Tag Archive | Britland Olivia

Britland – Chapter 25 – Growing Pains (Finale)

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Entering the house Rush let the door slam shut behind him. Dropping his duffel bag on the floor he stomped into the kitchen. Opening the fridge he reached for a Gatorade. Twisting the cap off he guzzled the cool contents in front of the open fridge door. The cool air as it wafted from the refrigerator refreshing his overheated sweaty skin.

“Hey” the calm low voice of his dad brought him back to reality “close the door.”

“Sorry” he mumbled kicking the door shut with his foot. Turning he gave his dad a sheepish grin.

“How was practice” Britland asked looking up at the gangling form of his teenage son. It was hard to imagine this was the same boy who had begged them to grow bigger. Rush was already four inches taller than his 5’10”.

His bony shoulders rose and fell. “It was alright I guess.”

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“Anything you want to talk about” Britland asked sensing that something was wrong. Before Rush could respond Felix, his best and oldest friend came into the kitchen.

“Well if it isn’t the basketball star” Felix said by way of greeting not noticing how his words made the boy squirm. “With someone like you on the team the others just have to get the ball to you to win the game.”

Ducking his head in a failed attempt to hide his flaming cheeks Rush mumbled “yeah I guess.” He set his empty bottle on the counter “I’m going to shower.

“You should tell the others hi first” Felix called after him “they’re excited to see you especially Adalynn.”

“I will once I’ve showered” he said walking away.

“Didn’t you teach him any manners” Felix demanded confronting his old friend.

“Of course I did” Britland said picking up the empty bottle to toss in the recycle bin. “He just didn’t like your overt attempt of setting him up with your daughter. It’ll never happen if you keep shoving it in his face.” As he spoke he went to get the discarded duffel bag from the entryway.

“Maybe I don’t want him for my Ada. I don’t want her having to clean up after him.”

“So says the guy who had a butler and a maid to clean up after him” Britland shook his head at him laughing softly.

“You should take my example as a warning then. He’ll never learn responsibility if you do everything for him” Felix insisted.

Britland stared at him for a moment before saying “I think I know my son. He’ll never turn into you.”

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“You make it sound like a bad thing” Felix laughed clapping a hand across his friend’s back. “Believe me Rush is going to have plenty of opportunities being the basketball star. Every girl or guy is going to want to be with him. That’s a lot of pressure. It might even go to his head.”

Britland wanted to say it wouldn’t happen to his son. Ego had a funny way of distorting reality and Rush had been acting differently lately. Giving Felix a tight-lipped smile he mumbled “I guess we’ll see. I sincerely doubt Rush will let a game go to his head.”

“I thought you were getting me a drink” Crystal said coming into the kitchen.

“I was. I mean I am” Felix assured her “I got a little distracted giving Britland some parenting advise.”

“Oh” her eyebrows rose.

“Yeah” shrugging he grinned ruefully “I don’t think he liked what I had to say though.”

“I certainly hope not” Carson said coming in to join them. “Britland is probably the best parent here.”

“Hey I resent that” Felix grunted. “What was that for” he asked glaring at his wife.

“A reminder of your promise” she said giving him a stern look.

“I remember” he mumbled rubbing his side. “I was behaving.”

“No you weren’t” she said taking her drink and going to sit down.

“Crystal” Felix pleaded following her leaving Britland and Carson alone.

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“What was that all about” Carson asked putting an arm around the blonde.

“I’m not sure” he smiled up at him “If I had to guess. I think Felix promised to be nice.”

Chuckling softly “I guess Crystal didn’t think he was” He gave Britland a peck on the cheek “come on honey we better join our guests.”

“Carson” Britland grabbed his hand before he could take more than a step. “Don’t go in there with the intent of antagonizing him.”

“Would I do that” he asked his tone serious but his lips twitching at the corners.

“Yes you would” he said seeing the mischief sparkling in Carson’s eyes and knew the evening was going to be interesting.

***

Sighing with relief Rush closed the bathroom door securely behind him. Turning the lock he pulled his shirt over his head. Grimacing as his eyes caught sight of the black and blue marks along his rib cage and back. “Some basketball star” he mumbled stripping out of his gym shorts. More bruises covered his skin around his thighs and hips.

When he agreed to play for the team he had no idea how painful it would be. The bruises were the result of the teams retaliation of the coaches unwarranted praise of his abilities. Letting the water run over his aching body, hissing as it stung his bruises. He liked playing basketball. Thought it would be fun playing on the team. Had excelled at it. Seeing the pride in his parents eyes as they cheered him on during the games. The last thing he wanted to do was disappoint them.

The water sprayed over his head as he tried to silence his thoughts. He could handle the jeers and snide remarks the others on the team made about him. They were spoken just loud enough for him to hear and the coach to ignore. The petty jealousy he could handle. It was the constant physical abuse on the court as they would throw the ball at him when he least expected it or knocking him off his feet as they charged him too aggressively to take the ball from him. The blind eye the coach had for their actions only fueled their aggression.

Quitting seemed to be his only option. He’d thrown it out there in front of the coach who only guilting him into staying. Telling him not to let the team down right before the championship game. Mostly he didn’t want to disappoint his dads. They took such pride in his playing. My son the basketball star. He’d heard that a hundred times.

Drying himself off he wiped the mist from the mirror. Gazing at his reflection he grumbled accusingly at it “coward.” Mist once again obscured his image emphasizing the feeling that he was in a no win situation. Damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.

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Hastily he threw on some clothes hoping Beckett and Adalynn would offer a welcome distraction from his turbulent thoughts. If nothing else Beckett might give him an excuse to work out his aggression. The guy never realized when he stopped being amusing and became irritating. Walking from the bathroom he heard the chatter of the adults in the living room having what sounded like a serious discussion. Ignoring them he dropped his things in his room. Smiling as he realized someone had brought his duffel bag into his room. A gentle rebuke from his mild-mannered dad no doubt. He’d remember next time not to leave it in the entryway.

Knocking on Bristol’s door he waited a moment before letting himself in. He sucked in a breath of air before exploding. “Dude that’s my sister.”

“And your point is” Beckett demanded draping a casual arm around Bristol’s shoulders.

“Get your hands off her” he demanded taking a menacing step forward.

“Don’t you think that’s up to her” Beckett smirked confidently up at the older boy.

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“Where’s Adalynn” Rush asked abruptly changing the subject.

“She went to get drinks” Bristol explained sounding shy and a little guilty.

“I bet you put her up to it” Rush glared at the other boy.

“It’s just a kiss” Beckett replied nonchalantly “there’s nothing wrong with kissing.”

Bristol frowned squirming out from beneath his arms. “I thought you liked me.”

“I do babe” he leaned in close puckering his lips as if getting ready to kiss her.

“Eew dude not in front of me” Rush moaned.

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“Then leave so it won’t be in front of you” he suggested his eyes never leaving Bristol’s lips.

Bristol seemed to be mesmerized by the nearness of the boys lips so close to hers as her head tilted to the side. She wanted this, didn’t she? She tried to ignore all the conflicting thoughts shouting at her. All the books she had read said the first kiss was supposed to be special, magical. At this moment with her heart pounding and her brother glaring at her with disapproval it was anything but the moment she imagined it would be. “Maybe this isn’t a good idea” she mumbled sliding from the couch in time for Beckett to smash his face into the cushions.

“Hey what gives” he cried face a dark crimson. “It’s not funny” he raged at Rush who was doubled over laughing.

“What’s going in here” Adalynn asked upon opening the door with an armful of soda’s.

“Your brother was trying to kiss my sister” Rush gulped for air laughing harder.

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“You idiot” she said her voice taking on a scolding tone. “She’s just a kid.”

“I’m fourteen” Bristol hugged her arms around herself “I’m not a kid. I’m a young woman.” She blinked as everyone burst into giggles at her proclamation. “Get out all of you” she screamed flopping onto her bed burying her face into the pillow.

“Look what you did” Beckett glared at Rush as if he too hadn’t been laughing along with the others.

“Me? What about you” Rush glared back at the boy “you’re the one trying to kiss a little girl.”

“She’s not a little girl anymore” Beckett objected not seeing how contradictory his actions were.

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“Just because she’s gotten boobs doesn’t make her a woman” Adalynn smacked her brother upside his head. “You should have known better.”

“You’re just jealous” Beckett grumbled crossing his arms.

“Dude so not cool” Rush scowled at him before going over to comfort Adalynn. She moved easily into his arms, crying softly.

“I’m watching you. No monkey business” Beckett fumed.

“Really” Rush asked looking surprised that Beckett would even think that he would take advantage of the situation like that.

“Hands north of the equator” Beckett ordered protectively.

“I’m not a pervert” Rush grumbled “unlike someone I know.”

“Whatever” Beckett mumbled shoving his hands in his pockets staring at the floor.

***

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Once Beckett and Adalynn left with their parents it was time for their weekend movie marathon. Bristol turned the lights down low while Rush popped the popcorn. When everything was ready they began watching the first movie only the sounds of their munching breaking the silence. Bristol giggled turning to her brother who was doing the same. Neither one needed to be told what the rhythmic tapping coming from their parents room was.

“It’s amazing we don’t have more little brothers or sisters running around” Rush said with a conspiratorial grin.

“I know right” she laughed with him. “When I was little I used to think a monster was trapped inside the wall. The tapping was the monster trying to escape.”

Rush’s eyes turned towards the movie, a teen boy was screaming while attempting to hide from his would be murderer. “Don’t you think it’s kind of nice knowing our parents still love each other as much as they do?” he asked keeping his tone low as if he were afraid someone might overhear him.

“Yeah I guess” she shrugged “I never thought too much about it.”

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Nodding Rush knew she was like most kids taking their parents for granted. “Maybe you should think about it” he suggested “you’re not a little kid anymore.” He fell silent images of the movie passing in an unseen blur. “Did you really want Beckett to kiss you?”

“Yes” she said her chin jutting out defiantly. Sighing she relaxed “at least I thought I did.” She pulled her knees into her chest “when the moment came and his lips were puckered up and ready it suddenly didn’t feel right. I don’t know, maybe I’m not as grown up as I thought.”

He gave her a gentle nudge “I hope when the time is right that your fist kiss will be with someone you really like.”

“I like Beckett” she cried almost defensively.

“Does he like you” he asked.

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“Well I … don’t know.”

“I hope the next time you’re about to kiss some guy that you do know” Rush said “you deserve the moment to be special.”

“How old were you when you had your first kiss” she asked turning to watch him instead of the movie.

Keeping his eyes on the TV he watched a young blond girl go screaming to her death. “Sixteen” he whispered.

She gave him a curious look like she suspected there was more if she only knew the right questions to ask. “What was it like?

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His fingers traced his lips. His eyes had a dreamy unfocused quality to them as he said “it was good. Unexpected but good.”

Raising an eyebrow she asked “were you in love?”

A sad almost melancholy sigh escaped him. “I thought I was” he reached for the popcorn bowl. Looking up he accused “you ate it all.”

“It wasn’t me” she giggled as she munched on the last of the popcorn. “Want me to make some more?”

“You better” he threw a few kernels at her that had fallen onto the seat cushions.

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A few minutes later Bristol plopped down beside him with a bowlful of freshly popped corn. “Are you going to tell me who the mystery guy was?”

“What makes you think it was a guy” he asked his lips twitching at the corners.

“Girl then” she pushed his shoulder “whatever.”

They both managed to remain silent to the end of the movie. “What’s next” she asked as he got up to change movies. “This would be so much better if we had Simflix.”

“Yeah it would but suck it up” he grimaced at the next movie as he picked up the case. A bloody chainsaw was on the front cover.

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“I bet it was Missy” she said suddenly “you remember the girl who chased all the boys at recess….”

“How can I forget” he moaned.

“What’s the problem” she asked “it’s not like she ever caught anyone.” She gasped as he averted his eyes and his hands shook putting the movie into the blue ray. “OMG she did catch someone didn’t she? You?” Her laughter filled the room “how did I not know this?”
Glaring at her he slumped onto the couch “can we not talk about this?”

“Why are you so upset” she asked “it happened years ago. I bet no one even remembers.”

“Yeah right” he grunted wishing that were true. Unfortunately Missy’s little brother was on the basketball team and made sure everyone knew what Missy did all those years ago.

***

“Awe” Britland put a hand out touching Carson’s arm “isn’t that adorable?”

Grunting Carson smiled over at him “don’t you think they’re getting too old for this?”

“For what? Staying up late and passing out on the couch.” Britland shrugged “not really. I’d rather have them here than out partying somewhere.”

“I almost wish Rush was out partying” Carson said following Britland into the kitchen “at least then he’d have some friends.”

“He has us, his sister and Beckett and Adalynn.”

