Katie had sat by the phone waiting for it to ring for the last two days. She felt ridiculous, but at this point she didn’t care. Held up in her house since Valentine’s Day night, she had way too much time on her hands. The editor would most probably have her manuscript for another week or two, and Katie had already cleaned her house from top to bottom . . . twice.
Teal had called a couple times to schedule a breakfast, lunch, or dinner with her, but she pretended to be too busy. Although Katie was mad—no, she was livid that they had once again tried to control another aspect of her life—she tried not to let Teal see the pain it caused her. And she sure as hell wasn’t going to confront her dad about it. She already knew
how that would turn out. Her father had a way of making Katie feel like a needy child, and she supposed she only had herself to blame for that. Growing up, Katie didn’t fit in, so she leaned on her parents for companionship.
When her mother married Jan-Erik, she had only been eight. Jan-Erik moved his new family to Northern Virginia in an affluent suburb and placed Katie in a private school. She’d notice the differences between her and her classmates almost immediately, and if she hadn’t, they had no problems reminding her.
As if the obvious outward differences weren’t enough, Katie had to deal with going back to her old hometown to visit family for the summer three years later. Her friends had all gone to public schools and seemed so different than her, or at least that’s what they’d told her when they’d called her names like: bougie, stuck up, and Bougetto. For the life of her she couldn’t figure out what any of those names meant in reference to her, but one in particular stuck with her from childhood until now, and that was Oreo.
Of all the names she was called as a kid, Oreo had to be the most confusing. She was not mixed and she didn’t think she “acted white”. She would always ask, “How do you act white?” It made no sense that speaking properly and not using slang was looked at as “acting white”. Especially since Katie thought she was just speaking the English she was taught in school.
When Katie realized that her friends from the past, as well as the new students of St. Augustine's Preparatory School for Girls, weren’t interested in her friendship, she turned to the only two people who accepted her—her parents.
Katie wasn’t sure how long the phone had been ringing, but as soon as her inner thoughts released her from the past she grabbed the receiver and squeaked out a greeting. “Um . . . yes, hello?”
Anxiety heightened, she listened as the automated voice explained, “You are receiving a collect call from Crashaw Correctional, Inmate #92510.” The recording stopped, and the voice she’d been waiting to hear came on the line as he said his name to the recording that would play for her. She didn’t have time to think much about the gruff, rumbling voice on the other end of the line.
Since the automated operator cared nothing about Katie needing to calm her nerves, it continued, “If you’d like to accept these charges, please press one. If not, please hang up the phone.”
Before Katie could think, or even second-guess herself, she pressed one and covered her mouth, hoping to trap the nervous squeal bubbling in her chest. The line was silent for a moment before Scott’s southern accent filled the line.
Katie hadn’t been sure what to expect from Scott’s voice since she’d never set foot in his hometown. She heard as he cleared his voice and tried again.
The fake name she’d given him surprised her, and she almost wished Kristen were her name. She found her voice just in time to sound like a fool. “Um . . . yes, this is her—I mean, I . . . I’m Kristen.” She slapped her forehead, but his warm chuckle stopped her embarrassment and heat blossomed in her chest.
“Sounds like someone is nervous,” Scott teased.
Katie laughed and swallowed her nerves. It was just a phone call, why was she acting so ridiculous? “Just a little,” she admitted.
“Well now, what’s there to be nervous about?”
Katie could hear indistinct noises in the background, and she assumed that Scott wasn’t alone in the room. After all, he was in prison and she’d seen the phone pods before. There were eight if she remembered correctly, and since he was in the minimum-security ward, they were free to come and go as they pleased.
“Honestly, I don’t know.” And that was the truth. Katie had lingered by the phone like a crazy person waiting for this call, and now that he’d phoned she was lip-locked.
Scott’s voiced lowered. “Well, can I start this conversation out by saying you have a beautiful voice?”
At that, Katie let out a short burst of snorting laughter, which she was sure would change his mind about her “beautiful voice.”
He laughed as well. “No, seriously. It’s soft and sweet, the way a woman should sound.”
Blushing profusely, Katie smiled. “Thank you, Scott. I like your voice, too. I wasn’t sure how you’d sound, but I like the light Southern accent.”
