The rest of the week had passed agonizingly slow for Callie. Rus never mentioned dinner and Callie wasn’t
even sure he knew she was coming. She hadn’t bothered to tell him either.
Ricky came to see her every day. She welcomed his visits. He always seemed happy and content. His smile was
always genuine and carefree. His spirits were growing each day and Callie was glad.
She was growing fond of Ricky and it scared her in a way. She found Rus always gazing at her when his son
was present. Though he never said anything, Callie knew, in her heart, that he was not totally pleased by his son’s
choice of a friend. However, she was also aware that father and son were developing a closer relationship. This gave her a
growing sense of pride.
For the last few days Rus’s temper had calmed a great deal. He was no longer on edge and snapping at
everyone and everything. It was as if a certain peace had taken over him, as if God had answered her prayers that his frustrations
be lifted and to be replaced with tranquillity.
No matter how many times Callie prayed, she was still amazed when her prayers were answered. This one especially
because not only was she growing fond of Ricky, she was growing quite fond of his father as well.
Callie thought the feeling was mutual. But she was certain that Rus would never admit that to himself.
At last Callie climbed the few steps to the front door of Rus’s home. It was a quaint little home situated
not far from the beach. It was a wooden structure with a large porch that surrounded all sides of the house and contained
shutters on all the windows.
The house was mostly painted a bright white and trimmed in a harvest green. It was bright and inviting.
The door opened and Rus stood there with his hand on the door knob and his eyes wide open. He swallowed hard,
unable to speak. As the minutes ticked by, Callie stood out on the porch listening to the sounds of night life around her.
She waited patiently as Rus adjusted to her presence at his home. Her eyes beamed with hidden laughter. He
was handsome. He wore a knit navy button shirt and a pair of khaki shorts. He stood barefooted and somehow that simple act
stirred something in Callie. She had to turn away abruptly, fighting a stirring of feelings she didn’t want to feel.
"Are you going to invite me in," Callie asked, or do you plan to serve me dinner out here on the porch?"
Rus stepped aside feeling dazed and confused. For a minute he thought of killing his only son. He closed
the door as Callie eased inside.
She was enchanting. Rus could not deny that. She wore a sleeveless pale pink cotton top that left her shoulders
and the length of her arms bare. She wore a simple flowing white flowered print skirt and sandals. Around her neck she wore
a silver-chained necklace with a heart locket dangling from it. He wondered if there was anything inside.
"It smells good in here," Callie admitted, sniffing the aromas of fresh garlic bread and a mixture o f herbs.
"It’s lasagna," Rus said at last. "It’s the only thing Ricky knows how to make."
Slowly Callie began to pace around the room. She noticed a lot in those brief moments. Rus was very proud
of his son. There were pictures of him all over the place. Ricky playing baseball. Ricky skateboarding. Ricky at the beach.
It made Callie envious. It made her remember the times she had once shared with Johnathan. For a moment tears
choked her and nearly spilled out. She was quiet. Too quiet. Rus didn’t like the silence.
When he peered at Callie he saw the moisture glistening on the edges of her eyelashes. He wondered at their
presence. Maybe she missed the fact that she’d never had any children of her own. He didn’t know how old she was.
But he was certain she wasn’t too old to try, being that she met the right man.
Suddenly Rus’s interest was peaked. He wondered if Callie had ever been married. And if she had, why
had she gotten divorced. Rus couldn’t imagine anyone leaving somebody like Callie. She was pure and wholesome. Beautiful,
elegant, kind, and caring.
If Rus really ever considered getting married again, Callie would be the kind of woman he would be proud
of to call his wife.
His thoughts stopped abruptly. He couldn’t imagine where that had come from. Rus was not in the market
for a new wife. He wasn’t in the market for anything resembling a wife.
Rus had prayed for God to help his son find his way back, and he had answered by giving him Callie. But Rus
was certain that He had never intended anything more serious than a friendship with the woman.
