August listened to Katrina hum to herself while she washed the supper dishes. “What makes you so happy?” he asked coming up behind and pulling her close.
Sharing at her ring finger where she had just slipped her engagement ring on after finishing the dishes she giggled, “everything ” was her happy response.
He squeezed her tight, kissing her neck “and what else?”
“We graduated less than a week ago. Dad gave us this house…”
“And,” he prompted nuzzling his nose into her ear before nibbling on her earlobe.
Turning in his arms she leaned in close to kiss his soft red lips “and” she said slowly putting her arms around his waist “we get married in less than two months.” She squealed as he scooped her up into his arms. “Put me down” she demanded.
“I need the practice” he said carrying her from the kitchen.
“Practice for what?” she laughed in his arms relaxing confident he wouldn’t drop her.
“Carrying my bride over the threshold” he said gazing into her dark brown eyes “I love you” he said filling the silence that fell between them as they gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes.
“Naturally” she giggled impishly in his arms “now put me down.”
Shaking his head he carried her upstairs “after we get to our destination.”
“Where are you taking me?” she asked as if she had no clue or idea where his final destination would be.
“Someplace where I can make hot passionate love to my beautiful future wife,” he kicked upon their bedroom door.
“Better be careful” Katrina advised “I don’t want to have to explain why the door is broke to my dad.”
His body shook with his deep laughter “I’m more worried about explaining it to your Grandpa.”
Opening the door in response to the sharp brief knock Ian was surprised to find his parents standing there. “Dad I thought you were coming over this weekend.”
“We are,” Gene said stepping into his son’s home “but we have something important to discuss with you.”
A feeling of dread came over him as Ian watched his mom walk stiffly into the house. His frown deepened as his dad helped her into a chair “mom’s ill isn’t she?”
Gene fussed over Aimee for a few moments making sure she was comfortable before turning his attention to his son. “Rheumatoid Arthritis,” he spat the words out as if it left a bad taste in his mouth.
“Let’s go into the living room,” Ian immediately suggested “the couch is more comfortable ….”
“This is good,” Aimee interjected “I sink into the cushions and have to fight to get up. This is much better.”
Gene patted her hand smiling fondly at her “she prefers to sit in hard chairs now. It allows her to be a little more independent that way.”
“I had a feeling something was wrong for a while…”
Gene put a hand on his son’s shoulder “we’ve been seeing doctors and experts for the past couple of years. It’s not until recently that they settled on a diagnosis.”
“What are they doing for her?” Ian asked feeling helpless that his mom was in so much pain. He knew all too well that there was no cure. Just pain management and treatment of the symptoms.
“Everything they can,” Gene smiled wryly at him “we have given this a lot of thought. A warmer climate will help ease some of the joint pain and swelling.”
“You’re telling me you’re moving aren’t you?” Ian said looking from one beloved face to another. They had been his lifeline for so long it was hard to imagine them not being there. He didn’t want to think about someone else in his childhood home. The house that his dad had bought and decorated specifically with Aimee in mind. Before he could sensor his words thoughts burst from his mouth “what about the house?”
“We’re not selling it,” Aimee said firmly from where she sat “it means too much to us.” Gene moved to her side rubbing her shoulders.
Ian watched,noticing things he had ignored up until now. Somehow he never thought this day would come. The day his parents were old. Their hair was more gray then colored. They moved with pain and stiffness. He realized with shock they were both just a couple of years shy of seventy. With luck they would be around for another twenty years. They just lost Grandpa earlier that year and he was Ninety-two. When they lost him Ian couldn’t deny his parents were getting old. He wouldn’t have them forever. Taking a deep shuddery breath he asked “where?” he wanted to say more but couldn’t becoming choked up instead.
“Sunlit Tides,” Aimee smiled holding her hand out to him.
He stepped forward taking her hand letting her comfort him like she always would until she couldn’t. Mentally he shook his head to clear it of its melancholy thoughts.
Gene continued as if sensing the turmoil in his sons heart “as you know your cousins Alex and Drew both life there. They’ve been helping us find a suitable house that will accommodate Aimee’s needs.”
Aimee slapped his hand affectionately “and yours. It’s not only me. Your foot has been bothering you something chronic now.”
Gene flashed her a look of annoyance, never one to admit he was in pain or needed help. “I know this is a lot but we’re not planning on moving until after Katrina’s wedding. The triplets will take over the house. Matt promised he’d make sure they wouldn’t burn it down.”
“Looks like you thought of everything,” Ian mumbled “we’re going to miss you.”
“That’s the one thing we couldn’t take care of,” Aimee said holding her arms out to him “if we could we’d bring all of our family with us.”
“There are such things as social media, email, Skype, even planes, trains and automobiles” Gene pointed out.
“It’s not the same,” both Aimee and Ian said together bringing a smile to his face.
“Not it’s not but it’s the best we’ve got,” Gene admitted.
“Is it too late to elope?” August whined as Katrina slipped from the bed.
“Of course it is” she said pulling his shirt over her head “three weeks then all of this will just be a memory. Three weeks and we’ll be in France on our Honeymoon.”
“It sounds like forever” he groaned watching her gather her things from the floor before going in to shower. He laid back on his pillow drifting off to sleep again. He opened his eyes as something soft landed on his lips. He moaned as Katrina pulled away. He wrapped his arms around her waist pulling per down on top of him resuming their kiss.
“August let me go,” she demanded as his probing hands pulled her shirt up “I have to go and get my dress fitted.”
“So you’ll be a few minutes late,” he said kissing her again.
“You’re incorrigible” she giggled as she fought of his hands. Regaining her feet she adjusted her clothes running her fingers through her tangled hair.
“It won’t do any good” August said watching her.
“What won’t?” she asked half turning towards him.
