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It was a perfect September evening. A nearly cloudless sky allowed the stars to sparkle like magic. The white silk tents billowed gently in the breeze as the music drifted around us. I was dancing with the father of the bride. He twirled me around the dance floor while keeping an eye on his radiant daughter, my best friend, Susan.
"So when am I going to dance at your wedding?"
"Geez, Pop. Give a girl a break. Can't you be happy that Susan found someone and leave me out of it?"
"Nope. You're just as much my daughter as she is. Hell, you practically grew up in my house. You two have always been inseparable. What kind of father would I be if I didn't worry about both of my girls?"
"I'm fine Pop, so stop worrying already."
"You, young lady, are too independent for your own good. There's nothing wrong with letting someone take care of you once in a while. You should find a nice young man and settle down. There's plenty here. Just take your pick. That one over there sure is looking you over." Pop flicked his eyes at someone over my shoulder. He turned me slightly so I could see the man in question. "What about him?"
Time appeared to stand still and my blood began to roar in my ears as I saw whom Pop was talking about. There, on the other side of the dance floor, was someone I had thought to never see again. His blue eyes boring into mine, Luke tipped his blonde head in my direction and started towards us. I studied him carefully as he made his way across the dance floor. The years had not changed him much. His hard, angular features were more mature and his tall, lean form had gained some muscle, but he was still the same Luke I remembered.
Luke caught up to us and tapped Pop on the shoulder, "May I cut in?"
"Be my guest."
Pop threw me a cheery wink and handed me over to Luke. As his hand closed over mine, I felt the same jolt I had been trying to forget for several years now. Luke pulled me close, molding my body to his, as he began to lead us around the floor. I breathed in his uniquely male scent and tried to control my pulse.
"How have you been, Cat?" The soft question, just inches from my ear, put butterflies in my stomach as I tried to decide how to answer him.
"Fine, Luke, and you?" I was pleased to note that my voice didn't tremble.
"That's a long story, let's leave it for now. You're still just as beautiful as I remember."
His husky voice sent shivers down my spine. The music stopped just in time to save me from making a response. I moved out of his arms.
"Thanks for the dance, Luke. It was good seeing you again." I turned and started to walk away.
"Cat, wait." His hand slid from my elbow to my upper arm and held me in place. "I'd like to see you again. We have some things to discuss." He tipped my chin up, forcing my eyes to meet his. "Please?"
"No, Luke. It's no use digging up the past."
This time he didn't stop me when I turned to leave. I could feel his eyes follow me as I crossed the dance floor and went into the house. Susan caught up with me just as I found my coat and headed out to my car.
"Hey, where are you going?" She was slightly breathless and more than a little beautiful in her wedding gown.
"Home. It's been a long day."
"Did I just see you talking to Luke Henshaw?"
"You know you did." I could see the tip of one white satin shoe tapping impatiently as she crossed her arms over her chest.
"And you should have told me you invited him to the wedding."
"Would you have come if I did?"
I sighed and thought about it, "No, probably not. Why did you do this to me? I thought you were my friend."
"Oh, Cat, I *am* your friend. That's why I invited him. You two need to settle this and you know it. You're never going to have any peace until you talk to him."
"That is not true. Besides which, shouldn't you be dancing with Michael instead of arguing with me?"
"Yeah, okay. But think about it, please. Luke deserves to know."
Over my dead body, I thought.
I woke up the next morning with a pounding headache. It had to be stress because I hadn't had more than a sip of champagne. I made my way carefully to the bathroom for some aspirin. After swallowing two pills, I looked at myself in the mirror. Long, auburn hair, large green eyes surrounded by spiky black lashes, straight nose, high cheekbones; not a bad face overall, but this morning it looked tired. Like that's unusual, I thought. With a sigh, I pulled off my pajamas and climbed in the shower. I had a lot to get done today and standing in front of the mirror wasn't going to make it go any faster.
After starting a load of laundry and loading the dishwasher, I carried a cup of coffee out to the deck to read the morning paper. Ten minutes later I was still staring at the headlines and trying to remember just when it was that I fell in love with Luke Henshaw.
