Glitter – Chapter 23 – Must be Nice

Author’s note: This chapter comes with a trigger warning due to mentions of assault and drugs. Due to the sensitive nature of these subjects it may make some readers uncomfortable. Please stop reading if you do not wish to continue beyond this point. The title of the chapter comes from a Nickelback song that seemed to fit the chapter.

745

Cassidy joined her husband on the couch. The worried frown on his handsome face prompted her to ask “is something wrong?”

“I don’t know” he shook his head “it’s more a feeling than anything else.”

“Micah right” she asked taking his hand.

Nodding he sighed. “I wish he’d talk to me.”

She could hear his frustration rising in his voice. “Have you tried going to him” she asked.

He started to nod than stopped. “I was hoping he’d come to me.”

743

“Honey I love you but that’s a bit naive” she kindly rebuked him. “He’s a teen boy who feels his dad committed the biggest sin there is by marrying someone closer to his age than his dad’s age.”

Running his fingers through his hair Quentin groaned. “I really didn’t think this through.”

Frowning Cassidy pulled away from him. “Are you saying you regret marrying me?”

Reaching for her hand Quentin attempted to apologize. “No sweetie. That’s not what I’m saying.”

Stepping back she crossed her arms. “That’s what it sounds like.”

Going to her he tried to put his arms around her. “Sweetie please understand. I don’t regret marrying you. Not ever. I just wish we did it another way. One that didn’t alienate my kids.”

744

“That….” she stepped closer. “I understand.”

Leaning forward he wrapped her in his arms. “What I want is a way to go back to the way things were before they felt I betrayed them. I hate feeling like I don’t have any part in their lives.”

“If we give them time I think they’ll come around” Cassidy said.

“How much time” he asked “too much and they’ll think I don’t care. Too little they’ll think I’m pushing them.”

“I don’t know” she tried to swallow her growing frustration. Sometimes she felt he expected her to be an expert in raising kids. She wasn’t even close. It wasn’t until she met Quentin’s sons that she ever had to deal with kids in any way.

“Dad” Dante’s voice interrupted them “Can I talk to you?”

742741

“Son you’re step mother and I are in the middle of something” Quentin said. Looking down when Cassidy squeezed his hand “what” he asked.

“Don’t push him away” she urged “you just got done saying how much you missed them coming to you. Now when they do you tell him to go away.”

“That’s not….fine” turning to his son “what do you want?”

“I’ll come back later” Dante said retreating towards the stairs.

“No” Cassidy said with a smile towards the teenager. “Talk to your dad.” Leaving the room she gave them no choice but to talk to each other.

“What do you need” he asked resigning himself.

740739

“Um” Dante looked around the room “are you sure you want to talk?”

Quentin could hear the uncertainty in his voice making him regret his earlier rebuff. “No we can talk. What’s on your mind?” He was expecting girlfriend troubles not anything of real importance.

“I think Micah needs help” Dante blurted out in one breath “the party’s he’s been going to are known for their drugs…..”

“What” Quentin asked not understanding what his son was telling him.

“You know” he shrugged “a what the media calls a pharm party. Everyone brings some prescription drug and everyone’s contribution is put into a community bowl. Everyone helps themselves to whatever’s in it.”

“Are you saying your brother is doing drugs” his voice rose exploding in the room.

***

737738

The room was warm, bordering on uncomfortable. The loud music vibrated through her body. Someone’s hand slid up her thigh as they ground against her. “I need to sit down” she shouted above the music.

Nodding Micah led her to a small love seat. “I’ll get you something to drink” he offered.

“No” she tugged on his hand “I want you to stay.”

Her pull on his hand wasn’t great but it was enough to convince him to stay. Sitting on the cushion beside her he grinned. “This is nice” he said clumsily dragging his arm across her shoulders.

His elbow hitting the side of her face almost giving her a black eye. “Hey watch it” she warned rubbing her cheek.

736735

“Sorry” he mumbled.

“You better be” she yawned “I really should go home.”

“But the party’s just getting started” he whined.

“But I’m tired” she yawned again. “I have to get up early tomorrow.”

“But it’s summer” he protested “no one has to get up early in the summer.”

“Thy do if they have a job” she pushed him away from her.

“I know what you need” he said getting up almost knocking her off the love seat in his haste.

734

Glaring after him she fixed her hair while she waited. She really should leave but she didn’t want to be rude. She was sure no one would notice except Micah and even he wouldn’t care for long.

“Here” he said holding his hand out.

She looked dubiously at the little pills in the palm of his hand. Shaking her head “what are they?”

“They’ll pep you up” he assured her.

“I don’t know” she said doubtfully.

733

“Come on. Just try it” he begged “I want to party and you never do anything fun.”

Hesitantly she reached for the pills. “Maybe I try one. See how it affects me.”

“What are you worried about” he asked blinking at her his eyes glazing over.

“Well” she remembered all the meds and painkillers her dad was on. All the side effects were bad to awful.

“Take the plunge” he encouraged “no one’s gotten hurt from taking pills. Doctors prescribe them to people all the time.”

732731

Closing her eyes to popped the pills into her mouth. For once she wanted to be like everyone else. Not the girl who couldn’t do anything because she had to hurry home to take care of her dad.

An hour later the room spinning around her. “I need to sit” she yelled but she wasn’t sure who she wanted to hear her. Reaching for the wall she fell forward onto her knees. Her insides felt as if they were on fire. Her stomach heaved spilling all its contents onto the floor but it didn’t make her feel much better. Others around her were moaning and clutching their stomachs. Micah lay on the floor his eyes closed his face a chalky white.

The room tilted and swam before her eyes. Jerkily she pulled her phone out with unsteady fingers she pressed the numbers to summon help. She passed out before she heard the emergency dispatcher speak in her ear.

***

730

“What’s up with every teenager tonight” Malcolm demanded as he walked into the break room. Jeremy was already sipping a lukewarm cup of coffee.

Looking up from reading the newspaper spread out in front of him Jeremy said “it feels like every kid is on a death wish tonight.”

“What’s it been? Two fatal car accidents and a suicide so far” Malcolm asked sitting down across the table.

“So far and the nights not over yet” he sighed. “Night’s like this I hate being a doctor.”

“Be thankful you don’t have to work in the ER every weekend” Malcolm said.

“Believe me I am” Jeremy agreed grimacing at the now cold coffee in his cup. “It’s bad enough having to work it once every couple of months.”

729

A nurse stuck her head inside the room. “Heads up doctors. We’re getting more casualties.”

“Another car accident” Malcolm groaned knocking back his coffee.

“Multiple overdoses” the nurse said “a bunch of kids decided to throw themselves a party.”

“Stupid kids” Jeremy complained getting up and tossing the remnants of his coffee in the trash.

To the nurse Malcolm said “make sure we have a large supply of activated charcoal on hand. We may be needing that tonight.”

“Already done” she said as the emergency doors whisked open and the first victims were rolled inside.

Jeremy turned around shock freezing him in place.

728

“Daddy” his daughter’s voice breaking him from his trance. “I’m sorry daddy.”

“It’s going to be alright sweetie” he blinked back the hot tears stinging his eyes. Turning to the nurse “go get another doctor in here stat.”

“Right” she left at a near run.

“Sweetie” he pressed down on her abdomen “does this hurt?” His heart shattered when she shrieked in pain. “Do you know what and how much of it you took?”

Shaking her head crying “it really hurts daddy. Please make it stop.”

727

“We’re going to do everything we can sweetie” he stepped back to allow the other doctor room to work. A tug on his arm caused him to look down at a nurse.

“ Doctor you’re needed in exam room one” she said.

He wanted to scream at her he couldn’t be bothered but he knew there was nothing he could do in here. His little girl was in the best hands possible and he would be better off helping someone else.

Following the nurse to exam room one he took a deep breath forcing the sense of dread filling his stomach away. He looked down at another teenager writhing in pain. “Someone find out what these kids were talking” he shouted at anyone within earshot.

It was going to be a long hard night before things calmed down. He later found out that out of the twenty kids that had been brought in there had been two fatalities. Six in critical condition. The rest were resting comfortably

***

725726

Jace walked along the quiet beach. Seagulls called at each other occasionally swooping down to inspect the lone figure walking below them. Jace hated their raucous calls and the way it make him feel they were about to attack. It stirred up uncomfortable feelings he was reenacting a scene from an old movie he’d seen once and thoroughly expected a whole flock of birds to swoop down and peck him to death.

Stopping, he turned wishing he weren’t alone. It was his own fault. It was his decision to go for a walk thus separating himself from his friends. The fact that no one had noticed convinced him that he really was invisible. A feeling he’d had more and more lately. Not that he blamed Jason. If anyone deserved to be lost in a world all his own it was him. It was good to see him happy not to mention that Damian was hot!

A soft mewling sound caught his attention. Looking around he tried to make out where the sound was coming from. His first instinct was to run. Anything making that sound couldn’t be good. Taking a deep breath he tried to calm himself as he searched for the source of the sound. “OMG” he muttered recognizing a nearby figure.

The man’s eyes fluttered open, red from tears. He moaned trying to curl into a tight ball as if he were afraid of Jace coming towards him. His arms were wrapped tightly around his middle holding his shirt closed.

724

“Are you alright” Jace asked reaching out to touch the man’s shoulder.

Flinching at his touch the man attempted to scurry further into the bush behind him.

Raising his hands up holding his palms out “I’m not going hurt you” Jace assured him.

“I want to go home” he whispered in response to Jace’s words.

