Monday, June 29, 2020












LOVE’S MUSES
Rectifying His Life and His Love
Book 3





Kristina L. Allen




 This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
This book contains adult language and adult themes and is not intended for younger audiences. 





Copyright © October 7 2015
© Jubilee Dream Publishing  3rd Edition 
All rights reserved.

 


ISBN-978-0-9862894-0-8






Dedication
To all the artists who carried me through the worst years of my life, who gave me hope, inspired a deeper love for GOD, and who inspired characters in this book.








PROLOGUE
Katie Lynn Moore popped into Nick Thomas’s life one night in one of his meet and greet lines in lieu of her niece, who at the last moment, before meeting her idol, got cold feet. When Katie first touched him, she lit him up in a brand new way with the jolt-giver’s touch that he had heard so much about from his grandfather. When Nicolas Paul finally put to rest the Prince Charming act, Katie fell crazy in love with the sweet boy from Nashville, labeled by her as a grandfather’s treasure.
Katie’s love and devotion to a terribly depressed and contrite former fiancé kept her from a new and exciting love with her Nicolas Paul. She vowed to return to him when her beloved deputy was back up on his feet and could accept with grace, the truth that his Katie-bear would never be his Mrs. Wells.   Six months after they fell madly in love, fear of a repeated broken heart, kept this widow from returning to her second, even greater love. Fast forward two years later, and superstardom had taken Nicolas Paul, altering the sweet country boy into an overindulgent, alcoholic playboy with groupies vying for time between the sheets with him, which he was all too willing to oblige. 
The book that Nicolas Paul had inspired Katie to pen that night became a record-setting viral book, and had catapulted this shy kindergarten teacher to instant fame against her will. A fierce rivalry began between the superstar and the freshman viral author, whom Nick thought was just some out-spoken obscure author, unhappy with his public persona.  

LOVE'S MUSES Rectifying His Life and His Love picks up in a trauma center in Lexington, Kentucky. Nick’s drug-induced sleep brings him back to the Embassy Suites Hotel’s empty dining room, where Katie told with vivid detail, the long-awaited story of her "Operation Rescue Fair Maiden from Stalker." Nick awakened lost and despaired with a broken and contrite spirit. Days later, at his favorite place, his Gramp's story of his own comeback from a fatalistic error in judgment fueled Nick’s own comeback, as he prepared for his next tour, his Apology Tour






Part 1
Reinventing the Man














Chapter 1

JEALOUSY IS A TWO WAY STREET

 The date was February 15th, the day after the second consecutive birthday that Nick Thomas had ruined for Katherine Lynn Petersen Moore, whom he called his one and only jolt-giver, and with whom he had fallen crazy in love two birthdays prior to this one. He had haphazardly taken liberties and used his power as her deliverer of the shiver to bowl over his one true love, his teacher in the pink hat, less the pink hat, now.  Nick’s best friend, Shawn, with whom he was at odds, had advised his older sister, Annie, to finish the job Katie had started, obliterating Nick’s cocky confidence in the shiver factor. Taking Shawn’s advice that morning, while Nick laid in his Hospital bed at the University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler hospital, with a severe concussion, Annie Beth Thomas McDaniel, completed the mission of humbling her younger brother. She informed him of a little known fact that the shiver factor, or jolt-giver’s touch, labelled by their Grandfather, was what pushed Annie into the comforting and secure loving arms of her current husband, Raymond McDaniel, instead of who was her first true love and jolt giver, Buddy Asher. Like her mother, Annie chose to go with the security of a good solid and humble man, rather than the instability of a jolt-giving artist, who had caved twice to the tempting groupies, always vying for time between the sheets with their idol.
 Nicolas Paul Thomas lay in his hospital bed on the third floor, with his beloved jolt-giver two floors up, and for the first time since this whole disastrous evening began, he was getting the restful sleep his body needed by way of strong narcotics, yet his mind was as awake or even more awake than it had been in over a year.  In his restful sleep, the memories of that wonderful story "Operations Rescue Fair Maiden from Stalker,"  became as new to him as it was the night he heard the story two years ago in the wee hours of the morning of the  best first day of his life with the new and only love of his life.  
With vivid details and a precious tender spirit, Katie shared of the love and acceptance she found in Matthew’s family that she never found in her own. Katie paused a moment, closing her eyes, breathing slower as she pictured the scene, revisiting one of the more wonderful times of her life that summer of her 19th year, after the first semester of her first year of college, living as a permanent guest in family home of her newest best friend, Matthew Joseph. Moore, twin brother to the love of her life, Michael Jeffrey Moore with their parents Mark and Marjorie Moore in Duxbury, Massachusetts.  She took in a deep breath, then let out a long sad sigh as her memory took her back to that very special summer, the best summer of her entire life. The projector began in her head as she laid out the entire scenario in vivid Technicolor for Nick, as she did with all her stories that night. 

