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Dustin Time Box Set

By June Kramin

Copyright © 2010 by June Kramin

All Rights Reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission of the publisher.

This book is a work of fiction. While references may be made to actual places or events, the names, characters, incidents, and locations within are from the author’s imagination and are not a resemblance to actual living or dead persons, businesses, or events. Any similarity is coincidental.


Published by Pau Hana Books


This book is licensed to the original purchaser only. Duplication or distribution via any means is illegal and a violation of International Copyright Law, subject to criminal prosecution and upon conviction, fines and/or imprisonment. No part of this book can be reproduced or sold by any person or business without the express permission of the publisher.


Published in the United States of America

Cover Art by Valerie Kramin

Stock images: Dreamstime







Table of Contents





Dustin Time



Dustin’s Turn



Dustin’s Novel



About the Author





1

Dustin Time





By





June Kramin











Dustin Time

By June Kramin

Copyright © 2010 by June Kramin

All Rights Reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission of the publisher.

This book is a work of fiction. While references may be made to actual places or events, the names, characters, incidents, and locations within are from the author’s imagination and are not a resemblance to actual living or dead persons, businesses, or events. Any similarity is coincidental.


Published by Pau Hana Books through Createspace,

August 2014

Originally published in August, 2010 By Champagne Books, Canada


This book is licensed to the original purchaser only. Duplication or distribution via any means is illegal and a violation of International Copyright Law, subject to criminal prosecution and upon conviction, fines and/or imprisonment. No part of this book can be reproduced or sold by any person or business without the express permission of the publisher.


ISBN:978-1500912536


Published in the United States of America

Cover Art by Valerie Kramin

Stock images: Dreamstime







Dedication



To Aunt Barb and Lola.

The best beta readers a “Bug” could ask for.



Yes, I ended a sentence with a preposition, but you didn’t catch that one, did ya? ;)









Chapter One





Kaitlyn woke up with a grunt, smacking her hand on the radio alarm clock’s snooze button. “Just five more minutes,” she moaned as she pulled a spare pillow over her head. The next five minutes passed far too quickly; she finally sat herself up with the radio blaring the Bangles’, Manic Monday.

“They think that’s so funny every bloody week,” she said, turning the music off. Dragging herself out of bed, she walked over to her dresser and gazed closely at the large round mirror hanging above it.

“Happy birthday, you old fart.” She sighed and wandered into the bathroom, taking off her silk nightie, then tossing it into the corner with the other discarded clothing items. Someday I’ll purchase a hamper.

She turned the water extra hot and leaned into it, trying to warm up. It was November in southern Minnesota, but she was fighting turning on the heat. That was a sign winter was here for sure and she just wasn’t ready for that. She was cranky enough as it was this morning, she didn’t want to be cold, too. Turning into the water to feel it against her face, she hadn’t heard the sliding glass door open, but felt hands reach around and cup her breasts.

“Dammit, Dusty!” she screamed. “You scared the crap outta me!” She didn’t normally swear much, but she could tell the colorful expressions would be flying free and numerous today with the mood she was in.

“Happy birthday, my sweet,” he said as he kissed his way down her neck.

“Oh, shut up.”

“You’re only thirty, cupcake.”

“You know I hate it when you call me that, and I’m only twenty-nine, jackass.” In a mood or not, that was what she called him often. It was lacking the giggle that usually followed this morning, though. “What are you doing here so early?”

“Do the math. You’re thirty, puddin’. I brought your birthday present,” he said, waggling his eyebrows.

“Let me guess, you’re wearing it. Wait. I’m thirty?”

“Yes, I’m wearing it. And sorry, sweet cheeks. You’re thirty.”

She slowly turned around and let her eyes wander down his naked body. He was standing there just as she thought he would be for her birthday gift. Completely naked. She took a second, admiring his body, before she had to protest about his timing. He was a foot taller than her and had a perfect chest and stomach for claiming to never work out. She loved running her fingers through his short wavy brown hair, and his brown eyes had melted her from the day they’d met. She had to look away from him if she was even going to try to make her protest stick.

“I don’t have time this morning, Dusty. I have an early surgery scheduled. And could you at least humor me, please?”

“All right. You’re twenty-nine. Why would you schedule a surgery on your birthday? You should have taken the day off,” he said as he massaged her breasts, trying to get her to change her mind.

“It’s just another day. I gotta pay the bills you know.”

His fondling wasn’t doing much for her with the mood she was in, although she could see it was doing wonders for him. He kissed his way down her neck, then across her breasts.

“Dammit,” she said softly then let out a moan, beginning to change her mind. “You have thirty minutes.”

“I won’t need a minute over twenty-seven.”

“There’s my little overachiever.”



“I don’t know what I’m doing with you,” Kaitlyn said as they lay in her bed, the sheets now damp from her shower that was cut short. “You’re too young for me.”

“I’m only five years younger than you. Four if we’re still pretending you’re twenty-nine. How come you don’t get in a better mood after morning sex? You’d think a guy would stop trying.”

“You’d think,” she replied as she got up and put on her robe.

“Come on, cheer up. I have reservations tonight at Chez Pauls.”

“Chez Pauls? You can’t afford that. Is it my treat?”

“Don’t be silly. It’s your birthday. It’s on me.”

“You get a second paper route?”

“Ha-ha. I’ll be the editor someday and you’ll still be picking on me.”

Her attention went to the clock. “Crap! That wasn’t twenty- seven minutes.”

“You’re the one that wanted seconds,” he said with a devilish grin.

“I’ll have to grab coffee on the way now. Would you go pull my car up?”

“Pretty please, oh-sex-god-of-mine,” he teased.

“Come on, please? I’m going to be late.”

“Katie, you’re the boss. Who’s gonna bitch if you’re late?”

“Please goddammit!”