Frowning Jace knelt beside him. He could tell from the bruises on the man’s face and the lack of buttons and tears in his clothing that something horrible had happened. “Would you like me to call someone to come help you” he offered as he scanned the darkening beach.

Tears running down his cheeks “I want to go home.”

“Where did you park” Jace asked wondering how he’d gotten there.

“The resort” the words were spoken from swollen lips.

“Can you walk” Jace asked. When the man almost fell flat on his face in his attempt to gather his feet beneath him Jace reached out to help him. “Perhaps it’s better if I take you to my place. It’s not too far away. Probably closer than the resort.”

From the blank look on the guy’s face he doubted his words even registered. It was a longer walk than usual as Jace kept having to stop and rest. He wasn’t built to carry someone larger than he was. The whole process was an awkward experience. Upon reaching his little bungalow on the beach Jace helped him to the couch frowning as he curled up on the couch in a catatonic state.

Nibbling on his bottom lip Jace pulled his phone out. He needed help and the only person he knew well enough to call for help was the one he’d left on the beach with his new boyfriend. With trembling fingers he pulled up his contacts and waited for Jason to answer. “Hey I know this is a bad timing but I could really use your help. I found Christopher on the beach and I think he’s been beaten pretty bad….”

Chapter 22 – Crossroads /

Advertisements

Glitter – Chapter 22 – Crossroads

719

Kaia approached the clothing rack where Aubrey was working to organize. It was a slow day. A small rush in the morning followed by clean up. They were short handed with Unity in the hospital and Temperance gone. Having both girls absent had put Mindy in a bad mood. “Do you think they’ll come back” she asked her friend.

Aubrey looked up a momentary look of confusion on her face. “Unity wants to return when she’s better. I don’t know if Temperance will be allowed to.” Her eyes moved upwards where they both knew Mindy was working.

Rubbing her arms Kaia nodding “I’ve never seen Mindy this upset before.”

Shrugging Aubrey mumbled “I have. It’s not pretty.”

Giving her a curious look Karen asked “really? How come?”

“It was…”

718

“Is this a private meeting” a familiar bubbly voice asked “or can anyone join?”

“Oh hi Olivia” Aubrey stammered almost dropping the garment she’d been putting back into the rack.

“We were just discussing work stuff” Kaia explained moving away trying to give her friend some privacy.

“Just as long as you’re not trying to steal my girl” Olivia warned in what was meant to be a teasing tone but was anything bu.

“You’re girl” Aubrey questioned glancing towards Kaia clearly asking for help. “We only ever went out once…”

“And you’re going to a party with me tomorrow night” Olivia stated. “Which is why I’m here” she looked at the rack of clothing “I need a new outfit.”

717

Kaia stepped forward “I can help you with that. What are you looking for…”

“Nothing you have to show me” she wrinkled her nose at the girl. “Aubrey is the only one who can help me.”

“It’s not my turn” she stammered “besides I need to organize this rack.”

Grabbing the garment from her hands Olivia tossed it at Kaia. “She can do that” taking Aubrey’s hand she pulled her away “the customer is always right and I’m the customer.”

“Err” Aubrey looked back at Kaia unsure what to do.

“Go” Kaia urged “I’ll cover for you.”

716

Nodding Aubrey turned her attention to Olivia. “We have some new outfits over here.”

“Nope” she turned her nose up at them in disgust. “None of those will work” looking towards the stairs “what do you have up there?”

“That area is off limits today” Aubrey hurried to block her. “Mindy is working on a new design not ready for display yet.”

“Sounds like something I need” Olivia said pushing her way past the girl.

“You can’t go up there” she cried desperate to stop the girl. “You’re going to get me fired.”

“Oh” the girl’s eyes lit up “that sounds like a good thing. Then you’d be available whenever I wanted you.”

715

“Please don’t go up there” Aubrey pleaded as the girl took several steps up. “I’ll do anything.”

“Anything” Olivia asked coming down a couple steps “You’ll come with me to the party tomorrow night?”

“I can’t” she shook her head “it’s a school night. My parents.”

“It’s either that or I” she looked up the stairs her intent clear.

“Fine” she resigned herself “I’ll think of something.”

Clapping her hands Olivia giggled like a delighted little girl. Walking past Aubrey she whispered “wear something provocative.”

***

714

“This is what I get for hiring teenagers” Mindy huffed upon seeing Aubrey’s ineffectual attempts to keep the customer from coming up the stairs and into the VIP area.

Coral frowned “I don’t think it was Aubrey’s fault. That girl was obviously up to no good.”

“You’re too soft” Mindy retorted tossing her scissors onto her work table.

“I’m not” she objected getting and placing her hands on Mindy’s shoulder’s massaging them. “You’re working too hard trying to run the store with so few employees not to mention designing. You need a break.”

“I can’t afford to take a break” she protested as she moaned as Coral’s fingers dug into tense muscles. “I have too much to do and deadline to meet.”

Kissing the back of her neck Coral asked “didn’t you tell me once that you work better when you’ve taken time out to do something out of the norm?”

Sighing Mindy stepped away. “I wish I could. I just don’t see how I can.” Crossing her arms she walked towards the mannequin wearing the design she just couldn’t get right.”

713

“You could if…” Coral bit her bottom lip. When the other woman turned to glare at her she added “I have an idea. One I know you’re not going to like.”

Mindy rolled her eyes “I already don’t like it and I haven’t even heard it.”

“Forget it then” Coral said moving towards the chair she’d left her tablet at.

“Alright tell me” Mindy huffed.

“Promise not to yell” she requested unsure she should continue or not. She knew how demanding Mindy could be regarding work and the store.

“I’m already grumpy. You may as well tell me” she said watching the girl closely. She had yet to convince her to wear anything more fashionable than her frumpy sweatshirt.

“Close the store….”

712

“Absolutely not” Mindy all but shouted at her.

“You said you wouldn’t yell” Coral pulled her knees into her chest where she sat her tablet laying forgotten on her lap.

“I can’t close the store” she protested.

“Why not” she cried “is making money the only thing that matters to you? The girls are wore out. You’re wore out. I’m tired of being your doormat.”

“My what” Mindy asked astonished.

“You heard me. You just take your frustrations out on me…”

“I don’t” she humphed at a loss for words. After a moment or two of silence she asked “have I really gotten that bad?”

711

“Yes” Coral nodded “you need a break. We all do. Your work is suffering.”

Glancing at her mediocre designs. “You’re right. It’s not the money” Mindy explained “I just don’t know how to just relax. All I know how to do is work.”

“Well” Coral smiled unfolding herself from the chair. “I can help you with that.”

A smile tugged at her lips “your the best thing that has happened to me this summer.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment although the summer has just begun” standing up she joined Mindy as her work station. “Let’s take a look at the books and see where we can cut some hours.”

“Alright” she agreed on a sigh.

***

710

“Are you going to the party tomorrow night” Keli asked as she flipped through the channels on the big screen TV.

“No way” Dante said “I know what happens at those parties.”

“Come on. It’ll be fun” Keli cajoled.

“Don’t tell me you’re into those kinds of parties” he frowned into the phone he was speaking into. “It’s bad enough seeing my brother come home wasted.”

“Not everyone does drugs although I don’t see the harm in it” shrugging she sat up to yell at at her bratty little brother. “Tristan get out of my room. You know you’re not supposed to be in here.”

702

“You should be nicer to him” Dante said wincing at the way she talked to the kid.

“Why” she demanded “he isn’t nice to me.”

“Maybe he would be if you were nice to him” he suggested knowing he was wasting his time.

“You’re not my father” she retorted “if the little brat stayed out of my room we’d get along fine.”

“He just wants attention” Dante attempted again “he misses his mom.”

709

“So” she demanded.

“Nevermind” he sighed knowing it was pointless.

“Ugh” she cried “you think I should play nursemaid to him.”

“No” he denied “I think you should just be nice to him.”

“I’m not the brat’s mother” she growled “besides Dad will take care of it. He’s dating someone so I have no doubt wife number three is just around the corner.”

701

Dante shivered. As much as he didn’t like his new stepmom he hoped he wasn’t that mean. He just wished his dad had told them he was getting married. “Do you think Micah is going to those parties because he wants to get back at my dad for marrying Cassidy?”

“What” she grunted not really listening. “I thought we were talking about my bratty brother not yours.”

“We never not talk about him” he shook his head wondering why he was even dating her. She was pretty but she wasn’t the most caring person in the world. Things tended to be one sided in their relationship.

“Sounds like a conversation you should have with him not me” she scolded throwing a book across the room at her brother. “We should send all bratty brothers to Siberia or something.”

“I should probably let you go” he said knowing he wasn’t going to get any help from her.

710

“So you’ll come to the party tomorrow” she asked going back to the original question.

“No I think I’ll pass” he said.

“You don’t know what you’ll be missing” she said getting up to slam her bedroom door shut.

“I think I do” he smirked “a big headache.”

“Your loss” she said obviously unconcerned with his opinion.

700699

Dante lay on his bed staring at the ceiling. He wasn’t any wiser than he was before. He wondered what he saw in her other than she knew how to make him feel good. They didn’t have anything else in common. He didn’t like the idea of going back to being the invisible kid at school but he didn’t want to keep seeing her either.

Thinking of his brother he wondered if he should tell their dad he suspected Micah of doing drugs. Maybe he should wait and give him a pass this time. See what happens. Like Keli said not everyone did drugs at those parties. Plus he’s going out with London. She was the last person who’d ever do drugs.

His decision made he rolled over and fell asleep.

***

706

Tristan scurried beneath his bed just as Keli stomped into his room. “Come out from beneath there” she demanded.

