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Authors: EJ McCay

Charitable Hearts (7 page)

BOOK: Charitable Hearts
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Maggie chewed her lip and smiled. “Gary will be there?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, but I’ve never played video games.”

“I think Gary needs a foosball rematch.”

“It won’t matter.”

His face lit up and he laughed. “Oh, big talk!”

She shrugged and took a sip of her drink. “Hey, why hide my foosball greatness?”

“How about we get this stuff to go?”

“Sure.”

“Being completely honest, the only reason I brought you here was to tell you about Amelia and Rachel and to apologize for the evil twin you met earlier. I promise he is locked away in a dungeon and will never be seen or heard from again.”

“Does he have an iron mask on? Cause an evil twin has to have an iron mask.”

Levi laughed and flashed a lopsided grin. “Yeah, definitely.”

Sixteen

Gary met Maggie at the bottom
of the stairs with a Twizzler hanging out his mouth. He was ready for game night with his headset on and controller in hand. It didn’t stop him from picking her up at the waist and spinning her which she was starting to realize was their thing. He sat her down and she looked at him. “Holy cow! You shaved?”

He shrugged and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I was tired of it. Plus, it was really itchy.” Gary scratched his chin as if just the thought of the beard made him itch.

“You look like you’re sixteen with it gone.”

“Sixteen? Aw, man.”

“A cute sixteen.”

“A cute sixteen? Okay, I can be sixteen as long as I’m cute.” Gary bumped her with his shoulder. “So, you ready to kill some zombies or maybe take out some bad guys in the dessert? Oh, maybe aliens or something?”

“Um, I don’t have any idea. Maybe something kinda easy since I’ve never really played video games before. You know, really, if you guys want to play and I’ll just kinda hang out, it’s okay.”

Gary tapped his chin. “What? Are you kidding? We don’t invite people over and make them watch the mayhem. You’re either in or not.”

“We could always forgo the video games and do some foosball.” Maggie wiggled her eyebrows and grinned.

“My ego can’t handle a rematch just yet.”

Maggie held up her hands in defeat. “Okay, but you guys may regret it.”

“Doubt it,” Levi said and sat down on the sofa.

The coffee table was littered with all sorts of snacks. From candy to cakes to chips. Sitting next to the gaming system was a refrigerator, which she’d missed the last time she was in the basement. She suspected it was stocked with Strawberry Yoohoo.

“All right,” Gary said and gently placed a headset on Maggie. He handed her a controller. “This will let you talk to us and other players. Now, we’re going to make a few practice runs so you can get a feel of the controller. You want something to drink?” He went over to the fridge and opened it. “We have Strawberry Yoohoo, of course,” he said and glanced back at her, “soda, and water.”

“We have wine upstairs.” Levi added.

“I’ll just have a water.”

Levi jumped up. “I think I’ll run upstairs and get a glass of wine. You sure you don’t want any?”

Maggie looked at him. Levi looked so relaxed and at ease. Like telling her about Amelia and Rachel had released him from all the pain he’d held onto. It made her envious and the thoughts which were trying to bubble to the surface made her flustered. “You know what? I think I do.”

“And color preference?”

“Nope, just as long as it’s wine.”

“Okay, be right back.”

Levi jogged to the steps and took them two at a time. It had been so long since he felt so free. He only wished Maggie would learn to trust him and let go of whatever it was she was holding onto so tightly.

Maggie took a seat on the couch and adjusted the headset Gary gave her. “So,” she said and look at the stairs. “Levi told me about Amelia.”

“Awesome. You didn’t tell him I’d told you anything, right?”

“No. He told me about Rachel too.”

Gary’s eyes bugged out and looked to make sure Levi was still upstairs. “That’s huge. He never talks about that.”

“I was surprised. Not sure why he told me, though.”

Gary looked her in the eyes. “Sure you do. Look, I’m not saying you guys are meant for each other or that you should date or whatever, but just promise me you won’t hurt my friend.”

“You have my word.” Maggie looked away. “Pinkies.”

