Glitter – Chapter 18 – Waves

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“Why did he have to press the issue” Benjamin mumbled to himself as he got out of his truck. Slamming the door he stopped abruptly as the sound of someone laughing reached his ears.

“Hate to be the guy who caused that foul mood” a chuckled stepping away from the restaurant wall.

“What make you think it was a guy” Benjamin demanded.

“It doesn’t” the man shrugged “but you did say he. I heard it with my very own ears.”

Scowling at the stranger Benjamin found his lips twitching. The guy was cute. “I’m Ben” he said holding his hand out.

“Nice to meet you Ben” the guy smirked taking his hand giving it a squeeze.

“Err” he tugged his hand away “usually when someone introduces themselves you reciprocate.”

Shrugging he grinned “I’m not like most people. Normal is so boring.”

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Leaning on his truck Benjamin gave the stranger an appraising look. “I don’t know about that. Normal can be kind of nice sometimes.”

“Boring” he yawned rolling his eyes.

“I’d at least know the guys name” Benjamin pointed out turning to retrieve his laptop from the passenger seat.

“I prefer to think it gives me an air of mystery” the said moving in close rubbing shoulders with Benjamin as he passed. “Wouldn’t you like to have a little bit of anonymous fun” he whispered in the younger man’s ear.

Closing the door Benjamin couldn’t hide the befuddled grin that spread across his face as he bumped into the stranger. His eyes were bright with interest even if a little unsure. “It does hold a certain amount of allure but….”

“No buts” the man grinned “I’ll pick you up here tonight at 9:00.”

Benjamin watched as the stranger walked away. “Hey” he called out “what do I call you?”

“How about Mr Anonymous” he tossed back with a wave before getting into his car and speeding off.

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“This could be interesting” Benjamin mumbled staring after the car.

“Do you even know who he is” a familiar voice asked from behind him.

“Haven’t got a clue” he chuckled to himself turning to find Jonas standing behind him with a disapproving expression on his face. “Do you?”

“He’s bad news” he said eyes staring at the car disappearing around a corner.

“Speaking from experience “ he asked watching Jonas carefully. “He seemed nice enough.”

“You’re interest in him, does that mean you’re going out with him” Jonas asked. His voice sounded half strangled like he was having trouble breathing.

“Shrugging Benjamin said “I’m thinking about it.” Walking towards the resort he missed the look of disappointment that crossed Jonas’s face. Stopping when he realized his companion wasn’t following he said “are you coming? We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

“Huh oh… yeah” Jonas sighed ungluing his feet from the tarmac to follow Benjamin into the resort.

***

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Christopher sat outside the familiar resort waiting. He had mixed feelings about his date tonight. He was grateful for the guys help but … blowing air through his nose he swung a leg over his bike. Maybe it’ll be better than he thinks.

“Hey” someone called out to him. Turning Christopher saw a familiar long-haired male rushing towards him. This time it was tied back “I was hoping to catch you before you went inside.” He was barely breathing hard despite having sprinted across the parking lot.

“You caught me” Christopher said looking around unsure with the entire situation.

Taking a step back Brandon gave his date an appraising look. Whistling softly he said “you clean up nice.”

“Err thanks” his heartbeat raced pounding in his ears. “So do you” he added not sure what else to say. His stomach felt jittery, an uncommon feeling for him. He was usually more confident than this. He didn’t know what it was but for some reason Brandon made him uncomfortable.

“I was hoping we could take walk along the beach before we eat” Brandon suggested his voice smooth as silk.

“Um” Christopher stared at his feet hoping his shoes would inspire him with what to say. “If you think we have time. The restaurant usually fills up fast…”

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“We could always go afterwards” Brandon nodded as if that settled it. “Maybe by then you’ll have relaxed enough to enjoy my company.”

“That implies I’m uncomfortable now” he raised an eyebrow.

“Aren’t you” he asked. Without waiting for an answer he walked past to hold the door open for him. “See I’m a perfect gentleman” he said with a wink as Christopher walked past him.

“I never said you weren’t” Christopher protested “If anything you’re the type to rescue damsels in distress.”

Brandon’s lips twitched “are you a damsel in distress? Do you need rescuing?”

“Well…” his eyes darted around the busy foyer as if afraid someone might overhear them. “You did help me out of a sticky situation not long ago.”

“Oh yeah I did” he smirked “so you are a damsel in distress.”

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Feeling as if every eye were on him Christopher wished he was turtle. Having a shell to hide in would come in handy in situations like this. “Am not” he hissed “I could have gotten out of that situation on my own.”

“With or without a black eye” Brandon asked grinning from ear to ear obviously enjoying teasing the younger man.

“You think you’re such a smart ass” Christopher mumbled turning his back on him.

“I may be a smart ass but you definitely have a fine ass” leaned in close whispering “I’d like take it for a ride.”

Gulping audibly Christopher admonished “we’re in public” he hissed eyes wide wishing he had not agreed to this date. What had he been thinking?

Letting his hand graze across his date’s tight jeans before stepping back. “Alright I’ll be on my best behavior. I promise. No monkey business until later. On the beach.”

“I never said I was going” Christopher reminded him.

“You will” Brandon nodded confidently.

***

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Temperance stared at her phone. Her stomach twisting into knots. She had expected to hear from Unity by now but it had been days since she’d received a text message from her best friend. Unity always replied back regardless of what she was doing or where she was at.

Looking at the time she sighed. She could feel the eyes of her parents on her watching her like she was about to explode or something. She scrambled to her feet. She wasn’t in the mood for family movie night especially when her brothers were all out enjoying themselves.

“Temperance” her dad called shutting the TV off before she could make good on her escape.

“We need to talk” her mother’s gentle voice added making her anxiety grow.

Reluctantly she turned around “I really should start getting ready for bed. I have to work early in the morning. With Unity gone we’re all working extra shifts.”

“That’s what we need to talk about” Donovan said patting the spot next to him on the couch.

Moving slowly across the room she sat between her parents. Glancing between them she said “I’m sure it’ll only be temporary. Once Unity comes back my hours will go back to normal.”

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“She may not be going back to work” Hannah said reaching for her daughter’s hand.

“Of course she is” Temperance cried. “She’s going to get better. You’ll see….” She bit back the angry hurtful words she wanted to say. Unity had to get better. They had so many things they had to do yet. College. Tour across Europe. The Summer Social. All the things they’d dreamed about doing since they were little kids. She had to get better!

“Sweetie” her dad’s voice cut through her thoughts. “We hope she does get better.” He looked across at his wife with anguish in his blue eyes.

“Mom” she turned “Unity is getting better isn’t she?” The unanswered messages took on an ominous note. What if she couldn’t return them? What if she was sicker than they thought? What if she was dying?

“She’s not responding as well as they hoped to the treatment” Hannah explained.

Tears swelled in her eyes, rolling down her cheeks. “She has to get better” Temperance insisted. “She just has to” she turned to her dad burying her face into him. Her cries turned into sobs as his arms wrapped around hr holding her tight. “I want to see her” she sniffed once she was able to speak again.

“You will” Hannah said rubbing her daughter’s back.

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“When” she demanded clinging to her dad.

“Just as soon as we can arrange it” Hannah said. “We have to wait until after your grandparents come….”

“I want to go now” she cried turning red rimmed eyes towards her mother.

“It’ll just be a couple of extra days” Hannah explained.

“What if something happens between now and then” she cried “I need to see her now before it’s too late.”

“We understand that” Donovan interceded between his wife and daughter. “Right now it isn’t possible. Unity can’t have visitors right now. In a few days that’ll change. Have patience.”

Temperance pulled away from him. Why couldn’t they understand that she had to see Unity now. Not days from now. Standing she ran from the room. She heard them calling her but she ignored them. She had to get away. To think. To plan.

***

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It had been the longest day ever at work. Usually working at the boutique was therapeutic. It was something that made here feel closer to her best friend, Unity. Today her thoughts kept going back to what her parents told her. Her friend might not ever come back. Might not get better. It filled her with a sense of dread. Unity was going to die. Those terrifying words kept repeating themselves throughout the day.

She kept seeing Mindy’s scowl of disapproval as she let another customer go without a purchase. Her commissions for the day was going to be the lowest ever. The other girls tried to cover for her. To help but nothing could ease the frantic racing of her thoughts.

She sat on one of the benches outside the boutique after her shift. “Aren’t you coming with us” London asked.

Shaking her head Temperance waved her friends away. “You go on without me. I don’t feel much like the beach today.”

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“If you need someone to talk to” London offered before joining the others.

“That’s nice of you” Temperance gave her a small smile. “I’ll be okay. I’m not feeling sociable is all.”

Frowning at the unusual admission London asked “are you worried about Unity? I’m sure she’ll be good as new in no time.”

Temperance felt a surge of anger sweep through her at the words. “I’m sure she will be” she lied not wanting to destroy the girl’s hopes like her’s had been shattered.

London gave her a doubtful look before letting others drag her off with them. Alone Temperance glanced at her phone. Still nothing. A sense of foreboding filled her. She couldn’t imagine not having her best friend by her side.

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“Hey” a familiar voice said beside her “what’s up?”

His overly cheery voice grated on her nerves. “My best friend is dying” she growled needing to vent on someone.

“You’re joking” he laughed. When she didn’t join him he lost his smile “you’re not joking are you?”

“No” she shook her head as tears spilled out.

“I’m sorry” he apologized moving to sit next to her on the bench. “I didn’t know.”

“No one does” she sniffed wiping at the wetness on her cheeks. “I just found out she wasn’t responding to treatment.”

“That doesn’t mean she’s dying” he said wanting to give her something to hope in.

“But she will” she said doggedly holding onto her dark thoughts.

“Not necessarily” he insisted “it just means they haven’t found the right treatment yet.”

“What if they never do” she demanded glaring at him. “She’s my best friend. I should be with her.”

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Will was silent for several minutes contemplating her words. He needed to help her. To show her he wasn’t the jerk he was when they first met. “What if I take you” he asked holding his breath hoping that would be something she’d let him do for her.