Giggling he pressed himself tight against the wall where he knew she couldn’t reach him to drag him out.

“Ugh” she screamed “don’t ever come into my room again.”

“I’ll do whatever I want” he taunted from beneath the safety of the bed “or I’ll tell daddy what you and Dante do when he’s not home.”

“You wouldn’t dare” she growled her hands clenched in fists.

“Maybe” he said “depends on what you’ll give me to keep me quiet.”

“You’ve been talking Maura again haven’t you” she asked.

“She has good ideas” he giggled again “what’s it worth to you?”

Sitting on his bed she asked “what do you want? A new toy? Video game? What?” She had money saved up to buy a new outfit for the summer forma but at the rate she was going she may have to go with a used one.

705

Standing she walked to the door. “You better make up your mind before I walk out this door.

“A new game” he shouted “you know the one.”

“Yeah I know. The one dad said would give you nightmares.”

“Yeah that one” she stuck his face out from beneath the bed ready to duck back without hesitation if she came close to him. “Maura said it’s great!”

She hesitated a moment a flicker of concern for her bratty little brother crossed her mind then it was gone. “Don’t come running to me when you wake up in the middle of the night from bad dreams.”

“I won’t” he promised. The both knew he would but that was a discussion to be had later.

Once she left he hurried from beneath the bed. Pulling his phone out he called the familiar number. “It worked” he said grinning like he’d just won an award.

“See I told you it’d work” she gloated.

“I guess” he sighed.

703

“What’s wrong” she asked “isn’t this what you wanted?”

“Yeah but” he sat on the floor “it doesn’t feel right somehow.”

“Trust me that’ll pass” Maura assured him with a knowing air.

“I don’t know…”

“You said she’d get into a lot of trouble if your dad ever found out what she and Dante do together, right?”

“Yeah” was his unconvinced response.

“You’re doing her a favor” Maura said “she won’t get in trouble and you get the game you want.”

“I heard something tonight” he said unsure if he should tell her.

“About someone we all know” she asked eagerly.

704

“Do you know Dante’s brother” he asked.

“Not really” frowning she thought for a moment. “He goes to those parties Olivia organizes.”

“So you know about the party” he asked disappointed that he wasn’t about to share something new and interesting.

“Everybody who’s anybody knows about the party” she said.

“Did you know they do drugs at these parties” he wanted to know. “Drugs make people do bad things. Some even die.”

Not these drugs” she assured him “these are drugs doctors give people to take. They’re safe.”

“How do you know they’re safe” he asked remembering his dad talking about side effects and overdoses.

“Olivia says they don’t do any drugs that’ll hurt you. My sister knows. She knows everything.”

Tristan frowned but decided to let it slide. He didn’t know anything about drugs so he didn’t know if that were true or not.

Chapter 21 – Crossroads / Chapter 23 – Must be Nice

Knights of Hope – Chapter 9 – Movie Date

403

Trebor leaned against the moving van kneading the back of his neck.”How did I let myself get roped into doing manual labor on my day off” he muttered to himself.

“I don’t know. How did you” a familiar voice said next to his ear.

“Braylin” he cried jumping a little when the man’s fingers dug into his sore overworked muscles.

“Mmm that feels divine” closing his eyes he let himself relax beneath the hand’s kneading his tired sore muscles. “I thought you had to practice this morning” he hummed slightly. He was sure if he were part cat he’d be purring.

“Practice is over” he leaned forward pressing his lips into the back of Trebor’s neck. “Thought I’d come by to see if you needed any help.”

“OMG this is him isn’t” Elaine’s voice cried shrill with excitement came to them as she came out of the house. “I’ve heard all about you. I didn’t really believe it though.”

Tensing Trebor stepped away from Braylin to face his cousin. “Did you think I made him up or something?”

“Well….” shrugging she turned to stare at Braylin “maybe just the part about him being a famous hockey player.”

402401

“You told them I was famous” he asked eyes twinkling with amusement.

“Well aren’t you?”

“I don’t know….maybe a little” grinning he turned his attention to the girl “maybe I am among hockey fans.”

“I’m not a fan” she gushed “but my boyfriend is. Russell is going to freak.” Turning her head towards the house “Russell come out here. There’s someone you need to meet.”

Trebor reached for Braylin’s hand giving him an apologetic look. “I’m sorry” he murmured.

“Don’t be” he squeezed his hand to reassure him. “I’m kind of used to this kind of reaction from fans.”

The door opened and a tired looking young man appeared. “Elaine what are you doing out here? You should be inside resting.”

“I’m fine” she insisted. Waving her hands around in the direction of Braylin she announced “look.”

400

Russell’s eyes became large and round. “You’re you’re” looking to Trebor as if he needed confirmation for what his eyes were telling him “is this your boyfriend?” Receiving a nod in response to his question he continued to stare at Braylin too tongue-tied to say anything.

“Are you a hockey fan” Braylin asked when the silence lengthened into awkwardness.

Nodding Russell blinked slowly as if coming back into focus. “Ssssorry. It’s just I never expected to meet you in person.” He gave Eli a glare who was snickering behind his back but resolutely continued “you never know how much to believe when your source is that guy.” He jerked his head towards Eli.

“I would have told you if he were lying” Trebor said softly.

“Don’t be upset” Elaine quickly stepped in “we just thought it was a case of love being blind and all that jazz. We assumed you wouldn’t know if he was famous or not. You never seemed to be all that into hockey when we invited you over to see any of the games.” Giggling a little “it’s not like you were all that interested or ever actually watched the game.”

“You got me there” he admitted scratching his head. “Before Braylin I didn’t know anything about hockey. I barely knew what a puck was.”

“You’ve come a long way babe” Braylin beamed at him wrapping an arm around his waist and pulling Trebor to him. “So how much more do you have to do? Trebor and I had plans tonight. I don’t want him to miss that movie he’s been talking about for weeks.”

“Are you taking him to the new dragon movie” Elaine asked as they all converged on the van.

399

“That was the plan” he said “but the last showing is at 3:30 so we had to cancel.”

“Cancel” she cried “why did you do that?”

“Laine it’s alright” Trebor assured her “I’ll see it when it comes out on Netflix.”

“You’ll do no such thing” she shook her head at him resting her hands on her slim hips. Turning to Braylin “do you know he collects all things dragon? He’s wanted to see that movie since he saw the previews. He absolutely loves dragons.”

“I don’t see how we can help you move and make the movie” Trebor pointed out picking up a large box.

“Put that down” she ordered.

“What” he asked almost dropping it.

“You heard me. Put it down” she pointed towards the floor of the van. “If you leave right now you’ll be able to get cleaned up and still make it in time to see the movie.”

398397

“Are you serious” he asked slowly setting the box down.

“Of course she is” Russell encouraged coming up alongside kissing her cheek. “She’s a romantic at heart.”

“Shush” she leaned into him “I would have insisted you stop working a while ago if I had known.”

“Are you sure” he asked again “I don’t mind helping. I don’t want to leave you with all this work yet to do.”

“Don’t worry about it” she waved a dismissive hand towards the boxes. We have the truck until Monday. We’ll finish tomorrow if you want to come back in the morning to help.”

“We’ll be here” Braylin grabbed Trebor’s hand and hurried from the van.

“But…” he stammered “we should finish and I’m not dressed….”

“You look fine” Braylin assured him.

“Have fun you two” Eli shouted “don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

***

408409

“I wish I had time to have a shower at least” Trebor mumbled under his breath as they found seats in the middle towards the front.

“You smell fine” Braylin flashed his trademark toothy grin.

“That’s something at least” taking a handful of the buttery popcorn Braylin insisted on getting.

“I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist this buttery goodness” winking at him nonchalantly munching on a handful of popcorn.

“I’m starving” Trebor explained “we were waiting for Lana to come back with lunch.”

“Oh” the movie theater darkened. “Would you like some nachos? I could get you some?”

“Don’t worry about it” he munched on more popcorn “I’ll survive.”

Most of the movie Braylin found himself watching the man beside him. Trebor’s eyes were glued to the screen jumping whenever something tense or exciting happened in the movie. He especially liked the almost childlike wonder that Trebor had allowing him to suspend reality and fully give himself over to the movie.

406

Walking from the theater Trebor asked “what were you thinking about during the moving? You kept watching me.”

“I didn’t think you noticed” he brushed a street of hair from Trebor’s eyes.

“I could tell you were watching me not the movie” he turned to leave disappointment in the sag of his shoulders and eyes.

“Hey don’t be like that” Braylin caught his arm slowing him down.

“Like what” he challenged “we could have watched something else. We didn’t have to watch that particular movie because it’s the one I wanted to see.”

“I liked the movie well enough” he protested.

“What was it about” Trebor challenged.

“It was …. Um” he shrugged “I don’t know. Maybe I needed to know more about dragons to really enjoy it.”

“We could have gone to something else” anxious now that he knew Braylin wasn’t as into Dragon’s as he was.

405

“I enjoyed it” he insisted.

“But you didn’t like it” Trebor shook his head “you probably think I’m being silly for liking it so much.”

“Not at all” he shook his head taking Trebor’s hand and leading him from the empty theater. “I enjoyed watching you enjoy it. It was all worth it.”

“You’re not just saying that” he asked looking up watching Braylin contritely.

“It’s like you watching me play hockey” he explained “you don’t understand it but you still have fun. That’s how I feel right now.” He watched the anxiety melt from Trebor’s face and eyes and smiled. “That’s better” he teased touching his face “I missed that smile.”

