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CaSondra Poulsen-The Official Website
Contemporary romance and sequel to Calling Me Home. Brian's story comes full circle.
Finding Home: Brian’s Journey is the sequel to Calling Me Home. Brian’s story was just beginning as his sister Samantha’s came full circle. Now as Brian returns to his military career in a training unit outside of Huntington Beach, California, the transfer offers him the opportunity to pursue Taya, the free-spirited chef he left behind when he chose to work through his Posttraumatic Stress Disorder alone.
When his dreams with Taya are shattered, Brian is angry at the world and its creator. His family’s peace adds to his struggle to find a place where he belongs. Brian makes a hasty decision to transfer back to his combat team, daring death to claim him. Before his arrival back in Washington with his Stryker Combat Team, Brian takes a road trip back to his father’s hometown of Patterson, Missouri. It is here Brian remembers visiting his grandparents as a child, when life was simple and carefree.
In the small Southeast Missouri town, Brian begins to face the demons that haunt him. With the enigmatic friendship of Mac, a young woman with a haunting past, Brian learns to live with his mistakes. Just when he is grasping the peace he craves and love even seems like a possibility again, duty calls and he returns to the warzone in Afghanistan. Can he forgive himself and let go of his angry pain to find love again? Will Brian find a place to call home or will his journey end on foreign soil?
Taya stood, frowning before the mirror that hung on her closet door. Her blonde hair almost touched her slender shoulders. She smoothed imaginary wrinkles from the white linen top before tracing the embroidered flowers that edged the slit in the front. Brown, yellow and orange flowers trailed down the center, creating a rectangle. Pulling her shoulders back, she turned sideways, inspecting the denim-washed broom skirt. Behind her, the bed and dresser were piled with every clean stitch of clothing she owned, her attempt to pacify the need for the perfect outfit. It had taken all afternoon to decide on what she now wore. Dressy, but not too dressy. And comfortable. She needed to be comfortable tonight. With her nerves on edge, she did not want to be fussing with her clothes.
“What were you thinking? How could you agree to have dinner with him? What will Greg say?” she asked her reflection. Blue eyes filled with reprimanding anticipation stared back at her. Shaking her head, she slid her foot into a white sandal without answering.
Greg had been patient and supportive when he and Taya started dating. He was understanding and listened when she told him about Brian. She, too, listened when Greg told her about his ex-wife and their failed marriage. Their relationship grew out of a common need for undemanding companionship and the desire for acceptance for who they were as fallible individuals. Greg blamed himself and the long, demanding hours he spent at the hospital. In the final months of his marriage, he admitted to his wife he chose the hospital over her and wished he could love her as much as he did his profession. A week later, he received the divorce papers.
Why did I say yes, she silently asked, looking at her shoes.
As she asked herself this question, she already knew the answer. Greg would be disappointed, but understanding. She wanted closure…and she was curious. And, she thought, I’ve missed him, too.
She took one final look in the mirror, then turned and walked to the kitchen to pour a glass of wine. Looking at the clock, she put the bottle back into the refrigerator. He would be here any minute. Instead, she picked up Tiger’s water bowl and filled it with fresh water. She jumped at the sound of the doorbell, sloshing water from the cat’s bowl onto the floor. Mid-reach for a dishtowel that lay in a tossed fashion on the counter, the doorbell rang again. She dropped her hand and left the spilt water on the floor to go answer the front door.
Brian passed an eighteen-wheeler on the open desert highway, heading toward Huntington Beach. The warm air passed through the open vents in his jacket. The smell of the ocean faintly held onto the breeze, bringing a heightened sense of anticipation. Brian held the throttle down, leaving the diesel and trailer far behind him.
His thoughts drifted to Taya. She looked so beautiful, so lonely, on the beach this morning. He had felt an urgent need to touch her, hold her, when he spotted her at the water’s edge. Nevertheless, he held back at her reserved surprise when she saw him. So many emotions danced across her face. Shock. Longing. Happiness. Anger. Hurt. Thinking about her face filled him with regret. He had acted like such a calloused fool a year ago.
