Another Chance on Love

By CL Rowell

Romance, New adult fiction, Young adult

Paperback, eBook

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7 mins

Chapter One: Brandon

   Brandon studied the small white colonial with the contrasting black shutters like it was his first visit - as if he hadn’t been there countless times before. What little saliva he had left evaporated. His mouth and throat felt as parched and dry as the west coast desert in the middle of a drought as he drove up the sparkling white circular drive to the imposing blood red front door. He swallowed hard and wiped each hand on the slippery material of his dress pants, gripping the steering wheel tightly with the opposite hand as he did.
   Heaven forbid he swerve and flatten a shrub! Sighing, he grimaced at the dark smears left by his sweaty palms. Should have wiped them on the rough cloth seats beneath his ass. Smooth move, Ex-Lax, he snarled inside his head, that’ll make a great impression, won’t it? Puffing out a shaky breath and tugging at the stiff collar of the heavily starched and ironed dress shirt he wore, he fought the urge to raise his arms and sniff his pits.
   “I’m here for Melody…” He shook his head and coughed. Too abrupt and high pitched. He sounded scared. “Hi, Mr. H, I’m here to pick up your daughter.” Nope. “Good evening, Sir. I’m here to pick up Melody for the prom.” Beads of sweat gathered on his forehead. One dripped into his eye. It stung. Cursing, he rubbed the offended eye with his fist, before blotting his forehead with a napkin he found in the valley between the seats. Why am I so nervous? He laughed, shaking his head. He knew the answer. This was the night - the night they were supposed to go all the way. Melody had finally turned eighteen the previous month, a couple months after he had - they were adults now. Besides, everyone knew they were gonna tie the knot one day - after college, after they had jobs and could afford their own place. It was time to move their relationship forward. Or at least that’s what Melody said.
   He pulled up behind Mrs. Halston’s maroon Honda Civic and placed the gearshift of his old blue and rust Chevy pickup in park. Turning the key in the ignition, he pocketed the small silver keyring and winced as the motor spit and sputtered for several seconds before finally wheezing into grudging silence. Glancing into the visor mirror, he straightened his tie and stared hard into his reflection and his familiar blue eyes. Would they know? Would they be able to tell? Nerves dotted his flushed face with more moisture. Did he look guilty? He studied his reflection. More nervous than anything, he decided. Reassured, he opened the door, grabbed the corsage box from the passenger seat, and slid to the ground.
   The sweet fragrance of roses in bloom tickled his nose. Mrs. Halston loved her roses. They were everywhere - climbing the walls of the stately white colonial, crowding the borders of countless flowerbeds that accented and separated the front and back yards, draping the fences along the horse pasture like the colorful Pashmina scarves the upper-class ladies adorned their necks with every spring. The heady fragrance overwhelmed him a little, and he fought back a sneeze.
   As he straightened his charcoal grey tuxedo jacket, he glanced around for Mr. Halston’s large white Silverado 2500. It wasn’t in the drive! His heart pounded, but before his hopes rose too high, he spotted the tail end peeking out of the barn behind the house. He felt his whole body droop. Was he in for another not so subtle conversation about the older man’s gun collection? It used to intimidate him, back in his sophomore and junior years, but not as much anymore. He was a man now - and Melody was a woman. They had yet to go all the way, but that didn’t mean they’d been totally chaste through the years. They’d done things over the course of their relationship - and the old fuck never had an inkling of it. He grinned, snickering, then quickly wiped it away, lest the older man be watching. Maybe he didn’t have an inkling, but that didn’t mean he was stupid. That was why Melody usually instigated…okay, always instigated - Mr. Halston was scary. He’d been a Marine for twenty years, signed up right out of high school, and his demeanor showed it. He kept his silver streaked brown hair cut short in the military style, stood tall and ramrod straight, shoulders back, or at parade rest, arms behind his back, at all times - he never slouched, ever. Brandon wasn’t even sure he could.
   Checking his breath by cupping his hand in front of his face and exhaling, Brandon sighed and approached the door before they could come looking for him.
   “Bout time you made your way over here.” The cherry red glow winking in the dark shadows of the porch alerted Brandon to the presence of Melody’s dad at about the same time that the wind shifted direction and wreathed him in tendrils of sweet smelling smoke from the cheroots the retired soldier favored after meals.
   “Is she ready?”
   He fought the urge to roll his eyes. “Then why does it matter how long I took to head this way?”
   “Gives us time to talk.”
   “About your impressive gun collection and what will happen to me if I lay a finger on your little girl?”
   “Nope.” He patted the cushion beside him. “Have a seat.”
   “All due respect, but I’d rather stand. I’m a bit nervous…Mel wants to dance tonight.”
   “Can’t dance?”
   “I can dance,” he defended himself, “I just don’t like to in crowds.”
   “Yeah, I know what you mean. I’m the same way.”
   “Wow, I didn’t think anything phased you.” Brandon relaxed a bit.
   “Didn’t say it phased me. Said I knew what you meant.” Brandon could see his scowl in the amber glow of the thin cigar. In an abrupt change of subject, he demanded, “Gonna be any drinking at this prom?”
   “Just sodas and fruit punch.”
   “Don’t get smart with me, boy.”
   “I’m not! You asked if there was going to be drinking, and I told you what we’d be drinking.”
   “I know how these things are. My prom wasn’t that long ago. I expect you to take care of my little girl; keep her safe.”
   Brandon nodded, swallowing hard. “I will.”
   “Sample the punch before every glass. If it tastes funny, don’t give it to her. Understand?”
   “I understand.”
   “Good. I’ll go check and see if she’s ready.”

