Unleashed Ch. 10

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When morning finally came, Zoe rose early to slip away and quietly shower, careful not to wake him. And when she came back into the bedroom to pack, Tate’s eyes opened and he watched her silently preparing to leave him — quite possibly forever. Watching her zip up her suitcase, his heart having risen in his chest to his throat, felt like it was choking him.

Turning to find him awake, Zoe dropped onto the bed beside him, brushing back an errant strand of sandy-brown hair from his eyes. Heaving a resigned sigh she said, “So, I guess I should be going.”

Taking her hand in his, Tate pressed her fingers to his lips. “But you don’t have to go today. You know they won’t be back until tomorrow.”

She shook her head. “No, I think I should really head back home and find out what’s going on with my job.” Plus, it would hurt too much to drag it out any longer.

Seeing she’d her mind made up, Tate knew he had no choice but to let her go, though he hated the thought of it. “Well I hope it’s still there for you, providing that’s what you want.”

Studying his handsome features, perhaps for the very last time, she nodded. “I hope so, too.” Aware that if she stayed another minute, she wouldn’t be able to resist crawling back in bed with him and wrapping herself around him, she forced herself to say, “Why don’t you walk me to the door?”

Throwing back the covers, as Tate’s lean form sprang from the bed, Zoe had to bite back a moan at the sight of him. His penis standing proudly erect, lean hips, flat toned abs, and that nicely muscled chest, was all so breathtakingly male. She hungrily looked her fill, aware she wasn’t ever likely to see a more perfect specimen, no matter how long she lived. When she looked up at his face, the shadowy beard on his cheeks and those blue-green eyes that seemed to look right through her were so captivating, just the sight of him nearly had her weeping. Steeling her resolve, she picked up her purse, and he followed close behind carrying her bags to the door.

Standing at the front door with her, Tate touched his hand to her cheek and told her, “Just let me get dressed and at least take you to the bus depot, so I can see you off.”

Zoe shook her head, already dreading the inevitable. Leaving him would be hard enough without prolonging it. If only he wasn’t moving across the world, they might have had something, but since he was, she couldn’t see any hope of a future for them. Their memories would be all they’d have now, wonderful, heart-wrenching memories that she knew she’d carry with her forever.

Having thrown on his jeans and T-shirt, and shoved his feet into his canvas shoes, grabbing the keys, Tate insisted on at least walking her down to wait for a taxi. Outside on the sidewalk, his gaze locked on hers, Tate cupped her face in his hands, lowered his head and kissed her so tenderly, that Zoe nearly broke down and cried. It was all too much.

She wondered why it had to end like this, or even why it ever had to end at all. It just seemed so unfair. Meeting him like this, enjoying her time with him like no other time in her life, only to be pulled away by circumstances that neither of them had any control over. The pain in her heart was crushing, and she knew she had to go.

When a taxi pulled up at the curb, Zoe reached up and touched her hand to his cheek one last time. “Thank you for everything you’ve done for me, Tate. I know I’ll never forget you or what we’ve shared.” Her eyes shimmering with unshed tears, she slipped into the yellow cab. Part of her already kicking herself for not telling him how she really felt, but she knew it would only hurt more if she said the words, especially if he didn’t share her feelings. And since he’d never said anything about how he felt about her, she had to assume what she was feeling for him was totally one sided.

“God, I’ll miss you, Zoe,” he murmured hoarsely as he closed the door behind her.

Tate had to swallow hard as they waved each other off, watching the cab pull away and gradually blend into traffic. Damn this sucked. He’d fallen for her so hard that losing her was tearing his heart out. And if this was the last time he’d ever see her, he wondered if he’d ever be whole again, or if she was leaving and taking a part of him with her.

Even as he walked back upstairs to the empty apartment, he began to feel antsy, and could hardly wait to leave. Though Zoe had barely left, being on his own already felt unbearable. But he knew one of them had to stay to care for the cat and to be here when Becky and Robert got back, so it would have to be him. Glancing around the empty apartment, memories of her began to fill his head. And he shut his eyes, doing his damndest to try to push them away, his chest aching at the thought of finding the perfect woman and then losing her, all within a matter of weeks.