“Sorry it’s just after all the talking I did about the movie and how great it was going to be” he shrugged “then you didn’t like it. Don’t say you did. I’ve gotten familiar with the way you crease your forehead when you don’t like something. You may not dislike it but you’re just tolerating it because of me.”

“Oh” he was chagrined “I still had fun though.”

“I don’t know how if you hated the movie” he persisted.

“I had fun watching you enjoy it” pausing flicking Trebor’s nose playfully. “You were so engrossed in the movie. I would have paid to watch the way your face lit up. That’s what I found the most enjoyable watching you.”

304

“What do you want for supper” Trebor asked changing the subject.

“I thought you were going to feed me a gourmet meal” he teased.

“I don’t know how gourmet it will be but I can cook” Trebor said “Do you like lasagna?”

“I’ll eat anything you make.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“I’m not fond of Italian” he grinned “but it beats eating Chinese take out again.”

Frowning as he drove up outside Trebor’s building. “This isn’t a very good neighborhood.”

“Don’t worry. Your car will be safe” he assured him getting out. “I can’t afford anything else with all my school loans” he said.

Pointing in the direction of the little diner packed with customers. “Have you ever eaten there” he asked.

417

“Not often” he said leading the way towards his apartment. “It’s always packed and yes their food is that good.”

“One day we should try it” he suggested.

“Are you saying you don’t like my cooking” he asked.

By the tone of his voice Braylin knew he was teasing “I didn’t say that.”

“No? You just implied it” he held the door open for Braylin to enter first. He walked past the elevator going towards the stairs. With a groan Braylin followed.

Several flights up Trebor exits the stairwell and going towards his door. Holding it open allowing Braylin to enter first. Whistling softly Braylin said “not bad.”

“Not quite the hole in the wall you expected” he challenged.

“Nope” he went to inspect the view “wow you’re super close to the train.”

I’m kind of used to it by now” he said moving around the kitchen gathering the ingredients he needed to cook. “I hardly notice it now. After we eat we’ll need to go up to the roof to check out the view. It’s my favorite spot.”

***

416

An hour later Braylin was leaning back at the kitchen table. “That was delicious” he patted his stomach. “I might have to do extra laps tomorrow to run it all off.” Silence greeted his announcement. Giving Trebor a concerned look only to find him staring at his phone. “Something wrong?”

Shaking his head he looked up meeting Braylin’s gaze. Eyes moist with tears not yet fallen. “It’s my little sister. She quit college.”

“Her choice” he asked sensing that her quitting school wasn’t the real problem.

“She only has a few months to go before getting her degree” he took a deep breath. Putting his phone away saying “my parents don’t know where she is. They were hoping she’d come here.”

“Will she?”

415

“I don’t think so” he drummed his fingers on the table a far away look in his eyes. “We used to be really close when we were kids. Now” he shrugged “I don’t know her.”

Pushing away from the table Braylin stood and began to clear the table. “I’ll clean up” he offered “why don’t you give her a call?”

“Are you sure” he asked frowning as he watched as Braylin stacked the dishes haphazardly. Biting his lip to keep from saying anything he stood up too.

Sighing Braylin looked at the dishes in his hands “I know I haven’t learned your method yet but I promise I’ll get them clean.”

“Alright” he nodded reluctantly taking a few steps towards the living room before turning back. Wrapping his arms around Braylin he whispered “I don’t know what I’d do without my hockey player.”

414

“Well Doctor Bennett I hope you never have to find out” he smiled letting the warmth caused by Trebor’s words to spread through him. Briefly he felt the warmth of Trebor’s lips on the side of his neck just below his ear lobe.

Turning Trebor stood in front of his dragon tapestry letting his mind wander to the movie he’d seen earlier that day. How would it be if he actually had a real dragon? His hand traced the dragon’s tail while he listened to his phone ring waiting for his sister to pick up.

Frowning as the automated message played he took a deep breath to leave his message. “Ava this is your brother. Where the hell are you? Mom and Dad are hysterical. I know you’re going through some sort of experimental phase or whatever you call it. That’s no excuse to make everyone worry about you. Call me.”

He slowly turned around coming face to face with Braylin. “Don’t say anything” he snapped not happy with the message he’d left.

“In my experience that’s the last message I’d return” he said drying his hands on the back of his jeans. “What kind of trouble is she in?”

413412

“I never said she was….”

Walking over to the other man he gently lifted Trebor’s chin up to gaze into his eyes. “You didn’t have to.” He could the indecision and trouble in the light blue eyes as they stared up at him “tell me” he requested softly.

“She’s just the typical college senior” he mumbled turning away. “She drinks too much and … “ wrapping his arms around himself he stared at his feet.

“Is she into drugs” Braylin asked making a guess.

Nodding he looked up “I found the drugs in her room when we were both home for the holidays last year. She promised she’d stop.” His voice rose “now I don’t know. She may have just been telling me what I wanted to hear.”

411

“All you can do is wait to hear from her” he murmured.

“She won’t call” he said jerking from the well-meaning arms of the hockey player. “She’s too stubborn. Always doing her own thing. I thought if I was a good enough big brother she wouldn’t have to go down this path.” Turning he reached for the door knob “maybe it’s karma come to bite me in the ass.”

Frowning Braylin wondered what he meant by that. But before he could ask Trebor said “want to go up to the roof?”

The plea in his voice and the sadness in his eyes made him want to do anything he could to wipe that expression from his face forever. “Sure babe I’d like that” he followed him out and up the stairs. Reaching the top he said “you know you can tell me anything right?”

A pause ensued at Trebor stared at the busy bridge in the distance “I know. I just need a little time.”

Chapter 8 – Friendly Get Together /

Glitter – Chapter 21 – Crossroads

697698

Lee slumped against the door as the girl walked towards him.

“You weren’t supposed to be here” she scowled at him stopping several feet away.

Shrugging he pushed himself from the door. “Can we talk. Please.” The entreaty in his tone was surprising to both of them.

“Don’t you think you’ve said enough” she asked glancing behind her.

“I’m not going to hurt you” he shoved his hands in his pockets. “I only wanted to understand why?”

“You know why” she crossed her arms her nostrils flaring.

“I’ll get help” he promised stepping towards her.

Taking several steps backwards “you’ve said that before. You never change.”

“This time I will” he cried hands reaching out to her. “Please I don’t want to lose you too.”

“What do you mean, lose me too” she asked her resolution slipping.

696

Stopping he snapped his mouth shut. “Fuck” he slammed his fist into a nearby wall. Turning he walked down to the water. He needed to get away. To think. Maybe he really did need help. He heard her call his name but he kept on going. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt her anymore than he already had.

Fawn watched him go. She took a tentative step to follow then stopped. What good would it do? They’d been down this road before. She’d always when after him. He always promised to get help and never did. It was time to end the cycle. It was in his ball park now to decide what he wanted.

Walking into the silent boathouse she let her hand run along the wall. They’d had so many good times here. All marred with the idea that it could have been better if he only had the money he’d been cheated out of. Shaking her head she never understood his obsession. It wasn’t like he was living paycheck to paycheck. He had everything he needed and more.

Wiping at a tear on her cheek she went to the bedroom to get her things. Things would have been better if he hadn’t been here at all. Moving to the closet she took the few items she’d left there out laying them on the bed. The empty space her things left behind made her sick inside. The door behind her opened. Without looking she barked “go away.”

***

695

“Thought you might need some help” a girls voice said behind her.

“Francesca” she cried running to give her a hug “I’m sorry.”

“Hey” Francesca rubbed Fawn’s back “it’s going to be okay.”

Fawn leaned into her crying little “am I doing the right thing?”

“Of course you are” she soothed patting her back. “If you don’t leave he’ll continue this behavior.”

“I know” she lifted red rimmed eyes “but is it really so bad? I mean he’s not abusive or anything. Maybe I’m making too much of this.”

Lifting the girls chin up Francesca shook her head. “He left you on the side of the road. No one does that.”

“He was upset” she tried to cover for him “and I told him to leave me there.”

694

“What if something had happened to you” she asked.

“Nothing did.”

“Thankfully” Francesca sighed sitting on the side of the bed. “What do you want to do?”

Looking around the room Fawn shook her head. “I don’t know. I thought I did but I don’t.”

“Sweetie” she patted the bedspread beside her “let me ask you one thing. How does he make you feel?”

Sitting beside her Fawn shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“Of course you do” she prompted.

“Insignificant” she mumbled “like I don’t matter. Like the only thing he cares about is money.”

693

“Do you see that changing if you stay” she asked.

Tears rolled down her cheeks “no” her voice was small and sad.

“Then it’s time for a change” Francesca said “it doesn’t have to forever. If he changes you can come back.”

“I know it’s just….” sniffing a little “I don’t want to hurt him.”

“Sometimes that’s the only way people realize they have to change” she said “sometimes it has to hurt.”

“I know” she mumbled. Standing up she asked “did you bring any boxes?”

“They’re in the truck” Francesca said “I’ll go get them.”

Walking outside she noticed Peter was down by the water’s edge talking to Lee. She hoped he was talking some sense into the guy.

***

692

Peter didn’t know what to say. He thought Lee was being an idiot for being here when he said he wouldn’t be. With effort he restrained himself from saying so. “How are you holding up” he asked instead.

“I messed up” he said.

“You did” he nodded without offering sympathy.

“What do I do” he asked looking up at the other man.

“Get help like you’ve promised a hundred times before” he suggested “talk to someone.”

“She doesn’t want to hear about it….”

“Not her you idiot” Peter cut him off. “A professional. Fawn doesn’t want to hear about your hang ups about money anymore.”

