At the same time, a man named the "Albany Predator" has been brutally raping black women throughout the city, and Melody is convinced that her best friend is the rapist's next target. Detectives Brianna Morris and Steven Kemp are placed on the case, determined to bring this sadistic felon to justice. But when things couldn't get any more complicated, all evidence is turned around to reveal a surprising prime suspect.
Full of forbidden desire and unwavering strength in the face of danger, Melody is a chilling tale that will leave readers breathless as they navigate all the plot twists and turns. Struggling to survive until the end, the diverse cast of characters will be left questioning their loyalties, their passions, and how far they might be willing to go to protect the ones they love.
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Melody Cruz hated to make assumptions. Yet what else could she think? She smelled his overpowering cologne, still she didn't turn around. She could feel Keith's presence as he entered her bedroom. Already this had been too much.
"What are you doing in my room?" She cuddled her bare bosom.
"Answer me, Keith!" He didn't. "What's your problem?" What was his problem? Here she stood half-naked while his eyes fondled every part of her body. "Just go away, please." She shook. "Please go back into the living room."
She had no idea what to make of this. He'd been one of the most attractive men she'd ever seen. His alluring green eyes rested within his creamy tanned skin. His magnificent dark hair completed the picture of perfection. Yet something about Keith Taylor seemed off. Even his good looks weren't enough to keep Melody's mind off his latest action.
She sensed that her being frightened turned him on. He took deep, hollowed breaths. She imagined him smirking. His handsome face flushed with demented delight. How could she feel this way about a man she'd just met? What did he want? Something about him brought out fear that she couldn't explain. Already she felt his mind controlling her emotions.
She still refused to look at him. Even at twenty-three years old Melody felt uncomfortable about being naked in front of men. A familiar self-consciousness awoke inside of her. Her body shut down beyond her control.
Keith panted loudly through deep grunts. Melody's knees knocked, her fingers sweat and her body ached from anxiety.
"Mmm...beautiful," he whispered. She heard him crack his knuckles, while she envisioned cracking his neck. Suddenly the breathing sound disappeared. His cologne drifted from the room. She took a deep breath, realizing he'd left. She retrieved her blouse and went to the hall. She wanted to glance down the stairs before locking her bedroom door. "Oh my God," she sighed. Talk about a lasting first impression.
Her sister, Sarah, always managed to attract the oddest men on the planet. Melody wasn't surprised that Keith Taylor made Sarah's list of latest lovers. Melody picked up on Keith's disturbed nature the first time she laid eyes on him. She wouldn't dare leave her room until Sarah arrived. Luckily she didn't have to wait. She heard Sarah rushing upstairs.
"Hey, Mel, you in there?" Sarah knocked.
"Uh, just a minute." Did she sound nervous? She didn't want to sound nervous. She ran to the door and the thought of their parents entered her mind. Melody never could understand why they forced their way into her head at the oddest times. Maybe it was a sign. She always had the feeling they looked over her and Sarah from heaven. She needed that comfort right now. If not now then when?
She barely remembered their parents. They'd died in a car crash when Melody was three and Sarah was six. They were the result of a biracial romance; a Latino mother and a white father. That may have explained Sarah's undying interest in white lovers. Melody couldn't remember Sarah ever dating a Latino guy. They were so different that Melody often had to convince herself that they were sisters.
Sarah had blonde hair and shimmering green eyes. She didn't have a single Latino feature. Melody, on the other hand, couldn't have looked white if you doused her in flour. She had dark skin, long dark hair, dark brown eyes and thick luscious lips to match. Melody had been graced with height. Her father had been very tall as well. Sarah took her height from their mother, who had to stand on boxes to grab cans from the kitchen cabinet.
Melody equated her parents' differences with the differences between her and her older sister. They were equally beautiful in different ways. Melody kept their mother's maiden name, Cruz. Sarah went by their father's name, Johnson. Melody was the sensitive, self-conscious one. Sarah was the strong, confident, successful one. They both had big hearts but wanted different things out of life.
