tagRomanceBrownwood: I Dreamed Ch. 01

Brownwood: I Dreamed Ch. 01

byDFWBeast©

Author's Note: This is a 7-part Romance that is the cornerstone to the Brownwood series. There are multiple cross-over characters, so lots of cameos. Brownwood: Welcome To Brownwood is a flash, non-story, description for those readers who want a more detailed setting description.

Warning: This is a dark romance. If you're looking for a happy, feel-good romance, you might want to skip this one. It has those aspects but they're wrapped up in the pain, anger, and turmoil of two people fighting to rebuild their lives. It contains two scenes that are more sexually explicit than my normal bad romance level descriptions. It also deals with date rape and contains one scene that's not overly graphic, but some might be offended. That chapter is clearly marked.

All chapters are completed and will be submitted every few days after the first chapter is posted. Some characters and plot points in this story were inspired by Second Chances by S-Des, one of my Favs.

My thanks to LadyVer and others for their valuable feedback as beta readers. A special thank you to findingmyvoice for her hours of extensive editing and input. Thank you Lady K.

****

There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song and the song was exciting
There was a time,
Then it all went wrong.
- I Dreamed a Dream, Les Misérables

****

Summer 2003 - Brownwood

Zach Morgan stared and groaned.

There'd only been three females in his life that he'd given his heart to besides his mother. Two of them he'd asked to marry, both had accepted and both ended up leaving him. Now he stared into a pair of deep blue eyes that seemed to brighten even the darkest parts of his world.

Oh Lord, he groaned again to himself. This one's going to hurt me someday.

Shannon's curly blonde hair fell gently over her shoulders as she sat on the bathroom counter, staring at him. She smiled warmly as she watched his every move as though she was trying to memorize every contour on his face. Trying his best not to be distracted, he carefully finished shaving.

He turned so he could look straight into her angelic face and was met with a dazzling smile that melted him. She peered straight into his soul with an unreserved love that had brought him back from the pain of his past.

"Daddy goin' out?" she chirped.

Zach smiled at his little three-year-old daughter and dabbed some shaving cream on her nose. She squealed and giggled, her laughter drawing a chuckle from him.

"Yeah, Cupcake, Daddy's got to go out for a while and to have... fun."

"I go too?"

"No, sweetheart, not this time. Besides, Gamma is coming over to watch you tonight."

"Gamma?"

Zach grinned and nodded.

"Ice ceam!" she squealed raising her arms up to him.

He lifted her down and watched her stomp down the hall singing, "Ice ceam! Ice ceam! I love ice ceam!"

Zach chuckled. At least she's more loyal than the last two loves of my life. Of course if I wanted loyalty I probably should've stuck with having a dog.

"Shannon?" he called after her. "Why don't you get Big Bear and go wait for Gamma on the couch?"

"Oh tay Daddy!" came her sing-song reply.

Zach sighed. Lord, she already looks like her momma.

She had the same curly blonde hair and big blue eyes like Susan. He wondered how much she'd be like her mother when she got older. Not too much I hope, he thought to himself, remembering Susan's well-endowed and curvy frame matched with her wild child attitude. He groaned knowing she'd be a father's worst nightmare!

He'd known it was a mistake, even from the beginning. He'd been out of college for a year before he'd started dating Susan Hollingsford. At 5'4, a brilliant smile, a long mane of curly golden hair, and curves that balanced her well-endowed assets, the twenty-two year-old party girl certainly wasn't unaccustomed to having plenty of male attention. But it was the laughter and life that poured out of those deep blue eyes that first drew him.

Soon they were an item and heavily into the club scene. Not surprisingly, she'd gotten pregnant during one night of drunken sex. He knew he cared for her but she wasn't ready to get married. However when she told him she was going to get an abortion, he panicked and proposed. Zach didn't know if it was because he'd loved her or if he was still holding on to some dream of a wife, kids, and a happy home. He suspected the latter since that dream had cost him his first love back in college. Now that same dream had caused him to rush into a toxic marriage.

Susan finally agreed to marry him after he'd pleaded and begged. They both tried to make it work at the beginning, but the pregnancy and change in lifestyle took a hard toll on her. A month after Shannon was born, she was back to partying.

