Tag Archive | Liono Marx

Hannah – Chapter 36 – Not Afraid

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Divia relaxed into Renee leaning her head back resting on the other woman’s shoulder. “I don’t want to go back” she sighed closing her eyes.

“You don’t have a choice” Renee chuckled entwining her fingers with Divia’s.

“Yes I do” Divia shook her head “I could stay here and work for McDonald’s.”

“No” Liono’s deep baritone caused both girls to jump.

“Dad” Divia sat up straightening clothes that didn’t need straightening. “It’s my choice.”
Liono’s eyes shifted towards his daughter. His chin lifted in challenge “you will not quick school to flip burgers. I won’t allow it.”

“You don’t have a say in what I do” Divia stood up facing her father slapping away her girlfriends hands.

“Divia” Renee’s harsh whisper barely registered on her radar.

“I won’t let you throw your life away” Liono took a step forward eyes glittering dangerously behind his dark lashes.

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“Who says that I’ll be throwing my life away?” Divia challenged swallowing hard to keep her nervous giggle under control. “I want to stay here with Renee.”

Crossing his arms he inclined his head “I can appreciate that. I doubt she wants you to sacrifice your dreams to stay home with her to play house.”

“We love each other Daddy. Not playing house” Divia protested biting her bottom lip “we’re going to be married.”

Liono’s eyes widened at the unexpected proclamation. “How are you going to pay for the ring? The wedding? The house?” He rattled off the list of things she hadn’t thought about. “Do you think you can afford those things on your wages from McDonald’s?”

Blood rushed from her face as she tried and failed to come up with an answer. She hadn’t thought about it. Her eyes turned towards Renee in silent appeal.

“No don’t” Liono barked “she’s not a part of this discussion.”

“I beg to differ” Renee said standing up to face the older man. “I plan on marrying your daughter. I am involved.”

His lips twitched a little. Ignoring her comments “what will you do when you want a child? It’s not going to be as easy as it was for your mother and I. You’ll need special procedures. Procedures that cost money. Where is that money going to come from?”

“We’re in this together” Renee blurted out taking Divia’s hand “it’s not all her responsibility.”

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This time Liono stared at the girl as if challenging her to continue. When she fell silent he nodded. “You’re correct but it makes things more difficult when the division of responsibility is unbalanced. Is this something you’ve discussed? Something you both agreed on?” He could see by the nonverbal exchanges that it wasn’t. “All I’m asking from you is you count the cost before you decide to do something. If you really want to flip burgers at McDonald’s I won’t stop you. I couldn’t even if I wanted to.” He eyed his daughter until she squirmed beneath is scrutiny. It wasn’t like it had been when she was a kid when she’d squirm from fright. This time it was because she was thinking over what he said.

“Renee” she turned to the girl “did you really mean what you said? That you wanted to marry me?”

“Yes” Renee nodded intensely watching the other girl’s eyes “I love you.”

“I love you too. I don’t want to flip burgers not really” Divia chuckled a little “I really do want to get my degree in psychiatry.”

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“I know” she whispered “it’ll only be a few months we’ll be apart.”

“We could call and text” Divia added.

“Plus you can home on the weekends” Liono added smiling at both of them. “So when’s the wedding?”

Both girls glanced at each other “we don’t have a date yet” Renee said.

“It just sort of came out” glancing at her hand “I don’t even have a ring yet.”

“We can help with that” Elyse said moving towards her room. A couple of minutes later she returned with a couple of small boxes. She exchanged a meaningful glance with Liono before saying “these were your grandmother’s rings. My mother gave me her engagement ring to give to my daughter and your father inherited his grandmother’s ring when his mother passed away.”

Clearing his throat Liono continued his husky as he held back his emotions “It would be an honor if you would take wear these rings as a symbol of your love for each other.”
He handed each of them a box his eyes unusually moist. Elyse kissed his cheek “my husband the old softy.”

 

“Dad I” Divia’s voice choked up as she glanced at the rings then at her parents. “I don’t know what to say” tears rolled down her cheeks and this time she didn’t feel the need to hide them. “Thank you.”

Slipping the ring on her finger Renee held her hand up admiring it. “It’s beautiful” her voice hushed as if she were afraid to break the mood.

“Your family now” Elyse beamed at the girl “you’ve made our little girl happy. Happier then we’ve ever seen.” She pulled the speechless girl into her warm embrace.

“Daddy” Divia cried throwing her arms around him. An action she never thought she’d ever feel comfortable doing a mere year ago. Now it seemed natural “I love you so so much.”

He grunted with the intensity of her hug. Somewhat awkwardly he wrapped his arms around her “I love you too. Even when I’m challenging you.”

“I know daddy” she pulled away to wipe at the tears flowing from her eyes. She no longer felt the fear she once had to show her emotions around the stoic man she no longer felt was hard as stone.

***

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Vincent glanced at the downcast face of the girl sitting across from him in the passenger seat. “Trinity is something wrong?” his gentle voice broke the silence between them. “We can do something else. We don’t have to go to the beach.”

“No it’s fine,” she murmured lifting her face up to watch the scenery pass by her window. “I want to go to the beach.”

Vincent glanced towards her. Her lackluster voice only emphasizing that there was indeed something wrong. He gripped the steering wheel tight enough to turn his knuckles white. She hadn’t been the same since he mother called a week or so ago. “Is everything alright at home? With your mother?” He asked hoping that she would open up and talk to him.

“Hmm what?” she asked turning to look at him a distracted look in her dark expressive eyes.

“Your mom, is she ok?” he asked watching the traffic ahead of him afraid to glance over and see confirmation in her lovely face of what he feared was happening. The last few weeks had been like a dream to him. More than anything he wanted this dream to last.

“She’s fine” she said turning to look out the window again “she’s always fine.”

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The lack of emotion in her voice only added to the ominous feeling he had twisting his insides into knots. If he wasn’t driving he’d pull her close to him. Something about the way she held herself had him thinking she was about to shatter into a million pieces like a fragile glass ornament would falling to the floor. He reached across the console dividing them. Took her hand “you know you can tell me anything right?” He squeezed her hand before she had a chance to tug her hand free. His hand felt empty afterwards matching the hallow feeling in his heart. He was losing her. He didn’t know how or why but he was losing her. “Trinity please tell me what’s wrong?”

Her head jerked at the entreaty in his voice. She could hear the hurt in his voice. She hadn’t meant to hurt him. She felt like she was caught in a riptide she couldn’t swim out of no matter how hard she tried. She kept getting further and further away from what she wanted most.