Melody just wanted to be happy. She didn't care about materialistic things or money. She could live in a shoe if she had someone truly special to share it with. Sarah's idea of love relied on a man's looks, money and status. She was independent, make no mistake. But Sarah lived for men. She based her entire existence on what men thought of her. She didn't seem to feel complete without some man's attention.
The sisters were separated after their parents died. Their uncle only wanted Sarah, claiming he couldn't afford to take care of two small girls. Melody had long ago dismissed his excuse. How much more could it have cost to take care of a three-year-old, anyway? Melody got stuck being raised by Aunt Lucia who had never been able to take hold of her bills, let alone her devastating mental problems. If Lucia's mental state ran in the family, Melody wondered if she'd snap, too, one day. Sometimes she felt insanity would be an improvement.
Sarah acquired the best of everything. She dated the best-looking men and wore the best-looking clothes. She got all the attention, always. A gorgeous blonde beauty? Melody couldn't compete. She didn't want to, and she didn't try. She loved Sarah deeply, and they were extremely close. Sarah had always been there for her. Melody would have done anything for her. She just couldn't understand Sarah's obsession for pleasing the men in her life.
Melody opened the door and fell into Sarah's arms. Sarah rocked her back and forth. Keith had given her the fright of her life. No need in wasting time. Melody would have to tell Sarah about Keith before Sarah fell in love with him.
"Sarah...uh..." Melody panted.
"Hey, baby sis, what's wrong?" Sarah squinted. She playfully wrapped a chunk of Melody's hair around her finger. "I love to be hugged but this doesn't feel right, Mel."
Melody struggled to force out the words. She couldn't imagine how silly she would sound. "Sarah, Keith...he..."
"Oh yes! Let me tell you about Keith." Sarah giggled. "He is the absolute greatest guy in the world!"
"No Sarah, listen to me..."
"Oh he's made me the happiest woman in the world. Sit down Mel, and let me tell you what he did for me." Let me tell you what he did to me, Melody thought.
"Sarah, please listen, okay? Look, Keith..."
"He heard about me not being able to take those college courses and guess what?" Sarah rubbed Melody's arm, which irritated her newfound goose bumps.
"What?" Melody moaned. She hoped her attitude would signal some hint to Sarah. She gave up interrupting her big sister. No one could stop Sarah when she gloated about yet another one of her "new men."
"He's paying for my courses, Mel. Isn't that wonderful?"
"How?" Melody glanced around the room. "Those courses are running from fourteen thousand and up."
"I know but he had money saved up from a trust fund. And he gave it to me." Sarah leaned over in a flirtatious pose. "Wasn't that just the sweetest most considerate thing you've ever heard? I love him, Mel." Melody now had cause to worry. If Sarah had fallen in love with Keith she couldn't burst her bubble by telling her what had just happened. But what could she do? Let Sarah believe that this obvious prick could be the man of her dreams?
Melody took a deep breath. Once again her obligation to Sarah's feelings would win over common sense. She couldn't hurt her. The only thing she could do would be to stay away from Keith. She wouldn't give him the opportunity to be a jerk again.
"What were you going to tell me?" Sarah ran her fingers through her long, thick blonde crinkles. Melody looked at her own hair in the mirror. She'd have died for an ounce of the features Sarah had.
She found herself attractive, but Sarah had been blessed with the looks of a medieval goddess. She had always been the prettiest sister no matter what Melody did. Melody found it funny that she'd never been jealous of the attention Sarah got from men. Or maybe she had been and didn't give into it. She thought of Keith. Had she temporarily given into his twisted perversion? She abruptly dismissed the thought.
Funny how Keith had Sarah yet he had come into Melody's bedroom to get a glimpse of her naked. He knew she'd come up here to change. He probably had it in his mind to follow her the minute she walked in the door. Could this be the first time in their lives that a man preferred her to Sarah? If she hadn't been so afraid of Keith, she would've tempted the situation.
Of course she couldn't hurt Sarah by banging her new boyfriend. But it would have been interesting to see what a man saw in her and not in Sarah. She shook away the thoughts. Sarah rambled on about things Melody could not care less about. What had she been thinking? Sarah had always looked out for her. For that, she'd protect Sarah from knowing what Keith had done.
