted her chin in his hand and gently bent over, kissing her lips one last time.

“Have you ever given a man head?” he asked her, watching the color glow on her face.

“No, but…I was asked to. I just never had the courage to try.”

“How brave do you feel, now?” he asked with a serious expression on his handsome face.

“What do I have to do?” she asked, watching the smile spread across his lips.

“Take hold of me, and just explore the length,” he told her in a gentle voice. “Use your hand, your lips, your tongue. Once you’re comfortable with the feel of it, I want you to wrap your mouth around the head and suck on it.”

Melanie drew a deep breath and reached out, wrapping her fingers around his hard shaft. She stroked the length of him, amazed at how warm and firm he was. She watched him grow harder in her hand, her eyes wide as she looked at him. Glancing up, she slowly moved closer to him, gently kissing the side of his manhood.

Jordan fought the moan that threatened his composure, watching as she moved her lips across him. Up one side and down the other, until she was comfortable with her actions. He reached out and placed his hand in her hair, caressing her gently with his long fingers.

Melanie drew another deep breath and slowly slipped the tip of him into her mouth. She moved her tongue across him, tasting the moisture and frowning. She was about to pull away when she looked up to him, watching him close his eyes. The moan he had been fighting escaped his throat, deep and long. Her innocent touch was enough to force his reactions, but he held himself in check as long as he could. He wanted her to experience the event, to embrace the passion of what she was doing before he forced her to go further.

“I can’t hold out much longer,” he told her, opening his eyes to see the fear in hers. “I won’t cum unless you agree.”

“I…I’m not ready for that,” she whispered, pulling away from him.

“Then climb up on the bed. It’s your turn for a bit of fun.”

“Are you angry?” she asked, listening to his deep voice.

The look on his face was steady and firm, and for a moment she feared he wouldn’t want to make love to her. She’d never done anything like this before, and she was afraid of the final result.

“No, but I do want you to explore more often. Eventually, you’ll get used to the feeling. Once you do, I want to teach you to go deeper.”

“I’ve never done anything like that,” she told him, moving up on the bed as he followed her.

“I won’t force you, and if you tell me to stop, I will,” he assured her, drawing a deep breath to keep control of his libido. “In time, you will be braver, and will want to go further. Until then, I’ll be patient and let you set your own limits.”

“And what are you going to do while I’m exploring?” she asked with a deep blush and a smile that seemed to light up her eyes.

“Enjoy myself, baby,” he chuckled, settling between her legs.

Melanie giggled as he gently pressed her legs apart. His tongue began to caress her curls, causing her to expel a gasping moan. The way he made love to her was the single most incredible sensation she’d ever experienced. It was a mixture of heat, pleasure, frustration, and soul splitting desire. It was quickly becoming one of the most important parts of their relationship, and she was anxious to keep it as a routine part of their lovemaking.

Jordan could feel his passion mounting and struggled to control it. He enjoyed taking this woman to her limits, and breaking them, and he wasn’t ready to relent until she’d experienced the final explosive conclusion.

His lips moved across her dampness, his tongue caressing and teasing the swollen bud of her desire. It didn’t take much to drive her to her limits, and he knew she was teetering precariously on the edge of release. With a hidden smile, Jordan slipped his long finger inside her, thrusting it gently in and out until he felt the muscles tighten around him.

The heat that was searing at the barrier of her desire won out, and within a few deep breaths, Melanie felt the dam break. She clung to the sheets as she cried out, deep and hard. Her hips ground against his touch as he continued to push her forward, demanding she experience the event to the final conclusion.

As the heat between them began to cool, Melanie opened her eyes, seeing the smiling face of the man she loved. She blushed when she realized his fingers were still tormenting her, causing her mind to begin to spin. She tried to sit up, but was eased back with the strong, muscular frame of him.

“Lay back,” he told her in a deep husky voice. “It’s time to reacquaint our bodies.”

“I wasn’t aware they were strangers,” she giggled, resting back against the pillows.

“I feel like we’ve been separated by a wall of resistance, but it’s time to break through. I have plans for our immediate future, and I won’t allow anything to stand between us.”

“You sound like you think we’ll be together a while,” she told him, watching him position his hips between hers.

“I’m planning on it,” he smiled, then kissed her lips as he placed the hard tip of his erection against her tight portal.

Jordan understood his job, he knew his limitations, but as he slowly thrust into her, he promised himself, he would do everything in his power to prove her innocence. Even if it took him a lifetime.

