A Fair Exchange – part 4

by Pebbles


Sunday dawned overcast but dry. Melissa hurried through her morning chores and then put in a call to Hugh’s parents to see how they were getting on. Mikey was having a wonderful time with his Grandparents and didn’t seem at all concerned about coming home. It was agreed that he stayed on another couple of days. It was the half term holiday and his grandparents enjoyed having him to themselves and spoiling him a bit.

When she put down the phone Melissa felt a twinge of guilt that she hadn’t offered to go up and visit with them herself. It was just that she was just enjoying some time off from parenting and thinking about herself for a change. She was still feeling a little guilty about this as she and Luka drove to the beach. The weather had taken a turn to the wild side. The wind had picked up and huge breakers were crashing down on the shore.

“I love coming here when it’s windy. It’s often deserted. Just Baggins the seagulls and me” As she spoke, Baggins – true to form - ran off after a flock of seagulls  - the wind in his ears – ignoring Melissa’s shouts to come to heel. She gave up and, with Luka, started to walk along the high tide line. There were one or two other dogs on the beach with their owners and Baggins was having a wonderful time chasing around with them.

“I have missed the sea very much,” said Luka “Chicago has Lake Michigan but it’s not the same. There is no salt in the air.” He breathed in, an expression of pleasure spread across his face. “When I was growing up in Croatia we were always by the sea. My uncle had a fishing boat; we would help him in the school holidays. And when I got older all our trills were on the water – sailing, water skiing – though we had to save hard to buy the petrol!”

“And I bet the sea was warmer there!” Melissa laughed.   

Luka noticed how brightly her eyes shone when she laughed. They lit up her face. He felt a strong urge to take her in his arms and plant kisses on that beautiful face! But he wasn’t sure if she would welcome that. “So your uncle was a fisherman, and your grandparents had a farm. What did your parents do?” Melissa gently questioned. “My father was an engine driver, he used to let me and my bother ride along with him in the cab sometimes. He was a wonderful man and my mother too; she was always at home  - ready to take care of us. It is good that you are able to work at home – to be there for Mikey. I know it is old fashioned idea but it feels right to me”

They continued to walk. Having reached the end of the beach they climbed the footpath up to the cliff top. From there a track led along the edge of the cliff with spectacular views of the rocky coastline. “My wife, Maria, she decided to stay home when we had Jasna although it was hard for me to make enough money to support us. I was so young! We fist met at school and got married before I was even qualified. We just knew it was right – like we were made for each other. You think we were crazy – no?”

“No, we felt the same, Hugh and me. We met just before I started university. He was a bit older and already working. My parents were dead against it at first. They thought I had no experience, I couldn’t know my own mind. But I knew. We were meant to be together – so why wait? And I did continue my studies! And they came to love Hugh too in the end” Their eyes met – a look of understanding passed between them. They had both found and lost their dearest love. They could share the happy memories and the sad one’s too.  

The wind was coming in stronger gusts by now and with it came a heavy squall of rain. “We’d better turn back – we’re going to get soaked!” Melissa realised that neither of them had a coat. Her fleece would keep out a light shower but not this kind of rain and Luka had only a thick sweater. Laughing they stumbled bath along the track – not able to run for fear of slipping down the cliff. Luka took Melissa’s hand – it felt very comforting and strong. At last they reached the shelter of the landrover.  Baggins was already waiting to be taken home – exhausted from his sport on the beach and also very wet. The windows quickly steamed up so Melissa had to wait a while for the de-misters to start working.

“What we need now is a good hot coffee in front of a roaring log fire – and some dry clothes!” suggested Luka. “Well I can take care of the former but I don’t think I have anything to fit you!” <Although I’d like to help you out of those wet things> – thought Melissa, shocking herself a little. She dropped him at the barn to change before rushing in to get herself dry. She was feeling cold by now and decided to take a hot shower before getting into some dry clothes. When she at last came back downstairs Luka was already in the sitting room lighting a huge pile of sticks in the hearth.

“You’re not leaving anything to chance are you” she teased seeing that he had used almost all the newspapers and kindling sticks. “No, this fire is going to light first time or my name’s not Luka Kovac!” And it did. Soon he had a great blaze going and the two of them were crouched by the hearth enjoying its warmth. Luka shivered, the heat had not yet driven off the cold from his bones. “You’re still cold?” asked Melissa “Let me warm you up”

He didn’t protest as Melissa started to rub his back vigorously. “That’s great – don’t stop” he leant back into her embrace feeling her breasts against his back. “I can’t rub you if you do that” she giggled. “No? Then let me warm you” He twisted round, wrapped her in his arms and gently rubbed her back.

“Is that nice” he whispered, his lips brushing her ear. “Mmmm” she mumbled “Don’t stop” He continued to massage her back, then unable to resist the urge any longer he brushed his lips gently against the base of her neck as he slid his hands over her shoulders and down her upper arms. His thumbs began to stroke the sides of her breasts. Melissa’s head was swimming – she was overwhelmed by desire for him. Her lips sought his in a kiss that started gently as they explored one another and then deepened and increased in passion until they had to break away to draw breath.

Melissa almost lay in his lap as they sprawled on the hearthrug. Looking up she saw his eyes were dark with desire. She was reaching up to pull him back down to her embrace when she became aware of a faint whistling noise. The kettle! She had put it on the Aga for coffee and forgotten it. “Urgh, the kettle! I must get it before it boils dry” she muttered struggling to her feet. “Why don’t you put another log on the fire? – I’ll be right back!” Luka replied with a husky  “Don’t be long!”

In the bright lights of the kitchen Melissa began to have second thoughts. What was she getting herself into? Luka would be going back to America by Christmas. If she let her heart rule her head she was headed for a major heartbreak. She was falling in love with this man. She needed to back off quickly before she got in any deeper. And it was wrong of her to lead him on too –he did not need to suffer any more pain. He had told her about Carol Hathaway who had dallied with his feelings – Melissa did not want to hurt him. He was too dear to her.

Returning to the sitting room, Melissa carefully set the coffee mugs down on the table and went to sit as far away from Luka as possible. He looked surprised but didn’t say anything. “Luka, I’m sorry but I think we got a bit carried away. I’m not sure I’m ready for a relationship just yet.” She tried to sound convincing. Just one word of protest from him and she was sure she would fly back into his arms. She avoided his eyes and stared into the fire.  After a while he spoke “It’s OK Melissa. I don’t want to do anything you’re not happy with. You have become very special for me. I want you only to be happy” He paused. “Would you like me to go now?” Melissa was sure she could feel her heart breaking. “No, I mean I don’t know.” The tears began to well up “Yes, I think you’d better” She almost whispered, her resolve faltering.  Luka got up and, bending over her planted the gentlest of kisses on her head. Then he left without saying another word.

Walking back to the barn Luka wondered what he could do to get through to Melissa. He knew now that he loved her. But perhaps she was not ready. If anyone understood the process of grieving, then it was Luka and he thought he had read the signs right, that she was ready to move on. He could be patient – she was worth it. She had to see how right they were for each other – she must!

Melissa sat alone staring into the fire for a long time after Luka left. She felt utterly miserable <What have I done?> The realisation hit her like a physical blow. <I love him!>. Her thoughts were interrupted by the entrance of Baggins who thrust his snout under her elbow reminding Melissa that it was time he was let outside. “OK, OK, I’m coming!” She dragged herself to her feet. Letting him out the back door to answer the call of nature, she absentmindedly began to tidy the kitchen whilst waiting for him to return. She was startled by a knock at the front door. Luka must have come back! She rushed to open it. But instead of her dear Luka there stood the odorous policeman, Martin Hunt!


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