Tag Archive | Castel Hurst

Glitter – Chapter 21 – Crossroads

697698

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

696

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

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

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

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

***

695

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

694

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

“Nothing did.”

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

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

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

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

“Of course you do” she prompted.

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

693

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

692

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

“I messed up” he said.

“You did” he nodded without offering sympathy.

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

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

“She doesn’t want to hear about it….”

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

691

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

690

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

689688

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

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

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

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

“Mama” Avery complained “shhhh.”

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

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

687686

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

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

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

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

685684

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

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

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

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

***

683

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

682

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

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

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

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

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

“I wasn’t bored” he protested.

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

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

681

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

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

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

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

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

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

680679

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

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

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

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

Chapter 20 – Learning to Cope /

Advertisements

Glitter – Chapter 13 – Unique

522

It felt like a million hands reaching for him taking the child from his weakening grasp. Falling to his knees he watched someone perform CPR on the toddler. The blonde woman was stroking the boy’s wet hair back. Staggering to his feet he approached the group. “How is he” he asked between gasps. His chest still labored to draw in enough oxygen to breathe.

His question went unanswered until the crowd around the boy erupted in applause. “What’s happening” he asked someone standing next to him.

Turning with moist sad eyes the older woman replied. “The dear little darling…”

Panic rose inside him. He’d been too late. He failed. So lost in his thoughts he didn’t notice the crowd thin around him. He saw the blonde woman cradling her son in her arms. The child’s eyes were mercifully closed. He was about to leave when his eyes met hers.

“Thank you” she murmured holding her hand out to him. “You saved my little boy’s life.”

“I’m sorry” he said locked inside his own thoughts.

523517

“Sorry” she frowned moving aside for the paramedics who just arrived on scene.”For what?”

“I tried” he stammered puzzled watching the paramedics.

“You did more than try” she hugged him.

“Oof” his meager air supply whooshed from him. Blinking he tried to clear his vision from the black dots dancing in front of him. “He’s alright” he said shocked “I thought he was…” He didn’t finish his thought as his body decided it was a good time to turn to jelly. He felt himself falling forwards. The blonde woman reached for him but her hands slid along his arms doing little to keep him upright.

Several minutes later he came to inside the ambulance. An oxygen mask firmy covering his nose and mouth. It wasn’t all bad when his eyes found the pretty blonde smiling down at him like beautiful angel. “You must think I’m an idiot” he mumbled attempting to remove the mask and sit up.

She gently touched his hand stilling it “leave that alone” she ordered.

519520

Laying back he closed his eyes only to open them with a jerk at the sound of a little boy asking “mama?” Castel watched as the blonde turned lifting a small boy into her lap.

“Mama’s right here sweetheart” she squeezed the child in her arms. “That’s the man who save you” she explained with a smile.

Her smile warmed him from the inside out. Castel watched as the little boy whispered something in his mother’s ear.

“He wants to know if you’ll come to our house” she said her eyes hopeful.

Castel was silent considering the invitation. Lifting the oxygen mask he said “it depends.”

“On” she asked raising an eyebrow at him.

518

“If you tell me your name” he gave her his most charming grin. “I was told to never talk to strangers.”

“I’m Edelle Bennett” she said “and this is my son. Will you come to dinner Saturday night?”

“I’d love to” he grinned lying back wondering what fate had in store for him.

“Good” she grinned back at him. “Now put that mask back on. Can’t let my hero faint again now can I?”

521

“I didn’t faint” he protested.

“What do you call falling on your face” she asked with a giggle.

“I was overcome by your beauty” he said.

“That has to be one of the cheesiest things I’ve ever heard” she laughed. “Now up that mask back on before you say something else that’ll make me regret inviting you to dinner.”

“Yes ma’am” he said complying to her wishes.

***

515

Prisha pointed at the paper “and you wonder why I don’t like it when you bring Neel to the beach with you.”

Ajay glanced at the paper. He was aware of the story of the near drowning of a two year old toddler. “The mother admitted to turning her back on the child. He wandered off. The beach isn’t dangerous.”

“What if Neel wanders off” she pressed her lips together forming a thin hard line. “You can’t tell me you watch him every second of every minute.”

“Of course not” he took a sip of his coffee “but there’s no reason to assume that Neel will do the same thing that other little boy did. Neel has been taught not to go into the water without someone being with him. Plus he knows how to swim.”

“Tell me what your son is doing right now” she challenged.

