Chapter 29 – Glimmers of Hope

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The following morning Christopher groaned aloud when the door to his room was opened and his grandfathers walked in. He could read the concern in their eyes. His fingers clutched the sheets beneath the thin blanket. The last thing he wanted to see was their pity or worse shame in their eyes.

Rory cleared his throat, “its good to see you home.”

“Yeah” his voice sounded strained like a rubber band stretched to the breaking point.

Eddie sat on the edge of the bed picking at the blanket. “You don’t have to be afraid to talk to us.” He jerked his head up meeting his grandpa’s gaze with matching haunted eyes.

Rory put a comforting hand on Eddie’s shoulder. “When I met your grandpa he was dealing with being…”

“Raped” he whispered reaching up to take Rory’s hand. “I still have nightmares. Defense mechanisms …”

“Not eating out” Christopher whispered eyes watching the older man intently.

Chuckling a little “yeah even after all these years.”

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“You eat at Uncle Tom and Aunt Faye’s restaurant” Christopher pointed out somehow wanting to make him feel better.

“Only because I trust them” he took a deep breath. “Trust is a rare and precious thing. Once it’s lost it’s hard to get back. That’s the hardest thing about this kind of violation. It kills the trust. It makes you jump when you don’t have to. Makes you wary of everyone around you. Question their motives.”

Nodding Christopher asked “how did you get over it?” He pulled his knees to his chest wrapping his arms around them like he was afraid he’d fall apart.

Glancing up at Rory he smiled “I found someone I could trust. Who would hold me together when I couldn’t do it myself.”

“It wasn’t easy” Rory’s usually deep voice subdued. “Sometimes it felt like for every step forward we took two backwards.”

“Hey” Eddie pouted “it wasn’t just me.”

Sitting next to him on the bed Rory put an arm around him. “I had my own issues to work through. That’s the hard part about relationships. You have to be willing to put forth the effort even when it pushes you to the breaking point. I never thought I wanted to settle down have a family. The idea of it scared me to death.”

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“Me too” Eddie nodded leaning into him. Turning his attention to Christopher he said “one thing you have to remember is no matter how bad this is and believe me I know how bad this is, it’s not the defining moment of your life. Don’t let that bastard ruin your life. Don’t give him that much power. One day you’ll meet someone who turns your life upside down and you’ll want to tear down the walls you’re putting up to protect yourself.” Smiling over at his husband “and it’ll be worth it.”

Standing Rory said “I’ll let you two talk.” He bent down placing a tender kiss on Eddie’s forehead before leaving.

“He’s a good man” Eddie sighed before turning to Christopher “one day you’ll find someone like that.”

“What if I’m too scared to try” he shivered “the idea of going out with anyone…I don’t know if I can.”

“You will” Eddie assured him. “I know you will. Maybe not today or next week but you will.”

“You sound so confident” he leaned his head back closing his eyes.

“It’s because I’ve been where you’re at. I know it’s possible. It won’t be easy. It’s going to be scary as hell but you have people who care about you. Who are willing to help you no matter what. You’ll have good days and you’ll have bad days.” He moved putting a hand on his grandsons shoulder “you have me if you ever need to talk to someone whose been through this hell. I’ll listen no matter what.” Instead of answering Christopher threw his arms around him, body shaking as he let loose of the maelstrom inside him.

***

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Royce stared at the couple. Damien seemed to be a good guy but he shook his head. After what happened to Christopher all of Royce’s protective instincts were kicking into high gear. If he could he’d wrap his twin in bubble wrap.

“You don’t have to worry about him” a familiar voice side coming alongside him. “Damian’s a good guy. I’ve known him for years. He’s my cousin’s best friend. Wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

“Is it that noticeable” he asked trying to force the beginnings of a smile on his face.

“That you’re protective of your brother? Yes it’s obvious.” Grinning she continued “it’s sweet.”

“He doesn’t think so” frowning “maybe he’s right. I should trust him more. It’s just he’s been hung up on the same guy since we were kids and suddenly Damian shows up.”

“I thought you said that was a good thing,” taking his hand “come on, let’s go for a walk.” Tugging on this hand sensing his reluctance to leave his brother alone. “Trust me when I say Damian is a good guy.”

Glancing over his shoulder Royce sighed “you better be right.”

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“I am” her confidence making her eyes bright. “I know Damian.” Grinning when Royce moved to follow her “maybe I should be worried for him. You know what they say about the quiet ones?”

Shaking his head he gave her a confused look. “What are you talking about? My brother is incapable of hurting anyone.”

“Than we have nothing to worry about” she reassured him walking along the beach her hand squeezing his.

Jogging alongside her “what’s your hurry.”

“You’ll see when we get there” she lead him to a small cove. The noise of the crowded beach diminishing behind them. It was like they were the only ones there. “Isn’t it beautiful” she asked turning to him.

“Breathtaking” he agreed. The water was crystal clear, a popular spot for snorkelers. “You do know what this place is don’t you?”

Her slim shoulders rose as she shook her hair back. “A private cove? Are we trespassing?”

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“It is private property” he pointed towards a sign. “It’s also a popular spot for couples to make out.” Grinning “is that why you brought me here? Did you want to have your way with me?”

“What” she scowled up at him. “Why would I do that? I just wanted to be alone. If we happen to kiss …” She ran her fingers down his chest. “Do you want to kiss me?”

Wrapping his arms around her trim waist he pulled her close. “Do you want me to kiss you” his lips were hovering above hers. Their combined breaths caressing each other’s skin in a warm embrace.

“You don’t have to ask” she brought a hand to the back of his head encouraging him to close the gap. The sound of waves lapping against the shore there was as the last of the sun’s rays making silhouettes their bodies. It wasn’t until the shrill sound of a whistle being blown nearby that their kiss was broken.

Stepping back “we should go.”

Nodding taking his hand “would you like to come to my house for drinks? Damian and Belle will be there with their dates.”

“I’d like that” he agreed “what time?”

***

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Running out of the water dragging the heavy board behind him Jason frowned at the deep ruts in the sand before the waves washed them away. “When will I be like you and be able to carry the board instead of dragging it?”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re still a beginner.” Damian laughed shaking his shaggy wet hair. He stuck his board in the sand before turning to help Jason with his. “You just need to build up the right muscles.”

“I always thought I was in pretty good shape,” he complained. “Compared to you I’m a weakling.”

“How many times do I have to tell you” he asked stepping closer to the smaller younger male.

“I know. Don’t compare myself to others” he muttered looking away. “It’s hard not to. Everyone is so much better at just about everything than me.”

“Look at me” Damian requested putting a finger beneath the boy’s chin.

Shuffling his feet in the loose sand he shook his head. “It’s true. You can’t tell me it’s not.”

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Lifting his chin Damian’s eyes were flashing with emotion. “I’ve heard enough of that kind of talk. I don’t care if you’re scrawny.” Looking him up and down “which by the way you’re not. I don’t care if you drag your board across the sand. At least you’re out here trying.” He stopped seeing how little impact he was having on the boy. “And another thing. You’re one of the bravest people I know.”

“Me” he choked. “I think you have me mixed up with someone else. I’m no hero.”

“I know exactly who you are. You are Jason Marx” Damian smiled down at him. “You’re the guy who dropped everything to go to the aide of a friend. I think that’s pretty heroic.”

“You do” he blinked meeting Damian’s steady gaze. “I just thought it was being a good friend.”

“How is he? Your friend” he asked changing the subject.

“Different” Jason sighed looking away “it’s like he’s a shadow of his former self.”

Shivering a little “it’s been a week. I’m sure it’s going to take a while before he feels like himself again.”

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“If he ever does” Jason added “you hear about this happening but it’s always to someone else. Not someone you know.”

“Have they caught the guy who did it” Damian asked preferring to focus on something that could be done.

“Not yet. The guy left the island the same night.” He kicked at the sand with his toes. “I’m sure he’s long gone.”

Nodding Damian tried to come up with something that might help. “Have you gone to visit him yet?”

“I’m not sure he wants visitors” looking at Damian “especially anyone he doesn’t know.”

“I don’t have to come if you think it’ll cause him distress” Damian offered. “I just think the guy needs to know he has friends.”

“Can we go after lunch” he asked “you did offer me lunch.”

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“Was that today” he teased.

“Don’t tell me you forgot” he cried “I’m starving.”

“We’ll get burgers at the Shack” he suggested pointing towards the concession stand. A few minutes later he returned with a basket.

“Where’s my burger” Jason demanded eyeing him suspiciously.

“I thought a picnic lunch would be better.”

“But I want a burger” Jason whined grinning when he couldn’t maintain the act.

***

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“It feels weird not having to race home to change and go to work” Aubrey stretched her arms over her head.

“I don’t remember the last time I didn’t have to run home right away” Kaia agreed. “Want to go to the beach?”

