Tag Archive | Christopher Bennett

Chapter 38 – Little Steps

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“Was that Temperance” Talia asked looking up from where she was making mac and cheese for lunch.

“Yeah” he stared at his phone a perplexed look on his face.

“What’s the matter” she asked setting her spoon down. “She didn’t call to break up with you, did she?”

“Mom” he groaned “we’re not dating.”

“Uh huh” she turned to dish up the plates.

“She called to apologize” he explained taking the plate she handed him.

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“That’s nice of her” she said taking a seat at the table.

“It was my idea” he protested “I talked her into it because I wanted to impress her.”

“Will I know you” she looked up “you wanted to help. You knew how much she wanted to see her friend. You made it happen. Don’t make your gesture less than it was.”

“I guess” he mumbled not sure if it was a noble as his mom was making out to be. “I mainly wanted a way to show her I wasn’t the jerk she thought I was when we first met.”

“You really like her don’t you?” she asked.

Rolling his eyes “don’t go and plan our wedding.”

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“I’m not.”

“Yeah right” he mumbled taking a bite of his mac and cheese. “I saw that look in your eyes.” Pausing he ate in silence for a minute or so “we’re just friends.”

“You want to be more though” she prompted.

Squirming beneath her gaze, he nodded. “I know we’re too young. I really like her though. I want her to be happy.”

“Then what’s the problem” she asked getting up to wash her dish.

“I don’t know if she likes me” sighing he stared glumly into his plate.

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“Of course she does.”

“You’re just saying that” he mumbled.

“I’m not” she protested taking her seat across from him at the table. “She did just call to apologize, didn’t she?”

“Yeah” picking at his food he pushed it away from him.

“It seems to me she cares about you” she waited for him to respond before adding “if she didn’t she wouldn’t have felt the need to apologize. She must feel bad that you might have gotten in trouble.”

“I didn’t though” he said meeting her gaze.

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“Not because you didn’t deserve it” she gave him a brief smile. “However I understand why you did it.”

“I know” he sighed, “what do I do now? He’s totally out of my league.”

“Stop” she raised a hand “I don’t want to hear you talking like that. No one is out of your league.”

Giving her a disbelieving look he stood up “what should I do?”

“First of all you’re going to stop thinking you’re not good enough.” Standing up she ruffled his hair like she’d done since he was little. “Second you’re going to ask her to the summer social.”

Jerking his chin up “do you think she’ll say yes?”

“I’m positive” she winked at him before turning to finish the dishes.

***

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“Christopher” Hannah called through her son’s bedroom door. “You have a visitor.”

“Tell them to go away” he shouted from where he sat inside his dark room.

“That’s not very nice considering he came all the way here to see you.” She called refusing to let him push anyone else away. “You can’t stay in your forever.”

Donovan approached her “I’ll take care of this” he offered. “Go keep his visitor company. He looks like he could use some calming down.”

Nodding she walked away tears in her eyes. She resisted the urge to turn around and caution Donovan to be gentle and not to push him too hard.

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“Christopher if you don’t come out I’m coming in” he called through the door. “You have until I count to ten.” Paused hoping his son wouldn’t force his hand. When there was no response he started counting “one…two…” the door clicked and his son peeked through the crack.

“I don’t want to see anyone” he mumbled eyes a mixture of fear and anger.

“I know you don’t” Donovan acknowledged “but sooner or later you’re going to have to come out. It’ll only get harder the longer you seclude yourself.”

Hesitantly Christopher opened his door wider, eyes darting from side to side. His chest moved rapidly up and down as he started to hyperventilate.

Putting an arm around his son’s shoulder’s Donovan walked with him to the room where his visitor waited. Opening the door they found another young man nervously tapping his toes on the floor while he waited. “Jace” Christopher mumbled in greeting. He was somewhat disappointed that his first visitor wasn’t one of his childhood friends.

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Standing up Jace clearly looked like he was about to run from the room. “I wanted to see how you were doing” he stammered staring at Christopher’s feet instead of his face.

Frowning Christopher found himself wondering what made his visitor so timid. “Thanks” he grunted.

Shoving his hands in his pockets he took a step back almost falling back into the couch he’d been sitting in before. “Yeah um I…” he stammered his breaths coming out in a wheeze.

“Are you alright” Christopher found himself asking somewhat concerned.

“I’m” he nodded pulling out an inhaler “my asthma always acts up the more nervous I get.”

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Frowning Christopher sat on the far end of the couch. “Sorry…I’m not good company” he looked across at the young man. His breath caught in his throat. Maybe it was the angle “it was you. That night. You helped me.”

Nodding his eyes darted towards Donovan seeking reassurance. “I didn’t mean to bring that up. I needed to know how you were.” Standing he moved towards the door “I should go.”

“Hey” Christopher called him back “thank you.” He stood reaching out and touching the boy’s hand causing Jace to flinch “sorry. I….I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay” he mumbled taking a step back “I don’t like … you know …being touched. People think I’m weird but Jason understood.”

“Jason’s a good friend” he smiled softly “I um” he stopped unsure what else he wanted to say but not wanting Jace to leave either. “Would you like to stay? Maybe we could watch a movie or something?”

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There was a moment of shock in the timid eyes “um yeah I’d like that.”

Grinning in relief he asked “what do you want to watch? We have a big movie collection.”

Cheeks turning a soft pink Jace mumbled “comedies. Romantic comedies.”

“You’re in luck” Christopher said over his shoulder as he went to where they kept the movies. “My little sister likes those too.”

Neither one of them noticed when Donovan left the room smiling as he watched both young men discuss what movie to watch.