Just then the cat came out of hiding, and Tate bent to stroke its head, murmuring, “You know, Pussy, I can’t believe she’s really Porno gone.”

Tate awoke in the morning after a fitful night’s sleep to the sound of the apartment door being unlocked. His heart anxiously pounding in his chest, he was quick to throw on his jeans and a T-shirt, before he ran into the living room, desperately praying that Zoe had changed her mind and come back. But it was his brother Robert’s smile that greeted him, with his pretty new bride Becky being ushered in ahead of him.

Tate only hoped the disappointment he felt at seeing them instead of Zoe wasn’t showing on his face. Plastering on the best smile he could muster, he tried to force some enthusiasm into his voice as he said, “Hey, you two, welcome home. So, how was your trip?”

Robert closed the space between them in two quick strides, taking his brother’s hand he pulled him into a fierce hug. Slapping him on the back Tate could see how happy he was by his great big smile. “It was fantastic,” Robert told him, “Best time I’ve ever had.”

Becky just blushed and gave him a timid little wave from the door. Her own smile was far more coy as she said, “Hi, Tate.”

Seeing her looking so embarrassed had Tate chuckling. Of course they’d enjoyed themselves. They were young newlyweds in love, still on their honeymoon, and acting like it, too.

And suddenly in that moment, looking at the two of them so happy, he knew. He blinked his eyes as it struck him like a flash of lightning what should have occurred to him long before now.

He realized then, what he wanted more than anything was what they had – wanted it so much with Zoe he could actually taste it. Annoyed with himself, he slammed his eyes shut and shook his head. Now why couldn’t he have told her that? But then part of him wondered if it would even have made a difference if she knew how he felt, or if she’d left him no matter what.

His brother Robert looked curious as he craned his neck looking for signs of Zoe. Quietly, he said out of the side of his mouth, “So, how did you two make out?”

Refusing to let Becky know what he and her sister had been up to, Tate played dumb and asked, “Who me and the cat?”

“Yeah, you and Pussy,” Robert said with a smirk. “So, is she okay?”

“Of course, she’s fine. I saw her before I went to bed last night, when I gave some treats, so I’m sure she’s got to be around here somewhere.” At least he hoped she was, and she hadn’t snuck out again.

Becky started down the hallway calling out, “Pussy, come out, pet. Mommy and daddy are back.”

Tate chuckled. “She sure loves that cat, huh?”

“Yeah, she’s crazy about it.” Then with a crook of his finger, Robert gestured Tate to come closer, saying so only he could hear, “But never mind the cat, what happened with you and Zoe?”

Not really much to tell, Tate shrugged. “She went home.”

Robert glanced around the little living room. “You know when I walked in here, I was expecting to see the air mattress you told us about.” Tate’s eyes met his brother’s and they both began to smile. “So I take it there was never an extra bed?”

Tate shook his head and decided to be honest with him. “No, no extra bed.”

“So, what happened with you two?”

Heaving a sigh, Tate said, “I asked her to come to Brisbane with me, and she told me she couldn’t. And yesterday she left and went home.”

Robert shook his head. “Must be something in our Caldwell DNA; I know I took one look at Becky, and just knew. First time I saw her in a food court near our work she stood up, our eyes met, and bam, that was it. And the moment we got together it was like spontaneous combustion. I’d never experienced anything like it my life. So, no surprise, I asked her to move in with me that same week and I was gutted when she told me she couldn’t. Seems their folks are really old-school when it comes to premarital sex, and they’ve raised their daughters pretty strict. So, when she turned me down, I did the only thing I could do.”

Tate was staring at him curiously as he asked, “So, what did you do?”

Rolling his eyes, Robert gave him a look like he hadn’t been paying attention. “What do you think I did? I asked her to marry me. I knew I couldn’t live without her, so I told her how I felt and asked if she’d consider spending the rest of her life with me. And thank god she agreed.” He started to smile. “Otherwise, I sure as hell I wouldn’t be walking around right now with this big dumb grin on my face.”

Blowing out an exasperated breath, Tate slowly began to shake his head. Right then he knew he’d screwed up. Having heard Zoe tell him how restrictive her life had been, and seeing the proof when he’d met her overprotective parents, he knew he should have, at the very least, been honest about how he felt about her. He should have told her that he loved her before he let her walk out. And considering all the time they’d spent together he’d had plenty of opportunity. Now, he just hoped he hadn’t Altyazılı Porno screwed up what they had for good.