“He’s playing with his blocks” he smirked knowing he was right by the slight widening of his wife’s dark eyes. They expressed her surprise. “Don’t you trust me” he asked.

“It’s not a matter of trust” she mumbled “things happen so quickly.”

514

“No more here than at the beach” he reached across the table taking her hand. “Remember when Kaia wandered off at Neel’s age?”

Nodding she gave him a stiff lipped smile. “I was so scared she’d get run over. She was so little and fearless…”

“I know” he said softly “I share your concerns but we can’t lock our kids in the house either.”

“I know” she squeezed his hand “I do trust you. I just worry. He’s so little.”

“I worry too” he said getting up and planting a kiss on top of her head.

“Will Kaia be there” Prisha asked watching him as he gathered his things.

“I think she has to work” he looked up “I’ll probably see her and her friends this afternoon.”

513

“Do you know if her friend has mentioned anything about her nosebleeds to her parents yet” she inquired.

Ajay gave her a blank look “um.”

“Unity” she prompted.

“Oh her” he shook his head mystified “I doubt it.”

“Do you think we should mention it” she asked “I keep thinking if it were my daughter I’d want someone to tell me if they thought something was wrong.”

Raising an eyebrow at her he just stared at her. They both knew that wasn’t true. She’d be upset if someone hinted that she didn’t know something like that about her kids. “I think we should mind our own business” he could tell that wasn’t what Prisha wanted to hear either. “If you’re that concerned I’ll mention it to Kaia again when I see her.”

Nodding she got up to retrieve her purse. “Be sure to keep on eye on Neel.”

511512

“I will” he promised “he’ll do no unauthorized swimming.”

She tried not to laugh but she could only refrain for so long “that was so lame.”

“but you still smiled” he gloated wrapping his arms around her trim waist.

“When will you grow up” she complained.

“Do you really want me to” he asked waggling an eyebrow at her.

“Just once I’d like to know what it feels lit to be married to a stuffy old man” she pushed away from him. Walking towards the door she paused “I’ll pick up Chinese on my way home for dinner.”

He nodded watching her leave with a smile before he leaned down to pick up Neel to go to the beach.

***

510

Kaia nudged Aubrey forward. “Go” she urged.

“She’s your customer” she objected.

“Not anymore” Kaia pushed her friend forward “you’ll thank me later.”

“Oh hi” Olivia greeted when she recognized Aubrey. “I didn’t know you worked here.”

“Err” she choked trying to find something to say “yeah I do.” Glancing over her shoulder she tried to ignore the thumbs up sign Kaia gave her. “Can I help you” she defaulted to the well rehearsed lines she was supposed to say to their customers.

“I’m really just looking” she said pulling a shirt off the rack. “What do you think” she held the orange floral top up to her neck.

“No” Aubrey shook her head. Walking to another rack she pulled out a more subtle burnt orange. “This is more you I think.”

509

“Hmm not bad” the girl agreed “do you have it in yellow?”

“Yellow” Aubrey thought for a moment “not in this style.”

“Oh” the girl’s bottom lip pushed out “I really wanted something to brighten my wardrobe.” Walking to another rack she pulled out a bright yellow shirt out. “That the right color but the wrong style.”

“Mindy just finished a new line. I’m sure it’s something you’ll like. The style is fun and flirty. Its upstairs thought.” Aubrey turned to lead the way to the second floor.

Following her Olivia looked around the second in wonder. “Wow this is so cool.”

“You haven’t been up here before” Aubrey asked. “The best stuff is up here. At least the newest creations.”

“Well” Olivia bit her bottom lip “others have offered but I was kind of hoping that you would be the one to bring me up here.”

507506

“Um” Aubrey looked around somewhat confused “I thought you…um.” She stopped before she could be accused of criticizing a potential client. “I can’t let you go any further then this area. The rest is off limits to unauthorized personnel.” She hesitated unsure what the girl’s intentions were “I’ll go get the shirt. I’m sure you’ll like it.”

Walking towards the display rack she could feel Olivia’s eyes on her the whole way. Taking several deep breaths while she searched for the garment she wanted. Her hands shook as she removed it from its place.

“Oh that is lovely” Olivia clapped her hands squealing excitedly.

“You haven’t even tried it on yet” Aubrey pointed towards a door “the changing room is over there.”

“No need” Olivia giggled taking the shirt from the hanger to hold it up to her chest. “I know it’s perfect.”

“You really should try it on” Aubrey urged “there are no returns once you purchase…”

“Oh I know” the girl winked at her pulling the shirt she was wearing over her head and tossing it to the floor.