***

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Benjamin finished setting up the resorts website. He was proud of the design he and Jonahs has come up with. He couldn’t wait for Ryan and Charity to see it when they got home. He sucked in his bottom lip as he concentrated on his task. Why wait? He could email the link to them. Give them something to look at while they deal with Unity’s health issues. His fingers flew across the keyboard as he typed up an email so he could wait for their feedback.

“Hey” Kade called as he approached the front desk. “Fancy meeting you here.”

“Oh hi” he glanced up frowning “do we know each other?”

“Wow I must have made a poor impression the first time we met” he joked. Leaning on the front desk “we met here at the resort a few nights ago. Sed was giving you a hard time.”

“Oh yeah” he blinked as he recalled that night. “Sorry I hope I didn’t offend you.”

Shrugging “don’t worry about it. However you can make it up to me by suggesting places I could visit while I’m here.”

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“There’s a whole section on our website that lists all the places to visit while you’re on the island.” He moved the monitor so that Kade could see it. “I could print a copy for you you” he offered when Kade made to copy a couple of interesting places.

“That would be great” he grinned. When Benjamin returned with the printout he asked “have you been to all of these places?”

“Most of them.”

“Does the resort offer guided tours” he asked a hopeful gleam in his eyes.

“That’s a good idea” he enthused “I’ll have to suggest that to the owners. Unfortunately at this time the resort doesn’t offer tours yet.”

“Oh” he sighed pushing off the desk.

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“If you could wait a day” Benjamin suggested “I could show you around. I have the day off tomorrow.”

A huge grin spread like sunshine across Kade’s face. “That would be wonderful. I can move all my meetings around so we can spend the day together.”

“If that works for you” he nodded “I can meet you here say at 8 o’clock tomorrow morning. I can arrange for a picnic lunch to be packed by the resort restaurant.”

“I think it’s a date” Kade said taking a step back “I’ll see you in the morning.”

“You won’t regret it” Benjamin assured him looking forward to spending a day away from the resort and from his family.

***

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“Sucks to be you” Sed hissed in Jonah’s ear as he came up behind him.

Jumping Jonahs turned to find the man he most despised gloating behind him. “What’s that supposed to mean” he hoped his wasn’t as squeaking as it sounded. The smirk on the Sed’s face told him it was.

“It’s obvious you like him” he leaned in close crossing his arms. “That poppy dog look is unmistakable.” Tsking “too bad he doesn’t feel the same way about you.”

Swallowing hard Jonas’ blinked back tears. He had no reason to be upset. He never had a claim on Benjamin. “What do you want” he forced his tone to be cold, distant, firm.

“I’m here to watch the show” he stood up straight closing the gap between them. His eyes flashed with malicious delight “when he realizes that website design you made falls flat I want to see his face. I want to see your face when he realizes that you’re a failure.”

Taking a step backwards Jonas brought his hands up like he was trying to protect himself. “Why do you hate me so much” his voice hoarse.

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“I don’t hate you” he laughed “I just don’t think you deserve to have anything.”

An indistinct groan came out as his eyes moved around seeking escape. He looked across the room towards the front desk. Benjamin was still talking to Kade. Why did both of his ex’s have to show up here? “Leave me alone” he almost pleaded as he turned away.

“Not gonna happen” Sed said behind him causing him to freeze in place. Laughing at the hurt bewildered expression on Jonas’s face reminiscent to a fly trapped in a spider’s web.

“Is this guy bothering you” Benjamin asked coming over to them.

“Um” he tried to come up with something to say that didn’t make him look like a loser.

Benjamin gave him an appraising look before deciding to ignore Sed standing nearby. “The website you designed is getting a lot of buzz. I can’t believe it.”

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“You helped” Jonas stammered.

“You’re the genius behind its success” he enthused “we should go out to celebrate. Tomorrow night. Dinner. I’ll pick you up.”

“Okay” he accepted feeling his knees go weak.

When Benjamin walked away Sed stepped in close whispering “enjoy it while you can. It won’t last long.”

Before Jonas could respond Sed walked away like a man on a mission. Watching him Jonas wondered what he’d done to deserve the man’s hatred. Surely it couldn’t be so simple or as petty as him being jealous of the affection he gave to his dog? He shivered wondering what Sed would do next.

Chapter 37 – Be There for You /

Chapter 29 – Glimmers of Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jogging alongside her “what’s your hurry.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stepping back “we should go.”

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Was that today” he teased.

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

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

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

“I thought a picnic lunch would be better.”

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

***

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

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

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

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

“What for” Aubrey demanded.

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

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“Harsh” Aubrey muttered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Divorce” Kaia asked looking at her.

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 28 – Shattered /

Chapter 28 – Shattered

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Reality sucks” Hannah enthused.

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Maybe I should talk to him” Hannah suggested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I should have done something” he protested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She was with friends” Benjamin repeated grinning.

“Aubrey and London” Eddie asked hopefully.

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

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

“Dad” he cried “where have you been?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 27 – Parents Worst Nightmare /

Chapter 26 – Disturbing News

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

“Are you still mad at me?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grinning Kyle scooted closer “both.”

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

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

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

Groaning he brought the phone up “hello.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Depends”

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

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

“What would those other things entail?”

“Let me demonstrate” he said grinding against him.

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“No police” he repeated looking away.

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

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

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

Turning to Jace he said “call his parents.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You and me both” Jason agreed.

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Then what” she cried.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“But he” he jerked to his feet.

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

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

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

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

Chapter 25 – Running / Chapter 27 – Parents Worst Nightmare

Glitter – Chapter 23 – Must be Nice

Author’s note: This chapter comes with a trigger warning due to mentions of assault and drugs. Due to the sensitive nature of these subjects it may make some readers uncomfortable. Please stop reading if you do not wish to continue beyond this point. The title of the chapter comes from a Nickelback song that seemed to fit the chapter.