“Okay, okay. I’ll pick you up tonight at seven.” He climbed out of bed was walking over for a goodbye kiss, but she had already started to walk into the bathroom and closed the door. He mumbled under his breath, “If you weren’t so damn hot in bed…”

“I heard that.”

“Seven o’clock. Wear something I want to rip off you after dinner.”

Kaitlyn hurried through putting on her make-up. She never did too much of that, anyway. No foundation, just a little eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick were it. She threw her shoulder length hair in a ponytail.

She knew she was handing out an extra dish of cranky this morning to poor Dusty. In all honesty, she’d been thinking about calling it quits between them long before this morning, but just couldn’t bring herself to do it. She had mixed feelings about their relationship, but mostly he was just too young. They had great sex, but that wasn’t something to build a relationship on. The more time they spent together, the more she realized she was more likely to send him away to summer camp than marry him. He had a steady job at a newspaper, setting ads and working on various columns. He wanted to be a writer and felt he had gotten his foot in the door. He did finish college at least; that should have scored some points with her. Should have. For some reason, though, she still saw him as a frat boy, looking for a beer bong rather than cuddling with a movie and a nice glass of Shiraz.

Glancing at the clock beside the vanity, she let out a heavy sigh of defeat. “Why does he have to be so damn good in bed?”

She grabbed her purse and rushed out the door. After throwing her purse in her gold Mini Cooper, she ran back into the house for her iPod and sunglasses. She couldn’t do the fifteen-minute drive without either. Kaitlyn hated morning radio. It was nothing but talking. She needed to blare some loud music to get her pumped for the surgery she had to do in less than an hour. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but she always had to get herself in a better mood, especially in the mornings, by losing herself in song lyrics. She hit the play button and Tom Petty’s Breakdown came on. Perfect.

She stopped at the local coffee shop and got herself a caramel latte with whipped cream. She decided on just a single shot, not wanting to get too jittery with a double, especially since she hadn’t eaten yet. On that note, she added a raspberry and white chocolate scone to her order.

As she hurried through the door to the clinic at 8:02, her receptionist greeted her with a wide smile as always. “Good morning, Doc B. How are you this beautiful fall morning?”

“Can you wait until I finish my coffee before you start your perkiness with me please, Karla?”

“Don’t be such a grump on your birthday. You’re only twenty-nine.” As much as her receptionist’s perky attitude sometimes drove Kaitlyn crazy, she was wonderful with the clients and they loved her. She was only five feet three inches tall, but carried herself with more dignity and grace than everyone that towered over her. She wore different color contacts every day. Kaitlyn didn’t even know what her real eye color was. Her red hair was always pulled back in a sloppy bun.

“See. I told that little bastard I was only twenty-nine.”

“Sorry, hon. You’re thirty. I was trying to be perky. My bad.”

“Shit.”

The phone rang. “Gotta love caller ID. It’s your mother,” Karla said.

“Can you tell her I’m in surgery already? I’ll call her back in a bit.”

Karla picked up the phone on the next ring. “Hi, Lola! How’s California weather?” There was silence as Kaitlyn listened.

“Sure. She’s right here. Hang on.” Karla put the phone on hold and folded her hands under her chin and smiled at her boss.

“You’re fired.”

“You love me. I’ll tell Paula to bring Sasha up and get her prepped for surgery.” Paula was the veterinary technician and the only other employee at the clinic.

Kaitlyn walked through the door of the exam room then into her office and closed the door. She accepted the gushing of her mother over her baby being thirty and the usual mom nagging, but did her best to end the conversation quickly. She came out into the exam room fifteen minutes later, and went over to the stainless steel operating table where her tech was waiting with the first patient of the day. “Good morning, Paula.”

“Happy Birthday, Doctor B.”

Kaitlyn sighed and pet the beautifully colored calico cat then felt at her belly. “They think she’s pregnant my ass. She’s due any day! Why do people wait so long?” Looking up at her assistant she said, “Go ahead and mix up the kitty cocktail. You know what you’re doing by now. I trust you.”

“Thanks.” Paula smiled and went to the refrigerator to mix the Ketamine, Valium, and Acepromazine to anesthetize the cat. After she drew the mixture in the syringe, she asked Kaitlyn, “Do you want it IV or IM?”

Kaitlyn replied, “IC.”

“IC?”

“In the cat.”

Paula laughed.

“It’s your baby,” Kaitlyn said. “Do what you want. You’ll be intubating her, too.”

“You must be getting old and slipping to finally let me. I’ve been ready for months.”

“You two going to make me fire my entire staff today?”

Paula laughed at her again. “I’ve been nagging you for months to let me do more. They do actually teach you things at tech school these days.”

“Nag, nag, nag. Come on, let’s decaffeinate this kitty.”

“Decaffeinate?”

“Sorry, I guess that would only work if she was a pregnant cow. De-calf-inate. Bah-duh-bum.”

Paula grinned. “You got laid this morning, didn’t you?”

Kaitlyn scowled. “Oh shut up.”

“Really though, Doc. It doesn’t bother you spaying pregnant animals?”

“Yes and no. Of course I’d rather them come in before they’re pregnant, but it’s still better this way than to have a dozen more unwanted cats running around.”

“I guess so. You going to hold off a vein for me?”

“You are showing off today. Atta girl!”

Kaitlyn had nothing to complain about. She had a great life, a successful veterinary practice in a small town just a few miles from her home, and a wonderful staff. Her days kept her active and she managed to maintain her size five figure with minimal effort. Her eyes were so blue, some swore they were almost purple. Despising “dumb blonde” jokes, she dyed her hair brown from its natural shade of blonde. It started in high school and it was just something she continued to do.

She was just particularly crabby today with it being her birthday. Thirty was her first major milestone and she felt like she should have accomplished more by now.

“You have a wonderful life, Katie,” her mother had said that morning. “You just need to ditch that ‘boy toy’ of yours and find a proper husband.”