“Yeah I guess. They don’t live around here though” Carson chewed on his bottom lip. “I hoped when he got on the basketball team he’d make some friends.”

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Britland glanced over at his husband a worried frown forming. “I don’t think Rush is hurting for friends and I have a feeling he’s not that happy being on the team.”

“Yeah you’re probably right” he sighed “he has so much talent though.”

“I think he likes the game. He just doesn’t have the competitive spirit.” Britland gave Carson a reassuring smile “I think he just prefers to play for fun without the pressure of having to be the best and winning.”

“You’re right that’s not him” he leaned against the counter. “I hoped he’d have an easier time in school than we did.”

“Dad” they both looked up startled by the sound of their son’s voice.

“What is it son” Britland asked recovering first.

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“I heard you talking about me” he looked towards the floor to avoid seeing the disappointment in his parents eyes. Overhearing them discussing the basketball team had encouraged him to speak up. Taking a deep breath he asked “would you be terribly disappointed if I quit?”

“Is that what you want” Britland asked.

“Yes but I’ll play if you want me to” Rush added rapidly. “I know it cost a lot for me to play and you’d be out all that money if I quit.”

“Rush” Carson cut him off “the only thing that matters is your happiness. If you don’t want to play don’t feel obligated to continue because you think that’s what we want.” He glanced over at Britland than back to their son “we love you. We’re proud of you no matter what you do.”

“Really” his voice sounded relieved “I was so afraid you’d be disappointed in me.”

“In you never” Britland assured him. “Your dad and I will always be your biggest fans regardless of what you do.”

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“What your father said” Carson said with a smile “but I need to know if this decision is being prompted because you’re being bullied by the team.” Over the years Rush had been a favorite victim of the meaner bigger kids at school. “If you are you need to tell us so we can help.”

“Um” he glanced into the living room where he could see Bristol stretching and yawning as she stirred to life. “No. I mean the guys are jealous of all the attention I’ve been getting…”

“What about the coach” Britland inquired “doesn’t he do anything about it?”

“He’s part of the problem, telling everyone we have no hope of winning if I don’t play.” He tried to have a nonchalant attitude “he’s going to be furious when I tell him.”

“You can’t play a game just because the coach wants you to” Britland said. “It’s your decision and we’ll back you no matter what.”

“If you need to give the coach a reason, tell him we made you quit.” Carson suggested “tell him you need to concentrate on your studies.”

“Thanks Dad” the relief in his voice was all the confirmation they needed that he wasn’t telling them everything. “I really appreciate this.”

“Breakfast will be ready in twenty minutes” Britland said “why don’t you go and get dressed.”

“Love you guys” Rush smiled his thanks to them before walking away.

When they were alone Carson came up behind Britland wrapping his arms around him. “You think there’s more to his decision to quit don’t you?”

“I think we gave him a way out of a bad situation” Britland leaned into his husband “he’ll be ok.”

“Yeah I think you’re right” Carson kissed his cheek “I wish I knew exactly what was going on though.”

“Give him time” Britland advised. “Rush will tell us when he’s ready. I’m willing to let him solve his own problems. If he needs help he’ll tell us.”

“And we’ll be here when he does” Carson added.

“Always” Britland agreed.

Chapter 24 – The Stranger /

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Britland – Chapter 24 – The Stranger

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“Hey old man” Felix said in way of greeting as he and his family entered Britland’s backyard.

“Careful who you’re calling old” Carson cautioned giving the smaller man a glare.

“The big three oh” Felix continued with a devil-may-care grin. “That’s huge. I mean that’s old.”

“Your day is coming little man” Carson glowered turning back to the grill.

“By that time you’ll be what?” Felix paused for effect. Grinning when he had everyone’s attention he continued “halfway to forty?”

“Thirty-three is not half way to forty” Carson grumbled flipping the steaks.

“You’re right it’s not” Felix conceded “but what’s a couple of years?”

“Honey” Crystal warned coming along side her husband “maybe you should cool it with the old man talk.”

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Frowning he glanced down at her. “Are trying to tell me I’m going overboard?”

Raising a hand she gauged the distance between her thumb and index finger “just a little dear.”

“Alright I’m sorry” he sighed. He gave her a contrite peck on the cheek. Over the seven years of their marriage Crystal had a way of helping him see when he was becoming obnoxious. Her gentle rebukes kept him from making enemies of their closest friends.

“Don’t tell me” she chided “tell him.” She pointed “apologize to him.”

“Sorry” he mumbled in the direction of Carson’s back.

“What kind of sorry ass apology is that” Carson demanded handing Britland the steaks and putting on some hamburgers and hot dogs for the kids.

“The only kind you’re going to get from me” Felix said with a grin.

“I tell the kids if you’re going to apologize you should at least make it sound like you’re sorry” Carson raised an eyebrow at him. “You sound more like you’re afraid of your wife than sorry for hurting my feelings.”

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“Were your feelings hurt” Felix asked. “I had no idea you were so sensitive about your age.”

“I’m not” he objected.

“You are” Felix insisted “otherwise you wouldn’t be so grumpy now.”

“Cool it you two” Britland glared at his best friend “this is supposed to be a party not a pissing match between the two of you.”

“Babe you’re absolutely right” Carson set his grilling tongs down to pull the blonde close.

“I’m sorry” he murmured before kissing Britland in front of everyone in the yard.

“Eew gross” Beckett complained loudly.

“I think its sweet” Adalynn said pretending to swoon.

“Hey dumb dumb you supposed to catch her” Beckett jabbed Rush in the side.

 

“How was I supposed to know that” Rush demanded glaring at the other boy.

“Girls always swoon over mush like that and expect us to catch them.” Beckett gave his friend a penetrating look “don’t you know anything?”

“More than you” he mumbled shoving his hands inside his pants pockets. Somehow Beckett always found a way of making him feel stupid.

“Prove it” Beckett challenged the older boy.

Rush held his ground staring at the younger boy. Even though Beckett was two years younger he was an inch or two taller. A fact that made Rush feel even smaller for his age. Before things could escalate further Rush looked down when someone took his hand. He met his sister’s eyes. They were round with fear “don’t fight” she pleaded.

 

His body relaxed as the anger seemed to melt from him. “I’m hungry” he announced “let’s get something to eat.” He smiled down at her. When she returned his smile he knew he had made the right decision.

“Don’t walk away from me” Beckett called after him “this isn’t over.”

“Give it a rest” Adalynn advised “we’re supposed to be friends remember?”

“We are” Beckett said “it’s just a friendly challenge. I know I’m smarter than him.”

“Are not” his twin contradicted.

“I am” he insisted stomping his foot to emphasize his words.

“You’re not even as smart as me” Adalynn giggled “otherwise you wouldn’t need me to do your homework.”

“There’s a difference between not knowing how and not wanting to do something” he pointed out.

Her eyes narrowed “then you won’t mind doing your own homework from now on.”

“Whatever” he mumbled.

***

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“Daddy” Rush began then stopped. Fiddling with his fingers he stared at the floor.

“What is it son” Carson asked turning from the sink, tossing his towel aside to give his son his undivided attention.

“When will I get bigger” he raised his light green eyes from his toes to meet his dad’s gaze.

Carson could see the anguish in the light green eyes. It reminded him of the many times Britland had looked at him in the same way when they first met. “Everyone grows at a different rate. You’ll get bigger when the time is right.”

“But when” his voice rose as his bottom lip quivered and his eyes became moist with tears.

From experience Carson knew a hug wouldn’t fix the problem. No matter how much he wanted to just pull his son close and tell him everything would be ok. “Follow me son” he led the way to the living room where he sat on the couch. “When I was your age I was small for my age too.”

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Rush jerked his chin up “you were? But you’re so big now.”

“I grew up.” He smiled gently at his son “you’ll grow up to.”

“I wish I were big now” he mumbled slumping back on the couch.

“I know it sucks that you have to wait but it’ll happen.” He noticed Bristol quietly playing with dolls in the corner of the room where her dollhouse was set up. “Did something happen…”

“No” Rush replied hastily.

Bristol turned from her dolls “that’s not true. Beckett was being mean today.”

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“Don’t” Rush warned glaring across the room at her.

“But he was” she insisted determined to tell now that she started. “He was picking on Rush for being littler than him and he’s only six.”

Rush groaned burying his face in the couch cushions.

“Thank you sweetie” Carson smiled at her. The worried frown relaxed as she smiled back obviously relieved she wasn’t in trouble for being a tattle tale. “Why don’t you go help Daddy with the dishes?”

“Ok” she said easily as she carefully put her dolls away.

“Don’t be upset with your sister” Carson admonished the back of his son’s purple head, his face hidden inside the couch. “I need to know these things so I can help you. You don’t have to hurt alone.”

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“I wasn’t hurt” he denied his voice muffled “besides they’re just words.”

“Stop right there” Carson ordered. “You and I both know words hurt. Don’t try to pretend otherwise.” He considered his young son a moment. Beckett had the same lack of empathy his father had. They both had the ability to go overboard when they were teasing someone. He’d have to discuss this with Britland later. Right now he was more concerned with how to extract Rush from the seat cushions.

Sitting up Rush wiped at his red rimmed eyes. “I don’t want to be little any more.”

“I know” Carson kept his voice solemn not wanting to give his son the impression he was making fun of him or taking his situation lightly. “I can’t make you grow faster. I wish I could. That part of growing up is out of my control.”

“What can I do” he cried in near panic. “It’s not just Beckett. He’s tame compared to the kids at school. Most of the girls are bigger than me.” His cheeks reddened as his thoughts went to how Missy had thrown him over her shoulder and carried him across the playground like some sort of crazy cave woman. It hadn’t been so bad up until that happened.

“How about taking karate lessons” Carson asked “just don’t go around karate chopping everything and everyone.”

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“Not even Missy?”

Carson looked over his shoulder where his husband and daughter were finishing up the dishes. He was inclined to give Rush his approval. The girl was built like a tank and was at least two years older. “You have my permission to protect yourself. If Missy tries to pick you up again you do whatever’s necessary to prevent that from happening again.”

“I don’t want to hurt her” Rush said quietly “she is after all a girl even if she is mean.”

“I’m sure you’ll learn how to defend yourself by other means then hitting in karate” Carson assured him. “Come here and give your old man a hug.”

“You’re not old” Rush protested as he wrapped his arms around him “you’re the best.”

Carson watched him walk away after that towards his room. He smiled thinking that only his son would be concerned about hurting someone who had made his life miserable at school. Missy’s parents had done little if anything to correct their daughter’s behavior. She chased after all the boys. Rush just happened to be the unlucky one she had been able to catch.

***

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“What are you smiling about?” Britland asked as he sat beside Carson on the couch.

“Don’t be shocked when you get calls from the school….” He stopped laughing at the exasperated expression Britland gave him.

“Why would they be calling” he prompted.

“I told Rush he could do whatever was necessary to keep Missy from picking him up.” He could see the instant disapproval in Britland’s gentle green eyes. “Don’t worry. Rush is as tender-hearted as you. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone.”

“That’s something at least but I don’t understand.” He shook his head at his husband. “If he doesn’t like the idea of hurting anyone why will the school be calling?”

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“Karate.”

He gave Carson a dubious look “is that supposed to be a joke?”

Shaking his head Carson pulled the blonde into his lab. “No it’s not. I think it’ll be a good idea for him to feel he can protect himself. It’ll help him build up his confidence. I think once he knows he can defend himself if necessary then he’ll have a lot less problems with the other kids.”

Wrapping his arms around his husband’s neck Britland stared thoughtfully into Carson’s eyes. “Alright we’ll give it a try.” He raised a finger to Carson’s lips before the other man could say anything. “If we get any calls from irate parents you get to talk to them.”

“Deal.” In one swift move Carson rolled Britland onto the couch beneath him. “Now I want to unwrap my birthday present.” He pressed his lips to Britland’s muffling any response he may have wanted to make.

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Once his husband released his lips Britland smirked up at him. “This is no place to be unwrapping presents.”

“I think right here is perfect” he reached for Britlands belt buckle as his lips moved down his neck. His fingers from his other hand skimming beneath his shirt.

Moaning with desire Britland ran his hands up Carson’s back releasing his hair from its clip. The click of his buckle releasing jolting him back to reality. “Not here. The kids” he whispered.

“They’re asleep” Carson groaned his hands gliding over Britland’s body.

Squirming beneath the larger the man Britland could feel himself relenting, wanting, needing more of this man’s touch. Only the thought of the kids coming out and seeing them. Plus the knowledge that he’d never be able to see the kids sitting on the couch again without seeing what they did on it kept him from giving in. “The bedroom. Please.” It was a weak request. They both knew a little persuasion and his reserves would break.

