Chapter 33—

Reading Between the Lines

Lira shivered and muttered under her breath—cursing the cold winter weather. She pulled her jacket firmly around her and re-adjusted her wool hat.

Her near frozen hand reached out to turn the page on her newest reading pleasure. She'd tried wearing gloves but when it took her practically five minutes to turn the page, she'd lost the pesty things. As a result, she was positive that she'd soon become a victim of frostbite.

She scowled when the front door swung open, heralding Blair and Mahew. After all, they were the reason that she'd retreated outside in the first place. What with all that nauseating cooing and cuddling they were indulging in—it was enough to make a girl physically sick. Certainly, she was emotionally scarred from having to bear witness to such sugary sweet antics.

Frostbite was worth the risk when faced with the alternative of sitting through Mahew and Blair's displays of affection.

"Lira, aren't you cold?" Mahew asked.

"Did the chattering teeth tip you off?" she mumbled.

He just shrugged and headed down the front steps, towards his car. Blair gave a hasty goodbye and told Lira that they probably wouldn't be back that night.

Lira couldn't help but smile at that sentence.

It wasn't that living with Blair and Mahew was that bad… they just happened to annoy her sometimes (well, a little more often than sometimes, but whatever).

And on top of that, she was still cranky and touchy due to that irritating recurring dream of her very blond and very irksome almost ex-husband.

She focused her attention back on the book, telling herself that she'd only finish up the page and then pack it in and retreat into the warm house.

Fifteen minutes later, she was still sitting on the front porch, lost in the story. It was just getting to the climax, and she was practically dying from the building suspense. Her eyes roamed over the pages and she became so engrossed in the action that she didn't even notice the frigid cold any longer.

She also failed to notice anything else.

Therefore, she was rather surprised when she felt a hand on her shoulder.

She shrieked in surprise, jumped out of her seat, and ended up flinging the book into a nearby snow-capped bush.

"What are you doing here?" she narrowed her eyes.

"I can't visit?" Jude's sarcastic voice drawled.

She didn't answer, although some small part of her was glad that he was the one to seek her out. Saved her the trouble. Not that she was planning on seeking him out, mind you… but that dream was really starting to do funny things to her.

"Why are you outside?" he inquired.

"I was trying to escape Mahew and Blair."

Jude went back down the front steps, trudged through the snow (again) and retrieved the book.

"You're a little spastic today, aren't you?" he teased, handing her back the now wet book.

"Yeah, well you interrupted me at a crucial point in the action," she shrugged. "So, seriously, Jude—what's the purpose of this visit?"

He looked down and shuffled his feet a little. Lira immediately took notice of the gesture and wondered what in the world had Mr. Confident acting like a shy schoolboy.

"Well…?" she said in a demanding voice, trying desperately to hide her amusement at his demeanor.

She took a few steps towards him and soon found, what appeared to be a hastily wrapped present, shoved into her face. She looked at the red and green wrapping paper in bewilderment.

"What?" Jude gruffly barked. "Haven't you ever seen a present before?"

"But you…" she started. "You got me a present?"

"Do you want it or not?"

She slowly reached out and wrapped her hands around the smallish parcel. Her fingertips lightly brushed against his, their eyes met, and she felt a flush of warmth spread through her body.

"Is this some kind of joke?" Jude frowned at the present he'd just opened.

"What?" Lira questioned.

"It's a button. You got me a button."

"So what? You got me a keyring—how is that any better?"

"I didn't have to get you anything."

"And I didn't have to get you anything either."

Lira looked down at her new Hello Kitty keyring.

Jude looked down at his new 'Stupid' button pin.

"Thank you," Lira mumbled.

"You're welcome," he muttered. "And I guess… thanks for this," he added while gesturing to his gift.

"Can I ask you something?" Lira hastily inquired. Before Jude even had a chance to give his consent, she plowed ahead with her mix of jumbled thoughts. "Do you think that dreams actually have meanings? I mean, do you think that they're just random and senseless images that have no underlying meaning? Or do you think they're symbolic and hint at buried or repressed emotions?"

"I don't really think about it that much, to tell you the truth," Jude shrugged, wondering where exactly this line of questioning was going.

"Well, why not?" Lira practically shrieked at him.