“We spent so much time at the Rathskeller that summer, but that one day was the day I had just had enough, and my friend Bradley put into play the little green monster, the one that inadvertently sent Michael packing.”

Katie nodded as she drifted off into the past. 

****

“So, what’ll it be tonight my Katherine,” Michael said as he wiped the bar down with a dry bar towel, clinking glasses as he cleared them. 
“Umm, let’s see, how about...,” Michael stopped and interrupted her. 
“The usual, the virgin Coke?” Katie nodded in disappointment. 
“You know, Michael, one of these days, I’m going to get the real slutty version of Coca Cola,” she said cackling with Michael howling from his Katherine's great sense of humor.  He had no problem with her drinking at the beach parties, but he would not risk his job serving a minor on the job. 
“Well, I’ve never heard it put that way, but that’s a good way to describe a double, huh?”  One of the swooning girls called him over to her and away from Katie. He leaned over the bar, getting in the groupie’s face, flirting with her while Katie looked on, sneering at them. He brought the groupie her drink and when he was finished flirting, he returned to Katie. While wiping down the bar, he put his index finger under Katie’s chin and then pulled his finger out, tipping her head back. 
“You’re such a little cutie,” he said with a condescending tone, embarrassing Katie in front of the older groupies. The smile dropped off Katie’s face as he noted dissatisfaction when he said that. 
“What’s the matter, you little cutie,” he said pasting on a half-smile.
She sighed heavily, turning her head as if to get ready to leave him. “I hate it when you say that, Michael.” She slid down off the bar stool, and then she crooked her head back when he called to her. 
“Why? Matthew calls you that, and you never seem to balk at it, you even giggle or smile. Why when I say it do you hate it?” Katie waved her hand in the back of her head and then snorted a grunt. 
“Forget it, Michael,” she said facing away from him when she joined Matthew and Becca.   
Matthew slumped his shoulders. “Oh no, what did my stupid brother say now?” 
“I hate it when he calls me a little cutie; it’s so demeaning and condescending.”
Matthew peered over in a curious inquiring and surprised look, 
“I call you that.  I didn’t know you didn’t like it,”  Katie said as she sat back, stretching her legs out under the table.  
“Matthew, I don’t mind it when you say it. You’re a big brother to me. He on the other hand is not, yet he treats me like a little kid sister. I don’t want to be his little sister. He refuses to see me as a woman.”  Matthew reached beyond Becca who sat in between them, and he put his hand on Katie’s shoulder.
“Do you want me to have a talk with him?” Katie popped back up in her chair, folded her leg over her other leg, bouncing her foot and folded her arms across her middle in a frustrated manner. 
“No, Matthew, he made it perfectly clear how much he didn’t want me a few weeks ago, so what’s the use?"  Michael walked over and put her drink on the table in front of her. He grabbed the remaining single chair in between Becca and Katie, turning it   around to straddle it, resting his arms on the back of the chair. He turned his head toward Katie with an inquisitive stare. 
“Hey, where’d ya go, my little cutie, I mean, my Katherine? Why did you leave me up there all alone?” 
“I’m not your Katherine, Michael, and I didn’t want to take up any potential seats for one of your groupies to flirt with, or check out for a potential romp, tonight.” Katie turned her head up sideways facing opposite Michael. He turned and looked at Becca and Matthew, shrugging his shoulders. With his eyebrows furrowed, he put his hand on Katie’s shoulder, trying to turn her toward him.  
“I don’t do that anymore. I’ve changed my ways, like you, Mom and Matthew said I should.” He turned to look at Becca, who gave him a disbelieving glance. He shook his head, doubtful that he would ever get her approval. Becca at times could be very stuck-up, as one who came from means. She let Michael know how displeased she was with his promiscuous living.  He turned back to Katie. “What’s with you, lately? What have I done wrong, now? Gee, I can’t seem to say anything right. You’re always mad at me.” Katie kept her head down. “My Katherine, look at me.” 
Katie ignored him, tapping the one foot that was on the floor. One of the girls called to Michael for a refill. He looked over at the girl beckoning him and turned back toward Katie, who still refused him her attention. 
“We’ll have to talk about this later. I have to work.” Michael put the seat back under the table, walking away with confidence, assuming he would be able to smooth things over with her. She always gave into him before; there was no reason to think otherwise.
“Umm, I don’t think so, bud, we already talked about it and I made my peace, so you can just forget it.” Michael shook his head as he walked away to refill the girl’s drink, but peered back to see a still aggravated Katie. 
“Katie, do you want me to take you home?” Matthew asked. 
As she looked around the pub, she shook her head when she spotted a fellow college student who had asked her out on several occasions, but she always turned him down. 