Melanie sat beside Jordan as they drove the nearly two hundred miles to her parents’ home. He appeared anxious to meet with her family and they spent the entire drive discussing her siblings.

Tommy, the eldest out of eight children, had been married, nearly twelve years and had three kids; a girl age ten and two boys, age seven and five. He was an architect living in Ogden and the senior partner in a small firm of his own. His wife, Jennifer, was a beautician and worked out of the basement of their recently remodeled, turn of the century home.

Justin, the second in the bloodline, was married as well, celebrating his fourth wedding anniversary last month. He and his wife Sherry had a seven-month-old son and were working hard trying to get his law practice off the ground.

Mark was an archeologist currently working in Italy. He was single, at least as far as any of the family knew since they hadn’t seen or heard from him in well over a year. He had contacted their father a few weeks ago and promised to return home for Stephanie’s wedding, now just days away.

Steven, the youngest of the four boys, was married just eleven months and now the proud father of a little girl. His wife Susie was studying to be a physical therapist but had decided to take a year off to be a mother before completing her degree.

Melanie was the eldest of four girls and was very reluctant to discuss her own life, regardless how hard Jordan pressured her into confessing. He knew a little about her life professionally and quite a bit more personally, but he didn’t pursue her any further. Her reluctance was genuine and too deep to push aside.

Patricia was her next sibling. Born with a bone disorder that literally ate her hip away over the years. Her condition had rendered her disabled at a very young age, forcing her to use crutches, braces, and finally a wheelchair. She had married two years ago and had a young daughter of her own.

The family knew Patricia’s disability was more emotional than physical, though it did limit her mobility. Her husband, Ronald, was an army officer and anxious to take Patricia to Switzerland where he heard of a specialist who had done a number of successful hip rebuilding operations. He was determined to give her back the use of her legs. It meant she would have to be in a leg brace but would be able to walk for the first time in nearly ten years.

Kathy was the next to the youngest in the family, and a recent graduate from the Utah State University. She had just graduated this year and had already been accepted to Medical School in California. Her ambition was to become an obstetrician and deliver all the Kent babies from there on out.

Stephanie, the baby of the family, had graduated High School a year ago and was currently working as a secretary for an insurance company in Vernal. Cory had been a friend of the family’s for a number of years. They met as young children and had been in love since the sixth grade. Cory had been working for his father as a real estate agent while he was in school, trying to make amends for his older brother’s actions. They were to be married that summer, and Melanie openly wished them all the happiness the good Lord could give them, yet secretly prayed Cory didn’t do the things Donald had done.

She finished telling him of her seven brothers and sisters, reliving amusing memories of years gone by, just in time to direct Jordan how to get to her parent’s farm. They turned on the dirt road and drove along nearly five full minutes before seeing the large red brick house appear over the small hill top. The sound of cows grazing in the fields echoed through the afternoon stillness and the barking of the old hound dog, alerted those within the house of the approaching car.

“I think my mother is going to be impressed,” she told the man, as they pulled into the gravel lot that had been made for the numerous children’s vehicles.

“Why? Am I that irresistible?” he teased her, switching off the engine.

“No, it’s just that this is probably the first time in my entire life I’ve actually arrived ahead of time.”

“So, I’m not irresistible?” he asked with a feigned expression of insult.

“You’re probably the most handsome man my family will ever meet. But I’m not going to tell you that again, just to help build your growing ego.”

“Do you think your mother will give me her seal of approval to steal her little girl’s heart?”

Jordan flashed his overwhelming smile across the seat to the woman, who’s delicately made up cheeks flushed a deep red.

“Don’t be surprised if she asks you a million questions, ending with a date for our wedding.”

“I’m alright with that. I’ve already told you, I’ll willingly let your father force us down the aisle.”

“My mom won’t stop with just the wedding,” Melanie smiled, fighting to ignore his comment. “She thinks all women should be married with at least a dozen babies

“She came close to having a full dozen herself. You once said Utah has long winters.”

“Well, since most of us were born in the summer or early fall, I’d say that pretty well covers it.”

The front door flung open with a sudden burst, as Melanie and Jordan stepped up to the wooden porch. Stephanie stood inside the screen door, her mouth open in shock, her eyes wide with surprise and her normally rosy cheeks were slightly pale.

“Mellie, you’re on time and you brought a man!” she exclaimed, her stare fixed on Jordan. “He’s gorgeous.”

“Well, thank you,” he told her, opening the screen door and catching the frame of the young woman, who literally fell into his arms.

“Stephanie,” her older sister scolded softly, “what would Cory say if he saw you in another man’s arms?”

