were firmly focused on the anomaly between my breasts. “What…?” She began with a bizarre mixture of fascination and disbelief painted on her face.

“It’s a birthmark, weird huh?” I could feel the burn of embarrassment reach the tips of my ears. Making a mental note to have my freakish birthmark covered with a garish tattoo after all of this, I turned my front torso away from her gawking stare and placed my left breast onto the cold plate of the mammogram machine.

Silently, Deborah turned and walked to the control room to begin the test.

After twenty minutes of torture and having my breasts squashed like pancakes, I wandered back to the change room. Closing the curtain behind me, I massaged my aching chest and then proceeded to get dressed.

“Thanks again.” The happy receptionist handed me my money and I left the building clutching my throbbing bosom.

“This had better be worth it!” I muttered as I headed back to my dorm room.

* * *

The hard noodles clinked against the sides of the pot of boiling water as I built myself a bowl of macaroni and cheese. As steam rose above the pot, I was reminded of the smoke that swirled up into the sky from the huge bonfires on the reservation.

I missed my home. Well, my foster home anyways. No one, not even the Hopi elders, seemed to know where I came from. My So’o, adopted grandmother, raised me from infancy after she found me abandoned in a cave near the village.

Closing my eyes, I could almost feel the heat of the Sedona sun kiss my face and warm my chest. Opening my eyes, however, I realized it was only the steam from my boiling pot of noodles.

Sighing as I poured the el dente noodles into a colander and drained the hot water away, I wondered if I was ever going to see my home in the desert again. I could barely afford to eat and put myself through college let alone fly over eight states to see my family.

Thank heavens for Amy; I wouldn’t have lasted this long out here if it weren’t for her. People just weren’t as friendly as I’d hoped they’d be when I moved away to go to school. Well, most people, the students that had been using me as a living Petri dish for the last two days were exceptionally nice which made it a little easier to endure the life of a guinea pig. Except for the pain, I almost looked forward to my last day of testing, I was getting used to the royal treatment.

Smiling as I settled down with my meager dinner, I winced as my arm brushed up against my swollen left breast. After being smashed in the mammogram, it was screaming in protest.

“Just one more day…then I don’t have to endure any more tests,” I shrugged as I loaded my fork full of cheesy pasta, “I hope.”

Chapter 3

Jogging through the campus, the muscles in my thighs burned a little. It had been a little over a week since I’d ran last and my body was letting me know that it wasn’t impressed.

With my long black hair secured in a ponytail, it bobbed on the back of my head with every stride. My ears quivered with delight as a heavy metal band blared angry lyrics. I rarely ran in silence, music was a muse for me.

The early morning sun was just centering itself in an ocean of blue sky. A brisk wind brushed against my face, air drying the tiny beads of sweat that were forming along my hairline.

Pulling my stopwatch from the front pocket of my sweatshirt, I checked the time.

Another ten minutes, then I should go back for a shower and head to the medical department for my next torture session.

Tucking my watch back into my pocket and turning a corner around the university, I started a sprint down the football field. Hot blood ran to my head and hands, a powerful thudding coursed through me as my body surged with energy. After only five minutes, however, I was surprised to find myself huffing and puffing a little.

Doesn’t take long for the body to lose shape. I thought with a disgruntled snort. How fickle the human body can be, one day it’s your best friend, the next, your worst enemy.

Slowing myself to a light jog, I noticed a couple walking hand in hand through the park. A pang of jealously twisted at my heart as my eyes lingered on the happy pair. I’d gone on a few dates in my life, but nothing, and I do mean nothing, ever came from them but annoyance.

Having been raised on the reservation, there’s a different approach to courtship. Most choose the more traditional route and allow their parents to find them a suitable mate. The western world shuns the idea of betrothal because they think it is a violation of individual rights, but in reality, it can be a very romantic way to discover love. Parents would only want the very best for their children, so they’d choose the best possible fit. Scouring nearby villages for the perfect future husband or wife, they can spend years searching for that right match.

I, however, being an orphan, was no one’s first choice for a wife. Without access to my ancestry, medical history or proven bloodline, I was considered ‘unfit’ for any of the boys within a hundred mile radius.

Stopping to take a breath and stretch my calves, I held onto a nearby oak tree and flexed my knees forwards, then straightened them.

Resentment for my biological parents seeped into my heart. Why did they leave me in the cave? Who were they? Wasn’t I worth keeping?

The questions had plagued me for most of my life; I began to wonder if they’d ever be answered.

A tap on my shoulder startled me out of my pity party. Pulling my earphones out and spinning around, I wasn’t quite prepared for what I was about to see.

“Hi…um…you dropped this.” A tall, bronze-skinned man said as he handed me my stopwatch.

“Oh! Thanks!” I responded as I took the timepiece. His eyes reminded me of dark chocolate with a dash of caramel in the middle. His black hair looked freshly cut but was left long enough to entertain a mass of wavy curls. It was fairly obvious that this guy worked out—a lot. I had to force my eyes away from his massive chest.

Towering over me with a warm smile, I looked at the ground as I felt heat rush to my cheeks.

“I’m Keanu.” He stated as he extended his large right hand to me.

“Like the actor?” The words fell out of my mouth before I could stop them. This guy made me nervous, I felt like a brainless teenager around him.

“Yah, like the actor.” His eyes twinkled with a kind humor. “And you are?”

“Cassia.” I couldn’t make my mouth relax, a silly grin stayed planted on my face.

“Like the spice?” His handsome face looked inquisitive.


“Yes, there’s a spice, like cinnamon, called Cassia.”

“Wow, really? I had no idea.” Feeling stupid that I didn’t even know what my name meant, I attempted to change the subject. “Where did you find my watch?”

 His bicep flexed as he turned and pointed to the far side of the university where I’d been only moments before. I averted my eyes from his arm to my watch as he looked back at me. Realizing the time, I debated internally whether or not to go to my next torture session in the medical wing. After only a few seconds, I quickly decided that because I was ‘volunteering’, I could go tomorrow.

“Do you…wanna go get a coffee or something?” Keanu asked shyly as his eyes searched my face.

My stomach did a little flutter of butterflies as I answered with a grin. “Sure.”

* * *

Sipping the steaming mocha with appreciation, I savored the creamy liquid velvet as it ran down my throat. My hands hugged the sides of the hot mug, treasuring the rare treat. Since starting school, such luxuries were few and far between. Taking another drink, I glanced over the brim of the cup at the large, gorgeous man admiring me from across the table.

“So you’re taking archeology?” I found his deep voice intoxicating.

“Um, yes. I’ve always loved ancient artifacts. I’m going to move to Egypt when I’m done.” I blurted out.

“Cool.” He responded with a warm smile.

“What are you taking?” I set my cup down but continued to clutch the warm sides; my hands were cold which always seemed to happen when I was nervous.

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