“I don’t need a husband, Mother.” She grew tired of the same conversation, but her mother was right about Dusty. She had to cut him loose. It was going to be hard to do. Although he was a little younger, he was a good intellectual match and by far her favorite eye candy. His body was absolutely picture-perfect, and they fit together just right. Even she had to admit the sex was outstanding; had been from their very first time. She wasn’t quite sure just what it was and why she felt she needed to let him go, but she did. Maybe she was trying to let him go before he came to his senses and said goodbye to her first. She couldn’t take it if he did. Asking him to leave now would allow her keep her pride. She decided she’d talk to him tonight.

There was a knock at the door at 6:45. Opening it with a lack of enthusiasm, she was surprised to see Dusty actually dressed up in a nice pair of black chinos and a blue dress shirt, complete with a matching tie. He was also carrying sterling roses, her favorite. “You remembered about the roses?”

“How could I forget, my sweet?” he said as he leaned her back before planting a passionate kiss on her lips.

“You look great,” he said when he stood her back upright. He ran a hand down the low neckline of the black dress, stealing the opportunity to brush it against her breasts.

“Did you get the heat fixed in your car?” she asked, as she took his hand away then accepted the roses from him. She never minded his touch, in fact it always made her weak in the knees. But she was trying to get herself in the proper mindset for breaking up with him, and that wasn’t helping matters.

“Can’t get it in until Friday.”

“Then let’s take mine.”

“But the dress would look even better if I could see your nipples poking through the fabric.” Not in the mood to be humored, her expression remained serious “You gonna let me drive?” he asked.

“Why not? I let Paula anesthetize a cat today. I must be in a giving mood.”

“Wow. I guess my birthday present worked.” Again he waggled his eyebrows at her. “Keep that mood thing going for when we get back.” He stepped closer to her and whispered in her ear. “I’d take you now but I’m starved.”

She stepped away, tugging at his hand. “Come on, Mr. Romance.”

Dusty ordered a bottle of Perrier Jouet champagne as they were being seated.

“This is a little extravagant,” Kaitlyn said as the bottle was delivered.

He took her hand in his. “It’s a special day.”

“Not that special. I’ll have another birthday next year.”

“That may be so, but I don’t get a new column every day.”

“That’s great! You got another column?”

“You’re looking at the new ‘Ask Eleanor’,” he said with a proud smile.

“You’re shittin’ me.”

“I would not shit you, babycakes.” He raised his glass up in a toast. They clinked glasses. Dustin took a sip, but Kaitlyn drank almost half of hers.

“Okay. I have a scenario for you, Mister Romance,” she said as she put her glass down. “Dear Eleanor. I was on my way to work yesterday when my car stalled just a few blocks from home. I walked back to get my husband’s help, but I found him in bed with the neighbor’s hot twenty-two- year-old daughter. I am beside myself. What do I do? Signed, Confused.”

Dusty cleared his throat, as if carefully choosing his words. “Dear Confused. A car stalling can be a lot of things. I’d check for a clog in the fuel line and the hoses on the intake manifold.”

She laughed. “You got that e-mail, too?”

“It’s so good to see you laugh, Katie.” He leaned over and gave her a kiss. “Let’s eat and go to bed.”

“You’re such a romantic.”

“I know what I like.”

Dustin pulled the sheet up over the two of them, cuddling close to Kaitlyn. It was certainly warm enough while they made love, but the room seemed to chill off instantly once they’d finished. She’d rolled to her side so he could spoon her, loving the feel of his strong arms around her.

“Dusty?”

“Mmmm,” he softly moaned into the back of her head and then planted a kiss there.

“What are we doing?”

“Falling asleep after fabulous sex,” was his groggy reply.

“No, I mean tomorrow and the day after that. What are we doing?”

“What do you want to do?”

“Are you totally clueless?” she asked, flipping over to face him. “I mean about us.”

“What about us?”

“Exactly.”

“Good lord, Katie,” he said, flopping his arm down. “We just had great sex and I’m beat. Can we please have this relationship fight in the morning?”

“I’m sorry. I don’t want to fight. I really am fond of you, Dusty, but I think we need to call this quits.”

“Why would you say that?”

“You’re always calling me dessert names.”

“And that’s why you want to dump me?”

“No. I just think you need to go find yourself a pop-tart.”

“A pop-tart?”

“A Twinkie? Someone closer to your own age and interests.”

“But I like you.”

“You like having sex with me.”

“Guilty. What’s wrong with that?” he asked.

“I want more. After sex like that and eight months of dating, ‘I like you’ are not really the words that I’d expect to be exchanged.”

“It’s not like you’ve said you love me either.”

“I know.”

“I get it. You just use me for sex,” he said, trying to pull off a pout.

“Maybe I did, but I need more. I’m not getting any younger. I need to settle down and start a family.”

“You wanna live together?”

“No. I need more, Dusty. I almost wish I’d met you years ago. Maybe we’d have our act together. We’re just too different. I think we need to stop seeing each other.”

“I don’t want to, Katie,” he said, pulling her close and giving her nose a gentle kiss. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. You were meant to be mine from the start and you know it. I don’t know how we didn’t meet sooner with our colleges being so close, but it doesn’t matter. You’re mine now and you’re not going anywhere.”

“I need to think about having kids before I won’t have the energy for it.”

“I want kids someday, too.”

“You are still a kid. You’re not ready for diapers and midnight feedings.”

“You’re just crabby. I have to admit, even for you, you’ve had mighty rare form today. Let’s sleep, all right? We’ll talk in the morning.”

“You’re not going to change my mind with morning sex.”

“Maybe not. But I’ll have fun trying.”

She turned back over, he fell asleep almost instantly with his arms tight around her. It took her much longer. She lay awake for an hour thinking about what to do with her life.