“Listen, Operation Green-eyed monster did not work the first time, because Michael thought that you really wanted me and that you were the better man, and he sacrificially stepped aside for you, Matthew. Remember how long it took for you to convince him, that this was all for Becca?” Katie looked over at Becca and winked.
Matthew put his arm around his Becca Joy and pulled her into him. “Yeah, he kept thinking you and I were better suited.” 
“That’s because he’s stupid,” Katie said. They all laughed. “Now, if it’s not his brother, maybe another man interested in me will set a fire under him.” 
“Katie what do you have in mind?” Becca asked as she looked at Katie eyeing another man in the pub. 
“I think this time, I’ll actually give him a run for his money, and do what he does best, take an interest in someone else. I mean he doesn’t seem to want me, so maybe I should spend my time finding someone who does.” She stood and smoothed down her pant leg. She looked over at Michael, who was leaning over the bar, flirting with some of the girls at the bar who were swooning them. For one brief second, he lifted his eyes and made brief eye contact with Katie, clueless to what she was up to, and he dropped his eyes back down to the girls at the bar. She turned her head from him and proceeded over to the man who caught her eye, moments earlier. Matthew looked at Michael, then up at Katie, and he grabbed her hand before she left. 
“Kate what are you going to do?”
“Well, my innocence seems to be what is turning Michael off so much, so maybe, I should lose a little of it,” she said in a seductive manner. 
“Kate, you wouldn’t go sleep with any guy for that, now, would you?” Matthew asked. 
“Matthew, of course not,” she said looking down at him with her eyebrows knotted. “But, Michael doesn’t have to know that I’m not, let him think that I am, and I’ll give him a piece of his own medicine.” 
With that she left the table and sashayed over toward four young men standing together.  “Hey, there Heathcliff,” Katie said with a swooning high-pitched voice, flirting loud enough for Michael to hear.  
The hair on the back of Michael’s neck stood up when he heard Katie’s flirty intonation speaking to this man. He watched as Katie tenderly put her hand on this man’s back. The tall good-looking young man spun around delighted to see her. He put his arm around her and pulled her in for a tight hug. Katie wrapped her arms around his middle and tucked her head into his chest. Her warm greeting and over-the-top-friendliness caught Michael’s attention away from the drink he was making, and he overflowed the glass. One of the girls at the bar got Michael’s attention, and he jumped back. He reached for a bar towel and started cleaning up his mess, while keeping his eyes glued to his Katherine. The girls giggled at his mishap. Some of them turned their heads to attempt to see what caught his gaze. 
“Well hello there, ‘Catherine, my sweet.” This mysterious young man to Michael, held onto her longer than Michael liked. Katie did not let go, and Bradley took this as another opportunity to cash in on their on-stage chemistry that made the college play the big hit that it was. He held on to her, and she pulled her head out from his chest and looked up at him, in a swooning manner, definitely heating up the pub, as well as reddening Michael’s ears with jealousy. 
Bradley Napolitano was definitely easy on the eyes. He was a twenty-one year-old, college student, wanted by many co-eds. His thin, stick-straight light brown hair hung over his forehead, partially covering one eye, which he made a habit of tossing back by flipping his head back with a snap and combing it off to the side with his fingers. He did it almost automatically, as he was so used to it.  He was a junior at Dartmouth and he had that preppy college student look. He stood near 5’10” and had a perfectly shaped rectangular face. His almond-shaped eyes widened with his pupils dilated, as he stood straighter, taller and proud having his co-star in the college play under his arm. 
Michael noted his reaction with his Katherine nearly attached to him, and his heart pounded in his chest. He heard the term of endearment this man called his Katherine, and the green-eyed monster made his debut behind that bar. The tide was turning finally, and Michael was drowning in jealousy, watching another man with his arms around his Katherine, flirting with her. He could see the want in this man’s gaze, and this infuriated Michael. 
Katie had spent the last three months pining over Michael, while he groped groupies, greasing up the brown leather couch, with no regard to how it made Katie feel. Back then, his hands may have been all over those girls, but his eyes were all over the room, keeping a vigil on his Katherine. Many of the guys in Michael’s crew and band were even more lecherous than he was, and he needed to protect her from any of them. They knew not to even go near Katie, assuming her to be like a kid-sister of Matthew and Michael, and not the type to put out like the other groupies. 
This was the first time another man was getting dangerously close to groping Katie, and one Michael did not know, nor could he put the pressure on him to stay away from her. This bothered Michael as he saw these circumstances as out of his control.  Since that night in May, when he rejected her for her own protection, knowing how she felt about him, he considered Katie his future bride. It never occurred to him that another man could come in right underneath him and scoop her away. He inquisitively leaned his ear to hear the discourse between them. The clinking of glasses, the dishwasher behind the bar, and the giggling groupies intercepted any whiff of conversation that drifted his way. His body stiffened as he drew in deep breaths, blowing out the air slowly, anticipating giving Katie the third degree as soon as she left his side. 