Rus’s mouth went dry. He grew weak at the knees. He thought for a moment he would fall. He moved slowly
to the couch, burying his face in his hands. Callie came to sit next to him, concern etched across her brow.
She touched his knee with a gentle hand.
"Rus, is everything okay? Should I get you some water. You don’t look so well."
His face was pale, almost gray. He tried to look at Callie, but he couldn’t force himself to meet her
eye to eye. He felt awkward, strange. His pulse was racing. He was dizzy and couldn’t breathe. His heart beat thunderously
in his chest.
"This is incredible," Rus shouted at last, lunging from the couch and restlessly pacing across the floor,
unaware that he had spoken aloud.
"What is?" Callie asked curiously.
She was beside him in an instant, her perfume filling his senses instantly. It annoyed him. He didn’t
want to smell her perfume. He didn’t want her in his home. She was wrecking his life, making him miserable. Why couldn’t
things just go back to the way they were before?
Because Rus knew he would never be happy that way. He had to admit what a difference Callie had made in his
son’s life. But that’s all there was too it. He was thankful for everything she had done for Ricky. Grateful even.
But he didn’t love her. Did he?
He felt nausea rolling in his stomach. By now his color was fading to a peaked yellow. Callie was taking
Rus in her arms and leading him to the couch. She propped a few pillows up against the arm rest, and before he knew it, Rus
was lying on his back and Callie was lifting his feet and gently placing them across the cushions.
Her touch was soft, and gentle. The woman possessed such a gentleness he had never known before.
She threw a small throw blanket over him and turned down the light just enough to give off an iridescent
glow. She bent over and tenderly kissed Rus’s forehead, smoothing back a lock of hair that had fallen out of place.
He looked so fragile. Callie couldn’t understand what had come over him so suddenly. It was as if he’d
seen a ghost of some sort. It was puzzling to say the least.
She went in search of Ricky. She thanked him for inviting her for dinner, but explained that his father wasn’t
feeling well and she thought it was best if she went home.
Ricky was disappointed. She read the look in his eyes. She promised him that she would make it up to him.
She would take them for pizza and a game of bowling the following night.
That seemed to readily appease him. He agreed to it and gave her a sampling of the lasagna to take home with
Rus was less than enthusiastic when Callie showed up on his doorstep the following night. He was dressed
casually in blue jeans and bright yellow pullover shirt. He was more handsome than all the other times Callie had ever seen
him. He exuded a certain charm and charisma. He turned a few heads as the three of them found their way to the lane they would
be bowling on.
Callie never glanced Rus’s way, but she could always feel the heat of his gaze on her at all times.
He refused to bowl with Ricky and her and instead watched them have all the fun. He sat sulking the entire
evening. But that didn’t keep Callie and Ricky from enjoying each other’s company.
Ricky was impressed with Callie’s style. She was an awesome bowler, he decided. He tried to pick up
a few bowler’s tips from her and had even asked where she’d learn to bowl so good.
Rus couldn’t help but notice the forlorn look that passed over her before she pushed it away and smiled.
She had claimed that some things just come naturally.
Rus wasn’t convinced but he had no right to pry in her personal life. If she wanted him to know anything,
then she would tell him. But he knew she never would. Callie was never forthcoming with anything personal. Where that was
concerned she was very closed mouth. Even Captain Lee didn’t know very much about Callie Martin.
She was a woman of mystery. This only enticed Rus more. He found himself eager to penetrate the coat of armor
she held over her as a protective shield. This was one thing he could not understand about himself. He was none too eager
to advance his relationship with Callie. Yet here he was wanting to know everything about her. To know if she was married,
if she was happy. He wanted to know her dreams, her ambitions and goals in life.
None of it made sense. He supposed it was God’s way of working in him. He’d been fighting it
for so long. Practically from the moment Callie walked into his office and claimed his chair.