505

“You can’t undress here” Aubrey cried attempting to push the girl towards the dressing room. “Someone could come up here.”

“No they won’t” Olivia protested “I timed it just right so that it’ll be right before closing time. Besides what’s the difference if I’m in my bra or a bikini top?”

“There’s a big difference” Aubrey insisted.

Ignoring her Olivia twirled around “how does it look” she asked.

Reluctantly Aubrey appraised the girl smiling in front her. Grudgingly she said “it looks good.” She had to admit the material of the shirt hugged the girls curves just right.

“Good. I’ll take it” she said walking confidently towards the stairs. “You can ring me up now.”

Shaking her head Aubrey picked up the girls discarded clothing and followed her down to the tills. “Mindy” she gulped upon finding her boss standing beside the registers.

504503

“It’s past closing time” she said with an impatient wave of her hand.

“I…um just need to ring her order up” Aubrey stammered. She wondered how she was going to do that with the girl inside the garment.

“I’m sorry for holding you up” Olivia said sounding sweet as honey. “I couldn’t make up my mind. I just needed a new outfit for my date tonight.”

“Is that why you’re wearing it before you’ve purchased it” Mindy asked her tone not disguising her displeasure.

“I couldn’t be bothered to change once I put this wonderful shirt on. It felt so nice against my skin. Anything else would be a disappointment.”

The girl knew how to schmooze Aubrey thought while trying not to giggle.

Reluctantly Mindy smiled “hurry up so I can close.”

***

530

Castel stood outside Edelle’s house. He carried a bottle of wine in one hand and a stuffed bear in the other. He felt a little silly but somehow the boy had gotten inside his heart. He kept telling himself that it was because the mother was super hot but the truth was he’d spent way more time picking out the bear then he did the wine.

The door opened before he was able to knock. “I see you were able to make it” she greeted him with a peck on the cheek “Avery will love the bear.”

“I hope so” he grinned glad he had taken the time. “You wouldn’t believe how long it took me to choose this bear.”

She gave him a knowing grin but before she could say anything a high pitched excited voice interrupted her. “Ako man” Avery cried running up to Castel throwing his arms around his legs.

“Ako man” he raised his eyebrows at Edelle.

529

“That’s your new name” she said patting her son’s soft curls. “He’s been asking for you everyday since the beach incident.”

“I’ve been called worse” Castel said handing her the wine.

“Thank you” she smiled “we may have to save this for another time. My cousin brought wine as well.”

“Cousin” he asked trying to keep his disappointment from showing.

Ushering him inside she waved a hand towards a couple in the living room. “This is my cousin Lee and his fiance Fawn.”

Fawn’s eyes grew wide like she somehow recognized him “I have to know. Are you related to the Hurst’s of Bridgeport?”

528527

“Um” his eyes darted around the room. No matter how old he got he still had a difficult time admitting who his family was. But one thing he learned from being with Blair if he wanted a relationship he had to be honest. Taking a deep breath he nodded mumbling “they’re my parents.” He didn’t miss the way Lee’s eyes brightened at that bit of information. It was like he just rose several rungs on a some invisible ladder just because of who his parents were.

“Weren’t you engaged to Blair Gray at one time” Fawn continued displaying her deplorable tabloid knowledge.

“Yes” he kept his answer curt hoping she’d drop the topic soon.

“Is it true she dumped you to get with Bentley Adams” she continued to ask questions like she didn’t think he had any feelings at all. At least that’s the impression he got from the interrogation.

“I’m sure he doesn’t want to discuss his ex” Edelle said coming to his rescue.

“If you ask me it’s his ex who made the wrong the choice” Lee observed pouring wine into a glass for Castel.

526525

“It wasn’t Blair’s fault that things ended the way they did” Castel murmured taking a sip from the wine.

“Castel would you mind helping me in the kitchen” Edelle asked taking him by the arm.

“Sure” he smiled down at her.

Entering the kitchen Edelle said “don’t let Lee get to you. He likes to talk and pretend he’s more important than he is.” She handed him some tongs “will you toss the salad for me?”

Taking the tongs he began to toss the salad. “He brought up a few bad memories” he admitted finding her easy to talk to. “I wasn’t honest with Blair and it created a barrier between us when things came to light and instead of explaining why I became angry saying and doing things that repelled her.”

She leaned her head to the side considering his words “sounds like you learned a few things from that experience.”