“How” she sniffed “she’s not on the island. She’s on the main island. We don’t have enough money to fly or take the ferry across.”

“I’ve got an idea” he smiled at her “meet me at the pier tonight at ten.” He stood up with renewed energy and purpose.

“What… why” she cried looking up at him with the first flicker of hope she’d had all day.

“I know someone whose going across to the main island tonight on the midnight ferry. We can stow away in his car. Bring snacks and drinks because we won’t be able to buy anything once we’re on board.”

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“Isn’t that illegal” she asked frowning.

Smiling “yeah but you want to see your friend don’t you?” Shaking her head he continued “then this is the only way.”

Biting her lip thinking over his suggestion. “I suppose so” she said hesitantly. She didn’t want to worry her parents but she needed to see Unity. “I’ll do it” she said nodded firmly.

“Great” he gave her his best charming smile “I’ll make the arrangements then.”

Watching him go she felt herself becoming excited over this adventure. She couldn’t wait to tell Unity all about it when she saw her. With a burst of energy she caught the bus home making a list of things she would need to take on the trip.

Chapter 17 – Ocean Blue /

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Glitter – Chapter 17 – Ocean Blue

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“Working late” Stacy asked setting a plate in front of Noble.

“Yeah” he yawned “sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it” she waved his apology away. “Would you like a refill?”

“Yes please” he murmured watching her walk away. His mind conjuring up things he’d like to do to her.

“Here you are” she announced setting the refill in front of him.

“Oh” he jerked in surprised “that was quick.” He reached for the glass taking a sip.

“My shift is almost over” she smiled at him.

Glancing at the time he realized he must have come in at the end of her shift. She was working overtime because of him. “You can go if you want” he offered.

“No can do” she shook her head “I have to stay until my section is clear. Says so in the rules. Her tone was light but he didn’t miss the jab aimed at him.

“I should have listened” he mumbled looking at his plate. Glancing up at the sound she made as a group of four were seated in her section.

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Another change he’d made without thinking about the consequences. Not only did the server have to wait until the last customer was finished in their section but the section remained open until the server was clocked out. Which meant she now had to wait on the group of four. She now had to wait for them to finish before she would be able to leave.

He watched Stacy as she waited on the group. They were loud, boisterous and rude. She never lost her smile or patience with them despite provocation. It was the first time Noble saw his changes in action. He realized now why most of the servers were unhappy with them. The first time he realized that not only does the tired overworked server have to stay but the next one scheduled can’t clock in for their shift. They were losing money they depended on to make a living and the others are losing time with their families and friends.

Taking his laptop out he quickly typed up an email apologizing for the changes he made and reinstating the old policies immediately. He knew that wouldn’t undo the harm he’d already caused but it was a start.

Getting up he bussed his own table feeling he owed Stacy something in way of an apology. “What do you think you’re doing” she demanded coming up behind him.

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“Helping” he said turning to meet her displeased gaze. It was the first time he’d seen her with anything but a smile on her face.

“I think you’re confused” she said “I’m the server not you.”

Blowing air through his nose he nodded. “I’ve made several mistakes and when my parents come back I may really be a server. So I best be getting some experience at it.”

A grin tugged at her lips “is that your way of apologizing?”

“I’m not very good at it” he said “but I’m learning.”

“Flowers would be nice” she teased walking around him and into the kitchen.

He knew better than to follow her into the kitchen. Shrugging he tossed a tip on the table before gathering his things and leaving. His mind already picking out what flowers to send her in the morning.

***

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Jason stepped outside his heart leaping into his throat as he recognized the man walking towards him. “Benji” saying his name out loud made his heart race.

“Is Royce around” he asked stopped several feet away. “He said he’d be here at 3:00.”

“He’s running late” Jason stammered. “You’re welcome to wait for him if you want.” He stepped aside to allow him to enter.

“I guess I could do that if you’re sure he won’t be long” Benjamin said avoiding looking in Jason’s direction.

“Um” Jason sighed feeling a weight settle on his chest. He was tempted to just leave. Run his errands and let Benji wait along for Royce to come home. Scanning the traffic hoping to see his brother’s Harley coming over the hill. “Why did he have to be late today of all days” he complained to himself as he closed the door and turned to face his unwelcome guest.

He turned to find Benjamin standing by the far window. “Would you like something to drink” he asked to be polite.

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“No thanks” he mumbled glancing at his phone “I should be going” he moved towards the door clearly uncomfortable being their alone.

“Benji…” Jason’s voice cracked.

Twisting the door knob Benjamin hesitated before turning around to face his one time best friend. “Please don’t rehash this tired old subject again” he pleaded.

“You won’t even consider it” Jason blinked shocked he had the courage to say that much.

“What good would it do” Benjamin demanded his voice harsher then he meant it to be. “I’m sorry I don’t have the same feelings you have for me. I don’t want to hurt you but I don’t like you in that way.”

Nodding Jason stared at the floor wishing it would swallow him up. Blinking fast he tried to keep the tears from coming. The last thing he wanted to do was cry. It was bad enough to be rejected. Numbly he turned away wanting nothing more than to be left alone.

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“Jason I’m sorry” Benjamin called after him. “You had to know that I didn’t share your feelings. I never wanted to hurt you…”

“Just go” Jason requested “please.” His insides were trembling. All he wanted was to be left alone as his world crashed in around him. The sad thing was he did know but he still clung to his pipe dreams. “I’m such an idiot” he mumbled to himself.

“You’ll find someone who appreciates you” Benjamin said attempting to undo some of the pain he caused. “I’m just not that guy. I’m sorry.”

“I don’t want to hear it” he cried raising his hands over his ears. “Just leave me alone.”

The opening of the door startled both of them. Royce entered, his brows knitting together “what’s going on?”

“Ask your brother” Benjamin said brushing past him and out the door.

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“Jason” Royce said forgetting about why he had asked Benjamin to come by in the first place.

“You don’t have to say it” he said beginning to blubber “I’m an idiot.”

“What did he do” Royce asked closing the gap between them.

“He said….he said…” with trembling hands he covered his mouth unable to say anything else.

There were a million things racing through Royce’s head. It didn’t take a genius to know what happened. It needed to be said. Probably a long time ago. This time it seemed to have sunk in and penetrated whatever dream world his brother lived in. Without a word he pulled his brother into a hug, holding him while his tears soaked his shirt. Nothing else needed to be said.

***

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An hour later Royce stood watching is twin wander aimlessly along the beach stopping here and there to pick up seashells. He’d never seen him this lost before. He was torn between giving Jason time to figure things out on his own or stepping in and enlisting their mother’s help. Even though he was worried he never entertained the idea that Jason would ever hurt himself or anyone else. He was more the type to step over an ant on the sidewalk instead of walking on it.

His fingers curled into fists. As much as he wanted Jason’s eyes to be opened he hadn’t wanted him to be hurt either. He wanted Jason to find that special someone who would appreciate what Jason brought to the table. Someone whose eyes would light up when Jason walked into the room. Sighing Royce kicked at the sand wishing he had something to punch. As much as he liked Benjamin he knew if he saw him right now he’d want to punch him. No one hurt his brother and got away with it.

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“You have a fight with someone” a feminine voice asked behind him.

Turning he found himself staring at a tall willowy brunette. Inhaling deeply he said “no but I do wish I had something to hit though.”

“Not the cutie over there” she asked nodding her chin towards Jason.

“Not him” his lips curled into a soft affectionate smile. “Hitting Jason would be like kicking a puppy. You just don’t do it.”

“Doesn’t sound very satisfying” she agreed. One eyebrow rose in challenge as she looked him over. “I haven’t seen you around. I’ve seen Angel over there watching the surfers but never you.”

“I’m not much for the beach” he admitted. “I prefer long rides on my bike to relax.”

Her eyes widened “a bike like a mountain bike?”

“Hell no” he snorted “I haven’t ridden a bicycle in years.”

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“A moped then or” she snapped her fingers “a scooter.”

Groaning he shook his head “those aren’t real bikes. I’m talking about a Harley. Pure power.”

Her eyes traveled over him as if she were trying to decide if he were telling her the truth. “You don’t look the type” she teased.

“Hate to burst your bubble but I’m definitely the type” he assured her. “You don’t have to be big and scary looking to be a biker.”

“So your a bad ass biker dude” she laughed making her whole face radiant. “Show me” she dared.

Glancing over his shoulder he let out a small sigh. “Later” he said “I can’t leave my brother alone right now.”

Wrapping her hands around his arm she tugged a little “Angel will be alright. Trust me.”

“You don’t know him” Royce protested “he’s upset. I can’t leave him like that.”

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“Angel is going to be alright” she repeated nodding towards a group of surfers. One of them was walking towards Jason as they watched. “That’s Damian. He’ll take good care of your brother.” As the surfer walked past them she nodded towards him saying “go get’em tiger.”

“Hey wait a minute I know him” Royce objected moving to intercept the surfer. “Jason’s not ready….”

“Maybe this is exactly what he does need” she tugged on his arm. “You need to stop hovering and let him decide.”

“I don’t know” he looked behind him reluctant to let Jason out of his sight. “I don’t know you or that surfer. How do I know he’s a stand up guy?”

“I’m Natalia” pointing towards the surfer now talking to Jason. “He’s my cousin’s best friend. Damian’s a good guy. He’ll be able to make Angel smile if anyone can.”

Nodding Royce watched waiting to see if Jason got the overwhelmed frightened look he generally got when someone he didn’t know approached him. Relaxing somewhat when Jason didn’t seem to need to be rescued he turned to Natalia. “Do you still want to see my bike” he asked.

***

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“This seat taken” Damian asked sitting next to the guy who had caught his eyes multiple times in the past.

Without replying Jason shrugged scooting over as if to make room for him.

“Bad day” Damian asked once the silence had lingered a bit too long.

“You could say that” Jason mumbled eyes desperately darting around the beach for his brother.

“Expecting someone” the pang of disappointment stinging. He should have known a cutie like this wouldn’t be single.

“No” Jason shook his head a little hesitantly. “I was looking for my brother. Want to make sure he doesn’t leave without me.”