Stephanie straightened up immediately and looked at her sister with defiance gleaming in her dark blue eyes.

“This is the twenty-first century, and I’ll do as I wish,” she insisted, then lowered her stare in a little girl innocence and added softly, “you won’t tell him, will you?”

Melanie laughed and pushed her way into the house, followed closely behind by Jordan and Stephanie, who bolted past them. Her sister began shouting for her mother as she rushed down the narrow hallway.

“I think you’re about to get the full-scale welcome,” Melanie whispered to the man, standing close beside her. “Brace yourself for the third, fourth and fifth degrees. There’s an awful lot of us.”

Melanie had no sooner finished speaking, when her family came out from the kitchen to greet them. She knew the sudden display of brothers, sisters, in-laws and parents, were for Jordan’s sake rather than hers.

“Melanie I’m speechless. You’re actually on time for once,” her mother smiled gaily, glancing briefly to the tall man standing a good foot above her grey head.

“Mark this day on the calendar,” Curtis added, kissing Melanie’s cheek then reaching his hand out to his daughter’s guest. “I’m Curtis Kent, Melanie’s father.”

“I’m Jordan James, Melanie’s...” he paused, looking to the dark-haired woman beside him. “What are we exactly?” he asked, putting her on the spot.

Melanie blushed scarlet, and Jordan smiled happily, knowing he had put her in a difficult position with her family. But he was enjoying himself and knew from the look on her delicate features, she didn’t mind all that much.

“Mr. James is my annoying neighbor,” she clarified boldly, snubbing her nose in the air. “But if he keeps acting like this, I’m moving.”

Her brothers laughed as they introduced themselves while her sisters rushed to join in. Vera shook the man’s hand and briefly said hello, then pulled her eldest daughter aside.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were bringing a date?”

“Mother please. Jordan and I are just...well, we’re friends. We’ve only known each other a few weeks. Let’s try not to make a big issue out of this, alright?”

Melanie went through the narrow hallway to the kitchen - the heart of the home - and poured herself a glass of orange juice. She leaned against the edge of the counter and folded her arms across her chest, as she drank the tangy sweetness. She was glad her family seemed to like Jordan and she was equally happy that he appeared to like them.

She couldn’t help remembering how her family had taken to Donald the first time they’d met him, too. He was the All-American Boy. Good looking, well mannered, everybody’s best friend. Somehow, though, Jordan was different, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it.

He was most likely twice as good-looking as Donald, much stronger, and much more polite. He was also very charismatic, relaxed, and genuine. He never put on airs, he never tried to make people like him, and he didn’t go out of his way to be something he wasn’t. He didn’t shop at Nordstrom’s, he didn’t wear the latest styles, or insist he have a manicure every week. Jordan liked comfortable jeans, he enjoyed eating pizza, and he could never seem to find his nail clippers.

Vera and Patricia joined her in the kitchen and began to speak at once. For a brief moment, she was able to keep up with the questions until it seemed as if she was in a tunnel, with no visible way to escape.

“Hold on a second,” she said, trying to clear the confusion and excitement from her head. “I can only follow one thing at a time.”

“He’s absolutely gorgeous,” Patricia insisted, wheeling her chair to the empty space at the table.

The two girls resembled each other in many areas, except for Patricia’s wine-colored hair that rested just above her collar. Her pale blue eyes were like the rest of her siblings. A dominating trait of the Kent clan.

“Why didn’t you tell us about him?” Vera scolded again.

“Mother, I’ve already told you. I’ve only known him a few weeks and I hardly thought it was worth mentioning.”

“Mellie, you lucked out,” exclaimed the bouncing frame of yet another sister, this time Kathy, as she hurried to join the women of her family. “Jordan’s absolutely gorgeous.”

“I’m so glad everyone approves,” Melanie said softly, looking past the women to Stephanie, who quickly came in to join the conversation.

“I’m jealous,” she said, taking up a glass of milk from the table. “He’s really terrific and you two make a great couple.”

“I’ll say,” Kathy added. “They look so cute together. Does he have a brother for me?”

“I’ll be happy to share my day with you, if you want to make it a double ceremony,” Stephanie said with a wide smile.

“Mellie wants her own wedding, and not one tied to you,” Patricia said with a teasing smile. “If you get married now, you and Steph can make a bet to see which one of you gets pregnant first.”

“No, not yet,” Kathy argued. “I have to get through school first.”

“By the time you’ve graduated, Stephanie’s going to be a grandmother,” Patricia laughed.

