Hi dear Reader,Welcome back for Chapter 6! You can read Chapter 1 Here!
The wedding went as planned. Annie looked gorgeous in her wedding dress. Bobby's eyes bulged out of his head when he saw her. It was the perfect moment and I'm pretty sure I got it all on film. I had enough film to capture the whole wedding and pictures of the bride and groom together.
“Katie,” Annie called to me from by the tree, “give that camera to Bobby. I want a picture with you and Levi.”
Dread settled in my stomach as I handed the camera to Bobby. I slowly made my way over to Annie. But I couldn't say no to the bride as it was her special day. I looked horrible. My blonde hair had fallen from the bun I had twisted it into. My makeup was smeared, and I'm pretty sure I had grass stains on my skinny jeans. Not only that but the look that Lindsay had been giving Levi during the wedding played in flashes before my eyes. Kaleb warned me he was a playboy. It was my fault, letting my feelings getting the better of me. What was I thinking? I was just here for the weekend. How could I expect to try to change his ways? Why did I even care? My feet felt like bricks as I made my way over to Annie.
Levi had been trying to catch my eye since the wedding. He stood next to Annie, looking good in his button-up western shirt and black jeans. He held his cowboy hat in his hand. The other hand ran through his short black hair causing it to stand up on end. He gave me a small smile and worry colored his eyes. I took my place on the other side of Annie, wrapping my arm around her waist. We smiled at the camera. Bobby clicked a couple of pictures.
“I want one of my two favorite people.” Annie stepped out from between us shoved us together.
My shoulder bumped into his side causing me to lose my balance. His arms wrapped around me to stop my fall. He pulled me upright and looked into my eyes. His gray eyes were stormy as they searched my soul. Time seemed to stretch between us. He slid his hand further around my waist, pulling me toward him. Holy cow, he was going to kiss me. In that second, his lips descended on mine. They were soft and sent sparks throughout my body. He slanted his head, driving the kiss deeper. Kissing Levi was everything I had ever thought it would be. My hands ran up his shoulders to grip his hair, and my left foot kicked out. A click sounded in the distance.
“Bummer, that was the last picture.” Bobby sounded disappointed as we pulled apart.
Heat rushed to my face as the crowd erupted into cheers. I glanced over at Levi. The corners of his lips pulled up and he had not let me go. Anger welled up within me. How dare he kiss me when he was just flirting with Lindsay! Without thinking, my hand flew and connected with his cheek. His hands dropped from my waist, and he stepped back.
“What was that for?” His forehead wrinkled. He rubbed his cheek.
I rolled my eyes at him and put my hands on my hips. “Because you kissed me.” I turned on my heel and stormed away.
My camera ran out of film, and I was done being the photographer for the wedding. I went back to being a guest. The wedding moved from the chapel to the park pavilion. My family sat at one of the tables close to the bride and groom. Levi's mom and his grandma sat at the table next to us. I found an open spot between Mamma and Kaleb and sat down.
“Are you okay?” Kaleb leaned over to me and put his arm around the back of my seat.
“Yep just fine.”
“A woman is never fine when she says she's just fine.” He smirked. “Do I need to beat him up for you?”
I shook my head. “No, he's just being Levi. We aren't together. He can flirt with whoever he wants.” Bitterness colored my voice even though I tried to keep it out of it.
“I'm here for you, baby sister” He turned his attention back to the front as Annie and Bobby made their appearance. They both looked super happy as they gazed into each other's eyes as they made their way to the front table. Levi arrived not long after they did. His eyes bored into my back as he made his way to the table where his mom sat. He pulled out the chair behind me and lean towards me before he sat down.
“We need to talk.”
I crossed my arms and ignored him. He sighed and sat down in his chair behind me.
“Lindsay!” His mom called. “You're sitting with us. There is an empty chair right next to Levi.”
I ground my teeth together and try to plaster a fake smile on my face. Lindsay giggled and came over by Levi. He stood up like a gentleman and pulled out her chair for her. The chair scraped against the concrete floor as he pushed it in.
“Oh, that's so nice of you,” her voice purred behind me. “Wasn’t that a beautiful wedding?”
Levi grunted in response.
“I sure hope you save a dance for me tonight.”
“Of course, I would love to dance with you tonight.” I could feel his eyes burning holes in the back of my head.
I straightened my spine and swallowed a large gulp of water. Daddy stood up to say the prayer and everyone bowed their heads to murmur along with him. Levi's deep voice behind me drug my attention away from the prayer. Everyone chorused amen.
“Thank you, everyone, for coming to our wedding! We’re so happy that you could share our special day with us. We’ll start the buffet with the tables on the left. Get some food! Cheers!” Bobby raised his wine glass and toasted his wife before taking a drink. They gazed into each other's eyes as their lips slowly came together and they kissed. It made my heart ache, wishing this was something I could have. I wished it would be with the man behind me.