Chapter Two





Kaitlyn slowly woke up the next morning before her alarm went off. She stretched wide and reached behind her, feeling for Dusty. He didn’t sleep over often but when he did, they usually slept in the same position until they woke up. She’d never admit it to him, but she did sleep better when he was there.

As her hand found him, he let out a sleepy moan. She scooted backward to be closer to him. He repositioned his arms around her and gave her a squeeze. Dammit. She did love waking up in the mornings with him. Laying there content, with a smile and her eyes still closed, she heard a sound that took a few moments to register. A baby crying? She sat up to figure out where it was coming from. Dusty’s hand grasped her arm.

“I got her, pumpkin. You stay in bed.” He gave her a kiss on the forehead and sleepily walked out the door, leaving a confused Kaitlyn sitting in bed.

I’ll get her? Get who? As she glanced around her room, her eyes widened. It was her room, but it wasn’t the same as it had been for the past few years. The walls were painted a simple off-white with a log cabin border, not the light pink with the rose border that was there only yesterday. Her white-painted furniture was replaced with the same set, only it was now in oak and there was an additional tall six-drawer dresser next to her long eight-drawer one. She had to still be asleep. What was going on?

Dustin entered the room with a baby in his arms. He was beaming as any proud father would. Dustin? A father? Who’s the baby? Where’s her mother?

He smiled at Kaitlyn as he sat down on the bed next to her. “I love watching you nurse her.” He reached for some pillows and placed them behind her.

“Nurse her?”

“I got a dry diaper on her. Might as well let her fill it up,” he said, laughing as he handed her the baby.

As she took the baby in her arms and pulled her close, the baby’s head turned automatically toward her breast. It was then that Kaitlyn felt a pressure building up in her breasts. I’m lactating? Since when? She just stared at the baby in disbelief. The child began to fuss in Kaitlyn’s arms.

“What are you waiting for, sweetheart? Ali is starving.” Dustin reached down and unbuttoned her silk pajama top. The baby quickly latched on and began to greedily eat. Kaitlyn let out a gasp as the baby started to suckle.

“What’s the matter? She chomp down again?” Dustin asked with a gentle kiss to her cheek.

Kaitlyn couldn’t say a word; she could only watch the baby eating. She gave a slight nod to Dustin who seemed to be waiting for an answer. He leaned down and kissed the baby’s cheek as she ate.

“She’s so beautiful. Just like her mama.” He gently stroked the soft blonde hair on the baby’s head. “It’s hard to believe she’s four months old already.” He made a few kisses up Kaitlyn’s neck and then drew back and gazed into her eyes. “I love you, baby.”

Kaitlyn tilted her head in disbelief at what she was hearing.

“You still asleep or what?”

She couldn’t reply, just returned her gaze to the baby. After a few moments, the baby began to fuss again while still attached to her breast.

“Don’t you usually switch sides about now?” he asked.

“Hmmm. Oh, yeah,” she said as she removed the baby from one side and placed her on the other. She couldn’t explain in a million years how she felt as the baby began to nurse again. How was this possible? What was going on?

“I’m going to shower then head into the office early. Mrs. Wilkens is being a total bear about this divorce and won’t cut poor Bert an inch of slack. We’re counter offering again; I sure hope the old bitty bites this time. If this drags on for much longer, we’ll pay for Ali’s college from this fee alone.” He laughed as he closed the bathroom door.

Dusty’s a lawyer? This isn’t a dream; it’s a nightmare!

She rested her head back on the headboard and closed her eyes. She hoped when she opened them that the room would be back to normal and she’d know what was going on. But what about the baby? She quickly opened her eyes again and lowered her eyes to the bundle in her arms. The baby had stopped eating and was smiling up at her. She looked like Dusty, although she did have Kaitlyn’s eye color. It was their baby all right. But how?

Instinct told her to burp the baby. After hearing the sound that escaped the little girl, there was no doubt in her mind that this was Dusty’s child. She couldn’t help but to laugh at the volume that came from such a small body. She sounded like Dusty after a few beers. Kaitlyn climbed out of bed and began to walk around the room, gently bouncing the baby as she paced, trying to make sense out of what was going on. Was this a dream? Was this her future?

Dusty came out of the shower and approached them. He rubbed the baby’s cheek again and smiled. He sure was an attentive daddy. Maybe she had him pegged wrong.

“Um, Dusty?”

“What, sweetness?”

“Uh, about what we talked about last night…” She caught herself. She hadn’t thought that the last night she remembered wasn’t necessarily the last night she was living now, or dreaming as the case may be.

“Honestly, pumpkin, it’s up to you. You know we don’t need you to rush back to work. Of course I’d rather you stay home with Ali, but I know you miss your practice. I’m sorry if I sounded upset. It’s your call. We can start interviewing nannies if you really want to go back to work. Okay?” He leaned in and gave her a gentle kiss at first then stayed, wanting more. He kept his lips planted on hers until she finally gave up her tongue to him. Katie was lost in the sensuousness of the kiss, never remembering him being such a passionate kisser before. She held the baby with one arm and reached up behind his neck with her other one. He seemed surprised by her response and let out a small groan.

Their kiss stopped and they gazed in each other’s eyes, each with their own questions in them. “Do we, um…you… have time this morning?” Kaitlyn asked.

“Really?”

She shyly nodded, guessing they didn’t do mornings too often in this time…or dream... She wanted him, whatever the case may be.

“I’ll put the baby in the play pen. She’ll be content for a bit,” he said as he took her from Kaitlyn’s arms.

“Are you sure?” she hollered after him, missing the baby already. He just chuckled and kept walking. He was back after just a moment and held her by the waist.

“Where were we?” he whispered into her ear before gently nibbling on her earlobe. She didn’t even realize before that it made her go insane. “The baby was asleep before I even reached the nursery. I put her in the crib. You really topped her off good this morning.” He continued to kiss down her neck and walked her backward toward the bed.