Releasing his grip on the throttle, he slowed down, maneuvering his motorcycle onto the side street and followed the same path he had walked so long ago in the pouring rain, searching for his sister, Samantha. He signaled his intent to turn before leaning with the bike and rolled up Taya’s driveway. The house looked the same as the last time he had been there. The yard had long since recovered from the fight he and Tom had over Samantha. He shook his head at the memory. Samantha had been attacked and suffered from amnesia. When Tom saw him, he thought Brian had been her attacker. Brian thought Tom kidnapped her. A fight was inevitable.
Afterward, he had met Taya for the first time. She had taken his breath away and set him at ease all at the same time. He chuckled aloud at the thought of Tom’s disapproval of Brian’s interest in his sister. It was strange to think of Tom and Samantha expecting twins soon, even though he knew they would be great parents. Maybe next year me and Taya will be expecting a baby, he thought with reckless joy. He caught the heel of his boot on the kickstand and with a practiced ease, pushed it downward. Leaning back, he removed his helmet and hung it on the handlebar. He stared at the house to see if Taya heard him pull up.
With remorse-filled want, he hoped she would run to him and wrap her arms around his neck. He stared at the unopened red door, combing his finger though his hair and then swung his right leg over the bike to stand. He bent down to pull his clinging jeans loose from his prosthetic leg. Rubbing the building ache in his thigh, he knew a storm was approaching. He should have borrowed his buddy’s car. It was sure to be a treacherous ride home in the dark with the rain and wind attempting to knock him from his bike. He straightened and walked up the sidewalk to the still closed door and pressed the doorbell.
He paced back and forth on the porch, more nervous than he thought reasonable. After wiping his sweaty palms on his jeans, he pressed the doorbell again. What if she isn’t home? What if she’s standing me up? What if she doesn’t want to see me? He pressed the doorbell again and glanced at his bike. His stare landed on the new helmet he had bought for her to wear.
He could hear soft footsteps approaching and turned to face the door as it swung open.
“A bit impatient, aren’t you?” Taya asked, breathless.
A million witty thoughts floated into oblivion as he stared at her.
“You’re ogling,” she said, the corners of her lips curved upward. “I know your mother taught you better.” She attempted a stern look of reprimand.
“Sorry.” He looked at his prosthetic leg, thinking he should take it off and club himself in the head with it.
“Would you like to come in? I need to wipe up a mess before we go.” She took a step back so he could enter. Brian let out a held breath and crossed the threshold of the house. She closed the door behind him. “Do you want a drink before we go?”
“No. Thanks though,” he said. She shrugged and walked into the kitchen. He silently followed her, watching while she picked up a rag and bent to wipe up some water next to the cat’s dish. “You look stunning,” he said to her back, pushing his nervousness behind his confidence.
Taya stood without a reply, her back still to him, and hung the wet dishtowel across the edge of the sink. Slowly she turned to him, smoothing the front of her skirt. He was relieved to see she was at least a little nervous, too.
“So where are you taking me for dinner tonight?” she asked, ignoring his compliment.
“Some place quiet so we can talk.” He watched as she twisted her fingers together; a smile played at the corner of his mouth. “I promised you a proper date and I am long overdue to follow through with it.” He held back as the urge to pull her into his arms washed over him. She looked up, meeting his eyes. He could not place what he saw in them.
“I told you. You don’t owe me anything. Not even a proper date,” she said, squaring her shoulders with a firm set to her jaw.
“I may be late, but I always keep my promises.” He reached for her hand and pulled her closer. She came with mild hesitation. “I’ll never be more sorry for anything than I am for hurting you, Taya.”
She looked up at him, bringing their lips only inches apart. He leaned down to close the gap. She stepped away.
“I’m sorry. I can’t.” She cast her eyes to the floor. Tiger tucked his head under the edge of her skirt and rolled onto his back to play with the flowing fabric. Brian watched her eyes grow damp.
“No. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. I…It just felt right at the time.” He sighed.
“I know,” she said, gripping the sides of her skirt. “We should probably go.
We don’t want to be late for our reservations.” She looked up at him with a sad, forced smile. Brian’s heart tightened in his chest. I’ll never hurt you again, he thought, I promise. He stretched out his hand and waited for her to take it.
“I don’t have any reservations,” he spoke softly. He watched as her head jerked up and met his eyes, hoping she could see the love in his heart through them. She rested her palm against his outstretched hand.
“That could be a problem.”