Why did she feel guilty? The love of her life had died years ago. Cleansed by Fire.

More chapters from Cleansed by Fire

A VG Serial: Cleansed by Fire

Chapter 21 – 2

Georgia’s eyes opened wide, then slowly closed as her breathing accelerated. She found herself confused and uncertain, but she did not break away. Finally, Mike released her and for several moments he just studied her.

He sucked in air. “Let me rephrase that. I am definitely smitten by you, my Georgia peach.”

He took her hand and they walked slowly back toward the car.

***

They made the trip home mostly in silence. Georgia’s mind raced as fast as her pulse. She had not kissed a man since Leo had left for Iraq. She had not kissed a man other than Leo in—she counted back—thirteen years. Mike stirred emotions she hadn’t felt in a long time. And, it had been nice. Better than nice. Exciting.

Her thoughts reverted to Leo. He had been the love of her life. He was kind and gentle, strong and dependable. Their mar­riage had been ideal. At least until he went to Iraq. Those last two years had been torture, always worrying, frightened at every telephone call or knock on the door. And then, the fear had be­come a reality. For a while she didn’t believe she could go on. Later, she felt resolved to a life of misery. She dragged herself to work, never smiled, and sometimes spent hours watching the weather channel. Some days, meals consisted of popcorn. And when she picked up the newspaper, she turned to the obituaries.

But she discovered that time did have a healing power and eventually she found pleasure in working at the church, helping others with whatever problems they had. Leo was a fantastic part of her history, and she had not forgotten him. But he was a memory now.

She had been frightened—only now did she admit it—when Mike had first asked her out. She felt as if she had never dated before, had no idea how to act, and was positive she did not want a relationship with a man. But these evenings with Mike had been pleasant. Tonight, standing by the lake, held tightly in a man’s arms, parts of her remembered the joy of life.

Was she being foolish? Was this a school girl’s reaction? Her mind couldn’t judge. She prided herself on being able to look at the facts, quickly understand the pros and cons of each action, and make an intelligent, logical decision. Tonight, she didn’t know what to think. She had no idea what the good and bad points might be. The only fact she could bring to mind was that she had enjoyed the moment.

Georgia opened her eyes to realize that, not only was the car in her driveway, but Mike had opened her door and was hold­ing out his hand to help her out. She stammered a thank you and silently, they walked to her door.

She fished the keys out of her purse and unlocked the door. Mike took her in his arms and kissed her. This time, she was not surprised. She found herself leaning into him, becoming an active participant, enjoying the sensations racing through her body.

When they broke apart, she was breathing heavily. She looked into his eyes and said, “Wow.”

“Wow is right.” He brushed his lips across her cheek and wrapped her in a tight embrace. He whispered in her ear, “Are you going to invite me in?”

She wanted to do just that. Without moving away, she murmured, “No.”

Mike leaned back to study her, but he did not take his hands off her. “No? Why not? It really was a wow moment.” His eyes glistened.

Georgia pulled away. “Yes it was. And that’s exactly why I’m not inviting you in. I’m afraid my emotions are a little out of control right now. I think I need a little breathing room.”

His expression turned serious. “I won’t take advantage of you.”

“You wouldn’t have to. No, my emotional system has had all it can take tonight.” She gave him a little peck on his cheek. “You have to understand, this is all very new for me.”

“Now, I know that’s not true.”

“Yes. It is. I’m a completely different person than I was—well, let’s just say many, many years ago.”

“Okay. When can we talk again?” His grin returned. “No­tice, I said talk. Are you free tomorrow?”

“Call me in the morning. If my common sense is in work­ing order, maybe we could have dinner, or get an ice cream sun­dae, or something. Right now, I’m not able to make decisions.”

She stepped inside and closed the screen door between them. “Mike, I had a wonderful time tonight.”

She watched as he walked to his car, got in and left.

She closed the door, looked upward, and whispered. “Thank you.”

***

For some time, Georgia sat in front of her mirror, slowly running a brush through her hair. It took a while before she was able to identify the odd feeling deep inside her.

Guilt.

In slow motion, the realization came into focus. She felt guilty, as if she were cheating on Leo. For many minutes, she stared at her reflection, trying to make sense out of the different emotions vying for control.

She put the brush down and turned to study the picture on the bureau.

“No one can ever take your place, Leo. But you’re gone and we will be together again in heaven, probably many years from now. Tonight, someone reminded me of the joy I first learned from you, the electrifying ecstasy that can exist between a man and a woman. You taught me that. And I had forgotten. And I know, as surely as I know you loved me, that you would want me to experience that again.”

Chapters of the serial are published on Monday, Thursday, and Sunday.

You can learn more about Cleansed by Fire and other James H. Callan novels on his Amazon Author Page.

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