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Sitting back with effort Carson brushed his hair back. “I know what you’re thinking” he smiled. Standing he held his hand out to Britland.

Taking it Britland asked “what am I thinking?”

“You’re remembering how grossed out you were seeing Felix doing the neighbor on the couch.” He swept Britland into his arms “and you don’t want to traumatize the children the same way.”

“You know me too well” he leaned his head onto Carson’s shoulder. After a moment he stretched to place his lips close to Carson’s ear whispering “bedroom. Now.”

The need and urgency in the low husky whisper was all Carson needed to propel him forward. “Your wish is my command” he said his voice deep with desire.

***

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“Can I go outside” Rush closed his book with a decisive thud. He sighed turning sideways to look out the window where he could see the sun shining brightly, inviting him outside to enjoy its late afternoon glow.

“Is your homework finished” Britland asked trying not to be swayed by the wistful look on his son’s face.

“Yyyeah”

The slight stutter was enough for Britland to frown. “You know the rules. Homework first. Then play.”

“I know it’s just” he sighed. He hated reading. Well that’s not exactly true. It was mostly just this one book. “I have to read” he mumbled looking longingly out the window.

“Is it the same book” Britland asked. He smothered a smile at the woeful face his son was giving him. Knowing he might regret this decision he asked “if I let you go outside to play for an hour will you promise to read your book when it’s time to come back inside?”

“Yes” he smiled jumping from his chair to throw his arms around his dad. “You’re the best.”

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“I thought that was your other dad” Britland chuckled as the little arms squeezed tighter.

“Your both the bestest” Rush enthused “just in different ways.”

Ruffling his son’s hair Britland smiled “hurry up and go outside. Enjoy yourself.”

Without further encouragement Rush ran for the door. The first thing he did was look around to find Bristol. Calling her name he walked towards the swing set first. He found her near the gate instead talking to a blonde man in a suit.

Calling her name again she jumped moving a few steps away from the man. “That’s my brother Rush” she said to the man.

Coming to a stop beside his sister Rush eyed the man. “We’re not supposed to talk to strangers” he informed them.

“He’s not a stranger” she protested “he’s our grandpa.”

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“Who told you that” he demanded reaching for her hand before she was able to unlatch the gate.

“He did” she pointed at the pleasant seeming older man.

“He’s lying” Rush assured her.

“It could be true” she insisted “we’ve never met this grandpa from the city before.”

The way she said it made it sound like he was from another world. “Go get Daddy” Rush told her “he’ll be able to tell us if he’s really our grandpa.”

“But he’s…”

“Just do it Bristol” he growled “for all we know he could be some weirdo who takes kids from their homes. He could be lying when he said he was our grandpa.” Pushing the girl towards the house he repeated “go get Daddy.”

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Bristol took one last suspicious look at the blonde man before turning and running towards the house. The man smiled down at Rush. “You’re pretty smart. I knew you would be.” He reached over the gate to unlatch it from the outside.

“Stay back” Rush warned taking the one karate stance he had learned so far in his lessons.

“I’m not here to hurt you” the man gave him a friendly smile “I am your grandfather.”

“I don’t care. I don’t know you” Rush kept a wary eye on the man as he came closer “I’ll scream if you come any closer.”

Putting his hands up he chuckled a little. He took a moment to look around the yard. Grunting he muttered “this is what my son wanted to give you. My grandson living in this middle class mediocrity.” Turning his gaze back to the boy “you could have so much more than this. Come with me and I’ll give you everything you’ve ever wanted.” He held his hand out as if he was sure Rush would accept this offer.

“Anything” Rush asked “including a puppy.” He relaxed just enough  for the man to grab him. Panic gripped him as the man started to pull him towards the gate he’d left open. Rush heard the back door of the house open and close. He knew Daddy was coming. A hand went around his mouth as he tried to scream.

“Let him go” Britland yelled running towards them.

 

Rush’s eyes grew wide at how angry and scared his daddy sounded. He’d never heard him sound like that before.

“He’s my grandson” the man hauled Rush closer to the open gate. A car with dark windows was parked nearby.

Rush could see the fear in his dad’s eyes as one of the car doors opened and someone got out. Desperate now Rush kicked out with his feet smashing into the man’s knee. He could feel the man’s grip relax enough for him to wriggle free but it wasn’t enough. Someone grabbed his ankle dragging him across the ground. “Daddy help. Don’t let him take me.”

After that he wasn’t sure what happened. There were a lot of feet he had to dodge to keep from being trampled. People were shouting and yelling. Over all was the welcome sound of police sirens coming to the rescue.

The silence afterwards was almost worse than the fighting. Daddy had blood running down the side of his face. The strangers had been handcuffed and standing to the side glaring at everyone. “Daddy” he whispered clutching his hand “he’s not really my grandpa is he?” He could see the answer in his dad’s eyes before he even opened his mouth. It made is stomach burn and rumble uneasily that he could be related to someone so awful.

“I wish I could tell you differently” Britland knelt beside him drawing him close. “I want you to remember that being a grandpa is more than just sharing the same blood.”

Sniffing Rush snuggled deeper into his dad’s arms seeking warmth and safety. “He didn’t act like a grandpa should. I don’t like him.”

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“Oh my gawd” Carson’s strained voice made them both look up.

Standing Britland hurried over to meet him with Rush in his arms. “We’re ok” he assured him.

Touching Britland’s bruised and bleeding face Carson blinked back tears. “Did did my da…that man do this to you?”

“You should have seen him dad” Rush interrupted “Daddy wouldn’t let that man take me. I even used some karate on them. It slowed him down some.” He leaned over wrapping his arms around Carson’s neck.

Britland let Carson take Rush from his arms sensing they needed each other. “Go inside. I’ll join you as soon as I can.”

Nodding Carson walked inside too stunned to object. He found Bristol standing by a window watching everything..

It was late by the time Britland made it inside for the night. The police had left and Bristol was with her grandparents for the night. He shivered trying not to dwell on how close they had come to losing their son that day. Walking into the bedroom found his husband and son sound asleep each clutching tightly to the other. With a soft smile he realized that was the best ending he could have wished for under the circumstances.

Chapter 23 – Sand in the Sheets / Chapter 25 – Growing Pains

Britland – Chapter 23 – Sand in the Sheets

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“What” Carson smirked catching Britland staring at him.

“Nothing” he shook his head turning away his cheeks turning a brilliant green.

Reaching across, Carson gently tilted Britland’s chin up. “Tell me” he requested softly.

“Really it’s nothing” he turned to snuggle into Carson’s side emitting a contented sigh.

“Do I need to remind you of your promise” he asked tenderly kissing the tip of Britland’s nose.

“Don’t you believe me” he asked his bottom lip sticking out.

“It’s not that I don’t believe you” he leaned up on his elbow gazing down at Britland’s face. “I know you. You hold things inside. If there’s a problem I’d like to know so we can work through it together.”

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Gazing up into Carson’s gentle eyes the corners of his mouth quirking upwards. His right hand traveled lazily up his husband’s arm to his head where his fingers gently played in his short hair. “It’s nothing really” he bit his bottom lip. His fingers continued to play in Carson’s short hair. “Why did you cut your hair?” He glanced away not wanting to pressure Carson into answering. “I know you said you wanted a change but” sighing he returned his gaze to Carson’s face. “I think there’s more to it than that.”

Carson ran his fingers across Britland’s chest, drawing circles here and there. After a moment he met Britland’s eyes. His eyes had a far away sad look to them “I couldn’t look in a mirror without seeing him. My Uncle” he added as if Britland needed an explanation who him was.

Britland had to strain to him as he was talking so low. When it was apparent he was done Britland asked. “Is that why you thought I thought you’d become like your Uncle?” The tiny flicker in Carson’s downcast eyes was his only answer. “I never thought that. I never doubt you with our son. I know he’s safe with you.”

The small sad smile that came and went tugged at Britland’s heart. “When I first cut my hair it was liberating.” He sat up on the beach towel they had been lying on. A slight breeze lifting the short strands of hair whipping them across his forehead. “It was like I was cutting all ties with the past.” He chuckled sadly “a lot to ask from a little old hair cut I know.”

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Taking his hand Britland sat beside him letting his presence say what he couldn’t. After a while he pressed his lips to Carson’s cheek “what about now? Why don’t you grow it out?”

“I…” he took in a deep breath exhaling it slowly “I’m afraid of looking in the mirror and seeing him staring back at me.” His fingers played in the short strands of hair tugging on them. “It’s kind of silly isn’t it?”

“No” he shook his head. Standing he held his hand out “let’s go for a stroll along the beach.”

Taking his husband’s hand Carson walked side by side with the blonde. Their shoulders brushing the other. Dark clouds were moving across the mainland. “Looks like we might get some rain” Britland observed.

“Do you want to go back to the room” Carson asked putting an arm around Britland’s waist.

“Not really” he sighed trying to retrace their steps. “I guess we should if we don’t want to get wet.”

“It’ll give us an excuse to use the hot tub” Carson said turning and retracing their steps back to their beach towel.

“Since when do you need an excuse” Britland huffed. “I bet we’ve used it every night since we got here.”

“I’m going to really miss it” he turned giving Britland his best sad puppy eyes.

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“We can always use the hot tub at my parents place” he suggested.

Groaning Carson rolled his eyes “that’s not the same and you know it.”

“Well it’s not like we don’t … you know” his cheeks darkened as he struggled to put into words what they’d been using the hot tub for. “There are other places for that kind of thing.”

Touching his cheek Carson laughed, a deep jovial sound. “I do love that color on you” he pulled Britland flush with his body. “I really can’t wait to get back to our room” his fingers slipped skimmed past the elastic band of Britland’s shorts. His mouth already seeking the blondes making them both moan.

Gently Britland brought his hands up between them. “Not here” his eyes darting around the deserted beach.

“No one’s here” Carson leaned in close kissing Britland’s smooth skin along his neck to his shoulders. “Throw caution to the wind and do something wild and carefree.”

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Desperately Britland struggled to retain control as Carson’s mouth and hands were stoking the fires of passion. The sound of the ocean waves crashing onto the nearby rocks and the rolling thunder of the approaching storm was almost a match to his wildly beating heart. “Over there” he pointed towards some rocks where he hoped would give them a little privacy.

“I don’t know if I can last that long” Carson pressed his lips against Britland’s driving his tongue deep within him.

“Try” he gasped breathless pushing Carson in the direction he wanted him to go. His skin was flushed, needing to feel Carson’s touch he tried to melt into the magic of his touch. His shorts slipped lower on his hips as Carson’s hands slipped inside. “Almost there” he panted almost giving in to his growing excitement.

The first raindrops fell as they lay comfortably in each others arms, spent from the culmination of their desires. “We should get up” Carson yawned stretching.

“I can’t” Britland whined “someone’s laying on top of me.”

“Then you can’t prevent me from doing this” he leaned in quick giving Britland a heated kiss that stoked the embers of desire between them.

“You’re insatiable” Britland laughed beneath him. “Thanks to this little escapade I now have sand in places I never imagined I could.”

“I have to admit I’m surprised you actually had sex on the beach.” He pressed his lips to his husband’s collar-bone feeling Britland’s heart beat increase.

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The sand beneath was becoming damp from the steady sprinkle from the incoming storm. Britland pushed against Carson’s weight. “As much as I’d love to go another round I really don’t want mud in the same places where I have sand.”

“The rain will wash you clean” Carson argued undaunted.

“You my dear husband are a bad influence” he laughed wiggling from beneath the larger man. “If you want round two you’ll come with me to our room.” He made sure his shorts were secure before taking off running.

Shaking his head Carson called out “what do I get if I beat you back to the room?”

Looking over his shoulder Britland shouted back “round three.”

***

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Six weeks later Britland stood outside a house on the outskirts of Riverview. His hands were being squeezed tightly by the man beside him. Turning his head he glanced up at his husband “isn’t this exciting? Our very first house together.”

Grunting Carson turned his gaze from the small house to the blonde at his side. “To be honest I’m terrified.”

“Why” Britland asked without thinking. When Carson didn’t respond he continued on a little more cautiously. “Is it because your Uncle used to live here? Not here here but in this town.”

“That’s part of it” he shrugged inhaling deeply. “You’re going to think it’s silly.” Carson looked around, the only sounds to be heard the chirping of the birds in the trees and the gentle rustle of leaves as the wind blew through the limbs. “It’s too quiet here. I’m a city boy. It’s feels strange not to here the buzz of cars and the sound of people going on about their day.”

“I never thought about it but you’re right, it is quiet. It was one of the things I missed living in Bridgeport” he admitted. “Just wait until night-time when the wolves are howling” he couldn’t resist teasing Carson just a little.

Carson’s eyes darted around the yard “do you think we should put up a fence?”

