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Authors: Toni Blake

You Send Me

BOOK: You Send Me
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You Send Me
Toni Blake

 

 

Toni Blake
You Send Me

Contents

Chapter One

“This is Beboppin’ Bernard on KMOO, and get ready to…

Chapter Two

After lunch at the shiny new Moose Falls Restaurant next…

Chapter Three

Millie strode around the lake’s edge toward the boathouse, Betsy…

Chapter Four

Millie wrapped her cardigan tighter around her as she walked…

Chapter Five

The following afternoon, Betsy worked a crossword puzzle on one…

Chapter Six

That night found Millie in a canoe with Johnny, gliding…

Chapter Seven

The coming nights were like dreams. The days were less…

Chapter Eight

The following morning Millie was awash with emotions.

Chapter One

August 1957

“This is Beboppin’ Bernard on KMOO, and get ready to swoon, girls, ’cause here’s the fella everybody’s talkin’ about—Elvis Presley!”

As the Anderson family station wagon rambled past the small sign that read,
WELCOME TO MOOSE FALLS, MONTANA
, the low, jaunty bass rhythm of “Don’t Be Cruel” filled the car. Millie glanced across the backseat to her younger sister, Betsy, and they exchanged private smiles.

Of course, that’s when her father reached to turn it down. He hated Elvis. Millie rolled her eyes, and Bet scowled her agreement.

“We’re finally here,” their dad’s voice boomed from the front. “And look at that gorgeous lake!”

Both girls and their mother peered out the windows, and much as Millie might have liked to deny it, the view was breathtaking.

“Can we swim in it?” Betsy asked.

“I think it’ll be too cold this far north,” he replied doubtfully, “but there’ll still be plenty to do.”

Millie shifted her weight in the backseat and crossed her arms.
We’ll see about that.
Her father’s business trip to Montana was supposed to be doubling as a family trip to celebrate Millie’s graduation from Rockford College two months ago, but driving all the way across the country from Chicago hadn’t felt like much fun so far. And even if the place was lovely, it also promised what she already had far too much of in her life: isolation.

She was twenty-two, after all—twenty-two going on twelve.

Harold Anderson was a loving father, but he had a stifling way of keeping his daughters sheltered, letting them experience only the parts of the world he deemed fit. Catholic school, followed by the women’s college he’d selected for Millie, had carried her to adulthood without ever even having a boyfriend. And sure, she’d had dates for the prom, and for her college homecoming, but the kisses she’d received so far had left her nearly as bored as the rest of her existence did. Starch-collared know-it-alls; those were the only guys to ever cross her narrow path. She’d never met a boy like…well, a boy like Elvis, whose mere voice made her heart beat harder and her thighs quiver.

The station wagon pulled into a gravel lot before a long, bright white building sporting a row of red doors. The neon sign—not lit now since it was just past noon—marked the spot as the Grizzly Bear Motel and featured a clawed bear’s paw painted next to the words. “Looks brand-new,” her dad happily announced. “Stay here and I’ll get us checked in.”

Millie watched her father walk briskly around the corner of the building toward the office, then said to her mother over the seat, “Can Bet and I get out?” Ridiculous, she realized as she posed the question, that a girl—no, a woman—her age should have to ask such a silly question. But sadly, that was her life.

Her mother glanced around, appearing hesitant, then finally said, “I suppose.”

Both girls hurried out into the bright sunlight beneath a
cloudless blue sky. “Ah,” Millie breathed as the sun hit her face. Too much car travel. Too much time cooped up with her family. She loved them, but she needed a life of her own, badly, and she simply had no idea how to get it.

Her older sister, Annette, had married a neighbor boy her father had always liked, and they lived in a house only a block from home. But Millie had no neighbor boy. And no desire to live on the next block. What Millie had was a teaching degree, and a yearning to get far away from the house she’d grown up in.

