This story is dedicated to my daughter, Tara, and my mother.

Many incidents in this story are based on actual events, and some of them are also told in The Reptile and The Rose, a biography about my daughter, Tara, who passed away when she was quite young.

Copyright © 2014 by Dennis James Browne

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.

The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author.

ISBN 978-1-63443-695-3

Visit dennisjamesbrowne.com



Chapter 1
A Long Summer
Chapter 2
My First True Love
Chapter 3
The Tutor
Chapter 4
The Commitment
Chapter 5
The Triple M Ranch
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
My First Miracle
Chapter 8
My Worst Nightmare
Chapter 9
A New Dawn
Chapter 10
Living the Dream

Chapter 11
The Day Before
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
The Offer
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
The Zoo
Chapter 17
The Ghost
Chapter 18
The Professor
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Show and Tell
Chapter 21
The Proposal
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
The Honeymoon
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
The Angel




My First True Love

You may remember me. I'm Nick White, the man who saved the life of the little girl who was trapped under the wreckage of her home when Hurricane Sandy hit.

I never believed in miracles before I met that little girl and the woman she introduced me to, but after that next summer with all its love, joy, tragedy and miracles, I changed my mind about a lot of things in life...

--But to really understand how I fell in love after that terrible storm, you have to know what drove me from being a fat, poor Italian kid to a very rich man...

I was born in Beloit, a little town in Wisconsin, and my parents were Italian immigrants. But my father worked hard, went to night school while he worked as a bartender, and eventually became a cop.

My brother Franco was a good looking, nationally ranked tennis player in high school, and my father took him everywhere to show him off...

But I was a plump little kid and my ears stuck out. (It took me years to look normal by putting a little piece of double sided tape behind each ear and pressing my thumb hard against each one before I went to school every day. Eventually, about when I was in high school, both ears flattened out and I didn't have to use the tape anymore.)

I was also very withdrawn even as a kid, the bookish sort who lived in his own fantasy world of comic books and super heroes, got the best grades in my class, and didn't really like to socialize, especially with my father.

As I grew up, I lost a lot of weight, started working out, and eventually became starting quarterback for our high school football team and first man on our tennis team--so the plump little kid with the big ears was gone and I became a popular jock.

My Italian mother was very religious, went to church every Sunday, and constantly reminded me and Franco about the rewards of love and decency over greed and violence.

I patiently listened to my mother's lectures day after day, month after month, until one night my father was shot and killed trying to stop a robber who was never caught...

Then I stopped listening.

But now that I look back, I realize that my mother was about as close to a saint a you can get. After my father was killed, it wasn't easy living on a small pension, but she was always upbeat, encouraged Franco and me in everything we did, and never complained about anything.

And as I grow older and see all the greed, corruption and violence in the world, my mother's quiet voice still lingers behind the walls of my rich man's world like a flickering candle, and deep within me at times when I'm about to avoid doing something decent because it will inconvenience me, I remember my mother's voice, stop myself and perform a simple act of kindness or charity--despite the fact that it might cost me a few dollars or take valuable time away from my own perfect little world.

A few years after my father was shot, my mother had a double mastectomy, but they didn't get it all and a few months later the cancer spread and she died.

After my mother passed away, I went on to the University of Wisconsin in Madison for my bachelors and masters degrees in English Literature, and that's when I met my first true love...

Since I had very little money, I rented an efficiency apartment just off campus, took out a student loan, and got a job as manager of the student union Rathskeller-- a sprawling, picturesque German beer hall with simple tables, a beautiful ceiling with vaulted wooden arches and a great Old World atmosphere very unlike the modern decor you'll find in most other college student centers.

I got this plum job mainly because of my high grade point average and the fact that the man who hired me was Joseph Palmieri, a distant relative who was--lucky break for me--from South Beloit, Illinois.

Anyway, one day during the noontime rush, somewhere in the middle of the Rathskeller some guy started screaming at this girl. I turned to one of my assistants--

"Jack, call security!"

I forced my way through the lunch crowd and across the Rathskeller to see what the problem was-

The guy was still yelling at the girl at the top of his lungs when I reached the table.

"I'm telling you, I will--I really will!"

He was a scrawny, geeky looking kid with a goatee, so I figured right away that unless he knew karate or some other miracle, I wouldn't have much trouble handling him if he got out of control before security arrived.