“My sweet Catherine, I’d like you to meet some buddies of mine. Corey, Chad, and Randy, this is Katherine, who is the prettiest girl at Dartmouth, besides my leading lady from our drama team’s version of Weathering Heights. We sure heated up the stage during rehearsals and blew them all away at the performance, didn’t we?” 
“We sure did, everyone kept asking us if we were really in love, remember?” Bradley chuckled and nodded as being a man who was almost there with her, in fact. He had no idea that her heart was with another, and he was about to be used in another play, only this time he wouldn’t be acting and was unaware of the script she wrote for herself.  Katie was very adept at becoming the character in that imaginary world of performing, and sometimes would get confused between drama and reality. At times, she would become so lost in the scenario, she would forget who she was, outside of a scene. 
“So this is that girl you kept going on and on about?” Corey asked. Bradley’s face became red with embarrassment with his obsession exposed. He shuffled his feet, looking down at them, afraid to face Katie.
“You’re joking right?” She asked. The guys laughed as the smitten Bradley kept his head down and shuffled his feet, embarrassed about his true feelings. 
“Are you kidding, it’s my sweet Catherine this, my beautiful Catherine that, I’m her Heathcliff, and what I wouldn’t do to really be him,” Chad said. Bradley shook his head. 
“All right, that’s enough.” His gaze at Katie testified to the truth of what his friends were saying.
He shrugged his shoulders and looked down at her with that sheepish grin.  “Well, you know, I’ve asked you out a few times, and you’ve turned me down flat, so that shouldn’t be too much of a shock to you.” 
Katie leaned in to his side more, squeezing her arms around his middle, locking her fingers. “Well, I didn’t know you really liked me that much. I umm, assumed..,” he interrupted her.
“What that I wanted to heat up my dorm room, besides just the stage?” She nodded. 
“Gee, isn’t that what all you guys want?” She asked with an air of sarcasm and accusation. The guys turned up their lips, tilted their heads back and forth nodding and chuckling. 
‘Yeah, pretty much, that goes for me,” Cory said.
“Yep, I’d go with that if it were offered, or if you were offering, Katherine,” Randy said with facetiousness, expecting Bradley to jump in, which he did. 
“Knock it off, guys.” He turned to Katie. Bradley, thrilled that she was showing signs of interest, jumped at the opportunity. “I’m not like that, ‘Catherine, my sweet,’ and these guys aren’t either. Besides, I know you, and you’re way too good for that. I would never treat you like that. No way, you’re a beautiful woman, and one who deserves a lot more gentlemanly behavior than that.”
Katie tucked her chin and curled up her lip.  “Well, no one asked me out, or is knocking my door down.” Randy cackled.
“Contrary to what Bradley says here, Dartmouth is a small school, and umm, most guys are like that. Most of them know who puts out, and who doesn’t, and we pretty much know you don’t, thanks to this guy here,” he added. Katie looked up at Bradley, not sure if she was happy about that or not, his protecting her reputation. 
“He was just telling everyone that because he didn’t want anyone else access to you,” Chad added.
Bradley shook his head.  “How about you guys just shut up, already huh. You’re embarrassing her over here, and me too.”
Katie gave him a grateful smile.  “Thanks my Heathcliff,” she said, leaning her head on his bicep. He looked down upon her and shared his heart. 
“You know, some of what these bozo’s are saying is true, about girls who are ready willing and able, but I prefer the girl who doesn’t just give it away, or rather throw it away. I much prefer a girl I can bring home to Mama, and ‘Catherine, my sweet,’ you are definitely one of those.” 
Katie, surprised at his devotion to her, started contemplating this turning out much better than she thought.
“Awe, Bradley, you’re so sweet. I had so much fun working with you on that play. I hope we get to do another one next year. You’ve got one more year left, right?” He nodded. 
“Well then, are you going to turn me down, again, now, knowing my true motive?”  
Michael kept watching Katie, trying to hear what they were saying, but unable to because of the background noise of different conversations wafting by his ears. Within moments, the band got back up on stage and all hopes of hearing anything they were saying was gone. 
Bradley turned to Katie to get an answer. Katie pulled her head out from the hug, but still in his arms, she looked straight up at him with her warm and friendly inviting smile. 
“I don’t know. Are you going to ask me out again?” She spoke above the noise. 
“I thought I just did,” Bradley said, looking down with wanton eyes. 
“Hey stupid, that’s not how you ask a girl out. Now, do it right,” Corey said. Katie pulled out of the hug, and Bradley put his hands in his pockets fiddling with his change and keys. 