"Oh Mel, I'm so happy." Sarah sashayed to the mirror. "You think I'm gaining weight?" She turned around to check out her figure. Sarah had such a beautiful shape that a little more weight wouldn't hurt her. On the other hand, Melody looked like a stick with legs. She smiled. At least God blessed her with a full bosom. That had been something Sarah had always missed. "Okay, what were you going to tell me when you practically attacked me a while ago?" Sarah grinned.
"Uh, is Keith still downstairs?" Melody walked to the dresser.
Sarah held her hair in a pile on top of her head. "No, he left. So you never told me."
Melody stared into the hallway. "Told you what?" she mumbled.
"Jesus, snap out of it, Mel!" Sarah shook her. "What do you think of Keith, dummy? He's hot, isn't he?" Sarah rubbed her breasts.
"Who has time to think? You have so many guys I can't keep up."
Sarah grimaced. "Funny, Miss Thang. But seriously, I need to know your opinion, Mel."
"Believe me, you don't want my true opinion, Sarah."
She stared at her. "And what the hell does that mean? You got a problem with Keith?"
She wanted to tell her what a pervert he seemed to be. He reminded
Melody of some horny yuppie, college-educated moron with a flashy bank account. She still couldn't bring herself to hurt Sarah's feelings. Sarah and Aunt Lucia had been the only family Melody truly had. She wished she could tell her the truth, though. She became nauseated seeing Sarah drool about Keith. Yep, she'd definitely stay away from him from now on.
She thought of those prime-time cop shows. Why bother mentioning what had happened if it didn't mean anything? Keith hadn't touched her. He hadn't really done anything except spy. What man wouldn't spy on a young woman? Maybe she had assumed he'd come up there for that. Maybe he thought her room had been the bathroom. She bit her tongue. She couldn't even sell the idea to herself.
If it hadn't been strange, how come she felt so violated? How come she got the feeling he'd followed her on purpose? Melody wasn't used to feeling this helpless. She looked at her sister. She'd never seen Sarah glow when she spoke of any man like she did today. Keith could be in Sarah's life forever. And Melody didn't have the will to stop it.
She'd never been so confused. She wouldn't dwell on what had happened any longer. It would be worthless to tell if he hadn't really done anything. Besides, Sarah seemed to think Keith walked on water.
"Baby girl, you're still shaking." Sarah rubbed her shoulders.
"Yeah, yeah, I, uh...I just had a small fright. It's nothing now."
"You sure?" Sarah's angelic eyes studied Melody's face.
"Yeah, I'm sure." Melody smiled. "So, tell me more about Keith." Melody had to talk to someone. She couldn't get the Keith episode out of her head to save her life. Luckily, she had two best friends in the wings. Her homegirl Aileen had been the first choice. Since Aileen had her own problems to deal with right now, Melody decided not to burden her. She also got the feeling that a male friend would be the better choice. She secretly called Craig over after Sarah went to take a nap.
Craig could give her insight on why a guy would act the way Keith had. He'd help Melody decide if she had overreacted, or if Keith could be the biggest creep of the century. No matter what he would say, it couldn't wait. She laid out a spread of donuts and coffee. He might have been a twenty-four-year-old artist but Craig Banks had the appetite of a fifty-year-old cop.
Craig and Melody were close as two friends of the opposite sex could be. So she knew she could trust his opinions. He arrived a few minutes after she set up the food. She opened the front door to Craig swatting flies from around the porch light. He wore that tan shirt she loved. The porch light sparkled against his blond hair. This had to be the strangest day in the world, she thought.
Melody checked to see if she saw a full moon as she opened the door. First, she'd endured Keith's craziness. Now she found herself looking at Craig in a way she hadn't in years. They'd dated a little in school, then agreed that being friends was better for the both of them. It had been times like these that made Melody rethink their decision. She just couldn't stop staring at him.
He looked so inviting. Those baby-blue eyes silently seduced her. A small breeze floated between them. She enjoyed the calmness of the moment. She loved life in Albany, New York. May's weather enhanced her appreciation for the laid-back city.