It was obvious. Katie was ignoring me. It probably had something to do with Lindsay's flirting but couldn't she see I did not initiate it. I wasn't even flirting back. My reputation ruined my chances with Katie. Frustration bubbled up within me. It was our table’s turn to go through the buffet line. I hung back until our table had made it through and Katie's table was up. I handed her a plate as she stood in the line across the buffet table from me.
“Need anything from this side of the table?”
“No, thank you.” The response was hard and fast.
I smiled at her but she glared at me before averting her gaze. She moved down the table. I grabbed some of the chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, and a roll before heading back to my table. I didn't know how to make her pay attention to me. Maybe I read her wrong the whole weekend. I hoped not because my heart fell for her. Hard. I walked back to my table and sat down next to Lindsay and my mom.
“Levi, honey, Lindsay was just telling me about the ranch she inherited. She was saying that someday she might need a ranch manager.”
Lindsay's eyes lit up as Mom and she discussed her new ranch. “I'll have to keep both of my jobs for a while. It's going to take a bit for it to turn a profit.” She shrugged, laid her hand over mine. “I could use help whenever you're available.”
I cut my gaze to her. She turned on a megawatt smile. Her eyes sparkled as she tried to get me to engage in their conversation.
“I don't know Lindsay, I'm pretty busy at the ranch.”
“I'm sure the Kisments wouldn't mind if you came over on your days off.”
I shrugged, hoping to get out of this conversation.
The dinner couldn’t go by fast enough between Mom, Lindsay, and the girl behind me, ignoring me. I felt like I was drowning among women. Lindsay kept rubbing her foot against my leg and touching my hand with her hand. I gritted my teeth and tried not to lead her on. She was a nice girl and pretty to boot but my heart was still stuck on Katie.
The clinking of glasses brought my attention back to the front. Bobby and Annie stood together hand-in-hand.
“We’d like the speeches to begin, but first we want to thank someone very special.” They raised their glasses towards Katie. “Without the lovely Katie here, we wouldn’t have memories to show our children down the road.” Annie leveled a gaze directly at Katie, an expression of softness covered her face. “Katie, I know how much you hate being the center of attention and how hard it was for you to do but we appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts. You’ve saved the day for us and gave us a perfect wedding.”
They raised their glasses and toasted her. I swiveled in my seat and caught her profile as a blush crept up her neck. She averted her eyes to her plate and played with the ring on her fingers.
The rest of the evening went by fast after they did their toast. Eventually, we moved the tables and chairs to the side, arranging for the older folks to have somewhere to sit and talk while the younger people could dance. The country band set up in the corner. They started with some tunes. The lights dimmed, giving the room a fairytale feeling. Annie and Bobby danced the first dance. Then, it was the parent/child dance; since our father was gone, I stepped in and danced with Annie.
“Are you okay?” She whispered as we spun around the dance floor.
“Yeah,” I didn't want to ruin her perfect day.
“That was quite a slap that Katie gave you earlier.”
I dipped her and then swung her around.
“Whatever you did, at least you know she likes you.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“How many girls have you kissed that slapped you?”
“None that I can think of.”
Annie pulled away from me, a knowing look in her eye. “I think Katie likes you.”
The song ended and we stepped apart. I rubbed my hand along the back of my neck and up through my hair. Annie thought that Katie liked me. That would be too good to be true. Bobby came and claimed Annie for the next dance, leaving me standing by myself in the middle of the dance floor. Teenagers and kids crowded on the floor when the band switched to an upbeat tune. I stepped through the crowd looking for Katie. Lindsay caught my eye and waved at me, pushing her way through the crowds toward me. Well, Levi, you have to make a decision. Hurt Lindsay’s feelings by turning her down or dance with Lindsay and hurt Katie even more. I had a feeling with the looks that she and Kaleb gave me, that the reason they were upset was because of Lindsay's flirtations.
Lindsay caught my arm, “Hey cowboy, let's dance.”
She started to drag me to the center of the dance floor. I glanced around, hoping to find anyone else before I got snagged into a dance with Lindsay. The new cowboy at the Kisment ranch, Grayson, leaned against the wall, watching couples dance. He was shy from what I could tell. He barely spoke two words to me the three weeks he's been working, but I heard the ladies thought he was pretty handsome. What a perfect opportunity.
“I’ve someone I want you to meet.” I intertwined my fingers with hers and pulled her to the edge of the dance floor by the wall that Grayson was leaning against. “Have you met Grayson, yet?” Lindsay shook her head.
Grayson tipped his hat to her and said, “nice to meet you, ma'am.”
She blushed and extended her hand towards his, “nice to meet you too.”
“Would you like to dance?”
“Of course, I'd love to dance.” She dragged him toward the dance floor. The poor cowboy didn't know what hit him. I smirked as I watched the two of them, retreating find Katie.
