“I feel like I’m in high school again,” Katie admitted with a smile. She was of course talking about the good days in high school when she wasn’t being teased or ignored.
Scott chortled in what sounded like disbelief. “What? How so?”
She didn’t want to sound like a moonstruck fool, but waiting by the phone for a guy to call brought back good and bad memories. She cuddled up under her blanket, moving the phone to her other ear so she could get comfortable. “Well, I guess you wouldn’t know what I’m talking about since you were never the one sitting by the phone waiting for a guy you liked to call you.”
He groaned, and Katie smiled at the affect she had over him at times. “So you do like me? And here I thought you only tolerated me because you had nothing else to do but wait for your novel to come back from the editor.” Katie could hear the laughter in his voice.
“Maybe it started that way, but things change.” She wondered if things were different, if they’d spontaneously met, if he would be interested in her. She didn’t know what he looked like, but his damned voice made her stomach drop and her heart thunder.
Scott’s voice grew serious. “What changed, Kristen?” At the sound of her fake name, Katie realized how silly it was to think that the two of them could ever be anything more than pen pals. What was even more ridiculous was the fact that she had told him about the night she’d lost her child, but she couldn’t tell him her real name. She wanted his time and honesty, but she hadn’t given him a hundred percent of what she demanded of him.
“Kathryn Andreassen,” she blurted.
The confusion in his voice almost made her laugh, but fear that he’d be pissed she lied kept the laughter at bay. “Scott, when I first signed up for this program, I . . . I didn’t give my real name.”
There was an edge to his voice that she’d not heard before. It didn’t sound like disappointment or even anger. “I was nervous about what I was doing and I—”
“You wanted anonymity,” he finished. “I get that.”
Yeah, well, at least she had wanted it at that time. “So you aren’t mad?” She sat up, comforted by how well he’d taken it.
“Not at all.”
Confused, Katie asked, “Why?”
A beat of silence passed before Scott spoke. “Because I did the same. My name isn’t Scott, its Logan. Logan Whyte. I lied for a different reason, though.”
The relief she’d just felt plummeted, and goose bumps settled over her skin.
“I didn’t want you to look me up and see what I’d done before I had a chance to tell you myself. By the time we’d gotten to the point where we could be straightforward with each other, I honestly forgot to tell you my real name.”
Katie was about to speak when the one-minute warning sounded, alerting them that the collect call was about to disconnect.
“Kris— I mean Kathryn—”
“Call me Katie, everyone does.”
“Okay. I’ll call you right back, I need to talk to you about something.” Logan hung up before Katie had a chance to reply.
She pressed the end button, got out of bed, and went to glance out the window. The snow was coming down in sheets, but in Vermont that wasn’t a big issue. It was the low visibility that worried Katie. The phone sounded and she placed it to her ear, listening as the automated voice droned on. Once she pressed one, Logan’s deep voice came on the line.
“Sweetheart, I want to talk to you about your phone bill.”
Katie groaned and sat down in her desk chair; she was scared as hell to look at her bill.
“Yeah, I know, but I enjoy talking to you. Your voice is the highlight of my day. I have an idea though.”
Katie perked up. “I’m listening.”
“Good, that’s my girl.” Whenever Logan called her things like his girl, honey, or sweetheart, her heart fluttered. “I’m going to get my lawyer to add money to my canteen. That way, I can call you and they’ll charge it to me. How’s that sound?”
Katie bit her lip. They hadn’t talked about financials, and she wasn’t sure what money Logan had . . . if any at all. “Are you sure? I mean, I haven’t gotten my bill yet, so it might not be too high.”
Logan grunted, and Katie had heard that sound enough to know that he didn’t agree. “No, it’s going to be sky high, and if you have a hard time paying it you let me know.” He sounded so sincere that Katie’s stomach fluttered.
“I’ll be fine,” she whispered.
“Don’t be shy. If you can’t pay it, you let me know.” He repeated.
“I will.” She knew she could afford it, but she wasn’t excited about seeing it. “So your lawyer is going to give you the money?” Seemed like a nice thing to do, but Logan had expressed to her many times that he didn’t like the man.