"Hey, come on in." She hoped she didn't look too much like a flake. He yawned. "Mel, is this uh..." He grinned. "One of your 'Craig' moments?"
He rubbed his chin.
She grinned. "'Craig moments'? I have no idea what you mean."
"You know exactly what I mean." He smirked. "One of those moments when you expect me to save your sanity or at least your life?" He touched her chin. "You know I'm always here when you need me, Mel. But I gotta tell you that your phone call almost made me shit my pants. Thought I'd come here to find you swimming in a pool of blood."
"Craig, could you for once let someone tell you what they want before thinking you know all the answers?" She walled her eyes. "I can't tell you how annoying that is."
"Well, I've been doing it for years, so you should be used to it by now." He grinned.
"Silly ass, no." She sighed. She'd forgotten that Craig could be a top-notch asshole at times, too.
"Ah!" He laughed. "You called me a 'silly ass' in Spanish? You must be pissed if you're speaking words of your motherland," he teased.
She laughed. "Would you shut up and stop being such an asshole? God I don't know why I care about you so much."
"Well, I...shit doughnuts." He ran to the snacks. "I'm here for you as long as the doughnuts and coffee is." He bit into the glazed chocolate-filled one. "Mmm, this is my favorite. So what's up?" She sat beside him.
"Remember this morning when I said I met Keith, Sarah's boyfriend, at Caper Enterprises?" Craig nodded. "I told you I didn't like his attitude and thought something may have been off with him. You remember that?"
He licked his lips. "Of course, I remember, it was just this morning. What am I, eighty years old? I don't have Alzheimer's yet, Mel." He mumbled while chewing.
"Well, you said I wasn't giving him a fair chance. And that I always judge Sarah's boyfriends before getting to know them." Melody twiddled her fingers.
He wiped crumbs on the thighs of his jeans. "Here we go. Did I say you always did this or didn't I say it? Mel, don't start with all of this again. You need to get yourself some help. You don't want to share Sarah with anyone, do you? Give the guy a break. Maybe he's just an asshole. She'll figure it out."
"Craig, this is not like those other times. Okay, I have never liked Sarah's boyfriends but I had cause." He walled his eyes. "All of them have been jerks, I'm telling you! I don't know where she meets these guys, Creeps R Us?" Craig grinned.
"But none of them hold a candle to Keith Taylor. Something, uh...happened."
Craig grabbed another doughnut. "What happened, Mel?"
She exhaled. "Craig, he saw me...naked." He dropped the doughnut on Sarah's pristine carpet. "Watch it, Craig!" Melody rushed to clean it up. "Sarah turns into Kathy Bates in Misery if she sees one crumb on this floor."
"Fuck the doughnut, okay?" He gasped. "How the fuck did he see you naked? Even when we went out, I didn't. "
She sighed. "Craig it was the most frightening thing I have ever experienced. He didn't touch me but it was just like he had. I have never been that afraid. The minute I knew he was there I just got this fear that I couldn't control. It overtook my entire body. I shut down, Craig! I couldn't even move and my words shook. I didn't think people could have that kind of power over someone until I met Keith Taylor."
He stared in midair. "What exactly happened?"
"Keith had been waiting here when I got home. He said Sarah had given him a key and told him to come by. So, of course you can imagine how pissed I was to find a man I'd just met this morning sitting in my own living room. I went in my room to change and the next thing I knew he was up there too. I didn't know what to think."
"What kind of shit is that?" Craig grimaced. "Did you tell Sarah?"
"I couldn't." She twiddled her fingers to subdue the tension of rehashing the Keith episode. It didn't work. Nothing seemed to get her mind off that moment.
"You have to tell her, Mel! Who knows what could have happened!"
"I just couldn't, Craig. She's too into him already and it seems pathetic. Look, Sarah isn't happy that often and I can't take that away. Especially when I don't know what the hell exactly happened!"
He shook his head. "It makes no difference, Mel. She needs to know what kind of guy he is. This man is a creep. If I can tell just by what you say, then I know he's up to no good. What kind of man goes into a woman's bedroom like that? I can only think of one kind and most of them end up behind bars, Melody."