Moisture build up behind her eyes and a single tear rolled down the side of her nose. She hastily wiped it away before it had a chance to betray her true feelings. As perceptive as Vincent was to her moods he no doubt was aware of her melancholy state of mind.

With false cheer she forced a dazzling smile on her face. Turning towards her companion she said “what are we doing today?”

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Vincent shivered at the fake cheer in her voice so reminiscent to the way things had been before. Mentally he shook himself. He wouldn’t go down that road. He wouldn’t start looking for similarities to the past. “Um” he mumbled thinking he had already told her “we’re having a picnic at the beach…”

“Sounds romantic” she batted her eyes at him falling into the habit of flirting when she didn’t want to think about what she was feeling. The concerned rise of Vincent’s eyebrows had her murmuring “sorry I…” she groped for words “I’m just really excited. I really like picnics.”

“Try to contain yourself a little while longer” he said trying to sound as cheery as she was “we’re almost there.” He had looked forward to this picnic for weeks. Picnics had always been a favorite of his since he was a little kid. His parents would take him to the park. Spread a blanket on the ground and cuddle together while he ran off to play. The weekend picnics had become some of his favorite memories of his childhood. He’d been hesitant to share that with Trinity. Afraid it’d be too provincial for her tastes. To his surprise and delight she had suggested a picnic as one of their first dates. Now he wondered if she had been trying to hard to please him. Pretending to like the same things he did. She could have learned of his love of picnics from his parents. They hadn’t exactly been shy about telling her about his embarrassing childhood antics.

Prompted by his sudden fear she was toying with him he said “we can do something else if you’d like. I know you wanted to try out that new roller coaster at Simmerica.” His heart raced at the thought of standing in a long line to ride what looked like a death trap. The long slow chug up to the first drop. The hesitation at the top before the first car toppled over the edge. The thought of it left him breathless.

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“Why would I want to do that?” she asked evasively.

He could hear the irritation in her voice to match his own growing frustration. He felt trapped onto a course he couldn’t change like the Titanic going ever closer to the iceberg that was its eventual doom. Sighing he turned into a parking lot. Getting out he proceeded to unload the trunk handing her the blanket and beach umbrella while he took the rest. “Why don’t you choose the spot to set up our picnic,” he suggested. She simply nodded and walked towards the sandy beach. Two weeks ago she’d have insisted they walk together. Disappointment and fear made his chest feel heavy as he followed in her wake.

His mind distracted he didn’t notice where Trinity had spread their blanket until he almost walked past a couple flirting. Stopping his gaze riveted on the girl as she smiled up at the buff surfer dude as he wrote his number on her hand. “Give me a call sometime” the guy said flashing her his impossibly white teeth. He nodded towards Vincent as he walked off stopping briefly to pick up his surf board.

“Trinity” Vincent choked as if he were being strangled and his heart was being cut from his chest.

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The smile she worn moments before faded and disappeared. “Vincent I didn’t see you standing there.” She hurried over to him to help with cooler.

“Are you breaking up with me?” he asked his Adam’s apple bobbing up and done in distress.

“Yes…no” she fell to her knees beside the cooler she dropped.. The contents spilling over the blanket. “I don’t know” she cried “I’m so confused.” She covered her face with her hands sobbing.

Her distress broke through his own daze of misery. “Talk to me. Give me a chance to help. Don’t just walk away from me.” He pulled her close. He could feel her shoulders heaving against him as she sobbed on his shoulder. Her hands twisting into his shirt.
“My mom she called” she gulped trying to calm herself.

Vince remained silent letting her talk. He had known something was up ever since her mom called a little over a week ago. Trinity had started to act strange soon afterwards, pushing him away in the process.

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“I was so happy” Trinity pushed away from him sniffing, wiping at her eyes. “I wanted to share my happiness with her. I told her how you made me laugh. How special I felt around you.” Her eyes filled with confusion and hurt “she laughed at me. Said I was being naive and gullible if I thought you were different from any other guy.” Fresh tears erupted “she said I was a fool to believe in love. That I needed to keep moving on to the next fun interesting prospect and not settle for an ideal that would only leave me hurt in the end.”

“You believed her” it wasn’t statement of fact. He could see from her actions that she had. He wanted to pull her close, tell her she was wrong that she didn’t have to be like her mom. Then the image of the surfer and the way she leaned in close smiling up at him and he wondered.

“Don’t you?” she demanded “you saw what I was doing. Flirting. I promised I wouldn’t. I did. I didn’t even want to. I kept hearing me mother saying when the fun is over move on. I wanted to make it stop.” She looked up with troubled eyes “maybe she’s right. Maybe I’m not capable of love and relationships. Maybe I need to be with a different guy every week.”

“Trinity” he said her name hoping to catch her attention “were you happy before?”

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“Before what?” she asked confused.

“Before with us. When it was just you and me.” He moved closer, his fingers gently drying the tears on her cheeks “did you enjoy being with me? Did you miss being with someone else?”

“Don’t be silly” she took a deep breath “when I was with you it was like no one else existed. That’s why I…” she looked up eyes wide “that’s why I was so excited to tell her I had found the one and if I could she could too.”

“Am I the one?” he asked ears buzzing stunned.

“I think so” her voice was small like she was almost afraid to admit it. Her lips twitched as she repeated “yes, yes you are” her voice full of certainty “you’re the one. The one I’d be willing to give up all others for.”

“Are you sure?” he asked pulling her close against his chest.

“I’m sure” she lifted hand to run through his short blond hair “you’re mine and I don’t want to give you up.”

“Good” he smiled brushing his lips over her’s “I think I’ve fallen in love with you.”

“I know I’ve fallen in love with you and it scared me” she pressed her lips firmly against his showing him how she felt. Pulling away a moment later to gaze into his eyes. She smiled up at him “I’m not scared anymore.”

Chapter 35 – Reunion / Chapter 37 – Letting Go

Hannah – Chapter 30 – Therapy

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Divia sat alone absorbing the early morning sun. She had been home for over a month now. It had been touch and go with her dad for the first week. When he opened his eyes and stared without recognition at her and her mom it almost broke her heart. Divia thought she’d lose it. Where the strength came from to hold her mom as she wept on her shoulder she had no clue. Inside all she wanted to do was run away and never come back.

That was three weeks ago. His memory had improved since then. It was still fuzzy. Certain events he still didn’t remember like the accident itself. Divia thought that was a blessing. Who would want to remember something that traumatic?