“Sure” Aubrey lost her smile. “I wish the others were home.”

“Have you heard how London is doing?” she asked. “I wanted to go visit but my parents nearly had a fit.”

“What for” Aubrey demanded.

Making air quotes “she’s a bad influence.” Kaia rolled her eyes “you’re not to hang out with her anymore.”

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“Harsh” Aubrey muttered.

“Tell me about it” Kaia crossed her arms “sorry about Olivia.”

“I’m not” she shrugged. “I know that sounds heartless but I’m glad she got caught. Maybe this will make her see there’s consequences to what she does.”

“This is major though” Kaia said “a couple of kids died including Dante’s girlfriend.”

“Ex-girlfriend” she correcte. “He told me they broke up earlier that night because he refused to go to that party with her.”

“Good thing. His brother was messed up enough.” kaia sighed. “Micah was the one who gave London the pills.”

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“I’m sure he feels awful” Aubrey sighed. “They’re moving to the mainland. Dante told me. His dad wants to get them away from the island and all the bad influences.” Grunting, she added “I guess moving is easier than getting a divorce I suppose.”

“Divorce” Kaia asked looking at her.

“Well the way Dante tells it Micah didn’t start taking drugs until they moved here after his dad married their step-mom.”

“Oh” she shrugged “sooner or later he’s going to have to adjust to the idea he has a new mom.”

“True but could you imagine how you’d feel if your dad just came home one day with a new wife” she asked “I’d be livid.”

“So would I” Kaia agreed. “Let’s get going. I don’t want to be home when my parents get there. I’ll never be able to leave.”

“Okay. I’ll meet you at the beach in an hour” Aubrey said waving goodbye.

Chapter 28 – Shattered /

Chapter 28 – Shattered

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Hannah jumped to her feet. “Teasha” she cried running towards one of her oldest friends. “Is Phoenix alright” she asked thinking that she was there due to his declining health.

“He’s fine” she sniffed returning her friends hug “it’s London.”

“London” she gasped “did she have an accident?”

“I wish” she shook her head “that would be so much easier if it were that simple.”

Hannah had been in the waiting room when the kids had flooded the ER from the party. Her mouth dropped open as she realized what Teasha was saying. “Oh no! She was at that party” pulled her friend into another hug. She could feel the stiffness in her body.

Stepping back she wiped her eyes dry. “Yeah. I can’t believe it. I keep thinking not my baby. Not my little girl. She’s too smart to do something so stupid. Too level headed. She wouldn’t do it.”

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“I’m so sorry” Hannah turned motioning towards the chairs “sit with me.”

Nodding Teasha let her guide her to the empty chairs. Taking tissue from her purse Hannah handed them to her. “Thank you” she sniffed after blowing her nose. “I’m still in shock. You can’t imagine how I felt getting that phone call telling you your baby is in the hospital.”

“I think I can” she murmured scanning the waiting room for her husband. Donovan had gone in search of someone to tell them something about their son.

“What” Teasha blinked up at her. “Why are you here? Don’t tell me. Temperance was there.”

“No thankfully she wasn’t” she chuckled a little “she’s done something equally as stupid though.” At Teasha’s blank look she continued. “She and two boys decided to go to the mainland to see Unity. If she would have waited I’d have brought her myself. But she couldn’t wait until I could do it. My dad’s are coming. Should be here already.” Sighing she shook her head “must be something in the water that’s making our kids do stupid things.”

“It may have been reckless but at least her heart was in the right place.” Teasha smiled at her. “Imagine how you’d have felt if it were Charity. You’d have done the same thing.”

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“Of course I would have” she cried “no questions asked. As a parent I’m forced to think of all the things that could have gone wrong. I’m scared. She’s so young and naive about a lot of things that could happen. Living on the island is isolating compared to the mainland.”

“Yet it hasn’t protected our children from the harshness of reality” she murmured, leaning her head on her friend’s shoulder.

“Reality sucks” Hannah enthused.

“You never did say why you are here” Teasha said returning to her earlier question. “If it’s not Temperance one of the boys?”

“Christopher” she said his name quickly. “We got a call to come here. That he was found on the beach. Hurt.” She turned to the other woman, “why is this happening? First Unity gets sick then London, now Christopher. What’s next?”

“I don’t know” Teasha almost felt ill. Nothing had prepared her for the fears that came along with being a parent. It never got easier no matter how old they got. “He’ll be okay” she whispered offering what little comfort she could.

“Donovan” Hannah cried breaking the hug Teasha was giving her to run to her husband. “How is he” she demanded not liking the blank glossy expression in his eyes.

***

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“Did you talk to the doctor,” she asked taking his hand knowing that whatever he found out wasn’t good. “Please tell me” she cried “I can take anything but this silence.”

“He…he” lifting his eyes to meet hers “he was raped. Someone violated our son and left him on the beach.”

Trembling in his arms as red hot tears formed behind her lids. “Who…was it that boy he went out with?” She had so many questions needing answers.

“I didn’t know he had a date” he mumbled. “If I ever get my hands on him. I’ll kill him.”

“I’ll help” she offered to angry to offer an alternative. Anyone hurting one of her kids was going to pay for it.

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“Do you know who he had a date with” he asked “the police are asking questions.”

“Can’t Christopher tell them” she asked confused.

“He’s refusing to answer their questions.” He ran his fingers through his thick red hair. “I can only imagine what’s going through his head right now.”

“Maybe I should talk to him” Hannah suggested.

“It’s worth a shot” he agreed “I just want this guy brought to justice. I’d think Chris would too.”

“He’s upset and scared right now” she reminded him. “Where is his room?”

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“I’ll show you” he took her hand leading the way down a corridor. Stopping in front of a closed door “he’s in there.”

Hannah could tell by his tone he didn’t want to go inside. “It’s alright. Wait out here. No I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t you go home and see if my dad’s have arrived. I don’t want them thinking we forgot about them.”

Kissing her cheek he gave her a thin lipped smile. “I’ll do that. What do you think about your dad talking to Christopher? He’s gone through something similar when he was younger. Maybe he can get through to him where we can’t.”

“That’s a good idea” she agreed “I’m sure Christopher is wanting to pretend nothing happened and ashamed that it did happen.”

“He has nothing to be ashamed of” Donovan growled.

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“We know that but he doesn’t. He probably feels he should have done more to protect himself.” Hannah looked towards the door “I’ve heard a lot of excuses people tell themselves.”

“From your volunteer work at the shelter,” he said.

“Yeah. You know how I feel about this. I’ve seen the way it affected my dad throughout his entire life.” Putting a hand out she reached for the door handle. She never expected to put her training to use on her own son though.

The police officers looked up as she entered the room. They’d worked with her before on similar cases. She was good at getting victims to open up. “He’s all yours” the officer in charge said.

“I’ll do my best” she blinked back tears. “You might want to call someone else from the office though.”

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“Aren’t you hear from the office” he asked.

“No” she inhaled deeply taking her son’s hand. “I’m here for my son.”

Her words struck the officers speechless. “We’re sorry. We didn’t know.”

“That’s little Christopher” the older officer said “he used to come with you to the precinct full of smiles.”

“Yeah” she said somewhat distracted pushing his hair from his face. “Hopefully he’ll be that way again” she spoke with determination as if she said it enough it’d come true.

***

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“Mom” he whispered, “can you make them leave. Please.”

She ran her fingers through his long hair. It was limp and brittle like it needed to be brushed. “You know I can’t do that. They’ll leave when you tell them who did this to you.”

Moaning he buried his face in his pillow. “Nothing happened” he shouted “why won’t anyone believe me?”

“We both know that’s not true” she sat in a chair stroking his hair. She wanted nothing more than to pull him into her arms like she did when he was a little boy waking from a nightmare.

“I don’t care what they believe” his voice muffled by the pillow. “It’s what i want to have happened.”

“I know baby. I know” she talked in a calm soothing voice trying to keep both of them calm. “I wish that were true. The physical evidence …”

“Mom don’t” it was a plaintive cry “leave it alone.”

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“I can’t” she combed her fingers through his tangles. “I want to find the person who did this. Help me find him.”

“I should have been able to fight him off” he insisted on trying to turn away from her. “I thought I was able to take care of myself like I always protected everyone else.”

“Sometimes bad things happen” she soothed quoting platitudes. “Sometimes we find ourselves needing protection. You don’t have to be ashamed…”

“I should have done something” he protested.

”Why?” she demanded making him look up at her. “Is it because you’re a man? Because men are supposed to be able to take care of themselves?”

“Yes” he sobbed “I put myself in that situation. I didn’t want to go but I did anyway. I knew better.”

“Honey there’s no way you could have predicted your date would attack you. You couldn’t have known. It’s not your fault. I don’t care if you wanted to go with him. The moment you said no was when it should have stopped.” She moved to sit on the edge of the bed stroking his back. She’d done this countless times in the past when he’d woken from a bad dream or a thunderstorm. “You won’t believe it now but it will get better.”