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Cassidy joined her husband on the couch. The worried frown on his handsome face prompted her to ask “is something wrong?”

“I don’t know” he shook his head “it’s more a feeling than anything else.”

“Micah right” she asked taking his hand.

Nodding he sighed. “I wish he’d talk to me.”

She could hear his frustration rising in his voice. “Have you tried going to him” she asked.

He started to nod than stopped. “I was hoping he’d come to me.”

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“Honey I love you but that’s a bit naive” she kindly rebuked him. “He’s a teen boy who feels his dad committed the biggest sin there is by marrying someone closer to his age than his dad’s age.”

Running his fingers through his hair Quentin groaned. “I really didn’t think this through.”

Frowning Cassidy pulled away from him. “Are you saying you regret marrying me?”

Reaching for her hand Quentin attempted to apologize. “No sweetie. That’s not what I’m saying.”

Stepping back she crossed her arms. “That’s what it sounds like.”

Going to her he tried to put his arms around her. “Sweetie please understand. I don’t regret marrying you. Not ever. I just wish we did it another way. One that didn’t alienate my kids.”

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“That….” she stepped closer. “I understand.”

Leaning forward he wrapped her in his arms. “What I want is a way to go back to the way things were before they felt I betrayed them. I hate feeling like I don’t have any part in their lives.”

“If we give them time I think they’ll come around” Cassidy said.

“How much time” he asked “too much and they’ll think I don’t care. Too little they’ll think I’m pushing them.”

“I don’t know” she tried to swallow her growing frustration. Sometimes she felt he expected her to be an expert in raising kids. She wasn’t even close. It wasn’t until she met Quentin’s sons that she ever had to deal with kids in any way.

“Dad” Dante’s voice interrupted them “Can I talk to you?”

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“Son you’re step mother and I are in the middle of something” Quentin said. Looking down when Cassidy squeezed his hand “what” he asked.

“Don’t push him away” she urged “you just got done saying how much you missed them coming to you. Now when they do you tell him to go away.”

“That’s not….fine” turning to his son “what do you want?”

“I’ll come back later” Dante said retreating towards the stairs.

“No” Cassidy said with a smile towards the teenager. “Talk to your dad.” Leaving the room she gave them no choice but to talk to each other.

“What do you need” he asked resigning himself.

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“Um” Dante looked around the room “are you sure you want to talk?”

Quentin could hear the uncertainty in his voice making him regret his earlier rebuff. “No we can talk. What’s on your mind?” He was expecting girlfriend troubles not anything of real importance.

“I think Micah needs help” Dante blurted out in one breath “the party’s he’s been going to are known for their drugs…..”

“What” Quentin asked not understanding what his son was telling him.

“You know” he shrugged “a what the media calls a pharm party. Everyone brings some prescription drug and everyone’s contribution is put into a community bowl. Everyone helps themselves to whatever’s in it.”

“Are you saying your brother is doing drugs” his voice rose exploding in the room.

***

737738

The room was warm, bordering on uncomfortable. The loud music vibrated through her body. Someone’s hand slid up her thigh as they ground against her. “I need to sit down” she shouted above the music.

Nodding Micah led her to a small love seat. “I’ll get you something to drink” he offered.

“No” she tugged on his hand “I want you to stay.”

Her pull on his hand wasn’t great but it was enough to convince him to stay. Sitting on the cushion beside her he grinned. “This is nice” he said clumsily dragging his arm across her shoulders.

His elbow hitting the side of her face almost giving her a black eye. “Hey watch it” she warned rubbing her cheek.

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“Sorry” he mumbled.

“You better be” she yawned “I really should go home.”

“But the party’s just getting started” he whined.

“But I’m tired” she yawned again. “I have to get up early tomorrow.”

“But it’s summer” he protested “no one has to get up early in the summer.”

“Thy do if they have a job” she pushed him away from her.

“I know what you need” he said getting up almost knocking her off the love seat in his haste.

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Glaring after him she fixed her hair while she waited. She really should leave but she didn’t want to be rude. She was sure no one would notice except Micah and even he wouldn’t care for long.

“Here” he said holding his hand out.

She looked dubiously at the little pills in the palm of his hand. Shaking her head “what are they?”

“They’ll pep you up” he assured her.

“I don’t know” she said doubtfully.

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“Come on. Just try it” he begged “I want to party and you never do anything fun.”

Hesitantly she reached for the pills. “Maybe I try one. See how it affects me.”

“What are you worried about” he asked blinking at her his eyes glazing over.

“Well” she remembered all the meds and painkillers her dad was on. All the side effects were bad to awful.

“Take the plunge” he encouraged “no one’s gotten hurt from taking pills. Doctors prescribe them to people all the time.”

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Closing her eyes to popped the pills into her mouth. For once she wanted to be like everyone else. Not the girl who couldn’t do anything because she had to hurry home to take care of her dad.

An hour later the room spinning around her. “I need to sit” she yelled but she wasn’t sure who she wanted to hear her. Reaching for the wall she fell forward onto her knees. Her insides felt as if they were on fire. Her stomach heaved spilling all its contents onto the floor but it didn’t make her feel much better. Others around her were moaning and clutching their stomachs. Micah lay on the floor his eyes closed his face a chalky white.

The room tilted and swam before her eyes. Jerkily she pulled her phone out with unsteady fingers she pressed the numbers to summon help. She passed out before she heard the emergency dispatcher speak in her ear.

***

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“What’s up with every teenager tonight” Malcolm demanded as he walked into the break room. Jeremy was already sipping a lukewarm cup of coffee.

