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CHAPTER NINETEEN. "WHAT DO YOU mean, Phil is coming?" she asked, stunned by Nana's words.

"WHAT DO YOU mean, Phil is coming?" she asked, stunned by Nana's words.

"Well, he called last night. He wanted to surprise you. He took off all next week and he's coming tomorrow." Nana watched her. "I thought you'd be thrilled. I told him how you just haven't been yourself lately."


"Well, you haven't."

Ginny paced behind the counter, thankful there were no customers in the store. "Where will he stay?" she asked.

"Well, with us, of course. Ginny, I'm not a prude. I know you sleep together. I won't mind if he stays in your room," Nana said innocently.

Ginny closed her eyes, cursing silently. What was she going to do? She did not want to see Phil. And she certainly did not want him sharing her bed. And for a week? She would never survive.

"Ginny, you surely don't want him staying in the lodge out on Lake Wenatchee, do you? That's twenty miles away," she said.

"No," she murmured. We certainly couldn't have that! "What time tomorrow?" she asked.

"He's leaving in the morning. Should be here by noon."


"Yes and I think you should just take the afternoon off. I know it's Saturday, but Jessica and I can handle it."

Ginny felt like crying but she forced herself to smile at Nana. She meant well. "You'll stay home tonight, I hope," Nana continued. "We need to clean house. And I'll have meals to plan," she added. "Oh, this will be fun, won't it? You can show him around, take him hiking or something. He likes that, doesn't he? And, now Kara can meet him. I'm sure she'll like him..." Nana rambled on, but Ginny had stopped listening.

Kara. What was she going to do about Kara? She closed her eyes, trying to ward off the wave of guilt that settled over her. She had just spent the night making love to Kara, waking up entangled in another woman's arms and now she had to tell that same woman that Phil was coming to spend a week with her. A week in her bed.

She knew that Kara would understand. Ginny couldn't very well tell Phil and Nana that she would rather Phil not come at all, that she would rather continue exploring her new relationship with Kara. That would be just crazy. Maybe it was good Phil was coming. Did she have any feelings for him still? This would be the only way to find out.

Suddenly, it was all just too complicated. But then, did she think that it wouldn't be? That she could just ease into this new phase of her life without complications?

Nana left the store early to start dinner and Ginny waited until Jessica had left at closing to call Kara.

"It's me," she said, when Kara had answered.

"I missed you today," Kara said softly. "Can you come over?" she asked.

Ginny closed her eyes for a moment, wishing she could go to Kara. "I can't," she said quietly.

"What's wrong?"

"Phil is coming," she said.

There was silence and Ginny pictured Kara standing there, clutching the phone.

"I see," Kara said finally.

"He called last night, when I was with you. He's taking vacation next week and coming to visit. Nana's got it all arranged," she explained.

"Where will he stay?"

"Here, at the house." Ginny heard the uncertainty in Kara's quiet voice.

"In your bed?"

Ginny was silent for a moment. "Yes," she finally said.

"I see," Kara said again.

"Kara, I don't know what I can do. I don't know how to tell him or Nana that I don't want to see him. They've got it all planned. That's all Nana talked about today."

"I understand. It's not like I didn't know about Phil. I mean, I know you're still technically involved. I just... I guess I didn't expect him to show up so soon after we . . ." she let her voice trail off and Ginny squeezed her eyes shut, not wanting to hear the hurt in Kara's voice, knowing she could do nothing about it.

"I'm so sorry," she finally said.

"Well, there's not a whole lot you can do now. And Ginny, maybe this is good, this is what you need right now. To see if... to see if you... still have feelings for him. Maybe you'll see him and it'll all come back to you."

Ginny wondered how hard it was for Kara to say those words. She hadn't seen Phil in nearly nine months now. Her body told her that it was only Kara's touch she needed but her mind still balked. Was it women or was it just Kara? But did it matter anymore?

"I don't want to be with him," Ginny said. "I'm just so confused about everything, Kara. I know I want you... but..."

"I know," Kara said. "This is so new for you. Don't worry about me, Ginny. You've got unfinished business with him. Maybe this thing between us is just..."

"Just what? A passing affair?"

"Something like that," Kara said.