She leaned back her eyes closed. Her face tilted towards the sun. A slight smile upon her face. Today was the first day of his physical therapy. She hoped her dad wouldn’t be difficult and argue with the therapist. She knew how temperamental he could be especially when he was in pain or embarrassed. When he was both who knew what he was capable of? Liono hated to appear weak in front of anyone. It was worse when it was his family and friends. For weeks his visitors had been tip toeing around his room afraid of saying or doing something wrong. Not an easy task Divia knew from experience. Depending on his mood anything might spark an argument.

“Excuse me” a soft exotic voice said above her head “is someone sitting here?”

“Oh” Divia murmured opening her eyes “sorry.” She scooted over making room for the someone else to sit.

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“Thank you” the voice said sounding grateful “sorry for disturbing you. I just really needed to get off my feet.”

“No problem” Divia was quick to say. She took a glance over at the person she was sharing a bench with. Her acquaintance was the exact opposite of what she imagined she’d look like based off her voice. The young woman had dark wavy hair tumbling past her shoulders. There were streaks of an unspecified color that may have been the result of a failed highlight job. It was the woman’s eyes that were remarkable. They were hidden behind thick dark frames but their soft mahogany glow shone through. Divia found herself staring longer than seemed polite.

The woman laughed breaking the spell Divia was under. “Do I have a booger coming out my nose or something?” the woman asked. Her smile was genuine as she self-consciously wiped a hand over and around her nose.

“No no I’m sorry” Divia mumbled as her cheeks grew hot.

“I’d prefer it if someone told me if there were” she flashed her a toothy grin “I’d hate to find out later I was walking around with a big old booger hanging from my nose. People may think its impolite to say something but it’s so much worse to let someone walk around like that.”

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Divia found herself relaxing around her and laughing along with her. Glancing at the time she sighed “I should be going. My dad’s about to start physical therapy and I have to be there.”

Frowning the woman stood up as well. “From my experience patients usually don’t want their family around.”

“I know” Divia shrugged glancing away. Her eyes moving around the serene garden like park wishing she could bottle the peace she felt there. “My dad isn’t very….cooperative. He may need me there to keep him somewhat civil.” Turning back to her companion she said “he wouldn’t want to appear weak in front of me.”

“Ok” the woman nodded seeming to have filed what she said away “I guess I’ll be seeing you later than.”

“You might” Divia agreed thinking the woman was there visiting another patient.

***

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Twenty minutes later Divia sat unobtrusively to the side while her dad went through the paces. He grunted in pain. Never once complaining. Maybe it was her presence or maybe the fact his therapist was young and pretty. Divia knew her eyes almost popped from their eye sockets when her acquaintance from outside came into the room in a lab coat introducing herself as Renee Hauske, physical therapist.

As the interns helped her dad into his wheelchair. Renee smiled brightly at her “I knew we’d meet again” she said with a twinkle in her eye.

Divia swallowed as her hands suddenly felt clammy. She could feel the woman’s eyes watching her in a way that made her pulse race. Her mouth felt dry as she croaked out her own name in response.

“It’s nice to meet you Divia” the calm self-assured woman smiled again before turning her full attention to her father.

Divia’s ears perked up when she heard her dad’s deep voice ask “are you married?” Inwardly she groaned. Why did older people feel the need to ask personal information about someone’s relationship status upon meeting them?

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“I was engaged” Renee’s soft exotic voice replied “it didn’t work out obviously.” she laughed waving her empty finger around.

“His loss” Liono chuckled with her.

“We wanted different things” Renee sighed “she lives in Sunset Valley with her new girlfriend now.”

Divia held her breath leaning forward listening for her dad’s response. Would he be repulsed by having a lesbian therapist? She knew he had gay friends but for whatever reason he never struck her as being very accepting of them.

“Give it time” he advised her “you’ll find the girl eventually.”

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“It’s been almost three years” she objected “all I seem to attract are jerks.”

“Maybe you like jerks” Liono said with a grin and a sparkle in his eyes.

Laughing Renee shook her head “you might be right.” She helped him back into his chair.

“That’s all for today Mr Marx. You did excellent today.”

Liono smirked as he caught sight of his daughter watching them. “My daughter’s single. Maybe you could ask her out,” he suggested.

“Dad” Divia protested walking towards them cheeks blazing with heat.

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“What” he demanded innocently eyes shifting “did you think I didn’t know?”

“I” her eyes darted towards Renee “I never told you. How did you….”

“I’m not blind or an idiot” he grumbled but his eyes never lost their twinkle “did you think I wouldn’t approve?” Her silence spoke for her as he nodded in acceptance. “I want you to be happy. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

Stepping back Renee suggested “maybe you’d like to take your dad to the garden where you can talk.”

Nodding Divia took her place behind her dad’s wheelchair. She didn’t knew what to say or even what she should be feeling. She felt somehow lighter like a heavy burden had been removed from her shoulders. Her dad loved her. He wasn’t mad like she expected him to be. To her astonishment he had tried to set her up with his therapist. Tears stung her eyes blurring her vision.

“Are you crying?” Liono asked his voice betraying his irritation he felt around anyone crying.

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“Sorry” she mumbled slowly pushing him towards the bench she had shared with Renee earlier that day.

“Divia I’m not upset I wish…” he sighed “I wish you’d own your feelings. If you feel angry be angry. If you feel like crying than cry. Don’t let me or anyone else dictate how you feel.” He fell silent while Divia sat down on the bench facing him. He reached over took her hand “I know I’ve been hard on you. I’m sorry. I thought if I pushed you enough you’d stand up for yourself.” He squeezed her hand “I guess that’s not what you needed and I’m sorry.”

Something broke inside her. Like a chunk of ice had fallen away from her heart. “Daddy” she cried throwing her arms around “I love you so so much and I’m sorry I doubted you.”

Hesitantly at first he raised his arms to hold her. “Does this mean I have a green light to set things up with Renee?”

“Oh daddy you’re impossible” she cried into his shoulder feeling she’d let him do whatever he wanted as long as she knew he loved her.

***

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Zach stared out the window. The busy sidewalk showed people going about their everyday lives. Some wore dresses, some were in business suits, others in t-shirts and jeans. Mothers with babies in strollers. Others were carrying multiple bags from their shopping excursions. All normal. Zach couldn’t help but wonder what was behind the smiles. What monsters lurked within? Who went home and hurt the ones they loved?

Shivering he turned away from the window. He found his therapist watching him. Her eyes following his every movement making feel conspicuous. He crossed his arms in front of himself wishing he were a turtle so he could hide within his shell. He watched her lips twitch as she jotted down something inside her notebook.

He watched the pen she wrote with. For a moment he wondered how she could write with her arm curled up like that. It seemed very awkward but a lot of left-handed writers appeared to write like that. It was something that he’d always noticed, had tried to copy but couldn’t.