531

“I hope so” he grinned at her “I still find it difficult to see their smiling faces from the tabloids as I stand in line at the store.”

“Oh dear” she shook her head “then you meet Fawn. I swear that girl must memorize every word she reads from those magazines.” She covered her mouth giggling “I’m sorry. I honestly didn’t know she’d do that. They’re really not that bad. I promise.”

“You owe me big time” he teased.

“I’ll let you take me out to supper next time” she said.

524

“How’s that paying me back for my pain and suffering” he asked.

“You do want to take me out on a date don’t you? Just the two of us” she asked stepping closer batting her eyelashes at him.

“Put like that how can I say no” he asked going back to tossing the salad.

“You can’t. You may as well quit trying” she nudged his shoulder with hers exchanging smiles before going back to work.

Chapter 12 – Energized / Chapter 14 – Rare Expressions

Glitter – Chapter 12 – Energized

499

Douglas leaned against his car watching the passing tourists as they oohed and awed over some interesting bit of fauna. To his untrained eye it was just like any other plant. Shaking his head he turned at the sound of his name being called. He returned Kyle’s wave “I’m so glad you could meet me” he enthused “my sister has me running all over the place getting stuff for her party.”

“I thought it was just going to be a few friends” Kyle said beginning to worry that he was intruding where he didn’t belong.

“That’s what I thought” Douglas shrugged unconcerned. “I’m hoping with you along I can show you around the island and get whatever she wants.”

“You want me to come with you” he asked “wouldn’t you rather do the errands so you can get back to the party?”

“Not really” shaking his head emphatically “Sandi will just put me to work decorating or making some dip or something equally boring.”

“Maybe this isn’t such a good idea” Kyle said again.

498

“Don’t you want to spend time with me” Douglas asked sounding hurt. “I know errands aren’t fun but it’ll give us time to get to know each other.”

“I like the sound of that” Kyle admitted. “I’m not so sure about the party. Your sister might not want a stranger crashing it.”

Waving his hand Douglas dismissed his concerns. “Besides Sandi said I could invite anyone I wanted.”

Smiling Kyle asked “where to first?”

“I have to pick up a few things at the store” he explained holding up a list. “My sister likes to have people over but her organizing skills needs work.”

“That’s a long list” Kyle shook his head “what if we can’t find all of that?”

497

“Then I’m a dead man” Douglas laughed. “Seriously though Sandi wouldn’t hurt a fly much less her little brother. She’ll just be disappointed. She’ll make me feel about two inches high because I couldn’t do the impossible.”

“When is the party to start” he asked daunted by the task.

“People will start to arrive around three” Douglas shrugged. “Once you get to know Sandi you’ll learn to go with the flow.” Getting into the car he glanced over at Kyle “aren’t you hot in that jacket?”

“Maybe a little” he chuckled a self-consciously pushing the sleeves up. “I’m not used to the weather yet. I keep expecting it to cool off.”

“Stick with me I’ll have you dressing like a native” Douglas assured him as he merged into traffic. He mumbled something about tourists blocking the road to take stupid pictures of stupid trees.

“Have you lived here long” Kyle asked once they got out at the grocery store.

496

“Nope” he picked out a cart and started towards the door “my sister and I moved here a couple years ago. I didn’t want to go to college and she” he shrugged ruefully “was getting over a broken heart.”

“Oh” Kyle didn’t know what to say “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be” Douglas said “the guy was a jerk. She deserved better than that guy.”

By the time they finished the errands they arrived at the house a little before two. Sandi glared at her brother as he came in loaded down with bags. “It’s about time” she cried in a frenzy “people will be arriving any minute and I’m never going to be ready.”

“Take a chill pill” Douglas laughed at her “your parties are always epic even when you’re scrambling to get things done.” Nodding towards his friend “this is Kyle. I invited him to the party.”

***

495

Kyle gave the girl a sketchy wave before being pulled away by Douglas. “Never mind her” he said “Sandi always freaks out right before a party. She wants everything to be perfect. When it’s not she takes it out one whoever is closest.”

“Which is usually you” Kyle added.

Nodding Douglas steered him towards a closed door. “We can hand out in my room until she settles down.”

Sandi watched her brother and his friend disappear leaving her with the groceries to put away. “Ingrates” she muttered under her breath.

“Hey” a familiar voice called from the door “hope we’re not too early.”

“You’re right on time to help” she squealed when Rex lifted her from the floor in his customary greeting. “Put me down” she demanded.