“Okay, you have to explain that now.”

“Explain what?” Levi asked and walked to the couch holding two glasses of red wine. He handed one to Maggie and sat next to her.

“Pinkies. What does that mean?” Gary asked.

Maggie took a deep breath and let it out. “When Laura and I were in college, anytime we promised something, we would say pinkies. It meant that whatever we promised, we would do whatever it took to make sure we kept that promise. For us, it was a solemn oath, that until this day, we still haven’t broken.”

“So, what were you saying pinkies to?” Levi twisted to look at her.

Gary spoke up. “She promised to be a regular at game night from now on.”

Levi knew Gary was lying, but he decided to let it go. “Oh yeah? It’s the snacks, right?”

Maggie laughed. “Oh yeah. Who in their right mind would turn down this smorgasbord of…heart attack?”

Gary and Levi looked at each other and busted out laughing. It was infectious. The ease of their friendship. Maggie couldn’t help but join in laughing. Levi wasn’t kidding when he said it was game night. Between the snacks, the games and the banter between Levi and Gary, Maggie couldn’t remember a time when she’d had so much fun.

It was sure better than the party Levi had thrown where there were so many people she couldn’t even breathe. After her second glass of wine, the jokes became funnier and her aim in the game became less accurate. Not that she was all that accurate to start with, but after the wine she wasn't sure she could even throw the controller and hit the television.

The last thing she remembered before falling asleep was Gary arguing with Levi about some magic power and whether or not it was fair for him to use it against some wood creature in their game. She must have felt very comfortable with them because she didn’t typically sleep well when she wasn’t home.

When she woke up, the first thing she noticed was that Gary was gone. The next thing she noticed was that she had her arm across Levi and she was lying next to him on the couch. Her head was resting on his shoulder and his chin was touching her forehead like he had been watching her sleep.

She started to move when he wrapped both his arms around her and she stopped. The last thing she wanted was to wake him up and find herself in an even more awkward position. When she looked back up at him, he was looking at her, smiling.

Without thinking, she pushed his hair away from his face and rested her hand on his cheek. He hugged her tighter, bringing her mouth closer to his.
Oh…
Maggie’s heart raced. How long had it been since she had allowed anyone this close to her?

Levi wasn’t going to do anything this time. As much as he wanted to kiss Maggie, he didn’t want to see the fear he’d seen before. He brushed his fingers across her cheek. She was warm against him and she fit just right. It was like she was made for him.

Maggie relaxed and closed her eyes.
I’m going to kiss him.
Maybe kissing him would squelch the growing attraction she had for him. She was certainly attracted to him physically, but it was so much more. He was so much more than what she had thought he would be. Even the Levi she had initially met was different from the man staring at her. He was easy to be with which made Maggie ache for him.

She opened her eyes and concentrated on his lips.
Would it be so bad to kiss Levi Martin?
Instead of thinking about it anymore, Maggie slowly brushed her lips across his. They were so soft against hers. She licked her lips, the sweetness of the wine from the night before still lingering. The fireworks of emotions she had been battling seemed to be drowned out by her quickened heartbeat.

Levi couldn’t believe Maggie was kissing him. He had remained motionless, hoping, but this was more than he’d hoped for. When her lips brushed his again, it was like little electrical charges making his skin tingle. Part of him wanted to turn her over and kiss every bare inch of her throat. The Levi she had met at the restaurant would have, but he wanted her to want him.

It was like a current of pure power coursing through Maggie. She wanted him to kiss her back, but he stayed stone-still. Maggie pushed up on her elbows, allowing her more freedom to reach him. When she moved, it must have been the signal he needed because he matched the intensity of her mouth with his own.

Maggie began to drown. The emotional tidal wave started to overwhelm her. She was falling for Levi and that was something she just could not allow. She had promised Gary she wouldn’t hurt him. It was her and she was broken. Unfixable, unable to give herself to anyone without feeling like she was dishonoring…Maggie pushed away and sat up.

“I’m sorry. I can’t.”