When she was done she twirled the pin around, appearing to be in deep thought. “What were you thinking about when you gazed out the window?” she asked after several minutes of silence.

The sound of her voice caught Zach off guard. The intake of his breath was loud in the silent room. He shook his head slowly his hair flying around his face “nnothing” he stammered. He could feel her gaze on him making him squirm.

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“Zach if you want my help you need to talk to me” the woman’s voice was gentle to Zach’s ears.

“Are you really as nice as you appear?” he asked his voice low, cautious.

She raised her chin to acknowledge she heard his question. “What makes you think I might not be?” she countered his question with one of her own.

He pressed his spine into the hard backed chair he sat in. He glanced furtively around the room stopping on the exit door. His dad was sitting just on the other side of that door. All he had to do was get up and walk through it and this would all be over.

“Zach” her voice was low barely loud enough to catch his attention. “Do you think about what people are hiding behind their smiles?”

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Shocked he nodded “there’s a lot of evil hidden behind pleasant smiles.”

“It’s exhausting trying to figure out what someone’s hiding isn’t it?” she asked.

He nodded wondering how she knew. “You can’t tell” he mumbled. His eyes were vacant as he retreated further into himself.

He watched as she checked the time. She gave him a thin-lipped smile before placing her hands flat on top of her desk. “That’s it for today. We’ll see you on Friday” she said like a question giving him the option to say no.

He never did. He simply nodded as he moved towards the door wondering what if anything she learned about him and whether it was helping him or not.

***

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Later that night Teasha slipped into his room. “How did it go?” she asked sitting on the edge of his bed her light blue eyes watching him.

Sitting up he shrugged “I don’t like her.”

“Tell daddy and he’ll find someone else” she suggested.

“It’s not that easy” he drew his knees up wrapping his arms around them. “She makes me say things I don’t want to think about.”

She gave him a quizzical look “that’s kind of what she’s supposed to do. It’s the only way she can help you.”

“I guess” he mumbled “are you home for good now?”

Teasha nodded “at least for the summer. I wish you’d change your mind and come back to school with me in the fall.” She saw the terrified look in his eyes “it’s not the same without you.”

“Waylon won’t be there” he sighed resting his chin on his hands a shudder shaking his shoulders.

“Have you heard from him lately?” she asked ruffling his soft blonde hair with her fingers.

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“No” he almost wailed.

“He hasn’t called?” her voice sounded shocked.

“He has” Zach mumbled “I haven’t answered.”

“Why the hell not?” she demanded indignant on Waylon’s behalf.

Shrugging his shoulders he talked into his hands making his words hard to understand. “What’s the point? I’m here. He’s there. It’s over….”

She had to admit he did have a point. “You can still be friends” she said quietly.

“I don’t want to be friends” he closed his eyes images of their last night together replaying in his mind. A low moan escaped his lips as his body remembered the way Waylon’s hands ignited a fire within him.

“Zach you and he … you didn’t….” she gave him a piercing gaze “you did.” She was shocked. She wouldn’t have thought her brother would ever. Not after….”You didn’t just do it with Waylon because of Dex…”

He lifted his head up. Eyes blazing with hate “Dexter never touched me. He tried but I…” His throat constricted cutting off his voice.

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“Alright” she replied calmly wondering what actually did happen between him and Dexter. No one had seen Dexter after that night. No she mentally chided herself. Her brother would never hurt anyone. He wouldn’t. He couldn’t. “At least tell me you and Waylon were safe.”

“Safe?” he looked at her eyes wide his tone confused.

“Yeah safe as in careful” she rolled her eyes at him “you know protection. Geez Zach do I have to spell it out for you.”

“Of course we…” his voice faltered he didn’t exactly remember. Had they used anything? “I don’t know” he admitted aloud “it’s not like we planned for it to happen. It just did.”

“Zach” she cried in exasperation “you’re an idiot.”

The magnitude of what he said started to sink in he asked “what am I going to do now?” His anxiety causing his voice to come out squeaky.

“The first thing you’re going to do is take a pregnancy test” she told him.

“Why?” he asked recoiling at the idea.

“Zach use your head” she bit her lip to keep from saying more. He was already in shock at the idea of being pregnant she had to be gentle if she wanted him to cooperate with her. “You know as well as I do you could be pregnant.”

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“I know” he cried as the enormity of it pressed in around him choking off his air “All I wanted was to feel better. To feel loved. I didn’t think…”

“It’s going to be alright” she soothed pulling him close rocking him in her arms like she did when they were kids and he’d had a bad dream “we’ll figure this out together. I promise it’s going to be ok.”

“I’m sorry that you always have to take care of me” he muttered into her shoulder “everyone would be better off if I had jumped off the bridge that night.”

“What? What did you say?” she demanded pushing him from her shoulder. Holding his face between her hands “don’t you dare think that’s an option. I’d be lost without you. Our dads would be devastated. How do you think Waylon would feel? He loves you.”

Tears streamed down his face “I’m sorry. I try not to think about how awful everything is. How people hide who they are behind smiles. I wonder what evil lurks behind those smiles. I just want peace. I don’t want to be like this. I don’t want to die either. It’s just sometimes the dark thoughts surround me and I wonder if it’d be better to not have to think at all ever again.”

Shaking him she demanded “when these feelings come up call me. Call dad or daddy. Waylon or anyone else. We’ll drop everything and come to you. You’re not alone. You have people who care about you. Who want to help you.”

“I…” he turned away from her intense gaze “I don’t want to be a burden. You have lives to live. You don’t need me hanging around like a dead weight around your necks.”

“Then talk to that therapist. Tell her everything you just told me.” She pulled him close “you don’t have to suffer through this alone.”

“I’ll try” he said “I promise I’ll try.”

Chapter 29 – Don’t Need You / Chapter 31 – Harsh Realities

Hannah – Chapter 8 – No Way Out

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Vincent stared at the light blue wall of his bedroom. His mind blank or as blank as he could ever make it as one thought after another flitted in and out of his head. He frowned as his thoughts turned to memories of what happened three days ago. Had it really been that long? It felt like they had just piled into Teasha’s car afraid for their lives as a group of crazed students surrounded her car.

He could still feel Bull’s fist as it connected with his face. Unconsciously he fingered his bruised mouth hissing from the pain he dropped his hand. The swelling had gone down but the bruises remained, bluish purple against his pale skin. His vision blurred as tears threatened to escape his self-control.