Looking up from reading the newspaper spread out in front of him Jeremy said “it feels like every kid is on a death wish tonight.”

“What’s it been? Two fatal car accidents and a suicide so far” Malcolm asked sitting down across the table.

“So far and the nights not over yet” he sighed. “Night’s like this I hate being a doctor.”

“Be thankful you don’t have to work in the ER every weekend” Malcolm said.

“Believe me I am” Jeremy agreed grimacing at the now cold coffee in his cup. “It’s bad enough having to work it once every couple of months.”

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A nurse stuck her head inside the room. “Heads up doctors. We’re getting more casualties.”

“Another car accident” Malcolm groaned knocking back his coffee.

“Multiple overdoses” the nurse said “a bunch of kids decided to throw themselves a party.”

“Stupid kids” Jeremy complained getting up and tossing the remnants of his coffee in the trash.

To the nurse Malcolm said “make sure we have a large supply of activated charcoal on hand. We may be needing that tonight.”

“Already done” she said as the emergency doors whisked open and the first victims were rolled inside.

Jeremy turned around shock freezing him in place.

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“Daddy” his daughter’s voice breaking him from his trance. “I’m sorry daddy.”

“It’s going to be alright sweetie” he blinked back the hot tears stinging his eyes. Turning to the nurse “go get another doctor in here stat.”

“Right” she left at a near run.

“Sweetie” he pressed down on her abdomen “does this hurt?” His heart shattered when she shrieked in pain. “Do you know what and how much of it you took?”

Shaking her head crying “it really hurts daddy. Please make it stop.”

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“We’re going to do everything we can sweetie” he stepped back to allow the other doctor room to work. A tug on his arm caused him to look down at a nurse.

“ Doctor you’re needed in exam room one” she said.

He wanted to scream at her he couldn’t be bothered but he knew there was nothing he could do in here. His little girl was in the best hands possible and he would be better off helping someone else.

Following the nurse to exam room one he took a deep breath forcing the sense of dread filling his stomach away. He looked down at another teenager writhing in pain. “Someone find out what these kids were talking” he shouted at anyone within earshot.

It was going to be a long hard night before things calmed down. He later found out that out of the twenty kids that had been brought in there had been two fatalities. Six in critical condition. The rest were resting comfortably

***

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Jace walked along the quiet beach. Seagulls called at each other occasionally swooping down to inspect the lone figure walking below them. Jace hated their raucous calls and the way it make him feel they were about to attack. It stirred up uncomfortable feelings he was reenacting a scene from an old movie he’d seen once and thoroughly expected a whole flock of birds to swoop down and peck him to death.

Stopping, he turned wishing he weren’t alone. It was his own fault. It was his decision to go for a walk thus separating himself from his friends. The fact that no one had noticed convinced him that he really was invisible. A feeling he’d had more and more lately. Not that he blamed Jason. If anyone deserved to be lost in a world all his own it was him. It was good to see him happy not to mention that Damian was hot!

A soft mewling sound caught his attention. Looking around he tried to make out where the sound was coming from. His first instinct was to run. Anything making that sound couldn’t be good. Taking a deep breath he tried to calm himself as he searched for the source of the sound. “OMG” he muttered recognizing a nearby figure.

The man’s eyes fluttered open, red from tears. He moaned trying to curl into a tight ball as if he were afraid of Jace coming towards him. His arms were wrapped tightly around his middle holding his shirt closed.

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“Are you alright” Jace asked reaching out to touch the man’s shoulder.

Flinching at his touch the man attempted to scurry further into the bush behind him.

Raising his hands up holding his palms out “I’m not going hurt you” Jace assured him.

“I want to go home” he whispered in response to Jace’s words.

Frowning Jace knelt beside him. He could tell from the bruises on the man’s face and the lack of buttons and tears in his clothing that something horrible had happened. “Would you like me to call someone to come help you” he offered as he scanned the darkening beach.

Tears running down his cheeks “I want to go home.”

 

“Where did you park” Jace asked wondering how he’d gotten there.

“The resort” the words were spoken from swollen lips.

“Can you walk” Jace asked. When the man almost fell flat on his face in his attempt to gather his feet beneath him Jace reached out to help him. “Perhaps it’s better if I take you to my place. It’s not too far away. Probably closer than the resort.”

From the blank look on the guy’s face he doubted his words even registered. It was a longer walk than usual as Jace kept having to stop and rest. He wasn’t built to carry someone larger than he was. The whole process was an awkward experience. Upon reaching his little bungalow on the beach Jace helped him to the couch frowning as he curled up on the couch in a catatonic state.

Nibbling on his bottom lip Jace pulled his phone out. He needed help and the only person he knew well enough to call for help was the one he’d left on the beach with his new boyfriend. With trembling fingers he pulled up his contacts and waited for Jason to answer. “Hey I know this is a bad timing but I could really use your help. I found Christopher on the beach and I think he’s been beaten pretty bad….”

Chapter 22 – Crossroads / Chapter 24 – A Family Affair

Glitter – Chapter 18 – Waves

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“Why did he have to press the issue” Benjamin mumbled to himself as he got out of his truck. Slamming the door he stopped abruptly as the sound of someone laughing reached his ears.

“Hate to be the guy who caused that foul mood” a chuckled stepping away from the restaurant wall.

“What make you think it was a guy” Benjamin demanded.

“It doesn’t” the man shrugged “but you did say he. I heard it with my very own ears.”

Scowling at the stranger Benjamin found his lips twitching. The guy was cute. “I’m Ben” he said holding his hand out.

“Nice to meet you Ben” the guy smirked taking his hand giving it a squeeze.

“Err” he tugged his hand away “usually when someone introduces themselves you reciprocate.”