“Catherine, my sweet, would you do this Heathcliff the favor and honor of going out with me sometime?” Katie tilted her head. 
“Walk away, my Katherine, walk away,” Michael whispered under his breath noting how close this guy was getting to his Katherine. “Damn it,” he said, just a little louder.
“What Michael, did you say something?” One of the girls at the bar asked.  
“No, I was just thinking to myself.” He continued to wipe the glasses out of the dishwasher, while not taking his eyes off Katie, hoping she’d move on and get back to Matthew’s table, alone as she should have. 
“And that sometime would be when?” Katie asked. Bradley smiled, knowing he was so close to a yes. 
“Well, I don’t know.  What night would be good for you? I’ll rearrange my schedule.” 
“Bradley, unless you already have a date tonight, or someone you’re waiting for, I can’t see why there’s no time like the present applying here.” He put his arm around her and pulled her into him, squeezing  her tight. 
“I love that idea.” He looked over at his buddies. “Guys, find your own way home tonight.  I’ve got my little sweetheart co-star that I’m taken with, and by, tonight. This is my lucky night.” He looked down at her, lifted his eyebrows and gave her a great big victory smile. 
“Damn it,” Michael said. As he attempted to put up the glass on the rack, with his eyes squarely fixed on Katie, he missed the shelf, causing the glass to fall and shatter. All eyes shot to the bar, including Ralph’s disapproving glare when Michael broke one of his bar glasses. Michael, embarrassed, shrugged his shoulders. “Sorry, folks.”  
“Hey, c’mere. I want you to meet some people.” Katie said as she tugged Bradley's arm toward her table with Matthew and Becca in clear sight and sound within earshot to Michael's close proximity. 
Katie pulled Bradley over to Matthew’s table, and she pulled the seat out as if to sit. Bradley took over, holding the seat for her and then claimed the empty one that Michael was sitting in just moments ago. Katie shot a look up over to the bar just a few feet away with that, two-can-play-at-this-game, look. Michael having made eye contact with her, showed his disapproval, like a protective big brother, Katie assumed. 
He shook his head no, and she gave him a cynical smile and returned her gaze to Bradley, staring at him as if she were swooning him. Michael watched and seethed with jealousy, which was a first for him. When it came to girls, anyone he wanted was his for the asking, even if it meant stealing her from another man, with the exception of his high school years, competing with his ruthless rival, Steven Schuler.  Once high school was over, and Schuler was out of his life for good, or so he thought. Michael was never jealous, nor did he worry about any girl rejecting him. There was not ever a girl special enough to be jealous for, until Katie. 
“Bradley Napolitano, this is my best friend, Matthew, and his girl Becca Joy as he calls her.” Becca blushed, and Matthew put his hand on hers on the table. Bradley held out his hand to shake both of their hands. 
“It’s nice to meet you, Matthew, Becca.” 
“Matthew do you know that Bradley’s father owns half of the Patriots?” 
“He doesn’t own them. He only works at the stadium, right under the owner. He goes to all the Pat’s games. I can get you all tickets for the exhibition games in August and even some training camp days, if you'd like.”  Matthew’s eyes popped open wide. 
“Wow, going to see the Pats?  I’m all in, how about you Katie?” Matthew asked. 
“Are you kidding me? Hell yeah. That’ll be a blast.” Katie shuffled her chair closer to Bradley, so he could put his arm around the back of her chair. 
“Gee, Katie, why didn’t you bring this guy around a lot earlier, for crying out loud? Pops would love him.”
The band was in between songs, with the lead vocalist speaking, thus, Michael heard Matthew say that their Pops would love this guy. Becca jabbed Matthew with her elbow and tilted her head toward Michael who was watching. Matthew clicked his tongue and shot a quick glance at Michael, then Katie, who  looked puzzled. 
“Uh oh, I gotta a brother to cool down. Excuse me, will you?” Matthew got up and went into the back store-room with Michael to apologize and check on him. Bradley and Katie watched Matthew disappear into the darkened  room. 
“His brother’s the bartender. I think he’s going to offer to help bring out some stock, I guess.” Becca said, trying to cover for Michael.
Katie figured out what Matthew said, and how it would affect Michael. She looked in the stockroom to see the two men talking. Bradley leaned his head back and tried to make out the two men who seemed to be having a heated discussion.  When Matthew entered the stockroom, Michael was bent over some boxes. He stood up when he saw Matthew in his peripheral vision. His brows bumped together in a scowl and jealous fit. There was fire in his eyes with a burning gaze. He leaned back again to peek at his Katherine getting uncomfortably close with another man.
“Who the hell is that?” Michael asked. “What the hell was that all about, Pop’s would love him, Matt, as if I’m trash, right? 
“No, Michael. I spoke out of turn, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it that way. His Dad is related to the Patriots in a way that he could get tickets to games and even some of their training camps. You know how much Pop’s loves the Pat’s. That’s all I meant.” 

