Home > Chance Encounters(14)

Chance Encounters(14)
Author: J. Sterling

There she goes again…walking out of my life for the second time this week, Jackson mumbled under his breath.

Her phone beeped and she looked down at the text message notification. “There has never been a more perfect lunch, or date. Thank you for today.”

She clutched the phone and pressed it against her heart, before typing out a quick response. “You’re the perfect one. Thank you for everything. Have a good flight and text me when you land so I know you’re safe. xoxo.”

Chapter Six

Caroline was curled up on the couch eating takeout when her phone rang. She saw that it was Clay and felt the slightest hint of disappointment. She quickly fought the emotion and answered cheerfully, “Hey, babe.”

“Hey! I’m leaving the office soon and I just wanted to know if you needed me to grab some dinner?” Caroline usually waited to eat when he got home, but had picked up food on her walk home from the office, her head lost in other thoughts.

“Shoot. I’m already eating. I’m sorry,” she said with a guilty conscience.

“No big deal,” Clay responded, his voice a little cold.

Caroline noted his tone. “I’m really sorry. I just wasn’t thinking.”

“It’s okay,” his tone lightened. “You’ve been a little off since Johnny died. I understand. I’ll see you in about a half an hour, okay?”

“’K. See you soon.”

When he finally walked through the door carrying a takeout bag from the Chinese restaurant down the street, he took one look at his girlfriend and smiled at her. “What are you smiling at?” she asked saucily.

“My smoking hot girlfriend,” he said as he sauntered toward her. He leaned his head down and kissed her passionately, almost falling onto the couch that held her.

When she closed her eyes to kiss her boyfriend of almost two years, all she could see in the darkness of her mind was Jackson’s face. No matter how much she tried to concentrate on Clay’s kiss, Jackson’s image wouldn’t fade.

Clay finally stopped kissing her before he looked in her eyes. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” she responded automatically, but completely freaked on the inside. Why did she see Jackson’s face when she kissed her boyfriend? What kind of girl does that?

“Are you okay?” Clay’s head cocked to one side.

Caroline laughed. “I’m fine. Sorry, just lost in thought for a minute.”

“What are you thinking about?”

Caroline knew she couldn’t tell him the truth. For the first time she could remember, she intentionally lied to Clay. “Nothing. Just work stuff.” She desperately wanted to change the subject. “How about you? How was work today?”

She was thankful when Clay took the bait and went on a detailed description about his day. He talked while he ate and she listened intently, while she fought to keep thoughts of Jackson out of her head.

When Clay finished, he threw out his trash and settled in next to her on the couch. It had been a while since he was home early enough to spend time with her, so he promised they could watch whatever she wanted on television.

“You’ll be sorry,” she laughed as she flipped through the channels to find her favorite show.

“Probably,” he admitted, “but I don’t care.”

She laid her head on his stomach and he wrapped his arms around her. Her phone beeped and she shot up to grab it. It was a text message from Jackson. “Home safe. Flight wasn’t the same without you on it. I miss you.” Her heart felt like it beat a million miles a minute.

“Who’s that?” Clay asked nonchalantly as he glanced up toward the clock.

Clay’s question slammed Caroline back into the real world; for the second time that night, she lied to her boyfriend. “Oh, it’s just Bailey.”

“Tell her I said hi,” Clay responded.

Caroline swallowed hard and tried to regain her composure. “Glad you’re safe. I miss you, too.” Caroline needed Jackson to know she couldn’t talk to him any further, so she added “Goodnight” and pressed Send.

After a few minutes passed with no response, Caroline leaned back into the comfort of Clay’s arms and lost herself in the television show. Clay ran his fingers through her long hair and kissed the top of her head from time to time. She never moved, pretending to be invested in whatever showed on the screen.

Clay’s phone rang and he gently nudged Caroline off of him before taking the call in the spare bedroom of their apartment. It was also their makeshift office and before long he poked his head around the bedroom door and said, “Care, I’ve got to do some work. I’m really sorry.”

She turned toward him and smiled. “Don’t be sorry; it’s okay.”

“You’re not upset?” Clay asked, his expression softening.

“Of course not.” She shook her head and smiled. “Your work never upsets me.”

“Thanks, hon.”

The office door closed and Caroline quickly opened up her cell phone to read the text messages from Jackson again. Then she read them one more time. She wanted to text Jackson just to get a response, but turned her phone off instead to curb the temptation.

She wondered how she could feel this way for someone she had just met? She had everything she ever wanted with Clay, so why was she consumed in all things Jackson? She desperately tried to make sense of her feelings. She longed for logic to take over and get her out of this mess, but her emotions wouldn’t have any of it. Her heart refused to let Jackson go and she knew she was in for a world of trouble.

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