Authors: Wendi Zwaduk
A Total-E-Bound Publication
You’ll Think of Me
©Copyright Wendi Zwaduk 2010
Cover Art by Lyn Taylor ©Copyright November 2010
Edited by Jess Bimberg
This is a work of fiction. All characters, places and events are from the author’s imagination and should not be confused with fact. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, events or places is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form, whether by printing, photocopying, scanning or otherwise without the written permission of the publisher, Total-E-Bound Publishing.
Applications should be addressed in the first instance, in writing, to Total-E-Bound Publishing. Unauthorised or restricted acts in relation to this publication may result in civil proceedings and/or criminal prosecution.
The author and illustrator have asserted their respective rights under the Copyright Designs and Patents Acts 1988 (as amended) to be identified as the author of this book and illustrator of the artwork.
Published in 2010 by Total-E-Bound Publishing, Think Tank,
This book contains sexually explicit content which is only suitable for mature readers. This story has been rated
YOU’LL THINK OF ME
To CM and the girls from GIW for the endless hours of critiquing.
For Kevin, so I owe you another one…
To JPZ, You’ll Think of Me as long as I’m thinking about you—forever.
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
Formica: The Diller Corporation
Lear: Bombardier Aerospace
: Hallmark Cards, Inc.
Diet Coke: The Coca-Cola Company
“I’m still his housemate, not his personal chauffeur.”
Melanie Roberts waited by the ticket counter at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport for her friends to arrive. Waiting by the gates ensured she’d see them faster than if she waited on the lower level by the baggage claims. She mumbled to herself as she gazed at the empty gateway. “I don’t know why I let him talk me into this.” A woman turned, glaring at Melanie who shrugged. “Who am I kidding? I can’t wait for Cade to return.”
The air in the terminal enveloped her in a personal sauna. What happened to the high-dollar air-conditioning system mentioned in the local newspaper? She fanned herself, trying to remember whether she put on deodorant this morning. Beads of sweat trickled between her breasts and dampened her bra. She blew out a puff of air and tucked her humidity-frizzed hair back under her hat.
An announcer interrupted
her private sweltering.
“Flight two-two-three-three from Dulles is on a thirty-minute delay due to heavy thunderstorms. Repeat, flight two-two-three-three from Dulles is on a thirty-minute delay.”
Melanie removed her ball cap. She ran a shaky hand through her hair. Her ruby ring caught on a few strands and she cursed under her breath. She replaced the tattered hat and tucked her hair under the frayed edges. Her heart thudded, making it hard to breathe. Her boys, Cade and Rhett, weren’t on that particular flight. She checked the nearby screen. Flight one-five-two-seven from
Any time now, guys…
In the distance, someone’s cell phone played an old country tune, ‘He Loved Me’, and took her back to a time when things had been much simpler and her heart hadn’t been broken. She hummed a few bars and scanned the crowd once more.
The image of Cade and the words to the song stuck fast in her mind.
If he hadn’t cheated, he’d still be mine…
She fidgeted with the ruby ring and fought off the anxiousness that naturally came when she waited for him to return from a deployment. Nervous energy sizzled through her veins as she cracked her knuckles. She didn’t know what else to do with her hands when she couldn’t watch the world through the safety of her camera lens.
Where were they?
A barrage of laughter rang in Melanie’s ears and a shimmer of excitement slipped through her. She knew that baritone—Staff
Rhett Ione. “Give me sugar, Melanie!”
Opening her arms, she turned. “Rhett! How’s my guy?”
Crushing her in his grasp, he whirled her around. “You make coming home a blast, little girl!”
When he plopped her back onto her feet, she continued to clutch his biceps. “I missed you, but where is Cade? I thought you got leave together?”
Rhett tucked a loose lock of hair behind her ear. “Leave, yes. The same flight, no. Cade flew out of Germany and I came straight from the Gulf.”
Embarrassed by her lack of tact, she averted her gaze. Rhett tipped her chin. “Hey, I know you missed me, but you have a thing for him. But I’m still one of your best friends and only passing through. Chill. He’s due to land—” he glanced at his all-weather watch, “—in a moment or two.”
Melanie sighed. She opened her mouth to speak, when a voice from behind interrupted her.
Ginnifer Larkin stood a foot away and narrowed her green eyes. “Are you here to give them a ride?” She folded her arms and shifted her weight. The pale yellow sundress clung to her slender figure and accentuated her pert breasts. Her silky caramel-coloured hair fell around her shoulders.
Why the hell did Cade’s fuck-friend have to show up? Melanie forced a smile to her lips. “I’m taking them home, yes.” Speaking under her breath so no one but Rhett would hear, she mumbled. “Just like an ex would…”
Ginnifer chewed her ruby-red bottom lip. “We never broke up, you know.” Her eyes lit up and a smile brightened her heart-shaped face. “You’re home!”