The wedding reception was in full swing. The band played, people danced, and I sat by myself in the corner. I swirled the contents of my glass around and looked into the depths. I’d heard rumors about Levi being a favorite of the ladies. I guess I never realized how much my heart wanted him, and it hurt when other girls flirted with him. I glanced up at that moment to see him with Lindsay, crossing the dance floor. They made a good pair with her long blonde hair and his with his black. I sipped my drink and scrolled through the photos from the wedding on my laptop.
A few minutes later, a shadow blocked out the light.
“Excuse me, ma'am. Can I Have This Dance?” His voice was low and husky.
My eyes slowly went up to his face. Levi's dark grey eyes are unreadable. He extended one hand to me.
“I'm not sure I can dance.” I smiled tightly.
“It's easy. Just follow my lead, I won't even let you bump into people.”
What should I do? My head said to refuse him even though it was rude. My heart begged, please just say yes.
“Please, Katie, can you dance with me?” The pleading and the sadness in his voice surprised me. He’d taken off his cowboy hat and was holding it in his hand, crushing the brim a little bit.
“Fine.” I huffed.
I saved my project on my laptop and closed the lid. I set it next to the side by the pile of purses. Large hand engulfed mine as he helped me to my feet. He wrapped his arm around my waist, enfolding my right hand within his. He slowly spun me in a little circle to the beat of the music.
“Aren't we going to the dance floor?”
“Nah, it's too crowded.” He spun me out and back in, holding me closer to his chest than he did before. My heart jumped to my throat as the butterflies twirled and skipped in my belly. It was becoming hard to breathe. The edges of my vision started to turn black. Levi stopped dancing and held me away from his body just a bit.
“Breathe, Katie,” he whispered. “No need to have a panic attack. I just want to talk to you.” His lips hovered inches from the top of my head but I heard him loud and clear. “Why don't we go outside?”
Night had fallen when he led me outside. We walked down the path and around the bend sitting by the fountain with the roses arching over it. He motioned me to sit down first. Then, he sat down next to me, our knees touching but our bodies angled away from each other. He held my hand in his and ran his thumbs up and down the skin of my hand. It was causing my heart to flutter. I’d never seen him so nervous. A little muscle ticked by his jaw as he chewed on his bottom lip. He's the one that wanted to talk I was going to wait him out.
“Here's the deal, Katie.” He cleared his throat and swallowed a couple of times before going again. “I really like you.”
With a jolt of surprise, I leaned over to meet his gaze, his gray eyes sucked me into their depths as I stared into his soul. “I like you too. I mean we've been friends forever.”
“No, I like you more than friends. I like you and I want us to… maybe… no that's not right… I want us to go out.”
I stared at him, dumbstruck. “But what about Lindsay and all the other girls.”
“You're so cute.” He tucked a long strand behind my ear. “There are no other girls. Lindsay’s just flirting. She doesn't actually want to be with me.”
“But what about your reputation as ‘Love ‘em ‘n Leave ‘em Levi’.”
“That's just all talk. I haven't dated anybody since high school. The only person that’s ever owned my heart is you.”
My heart pounded and blood rushed to my ears as he said those words. My hands shook and I swallowed a couple of times. “What?”
He grasped both of my hands, looking deep into my eyes. “I mean every word of it, Katie. You're the only woman I have ever thought of since I started working for your dad on the ranch. And you came out that summer, your beautiful blonde hair dyed black, wearing black eyeliner, and that black tank top. You thought that no one saw, that you were invisible to the world, but I saw you. You've had my heart ever since.”
I stared at him. A tear rolled down from the corner of my eye. He caught it with his thumb and wiped it off.
“I don't know what to say.”
“Say you'll be my girlfriend.”
I nodded. He whooped, catching me into a hug. He lifted me and spun me around. Our lips collided and my butterflies did a happy dance. I slid down his front until my feet touched the ground. He cupped the back of my head as he angled over my mouth. I closed my eyes and kissed him back. Slowly, I came back to the present. I broke the kiss.
“What about when I go back to Denver?”
We pulled apart. He studied my face for a while. Tucking a lock of hair behind my ear, his hands slid up to frame my face.
“Let’s date and do the long-distance thing. We’ll figure it out. I’ve wanted to be with you for a long time. If I have to leave Texas, I will.”
My heart burst with happiness. I squealed and launched myself at him. He caught me to his muscled chest. He slid a hand up to my cheek. The other one wrapped around my waist. Slowly, he brought his lips within inches of mine forward. Our lips touched. An explosion of fireworks set off between us. My mind went blank as I lost myself in the swirling and twirling of our lips. The kiss deepened and a groan escaped. It was perfect.
A voice clearing above us interrupted kiss.
“Are you two coming back to the dance or are you going to spend all night making out on the bench?” Kaleb's eyes smoldered as he smirked at us.
Blood flooded my cheeks. I tried to stammer out a response. Levi took off his hat, winking at me.
“We're going to spend all night kissing on this bench.” He brought his hat in front of our faces as he kissed me again.
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Copyright © 2020 by Allie Bock
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