Chapter Two: Melody

   Melody squinted at her reflection in the frosted lighting over the bathroom mirror. She’d spent most of the afternoon at the salon - makeup, hair, polish on her fingers and toes. She had even sprung for a Brazilian. Squeezing her thighs together, she winced. Maybe that hadn’t been such a bright idea. Her lady bits still tingled and prickled - almost like that time, a couple summers back, when she and her best friend Brittney had fallen asleep, nude, in the late morning sun. Brittney’s parents had been out of town for the weekend, so they agreed to swim and tan, sans suits, to avoid tan lines. Brittany had passed out on her stomach, but she’d stayed on her back…legs spread open like the frogs in their biology class. The next few days had proven excruciating for both of them, in slightly different ways.
   Shaking her head, she shook off the memory and studied her face. Was her eyeshadow too dark? She leaned in closer. Did the blusher make her look slutty? Her mom had showered her in compliments, but it didn’t mean much when the older woman had a bit of a heavy hand, herself. She shrugged a bare shoulder and sighed. Maybe it sounded harsh, but if you’ve been propositioned, mistaken for a hooker, on multiple occasions, and you still slathered on the makeup with a trowel, you’re not quite qualified to give your eighteen-year-old daughter makeup pointers.
   It had been an uphill battle at the salon, with her mother, Charlene, pushing the young cosmetologist to apply yet another layer of eyeshadow or another coat of mascara and Melody shaking her head and refusing to sit still for it.
   “I want more Taylor Swift, less Taylor Momsen,” she finally snapped. “I don’t like heavy shadows and liner like that. I don’t have the face or personality to pull it off. I’ll look like a clown – or a little girl playing dress up.”
   “But I want you to get your money’s worth, baby girl,” Charlene whined at her.
   “Momma - “ She caught the older woman’s eyes with hers and shook her head, “Stop it. I know the look I’m going for. We’re going to be dancing, it’s gonna be stuffy inside the gym…do you really think I’ll look good with heavy dark makeup streaking down my face?”
   The girl perked up, “Our makeup doesn’t - ”
   She whipped her head around and glared until the girl dropped her gaze, wisely holding her tongue. “I want a bit of powder to set everything, and a swipe of pink gloss. I’m paying you - she isn’t. You do what I ask. Okay?” The girl nodded, and she added, holding out her hand and admiring her manicure, “Toss in a tube of the gloss and whatever this color is that’s on my nails, too. It’s adorable.”
   On the way home, they detoured by the mall, so she could take one more peek at the shoes, and she was glad they had. She found the perfect pair at a tiny little boutique that had only opened within the month. They were silver, and sparkly, with a two-inch heel. They couldn’t be better, even if she’d had them special ordered - and they fit her foot like they were made for her by a fairy godmother.
   Stepping back from the bathroom mirror, she took in the whole picture, wanting to look perfect for Brandon. Had she succeeded? She turned, checking out every angle. Her pale blond hair was in ringlets, piled high on her head, and her makeup was understated, just like she wanted it. The silvery lace dress hung from delicate spaghetti straps and hugged her breasts and waist before flaring out into an uneven handkerchief hem, giving little glimpses of her stocking-clad legs and leading the eye down to her beautiful crystal-encrusted heels. Pulling a soft light grey cashmere shawl around her shoulders, she smiled. Just like a fairytale princess.