691

“I’m not crazy” was his first knee jerk reaction.

Grunting Peter ran a hand through his hair. “If you want my opinion you are.” That got Lee climbing to his feet, anger flashing in his eyes.

“You’re letting a beautiful girl slip through your fingers because of your obsession. If that isn’t crazy I don’t know what is.”

Sagging like wilted lettuce he whined “you don’t understand….”

“And I don’t want to” Peter cut him off. “Look I think you’re a nice guy but if you continue the way you are you’re going to lose the best thing you have going for you.” Pausing he walked a few steps away “get help.”

Lee stared out across the water. The idea he needed help running through his mind again. He didn’t know anymore.

***

690

Edelle leaned into Castel as they watched Minions with the boys. “Not exactly the romantic evening you envisioned is it” she whispered in his ear.

Smiling he shook his head. “No it’s..” pausing he searched for the right words.

“It’s alright to say you’re bored” she chided him. “Most guys I’ve dated since having Avery haven’t even gotten this far.”

“I wasn’t going to say boring” he protested despite his lips quivering.

“Liar” she giggled as his fingers tried to tickle her sides.

“Mama shhh” Avery put a finger to his lips which was instantly mimicked by Neel.

“I guess you were told” Castel chuckled earning himself a shush from Neel.

“So were you” she whispered taking his hand. “Next time I promise I’ll get a babysitter.”

689688

“No this is fine” he protested “I’m enjoying it.”

She gave him a long considering look. “I’m not sure if I should believe you. It’s nice of you to say so though.”

He could see the uncertainty in her eyes. Probably because most men run in the opposite direction with they find out the woman they’re interested in is pregnant or has kids. He’d done it himself in the past. Maybe this was a sign he was ready to settle down. Ready to stop running from the past and what might have been beens. There was no point holding on to the anger he had surrounding a lot of his memories. Blair had made the right decision. He all but forced her into it. He had acted like an ass.

“What was that look for” Edelle asked lifting a hand to soothe his frown from his forehead.

“Mama” Avery complained “shhhh.”

“Sorry baby” she whispered to her son. Turning to Castel she took his hand and led him into the other room where they could talk.

Looking at his feet instead of into her eyes “I’m sorry” he murmured.

687686

“For what” she asked motioning for him to sit. When he was situated she sat in his lap wrapping her arms around his neck. “Something’s bothering you. I can see it in your eyes.” She didn’t add that the frown marks were a dead give away as she let her fingers trace the lines. “You were thinking of her again, weren’t you?”

Meeting her gaze he nodded. “It’s been over for years and I still can’t forgive myself for the things I did to her.”

She could hear the regret in his voice. Leaning her head on his shoulder “you were a lot younger then” she tried to console him.

Grunting he shook his head “that’s no excuse. It took me years to even admit I was at fault. It was because I didn’t know myself back then. I thought I could pretend to be what she wanted and pretend to be what my parents expected me to be. In the process I turned into something I didn’t want to be.”

685684

Brushing his hair back “I like who you turned out to be. You save my son’ life.”

Shrugging a little he tried to brush her thanks away. “Well he had the really hot mom.”

Slapping his shoulder she protested “you didn’t even meet me until afterwards.” Cupping his face she forced him to look at her. “Stop running from who you are” leaning in close brushing her lips across his “because who you are is pretty damn good.”

His arms tightened around her. He couldn’t find the words to express what she meant to him. He could feel the shackles of the past falling away from his mind and soul. He wasn’t perfect nor ever would b but maybe he wasn’t as bad as he believed he was.

***

683

A knock at the door prevented him from saying anything. The look they shared as Edelle moved to see who was at the door was enough. “That’s probably Neel’s parents” she said walking away.

“Prisha, Ajay come in” her voice was warm and welcoming.

“Thank you so much for watching our son” Prisha said coming inside “sorry it was so last minute.”

“Don’t worry about it” she waved the woman’s words of thanks away. “Avery loved having someone to play with.”

“Neel can be a handful” Ajay said “I hope he behaved himself.”

“About as well as any three-year old can” she laughed. “Believe me Neel wasn’t the one causing trouble. That’s my son’s middle name.”

Prisha waved at Castel who was leaning against the wall. “Were you two on a date” she inquired.

Shrugging he said “one of the hazards of dating a single mom.”

682

“We’re sorry” Ajay repeated “if we had known we would have asked someone else to babysit.”

“Don’t worry about it” Castel encouraged “it was enlightening.”

Walking over to him Edelle kissed his cheek. “That’s one of the sweetest things anyone has ever said about helping me babysit. Most of the time the guy makes up an excuse to leave as soon as possible.” She leaned her head back to smile up at him.

“Well” he chuckled “I need help getting up to date on kids movies. I don’t know what’s out there anymore.”

“Why” she asked curious “I thought you were bored.”

“I wasn’t bored” he protested.

“Uh huh” she giggled kissing his cheek. “Nice try.” turning to Prisha she said “the boys are watching Minions. They’ve been awfully quiet so either they’re up to something or they’re asleep.”

“That’s never a good sign with kids” Ajay chuckled following the other’s into the living room.

681

“Aw look at them” Prisha cooed fining both boys cuddled together on the floor asleep.

“I’ll get him” Ajay said bending to scope his son into his arms. “Hopefully he stays like this the rest of the night.”

Following him to the door Prisha turned saying “thanks again for watching him for us. Next time it’s on us.”

“Avery enjoyed it” she assured the older woman waving as they left.

“But we’ll accept your offer the next time we want a night out just the two of us” Castel said “we’ll let you know when.”

“Good night” Prisha said as they closed the door behind them.

680679

Turning Edelle asked “will there be a next time?”

“Of course there will be” he leaned down pressing his lips to hers.

“Good” she sighed breathing deeply. “It’s been a long time since I’ve met anyone willing to give me a chance once they find out I have a kid.”

“As far as I’m concerned Avery’s an added bonus” he hugged her tight. “After all it’s not everyday I get mistaken for Aquaman.”

Chapter 20 – Learning to Cope /

Knights of Hope – Chapter 8 – Friendly Get Together

394395

“Do I look alright” Braylin asked tugging at his necktie. “I feel like I’m choking.”

Leaning his head to the side Trebor asked “who said you had to wear a tie?”

“You did” he grumbled reaching for the door handle to get out of the car.

“I never said anything about wearing a tie” he protested walking around the car. “Here let me help you.” Moving quickly he released the tie and tossed in into the front seat.

“Hey” he shouted “it took me forever to tie that thing.” He twisted around to retrieve it.

“Leave it” Trebor said “you don’t need it.” he put a hand on the man’s shoulder. “You look fine the way you are.” Stepping back he gave his boyfriend an appraising look “better than fine.”

“Fine enough that’d you would ravish me in the back seat” he asked a hopeful gleam in his eyes.

387388

“You’ve got to be better than fine for that to happen.” Shaking his head Trebor turned to walk to the towards the building. A whistle made him stop and glance over his shoulder.

“Like what you see” he asked smiling.

Hurrying towards him, taking his hand they finished the rest of the walk hand in hand. While they waited for someone to let them inside Braylin leaned in close “you’ve got the best butt I’ve seen. I almost didn’t want to catch up with you. I was enjoying the view so much.”

“I’m glad you caught up though” Trebor said resting his cheek momentarily on his shoulder. “I’d much rather hold your hand than have your eyes on my ass.”

“Knock it off you two” Eli’s voice made them both jump when they realized the door was open.

“Don’t listen to him” Lana said coming up behind her fiance. “I think it’s adorable” she gave Trebor a hug then turned to Braylin “it’s good to meet you in person.”

386

At Braylin’s confused look Eli explained “meet nurse Betty. She’s the one who gave you the inside scoop on your man’s work schedule or should I say lack of love life until you came into his life.”

“Be nice” Lana warned swatting him “otherwise you’ll be on the couch tonight.”

“Threaten all you want but I know you’ll never do it” he grinned confident in his assessment.

“And why is that” she demanded following him into the kitchen. Walking over to the counter she picked up a stack of plates “make yourself useful and set the table.”

Taking the plates he said “you’ll never do it” as if the conversation never ended. “I’m too damn irresistible.”

Ignoring him she turned to Trebor. “Tell me you’ll trade me cutie pie here for doofus over there.” She winked at Braylin causing Eli to chuckle.

“Don’t get your hopes up. She’ll never do it” Eli said confidently “she loves to me too much.”

385

Taking Braylin’s arm Trebor said “there will be no trading today…unless of course Bray here wants to be traded.”

He glanced from one smiling face to the next. It was all fun and games. “Nope not today. I’m happy with the guy I came with.”

“Just as well” she sighed “I’m rather fond of my doofus over there.”

“See” Eli grinned putting an around her waist “I knew you couldn’t get rid of me.”

“If you make me drop this bowl you really will be sleeping on the couch” she scolded him.

Dropping his arm he turned to his guest. “Perhaps we should go into the living room while she finishes up.”

***

383382

“Braylin would you mind staying and helping me” she asked as the others moved towards the other room.

“Well I…” grinning he nodded “of course I can. What would you like me to do?” He didn’t miss the panic in Trebor’s expressive eyes or the giggle Eli couldn’t suppress. When they were seated and talking quietly amongst themselves he asked “so is this when you tell me not to hurt your friend?”

She raised an eyebrow at him “what makes you think I was going to do that?”

“Isn’t it pretty obvious? I mean you ask me to stay behind when Eli could have helped you.” Glancing towards the living room “I get it. You care about him and don’t want to see him hurt. I’m glad he has friends that care that much about him.”