“No, my friend, Trent, sends me my money. I sold my truck and put him in charge of my finances. I trust him with my life,” he said earnestly.
“Sounds like a good guy.” Katie felt the same way about Teal, even though the woman seemed to want to take her dead mother’s place.
“He saved my ass from the black kids that constantly thought they saw a target on my ass. I swear, I was eighteen, white, and a bit chunky, and that’s all it took for those thugs to want to kick my ass.” He let loose a hollow laugh. Pain radiated from it, and Katie heard it loud and clear.
She wasn’t sure what to say, but if she hadn’t known before she knew now that Logan was white. That discovery aside, Katie had also had her share of times when black kids picked on her, but it wasn’t just black kids. It was black and white kids. Both races had their assholes.
“I know the feeling. When I was younger, I was never sure what made kids think I was such an easy target, but they did and I suffered.”
Logan’s voice grew gentle. “Baby, it’s because they are jealous of you. I know that’s a parental thing to say, but it’s true. They want what we have, and when they can’t have it, they steal it. Mexicans, too. They just stood and watched as I got the shit kicked out of me.”
Katie couldn’t help but feel sorry for Logan. “At least you had Trent. I’m glad you didn’t have to go at it alone.” And that was the honest truth. She had friends, but never ones who would stick around long enough, or even through the entire year. Logan’s situation would have been a lot worse if not for Trent, Katie was sure of it. She at least had her mom and dad and later on, Teal, but Logan only had his drunken uncle, Luke. “Things could have been real bad if he hadn’t helped, huh?”
“I probably would have gotten killed, so yeah, things would’ve been real bad if he hadn’t come along. Trent was into some real crazy stuff, and those thugs went running scared.” He laughed. “After that, I shaved my head, worked out every day, got a few custom tattoos, bought a gun, and dared those assholes to come near me.” Katie imagined a tall, well-built man, covered with tattoos, and a gun in his waistband. Besides the gun, the rest made a very sexy picture, even if she couldn’t imagine his face.
She lowered her voice, hoping to change the subject. “The picture you just painted doesn’t sound very intimidating to me.”
“Oh yeah?” She could hear him lick his lips. “What kind of picture are you imagining over there?” The timbre of his voice changed, leaving behind the anger and bringing forth something sexier, decadent even. After he’d hit on her during their first phone call—forcing her to hang up on him—she noticed he’d been choosing his words very carefully. However, little by little he’d been breaking down her walls, and on top of that, her loneliness was starting to get the better of her.
“Well,” she adjusted herself comfortably on her bed, “I can’t see your face of course, but you’ve said you are six foot two, you’ve worked out for the past fifteen years, and you eat right, taking pride in your body.” Katie sighed, and then let loose a little moan of appreciation. “You see what I’m getting at here?”
“Shit,” Logan whispered. “Yeah, I think I can see where your mind is going. You want to tell me more about that?”
Katie exhaled. “What the heck am I doing?” She sat up, her face hot with more than just nervousness. “I’m sorry.”
“Goddamn, girl. Don’t be sorry, be honest and tell me what you were thinking.” His voice was gruff, but not with anger.
Katie covered her mouth to keep her delighted laughter in.
At her silence, he whispered not unkindly, “Tease.”
“You know I don’t mean to be,” she said honestly. Katie was horny and so was Logan; she guessed eventually they’d joke and flirt about it, but that was it.
He cleared his throat, but she caught laughter in it. “I’m not sure. Babe, I’m gonna let you go. I need to call Trent and set up the money transfer to my canteen.”
Katie placed as much pout in her voice as she could. “Fine.” She could keep him on the phone longer if she wanted to, but she really did want him to set up a calling plan for them.
He groaned again, and Katie wasn’t too sure he was actually going to be making a phone call when he hung up, but maybe handling some personal business. Shame hit hard. She wasn’t a tease, and she didn’t want Logan rubbing one out on his own because of her. She sweetened her voice and said, “I have some preparing to do for this storm anyway, so I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”