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WHEN SUMMER COMES
by Brenda Novak

Genre: General Contemporary Romance, Contemporary Romance

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Callie turned on some music while she made fried potatoes, omelets and toast. She’d always enjoyed cooking, but having someone to fix a meal for made it even more fulfilling. Had she been on her own, she would’ve settled for toast and juice, since she often felt nauseous after a big meal.

“You don’t have to go to so much trouble.” Levi spoke from where he was cleaning up his bedding in the other room.

She didn’t bother to come up with a response. She’d awakened this morning feeling inexplicably happy just to be alive. Part of it was the sunshine pouring into the old farmhouse. She loved it here, was glad she’d moved. But Levi was another reason she felt so good. Trying to help someone else gave fresh purpose to her own life. It also dragged her attention away from her various worries and complaints—and the inevitable, should she be unable to find a liver donor.

“Did you hear me?” he called.

“I heard you,” she replied.

“Why didn’t you answer?”

“Because I’m going to make what I’m going to make.”

“Okay, forget I said anything.”

She smiled at the pique in his voice. She had no idea what his story was, or if he’d tell her before he left. Most likely not. She didn’t care either way. He had a right to his privacy. She simply enjoyed thinking that she’d made a positive impact on someone, if only in a small way—giving him a place to stay, some food to eat, a few days of peace.

“Callie.”

She was pretty sure it was the first time he’d called her by name. She cast a glance over her shoulder. “Hmm?”

“What’s really going on with you?”

The gravity in his voice told her this wasn’t a simple question. He could tell something wasn’t ideal. But she didn’t want him to know about her diagnosis any more than she wanted anyone else to know. She couldn’t say why. Maybe she was afraid he’d see her as flawed or defective. Why would he choose to spend even a few days with a woman who wouldn’t be around in a couple of weeks or months? And she didn’t want him to go. She was intrigued enough to hope he’d finish out the week.

“What’s really going on with you?” she asked, turning his own question back on him. “There’s got to be a reason a handsome, capable guy goes rambling around America.”

When he grunted, she took it to mean, “Touché” and chuckled to herself.

“You’re not like other women,” he said.

She got a plate out of the cupboard. “Are you like other men?”

“I like the same things.”

There seemed to be added significance to this statement, as if he was talking about liking women, liking sex, but she chose to ignore that—just as she chose to ignore the way he was looking at her. “Good. Then you should enjoy your breakfast.” She carried his omelet over before returning to the counter for his toast and hash browns.