She’d applied for a program through her college that placed teachers in the poor Appalachian region—she wanted to teach, she wanted to help people, and she wanted to see a different way of life beyond her tidy Chicago suburb. But her father had pressured her not to go, claiming he needed her to take over for his departing secretary and adding that he couldn’t bear the idea of her being so far away. Plus he was friends with Herb Stansel, who ran the program, and she suspected he’d asked Mr. Stansel to hold up her application.

She let out a sigh as she rounded the car to Betsy’s side—poor Bet, only fifteen, and by the time
she
was grown up, Father would be even
worse
.

“Look,” Betsy said then, sounding wary.

Millie followed her sister’s eyes—toward the pristine mountain lake, and to the quaint boathouse elevated over the water in the distance. But she barely saw the building’s crisp red roof or the row of canoes lining the dock. No, she saw exactly what Betsy did. A dark-haired boy—no,
man
—in a snug white T-shirt. Even from that distance, she noticed the pack of cigarettes rolled into his sleeve and the tattoo on his arm underneath.

When he saw them staring, he looked back.

And a strange ache crept up her inner thighs.

Oh my. Maybe Moose Falls wouldn’t be so boring, after all.

Chapter Two

A
fter lunch at the shiny new Moose Falls Restaurant next door, they unpacked. Millie and Betsy took turns in the bathroom shedding their skirts for pedal pushers and saddle oxfords, and their mother donned a straw hat to keep the sun off her face while their father assembled fishing gear. “Carl Allen is taking me fly-fishing while we talk business,” he said, packing a fishing vest with a variety of lures and bobs.

Millie knew Mr. Allen owned land south of here in Whitefish, where he wanted to build a resort. Her father was a successful real estate developer, and though most of his projects were in the Midwest, this opportunity had interested him enough to make the drive—and to pretend it was a graduation trip for Millie. Although Whitefish was at least an hour away by car, they were staying in Moose Falls since Mr. Allen lived nearby.

“I saw some chairs over by the water,” her father said. “Let’s go outside and enjoy the view.” And like the family of troupers they were, the females all followed after him, one by one.

They settled near the lake’s edge in metal chairs painted white, then looked out on the beauty of it all. And that
quickly, Millie couldn’t deny that there
was
something special here—a tranquility she’d never quite experienced.

Yet at the same time, her eyes kept straying…toward the boathouse. Toward the boy. She watched as he helped a young couple into a long, green canoe and sent them sailing peacefully over the water’s glassy surface.

“Charlene is quitting to get married in just three weeks, Millie,” her father said. “So you’ll come into the office for a week of training after we get home.”

“Okay,” she replied. Now her fellow in the tight T-shirt lit a cigarette and blew a plume of smoke up into the air, looking dangerously handsome.

“If you still want to be a teacher in a few years, I can help you find a position near home. But by that time, you’ll likely be ready to get married yourself.”

“Mmm hmm,” she answered absently. Then watched the guy haul a crate from the dock into the building. The muscles on his arms bulged and she wished she could see his tattoo.

Just then, a fancy blue Cadillac pulled to a stop on the road above them. Millie’s father pushed to his feet and went to shake hands through the car window, saying, “Carl, good to see you.”

“You too, Harold. And what a lovely family you have. I trust you found the place okay.”

But like everything else, the small talk faded into the background for Millie, because her thighs were tingling again. It was both thrilling and…strangely frightening. She’d only seen guys like this on street corners in rougher parts of town. And she’d never really
looked
at them—because they were scary, and she was usually in a car with her father at the time and didn’t want him to witness her dark fascination with boys so different from any she’d ever known. Now she tried not to let her fascination with
this
boy show, but she simply couldn’t take her eyes off him.

Especially when he exited the boathouse and his eyes landed directly on her, too—and stuck.

Of course, he could be looking at the whole group of them, or Mr. Allen’s shiny car—but no, she felt it. His gaze. On her. Dark. Delicious. And oh so new and exciting.

“Why don’t you bring the family along, Harold?” she vaguely heard Mr. Allen suggest. “The fishing creek runs right behind my house, and my wife would love the company.”