She chewed her thumb. "Maybe I misunderstood his actions. Maybe he was just looking for the bathroom."
"Oh yeah." Craig sniggered. "And he just happened to stop into your bedroom along the way, huh? Believe me, Mel. If a man goes into a woman's bedroom you can believe he intended to." So far Craig's theory hadn't comforted her the way she hoped. Why couldn't she stop thinking about it? It seemed like Keith continued to violate her privacy as the day went on. "Melody, don't go thinking like this is your fault, all right?
It's just not normal, baby. You didn't need me to tell you that."
"I suppose not," she sighed.
"So, what's the deal? You gotta tell Sarah before it's too late. I got a feeling that Keith is someone who needs to be out of the picture, as soon as possible."
"Craig, I'm gonna let it go." She shrugged. "I mean, I can't hurt Sarah over one incident."
He scoffed. "You still trying to make yourself believe that what happened wasn't what you think happened?" He shook his head. "Mel, we've known each other for years, and I've never seen someone stop you from doing what's right." She ignored his gaze.
"Go tell Sarah right now. You know that's the only choice you have. If the tables were turned and your boyfriend looked at Sarah..."
She scoffed. "My boyfriends do look at Sarah. That's why they don't stay my boyfriends for long."
"Do I look like I am kidding, Mel? This shit is serious. No telling how far this guy will go next time. Okay today, he watched you undress. What's next, he puts his hands on you?"
"Oh no, he wouldn't do that."
"How the hell do you know?" Craig grinned. "Did you know he'd come up to your room today, too? I know you're scared. If not, you wouldn't have begged me to come over here. You know what needs to be done so do it, Melody. If not, then don't mention this ever again. Damn, I'd love to meet this guy and give him a piece of my mind."
She looked at him. "Is it because you care? Or because you're jealous?"
He unconvincingly scoffed and tugged on his earring. "Of course, I care. I may even be a little jealous."
"I knew it!" She laughed. She valued Craig's friendship like nothing else. Yet, she missed those times when they did more than talk.
"Melody, this is serious." He sighed. "Are you okay?"
She smiled. "Yeah."
"You sure he didn't touch you? You can tell me if he did."
"No, I'm fine, thanks."
A noise interrupted them from upstairs. Sarah walked into the den. She had endured a very hard week working and going to school. She did her best to provide Melody with decent support as well as a suitable place to live. Most sisters couldn't be in the same room with each other for a minute -- let alone live together. Melody felt blessed to share such a friendship with Sarah. No matter what else happened they could always count on each other.
"Hey," Sarah said as she stretched. She flinched until her eyes adjusted to the light. She looked great even after a hard nap. Craig shook his head. Melody didn't have to guess. Sarah and Craig were already on their way to another one of their famous confrontations. Sarah hadn't forgiven Craig for dumping Melody in high school. Melody hated seeing them fuss like children, yet it brought a certain spark to their relationship.
She wondered if the tension could be mistaken for sexual chemistry. She chuckled. It would have been interesting to see Craig and Sarah succumb to such a fantasy. Melody wouldn't have been surprised if Craig found Sarah attractive. He'd be the only man in the free world who didn't.
"Craig," Sarah sighed. "What a lovely surprise." She acted as if the statement would eventually choke her. "You're here and eating our food...like always." She walled her eyes.
"Nice to see you, too, Sarah." He stood. "Don't worry. I was just leaving, baby."
Melody definitely saw chemistry between them. She wondered why she paid so much attention to Craig these days. Could she still be in love with him after all this time? Had her friendship with him been just an excuse to hang on? Craig slapped Melody's back. She juggled from her thoughts.
"I swear, no one daydreams like you, Mel." Craig kissed her cheek and smiled at Sarah. "So did Your Highness enjoy her royal nap?"
Sarah faked a smile. "I'm not in the mood to get into anything with you, Craig."
He shrugged. "No, you're never in the mood for me are you, Sarah?" He went to the door. "Bye, lovelies. Mel, you know what you need to do." She waved.