When Melanie tried to turn, a pair of strong arms enfolded her and restricted her movement. Warm breath tickled her cheek and the scratch of day-old whiskers abraded her neck. While her legs turned to jelly, her heart raced. Desire pooled low in her belly.
“I missed you, Melly.”
Melanie shivered and let his bass voice rumble in her ears. Every nerve ending in her body stood at attention as his woodsy scent wrapped around her. She turned to stare into the most intense set of chocolate brown eyes. She’d wait an entire lifetime for this picture-perfect man. “
Nicholson,” she whispered.
Someone taped Melanie on the shoulder. “Excuse me.”
Melanie recognised the voice and ignored Ginnifer. She was too lost in Cade to care.
cupped her jaw, giving her his famous crooked grin that never failed to make her blood pressure surge and her nipples harden. “How’s my girl?”
Shoving between Cade and Melanie, Ginnifer planted crimson lip prints all over his cheek. “I’m fine, Cade. I missed you, too. I’m so glad you’re safe.”
As he caught Ginnifer in a one-armed hug, Cade never took his eyes off Melanie. He clenched his jaw. “Hi, Ginn. You didn’t need to drive all the way out here to see us, but I’m glad you did.”
“Heather James said she heard you’d be coming home.” Ginnifer giggled. Her voice came out in the high-pitched squeak of a child. “I wanted to see you. The newspapers said you were nearly killed.”
Stepping back, Cade released Ginnifer. His brows wrinkled. He wiped his cheek with the heel of his hand. “But, Ginny, we split over a year ago. You told me you couldn’t love a man in uniform. Did you change your mind?”
Tears moistened her cheeks. Ginnifer fluttered her hand in the air. “It just scares me when you go away. I’m afraid you’ll be hurt or killed and I’ll never see you again.”
Melanie groaned. Ginn would have to show up expecting immediate attention. Damn the man’s need for so many lovers.
Rhett sauntered up to Cade. “I heard you tell him those exact words, Ginn. I thought you two were over.”
Ginnifer smoothed her hair away from her face as she pressed her lips together and stepped up to Cade. She shoved her breasts out, rubbing her turgid nipples on his chest. “Well, I didn’t mean it. But why didn’t you tell Melanie we’re patching things up? I mean, she drove all the way out here for nothing.”
Cade exchanged a confused glance with Rhett, who gripped Melanie in a tight hug. “I wasn’t sure if we were getting back together. I’m sorry.”
Rhett kissed Melanie’s temple and whispered, “Ignore her.”
Melanie clamped her mouth shut. If she said anything, it’d be something she’d regret. But ignoring Ginnifer-
-Larkin wouldn’t happen.
Inching towards her, Cade clasped Melanie’s hand. “Ginny, how was I to know your feelings, unless you told me? I planned to spend time with Melanie and Rhett.”
As she backed away, Ginnifer dropped her hands. “Well, when you’re ready to come back to me, I might be there, but then again, I might not be. Who knows?” She flipped her highlighted tresses over her shoulder, spun on her heel and strode away.
Cade closed his eyes and scrubbed a hand over his face. “I’m sorry you witnessed that, Melanie. Although I’m not sure why she showed up. We had some good times, but nothing too thrilling.”
Melanie wriggled from Rhett’s grasp. She wrapped her arms around Cade’s waist. “She keeps calling and looking for you. I sort of expected her to butt in.”
Rhett folded his arms. “Ginnifer has shitty timing, Cade. What you saw in her, I’ll never know.”
Cade stroked Melanie’s jaw with the pad of his thumb. “Look, I’ve had a long ride home. I’m whipped and don’t feel like dealing with much of anything. Let’s head home.”
Melanie grasped his T-shirt. “You’re right. We should get moving. I have a big surprise for you.”
“So let’s put the truck into drive.” Rhett’s muscle-corded arms curled around her, pressing her tightly into Cade’s solid chest. “I haven’t had a good threesome in years. You, me and Mel. What do you say?”
Without thinking, Melanie spoke “Since you asked, good idea.”
Cade’s lips hovered mere millimetres from hers and his breath feathered over her skin. “Good idea, indeed. But you never wanted to before. It’s not a joke if you offer.”
“Why don’t we talk about something else?” Melanie shifted so she could switch her gaze between Cade and Rhett to cool her fevered thoughts. Now wasn’t the time to discuss her true desires. Joke or not, she didn’t really want to share her affections. “I missed you guys!”
“I got two weeks of R&R, Mel. I don’t know about Cade, but by God, I’m ready to celebrate with a country girl before I head out to Kansas for my next assignment!” When Rhett kissed her temple, his permanent stubble chafed her skin, but she didn’t mind.