“Shit, honey, you should hear me when I’m angry. I can make every word one syllable and a paragraph turns into four words.”
She laughed. “Oh yeah?”
“Yeah. I honestly thought you’d sound more Southern, ‘cause you said you were from Virginia.”
“Yes, I am, but I’m from Alexandria. It’s far up north, close to DC, so I don’t really think I have an accent. If you go further down around Suffolk, Virginia Beach, or even to the west, like Clarksville, you’ll hear a bit of the South.” Katie relaxed a bit as she talked to Scott about her hometown.
Though while growing up, the place was stressful, it was still familiar and helped erase a bit of the stress in her life. “Now, if you go north all the way up to New York, they’ll call you a Southerner, but if you head down to South Carolina, they’ll call you a Yankee!”
She and Scott laughed, and Katie couldn’t help but enjoy the timbre of his voice. Heavy and deep, the sound traveled through the phone and settled in her ear, pleasing the part of her that missed a man’s voice.
“You don’t sound the least bit Southern to me.”
Katie scooted back in her chair and got comfortable. The muscles in her neck loosened, and she took a deep breath. “Of course not, Mr. Kentucky, you are west of Virginia.”
Logan chuckled. “True.”
There was a moment of silence, and Katie almost panicked, but instead she thought back to the letter he’d sent her. “Hey, why did you really want me to tell you a deep, dark secret? Planning to use it against me later?” She chuckled nervously. If Scott ever found out that Katie was the warden’s daughter, would he use her words against her?
“Yeah, about that . . . Kristen, I just thought you might need to talk to me about something. I say this because, when a woman reaches out to a stranger, a convicted felon no less, there might be something behind it. You told me you had friends, so I’m wondering what’s going on in your life that has you reaching out to a stranger instead of your friends.”
Good question. “Hmmm . . .” She didn’t really have to think about it, but she needed to stall for time. She wasn’t sure what she was going to say to him. However, Scott was smarter than she gave him credit for and called her out.
“What’s this, ‘Hmmm’? You know what it is, and I think you want to tell me.” Scott’s voice lowered, and if possible got even sexier, but Katie ignored the warmth in her belly and focused on his words. At her silence, he added, “You want me to go first?”
Her mouth moved before she even knew it was happening, and she whispered, “Please.”
He wasn’t silent long, but she still felt his hesitance. “Shit, honey, I’m not even sure if these calls are recorded or not.”
“Yes, they are.” Katie knew this for a fact.
“Okay . . . but I’m still gonna do it. I’ll still tell you because I can’t expect it from you and not do the same in return, right?”
“Right.” Katie was nervous for her turn, but curiosity about Scott and his maybe dark deeds excited her to the core. He was in prison, and Katie could think of a million things he could confess to her. “Don’t tell me anything illegal, Scott,” she pleaded. She wouldn’t tell a soul, but she also wouldn’t be able to talk to him anymore.
Gruff laughter emerged from the phone. “Honey, I wouldn’t sully your ears with more of my crimes if I had any. You aren’t a priest, and I ain’t asking for your forgiveness. Just your time and your honesty.”
Katie didn’t speak. Actually, she was relieved he was so frank with her.
Scott coughed, and lowered his voice to a whisper. “Okay, a deep, dark secret. After this call, I’m going to go back to my cell, lay in my bed, and think of what it would be like to make love to you.”
Bumbling idiot that she was, Katie dropped the phone . . . and in her several attempts to pick it up again, she pressed about twenty buttons. Once the phone was back to her ear and she’d settled down, she expected to hear Scott laughing, but was greeted with silence.
“Shit, I hung up on him,” she whispered dejectedly.
“No you didn’t, sweetheart. I’m still here.”
Katie wasn’t sure if she should be relieved or hang up. “Oh, okay.”
Still, there was no chuckle on the other end. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you. I was just being honest.”
Katie took a deep breath and placed her head down on the desk. “I appreciate that, Scott, but my secret isn’t that I want you in my bed, it’s darker and more painful than lust.” And with that, Katie hung up the phone.
“Shit.” She slammed the receiver down again. Of course all he wanted to do was talk about sex. He was a freaking criminal who’d been hard up for several years. He didn’t give a damn about Katie, and she was a damned fool for ever believing that he did.