502

“Aw you’re no fun” he pouted.

Grant asked from where he was leaning against the wall “anything we need us to do?”

“Since my brother abandoned me” Sandi squealed again as Rex twirled her around. “Stop” she giggled hitting him on the shoulder.

“Ow” he whined “that hurt.”

Rolling his eyes Grant inserted himself between his twin and the girl. “What do you need us to do?”

“You’re no fun” Rex whined “all work and no fun is so boring.”

493494

Shaking her head at the twins she asked “how can anyone mistake you for each other? Seriously your so different from each other. Like night and day.”

“It’s the people who don’t know us that get tricked” Grant explained going to answer the door. “January” he greeted warmly.

Rolling his eyes Rex said “that’s the last we’ll see of him.”

“Has he asked her out yet” Sandi asked  handing him a bag of chips and a bowl.

“She asked him before he worked up the nerve” Rex chuckled. “You should have seen the grin he had plastered on his face.”

“January’s a sweet girl” Sandi said defending her friend. “It’s her brother you have to watch out for.”

486

“Don’t tell Grant that” Rex begged “ he’ll want me to meet the brother in his place.”

“I won’t” she promised “I like your face the way it is. I wouldn’t want Brandon rearranging it.”

Taking the bowl he had filled with chips into the living room he found Grant cuddling on the couch with a girl. “Hey” he called “I thought you were going to help.”

“Got a better offer” Grant said between kisses January was peppering him with.

“Ugh…get a room” Rex groaned shaking his head as he went to answer the door as more guests arrived.

He found three girls waiting on the porch. “Hey” he smiled at them all.

“Let me in before I lose my mind” Montana pleaded pushing past him. “Those two love birds are driving me crazy.”

487

“It’s not much better in there” Rex warned as she moved entered the living room.

“Where’s Doug” she asked thinking she could at least hang out with him.

“In his room I think” Rex shrugged “what’s up with her” he asked Dakota.

“She’s upset that Macy and I have decided to make it official” Dakota explained beaming at the girl beside her.

“Moving a bit fast aren’t you” Rex frowned hoping that they didn’t give Sandi any ideas. They had been dating a few months longer than Dakota and Macy.

“Fast” Macy asked “what do you mean?”

501

“Dakota said you made it official” it was his turn to be confused “I thought she meant you were engaged….”

“Oh hell no” Macy shook her head tossing her pink braid from side to side. “We’re dating exclusively now. It’s going to be a long time before we take it to the next level. Engaged…” she shivered.

“You make it sound like it’s a bad thing” Dakota said with a frown.

“I’ve seen too many of my sorority sisters get married and they’re all miserable.” Taking her girlfriends hand “I want to have fun. Enjoy life while I’m still young and able.”

“My parents were married young after meeting in college” Dakota said pulling away from Macy “They’ve been happily married for over twenty years.”

“They’re the exception then” Macy let her hand drop as she walked into the kitchen to see if Sandi needed any help.

***

488489

Montana threw open the door to Doug’s room gasping when she found him sitting on some guy’s lap. “I’m sorry” she squeaked backing from the room.

“Montana” she heard Doug call after her. She didn’t stop preferring to pretend she didn’t hear him. She hadn’t expected her best friend to be with someone. Was she the only single person here? Maybe Dakota’s harsh words about her being an old maid were true. Maybe she was going to be the one watching all her friends fall in love and leave her behind.

She found her twin bickering with Macy about something inconsequential. Grant had his tongue down January’s throat. Sandi was squealing in the kitchen as Rex chased her. So normal. Yet she felt so alone. She hadn’t realized how much she had counted on Douglas always being there to hang out with her. Now he too had left her behind. Found someone else.

“Montana” Douglas said having come out to find her “I’m sorry. I should have told you I invited Kyle over to hang out with us.”

“It’s ok” she assured him attempting to give him a smile. “I should have knocked first.”

490491

“We weren’t doing anything” he said not sure why she was acting like she had caught them in bed together.

“I shouldn’t have come” she cried moving towards the door. “I’ll call you later” she said as she opened the door to leave.

“At least let me give you a ride home” Douglas offered following her.

“I want to walk” she gave him a brief smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Please I just want to be alone.”

“Alright” he agreed reluctantly “text me when you get home so that I don’t worry about you.”

“I will” she promise. When the door closed behind her she took several deep breaths before setting off in the general direction of home.