Disgusted with himself he took his glasses off rubbing his temples and the bridge of his nose. He didn’t want to go back to school on Monday morning. The thought raised goose flesh on his arms. Everyone by now knew what Bull and his henchmen had done to him and his friends. They would all be wearing targets on their backs. He didn’t know if he had the strength to face them.

“Vincent,” his mom’s voice carried down the stairs “Divia is here to see you.”

***

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Sighing he grabbed his glasses and hurried up the stairs. He had known Divia his entire life. Lived next door too her since they were born a few hours apart. They shared birthdays. It never felt strange to combine parties. Her friends were his friends. It was normal. He always tried to make it clear she could come over whenever she needed anything. She seldom took advantage of the offer. Her being here now showed how rattled last Wednesday had made her. He hoped he was enough to help her. He smiled at the reserved quiet girl standing rigidly in his parents yellow kitchen.

“Divia” he said her name as he entered the room. She looked up at him relief in her gray eyes as if he had just pulled her from a pit of snakes instead of from his parent’s curious eyes and well meaning questions.

“Can we talk?” she asked her voice barely audible above the running dishwasher. Her eyes shifted towards his parents a silent plea for privacy.

“Sure we can go to my room to talk,” he suggested.

“No I mean not there,” she looked towards the floor a miserable expression upon her face.

“I think that’s our hint to leave,” Milo said with a smile. He took Jillian’s hand whispering something in her ear.

She turned with a sparkle in her eyes and giggled up at her husband, “we’ll be in our room if you need us.”

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Vincent nodded hoping they were quiet this time especially since Divia was there. As they walked out he waved towards the chairs “have a seat.” It felt strange saying that to her. If it were anyone else they would have just went down to his room to hangout. Not Divia though. Not once in sixteen years had she been inside his room. He always suspected it was her strict parents.

She moved towards the table. Her movements leaden and jerky “thank you” she mumbled. The corners of her mouth curled up for a brief moment as she sat down.

Instead of joining her Vincent moved to the fridge “would you like something to drink?” He didn’t wait for her to answer “we have coke, sprite, orange crush, snapple or water.” He grabbed a coke for himself and a snapple for her knowing it was her favorite.

Walking to the table he sat the snapple in front of her. She stared at it a moment. He smiled “go ahead and take it. No one else drinks it. We keep it on hand just for you.”

She smiled reaching for it “thank you.”

Vincent smiled as he sat across from her. He watched her take a gulp of her drink before doing the same with his coke. He wished she wasn’t so timid even with the group she grew up with she was that way. He wondered if she’d have been different if she would have had brothers or sisters. He rather suspected they’d have all been like this slightly backwards socially and afraid of making a mistake her dad would perceive as an embarrassment.

Glancing at the time he asked “what did you want to talk about?”

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She swallowed looking at him with large scared sorrowful eyes “my dad wants to send me to private school.”

“He can’t do that” he exploded slamming his coke down to the table. Of course he could. Liono was her father after all. Sometimes he hated the guy. He looked down as something soft touched his hand.

“He’s my dad,” she said softly as a tear rolled down her cheek “he wants what’s best for me.”

“What’s best for you isn’t sending you away,” he cried taking her hand and squeezing it. She of all of them needed the support of the group to survive.

“He says it’ll be good for me” she shook her head “maybe he’s right. I do depend upon you and the others an awful lot.”

“You don’t” he protested over his thoughts to the contrary. “Maybe my parents could talk to them. Convince them to change their minds.”

“Do you think they would?” she asked surprised and a little hopeful.

***

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“All we can do is ask,” he said. She gulped as she nodded agreement. “Mom. Dad,” Vincent called “can you come here a minute?” He heard the click of their bedroom door as it opened and tried to smile reassuringly at her.

After some coaxing and Vincent talking for Divia. Divia filled in things his parents needed to know. They were able to explain the problem to his parents well enough for them to understand.

Milo stared blankly ahead processing everything he had been told. Turning to the young girl he asked “why don’t you want to go to this private school?”

She looked up eyes darting to Vincent pleading for his help. Vincent opened his mouth to speak for her when Milo firmly shook his head at him saying “let her answer.”

“I” she looked down uncomfortable with everyone looking at her “I want to be with my friends.”

Milo nodded patting her hand, “have you told your parent’s that?”

Her eyes lifted up pleading “I can’t,” she stammered.

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“Why can’t you dear?” Jillian asked “I know your parents care about you. They want what’s best for you.”

“How can separating her from everything and everyone she knows be good for her?” Vincent asked his voice tinged with anger. Ever since Wednesday he felt his world was tilting out of control, throwing him further and further into chaos.

“You won’t always be together,” Jillian told her son “people change. Grow apart. It’s part of growing up.”

Vincent sat back in his chair. Rolling his eyes he gave his mother a sullen look “it’s not fair” he mumbled.

“I didn’t say we wouldn’t talk to them,” Jillian told him “I can’t promise they’ll change their minds.” She looked to her husband “what do you think?”

Milo shrugged “my experience tells me once Liono has made up his mind he sticks to his guns. I think the kids should prepare themselves.”

***

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Vincent walked Divia home crossing the lawn to her door. Sighing he kicked the grass with his toes “sorry. I thought they’d be more helpful.”

“It’s not your fault or theirs either,” she looked up at the sky ” maybe it won’t be so bad.”

“It could be worse,” he grumbled.

“So not helping,” she told him taking a reluctant step towards the house.

“I’ll think of something,” he assured her “if I don’t then maybe one of the others will.”

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“Are we still getting together on Sunday?” she asked.

“Yeah” he mumbled “we need some kind of plan for Monday. We can’t stay home forever.” He looked over at her “you’ll come?” he asked as she turned to go inside.

“Is it at your place?” when he nodded she continued “I’ll be there.” She opened the door “good night” she told him closing the door behind her.

Vincent sighed walking back to his house. He had a terrible feeling things were about to change and he didn’t like it.

***

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Divia looked around the dark living room relieved her parents weren’t anywhere in sight. The last thing she wanted to do was talk to them. They’d done enough talking already. She’d done enough nodding her head and pretending to agree.

She almost made it to her room when her mom came out of the bathroom. “Oh your home,” she gave her a genuine smile like she was happy to see her.

“I’m tired,” Divia muttered “I think I’ll call it a night.” She hoped that would forestall whatever else her mom thought they needed to talk about until tomorrow.

Glancing at the time Elyse frowned “it’s only 8 o’clock. I know your not that tired.” She knocked on her bedroom door “Liono she’s home.” Turning her attention back to her daughter “we need to talk.”

Groaning Divia followed her mom into the living room. Plopped onto the couch while her mom turned on the lights. “Aren’t you done destroying my life already?” she complained.

