Tethered Souls

By: Beth Flynn

Prologue





South Florida 2007





“Ten days is too long, Mimi,” Lucas whispered in my ear after breaking our kiss.

Lucas, my boyfriend, and I were standing in my dorm parking lot. He’d stopped to see me before I left for my annual spring break retreat and before he headed for his family home in Charleston.

I looked into his dark eyes and smiled. “It’ll fly by, I promise.” I did my best to sound convincing.

“Maybe for you,” he quickly countered. “I’ll be spending spring break doing hard labor.”

“I hardly think working in one of your father’s stores is hard labor, Lucas.” He pulled me closer and gave me an exaggerated sad puppy dog face.

“Any day I don’t get to spend with you is hard labor, Mimi.” He kissed the tip of my nose and sighed, resigned. He picked up the overnight bag I’d set on the ground, and taking my hand, steered me toward my car. Nodding at my Montana license plate he asked, “When will I get to meet your family?”

Like I’d done for the last several months, I expertly avoided his question. This time I did it by using the key remote to open the trunk. I watched as he arranged my overnight bag among two cases of bottled water, jumper cables, a laundry basket filled with clean clothes, a gym bag, and a pile of scattered books. I’d never intended to be so evasive with Lucas.

I was certain he would follow suit and do what every guy I’d ever dated had done. Once I let them know sex was off the table, they couldn’t get away from me fast enough. My original decision to keep my virginity hadn’t been so honorable. It had almost been taken without my consent, fueling my decision to hold onto the one thing that was mine and mine alone. There were a few who considered my intact hymen a challenge, but when they realized I was serious, it didn’t take long for them to hightail it away from me and my “closed to the public” lady parts.

Introducing a boy to my family had never been an issue. Then again, no other guy had dated me long enough to want to meet them. Lucas didn’t press me into a sexual relationship and that scared and excited me at the same time. It’s not like he hadn’t tried. We’d messed around a little bit, and he’d attempted to go further, but we never did. And still, when we got to a point I refused, he still stayed. I often struggled, wondering if he could be the one. I’d asked myself this more than once. My heart wanted to believe the answer was yes and I secretly wondered if I may have been falling in love with Lucas Paine.

Glancing at the laundry basket filled with clean clothes, he added, “I know your parents and brothers and sister are in Montana, but your grandfather is only a couple of hours away. You’ve never asked me once if I wanted to go with you to meet him.”

He was right. I’d never invited him, and I’d deliberately chosen to tell a half-truth, letting him and everyone else believe that my grandfather was my nearest relative. It explained how I could leave some weekends with a basket of dirty clothes and return with a clean pile.

The sound of the trunk closing broke through my thoughts. “It’s funny you brought up my grandfather. He mentioned having business near the college in a couple of weeks and wanted to take me to lunch. Do you want to come with us?”

He gave me a look that told me he knew I’d just made the lunch date up. “C’mon, Mimi. You’ve met my family. Are you embarrassed by me?” His tone was so sincere, I felt a sliver of guilt.

I shook my head and avoided his gaze as I headed for the driver side door. Opening it, I turned around to look at him. “Of course not. You’re perfect, Lucas.” And he was. With one exception.

“Then what is it, Mimi?” he pleaded.

“This isn’t a conversation I can have right now.” Looking at my watch I quickly added, “A conversation I don’t have time for. Can you just trust me that it’s not you?”

He brushed his hand through his short, dark-blond hair, gave me a crooked smile, and pulled me in for a hug. I welcomed his embrace and his spicy scent. I smiled and explained, “It’s not you. I swear it’s not. It’s my family. They’re…” I paused, trying to come up with a description that wouldn’t scare him off. “They’re different.”