The Feather Kiss
Published: November 2010
Retail Price: $2.99
Retail Price: $2.99
Lydia has loved Brett from afar since high school. After an accident left his sister in the hospital, Lydia abandoned her love in favor of her friend. But when Brett comes to her, looking for help, she must decide whether she can forgive him in order to mend the bridge between him and his sister - and risk heartbreak - or lose him forever.
It all started with a kiss. Cliché as that sounds, it’s true. Some might argue that kisses aren’t a big deal. Let me say, one kiss changed my life. It was nothing more than a light brush of the lips. A feather light, accidental touch. It altered my life and I may never be the same.
I sat at the kitchen table mulling over some dumb math problem. Rather than finding the elusive answer, I sat pondering murderous plots for my evil math professor. The man could be taught a few things in personal hygiene, but his biggest offense was this latest homework assignment.
“What about black? I could really do some daring things with black.”
I sighed. “Kate, black makes you look like a ghost.”
“I know!” Her squeal was loud enough to make the neighbors cringe. “Can you imagine? It’s supposed to be a costume dance. Why not go as a ghost or zombie?”
“You are so weird. What happened to the traditional princess thing you used to enjoy?”
“Liddy, you are so last year.”
I rolled my eyes and looked back at my work. My chicken scratchings blurred together. I blinked my tired, dry eyes. That made things worse. I sighed deeply and ran a frustrated hand through my hair. I laid my head in my hand and began doodling on my paper.
“Here’s one. Oh, this is it!”
I didn’t turn. Kate is the kind of friend who needs no encouragement. She’s a jewel, but exhausting. Her daily energy could fuel a power station for an entire week.
“Who are you going with to the Mid Summer’s Ball? You do have a date, right? I couldn’t possibly go if you weren’t going.”
“Why would you go for me? You’re going with Baker.”
I needed to find a way to clamp down on Kate’s squealing. If she continued, she’d soon be hysterical and I’d never get my homework done.
“Maybe I’ll go with Brett.”
Apparently she missed my sarcasm.
I looked at her in surprise.
She put a hand to her chest. “My Brett? That’s just gross. I know you used to have a crush on him.”
“That was years ago.”
“I know. The thought of someone actually finding a romantic interest in him is just gross. Can you imagine kissing Brett?” She pretended to be sick on the floor.
I swallowed a humorless laugh. I could imagine kissing Brett Porter. There was a time that my fantasies were so vivid, they felt real. I groaned. I would not think of what might have been.
“Of course it would be weird for you to kiss Brett. He’s your brother.”
“Don’t get me wrong. I love Brett.”
“Don’t we all,” I muttered under my breath.
“But you could do so much better than Brett. Why don’t you take Jeremy? Now there’s a handsome guy if I ever saw one.”
“Kate, it’s a guy’s choice dance. I’m not going to ask anyone.”
“But you have to go. I will die if you don’t go.”
I sighed. “Let me finish my homework and then I’ll take you to the mall. We’ll see if we can find you something to wear to this dance of all dances.”
Kate squealed again, threw her arms around me, and dashed off to the living room to devour her magazine in the softness of her hundreds of couch pillows. I wiped the smile from my face and turned back to my math.
A half hour later, I closed my notebook and breathed a sigh of relief. If I never calculated another set of numbers, it would be too soon. I stretched my arms above my head, my back arching over the back of my chair. I stood and went to get a drink from the sink. Letting the water run over my hand, I stared out the window at the trees. I loved summer. I loved the heat. Tomorrow would be the perfect day at the pool.
I jumped but didn’t have to turn. Brett. No one else had that rich raspy sound to their voice that made me feel like I was drowning in a barrel of smooth hot fudge.
“I didn’t hear you come in.” I filled my glass and turned off the sink.
“Did you get me a drink? That was so kind of you.”
He grabbed the glass that was halfway to my lips. His arm brushed my shoulder in the tiny kitchen. My heart stuttered and I swallowed. With a wink, he drained the glass and handed it back. “Thanks.”
I tried to glower. “Don’t mention it.” I filled the glass again and took a long drink, fully aware that he had drunk out of the same cup only seconds before. He leaned against the counter with folded arms and smiled. My eyes dropped to those adorable dimples that showed on his face. My hand shook and I nearly dropped the glass. Taking another long drink, I put the glass in the sink and turned back to the table.