Shrugging he grinned “I’m not like most people. Normal is so boring.”

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Leaning on his truck Benjamin gave the stranger an appraising look. “I don’t know about that. Normal can be kind of nice sometimes.”

“Boring” he yawned rolling his eyes.

“I’d at least know the guys name” Benjamin pointed out turning to retrieve his laptop from the passenger seat.

“I prefer to think it gives me an air of mystery” the said moving in close rubbing shoulders with Benjamin as he passed. “Wouldn’t you like to have a little bit of anonymous fun” he whispered in the younger man’s ear.

Closing the door Benjamin couldn’t hide the befuddled grin that spread across his face as he bumped into the stranger. His eyes were bright with interest even if a little unsure. “It does hold a certain amount of allure but….”

“No buts” the man grinned “I’ll pick you up here tonight at 9:00.”

Benjamin watched as the stranger walked away. “Hey” he called out “what do I call you?”

“How about Mr Anonymous” he tossed back with a wave before getting into his car and speeding off.

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“This could be interesting” Benjamin mumbled staring after the car.

“Do you even know who he is” a familiar voice asked from behind him.

“Haven’t got a clue” he chuckled to himself turning to find Jonas standing behind him with a disapproving expression on his face. “Do you?”

“He’s bad news” he said eyes staring at the car disappearing around a corner.

“Speaking from experience “ he asked watching Jonas carefully. “He seemed nice enough.”

“You’re interest in him, does that mean you’re going out with him” Jonas asked. His voice sounded half strangled like he was having trouble breathing.

“Shrugging Benjamin said “I’m thinking about it.” Walking towards the resort he missed the look of disappointment that crossed Jonas’s face. Stopping when he realized his companion wasn’t following he said “are you coming? We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

“Huh oh… yeah” Jonas sighed ungluing his feet from the tarmac to follow Benjamin into the resort.

***

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Christopher sat outside the familiar resort waiting. He had mixed feelings about his date tonight. He was grateful for the guys help but … blowing air through his nose he swung a leg over his bike. Maybe it’ll be better than he thinks.

“Hey” someone called out to him. Turning Christopher saw a familiar long-haired male rushing towards him. This time it was tied back “I was hoping to catch you before you went inside.” He was barely breathing hard despite having sprinted across the parking lot.

“You caught me” Christopher said looking around unsure with the entire situation.

Taking a step back Brandon gave his date an appraising look. Whistling softly he said “you clean up nice.”

“Err thanks” his heartbeat raced pounding in his ears. “So do you” he added not sure what else to say. His stomach felt jittery, an uncommon feeling for him. He was usually more confident than this. He didn’t know what it was but for some reason Brandon made him uncomfortable.

“I was hoping we could take walk along the beach before we eat” Brandon suggested his voice smooth as silk.

“Um” Christopher stared at his feet hoping his shoes would inspire him with what to say. “If you think we have time. The restaurant usually fills up fast…”

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“We could always go afterwards” Brandon nodded as if that settled it. “Maybe by then you’ll have relaxed enough to enjoy my company.”

“That implies I’m uncomfortable now” he raised an eyebrow.

“Aren’t you” he asked. Without waiting for an answer he walked past to hold the door open for him. “See I’m a perfect gentleman” he said with a wink as Christopher walked past him.

“I never said you weren’t” Christopher protested “If anything you’re the type to rescue damsels in distress.”

Brandon’s lips twitched “are you a damsel in distress? Do you need rescuing?”

“Well…” his eyes darted around the busy foyer as if afraid someone might overhear them. “You did help me out of a sticky situation not long ago.”

“Oh yeah I did” he smirked “so you are a damsel in distress.”

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Feeling as if every eye were on him Christopher wished he was turtle. Having a shell to hide in would come in handy in situations like this. “Am not” he hissed “I could have gotten out of that situation on my own.”

“With or without a black eye” Brandon asked grinning from ear to ear obviously enjoying teasing the younger man.

“You think you’re such a smart ass” Christopher mumbled turning his back on him.

“I may be a smart ass but you definitely have a fine ass” leaned in close whispering “I’d like take it for a ride.”

Gulping audibly Christopher admonished “we’re in public” he hissed eyes wide wishing he had not agreed to this date. What had he been thinking?

Letting his hand graze across his date’s tight jeans before stepping back. “Alright I’ll be on my best behavior. I promise. No monkey business until later. On the beach.”

“I never said I was going” Christopher reminded him.

“You will” Brandon nodded confidently.

***

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Temperance stared at her phone. Her stomach twisting into knots. She had expected to hear from Unity by now but it had been days since she’d received a text message from her best friend. Unity always replied back regardless of what she was doing or where she was at.

Looking at the time she sighed. She could feel the eyes of her parents on her watching her like she was about to explode or something. She scrambled to her feet. She wasn’t in the mood for family movie night especially when her brothers were all out enjoying themselves.

“Temperance” her dad called shutting the TV off before she could make good on her escape.

“We need to talk” her mother’s gentle voice added making her anxiety grow.

Reluctantly she turned around “I really should start getting ready for bed. I have to work early in the morning. With Unity gone we’re all working extra shifts.”

“That’s what we need to talk about” Donovan said patting the spot next to him on the couch.

Moving slowly across the room she sat between her parents. Glancing between them she said “I’m sure it’ll only be temporary. Once Unity comes back my hours will go back to normal.”

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“She may not be going back to work” Hannah said reaching for her daughter’s hand.

“Of course she is” Temperance cried. “She’s going to get better. You’ll see….” She bit back the angry hurtful words she wanted to say. Unity had to get better. They had so many things they had to do yet. College. Tour across Europe. The Summer Social. All the things they’d dreamed about doing since they were little kids. She had to get better!

