If Caroline had to choose one place to be holed up while recovering, she would have chosen to be with Porter at his amazing home on the Upper Lake. Luckily, she didn’t have to make that choice…he made it for her. Not only did he decide for her, he insisted that she stay with him. And even though she had bruised arms and legs, looking like she got into a fight with an eighteen wheeler and lost, she was still glowing like a star because of Porter. He went out of his way to make her feel beautiful and welcomed in his home. She smiled thinking just how “welcomed” she felt. He waited on her hand and foot. And while Porter was actually from New York, he was full of southern charm and she was enjoying every minute of it.
It’s not as though she expected him to do everything for her, she was quite capable of feeding herself, but again, he insisted. He made sure she took her breathing treatments on time every day, he ran her bubble baths and washed her back.
She had to admit it was pretty nice, and where a serious relationship would have normally scared her into having multiple flings at once, when she was with Porter she hadn’t even considered running into another man’s arms. In fact, she spent most of her time undressed in bed, or undressed on his private deck overlooking the lake, or undressed in the kitchen getting familiar with his counter spaces and table. Now that she reflected on the last couple of weeks, she was even familiar with the man’s hall closet. He definitely had no problems in the sex department and she was doing no complaining. They would make love for hours it seemed, they’d break to eat something, then start it up again. She couldn’t be more content with a man.
She adjusted the blanket that was lying across her legs while she lounged in one of his comfy double-seated, royal blue Adirondack chairs on the deck. She was exhausted from not sleeping the night before, but she couldn’t bring herself to miss the sun rising over the lake. It was the most picturesque, serene view that she’d ever seen and it brought tears to her eyes every time that she saw it.
She thought she was being silly for crying so much lately, but she couldn’t help it. She was overly emotional from everything that had happened to her. Porter told her that it would take time, to be patient with herself, but she was ready to get back to her life…with Porter, of course.
She heard the door open and close, and another smile appeared on her face. It was Porter with their morning coffee. He placed their identical mugs on the table while he sat down and leaned back to snuggle closer to her. Once he was situated, he placed her coffee in her hand, then kissed her cheek. “You had nightmares again last night and didn’t sleep well.” He stated plainly, not asking, letting her know that he was aware that she was still struggling. He kissed her hand then held it in his own. “Caroline, I will never let anyone hurt you again. If I have to follow you around every day just to make sure of it, I will.”
She giggled, but sobered quickly because she knew he wasn’t joking and she wanted to reassure him. “I know you would baby, but you don’t have to worry. The nightmares are getting better.” She lied, and Porter knew it because he woke every time she sat up in the middle of the night crying.
And she knew that, too. She shivered and turned away from him. “It’s just I keep replaying that day in my head. I don’t want to, but I can’t help it. I keep thinking how I was so stupid, not paying attention to anything going on around me, and because of that I was abducted in broad daylight. I was so weak that I couldn’t even protect myself. I feel so stupid.” She sniffed and another tear fell from her eye. Porter placed his hand gently under her chin and made her look him in the eye when he said, “Caroline, listen to me. You did nothing wrong. What happened to you wasn’t your fault. It was the Tucker’s fault. And Terry paid for it with his life and Julie is paying for it in prison. You have nothing to be sorry for nor should you feel guilty, or weak. You’re strong because no matter what they did to you, you’re surviving and moving on with your life. You’re the most courageous woman that I know. I love you, Caroline.”
She put her forehead on his chest and took in his scent. “And I love you Porter. I don’t know how I’d be doing any of this without you.” She proclaimed, then laid her cheek on his chest.
“Well you don’t have to worry about that because you have me and I’m not going anywhere. Do you understand that?”
She nodded her understanding, then rolled her head to his shoulder. They both sat there in silence, enjoying the feel of the other while watching the sun rise.
A couple of hours later they came up for air and Porter decided it was time they got out of the house and took that leisurely drive that he had planned. He also planned a surprise party for Caroline with her family and it was scheduled for that night. Her mother and father were shocked to learn what happened while they were away on vacation, but grateful to Porter for taking care of their daughter when they couldn’t be there. They all agreed that a family party would be a good event to help Caroline get back on her feet. Her cousin Becky, on the other hand, cried hysterically too many times while she and Caroline’s family had visited his home over the last few weeks. Porter thought he was going to have to limit their visits because Becky would get so worked up that in turn Caroline would get worked up.
While Porter was more than happy to keep Caroline to himself, he knew it was time for them to introduce themselves as a couple and let other people into their very happy bubble. He also knew Caroline was starting to feel trapped and he wanted her to get some fresh air beyond his deck. When he mentioned taking the ride, she immediately brightened, then a split second later a frown appeared on her face, but she agreed that she needed to get out of the house. Porter smiled, but hid it because he knew exactly why she was pouting and what he was about to do.
She was strapping up her last sandal when Porter put his hand out to help her stand, not that she needed help standing, it’s just the way that he was. She took his hand and followed him through the kitchen and out of the back door. Once the house was locked up, they started toward his car. When they approached the passenger side he opened the door for her, but instead of her sliding into the seat, he did, and then strapped on the seatbelt. He was smiling like a loon and she was looking at him like he was a three-headed monster.
He tossed her the keys, and as she grabbed them at the last minute, she noticed him pulling something out his wallet.
She was dumbfounded.
He actually spoke to Judge Leblanc and got her license reinstated and all of the charges dropped. The judge was a good friend of Porter’s and once he explained what happened to Caroline, and of course the free lunches for a month that he promised, Caroline no longer had to go to court and pay for her many past-due tickets. She was so happy that all she could manage was a squeal. “I thought you might be ready to get this back.” He joked smugly then placed the license in her hand. She stared at it with wide eyes and a goofy grin. He enjoyed doing things for Caroline, especially surprising her, and damn did he score big. She was definitely surprised. She made the most adorable, loving faces when he did things for her and he was actually starting to crave the looks she made.
She climbed into the seat with him, straddled him, and promptly planted short, sweet kisses all over his face. He accepted them with a laugh and then said a muffled, “You’re very welcome, sweetheart,” against her lips.