Cate paused beside the bed for a moment, looking down at him. She gently laid the note on her rumpled pillow, ensuring Jon’s name was visible on the front of the folded page.
He had stirred when she slid out bed just twenty minutes ago, raising his tousled head and blinking at her in the murky pre-dawn grayness of the room. Cate had whispered her reassurance that she was just going to the bathroom, that he should go back to sleep. He had nodded and mumbled something that passed for “okay” then dropped back onto his pillow.
She had waited in the bathroom for ten minutes before creeping past the bed and into her walk-in closet. Cate had dressed quickly in the dark, wanting to be sure Jon was soundly asleep before she made her departure. Attired in track pants and a Center t-shirt, Cate tiptoed from the bedroom to the kitchen where she had hastily scribbled the note.
She didn’t want him to worry when he woke up and found her gone.
With a wistful smile Cate gave Jon one last longing look, then turned to leave.
The door swung open with its familiar little creak. Cate chuckled softly at the noise; two years she’d been in this office and had never gotten around to oiling the hinges.
Not bothering to flick on the overhead light, Cate crossed the room to the couch. The light streaming through the windows was now a soft pinkish-gold, the sun just ready to drift above the horizon. It bathed her office with a dim, rosy glow.
It would be nice to remember it like this.
Cate dropped the box she carried onto the couch and turned her eyes upward, to her collection of memories and mementos. She let her gaze drift slowly over the wall, from right to left, taking the time to really look at each photo, to read each plaque, to savor each memory. This would be the last time she would see them like this, arranged on an office wall here at the Center.
Then with a deep breath she reached for the first frame.
Jon’s soft lashes fluttered gently as a ray of golden light caressed his face. With a little sigh he turned his head away from the window, toward Cate. His eyes still closed, he reached out to touch her.
He felt only the smooth, cool cotton of the sheets.
Jon’s eyes took a few seconds to focus as the morning light chased away the haze of sleep. He saw that he was alone; Cate was nowhere in sight.
His heart stopped as his gaze settled on the folded piece of paper on her pillow. He reached out to pluck it from its resting place then rolled onto his back. Holding the note gingerly, Jon scrubbed his other hand over his stubbled face and across his eyes as he tried to prepare himself for what news it might contain.
With a deep breath he unfolded the page and scanned the writing.
There’s something I have to do. Will be back soon with breakfast.
I Love You.
A gentle smile curved Jon’s soft lips as he traced his fingertip over the last sentence.
Twenty minutes later Jon heard the garage door engage. He flicked off the television and reached to slide the remote back onto Cate’s nightstand. Quickly settling himself back onto the bed he turned his head toward the window and let one arm fall to his side, the other across his belly. His last movement before closing his eyes and feigning sleep was to adjust the sheet that partially covered him.
Cate quietly opened the door and padded into the kitchen. The house was still silent; maybe he wasn’t up yet. Carefully setting the big box on the floor near her hall closet, Cate pulled the brown bag from inside it, grimacing at the loud rustle of the paper. She carried the bag into the kitchen and dropped it on the counter, then kicked off her running shoes and advanced toward the bedroom door. It was still open a crack, like she had left it an hour and a half ago.
As she nudged the door open Cate saw Jon still stretched out in the bed, dozing fitfully. Her eyes went to her pillow and she spied her note still resting there, though it had slid sideways into the indentation left by her head. Apparently it had moved when Jon shifted position.
And he certainly had shifted. Jon’s head was turned away from her and he had kicked one leg free of the sheets. Cate’s eyes slid over his peaceful form, taking in his tousled honey-caramel hair, his bare, bronzed chest, and his rippled abdomen. Her mouth watered and she felt a little spark of lust as her gaze lingered on Jon’s uncovered hip and the delicious profile of his ass presented by his position. Slowly her eyes slipped down over his lightly-furred thigh. She marveled at how clearly defined his quadricep muscle was even in its relaxed state. Finally her gaze came to rest on Jon’s dragon ankle-tat and she unconsciously licked her lips.
Lord, he was glorious. If only she could stand here forever, gazing at Jon in her bed.
Then again, why look when she could touch?
Jon tried to keep his breathing even and rhythmic as he felt Cate’s hungry eyes on him. He heard the rustle of fabric as Cate quietly undressed, then he felt her slide onto the mattress. It was all he could do not to smirk naughtily as he felt himself stir beneath the sheet that barely concealed him.