“Will you guys knock it off?” Melanie ordered, feeling the overwhelming urge to run for her life. “Jordan and I are friends. Now, will you please quit making a federal issue out of this?”

Her irritation was full blown by the time she finished speaking, and she quickly bit her tongue as she noticed the men standing by the small entrance of the kitchen. Jordan frowned at what he heard, then eagerly smiled as he realized how many eyes were watching him. He stepped a little further into the kitchen and glanced around the comfortable room.

“You have a very nice place here, Mrs. Kent,” he said, walking around the table, to stand next to Melanie. “My parents’ house is a lot like this. It makes being away from home less difficult.”

“Do they live here in Utah?” Patricia asked, sipping on her juice.

“No. They live in Canada. I’m hoping to get up there this year. It’s been four years since I’ve seen them.”

“Is that where you’re from, Jordan?’ Vera asked, sitting back down at the table.

“I was born there, yes ma’am.”

“Tell us about yourself, Jordan,” Tommy said, sitting down at the table next to his wife.

“Not much to tell. I lived in Canada until I was sixteen, then moved to America and lived with my uncle until I graduated high school. My uncle insisted I get my dual citizenship, and I joined the Marines right out of school. When I was discharged, I went to college, and I’ve spent the past several years in Washington D.C.”

“What brings you to Utah? God knows it couldn’t possibly be the weather, after living in Canada and Washington,” Steven asked, his dark hair falling across his forehead made him appear more tired and worn out, after the birth of his daughter, then he really was.

“I was offered a job with the Tribune and I couldn’t pass it up.”

“What kind of job?” Justin asked, handing the man a cup of coffee from the thermos he’d brought with him, since his parents didn’t drink the stuff and refused to make it.

Jordan thanked the man politely and took a quick sip from the steaming china mug, before offering Melanie a drink.

“I’m a reporter. The offer was a good one, with a good salary and the promise of writing the stories instead of reporting them.”

“Jordan was an anchorman for a television station in Washington,” Melanie clarified, shaking her head to his offer and hoping her tone and attitude would put an end to the interrogation.

“I can’t wait until Donald sees him,” Stephanie blurted out. “Boy, is he going to be mad he let you go.”

Vera cleared her throat roughly and her sister, Kathy, squeezed her around the back of the neck. The family looked first at the younger girl, reproach and disapproval etching every face, then slowly turned their gazes to Melanie who stood frozen, staring down at her little sister.

“Donald?” she asked, her face hardened, and her eyes narrowed to mere slits. “What about him?”

“He arrived a few days ago,” Vera began, still glaring at her youngest child. “He’s here for the wedding. He stopped by a couple days ago and asked about you. He wanted us to tell him where you were. I don’t think he was very happy when we refused.”

Melanie set her glass down with a hard thud, its contents splashed out on the counter’s top. She pushed past the massive crowd of people, ignoring Jordan completely, and slammed out the back door. The idea of Donald being back in Utah was one thing, but for her family to know about it and not say anything, was even worse. It should have been her decision to turn him away, not theirs.

She cursed herself openly as she walked down the back steps. She didn’t want to see him. Her parents were only doing what they felt was best. She had gone through a lot with the man, mostly bad, but she was beginning to feel a sudden eruption of nerves inside her. She felt confused by her reaction to the news, yet oddly leery that he was so close.

Donald was a part of her past that she often found herself regretting. She felt frightened that he was in Utah, and apprehensive about the prospect of seeing him. If he was here for the wedding, then that meant she’d have no choice but to see him. The thought made her palms sweat and the muscles in her neck tense.

She had spent the past three years moving on with her life, and for the first time in years, she was happy. Then her past came waltzing back into her life, and there he was, once again, a part of her conscience. He was practically standing on her doorstep, as if nothing had happened. It was more than she wanted to deal with and a very big part of her wanted to jump back into Jordan’s car and drive home.

Jordan watched as Melanie stormed out of the house, then looked back to her family. He listened quietly, as the older Kents reproached Stephanie for her big mouth. He waited patiently as they complained about Donald being home, regardless of the reason, then realized they had an observer to their conversation.

“Who’s Donald?” Jordan asked boldly, feigning innocence to the fact of knowing Melanie’s past.

The looks that he received from the Kent family were mixed with frustration and misgiving with the man’s attitude. He could tell, by their attitudes and the looks on their faces, they didn’t like the man, which made Jordan like all of them even more. Jordan pulled his face into a determined angle and the people who studied him knew there was no getting around the subject. He wanted to know their opinions on the man, and he wasn’t going to be satisfied until he got his answers.