“From what I can tell you’re a really nice guy” she admitted giving him a sincere smile. “If I didn’t believe that I would never have given you all the information I had. Trebor’s a good guy. He’s family.” At his blank expression she explained “we’re cousins. Our grandparents were siblings. So we’ve known each other all our lives. He needs someone looking out for him.”

“He doesn’t talk much about his family” he said softly not wanting the others to overhear them.

“It’s his way of coping with homesickness” she explained “would you mind tossing this salad?” she asked handing him some tongs.

384

“Sure” he said taking the tongs from her. “What makes you think he’s homesick? Where is home?”

“I’m sure he’s told you he’s from Sunlit Tides” she said.

“Yeah he’s mentioned it” shrugging “I guess I never thought about it much. It’s just an island.”

“An island he plans on setting up his practice on” she said watching him carefully. “That’s how I know he’s homesick. He has a habit of not taking about things that upset him.”

“I’ve noticed that about him” he conceded looking towards the living room. “It’s not like I haven’t asked him questions….”

“I’m not saying that” she rested a hand on his forearm. “I’m just saying you need to get him to open up to you. He’ll start to open up. I’m sure of it.”

Frowning he thought over what she’d said. “What else can I do? I mean I’ve told him about my past and party lifestyle. Things I regret a lot. I’ve shared with him my love of hockey.” Looking down at the salad he chuckled a little “I can’t cook worth a damn.”

381

“What about your family” she asked “have you told him anything about them?”

“Not much. I guess it hasn’t come up” he stared into space. “Do you really think that will help him to open up to me? Me opening up to him?”

“That’s usually how it works” she giggled “it’s really not that difficult or scary. You’re a good guy. Sometimes Trebor needs a nudge in the right direction. Show him you want more than just a good time and sexy times in the bedroom. Show him you’re interested in him as a person.”

“I am interested in him as a person” he protested slamming the tongs down. “I mean the sex is great but I do want to get to know him better. I kind of thought that was evident a month ago…”

“Hey now” she took his hand “don’t think that way. He knows you care about him. He trusts you. That says a lot.” She stopped considering her words “he’s been hurt before. He kind of closed himself off to keep from getting hurt again. This is the first time I’ve seen him this relaxed around anyone not family. You’re good for him.” Letting his hand go she said “I’m glad you haven’t given up trying to get through his reserves. Help him open up. We’ve all been there. Even Doofus.”

“I appreciate you telling me. I really am. He means the world to me.”

Grinning she said “if you hurt that cinnamon roll I’ll personally kick your ass.” Raising her voice she called “let’s eat. Dinner is served.”

***

393

“Will we be hearing wedding bells soon” Eli asked the following morning as they did rounds.

“No one said anything about marriage” he protested “besides we hardly know each other.”

“Whose fault is that” he demanded “he isn’t Oliver.”

“I know that….”

“You’re afraid.”

“I am not” he hesitated “maybe a little.” Before Eli could say anything he cut him off. “I know what your going to say. I know they’re totally different people. Totally different circumstances. I know it but my brain hasn’t caught up with me yet.”

“Want some advice” he asked.

392

“Even if I didn’t I’m going to get it anyway.”

“Damn right” he chuckled “don’t hold onto the past. Braylin is here…” Pausing to give Trebor a reassuring smile when he saw the way he looked around attempting to find the pink haired male. “Not physically you dork. I meant figuratively.”

“I knew that” he said feeling his cheeks heating up.

“Yeah right. That’s why you were craning your neck to see him” he teased. “You’ve got it bad for him.”

“I do not” he protested knowing that Eli was just trying to get a rise out of him. “I thought you wanted to tell me something” he said hoping to change the subject.

“Oh yeah I did” snapping his fingers as if the thought just occurred to him. “I need your muscles this weekend.”

Groaning he shook his head. “I am not spending my only day off moving Lana’s furniture around.”

391

“Did I ask you” he said sounding offended.

“Why else would you need my muscles” he demanded knowing the answer was obvious. “I admit I’ve down that in the past but this time you’ll be moving someone else’s furniture around.”

“No” he said firmly “Braylin and I have plans. Dinner and a movie.”

“He can help” he enthused.

“I said no” walking away hoping that would be the end of it.

“You didn’t even ask whose furniture we’re moving” he said catching up with Trebor.

390

“If you were a fly I’d swat you to get you to leave me alone” he said annoyed at Eli’s persistence.

“Good for me I’m not a fly then.”

“But no less annoying” he gave him a thoughtful look “can’t you ask someone else to help you. I have plans.”

“I could but you kind of offered…”

“I’m pretty sure I didn’t” he frowned. “I only said I’d help Russell move if they ever found a place.”

“They found a place” Eli clapped a hand on his shoulder “cheer up. You and Braylin can go to the movie another night.”

“It’s the last show” he sighed “I was really looking forward to seeing it too.”

389

“Give it a few months and it’ll be on Netflix” Eli suggested.

“It’s not the same” he complained.

“It’s better” he winked at his friend “if you know what I mean.”

“Oh I know what you mean” shaking his head “not everything has to be about sex.”

“It ought to be” he mumbled rubbing his side where Trebor had elbowed him. “That really hurt.”

“Cry me a river” he called over his shoulder as he out paced him.

Stopping he said “I’ll text you the time and place” he said going into the room of his first patient.

Chapter 7 – Hockey Practice / Chapter 9 – Movie Date

Knights of Hope – Chapter 7 – Hockey Practice

The loud slap of the puck slamming into the boards startled Trebor from his thoughts making him jump. Frowning he tried to watch where the little black disk was at all times but his eyes kept straying towards the players. His eyes constantly searching for the one that said McGavin. The only way he had to distinguish one player to the next.

Blowing on his fingers he tried to warm them up. He never imagined hockey being all that interesting before. He’d never been one to play sports and if he did it was soccer. How different was soccer from hockey? Of course he hadn’t played since he was in middle school. By the time he’d gotten into high school he’d concentrated on his grades to the exclusion of everything else. Getting good grades to ensure he got into a good school didn’t leave him much time for anything else.

The bench shifted as someone joined him. Glancing up he found Braylin grinning at him. Sweat dripping from his we hair, his helmet hanging from his hand by the chin strap. “Having fun” he asked. He was barely breathing hard despite having played for almost two hours.

His brow furrowed as he stared intently at the ice and the players on the ice. “I don’t understand the plays. It just looks like a bunch of guys chasing a black disc across the ice.”

Snorting Braylin blurted “it’s a little more than that.”

“Why don’t all the players wear the gear the goalie wears” he asked.

“Because we need to be able to move fast” he laughed “are you really interested in this?”

376

“I wouldn’t be asking if I weren’t” he said “I get that the goalie’s job is to keep the opposing team from getting the puck into the net. Why does he need all that gear?”

“Have you ever been hit by a puck before” he asked trying not to laugh.

“Never” he shook his head “but you have.” It was a statement not a question. He’d seen the bruises that covered Braylin’s body.

“Then let me inform you. It hurts. It hurts like hell” Braylin enthused rubbing his side. “I’ve had my ribs cracked before and concussions from being hit in the head.”

“Weren’t you wearing your helmet” he asked staring at the helmet dandling from Braylin’s hands.

“Well yeah mostly” he shrugged ruefully.

“Uh huh that’s what I thought” Trebor grunted giving him a knowing glare.

“Hey don’t give me that look” he cried pulling Trebor to his lap when he moved to get up.

375

Struggling to get up Trebor demanded “what’s the point of having protective gear if you don’t wear it? You could have ruptured your spleen or gotten internal bleeding.”

“None of that happened” he pulled Trebor’s head down to kiss his lips.

“Eww gross” he cried pushing him away “you’re all sweaty.”

“I thought you liked me all hot and sweaty” he gave him one more kiss before releasing him.

Adjusting his clothes he glared at the pink haired male. “This is different and you know it” he huffed.

Braylin followed him with his eyes tempted to pull him back but resisted the urge. No doubt the catcalls and whistles from the guys on the ice were upsetting him. “You’re right. I’m sorry. It is different.” He waved to some the guys who were leaving. “Give me ten minute to wash some of this sweat off then we can go to lunch.”

Keeping his back turned towards him he crossed his arms in front of him. Shrugging Braylin didn’t wait for a reply just walked towards the locker room hoping he’d still be out there waiting for him by the time he came out again.

***

374

Checking his phone Trebor said “you’re late.”

“Sorry” he smiled sheepishly “the coach wanted to talk to me.”

“He’s not upset you weren’t here yesterday, is he?”

There was concern in his voice and worry in his eyes that Braylin found endearing. “He wasn’t too happy but he’s okay now. I had to tell him about us though.”

“Us” he asked looking towards the ice “is there an us?”

“Would you like there to be an us” he countered mouth twitching watching the mild irritation flash in Trebor’s eyes.

“I don’t want to play any games” he muttered “if that’s what all of this is then tell me. I’m okay with the idea that I’m just a booty call when you’re in town.” He snapped his mouth shut as a hard painful lump formed inside his chest making it difficult to breathe.

“But” Braylin prompted moving forward tilting Trebor’s chin up “you’re hoping for something more.”

Closing his eyes he nodded “no one has ever gone out of their way to do what you did for me. I’m used to having to handle things on my own.” Moving restlessly he turned away “I know we hardly know each other. Yet it feels like…”

373

“Forever” Braylin finished for him. Taking his hand he started walking them towards the exit. “I don’t want a booty call or friends with benefits sort of thing. I want a good old-fashioned relationship. I want to tell everyone you’re my boyfriend.”