The more he thought about it, he wondered how he could possibly have expected her to go clear across the world to do nothing more than live with him, when she didn’t even know how he felt about her. Never mind without a promise of anything more on the table. He’d really messed things up with her. No wonder she went home before she had to.

Robert couldn’t miss the tormented look on his brother’s face. “So, you’re saying you care for her?”

At this point, Tate couldn’t see any point in lying. “Yeah, I’m crazy about her.”

“And have you told her?”

Shaking his head, he felt like a fool admitting the truth. “No, but I know I should have.” Instead, he’d just let her walk out thinking that all they’d shared was insanely hot sex. And because of that, he’d left her assuming he wanted her to take a chance on crossing the world with him for no other reason than to remain in his bed. He closed his eyes wondering how he could have been so stupid and utterly thoughtless.

Startling him, Robert slapped a hand on his brother’s shoulder, telling him, “Then I think you’re really going to have to do something to get her attention to you let her know how you feel.”

Of course he was right. And Tate slowly began to smile, because he had an idea.

Once Zoe got home and turned the key to her little apartment, dragging her bags in behind her, she frowned as she walked inside. Glancing around, her face fell as she surveyed her neat little living room and tidy kitchen beyond, wondering with a sinking feeling why it didn’t feel like home anymore. Obviously nothing had changed. Everything looked exactly as she’d left it. But it didn’t take her long to figure out why — because there was no Tate. Thanks to him, she knew it was her that had changed, and in so many ways.

And then it struck her, she’d lived in this familiar little apartment for close to five years, and after just two glorious weeks with him, she felt like she didn’t belong anymore, not only here, but even in her own home town.

Wandering into her bedroom, shoulders sagging, she tossed one of her suitcases onto her bed and began to unpack. Hanging up a dress in her closet, she decided she’d just have to get used to the idea that their time together was over. Like it or not, her life would be here in sleepy little Martindale, and Tate’s would be in across the world enjoying exciting new adventures in Brisbane — and probably with some other woman. Dropping down on the bed beside her open suitcase, she wondered when he was planning to leave.

When her gaze landed on the sexy pink panties that he’d playfully removed with his teeth, she picked them up and held them to her chest, and every last wonderful thing they’d done together began to replay in her head.

Her mind wandering back to the last full day they’d spent in the city, she’d suggested they clean up the apartment and wash the sheets and towels — as well as scrub the counter with bleach, after their kinky little kitchen sexcapade. But Tate promised he’d take care of all that before Robert and Becky got back.

So, instead, he’d surprised her with a perfect lunch in a beautiful restaurant in the heart of Central Park and then an afternoon at the movies, where they spent more time stealing kisses in the dark than watching the screen.

Everything they’d done together felt like a dream now. She already missed him like crazy, and no small wonder, since she knew no one could ever compare — there was simply no one quite like Tate, at least for her. But now she knew she had no choice but to carry on with her life — a life without him.

Early Monday morning there was a teacher’s meeting at Zoe’s school. And all eyes were on Principal Pritchard as he walked to the front of the room looking nervous with his head down, avoiding everyone’s gaze, and filling the assembly with a terrible sense of unease.

Her girlfriend, and fellow teacher Kimmy, leaned close and whispered cryptically, “This does not look good.”

Zoe nodded in agreement, trying to swallow over the tight knot in her throat. Cleary jobs were going to be lost and she could only hope that one of them wouldn’t be hers. Then biting into her lip, she began think. Looking on the bright side, if she did have to leave her job, that would be one less reason to stay here Martindale, wouldn’t it?

As it turned out, Principal Pritchard didn’t exactly know what was going to happen himself, only that enrollment was down, and that their school was going to be even emptier than it had been the year before. He mentioned that one option the school board was looking into was shuttering their school and bussing the remaining students to Springville, a larger town some twenty miles away. But he did tell them if it happened, that would mean most, if not all the teachers, would be looking for new jobs, since Springville Brazzers was also facing declining enrollment, and already had too many teachers. It seemed the bottom line was people weren’t reproducing much these days, so there simply weren’t enough kids to fill the schools.