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Nodding he accepted her words for what they were. Sighing he sat up too tired to resist. “It was Brandon.”

“The guy who helped you that one time” she asked shocked.

He leaned into her like he had as a little boy “I was uneasy all night. I only meant to have supper with him. I meant to leave right after.”

“Why didn’t you” she asked hoping she didn’t sound like she was blaming him.

“He wouldn’t take no for an answer. I didn’t know how to leave without offending him.” Wiping his eyes on the backs of his hands he continued “it was okay at first. He was handsy but nothing I couldn’t handle. Then he started to put hands places I didn’t like. He got angry when he tried to kiss me and I refused.”

“It’s alright” she whispered putting an arm around his trembling shoulders. “I’m here. He can’t hurt you now.”

Taking a deep breathe he said “he kept saying I should be grateful to him. That I owed him a kiss. It happened so quickly I didn’t have time to react. He kicked my feet out from beneath me. Pinning me to the ground.” Tears flowed down his cheeks as memories flooded his mind. “I tried to fight him. He just kept hitting me until I couldn’t.”.

***

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“Hey grandpa” Benjamin greeted giving each of them a hug. “No one’s home right now but I’m sure they’ll be here soon.”

“Not even little Tempe” Rory frowned looking around. “Isn’t it getting late for her to be out.”

“Yeah well” he shrugging “she decided to hitch a ride to the mainland to visit Unity.”

Rory shook his head as Eddie leaped on what their grandson said. “What do you mean she hitched a ride? Didn’t someone go with her?”

“She was told to wait” he shrugged unconcerned. “She got impatient. Went with a couple of her friends.”

“I take it she went without permission” Rory stated a touch of pride in his voice.

“You know it” Benjamin chuckled. “You should have seen mom and dad. I’ve never seen them so mad, at least at their darling little girl.”

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“I’m sure she’ll be alright” Rory moved to assure his husband. “You and I both know Ryan and Charity will take good care of her.”

“That’s not the point” Eddie groused “she could have gotten hurt or worse….”

“She was with friends” Benjamin repeated grinning.

“Aubrey and London” Eddie asked hopefully.

“Nope a couple of boys” chuckling at the look they both gave him. “Will has been mooning over her for weeks now. I’m sure he saw this as an opportunity to play the hero.”

“Son” Donovan’s voice interrupted him “invite your grandparents inside.”

“Dad” he cried “where have you been?”

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“I’ll explain when we have your grandparents settled” Donovan said picking up a couple of bags and motioning for his son to take the rest.

Once they were inside and sitting in the living room with fresh brewed tea Eddie turned to his son in law. “What’s wrong? Where’s Hannah?”

Giving him a sad smile “never could pull anything past you.”

“It’s just unusual that Hannah isn’t here,” Eddie said.

“Nothings happened to Temperance on her little excursion I hope” Rory gave him a worried look.

“No Charity called to let us know the kids are safe and at the hospital. For now it’s best she stays there.”

“Where’s Christopher” Benjamin asked coming into the room “I wanted to ask him if I could borrow his bike tomorrow.”

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“I’m sure that’ll be okay. I doubt he’ll be wanting to go out.

Frowning Benjamin asked “what’s going on? Mom’s never out this late unless she’s been called out to help with a victim…”

Resting his elbows on his knees Donovan leaned forward kneading his neck. “Something happened this evening to your brother. He’s going to need all of us to help him through it.” Looking towards Eddie “we’re hoping you’ll be able to help us cope with this.”

Understanding and terror flashed in the older man’s eyes. He took Rory’s hand squeezing it hard “I’ll do what I can.”

Benjamin looked from one man to the next confusion prompting him to ask “what’s going on?”

Gulping loudly Donovan repeated everything he learned from the police. How Jace had found him on the beach beaten and almost catatonic. “He’s in a vulnerable state right now. We need to create a safe area for him to come home to.”

“It was that guy wasn’t it? Brendan?” Benjamin paced around the room unable to sit still. “It’s my fault. I convinced him to go out with him. If I hadn’t none of this would have happened.”

Chapter 27 – Parents Worst Nightmare /

Chapter 27 – Parents Worst Nightmare

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“Hey man I’m so sorry” Malcolm coming into the break room “I just head. I’m so sorry.”

Jeremy sniffed shaking his head. He’d heard the same words before. Said the same words. They didn’t mean a thing until you were the one the words are directed to. Meaningless stupid words meant to make the person saying them feel better.

“You’ll get through this” Malcolm assured him gripping the other man’s shoulder. “Think of your son. Tristen needs you.”

An unreasonable rage flared like a supernova inside him. Jumping to his feet fast enough to knock the chair behind over. “This is all your fault. Come to Isla Paradiso. The best place to practice medicine and raise a family.”

“Whoa” raising his hands as if to defend himself. “This isn’t my fault. I didn’t make you come here. I didn’t force your daughter to take drugs.”

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Jeremy’s face contorted sinking to his knees. “My sweet little girl” he sobbed “I couldn’t protect her. Couldn’t save her. I wasn’t there when she needed me.”

“For goodness sake man pull yourself together” Malcolm said coldly. “You’re a grown man who deals with life and death everyday.”

Several nurses shot him glares like death rays. “Who the hell do you think you are? The man just lost his daughter. Have some compassion.”

“My daughter has the good sense not to mix pharmaceuticals with alcohol.” He peered down his nose at the woman who dared speak to him in such a manner.

“Want to bet” the woman glared at him.

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“You couldn’t afford to lose” he waved a hand in dismissal. Glancing at the clock he turned his attention to his sniveling coworker. “Pull yourself together at least long enough to finish your shift.” He ignored the gasps of disapproval from the nurses gathered in the room.

Jeremy stood up rubbing his swollen eyes “I quit.”

“You can’t just quit” he objected.

“I think he just did” the nurse who had confronted him before said with a smirk.

“Don’t be ridiculous” he scoffed “you can’t just quit.”

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Walking towards the door Jeremy “as you pointed out, I have a son who needs me. I let you talk me into a different kind of lifestyle that cost me my daughter. I won’t lose him too. He and I are going home.”

“You were barely scraping by” he reminded him.

“True but we were happy. My daughter was alive.” Running a trembling hand through his hair “that’s the life I want for my son. It doesn’t matter the money or prestige.”

Watching the door slowly close behind him the nurse said “I guess you’ll be needing a replacement.”

“I guess I will” he grunted. He was about to follow Jeremy from the room when an officer stuck his head inside. “Can I help you?”

***

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“Excuse me, I’m looking for Doctor Malcolm Schmidt” the officer said stopping him.

“I’m he” he grumbled irritation making his voice gruff.

“Are you the father of Olivia Schmidt” he asked

“I am” he spoke in a terse clipped tone aware of the curious interest of the nurses behind him. “Shall we talk somewhere more private” he extended an arm inviting the officer to follow.

“Sir” the officer nodded allowing him to lead the way. “Were you aware your daughter was named as one of the organizers of this evening’s disastrous teen party?”

“That’s ridiculous” he postured “my daughter would never do that. “She wouldn’t even be at such a party.”

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The officer stared back at him letting his words hang in the air. He opened his notebook reading what looked like chicken scratches. “Several kids named her as one of the organizers. We’ve dispatched a squad car to your home to pick her up for questioning.”

“You have no right” he growled.

“I believe three dead teenagers and a dozen others in the hospital is all the rights I need” he retorted.

“She’s a minor” he blustered “you can’t question her without parental presence.”

“That’s why I’m here,” the officer informed him “I’m your escort to the police station.”

Jerking his arm away from the man’s touch Malcolm glared at him. “I can’t leave. I’ve lost on ER doctor due to this travesty. I cannot leave the ER unattended.”

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“I have my orders sir,” the officer said politely with a hard edge.

“I have responsibilities. Patients,” his voice rose. Curious onlookers stared at them.

The sound of someone clearing their throat made both men turn to look. “Doctor Olson” he gasped. Looking around at the bystanders his eyes fell upon the nurse from earlier “you called the director.”

“Of course” she shrugged “someone had to do something.”

“You’re relieved from duty” Doctor Olson said with a note of finality in his voice

Without further argument Malcolm found himself sitting beside his daughter in an interrogation room. “Daddy” Olivia cried “make them listen to me. I keep telling them they made a mistake. Tell them I wouldn’t do what they are accusing me of.” Her large eyes wide and innocent seeming despite her too tight clothing and short barely there mini skirt. Her face was caked with makeup making her look years older than her 16 years.

“Don’t say another word” he snapped “we’re not saying anything until our lawyer arrives.”

