| Dreamkeepers |
By Dorothy Garlock
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THE SMELL OF burning spruce aroused her. She lay with her eyes closed, feigning sleep. A clatter of iron told her that Mike was satisfied with the blaze in the fireplace and had moved to the big cooking range that dominated the other end of the room. Kelly opened her eyes a crack. He was pouring water from a granite bucket into the reservoir on the side of the range.
The strangeness of it all hit her. Here she was, in this spruce log cabin, deep in the wilderness, two hundred miles north of Anchorage, and she had not felt even a scrap of fright when she was awakened out of a sound sleep by someone moving about the cabin.
How different from Boston and the security-patrolled building where she had lived for eight months. The elegant, marble-floored apartment, its furniture spotlessly maintained, the vases of fresh flowers, arranged and placed in just the right places-somehow it had all seemed unreal.
After the first two months in her Boston home, Kelly should have settled into her new life, but the tension grew daily until she and her husband Jack were living like two hostile strangers. They pretended conjugal bliss in public, but they barely spoke to each other in private.
Jack. Oh, how his sister hated to hear Jonathan Winslow Templeton the Third called . . . Jack! Kelly could see her now, sitting in regal splendor behind the silver coffee service, every hair in place, her critical eyes looking over Kelly's own unruly black hair. The long, slim fingers knew just the right touch on the ornate, silver bell to summon the maid, who would enter the room like a robot, the smooth, discreet carpeting silencing her steps, her black uniform and crisp apron making her a shadow to be ignored. According to Katherine Templeton Hathorn, one didn't smile at a maid or acknowledge her presence as a person.
Katherine had never made any secret of her feelings about the girl her brother had met in Anchorage and married shortly after. To her, Kelly simply did not measure up to the Templeton standards. Katherine was forty-eight, had been married briefly and acquired a stepdaughter, Nancy. Now widowed, her main goal in life was to unite her brother and her stepdaughter in marriage. Kelly had been quite a setback to those plans.
Lazily Kelly opened her eyes and found herself looking directly at a dark window. Night had come quickly. She turned on her back, stretching luxuriously, pleasantly tired and relaxed. She was home! Home, in the wilderness of Alaska, where she had lived since she was ten years old.
After her mother had died fourteen years ago, she and her father had come here. He had built the main room of this cabin with his own hands. Later he had added two bedrooms and built two other cabins to rent out to hunters, as well as the main lodge they used to house winter skiers or people who came to ride snowmobiles on the trails around Mount McKinley. The tourist business had been good since the Anchorage-Fairbanks highway had been completed. They even had electricity now, which made available conveniences they had gotten used to doing without.
Kelly switched on a lamp, and sat up, rubbing her stocking feet on the thick fur rug on the floor. She surveyed the room. Everything was dusty, mousey, and in disorder. Cobwebs swayed like darkened moss in the gentle draft created by the half-open fireplace chimney. Well, what did she expect? she scolded herself. The resort had been closed since her father had died two years ago. Mike had been living here alone since Marty, his twin sister, had taken a job in Fairbanks. No doubt his cabin was spotless. This one would have been, too, if she'd let him know she was coming.
Mike and Marty had lived here almost as long as Kelly. They had arrived with their mother in response to an advertisement for a cook that Kelly's father had placed in the paper. Aunt Mary had been the nearest thing to a mother Kelly had ever known, as her own mother had been ill for many years before she died. Kelly had often wondered why her father never married Aunt Mary. She was sure he loved her. Only after her death did she discover why: Aunt Mary had a husband. A worthless man, who had never contributed to the support of his family, but, nevertheless, a husband. Kelly's father was as fond of Mike and Marty as if they were his own children, and when he died he left half of his estate to them and the other half to Kelly.
Five years ago Kelly had gone to Anchorage to work. Her father approved of her reason for getting away from the resort. Mike was in love with her. Kelly knew she would never feel anything more for him than sisterly love and it hurt her unbearably to see the look of longing in Mike's eyes when she turned suddenly to see him watching her. The whole situation made her want to weep. But out of sight, out of mind, she reasoned. Her job with the newspaper was interesting and on long weekends she could catch the train and be home in less than six hours. She made friends in Anchorage, but none as close as Mike and Marty. When her father died suddenly, it was a shock to them all. Mike had been working as a lineman for the utility company and they decided to close down the resort for the time being.