“So, who is that guy, and why is he cozying up to my Katherine? You know what he wants don’t you? Are you seriously going to let this guy at my Katherine?” Matthew tilted his head and snorted at Michael.  
“So, she’s now your Katherine? Since when? I mean Michael, every time she sees you, your hands are all over some groupie. Who are you to get all up in arms about some guy that likes Katie? You’ve been showing nothing but disinterest in Katie. Now that another man is interested in her, she’s your Katherine? Remember dumping her on the side of the road after she asked you to kiss her, making her feel even more rejected than she had all her life?” 
Michael dropped his head in defeat.  “So who is he, anyway?” He ran his fingers through his frizzed sandy-blonde rocker hair, scratching his scalp.
“He was her co-star in that play that you refused to go to when she asked back in April. Instead, you chose to sleep with that favorite groupie of yours, what’s her name?”
“Jaime,” he mumbled, with self-disgust.
Michael regretfully remember that night that he promised to be at her play, but got caught up in a drinking game with the guys. A very drunk Michael forgot all about the play, and instead, Jaimie, a regular, who likewise lost big time in the drinking game, won a night with Michael, greasing up the brown couch with him. Katie did not speak to him for days after that little mishap. 
“Did you see his face when he turned around and saw her standing right behind him? If he thinks he’s going to get lucky with my Katherine, well, he’s got another thing coming,” Michael said banging his fist into the palm of his other hand. 
“I don’t think he’s like that. I think he has real feelings for her. I remember hearing about that rumor going around the college. He really likes her, Michael.” 
“Okay, so rub it in, Matt. That’s great.” 
“Michael, you blew it. She’s given you ample opportunity to make a move, and now with your distant behavior, you’ve pushed her into the arms of another man, when you could have had her in yours.”
Michael again dropped his head and started moving boxes, fighting back the emotional response that wanted to take over. He sat down on a box and put his jaw in his hand, resting his elbows on his thighs. 
“He’s a college guy then, huh?” His voice sunk to a husky, beaten down whisper. “Well, she’s better off with him, than me, anyway. A college guy, yeah, a smart guy for a brilliant girl.” He stood, turned and picked up a heavy box, walking it toward the bar. “I mean who the hell would pick a nobody bartender who serves drinks all week and then plays in a two-bit band sometimes, over a college man. Look at him, Matt. He’s Mr. Izod himself. He’s better suited for my Kather— I mean Katie.” 
Michael looked as if he were going to cry. He carried the box out to the bar, trying not to look at his Katherine in the arms of another man. Matthew patted his brother on the shoulder, figuring he needed a piece of his own medicine, knowing where Katie’s heart truly lie. He knew Katie would never really end up with anyone else than his brother, they all knew that. It was just somewhat satisfying to see Michael squirm, hoping it would get him to grow up and become a man worthy of Katie. When Bradley saw Michael behind the bar, he asked Katie if she wanted anything. Knowing Michael would not serve her alcohol, she just picked up her glass and showed him the Coke.
“Is that a Bacardi and Coke?” Katie chuckled. 
“No, I’m afraid it’s only a virgin Coke.” Becca laughed at the reference. “That bartender over there, who is talking to Matthew and looks exactly like him only thinner and with different hair, knows me and how old I am. He ain’t gonna cut me any slack.” Katie gave Bradley a sad-eyed, and yet, somewhat embarrassed smile. 
“Well, I should hope not. He could get in a lot of trouble if he did. So, another virgin Coke?” Bradley asked with a cackle. 
“Sure, might as well, have a virgin Coke, for the only virgin college student left this year.” Bradley snapped his head back and furrowed his eyebrows. “Yes, Bradley, there are still virgins out there on college campuses. They are rare, but I’m a one of a kind,” she said with disappointment.
Matthew had returned when Katie was talking about her virginity.  “And that’s something to be proud of, Kate.” Matthew said, taking Becca’s hand in his. Becca tilted her head back and forth indicating that they were not studying between the sheets either. 
“Well, a virtuous table of nice folks. Now a guy doesn’t come across that very often.” He turned and bent down to speak sensually, yet tenderly into her ear.  “I’m even more impressed, ‘Catherine, my sweet.” 
“Oh, Heathcliff, you say the sweetest things,” Katie said flirting only with a bit of sarcasm. Bradley headed off to the bar, leaning over it, trying to get Michael’s attention, but was greeted with total heedlessness, as if he was not even there.
