I used his charisma to mask some of my trepidation.
You think you're brilliant but you've played a bad hand. Jacob is going to be along shortly.
I'll be gone before he gets here, princess. I simply wanted to remind you that writing about 'snowmen' and my private affairs is going to bring you nothing but heartache.
You're a neverending gift in that regard then, aren't you?
He walked across the path and stooped, picking up the black ribbon that I had pulled from my hair and brought it back to me, presenting it on his outstretched palm.
You always looked beautiful in black, Bridget.
You can mourn only for things you can no longer have, princess.
You don't know me, Caleb.
Oh but I do. More than you realize. I know you put on lavender lingerie this morning and that you threw away the breakfast danish Jacob left for you. I know you're taking penicillin for a sore throat and that you have been driving a lot alone lately, and I know that Jacob is off doing a tour right now of his precious hippie church with a TV crew and that you didn't want to be filmed so you decided to take his distraction and use it to your advantage. An interesting move considering that usually, princess, you are the distraction at hand.
You have no business being here, Caleb. This bench is for Cole's children.
Ah, yes, my beautiful niece and nephew. Please reconsider my offer and take them out of that wretched neighborhood public school and give them half a shot at an education in a private school.
They love their school, this isn't any of your business.
I simply want what's best for you and the children, Bridget.
What would be best for us would be you leaving us alone.
I wish I could, but I'm so drawn to you.
It didn't work for your large and largely unruly husband, why would it work for anyone else?
Because you want me to be happy, maybe? Because you want to make up for your brother's abuse?
No, princess. Wrong on all counts. Because I want to keep you. Keep what I once had. Clear and simple. My little brother had impeccable taste and I'm hungry. Families keep their riches within the ranks, and you are our brightest treasure.
Go away, Caleb.
Oh I will go away, but I'll be back. Until then, keep that beautiful wardrobe of pastel-colored panties in full rotation. They look magnificent on you.
I opened my eyes, fighting the sleep that wanted to pull me back down. I was warm, the fever raged within, I was awash in fearful sweat, bathed in a cold terror from what amounted to a simple nightmare.
Caleb wasn't here.
Or was he?
I sought Jacob's arms and burrowed into them and he rolled away in a slumbering protest. I was burning up. His hand came to rest on my forehead.
Baby girl, stay in today.
No, I have to go visit Cole for a bit and then I have one phone conference this afternoon.
Cancel both, you can do it tomorrow.
No, I'll be okay, once I'm up and have had some Tylenol.
He agreed and I rose to head for the shower. Within an hour I did feel better, and I was just putting the finishing touches on my outfit when Jacob emerged from his own shower to get dressed.
Wear the black ribbon, Bridget. You always look so beautiful in black.
I turned to stare at him curiously and he was holding the black ribbon out in the palm of his hand, exactly the way Caleb had in my nightmare.
Jacob waded into my unconscious subconscious with an ice-cold cloth and shaking hands.
Jesus. What happened?
You quoted a line from my nightmare. Something Caleb said.
What was it?
How beautiful I look in black.
Everyone says that, Bridge. It's the contrast of light and dark. It's stunning. Don't read so much into a nightmare.
Maybe it was a warning.
That he's here? I don't think he'd return. I don't think legally he can return.
I wouldn't count on a ruling keeping him away.
Naw, but I would count on fear. He's only alive because I won't risk losing my life with you to permanently end his trips to be near you.
Then maybe that's why he continues to push. He knows you can't touch him.
Pretty much the same method of madness that Cole lived by, right?
I don't even want to talk about it anymore, Jake.
That's fine, but I'm going to drive you this morning.
That would be nice.
No, it fucking sucks but under the circumstances it's a better idea than most, princess.
So I found myself an hour later walking through a deja-vu haze as I wobbled down the path toward the bench I think I know every inch of. I got there and it was empty and I turned and sat down on it and the relief came flooding out in a long sigh of a breath.
And then I looked down at the ground beside the bench itself and there was a newspaper bearing today's date.
I flew back down the path as fast as my high heels would let me go on those slippery leaves and I ran right into Jacob, hitting my head on his chest and springing back like I was hit with force.
I don't know.