“Sweetie” her dad’s voice cut through her thoughts. “We hope she does get better.” He looked across at his wife with anguish in his blue eyes.

“Mom” she turned “Unity is getting better isn’t she?” The unanswered messages took on an ominous note. What if she couldn’t return them? What if she was sicker than they thought? What if she was dying?

“She’s not responding as well as they hoped to the treatment” Hannah explained.

Tears swelled in her eyes, rolling down her cheeks. “She has to get better” Temperance insisted. “She just has to” she turned to her dad burying her face into him. Her cries turned into sobs as his arms wrapped around hr holding her tight. “I want to see her” she sniffed once she was able to speak again.

“You will” Hannah said rubbing her daughter’s back.

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“When” she demanded clinging to her dad.

“Just as soon as we can arrange it” Hannah said. “We have to wait until after your grandparents come….”

“I want to go now” she cried turning red rimmed eyes towards her mother.

“It’ll just be a couple of extra days” Hannah explained.

“What if something happens between now and then” she cried “I need to see her now before it’s too late.”

“We understand that” Donovan interceded between his wife and daughter. “Right now it isn’t possible. Unity can’t have visitors right now. In a few days that’ll change. Have patience.”

Temperance pulled away from him. Why couldn’t they understand that she had to see Unity now. Not days from now. Standing she ran from the room. She heard them calling her but she ignored them. She had to get away. To think. To plan.

***

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It had been the longest day ever at work. Usually working at the boutique was therapeutic. It was something that made here feel closer to her best friend, Unity. Today her thoughts kept going back to what her parents told her. Her friend might not ever come back. Might not get better. It filled her with a sense of dread. Unity was going to die. Those terrifying words kept repeating themselves throughout the day.

She kept seeing Mindy’s scowl of disapproval as she let another customer go without a purchase. Her commissions for the day was going to be the lowest ever. The other girls tried to cover for her. To help but nothing could ease the frantic racing of her thoughts.

She sat on one of the benches outside the boutique after her shift. “Aren’t you coming with us” London asked.

Shaking her head Temperance waved her friends away. “You go on without me. I don’t feel much like the beach today.”

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“If you need someone to talk to” London offered before joining the others.

“That’s nice of you” Temperance gave her a small smile. “I’ll be okay. I’m not feeling sociable is all.”

Frowning at the unusual admission London asked “are you worried about Unity? I’m sure she’ll be good as new in no time.”

Temperance felt a surge of anger sweep through her at the words. “I’m sure she will be” she lied not wanting to destroy the girl’s hopes like her’s had been shattered.

London gave her a doubtful look before letting others drag her off with them. Alone Temperance glanced at her phone. Still nothing. A sense of foreboding filled her. She couldn’t imagine not having her best friend by her side.

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“Hey” a familiar voice said beside her “what’s up?”

His overly cheery voice grated on her nerves. “My best friend is dying” she growled needing to vent on someone.

“You’re joking” he laughed. When she didn’t join him he lost his smile “you’re not joking are you?”

“No” she shook her head as tears spilled out.

“I’m sorry” he apologized moving to sit next to her on the bench. “I didn’t know.”

“No one does” she sniffed wiping at the wetness on her cheeks. “I just found out she wasn’t responding to treatment.”

“That doesn’t mean she’s dying” he said wanting to give her something to hope in.

“But she will” she said doggedly holding onto her dark thoughts.

“Not necessarily” he insisted “it just means they haven’t found the right treatment yet.”

“What if they never do” she demanded glaring at him. “She’s my best friend. I should be with her.”

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Will was silent for several minutes contemplating her words. He needed to help her. To show her he wasn’t the jerk he was when they first met. “What if I take you” he asked holding his breath hoping that would be something she’d let him do for her.

“How” she sniffed “she’s not on the island. She’s on the main island. We don’t have enough money to fly or take the ferry across.”

“I’ve got an idea” he smiled at her “meet me at the pier tonight at ten.” He stood up with renewed energy and purpose.

“What… why” she cried looking up at him with the first flicker of hope she’d had all day.

“I know someone whose going across to the main island tonight on the midnight ferry. We can stow away in his car. Bring snacks and drinks because we won’t be able to buy anything once we’re on board.”

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“Isn’t that illegal” she asked frowning.

Smiling “yeah but you want to see your friend don’t you?” Shaking her head he continued “then this is the only way.”

Biting her lip thinking over his suggestion. “I suppose so” she said hesitantly. She didn’t want to worry her parents but she needed to see Unity. “I’ll do it” she said nodded firmly.

“Great” he gave her his best charming smile “I’ll make the arrangements then.”

Watching him go she felt herself becoming excited over this adventure. She couldn’t wait to tell Unity all about it when she saw her. With a burst of energy she caught the bus home making a list of things she would need to take on the trip.

Chapter 17 – Ocean Blue /

Glitter – Chapter 11 – Free Spirit

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“Come on I’ll take you home” Royce suggested helping Christopher from the bike.

“No way” he pushed Royce away “my parents will kill me if I show up like this.”

“Then you’ll have to come over to my place” Royce said.

Rolling his eyes Christopher allowed him to help him towards his car. “Fine” he muttered.

Smothering a grin he sympathized with his friends feelings. “This time will be different. Jason has friends over so he won’t be bugging you.”

“Good” his voice betrayed his relief the he wouldn’t be asked for information on his brother. “It’s not that I don’t like him” he tried to smooth over the offense.

“Don’t worry about it” Royce waved his apology away. “I’ve talked to him about it. Told him if he liked the guy that much he ought to just tell him.”

“That’s asking for trouble” Christopher sighed “Ben isn’t interested.”