Frowning Damian couldn’t restrain himself from asking “has he done that before?”

“Yeah” his shoulders rose and fell “I’m not very memorable.”

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“I find that hard to believe Angel” Damian said using the nickname he’d given the blue haired cutie from the first time he noticed him watching.

Ducking his face down Jason could feel his face heating up and knew he must be as red as he felt. Groping for something else to say to keep the conversation going he said “you’re really good, surfing I mean.”

“Thanks” Damian shrugged “I’m average compared to the pro’s. I could teach you.”

“Really” Jason’s face lifted from his knees eyes bright with interest. “I wouldn’t be any good.”

“You’ll never known until you try” Damian nodded towards his board “Come on I’ll show you.”

Shaking his head Jason didn’t budge. “I’m not dressed right. I can’t.”

“Of course you can” Damian encouraged. “All you need to do right now is take your shoes off. I just want you to stand on the board. Get the feel of it.”

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“I can do that” Jason’s voice was laced with uncertainty as he kicked his sandals off. Looking at the board dubiously “what do you want me to do?”

“Stand on the board” Damian instructed grinning. “I want to see your stance.” Once Jason stepped onto the board he shook his head. “Not like that. Pretend like your on the water surfing.” Before Jason could protest Damian cut him off “don’t say you don’t know how.” Winking he added “I’ve seen you watching.”

“Um…what” he slipped falling sideways to the loose sandy beach. “You noticed me?”

“Hey” his voice gentle as he knelt beside him “don’t be embarrassed.”

“I’m beyond embarrassed. I’m mortified” Jason cried covering his super heated face behind his hands.

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“You shouldn’t be” Damian insisted wishing he had been a bit more tactful. “If you hadn’t been watching I would never have had the courage to approach you. I mean it does a guy’s ego good to know a cutie like you is watching him.”

“Yyyyou think I’m cute” he stammered peeking out from beneath his hands face still hot.

“Duh” Damian winked lightly touching Jason’s face “I’d like to kick the guy’s ass who made you think otherwise.”

“You can’t” he gasped lightly reaching up touching Damian’s hand where it rested on his cheek. Jerking his hand away as if realizing what he was doing. “It wasn’t his fault. It was mine.”

“I find that hard to believe” Damian grunted taking is hand away. “Come on. Show me how you’ll ride the waves.”

Chapter 16 – Feelings / Chapter 18 – Waves

Glitter – Chapter 16 – Feelings

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“Don’t worry about a thing” Graham assured his daughter. “We’ll take care of everything.”

“Thanks Dad” she sniffed. It seemed that all she did was cry lately. “I don’t know what I’d do without you but are you sure?”

“I’m positive” he said with quiet assurance. “With Noble’s help I’m sure everything will run smoothly.”

“I can do it myself” Noble grumbled chafing that his parents had insisted on calling his grandpa to help.

“It never hurts to have help” Graham said with an easy smile towards his grandson. “I won’t step in unless absolutely necessary.”

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“We appreciate your help” Ryan assured him despite the sour expression on his son’s face. “I’m sorry we interrupted your vacation plans.”

“Don’t worry about that” Derek said with an easy grin putting an arm around Graham’s shoulders. “We’re glad to help.”

“Thank you” Charity quickly gave her step dad a hug.

“Have you called Zane” Graham asked.

“Why would I do that” she demanded “he cut us out of his life years ago. All he has time for now is his new family.”

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“It’s your decision sweetie” Graham assured her “I think he might want to know what’s happening with his granddaughter.”

“I’ll think about it” she said “I can’t promise more than that.”

“That’s all I ask” Graham hugged her tight. “I feel responsible for the way things went between you and your dad when our relationship fell apart.”

“That’s not your fault” she said “it was mine and his. We could have tried harder but it’s too late now.”

“It’s never too late” he said “but you better hurry up before you miss your flight.”

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“Unity are you ready” Charity called turning to find her daughter shuffling into the room. She was wearing a sweatshirt and carrying a fluffy blue blanket. “It’s not going to be that cold on the main island. The weather is going to be the same as it is here.”

“But I’m cold” she whined.

“Sweetheart let her take the blanket” Ryan urged “you know the plane is going to be cold.”

“You’re right” Charity attempted to smile turning to face her family. “We’ll be home before you know it.”

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Justice stepped up to his little sister shoving a fluffy bear into her arms. “Something to keep you company” he mumbled.

“It’s Mr Truffles” she cried “he’s your favorite.”

“Shh” his eyes darted around the room “not so loud.”

Smiling up at him she giggled “you don’t make a very good bad boy. You’re too nice.”

“Hey I’m not nice” he protested “just ask Dad. I block doors preventing old people from leaving.”

“You didn’t” she gasped wide eyed.

“I so did” he nodded pretending this was just another day. Not a crisis. Blinking he grumbled “you better be okay.”

Squeezing the bear in her arms “I’ll take good care of Mr Truffles for you.”

“You better” he gave her a mock glare before bending to give her a hug whispering in her ear. “He’s almost as precious as you are.”

***

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Graham leaned against the door waiting for his grandson to look up from the pile of paperwork he was shuffling through. When he still didn’t look up, Graham cleared his throat. “I know you see me. I’m not going away until we talk.”

Groaning Noble sat back glaring up at the older man. “I’m busy.”

Taking a seat Graham leaned forward. “I know you want to prove yourself worthy of running the resort. This isn’t the way.”

“It’ll work” he insisted.

“It won’t” Graham said letting his words sink in.

“You don’t know that” Noble scoffed “you haven’t even given it a chance.”

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If you’d pull your head out of your ass for a moment I’ll tell you why it won’t work.” This time there was an edge to Graham’s voice that wasn’t there before.

“It’s not working because you and Loyal aren’t supporting me. Every chance you get you talk against it.” The  petulant expression on Noble’s face might have been pitiable if he hadn’t spoke out of a sense of wounded pride.

“You don’t have the authority to make the kind of changes you want to make” Graham pointed out. “As I recall your dad already vetoed the idea before he left. How do you think he’d feel if you went ahead and made the change behind his back?”

“He wouldn’t say anything” Noble insisted “especially when he sees how well its working.”

“No” Graham shook his head “I have final say in any major decisions. I happen to agree with Ryan on this one.”

“It’ll save us money in the long run” Noble insisted “I did the math. It makes sense.”

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“I’m not arguing with you” Graham said sternly. “You can see the discontent in the employees already. Some have already threatened to quit.”

“So” he shook his head finding it difficult to believe why his grandpa was so against this. “Let the quit.”

“You’ll spend more in the long run by having a high turnover rate and training costs than you ever would in keeping good loyal employees happy.” Graham pointed out.

“I hadn’t thought of that” Noble admitted with a sigh “but I’m sure it’ll work out. The math makes sense.”

“Let me suggest something to you” Graham leaned forward sensing that Noble might be receptive. “While your parents are away. Try running the resort the way they do. Get a feel for the business before you go making changes. Earn the staff’s respect and they’ll support you in any future changes.”

“That’ll take too long” he groaned impatience shining through.

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“It won’t be as long as you think” Graham sighed thinking it was just yesterday when he and Zane had started out. The resort was everything he never wanted but it turned out to be the glue for his growing family.

“I’ll consider it” Noble sighed “do you think you could talk to Loyal form? Ask him to come back.”

Graham stood p not relishing the dubious task of convincing his other grandson into coming back and supporting his brother. “I’ll try but it would mean a lot more if you apologized.”

“What do I have to apologize for” Noble demanded frowning “I’m the one doing all the work.”

Shaking his head Graham left the office promising to try.

***

583

“Hey” Belle called running up beside Loyal as he walked along the beach. “You haven’t been around much. Are you okay” she asked remembering the last time they’d been together.

Stopping he stared at the girl in front of him. It took him a moment to remember who she was. “Belle” he murmured.

“Don’t tell me you forgot about me” she pouted.

“Err” he felt the blood rush to his cheeks. Had he gotten her name wrong?

Smiling she took his arm. “I’ve been worried about you. How is your sister?”

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Staring at the hand Belle wrapped around his arm. Warm, soft and gentle. Her touch made him think of his sister. “She’s getting treated at the Children’s Hospital on the main island. We’re all hoping she’ll respond and go into remission.”

“I’m so sorry” she spoke softly.

“She’s so young” he blinked back tears. “Half the time I can’t believe this is really happening. It’s a nightmare I can’t wake up from.”

“You’re welcome to join us” Belle suggested jerking her head towards her friends.

Sniffing Loyal shook his head. “I’m not very good company.”

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“It’ll do you good” she insisted tugging on his arm a little.

“No really I’d rather be alone right now.” Shaking his he continued “I don’t have the energy to pretend to have a good time and ….” Sighing he shrugged unsure what else to say.

“And you don’t want people asking why your in a bad mood” she finished for him. “I can understand.” She bit her bottom lip “I could keep you company. I mean if you want company. You did say you wanted to be alone.”

A ghost of a smile tugged at his lips. “No I’d like that. I might not say much but” he gave her a shy look that said more than any words he could come up with.

Taking his hand she squeezed it tight. Silently she turned towards the ocean. The sun was just beginning to set. “You don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to” she said keeping her voice low as she watched the waves.

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His heart skipped several beats as he lost himself to the moment. The razor’s edge of guilt prevented him from fully getting into the moment. How could he be enjoying himself when his sister was fighting for her life. “I shouldn’t be happy” he mumbled to himself as he stared at the woman beside him. Her long dark hair reminding him of his sister. Would she live to be an adult? Would she know the joy of falling in love?

“She wouldn’t want you to stop enjoying life” Belle said looking up at him.

“I know” he acknowledged “why should I be so lucky?”

“Don’t question it” Belle reached up to cup his face between her hands. “Life’s too short to let moments go by without appreciating them.”

Closing his eyes he leaned into her. Breathing deeply he took in her scent. He may always associate the beach with the scent of rose petals. For the moment he let himself relax.

***

594

Jenna slowed her steps as she passed the doors leading to the pool. The boy she’d met her first day on the island moped beside the pool. He held a long pole she assumed was used for cleaning. He didn’t seem to be doing much cleaning just staring into space. Before she realized what she was doing her feet were moving her towards him.