They made love for almost an hour. It was slower and more passionate then she remembered ever being with him. They were usually animals when it came to sex. They were both surprised at her orgasm that occurred almost instantly but neither wanted it to be over. After a brief moment to recompose herself and both of them to stop giggling, they continued with a little more aggression.

Afterward, they lay in each other’s arms, breathing hard and slightly sweaty from the workout. “Twice, my love?” He smiled as he kissed her gently. “Where did that come from?”

“I don’t know,” she said as she blushed. “When did you become such a good kisser?”

“I’ve always been a great kisser. What are you talkin’ about?” He playfully slapped her rear end as he turned to the clock. “Crap. I gotta get going,” he said with another kiss as he climbed out of bed. “Call me if you need anything. No point in you going out today. We’re supposed to get a good storm. I’d feel better if you stayed in. You know how the drivers are with the first snow.”

She sat up and grabbed his arm, reluctant to let him leave. “Should you be going then?”

He smiled at her. “I’ll be careful.” He held her face in his hands and gave her another strong kiss. “If this is how we make up, can we have a fight again tonight?”

She picked up a pillow and playfully smacked him with it. “I love you.” Wait. What? Where did that come from?

“I love you more, cupcake,” he said as he walked into the closet to get dressed. He turned around and smiled at her. “Oh, and happy birthday, my puddin’ pop. Twenty-nine and still as gorgeous as the day I married you.”

She tilted her head again in surprise. “I’m not thirty?”

“All right, you caught me. It’s the first anniversary of your twenty-ninth birthday, but who’s counting?” He winked. He came out of the closet in a suit and tie after a few minutes then returned to give her a final kiss goodbye. “I have reservations at Chez Pauls for seven. Don’t forget to get a sitter.”

She could only nod as he walked out of the bedroom.

What the hell was going on?

Kaitlyn heard the baby crying and headed toward the sound. What used to be the guest room was now done up as the nursery. The baby stopped crying and began to smile and kick when she saw her mother. Kaitlyn reached in and picked her up, then immediately began to rock back and forth with her. She noticed by the name on the wall that they had spelled her name “Alyson” with a “Y” instead of an “I”. They must have been matching her own spelling. She shrugged, never pegging herself as being cutesy that way. Maybe Dusty insisted on it. She did like the pinks and oranges that the room was done in, though.

A foul odor filled the air. Katie brought the baby’s rear end to her nose and gave it a sniff. “Good Lord! What the heck is in that milk of mine?” Milk of mine. That sounded odd even as the words escaped her lips.

After a rigorous diaper change, Kaitlyn decided to explore the house. She wanted to see what other changes there were, still very much in a daze and extremely confused. If this was a dream, it was the most detailed one she’d ever had in her life. If this was reality, where the hell were her memories of it all? She continued to wander the house hoping to spark some memories. Any memories.

The room next to the nursery was still the office, but it was equally divided in half. She and Dusty both had desks with computers on them, although they shared a single scanner, fax, and printer combination between them. They had two filing cabinets each. She’d have to dig through that later to learn which one of them took care of the household bills. Sitting at Dusty’s desk, she opened the bottom drawer. She didn’t know what compelled her to open that one in particular but after flipping through a few manila folders, she found a manuscript for a book. Dusty wrote a book? He’d never mentioned it before. She put it on her desk to read when she put the baby down for a nap. Having a lot of experience babysitting for her brother as a teenager, she was certain Ali would let her know when she was ready.

After making her way downstairs, she found things pretty much the same, except for a new furniture set and a recliner. Must be Dusty’s chair. It seemed to be extra wide; maybe they sat in it together? Their DVD collection was quite extensive. She guessed they didn’t visit Chez Pauls very much anymore.

After a couple hours of snooping around and playing with the baby, Kaitlyn sat down to nurse again. Ali fell asleep after only a moment of suckling at her breast.

“I see. I’m also the human pacifier.” She took a moment, smiling at the baby and gently stroking her hair before she carried her upstairs to the crib. After she laid her down, she picked up the manuscript from her office, removed a throw blanket from the wooden chest in her bedroom, and went downstairs to curl up on the big recliner and read Dusty’s book.

Kaitlyn was fifteen chapters in before the baby woke up. She had gotten so absorbed in it, she didn’t even realize how much time had passed. Sci-fi wasn’t usually her “thing”, but she was surprised by how much Dusty’s story pulled her in. Kaitlyn had always enjoyed his articles but didn’t know he could write to this extent. As she went up to get Ali, she realized she was beginning to get hungry. After changing and feeding the baby, Kaitlyn made her way back downstairs with Ali to make herself some lunch. As mundane as the routine was already starting to feel, she didn’t miss the hectic pace of her veterinary practice. She suddenly grew very curious about that. Dusty mentioned her going back. Did she have a fill in vet? Was her clinic closed? Were patients referred to the other veterinarian in town?

“How would you like to go for a ride, Alyson?” she asked the baby who was sitting in a bouncy chair on the kitchen table while Kaitlyn ate. She smiled and kicked her feet, which Kaitlyn took as a yes. After bundling them both up, they headed for the clinic. She was glad to discover her Mini Cooper in the garage. She really liked that car.

The roads weren’t too bad, but she still took it slow getting there. Driving herself was one thing. Being responsible for another life was another altogether. She found herself thinking about getting an SUV. Something with a little more “meat” on it. Something that put her at a better advantage with oncoming vehicles. Something with side air bags. “You’re a mom for a day and a wreck already,” she chuckled to herself. If she was here tomorrow, she decided she’d stay home. She’d have Dusty take her truck shopping on Saturday.

As she pulled into the parking lot, she recognized her same employees’ cars there. She was thrilled she didn’t have to close her practice to take maternity leave. Karla squealed the second Katie stepped through the door.

“Doc B! It’s about time you brought that baby in here!” Karla ran around the desk and gave her boss a tight hug then unfastened the car seat to take Ali out. “Come to your Auntie Karla, sweet cheeks,” she said as she picked her up and began rocking with her.