After a few oh-no-we-couldn’t-impose type statements, her father finally asked, “What do you say, girls? Want to come along?”

Millie bit her lip, felt her heart hammering beneath her aching breasts, and turned toward her father, driven to boldness for the first time in her life. “Not that I wouldn’t love to meet Mr. Allen’s wife, but…couldn’t Betsy and I stay here and go canoeing? The views here are so spectacular—I need to see more.”

Chapter Three

M
illie strode around the lake’s edge toward the boathouse, Betsy trudging behind. “Why do we have to go canoeing anyway? We don’t even know
how
to canoe. What if we fall in and drown?”

Determined and resolute, Millie kept her answer simple. “Life isn’t worth living if you don’t occasionally experience something new.”
Like coming face-to-face with a guy who makes your body race with excitement.
She was afraid, of course—since there was a
reason
she was supposed to stay away from boys like this one—but she had to do it. She simply
had
to. So she kept walking, not letting herself slow down even as she drew nearer and he came more clearly into view—because if she slowed down, she might stop. And for once in her life, she had to go barreling full steam ahead, come what may.

As they neared the boathouse, she could hear Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers singing “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” on a transistor radio propped against the building. The sun beat down, almost hot now, and she began to sweat. She was hardly in love, but she was definitely in…something.

She and Betsy ventured out onto the dock, but her
dangerous boy was nowhere to be seen. For some reason, that made her heart beat even harder.

That’s when she felt someone’s eyes on her—definitely not Betsy’s—and turned to find
him
. He leaned comfortably against the doorway of the boathouse, his muscular arms crossed. His hair was combed back into a ducktail, with one wayward lock dipping across his forehead, somehow making him look even
more
devil-may-care. And his warm green eyes…swallowed her. “What can I do for you?” he asked, smooth and deep.

Her heart pounded and she feared her nipples might show through her bra and blouse. “I…
we
—want to go canoeing,” she managed. Then held out the money her father had given her for the excursion.

His gaze flicked to Betsy, and Millie almost got the impression it was the first time he’d noticed she wasn’t alone.

His eyes returned to her just as quickly, though—even if they drifted down a bit, seeming to peruse her body. It should have horrified her, but it didn’t. Instead it only increased the tingling sensation skittering through her underwear. He raised his gaze back up to say, “You ever done this before?”

She swallowed, hard. Get hot and bothered? Or get in a canoe? The answer to both was the same. “No,” she managed.

When their eyes met once more, his look almost made her think he could read her thoughts. Then he motioned to a bin filled with orange life jackets. “Well, you’ll need those. And a few instructions.”

Millie tore her gaze away and padded uneasily past him to select a life vest, Betsy following suit. As she tried to concentrate on getting the belts fastened, then tightened—challenging since she was suddenly so nervous—he explained how to guide the canoe.

And then he was passing an oar into her hand and—oh
my, moving behind her, reaching around her from either side to show her how to hold it. She could barely breathe he was so close, his arms touching hers, and chills of pleasure raced down her spine. She glanced up to see Betsy staring, mouth open, eyes wide.

“You want the blade to slice into the water like this,” he said, showing her the correct motion. And she tried to pay attention, but mostly all she could focus on was how good he smelled: musky, masculine…hot.

When finally he released her, she turned toward him—but she’d forgotten how close the move would bring their faces. Despite how unattractive she would normally feel in a big orange life jacket, she once again felt frozen in place by his eyes.

“I’m Johnny, by the way,” he told her, voice low. “Johnny Pickett.”

“M-Millicent Anderson,” she returned. “But people call me Millie.”

“Millie. That’s cute.” His mouth quirked into a slight grin. “You be careful out on the water now, Millie. And I’ll be here waiting when you get back.”

He
would
be? What did
that
mean?

Then it hit her. Flirting. He was flirting with her. She just wasn’t used to it.