Justice looked up, a vacant expression in his eyes. Jenna doubted he was seeing anything around him. The lively spark she had seen before had been extinguished. “You missed a spot” she teased as she came up behind him.

Grunting he whirled around losing his footing on the slick pool side. For a moment his arms pen wheeled before he fell backwards into the pool. Jenna squealed as the spray of water soaked her. He came up spitting water from his mouth. “What’s the big idea” he demanded swimming to the edge.

“Hey don’t blame me” she said taking several steps backwards “it’s not my fault you spazzed out and fell in.”

“You shouldn’t sneak up on people” he grumbled gathering his things. Dripping water from head to toe as he went. His shoes squeaked as he walked as he began to put the pool supplies away. Surveying the puddles he left in his wake he pulled out a mop and bucket.

“That’s not going to do any good” she observed.

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“Why the hell not” he challenged pulling his we shirt over his head.

“Well” her eyes traveled down his body in obvious appreciation of his defined pecs and abs. Shaking her head she lifted her eyes to meet his. “You’re just going to make more puddles as long as your clothes are wet.”

“And whose fault is that” he grumbled kicking his shoes off without untying them.

“I still maintain my innocence” Jenna giggled “Don’t you have any other clothes you can change into?”

Glaring at her beaming face he said “yeah I have other clothes. I’m not a pool boy every day.”

“Why don’t you change then” she asked attempting to keep her face straight and failing.

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“Why didn’t I think of that” he hit the side of his head “oh yeah.” He snapped his fingers “I’ll drip all over the floor. My uptight brother will kill me for making a mess inside his pristine resort.”

“He was your brother” she asked astonished. “I thought he was more the age to be your dad. Still pretty hot though.”

It took him a moment to realize who she was referring too. “Not him. He really is my dad. My brother is the one in charge until my parents get back.”

“If you tell me where to find your clothes I’ll get them for you” she offered.

“It would be the least you could do after startling me in the first place” he said.

“Oh please” rolling her eyes “if you weren’t such a spaz that wouldn’t have happened.”

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“I have a lot of things on my mind” he huffed.

“I bet” she teased “like some girl.”

“As a matter of fact it was a girl” he teased. The slight tensing around her eyes let him know that little bit of misinformation bothered her. It was gone as quickly as it appeared.

“Turned you down didn’t she” she said knowingly. “Can’t say I blame her.” She turned walking towards the resort doors.

“Hey” he called after her “what about my clothes?”

“Not my problem” she laughed “you’re a smart boy. You’ll figure it out.”

Chapter 15 – Paint a Picture / Chapter 17 – Ocean Blue

Glitter – Chapter 15 – Paint a Picture

574

“Unity” Charity called through the bathroom door “you’re going to be late. Get a move on.”

Groaning Unity tossed her hair brush on the counter. Turning she rushed from the room. “I’m ready” she announced almost walking into her mom standing outside the door.

“Your nose is bleeding” Charity pointed out handing her a tissue from a nearby box.

“Not again” she complained holding the tissue to her nose.

Frowning Charity asked “what do you mean again? Have you been getting a lot of nosebleeds?”

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“It’s nothing” she tried to walk past her mom to grab another tissue to replace the already soaked tissue she held up to her nose.

“I’ll be the judge of that” Charity said stepping in front of her daughter. “Let me see” she held Unity’s face still as she inspected her. “How many nosebleeds have you had recently?”

Unity’s eyes slid to the floor. Her shoulders rose and fell in a desultory shrug. “I don’t know” she mumbled “a lot I guess.”

“How many is a lot? One? Two” Charity asked her voice rising as she confronted her daughter. Little things she had dismissed came to mind. The lethargy she had dismissed from working too many hours took on an ominous meaning now.

“I….I don’t know” she sighed “maybe three or four….”

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“A week” Charity prompted her heart skipping a beat when her daughter shook her head. “A day” she asked watching her closely.

Nodding as tears rolled down her cheeks “I had one early this morning. I got blood all over the pillow.” Impatiently she wiped the tears away “I’m sorry mommy. I hoped it’d go away on its own.”

Charity added inside her own head that her daughter hadn’t told her because she’d been too busy with the resort. Shaking her head she forced the feelings of guilt away. “We won’t worry about that now. Call work. Tell your boss you won’t be in today.”

“But Mom..” she began to protest “I told Kaia I’d cover her shift today.”

“Absolutely not” Charity said in tone Unity knew well. The one that said her mind was made up and arguing was pointless. Taking her phone out she continued “I’m calling your doctor.”

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“Ugh” she stomped her foot “it’s not fair.”

“If the doctor gives you the all clear then you can go to work tomorrow” Charity said.

“Fine” she rolled her eyes trying to pretend she was angry and not scared. Scared that something was really wrong with her.

“Sweetie it’s going to be okay” Charity tried to reassure her as she waited for the doctor’s office to answer her call.

Nodding Unity walked back to her room. She was more tired then she cared to admit. Her joints hurt and her head was throbbing. Taking her phone out she called the boutique. She could tell Mindy was irritated with her. The inconvenience of trying to find someone to cover her shift or run short evident in her voice.

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She knew she had no choice and if she were honest with herself she didn’t feel well enough to work. She wanted to rest but doubted she could with the way her mind was swirling.

Looking up as her bedroom door opened and her mom came in. “I got you an appointment at one o’clock. Why don’t you try and get some rest until then?”

“Okay” she murmured waiting for her mom to leave before sending Temperance a quick text

They found out. Dr appt at 1:00. I’m kind of scared.

Putting her phone down she knew Temperance wouldn’t respond until her break. They were supposed to be working together on the showroom floor.

***

568

“Mr Milton what a pleasure to have you dining with us today” the hostess smiled welcoming him.

Glancing around the crowded restaurant Noble pointed “I’d like to be seated in her section.”

“Very well sir” the hostess said leading him towards one of the best tables in the section he wanted to sit in.

“This is lovely but I’d rather sit over there” he indicated to a smaller table set for two instead of a table for four.

“This table has the best view” the hostess pointed out setting the menu down as if that was the end of the discussion.

“I’m familiar with the view. If I were with a group this table would be perfect.” It had been ingrained in him since he was a child to be polite with the help even when they were in the wrong. “I’d rather have the smaller table and allow that larger group who has been waiting a while a chance to order.”

“Very well sir” the hostess’s clipped words told him his point had been made. As she walked away he wondered how long she’d been seating guests based upon prestige instead of group size and wait time. Something he would have to bring up at the next resort meeting with his parents. One day he’d be taking over the resort and he needed to know everything there was to learn about the business.

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“Good afternoon” a cheery voice said above his head. “I’m Stacy. I’ll be your server today.”

Smiling up at her he took in her long brown hair tied back in soft waves down her neck. “What would you recommend” he asked setting his menu aside.

“The lobster is very good today” she said without skipping a beat. “Can I get you something to drink?”

“Yes” he scanned the drink menu “I’ll have Rhode Island Tea…”

“May I see your ID card please” she asked.

“I’m over twenty-one” he assured her.

“I’m sure you are however it’s policy to check all our guest ID’s if you appear to be under thirty.”

“Very well” he got his wallet out, extracted his ID and handed it to her. He watched as her eyes bulged recognizing his name.

Handing his ID back she smiled “one Rhode Island Tea coming up.”

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Watching her go he admired the way her work uniform hugged her curves. A moment later she was back with his drink. “Are you ready to order? Perhaps you’d like to try one of our appetizers? The sample plate is a customer favorite.”

Shaking his head he handed her the menu. “I’ll have the lobster tail and if you could bring out extra rolls. They’re a favorite of mine.”

“Of course” she turned to leave when he held his hand up stopping her “is there something else sir?”

“Yes” he smiled “you’re new to the island yet you knew the menu and the restaurant policies better than some of our more senior staff. I wanted to compliment you on a job well done.”

“Thank you sir” she said “it’s a pleasure working here. I’m working my way through college and this give me the practical knowledge for what I intend on doing once I graduate.”

“If it’s not too much to ask. What are you going to school for?” He admired the way the light danced off her eyes and hair.

“Restaurant management” she flashed him a smile “this is one of the best restaurants on the island. I’m glad to be a small part of it. I better get your order in.”

Watching her go this time admiring her for more than her figure. They could used someone like her running the restaurant. He’d have to mention that to his parents as well. Taking his phone out he made a couple of notes to remind himself for later.

***

565

Justice stared up at the resort. He used to love coming here when he was a kid. Now that he was older he could only think about all the things he’d rather be doing than being at the resort. “Three months” he mumbled beneath his breath “then I’ll be free.”

“Excuse me” someone said behind him. Turning he felt his jaw drop. He realized he was staring at one of the prettiest girls he’d ever seen. He could tell she wasn’t from the island. She didn’t have the same laid back vibe that most the islanders had. That made her even more appealing to him.

“Do you mind” she asked indicating the door he was standing in front of.

Leaning back he smirked “don’t mind at all.”

Rolling her eyes she stepped down from the steps she was on. Glaring up at him she said “you’re blocking the door.”

“Yeah so” he crossed his arms. He enjoyed the way the sun danced over her long brown hair bringing out the reddish gold highlights in it.

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“You really should move” she said a small smile forming on her full lips.

“Make me” he challenged.

“I don’t think I’ll have to” she pointed towards smiling behind him.

A tapping behind him on the door had him turning to inspect it. He found his dad looking at him with a displeased expression on his face. “Sorry” he apologized opening the door wide enough to allow an elderly couple to shuffle out.

Once the elderly couple had shuffled past the girl giggled. “You really should have listened to me.”

“Yeah” he sighed shrinking beneath his father’s glare. “I wish I had.”

“Excuse me” the girl said as she squeezed past him to enter the resort.

“Hey” he called after her “what’s your name?”

Turning she giggled flashing him a smile. “That’s for me to know and for you to find out.”

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He moved to follow her but a heavy hand on his shoulder prevented him. Turning he found his dad giving him a severe look.