Becca leaned into Katie.  “Hey, he’s cute, but I think you’ve got Michael all up in arms.” Matthew nodded. 
“Oh, that’s an understatement. I thought he was going to throw some liquor bottles up against the wall in the stockroom.”  They all laughed a short satisfied chuckle.
“Katie, look, Michael’s ignoring him on purpose,”  Becca added.  
Satisfied that the tables were turned, Katie rose. “Well, I’ll take care of that.” Katie swiftly arose from her chair and stomped over to the bar. She put her hand on Bradley’s back and leaned into the bar.  “Umm, Michael, my friend’s been standing here for some time now, how about you get him what he wants.”  
Michael stood straight and tensed up his shoulders. He eyed Katie, letting her know he did not like her tone, flaunting this guy in his face.  She quickly lifted her eyebrows, with that serves-you-right look. In defeat, Michael put the towel down on the bar and laid his hands flat on the surface, attempting to maintain some kind of calm. 
“Sure, what’ll you have?” He asked looking at Bradley briefly, then darting a look at Katie. 
“I’ll take a Corona Gold,” He then put his arm around Katie. “And my lady here would like a virgin Coke.  Isn’t that what you called it? That’s so cute, just like you,” Bradley said. Katie giggled.
Michael stared squarely and fiercely into Bradley’s face. “Your lady?” He asked, eyeing Katie with disapproval.
“Well, I hope to make that a reality,” he said, swooning Katie.
“Awe, Bradley, that’s so sweet.”
“Hey, buddy, MY Katherine doesn’t..,” Katie interrupted him.
“Michael, knock it off,” she said, slamming her hand down on the bar. “Just get me my virgin Coke and Bradley his beer?"
Bradley looked curiously at Katie, then at Michael. “Your Katherine?”
“He’s just kidding, he see’s me as a kid sister,” she said, aggravated, it’s an inside family joke,” she added. She eyed Michael and shook her head to indicate that he needed to mind his own business. “He’s pretty protective, like his twin brother over there and he won’t let me have a slutty version of a Coke, afraid I might turn into a drunk, or get fast and loose with some guy, right Michael?”
He grunted at her, but nodded his head in concession. Bradley laughed while Michael steamed with his nostrils flaring. “And he shouldn’t. Good for you, buddy.”
Bradley stood with half his body facing Katie and one hand resting on the bar. His pupils dilated, and his respirations increased as he gazed down at the beautiful teen by his side. Michael glared at the man who lusted after his Katherine. He was not sure whose heartbeat he could hear and feel through the bar, his from anger and jealousy, or the man who was bent on stealing his one love right out from under his nose. 
“I’m not your buddy,” Michael said with resentment. 
“Gee, okay, sorry about that.” Bradley backed up. “How about you bring them over to the table, okay?” 
“Yeah, fine.” He squinted a daring look at Katie with his teeth clenched. Bradley started to walk away with Katie still in his arms. She pulled back. 
“Hold on a second. I’ll meet you over there.” Bradley nodded and left for the table. 
She walked back to the bar and leaned over it, climbing up and kneeling on a stool. “Michael, don’t be a jerk. He’s been plenty friendly to you.”  Michael moved toward Katie while wiping a glass. 
“Who does that guy think he is, putting his hands all over you, and why are you letting him?” 
Katie’s widened eyes bugged out with justified fury. She coughed out a sarcastic laugh. She went behind the bar and got in close with Michael. She grabbed his shirt and dragged him into the stockroom where she laid into him. 
“Don’t you be accusing me of being one of these sluts of yours, Michael. How dare you say anything to me about a friend of mine from school, who merely gave me a friendly hug? Who the hell do you think you are? I already have an older brother in Matthew. Are you my boyfriend? I don’t think so. You made that abundantly clear when we were on the brown couch, remember? You didn’t want to kiss me, then you dumped me on the side of the road and drove off. So, Michael Jeffrey Moore, if you don’t want me, I’ll find someone who does, and it looks like I have. Now, mind your own business when it comes to who I go out with, you hear?”
“That’s not how it happened, and I never said I didn’t want to kiss you, I said I couldn’t.” 
“Right, you dumped me to go find yourself a slut to screw, because I wasn’t worthy of your attention, that way. So tell me, which one are you taking home tonight?” Katie looked down at the line of groupies vying for Michael’s attention. “Hey how about that one, third from the end. She looks pretty experienced. I’m sure she’ll give you a decent tip on the brown couch.” 
“That’s not fair, Katherine. I didn't do anything that night, and I don’t do that, anymore. I’ve told you that.” 