Vera glanced to Curtis, who looked at his children. He didn’t know if he should tell the man anything. It was Melanie’s place to tell him about her past, but it was Tommy who broke the silence and answered the man’s inquiries.

“Donald Prescott was Melanie’s husband,” he explained, as Jordan looked less than surprised by the man’s words. “They were married a little more than three years, before Donald...well, what happened between them is up to Mellie to explain if she wants you to know. The marriage ended very bitterly and up until today, we were all beginning to feel as if Mel was going to be a hermit, or a nun.”

“Melanie was hurt very badly when Donald left,” Justin explained, taking up after his older brother, just as they had in the line of birth. “The pain was very real and very deep.”

“And now he’s back for the wedding?” Jordan asked, hoping his question didn’t seem too much like that of a reporter.

“Donald is my boyfriend’s older brother,” Stephanie said, her voice very quiet and weak from her recent scolding. “He came back for our wedding.”

“What involvement has he got with Melanie, besides that of an ex-husband?”

The man’s question was well asked and deserved an answer, but giving one wasn’t as easy as it may have appeared. Nobody knew how Melanie felt or what Donald had planned for the next few weeks. They had hoped to avoid this whole situation until the day of the wedding, when Melanie would learn of his presence. By then, she would be surrounded by family and friends and be too preoccupied to worry about the man.

“We don’t know,” Curtis said at last. “The breakup was unexpected, and Melanie blamed herself for a long time. She was hurt and depressed and vowed never to let another man into her life. How she feels about Prescott, is anybody’s guess. How she feels about you…well, that’s yet to be seen.”

Melanie sat on the grassy area behind the house and scratched the one good ear of the old hound dog. Her mind ached from the thoughts that flooded through it, but she couldn’t bring herself to force them away. She still felt the betrayal of Donald’s last words to her. The pain, the cold tingle of being utterly helpless and alone, still thrived inside her. She hated her ex-husband, but he had been the only man she’d ever loved, ever shared a bed with, until Jordan. Now, she had an incredible man in her life who treated her like a queen, so why was she even thinking about her ex?

The sound of footsteps fell on the soft ground behind her, causing her to turn her head slightly, knowing, even without seeing him, that Jordan had come out to join her. He sat down beside her and petted the old dog that snuggled his nose against the man’s leg.

“What’s his name?” he asked quietly.


“How in the world did he get that name?” he chuckled softly.

Melanie smiled, throwing a stick out for the old dog to fetch.

“When he was a puppy, no one could agree on a name for him. Eight kids made it difficult. We all had our own ideas of what he should be called. Anyway, my mother had an old pillow on the sofa that my dad used when he watched football. Shortly after we got him, Mom found him with the pillow. He had torn it to shreds and was sitting in the middle of a pile of stuffing. She told him she was going to stuff him and the name just sort of stuck.”

“What happened to his ear?”

“A raccoon ate it.”

“Ate it?” Jordan exclaimed, looking at the dark-haired woman with wide eyes.

“My dad likes to take Stuffings hunting, and one year, instead of flushing out deer, like my father had hoped he would, he fell onto a nest of raccoons. The mother protected her babies the only way she knew how. She attacked him before he really knew what happened. My dad was able to get him out of harm’s way before any real damage was done to either animal, but he lost his ear in the process.”

“My folks have a dog like that back home. He’s a black lab with absolutely no sense of smell, whatsoever.”

“What’s his name, Snoopy?”

“No, it’s Rex. We named him after my Uncle Drexell. He looked just like him when he was a puppy, so like Stuffings, it just sort of took.”

Melanie smiled, feeling more relaxed then she had a few minutes ago. Jordan had a way of making her feel content and calm, without even trying. There was something about him, perhaps that feeling of familiarity that lingered in the back of her mind, that made her feel like she could talk to him about anything.

They remained quiet as the two watched and played with the old dog. They would throw the stick and Stuffings would run a strange, old shuffle to it, then fetch it back, wet with slobber and lay it into one or the other’s lap.

“You want to know about Donald, don’t you?” she asked, breaking the silence that had settled between them. Jordan looked at her, studying her delicate profile before answering.

“I know he’s your ex-husband,” he replied softly, throwing the stick out again and wiping his hand on his pants. “I know he hurt you when he left.”

Melanie nodded softly.