“Hey dad” he waved “lovely day isn’t it?”

“Justice” the way his dad said his name he knew he was in trouble. “You’re old enough to know better.”

“But young enough not to care” he added flippantly. The glower on his dad’s face deepened. “Lighten up” he said walking down the steps and away from the resort. “It was only a blocked door. How was I supposed to know those geezers wanted out?”

“That’s not the point” Ryan said “this is our business. I don’t care that you don’t want to work at the resort. I get that. It’s your choice. You don’t have to but you do have to respect it.”

Justice shrugged silently glaring at his dad. It was the same old speech he’d heard a hundred times. “Can I go now” he asked after the silence became awkward and uncomfortable.

Ryan nodded afraid he’d say something he’d regret. It seemed lately that no matter what he did it was never good enough when it came to his youngest son. He should pursue it but there were more important things then getting upset over a blocked door. Checking his phone for what felt like the hundredth time sighing when there was still no message. Charity had promised she’d let him know what they found out at from the doctor. He hated thinking his little princess was ill and there wasn’t anything he could do about it.

***

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Loyal joined the others around the bond fire. He’d come to the beach to meet up with some friends instead he made new ones. “Belle you have a mean serve” he complimented the girl.

“Well I was taught by the best. Natalia was on the Volleyball team in high school and made me play with her so she could practice her serve” she explained

“All the girls on the opposing teams quacked in fear when they saw me” Natalia added proud of her achievements.

“They did not” Belle corrected her laughing.

“I wish I had seen you play” Loyal sighed.

“You just did” Damian chortled winking at his best friend.

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“That’s not what I meant” Loyal said “it’s different.”

“You just wanted to watch her on the court” Natalia teased “Belle is a beauty. Can’t really blame you.”

Looking away attempting to hide his face from view knowing from the burning sensation his ears and cheeks had to be crimson. He had been distracted the entire time playing volleyball. His eyes kept seeking Belle out instead of watching the ball.

“Natalia” Belle chastised her cousin “you’re embarrassing him.”

“Am not” she protested proceeding to ask Loyal what he’d been staring at moments before the ball had hit him on the head.

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Knowing her cousin wouldn’t be giving up any time soon Belle walked over to where Damian was sitting quietly staring into the flames. “Penny for your thoughts” she said holding her hands out to the flames.

Grunting Damian looked up at her “not worth that much.”

“Your little cutie wasn’t on the beach today” she stated noticing how her friend tensed when she mentioned the blue haired boy he’d mentioned several times watching him as he surfed.

“He’s not my cutie” he grumbled grabbing a stick to poke at the fire with.

“What are you waiting for” she asked knowing that Damian would either tell her to mind her own business or he’ mope in silence. What he said next shocked them both.

“I don’t know” he admitted “I want to but….”

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“I think you should” she said “he may just be too shy to approach you as you strut your stuff.”

“Yeah I guess” he knew she was teasing him “there’s just something about him.”

“Want some advice” she asked knowing she was going to give it to him anyway. He shrugged giving her a slight affirmative nod. “Next time you see him. Talk to him.” she grinned “who knows it just might be the beginning of something good.”

“I…” pausing he grinned “I think I’ll do that.” Jerking his head towards Loyal “you better go rescue him before Natalia scares him away.”

“He does look a little upset” she nibbled on her bottom lip as she joined the others. Sitting beside Loyal she noticed he had his phone out staring at it with a bleak expression on his face. “Bad news” she asked.

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Lifting his head up, his eyes moist with tears. “My sister” tears rolled down his cheeks shocking them both.

“Hey” she took his free hand squeezing it a little “whatever it is I’m sure it’ll be alright.”

Sniffing he clinched his eyes shut. His hands curled into fists “no it won’t ever be alright. My sister’s sick.” Dropping his phone he rubbed his eyes “I skipped out on the family meeting. Thought it was just another boring resort update.” Repressed sobs shook his body.

Retrieving his phone from the sand Belle’s eyes skimmed the text message on the screen. The message was from someone named Noble:

Get your ass home. The family needs you. Unity has leukemia. Mom is hysterical and Dad’s not much better.”

“Unity is she….your sister” she asked setting his phone on the chair beside him.

Nodding he wiped his eyes “she just turned fifteen a couple months ago.”

Chapter 14 – Rare Expressions / Chapter 16 – Feelings

Glitter – Chapter 14 – Rare Expressions

541

“Why do you insist on driving this direction when you know it’ll upset you” Fawn asked.

Driving past the huge house built like an ancient castle Lee growled. The sound came from deep inside him. “Why should they get to flaunt their wealth when we live in a shack” he complained.

“We don’t live a in a shack” she corrected “it’s a very nice houseboat situated on a tropical island most people would die to visit lead alone live on.”

Glaring at her in silence he eventually said “don’t you think we’re entitled to some of that money?” He waved a hand towards the ostentatious house.

Fawn stared out her window. The simple answer was no she didn’t. That response she knew wasn’t the one Lee wanted to hear. Reaching across the center console she took his hand. “I think you need to let it go. Your mother didn’t feel she was being cheated so why should you?”

His cheeks turned red as he absorbed her words. “Your taking their side” the words seemed to explode from him.

“I’m not taking anyone’s side” she reached from the door handle. “Stop the car.”

“What” he shouted staring at her.

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“Stop. The. Car” she said each word in a firm clipped tone.

“What for” he blinked at her as if he was trying to translate what she was saying into a language he could understand.

“I’m getting out” she opened the door. They weren’t going very fast. She doubted she’d get hurt if she decided to jump out. She hated to ruin her outfit though. It was new.

“No you’re not” he reached across the seat attempting to shut the door. The car swerved.

“Watch out” Fawn cried as they narrowly missed the trees on the side of the road.

Slamming on the brakes Lee threw the car into park. “Fawn don’t do this” he pleaded.

The door opened an slammed shut a moment later. Shaking she leaned against the side of the car. “You need help she cried when he joined her.

“Me” he growled “I’m not the one trying to jump out of a moving car.”

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“No you’re the one obsessed about what you think is yours.” She pushed away from the car “I’m tired of hearing about how unfair you think it is.”

“It is unfair” he insisted.

“Have you ever stopped to think how it makes your mom feel?” She could see by his surprised expression it never entered his mind. “She’s the one who never go to live with her dad because of her psycho mother. Maybe she doesn’t want his money because it hurts too much.”

“I don’t see what that has to do with this” he said. “Why wouldn’t she want what’s hers?”

“You are so thick headed sometimes” she threw her hands in the air. “To her Eddie Bennett isn’t her father. She was raised by Casey. Her grandfather. That’s her dad.”

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“Biologically….”

“Stop. Just stop” she cried “Lee I hate it when you get like this. You need help.” She turned and started walking.

“Where are you going” he demanded.

“I’m going home” she called back to him.

“I’m drive you home” he said “just get in the car.”

“I’m not going there” she turned to look at him. “I’ll come get my things later when your at work. I love you but I can’t deal with this obsession of yours anymore.”

***

535

“Slow down” Francesca yelled lifting her head rubbing the top where it had bumped into the glove compartment.

“Sorry” he chuckled “the road’s bumpy.”

“It’s more like the guy driving” she swatted is shoulder.

“Did you find them” Peter asked flashing her his pearly whites in a devil may care smile.

“Nope” she shook her head putting her feet up on the dashboard.

“You shouldn’t do that” he said taking a sharp left turn.

“What” she frowned at him “put my feet on the dash? Why?”

“If we got into an accident” he explained “I wouldn’t want you getting hurt.”

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“I’m wearing a seat belt” she pointed out as if that would save her.

“You know what they say….”

Rolling her eyes “myth busters proved you won’t die just because your feet are on the dash in an accident. You’ll get mangled pretty good and probably lose your feet but not die.”

Giving her a sideways glance Peter said “how do you know these things?”

Shrugging unconcerned she said “I like knowing stuff. I’m a random font of information.”

“What time do you have to be at work” he asked dropping the subject.

“Five” she leaned back closing her eyes. “I’m taking a group out to do some night fishing.”

“Sounds like fun” he teased.

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Glaring at him “then you take them out. I can think of a hundred other things I’d rather be doing then taking three overweight old guys out on a boat to fish.”

“Put like that I can see why it doesn’t appeal to you” he chuckled a little. “Hey who’s that?”

Sitting up Francesca frowned “that looks like Lee’s girlfriend Fawn.”

“What is she doing out here alone” he slowed the truck down stopping behind the walking girl.

Francesca hopped out. “Fawn” she called the girl’s name.

Fawn looked up tears streaking her face “oh it’s you.”

“You sound relieved” Francesca teased “come on let us give you ride.”

Nodding she got into the truck while Francesca scooted to the middle next to Peter. “Thanks” she murmured taking the tissue Francesca handed her to dry her eyes.

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“Where to milady” Peter asked waggling his eyebrows at her.

“To Macy’s” she said firmly “I can’t handle seeing Lee at the moment.”

Peter and Francesca exchanged glances. Peter lived close enough to know when things weren’t going well between the two. Neither one of them had much control with their tempers flared. Stopping in front of Macy’s house Peter turned to Fawn. “If you need anything don’t hesitate to ask” he offered.

“I might need help getting my things when Lee is at work” she sniffed.

“Do you want us to talk to Lee for you” Francesca offered ignoring Peter’s shaking head.

“That’s awfully nice of you to offer” Fawn sighed “but no. Lee has to make a few decisions. I can’t make him change.”

“Alright” Francesca gave her a hug “let me know if you want to talk. I’m always available.”

“I’ll do that” Fawn mumbled moving towards the house she shared with Macy. She seldom stayed here anymore, at least not since she got engaged to Lee. That was beginning to feel like a terrible decision on the whole.

***

547

“It’s about time you got here” Keli grumbled as a boy joined her on the bench.

“Hey it’s not my fault you got roped into babysitting your bratty little brother” Dante scowled down at her. “I can leave. I get enough to crabby moody people at home.”

“It’s just we had plans” she pouted glaring across the playground at her brother.

“Did you tell your dad you had plans” Dante asked sitting back.