"Don't do this, Kara. I know how I feel about you," Ginny insisted. "This morning when I woke up, it felt so right to be in your arms. It was the most natural thing in the world to wake up with you, to make love with you this morning. No one's ever made me feel the way that you do. Phil hasn't come close," Ginny whispered. "And that's why this is killing me that he's coming."

"I'm sorry. If I could turn back time..."

"No. I wouldn't want that. I don't regret this, Kara. We both knew something was pulling us together. We both knew this would happen. Didn't we?" she asked hesitantly.

"Yes." Then she laughed gently. "Well, in my dreams. I never thought you would actually come to me."

Ginny smiled, feeling some of the tension dissipate. "There was no way I could not go to you, Kara."

"Which brings us back to Phil."

"I'm sorry," she said simply.

"Well, there's nothing we can do about this. I'll give you room. You need some time with him, Ginny, whether you think so or not. You know, we haven't exactly spent our time talking about this thing between us. Maybe we should have. I just..."

"I know. But other things kept getting in the way," she said lightly. She didn't want to try to analyze her feelings for Kara. She just wanted... to be with her.

Ginny sighed, wishing she had just driven over to the cabin. This conversation should have been in person, not over the phone. But she knew they would get precious little talking done. She couldn't seem to keep her hands to herself whenever she was around Kara. Anyway, maybe Kara was right. She did need to see Phil, to see if there was anything there, if there ever had been.

"We'll talk after he's gone. After you see... how you feel."

"I know that you're right," Ginny said. "Maybe I do need some time to see how I feel about... everything."

Kara let out a heavy sigh. "Yes. You do. Because if you don't you'll always wonder if it would have worked out with him."

"But I can't stop thinking about you, Kara," Ginny whispered.

"I know. You haven't left my thoughts all day," Kara said quietly. After only a slight pause, she cleared her throat. "Have a good week," she said and hung up abruptly.

Ginny listened to the dial tone a moment longer, then hung up gently. Despite her words, Ginny had heard the pain in Kara's voice.


When Phil walked in the store just shortly after noon, Ginny forced a smile to her face and went to him. He looked the same. His brown hair cut short, his moustache neatly trimmed.

"God, I've missed you," he whispered in her ear. His arms held her tightly, pressing her breasts against his hard chest and she raised her face for his bruising kiss.

"It's good to see you," she managed, pulling out of his arms.

"You look great," he said. "Country living must agree with you."

"Hello, Phil," Nana said, giving him a big smile.

"Nana!" He gave her a brisk hug and kissed her cheek. "Thanks for having me," he said.

"I'm so glad you're here, Phil. And Ginny is, too." She winked at him. "I think she's been missing you."

"Nana!" Ginny turned pleading eyes to Nana, but she ignored her.

"Oh, Ginny. It doesn't hurt that Phil knows you've missed him, does it?"

"Have you missed me?" Phil asked.

"I suppose," Ginny said and forced another smile to her face. Had she missed him? She hadn't given much thought to it in more weeks than she could count.

But Phil looked happy with her answer and he draped an arm around Ginny possessively. "We've got a lot of catching up to do, sweetheart."

"Yes. That's why I've given Ginny the afternoon off," Nana said, pleased with herself.

"That's wonderful."

"Ginny, take him to the house and help him unpack. We'll have dinner at seven. Roast," she added.

Ginny smiled and nodded, wishing she were anywhere at this moment other than here. Nana was positively beaming and Ginny didn't have the heart to spoil things for her.

She rode with Phil to the house. Nana had planned it that way, she supposed. Nana had skipped her walk this morning, instead, riding with Ginny to the store. She would drive Ginny's car home later.

"You are glad to see me, aren't you?" Phil asked.

"I wish you had asked before taking vacation," Ginny said.

"I tried. You weren't home," he reminded her.

No. She had been with Kara, in her arms... making love. She felt a twinge of guilt and sighed, trying to keep thoughts of Kara away. She had to if she were to survive this week. "I still wish you had waited and talked to me first."

"Ginny, I had to see you. You've been gone for nine months. Don't you think that's long enough?"

"Long enough for what?"

He smiled in that way of his. Cocky, she thought. And she hated it. "It's time we got married, Ginny."