***

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Teasha held the door open for Phoenix to enter before her. There was no way she would ever be prepared to see her little girl in a hospital bed. Her eyes misted as her stomach churned as she took in the dark charcoal smudges around her mouth, bloodshot eyes and swollen lids.

“I’m sorry daddy” London sobbed holding her hands out to him.

Phoenix took them in his but it was Teasha who spoke first. “How long” fear making her voice gruff as anger gnawed at her insides.

Biting her bottom lip she stared at her feet sticking up from the thin hospital blanket. “I don’t know” she mumbled.

“You don’t know” Teasha repeated wanting nothing more than to take her daughter by the shoulders and shake her until her answers made sense. “That’s not good enough” her voice rose in the small room.

London inhaled sharply eyes darting to her father. “I never took anything before. I really wish I hadn’t today either.”

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Phoenix patted her hands “why baby? Why did you?”

“I don’t know” she mumbled shaking her head as tears threatened to break down the damn she had around her feelings.

“Don’t lie” Phoenix gazed intently back at her.

Teasha sat on the edge of the bed, shoulders shaking as her anger dissipated. “I’m sorry for yelling baby. I was so scared. The thought of losing you.” Lifting her face, tears glistened on her cheek “you’re my baby. I love you.”

“I know mom” she sniffed “I just wanted to be accepted.”

“Accepted by whom” Phoenix asked “none of your friends were at this party.”

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“Not them” she sighed “at least not the friends you know.”

Stroking her daughter’s long dark hair “did you have a falling out with Temperance and the others? Is that why you’re hanging out with kids we don’t know?”

Tucking her hair behind her ear, shaking her head. “It’s not that. I just wanted to friends who didn’t know …” Her eyes slid towards her father. Covering her face with her hands “I’m a horrible person. I’m the worst daughter ever.”

Reaching over Phoenix tenderly dried her eyes. He gave his wife a look of understanding and he could see it in her eyes that he was right. “I’m sorry sweetie but you have to tell us what you’re feeling. It’s the only way we’ll be able to help you.”

“ I wanted to be normal” she cried. It was as if the damn was broken and she couldn’t stop talking. “I was tired of being the responsible one. Never being able to do anything but work and school.” Taking a deep breath she met her father’s sincere eyes and knew how much she’d hurt him. “I didn’t want to be the girl who had to come home every day and check on you.”

Teasha’s sharp in take of breath and Phoenix’s bleak expression confirmed she was a terrible person. “I know it wouldn’t change anything. Not really. I am still that girl but for that moment I was someone else. Someone without any cares in the world.” She looked away unable to see their devastated faces anymore. She wanted nothing more than to be the little girl they thought she was. “I know saying I’m sorry isn’t worth much but it’s all I’ve got.”

***

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Quenten threw the door open leading into his son’s room. “What the hell’s wrong with you” he demanded before his brain had the chance to notice the machines in the room. His son was lying on his back eyes closed connected to several beeping machines.

Slowing as his brain caught up with his mouth he dragged himself forward. Despite what his eyes were seeing his brain insisted it had to be a mistake. A horrible joke of some kind. “Micah” his voice cracked as he reached for his son’s cold limp hand. Nothing the doctor’s had told him had prepared him for this. Nothing. He’d been told but he hadn’t believed.

He felt someone take his hand. Her words meant little to him. “Quenten” she tugged on his hand “the doctor wants to talk to us.”

Dragging his eyes from his son he tried to focus on the tired older man’s face “how is my son?”

Glancing at the boy he shook his head. “I wish I could say he’ll be alright. At this stage we were lucky to stabilize him. He’s still in critical condition. His organs are shutting down.”

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“Isn’t there anything you can do” Quenten asked hands curling into fists.

“We’ve done all we can do” he rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I suggest you prepare yourselves for the worst.”

Gulping Quenten stumbled forward almost falling to his knees.

Moving fast Cassidy put an arm around him holding him close. “He’s strong. He’s going to get through this.”

Moving like a man lost in a fog he stared at his son. He dropped to his knees hands steepled in prayer. It was something he hadn’t done in years. His lips moved begging to whoever was listening for their help.

Cassidy followed his example kneeling beside him. Dante stood back watching. One thought running through his head. What if he had told his dad sooner. Maybe this could have avoided? This was his fault. He could have saved his brother if he’d only acted sooner.

Chapter 26 – Disturbing News /

Chapter 26 – Disturbing News

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Douglas sat on the opposite end of the couch from where Kyle sat. He could feel Kyle giving him quick little glances like he wanted to say something. “What?”

“Are you still mad at me?”

Without taking his eyes from the TV Douglas asked “what makes you think I’m mad?”

“Oh I don’t know” he moved his hand indicating the space between them. “Maybe the fact you refuse to sit by me.”

“Maybe you stink” Douglas said trying to keep his face straight but his lips twitched.

Making a production of smelling his pits Kyle shook his head. “I don’t. So what’s up?”

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“You can’t be that dense” Douglas complained.

“I know I was getting on your nerves at the store. I thought you’d have gotten over that by now.” He heaved a sigh “I’m sorry.”

“Really” he asked laying the pillow he’d been hugging to himself between them. “Are you really sorry or are you just saying that because you think it’s what I want to hear?”

Grinning Kyle scooted closer “both.”

“Figures” he chuckled putting a hand on Kyle’s face before he could lean in and give him a kiss. “You’re not that charming to get away with such a lame apology.”

Rolling over onto the floor Kyle got on his knees in front of Douglas. A mischievous glint in his eyes “do you want a demonstration of how sorry I am?”

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Running his tongue across his bottom lip anticipating whatever Kyle had in mind. “A demonstration would be most welcome. He leaned back, eyes closed. The movie playing in the background all but forgotten as Kyle released his zipper. The discordant sound of his phone a jarring interruption.

Groaning he brought the phone up “hello.”

“Are you alright” his sister asked in his ear.

“I’m fine” he tried to get Kyle to quit to no avail. “What do you want?” he asked trying to keep his voice normal.

“Do you think you could stay with Kyle for a few days?”

“I don’t see that being a problem” he bit down on his lip to keep from moaning.

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“Are you sure?” she asked, “I don’t want to put him out?”

“Sis I’ve got to go” he disconnected letting his phone fall from his fingers. Moaning loudly as Kyle worked his magic on him.

Grinning Kyle crawled into his lap “what did your sister want?” he asked between kisses.

“She wanted to see if I could stay here for a few days” he managed to say between kisses that were becoming more and more heated. “I hope that’s alright with you.”

“Depends”

“On what” he asked as if he didn’t already know.

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“I’ll need plenty of hugs and kisses” he tugged on Douglas’s shirt “among other things.”

“What would those other things entail?”

“Let me demonstrate” he said grinding against him.

“What if I wanted to watch a movie” he asked not really caring if Kyle had wanted to cuff him to the bed for days.

“There’s plenty of time for that later” he stood up taking Douglas’s hand and leading him to the bedroom. “Right now there’s more pressing needs.”

“I know exactly what you need to relieve that pressure” he grinned reaching for his boyfriend.

***

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“Jace what’s so urgent that I had to drop everything to come over here” Jason demanded walking into his best friends place.

Pointing towards Christopher sitting like a statue on the couch as silent tears rolled down his cheeks. “I didn’t know what to do.”

Jason gasped seeing his childhood friend in such a state. He wondered how Jace had been able to function so far being more of a scardy cat who jumped at his own shadow. “Do you know what happened?” he asked even though he doubted he knew.

“I….” taking a deep breath as the reality of the moment came crashing down upon him. “I found him like that. On the beach crying. I barely got him here.”

“Should have called the police or an ambulance” Jason said frowning at his friends almost catatonic state.

“No” Christopher moaned shaking his head “no police.”

“Well” scratching his head “at least let us take you to the hospital to get checked out.”

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“No police” he repeated looking away.

“No police” Jason promised “just a doctor to fix you up.”

“Okay” he whispered letting Jason pull him to his feet. “I should have known better. Done something.”

“Don’t worry about that now,” he said “let’s get you fixed up.”

Turning to Jace he said “call his parents.”

Staring at his phone like it had grown a head “what do I say?”

He could hear the panic in his friend’s voice. He obviously had reached his limit. “Tell them that your a friend of Christopher’s and that he’s been hurt and to meet you at the hospital.”

“What if they start asking questions” his face blanched.

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“Just do it Jace” he snapped losing his patience as he struggled to keep Christopher upright.

Staring into space a moment before calling out “wait for me. I’m coming with you.” Pulling Christopher’s other arm over his shoulder “I’ll call from the car.”

Jason cringed listening to Jace’s conversation. Maybe he should have called himself but he couldn’t do it and drive too.

“They’ll meet us there” Jace said breathing hard. “I hope I never have to do that again.”

“You and me both” Jason agreed.