Rus had to admit that the woman was fascinating. She’d gotten under his skin and touched him a way
no woman had since his wife had left him. Rus knew he was in love with Callie. He just didn’t know what to do about
The three of them sat around a small round table and enjoyed the pepperoni pizza and soft drinks that Callie
had bought. She and Rus had spent twenty minutes arguing over who should buy the pizza. In the end Callie had gotten her way.
Ricky was so excited he could hardly control himself. He was restless and eager to impress Callie at every turn.
And Rus secretly admired Callie from his side of the table. He, once again, had to admit that the camaraderie
that Callie had with his son was positive and reassuring. He no longer wanted to come between the two of them.
He accepted their relationship. He had no other choice. He realized now that this was God’s answer
to his prayer and how could he stop what God had already put into motion. At the first of the evening, Rus hadn’t wanted
to enjoy himself. He’d wanted just to sit there and sulk, as if by doing so, was keeping their relationship from evolving
into something more.
Rus had been stupid. He could see that clearly now. He had come to realize last night that he loved Callie.
He hadn’t want to become involved with her. But as he was sitting there falling for her even more, he realized it was
time to stop fighting it and start doing something about it.
This made Rus tremble inside. For the first time in over a year he was in love. He didn’t know exactly
what that meant really. Or even how Callie would feel about that. It was terrifying for him. Was he ready for this? To be
committed to such a volatile woman? Rus wasn’t sure, but he, at least, had to take that first step.
As he watched Callie, she stared back at him from time to time. Her face was glowing and her eyes were bright.
Her smile was shy and timid and occasionally she would glance away from Rus’s silent inspection of her as if she were
When she spoke her voice was lilting and soft. It made his heart want to explode.
"Callie," Rus started to speak. "Where did you work before you came to Florida?"
Callie’s eyes clouded over. She stared down at her half empty plate. Rus saw her swallow down the lump
that had developed in her throat. "I don’t talk much about where I came from," she said with just a hint of remorse.
"I’d rather talk about where I’d like to go."
"And where is that?" Rus asked, moving his chair closer to Callie, bringing them into more familiar contact.
"I like Florida. It presents a challenge to me. The kids that I have met here truly need help. It’s
different where I came from. The kids there needed help in different areas. Whereas here, the children need help from themselves.
They’re heading on a collision course with death if they aren’t stopped."
When Callie spoke, it was as if she was beaming with pride. "What do you think these children need?"
Callie contemplated his question. It didn’t take her long to answer. "Most of them need the presence
of a loving, responsible adult. Someone who can show them values and instill in them the virtue of morals. Teenagers cannot
learn to behave if they are never taught."
For a moment there was a tautness about Callie. Her shoulders stiffened and her frown became forlorn. She
hesitated a few more minutes before she finally began to speak.
"I met a boy just the other day," Callie explained. "His name is Colby West. He seems to be a decent boy.
He ran away and has been living on his own for over six months." Callie eyes dropped away. Her fingers trembled as she fidgeted
with the edge of her napkin. "His parents both died in a car accident. He was sent to live with an alcoholic uncle. I don’t
approve of what the young boy did, but at least he had sense enough to know living with his uncle wasn’t a good idea."
Ricky turned to Callie immediately. "What will happen to the boy?" Ricky wanted to know with his usual tender-hearted
Callie gently lifted her shoulders. "At this time he’s in a foster home. I saw him yesterday and he’s
not very happy. But his uncle will be investigated and depending upon the results of the social worker’s findings, he
will be either sent back to his uncle or he will be placed in a foster home until the age of 18."
Rus could tell how much this boy meant to Callie. This was no passing interest in her. She was truly, one
hundred percent involved. With her whole heart, her emotions. At that moment he loved her all the more. He found himself reaching
out to her, grasping her hand between his and comforting her in a way he never thought he would.
"Do you think Ricky and I could meet this boy?"
Callie turned her face up to Rus’s. Shock registered first, then she was shaking her head. "I can take
you tomorrow morning."
