Garrett hated having a bodyguard. Hated knowing someone was watching everything he did. Hated the fact that they were reporting back to someone everywhere he went. Hated being ushered out if a threat arose. He understood now what celebrity kids must feel like. The only thing that made it somewhat bearable was the new bodyguard his Uncle Jeff hired. She was young. She was pretty. Everything about her captivated Garrett’s attention.
He turned in his last ever assignment to his teacher. Walking to his locker he couldn’t believe in less than a week he would be in receipt of his diploma. He found his cousin Samantha waiting for him. She flashed him a toothy grin “can you believe we’re finally done with school?”
“Nope feels like yesterday that you were trying to convince me to take school more seriously,” he told her beginning the arduous chore of cleaning out his locker.
“Fat lot of good that did,” she grumbled “your in the top of the class and turning down scholarships.”
Shrugging “I’m not going to college.”
“Why not?” she asked for the millionth time.
“I’ve told you a million times why,” he said gathering debris from his locker that should have been thrown months ago. He walked over a to trash can and emptied the lot into it without bothering to sort through it. If he hadn’t needed it before he certainly wouldn’t need it now.
“Tell me again,” she insisted “you have the brains to be anything you want to be. Yet you insist on becoming a lifeguard.”
“You say it like I’m throwing my life away,” Garrett frowned at her “I trained hard to be a lifeguard. I enjoy it. What’s wrong with doing something I enjoy? Why do I have to do something that others deem important?”
“You could be so much more like a doctor,” she said “we could go into practice together. You know The Bennett Family Practice. You know saving lives.”
“I will be saving lives,” Garrett informed her “just not the way you want me to.”
“Risky you neck while you’re at it,” she crossed her arms “isn’t there anything I can say to convince you to come with me to college?”
Shaking his head “can’t think of anything.” He told her “face it you just don’t want to be separated from me.”
Scowling at him “that’s definitely not it.”
“Whatever” he grinned a her before walking towards the exit. He slowed down upon catching sight of Verity, the new bodyguard standing at attention waiting for him to outside. His breath caught in his throat as he watched her.
“Forget about it lover boy,” Samantha whispered in his ear “your too young for her.”
“Age doesn’t matter,” he mumbled “besides I don’t like her like that.”
“Yeah right like you’re not completely smitten by her blue skin and red hair,” she laughed at him as he turned to deny her observations.
Choosing instead to ignore her comment he asked “do you want a ride?”
“No I have a ride” she waved at her dad who was waiting for her “I guess this is it until graduation,” she said giving him a quick hug before running off to join her family.
Garrett shivered as a thought came to mind that this would be the last time he’d see her. He tried to dismiss the idea but it stayed lodged in the back of his mind like an unsettling premonition. “It’s just my over active imagination,” he muttered “we’ll see each other again. We’re family after all.”
To distract himself from his disquieting thoughts he watched Verity as she drove carefully from the parking lot. “You’re awfully young to be a cop,” he said.
“I’m not a cop,” she said surprising him “my parent were private investigators before they died. It’s kind of in my blood.”
“How did you become a body guard?” he asked become curious about her.
“I moved and needed a job,” she glanced over at him “why? Don’t you think I’m doing a good enough job?”
“Its’ not that,” he searched for something else to say other than he thought she was hot “um huh I thought we could be friends or something.” He looked out the window hoping she didn’t notice his cheeks burning.
“That’s really nice of you to offer,” she smiled at him but he could feel her frozen reserve slip into place “but shouldn’t you be making friends with people your own age?”
“I’m not that much younger than you,” he pointed out. Her age comment made him feel like he was a little kid. He knew he had always followed his older sister around much to her annoyance but he hoped he wasn’t doing the same with Verity. He had to admit that he did find excuses to be in the same room as her whenever opportunity arose. He thought she liked him as a friend. He knew his chances were slim to none for it to ever progress to anything else. Now he wondered if they had ever gotten to the friend zone.