Paula, obviously having heard the commotion, came rushing into the waiting room as well. “Hey, stranger!” she said, getting her hugs, too.

The three friends sat around and were able to catch up for a few minutes since there were no patients in the waiting room. When Kaitlyn ran her practice, she didn’t take patients from noon to two. Her girls rotated watching the counter and answering the phone while the other one took their lunch break. More often than not, they all just stayed there and ate in the break room in the back. Kaitlyn usually stayed there as well, taking the free time to check on the day’s surgery patients. She was glad to see the new vet had kept her girls to their routine.

Her employees fought over holding the baby and Katie laughed. The door to the exam room opened. A familiar face smiled at her.

“Matt Hickey?” Kaitlyn said, when she saw her former colleague walk through the door.

“You were expecting someone else?”

She quickly tried to recover. “No. I…uh…just wasn’t sure I’d catch you.” She shot to her feet and gave him a hug. Matt had just a few inches on her, wore his blond hair a little longer then she preferred on men, and still sported a little bit of a beer belly that he’d acquired in college. She always thought he was handsome, in a California surfer dude kind of way. They’d always been great friends, but never dated. If there was anyone running her practice, she was glad it was him. “I’m sorry. I’m just out of sorts today. How are you?”

“Going good actually. I’m glad you stopped in. Can I see you in my, I mean, your office for a minute?”

“Sure.” Turning to the girls, she asked, “You okay with her?”

“Of course,” Karla assured her.

Taking a seat across from her desk felt odd. “What’s up?” she asked once Matt was settled.

“How are you doing, Katie?”

“Never been better, actually.”

“I thought you just said you were out of sorts.”

“My mind has been playing tricks on me today, but otherwise I’m fine.” She did a horrible job of trying to shrug it off. She hadn’t intended on telling anyone anything, and hoped he didn’t notice her hesitation. He didn’t let it drop.

“How so?” he asked.

“It’s nothing. Really. I’ve just had a few strange dreams is all.”

“Do you talk to Dustin about them?”

“I do,” she lied. “We laugh about it and move on. I said it’s nothing and I mean it. Really, I’m fine. What did you want to talk to me about?” she asked, wanting to change the subject.

“I was just wondering if you had any more thoughts about when you were coming back.”

“I don’t. I’m sorry. Dustin and I talked about this last night but didn’t resolve anything.” She knew this was true by what transpired this morning. “Are you on a time crunch? Do you need to know right away? Am I keeping you from another job?”

“Not at all. Do you remember Nick Majors?”

“Of course I do.”

“He and I have been talking. He wants in on your little shop here.”

“How’s that?”

“He’s tired of the mobile thing. He wants a real building. We have been tossing around ideas about a way of sharing the space. I’d keep your clients happy and he’ll bring in his own.”

It did sound like a great step business-wise. “Really?” was the only response she could come up with in her present state of mind.

“He’ll pay you for the use of the building, of course. He’d prefer a commission, but that’s your call. We can try to find a way to make a flat monthly fee if you’d rather.”

“That wouldn’t be fair to him. I’d be glad to do some kind of fee basis. Honestly, I miss everyone, but I can’t think about much else other than Ali right now. I can’t bear to think of leaving her with someone else.”

“I’ll talk to him some more and give you a shout out when we have an idea of figures.”

“I’m sure you’ll be more than fair. Did you talk to the girls about it?”

“They love him. Sorry to put the cart before the horse, but I did have him come in, look around, and meet the staff. I wouldn’t have even brought it up if anyone was going to clash skulls.”

“Who could clash with Nick? He used to make me laugh worse than Dusty does.”

“Great,” he said, standing up. “I’ll get back to you in a few days. And you come see me if you have problems with those dreams. I’m worried about you, kiddo.”

“Don’t waste your time on that. I’m fine,” she said, forcing a smile.

“Come here.” He outstretched his arms to her, giving her a big bear hug. “Damn that man of yours for snatching you up before I got a chance with you.”

“Oh stop it. You loved me too much to date me.”

“This is true.” He gave her a kiss on the cheek and left her out of the office. “Don’t come out on a day like this. It’s going to get nasty. I was going to re-schedule the last few appointments and send the girls home. Get your pretty little fanny straight home.”

“Aye-aye, captain,” she said with a salute.

Kaitlyn talked to Dusty about Matt’s proposal for the business over dinner that night. He seemed pleased.

“You know I’ll stand behind you either way, babe, but I’m glad you want to stay home with Ali. Sounds like you’ll still pull in decent income anyway.”

“I guess so. I don’t want to make it rich off someone else’s labor, but if I can keep the doors open and my clients happy, I’ll be happy.”

“I love you,” he said with a proud smile.









Chapter Three





Kaitlyn woke up the next morning, once again missing Dustin’s arm around her. She reached back but, instead of finding him next to her, her hand hit a wall.

“Shit!” She shot up in bed, clutching her hand.

“Quiet, Katie. I don’t have class until nine today.”

Quickly shooting her eyes to her right, Katie found a twin bed across the room. In it sat her college roommate, Courtney. Kaitlyn took a quick look around the room and had to put her hand over her mouth to keep from screaming. I’m in my college dorm room?

She got up and went over to her laptop, hitting the space bar to get it out of sleep mode. Before it even booted up, her roommate hollered, “Oh yeah. Happy birthday, Princess. Now turn the heat up, I’m freezing.” Courtney rolled over and pulled the covers up over her head.

Kaitlyn maneuvered the mouse over the clock in the bottom right corner and stayed there until the date popped up. It was her birthday all right, but it was her twenty-sixth birthday, if she was getting her math correct this time. She glanced all around the room. Part of her was trying to sink it all in. Once again she was at a loss about how she could possibly be where she seemed to be. At least last time she was in the same year, and things were just different. Now she was in the past? But why? How?