Rus’s heart melted as he witnessed the way Callie was totally committed to this boy. He must be something
special. Bells were going off in Rus’s head. He wasn’t sure what he was getting himself into, but he was certain
that God was responsible. God had been responsible for everything in his life lately. He was working miracles. After all he’d
sent Callie his way. What more could he ask for?
The evening ended all to quickly and Rus was disappointed. Callie drove him and Ricky back to their place.
Ricky said an abrupt good-bye and left Callie and his dad alone for a moment.
Inside the car was dark. A sliver of moonlight cast an ivory glow across Callie’s face. Though her
eyes were dark, just the simple touch of moonlight made her seem heavenly to him. Rus’s heart stopped for just a minute,
then resumed its erratic rhythm.
Callie turned the engine off and leaned back to get comfortable in her seat. She closed her eyes taking the
time to relax and enjoy the leisurely moment.
After a brief hesitation, she turned to Rus with a show of emotions playing at the corners of her eyes. "Rus,"
she started slowly, "how long have you been with the police force?"
He hadn’t expected her to ask him such a question. He was thrown off guard. "For nearly eighteen years.
Why do you ask?"
"I’m curious is all," she replied. "Have you always worked on the streets?"
"Yes. I loved that part of my job. I liked being able to take a criminal off the streets, to help the victims
and to make the world a better place."
Callie twisted around to face Rus head on. Her face was bleak. He could see the shadows of pity in her eyes.
"You hate this new job, don’t you?"
Rus thought long and hard about his answer. He needed to be truthful with Callie if they were to have any
type of relationship whatsoever. "At first I did," he admitted, his voice thick with some kind of emotion. "But I have grown
used to it now. I watch you every day with some new kid, and I see how you make a difference in his life. I no longer feel
this job is a waste of time. You have taught me so much, Callie."
Callie couldn’t help but detect the tightness of his voice, the way he spoke to her with such admiration
and . . . She couldn’t put a name to the other emotions, but they were there.
"I’m sorry I got you shot," she apologized with a heaviness in her heart. "It really wasn’t my
fault," she tried desperately to explain. "If that officer hadn’t allowed me to pass through the barricade . . ."
Rus straightened immediately. Callie could see the tensing of his muscles and the tightening of his face.
His hands curled into fist. The anger that had once been so much a part of Rus, but had slowly disappeared, was now in full
force once again. Callie knew she had said something wrong.
"What is it Rus?" she asked, her heart beating rapidly from fear.
"Nothing," he snapped, tearing her door open and stepping out into the hot and humid air.
He sighed angrily, bitterly. He pushed his fingers through his hair. How could he have been so stupid. He
looked at Callie with eyes full of sympathy, begging her to understand. He loved her yes, but this thing wasn’t over
yet. There was someone out there waiting to kill him. He couldn’t involve Callie in his life until that issue was resolved.
If anything happened to Callie, he would never forgive himself.
"I have to go now, Callie. Please understand this has nothing to do with you." What was he saying, it had
everything to do with her. "I mean, I like you." No, I love you. But I can’t tell you that right now. "Oh man,"
he said at last a note of desperation and frustration in his voice, "what I’m trying to say is, that I want to see you
again . . ." Rus’s eyes clouded over and tears threatened to fall. "But there’s something going on in my life
that I can’t involve you in. It would be too dangerous. Do you understand?"
No Callie didn’t understand. Her heart was sinking into her stomach. Just when she thought she and
Rus were patching things up, they were now falling apart all over again. Dear Lord, you know I don’t understand what’s
going on here. Once again I pray that you will guide me through this. Help me to understand Rus. Help me to understand what
he is saying. I like him to. I think that I could love him.
Callie couldn’t find her voice. Rus just stared at her, his eyes begging her not to question him further
because he couldn’t give her the answers that she needed. He wanted to reach into the car and comfort her, to kiss her
lightly on the lips, to give her the consolation that she deserved. But it would be all wrong. Instead, he said good night,
then slammed the door of her car, as if he were shutting the door to their relationship. It seemed cold and callous, but it
was what he had to do to save Callie. He loved her that much.