“Don’t talk to your mother like that” Liono commanded overhearing her comment as he came into the room.

“Yes dad,” she said even though she hadn’t thought her comment was that bad.

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“Good” he said turning to Elyse when she sat beside her on the couch “did you tell Vincent what we discussed?”

“You didn’t say I couldn’t?” she said as her heart beat sped up as panic took control. Was she in trouble for telling him? Was this why they wanted to talk to her? Could they have….

“We won’t change our minds if that’s what your thinking,” his voice was firm unyielding “you will be going to private school. This incident only confirms what we’ve known for a while. You need to learn to think for yourself.”

“I know your disappointed,” Elyse said her voice and eyes full of sympathetic understanding.

“Disappointed doesn’t begin to describe how I feel,” she pulled her knees up to her chin wishing she could be anywhere but there.

“This is not a punishment,” Liono told her his voice developing an irritated tone from having to repeat himself.

“You’re sending me away. How else am I supposed to take this?” she cried forgetting herself as her emotions took control.

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“Divia honey we’re worried about you,” Elyse tried to intercede before Liono lost all patience with the girl. Under the best of circumstances she knew Liono was volatile and unpredictable.

“It isn’t fair,” Divia cried “I want to stay here. I want to graduate with my friends. I want to…” she bit her lip hard before she could say anything else. She couldn’t believe she almost gave away her secret. Something she knew her dad couldn’t handle and wouldn’t accept. She would do whatever it took to keep him from finding out. “I’m sorry” she mumbled looking to towards the floor.

“Your mother will call the school on Monday and make all the arrangements,” he told her as if she hadn’t said a word “you’ll see this is for the best. You’re too dependent on your friends. You need to learn to think for yourself.”

“We know you’ll miss them,” Elyse smiled at her hoping to soften the blow “you’ll still be able to see your friends on the weekends and holidays.”

“It won’t be the same,” Divia could feel the tears welling behind her eyes. She blinked them back knowing her tears would only anger her father further. “Can I be excused now?” she asked sending a pleading look to her mom.

Liono nodded “good night,” he said his voice gruff but not unkind.

“Good night” she mumbled as she passed on her way to her room.

***

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Vincent gave Divia a firm hug when she came down the stairs to his humble abode. “I’m sorry” he said “my parents tried but ” he shrugged words failing him.

“I know my parents minds were made up and unbendable,” she looked around her surroundings “this isn’t what I was expecting.”

“Yeah welcome to my dungeon” he mimicked an evil laugh of a mad scientist.

A pang of regret hit her hard as she wondered why she had never come down here before. It looked warm and inviting if you didn’t mind the chemistry set, microscope and miscellaneous scientific clutter. He had a gaming area where she knew he played on-line with Ryan, Zach and sometimes Charity. Sighing she regretted always having her nose in a book studying. She should have done more with the group. Now it was too late. Dragging her mind back to the present she asked “when will the others arrive?”

“Any minute” he told her giving her another hug “have you told her yet how you feel?”

Shaking her head she sighed “what’s the point now when I’m not even going to be here?” she mumbled. Walking away to inspect his chemistry set “she doesn’t feel the same way about me, I know.”

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“How do you know if you haven’t asked her?” he asked following her his eyes kind “she could surprise you.”

“I doubt it,” she mumbled “you forget I know her secrets.”

“Just because she’s told you about some stupid crush doesn’t mean she doesn’t like you,” Vincent said “you have to tell her or you’ll always wonder what if.”

She was about to say something when Ryan and Hannah came down the stairs together. She was enveloped in a hug that took her breath away “your parents are so mean,”Hannah commiserated with her “my dad’s even called but they couldn’t reason with them.”

When Hannah became distracted with Vincent’s music collection Ryan stepped up to give her a hug and a peck on the cheek “I’m going to miss you.”

“Really?” she asked not sure how to take that declaration.

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“Of course I’ll miss you. We all will” Ryan assured her “who else will I be able to confide in?”

Ryan was the only other person other than Vincent who knew about her crush. She was sure she was the only person other than Hannah who knew about his crush on Charity. “You can always call or text me if you need to talk,” she told him.

“True. Don’t be surprised if I take you up on the offer,” he said before joining Vincent and Hannah in their argument over what music to listen to.

Feeling like an outsider in a group where she had always felt at ease Divia stood at the bottom of the stairs. She glanced up hoping to see Teasha come in. She half expected Teasha wouldn’t come since her brother had just gotten released from hospital. She was about to tell Vincent she was going home when the door opened and the object of her concerns started to come down the stairs towards her.

“Divia I’m so sorry,” Teasha said giving her a hug “your parents are the worst.”

“Tell me about it,” she sniffed enjoying having Teasha’s arms around her. She caught Ryan and Vincent smiling at her. Blushing she pulled away “so um,” she fumbled for words “how is Zach?”

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Teasha smiled sending a flurry of butterflies to flight in Divia’s stomach. She wished she had the courage to tell her how much she liked her. So immersed in her own thoughts she didn’t hear a word Teasha was saying about her brother. She knew it must have been good since everyone was smiling and laughing. She wondered if she ever revealed her secret if she would face the same treatment Zach had. Was she better off keeping that part of herself hidden? She plastered a fake smile on her face as she joined her friends. On the outside she knew she gave the appearance of having a good time while on the inside she was screaming. She was so alone even in a room full of people she knew loved her.

Chapter 7 – Bad Day Part 3 / Chapter 9 – Monday

Eddie – Chapter 21 – Life Goes On

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“Get up,” Gayle shook Trent’s shoulder as he snored in response “I’m counting to five. If you’re not up so help me…”

“What?” he moaned “I just got to sleep.” He had been on the road for the past month. The band had finally started booking larger gigs in bigger venues. All he wanted to do was sleep. If it weren’t for the baby’s due date he would still be on the road. Due date? The words started a panic in his sleep deprived brain. “Baby” he shouted falling to the floor in his hast to untangle himself from the blankets he stole from Gayle.

Laughing despite the pain Gayle shook her head at her husband. “Are you alright?” she asked peering at him from the bed.

“Do I look alright?” he grumbled pulling his legs free from the blanket that had persisted to wrap around him.

“Get dressed” she gritted her teeth as a sharp contraction took her breath away.

Heart pounding he stared in a mixture of horror and wonder at the pain etched across her face. This was what they had been looking forward to for months. Now it was here he found himself wondering if he was ready.

“Don’t just stand there,” she panted “this baby is going to be born in the hospital if I have to drive myself.”