With Susan clubbing and Zach staying home watching Shannon, it didn't take long before the marriage started crumbling. The fights got uglier and more frequent while whatever love they'd once had was being starved out. Soon he'd suspected she was cheating on him and the writing was on the wall. A few weeks later he'd confirmed her infidelity and the marriage was done.

The divorce was quick and uncontested. It was finalized only a few weeks after Shannon's first birthday. Zach got joint custody of Shannon. He'd been surprised Susan hadn't given him full custody since motherhood had put such a bite on her lifestyle. Perhaps she'd discovered a stronger love for Shannon or maybe it was guilt. Zach didn't know and he doubted if Susan did either.

As with most things in life, it was irrelevant in the end. Seven months after the divorce, he received a call telling him Susan and her boyfriend had been killed in a drunk-driving accident. Shannon was now solely his, but it was a responsibility he relished.

The sound of his front door opening startled him from his little jaunt down memory lane. A second later, his guest was announced.

"GAMMA!"

"CUPCAKE!" his mother's cheery voice replied.

He smiled broadly as he heard his little girl squeal with delight, and envisioned the sight of his mother embracing her with one of her patented bear hugs. Shannon's giggles and his mother's laughter filled the apartment.

Zach smiled as he walked into the living room. Before him stood his mother, a tall, striking blonde in her mid-40's, who could've easily passed for a woman in her early thirties. Her slender build still filled out her blouse and jeans in a way that got her noticed by most men.

He felt a deep pride when he looked at his mother. Allison Morgan was one of a kind. Even after a nightmare childhood, a divorce, and then being widowed six years ago, his mother was still full of life.

Though she rarely talked about it, he'd heard enough stories about his grandfather to know he was an abusive alcoholic and womanizer. Zach had put together how his abuse and cheating had finally driven his grandmother to run out on her family, leaving his mother and his two uncles behind. Even with her childhood from hell, his mother had still been there for his grandfather when he developed Alzheimer's. She'd even put him in a rest home here in town so she could check up on him.

"Well, if my two favorite ladies are going to have such a good time, maybe I should stay home and join you!" Zach announced in a loud voice.

His mother's radiant smile disappeared as she gave him a stern stare with a raised eyebrow. Her smile might've been gone but the delight, dancing in her eyes, couldn't be hidden.

"Huh-uh, young man," she said, trying to keep the laughter out of her voice. "You're going to your ten year reunion and have fun, while Cupcake and I have a girls' night out!"

Zach burst out laughing when he saw Shannon trying to mimic her grandmother's stare at him.

"All right," he said, raising his hands in defeat. "I'll go, but I'd rather be getting a root canal!"

His mother snorted.

"It won't be that bad, sweetheart."

Now it was Zach's turn to look at his mother in disbelief. She looked at him innocently.

"What?" she said as the smile returned to her face.

"Mom, we both know Bree will be there tonight, right?"

"Honey," she said in a motherly tone, "I own a local diner; of course I hear all the local gossip. I know things only a day later than the beauty parlors or those old gossiping biddies down at Miss Vivian's Tea Room. I knew she was in town less than 48 hours after she got here."

Zach thought about the diner his dad had bought for his mother shortly after they were married. It was right across from the Mid-State Battery plant, where she'd been working. He'd renamed it after her, the Allie Cat Diner. His mother had loved it. It didn't take long before she had the old diner thriving again, catering to the plant workers, and to the rural community.

He turned his attention back to his mother's words.

"Funny, you didn't mention it to me."

"Why, so you could find a reason to not go tonight?"

Allie sighed. "Sweetheart, you need to face some of those old demons and move on. You don't want to end up like your grandfather, do you? Just go and show her what she missed out on and then get on with your life!"

Zach cringed at the thought of his grandfather. Over the past year all he did was sit in his wheelchair by his bedroom window, call out for Zach's grandmother, and cry. He didn't even recognize anyone any more. I guess karma really is a bitch, isn't it Grandpa?

"She's not the only one who'll be there," he said, conceding the argument. He was thinking of Kristen, an old classmate who he'd dated over the summer last year. She'd been the only woman he'd dated more than a few times over the last year-and-a-half.