Twisting from the collective embrace, she eyeballed each man. Rhett could stop traffic with his rugged boy-next-door good looks, well-placed tattoos and electric blue eyes. None of that mattered. Cade commanded her full attention. His six-foot frame towered over her, though she never felt threatened. From his spiky black hair to his toned legs, he was her hero. If he only knew how wet she was with nothing more than a hug and husky words grazing her ear.
Melanie stood on her tippy-toes. She slid her hands along Cade’s body to cup the back of his head, partially to hug him, but more to make sure her Airman was real. Three months back, the national television news had reported brutal attacks, including the bombing which took their good friend Dell’s life.
After seeing the frontline footage, Melanie wondered how anyone made it through the incident without major injury. She thanked God each day no one came to her door to tell her Cade or Rhett were hurt. Although Cade stopped writing over three months ago, Rhett’s letters kept her up-to-date on the extent of Cade’s injuries and the progress of his recovery from the second bombing. Still, seeing Cade in the flesh reassured her more than all Rhett’s written words.
“It looks like you want a private moment, so I’ll go get the bags. Meet you here in five?” Rhett waved his hand before Melanie’s eyes. “Miss me when I’m gone?”
“Get moving, drama queen,” Cade muttered as Rhett ambled away. “Where were we?”
Melanie cocked her head and considered Cade a moment. The jovial light, which normally sparkled in his eyes, seemed dim. Maybe he was just tired and needed a long rest.
His arms laced tightly around her body, sending another hot rush along her nerve endings. Tears pricked her eyes. She wasn’t sure if she should smother him with kisses, belt him on the arm or a combination of both.
Why not tell him how she felt
? She licked her lips and swallowed hard to buy a moment to think. “Am I your girl? I doubt I’m enough to satisfy you.”
Cade shifted. His expression was stark. She chewed her bottom lip for a moment. She couldn’t quite pinpoint the problem, but something about Cade wasn’t right. He seemed stiff and despondent as he stared at the ground. Did he see something in Afghanistan he couldn’t shake? Or someone? She shoved the thought aside. “Cade, am I your only girl for this furlough?”
Although a sly grin curled the corner of his mouth, his gaze slid to the bank of windows to the left. “I could be convinced.”
Despite his odd behaviour, her heart skipped a beat. Melanie forged ahead with a revised version of her plan and tugged Cade and Rhett through the airport foyer. “I have an excellent idea on what we can do to celebrate, but I want to tell you both in the parking lot.”
He stopped moving and pulled her into an embrace. “So what’s this great surprise?”
The tips of her ears burned. “Wait until we get to the truck.”
“Did you want to go home and veg out like old times? Just me and you and one of your sappy black and white movies?” He smoothed his hands all over her back, sending shivers all over her skin. “I promise to stay awake through the whole thing and let you use my stomach for a pillow. I want to hear all about the pictures you’re working on. Tomorrow, we can goof around in the dark room and you can show me one more time how to—” he wiggled his brows, “—develop negatives.”
Hugging him closer, Melanie rubbed her cheek on his chest and inhaled his spicy scent. He’d changed, but in many ways, he was still the same rugged man with a healthy sex drive. She leant back in his embrace and traced the faded inch-long scar on his jaw with her index finger. “Black and white movies? Photograph developing? You always did know how to win my heart, Cade Nicholson.”
But you owned it to begin with…
With the crook of his brow, a bit of the light returned to his eyes. “Well, then let’s put it in gear and get home.”
“You said it.” Melanie nudged him towards the steps. She laced her fingers with Cade’s and strolled out of the terminal. Although it felt like old times, he wasn’t acting the same. “I know you’re wiped out, but you can talk to me. Tell me what’s on your mind. Is it Ginnifer? Or am I sweeping you off your feet with my beauty?”
Cade cleared his throat and nudged her forward. “We’ll discuss things later. I have a better idea what I’d like to do tonight—you.”
Her arms fell limp at her sides. “I see.” So maybe he wasn’t interested in taking the relationship further than the physical level. Although the thought crossed her mind to say the hell with it, she refused to back down.
As if to break the tension, Rhett strolled through the terminal doors. “What’s going on?” He shoved a bag into Cade’s arms and chuckled. “This is supposed to be a happy time, you two. I want to see smiles and I want to see them now!”
Melanie fiddled with the hoops in her earlobes. She’d love to know what went on in Cade’s mind, if he’d only let her in. She shrugged. “We’re fine. No worries, no cares.”
Rhett narrowed his eyes, clearly not buying her statement. “Right… Did you bring his truck?”
Whirling around, she clasped both hands over her mouth.
Ah, leave it to Rhett to change the mood.
She feigned shock. “I was supposed to drive here? Oh…well, we might have a problem.”