Four months after her father's funeral, Kelly met Jack. She literally ran him down as she made a dash to the office with her advertising copy. They collided with such force that she was almost flung to the sidewalk. Jack grabbed her and held her until she regained her balance. Then he helped her pick up the scattered pages of copy that had flown from her hand. After that, they stood looking at each other.
He stared at a tall, slim, sparklingly alive person with black hair in a flyaway tangle that stood out around her high-cheekboned face. Black lashes fringed the bluest eyes he had ever seen, but it was the smiling mouth that he couldn't seem to look away from. The upper lip was short, the lower one full and sensuous, and they were parted and tilted at the corners, showing small, perfect teeth.
Meeting the long stare from his deep-set brown eyes, Kelly felt a curious spark leap between them, although she knew instinctively they came from different worlds. Though she was a tall girl, she still had to tilt back her head to look at him. His crisp brown hair and calm face, uncompromising jawline, hard mouth, and expensive business suit told her he was a man of wealth and position.
She murmured the proper apologies and hurried through the heavy glass door of her office building. It was distinctly untypical of Jonathan Winslow Templeton the Third to pursue a chance meeting, but there he was when she paused to wait for the elevator. He asked her out and she accepted. He was Jack Templeton, from Boston, in Alaska on business, If, during that first evening, he told her what kind of business, it passed her by, for she was in a glorious state of enchantment. He amused her with his wit and clever conversation. He charmed her with bits of flattery, and surprised her with carefully chosen questions about herself. She found herself pouring out her life story and he listened, watching her expressive face, his eyes moving from her blue eyes to the unruly curls and often resting on her sweetly curved mouth.
When he walked her to the door of her apartment that first night, he kissed her. It was by no means Kelly's first kiss, but it shook her to her roots, and she trembled like a leaf. Jack, too, seemed shaken and Kelly remembered him looking down at her in a strange, almost angry way. When her eyes met his, her lips were trembling and he kissed her again, wildly, hungrily. Her arms went around his neck and desire flamed between them.
They spent every possible moment together and within a week Kelly went to bed with him and no words of common sense would have kept her from his arms. She had been out with men before, infatuated with some, half in love with others, but after that first evening with Jack, she was consumed by passion. When he made love to her she was incapable of thought, lost in a sensuous mist, totally responsive to his strong, slender hands and his hard, possessive lips. Jack made no secret of his desire for her, and after that first week, his need deepened into a naked hunger to which she reacted wildly.
After a session of wild lovemaking, he proposed. He whispered hoarsely in her ear that he had to have her- he wanted to marry her. Kelly accepted without hesitation. He drew a deep breath and pulled her against him and held her fiercely, kissing her in a strange, tender, possessive way.
At the quiet wedding in City Hall, with one of Jack's business associates and his wife as witnesses, Kelly still felt that possessive attitude and it thrilled her. Kelly had called Marty and Mike. Marty had not been able to come on such short notice and Mike said a flat "no" to the invitation, but nothing mattered to Kelly as she waited for the moment she and Jack would be alone.
When they returned to Kelly's apartment after the wedding, there was a single yellow rose and a card from Mike that read: "It makes no difference. Love, Mike." Jack arched his brows when he read the message, and asked who it was from. Kelly found it difficult to explain her relationship with Mike-though she tried. Later she realized that marked the beginning of her husband's strange possessiveness.
Jack took her to Boston. Kelly was awed by the splendor of his home, the evidence of wealth and position, and most of all by his sister, Katherine. Two months later she knew she would never fit into his life. She had fallen in love, immediately and wildly. She had childishly married her Prince Charming, without a single thought to the consequences, the repercussions, the kind of life she would be expected to live. Now, with little to do because they had a daily cleaning woman and a cook, Kelly wandered aimlessly around the apartment, like a bird in a gilded cage. Her husband flatly refused to allow her to get a job. She remained isolated in the apartment to await his homecomings.
Jack had become Jonathan. She could not think of him as Jack in their home. An abyss lay between them, bridged only at night, when he came to her in the darkened room. He merely had to lay down beside her and she could feel his pulse accelerate. She accepted his passion and returned it. She was most vulnerable at night and he simply had to kiss her and they would come together with a strange, hot need for each other that consumed Kelly. Afterward she would lie awake hour after hour, until finally, exhausted sleep claimed her. She awoke to reach out for him and find he was gone. What terror and what ecstasy the night held for her!
One day she came downstairs and heard Katherine and Jonathan-that's the way she thought of him now-in the den. Katherine had come to discuss the dinner party they were to give for an important business associate.