   A knock sounded at the door and a familiar voice announced, “Melody…that boy is here.” She smiled. They’d been dating for three years now, but her father still refused to say his name. It was always that boy this and that boy that. He hated the fact that she dated, and he hated her having a steady boyfriend even more. “Are you almost finished in there? I can send him on ahead and bring you later…”
   “That’s okay, Daddy - I’m almost done. I’ll be right behind you.” Quickly dabbing her favorite fragrance onto her pulse points, she gathered her phone and her purse, and opened the door.
   “You look beautiful.” Glancing up, she met her father’s damp gaze. He never cried…not even once in the eighteen years she’d been alive, that she could recall. A chill trickled down her spine and she shivered.
   “Daddy, are you alright?”
   “I’m fine.”
   “But…” She touched a finger to the area below his eye and he flinched away. “You’re crying.”
   “I am not.” He scowled and rubbed both eyes with his knuckles like a little boy. “It’s just - you took me by surprised. With every year that passes, you remind me more and more of Susan.”
   “Aunt Susan?” He nodded. Susan was his younger sister, and a late life surprise for their parents. She’d developed pancreatic cancer when she was almost twenty-one. By the time they’d found it, it was already spreading and too far advanced to even hope for survival. The doctors gave her one month to live. She made it two. He’d been ten years older, and in the middle of his military career. Stationed in Hawaii, his wife and child by his side, he was lucky to make it back home to see his parents and sister once a year for Christmas. He made it home for her, though. At four years old, Melody had blurry memories of a smiling blond with golden green eyes like hers. She’d felt a special connection with her aunt Suzy, and she’d been inconsolable for several days after they laid her to rest in the family plot. A wave of sadness blurred her vision as she pictured the young woman.
   “Hey, hey, none of that. You’ll mess up your makeup and your mom will never forgive me.” Her father dabbed at her eyes. “Brandon will think I’ve been mean to you and might do or say something stupid.”
   Her eyes flew to meet his, wide with surprise.” You said his name.”
   “Guess I did.” His smile was a little crooked. Grasping her fingers, he tugged her toward the stairs. “I blame you. You look so dang grown up, I got confused.”
   “Well, I am eighteen.” She giggled and stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek.
   “Don’t remind me.” He grumbled, leading the way downstairs. “Not that it makes a difference - you’ll always be my little girl, no matter how old you are.”
   Midway down the stairs, she stopped, catching sight of Brandon in his tux. Her breath caught in her throat. He was gorgeous. Not that he wasn’t, usually…because he was. His laughing sapphire blue eyes and sun streaked dirty blond hair that just brushed his shoulders, those deep slashing dimples and a blindingly bright white smile that would fit right in on the big screen. Add to that his long lanky six-foot frame, and the defined muscles of an underwear model, and you had male beauty personified in one glorious package. But, in that tux…she felt her heart pounding out of her chest as their eyes met. In the tux, he was breathtaking, sex on a stick gorgeous. And he was hers.



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