"Hey, hey, buddy--calm down!"

He turned on me like a tall, scrawny snake--

"Who the hell are you? Mind your own business!!"

"I'm the manager.. Security's on the way and unless you want to be arrested and dragged away in handcuffs, you'd better calm down, right now--got it?"

The mention of security guards and being arrested was like I slapped him across the face--he immediately clammed up, picked his books up off the table with one more nasty look at the girl, who was in tears, and stormed off for the nearest exit.

By this time a small crowd had gathered around the table and everyone was gawking at the girl who was sitting at the table with her hands over her face, still crying.

Right about then two security cops arrived.

"Trouble here, Nick?"

"Hi, Tony. No, some guy was screaming at her, but he left--Miss, are you all right?"

The girl looked up, and under her dark glasses, tears and runny makeup, you could tell that in a librarian sort of way she was quite attractive. She had long red hair in a pony tail, and big, innocent blue eyes. She was also wearing an outfit you didn't see too often at the University--a short kilt with knee high socks and white blouse with lacy frills--straight out of a Catholic prep school.

The security cops looked at her, and the big one, Tony, was the first to speak.

"Miss, do you want to file a report or complaint against the young man who was causing you a problem?"

She shook her head.

"No, no, it's all right. He's harmless."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure. If he ever does that again, I'll take care of him."

Tony and I looked at each other--this sudden tough guy stance from the girl crying at the table certainly seemed out of character.

The security cop frowned at another geek who was ogling the redhead and looked like he was about to sit down at her table--

"All right, all right, be on your way--all of you!"

Tony weighed almost three hundred pounds and had a mean wrestler's voice, so when he growled at the geek and the rest of the crowd, everybody scattered like frightened birds.

"You okay here, Nick? We got another call."

"Yeah, thanks, Tony."

I sat down at the table next to the redhead.

"Miss, are you sure you're all right?"

"Oh, I'm fine."

"I'm Nick White, the manager."

"Nice to meet you. I'm Lori Moore."

"Are you sure that you'll be okay with that guy who left? I mean the way he was screaming at you isn't exactly normal, and to be honest, a lot of guys like that can suddenly explode and be very dangerous."

She wiped away her tears.

"He wants to have sex with me."

"Excuse me?"

She lowered her eyes, stared into her tissue and spoke between sniffles.

"He's in my Education class and he keeps following me around like a little puppy dog. He keeps asking me if I

want to come over to his place, but I tell him I'm not interested. Then today he came in here and got all upset when I told him I'm seeing someone else. That's when he blew up and said if I didn't have sex with him, he'd kill himself."

"You're kidding."

I leaned back in my chair, my head spinning with disbelief--either the screaming geek was from another planet or she was!

"No, I'm not kidding."

I looked at her for a few seconds in silence. She really wasn't kidding. I leaned over and whispered.

"That doesn't exactly sound like normal behavior, does it? What do you plan to do if this little puppy dog keeps following you around and suddenly attacks you?"

She quickly glanced at me, then reached into her handbag and pulled out a can of pepper spray.

"I have this."

I stared at her.

"I see ..."

She was very sincere--and suddenly I realized that I was talking to a sweet, innocent child who really had no idea what a dangerous world we live in--a real ingénue.

"Lori, what's this guy's name?"

"Larry--Larry Coulter. He's a sophomore. "

I made a mental note of the name for when they found her body.

"Lori, do you have any girl friends--or maybe this guy you said you were seeing--who might stay close to you for a few days to be sure this Larry Coulter doesn't attack, rape and kill you?"

She suddenly burst out laughing--honest to God, she thought I was joking!

"That's silly--Larry would never do that!"

--Silly! Who the hell uses the word silly any more?

She reached into her handbag for another tissue.

"No, I keep pretty much to myself--and I just told Larry I had a boyfriend to get rid of him."

Wow--talk about a walking target! But to tell the truth, I really didn't know what to say next....

"Okay, Lori, good luck--I have to get back to work."

Suddenly she again seemed on the verge of tears, and then, out of nowhere, she said--.

"Do you know any tutors?"


"I'm failing my Education class, and I already have a teaching job in the fall. If I fail my course, I won't graduate and I'll lose my job."

I was shocked.

"Teaching job? What will you be teaching?"


Now it all made perfect sense--she'd fit right in!