“We were high school Sweethearts,” she began, drifting back over the sea of memories that thrashed her tender soul. “He was the only boy I’d ever really dated. Donald wanted to get married right after graduation, but I received a scholarship for U.C.L.A., so we decided to put it off until after college. Whenever I came home, he would pressure me into transferring schools and marry him. It wasn’t until two and a half years later, during Easter break that I agreed. California was so far away, and I was lonesome for home and my family. He caught me at a very vulnerable time. I transferred to Utah State and we were married that June.”

The memories clouded over her eyes and Jordan watched her features closely, as she continued to remember.

“I spent the next year finishing my degree, while Donald worked at his father’s real estate business. He eventually got his license, and quickly became a very successful Realtor. Everyone wanted him to list their house or help them buy one. His looks and boyish smile made him irresistible. The more popular he became, the more eager he was to move into a better crowd of people then he was used to. Donald hated the idea of living in a small town and he hated Utah. He wasn’t religious, even though his family was, and it really bothered him, having to live in a state ruled mainly by religion.”

Jordan watched as tears seemed to form in her pale blue eyes and fought the urge to reach out and pull her close to him. He knew she needed space to allow the past to flow through her words. He also knew, she needed those memories to be relived so she could learn to move past them.

“I was working part time, mainly as a substitute teacher, because I didn’t want anything to take me away from my husband. He wanted me to be home when he got there, and he hated it when he had to wait for supper. We were married three years. I thought we had a great marriage, until Christmas Eve. Donald had been invited out with some of his new friends and he didn’t think I would fit in, so he left me home. It was after midnight when he finally came back. I was so excited to give him my present. I found out that day that I was pregnant.”

Her words drifted away as she thought back over the years. Jordan reached up and gently brushed the tear away that slid down her cheek, then wrapped his arm around her shoulders.

“I thought he would be happy about it,” she continued, “but his present was bigger than mine. He was leaving for New York the next day with his new girlfriend. Someone who could introduce him to the right sort of people. The ones who would help his career move into the fast lane. He was finally going to be rich and successful and there was no room in his life for me. He said he knew I would understand.”

Melanie wiped away the tears, then stood up. Jordan was by her side in a single breath. He took her hand in his and began to walk with her, listening to the rest of her story.

“I tried to stop him from leaving. I told him the baby needed a father and I still loved him, even after he admitted he had been having an affair for over a year. He told me I was an innocent child. The product of growing up around chickens and cows. I ran after him, hoping to reason with him, but instead I fell on the ice. He just got in his car and drove away, and never looked back. He didn’t pack or bother taking a toothbrush with him. He was starting new and didn’t want any of the old stuff to remind him of what he was leaving behind. I guess that meant me too.”

Melanie walked across the yard with Jordan, glancing out across the pasture to the cows grazing contently. The day was bright and warm, and she felt a strange, almost calm overtake her. Somehow, telling Jordan of her past seemed to make her feel better about it.

“I managed to get back to the house and called my dad,” she told him a few moments later. “I was bleeding heavily and by the time they got me to the hospital, it was too late. I’d lost the baby.”

Silence grew between them as they continued to walk toward the barn. The chickens fluttered and squawked as they moved through the fresh hay and sat down in one of the empty stalls. Melanie crossed her ankles and smoothed her dress across her knees.

“How do you feel about your ex-husband now?” Jordan asked, still holding her hand gently.

Melanie leaned her head against his shoulder and closed her eyes. She drew a deep breath and thought about his question. Telling Jordan about the past made the pain ease and the memories weigh less on her heart.

“For so long, I felt as though the break up was my fault. But I realize now, it wasn’t anything I did or didn’t do. I even blamed myself for losing the baby.”

Melanie was quiet again, then looked up at the man, who had remained silent.

“I guess that really doesn’t answer your question though, does it? Well, if you want to know the truth, I would rather not see him again. I’m not sure if the pain has gone completely. Donald is very handsome and very charming and I’m not certain if I’m immune to him, or not.”

She looked down at her hand wrapped inside the warmth and gentleness of his. She mentally compared the two men and found the cards stacked in Jordan’s favor.

“He’s not like you,” she whispered, as if speaking more to herself then to him. “He’s cold and distant and heartless to everything and everyone, except what he thinks will help better him. You’re just the opposite.”

Jordan squeezed her hand, forcing her to look up at the gentleness that shined on his rugged, handsome features. He was now convinced the woman who had visited Harrison Williams was not Melanie. She wasn’t ready to confront this situation and he was more convinced than ever, that she was innocent to the whole mixed up, torrid mess. He met her pale eyes with the passion and desire that burned within his, making her feel weak and strangely numb.