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“I know but the only way Jason will accept it is if he hears it from Benjamin” Royce went around to the driver’s side of the car. “I don’t look forward to picking up the pieces when it happens.”

“Maybe he’ll meet someone else before it does” Christopher suggested.

“Well there is someone….” Royce paused at the sound of someone tapping on his window. “Can I help you?”

“You no” he shook his head “your friend definitely.” He handing Royce a folded piece of paper. Then before anyone could react he turned and walked away. “I think this is for you” he tossed the paper over to his friend.

“What is it” he mumbled staring at the folded piece of paper on his lap like it might bite.

“Open it and find out” Royce said as he backed out of his parking space. “If I were to hazard a guess I’d say it was his phone number.”

The silence from the passenger seat had him glancing across at Christopher. Curious he asked “so am I right? Is it his number?” When Christopher nodded he asked “so will you call him?”

“I don’t know” he sighed thinking back at how they met. “Do you think I should?”

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“If he has you at a loss for words I’d say go for it” Royce chuckled “who knows what might happen.”

“But I was so wasted” he put a hand over his eyes embarrassed at how he was acting.

“You said he helped you” Royce reminded him “obviously he likes playing hero.”

“Yeah maybe” he mumbled fumbling with his phone. “I’ll think about it.” To change the subject he asked “so what was so important you wanted to talk to me alone?”

“Well there’s this girl…”

“And you’re hoping I can give you some pointers” Christopher asked filling in the blanks.

“Well yeah” he shrugged “I’ve seen you pick up girls in the past.”

“”I have but I’m better with guys” they both laughed “do you know the girl?”

“Of course I know her” he huffed “It’s one of Jason’s friends.”

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“In that case I’d say relax and by yourself” he suggested “be casual about it and see if she looks for ways to be alone with you.”

“Then what do I do” he asked.

“You really like her don’t you” Christopher asked. He had yet to meet someone he couldn’t walk away from. He felt somehow jealous of the younger man.

“I do” he sighed a goofy grin on his face “she’s perfect.”

“I sincerely doubt that” Christopher laughed getting out of the car. “How about I meet her then I’ll give you some pointers if you still need them.”

“Just don’t go getting any ideas” Royce warned.

“I won’t. I promise” he waved his phone around “besides I have the hero from the bar to occupy me.”

They were both laughing as they entered the houseboat.

***

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“Hey you’re just in time to light the grill” January announced when Royce entered the room.

Glancing up Jason seemed to be searching for someone beyond his brother. His smile faltered when he realized it was only Christopher who had come. “Glad you join us” he mumbled attempting to appear happy to see him. Disappointment gnawed at his stomach that someone else wasn’t there.

He caught Royce staring at him. Plastering a grin on his face he said “Jace could use some help with the grill.”

Clapping a hand on Jason’s back Christopher said in jovial manner “point me in the direction of the grill and I’ll get it going for you.”

“It’s on the deck” Jason mumbled pointing in the general direction of the grill.

“You ok bro” Royce asked beneath his breath. He had seen the disappointment in his twin’s eyes.

“Fine” he lied “why wouldn’t I be?”

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Royce knew Jason was pretending not to be hurting and valiantly trying to hide his feelings. Maybe for the others he was successful but Royce knew. “Sorry I should have called first” he apologized.

“It’s your house too, invite who you want” Jason said turning away. “January have you met my brother yet?”

Her eyes moved up down checking him out. “I’ve seen him around” she said in an overly bored voice.

“I’ve been around a lot” Royce tried to appear casual and unaffected. He knew he was failing by the look Jason was giving him. His voice always took on a quiver when he got nervous. It wasn’t real noticeable but it was there. Jason knew him better than anyone and had picked up on it.

“Guess I haven’t noticed” she yawned taking out her phone she directed all of her attention to it.

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“Um” Royce strained his mind for something else to say to get her attention. “I’m in a band” he squeaked earning himself a concerned glance from his twin.

“Oh yeah” she raised her face from her phone. “I haven’t seen you play anywhere. What’s your band’s name?”

“Um well…” he groped for words “it’s still being put together.” He glared across at his twin daring him to say anything.

“Too bad” January said returning her attention to her phone “you were almost interesting.”

Feeling like he just received a mortal blow Royce wandered off. He couldn’t help but wonder if this was how Jason felt each time Benjamin failed to notice him. If it was he had a new found respect for him for being able to persist. He was distracted from his thoughts by the sound of Christopher’s laughter.

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“You’ll never get it lighted like that” Christopher’s laugh was boisterous causing the younger boy to jump back.

“I don’t like fire” Jace stammered taking shelter behind Christopher when flames shot upwards from the grill.

“Watch it” Christopher yelled as Jace jostled his hand sending it perilously close to the flames. “What’s the matter with you? You almost got me burned.”

“Sorry” he took a step backwards “I didn’t mean to. I guess I kind of freaked out.” His eyes were glued to the flames watching them as if they were a living breathing thing.

“It’s ok kid” Christopher said deciding to give the guy a break. “We can’t all be brave like me.”

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“You can be brave for both of us” Jace mumbled.

Shrugging Christopher decided to drop the subject. “Where’s the steak” he asked instead.

“Err” Jace pointed towards some tofu burgers and hot dogs. “January’s a vegetarian” he explained.

Shaking his head Christopher arranged the tofu on the grill. He could feel Jace’s eyes following every move he made. It filled him with a warm fuzzy feeling deep inside. Something he hadn’t felt since Lindsey dumped him.

***

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“Where do you think you’re going” she asked as her son ran past her to the door.

“I’ve got things to do” Aaron said without stopping.

“Like Raven” Riley snickered from the table where he was helping himself to another stack of pancakes.