“Your boyfriend” he repeated coming to a stop “you want me to be your boyfriend?”

The way he said it like he could hardly believe anyone would want him tugged at Braylin’s heart strings. “Why wouldn’t I? You’re a doctor. You’re going to be the best damn heart surgeon in the world.”

“Do you have any idea how much time and effort it’ll take to get there” he asked watching Braylin as he shook his head. “I have to work long hours. Get extra training. There will be days, weeks maybe even months when you’ll hardly ever see me. When you do, I’ll be so tired I’ll barely know who you are. All I’ll want to do is sleep. Maybe eat. Are you able to handle that?”

“I … don’t know” he conceded.

“At least your honest” Trebor said resuming their walk towards the exit.

“Hey wait a minute” he called after him reaching out to him. “Not so fast. Dating me isn’t going to be a picnic either. My hours are going to be crazy especially during hockey season. I have to train. Practice. Go to games. Travel. I’ll be gone for weeks. Maybe even for months at a time. It doesn’t just stop when hockey season ends. There’s promotional tours. Signings.”

“I hadn’t thought about that” Trebor admitted “it sounds impossible.”

372

“Nothing’s impossible” he tilted Trebor’s face up to his “do you trust me?”

“You know I do” he mumbled shifting his eyes attempting to look away.

“Do. You. Trust. Me.” He spoke each word slow and clear pausing after each one as he said it. “Be honest. Do you really trust me?”

Looking up he met Braylin’s gaze. Calm and steady. Sincere mixed with something else that appeared to be love shining back at him. “I do” he said firmly surprising both of them with the vehemence in which he spoke. “But how do we make this work when there’s so much against it? Us?”

“Only if we let it” he said leaning in close mouth hovering just above Trebor’s. “We’ll both have to make it work. Make adjustments.”

“I’m not afraid of a little hard work” Trebor said closing the minuscule gap between them. Pressing his lips to Braylin’s. Pulling apart he asked “does this mean you want to meet my parents?”

“If you want me to” he said taking his hand to resume their walk again. “I’m sure the clean up crew are waiting for us to leave so they can lock up and go.”

“Oh” he bit his lip cheeks turning red. “I thought we were alone in here.”

“Don’t worry I’m sure they were too busy to notice us and if they did they’ve seen a lot worse than two guys kissing.” When they were outside he asked “where would you like to go for lunch?”

371

Opening his mouth “Chin…” His voice was abruptly cut off by a hand covering his mouth.

“Don’t say it” he pleaded “I like Chinese as much as the next guy but I draw the line at eating it three days in a row. It’s more than I can take.”

“Then you decide” he said jerking his face away “I happen to like Chinese.”

Braylin gave him a curious look asking “why?”

“I…” he hesitated a moment thinking “don’t know.” Bursting into self-conscious laughter he explained “because there’s a Chinese restaurant on the way home from the hospital that I stop at all the time. I don’t have wait for it to be delivered and I don’t have to cook either.”

“I see” he chuckled “so it’s not that you like it that much it’s just convenient.”

“Yeah I guess” he mumbled.

“We’re going to this great little French restaurant. The food is awesome.” He went on to describe the atmosphere and the cuisine before he realized the odd expression Trebor was giving him. “What” he asked watching him.

“I’m not eating frog’s legs” he gagged.

370

“That’s not the only thing on the menu” he smiled “besides frog’s legs are a lot better than the cat and dog meat you get at your local Chinese establishment.”

“They do not serve cat and dog meat” he protested. “That’s just an old wives tale. They eat normal meat like beef, pork and chicken.”

“And octopus and squid…”

“At least it’s not snail” he turned a chalky white at the mention of it. “I’m not eating snails.”

“I bet you’ll like it once you’ve tried it” Braylin winked at him. “You need to expand your palate.” He unlocked the doors holding the passenger side door open for Trebor.

“My palate is just fine” he huffed getting inside the car. Once they were driving for a while he said “maybe one day I’ll make you a home cooked meal.”

Glancing over at him from the driver’s seat he asked “you can cook?”

“Watch the road” he braced himself against the dash. “I know it’s shocking and all but I wish you’d keep your eyes on the road.”

“Let’s go grocery shopping after we eat” he suggested “that way you can cook for me and I can judge for myself whether you can cook or not.”

***

369

“You’re really going to have to get over your fear of the elevator” Braylin huffed setting the grocery bags on the counter. “I am not going to lug groceries up five flights of stairs again.”

“I told you to take the elevator and I’d meet you there” Trebor said starting to take the items out that they purchased from the organic specialties store he talked Braylin into taking him. Opening one of the cupboards he frowned “you weren’t joking about having nothing in your kitchen.”

“Why would I lie” he said waving a hand towards a pile of take out menus. “I have plenty of choices.”

“Then you’re in for a treat” he enthused even as his frown increased opening one empty cupboard after another. “I think we have a problem.”

Watching him his amusement growing Braylin asked in a mock serious tone “what problem would that be?”

“Well you don’t seem to own any cooking utensils. I mean who doesn’t have at least one pot or pan? I don’t think I even saw any actual dishes to eat off of either.” Slamming the nearest cupboard door he said “in order for me to cook we’ll have to go shopping for everything I need to cook it in.”

“In my defense I did tell you I didn’t have anything” his lips twitched fighting the urge to laugh.

368

“You’re making fun of me” Trebor huffed crossing his arms “you knew I didn’t understand exactly what you meant by nothing. I never dreamed that literally meant you had nothing in your kitchen.”

“What’s the big deal” he shrugged nonchalantly “we can go shopping for everything you need tomorrow and order out tonight.”

“But I….” glaring at the groceries “you’re right.”

“I’ll order your favorite…Chinese” he grinned ducking just in time to miss being hit by the tomato Trebor launched at his head. “Hey watch it.”

“I don’t want Chinese” he huffed “I wanted a home cooked Italian meal.”

“You can have Italian tomorrow. After you cook it.”

“If I cook it for you” he pouted lifting another tomato and tossing from hand to hand.

367

“Don’t do it” Braylin warned raising his hands as if to shield himself.

“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t.”

“One” he grinned “you’ll have to buy more.”

“Nope not good enough” he shook his head “I already have to go shopping. What’s one more tomato?”

“Um” he scratched his head “you don’t like mess. You’ll have to clean it up.”

“True” he agreed lowering his hand “but I already have to clean up one mess what’s another?”

“What if I ask you real nice not to do it?”

366

Lowering his pitching arm Trebor considered his words. “That might work if you asked” he raised his arm “I’m waiting. Ask me.”

Braylin walked forward a grin spreading across his face confident that he’d get his way. “Please don’t throw that tomato at me.” He closed the gap between them wrapping his arms around Trebor hands resting on his hips. “I knew you wouldn’t” he winked giving Trebor a soft sweet kiss.

Pulling back eyebrows raised “you think I won’t?”

“Nope” shaking his head grinning.

“Wrong” he said smashing the tomato on top of Braylin’s head. Juice and seeds ran down his face and into his eyes.

“You’re so going to pay for that” he threatened.

“Only if you catch me” he said running towards the door laughing like a little kid.

Catching up to him he tripped Trebor sending sprawling onto the floor face down. “You have to be quicker than that to get away from me.”

“Who said I wanted to get away” he asked turning onto his back.

“Oh no” he protested jumping on top of him “you aren’t going to say you let me catch you.” He pinned Trebor to the floor “I think this requires a special kind of punishment.” Running his fingers along Trebor’s sides watching him flinch. Smiling “are you ticklish?”

“No” he protested as the pink haired man’s fingers dug into his sides making him squirm attempting to get away. “Stop! Please stop” he gasping for air.

“You promise to never throw another tomato or anything else at me” he asked fingers poised to launch another tickle attack.

“I promise” he gasped “please just don’t tickle me anymore.”

“Alright” he shifted his weight “remember your promise or else you’ll get another visit from the tickle monster.

Chapter 6 – Safe Zone / Chapter 8 – Friendly Get Together

Glitter – Chapter 20 – Learning to Cope

657

Ryan held his little girl’s hand. She looked so small. So frail. His heart ached to watch her struggle to exist. She should be having fun, laughing with her friends not lying in this hospital bed. At fifteen should have her whole life ahead of her.

“Daddy” her soft voice jerked him from his thoughts. “It’s going to be okay.”

“I know it will be sweetheart” he said blinking back tears. Just another thing a fifteen year old shouldn’t have to do…comfort her parents.

“You don’t have to say that” she said “I know what the doctors are saying. I’m not deaf.”

“I know” he inhaled deeply seeking a calm he no longer had. A belief that no matter what things happened it was for a reason. What reason was there in watching his little girl waste away before his eyes?

“You and mom, my brothers. You’ll all be okay when I’m gone” she squeezed his hand with what little strength she had. She was so tired but she had to make him understand. “You’ll do it for me. Go on living. Go on believing.”

656

There were no words to express the feelings that welled up inside him. He wasn’t ready to say goodbye. He lowered his head, shoulders shaking while his little girl stroked his hair offering comfort to an incomprehensible pain. It was backwards. It should be him comforting her. He was the dad. It was his job to protect her. He wasn’t supposed to watch her die.

Jerking upright at the touch of his wife’s hand on his shoulder. He looked up with red swollen eyes. He could see his pain reflected back at him in her eyes.

Pointing her phone she said “Hannah called to let us know that Temperance and a couple of boys are on their way here to see Unity.”

Unity’s eyes brightened at the news. “Can I see them? Please!”

Her excitement replacing her resignation to her fate brought smiles to both her parents. “We’ll check with the doctors.” Charity said feeling Ryan’s arm slip around her waist. “If he says it’s okay then yes you can.”