The heat of the moment ignited into a raging bonfire, as Jordan laid Melanie gently against the hay covered floor. The roughness of the straw bit into the fabric of her clothes as he pressed against her tightly. His body covered her with as much tenderness and passion as he felt, just as he did every night for the past six weeks.

Jordan slipped his hand up the length of the skirt’s hem, feeling the warmth of her skin responding to his touch. He loved Melanie, and he was determined to make certain she never forgot it. His mouth covered hers as his hand moved up her outer thigh, his fingers wrapping in the waistband of her panties. He gave them a gentle tug as she moved slightly and easily exposed her bottom to his warm caress.

The sound of the barn door opening registered through the rush of emotion pounding against her brain. She pushed Jordan away reluctantly and looked at the passion and desire washing through his dark eyes

“Someone’s in the barn,” she whispered, as he bent his head back down to her.

Jordan turned his head quickly then sat up, pulling her along with him. He kissed her briefly and squeezed her breast in an intimate gesture that promised much more to come once they were alone.

“We’ll have to pick up where we left off,” he whispered against her ear. “Stay with me at the motel and I promise to make it worth your while.”

“Promise?” she asked him, color rising in her suddenly pale cheeks.

Jordan smiled seductively and winked a dark eye at her.

“I never go back on my word,” he assured her, as they stood up from the stall a second before Stephanie’s voice called out her name.

Melanie quickly brushed her dress off and smoothed her hair, pulling the few pieces of straw from her dark locks. She turned the corner of the stall and found her little sister looking around the barn’s interior for her.

“Where’s Jordan?” she asked, looking past her older sibling as the man in question stepped up behind Melanie.

Stephanie smiled knowingly, aware from personal experience just how private the old barn could be during the day.

“Mom said to tell you we’re ready to leave. Are you going to ride with one of us, or are you going alone?”

Melanie glanced back to Jordan, who smiled and slid a warm hand around her waist.

“Tell your mother we’ll take my car,” he said. “We’ve got things to do after we leave the hospital.”

Stephanie hurried out of the barn and back to the house, as Melanie and Jordan walked slowly through the door.

“Are you alright now?” he asked her softly, looking deep into her clear blue eyes. Melanie smiled and giggled cheerfully.

“Never felt better,” she assured him. “Just wait until my sister tells my father you attacked me in his barn,” she added across her shoulder, as she began running towards the house.

Jordan growled playfully and caught up with her in a few long-legged steps. He pulled her around to face him, holding her gently in a tight embrace.

“I’ll just claim temporary insanity,” he told her, kissing her hard.

The sound of the front screen shutting brought his head up to look at the Kent family, who stood staring at the odd sight of the couple wrapped in each other’s arms. Jordan pushed Melanie away and grunted with false dignity as he smoothed his hand down his shirt.

“Why Miss Kent,” he shouted, adding a pronounced southern accent. “I’m not that kind of a boy.”

Melanie gasped and took a quick swing, trying to hit the man who easily ducked her arm. Her gesture spun her around and back into the warm arms that helped her regain her stance. He chuckled happily and released her, looking back towards Vera and Curtis, who smiled at the youthful display of their eldest daughter.

“She’s a wild one, isn’t she?” he teased them, as her brothers laughed, and her sister applauded.

“Always was,” Curtis added, walking towards his truck.

“Just be careful, or we’ll have to make this a double wedding after all,” Vera added, smiling with a face of mockery at her daughter who was wrapped in the man’s large arms.

“Don’t you think we should put a stop to that?” Vera asked her husband as he opened the door for her.

Curtis glanced back, watching Jordan kiss Melanie again, before helping her into the little blue car. The smile on their faces were genuine and long overdue, on his daughter’s part, at least.

“Certainly not,” Curtis answered, closing the door then stood by the open window. “I like Jordan and I have a good feeling about him. I think we should just stay out of it and let nature take its course.”

Vera looked across her shoulder at the couple in question and smiled, while Curtis walked around the truck to the driver’s side.

“What’s on your wicked mind, old woman?” asked her husband as he sat down behind the steering wheel and started the car.

Vera smiled a little brighter and turned back to the man next to her. She would have to admit her husband was right. She liked Jordan as well. He seemed honest and down to earth, and from the look on his face, he truly cared for Melanie.

“They’re going to make beautiful babies together,” she returned, forcing Curtis to grunt loudly.

“Let’s just try and get through one grandchild at a time, alright?” he begged her, turning the key of the ignition. “This time it’s Steven’s turn.”