Allie snorted again. "You mean Kristen James? Not to burst your bubble, Son, but after you broke up with her, she ended up dating Bree's older brother, Tommy. Last I heard she was very happy with the way things turned out."

They were interrupted by a tiny snort that sounded very much little a child blowing her nose. They both looked down at a smiling face, which was famed by a mane of yellow curls, with a giant snot bubble coming out of her nose.

"Oh my," his mother said, fighting back a grin. "We'll go get a tissue while you get out of... oh no, no baby, not on your sleeve!

"All right then, we'll need to get you cleaned up," she said, smiling at Shannon.

Her smile faded as she looked at Zach.

"And you, young man, GO!"

The drive over to Brownwood High School took longer than expected, of course the fact that Zach drove past it twice didn't help. He couldn't help thinking back. Where his time with Kristen would've been considered a commercial and his marriage to Susan a music video, his time with Brianna Olsen resembled watching the complete Lord of the Rings trilogy... extended versions.

The fact was he'd grown up with Bree.

Zach, along with his mother and his two-year-old sister, Ginny, had moved to Brownwood when he was five. His father had run out on them a year earlier, and his mother had found work at the battery plant.

Two years later, the most influential individuals, other than his mother, entered his young life. His mother married a man named Phil Morgan and Zach met Brianna Olsen. Phil became his new father and Bree became his best friend.

Almost immediately, Bree and he became inseparable. Their classmates quickly nicknamed them 'Bozo' and the 'Brain'. Zach's academic aptitude, his sandy blond hair, and pop-bottle glasses made him look like a nerd. Bree, on the other hand, was always loud and out-going. She had a face full of red freckles to go along with bright orange-red hair that rarely had a brush run through it. It resembled, on more than one occasion, Bozo the Clown.

All through grade school they carried those monikers but it'd bound them tighter as friends. The teasing got even worse when they were in junior high. He was thin and somewhat uncoordinated. Bree however had hit her growth spurt and shot up to her five feet ten inches, seemingly overnight. She soon towered over him, and with her braces they looked quite the pair. Of course that didn't matter to them and soon they were a couple.

Zach smiled, remembering those days. By the time high school had come around, the jeers he'd received about being 'Bozo's Boyfriend' began to disappear. Bree had started becoming a woman, a very beautiful woman.

He'd finally hit his growth spurt and had caught up to her. Still thin and somewhat awkward, he'd never been considered muscular but in time he did begin to fill out his frame. When they started their senior year, Zach had gotten contacts and had somehow made both the varsity football and basketball teams. Bree, on the other hand, had become one of the prettiest girls in the school and was even a Prom Queen runner-up.

****

Summer 1991 - Brownwood

"Mom!" Ginny yelled.

She stood with her hands on her slim, thirteen year-old hips. She was wearing her first bikini and was modeling it for Zach and Bree. Their mother answered from the kitchen.

"What, sweetheart?"

"Zach's looking at my butt again!"

"Honey?" Allie said in a calm, motherly voice. "Stop looking at your sister's butt. It's just not right!"

Zach choked and turned bright red as Bree rolled with laughter.

"I wasn't... but she ..." he stammered.

"Well technically you were!" Bree said between fits of laughter.

"Dammit, she asked us to look at her!" he retorted.

"Besides the point!" Ginny said in a mocking sing-song voice as she skipped out of the living room and into the kitchen.

"Cookies!" she squealed.

"Zach, watch your language," Allie laughingly chastised him. "And the two of you better get in here before your sister eats all my freshly baked cookies!"

The pair jumped off the couch and raced for the kitchen. Allie set a plate of chocolate chip cookies down on the table and Ginny grabbed a handful. She looked at Zach with a smirk that let everyone know she relished her role as the annoying little sister. With her bounty in tow, she skipped off to her room, smiling.

"Why do you do that, Mom?" Zach asked.

"What's that, honey?"

"Embarrass me like that. I mean, I'm sixteen."

"Oh sweetheart," Allie cooed as she looked at her son with an intense love. "It's never to be mean. At least with me it isn't, Ginny I'm not so sure.

"It's just that you're always so serious. I want you to loosen up a bit and enjoy life. Of course," she said, smiling sweetly, "there's also the fact that you're just so much fun to tease!"