“I’m twenty-one almost twenty-two and you’re what seventeen?”
“Eighteen. I turned eighteen two months ago,” he continued to face the window tuning her voice out as she went on to explain how she was too old for him. When the car came to a stop he hopped out glad to get away from her. He stomped up the steps. Opening the door he called out “mom dad I’m ho…”
A hot wave of explosive heat swept over him searing his skin and singing his hair as it knocked him from his feet. The massive wall of overheated air exploded in his face, punching into his chest and stomach as flew through the air. The back of his head smashed into something hard and immovable at the end of the driveway.
His world went several shades darker. He lay crumpled like a discarded rag doll half on the rough driveway and half on the lawn that needed mowing. Every movement sent shards of pain shooting through him. Mom dad he cried but no sound escaped his mouth. The scream got no further then his brain. Nothing worked the way it should. His body shuddered in pain. His eyes if they were open saw only darkness. His mouth moved but no sound came out. He couldn’t breathe as his lungs screamed for oxygen. A pressure on his shoulder told him he wasn’t alone. Mom? Dad? Were they inside the house? Were they trapped? Were they even still alive?
Katrina watched August splashing in the water with their two year old daughter. Her thoughts went back to her rushed departure from Starlight Shores. Her dad insisting she go to stay with her grandparents in Sunlit Tides. She had thrown a few things in bags for herself and her daughter and boarded the plane. She expected a new beginning one free from the pain of memories of having lost her one true love.
She walked from the plane, Sara tucked safely in her carrier. Her breath catching in her throat as she saw him standing there beside her grandfather. She wanted to cry. To scream. Her emotions all jumbled up she just stood frozen to the spot disrupting the flow of passengers deplaning.
His stunned expression told her more than words that he hadn’t been told about his daughter. She hadn’t had a chance to tell him before the accident that she was pregnant. Her heart beat faster as she remembered the fear as she almost lost her due to complications after the accident. Her eyes locked onto his and her feet seemed to move of their own accord. She stopped a few feet from them unsure what to say or do.
“I’m so so sorry” August said being the first to speak “I never stopped loving you.”
Her mouth moved but no sound came out. When he started to turn away she cried out “why? Why’d you leave me?”
To her horror his shoulders started to shake. She’d never seen him cry before. She reached a tentative hand out to him. He turned anguished eyes towards her. Tears streaming down his cheeks “I did it for you.”
Her eyes grew large “you did what for me?”
“I left to keep you safe,” he took several deep breaths as the tears continued to flow “Kara threatened you. Said if I didn’t leave the next accident would fatal.” He gulped for air “she was in your hospital room describing all the things she could do before anyone could get their to stop her. I couldn’t take the chance she’d hurt you. So I left.” Katrina reached a hand up, her fingers gently wiping the wetness from his tears away. “I’d do anything for you,” he sobbed “even if it meant you’d hate me forever.”
She pulled him close. Kissing his cheek she murmured “I could never hate you. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t.”
The happy squeals coming from her daughter brought Katrina’s mind back to the present. She sat up and waved at the two most important individuals in her life. She knew she’d do whatever it took to keep them safe.
August looked up to find Katrina watching them. He smiled back at her. Happier then he has ever been in a long time. It was difficult to believe that two year have passed since Gene found him rummaging for food in trash cans. On that fateful day he had come out of his hovel to find food. His stomach aching from the lack of food. Gene and Aimee going to the seldom visited beach, seeing him there. More than likely that saved his life. He didn’t understand why they took him home with them. He doubted he’d ever be able to do the same if someone broke his daughter’s heart the way he had hurt Katrina.
The day Katrina stepped off the plane and he saw his daughter for the first time he knew he’d never be able to let them go. He loved his daughter without ever having met her before. What if Kara found them again? What if she demanded he leave them? He’d rather die than give them up but if it meant they’d live he’d do it. He’d do anything to keep his girls safe. He swung his little girl through the air, her squeal of delight music to his ears. It would break his heart to leave. The thought of Kara lurking around somewhere watching them kept him awake at night.