Her half-joking words broke through his stunned inactivity. He grabbed the clothes he had tossed on the floor the night before too tired to put them in the hamper. Clean or not this was what he was wearing he thought as he scooped Gayle in to his arms.

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“I can walk,” she told him through gritted teeth.

Ignoring her he carried her from the house and laid her in the backseat of his car. With fresh eyes he saw the debris left behind by his band mates after spending hours on the road. He should have taken the time to clean it out before he went to bed he realized.

“Snap out of it Trent,” Gayle demanded as the contraction passed “the baby won’t care if there are cans and chocolate wrappers on the floor.”

“Right,” he gave her a sheepish grin before he ran back into the house for Gayle’s carefully prepared bag. With a feeling he was forgetting something he locked the door behind him. It wasn’t until he tossed the bag into the passenger seat that he remembered where he left his car keys. Growling he leaned his forehead on the steering wheel.

“What’s wrong?” Gayle demanded from the backseat.

“Nothing” he told her ” he heard the anxious fear in her voice. The pain too as another contraction hit her. Glancing into the rear view mirror he watched as she writhed in pain. He had to get her to the hospital.

Popping the dash open he found the wires he needed to start the car. Smiling he imagined his parents glaring at him in disapproval as he used the skill he had developed as a teenager to take the neighbors cars for a ride. He thanked his lucky stars that he had an older car that he could still do this on. Chuckling to himself when the car roared to life. “Hold on babe we’ll be at the hospital in a couple of minutes,” he said as the squealed as they hit the pavement.

A few hours later he watched as his son was born. With shaking hands he held onto Gayle’s hand as the nurse laid their son on her chest. “He’s beautiful,” she breathed looking up at Trent “just like his daddy.”

“More like his mom” he held a finger out smiling as his son’s tiny fists wrapped around it. “Mommy and Daddy love you” he cooed.

Introducing Ryan Milton:

***

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Elyse glanced at the soundly sleeping man next to her. Half tempted to push him from the bed. Instead she stumbled to her feet staggered through the dark room yawning as she entered her daughter’s room. “Hey princess mommy’s here,” she soothed picking up the crying toddler. “You stink,” she wrinkled her nose in distaste.

It was hard to imagine how much her life had changed in the last couple of years. She was a mother of a normally quiet little girl. Frowning Elyse put a hand to the little girls forehead “you’re so hot princess”. Quickly changing the girl’s dirty diaper she noticed the rash that seemed to be spreading across her daughters skin.

Alarm coursed through her, running into the bedroom where Liono lay sleeping “wake up,” she yelled at him.

Moaning he squinted up at her “what?” he demanded.

“Your daughter is sick,” she told him panic making her voice shake “she had a temperature and she won’t stop crying. Something’s wrong.”

To her stunned shock Liono laid back in the bed covering his eyes with his arm “she’s fine,” he told her dismissing her concerns.

“No she’s not fine,” she cried “I’m taking her the ER.”

“Whatever,” he turned over burying his face in the pillow “your making a mountain out of a mole hill.”

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“How can you be so cavalier when it comes to your daughter?” she screamed at him causing Divia to whimper louder in her arms. “Aw honey I’m sorry. Daddy’s being a butt.”

“Don’t go filling her head with that shit,” he scowled at her sitting up in bed “I love her as much as you do.” Holding his arms out to take his daughter.

Hesitating a moment Elyse deposited the toddler in his arms. She knew what she had said hurt him but she couldn’t help it sometimes. He infuriated her so much with his lack of interest in everything but music.

“She’s fine” he said repeated standing up. Divia’s eyes drooping half asleep in his arms “nothing to worry about like I said.”

“Just because she’s not crying doesn’t mean everything is ok,” Elyse said taking her daughter into her arms.

Shrugging Liono crawled back into bed “do what you want. It doesn’t take a genius to know she has chicken pox.”

“Chicken pox” she said inspecting the dot’s covering her daughter’s skin “how can you know that?”

“Easy she was playing with Vincent over the weekend right?” Liono asked in a bored disinterested voice.

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“Yeah” Elyse confirmed “what does that have to do with my daughter’s illness?”

“Milo told me at band practice that “Vincent has chicken pox and Divia would probably get it too.”

“And you didn’t think I needed to know that?” Elsye asked rolling her eyes at the man relieved that she at least knew what was wrong. “I’m still taking her to see a doctor though.”

“Good idea,” he mumbled slipping off to sleep again.

“Amazing,” Elyse mumbled staring at the lump under the covers. Turning to the little girl in her arms “your daddy’s a butt.”

“Butt,” the girl repeated giggling.

“That’s right sweetie,” Elyse laughed knowing Liono wasn’t going to be pleased with her when Divia referred to him as butt instead of daddy. What did he expect when he showed so little interest in her?

Pulling into the driveway the following afternoon Elyse was relieved the doctor confirmed Divia had nothing worse than a case of the chicken pox. Liono had been right. Getting Divia from the car seat Elyse wondered what kept her with him. It’s not like they were married or even engaged. That was one thing they both shared in common, their disdain for the marriage institution. She need a piece paper to validate her relationship with Liono. She did however need a hint that he wanted her around. Some interest would be nice. she missed the days when he would buy her flowers just because or whisking her off to some romantic holiday. Their relationship had been hot and new then. After Divia was born she almost felt discarded like a piece of garbage.

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Opening the door she gasped in surprise. Rose petals were scattered on the floor their scent filling the room wafting up her nasal passages. The soft sounds of classical music came from the speakers. Liono was leaning casually against the wall an expectant look in his eyes as he watched her with an intensity she had all but forgotten. “I’m sorry” he told her talking a step forward “I know I’m not the easiest person to be around. I wanted to tell you I’m sorry.”

Looking around the Elyse felt tears sting her eyes as she nodded “I love you.”
The took a step towards each other like some old black and white movie they loved to watch together. “Butt” Divia announced loudly pointing at Liono give her dad a toothy grin.

“What did she say?” Lion asked his attention diverted to the little girl in her mother’s arms.

Putting the girl down Elyse pulled Liono into a passionate embrace. As their mouths sought each other they heard Divia’s voice repeating “butt” as she happily tugged on Liono’s pant’s leg.

“Did you teach her to call me that?” he asked holding onto the woman in his arms.

“Not exactly” she admitted “she’s heard me say it a million times.” Looking down “I guess it kind of stuck.”

Bending to pick his daughter up Liono said “I guess I have been acting like one.”

Giggling Divia touched her daddy’s nose saying happily “butt,” in a clear high-pitched voice.

Introducing Divia Marx:

***

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“Milo come quick,” Jillian called from the living room.

