Here is your next installment of Right On Time Christmas. If you don’t like romantic, kiss-y stuff you might want to skip these chapters 🙂
Christmas shopping, so not what Stephen wanted to be doing right now. But it needed to be done and he needed to do it when Josie wouldn’t be home to insist on going with him.The mall gave him a headache, the blasting Christmas carols, the lights, the people.
Yeah, the people.
Stephen tried to move out of the way when another person bumped into him without an apology. It was supposed to be the season of peace but making his way through the stores was anything but peaceful.
He finally got to the perfume counter that Mom loved. Every year she always asked for the same thing. But it made her happy. He slid down the counter looking for the exact one when he ran into someone. Now he was the rude person. Except he would apologize.
“I am so sorry…” His words died in his lips when he looked up into the most beautiful blue eyes he ever saw. “Caylee.”
“I was wondering who was being so pushy. Should have known it was you.” Caylee laughed. What a great laugh.
He hadn’t been able to stop thinking about her since the Wassail festival. Who was he kidding. He hadn’t stopped thinking about her since she landed in his yard a week and a half ago. Had it only been that long? It felt like forever since that happened. Since he almost kissed her.
“Sorry. Looking for perfume for my mom.” Stephen finally found the ability to speak again.
“Me too. I think they wear the same kind.” Caylee pointed down at pink bottle.
“Yep. That’s what I need too.”
A sales clerk came and checked both of them out.
“Well, it was good to see you.” Her gaze seemed to search his face. He didn’t want her to go, maybe she didn’t want to go either.
“Hey, if you don’t have any place else to be maybe you could help me.” Stephen thought fast. “I have to get something for Josie and she is so picky I usually get her a gift card to American Eagle but it would be way more fun to watch her open an actual gift, could you help me find something for her?”
Something flickered in Caylee’s eyes. Did she not want to spend more time with him?
“Sure, I have some time.” Caylee flashed her perfect smile and made his heart kick up a notch.
They spent the next half hour laughing and joking over different outfits for Josie, imitating her response to some of the crazy stuff they picked out. They finally settled on a pair of skinny jeans and and top that Caylee thought would go well together. Stephen really didn’t care. All he cared about was the great time he was having with Caylee.
“Starbucks?” Stephen wasn’t ready to say good-bye.
“You like Starbucks?” Caylee raised her eyebrows.
“I don’t get the fancy-shmancy stuff. Regular coffee for me. But you look like the type who might like a latte of something like that. Plus, after all your help it’s the least I can do.” Stephen hoped he didn’t sound as desperate as he felt. When had his feelings changed from trying to stay away from this girl who broke his heart over and over to wanting to spend all the time he could with her?
“I’d love a latte.”
They made their way to the crowded food court and found Starbucks. Stephen ordered a Venti Cafe Verona and Caylee ordered a Tall Peppermint Mocha. Miraculously they found a small table among the crowd. They sat in silence for a few minutes sipping their hot drinks.
“So, tell me about this girlfriend of yours.” Caylee looked at him over her steaming cup.
Really? She wanted to talk about Sarah?
What was wrong with him? He was going to marry her, of course he should want to talk about her.
“Well, her name is Sarah. We met at school, we’ve been dating for about two years. She’s great.” Wow, that sounded rehearsed and unfeeling.
“I’m really happy for you. I meant what I said the other night. You deserve to be happy. I hope she will make you happy.” Caylee looked down at her cup. Did she mean that or did she think that was what she was supposed to say?
“Are you seeing anyone?” He really didn’t want to know the answer to that but he figured he should ask.
“I was.” She took a deep breath. “We broke up the day I landed in your yard. It wasn’t what I was expecting.”
So she got her heart broken. About time. No, that wasn’t right. She didn’t deserve to be hurt, no one did.
“I’m sorry to hear that. I’m sure God has someone out there for you.” How Christian of him. He wanted to be that someone for so long but it couldn’t be. As much as he did like her now and missed her he couldn’t risk his heart again. She had trampled on it one too many times. The damage was done.
“Yes, mom. I’m doing fine.” Caylee reassured Mom for the tenth time in the a ten minute phone conversation.
“We are leaving Florida on Tuesday and should be back in Michigan by Thursday evening. We are so excited to see you.” Mom had to be smiling, it came through her words.
“I’m excited to see you too.”
“Are you going to the parade of lights tonight?”
Ah, yes. Another tradition in Holly. The Saturday after the Wassail Festival was the parade of lights. This time the town would be lit up with vehicles decked out with Christmas lights.
“Probably not.” Caylee had no desire to go alone and even though the thought of calling Josie, a.k.a. Stephen, crossed her mind she couldn’t do it to herself or him.
“You should give Stephen a call. I’m sure he’d be glad to take you.” Mom, she was always a Stephen fan. Truth was, Caylee was a Stephen fan, but Stephen was no longer a Caylee fan.
“I don’t want to bother him. You know he is asking his girlfriend to marry him.” Caylee needed to make that clear.
“Yes, his mother mentioned that. But she didn’t seem too convinced it would work out.” Was there something Mom wasn’t telling her. Did Mrs. Meyer say something to give Mom hope. To give Caylee hope?
No, Caylee would not hope in that.
A knock sounded at the front door. “I gotta go Mom, I’ll see you Thursday. Love you.”
“Love you too.”
Caylee peeked out the window before she opened the door. Her heart jumped in a way it had no right to jump. Excitement flooded through her like a new string of Christmas lights.
She pulled open the door. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to get you out of the house, again.” Stephen gave her a smile that made her believe he cared.
“No Josie this time?” Caylee leaned against the door.