Levi sat up and wrapped his arms around her. “It’s okay.”

“I don’t want to hurt you, Levi. I’m broken,” she whispered. “I’m broken and I can’t lie to you and say I’m okay. I’m just…” Maggie’s words caught in her throat.

He pulled Maggie against him with her back resting against his chest and he nuzzled her hair. “It’ll be okay.”

Maggie twisted around and looked him in the eyes. “I need to go home. Please.”

“Maggie.”

“Please, Levi. Please, just take me home.”

Seventeen

When Levi pulled in front of her house,
Maggie said a hasty goodbye and practically ran from him into the house. She barely made it inside the door before she lost her composure, sliding down the door and wrapping her arms around her knees. The tears ran down her cheeks.

Kissing him was like being on fire. Her skin tingled just thinking about him. She ached to be with him before kissing him, and now that she had kissed him she craved him. How was she going to face him the next time? Geeks for Fibrosis was just a couple of months away and she wanted it to be successful, for him.

She couldn’t stop crying. Thinking about him, and wanting to be with him and knowing she just couldn’t.
Not after…

Maggie took a deep breath, rubbed her eyes, and stretched her legs out in front of her. She looked at her computer. That’s where she belonged. Sitting behind a computer, letting her mind focus on the next story. It had saved her before, and now it was time for it to save her again.

Her phone buzzed in her jean pocket and she pulled it out.
Laura…
Before answering, she collected herself and tapped the button.

“Hey, Laura.”

“Hey, Maggie. Is everything okay?”

Maggie struggled to control her voice. “Things are great.”

“You don’t sound right. Are you sure?”

“I’m fine. What’s up?”

“You are amazing. Joanna Flemming called after you talked to her. After she heard about our numbers and the changes we’ve made she said they would be happy to sponsor a karaoke section at Geeks for Fibrosis.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, it should be awesome. She sent me a video of another event they sponsored and it was awesome. They provide everything. How did you hear about them?”

“It’s really strange. One of the speaking engagements I attended, their Regional Marketing Manager was in the audience and we struck up a conversation. The guy said if there was an event I thought would fit with their demographics to please give them a call. They are pretty big there on the East Coast, but it would help them expand into a new market. It was this last press tour I was on. I don’t know if it was coincidence or luck or what, but it worked and that’s all that matters.”

“Well, they’ve officially signed on. I’ve got paperwork to send them for their accountants. Of course, there’s always paperwork, but I’d say it’s a done deal.” Laura sounded pleased with herself.

“That’s incredible. Levi will be thrilled.”

“I thought so. You want to tell him or should I call him?”

“Why don’t you call him?”

“Are you sure? I think this is something he’d love to hear from you.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. I just thought you two were getting along pretty well.”

“Oh, I’m sure he’ll just love to hear good news. He won’t care who tells him.”

“Did something happen?”

“No.”

“Maggie, you are not telling me something.”

“I’m not. Levi and Gary had a game night and they invited me. I fell asleep and he just dropped me off. That’s all.”

“You played video games?”

“Yeah, I played video games.”

“And nothing else happened?”

“Nope. Just video games and too much junk food.”

“Okay, but I know you Maggie. Somethings wrong. I can hear it in your voice.”

“What you hear is exhaustion. I need to go to bed and get some sleep.”

Laura paused. Maggie thought for sure Laura was going to keep pressing her. When Laura got a bone she usually didn’t leave any meat on it. “Get some sleep. I’ll talk to you later.”

Maggie inwardly sighed with relief. “Okay, later.” The phone clicked and Maggie was alone again. She sagged back against the door and focused on the computer. Instead of sleeping, she pushed herself off the floor, got her favorite pajamas on, and settled herself into her chair to write.

The next time she saw Levi, she would be her regular composed self. It would be like nothing had happened.
Just who are you trying to convince?
Tears threatened to spill again. She blinked a couple of times and refocused on the screen in front of her.
He’s just a guy and I’m just not interested.

BOOK: Charitable Hearts
13.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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