By the time they’d gotten Christopher inside and being looked at by an overworked doctor his parents arrived. “What happened?” Hannah demanded as soon as she saw Jason.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m hoping the doctor will be able to tell us something.”

***

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Glancing at her husband Teasha could see he had the same worried expression on his face as she did. “You’re worried too aren’t you?”

Nodding he tried to force a smile on his face. “I wonder if we forced her to grow up too fast. Too soon. She never got to be a child.”

Reaching for his hand “this isn’t your fault. Every teenager rebels against responsibility at some point.

“This is more than the average teen rebellion” he persisted “we’ve pushed her beyond her tolerance.”

“You still think she’s the one taking your pain meds, don’t you?”

“I do” squeezing her hand “I know you think it’s me not remembering taking them but I know it’s not me.”

“Alright let’s say you’re right” Teasha said. “Why is she taking them? I haven’t noticed any drastic changes in her attitude or behavior.”

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“Neither have I accept for her reluctance to help out around the house.” Shaking his head “all I know is she looks guilty every time we bring up the pills.”

“I’ve noticed that too” sighing “I don’t know what to do. Why didn’t she tell us she was having a problem?”

“I don’t know” Phoenix shook his head “maybe she was afraid of disappointing us.”

“We need to sit her down and have a good long talk with her” she said.

“The last time we tried that she refused to talk” Phoenix reminded her. “We don’t want her feeling cornered.”

“Then what” she cried.

“Let me think about it” he said “maybe a little father daughter time will help.”

“If that doesn’t work I’ll give it a try” she said giving him a tearful sniff. “I hope we’re not too late though.”

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The ringing of her phone interrupted them. “Hello” Teasha said “OMG. Is she alright?” Looking at Phoenix eyes wide with shock. “We’ll be there as soon as we can.”

“What’s happened” Phoenix demanded watching as tears slid down his wife’s porcelain cheeks. “Teasha tell what’s happened.”

“London…she’s being taken to the hospital.” She gulped “she was at a party. Several of the kids had gotten ill.”

Blinking as he absorbed her words “is she alright?” He struggled to breath through lungs that felt as if they’d been flattened by a steam roller.

“We need to go to the hospital,” she repeated. “That’s all I know. They wouldn’t tell me anything else.”

“Okay go” he said as much as he wanted to be there to support his wife and daughter he knew it would take less time if Teasha went alone.

“I can’t do this alone” she cried pushing him towards the door. “I need you there with me.”

***

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“How long have you known Micah has been going to these parties?” Quentin demanded his voice rising bouncing off the walls.

“I didn’t know for sure. At least not until tonight” he glanced towards Cassidy as if asking for help.

“You suspected” Quinten yelled “you should have told me.”

“Yeah right” he scoffed, “the only thing on your mind has been your new wife. You didn’t care how we felt about you getting married. If you had, maybe Micah wouldn’t have needed to turn to drugs and parties.”

“Don’t blame this on me or your step mother” he thundered.

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“Of course not” Dante rolled his eyes “blame me for not telling you. Don’t accept responsibility for the fact you weren’t paying attention. Maybe if you had noticed ….”

“I’ve had just about enough of your smart mouth.” His nostrils flared breathing hard. The chime of his phone distracted him enough to pull it out. “What” he shouted “he’s what? Where? Is he alright?”

He sat heavily on the couch holding his head in his hands. Cassidy moved towards him touching his shoulder “what happened? Was it Micah? Is he alright?”

“That was the police” he said wrapping his arms around her waist. “Micah’s been taken to the hospital. Evidently several kids have been taken to the hospital.” He raised angry accusing eyes towards his son.

“Quentin” his wife warned “whatever you’re about to say don’t.”

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“But he” he jerked to his feet.

Tugging on his hand “don’t say it. You’re upset. You’re not thinking straight. Don’t say something you’ll regret later.”

Taking several deep breaths he nodded. “You’re right. I’m sorry. We need to get to the hospital. They wouldn’t tell me how he was doing.”

“He’s going to be alright” Cassidy assured him. “We have to think positively.”

Getting up Quintin headed towards the door like a man on a mission or possibly living his worst nightmare. He could only hope his son was alright. He just couldn’t lose him.

Chapter 25 – Running / Chapter 27 – Parents Worst Nightmare

Glitter – Chapter 25 – Running

Author’s Note: I’m posting a trigger warning due to mention of rape. Please stop reading here if this is upsetting to you. It does not go into specifics or detail. It is just mentioned but I wanted to give you fair warning.

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“It’s about time” Brandon hissed coming out from behind some nearby shrubs.

“Why are you hiding” January demanded.

“Just open the damn door” he snapped looking over his shoulder.

“Not until you tell me what you did” she glared defiantly at her brother keys dangling from her fingers.

Snatching them “I don’t have time for this.”

“Hey” Grant cried pushing his way past his girlfriend. “You can’t just let yourself into our home.”

“Out of my way little man” Brandon glared down at Grant.

“Just let him in” January said resigning herself to the inevitable.

“He can’t just…”

“I just can’t what” Brandon challenge grabbing fistful of Grant’s shirt and pulling him forward.

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“Brandon if you hurt him so help me” she cried her voice deadly serious.

“Fine” he shoved the younger man aside laughing a little when Grant tripped and fell.

Once they were inside January demanded “no more stalling. What did you do?” Her eyes raked across him answering her own question. Brandon’s clothes were torn as if someone had struggled with him. White stains on the black material. The smell. It all said one thing. “Don’t tell me you did it again.”

“Alright I won’t” he shrugged chin jutting out defiantly. “I just need help getting out of town. Money. A car.”

“The usual” her voice dripped with disdain. “I thought you liked this guy.”

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“I did” rolling his eyes “I don’t know what happened. Things were going great. Then he got nervous and refusing…”

“So you forced him” she shook her head as she opened her purse.

“You’re not seriously going to give him money” Grant snatched her bag from her. “He needs to be in jail.”

“He’s my brother” she reached for her bag. “He needs help and I’m going to give it to him.”

“You’re going to wind up in jail right along with him” he protested.

“What do you expect me to do? Let him go to jail” she tugged on her bag “give it to me.”

“No I’m not letting you throw your life away because your brother’s an asshat” he jerked away from her.

“You don’t have a say in this” January tugged again sending the contents of her bag flying in all directions.

“You mean that don’t you” he sighed all the fight draining from him. “You don’t care what he’s done or how I feel.”

“I could care less” she snapped gathering her things.

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“Fine” he stomped towards the door “I’m gone.”

“You’re not leaving” Brandon blocked his path.

“Out of my way” Grant ordered hoping his voice didn’t betray the doubt he had of holding his own against the bigger man.

“Just let him go” January told her brother.

“What assurance do we have that he won’t go to the police” Brandon asked eyeing Grant cautiously.

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“And tell them what” Grant inquired “that I suspect you raped someone.”

Growling deep in his throat Brandon’s fist shot out connecting with Grant’s chin snapping his head back. The younger man fell backwards landing flat on his back.

“Idiot” January snapped going to check on him.

Dragging her away from Grant he said “we don’t have time for this. We need to leave now.”

“I’m not leaving until I pack a bag” she jerked her arm away. “This is the last time I save your ass.” She glanced down at Grant “at least put him on the sofa.” She turned running up the stairs to pack.

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Grunting Brandon did as she requested. “What did she ever see in you” he muttered as he moved the unconscious boy.

Ten minutes later January came down the stairs carrying two bags. She placed a folded note for Grant on the coffee table.

“He doesn’t need a Dear John letter” her brother grunted watching her.

“He deserves better than what I’m giving him. The least I can do is apologize” she snapped.

“If you’d rather stay just tell me. I’ll go on my own” Brandon said giving her the look he knew would get her to do whatever he wanted. “Just remember your promise.”

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“I promised to look out for you” she snapped watching him “not to cover for you whenever you get in trouble.”

“Isn’t that the same thing” he asked a smug look in his eyes. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”

Nodding she leaned over giving Grant one last kiss on the cheek whispering “I’m sorry” low enough that her brother wouldn’t hear.

Walking from the house she left the door slightly ajar. “Where’s your bike?”

“I had to ditch it” he smirked “they’ll be looking for a guy on a bike. I’m not that guy.”

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“Maybe you should have given some thought about your appearance” she said appraising him from head to toe.

As if seeing himself for the first time he groaned and headed back into the house. Pointing at Grant “does he have any clothes here?”

“Yeah but I don’t think they’ll fit” she said.

“It’ll have to do” he said taking the stairs two at a time. Haphazardly he pulled clothes out until he found something he could wear. Going into the bathroom he took a quick shower. Found some scissors in a drawer he called his sister into the room. Handing the scissors to her “not too short.”

“You’ll be lucky I don’t expose those big old dumbo ears of yours” she chuckled as she began cutting.