“You still look like you just got out of bed,” he tossed the blankets aside “so why don’t you come back to bed and make it worthwhile.”
Her lips twitched a few times before she gave into the growing desire to grin at him “as tempting as that is I can’t cancel another fitting.”
“Please” he begged tugging on her hand. Biting her lip she let him drag her back towards the bed.
“Wait” she cried as he pulled on her shirt “at least let me call.”
A couple of hours later August watched as Katrina rushed from the house to meet her appointment to have her dress fitted. He couldn’t help but wish they could spend every minute together they could. No sooner had Katrina left then his phone began to ring “hey doll face forget something?” he asked assuming the caller was Katrina.
“No but you have” Kara’s soft voice in his ears sent shivers of apprehension down his spine.
“How did you get this number?” he asked as his muscles tensed.
“Wrong question,” she laughed in his ear “don’t you want to know why I’m calling?”
“I don’t care….”
“But you should” she said slowly taunting him “such hostility and we were about to become brother and sister.”
“We’re not family….”
“No you’re right. We’re not and never will be” she cackled into the phone.
Growing impatient with the girl and the conversation that was going nowhere August demanded “what do you want?”
“So forceful,” her voice low and sultry “I kind of like. It gives me happy shivers all over. Too bad you rejected me,” she shouted into the phone.
Hissing August pulled the phone from his ear “I have better things to do then waste my time talking to you.”
“You don’t know how true that is,” the distinct silence in his ear that replaced her voice left goosebumps on his skin.
As morning turned to afternoon August couldn’t shake the feeling that something bad was about to happen. His growling stomach prompted him to go in the kitchen to make himself a sandwich. He glanced at the time surprised at how late it was. He resisted the urge to call Katrina. Drumming his fingers on the counter he wondered what was taking her so long. Had something gone wrong with the fitting? If she gained weight and couldn’t fit into her wedding dress she would punish both of them with hours of exercise. Had the wrong dress been delivered? His mind continued to come up different scenarios as to what was going on.
He looked out the window frowning as two police officers walked up his driveway. With a sense of impending doom he met them at the door “what can I do for you?”
The officers exchanged a look before the younger officer said “can we speak to a Mr August Marlow?”
“I’m August” he replied as his stomach churned as he glanced over their shoulders hoping to see Katrina pulling up behind them.
“I’m sorry to inform you sir that your wife ….”
“Fiance” he corrected automatically “we’re getting married in three weeks.”
“Your fiance” the officer corrected “was in an accident earlier today at….”
Car accident. Car accident. The words echoed in his mind not making sense. The officers lips moved but he no longer heard what he was saying.
“Sir are you alright?” the other officer asked observing his glassy-eyed stare.
“Is she alright?” he asked finding forming words an effort.
“She was taken to the hospital,” they told him.
“Then she’s alive,” he watched them exchange a glance before one of them said “as far as we know sir.”
The officers escorted him to the hospital answering questions as well asking them. “Why do you keep asking me about the cars brakes? I just had them serviced less than a month ago.”
“Our preliminary findings of the accident shows the brakes may have gone out. We’ll have to check if the brakes have been tampered with or faulty.”
“Why would someone want to hurt…” his voice faded recalling the call that he received. Kara’s voice telling him he would soon be worrying about more important things. Could she have tampered with Katrina’s brakes? Did she hate her sister that much?
“What is it sir?” the officer asked observing him closely.
What choice did he have? He had to tell them about Kara and her cryptic call. They wrote everything down making disconcerting and noncommittal grunts. When the officers finally left the waiting room began to fill up with family members. They all meant well but August just wanted to be alone with his thoughts as he pondered why Kara had called. What was her purpose?
His phone rang while he was staring out the window deep in thought. Absently he reached for his phone “by now you know Katrina’s accident was arranged.” Her loud obnoxious laugh grated on his raw nerves.
“What do you want?” he growled into the phone.
“Such hostility” she said letting silence linger for a moment “what do I want you ask…well it’s really not so much.” She giggled as if what she was about to say was the funniest joke she’d ever heard “I want to ruin her. Destroy her every happiness. That’s all … for now.”
“Why are you doing this?” he demanded even though he knew he’d hate the answer.
“Because she has what I want.”
“Even if your little plan worked you still wouldn’t have me,” August told her his voice rising. Several heads turned in his direction.
“Who said I wanted you?” she asked sending shivers down his spine “your just the instrument of her demise.”
“I repeat. What. Do. You. Want.” he could feel himself unraveling, fraying at the ends.
“It’s simple really. Shouldn’t take much effort at all. After all it didn’t take much thought for you to reject me.” She paused to let him absorb her words before she continued “Are you listening?”
“Uh yeah” he replied with a feeling of dread spreading from his stomach.
“Good listen carefully. You are to leave and never come back. You are not to get married.”
He almost dropped the phone as the room tilted on is axis “I can’t … I won’t hurt her like that.”
“If you love her you will. The next accident might not be so little and a touch more successful. Like say mixing up her blood type on her chart or say too much of the wrong med in her IV drip. I can do all kinds of things before you could stop me.” She paused letting her words sink in. The very fact that he was silent she knew she had his attention. She knew without a doubt he would do as he was told “It’s your decision. What’s more important. Her life or her happiness?”
“I hate you” he growled into the phone.
“I know” she laughed at him “and I don’t care. What’s your answer.”
He looked around the room at all the familiar faces. People he had grown to love and care for. They were family. His family. An image of Katrina smiling as she waved goodbye to him that morning. Eyes sparkling, her golden highlights shimmering in the sunlight. He loved her with everything he had. He’d give his life if it meant she would live. There was nothing else he could do. “I’m going” he said into the phone and quickly walked towards the exit door brushing off the hands of the people who would hate him once they realized he wasn’t coming back.