“Yeah, right, sure you’re not. I don’t believe you and neither do they, or they wouldn’t be here, hanging all over you, just waiting and hoping for that once in a lifetime go around with Michael, the super-hot playboy, lead vocalist of Acid Rain?” 
“Ralph wants me to be friendly, it increases business. I’m not taking any girls home, anymore. I’m not fooling around, at all.”  Katie started to cry, and Michael went to put his arms around her. She backed away and firmly put her hands across her middle squeezing her arms with her fingers. 
“You had your chance, Michael, you didn’t want me. Don’t be pulling that bullshit, now, just because someone else does.” 
“My Katherine, I’m sorry I did that to you a couple weeks back, I didn’t mean it the way it looked and sounded.” He moved in closer, and she backed away, again.
“You’re a jerk, Michael, you wanted nothing to do with me then, so go ahead and pick your whore for the night. I don’t care.” 
Her voice cracked with her tears streaming down her face. She was in a world of hurt, and he was the source. She walked away wiping her eyes, attempting to hide the fact that Michael could drop her to tears in an instant as she pined after him.  When she arrived back at the table, her eyes were red and Matthew looked over at Michael, who likewise had red eyes, soaked with regret for rejecting Katie when he had the chance. 
He left the bar, and went down the back hall to the back room and sat on the brown couch, where he lost his chance for a future with his Katherine and with whom he was falling in love. Regret doused him with a darkened spirit, and never before did he second guess not giving in to his feelings than he did right then. All that progress he made, getting a full-time job, an apartment to earn some self-respect and maybe some of hers, now seemed fruitless. 
He was working on making Katherine his wife, but now, a college man entered the picture.  It was a no contest in his eyes. He put his head down and held it in his hands, despaired, doubting and shaking his head with self-disgust. Ralph walked by and saw Michael sitting there. He fought to hold back the stinging in his eyes that wanted to a release in tears. 
“Hey, buddy, you okay?” Ralph asked. Michael sniffed and wiped his nose on his sleeve. He lifted his head and took in a big calming breath of stale cigarettes smoke to pull it together. 
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he said clearing his throat and standing. 
“Good, now how about you get your butt out there, charm those ladies so they’ll bring more of their lady friends and keep my pockets happy, huh, lover-boy?”  That remark cut to his heart. Ralph was using his reputation as a playboy to attract customers. Michael felt like he was backpedaling. His reputation was what he made it, and he could not change it overnight. 
Michael’s determination to dig himself out of the ill-reputed hole he himself played his way into, was what fueled his resolve to grow up into a young adult son, for which his father could boast. Moreover, was his resolution to metamorphose into that man with whom his Katherine could admire and respectfully hold her head high, as his chosen one for the rest of their lives. He dutifully returned to his position behind the bar, charming the dollars out of the girls. Little did those girls know that every dollar was wasted on another woman who had Michael’s heart, and who would also have his body for the rest of his life. 
Those dolefully earned tips only managed to buy him the one thing that turned Katie on the most, his independence in his own apartment. He eagerly hoped his Katherine was not watching his performance, which was exactly that, just a performance, or rather just a tease for those girls that would never be satisfied. His eyes automatically and continuously drifted toward her table, against his own will. The more Michael flirted for tips, the more Katherine cuddled up with Bradley for Michael’s attention, for which unbeknownst to her, she readily had.  
Michael was flirting under duress, while Katie was flirting undercover. At closing time, Katie left with Bradley, while Matthew went to bring Becca to her own apartment. Her parents had rented it for her, so she could be close to the man she wanted to marry, hoping a ring would come soon, to which Matthew did not disappoint.

Michael hung back at the bar to partake in drowning some of the same spirits he served with one of the girls who hoped she would be the one with Michael that night, but instead found herself getting her ear bent from Michael about a different girl. When he did not come home for hours, Katie and Matthew assumed that his jealousy would end up with some angry sex on the brown couch, which made it look like he had returned to his old ways, or never left them. 

Chapter 2 MORNING HAS BROKEN AT THE MOORE ‘S



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