I felt bad for this sweet, naive little girl--but I had my own problems. I started to walk away, but then at the last second I stopped, again looked at her and said--

"Look, Lori, I have a straight A average and I'm sure that I could help you pass your Education course--and I wouldn't charge you that much."

She smiled up at me.

"--Oh, don't worry about the money!"

Suddenly I saw this damsel in distress in a completely new light.


And that's how I met my first true love, Lori Moore.


The Tutor

Lori Moore was the quietest, sweetest person I ever met--and she was a loner like me. She lived by herself in one of the dorms--Chad Hall I think--and she told me she preferred to live alone. Her father paid for the whole apartment. She said her father owned some kind of company and was quite wealthy, but she never talked about him much. In fact, once when she did mention her father and mother, she became quite upset and said they only wanted to run her life, so she went to school as far away as possible from Colts Neck, New Jersey, and came to the University of Wisconsin. She said she loved kids, and just wanted to be a kindergarten teacher without her father and mother telling her what to do every minute.

She also had an older brother, Coulton, who went to Yale and worked for his father. She said Coulton was very smart and they often spoke to each other by phone.

I had a tight schedule between my classes and working at the Rathskeller, but I managed to squeeze Lori in for some tutoring about an hour every night. When I invited her over to my apartment, she was polite enough not to say anything about how small the place was--a long, narrow room with a window at the end. The centerpiece was my bed with a small table, television set on it and two chairs. Next to the kitchenette was an even smaller bathroom...

That was it.

Like I said, Lori was attractive, but with her glasses and the way she looked with her prim and proper clothes and the books she always carried, you'd never think of her as being especially sexy--kind of like a beautiful nun--and that's probably one of the best defenses she had against prowling campus wolves like Larry Coulter.

But she never again heard from Larry Coulter. The guy dropped out of her Education class right after the incident in the Rathskeller and she never saw him again. He probably ran back to his place and had sex with himself.

Anyway, since I was one of the prowling campus wolves myself, I really didn't know quite what to make of this sweet little lady from the Victorian Age. I didn't have that much money and I was too busy with my studies to start dating anyone, but I still had this raging hormone problem that most guys my age have, and it demanded to be satisfied every now and then, so when I did bring a girl back to my place (usually someone I met at he Rathskeller), it was usually right down to business and then sayonara...

But not with Miss Lori--besides, she was my boss. I told her I'd tutor her an hour a night for nothing, but she insisted money was no object and paid me fifty dollars and hour and promised me two hundred dollars more if she passed her Education course!

Now to me fifty bucks an hour was a lot of money--I could pick up a few hundred extra dollars a week-- there was no way I was going to let my pig friend Mr. Johnson stick his nose into our relationship and screw things up.

So I treated Miss Lori like a princess every time she walked into my place. She usually showed up late in the afternoon when classes were over, and I always had a fresh

pot of coffee waiting for her with a box of Dunkin Donuts. We sat across from each other at the small table next to the only window in my place, and I proceeded to tutor her in her Education course....

Have you ever tried to tutor someone in Education?

It's like trying to teach someone Breathing for Credit--I mean I saw from the syllabus that all the assignments in the course were necessary to become a teacher, but my God, it was all sooo elementary!

"Lori, could I ask you a question?"


"If you're going to graduate this spring, why didn't you take this course a long time ago?"

She had a small piece of Dunkin Donut on her lip--and the cute way she blinked at me made it hard not to smile--she was cute as a button!

"I did. I almost failed it, so I dropped it."

I nodded and we moved on to her next assignment--

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

Now there's a big danger in being with an attractive girl for days on end without having sex. The danger is that you get used to her, and any thought of having sex with her slowly fades away. Luckily, Lori never wore any clothes that excited my amorous propensities, (to quote that old horndog, Samuel Johnson), so it looked like we were both condemned to the most boring possible dead end relationship between a boy and girl--


But over time she did reveal some interesting tidbits about her family. Her father, Henry Moore, came from a long line of bankers. He owned commercial banks scattered

around the east coast, along with a stock brokerage company in New York.

Her mother, Catherine, was a very strict Catholic and Lori was raised in private Catholic schools and also had tutors through high school.

It was obvious that Lori's parents were very protective of their only daughter and pretty well mapped out her life since she was born. It was also obvious that she had been so sheltered that she had very little, if any social life of her own--except for her brother, Coulton, who was older than she was, and worked as a partner in their father's stock brokerage company...