"Yes. I know you left because you were scared when I asked you before. I love you, Ginny. We're good together. It's been four years. Well, nearly five now. It's time."

Ginny closed her eyes, feeling sick to her stomach. How dare he? How dare he come here after nine months of separation and talk marriage? As if they had never been apart? As if they had not spoken of this before?

"I'm not ready," she said.

"Don't start that again, please. You're just scared," he said.

"Turn here," she said, motioning to the house. "And I am not scared," she insisted.

They unpacked in silence, Ginny feeling very crowded as he invaded her room with his things.

"I like your room," he said. He sat on the bed and took her hand possessively, enclosing it in his larger one. "I've missed you. I've missed making love to you."

"Phil..." she shook her head but he pulled her down beside him.

"Nana won't be home until six," he said. "She told me."

Ginny smiled slightly, her eyes meeting his brown ones. Nana was trying her best to get her married off. She lifted her neck as Phil placed his lips there, the familiar feel of his moustache raking against her skin.

"Have you missed me?" he asked.

She closed her eyes and nodded as he pushed her back on the bed, his hands nearly groping at her breasts.

"Ginny, there's been no one since you left," he murmured against her lips.

She was nearly overcome with guilt and she wrapped her arms around his strong shoulders, so different from Kara's. But it wasn't right. She opened her mouth to protest and he shoved his tongue inside urgently, pushing at hers, crushing her lips beneath his. She whimpered, feeling tears sting her eyes. Why couldn't he make her feel the way that Kara did?

"Oh, Ginny, you feel so good," he whispered. He took her hand and placed it on his swollen groin, urging her to stroke him.

Ginny felt his power through his jeans and she let her hand move over him, once so familiar to her, now nearly alien.

"Let's take these off," he said, his hands going to her jeans. "I'll take care of you, sweetheart," he whispered.

She was in a daze as he lowered her jeans. Her mind was blank, completely blank as his rough, possessive hands moved over her. He paused only briefly at her breasts, then his mouth came back to hers, and he kissed her with a force that bruised her lips.

"I can't wait," he murmured and he spread her legs with his knees, plunging deep inside her.

She cried out in shame and gasped as he thrust into her, pushing her hard against the bed. God, oh God, she thought. She squeezed her eyes shut, hearing him groan with each thrust as he pounded into her.

"Oh, Ginny," he gasped and he came inside of her, his hips shaking as he held himself over her.

She felt a tear escape and she rolled her head away from him. Why... oh, why? Surely he knew that she was not aroused, that she had not reached an orgasm. Surely he knew that she had not enjoyed that. It was sex. That was all. There had been no love involved. But, she admitted with sadness, she had let him.

"God, that was so good." He pulled out of her and took her hand gently in his. "But fast. I've missed you," he said again. "Tonight we'll go slower," he promised.

Tonight. And the night after that and all week, he would be sharing her bed. She breathed deeply, feeling choked on her unshed tears. She felt nearly sick to her stomach. Why had she just allowed that? That assault on her. And that's all it had been. She was simply an object there to satisfy him, to bring him relief.

He sat up and reached for his jeans, which had gathered around his ankles. "Get up, sweetheart. You can show me around town." She didn't move and he reached for her. "Or are you wanting some more of that?" he asked, winking at her.

She swallowed with difficulty and forced a smile. "No." Definitely not. She made herself move, pulling her jeans back around her waist. She felt repulsed. She felt violated. She wanted to run into the bathroom and shower. She wanted to scream out in frustration. He had no idea, she thought. No idea that he had not satisfied her. And he had not even tried. Oh, Kara, I'm sorry.


She kept her back to him as she fastened her bra. "What?"

"You are going to marry me, aren't you?"

Tell him. Tell him now. She turned back around, the words on her lips, but the look in his eyes stopped her. He looked so vulnerable, so child-like. Her shoulders slumped and she looked away.

"Let's don't talk about it now, Phil. Please?"

"Okay. We've got all week, anyway. But I warned you, didn't I? I told you I would be coming to take you back," he said.

"Yes, you warned me."


Ginny cut into her roast, her appetite vanishing with each bite. Nana and Phil carried on a conversation without her, neither seeming to notice that she was a thousand miles away from them. She heard Kara's name and she looked up, puzzled.

"We haven't seen her work, though," Nana was saying.