***

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Groaning Grant slowly opened his eyes. The silence of his surroundings indicated he was alone. Sitting up he clutched his head as the room spun around him. Fumbling for his phone, he dialed the number of the only person he knew would drop everything and come. “Rex” his voice shook like it would before he burst into tears.

“Grant” his brother’s voice was instantly alert “are you okay?”

“She left me” he blurted. It was the least important thing that happened that night but still it was what hurt the most.

“Where are you” Rex asked.

“At the house” he moaned “please come. I don’t feel so well.”

The sound of someone throwing up came through the phone “Grant” Rex shouted “are you alright?”

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“What’s going on” Sandie asked moving to sit beside him on the bed.

“I don’t know” shaking his head “Grant we’re on our way. Just stay where you are.” He wasn’t sure if his brother heard him or not but he jumped from the bed to struggle into clothes.

Yawning Sandie got up and started to get dressed. “I’m coming with you” she said when she caught him watching her.

When they arrived at the house Grant shared with January they parked by his car and the door ajar. Cautiously Rex stepped inside calling “Grant.” Looking down he found Sandie grabbing his arm and pointing. Pointing her fingers he found his twin sitting on the couch cradling his head. “Did you get robbed? Where’s January?”

“No” he shook his head “her brother.” He lifted his face revealing a bruised and swollen lip.

“Brandon did this” Sandie asked appalled.

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“The one and only” he mumbled.

“I think we should take you to the ER” Rex suggested. “You could have a concussion or something.”

“Why’d he hit you” Sandie inquired sitting next to him. Tilting his face towards her she inspected the damage.

“I refused to help him leave town” he said unable to meet her eyes.

“I would have thought that was a good thing. Him leaving town” she said “wasn’t he always asking her for money?”

“Yeah” sighing he jerked his face away. “It’s not so much him leaving town as to why he’s leaving.” He could feel their curious eyes watching him and he told them everything from the moment he’d left their house and getting hit on the head.

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“You have to call the police” Rex said with finality.

“And tell them what” Grant demanded “that I think my ex girlfriend’s brother may have raped someone? They’ll think I’m crazy.”

“It’s the right thing to do” Sandie added “who knows it might help them in solving other cases.”

“Alright I’ll call” he mumbled fumbling for his phone. “Will you stay with me?”

“Of course” Sandi assured him.

***

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“That was unpleasant” Grant mumbled once the police left.

Nodding Rex tried to hide his smile. He received a glare from his girlfriend warning him “what?”

“Don’t say it” she cautioned.

“He doesn’t have to” Grant said finishing putting the last of his things in the bag. “It was obvious the police thought it was me who’d been raped and too embarrassed to admit it.”

“Well” Sandi gave him a concerned look “you are alright, aren’t you? I know they found evidence of some sort here. They took a bag and dusted for prints.”

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“Nothing happened other than me getting knocked out” he growled hating to repeat himself for the millionth time.

“Are you sure you don’t know who his date was” Rex asked.

“I don’t know” he shook his head “I wish I did. The guys a jerk. I hate to think they’re going to get away with it.”

“You’re coming home with us” Sandi said abruptly causing both men to look at her. “He can’t stay here and I won’t hear of you staying in a hotel.”

“The EMT did say he should be watched” Rex added “Is this everything?”

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“Yeah” Grant scratched his head. “I’m sorry I was such a jerk earlier.”

“Don’t worry about it” Rex shrugged off his apology.

“I wish I had listened to you guys” he continued as they walked towards their car. “You tried to warn me she wasn’t any good.”

“I wouldn’t say that” Sandi said twisting in the front seat to talk to him. “She liked you, didn’t she?”

“That’s not saying much” he mumbled staring out the window. “I was obviously a chump.”

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“Don’t say that” she persisted “just because she didn’t appreciate you doesn’t mean someone else won’t. You’re a great guy.”

“I don’t feel like a great guy” he leaned his head back “I feel like an idiot.”

Sandi opened her mouth to refute him when Rex interrupted her. “He needs time to process things.”

“I know” she sighed turning to face the front. “I just don’t want him feeling bad.”

“He’ll come around. Right now it’s not going to matter what either of say to him. It’s too soon for him to see it any other way.” he glanced in the rear view mirror “we’ll try again in the morning.”

Chapter 24 – A Family Affair / Chapter 26 – Disturbing News

Glitter – Chapter 24 – A Family Affair

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Douglas sat in the passenger seat drumming his fingers lightly on the arm rest. Kyle was inside the bank having decided to run an errand before starting their date. Looking up when Kyle slid into the car he asked “where to now?”

Starting the car Kyle merged into traffic. “How do you feel about a quiet evening in?”

“Sounds okay” he turned to look out the passenger window silently wondering if that decision was a product of the guys bank balance. “Netflix and chill” he asked.

“The chill part sounds good” he grinned “I don’t have Netflix.”

“We could go to my house but Sandi is having Rex over” Douglas said. “I think she was looking forward to some alone time.”

“We could rent a movie from Redbox” Kyle suggested as he drove. “I have to go to Walmart anyway to pick up a pizza.”

Snorting at Kyle’s idea of a romantic date. He’d been on worse dates but he was trying to give the guy some credit. At least he had taken off his trademark jacket. “I see we’re eating gourmet tonight” he teased.

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Kyle’s hands jerked on the steering wheel. “Did you want something else? I could splurge for Chinese or something.”

“No” Douglas stammered “pizza’s okay I guess.” He heard the faint humph beside him “if you’re short on cash I don’t mind buying supper.”

Kyle’s jaw ticked as his knuckles went white around the steering wheel “no, I’m good.”

Douglas gave him a sideways glance but decided not to pursue it. They’d only been dating for a few weeks. He didn’t want to pry or make him feel bad. “I’ll pick out the movie while you get the pizza” he suggested.

Nodding he turned into the parking lot “no chick flicks.”

“I thought you wanted to chill” Douglas retorted “how are we gonna get in the mood watching a horror film?”

Rolling his eyes Kyle got out of the car. “I don’t need to watch a chick flick to get in the mood.” He walked around the car to take the blonde’s hand.

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“What kind of movie do you want then” Douglas asked refusing to be mollified.

“How about a slasher movie” he suggested winking at him. “Something to make you jump into my arms squealing.”

“You like it when I squeal” he asked blushing slightly when his eyes met Kyle’s.

“I do” he whispered leaning in close “if we weren’t walking into Walmart I’d make you squeal right now.”

“Don’t you dare” he jumped recognizing the wicked glimmer in the man’s eyes. “People are watching.”

“Let them watch” he grinned pulling Douglas closer “we see other’s kissing in public. What’s wrong with us doing a little kissing?”

Relaxing in the man’s arms Douglas returned his grin. “Nothing at all” he said leaning into him their lips brushing against the other’s. Pulling back eyes bright “nothing at all” he repeated.

 

“Still want to watch that movie” Kyle asked willing to skip right to the chill part.

“Yes” he said primly “you’re not getting out of date night that easily.”

“I don’t want out” he protested “just to skip to the fun part.” Leaning forward to press another kiss on the blonde.

“Ugh” Douglas groaned pushing him away. “Sorry but you’ve got to work a little harder than that before I bend over.”

“Oh you’ll bend over alright” Kyle smirked.

“That’s not what I meant you perv” Douglas said walking ahead of him and into the store.

Shrugging Kyle followed. He watched as Douglas went to the Redbox to select a movie. His back was ramrod straight a sure sign of how irritated he was at the situation. Shaking is head Kyle whistled softly knowing how the night would end. They’d wake up in the morning, their arms and legs entwined. Douglas’s hair free from it’s bun would be wild and free on the pillows. Just the way he liked it.

***

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Sandi stretched out on the couch holding her hand out to her boyfriend. Grinning Rex obliged her by taking it. “What no movie” he asked between kisses.

Pulling back smiling at him “do you really want to spoil the mood by watching a movie?”

Grinning “put like that” he leaned forward pressing her into the couch cushion “no I don’t.”

“Good” she pulled him down on top of her wrapping her legs around him.

Once their passions were sated Rex sat beside her on the couch. “I can’t believe we did that” he shook head slightly in disbelief.

“What can’t you believe” she sounded slightly offended. “I know I’m not the most imaginative or adventurous lover but I didn’t think I was a prude either.”

“Ohh no not that” he chuckled a little. “I meant anyone could have walked in on us while we were you know” he waved his hand to encompass what they’d just enjoyed.

“OH you don’t have to worry about Douglas” she giggled “he’s out with Kyle tonight. I don’t expect him back until late if at all.”

“Here I was worried for nothing” he sighed sitting back putting an arm around her shoulders.

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“Not worried enough to affect your performance” she ran a finger across his collarbone and down his chest.

“The possibility of getting caught always heightens the pleasure” he smirked.

“Uh huh” she smirked “just admit it. You were caught up in the moment and didn’t even think about who might walk in on us.”

