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Brian's Return: Prologue to Sequel of "Clover Doves"
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"I love you.  I still do and I always will."  Brian's chocolate eyes bore into Lora's, searching for a glimpse of what was once between them, but her sapphire blue eyes reflected only clouds of sadness.  The sun quickly disappeared and the sky became a smoky gray.  A sudden gust of wind slammed the screen door shut and the porch swing creaked as it swung in the breeze.  Thunder rumbled on the horizon.   

Lora's lips parted as she slowly pulled her eyes away from his gaze, her heart both elated and broken simultaneously.   The warm, southern wind pushed strands of her long blonde hair into her face and she reached down and lightly touched her belly,  "I've always dreamed you'd appear again and I'd hear these words."

The soft sound of her voice, the slow, southern drawl that could bring Brian to his knees echoed in his mind and heart, and he stepped forward, desperately wanting to pull her into his arms, but he stopped when she demanded, "But where, where have you been all this time?"  

Tears began to stream down Lora's cheeks and she looked directly into Brian's eyes.  "You disappeared.  We all thought you'd been killed. I was almost killed."  Her fragile body shuddered at the memory.

Brian's hard, calloused hand reached up to wipe a tear off her cheek.    Instinct made her pull away.  Lora knew that a single touch of his hand would instantly melt her resolve, and she couldn't allow that to happen.  Not now.  Not yet.  There was so much she had to figure out.  Brian's sudden appearance turned her world upside-down.  Everything she thought she knew, was wrong.  Her life had changed since that god-forsaken day, but now she was painfully aware, some things had not.  

Brian's eyes dropped to the floor and his arm slowly descended to his side.  He stuffed a clenched fist into the pocket of his jeans.  He had expected her to be upset, but it would have been a lie to say he didn't hope she would run to him with open arms.  

Lora continued, "And now, you're here, and you're telling me that you still love me?  And always have?"  She bit the inside of her cheeks.  "Then where the hell have you been? I thought I lost everything, everything that day!"  

Brian's gaze lifted from the splintering wooden porch and their eyes met.  A single tear flowed down his cheek; a shiny streak that enhanced the contours of his face, taking Lora's breath away.  He was exactly as she remembered him, but he was worn, and a splatter of gray salted his dark, brown hair.  

Heavy rain drops started to fall around them.  Thunder echoed through the woods and the damp smell of summer rain and Spanish moss enveloped them.  The smell comforted Brian.  He was relieved to be home again.  Brian inhaled deeply, then slowly emptied his lungs before he spoke, "You want to know where I've been, Lora?  Okay, I'll tell you."