Zogone Book 2- Past Regrets-
With a smile, Ginger knocked on the apartment door. Her brother Josh answered with a sigh of relief and pulled her into a tight embrace. “God, when Sam told me what happen it scared the living daylights out of me.” Pulling back, he held her at arm’s length and looked her up and down. “Are you sure you are okay?”
“I’m perfectly fine, worrywart. Besides you know how fast Sam is; you should be worried about him.”
Waving her into the small living room, Josh shook his head. “No, I had a look at Sam’s back. It looked nasty for a few minutes, but you know how fast he heals. Well now that I have seen you for myself, I’m going to make myself scares. You aren’t the only one with a date tonight.”
An eyebrow came up, “Is that a problem? I mean me and Sam, does it bother you?”
Josh snorted, “No, of course not. I think you are both damned prideful fools, and it’s about time.” Giving her a wink he added, “I’ve always wanted to do this. Sam is in his room. Why don’t you go have a look around?”
Mischievous grin and all, Josh slipped out the door, leaving Ginger curious about what he had wanted to do and why she should look through Sam’s room. Taking his advice, she let herself into Sam’s bedroom. The sound of the shower running echoed from the next room told her Sam’s location.
Feeling a little bad for snooping, Ginger went from table to dresser looking for anything unusual. There were pictures of Sam and Josh together in uniform. There were pictures of both Arlene and Brian both together and with Sam. There were even pictures that were unmistakably taken on Earth.
One picture showed Becky’s Kitchen where Ginger and Arlene had worked as waitresses and Brian as a cook. In the picture, Ginger and Arlene were standing together talking in uniform after the place had closed. There were two taken at Sandlend Beach in Raleigh, North Carolina where they had gone one weekend. One was a picture of Sam and Josh with Ginger standing in-between them.
The second picture she had never seen before or even knew of its existence. It was a picture of her and Sam standing together, facing each other. They looked like normal Earth teenagers. Ginger in a blue bathing suit and cut-off jean shorts, with her red hair pulled back into a short ponytail. Sam wore a pair of low riding swim trunks and nothing else. His young lean form glistened with water droplets that made her mouth go dry.
From the way they were standing, it looked as if Ginger had stumbled and Sam grabbed on to her to straighten her up. Whoever had taken the picture had caught them the moment she had looked up into Sam’s eyes. The picture said more than she had dared say herself. In other words, Josh had to have been the perpetrator who snapped the shot.
With a groan, she sat the frame back on the wooden dresser top and marched across the room to sink down on Sam’s bed, and that was when she found what Josh had undoubtedly been talking about. On the ceiling was a painting. It had to be a good eight feet long and four feet wide. It was placed perfectly so the bed’s occupant would fall asleep with the view of the painting surrounded by the four tall bedposts.
It was a picture of a woman with flowing red hair. A thin battle-hardened body was encased in tight black battle armor, silhouetting each lovely curve of her body. Long peach legs were slightly bent as she took to the air in flight. Black leather army boots came up to mid-thigh silhouetted the tight calf muscles. Two beautifully sculpted translucent wings showed from behind her back, and her arms were outstretched if simply waiting for her lover to come into them.
Ginger didn’t know whether to be furious or mortified, because blushing profusely she easily recognized the woman as herself. Lying there, a million thoughts ran through her mind. How long had the painting been there? Who had painted her so perfectly? Sam himself or someone else with a vivid imagination? And why did he have such a thing? Was this his way of pining for her in secret all this time, while she had sat alone aching for him?
The sound of the shower died and only moments later Sam made his way into his bedroom wearing nothing but a long white towel and a few errant drops of water that had stubbornly clung to his chest. Ginger crossed her arms over her stomach, and then raised her eyes to meet his. Guiltily his eyes shifted from hers, to the painting, then back to meet hers again.
“Care to explain this, Samuel Paddington?” Ginger asked softly, letting none of her irritation or confusion be heard in her voice.
“I would think it was pretty obvious. Most men keep pictures or posters of beautiful women. She just happens to be mine.” Eyes averted, he answered, and then turned his back to pull clothes out of his dresser.
Snorting in aggravation, Ginger sat up and shot back, “Don’t give me that crap. I’m not so stupid I can’t recognize myself. Who painted that and why?”
His shrug drew her eyes to the angry inch-long slashes across his back that had obviously been caused from stepping in front of her during the explosion. The sight of the cuts dissipated her anger a little in sympathy. Taking a sweater and a pair of jeans, he turned toward the bathroom to make his escape.
“Let me get dressed and we can talk about this later.”
Ginger grabbed his arm and turned him back to look down at her. “No we will talk about this now. Why Sam? Why would you have such a painting of me drawn over your bed?”
Setting his clothes aside, he shrugged Ginger’s hand away. “Just leave it alone Ginger. I don’t think you are ready for the wormhole you are about to open.”
She could feel her face flaming as her temper rose and she reached out and grabbed his arm again. “Leave it alone. You walked out on me and you have the audacity to have something like that painted? Well, I want to know why right now and I will not be shrugged aside like some child being overly curious.”
Teeth gritted, Sam cursed under his breath, before grabbing Ginger by her forearms and literally pulling her up on tiptoes to glare at her. “Yes, I left you. I thought it was what I had to do, but I could never get you out of my mind. So as penance to you, I spent every night painting that picture so I would never forget the accusing look on your face and damn it … so that I would always have some piece of you with me.”
Shoving her back to her feet, he started to turn away again, but Ginger stopped him halfway with a hand on his back. “But why, Sam? If I really meant so little why do it?”
Growling low in his throat, Sam swung around and pulled her against him. “Who ever said you didn’t mean anything to me?”
“Well, I know you cared for me just like for Josh, Arlene or Brian. Friends, but otherwise …” Her voice trailed away as she motioned absentmindedly.
“God, you are dense. It almost killed me to leave you. I thought you knew that.”
Shaking her head violently their eyes connected and held as she desperately tried to comprehend his true meaning. “You are just saying that to make me feel better. Just like you did by kissing me back then.”
“At first I didn’t even want friends, but your family grew on me. Then the more I got to know you, the sweet side, the take-charge side and all that spunky fire got to me.” Slowly he pushed the bangs back from her face and softly slid his lips across hers. “I was desperately in love with you.”
Ginger let his lips linger over hers as she whispered back, “No, because if that were true you never would have left me.”
“I thought it was something I had to do, but now that I am older and wiser, I regret every second of time I missed with you. It kills me that so much time has been wasted, time we could have been together. Now I think it is about time I stopped regretting and started doing something about it.”