Fire burned a path across his cheeks. “Alright I admit it. I didn’t care who might have caught us.”

“Good” she giggled satisfied she’d gotten him to admit it. Picking up the remote she asked “what do you want to watch?”

“Anything” he shrugged “you pick.”

“You never like what I pick” she protested handing him the remote.

“But you like what I pick even less” he pushed the remote back to her.

“True but I’ve got to get dinner ready” she said getting up and heading into the kitchen.

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“Can I help” he asked following her.

“I thought you wanted to watch a movie” she said gathering everything she needed.

“I do” he said “but it’s more fun with you.”

“Well…in that case peel these potatoes for me” she said handing him the peeler.

Stepping up to the counter he began the task. “Maybe one day we could invite Grant over for dinner.”

“Oh” she asked looking up “what about his girlfriend….January?”

Groaning he asked “do we have too?”

“No we don’t have to” she rolled her eyes at him. “It might help you get to know her better.”

“I was afraid you’d say that” he frowned. “There’s just something about her I don’t like.”

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“Well your brother does” she pointed out. “The least you can do is try to like her.”

Setting the peeler down he glared at her. “Fine” he grumbled picking it up again and going at the potatoes with vengeance. “I’ll try.”

“Good I’ve invited them to dinner” she informed as she turned towards the sink..

“Dinner” he asked “not tonight.”

Turning to face him she nodded. “Of course tonight.”

Running a hand through his hair “so that whole thing was just to get me in a good mood. It was a set up.”

“Not completely” she said moving towards him “that was a bonus.”

“Doesn’t make me feel any better” he whined. “I was looking forward to an evening just the two of us. We either have your friends over or Douglas and Kyle.”

“I’m sorry baby” she apologized “I didn’t think. When I saw January in the store earlier I just asked if she wanted to come over for supper. I wasn’t thinking. I’m sorry.”

***

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“Grant” January called “we’re going to be late.”

“So what” he asked coming out of the bathroom a towel wrapped around his waist. “It’s just my brother and Sandi.”

“I know but” she grinned walking up to him. His skin damp from the shower. Her fingers lightly traveling down his chest coming to rest on the knotted towel around his waist. Biting her bottom lip she looked up at him through her eye eyelashes. “We might have time for a little fun before we go.”

“Oh we better have more time for more than just a little fun” he teased as her fingers freed the towel from around his waist. The cool air made his skin prickle as it hit his bare skin. “This might take a while.”

Puckering her lips she gave him a seductive look “we’ll be late.”

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“We’re already late” he bent his head pulling her close.

An hour later they walked up to Sandi’s house. Knocking on the door Grant prepared an elaborate apology. However when Sandi greeted them instead of his brother he was rendered speechless.

“Sorry we’re late” January said stepping inside. “We lost track of time. You know how it is.” She winked at the girl running her hands possessively up Grant’s arm.

“Err” Sandi wasn’t sure how to respond to the not so veiled reference to their love lie. “We tried to wait for you but everything was getting cold…”

“Don’t worry about it” Grant assured her “we’re not that hungry anyway.” He grunted when January’s elbow connected with his ribs. “What” he glared at her rubbing his side.

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“Don’t be rude” she hissed “we’ll be delighted to have whatever leftovers you have.”

“Are you sure” she asked “I could make something else.”

“Would you” January grinned “that would be so nice of you.”

“Honey I don’t think we should impose” Grant attempted to protest.

“She said it wasn’t a problem” January insisted “you know how much I dislike eating reheated food.”

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“Sandi don’t go to any trouble” Grant smiled at his brother’s girlfriend. “It’s our fault we’re late.”

“But she said it wasn’t any trouble” January insisted smiling at the girl “isn’t that right?”

Nodding Sandi had the expression of someone being caught between a rock and hard place. “I did say that….”

Rex came up behind her “honey you’ve already cooked a fantastic meal. They shouldn’t expect you to cook another for them. They didn’t even have common courtesy to tell us they were going to be late.”

“We said we were sorry” January said putting on a hurt wounded expression. “What more do you want from us?”

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Large tears rolled down her cheeks. “Come on let’s go” Grant said taking her by the arm. “We’ll get something at the resort on our way home.”

Sandi gave Rex a pleading look as if telling him to do something. Shaking his head he said “they can stay. They’re welcome to anything we have in the house but they shouldn’t expect you to cook for them.”

“Let’s go” Grant said his tone angry.

“Alright” she sniffed “I really am sorry.”

Walking away from the house Grant grumbled “I don’t know what’s gotten into Rex lately. It’s like I can’t do anything right.”

***

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Before January could respond her phone rang. Frowning at the display she demanded “what do you want?”

“Hey sis” a deep voice grumbled “is that anyway to greet your brother?”

“I think so when that brothers a jerk.” She followed Grant to the car. “What do you want” she repeated.

“What makes you think I want anything” he asked. “I could just be calling to see how you’re doing.”

“Not likely” she shook her hair back “I don’t have time for this.”

“Alright” he sighed “I may have gotten myself into a little bit of trouble.”

“What kind of trouble” she asked as they stopped outside the resort.

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“I can’t talk over the phone” he said in a hushed tone as if he were afraid of being overheard.

“Meet me at the house in a couple of hours” she suggested. “Grant and I are on a date.”

“A couple of hours might be too late” he said almost pleading.

“What did you do” she repeated.

“Please just come” he entreated her. “I screwed up. I could go to jail.”

“OMG” she mouthed staring wide eyed at Grant. “Fine I’ll be there in a few minutes.” Turning to Grant “we have to go home.”

The tone she used said more than her words. He knew better than to ask questions when she was like this. He ignored his growling stomach and got back into the car and drove off towards home.

Chapter 23 – Must Be Nice / Chapter 25 – Running

Knights of Hope – Chapter 10 – Trouble Brewing

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The next day Braylin woke earlier than usual. Maybe it was the rumble from the nearby train or the unfamiliar bed. It didn’t matter. The bed he was in was empty. Tossing back the blankets he shuffled into the living room rubbing sleep from his eyes. It too was empty. The dishes from the night before were put away from where he had stacked them on the counter.

Knocking on the bathroom door. Waiting for a response before opening it and sticking his head inside. Empty. Had Trebor received an emergency call from the hospital? Surely he would have left him a note or a text. Frowning he went back into the bedroom pulling on his boxers. There was one other place he hadn’t checked yet. The roof. Trebor had mentioned it was his favorite place to think.

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Climbing the stairs he found Trebor starting across the river. Silently he approached him wrapping his arms around him pressing his front into his back. Lifting his face he kissed his shoulders where it sloped up to his neck. “Morning he whispered.”

“I used to think we’d be close forever” Trebor said reaching for Braylin’s hand. “My sister and I. The older we got the further apart we became.”

“You can’t blame yourself for that” he said quietly.

“I keep thinking if I hadn’t been so busy. If I wasn’t so focused on getting good grades. Becoming a doctor. Maybe I would have seen when she started going down the wrong path.” Turning into Braylin’s arms “I’m a terrible brother.”

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Kissing the top of his messy head he ran his fingers through Trebor’s hair. “That’s not true. I’m the terrible brother not you. She’s responsible for her own decisions.”

“I could have done more. You heard me yesterday. I sounded more like our mom than her brother.” Pulling away from Braylin’s embrace he took several steps away hugging himself. “I could have tried to be a little more understanding.”

“Why don’t you give her another call” he suggested “tell her what you just told me.”

Holding his phone up he said “I already did. At least I tried. I’m not sure if it came out the way I wanted it too.”

Taking slow careful steps forward he suggested “why don’t we go out for breakfast?”

“The diner isn’t busy this time of day. Their breakfast isn’t as good as their supper menu. It’s still good” he added hastily his eyes focused on his phone.

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“It’s better than sitting around waiting for a response” he said taking the phone from Trebor’s hand. “We’ll leave this here.”

“What if I get a call from the hospital” he protested reaching for the phone.

“Another thirty minutes won’t matter” he said holding the phone just out of reach from Trebor’s hands.

Giving his phone one last longing look Trebor glared at the pink haired male. “You can’t just take my phone” he made an expected lounge for it. His fingers sliding across its surface.

“Don’t worry. You’ll get it back” he chuckled “I promise. It’s just for breakfast.”

“Fine have it your way” he mumbled.

“Goodie” he clapped his hands. “Now let’s get dressed and go eat.”

***

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When they were both dressed and sitting outside the diner Braylin asked “tell me about when you were a kid. You hardly talk about your family.”

A smile tugged at his lips. “I don’t like to talk about them. I’m homesick all the time and talking about home just makes it worse. But….”

“But? What” he prompted taking a swallow of his coffee.

“Before I was alone with no one to talk to” he sighed “it’s awful to be alone and so far away from home. That type of loneliness eats at you.”