"That's amazing. Mr. Bradshaw just bought one of her paintings," he said. "Hung it in the conference room."

"Is it any good?" Nana asked.

"Oh. Very. It's called Tomorrow and Today. It's a sea stack, out off the Peninsula. The sun is setting in the west and one side of the stack is orange, nearly crimson and the moon is shining overhead, in the east, making the facing side almost glow a ghostly white. It's beautiful, really."

Ginny listened with interest, thinking how ironic it was that Phil had seen Kara's work but she, who had spent countless hours in her arms, had not even thought to ask to see it.

"Well, I knew she would be good," Nana said.

"She must be. Cost him over two thousand bucks," Phil said.

"My, my," Nana said. "Ginny, can you image that? And here I was thinking maybe I'd like one of her paintings."

Phil looked at Ginny and smiled. "So, you're hanging out with a famous artist and you haven't even seen any of her paintings. Are you sure it's the same Kara Morgan?"

"Yes," Ginny said lightly, glancing at Nana.

"Oh, we've seen her sketch, but nothing else," Nana said.

"Well, I'd certainly like to meet her," Phil said.

Ginny cringed, imagining having to introduce Phil to Kara.

"Oh, and I'm sure she wants to meet you, too. Ginny's told her all about you. Haven't you, Ginny?"

Ginny gave Nana a penetrating glance and nodded, shoving a piece of roast into her mouth to avoid speaking.

"Why don't we have a cookout tomorrow? We can go to the campgrounds out by Drury Falls. There's a wonderful hiking trail there. You do like to hike, don't you Phil?" Nana asked.

"I guess so. Not that I get much of a chance in Seattle," he said.

"We can invite Kara, Ginny. Maybe have a campfire with hotdogs and chili," Nana said. "Sounds exciting, doesn't it?"

"Yes, let's do. What do you say, Ginny?" Phil asked.

Ginny nodded weakly, thinking she would never invite Kara. She would make up some excuse. She could not handle the both of them together. She would simply go insane if she tried.

Phil lounged by the TV while Ginny and Nana cleaned up.

"Ginny, you don't have to help. I know you'd rather be out there with Phil," Nana said.

Ginny let out a heavy sigh. "No. I'll help," she said.

Nana set the plates down and took Ginny's arm. "What's wrong, child? You hardly said a word at dinner."

"Nothing's wrong, Nana." Only everything.

"Phil loves you," Nana said.

Ginny nodded. "Yes, I believe he does," she said.


That night, as Ginny crawled into bed beside Phil and let him take her into his arms, she felt that she had surely reached the lowest point in her life. She nearly choked when his tongue shoved into her mouth and when his hands grasped her breasts in his vise-like grip, she finally pushed him away.

"No, Phil," she said.

"No? What do you mean?"

"I mean, no. I don't want you to touch me. I don't want this."

"Ginny? Are you okay?"

"No. I'm not. You come here after nine months of separation, thinking that nothing has changed. Well, it has," she said quietly. "Things have changed. I've changed."

"I still love you. I still want to marry you," he said simply.

"Phil, I left because I needed some time away from you. I wasn't sure that I wanted to marry you. I'm still not sure," she said cautiously.

"Ginny, we've been together for years. What's next for us, if not marriage?"

"Phil, don't do this to me. You know how much Nana wants us to get married. She's been harping on me since I moved here. I'm happy right now," she said, choosing her words carefully.

Phil laughed. "You can't possibly be happy. There's nothing here for you. And you're too young to be an old maid, even if Nana does think you're fast approaching that age," he said lightly. "Besides, I'm not leaving until you agree to marry me."

"I'm not going back to Seattle, Phil," she said firmly.

"Oh, Ginny. Don't be difficult," he teased. "Let me make love to you," he coaxed. "You must have missed it, too."

"Phil, don't," she warned, but his hands came out again and he pulled her on top of him, his arousal pushing up against her.

"See how I want you," he said and he pressed her firmly against him.

"Phil, please, don't do this," she begged, trying to break his hold, but his mouth smothered her protests.

She hated herself as he pulled her panties down and entered her. Images of Kara's gentle lovemaking came to her as Phil plundered her body and she didn't try to stop the tears that flowed from her eyes.

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