Everything I've Dreamed Of(5)

By: Norah Bennett

“Hello, Noah Reed,” she whispered as a huge smile lit her features. “It’s a pleasure to meet you as well.”

“Now that we know one another, let’s play. Have a seat and I’ll put my advanced medical training to work,” Noah said.

Noah’s name sounded familiar, but Kate couldn’t quite place it. She sat on the edge of the front desk, next to the first aid kit.

“Are you in the medical field?”

Chuckling, Noah opened the kit and took out what he needed. “No, far from it. But I think I took First Aid when I was a kid. It’s been a while, but I’m pretty sure I can remember how to clean and bandage a wound.”

As Noah took care of her finger, Kate noticed he wasn’t wearing a wedding band, and despite telling herself not to go there, she did. She couldn’t help herself. The possibility he could be single and be hers was too tempting not to explore. She allowed herself a few moments to live in that fantastical scenario. Then she gave herself another mental slap. She was an idiot. Of course, he was taken, he had to be. He was attractive, polite, funny, and considerate. All of this she figured out in the short time he was in her presence, but she sensed there was much, much more to him.

Kate shook her head. There’s no way a man like Noah Reed was unattached. If he was, there was either something seriously wrong with the women in this city or something seriously wrong with him that he hid well. One way or another, he was way out of her league. She was a small-town bookstore owner who already lived a lifetime and a half and who carried so much baggage, it was a miracle she walked upright.

Kate had no business setting her sights on this man or any man. She wasn’t ready yet–– not to trust and not to let go. Building a new life for herself wasn’t easy, but she was proud of the progress she’d made. Kate was standing taller than she ever had and felt stronger and in control of her world. She’d come a long way to forgiving herself and discovering who she was without fear and guilt holding her down.

Bringing a man into the picture could set her back years. All the explaining, the compromising, and the trusting that came along with a relationship hurt her head and made her heart ache. She’d made some terrible mistakes in the past and paid for them dearly, losing years of her life. She took her licks and learned many valuable lessons along the way. Kate didn’t feel sorry for herself. The last three years of her life had been remarkable. Thanks to Edith, she’d traveled all around the country, seeing places she’d only read about.

“It’s time, Kate,” Edith had said, her old eyes that were usually soft and gentle, now uncompromising and focused on Kate. “It’s time to forgive yourself and start living once again. Stop hiding, girl. Start living, before it’s too late. Open your heart. You’re wasting the best years of your life hoping you’ll wake up one morning and the past will be rewritten. Don’t you know, God hasn’t given man that ability yet? Outlander isn’t real, honey. When I close my eyes for the last time, promise me you’ll open yours and see the beauty of the world.”

Kate kept almost all her promises to Edith. She’d put her big girl panties on and left the safety of Canton, Texas three years ago. She started living again and traveled the country until she stumbled upon Lakes Crossing and Dreamscape. Her heart, however, was a different story. She opened it to Shakes, and she opened it to Dreamscape. That was as far as she could get the door open. It had been enough…she thought. But now, was the door creaking open a bit more?

One thing Kate did know was that she was never going to settle again, never going to lose herself to a man again. She did that once, and that learning experience was more than enough. This time, when and if the right man came along, he would have to be something special, something she didn’t think God had created yet.

Kate sighed and scrutinized the hands that were tending to her with such care. Noah handled her like she was made of crystal, like she was precious. For a big man with large hands, his touch was light, almost tender. Despite Kate’s adamant thoughts about men and relationships, she reveled in his touch. She couldn’t help herself. If she were a cat, she would rub herself against him and purr.