"Bye, Craig." Sarah waved. "And thanks for stopping by unannounced, like you always do." He left. "He's such an asshole." Sarah noticed crumbs on the carpet.
"Mel, I swear I could get a Saint Bernard who'd keep things cleaner than you do."
Melody cleaned the spot she'd missed. "How was your nap?"
"Restless." She sighed. "I kept waking up before Keith kissed me." She grinned.
Melody walled her eyes. "I'm sure you'll dream about him again. Sarah, I really need to uh...talk to you."
"Mel, how can you be friends with Craig after what he did?"
"I admit, he might not have been the right boyfriend for me but he is the right friend."
"Please." Sarah took a doughnut. "Stop kidding yourself. He's only your friend because he doesn't want to cut the strings completely. He's scared to really let you go."
"And what's wrong with not wanting to let someone go?" Sarah looked at her.
"We all hold onto some things, Sarah." Sarah licked powdered sugar from her thumb.
Melody thought of Keith. "You understand what I mean, Sarah? We all hold onto things even if we don't need to."
"Melody, why the hell are you talking in riddles today? What's your problem? I mean you've been acting like a nutcase since this evening. If something is on your mind, I wish you'd be woman enough to tell me about it."
"It's just so hard to say this. Sarah, I don't want you to think that I'm trying to run your life. I truly want you to be happy and..."
She slapped Melody's lap. "I think I know why you're acting so weird today, baby girl."
"Uh, why?" Melody stared.
"Lucas Lawson." Sarah winked.
Melody grinned coyly. "Lucas Lawson? Where did that come from?"
"Well, Keith works at Caper Enterprises under Lucas' father."
"Well, when you went up there did you see Lucas himself?" Sarah chuckled.
Melody grinned. "Maybe. Okay, it was sort of like fate. Imagine seeing someone you've really missed after all this time, Sarah." She smiled. "Can you believe he's even more handsome now than he was back then? Maybe it's time we got together again. We were so close growing up. Well, until I dropped out of school."
Sarah nodded. "I have to admit, Lucas Lawson was the cutest guy you hung with."
"And not to mention him being the son of very wealthy parents never hurt anything either." Sarah laughed. Melody hit her head.
"Wait, now I'm sounding like the gold digger you are."
"Hey!" Sarah laughed. "I'm not a gold digger, okay. I support myself and there is nothing wrong with wanting a guy to spend money on you. Melody, you should really give Lucas a chance. I mean, not many women have a man like Lucas after them."
"Oh please, that was a long time ago, Sarah. We were in high school. Before it used to be the four of us -- Lucas, Craig, Aileen and me. Sure, Lucas and I flirted with the idea of getting together but if it was meant to be we would have, right?"
"Look, you were a teenager then and you were with Craig." Sarah walled her eyes. "For what, I don't know. Everything's different now. You're a woman and Lucas is a man." She laughed.
"Thanks for clearing that up for me, Sarah." Melody grinned.
"Seriously, if fate threw you two back together, he could truly be the one, Mel."
"Somehow I'm not convinced."
"You'd be a fool not to be. The man is prime-A material, Melody. And I got the feeling many women want him. If he wants you, I wouldn't fuck things up by being too damn slow. A man like Lucas won't wait forever."
"Which proves my point. If he can't wait for me, then he isn't the one for me." Melody stuck her head into the air.
Sarah chuckled. "You know, you got this goody two-shoes thing happening, and it really gets on my nerves."
Melody laughed. "He's just not my type, okay? Let's drop it."
"And what is? A starving fair-haired artist who dumped you?"
Melody sighed. "What happened between Craig and me is none of your business."
"Really? You didn't say that when I dried your tears after he stepped all over your heart, back then."
"And as a matter of fact, if Lucas and I do get together it will be none of your business, either! I don't say anything about the dicks you bring home so don't say anything to me!" Melody rushed to the stairs. Sarah ran after her.
"Wait!" Sarah pulled her back. "If you'd come back to reality, you can see I only said what I did because I love you, Mel." Melody jerked away from her. "Mel, what's going on? What happened to you today? Why are you acting like this?"