“Eew” she scrunched up her nose “why would I do that?”

“It might make things easier” he suggested.

“Like he cares” she crossed her arms. “All he cares about is the next skirt he can bag.”

“Is he still seeing your neighbor” he asked.

“Who else” she rolled her eyes “they were going on a date tonight which is why our plans went to shit.”

“She could be nice….”

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“Like your step mom” she asked rolling her eyes.

“She is nice. I just wish I had a say in whether or not they got married” he mumbled “it’s like he brought home a complete stranger to replace mom.”

“I suppose Erika would be a step up from Helena” she giggled. “That woman was the epitome of the blonde bimbo. Tristan and I made short work of her. She left screaming.”

“Did your dad like her” he asked imagining how his dad would feel if he and his brother did that to their new step mom.

“Hell no” shaking her head she said “he liked the way she made his dick feel. He didn’t love her. He was out the next night looking for a replacement.”

Wow….just …. Wow” shaking his head.

“What” she demanded “I thought you like it when I say it like it is.”

“Yeah but…” he looked away mumbling “that was really crude.”

“I meant it as a compliment” Keli said “it’s one of the few things I learned from Helena.” Reaching across she rubbed her hand across his package. “I could give you a demonstration…”

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Jumping to his feet Dante shook her hand off him. “I huh….not here….” he glanced nervously around the almost empty park.

“No one will know” she moved up close to him.

“What about your little brother” he said feeling like his brain was turning to mush while other parts were coming to life.

“It’s nothing he hasn’t seen before” she said.

“Ugh that’s just gross” he said all desire draining from him like being tossed into a pool of cold water.

“I was joking” she laughed “Tristen doesn’t know anything. Dad’s always somewhat discreet when he’s around.”

Walking away from her “that’s not something to joke about” reproof think in his words.

“You’re right I’m sorry” she followed after him “please don’t be mad at me.”

“I’m not mad” he lied “more grossed out.”

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“What’s up with them” Maura asked watching the two teenagers.

“Who knows” Tristen shrugged “it’s my sister. She’s probably being gross.”

“I have a sister her age” Maura nodded knowingly “she’s cool though.”

“I wish I had a cool sister” Tristen said “I’m jealous.”

“Don’t be” Maura shrugged “Olivia can be gross too.”

“How can she be gross and cool at the same time” he asked.

“It’s gross when she’s kissing on girls” Maura said scrunching up her face.

“My sister kisses boys and that’s gross” he said.

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“Olivia says kissing girls is better than boys” Maura added “I don’t know what makes it different though. I’ve never kissed anyone except my dad and he doesn’t count.”

“You want to try it” Tristen asked.

“You mean like now” she asked looking around.

“No” he shook his head “when we’re older.”

“Oh” she smiled relieved “I’d rather wait too.”

Nodding he pointed “want to swing?”

“Last one there is a rotten egg” Maura challenged.

“No fair” he cried chasing after her.

***

550

“Have you had a chance to talk to Raven yet” Hazel asked sitting beside her husband on the couch.

Absently Traz lifted his eyes from the magazine he was reading. “Talk? About what?”

Sitting up Hazel glared at him. “Don’t tell me you forgot about what we discussed.”

Blinking he looked away from her “I uh…”

“You did forget” she accused shaking her head.

“Not exactly” he said slowly meeting her eyes “I just don’t know where to begin.”

“How about in the same place you would if you caught him kissing a girl” she suggested.

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“But it wasn’t a girl he was kissing” he objected. “Don’t you think it’d be less awkward if you talked to him?”

“Less awkward for whom? You? Him” she asked raising an eyebrow at him.

“Yes to all of it” he said “I don’t know what to say to him.”

Hazel silently contemplated what he said before asking “are you embarrassed that your son is into guys?”

“What” he cried shocked “no of course not. Love is love regardless of sex.”

“Then what’s your problem” she demanded watching him closely.

Squirming beneath her gaze he said “it’s different. I don’t know why but it is. I can’t relate to him wanting to be with a guy when I’ve never even considered it.”

549

“Is that all” she laughed “honey it’s no different. He likes boys. He has the same urges and desires you do except for it’s girls.”

“I guess it’s me who is making more of this then I should” he admitted.

“Yeah just a little” she agreed “I just want to make sure he knows we’re here for him and that he’s using protection.”

“We did have the sex talk with him…”

“I know” she gazed into her husband’s eyes “but I also remember the way we were when we were his age. I’m not ready to be a grandma yet.”

“Raven has a good head on his shoulders” Traz objected “I’m sure he’s doing the responsible thing.”

Raising an eyebrow she said “uh huh I’m sure my parents thought the same thing. It won’t hurt to remind him of a few things especially since he likes boys. He may not even be thinking they could get pregnant.”

Chapter 13 – Unique / Chapter 15 – Paint a Picture

Glitter – Chapter 13 – Unique

522

It felt like a million hands reaching for him taking the child from his weakening grasp. Falling to his knees he watched someone perform CPR on the toddler. The blonde woman was stroking the boy’s wet hair back. Staggering to his feet he approached the group. “How is he” he asked between gasps. His chest still labored to draw in enough oxygen to breathe.

His question went unanswered until the crowd around the boy erupted in applause. “What’s happening” he asked someone standing next to him.

Turning with moist sad eyes the older woman replied. “The dear little darling…”

Panic rose inside him. He’d been too late. He failed. So lost in his thoughts he didn’t notice the crowd thin around him. He saw the blonde woman cradling her son in her arms. The child’s eyes were mercifully closed. He was about to leave when his eyes met hers.

“Thank you” she murmured holding her hand out to him. “You saved my little boy’s life.”

“I’m sorry” he said locked inside his own thoughts.

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“Sorry” she frowned moving aside for the paramedics who just arrived on scene.”For what?”

“I tried” he stammered puzzled watching the paramedics.

“You did more than try” she hugged him.

“Oof” his meager air supply whooshed from him. Blinking he tried to clear his vision from the black dots dancing in front of him. “He’s alright” he said shocked “I thought he was…” He didn’t finish his thought as his body decided it was a good time to turn to jelly. He felt himself falling forwards. The blonde woman reached for him but her hands slid along his arms doing little to keep him upright.

Several minutes later he came to inside the ambulance. An oxygen mask firmy covering his nose and mouth. It wasn’t all bad when his eyes found the pretty blonde smiling down at him like beautiful angel. “You must think I’m an idiot” he mumbled attempting to remove the mask and sit up.

She gently touched his hand stilling it “leave that alone” she ordered.

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Laying back he closed his eyes only to open them with a jerk at the sound of a little boy asking “mama?” Castel watched as the blonde turned lifting a small boy into her lap.

“Mama’s right here sweetheart” she squeezed the child in her arms. “That’s the man who save you” she explained with a smile.

Her smile warmed him from the inside out. Castel watched as the little boy whispered something in his mother’s ear.

“He wants to know if you’ll come to our house” she said her eyes hopeful.

Castel was silent considering the invitation. Lifting the oxygen mask he said “it depends.”

“On” she asked raising an eyebrow at him.

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“If you tell me your name” he gave her his most charming grin. “I was told to never talk to strangers.”

“I’m Edelle Bennett” she said “and this is my son. Will you come to dinner Saturday night?”

“I’d love to” he grinned lying back wondering what fate had in store for him.

“Good” she grinned back at him. “Now put that mask back on. Can’t let my hero faint again now can I?”

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“I didn’t faint” he protested.

“What do you call falling on your face” she asked with a giggle.

“I was overcome by your beauty” he said.

“That has to be one of the cheesiest things I’ve ever heard” she laughed. “Now up that mask back on before you say something else that’ll make me regret inviting you to dinner.”

“Yes ma’am” he said complying to her wishes.

***

515

Prisha pointed at the paper “and you wonder why I don’t like it when you bring Neel to the beach with you.”

Ajay glanced at the paper. He was aware of the story of the near drowning of a two year old toddler. “The mother admitted to turning her back on the child. He wandered off. The beach isn’t dangerous.”

“What if Neel wanders off” she pressed her lips together forming a thin hard line. “You can’t tell me you watch him every second of every minute.”

“Of course not” he took a sip of his coffee “but there’s no reason to assume that Neel will do the same thing that other little boy did. Neel has been taught not to go into the water without someone being with him. Plus he knows how to swim.”

“Tell me what your son is doing right now” she challenged.

“He’s playing with his blocks” he smirked knowing he was right by the slight widening of his wife’s dark eyes. They expressed her surprise. “Don’t you trust me” he asked.

“It’s not a matter of trust” she mumbled “things happen so quickly.”

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“No more here than at the beach” he reached across the table taking her hand. “Remember when Kaia wandered off at Neel’s age?”

Nodding she gave him a stiff lipped smile. “I was so scared she’d get run over. She was so little and fearless…”

“I know” he said softly “I share your concerns but we can’t lock our kids in the house either.”

“I know” she squeezed his hand “I do trust you. I just worry. He’s so little.”

“I worry too” he said getting up and planting a kiss on top of her head.

“Will Kaia be there” Prisha asked watching him as he gathered his things.

“I think she has to work” he looked up “I’ll probably see her and her friends this afternoon.”

513

“Do you know if her friend has mentioned anything about her nosebleeds to her parents yet” she inquired.

Ajay gave her a blank look “um.”

“Unity” she prompted.

“Oh her” he shook his head mystified “I doubt it.”

“Do you think we should mention it” she asked “I keep thinking if it were my daughter I’d want someone to tell me if they thought something was wrong.”

Raising an eyebrow at her he just stared at her. They both knew that wasn’t true. She’d be upset if someone hinted that she didn’t know something like that about her kids. “I think we should mind our own business” he could tell that wasn’t what Prisha wanted to hear either. “If you’re that concerned I’ll mention it to Kaia again when I see her.”

Nodding she got up to retrieve her purse. “Be sure to keep on eye on Neel.”

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“I will” he promised “he’ll do no unauthorized swimming.”

She tried not to laugh but she could only refrain for so long “that was so lame.”

“but you still smiled” he gloated wrapping his arms around her trim waist.

“When will you grow up” she complained.