The more she looked around, the sadder she became. She realized she wasn’t just getting familiar with her old dorm, she was desperately searching for the dear baby. Where was she now? Who was taking care of her? Was this just still a dream?

Kaitlyn used to jog when she was in college. If she was truly when she thought she was, maybe she could pull off that activity again, without hurting herself. She put on her jogging outfit and quietly headed out the door. A good run to clear her mind was just what the doctor ordered right now. Remembering to stretch well first, she took the stairs instead of the elevator to warm up her muscles. The sunny day was deceiving; it was colder out than she’d expected. As she rubbed her arms, she was grateful that she’d brought the extra jacket with her. She had forgotten how much she loved running and was enjoying herself instantly. Loving her younger body, she decided she was going to enjoy this, whatever it was, for as long as it lasted.

After jogging around the campus and lake, she decided to head into town, slowing her pace to cool down the last few blocks. She decided a cup of coffee sounded good and wished she had brought money along with her. She came to a stop and bent over, taking a few deep breaths, and suddenly remembered something. Opening up her jacket and unzipping the inside pocket, she smiled when she pulled out the twenty dollar bill.

“Mad money rocks!”

Arriving at the coffee shop, she smiled wide again. It was all so familiar. At least this time she’d know what to expect. She noticed her shoe had become untied so she bent down to tie it. When she stood, she peered into a familiar face, only it was a few years younger as well.

“Fancy meeting you here,” the man said, obviously happy to see her.

Kaitlyn fainted.

She woke up on the couch of the coffee shop with Dustin at her side and a washcloth on her forehead. She tried to sit up, but he gently pushed her back down.

“Just lay back there, cupcake. Take a few minutes to gather yourself.” He turned to the manager, who was also standing there, as if he worried that there would be a lawsuit coming. “You can go. She’s fine.”

Kaitlyn stared at Dustin’s profile as he talked. He was just as gorgeous four years younger. He looked closer to eighteen than he did twenty-one. His beautiful brown eyes glistened with the same gold flecks. He still had a muscular build, just slightly smaller and a little skinnier. His brown hair was a little longer, too. She did always say she preferred short hair on men, but she wanted to run her fingers through it just the same. Her eyes followed his Adam’s apple as he talked; longing to give it a kiss. Never mind, she thought. If this is a dream, let me sleep.

“Was it the shop’s fault?” the manager asked, his voice shaking.

“She just fainted. I’m a witness. You’re in the clear there, Art. Now scram.”

“You law boys have me scared to death,” Art said as he shook his head and walked away.

Dustin turned his attention back to Kaitlyn. “You overdo your run or what, cupcake?”

“Cupcake?”

“You wouldn’t give me your name last night. I had to call you something.”

“Last night?” Lord this was confusing.

“Were you that drunk, or do you have a twin? You gave me quite the brush off at Tricky Dick’s.”

“I did? Sorry. Maybe I did have one too many.”

“Maybe you should have stayed in bed, too. Maybe not. It’s really too bad you came to. I was about to give you mouth to mouth.” He grinned and gently brushed his thumb at the corner of her mouth.

“Look, Dusty…” she said as she tried to sit up.

“Wait a second. How do you know my name?”

Her eyes widened. Crap. This was really happening. They didn’t know each other. What is going on? “I don’t know how I remember. You must have told me last night.”

“Hmmm,” he said as he pushed her back down. “I don’t remember that. I’m pretty sure I would have said Dustin. I haven’t been called Dusty since middle school. Coming from you, though, I kinda like it. What’s your poison this morning? I’m buying.”

She tried to sit up again. “That’s not necessary.”

Once again, he gently pushed her back down. “Double caramel latte with whip it is then.”

Him knowing what she drank caught her off guard. “Now how do you know that?”

He grinned. “No shit? Carmel is my weakness. You too?”

“I don’t know about weakness. I just prefer it to any of the other flavors.”

“I’ll be right back,” he said as he gently slapped her leg and stood. “You stay put till I get back. You hear?”

Giving in, she shyly nodded. She hadn’t met Dusty on her birthday four years ago. She couldn’t recall exactly what she did on her birthday four years ago, but she did remember that much. He came back with the large mugs and set them on the coffee table. Reaching toward her, he offered his hand to help her sit up.

“Just go slowly. If you feel a head rush, lay back down.”

Taking it slow, she paused once she was completely up. “I’m fine now. Thanks.”

He handed her the large yellow mug with “Sun Riders” written on it and she thanked him again.

“You go to school around here?” he asked.

She nodded as she blew on her coffee to cool it off. Taking a sip she asked, “You?”

He smiled and put his hand on her cheek, then leaned in as if he was going to kiss her. Her heart began to beat faster as her gaze went from his lips to his eyes. His thumb brushed against her lips. “Whipped cream,” he said as he leaned back then licked it off his thumb. “Two more years of law school.”

“Law school? You don’t look the lawyer type.”

“There’s a type?”

“I don’t know. I guess so. You just don’t seem like a lawyer. You’re too nice.”

He laughed hard. “What do I seem like?”

She figured if she was stuck in this “twilight zone”, she might as well use information to her advantage. “A writer maybe?”

He spit his coffee across the table, then reached for some napkins. Katie had to fight hard to hide her smirk. “I’m sorry. Did I strike a nerve?”

“No.” He coughed as she patted his back. “Well, maybe. Law school wasn’t my idea.”

“Parents?”

“My dad.”

“You look awfully young to almost be done with law school.”

“I started school at four and took post-secondary classes, starting my junior year. I had two years of college before I graduated.”

“Looks and brains? Bizarre.”

“You hittin’ on me?” he asked as he raised an eyebrow.

“Just making an observation. Please continue.” She motioned her hands as if to say “Carry on.”

“I work a few nights and weekends at a newspaper. I started at the bottom, but I’m slowly working my way up. My heart isn’t in this law bullshit.”