Cate settled onto the bed on her side, naked. Realizing the note was still on her pillow she impatiently flicked it aside, seeing it flutter to the floor in her peripheral vision. Running a hand through her hair, she mussed it slightly and pushed it to tumble down over her shoulder. She wanted his first sight of this morning to be something he wouldn’t forget.
Wetting her lips with a quick flick of her tongue, Cate reached out to lightly trace her fingertips across Jon’s bare hip. She smirked naughtily as the sheet stirred, just inches from her fingers.
“AHA! Caught ya!” Suddenly Jon sprang to life, reaching out to capture Cate’s wrist with his hand and rolling toward her. Cate let out a loud squeak of surprise at his swift movement, then gasped as she found herself face-to-face with her lover, his blue eyes sparkling merrily and his grin making her insides turn to mush.
“You’re… awake?” Cate gasped, her heart pounding from the shock of his sneak-attack.
Jon nodded. “Yeah. I know you were standing there ogling me, you naughty minx.” He chuckled sexily as his eyes ranged downward, over her naked breasts and bare, tanned flesh. “And judging from your lack of attire, you had some rather indecent plans for me.”
“Ummm… yeah,” Cate admitted sheepishly.
Jon chortled and touched his lips to hers for a slow, suggestive kiss. “So, what did you bring me for breakfast?” He murmured against her mouth, still grinning.
“Bagels,” Cate breathed, pulling her wrist free from his grasp and sliding her hand up his chest.
“Mmmm… sounds good.” Jon replied, kissing her again. “But I’d rather have you for breakfast.”
Cate sighed happily as Jon’s hands went to her hips, pulling her hard against him. She whimpered slightly as he nudged his cock between her thighs. “Well, breakfast IS the most important meal of the day….” she cooed seductively just before his mouth devoured hers.
Their hands ranging eagerly over each others’ bodies, Jon and Cate kissed hungrily, gasping in a breath here and there. Their mouths parted and they panted lightly as Jon gently pressed Cate onto her back, settling between her thighs and pushing himself up onto his elbows. He paused and smiled happily down at her, his heart warming as her expression mirrored his. Their eyes locked, swirling sapphire and clear azure dancing together in the soft morning light.
“I love you too, Cate,” Jon whispered as he slowly pushed inside her, joining their bodies as once again their souls entwined.
An hour later, their lovemaking complete, Cate and Jon finally untangled themselves from the sheets and from each other. Promising to join her after starting a pot of coffee, Jon sent Cate to the bathroom to run the shower. Yanking the now-sweaty sheet from the foot of the bed, Jon wrapped it around his waist before padding toward the kitchen.
As he passed the coat closet at the end of the short hall he saw something that made him stop and stare.
It was a box, filled with the photos and plaques from Cate’s office wall.
That was where she had gone this morning. Back to her office to close the final chapter of her life here, on her terms.
Jon blinked as his eyes grew misty with emotion. The unremarkable item at his feet was more than just a box full of Cate’s mementos. It was so much more.
It was a symbol. She was ready to let go, to begin a new life with him.
She wasn’t looking back.
Jon looked to his right as Cate settled into the passenger seat of his rental SUV. She pulled the door closed and took a deep breath. Cate stared straight ahead for a moment, then turned to give him a smile.
“Ready?” he grinned.
Without hesitation she nodded, then dropped her eyes as she let out a musical chuckle.
“What?” Jon asked amusedly.
“Nothing.” Cate’s cheeks flushed a light pink with embarrassment. “It’s corny.”
“C’mon… tell me,” Jon prodded playfully. “No secrets.”
Cate shook her head slightly, her auburn ponytail swinging with the movement, then she looked back up at Jon. “I just have this song in my head, is all.”
“What song?” Jon tried to keep the laughter from creeping into his voice. He would bet a million bucks it was one of his.
Cate blushed more deeply, taking a deep breath and turning her head away to look out her window. She began to sing softly, causing Jon to lean forward to hear her clearly.
I’ve finally found my way
Say goodbye to yesterday…
Jon grinned broadly and chuckled, reaching for Cate’s hand. His fingers laced with hers as she turned her sparkling blue eyes to meet his. Jon joined in her song.
Hit the gas there ain’t no brakes
On this Lost Highway….
Cate giggled and gave Jon a radiant smile as he continued to sing while she gazed adoringly at him.
I’m bustin’ loose I’m lettin’ go
Out on this open road
It’s Independence Day…
Jon’s voice gentled as he realized the meaning the phrase held for both of them. Today truly was their Independence Day… the day they were finally free of their pasts, headed for their future.
On this Lost Highway…..
“Let’s go,” Cate said gently.