“There’s nothing to worry about unless we plan on getting chickens” Britland assured him. “The wolves don’t often come near people. The kids will be perfectly safe playing the yard.”

“Kids” Carson repeated putting his arms around the blonde. “Last time I checked we only had one.”

“Maybe it’s time you counted again” Britland challenged attempting to maintain a straight face.

“Is this your way of telling me you’re pregnant” Carson asked excitement building inside him.

Nodding Britland beamed up at him. “I think it was that day on the beach.”

“How do you feel about it” he asked in concern. “I know you wanted to wait a little longer. At least until after we had settled into the new house.”

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Britland smiled raising a hand over Carson’s moving lips to shush him. “That doesn’t matter now. I’m happy about this. We’ll manage getting everything set up before the baby comes.”

Glancing around the yard Carson lips twitching he asked “where’s the pod that stole my husband.” He ducked as Britland swatted at him “you’re always the one wanting things to be a certain way.”

“Like I said on our honeymoon. You’re a bad influence” Britland teased.

“I’ve heard that before” Carson smirked “but you still love me right?” His tone was half teasing half serious, his deep-seated insecurity bubbling up.

“More than anything” he took Carson’s hand and led him into the house. “I want to show you something.” He stopped in front of a closed-door. Turning to Carson he instructed “close your eyes.”

“Why” Carson demanded “I know what’s in there.”

“Do you” Britland challenged “what exactly do you think you’ll find in there?”

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“Boxes and boxes of stuff we have yet to put away.” Grinning he continued “maybe a bed beneath all the stuff piled on top of it.”

“You could be wrong” the blonde smiled his back to the door “close your eyes or you’ll never find out.”

With a long-suffering groan Carson closed his eyes. He felt Britland take his hand and lead him inside the room. “Alright you can open your eyes now.” Opening his eyes he couldn’t keep from smiling “wow” he blinked “you’ve been busy.”

“Mom helped” Britland looked away blushing “do you really like it?”

Turning he took Britland’s hand “it’s perfect.” He could see the uncertainty drain from around Britland’s eyes.

Taking a step forward Britland tugged on Carson’s shirt pulling it free from his jeans. “Good” his fingers grazed the skin beneath.

“I have a feeling showing me our finished room isn’t the only reason why we’re here.” He helped Britland pull his shirt over his head.

“Nope” he leaned in close almost knocking Carson onto the bed.

“What about Rush” Carson asked before giving into the moment.

“He’s with his grandparents for the weekend” Britland crawled on top of him on the bed. “We’re supposed to be getting the house move in ready.”

Rolling Britland over Carson smirked down at the blonde. He wasted no time capturing his soft, supple lips muffling any other words Britland might have said. When he pulled away he could see desire darkening Britland’s eyes “I see you have picked up on a few of my bad habits” he teased.

“The worst ones I’m afraid” he admitted working on unbuttoning Carson’s jeans.

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“I think I like this new you” he grinned helping Britland remove his jeans. When that was accomplished he pulled Britland’s hands over his head, his free hand roaming up the blonde’s body before pressing his lips to Britlands. His roaming hand found its way inside Britland’s shirt causing the younger man to moan inside his mouth. “We may need more than a weekend to get the house ready” he mumbled as he pulled Britland’s shirt off.

“That can be arranged. Mom said she’s available to babysit whenever we need.” He lifted his hips allowing Carson to remove his pants.

“There are definite advantages to living near willing babysitters” Carson gazed down his husband eyes bright with the love and desire he had for the man. “I thought the room was perfect.” He moved his hands across the blonde’s smooth skin “it doesn’t compare to you.”

***

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Felix sat beside his wife while the kids played nearby. He took her hand, his eyes crinkled as he smiled down at her. “Have I told you how much I love you lately?” he asked.

Tilting her head to the side, she pondered his question. “Not today” she giggled as he pulled her close. “The kids are watching” she admonished him as his fingers skimmed beneath her shirt.

Groaning he let her wriggle free. “Where are your parents when we need them?” he complained.

“They’ll be back in a week” she shook her head at him. “I know it’ll be difficult but please try to behave until then.”

“A week” he whined “that’s like forever.”

“Daddy” Adalynn toddled over to them “no whining.”

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“Yeah” Beckett nodded falling to the ground. “Mama says no one likes a whiner.”

Adalynn nodded in agreement. Giving Crystal a sideways glance “I’m not whining.” At the sound of her laughter he smiled blowing air through his nose. “Maybe I am just a little but a week is going to tax my patience.”

“Daddy” Beckett called “come play.”

“Please” Adalynn added clapping her hands together.

“How did I become their playmate” he asked Crystal hoping she would rescue him.

“Don’t pretend you don’t enjoy it” she gave him a little push. “You love it when they want you to play with them.”

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Grinning as he got up to join his children he remembered a time when he had thought kids would be a fate worse than death. It ranked up their with being married. Six years ago he thought he had it made. An apartment in the city. A fake ID card and access to any woman he could ever want. He thought he was happy. Today he was a happily married man. The father of two. He’d never been happier.

Crystal had shown him what he had been missing in his life. Things he never knew he needed or wanted. He never would have imagined this life for himself. Leaning down he whispered something in his son’s ear.

Grinning Beckett filled the air with his high-pitched giggle. Adalynn watched with large round eyes taking Felix’s hand.

Looking down at her a frown flickered across his brow. Her hand was warm and sticky he couldn’t help but wonder what she had gotten into. He resisted the urge to either wipe his hand off or take her over to the public restroom to wash her hands off. Doing either one would extinguish the little girls radiant smile.

“Mama come” Beckett held his little hand out to her his eyes pleading.

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Crystal gave Felix a suspicious look like she knew he had put their son up to something. “What did you tell him to do?”

“Nothing” he shrugged pretending an innocence he didn’t have.

“You did I know you” she sat back crossing her legs. “I want to read my book” she explained opening a book she had been trying to read for the past month.

“Mama please” Adalynn chimed in holding her free hand out to Crystal.

She stuck a finger in her book marking her place. “What are we doing” she asked still sitting on the bench.

“Mama we go” Beckett bounced up and down unable to stand still.

“Where are we going” she asked staring at her husband.

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“Walk” Beckett pointed towards a path “there.”

“Alright” she put a bookmark where her finger had been before replacing the book in her bag. Walking towards them she gave Felix a stern look “you knew I wanted to finish my book.”

He shrugged nonchalantly letting the kids do the pleading for him.

“Please mama” Beckett begged taking her hand.

“Please mama” Adalynn mimicked her brother.

“How can I refuse” she glanced down at her children then meeting Felix’s gaze.

Smirking he leaned over giving her a soft peck on the cheek “you can’t. I’m irresistible.”

Chapter 22 – What’s Your Price / Chapter 24 – The Stranger

Britland – Chapter 22 – What’s Your Price?

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Britland pushed the magazine aside tired of the abundance of never-ending choices. “Tell me again why we can’t have a simple justice of the peace wedding?”

Carson grunted unintelligibly from his position in the living room. He was on his back lifting Rush into the air with his legs. “We waited long enough for this day. We deserve something special.”

“It will be special regardless of where we get married” Britland grumbled moving into the living room. “What does it matter if we’re wearing a tux or a nice suit?”

“Or nothing at all” Carson’s eyes sparkled with mischief.

“Rush Daddy’s being silly” Britland snorted giving his fiance an irritated look.

“We could have a location wedding” Carson continued as if Britland wasn’t glaring at him. “A nudist beach. It would be legal and warm.”

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“Absolutely not” Britland tossed the offending magazine towards Carson’s head. It fell harmlessly to the floor missing him by a foot. “You could help with the planning” he huffed.

“Alright” Carson grunted lifting Rush into the air to the little boy’s delight. “Our wedding colors will be purple and green. More green though. Purple can be the accent color.”

“Won’t that look a little too Christmasy” Britland asked.

“So what if it does” Carson challenged “it’s our wedding. Those colors represent us. Who cares what anyone else thinks.”

“Ok smarty pants what tux should we get” Britland moved from the couch to the floor picking up the magazine from the floor in the process.

“Let’s skip the tux and go with a casual suit” Carson suggested. “Rush can wear a little suit with a bow tie. He’ll be adorable.”

“No” Rush nodded his head vigorously in response, making both his parents laugh. They exchanged amused glances, their son’s favorite word at the moment was no. It didn’t matter what the question was the answer was always no.

“Now that we have that taken care of” Carson carefully lifted Rush from this legs and set him on the floor. He sat up crossing his legs Indian style on the floor. “Let’s discuss the honeymoon.”

Shaking his head Britland moved to get up “we can’t…”

“Why not” he demanded gently placing his hand over the blonde’s. “Give me one good reason why.”

“Rush” Britland nodded towards their son who was attempting to stand on his.

“What about him” Carson asked watching Britland’s facial expression closely. “Your parents volunteered to watch him while we’re gone.”

“I know it’s just that” his voice faded. “Rush is so active now. What if he’s too much for my dad to handle now? We can’t expect my mom to do all the work.”

“Honey” Carson scooted closer to him “you have to stop seeing your dad as an invalid. He can do almost everything we can do. He has that new lift wheel chair that allows him to stand and reach things that he wouldn’t normally be able to reach.”

“I know it’s just ….” he bit his bottom lip stifling the words he almost blurted out. He still blamed himself for what happened. He could feel Carson envelop him in his warm comforting embrace. Leaning into him Britland sighed “I love you.”

In response Carson pressed his lips to Britland’s forehead before moving to capture his lips. “I love you too” he murmured running a finger along the blonde’s jaw line. “Is that a yes” he asked peering deeply into Britland’s eyes.

“Yes we’ll have a honeymoon” Britland grinned leaning forward to resume the kiss Carson started. Groaning at the sound of someone impatiently pounding on their apartment door.

***

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“I get it” Rush yelled running for the door. Jumping to his feet Carson caught the toddler before he reached the door. “You know better than that” he scolded lifting the squirming little boy into his arms.

“No” Rush shook his head from side to side.

Ignoring him Carson opened the door. His happy grin disappeared as his eyes took in who stood in front of him. “What are you doing here” he demanded.

At the unfriendly tone Britland moved to Carson’s side worried about who had come to visit. Gasping in shock he found an older man he had only ever seen from across a court room. “I’ll take him” he murmured reaching for Rush.

“Is that” the man reached out to touch Rush “is that my grandson?”

“No” Carson crossed his arms barring entry into their apartment concerned that the man would attempt to take Rush.

“I don’t blame you for being upset” the man eyed Carson. “We need to talk son.”

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“What could you possibly have to say to me” Carson demanded. He tried to disguise the quiver present in his voice as he spoke. Catching the expression on Britland’s anxious face he knew he hadn’t succeeded.

“A few minutes is all I ask” the man persisted “please. If you still want me to go I will.”
He glanced over his shoulder locking eyes with Britland “I don’t know…”

“I’ll put Rush down for his nap” Britland offered. His eyes moved towards the man standing in their doorway. “Do you want me to come back” he asked Carson.

Nodding Carson was grateful he wouldn’t have to confront his father on his own. He stepped aside allowing the older man access into their home. “We’ll talk.”

The man stepped inside. His eyes followed Britland as he took Rush into his room. “Can I see my grandson” he asked taking a step to follow after them.

Moving quickly Carson stepped in front of him “he doesn’t like strangers.” He came up with the first excuse he could think of even though Rush was fearless when it came to meeting people. “What right do you have claiming my son when you kicked me out?”

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“I know you’re angry. You have every right to be” the man attempted to placate him. “As I said at the trial I had no choice. The past is the past. I so see no reason for you to keep me from getting to know my grandson.”

“I’ll be the judge of that” he glared at his father. “You may have fooled the judge and jury into thinking you were a victim but I’m not buying the whole act.”

“That’s part of the reason why I’m here” he turned towards Carson a contrite expression on his face. “You’re my son. I love you. I want to make amends for what I’ve done.”

“How am I supposed to believe that” Carson demanded. There was something off about this whole situation. His father’s words sounded sincere but there was a coldness in his eyes that chilled him.

The door down the hall opened and Britland emerged from their son’s room. His eye took in the defensive posture of both men. “We can talk in the living room” he suggested. He led the way and casually sat in the chair closest to the hallway not giving his soon to be father-in-law the advantage of being closer to their son’s room.

Nodding Carson appreciated how Britland had maneuvered the situation to their advantage. “Say what you came to say and go” he growled at the man he knew as his father but felt nothing but a deep loathing for.

Slowly he crossed the room taking the empty chair opposite the one Britland was sitting in. “You have a nice place here” he mumbled looking around.

***

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Carson rolled his eyes “no thanks to you” he mumbled.

“Look son, I’m sorry” he leaned forward like he intended to take Carson’s hand.