“It’s been so long since I’ve seen Temperance.” Her voice happier than it had been in weeks “it’s not the same texting. Sometimes I don’t have the energy to type.” She laid back a grin on her pale thin face. “I can’t wait” her hands touching her hair “mom will you help me do my hair? It’s gotten so thin and straggly. I look awful.”

655

“Of course” Charity enthused not having the heart to deny her daughter anything that gave her some joy. “How about we go to the Solon here and have your hair done?”

“Can we” she cried. “Mom” she frowned “do you know what boys are coming?”

“Riley and Will” she said.

“Will really likes Temperance and Riley’s his best friend. I bet Will talked him into it. Will would do anything for Temperance.” Unity continued talking heedless of her parents glances between each other.

Ryan silently got up letting Charity have his chair. Hearing his daughter’s excited chatter was music to his ears. Balm to his heart he hear his little talk like a normal teen girl again instead of someone trying to be brave and accept her fate. He knew the parents of the three kids would want them to be sent back home but he couldn’t do it and deny his daughter a little bit of joy.

***

662

Hazel was on the couch watching the news when her son came home. Well stomped was a better word for the way he moved up the stairs towards his room. She gave a concerned looked to her husband whose eyes were glued to the TV. “Do you think he and his boyfriend had a fight?”

Traz grunted in response. The last thing he wanted to do after a long day at the resort was embroil himself in his son’s teenage drama.

“Do you think we should go talk to him” she persisted her eyes looking towards the stairs where their son had disappeared a moment before.

“We should mind our own business” he said determined to pay attention to the news.

“If you just saw his face” she said “I know something’s wrong. We should go talk to him.”

661

“If you want to talk to him by all means talk to him he said looking up at her during the commercial. “I think there are times when we should let him figure things out on his own.”

“You know he won’t” she protested “he’s such a private person.”

Traz knew his wife. She wasn’t going to let this go. She wanted to know what was wrong if anything was. It was the same when she insisted he give their son the sex talk….again. Neither he nor Raven had been very happy with it but sometimes it was just easier to comply than waste time explaining why you didn’t think it was necessary. “If you want to go have a talk with him then go talk” he urged “I think if he wanted us to know he’d have told us.”

She watched him turn back to the TV as the news resumed. “I’ll just go up and see how he’s doing,” she said moving towards the stairs. She knew by the relieved look in her husband’s eyes that he’d been worried she’d make him go with her. This she felt positive was something only a mother could handle.

660658

Knocking softly on her son’s door she called out “Raven are you alright?”

Grunting in subdued annoyance, he knew was as good as saying come in. When the door opened it was no surprise to see her poke her head inside.

“Did you have a fight with Aaron” she asked sitting on his bed motioning for him to join her.

“Mom I don’t want to talk about it” his cheeks burning brightly remembering the moment Riley had interrupted them.

“I know something happened” she gave him a long thoughtful look. “He didn’t try anything did he?”

“Mom please that’s personal” he gasped turning his face away to stare out his window.

659

“He did” she nodded “did he get upset when you turned him down? Is that why your upset? I’ll have your father talk to him. He probably needs a man to talk to.”

“Mom” he cried as she moved towards the door. “It’s not like that. I wanted to do it. We were going to do it.” He ran a hand through his hair. He couldn’t believe he was telling his mother about this. It was either tell her or let her coerce his dad into giving Aaron a needless sex talk. He doubted Aaron would ever talk to him again if that happened. “I’m embarrassed. That’s all…”

“It wasn’t what you thought it would be” she nodded “the first time seldom is. It’s not the magical experience the movies make it out to be.”

“Mom” he cried even more mortified then he was before. “We didn’t do it. We wanted to but we didn’t. Riley walked in on us while we were making out. That’s why I’m upset.”

“Oh” her eyes grew large with merriment. “That does change things” she moved towards the door. “It’ll happen when the time’s right. There’s no need to rush it. Just remember your dad and I are always here for you.”

“I know mom” he said getting up to close the door behind her. When she was gone he leaned against it. He knew she meant well but sometimes she was just a little too much.

***

667668

“Your sister seems pretty upset” Macy said as Dakota rushed her towards the door. “Are you sure we should leave her alone like that?”

“She’ll be fine” Dakota assured her without a glance back.

“I don’t feel right” Macy said turning around and approaching the girl.

Montana looked up with sorrowful eyes “you don’t have to worry about me. I’ll be okay.” She shied away from looking up at her sister. She already knew Dakota was upset she didn’t need to see it written in her eyes.

“Nonsense” Macy said sitting beside her. “We don’t have to be at the restaurant at a certain time. It’s not like we have a reservation or anything.”

“Right” Dakota sighed. “If you need us we’re here.”

“That’s sweet of you” she sniffed “I’m just being emotional.” She gave her twin a tearful smile “you and Macy go on your date. I’ll be okay. I promise. I have a surfing lesson in thirty minutes. That’ll distract me for a while and might even be fun.”

666665

“Are you sure” Macy asked despite Dakota’s attempt to get her to leave.

“She said she was” Dakota said losing her patience.

Frowning Macy said “why are you in such a hurry?”

“She said she was fine” she protested. “I don’t see why your babying her.”

“Are you jealous” Macy asked “you are, aren’t you?”

“No” she shook her head her blonde hair flowing over her shoulders. “It’s just…” she wasn’t going to say it but it came bursting out “why does the world have to stop for you because your upset? I’m upset too. It isn’t fair Unity is sick but you don’t see me moping around drawing attention to myself.

“Is that what you think I’m doing” Montana demanded. “This isn’t about you or me. It’s about a young girl whose life is being ripped apart. Why wouldn’t I be upset about that? Unity is a sweet girl. I used to babysit her when she was little. We were close.”

664663

“I know I’m sorry” Dakota cried throwing her arms around her sister. “It makes me scare to think of her and what her family is going through.”

“Scared” Montana asked looking at her “why? I’ve never known you to be scared of anything.”

“I’m scared that it could have been you. I don’t like thinking about going through life without my sister in it.” She shivered “it’s a horrible thought and it keeps me up at night.”

“Well you don’t have to worry about me or be mad at me because you’re scared.” Montana said “I’m fine. Go on your date. Have fun.”

“Are you sure” Dakota asked teary eyed now that she let her secret out.

“Positive” turning to Macy “give my sister some extra TLC. I think she needs it.”

“I think you might be right” she agreed wrapping an arm around Dakota. “She might even deserve an apology.”

***

673

Thirty minutes later Montana was on the beach waiting her turn for surfing lessons. Her eyes never leaving the instructors face as he gave a ten-year old boy a lesson. She head to give him props for not losing his cool. The kid was more interested in showing off to his friends than actually doing as he was told.

Before stowing the used surfboard Tanner wiped it down. Looking up he smiled at his next client. “You’re a sight for sore eyes” he greeted her as she stepped forward.

“Better than that kid at least” she said waving a hand indicating the yellow and blue surfboard the kid had deliberately spit on at the close of his session.

“God yes” he groaned “that little brat was getting on my last nerve.”

“I could tell” she commiserated with him. “Can I set my stuff someplace” she asked looking around the small space.

“Sure you can use the safe for your bag” he suggested “just remind me it’s there before you leave.”

“Don’t worry I will” she giggled. Covering her mouth she tried to pretend that nervous giggle had never escaped her lips.

“You have a nice laugh he teased just to hear her giggle again.

672

“I do not” she objected “it makes me sound like a twelve-year-old.”

His eyes sparkled as he gazed down at her. “I’m sure glad you don’t look like a twelve-year-old. I wouldn’t want to look like a pervert when I ask you out.”

“You’re…uh….what” she spluttered trying to form words as her brain shrieked at her.

Shaking his head he asked “are you serious about taking surfing lessons?”

“Of course I’m serious” she ran her fingers across the smooth boards. “It looks like it requires a strong middle core to say balanced while the waves come in.”

“It does” he nodded “I’m sorry if I sounded like a jerk. I’m just…” he let his words hang in the air without finishing his sentence.

Her shoulders moved in a shrug “you’re used to girls wanting lessons to get close to you.”

“Yeah something like that” he agreed. He didn’t add that the lessons he gave those girls were quite hands on.

671

“Believe me I understand that all too well she giggled hard enough to snort. “Sorry” she mumbled.

“Pick a board” he indicated a group he thought would be perfect for her size and build.

“That one” she pointed towards a red and black one.

“Okay” he nodded cheerfully picking up the board she chose. “Follow me and we’ll get started.”

An hour later he grinned at her “I think you’re ready to get wet.”

“Next time” she said jumping from the board “I have to get to work now.”

“Where do you work” he asked curious.

“At the Hollis Resort” she glanced over at him. “I’m the yoga instructor. You’d be amazed at how many guys find a reason to take up yoga when they’re on vacation.”

670669

Rubbing his chin he let his eyes slide across her toned body. “If I were on vacation I might take up yoga myself.”

Giggling she said “you still can. All you have to do is come to the resort and sign up.”

“I just might have to do that” he said “but only to ask you out.”

Her cheeks turned crimson “are you asking me out?”

“I am.”

“Then I accept” grinning she added “call me with the time and place.” She hurried to get hr things and ran from the surfing shack.

“Hey” he called after her but either she didn’t hear him or she was ignoring him she continued to run in the direction of the parking lot. “I’ll have to go to the resort now anyway” he muttered to himself “serves me right since I forgot to get her number.”

Chapter 19 – The Plan / Chapter 21 – Crossroads