Captured by Chocolate


Steena Marie Holmes

Radio DJ Dylan Morgan enjoys small town life in Marietta. Unlike his longtime girlfriend and globetrotting photojournalist Casey Michaels, he’s never been tempted to spread his wings. Until an east coast job offer at a major radio station catches his eye. He considers taking the position, but then Casey calls… She’s coming home.

After years of wandering the globe, Casey Michaels is tired and needs a break and while she didn’t plan on coming home for good, the idea is starting to grow on her. All she wants to do is spend time with her forever boyfriend, Dylan. But all she meets is suspicion as everyone waits for her to pack up her suitcase once again. To convince Dylan she’s home for good, she plans a grand gesture–a photography show celebrating Marietta life. And then, the phone rings. She’s needed in London…

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Casey Michaels hated airports.
Once upon a time, she’d considered airports exciting, a place of magic to transport her to

locations she’d only ever dreamed about. They were the first stop on a new adventure, a journey on a road she’d never traveled. These trips meant she was doing something with her life, something more than just settling to be a girl in a small town where the most excitement she could expect was working for the local newspaper and covering the yearly rodeo or the Easter egg hunt in the town park.

No thanks. She was meant to do more, to be more than a small-town newspaper journalist. And she was. She now worked for Real Time Magazine as their photo journalist, as well as freelancing for a few online publications. Her photos and articles had won awards, gained her some notoriety, which had helped to draw attention to the issues she focused on in her travels.

It used to be that instant she stepped into an airport, her body buzzed with excitement, the hairs on her arms would rise, and any sadness she felt about leaving Dylan behind disappeared.

That wasn’t the case anymore.
She didn’t enjoy people watching while sipping her coffee.
She didn’t enjoy lugging her carry-on through security and having to expose her life to

She especially didn’t enjoy the lengthy flights, the monotonous food, the cramped seats, or

the smelly seat mates who didn’t understand the use of deodorant.
As much as she hated to admit it, the thrill she used to feel when leaving for a new trip

wasn’t there.
In fact, the idea of one exhausted her.
Which told her one thing. It was time to run home for a break. As much as she didn’t want to

settle in Marietta, coming home to her family and Dylan was still her safety net.
For the umpteenth time since leaving Nepal, Casey searched her pockets for her cell phone before remembering she’d lost it. The panic of not having it was still there, but it was quickly erased by a sense of freedom. Without the phone, no one could contact her. That meant no repeated emails and text messages asking if she was okay, why she’d left so quickly, when she

was coming back, and what she was going to do about the project.
Truth be told, she ran away as fast as she could and wasn’t ready to look back.
Coming home, Casey had hoped the layer of fear, anxiety, and panic that threatened to bury

her would go away. Wishful thinking, because it was all right there, haunting her, taunting her. One wrong step, one wrong word, one wrong look… and she’d fall apart, splintering into tiny

little pieces.
She was a wreck.
She knew it.
Casey breathed in deep and let the fact she was home seep in.
Coming home meant she could heal. She couldn’t fix all the mistakes she’d made, but she

could try.
She wasn’t sure how, though. The woman she’d been the last time she’d been home had

Casey Michaels had become the one thing she had always hated. She was weak. Broken. Damaged.

While she waited for her luggage to arrive, Casey searched the waiting area for an available phone. She needed to call her dad to let him know she’d arrived.

She held her breath as the phone rang.
Tears welled up in Casey’s eyes as her father’s voice came over the line.
“Dad? It’s me. I’m here. I’m home.”
“Casey, love, finally. Your mother and I have been sick with worry. Your flight in New York

landed hours ago. You’re okay, right? Anything you need?”
Casey took a minute to push back the tidal wave of tears. “Actually, Dad, I’m here. Home.”

She cleared her throat. “I lost my cell phone somewhere in the Kathmandu airport, I think. Or on the plane. I’m not sure.”

“You lost your phone? It’s password protected, right? Dylan talked about keeping your information safe when it comes to phones last week on the radio. Have you contacted the phone company yet? They need to track it or kill it. Wait, your mother has the information here somewhere. Why don’t we call for you?”

And this was one of the many reasons coming home had been the right decision.
“Yes, there’s a password on it. I’ll take care of it, don’t worry. But thank you.”
“I just don’t want someone taking your identity, that’s all. You need to be careful.”
“I know.” It didn’t matter she was a grown woman who traveled the world for her career. In

her father’s eyes, she was still the little girl who was afraid of the dark and spiders. “So where are you?”
“At the airport. My flight just landed, and I’m waiting for my luggage.” “You’re here? Honey, she’s home,” her father yelled to her mother.

Casey had to fight back a sob as she heard her mother’s squeal of excitement.
“My baby’s home?”
“She’s home, love. Our baby is home. Casey, you sit tight and I’ll be right there. Talk to your

mother while I get the air running in the car. She won’t go anywhere lately unless the inside of the car is cooled down first. Hope you’re ready for the weather. We’re in the middle of a heat wave.”