"Well, talk to her, Jonathan. If you don't approve of her behavior tell her so." The clear, assured voice came distinctly into the hall and Kelly paused beside the door. "There are times when I think I shouldn't have married her," Jonathan said tiredly and then angrily slammed his hand down on the desk. "Damn, damn her!" he exploded.
"I knew the instant I set eyes on her that you had made a ghastly mistake," Katherine said drily.
"That's enough, Katherine!" His voice was bitter, harsh.
"Well, it's your problem. The sooner you get out of it the better."
"She's like a ghost wandering around here. I thought maybe if we had a child . . ."
"Heaven forbid! You would be out of your mind to consider having a child by that woman. She's unhappy because she is out of her element. She simply does not fit into a cultured world."
"I'm going out of my mind, anyway. I can't concentrate on this deal with Waterman Electronics. I don't know how she'll act this evening. She may move about like a robot, or hide in the kitchen. Something has got to give soon. I can't take much more of this."
"Don't worry about tonight. I've talked to the cook about the menu and ordered fresh flowers. I'll even send over a dress for her to wear. Don't worry, Jonathan. I'll take care of things. I always have."
"Thank you, Katherine. Will Nancy be here?" "Of course. Nancy will keep the conversation flowing among the women. She will . . ."
Kelly walked stiffly down the hall and into the kitchen, where she leaned against the wall. What had she become? What kind of a fool was she to hover outside a door and listen to her husband discussing her so coldly? It seemed she had lost everything-pride, self-respect, husband.
"Coffee, Mrs. Templeton?" The cook was looking at her strangely. "It's in the dining room."
"Thank you," she murmured, but stood there for a moment before she was able to push herself away from the wall.
She met Jonathan and Katherine in the hallway. Katherine nodded coolly and went out the door. Jonathan stood inspecting her, his mouth compressed, a line etched between his dark brows. Almost guiltily she removed her fingers from the polished surface of the hall table. She had to fight the urge to lift the hem of her skirt and wipe away the offending prints.
"Why don't you go shopping today or get your hair done for tonight?"
"All right." Her voice was expressionless and she looked down at the fingerprints marring the polished wood.
"It's merely a suggestion, not an order," he snapped. "Most women would jump at the chance to have unlimited credit at the shops. You wander around this place like a ghost and dress to fit the part. Look at yourself. You wear things that make you melt into the woodwork." His lips held a slight sneer.
The pain that pierced her heart whitened her face. She looked away from him. Her gaze fell on the door at the top of the stairs, the sweet haven of her bedroom, and she longed to be there out from under the gaze of this stranger she had married. She hurt so much that it seemed a flood of tears was trapped inside her body, yet she could not cry. It was as if her pride had closed the valve on her emotions so tightly that there was no way to release them.
"For heaven's sake!" His harsh voice shattered the si lence and he stared at her angrily, for a time saying nothing more.
Kelly couldn't bring herself to look at him. Finally she heard the click of his heels on the marble floor and the slam of the front door. She closed her eyes, wincing.
Somewhere along the way they had lost each other. Kelly sincerely believed she had tried to find a place for herself among the wives of his friends. The cool reception she received on each overture of friendship was due, she was sure, to the influence of Katherine and Nancy. The men had seemed to enjoy her company, but after one informal party, when in desperation to keep from standing alone she had lingered among them to exchange bits of chitchat and laugh at their light flattery, she had felt Jonathan's piercing eyes from across the room, and Katherine's disapproval.
Cheap and vulgar flirting was the way Jonathan had put it that night when he lost his temper and lectured her with a cruel, icy tongue. He had marched her upstairs to their bedroom and made love to her as if she was a woman he'd paid for. After that, she realized, she had grown frightened of him and began shrinking from him, retreating farther and farther within herself in order not to risk his disapproval.
They had done each other great damage by getting married. She could never be anything except what she was. He could never take her lively, outgoing personality and reshape it to fit into his world. In the process of trying to do so he was destroying everything that was unique and alive about her that had attracted him to her in the first place. She had become quiet and withdrawn, a person she scarcely knew herself. If she had hurt Jonathan, she bitterly regretted it. She only knew he was not the man she had met in Anchorage and she could not continue living with him. There was only one thing to do.