"Gee, thanks Mom," he said, trying to hide his grin.

"Besides, sweetheart," she continued, "we all know that it's not your sister's butt you can't seem to take your eyes off of!"

This time both Zach and Bree turned bright red. Allie laughed as she started to leave.

"Be sure to leave a few cookies for your father," she called out behind her. "If you don't, I'll have to think of another treat to give him when he gets home tonight. Come to think of it, there's no reason he shouldn't get two treats tonight!"

Zach shook his head as he looked at Bree.

"Just don't say anything and perhaps they'll go away," he said, grinning.

The couple sat quietly for a few minutes, enjoying the cookies, before Bree couldn't take it any longer.

"So," she started, "you like my butt?"

Defeated, Zach groaned again.

"You do, don't you!" she said, smiling evilly.

Then in a soft taunting voice she started.

"Brain likes Bozo's butt! Brain likes Bozo's butt!"

"Et tu, Brute?" he said, laughing.

****

They'd shared everything back then. They shared each other's first kiss, first date, and even lost their virginities to each other.

With a sigh, Zach remembered when he discovered the red curls that adorned her head were matched only by those hidden within her panties. The first time he'd seen her naked, it'd taken his breath away. He'd seen Bree in her bathing suit many times before, but to see her laid out before him, in the back seat of his car, was an image he'd remember for the rest of his life. He never got tired of thinking about the curves of her long body, how deep those freckles ran down her chest, and how they accented her small breasts.

They'd started making plans together for their future. They'd decided to go to State University down in the City instead of staying in Brownwood, and attending St. Catherine's College. When they started talking marriage, a month before graduation, Bree's parents intervened. They'd asked the young couple to give it a year before they talked marriage again. They were concerned because they hadn't ever dated anyone else but each other.

A bitter smirk came across Zach's face as he remembered. If they'd been engaged before they went to State University would things have turned out differently? Of course, he reasoned, but would it have been for the better or for the worse? He sighed realizing he would never know.

By the time they'd left for college, Zach and Bree had agreed to continue to date but not exclusively. Zach knew it would be hard, but he didn't realize just how difficult it would be. That first semester he'd dated several different girls. Bree however seemed to be with a different guy every week. She'd joined a sorority and relished her status as a social butterfly.

Each time Zach saw her with a different guy, he felt a piece of himself die. At the end of that semester it was obvious to both that things couldn't continue the way they were. With a grimace, Zach replayed their conversation in his head.

****

Winter 1993 - State University, the City

"Bree, I can't do this," he'd said, trying to hide the pain.

She'd looked at him with tears in her eyes. "I know," she whispered.

"I... I know what I want," he said gently, "and what I want is you. I don't want to date any other girls, Bree. I love you, just you."

Tears began falling from her powder blue eyes as he watched her in silence.

"I'm sorry, Zach," she said softly and began to sob.

He tried to steel himself, to remain strong in front of her.

"Are you in love with someone else?" he asked, his voice breaking and betraying him.

Bree shook her head violently. "No. There's no one else. Zach, you know for sure what you want in life, but I don't. I know I love you, but not enough to get married. I don't know if I ever will but right now I don't want to settle down. I want, no, what I need is to experience life before I get serious about who I want to spend my future with. I know it isn't fair, but that's what I feel."

Zach nodded slowly. She was being honest with him, something he valued highly. They'd always been able to tell each other what they felt in their hearts, now just because it wasn't what he wanted to hear, he couldn't punish her for that.

The break-up was painful but civil.

Over the next several months, they tried to avoid running into each other on campus. He dated occasionally but tended to focus hard on his studies, while she continued with her active sorority lifestyle. For the most part they were successful, and the times they did run into each other that semester weren't too awkward or tense.

Things changed that summer back in Brownwood.

Zach was working at the Allie Cat Diner, like he did most school breaks and summers, when Bree came into the diner. It wasn't unexpected since her family owned several farms on that side of town. Also, her older sister, Donna, had married a guy whose family owned Collins Feed Mill, located not a thousand feet down the road from the diner. No, seeing someone related to the Olsen clan on a daily basis wasn't the exception but rather the norm.

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