Britland watched as Carson scooted closer to the other end of the couch away from his father. “You don’t get to call him that” he found himself saying. “A father doesn’t do what you did. He does everything he can to protect his children from harm. He doesn’t just stand by while someone hurts them.”

“You don’t understand how it was” the man’s voice took on an offended tone. “They threatened to kill him if I didn’t go along with them. I had no choice.”

“So you say” Britland mumbled unconvinced. He rose from his chair feeling too restless to sit. “All you had to do was change your will. That’s all it would have taken to keep your children safe. Yet you couldn’t bring yourself to do that. You found convenient little ways to oppose them to keep your money safe but not your children.”

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A hard calculating expression hardened the man’s face to stone. “How dare you! You have no idea the things I suffered because of them. I lost one son. I wasn’t about to lose another.” Getting up he moved over to the couch. Sitting down he directed his next words to Carson. “Son I made mistakes. I admit that. Maybe I could have done more to protect you. That’s no reason to cut me out of my grandson’s life.”

“You didn’t want me. A gay son” all the hurt, the pain and the guilt came out in his voice.

“I had to say those things. I had to get you out of the house by any means I could. I was trying to protect you.” His words sounded sincere but there was something in his eyes that told a different story. They remained remote, cold like he was talking about someone else far removed from him.

“You need an heir” Britland blurted out in the sudden silence of the room. “You don’t care about Carson. From the moment you got here all you wanted was to see Rush.”

The man stood up facing Britland. “You’re not as dumb as you look” he said all pretenses falling away “I need a suitable heir. Someone to take over the family business. Keep the family name going.” He looked down at Carson chuckled dismissively. “I can nurture that boy into something I can be proud of. A fine young man unlike his father.”

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Carson gasped “he’s our son not yours.”

“Don’t be ridiculous” the man snorted “I can give him the best money can buy. The best schools. The best teachers. Everything you can’t.” Turning his back on Carson he approached Britland “how much?” He reached into his pocket and pulled out his checkbook.

Stunned Carson stood up hands clenched into fists “get out.”

“Don’t be stupid. You can have other children. I just want the boy. I can give him all the advantages that come with the Ratcliff name.” He wrote out a sum on the check and held the check out to Britland confident he could buy what he wanted.

“You heard my fiance Mr Ratcliffm, it’s time for you to leave.” Britland took the check and tore it in half without looking at it. “We don’t want your filthy money. Our son’s not for sale.”

Smirking he casually wrote out another check. Silently he held it out to Britland.

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Britland took it. Read the sum. His hands shook as he lifted his eyes from the sum on the little piece of paper to the confident sneer on the older man’s face. “How dare you assume we would give our son to you. You may have been willing to jeopardize your children’s well-being for your millions we are not.”

Something in the man’s eyes shifted as they narrowed. “I’ve found most people have a price. All I have to do is find yours.” Looking around at the comfortable apartment he nodded slowly as if reaching a decision. “I can make living in the city very difficult for you. How long do you think the court will let you keep custody of your son once they find out your homeless?”

Walking to the door Britland opened it wide. “You have our answer. You may be able to make our lives miserable but you can’t give our son what we can.”

Carson stared at Britland a smile spreading across his face. Grimly he turned to the man who caused him so much grief when he was growing up. He could see by the befuddled expression on the man’s face that he had no clue what Britland was talking about. “You can’t give him love. You never could. You never loved me or Dawson. That’s why you never did anything to protect us from those monsters. You were more concerned about protecting your money. Your one true love.”

Grunting he made his way to the door “you’ll regret this.”

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“I sincerely doubt it” Britland assured him closing the door in the man’s shocked face.

“That’s it I’ve decided” Carson said taking Britland’s hands.

“You decided what” he asked relaxing into him.

“I want to move” he brushed his fingers over Britland’s face. “I want our children to grow up around family. I want to know they’re safe and far away from anyone with name Ratcliff.” He stopped puzzled “what’s that look for?”

“You said children” Britland smiled up at him “does that mean you’re planning on us having more kids some day?”

“It does” he leaned in close pressing his lips to Britland’s forehead. “I want them all to have your name too. Once we’re married we’ll all be Olivia.”

“You don’t have to do ….”

Carson cut him off by kissing him “I want to” he said with a smile. “I don’t want anything tying me to the Ratcliff name.”

***

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“Are you ready son” Robbie asked watching Britland twirl in front of the mirror.

“Dad” he cried cheeks darkening.

“It’s alright son” Robbie grinned from where he sat. “Everyone wants to look good on their wedding day.”

“I have so many butterflies fluttering in my stomach right now” Britland confided in him.

“Are you sure it’s only butterflies” Robbie asked with a knowing grin.

“Dad” he protested turning a deeper shade of green.

“Well it’s been known to happen” he shrugged.

“Aren’t you supposed to give me the speech about waiting until the wedding night” he asked trying to straighten his collar.

“Let me do that” Robbie rose with the lift. “That ship sailed a long time ago” he patted the shoulders of his son’s suit. “Now hurry up and give me a granddaughter.”

“After the honeymoon” Britland turned to appraise his dad’s work in the mirror “thanks.”

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“Nothing to it” Robbie assured him.

“Are you sure you and Mom can handle Rush while we’re gone” Britland asked.

“Don’t worry about us” Robbie winked “worry about keeping your husband satisfied.”

“Dad that’s just gross” Britland screwed up his face in disgust.

“It isn’t” Robbie contradicted chuckling softly.

“It is when it’s your dad saying it” Britland protested.

“Point taken” Robbie shook his head laughing. “I’d have felt the same if my dad had said that to me.” He fell silent for a moment watching his son. “Britland I’m so proud of you and the man you’ve become.”

“Thanks” he mumbled “are you trying to make me blush or something.” He complained loudly as his cheeks burned.

“No” Robbie chuckled “I don’t think Carson will complain though.”

“Knowing him probably not” he smiled “this is it. I’ll be a married man soon.”

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“Any second thoughts” Robbie asked.

“None” he smiled “Carson is the only one for me.”

“Good then let’s get you married” he put his arm out putting his chair in gear. “I thought I’d only get to walk Ariel down the aisle.”

“I know it’s a bit unconventional” he stammered “I wouldn’t have asked if Mom hadn’t suggested it.”

“I’m honored” Robbie patted his hand that rested on his arm “besides since when has our family ever been conventional.”

***

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Crystal leaned into Felix. “I have something to tell you” she whispered in his ear.

He smiled without taking his eyes from the couple saying their vows.”What’s so important it couldn’t wait until after my best friend says I do?”

“I don’t want you to freak out.” She grinned up at him.

“I don’t want to miss this” his attention drifted back to the couple under the arch. He clapped loudly whistling in approval when the couple kissed for the first time as a married couple. Several attendees turned with disapproving glares at him for disturbing the solemn moment. He shrugged unabashed. Robbie caught his eye giving him a nod of approval before clapping his hands along with him followed by several others. If anyone deserved a standing ovation it was this couple after everything they had gone through to get to this moment.

“Felix please” Crystal grabbed one of his hands.

“What” he demanded looking down at her “can’t I be happy for my best friend?”

“It’s not that. I need to tell you something” she placed his hand on her stomach.

He raised an eyebrow staring at his hand. It was obvious she wanted him to notice something. He moved his hand around noticing the subtle changes he had been missing now that he was forced to observe them. He gave her a wide-eyed look “you’re not…” he choked up. Swallowing he blinked “am I going to be a daddy?”

Nodding she let the tears fall “yes.” The next thing she knew she was being swung around through the air. Her feet knocking into chairs and hapless people who couldn’t move quick enough.

“We’re having a baby” Felix shouted to one and all. “We’re going to be parents.” He set her down as he lost all color in his face. He fell to his knees as if he were about to be sick. “I’m going to be a dad” he whispered as he if didn’t quite believe it.

Crystal ran her fingers through his hair heedless of the stares from everyone around them. “You’ll be a wonderful dad” she assured him.

“What if I screw up? What if I become like my parents” he mumbled pressing his face into her stomach. His arms snaking around her waist holding her tight.

“You won’t” she told him firmly. “You’re ten times the man your dad is or ever will be.”

That was enough for him to relax. As long as she believed in him he could do anything even if becoming a dad was the most terrifying thing he could imagine.

Chapter 21 – The Jagged Age / Chapter 23 – Sand in the Sheets

Britland – Chapter 21 – The Jagged Edge

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The truck ate up the distance between his home and the Svir farm. Robbie glanced over at his dad. The years had etched crevices and wrinkles into the once smooth skin. The past few months had left even more. Despite his increasing age Robbie still looked up to his Dad as the guy with all the answers. He was larger than life. Stronger than ten men. His hero. He didn’t want to think of a time fast approaching when age finally slowed him down. His hair may be gray, his strength may be the thing of legends but to Robbie he would still be his dad.

Robbie shook his head as he turned to gaze out the passenger window. His stomach twisted into knots. He had a terrible feeling. A persistent nagging feeling that gnawed at his insides. A blaring alarm was going off inside his head. Something bad was about to happen. He wanted to reach over and stomp his foot on the gas to speed the car along. At this point he’d even hop out of the car and push if it meant getting there faster.

Almost there he thought as they passed the Svir farm entrance. The anxious feeling in the pit of his stomach grew when his father stomped on the brakes, throwing them both forward making the seat belts lock keeping them in place. “Why are we stopping” he cried turning to his dad wanting to scream at the delay.

Shon gave him a grim stern look but there was a certain glimmer in his light blue eyes that tore at Robbie’s heart. “That last call on the radio” his voice rose, an unusual occurrence for a man of his years and police experience. He took a deep breath pulling himself together. “You need to stay here. You’re a civilian and it could be dangerous.”

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“Dad” Robbie protested shaking his head reaching for the door handle “I’m not staying here. That’s my son out there. There’s no way in hell I’m sitting in the truck.”

“Robert Shon Olivia get back here” Shon ordered like he had done hundreds of times when Robbie was growing up.

“The days when you could…” a shriek tore the silence of the night apart. Robbie took off running in the direction the scream came from.

“Damn it” Shon swore under his breath following him into the dense swamp grasses. Years of training had kept him fit and for a man in his mid-sixties he was able to keep pace with the younger man ahead of him. He could feel the exertion in his joints telling him he wasn’t as young as he once was.

Robbie had stopped a short distance ahead and Shon joined him barely winded from his exertions even though his heart was hammering against his chest walls. He put a hand on Robbie’s shoulder, a silent reminder that he was there. A plea for him not to do anything rash. Above the hammering of his heart Shon could hear angry indistinct voices, demanding and insistent. A familiar voice weak and full of immeasurable pain obviously refusing their requests. He felt Robbie’s muscles tense beneath his hand as they both recognized that voice.

***

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Panting Britland fought to fill his lungs with enough air to breathe. His head rolled forward, too heavy to lift. He’d fall on his face if it weren’t for the uncaring creep holding him up by the arm he had mercilessly dislocated from its socket. Licking his dry lips he tried to moisten his bone dry mouth. “I won’t” he moaned concentrating hard on his choice of words “tell you anything.”

“We know he’s out there” the woman snapped stepping forward grabbing a handful of hair and yanking his head back.

“I won’t tell you” he chuckled almost delirious “doesn’t matter what you do to me.” Her fingers clenched, pulling his hair from his scalp making him wince. The expression in her eyes ten times worse than the pain he was in as he realized she was getting off on his pain.

A low guttural growl rose from deep inside her as she raised her gun. “We don’t have time for this.” She pitched her voice louder “Carson sweetie it’s time to say goodbye to blondie.”

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“Don’t listen to her” Britland screamed struggling ineffectually within the grasp of his captor. Carson’s Uncle’s arms tightened making it impossible for him to slip free. “Think of Rush. He needs you now more than ever.” He flinched at the ominous click of the gun being cocked.

“I’m going to blow blondie’s face off” the woman declared raising the gun to his face.
Staring down the barrel of the gun Britland held his breath. Time ceased to exist as everything came to a stop. A loud piercing scream and the rustling of weeds shattered the silence. A deafening crack like the booming of a canon fire assaulted his ears. A stinging burning line of fire seared across his temple tearing through his ear. He fell backwards as the man behind him ducked, releasing him. He fell heavily on his back knocking his breath away. Something warm, sticky and wet trickled down the side of his face.

He should be dead not existing in this endless dark tunnel of pain. Voices yelled above him. Feet jumped over him. Another loud boom. A yelp as someone was tackled to the ground. The police had come at last. Hands came to inspect his injuries causing him to cry out.

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Unsticking his eyelids Britland opened his eyes attempting to figure out what was happening. A pair of familiar shoes lay nearby motionless on the ground. Moaning he tried to reach out “is he…”

“Don’t” a deep voice commanded “stay calm. Help is on the way.”