“You want to be a reporter then?”

“No. I actually do a small humor column now, truth be told. I write ad blurbs, too, but my heart is kinda wrapped up in a sci-fi story I’m writing.”

She never knew that he wrote until she found that manuscript in the drawer, but now he was willingly talking about it. There were new depths to her young lover that suddenly intrigued her. “I’d love to read it someday.”

He shrugged. “Maybe when it’s done. I’ve never let anyone read my stuff before.”

“What if I put out?”

Again he sent coffee flying out of his mouth. “Could you give me a warning before you say something like that?”

“I’ll think about it,” she said with a grin.

“You’re not going to give me grief about wasting my brains on writing?”

“I imagine writing takes a lot of brains and imagination. Why would I give you grief about something you enjoy doing?”

“A lot of people tell me to grow up, quit dreaming, and stick to my studies. I’m surprised I even told you about it. I never mention my book anymore.” He scooted closer to her and asked, “What are you doing tonight?”

“Studying. That’s about as exciting as it gets being me.”

“You looked like you were having fun last night.”

Taking a long sip of coffee, wracking her brain, Kaitlyn finally put two and two together about the night before her twenty-sixth birthday. She vaguely remembered talking to a young man outside of a bar they nicknamed “Dicky’s”. Was that Dusty? Placing her coffee on the table she said, “My roommate made me do a pre-birthday crawl with her because she couldn’t go out tonight.”

“It’s your birthday?”

Conceding that somehow it was, she just nodded.

“What are you? Twenty-one? You do the power-hour last night?” Power-hour. Drink as much as you can from midnight when you turn twenty-one until the bars closed at one a.m. Not being much of a drinker, Katie hasn’t actually done that. Wait. What? Twenty-one?

Crossing her arms angrily she said, “I’m twenty-six. I don’t know if I should be flattered or pissed.”

“Twenty-six?” Dusty raised an eyebrow.

“Too old for you, huh?”

“No,” he said sharply. “You just look younger. And trust me, be flattered. How old do you think I am?”

“You look eighteen, but I’d have to guess at least twenty-one if you were in Dicky’s last night. That or you have a fake ID.”

Straightening up he said, “What are you? Some kind of psychic?”

She scoffed. “Hardly.” She was having a great time with this younger Dusty, but her thoughts went back to her last night with him in her memory of what was her reality. He’s too young, Katie. Don’t start something you intend on ending anyway. She stood, leaving half her coffee on the table, unfinished. “I’ve had a great time but I really should get going.”

He shot to his feet. “What just happened? You went from ‘putting out’ to turning down dinner to study just because you have a few years on me? No way!”

“Dusty—”

He stopped her protest with a kiss. She didn’t want to like it, but she did. It didn’t have the slow passion of her last kiss with him while she was holding the baby, but he sure knew how to use his tongue. How could she not have appreciated that he was such a great kisser? He held her face with both hands and her arms dropped to her sides in defeat. She turned to putty. Our “first” kiss and you’re letting him use his tongue? What the hell is wrong with you! She reprimanded herself.

He stopped the kiss and stared into her eyes. “I’ll pick you up at seven. We’ll go to Chez Pauls.”

How did she not see that coming? “You don’t know where I live.”

“I’ll find out when I drop you off.” He extended his arm out to her, she reluctantly accepted.

Kaitlyn didn’t want him to see the condition of their dorm room when he picked her up for their date, so she was ready early and went down to the lobby to wait for him. She saw his car pull up a few minutes early and walked outside to meet him. He’d just closed his door when he saw her walking toward him.

“You look ravishing,” he said with a kiss to her cheek.

“I’m wearing a winter coat.”

“I know. But I have a great imagination and I know for a fact that under all those clothes, you’re completely naked.”

“You should write for Hallmark.”

“There’s a thought. You ready?” he asked as he opened the passenger door for her.

“I guess so. You sure you want to go to Chez Pauls?” she asked as she turned to face him. “I heard it’s awfully expensive there, Dusty. It’s hardly an affordable place for students.”

“It pains me to pull the ‘daddy’s money’ card for you, my sweet, but it’s well worth it.” He smirked as he held her hand and helped her into the car. It was obvious that, for some reason, he loved to hear her call him Dusty.

“Daddy’s money, huh?” she said when he joined her in the car. He’d never talked much about his father before. “Is he loaded?”

“Loaded enough. I’ve been a good boy all semester. I think I’m due for a treat.”

“If he’s so loaded, why do you work weekends at a newspaper?”

“It’s not about the money. It’s about the experience. Writer thing-a-ma-job, remember?”

“Sorry, I do. I get it.”

“Enough about me. We haven’t even talked about you. What are you going to school for, anyway?”

“Veterinary medicine.”

He whipped his head to face her. “Animals? No shit?”

“You like that phrase, don’t you?”

“Sorry. Do I have a potty mouth?”

She laughed. “Potty mouth? You twenty-one or six?”

The look he gave her told her not to do any more age jokes. “All right, sorry. Don’t worry about me. I can hold my own in the swearing department. And no shit, animals.”

“Did you always want to be a vet?”

Nodding her head she said, “For as long as I can remember. I was always bringing strays home and trying to nurse baby birds back to health. I’d cry whenever I saw something dead on the side of the road. My dad was mad at my brother for telling me they weren’t just sleeping.”

That made him burst out laughing. “I did the same thing to my sister, Dana. She was older and beat the hell out of me enough. I had to get my jabs in where I could. What about you? You have more siblings?”

“I was the baby. I have two older brothers, actually. You’d never think we were related if you met them. I’m only five feet and five inches, they’re both over six feet.”

“I bet it was murder getting you out on a date in high school.”

“Why?”

“I think I’d be wise to be afraid of the brothers of someone as gorgeous as you.”

She blushed. “Hardly.”


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