“Do you really want me to” he asked waggling an eyebrow at her.

“Just once I’d like to know what it feels lit to be married to a stuffy old man” she pushed away from him. Walking towards the door she paused “I’ll pick up Chinese on my way home for dinner.”

He nodded watching her leave with a smile before he leaned down to pick up Neel to go to the beach.

***

510

Kaia nudged Aubrey forward. “Go” she urged.

“She’s your customer” she objected.

“Not anymore” Kaia pushed her friend forward “you’ll thank me later.”

“Oh hi” Olivia greeted when she recognized Aubrey. “I didn’t know you worked here.”

“Err” she choked trying to find something to say “yeah I do.” Glancing over her shoulder she tried to ignore the thumbs up sign Kaia gave her. “Can I help you” she defaulted to the well rehearsed lines she was supposed to say to their customers.

“I’m really just looking” she said pulling a shirt off the rack. “What do you think” she held the orange floral top up to her neck.

“No” Aubrey shook her head. Walking to another rack she pulled out a more subtle burnt orange. “This is more you I think.”

509

“Hmm not bad” the girl agreed “do you have it in yellow?”

“Yellow” Aubrey thought for a moment “not in this style.”

“Oh” the girl’s bottom lip pushed out “I really wanted something to brighten my wardrobe.” Walking to another rack she pulled out a bright yellow shirt out. “That the right color but the wrong style.”

“Mindy just finished a new line. I’m sure it’s something you’ll like. The style is fun and flirty. Its upstairs thought.” Aubrey turned to lead the way to the second floor.

Following her Olivia looked around the second in wonder. “Wow this is so cool.”

“You haven’t been up here before” Aubrey asked. “The best stuff is up here. At least the newest creations.”

“Well” Olivia bit her bottom lip “others have offered but I was kind of hoping that you would be the one to bring me up here.”

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“Um” Aubrey looked around somewhat confused “I thought you…um.” She stopped before she could be accused of criticizing a potential client. “I can’t let you go any further then this area. The rest is off limits to unauthorized personnel.” She hesitated unsure what the girl’s intentions were “I’ll go get the shirt. I’m sure you’ll like it.”

Walking towards the display rack she could feel Olivia’s eyes on her the whole way. Taking several deep breaths while she searched for the garment she wanted. Her hands shook as she removed it from its place.

“Oh that is lovely” Olivia clapped her hands squealing excitedly.

“You haven’t even tried it on yet” Aubrey pointed towards a door “the changing room is over there.”

“No need” Olivia giggled taking the shirt from the hanger to hold it up to her chest. “I know it’s perfect.”

“You really should try it on” Aubrey urged “there are no returns once you purchase…”

“Oh I know” the girl winked at her pulling the shirt she was wearing over her head and tossing it to the floor.

505

“You can’t undress here” Aubrey cried attempting to push the girl towards the dressing room. “Someone could come up here.”

“No they won’t” Olivia protested “I timed it just right so that it’ll be right before closing time. Besides what’s the difference if I’m in my bra or a bikini top?”

“There’s a big difference” Aubrey insisted.

Ignoring her Olivia twirled around “how does it look” she asked.

Reluctantly Aubrey appraised the girl smiling in front her. Grudgingly she said “it looks good.” She had to admit the material of the shirt hugged the girls curves just right.

“Good. I’ll take it” she said walking confidently towards the stairs. “You can ring me up now.”

Shaking her head Aubrey picked up the girls discarded clothing and followed her down to the tills. “Mindy” she gulped upon finding her boss standing beside the registers.

504503

“It’s past closing time” she said with an impatient wave of her hand.

“I…um just need to ring her order up” Aubrey stammered. She wondered how she was going to do that with the girl inside the garment.

“I’m sorry for holding you up” Olivia said sounding sweet as honey. “I couldn’t make up my mind. I just needed a new outfit for my date tonight.”

“Is that why you’re wearing it before you’ve purchased it” Mindy asked her tone not disguising her displeasure.

“I couldn’t be bothered to change once I put this wonderful shirt on. It felt so nice against my skin. Anything else would be a disappointment.”

The girl knew how to schmooze Aubrey thought while trying not to giggle.

Reluctantly Mindy smiled “hurry up so I can close.”

***

530

Castel stood outside Edelle’s house. He carried a bottle of wine in one hand and a stuffed bear in the other. He felt a little silly but somehow the boy had gotten inside his heart. He kept telling himself that it was because the mother was super hot but the truth was he’d spent way more time picking out the bear then he did the wine.

The door opened before he was able to knock. “I see you were able to make it” she greeted him with a peck on the cheek “Avery will love the bear.”

“I hope so” he grinned glad he had taken the time. “You wouldn’t believe how long it took me to choose this bear.”

She gave him a knowing grin but before she could say anything a high pitched excited voice interrupted her. “Ako man” Avery cried running up to Castel throwing his arms around his legs.

“Ako man” he raised his eyebrows at Edelle.

529

“That’s your new name” she said patting her son’s soft curls. “He’s been asking for you everyday since the beach incident.”

“I’ve been called worse” Castel said handing her the wine.

“Thank you” she smiled “we may have to save this for another time. My cousin brought wine as well.”

“Cousin” he asked trying to keep his disappointment from showing.

Ushering him inside she waved a hand towards a couple in the living room. “This is my cousin Lee and his fiance Fawn.”

Fawn’s eyes grew wide like she somehow recognized him “I have to know. Are you related to the Hurst’s of Bridgeport?”

528527

“Um” his eyes darted around the room. No matter how old he got he still had a difficult time admitting who his family was. But one thing he learned from being with Blair if he wanted a relationship he had to be honest. Taking a deep breath he nodded mumbling “they’re my parents.” He didn’t miss the way Lee’s eyes brightened at that bit of information. It was like he just rose several rungs on a some invisible ladder just because of who his parents were.

“Weren’t you engaged to Blair Gray at one time” Fawn continued displaying her deplorable tabloid knowledge.

“Yes” he kept his answer curt hoping she’d drop the topic soon.

“Is it true she dumped you to get with Bentley Adams” she continued to ask questions like she didn’t think he had any feelings at all. At least that’s the impression he got from the interrogation.

“I’m sure he doesn’t want to discuss his ex” Edelle said coming to his rescue.

“If you ask me it’s his ex who made the wrong the choice” Lee observed pouring wine into a glass for Castel.

526525

“It wasn’t Blair’s fault that things ended the way they did” Castel murmured taking a sip from the wine.

“Castel would you mind helping me in the kitchen” Edelle asked taking him by the arm.

“Sure” he smiled down at her.

Entering the kitchen Edelle said “don’t let Lee get to you. He likes to talk and pretend he’s more important than he is.” She handed him some tongs “will you toss the salad for me?”

Taking the tongs he began to toss the salad. “He brought up a few bad memories” he admitted finding her easy to talk to. “I wasn’t honest with Blair and it created a barrier between us when things came to light and instead of explaining why I became angry saying and doing things that repelled her.”

She leaned her head to the side considering his words “sounds like you learned a few things from that experience.”

531

“I hope so” he grinned at her “I still find it difficult to see their smiling faces from the tabloids as I stand in line at the store.”

“Oh dear” she shook her head “then you meet Fawn. I swear that girl must memorize every word she reads from those magazines.” She covered her mouth giggling “I’m sorry. I honestly didn’t know she’d do that. They’re really not that bad. I promise.”

“You owe me big time” he teased.

“I’ll let you take me out to supper next time” she said.

524

“How’s that paying me back for my pain and suffering” he asked.

“You do want to take me out on a date don’t you? Just the two of us” she asked stepping closer batting her eyelashes at him.

“Put like that how can I say no” he asked going back to tossing the salad.

“You can’t. You may as well quit trying” she nudged his shoulder with hers exchanging smiles before going back to work.

Chapter 12 – Energized / Chapter 14 – Rare Expressions

Glitter – Chapter 12 – Energized

499

Douglas leaned against his car watching the passing tourists as they oohed and awed over some interesting bit of fauna. To his untrained eye it was just like any other plant. Shaking his head he turned at the sound of his name being called. He returned Kyle’s wave “I’m so glad you could meet me” he enthused “my sister has me running all over the place getting stuff for her party.”

“I thought it was just going to be a few friends” Kyle said beginning to worry that he was intruding where he didn’t belong.

“That’s what I thought” Douglas shrugged unconcerned. “I’m hoping with you along I can show you around the island and get whatever she wants.”

“You want me to come with you” he asked “wouldn’t you rather do the errands so you can get back to the party?”

“Not really” shaking his head emphatically “Sandi will just put me to work decorating or making some dip or something equally boring.”

“Maybe this isn’t such a good idea” Kyle said again.

498

“Don’t you want to spend time with me” Douglas asked sounding hurt. “I know errands aren’t fun but it’ll give us time to get to know each other.”

“I like the sound of that” Kyle admitted. “I’m not so sure about the party. Your sister might not want a stranger crashing it.”

Waving his hand Douglas dismissed his concerns. “Besides Sandi said I could invite anyone I wanted.”

Smiling Kyle asked “where to first?”

“I have to pick up a few things at the store” he explained holding up a list. “My sister likes to have people over but her organizing skills needs work.”

“That’s a long list” Kyle shook his head “what if we can’t find all of that?”

497

“Then I’m a dead man” Douglas laughed. “Seriously though Sandi wouldn’t hurt a fly much less her little brother. She’ll just be disappointed. She’ll make me feel about two inches high because I couldn’t do the impossible.”

“When is the party to start” he asked daunted by the task.

“People will start to arrive around three” Douglas shrugged. “Once you get to know Sandi you’ll learn to go with the flow.” Getting into the car he glanced over at Kyle “aren’t you hot in that jacket?”

“Maybe a little” he chuckled a self-consciously pushing the sleeves up. “I’m not used to the weather yet. I keep expecting it to cool off.”

“Stick with me I’ll have you dressing like a native” Douglas assured him as he merged into traffic. He mumbled something about tourists blocking the road to take stupid pictures of stupid trees.

“Have you lived here long” Kyle asked once they got out at the grocery store.