Tears tricked down his cheeks mixing with the blood that oozed from his wound. He had been shot. He should be dead. At the last second something had distracted his would be executioner. The bullet had grazed his temple on its way to whoever had startled her.

“Carson” he cried struggling to sit up despite the hands pushing him down.

“Calm down” the man repeated “everything is going to be alright.”

Those had been the last words Britland remembered before passing out.

***

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“Penny for your thoughts” Miranda said sitting beside Britland on the bench.

He grunted scooting over. The sun was bright overhead. Despite its warmth he shivered. The birds were singing cheery song that somehow added to his melancholy feeling. Without turning he knew his mother had scooted closer to him, invading his space. He resisted her intent to hold his hand.

Britland it’s not your fault” she spoke softly, no more than a whisper. “You have to stop blaming yourself.”

Resolutely he turned his face away blinking into the bright rays of the sun. Her words barely registered in his consciousness. A strangled sob escaped from somewhere deep inside him.

“Son look at me” Miranda requested “I’m not going anywhere until you do.”

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Frowning Britland turned towards her. His eyes were red rimmed, his nose red and stuffy. “There” he grumbled “happy now.”

“No” she reached out grabbing his hand firmly between her hands “I’m not happy.” She could see the scar that ran along the side of his temple that disappeared in his hairline. The notch in his ear he covered up with his shaggy blonde hair. “I’ll tell you what does make me happy. My son is still here. I can still hold him close. I can still tell him I love him.” She sucked in a deep breath fighting back the sting of tears. “I’m very grateful for that.”

“But at what cost” he cried. His green eyes watered “if I hadn’t gone after Carson on my own that night none of this would have happened.” He tried to pull away but she held on tight refusing to let him go.

“He loved you” she held him firm as a low groan burst out of him. “He did what he did because he loved you. No one could have stopped him.”

“It doesn’t make me feel any better” he cried shifting his weight.

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“It’s not supposed to” she dropped her hands into her lap. “Every day since that night I regret making that fatal call to you. If it weren’t for me you and Carson might have gotten away.”

“It wasn’t your fault” he protested. Taking her hand he took his turn comforting her “you didn’t know the danger we were in.”

She glanced up at him, her cheeks wet with tears “how am I any less guilty than you?”

“I know what you’re trying to do” he sighed pulling her close. “I just feel so torn up inside. I can see all the things I could have done differently.” The tears he had tried to hold back burst like a dam breaking. He felt his mother’s arms wrap around him, supporting him when he should have been supporting her. “I’m so sorry” he murmured unable to keep the wracking sobs inside.

“I know” she whispered kissing his cheek softly. Sitting back she rubbed his back like she had done when he was a little boy waking from a nightmare. A small faint smile pulled at her lips. “You and I need to stop blaming ourselves” she leaned forward maintaining eye contact with him like she hoped to read his mind. “We need to be grateful for the things we have left.”

***

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Britland dropped his gaze biting on his bottom lip “I don’t know if I can.” His voice was low like he were talking to himself. The sound of laughter drifted across the small park where they had taken Rush to play. His clear high-pitched giggles tugged at his heart. The one bright spot in an otherwise dark place.

“Isn’t that just adorable” his mother sighed beside him. Pointing she asked “isn’t that worth it?”

He gave her a sideways glance. The corners of his mouth tugged upwards into a semblance of a smile. “Put like that” he gazed at his son as he drew nearer “who am I to disagree?” He stood up to stroll across the path to meet his son. It was hard to believe it had been a year since that awful night in the swamp. The event that changed all their lives forever was more than twelve months in the past.

“Gampy” Rush squealed bouncing excitedly on Robbie’s lap “faster.”

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“Hang on” Robbie advised as his hands manipulated the wheels to his wheel chair spurring the chair forward.

“Wee” Rush cried clapping his little hands as fast and loud as he could.

Britland watched their happy faces as they passed him. Rush’s hands waving at him as they passed. He took a step forward when a pair of strong arms enveloped him. He turned glaring at the smiling man behind him “how many times do I have to tell you not to do that?”

“Sorry” Carson mumbled shoving his offending hands into his pockets. “We need to talk” he said directing his gaze at Britland. He longed to pull Britland into his arms. Hold him close. Tell him everything would be like it was before. Ever since that night he had run an obstacle course of well constructed walls that Britland had erected between them.

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“Alright” he said cautiously “I’ll get Rush.” He turned to walk over to where his Dad was talking to Miranda.

“He’s fine” Carson reached out to grab hold of Britland’s arm “but we aren’t.” He dropped his hand to his side at the scathing look Britland gave him.

Britland could feel his walls shaking as he peered into Carson’s strained face. There were fine lines around his eyes that had appeared since the incident in the swamp. Carson held himself rigid. His back ramrod straight. “I really should make sure Rush isn’t tiring my Dad out” his words were met with a desperate bleak expression by the other man. Britland looked over his shoulder. He could see his Mom talking to his Dad. She had Rush safely in her arms. It appeared so normal. Everything except the wheel chair.

“He’s fine” Carson repeated holding his hand out entreating Britland to join him.

“Alright” he sighed taking the outstretched hand.

***

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They walked in silence. Britland tried to enjoy the peaceful surroundings. The warmth of the summer sun shining through the tree tops. The birds chirping happily in the trees. The shrill cries of children playing in the nearby playground. The butterflies that floated effortlessly above the flowers. The beating of his heart crowded all of that out. Had he pushed Carson so far away that he was done? Had Carson finally had enough?

Stopping Carson turned to face him. The extreme sadness in his eyes, the slump of his shoulders only served to heighten Britland’s fears. “We can’t go on like this” Carson said softly “I can’t go on like this.”

“What are you saying” Britland’s voice cracked. “Are you breaking up with me?” The moment he feared most was finally here. It was as if he were standing on the edge of a high cliff. The ground crumbling beneath his feet. The faster he back pedaled the quicker the earth fell away beneath him.

“I….” Carson stopped as if his voice was stuck in his throat. Was that what he wanted? He loved Britland more than anything in this world other than his son. He ran a shaky hand through his short hair. It felt strange for it to end a mere couple inches from his scalp when he expected his fingers to tangle in its length. “Maybe” he mumbled feeling his insides flip-flop at his words. He tried not to notice the way Britland flinched at his words or the misery he could see in his eyes. “I’m sorry” he mumbled unsure what else to say or do to make things better.

“Why” Britland cried hugging his arms around himself. Any moment he was sure all the cracks in his facade would let loose and all that would be left would be fragments lying shattered on the ground.

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“I don’t know what else to do” Carson lamented his hands outstretched. “Everything changed that night.” Again his hand went to his hair. Shock hand him jerk his hand away “do you know how long it’s been since you let me hold your hand?”

Miserably Britland shook his head. He had known it had been awhile. For months all he could think about was how he had gotten his Dad shot. The bullet that was meant for him whizzed past his head cutting a trail across his temple and through his ear. It shattered his Dad’s spinal cord. He’d never walk again. Forty-two years old and he was consigned to a wheel chair for the rest of his life.

“Are you afraid of me?” Carson asked disrupting Britland’s troubled thoughts. “Do you think I’ll become like them?”

“No of course not” he cried shaking his head. That thought had never entered his mind. “You’d never be like them.”

“Then why won’t you let me touch you” Carson closed the gap between them. Gently tilting Britland’s chin up to him he gazed into his troubled green eyes. “It’s been so long since you let me hold you.” He leaned in close feeling how tense Britland was in his arms, pulling away from him. His lips hovered above the blonde’s longing to feel their velvety touch on his “We can’t go on like this” he repeated releasing the blonde and stepping back.

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Staggering Britland tried to catch his balance. His mind grasping to piece everything together. The remnants of what they once had, was shattering before his eyes. It was like he was watching a catastrophe happen right in front of him and he couldn’t do anything to stop it. Carson turned and began to walk away. He opened his mouth to stop him. Nothing came out. His entire life was falling apart and he was helpless to prevent it. He was on that cliff again. Teetering on the edge. Any moment he was going to tilt over the precipice. His body lying mangled on the jagged rocks below. “Carson” he cried running towards the older man “don’t go.” He threw his arms around him afraid to let go.

Closing his eyes Carson fought a losing battle to disentangle himself from Britland’s arms. His chest heaved painfully as he forced himself to say the words that needed to be said. “Let me go Britland” his voice cracked “I can’t keep torturing myself like this. I’ll keep in touch. I’ll be there for Rush.”

“Carson please” Britland held on tighter burying his face into Carson’s back. Inhaling deeply he filled his lungs with the man’s scent. This was home. This was his secure place. This was where he belonged. “Please Carson stay. Don’t go.”

“Tell me why I should” he asked needing to hear the words that once were spoken so often but he hadn’t heard in months.

“I…I…” Britland released his grip around the other man. He took several steps backwards. Staring at his feet half expecting a black hole to swallow him up. “I love you” he raised his voice shouting this time “I love you. It terrifies me how much I love you.” He took off running only to be tackled to the ground a few moments later.

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They landed in a heap of tangled limbs. “You can’t just say that and runaway” Carson breathed heavily on top of Britland’s chest pinning him to the ground.

“Let me go” he cried struggling to free himself. “I ruin everything. You’re better off without me.”

Sitting back Carson stared at him “what are you talking about?”

“I got my Dad shot” he cried “you’ll get hurt if you stay.”

“Aw honey” Carson stood up “is that what you’re afraid of? Are you pushing me away so that I don’t get hurt?” He could see the answer in Britland’s troubled eyes. “You could never hurt me like that.”

 

“I hurt my Dad” he persisted sitting up. “He got hurt because of me.”

“He got hurt because he loves you” Carson knelt beside him “that’s what happens when you love someone. You say hell to the consequences and charge ahead anyway” Gently he leaned in close giving Britland a kiss feeling the blonde’s resistance melting away. “That’s what you were doing when you refused to tell them where I was. Why begrudge your Dad for doing the same thing? If I had been closer it would have been me.”

“Oh Carson” he cried throwing himself into the other man’s arms. “I tried so hard not to feel anything. I thought if I couldn’t feel anything it wouldn’t hurt so much.”

“I know baby” Carson soothed “I’m here. Your Dads here. We all love you.”

Britland snuggled into Carson’s arms. He could feel the iron shackles around his heart fall away. He could finally breathe again.

Chapter 20 – Hide and Seek / Chapter 22 – What’s Your Price?

Britland – Chapter 20 – Hide and Seek

Author’s Note: This chapter may be triggering for some people as it mentions the death of a child. The actual event is not pictured or described. Please read at your own discretion.

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A twig snapped loudly in the rolling misty fog whirling around them. Britland turned to find Carson’s Uncle watching them with a cold dispassionate gaze. “You killed him. Your own nephew” Britland could feel bile rising, threatening to choke him.

“Don’t look at me like I’m not the monster here” the man chuckled “I only disposed of the carcass.”

“Carcass” Britland gasped “that was your nephew.” He couldn’t believe how someone could be so cold, so uncaring, so inhumane to not feel anything over the death of a defenseless child.

“What” the man demanded “did you expect me to cry? Beg for mercy? Ask for forgiveness?” He laughed harshly “this isn’t some stupid movie where the bad guy sees the error of his ways and seeks redemption.”

Britland stared at the man. A man he knew. Someone he had trusted as a little boy. A man he had seen cry over a dog that had been run over and left on the side of the road. “I don’t understand” he muttered taking a step backwards. He didn’t understand how someone could be so callous about the death of an innocent child. Someone who no doubt had trusted this vile person smirking before him.

“Welcome to the real world where evil exists and darkness is a thing.” He opened his arms wide obviously enjoying himself. “Look around you boy. Guess how many bodies could be here?”

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“You’re sick” Britland hissed backing away from the hideous visage before him.

“Who are you to judge me,” the man demanded. “What measuring stick are you using to determine whose sick?”

Britland swallowed taking another step back “what are you then?”

“Me? I’m nothing special” he shook his head. “I guess you could call me a magician. I make bodies disappear. I clean up messes and I….”

Carson roared as he charged past Britland straight for his Uncle. “He was just a little boy. You killed him. Why couldn’t you keep your filthy hands off him? He was just three years old.”

The older man laughed dodging most of the blows Carson aimed at him. “What makes you think it was me? I wasn’t even there the night of the party.”

 

“You were. I remember” Carson screamed “you came into our room. I watched you take Dawson from his bed.” He clutched his Uncles shirt between his fists “you were there.”

“You only thought it was me” he brushed Carson’s hands away “think about it.”

“No” he shook his head “you were there. I saw you.” He bunched his hands and swung again.