"Okay, calm down—you're beginning to resemble something of a demented sociopath. Although really, that's not too much of a stretch for you…"

"Are you going to answer the question or not?" she glared, forcing herself to not reach over and strangle the gray-eyed lunkhead within an inch of his life.

"Well, I doubt that every dream you might have is symbolic or metaphorical, but certainly a recurring dream would be symbolic—don't you think? Why this line of questioning—someone having erotic dreams? You know, sex dreams aren't really about sex."

"So I've heard," she pouted.

"You must be sexually frustrated," Jude concluded. "And you must be losing quite a lot of sleep to be asking me about this sort of thing." He paused and regarded her with curiosity. "You know, those dark circles," his fingers lightly traced under her eyes, "are indicative of just how tired you really are."

"Thanks for that," she sarcastically muttered, wishing that her heart wasn't beating a mile a minute. That wasn't a good sign at all. "Because I needed you to inform me that I'm tired."

"And this dream that you're having—I assume it's a recurring one?"
"Yeah, it is," Lira nodded in confirmation.

"So analyze it… write it down and pick it apart. You're a literature major, don't tell me that you're not familiar with this process."

"I don't need to analyze it!" she declared. "I already know what the damn dream means! What else could it possibly mean when I'm dreaming about YOU? It's not that complicated!"

When she detected bewilderment and confusion in Jude's eyes and demeanor, she felt extremely frustrated. Surely he wasn't that slow on the uptake? Then she suddenly noticed the corners of his mouth twitching.

Like he was trying to hold in a smile.

"Oh, you make so angry sometimes!" she growled at him, feeling like she could grab his head and smash it into the wall.

"But yet you still dream about me every night," he triumphantly smirked.

"Obviously I need therapy," she deadpanned.

Jude bit his lip in amusement. "Why don't you just admit it?"

"I'm not admitting anything," she stubbornly declared.

The blond shrugged—feigning an air of nonchalance, even though he felt anything but nonchalant. It had always been a struggle to maintain his composure around her, but this was just getting ridiculous.

If he didn't get away from her soon, he'd do something insane… and even slightly desperate.

Lira felt herself panicking when he began making his way towards the front door.

Before she had time to talk herself out of it, she'd called out after him.

He halted mid-step and turned back around to face her.

"Yes?" he questioned.

Lira could feel herself rethinking it all—backing out and just forgetting the entire thing. After all… did she really want Jude Keenan back in her life when she'd only just gotten rid of him?

She took three long strides and came to a stop directly in front of him.

"I'm tired," she hinted at her deeper meaning with her tone of voice.

"I know," he nodded his head, understanding her deeper meaning. "Me too."

Lira took that final step and kissed him.

"You're not just doing all of this so you can get rid of those circles under your eyes, are you?" Jude asked in between frantic kisses.

"Perhaps," she mysteriously answered. "Sleep deprivation makes one quite desperate."

Seeing through her jesting manner, he asked, "Shall I stop the divorce first thing in the morning?"

"If you insist on it," she playfully rolled her eyes.

"And shall I cancel my appointment to get a certain tattoo removed?"

"You really love that tattoo, don't you?" Lira laughed at him.

He looked deep in her eyes, held her gaze, and told her, "Yes, I love the tattoo."

Understanding that she was meant to read between the lines, Lira answered, "Me too."


A/N: Okay people… that's all.

I do have a few things to say/point out.

First of all—if you're thinking that the ending was slightly anti-climatic, then you got the point and I congratulate you. :) But seriously, the ending was intentional. If you go back to like… whatever chapter it was (4 or 5??), there was some mention about how falling in love wasn't always a big-to-do with fireworks and passionate declarations. Just trying to keep the continuity here.

Secondly—I thank each and every person who read/reviewed (and even those who didn't review… cause I know you're out there). I appreciate it more than you guys can ever know.

Thirdly—I've had a blast writing this (for the most part anyway) and I'm feeling a little verklempt now that it's over. But just b/c I'm going to miss it, doesn't mean that I'm not relieved to be done with it. (I do adore wrapping up stories… it's almost as fun as beginning them.)

Fourthly (lol, is that a word?)— please, please, please NO ONE ask me to write a sequel. It was hard enough to finish the story; I think a sequel would be disastrous. So, don't ask b/c you shall not receive.

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