496

“Nope” he picked out a cart and started towards the door “my sister and I moved here a couple years ago. I didn’t want to go to college and she” he shrugged ruefully “was getting over a broken heart.”

“Oh” Kyle didn’t know what to say “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be” Douglas said “the guy was a jerk. She deserved better than that guy.”

By the time they finished the errands they arrived at the house a little before two. Sandi glared at her brother as he came in loaded down with bags. “It’s about time” she cried in a frenzy “people will be arriving any minute and I’m never going to be ready.”

“Take a chill pill” Douglas laughed at her “your parties are always epic even when you’re scrambling to get things done.” Nodding towards his friend “this is Kyle. I invited him to the party.”

***

495

Kyle gave the girl a sketchy wave before being pulled away by Douglas. “Never mind her” he said “Sandi always freaks out right before a party. She wants everything to be perfect. When it’s not she takes it out one whoever is closest.”

“Which is usually you” Kyle added.

Nodding Douglas steered him towards a closed door. “We can hand out in my room until she settles down.”

Sandi watched her brother and his friend disappear leaving her with the groceries to put away. “Ingrates” she muttered under her breath.

“Hey” a familiar voice called from the door “hope we’re not too early.”

“You’re right on time to help” she squealed when Rex lifted her from the floor in his customary greeting. “Put me down” she demanded.

502

“Aw you’re no fun” he pouted.

Grant asked from where he was leaning against the wall “anything we need us to do?”

“Since my brother abandoned me” Sandi squealed again as Rex twirled her around. “Stop” she giggled hitting him on the shoulder.

“Ow” he whined “that hurt.”

Rolling his eyes Grant inserted himself between his twin and the girl. “What do you need us to do?”

“You’re no fun” Rex whined “all work and no fun is so boring.”

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Shaking her head at the twins she asked “how can anyone mistake you for each other? Seriously your so different from each other. Like night and day.”

“It’s the people who don’t know us that get tricked” Grant explained going to answer the door. “January” he greeted warmly.

Rolling his eyes Rex said “that’s the last we’ll see of him.”

“Has he asked her out yet” Sandi asked  handing him a bag of chips and a bowl.

“She asked him before he worked up the nerve” Rex chuckled. “You should have seen the grin he had plastered on his face.”

“January’s a sweet girl” Sandi said defending her friend. “It’s her brother you have to watch out for.”

486

“Don’t tell Grant that” Rex begged “ he’ll want me to meet the brother in his place.”

“I won’t” she promised “I like your face the way it is. I wouldn’t want Brandon rearranging it.”

Taking the bowl he had filled with chips into the living room he found Grant cuddling on the couch with a girl. “Hey” he called “I thought you were going to help.”

“Got a better offer” Grant said between kisses January was peppering him with.

“Ugh…get a room” Rex groaned shaking his head as he went to answer the door as more guests arrived.

He found three girls waiting on the porch. “Hey” he smiled at them all.

“Let me in before I lose my mind” Montana pleaded pushing past him. “Those two love birds are driving me crazy.”

487

“It’s not much better in there” Rex warned as she moved entered the living room.

“Where’s Doug” she asked thinking she could at least hang out with him.

“In his room I think” Rex shrugged “what’s up with her” he asked Dakota.

“She’s upset that Macy and I have decided to make it official” Dakota explained beaming at the girl beside her.

“Moving a bit fast aren’t you” Rex frowned hoping that they didn’t give Sandi any ideas. They had been dating a few months longer than Dakota and Macy.

“Fast” Macy asked “what do you mean?”

501

“Dakota said you made it official” it was his turn to be confused “I thought she meant you were engaged….”

“Oh hell no” Macy shook her head tossing her pink braid from side to side. “We’re dating exclusively now. It’s going to be a long time before we take it to the next level. Engaged…” she shivered.

“You make it sound like it’s a bad thing” Dakota said with a frown.

“I’ve seen too many of my sorority sisters get married and they’re all miserable.” Taking her girlfriends hand “I want to have fun. Enjoy life while I’m still young and able.”

“My parents were married young after meeting in college” Dakota said pulling away from Macy “They’ve been happily married for over twenty years.”

“They’re the exception then” Macy let her hand drop as she walked into the kitchen to see if Sandi needed any help.

***

488489

Montana threw open the door to Doug’s room gasping when she found him sitting on some guy’s lap. “I’m sorry” she squeaked backing from the room.

“Montana” she heard Doug call after her. She didn’t stop preferring to pretend she didn’t hear him. She hadn’t expected her best friend to be with someone. Was she the only single person here? Maybe Dakota’s harsh words about her being an old maid were true. Maybe she was going to be the one watching all her friends fall in love and leave her behind.

She found her twin bickering with Macy about something inconsequential. Grant had his tongue down January’s throat. Sandi was squealing in the kitchen as Rex chased her. So normal. Yet she felt so alone. She hadn’t realized how much she had counted on Douglas always being there to hang out with her. Now he too had left her behind. Found someone else.

“Montana” Douglas said having come out to find her “I’m sorry. I should have told you I invited Kyle over to hang out with us.”

“It’s ok” she assured him attempting to give him a smile. “I should have knocked first.”

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“We weren’t doing anything” he said not sure why she was acting like she had caught them in bed together.

“I shouldn’t have come” she cried moving towards the door. “I’ll call you later” she said as she opened the door to leave.

“At least let me give you a ride home” Douglas offered following her.

“I want to walk” she gave him a brief smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Please I just want to be alone.”

“Alright” he agreed reluctantly “text me when you get home so that I don’t worry about you.”

“I will” she promise. When the door closed behind her she took several deep breaths before setting off in the general direction of home.

492

A heavy sense of melancholy weighed heavily upon her shoulders. Her feet slowed as she passed the entrance to the beach. She remembered how Jason once told her how he liked to go to the beach when he was having a bad day. He had said something lame about the the waves were soothing. A wry smile replaced the frown she’d been wearing since leaving the party. She had a pretty good idea Jason’s interest in the beach had less to do with the waves than it had to do with the surfers on the waves. Nodding she decided she could do with the distraction too.

Taking a detour she walked down towards the beach. She knew several surfers claimed this beach had the best waves. She couldn’t tell what made a wave good or not having never surfed in her life. She had wanted to take lessons when she was a kid but she knew it would freak her more timid father out. He no doubt would have worried about her being bit by sharks.

Wishing she had brought along her sunglasses she raised a hand to shield her eyes. She jumped to her feet searching the horizon for the surfer that had gone down. She felt time slowly tick by as he failed to emerge from the water and reclaim is board that was being tossed back and forth on the waves. Had he hit his head? When she thought all was lost his head broke the surface causing her sigh in relief upon seeing him. He looked a bit dazed as he swam towards his board and rested on it for several minutes before making his way to shore.

 

For some unknown reason she found herself walking towards him. She watched as he planted his board in the sand and plopped himself beside it. “I saw you wipe out” she blurted out “are you alright?” Her eyes bulged out at what she had done. She never approached strangers much less talked to them.

Something flickered in his eyes, annoyance, anger, embarrassment. Maybe a bit of all three. Opening his eyes he seemed to have changed his mind on whatever he was going to say and instead flashed her his trademark grin. “Just a little winded” he said making light of his situation.

“Your bleeding” she gently touched his forehead inspecting his head wound. “You were under so long I was you must have hit your head on something.”

One eyebrow rose “you were watching me?”

“Well I…I…um” her cheeks turned as red as her hair “I should go…”

 

“Hey don’t go” he reached up grabbing her hand “I’m not upset that you were. I’m kind of flattered that you were.”

“Um” she stared at his hand. His fingers wrapped around her wrist sending electric shock waves up her arm. She wanted to run. To hide. To stay. It was altogether confusing.

“I’m Tanner” he introduced himself smiling down at her.

“I’m…” she paused almost afraid of saying her name. She always got some smart remark about her being named after Hannah Montana or you know the state. “Montana” she mumbled after he had given her a questioning look.

***

472473

Castel tossed the magazine to the sand at his feet. He should have known better than to pick a random magazine off the sales rack to read. Why seeing their smiling faces still bothered him he didn’t know. After ten years he should have gotten over the sting of her rejection. It’s not like she wasted any time reconnecting with Bentley Adams again. The mention of the guys name made his heart beat speed up and his hands to shake. Maybe if Blair had married someone else he wouldn’t still be hanging onto the sting and pain her rejection caused.

The shrill screams of a woman in distress jolted him from his sulk. Glancing around he found a young blonde woman struggling against the current screaming. Standing up he shielded his eyes against the harsh glare of the sun. At first he couldn’t see what was causing the woman’s distress and panic.

 

Running towards her he couldn’t help but wonder what he hoped to accomplish. He was no one’s hero.

“My little boy can’t swim” she cried latching onto his arm.

“Who” he asked confused.

“My son. He was playing right there” she pointed towards a few sand pails and shovels. “I turned my back just for a second….

Her terrified eyes pleading with him to do something galvanized him into action. He scanned the ocean spotting what he hoped was the boy’s head bobbing to the surface. Without thinking he took off running. His Dulce and Gabbana sunglasses sliding from his face to the sand to be swept into the ocean a moment later by the waves. His shoes followed a moment later as he dove into the ocean swimming in the direction he had seen the fleeting glimpse of a little blonde head.

 

He floated in place gulping air into his aching oxygen starved lungs. The beach seemed to far away and impossible to reach. All he could see was water is every direction. Wave upon wave crashed over his head. Shivering he imagined what it must like to a small child. Swimming in circles determined to find the child.

He was about to give up, retreat back to the beach exhausted and defeated. With flagging energy he swam towards something bobbing on the surface. As he got closer he could see it was the body of a little boy about 2 years old. With dread he reached for him turning his face upwards and breathing into his mouth hoping he wasn’t too late.

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Clutching the child to his chest as a wave crashed over top of the driving them both beneath the surface. Struggling he kicked to the surface. He gulped for air then breathed into the boys mouth again before making the agonizing trek back to shore.

Chapter 11 – Free Spirit / Chapter 13 – Unique