I've known him forever. We were in the same kindergarten class. His twin brother, Logan, had been my second best friend. Luke was always there in the background of my life. Once in awhile we'd end up hanging out together but mostly I spent my time with Susan and Logan. Luke had always been busy with cross-country, basketball, and baseball in high school. If he wasn't working out or studying, he was with his girlfriend, Chrissy.
They were the golden couple: blonde, beautiful, and popular. Luke and Chrissy had started going steady in tenth grade and were practically living together by senior year. That's when it started, I decided, right after graduation.
Everyone was at Susan's house for her graduation party. We had all ended up in the big hay barn, dancing to the radio, and then later playing truth or dare. Why is it you put a group of kids together and truth or dare is the inevitable result? I had managed to stay out of most of the game, but towards the end Logan noticed that I was snuggled up high in the hayloft trying to hide. He had a grand time making me pay for that.
"Hey, Luke," he called, "truth or dare?"
"Dare," was Luke's immediate reply.
Looking straight at me, Logan said, "Climb into the hayloft and spend ten minutes making out with whomever you find up there. I'll give a yell when time's up."
If looks could kill, that damn Logan would have been dog food. Right then I decided he was no longer my friend.
"Hey, no fair!" Chrissy was already bitching.
"Sorry Chris, you know the rules." Luke's tone was apologetic but I could tell he was already moving towards the ladder to the hayloft.
"Well, who's up there?" Cripes, that woman could whine.
"Cat." Logan's tone was smug and superior. Logan *hated* Chrissy and Chrissy *hated* me. He had done it just to irritate both of us. Luke climbed into the loft and sank into the same pile of hay I was using.
"Hey, Cat. Sorry about this, but a dare's a dare."
"Yeah, I know. Just do it."
Luke rolled so that he was draped over one side of me and brushed my hair back from my face. He leaned down and gently captured my lips with his own. Nothing could have prepared me for the sensation. I'd had plenty of boyfriends but not one of them made me feel like this. My skin was on fire and my heart was pounding so hard I thought it might leap from my chest. Luke's lips teased and nibbled mine, creating a molten pool of desire in my gut. Might as well enjoy it, I thought, and gently traced his lips with my tongue.
Luke groaned, wrapped both arms around me, and rolled us so that I was sprawled on top of him. His tongue claimed my own as his hands tangled in my long, red hair. I could feel his erection pressing against my crotch and I ground myself against it, causing him to hiss in response. One of his hands moved to my ass, pressing me down against him, while the other went to my breast, his thumb rubbing my nipple to arousal. I moaned in need and attacked his mouth again. I felt like I was drowning in sensation. So this is what it's all about, I thought, now I understand the fuss.
I had just made this connection when Logan yelled, "Time." I lifted my head and rolled off Luke, trying to catch my breath.
"Jesus, Cat. What the hell was that?" His breathing was ragged, his tone laced with wonder.
"Like I know? That's never happened to me before."
"Luke, get down here!" Chrissy was standing at the bottom of the ladder with a very angry look on her face. Luke was still staring at me with a look of confusion.
"Better go, the little woman calls."
"Shit, Cat. If she sees this lump, I'm dead."
"Well, I'd offer to help but you need Chrissy's permission first."
Grumbling about insensitive females, Luke swung himself over the ladder and climbed down to his girlfriend. Yes, I thought, that was when I started to fall in love with Luke Henshaw.
I went to start another load of laundry and heard the doorbell ring. Detouring to the front door, I wondered who it might be. Everyone I know just walks in; no knock, no doorbell. I pulled the door open to find Luke leaning against my front porch railing. He looked just as good in jeans today as he did in the tux last night. He was wearing a tired, sexy smile that made my heart skip a beat.
"What are you doing here?" The words were out of my mouth before I could stop them.
"Morning, Cat. Mind if I come in?" Luke brushed by me and stepped into the house.
"Please do." My sarcasm brought a wry grin from him.
"I'm sorry, alright? I've had a rotten night. Do you have any coffee?" Luke hadn't shaved and looked like he hadn't slept. I decided to take pity on him.
.... There is more of this story ...