“What are you working on?”
“I just finished my homework.”
“Oh, that’s right. I forgot you were taking summer classes. How’s that going?”
I turned to see him still leaning against the counter. My brow crinkled as I tried to figure out what he really wanted. He never sat and talked with me. Not ever.
“I’ll be glad when it’s done. What brings you here? I was about to take Kate to the mall. She’s got her heart set on being some deadly creature in black for the Mid Summer’s Ball.”
Brett’s brow wrinkled. “Is she going with Baker?”
“Yeah.” Seeing his frown, I decided to defend Kate’s boyfriend. “He’s a great guy and treats her well. He’s the best thing that’s happened to her in a long time.” Brett nodded and I couldn’t help but throw a stake into his heart. “She needs a protector and he’s always there for her.”
His face darkened. Ever since Brett started college, he and I hadn’t gotten along. In high school he’d been kind and happy. After graduation, he started dating Jessica and grew cynical and mean. His behavior today, confused me. He’d broken things off with Jessica and been through many girlfriends since, but he’d never been the boy I’d loved so many years ago. Instead, he and I jousted with insults and I always walked away with a bigger chunk of my heart missing.
He didn’t throw an insult back at me and I turned to stare at him.
“You didn’t say why you stopped by. Did you want to see Kate?”
“I saw her on my way in. Her nose is in some magazine.”
“Do you work at the pool tomorrow?”
“Yeah.” I looked down at my sun tanned arms.
“I was thinking I might come by and see you.”
My head jerked up, certain I heard him wrong. My traitorous heart began to pound at the thought of him in swimming shorts, coming to see me. He chuckled, and I realized, my eyes must have betrayed my thoughts.
I began stacking my books together and put them in my backpack. I swung it on my shoulder and headed off to my room. I groaned softly and let my bag drop to the floor. Plopping onto my bed, I sighed. Brett was particularly cruel today. I now realized that his comment about coming to see me had been a mean jab that hit its mark. Why did I still react to him? When he’d nearly gotten Kate killed on the way to the prom, I swore I would never love him again. Yet, as more time went on, I found it harder to keep my heart from softening toward him.
Shaking my head, I grabbed my purse from my dresser and turned to the door.
Brett stood against the door jamb watching me. He chuckled. “I didn’t know you’d started squealing, too.”
“I haven’t,” I growled and walked toward him. “You scared me. What are you doing in my room?”
He lifted his arms in defense. “I just needed to talk with you a minute.”
I folded my arms and waited.
“I wanted to ask you to the ball next week.”
My jaw dropped and I stood speechless.
He shifted his weight back and forth while I processed his words. I realized he was nervous. Good. He should be. After the way he treated me the last five years, he should be terrified to ask me. I didn’t plan to let him down easily. He was going to wish for a cliff to fall off when I was through.
“Before you tell me no or whatever punishment you have in mind for me, let me say something.”
He knew me well.
“Lydia, you and I have had our differences. I’m not sure why, at least on your end, but I’d like to start over with you. You are my sister’s best friend. We both know that my relationship with her is strained.”
I snorted, and he glared at me.
“I desperately want her to see me as an ally rather than an enemy. I’m sure she and Baker will be tying the knot soon and I don’t want to be left out. I want to be a part of her life. I want to be a part of her children’s lives.”
I stared at him while he spoke. I had planned to battle with him, but not over his sister. This changed things. I needed to rethink my strategy, and fast.
“She won’t let me into her life. I’ve tried.” I saw the pained look on his face. What he said was true. Kate usually brushed him off, not that I blamed her. As I stood looking at him, I saw the young man he once was. I saw his repentant heart. I wanted to love him and help him out. I quickly squished my irrational thoughts.
“Why ask me to the dance? Why not take Elli?”
“She and I broke up months ago.”
“Oh,” was the only intelligent thing I could say.
He smiled. “Kate will look at me differently if I’m with you. She loves you and always has. If she sees that you can tolerate me, perhaps she’ll give me a chance, too.”
I looked at him closely. My steel resolve slipped.
“I promise to be a gentleman. I won’t take advantage of you or our arrangement.”