492

A heavy sense of melancholy weighed heavily upon her shoulders. Her feet slowed as she passed the entrance to the beach. She remembered how Jason once told her how he liked to go to the beach when he was having a bad day. He had said something lame about the the waves were soothing. A wry smile replaced the frown she’d been wearing since leaving the party. She had a pretty good idea Jason’s interest in the beach had less to do with the waves than it had to do with the surfers on the waves. Nodding she decided she could do with the distraction too.

Taking a detour she walked down towards the beach. She knew several surfers claimed this beach had the best waves. She couldn’t tell what made a wave good or not having never surfed in her life. She had wanted to take lessons when she was a kid but she knew it would freak her more timid father out. He no doubt would have worried about her being bit by sharks.

Wishing she had brought along her sunglasses she raised a hand to shield her eyes. She jumped to her feet searching the horizon for the surfer that had gone down. She felt time slowly tick by as he failed to emerge from the water and reclaim is board that was being tossed back and forth on the waves. Had he hit his head? When she thought all was lost his head broke the surface causing her sigh in relief upon seeing him. He looked a bit dazed as he swam towards his board and rested on it for several minutes before making his way to shore.

 

For some unknown reason she found herself walking towards him. She watched as he planted his board in the sand and plopped himself beside it. “I saw you wipe out” she blurted out “are you alright?” Her eyes bulged out at what she had done. She never approached strangers much less talked to them.

Something flickered in his eyes, annoyance, anger, embarrassment. Maybe a bit of all three. Opening his eyes he seemed to have changed his mind on whatever he was going to say and instead flashed her his trademark grin. “Just a little winded” he said making light of his situation.

“Your bleeding” she gently touched his forehead inspecting his head wound. “You were under so long I was you must have hit your head on something.”

One eyebrow rose “you were watching me?”

“Well I…I…um” her cheeks turned as red as her hair “I should go…”

 

“Hey don’t go” he reached up grabbing her hand “I’m not upset that you were. I’m kind of flattered that you were.”

“Um” she stared at his hand. His fingers wrapped around her wrist sending electric shock waves up her arm. She wanted to run. To hide. To stay. It was altogether confusing.

“I’m Tanner” he introduced himself smiling down at her.

“I’m…” she paused almost afraid of saying her name. She always got some smart remark about her being named after Hannah Montana or you know the state. “Montana” she mumbled after he had given her a questioning look.

***

472473

Castel tossed the magazine to the sand at his feet. He should have known better than to pick a random magazine off the sales rack to read. Why seeing their smiling faces still bothered him he didn’t know. After ten years he should have gotten over the sting of her rejection. It’s not like she wasted any time reconnecting with Bentley Adams again. The mention of the guys name made his heart beat speed up and his hands to shake. Maybe if Blair had married someone else he wouldn’t still be hanging onto the sting and pain her rejection caused.

The shrill screams of a woman in distress jolted him from his sulk. Glancing around he found a young blonde woman struggling against the current screaming. Standing up he shielded his eyes against the harsh glare of the sun. At first he couldn’t see what was causing the woman’s distress and panic.

 

Running towards her he couldn’t help but wonder what he hoped to accomplish. He was no one’s hero.

“My little boy can’t swim” she cried latching onto his arm.

“Who” he asked confused.

“My son. He was playing right there” she pointed towards a few sand pails and shovels. “I turned my back just for a second….

Her terrified eyes pleading with him to do something galvanized him into action. He scanned the ocean spotting what he hoped was the boy’s head bobbing to the surface. Without thinking he took off running. His Dulce and Gabbana sunglasses sliding from his face to the sand to be swept into the ocean a moment later by the waves. His shoes followed a moment later as he dove into the ocean swimming in the direction he had seen the fleeting glimpse of a little blonde head.

 

He floated in place gulping air into his aching oxygen starved lungs. The beach seemed to far away and impossible to reach. All he could see was water is every direction. Wave upon wave crashed over his head. Shivering he imagined what it must like to a small child. Swimming in circles determined to find the child.

He was about to give up, retreat back to the beach exhausted and defeated. With flagging energy he swam towards something bobbing on the surface. As he got closer he could see it was the body of a little boy about 2 years old. With dread he reached for him turning his face upwards and breathing into his mouth hoping he wasn’t too late.

478477

Clutching the child to his chest as a wave crashed over top of the driving them both beneath the surface. Struggling he kicked to the surface. He gulped for air then breathed into the boys mouth again before making the agonizing trek back to shore.

Chapter 11 – Free Spirit / Chapter 13 – Unique