The most interesting part about Lori's family was that the Moores lived on a large horse ranch in Colts Neck, New Jersey by the name of The Triple M Ranch--and when she showed me some photographs of the place, it was breathtaking!

Anyway, a few weeks later , Lori passed her Education course with flying colors--a B--and that's when our relationship took an unexpected turn.

To celebrate the fact that she had now met all the credits required for her teaching degree and certificate, I took her out for dinner--I could easily afford it now with all the money she paid me--but not too lavish a dinner because I still had to watch every dime I spent. So I took her to this popular steak and bratwurst grill on State Street. All the tables in the place were thick hardwood like a chopping block, and there was a long grill alongside one wall with two chefs constantly making grilled steak sandwiches and bratwursts--the pace was always packed and the smell of all

that delicious meat being grilled would draw you to the place like a moth to a flame.

We both ordered beers and steak sandwiches. Lori dressed for the occasion by wearing a short kilt skirt with knee high socks and a white blouse with frills down the front.

"So, Lori--what's next? Start your job as a teacher? Get married and have some kids?"

She took a bite of her sandwich and smiled at me.

"Are you proposing to me?"

I laughed.

"I would, but we hardly know each other."

She winked--one beer and she was winking at me! She took another sip and gave me a dreamy look.

At this point, it was obvious that this attractive redhead--who was probably raised in her own personal convent--rarely if ever drank alcohol!

So it appeared that the key to getting Little Miss Muffet off her tuffet was that simple--alcohol!

Her eyes were getting dreamier as she leaned over the table, looked at me and sweetly giggled--

"Well, then, maybe we should get to know each other a little better."

I was no fool. On our way back to my place, I bought two bottles of wine!.

When we got back to my apartment, I poured us both a glass of wine. She raised her glass and touched it against mine with a big, happy smile--

"Here's to us!"

I leaned over and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek--

"--To us!"

We set down our glasses and walked over to my bed. I gave her our first long kiss as I slowly lowered her back onto the bed...

I took my time in taking off her clothes and savored every square inch of her perfect white skin with slow, gentle kisses...

Her skin was absolutely white and flawless, and when my lips finally reached the small russet crown between her legs, I kissed it very long and lovingly...

Finally, nearly bursting with desire, I raised myself and then slowly lowered myself back down on top of her for another kiss...

--And immediately there was a major problem:

Mr. Johnson was banging his head against a brick wall!

After about the third try, I stopped and rolled over onto my side--


She angrily stared back at me--


"I-I'm sorry...but I have to ask you a question."

She rolled her eyes.

"Now!? You want to ask me a question now!? "

"Yes, it's important."

She groaned and dropped back onto the bed.


"Have...Have you ever done this before?"

Suddenly her eyes popped open--

"--Of course not! What do you think I am--a tramp?"

Lord help me--she really was straight out of the Victorian Age!

"--Lori, I don't know if we should do this."

"Why not!?"

I tried to be firm.

"I mean you're probably the sweetest, nicest girl I've ever met--and I don't want to ruin things for you by--"

She smiled and placed a finger on my lips.

"Let me ask you something..".


"Do you think you'll ever find another girl like me?"

I laughed.

"--Definitely not!"

"And do you love me like I love you?"

--A knockout punch straight to my heart!

And the way she was looking at me with those big, trusting blue eyes, I knew there was only one answer I could give her--

"Yeah, yeah--I guess I do!"

Still smiling, she slowly ran her finger across my chest.

"Well, then, what's the problem?"

I hesitated--then quickly caught myself, not quite sure what to say.

"The problem is that because you're so nice--and, and--so nice, maybe you should save this for the man you marry."

She smiled, pulled my head slowly downward and then whispered into my ear...

"I have news for you...The second I saw you, I knew you are the man I'm going to marry!"

--My God!

Little Miss Muffet was the spider!

-- And the way she looked at me, just lying there, all stretched out, completely naked on my bed, with her arms languidly stretched over her head, smiling her siren smile, with her long red hair spread out against my pillow--and that sweet--ever so sweet, perfect little crown of red hair----luring, pleading, beckoning to me...

Yes, I think I can honestly admit it--at that moment I really did fall in love with Lori Moore!