Casey chuckled. Obviously, her father had forgotten she’d spent months in Nepal. If people wanted heat, they’d for sure find it there.

“Don’t you be leaving me behind, you hear?” Casey’s mom chided her father.
Casey chuckled as she listened to her parents bicker in the background.
“I miss you, Mom,” Casey said, the realization hitting her hard. She’d missed her parents, her

family, more than she’d realized.
“Oh, honey. I miss you, too. I’m so glad you’ve come home. You know your room is ready

for however long you need it.”
By now, tears were coursing down Casey’s cheeks. The sound of her mother’s voice broke

what little strength Casey held onto, and she turned so no one would see her cry.
“I’m glad I’m home, too.”
“Was Jordan okay with you leaving? Did he understand?” her mom asked.
Casey snorted. Okay was pushing it a bit. He’d been confused, angry, and troubled by her

decision to leave.
He felt betrayed. She didn’t blame him, but didn’t agree with him either.
“Jordan expects me back in a few weeks. He thinks all I need is a bit of home cooking,

Dylan, and a whole lot of Marietta before I come running back.”

A few weeks wasn’t going to do it this time, though. It’d been a while since she took time off. Maybe now she would. At least a month before she left again.

But even then, the idea of leaving in a month was too much for her to handle. She hated feeling like this.

“Well, that man obviously doesn’t know you very well, does he? As if a little bit of Dylan was all you needed.”

Casey appreciated her mother coming to her defense.
“Jordan is only focused on the project. It’s his life. I get that.”
Their project was about the paper orphans of Nepal and rescuing the children sold as orphans

or slaves. She’d met him years ago on another project she’d been hired to cover in southeast Asia.

Casey was a photojournalist. Through the lens of her camera, she was a visual storyteller. Her favorite subjects were families. Children, parents, grandparents. She loved to tell the stories of the untold. Over the years, though, those stories had started to weigh on her heavily. She was finding it more and more difficult to walk away from one project to another, and Nepal…Nepal broke her heart.


“No, of course it’s not, especially after…well, we won’t talk about that right this moment. I’m just glad you’re home. Your father is honking the horn. You sit tight, and we’ll be there as fast as we can.”

Casey returned to the carousel just as it started to move. She watched as case after case slid down the conveyor belt and person after person retrieved their bags. She prayed to God that her luggage was here and not stuck in New York or, God forbid, Kathmandu.

Her life was in that luggage.

One suitcase. One equipment case. One carry-on. One purse. For the past ten years, that was all she owned.

Casey would often find things she fell in love with during her travels. She’d figured out a way to ship them home, too. Her mom once complained they had to move all her boxes down into the basement because there wasn’t any room left in her bedroom. The last time she’d come home for a visit, she’d realized her mother hadn’t been kidding. Her shipped items literally took up most of her parents’ basement.

One day, those things would fill Casey’s own house. Lamps, light fixtures, wall hangings, precious limited-edition books she’d found in off-the-beat bookshops, paintings from artists no one had heard of but that she’d fallen in love with immediately, and gifts from various families she’d photographed.

There were also quite a lot of things for Dylan. Gifts meant for his birthday, Christmas, and just-because days to let him know she missed him.

Which reminded her.
Today was the perfect day to come home.
Casey grabbed a cart for her luggage after it finally arrived and sat down on a bench by the

front door. She would have preferred to sit outside, soaking up the sun, but the radio was playing and she waited for Dylan to start speaking.

It’d been so long since they last spoke. She’d played his last voice message over and over during the long evenings when the loneliness hit the hardest.

She’d never loved another man like she loved Dylan.
He was her soul mate. Her best friend. The one person she knew would always be there.

They lived such different lives, however, that it never seemed right for them to take their relationship to the next level. He wasn’t much of a traveler and needed to stay close to Marietta for Josie. Casey couldn’t imagine not traveling the world, and the idea of being tied to one place for the rest of her life was a chokehold on her soul.

One day, that would change. When it did, it would be time for them. She’d often been accused of being selfish, of taking Dylan and their relationship for granted, but she didn’t care what others thought or felt. All that mattered was that it worked for the two of them right now.

It wouldn’t be like this forever; she and Dylan knew that. They also knew that when it no longer worked, they would sit down and talk about what that meant. But she couldn’t imagine not having him in her life.

Casey was the lucky one. She knew that. To have the man she loved waiting for her at home…he was one of a kind.

She was really looking forward to seeing him, to being in his arms again, to sitting out on the back porch of his and saying absolutely nothing while saying everything at the same time.

She couldn’t wait to surprise Dylan and tell him she was home. Maybe just seeing him, being in those arms of his, would be all she needed to heal her broken heart.


End of Excerpt

Captured by Chocolate is available in the following formats:


August 3, 2017


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