"No...nothing happened, Sarah."
"Bullshit, you've been shaking since I got home this evening. What did Craig mean when he said 'you know what you need to do'? Mel, you know we don't need to keep secrets from one another."
"Sarah, this has just been a very hectic day. And I..."
Sarah hugged her. "Look I'm sorry, okay? You've obviously got something on your mind today, and all I've done is teased you." She pushed Melody's hair behind her ears. "Todo será de todos los derechos, sis. You need to loosen up, Mel. I think I got the perfect thing for you. It's part of the reason I wanted to know how you felt about Lucas." She beamed.
"What's going on?"
"I forgot to tell you that I'm going out with Keith and Lucas tonight." Sarah shrugged. "I told them that you'd be joining us." "What? Oh hell no! Forget it, Sarah. You had no right to do that without asking me. How many times do I have to tell you that I don't need you to construct a social life for me? If I want to go out on dates, I'll set them up myself."
"Melody, any other day I would've let it slide, but you need to get out of the house! You're so wound up you can't even breathe!"
"Sarah, I don't have time for this. I've been looking for a job for a week straight. I'm so tired I could sleep for months." Melody wondered if Sarah had been born this blind? Couldn't she see that Keith made Melody uncomfortable? Couldn't she see that everything had been fine before she brought her new boyfriend from hell into the picture? Melody would have to tell her what happened now. She wouldn't be able to stay composed through dinner. She sure as hell couldn't go. "Sarah, we need to talk about Keith once and for all."
"What about him?"
"I think he's kind of strange to be honest."
"Okay, I know he's a little weird but that's just his way. He's a very nice guy once you get to know him."
"To be honest, Sarah, I don't want to get to know him."
"And why not?" Sarah scoffed. Melody readied herself for another argument.
"For one reason, he's flirty and sneaky."
"Oh!" Sarah laughed. "He winked at you or something, right? He does that with everyone, Mel. He's just that kind of guy. He's very handsome, so whatever he does, women take it the wrong way."
"Once again your mouth is moving when you need to be listening, Sarah. Do you know what you are getting into? How much do you really know about Keith Taylor?"
"Damn it, Mel, you always do this shit!"
"Look, you asked me what I thought of Keith and I'm finally telling you! I asked a simple question, and if you can't answer it, then that says a lot about how much you probably don't even know about him!"
She looked at her long, manicured fingernails. "Why should I be surprised at this coming from you, Mel? You've never liked any of my men so why would you like Keith?"
"Oh, would you stop being so damn melodramatic, Sarah? You can't see the signs but I do! Something is wrong with him. You may think he's the man of your dreams but I see something you should be aware of."
"And you're an expert on men because..." Melody walled her eyes. "Tell me Melody, when's the last time you had a boyfriend?"
"Just because I don't have a different guy every week doesn't mean I never had a boyfriend, does it? I, unlike you, wait to let relationships grow. I don't sign myself off to the first man who gives me head!"
"Oh, take that back!"
"I won't! If you didn't want to know how I felt about Keith then you shouldn't have asked. I don't like him and I probably never will!" Melody stood from the stairs. "I don't want him in this house ever again."
"Let me fill you in on something in case you've forgotten. I took you in when Aunt Lucia went bonkers, Mel. I've been supporting you all this time. Don't you think I deserve a little respect? The least you could be is happy for me. "
"This isn't about respect, Sarah! Baby, something is off with him. Keith is a creep!"
"Oh yeah, like, Tom was a creep? And Mitch was a creep? And Benjamin was a real creep?"
Melody sighed. "Sarah, listen to me. I'd never say something just to hurt you but I got a feeling about him that's not going away."
"Well, let me tell you what to do about your feelings, sis. You can sit on them because they don't matter when they come to Keith, okay? So just mind your damn business, and stop trying to make my life as lonely and pathetic as yours!" She ran upstairs to her room. Melody stomped in a second later.
"You won't listen because you know I'm right, Sarah! I know you've seen some signs but you won't admit it!"
Sarah got on her knees in the closet. "Pass me my black heels."