Once she'd decided, Kelly's mind clicked into gear. While she packed, tears trickled down her face and ran into her mouth. She wiped her eyes and pushed damp fingers through her hair. Where had their love gone? It was dead! You couldn't take warm, sweet love and put it in an atmosphere like this and expect it to survive. Divorce was easy these days. Jonathan would find a way to get it over with quickly-and without publicity. With her gone, the blame could be laid at her feet and he could save face.
She began to regain her self-respect. With it came anger like acid in her stomach. She thought about the reception she had received from his sister, about the cold, icy treatment her husband had given her, about the times he had spoken to her as if she tried to seduce every man she talked with. She remembered many times he had brought up Mike's name as if he were a stupid laborer with nothing on his mind but getting her to bed.
She had been the stupid one! She had no one to blame but herself, and it was up to her to get herself out of this impossible situation.
Kelly packed one large suitcase with the things she had brought with her, plus a few things Jonathan-when he was Jack-had bought for her in Anchorage. She placed the large sapphire and diamond ring on top of the note she left on the bedside table. On second thought, she placed her credit cards beside the note, which simply said that they both knew their marriage was a mistake and for him not to worry. She didn't want any kind of settlement- only her freedom. She regretted that she had been an embarrassment to him and to his sister.
Kelly walked out of the apartment building feeling like a new person. About the time Jonathan, Katherine, and Nancy were greeting their dinner guests, she was stepping off the plane in Portland, Oregon.
The trip had given Kelly time to organize her thoughts. On the way to the airport she had stopped at the bank and withdrawn the money her father had left her. She'd recounted it on the plane. Even after paying for her ticket, she had enough to tide her over until she could find a job.
She had learned advertising layout at the newspaper in Anchorage. Her ads were good and original, and the salesmen who took them to the advertiser had little trouble selling them.
In Portland, Kelly found an efficiency apartment in a moderately priced building. After putting in a supply of food, she went to bed and stayed there for almost two days. She slept, got up and fixed herself a meal, then went back to sleep again. Not until she was in the quiet of her own place with no one to criticize her every move, did she realize how exhausted she was or how her nerves had stretched to almost the breaking point.
The first place she applied for a job hired her. The big, pleasant man who interviewed her was impressed with her knowledge of layout. There was one catch, however. She had to sell her own ideas to the advertisers. She would have a list of potential customers, no other salesman would infringe on her territory, and she would receive a commission, plus salary.
The first month she was astounded at the size of her commission check. She enjoyed her job, and being her own person once again. If she thought about Jack-she was back to thinking of him as Jack-he seemed a person she had met in a very nice dream. She never allowed herself to think about Boston. The months that had seemed so endless became blurred together in her head like a television show she had watched and half-forgotten.
Kelly had been in Portland for four months when she called Marty in Fairbanks and learned that Jonathan was looking for her. Marty giggled when Kelly told her about coming to Portland because that was the only connection she could make when her plane from Boston had reached Chicago. Marty explained that Mike had been especially worried about her after Jonathan, himself, had come out to the resort looking for her. They promised to keep in touch and Kelly swore Marty to secrecy.
That Jonathan was looking for her didn't bother Kelly at all. Let him wait to get his divorce papers signed, she thought bitterly. The wait would pay him back, in some small way, for the miserable time she had spent with him. The months turned into a year and Kelly began to get homesick for the cozy cabin deep in the Alaskan bush. Soon the autumn snows would fall, and the clouds would scutter before the frigid winds. The days would become short, the nights long. Inside the cabin, warmed by a roaring wood fire, she would feel secure and at peace. She had saved more money than she had dreamed of saving in so short a time. Her little nest egg would go a long way toward putting the resort into operation again.
Kelly worked extra hard for another month, picked up her commission check, suffered through a farewell party given by fellow staff members, and caught a plane to Anchorage.
It was October. The Alaskan days were already short. Kelly sent word to Mike that she'd arrive on the afternoon train, and he was there waiting for her in the utility truck. He didn't ask any questions and she didn't offer any explanations.
The semi-darkened cabin was warm from the fire Mike had built in the fireplace before he came to meet her. He set her suitcases inside the door and went out to put the utility truck in the shed. She wished she didn't know how he felt about her. But it was good to be home and that thought crowded all others from her mind for the moment. She sighed heavily and sank down on the worn couch, pulled Aunt Mary's afghan over her, and went back to sleep.
Excerpted from Dreamkeepers , by Dorothy Garlock . Copyright (c) 1982 by Dorothy Garlock . Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.Back to top