His Uncle easily blocked the blow. “You only think it was me. I always had long purple hair like your…” Carson’s fist connected with his mouth stopping him from saying more.

“No you’re wrong” he shook his head a stubborn tone in his voice. “She wouldn’t have done that. She blamed me for not stopping you.”

“You couldn’t have stopped her” his Uncle chuckled “it’s amazing you were even awake to have seen anything at all.”

***

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“That’s enough brother” a woman’s voice snapped loudly behind them.

“Ali you shouldn’t be here” the man cried spitting blood from his mouth.

“Mom” Carson mumbled facing the older woman approaching them a pistol in hand. “You knew! The entire time you knew!”

Britland silently came along side Carson gently taking his hand. There was nothing he could say. Not now, not ever. He couldn’t pretend to understand how Carson was feeling or even thinking at this moment. All he could do was let him know he was there for him.

“Of course I knew” her shrill angry voice cut into Britland’s thoughts. “I’ve known from the beginning.”

Carson staggered forward “if you knew why did you blame me? Why didn’t you tell the police? You could have stopped him.”

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His Uncle’s laughter drew everyone’s attention. “Ali are you going to tell him or shall I?”

“Shut up Lawson” she warned her brother.

“Or what” he demanded “I’ve cleaned up after you for years. Buried the bodies once the urge took control…” A resounding slap echoed in the clearing.

The woman stared at her hand that struck her brother. “Don’t talk about my urges when yours are just the same as mine.”

“I haven’t killed anyone” he snorted facing his sister.

“What were you going to do with those two” she waved her gun towards Carson and Britland.

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He shrugged “I knew you’d be here. If there was killing to be done you’d take care of it.”

“You just do body disposal” she looked disgusted.

“Don’t knock it till you try it” Lawson muttered.

Ignoring him she walked up to Britland. “My brother always did know my type.”

“Um” he shrank behind Carson.

“Leave him alone” Carson growled a slight tremor in his voice. He stepped between her and his fiance.

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“You’ve gotten a lot braver since the last time I saw you.” She eyed her son for a moment as if to challenge him to make a move. She smirked moving between him and Britland “I always had a weakness for blondes.”

Before Britland knew what was happening she smashed her lips to his taking his breath away in an unpleasant bruising kiss. He struggled against her finding her grasp surprisingly strong for someone who looked so small. A strong force yanked them part sending him sprawling to the moist earth below him.

Carson glared down at his mother. “I said leave him alone.” A puzzled expression filled his eyes as he gazed down at her. “It was you that night. You came into our room during the party. Dawson was crying because I…I wouldn’t let him sleep with me.”

“You couldn’t know that. You should have been asleep” she insisted. “Didn’t you finish the milk and cookies I gave you?”

Frowning Carson shook his head “Dawson was whining so much I gave him half.” His lavender eyes growing wide “you put something in it didn’t you? You drugged us.” He staggered backwards bumping into Britland who quickly took his hand.

“I drugged you not him.” She walked several paces away muttering to herself. “After all this time I never thought. Never considered you had shared your snack with him.” She stopped in front of Carson “you really did kill him and didn’t even know it.”

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Carson gasped backing away. “I didn’t. I didn’t know.” He gulped his heart racing uncomfortably fast in his chest. He thought it had been late when his mother had sent them to their room. He had been so lethargic he could barely keep his eyes open. It all made sense now.

Turning to her brother she accused “I thought you said he remembered everything. He doesn’t know anything.”

“He does now” Lawson shrugged smugly.

“You did this on purpose” she accused.

“He was” Lawson grinned “I just didn’t tell you how much he was remembering. You inferred the rest.”

“Aargh” she screamed “everything he was saying pointed to you.”

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“I know” he grinned nonchalantly at his sister.

“Then why” she demanded. Her gun hand jerked in agitation.

“Because I want my money.” He glared at her. Pointing at the exposed bones “I covered this up for you. You promised me I’d be paid well for it. I haven’t gotten a dime.”

“I told you to be patient. How was a I supposed to know Antonio would refuse to change his will?” She glared at him. Neither of them willing to back down.

Britland tugged on Carson’s arm urging him to move. Turning Carson dragged his eyes from his mother and Uncle to Britland’s face. “We’ve got to go” he whispered “we can get away while they’re distracted.” He tugged on Carson’s arm again hoping to galvanize him into action.

Moving as if he had no control of his actions Carson followed him. White with shock he looked on the verge of passing out. They could hear the two siblings yelling at each. It didn’t matter as long as they didn’t notice they were gone before they could disappear into the dense grasses of the swamp.

***

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Twenty minutes later they slumped together beneath tangled swamp reeds breathing hard. “Where are we” Carson gulped looking around eyes wide looking young and vulnerable.

“If I’m right, we’re a mile or two from home” Britland panted. “I had to take a short cut through the swamp. Thought it would be safer than the road.”

“Swamp” the expression on Carson’s face would have been comical if he had the breath to laugh and their lives weren’t in danger. “Are there alligators in here?”

“It’s too cold for alligators. There might be snakes though” Britland added.

“Snakes” Carson pulled his knees to his chest. Eyes darting from side to side. “I hate snakes.”

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“For the most part they’ll leave you alone if you leave them alone” Britland assured him. “We need to keep moving. I think by now your Uncle knows where we’re going. He probably knows this land better than I do.”

Grabbing his hand Carson gave him a desperate half scared look. “Why’s that?”

“It’s his land” Britland shrugged “his farm lies between the Robinson farm and town.”

“Don’t you think we should have gone a different direction” Carson asked.

“We could have” Britland sighed “I wasn’t thinking. I just wanted to get us out of there. I took the route I was most familiar with. I’m sorry.”

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“It’s not your fault” Carson leaned his face forward resting it on his knees. “Maybe we could angle our path in a different direction that’ll take us away from here.”

“I’m trying to do that but the swamp isn’t as easy to maneuver in as the city.” Britland tried to give him a reassuring smile. “too many sand pits, marsh, ponds and barbed wire fences to navigate around.”

“Oh” Carson swallowed trying to encompass it all “lead the way I’ll follow.”

Chuckling a little Britland said “finally I know more about something than you do.” He grinned lifting his head above the reeds to look around. “Oh shit” he ducked down abruptly. He lifted a finger to his lips signally for Carson to be silent. He could see the raw fear in his lavender eyes. It wasn’t long before they could hear Carson’s Uncle and mom talking to each other. Their words indistinct but their tone undeniably angry.

Britland pointed waiting for Carson to nod in acknowledgment before he started to crawl forward careful not to disturb the tall swamp grasses. Every few feet he’d stop to make sure Carson was still behind him, keeping pace. Neither of them dared speak for fear of being overheard. Britland knew they were nearing the edge of the Svir farm. They were almost there, they just might make it.

***

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“Robbie” Miranda shook her husband’s shoulder “Rob wake up.”

Moaning he opened his eyes a crack. Reaching for the light he blinked at its sudden brightness. “I’m up” he groaned.

“Britland isn’t in his room” she informed him. “Rush was fussing and I went to check on him. Britland isn’t there.”

“Did you check the living room” he asked sitting up. “He did go to bed really early.”

“He’s not here. I checked” she grabbed her phone.

“Who are you calling” he asked watching her.

“I want to know where our son is” her tone telling him she wasn’t in a mood to be questioned.

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“Miranda put the phone away” he said as he skimmed through his messages.

“What? Why” she frowned at him. “Where could he have gone? It’s too early for anything to be open right now.”

“Miranda” he said her name firmly “put your phone away.”

“He wasn’t answering anyway” she mumbled hurt that he had used his stern tone with her. It was usually reserved for reprimanding their wayward children. To her amazement he ignored her. Adding to her puzzlement he proceeded to make a call. Her heart sank as she listened to the one-sided conversation.

“Dad” Robbie’s voice was almost a shout “sorry for waking you but we’ve got trouble.”

“What kind of trouble” Shon demanded all thoughts of sleep gone.

“Britland snuck out of the house to do his own search for his fiance.” He read his son’s message out loud to his father.

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“Damn” Shon said forcefully “I hadn’t thought about searching the Robinson Farm. Makes sense the two farms do border each other.”

“What should we do” Robbie asked.

“I’ll send a squad car to check it out” Shon informed him. “If they find anything suspicious we’ll send more officers. Don’t worry we’ll find him.”

Disconnecting he turned to his wife. “Dad will find them” he reassured her putting his arms around her.

“I shouldn’t have called him” she whispered. Glancing up her eyes red rimmed and fearful “what if they were hiding? My call would have given their position away.” She began to shake and tremble in his arms “I may have put our son into danger.”

He turned her around so her cheek rested on his chest. He wrapped his arms around her trembling frame “you didn’t know.” He kissed the top of her head “Britland is smart. He’ll figure something out. He’s a survivor. He’ll be ok.”

“I know” she sniffed clinging to him. “He has to be ok. They both have to be.” She amended her words as they both heard Rush’s cries from the next room. “I better go check on him.”

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“I’ll do that” Robbie offered.

“No” she took a deep breath brushing her hair from her face. “I need to keep busy.”

“Alright” he nodded watching her go “I’ll get dressed. Dad is coming by to pick me up….”

“You’re going to the Svir farm” she stated calmly despite the worry in her eyes.

“Yeah. I can’t sit here and wait” he let out a weary sigh “the boys are coming home.”

Their grandson’s persistent cries continued as Miranda opened their bedroom door. “Be careful” she beseeched him with one last longing look.

“Always” he promised. They both knew if it came down to it he’d put his life on the line to save his son’s. No questions asked. No second thoughts.

***

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“Stand up” Carson’s Uncle ordered.

The moment his phone went off Britland knew it was over. He forced Carson further back into the thick grass. He stood up he stared around him. He glared at the monstrous vile man in front of him. He wouldn’t give Carson’s hiding place away by looking behind him. He raised his hands stepping forward on weak wobbly knees.

“Where is he” Ali demanded moving in close. Britland stared impassively back at her. He couldn’t help but wonder how someone like her could exist. “We got separated” he mumbled refusing to look away from her.

Turning to her brother “he has to be around here somewhere. Make blondie tell us where” she ordered.

Britland took an involuntary step backwards as the older man came towards him. “Look at him Ali he’s scared,” the man sneered licking his lips.

“Good” she returned his sneer with one of her own. “The more frightened he is the better.”

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“I won’t tell you anything” Britland blustered wincing as the older man twisted his arm behind his back.

“I’ll break your arm” he threatened applying more pressure.

“I doubt it” Britland grunted “it takes an awful lot of pressure to break bone not to mention knowing anatomy.”

“Are you challenging me boy” the man snarled in his ear.

“Don’t listen to him” his sister snapped slapping Britland hard across the face. “Can’t you see he’s trying to stall for time? Carson’s around here. He’ll come out if you make Blondie scream loud enough.”

“That should be fun” Lawson snickered pulling Britland’s arm behind him. “It may not break your arm but you may wish it had.” Bone scraped across bone followed by a loud pop as his shoulder dislocated. The desired screams filled the air around them echoing out into the fields beyond.

Chapter 19 – Night Visitor / Chapter 21 – The Jagged Edge

Britland – Chapter 19 – Night Visitor

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“Carson what’s wrong” Britland asked sitting up rubbing his eyes. It felt like they had just gone to bed. He reached for Carson’s arm alarmed by the expression of fear in the other man’s eyes. “Did you have another nightmare?” Britland knew it had been weeks since Carson had a nightmare that woke him up in the middle of the night.

“Shh” Carson brought a finger to his lips indicating to Britland to be quiet.

The question he was going to ask died on his tongue as he watched Carson move silently towards the door. He stopped to grab the old wooden bat Britland’s dad had brought from home. Britland followed Carson whispering “what’s going on?”

“Call the police” Carson told him.

“What? Why” he asked confused.

“I think someone’s in here” Carson explained.

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“I didn’t…” something crashed outside their bedroom walls. It sounded like someone had knocked into a shelf in the dark and knocked something over. Britland’s eyes were round with fear. He tugged on Carson’s arm “don’t go” he pleaded.

“I’ll be ok” he assured him. Carson took a moment to pull the blonde close. Kissing his forehead gently “I have to check on Rush.” He moved his hand to the open the door “it’ll be ok.”

Helplessly Britland watched his fiance slip through the door. He wanted to stop him. Keep him safe. The thought of their infant son alone in his crib the only thing stopping him doing any of those things. Carson had to go. Britland moved to do his part. He retrieved his phone. His fingers trembling as he pressed the numbers that would send help their way.