“How kind of you.”
He smiled again. He always did enjoy my sarcasm.
“We can go as anything you want.” His eyes penetrated mine. “Please say you’ll go and help me win back my sister’s love.”
I sighed and turned. I couldn’t think straight while he stared at me with those imploring eyes. It would mean the world to Kate if she had her brother back, but at what cost. I didn’t know if my heart could endure being on his arm for one night, and one night only. Even though I hated him, I couldn’t deny my attraction to him. This would ruin me forever. Could I do that to myself for my friend’s sake?
“Fine. I’ll do it.”
His hands gripped my shoulders and spun me around. “You will?”
“I’ll do it for Kate.”
His eyes traveled over my face and his brow puckered. “That’s it? No battle of the wills?”
“I’m not doing it for you. I still don’t like you, but I love your sister. She misses you terribly. If it will bring peace to her, then I’ll do it.”
He closed his eyes and when he opened them again, I saw the moisture which filled them. “Thank you,” he whispered.
“I’m not doing it for you.” I pulled away from him and walked to the door.
“I know. I will be eternally in your debt.”
I turned. Never in my life had I seen him look so humble. I shook my head, clearing away thoughts that could betray me.
He walked closer and I found myself taking a step back. I didn’t understand the look in his eye, but my heart was pounding so furiously I was certain I would leave my room with it broken. He placed his hands on my arms and leaned forward. Oh no! He was going to kiss me. I panicked. What was I going to do? Why was he going to kiss me?
My heart raced and I shook my head. He chuckled and smiled. Those beautiful dimples melted my heart and my knees gave way.
“Careful, Liddy. Aren’t you taking my sister shopping? Are you well enough to go?”
I nodded dumbly.
He looked deeply into my eyes and for the first time in years, I wanted this man. I wanted him with an aching in my gut. He’d made mistakes, but so had I. When I looked into his eyes at that moment, I could see the man he was inside. Not the man he pretended to be. I wanted to bury my face in his neck, wrap my arms around him and never let him go.
I saw his face lean closer to mine. My eyes widened. He smiled and tilted his head. My breathing stopped. “Thank you, Liddy.” I felt his whisper on my face. His lips were inches away. Then, ever so softly, his lips kissed my cheek, so close to my mouth, yet so far away. They hovered for a moment. He looked into my eyes and I almost swooned from his nearness.
A voice in the back of my head warned me to turn away. He would only break my heart. But he was so close. I couldn’t move. He pressed forward and his lips touched my cheek again. Still captivated by his eyes, I turned just a bit, to better see his eyes. His lips brushed mine with the softness of a feather. The color of his blue eyes deepened as our lips met. So gentle, I almost didn’t realize his were there, except that my heart had stilled. My lips tingled and my stomach fluttered with excitement. Nothing existed by him.
“Liddy!” Kate’s squeal plunged me back to earth as Brett pulled away. “You are sick! Do you realize you were kissing my brother?”
Plain flashed in Brett’s eyes.
Slowly I turned around. “Kate. Let me explain. Brett and I….”
I saw Brett out of the corner of my eye. His shoulders slumped forward. “Don’t,” he said softly to me.
I grabbed Brett’s hand before he could leave. “Kate, I’m sorry you had to see that, but I think you should know….”
“No! No, no, no, no! You can’t be dating. I won’t allow it! Liddy, you know what he is. He’ll destroy you! I can’t let him do that to you. You mean more to me than he ever will. Please, tell me you aren’t dating him and this was my imagination. Please!”
Lines etched Brett’s face aging him ten years. Kate had every right to hate her brother. He’d earned her distain, but I could see how much it hurt him. The old Brett would have laughed and threw insults back. Today, his gaze held mine for a moment, his eyes begging me to let him go. My heart softened. I couldn’t let him suffer any more. He needed his family.
“Kate, are you only concerned that he will hurt me?”
“Would you be more supportive if I could promise you I wouldn’t get hurt?”
“How? How could you grantee that?”
Her brow wrinkled much as her brother’s had earlier. I looked at Brett and saw his confusion, too. I looked down and laced my fingers through his before looking up into his eyes. I knew he understood pain. My heart fluttered as I determined to help him know he could be loved. “Kate, Brett and I are getting married.”