But she liked it. So she let herself smile at him. And felt the sensation trickle down through her like a cool drink of water on a blistering hot summer day.

Once she and Betsy were out on the lake, away from the boathouse, Bet craned her neck around to flash a disapproving look. “What were you doing flirting with that man? Are you out of your gourd?” Apparently her little sister was quicker to recognize flirting than she was.

But it hardly mattered—Millie remained lost in remembering his eyes, and his slight touch. Her whole body practically sizzled with a giddiness she’d never felt before. “You don’t
think he’s dreamy?” she asked her little sister. They both liked Elvis, after all—so didn’t Bet see the dark appeal Johnny Pickett held as well?

Betsy blinked, clearly taken aback by the very suggestion. Yet then her lips pursed slightly. “Well, he has a handsome enough face, I suppose, but…did you see his arm? He has a tattoo! And he smokes cigarettes!”

The tattoo, Millie had noticed, was of an eagle. “That doesn’t make him a horrible person.”

“Well, it makes him a
scary
one.”

Millie couldn’t help but laugh. Any other day of her life, she’d have agreed. She’d applied the same word to him in her mind, after all. But now something about Johnny Pickett thrilled her much more than frightened her.

Of course, it had only been a little flirtation. And she hadn’t even done very well at it. So it was probably over—a thought that made her shoulders slump heavily.

But it still felt amazing just to know he thought she was attractive, worth flirting
with
. And to have walked over here with the secret and sole intent of meeting him had left her feeling a strange sort of accomplishment. Maybe for other girls, this sort of thing came easy, but for her—despite being a grown woman—it was brand-new.

Then a fresh thought hit her. “You can’t tell Mother and Father,” she warned.

Her sister let out a put-upon sigh but said, “You know I won’t.”

“Thanks, Bet,” she replied, giving her little sis a smile. “Besides, it was nothing, over as soon as it began, so no harm done.”

“I guess. But we’ll be here a week. You’d better be careful around him.”

Millie bit her lip at the reminder. Yes, she’d just decided it was probably over already, but they
would
be here for a whole week, and who knew what that week could hold?
More excitement? More of those hot, tender aches that were starting to feel too delicious?

When the two girls brought the canoe gliding back up alongside the dock an hour later, true to his word, Johnny was there to greet them, grabbing hold of the boat, then anchoring his boot inside to steady it as they climbed out. He offered Millie a hand and she didn’t hesitate to take it, the small touch again sending ripples of desire coursing through her.

“How’d you do?” he asked after hefting the canoe to the dock.

She was struggling to get her life jacket undone, but lifted her gaze to his. “Um, I think I got the hang of it.”

“Good,” he said warmly, the one simple word seeming to hold a secret. Then he glanced over at Betsy, who was out of her life vest and dropping it back in the bin across the dock. “How about you? Have fun?”

Appearing afraid to even speak to him, Betsy only nodded.

He laughed slightly in response. Then noticed Millie still fighting to get out of her life jacket—there was a knot in one of the white belts. His voice came low. “Let me.”

She sucked in her breath as his hands came up near her chest to calmly, surely work at the knot. But it took a while, during which Millie could barely breathe as she studied him, first his hands, so close to her breasts, then the stubble on his chin, a small scar near his right eye. Her stomach swam with…pure want. Perhaps it was shameful, but she couldn’t deny it.

When finally the knot came undone, she waited for him to release the life jacket from his grip—but he didn’t. Instead he only leaned even closer and whispered, “Come back tonight, after dark.”

What?
“W-why? What happens after dark?”

“Come find out,” he rasped near her ear.

Then let her go.

She could barely feel the dock beneath her shoes as she walked away.

Of course, she
couldn’t
come back. Even if she was brave enough, she’d never be able to get away from her parents alone.

But then she remembered her own thoughts from a little while ago, about what the week could hold. Now it was suddenly about what the
night
would hold. More excitement? More of those delicious, tender aches?

If only…

If only she could get back here somehow.

BOOK: You Send Me
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