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He waited for what felt like forever but was only a few minute. He ears straining to hear anything, even the gentle steady tick tick of the clock hanging in the kitchen. Nothing. What was going on out there? He inched towards the door careful to keep clear of anything he might knock over. His hand gripped the door handle, clammy with fear.
Taking several deep breaths before opening the door. The small tinny click sounded loud in the dark silent hallway. It was too silent. His heart beat loud in his ears. He bit down into his bottom lip to keep from calling out to Carson. He moved in the direction of Rush’s nursery. That was where Carson was headed. That’s where he’d start.

There was a faint glow coming from beneath the door. The baby’s nightlight. It was normal. Expected. For those reasons it felt all the more alarming. He gripped the door handle breathing hard. He hoped the police were on their way and would be here soon. The shrill cray of his infant son galvanized him into action. He twisted the door knob and stepped into the room.

***

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“Good of you to join us” a familiar voice greeted Britland as he stepped inside the room.

“Mr. Svir” Britland mumbled “why are you here?”

“I missed my nephew” the older man sneered, gruffly pushing him forward into the room.

“Carson” Britland cried upon seeing the terrified panic in his fiance’s eyes. “Are you ok” even to his own ears that question was a stupid one. Anyone in this situation was anything but ok.

Carson stared at the crib ignoring the blonde’s querie into his welfare. “Give him back” he growled turning to face the man who had broken into their home. Impotent rage boiled over inside him seeing the man of his nightmares holding his son. “Put him down” he swallowed trying to reign in the fear and anger threatening to overwhelm him.

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Britland put a hand on Carson’s shoulder. A restraint to keep him from charging across the room. “Don’t please” he flinched under the baleful glare Carson directed towards him.

“He has our son” he cried.

“He also has a gun” Britland wrapped his hands around Carson’s arm. “Please don’t do anything that’ll get you shot.”

“I won’t let him take our son” he half turned towards Britland. “I’d rather be dead than to let that happen.”

Britland could see the determination in his fiance’s lavender eyes. “I love you” he whispered “I don’t want to lose you too.”

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“How touching” the man snapped waking the baby in his arms. Frowning down at the wiggling, fussy baby his arms. His gun hand lowered pointing towards the floor.

Carson seeing his chance charged forward getting within arms length before his Uncle pointed the gun at him. “Nice try. Now back up and join blondie over there.”

Not ready to give up Carson reached for his son. The click of the gun froze him in place. “If you don’t do as I say I’ll shoot lover boy. First in the shoulder then the knee.”

“No don’t hurt him” without thinking Carson put himself between the gun and Britland.

“I thought that might get your attention” his Uncle smirked.

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“Please let me hold him” Britland held his arms out yearning to comfort his screaming son.

“Why” the man inquired “are his screams getting to you too?” The man’s laughter was harsh “we can always silence the little bugger forever.”

“No” Carson and Britland cried out together. Carson pulled the blonde close to his chest. He could feel the terror filling the younger, smaller male making him shudder. “Its’ going to be alright” he whispered in Britland’s ear. “I promise our son is going to be alright. You’re going to be alright.”

Britland closed his eyes listening to the comforting words. He wanted to believe that it would be that simple. That he’d wake up from this nightmare and Carson would be asleep beside him. His arm casually draped around his waist. Their son would be babbling to himself in his crib. He squeezed his eyes tight. Where were the police? How long had it been since he called them?

As if reading his thoughts the man grimaced at his captives. Waving the gun he indicated he wanted them to move forward. “It’s time to say goodbye.”

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Carson maneuvered Britland behind him “don’t hurt him.”

“That’s up to you” the man’s eyes locked with Carson’s “come with me. No arguments. No questions asked. No trouble.”

Nodding Carson squeezed Britland’s hand that was clutching his. “Only if you promise not to hurt him.”

A nasty twisted smile marred the man’s face. “I promise” his Uncle said solemnly followed by a high-pitched giggled that left them both cold.

Stepping forward Carson moved to follow his Uncle. Britland tugged on his arm. Shaking his head Britland pleaded “don’t go with him.”

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“I have to” he brought up his free hand to cup Britland’s face. “I’m sorry we never got to say I do. I really wanted that. More than anything.”

“We can still have that” Britland pleaded “don’t do this.” He desperately wanted to tell him the police were on their way. All they had to do was hold out a little longer.

Moving closer Carson gathered Britland into his arms when the blonde slumped forward conscious. “You didn’t have to do that” he cried looking up at this Uncle “I would have come with you.”

“This way is easier” the older man pointed the gun at his nephew. “Put him down or bring him with. The choice is yours.”

Gently Carson laid Britland on the floor careful not to jostle him to much. Blood seeped through the scalp wound where the butt of the gun had crashed into his skull. He leant forward placing a soft kiss on Britland’s lips whispering “I love you. I’ll always love you.”

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His chest ached knowing this might be the last time he would ever see the man he loved more than life itself. He knew Britland had been trying to stall for time. “Leave my son here” he demanded “I’ll come with you.”

“No tricks” his Uncle waved the gun around.

“No tricks” he repeated slowly reaching for Rush. The instant his hands touched the sturdy little body he pulled the infant close. He buried his face in the blanket, drinking in his scent, savoring the feel of his sturdy little boy in his arms.

“Enough stalling” the older man growled “either put him down or bring him with.”
Carson could tell his Uncle was at the end of his limited patience. He couldn’t stall any more. He pressed his lips to Rush’s forehead before placing hm on the floor beside Britland. The moment his arms were empty his Uncle pulled him towards the door. Carson made one last desperate look over his shoulder at the world he was leaving behind.

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“Put these on” his Uncle tossed something at him that clanked to the floor before he was able to catch it.

Looking down Carson picked up a pair of handcuffs. Slowly he put the cold steel around his wrist. He could feel the metal bite into his skin. He repeated the procedure with his other wrist. His fingers fumbled under the baleful glare from his Uncle. Cringing as the man stepped forward inspecting the cuffs. The man’s touch stung his skin making his stomach lurch.

His Uncle’s eyes locked onto his. “Don’t worry boy. You’re not my type anymore. If I had the time and the inclination I’d take that son of yours and keep him long enough to see what a sweet boy he would turn into.”

“Don’t you dare touch him” Carson cried.

“I’m glad you still have some fight in you” his Uncle laughed “save it for later. You’re going to need it.”

***

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Britland opened his eyes to the harsh overhead light he associated to a hospital room. “Where…” he croaked. His throat was dry with a feeling of having sucked on cotton balls. “Where am I” he said a little more coherently.

A young woman in a nurses smock smiled down at him. “In the hospital. You have a mild concussion.”

That explained the headache he thought. It throbbed behind his eyes “Carson…”

“Shh” the woman soothed “you need to rest.”

“Rush” he turned worried eyes to the nurse “my son and fiance.”

“Your son is adorable” she smiled at him her dimples making her look years younger than what she was.

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Britland relaxed into his pillow relieved to know his son was there somewhere inside the hospital. “My parents were they contacted?”

Nodding the friendly nurse leaned over patting his shoulder. “They’re on their way. They told me tell you not to worry.”

That sounded like them he thought. Not worrying wasn’t in the realm of possibility he thought watching the nurse walk from the room. He wished he had asked her to turn the light off. It would have been easier than trying to ignore its brightness. He threw an arm over his eyes. Where was Carson? The nurse had evaded his questions. A tactic used when you want to keep from upsetting the victim. They must know that not knowing something was worse than the actual truth?

The door opened sometime later when a Doctor came in followed by two officers. The doctor picked up his chart, grunted a few times before turning to the officers. “You can talk to him for ten minutes. Not a minute longer.”

The officers nodded as the doctor made his way from the room. “You called 911” one of them stated.

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“Yes” he nodded or at least tried to nod. It hurt too much to do much else. Dots danced before his eyes. Squeezing his eyes shut, he breathed deeply. “Someone had broken into our apartment. Carson went to check on our son.” He paused trying to see the events as they happened. “I followed him after making the call. I was worried.”

“Did you see who had attacked you” one of the men asked him.

“Yes” again the memory was sharp and clear. The menacing eyes of the older man took his breath away. “It was Carson’s Uncle, Mr Svir.”

“You know the assailant” they asked.

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“I’ve known him all my life. He lived in Riverview. He was a favorite among most of the kids I grew up with.” His voice faltered as he wondered if anyone he knew growing up had fallen victim to the man’s charms, his easy-going ways. He shivered thinking of all the times he and his friends had gone to his house to hang out. The field where he set up the yearly Spooktacular. The almost real haunted graveyard with bones sticking out of the ground. How much of that had been real?

He couldn’t wait for the officers to leave and for his parents to come. He needed to get out of here. He need to find Carson. He answered the never-ending questions. He felt a momentary pang of guilt as he omitted telling them about the field where the Spooktacular was held every year. He needed to be sure before he sent anyone to Mr. Robinson’s farm. If he was wrong he’d be disturbing an innocent man’s home.

***

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“Are sure you want to come home with us” Miranda asked sounding concerned.

“I’m positive mom” Britland firmly closed the door to his apartment. His dad was carrying the bags refusing to let him help. His mom had Rush. He felt weak and useless. “All I’ll do is worry if I stay here.”

“Alright” she murmured softly getting into the elevator.

Britland avoided glancing in his dad’s direction. He knew his dad suspected he was up to something. He silently tapped his toes inside the elevator. The door opened letting them off in the lobby. Walking to the car his parents have had for the last five years he asked “when are you going to get a new car?”

“We’ve been discussing it” Robbie said opening the trunk to store the bags. “Son I know you’re worried about Carson. Believe me I understand how hard this must be on you. Trust that everything that can be done is being done. Your Grandfather is having the Svir farm searched top to bottom. He’ll find Carson.”

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Britland nodded absently. He knew that search would come up empty. Carson would not be found on the farm. Image of the dark swampy lowlands the guy always used for the annual Spooktacular came to mind. The crazy maze that all the kids would sneak out every Halloween to run through. Mr Robinson took the credit for it but all the kids knew it was set up by Mr Svir.

Britland had to check it out for himself. If his memory was accurate the mounds in the ground were more than fake graves. Shivering he almost hoped he was wrong. That maybe his twelve-year-old self was only imagining the bones to be real instead of fake store-bought props.

“Would you like something to eat” Miranda asked as they entered the house after the long drive.

“I’m really tired” he yawned “I just want to lie down for a while.”

“Alright dear” she smiled at him in her sweet motherly way. “We’ll take good care of Rush. You don’t have to worry about a thing.”

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“Thanks mom” he dragged his feet into his old childhood room. His body felt heavy as he slumped on the bed staring at the ceiling. He wished he could tell them what he was planning. If he did, they’d do their best to talk him out of it. Getting up he composed an email to send later that outlined exactly what he doing and where he was. It was a just in case something happened measure. He wanted to be sure they knew where to start looking.

When that was finished he laid back on the bed. He eyes grew heavy despite his minds best effort to conjure up everything that could go wrong.

***

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He must have fallen asleep. He woke up to find someone must have removed his shoes for him and threw a blanket over him. He moved to the crib his parents had set up for Rush. His son was sleeping peacefully unaware of what was happening around him. Leaning over the edge Britland softly kissed his forehead before turning to the window. It was the perfect window for climbing out of when he was a teenager and needed to meet up with Felix. Not that he did it often. Mostly when Felix needed him after finding out his parents had skipped town without telling him.

Britland jogged down the road in the direction of the Robinson farm. It was only a two or three-mile run. He could do this he chanted to himself. He stopped to catch his breath. That’s when he realized he forgot to send his email. He pulled out his phone and quickly sent it. He wished he had a flashlight as he surveyed the dark rolling mists as he entered the swamp lands.

He held his ragged breath straining to hear anything beyond the normal night sounds of the swamp. Nothing out of the ordinary. Disappointment made him slump against a nearby tree. He was wrong. What was he going to do now?

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He turned to leave when he found himself in the bright beam of headlights coming towards him. Where had they come from? He didn’t have time to wonder long when a familiar voice called out to him. A bullet flew past his face as he made to run. Freezing he raised his hand into the air. Carson’s Uncle got out of the vehicle and walked up to him. “Where is he” Britland demanded glancing towards the truck.

“You’ll be joining him soon” the older man motioned for him to join him. His eyes glittered with an undefined emotion that made Britland shiver. They walked for several minutes in the almost dark swamp. Britland stumbled over the uneven ground almost falling several times. There was a faint light ahead and he walked towards it. They stopped in what Britland recognized as the sight of the Spooktacular.

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A figure knelt by a mound. Bones lay scattered about, too small to be that of an adult, a child perhaps. Through the semi darkness Britland could see that the figure kneeling on the ground was rocking back and forth. His broad shoulders trembled and Britland had the impression they were crying. He stumbled forward “Carson” he murmured seeing the figure turn at the sound of his voice.

“He’s dead” he sobbed his hands resting on a small child sized skull.

Chapter 18 – I Do / Chapter 20 – Hide and Seek