Katrina was all for getting married. A small ceremony on the beach. He was the one who said no. He couldn’t help but wonder what Kara would do once she found out. Would they be lucky a second time around? He doubted it. As hard as it was he convinced Katrina to put their wedding on hold permanently if necessary.
A part of him knew that was letting Kara win. He didn’t know what else to do. He had to keep his family safe. There were lots of couples who loved each other that never got married. It may always be an unrealized dream but one he was willing to sacrifice if it meant those he cherished most were safe.
Gene was enjoying having the house to himself to spend time with Aimee. He glanced over at the woman he still saw as the beautiful awkward young girl he first met on Sim Star Idol. Her hair may be completely gray and wrinkles lined her eyes and mouth now. She would always be beautiful in his eyes. Glancing up she asked “what are you thinking?”
“That I married a beautiful woman,” he said kissing her forehead.
“Once upon a time,” she smiled at him “now I’m just a wrinkled old prune.”
“Not in my eyes,” he said putting an arm gently around her shoulders. Something he rarely did anymore. Not since her diagnosis for fear of causing her any unnecessary pain. Today was a good day as Aimee snuggled him to him instead of asking him to remove his arm.
“You need glasses” she mumbled despite being pleased that Gene still looked at her like she was his world.
The ringing of the phone disturbed their serene surroundings. Moving carefully Gene got up saying “hello?”
“Mr Gene Bennett?” a deep male authoritative voice asked.
“Yes this is he,” Gene frowned a heavy foreboding feeling pressed against his chest.
“This is Captain Rodriguez of the Starlight Shores Police Department.” Gene put a hand to his chest as pain knifed through his pounding heart. ” I regret to inform you there has been an explosion at your son’s home ….”
“Explosion?” Gene’s voice rose causing Aimee to sit up in uneasy silence as she watched him in concern.
“We have bomb experts searching the rubble for the cause….”
“You’re assuming it was a bomb but why?” Gene felt like his head was about to burst as his heart continued it’s labored beating. He wanted to reach through the phone to expedite the information he so desperately needed and the captain was taking his sweet time in sharing.
“Yes sir,” the man sighed “you’re grandson Garrett is in surgery…”
Gene staggered to his knees as if he had been punched. He had assumed no one had been home when the explosion when off from the way the officer was concentrating on the damage “How is he?” he forced his mouth to form the words.
“He’s….” the captains voice faltered losing some of his detachment “he has severe head injuries and may not make it off the operating table. I’d suggest if you can come home….come now.”
Tremors ran through his body as he tried to digest this horrible turn of events. He looked up as he felt a hand on his arm. He could see the worry and fear in her eyes. As he had done so often in the past he pushed his own feelings down as his need to shield her from what was happening. Taking several deep breaths he asked “what about my son and his wife?”
“I’m sorry sir,” the calm controlled voice continued “we haven’t been able to search through all the rubble yet.”
He wanted to shout at the disembodied voice to find his son. Was he even still alive? Had they been home at the time of the explosion? Were they trapped under tons of debris? Were they dead and only their bodies were left to be discovered?
The officer continued “we’re still looking for their bodies. We understand from the boys bodyguard they were usually home at this time of day.”
The phone slipped from Genes numb cold fingers. This couldn’t be happening. His mind kept screaming at him that his child, his son couldn’t be gone. He wasn’t supposed to out live his child. Forty-one wasn’t long enough. Ian deserved to see his grandchildren grow up. Gene dragged himself to his feet as Aimee tearfully asked “what’s wrong?”
Before he could pull his thoughts together the sounds of laughter filled the house as Katrina and August returned from the beach. Gene stood on wobbly legs feeling every bit of his seventy plus years. “Katrina I have some bad news to tell all of you.”
She felt August take Sara from her arms saying “I’ll put her down for her nap.” He was upstairs when he heard her anguished screams.