“I can understand that” he set his coffee cup down. “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”

“I want to I think” a smile spread across his face as his eyes took on a far away look. “There was this one time my parents took me and my sister to the beach. It was a family picnic. Dad made all the fixings and Mom got all our stuff together. I was about ten and Ava was six. She liked to follow me around everywhere. I found it both annoying and flattering.”

Braylin smiled listening to him. He remembered feeling the same about his little brother. Hearing his brother tell everyone he wanted to be just like him. Then it all changed. Became dangerous to be like him… shaking his head he tried to rid his mind of the troubling thoughts.

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“Somehow we forgot our beach ball in the car. Ava volunteered to go back to get it. She was taking forever. I was busy making sandcastles and forgot all about it.”

“Trebor where’s your sister” Garrett asked a worried frown upon his face.

“I don’t know” he mumbled digging a mote in the sand.

“Did she go swimming” he asked panic making his voice higher than usual.

“Honey what’s wrong” Verity asked coming alongside them.

“Are you sure you don’t know where she went” Garrett asked again.

“How should I know” Trebor demanded looking up at them “I haven’t seen her in awhile.”

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Clutching Garrett’s arm Verity cried “what if she went swimming alone. What if she got caught in a rip tide?”

“Do you remember what direction she went” Garrett asked his son.

“I don’t know” he pointed “I think she went that way.”

Garrett tore off across the beach towards the ocean in the direction Trebor had pointed in. Verity ran behind him searching the water for any sign of her little girl.

A few minutes later “what’s daddy and mommy doing” Ava asked stopping beside her brother carrying a large beach ball.

“Looking for you I think” Trebor said “where were you?”

“I went to get our ball” she tossed it into the air “it took forever to blow up.”

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“Mom” he called getting her attention “I found her.”

“Did not” she protested “I wasn’t lost. I knew exactly where I was at all times.”

“OMG Ava” Verity cried running up and hugging her little girl “don’t ever run off like that again.”

“I didn’t I told Trebor” she protested.

“Did not” he said.

“You need to tell me or your dad” Verity said “never run off by yourself again.”

“Dad wasn’t very happy that he’d been diving in and out of the ocean for no reason.” He laughed at the memory of his dad soaking wet in his clothes. “I really did forget about her telling me where she was going. She had been gone so long it completely slipped my mind.” Taking a bite of his omelet he asked “what about you? Any embarrassing stories you want to tell?”

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“Well there was this one time. We were visiting our grandma and we wanted to go fishing.” He smiled at the memory. He loved his grandma and still missed her. “Grandma said we could but we had to find our own bait.”

“Bait? Did you use lures or anything” Trebor asked.

“Nope. Grandma taught us how to fish the old fashioned way.” He grinned enjoying the disbelieving look that crossed Trebor’s face. “I’m not making it up. She had us find the straightest sticks we could find and tied a fishing line and hook at one end of it. It took some practice to get used to but it was fun. Kind of like being Huckleberry Finn or something.”

“So you went hunting for bait” Trebor prompted.

“Yeah” he thought for moment “we decided we needed bugs and night-crawlers.”

“Night-crawlers” Trebor asked “what’s that?”

“Worms” he chuckled remembering. “We spent most of the day searching under rocks and logs to get the best works we could find. We found out later that the best time to go night crawler hunting is at night when tons of worms come up from the ground.”

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Trebor shivered “sounds gross.”

“Worms don’t hurt you and makes the soil good to grow things. Grandma’s garden had lots of worms in it.” Taking sip of his coffee he continued “Bodhi kept pulling up weeds and throwing them at me. It wasn’t until the next day we realized what those weeds were.”

“Oh no” Trebor laughed “don’t tell me…poison ivy.”

“Yep” he shook his head “Bodhi was pulling it up by the handfuls and he didn’t get anything. Me on the other hand. I was was covered from head to foot in the stuff. I itched so bad.”

“Did your grandma use calamine lotion to keep you from itching” he asked.

“Yeah I was pink from head to foot then too” he scowled at Trebor “yeah go ahead and laugh. Wait until you get poison ivy and see how funny you think it is then.”
“I’m sorry but I can’t help it.” he grabbed his orange juice to keep from bursting into another round of laughter.

***

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“So glad you decided to grace us with your presence McGavin” the coach yelled as he came onto the ice from the locker room.

“Sorry coach” he mumbled feeling everyone’s eyes upon him. “Won’t happen again.”

“See that it don’t otherwise you’ll find yourself on the bench” the man thundered.

“A general grumble rose amongst the team. “Yes sir” he said knowing that was the general accepted response.

“As I was saying before we were interrupted we have three new team members. Joseph Bennett from Starlight Shores. Rory Braxton from Bridgeport. Matt Ryan from right here in good old Boroughsburg.” There was a heavy pause that followed his announcement. “The are subs in case anyone can’t play.” He stared at Braylin a moment before continuing. “I’ll let you guys introduce yourselves later. Let’s practice.”

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As they were leaving the ice Matt skated up behind Braylin forcing him into the boards. “Better watch your back” he whispered harshly in his ear before John pulled him off.

“What’s his problem” he asked glaring after the new guy.

Rubbing his neck Braylin shrugged “I think he wants my position.”

“Fat chance of that happening” John slapped him on the back “you’re the best center we have.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence but I don’t think Coach feels the same way.” His day had started off great. Breakfast. Talking about their respective families. The feeling that maybe he wasn’t the worst brother in the world. Things were going good until now.

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“Just be on time next time” John advised him “Coach isn’t going to let Matt take your spot unless you don’t give him any choice.”

Nodding he followed John into the locker room. The old feeling of things slowly unraveling around him was making him feel jumpy. Slumping onto the bench in front of his locker he peeled off his sweat soaked jersey. He had a sense of being out of place. A square peg in a round hole.

“Hey did you hear” John asked smiling down at him. “The new kid Joseph is throwing a party at his place over the weekend.”

“Count me out” he said with a shake of his head. “I don’t party like I used to. I think I’ll pass.”

“Don’t be like that. It’s not going to be that kind of party. It’s more of a get to know you party. We’re all going and bringing our significant others with us.” Jabbing him playfully in the side “maybe we’ll finally meet that handsome doctor of yours.”

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“There’s a reason why I keep him away from the likes of you.”

“Hey I can’t help it if I’m irresistible” John held his hands up “but if it makes you feel better I promise not to try anything. I just want to meet him.”

“I’ll think about it” he said “if he wants to come and if he doesn’t have to work we might come.”

“Awesome” he jumped up unable to contain his excitement any longer. He somehow always reminded Braylin of a puppy who knew he was about to get a treat. “I’ll see you there.”

Tossing his uniform into the locker he wrapped a towel around his waist. H walked over to the showers stopping when he came face to face with Matt. The cocky sneer he was wearing sent shivers down his spine. H didn’t know what it was about this guy but he had the uncomfortable feeling that he was up to no good.

***

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“Are you sure you want to do this” he asked as they walked up the sidewalk towards the house.

“I want to meet the guys on the team” Trebor insisted.

“Are you sure that’s it” he asked “you’re not concerned I’ll have a relapse or anything?”

“I trust you” he looked into Braylin’s troubled eyes. “You can do this alone if you wanted to. We don’t have stay long either if it makes you uncomfortable. We can leave anytime you want.”

Stopping to tuck a strand of hair behind Trebor’s ear he said “I never want to lose the faith you have in me. That means more to me than you’ll ever know.”

“Are you sure you want to do this” Trebor asked his apprehension rising. “You don’t have to do this if you’re not ready.”

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“I want to show off my drop dead sexy doctor” he grinned forcing the uneasiness he was feeling to the back of his mind. “I’m proud of my handsome doctor.”

“As I am of my hockey player” he grinned allowing Braylin to pull him close and kiss him in front of the house.

Neither of them noticed the curtains move as their arrival didn’t go unnoticed. “Let the games begin” the observer muttered turning from the window. “Hey everybody they’re here” he announced picking up the two drinks he’d prepared special for their arrival.

“Those are nonalcoholic right” John asked his words slightly slurred.

“Of course” Matt nodded “taste it if you don’t believe me.” Carefully he handed the cup intended for Trebor to him.

“Eew” he made a disgusted face “that’s really bad.”

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“Anything nonalcoholic is bad” Joseph said slapping John on the back “but we make allowances for people with different tastes. Don’t we buddy?”

“Sure do” John agreed letting himself be steered into another room away from the door.

“Welcome to the party” Matt greeted them handing Trebor the cup John had sampled and the other cup he gave to Braylin. “I wanted to apologize for the way I acted at practice the other day.”

Taking a sip of the contents Braylin nodded “that’s okay. We all want a chance to play. You’ll get yours.”

Turning away muttering under his breath “sooner than you think.”

Chapter 9 – Movie Date /