“Shut it” Aaron glared at his younger brother.

“K I S S I N G” he sing songed ignoring the murderous glare his brother directed at him.

“Have you gotten the balls to ask Unity out yet” Aaron challenged.

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“Leave her out of this” Riley shouted getting to his feet.

“Boys” Erika yelled putting her hands up as if to referee between them “enough.”

Her son’s glared at each other. Neither one wanting to back down or apologize.

“I’m out of here” Aaron announced turning towards the door.

“No you’re not” Erika called after him “I need your help today.”

The slamming of the door was the only response she received from her departing son. “What was that all about?” she asked her youngest.

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Sitting back down at the table he stuffed his mouth full of pancakes. Riley shook his head shrugging his shoulders.

“Who is this Raven” she asked when the plate was empty.

“Just some guy” he mumbled getting up to wash his plate. “You might want to talk to Aaron about it.”

“I’ll do that” she agreed “so you like Unity?”

“Mom don’t” he begged running up the stairs to his room.

Shaking her head she cleared the rest of the dishes up from breakfast. Afterwards she went outside to collect the mail. Walking outside she noticed a moving van outside the house next door. Shuffling through the mail she didn’t notice the dark-haired man approaching her.

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“Hello” his voice was deep and pleasant “I’m Malcolm.”

Glancing up she felt her face flush with heat. He was as good-looking as his voice indicated he would be. “I’m Erika O’hare” she squealed internally as he took her hand. She felt like a teenager again facing her crush instead of a thirty-six year old single mother of two teen boys.

“It’s nice to meet you” he said with a debonair smile that resembled more of a smirk.

“Dad” a young girl called “the dork is refusing to help.”

“I’ve got to go” he said a look of regret in his eyes.

Erika sighed watching him go “pity he’s married” she muttered to herself.

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Keli glared at her father as he hurried towards her. “You can chase skirts after we’ve moved in.”

“She’s a nice lady” he said winking at his daughter. “If you want to ask her out for drinks and a nightcap that’s none of your business.”

“Whatever” she rolled her eyes at him. Grabbing a box she stomped towards the house.

“You like that lady” his son asked pointing towards the neighbor’s house.

Malcolm could see the troubled expression in his son’s eyes “she’s nice” he said.

“I don’t want another mother” the boy said before turning and running towards the house leaving his father alone beside a pile of boxes.

***

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It was generally a bad idea to walk with your head down watching your feet. Yet that’s exactly what Kyle was doing after his interview. He let his nerves get the best of him. He completely bombed the interview. He was so distracted by his failure that he collided with someone as they were entering the resort.

“Excuse me” the mild mid range voice said “I should have been paying attention to where I was going.”

Kyle looked up in time to see a pair of gorgeous eyes. He was struck dumb as his mouth moved but no sound was produced. His mind was mush.

“Are you alright” the man voice asked with a note of concern.

Shaking his head Kyle managed to single stammered “yyyesss.” He tried to stand p but found his limbs to weak to support him. Closing his eyes Kyle counted to ten willing himself to pull himself together.

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“Here let me help you” the guy with the gorgeous eyes offered taking Kyle’s hand and pulling him to his feet.

Kyle blinked wondering how they guy could be so casual like he had no idea how he affected others. “Thanks” he mumbled leaning against the door frame.

A frown creased his perfect skin as he observed Kyle. “Should I get a doctor? They have one on call here. I can get him.”

“No really I’m alright” Kyle took a deep breath. He stood tall and straight “see? I’m fine.”

“That’s good to know” the blonde flashed Kyle a boyish grin that would have diffused a bomb. “I’m Douglas Bennett. My friends call me Doug.”

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“It’s nice to meet you” Kyle took his hand giving it a shake as an electrical charge surged between them. “I’m sorry for running into you” he started to apologize.

“Don’t worry about it. It was my fault for not paying attention” Douglas assured him.

“We’re two peas in a pod then” Kyle said laughing a bit “I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going either.” For some reason he found himself telling Douglas about his interview and how bad it was.

“We all have off days” Douglas commiserated “don’t let it get you down.”

“I won’t after all it led me to you” Kyle could feel heat warming his cheeks “err I mean if we were paying attention we wouldn’t have met.” He couldn’t seem to stop the words as the dribbled from his mouth. No matter what he did the dribble continued.

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Douglas for his part didn’t seem to notice. “Are you new to the island” he asked once Kyle’s ramblings ceased.

Instead of replying Kyle simply nodded hoping that would keep him from saying anything else embarrassing.

“My sister is having a party tomorrow” Douglas continued as if he didn’t notice Kyle’s lack of response. “It’s just a small group of friends really but it’ll give you a chance to meet some people.”

Kyle met Douglas’s eyes. There was an anxious hopeful look in them. It made Kyle think he might be afraid Kyle would tell him no. “I’d like to come if it’s alright with your sister. I don’t want to intrude.”

“Sandi won’t mind. She said I could invite a friend.” Douglas seemed to relax and the anxious look in his eyes disappeared. “Give me your number and I’ll send you the details.”

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“Only if I can have yours” Kyle teased pulling his phone out his nervousness abating.

“No problem” Douglas said “you’d have had it anyway once I sent you text.”

Kyle paused a moment to wonder if Douglas was really as innocent as he appeared. “I’ll text you later” he promised.

“Great” Douglas grinned “I have to go or I’ll be late.” He turned to walk away. Halfway to his car he turned to wave relieved to find Kyle still standing there.

Kyle smiled to himself. What seemed to be a lousy day was suddenly not so bad. He was looking forward to seeing Douglas again.

Chapter 10 – Beauty Finds Me / Chapter 12 – Energized