It didn’t look good for any of them. Still, since there was little she could do, a vision of Tate flashed before her eyes, and Zoe wondered if he’d left yet, or if he was still in New York. And she considered calling him, just to say hello. But she blew out a breath, knowing that if she did, it would hurt so much to have to say goodbye to him all over again. So, deciding against it, she tried to force herself to pay attention to what was being said.

After they were dismissed, her mind made up that her job was probably gone no matter what the school board decided, Zoe was walking out of the meeting with the rest of the teachers looking resigned when Brian Langston a fellow teacher who’d asked her out a few times over the years, approached her. Although not a bad looking guy, with short dark hair and big brown eyes, Zoe had so far never agreed to see him outside of work.

Walking along beside her, wearing a tentative smile, he said, “Not the best of news, huh?” Zoe agreed, beginning to wonder if she should at least give him a chance. Not that she’d ever sleep with him, he just wasn’t someone she could imagine being with like that, but surely going for coffee or dinner with him wouldn’t hurt. And she reasoned that maybe being out with Brian would help take her mind off Tate, at least for a few hours, since he was all she could think of.

Having walked together back to the staff parking lot, Brian leaned against her car as she took out her keys, and said to her, “I was wondering if maybe you’d like to go out for some dinner one night. You know, just to talk over how these changes are going to affect everyone, and see if there’s anything we can do about it.”

The way he asked, it sounded pretty innocent, definitely more like school business than any kind of date. “Sure,” she agreed, “how about we meet tomorrow night?”

Brian straightened, looking surprised. “Really, I thought you’d never agree.”

“Well as long as this is just a dinner to strategize our next move, then I’d be okay with it.”

Awkwardly patting her arm he nodded, and said, “Of course. How about I pick you up about seven?”

“Make it five,” she said, trying to keep it from sounding like anything even close to an actual date.

“Okay, sounds good. See you then, Zoe.”

Shaking her head, Zoe frowned, wondering what she was thinking agreeing to see him, even as he walked away smiling.

Late the next afternoon, Tate was chuckling at himself as he made his way into town, wondering if he was crazy as he glanced around the quaint little hamlet.

So, this was Martindale. Clearly Zoe had not been exaggerating, the place was tiny, and from what he could tell nothing much ever happened here. Just a hand full of stores, a church, town hall and a school — yep, it was pretty small, alright, one blink and he’d probably miss it.

Pulling the note with Zoe’s address from his shirt pocket, Tate looked up and read the sign for Main Street and kept on heading north, deciding Elm should appear soon, since it was supposed to cross the main drag. At least according to her sister Becky, who’d been kind enough to explain the layout of the town once he’d told her about his grand plan to win over her younger sister.

When he spied the only three storey structure he could see on the corner of Main and Elm, he knew it had to be the apartment building where Zoe lived. And noticing that the second floor windows were open, he smiled.

Pulling to a stop, he cupped his hands around his mouth and called out, “Zoe McKay.”

Zoe, busy applying mascara at the bathroom mirror, frowned, turned her head, and said to herself, “Did someone just call my name?”

Pushing the mascara wand back into the tube, she set it on the vanity top, and walked out to her living room. Pulling back the curtains, she gasped, her heart racing at the sight that greeted her — Tate sitting tall and hot as ever, on an incredibly beautiful white horse. She called out the window, “Oh my God, Tate, what are doing out there on that horse?”

He smiled up at her. “Why don’t you come down and find out?”

Her heart in her mouth, Zoe ran for the door, threw it open and dashed down the stairs to the street as fast as her legs would take her. And the moment she got outside, her gaze landing on the incredible sight of the man she loved, her breath caught in her throat. Sitting in the saddle, handsome as sin, clad in jeans, cowboy boots, and a fitted dove gray western-style shirt, complete with a white Stetson, Zoe could hardly believe her eyes. Blinking hard, she took in the sight of the gorgeous pure white palomino then back up to Tate, asking him again, “What on earth are you doing here, Tate?”

Just then she heard a timid male voice behind her on the sidewalk, as Brian Langston stopped and cautiously said, “Zoe?”

When she turned and saw him, she let out an agonized groan. Oh, perfect, the man of her dreams was about to meet her dinner date — Brian.

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