“Mark my words, you old goat,” Vera added, buckling her safety belt around her middle. “Melanie’s going to be next.”

“She’s innocent of all of this,” Jordan argued, his temper burning like flames within his mind and heart.

“You yourself said a woman matching her description was seen leaving the motel. Now, you know as well as I do, there couldn’t possibly be two women who look that much alike, unless they’re twins, and Melanie Kent doesn’t have a twin. If you can’t explain it, I’ll have her picked up and brought in for questioning.”

The older man’s temper remained in check as he looked first to Jordan then to Michaels, the tall dark-skinned man standing next to his partner. Jordan sighed an exhausted surrender. He knew the man was right. Logically, all directions pointed to Melanie, even though he had just met three additional women who could easily have passed as her twin.

“I’ve spoken with her,” Jordan argued as his superior puffed on his half-smoked cigar. “She was genuinely surprised when she was told Prescott was in town. She isn’t involved with him. I’d stake my life on it.”

“You may have to, if Prescott is as dangerous as we think,” the older man said. “And what the hell is this about losing your gun? I just got the invoices for the past month, and there’s one from Maxwell, issuing you a new sidearm.”

“It wasn’t my fault, Biggs. I wasn’t expecting the bastard to jump me in my own apartment, and I can’t wear it to the paper. Do you have any idea how that would look, if someone saw it?”

“That’s just great. As if Prescott wasn’t dangerous enough, now he has your gun to hide behind.”

“That’s the least of my worries, right now,” Jordan growled. “I’ll get the damn gun back, but in the meantime, we need to find this woman who visited the bastard.”

“What did you learn about the girlfriend in Rock Springs?” Biggs asked, setting his cigar in the ashtray.

“She moved two months ago, but her landlady gave me a forwarding address in Arizona,” Michaels answered. “I’ve got Casey checking her out for me.”

“Maybe she was the one who visited him at the motel,” Jordan suggested.

“Any idea what she looks like?” Biggs asked.

“All I know is that she’s young and attractive. We’re still trying to get a photo of her, but the name she’s been using turned out to be an alias.”

“Keep working on it. Did you sweep the place for prints?”

“No sir,” Michaels said with a deep sigh. “The apartment was already rented out.”

“Let me know what Casey finds out,” Biggs said with an exasperated grunt. “And James, you better keep Kent under close surveillance. If she is innocent in all of this, Prescott could use her as his scapegoat.”

“Over my dead body,” Jordan growled, making Michaels and Biggs frown.

They stared at each other as Jordan stormed out of the office. They knew the man’s emotions were involved, and that was more of a worry then what Donald Prescott was capable of.

“Go after him,” Biggs said with an exaggerated sigh. “You’re going to have to try and keep him under control.”

“Jordan,” Michaels called out, catching up to him at the elevator.

“I don’t want to hear it,” Jordan growled. “I know Melanie isn’t involved with Prescott, and I’ll prove it.”

“How? We can’t even find the bastard. He hasn’t been back to the motel since he left with the woman.”

“He’ll be at the wedding, and since he’s already been to her parents’ place asking how to find Melanie, it’s only logical he’ll try and get to her. When he does, I’ll be there to stop him. Until then, I’m heading back to Vernal. I’ve got some questions that need answered.”

“I’ll go with you,” Michaels told him.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea. I’m not sure how to explain you.”

“Why? Just tell ’em I’m a buddy visiting from Washington. Hasn’t the Bureau taught you anything about making up alibis?”

“Alright pal, you can come along, but you’re going to have to change first. You look like you just received, Top Spy of the month.”

“What? You mean you don’t like my class one, run of the mill, spy-type threads?” Jordan grunted as he pushed the button for the elevator.

“Just change and I’ll meet you at my place. I need to get a change of clothes myself. And make sure you wear a jacket large enough to hide that machine gun you like to carry.”

“It’s not that big,” Michaels chuckled. “Seriously, though, you can’t tip your hand. Without proof positive that Prescott is guilty, all we have is a few files and a lot of speculations.”

“I’ll get the truth, even if I have to beat it out of him.”

“Hey, don’t get involved with her,” Michaels told him, stopping him from leaving with a hand on his arm. “Once all this blows up, you’ll be pulled down right beside her.”

Jordan stepped into the elevator, watching the doors close on his partner. He drew a deep breath and leaned his head back against the metal box.

Don’t get involved, he repeated to himself. It was too late for that. He was in deeper than he could ever have admitted to the man. He knew, it would mean his career and possibly Melanie’s freedom if Biggs ever found out just how involved they really were.

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