"Pass me my shoes."
Melody threw them at her. "Sarah, I don't think I said anything wrong. It's not my fault you can't take an opinion different from yours. Why are you being such a bitch about all this?"
"Maybe I've had it up to here with your disapproval! If I like a guy, it shouldn't be up to you. You don't even know Keith. How can you judge him like this? What could he have said or done already that makes you dislike him?" Sarah held her hips. Melody knew from that moment on it didn't matter what she said. Sarah's mind wouldn't budge when it came to Keith.
"Fine Sarah, fuck it, okay." She gaped. "It's your life, isn't it? And you're right. It shouldn't be up to me to choose the men in your life." Sarah nodded. "But don't say I didn't warn you."
"Melody, what in the hell are you talking about?" Sarah squinted.
She shrugged. "What does it matter, huh? I'm through with it. I just want you to be happy."
"If that were true, you'd lay off and understand how much he means to me, Mel." She exhaled. "I'm not trying to be bitchy. I just want you to understand that Keith's different from the others, Mel. Please give him a chance. I feel he could be the one. I've never felt like this before. Please don't take this away from me now."
"Like I said, I'd never hurt you, Sarah." Melody sighed.
"Please come to dinner with me, Melody. Let Keith prove to you how wrong you are about him." Melody looked at her. "I know you just got the wrong impression. First impressions are a bitch." Sarah chuckled. "Once you get to know him, you'll love him just as much as I do. Mel, you're twenty-three. Don't you want to see what life has to offer you with Lucas?"
She knew Sarah told the truth. Melody had to start living a life of excitement before it was too late. Maybe Lucas would be the key. She'd endure one night with Keith just to see where things would lead with Lucas Lawson. They'd always been close, even though Melody felt she hadn't been in his league. Lucas had been the richest boy in school. Hell, he'd been the richest person she'd ever known. He came from a long line of successful people. She had nothing to offer Lucas.
She wasn't the greatest catch. Melody had dealt with deep problems
in her life. She even thought of herself as crazy sometimes. She amazed herself at how she could live with the mental setbacks she'd had in the past. She'd always been known for taking the easy way out when things got hard. She'd dropped out of school without a second thought because it had been difficult juggling schooling while combating the hassles of teen life. She'd never been one to deal with trauma. Sometimes she ended up paying for the consequences. What would the fabulous Lucas Lawson think about that?
Sarah shook her. "Earth to Mel." She laughed. "Boy, you got this daydreaming down to a T, don't you? Anyway, Lucas told me that he wants you to see his father about a job at Caper Enterprises."
"I told him you'd definitely consider it."
"Damn it, I don't need you to keep running my life, Sarah!"
"You aren't in a position to say no since you haven't had a job in I can't tell when. I can't continue to pay for everything on my own, Melody. You aren't getting any answers from the jobs you've applied to, so I took the initiative. As long as this is my home, I think I have the right to ask you to contribute the best way you can."
"Bullshit, Sarah. You just want me to start seeing Lucas. This also means I'll be working with Keith if I get the job. So I suppose you think it would help my opinion of him? Fat chance. I've seen what I need to see, and my opinion will never change."
She slipped into her black silk dress. Melody had always been obsessed with that dress. Sarah always pointed out Melody's lanky, long frame to discourage her from borrowing it. "You're just afraid you won't be able to contain yourself when you're working with Lucas. How would it look if his father walked in and caught you two doing it on Lucas's desk?"
"Sarah, you must have forgotten that you're the fast one and not me."
Sarah laughed. "Funny, but you know what he told me when I saw him the other day, Mel? He said he's looking for someone to 'share' his future with. You know, like a wife? Could be you." Melody turned away. "Please, little sis, come with me. You and Lucas can discuss the job and you can get to know him, again. I bet he hasn't changed."
Sarah flipped her hair off her shoulders. "You're going."
Melody chuckled. "Excuse me? Since when do you tell me what to do?"
"I'm ordering you to come with us and accept that job. That's final." Melody sighed. "I don't believe I'm doing this."
"Believe it." Sarah winked.
© 2008 by Stacy-Deanne