“Nope. She’s already there. But she did mention that you would probably be moping around tonight.”
“She’s was right. Give me five minutes. Come on in.” Caylee stepped back and let Stephen in.
“I haven’t been in here since I picked you up for our senior prom.” Stephen’s face paled immediately.
Yeah, the night she ruined their friendship. But they were making amends. She wished she had known then what she knew now. They didn’t come any better than Stephen Meyer.
Guilt flooded Caylee and she was at a loss for words. What could she say? An apology too late, did it still count?
“Go get ready. The parade starts in twenty minutes.” Stephen must not want to talk about it either. Good.
Caylee made fast work of changing into something more presentable for public viewing. Soon they were parked and made their way to the mass of people.
“Follow me. I have a secret place where I like to watch.” Stephen reached for her hand and electricity seemed to shoot up her arm. Her hand fit perfectly inside of his, as if they were always supposed to be together. How silly. If that were true they would have been together a long time ago.
But wonder if that wasn’t their time, wonder if now was the right time?
Stephen pulled Caylee to his favorite spot to watch the parade. He discovered it when he was a kid, no else had managed to find it in all these years.
He tried to focus on the activity around him but that proved to be an issue. All he could think about was the warmth of her hand. Why weren’t they wearing gloves? At the moment he didn’t even care. He was holding Caylee’s hand and taking her to his secret place.
They ducked under a small bridge and came around to the other side. And the crowd was gone. The parade would pass over this bridge but for some reason no one ever bothered to cross over to this side of it. Often times the river was too high from the rain and snow, but not this year.
“What do you think?” Stephen looked down into Caylee’s eyes, his heart lurched and ached. He loved her. . . still. What was he going to do?
“It’s perfect.” She gave him a smiled that stole his breath and it took every ounce of control to keep from pulling her close.
He could stop holding her hand now, but he had no desire and since she didn’t pull away he kept holding on.
Soon decorated tractors and trucks drove by. Trailers pulling carolers singing festive music. It wasn’t a lengthy parade, unfortunately, and before long it was time to leave. He still didn’t let go of her hand.
His girlfriend was coming to town in four days and he just admitted he was in love with someone else, someone who didn’t love him. Granted, he only admitted it to himself, so it didn’t count. Right? He would get over this once Sarah was around.
He opened the car door for her and finally let her go. That’s what he needed to do in his heart too, let her go. But wonder if . . . no, he bought an engagement ring for Sarah.
“So you think you’ll stick around Holly?” Stephen asked as they made their way back to her house.
“I hope so. I just need to find a job.” Caylee shrugged and stared out the window.
“You okay?” Had Stephen crossed the line holding her hand so long?
“Fine.” She drew in a deep breath and looked over at him. “I missed this stuff.”
“Me too. Holly is small but it is charming. Like you.” He couldn’t help joking with her.
“Looks who’s talking. I was bigger than you through most of high school.” Caylee shoved his arm.
“Don’t remind me.” Stephen hated that it took him so long to put on weight and actually start looking like a man. “I’ll walk you up.” He said once they pulled in her driveway.
Stephen climbed out knowing full well that walking her to the door was extremely dangerous. He would say goodnight and be on his way.
“Thanks for dragging me out again. I needed that.” Caylee stepped onto the porch, her gaze cast to her feet.
“You’re not okay. What’s wrong?” Not thinking Stephen lifted her her chin and searched her face for a sign for what was going on. “Did I do something?”
“No.” Caylee shook her head and tried to look down again but he held tight. “When I said I missed this stuff I meant our friendship. I missed you.”
Did she still think of him as a friend because every desire in him was not friendly. “I missed you too.” His words came out choked.
They stood there and stared at each other, Stephen fought the urge to kiss her. He was tired of always doing the right thing. He always did and looked what it got him. Nothing. Not the woman he loved.
Slowly, he lowered his lips to hers, giving her time to back away if she wanted. She didn’t. He still held her chin and softly, tentatively, placed his lips on hers and pulled away a centimeter, savoring the feel of her lips. Soft and smooth. Lips he had dreamed of kissing for as long as he could remember.
He could see the frost from the their breath mingling, becoming one. He leaned in again, still tentative, searching for her consent. He started to pull away again but this time her hands wrapped around his neck and that was all the encouragement he needed. His hands found her waist and brought her closer to him. He hungered for her in a way he never hungered for any other woman. The woman he thought about for years was in his arms and kissing him back.
He could sense the kiss becoming more than he could handle, more than what was right, he needed to stop, hold back, even though he didn’t want to.
“Wow.” He breathed but kept holding her.
She rested her head in her his chest, her breathing heavy. “What was amazing.”
“Yeah.” Stephen smiled. Amazing indeed.
She looked up at him. “So, now what?”
He had no idea.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have encouraged you to kiss me. It was wrong, you have a girlfriend.” Caylee stepped out of this arms and he immediately felt the emptiness.
“Um, I’m pretty sure I kissed you.” Stephen raked his fingers through his hair. “I guess I need to break up with Sarah.”
Caylee’s eyes widened. “No.”
“Wait, what? Why not?” After that kiss she didn’t want to be with him?
“Think about it first. This was impulsive. You bought an engagement ring for this girl. You can’t decide after one kiss you should break up with her. I just got out of a relationship. I think we both need to think so we don’t ruin anything.” Caylee looked so serious. But she was right. Maybe this was a curiosity thing and his feelings would go away after a couple of days.
“Okay, you’re right.” But his heart wouldn’t be changing, it never had. He had settled for Sarah, never believing this moment with Caylee would transpire. He didn’t want to push her, not this time because this time was the right time.