Dropping the dishes he was washing he ran into the living room. Heart pounding in his chest. Milo came to a stop beside her breathing hard “what’s wrong?”

“You just missed it,” she informed him sadly.

“Missed what?” he demanded looking at her in concern.

“Our little boy taking his first step,” she told him.

Milo resisted the urge to say ‘is that all’. He knew a baby’s first step was monumental but he thought Vincent had fallen from the couch or something breaking his head open. He still had nightmares of bringing his son into the emergency room that one time when he rolled off the couch. To this day he didn’t know who was crying more Vincent or him and Jillian. Turning to his wife mumbled “is that a good thing? Him walking.”

“Of course it is,” Jillian looked at him sharply “what make you think otherwise?”

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Shrugging Milo sighed “as clumsy as he is I shudder to think how many ER visits we’ll be making in the future.”

“Only you would find something negative to worry about,” she pouted crossing her arms.

Putting an arm around her he drew her close “I’m sorry but we’ve already taken him to the emergency room four times and he hasn’t even learned to walk yet. Walking is only going to increase the odds that he’ll hurt himself.”

Sighing she leaned her head on his shoulder “we can’t wrap him in bubble wrap.”

“I wonder,” Milo’s voice trailed off as his eyes followed his son around the room. Vincent seemed to grope for the blocks that were scattered on the floor in front of him. He’d pick one up finger it as if trying to see it through his fingers. Than he lean in close to the holes he was trying to fit the blocks into.

“You wonder what?” Jillian asked concern lacing her words as she followed his gaze.

“It’s just,” he swallowed dreading what he was about to say “I don’t think he can see.”

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“Of course he can don’t be ridiculous,” she protested watching her son with a deepening frown “what are we going to do?”

Wrapping her tightly in his arms “first we’re not going to panic. Second we’re going to take him in to see the doctor. Get his vision checked. It could be nothing’s wrong. He could just be clumsy.” His arms tightened around her “I’d feel better if we knew what’s going on.”

“You’re right,” she murmured kissing his neck “it’s just scary to think something’s wrong and we’ve missed it.”

“I know,” he said soothingly kissing her hairline “do you want me to make the appointment?”

“No I’ll do it,” she told him “I know you’re busy with rehearsals and stuff.”

“That’s all secondary to you and Vinny,” he told her.

Giving him a hint of a smile she squeezed his hand “good I’ll expect you to hold my hand during the appointment.”

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“I’ll be there every step of the way,” he assured her.

A week later they sat waiting for the doctor to discuss their son’s vision. They clinched each other’s hands as the Optometrist sat their son down on the floor next to an activity table. “Mr and Mrs Rake I’m Dr Hauser,” he held his hand out to them.

Taking it Milo murmured “it nice to meet you. How is our son?” he asked getting to the point.

Steepling his fingers the doctor observed the young parents sitting anxiously in front of him. “Your son has lost 40% of his vision. This would probably account for his lack of coordination.”

“So he needs glasses” Jillian asked watching her son playing on the floor.

“He will but I’m concerned with further degeneration of his eye sight,” the doctor gave Milo a pointed look “this degeneration could lead to blindness if we don’t do something about it.”

“Um” Milo licked his lips feeling light-headed and nauseous at the thought “what do you suggest we do?”

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“There’s a procedure we can do that could stop the degeneration from worsening. Saving what’s left of your son’s vision. Glasses would be able to correct the rest. Letting him lead a fairly normal life.” He went on to explain the details of the surgery, after care and possible side effects.

Stunned Milo and Jillian nodded as their eyes strayed to their little boy babbling happily to himself on the floor. Turning restlessly in her chair Jillian announced “I want a second opinion.”

“By all means Mrs Rake,” the doctor agreed “just don’t wait too long. Once his vision loss goes to 50% it becomes harder to stop the process.”

A month later they sat in their living room “we’ve seen five different specialists” Milo began cautiously “they’ve all told us the same thing.”

“I know,” she sighed “I’ll call Dr Hauser and set up the surgery.”

Squeezing her tight Milo listened to her breath in the near silent room “he’s going to be alright.”

“I know,” she agreed wishing it were possible to say something enough to make it come true.

Introducing Vincent Rake:

***

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“We need a bigger place,” Ramsey said closing the door to the kids room.

Taking his eyes from the view he loved Bruce sighed nodding in agreement. “I’ll start looking” he said despite the lack of enthusiasm in his voice.

“You don’t have to right this minute,” Ramsey said grabbing his husband’s arm and pulling him back to the couch “I know you like this place; especially the view.”

Nodding Bruce slipped his arms around Ramsey’s neck. His eyes fixed on the waterfall outside their window “do you think we could take it with us?”

“I could paint it for you,” Ramsey offered.

Rolling his eyes Bruce chuckled a little “you can’t paint.”

“Then I’ll ask your dad to paint a mural of it on our wall when find a place,” Ramsey told him without a trace of joking in his voice.

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“You really want to move don’t you?” Bruce asked staring into his husband’s eyes.

“It’s not that I want to,” Ramsey leaned forward to kiss Bruce softly on the lips “I hate the idea of packing all of our stuff up. My back aches just thinking about it.”

“Hey,” Bruce protested “you make it sound like I wouldn’t help.”

“Sorry babe,” Ramsey said contritely “I know you’ll help. I just mean I really hate moving. I kinda of gotten settled here.”

“Well we can always ask the others to help us. I know Eddie and Rory would help,” Bruce said.

“Maybe Gayle would be available to babysit all the kids too,” Ramsey nodded a mischievous glint in his eyes.

“Ramsey I know what you’re thinking,” Bruce said sliding from his lap.

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“What am I thinking?” Ramsey lifted an eyebrow challenging him.

“You’re playing matchmaker,” Bruce said sidestepping Ramsey’s attempts to pull him back onto his lap.

“There’s no harm in pointing them in the right direction,” he smiled “who knows maybe our kids will unite us all in one big happy family.”

“You’re an idiot,” Bruce laughed letting him wrestle him to the floor.

“Here I was thinking I was being romantic,” he leaned down pinning Bruce to the floor while Bruce tried to wriggle out from beneath “hey what do you think going?” he demanded after his attempted kiss landed on Bruce’s nose.

“Let me up,” Bruce pleaded sweating dotting his forehead “I don’t feel so good.”

Before Ramsey could react two little bundles of energy came flying at them. One landed on Ramsey’s back the other squarely on Bruce’s stomach making him go even paler than he was before. Scooping up both kids, one in each arm Ramsey watched as Bruce made a beeline to the bathroom. “Is daddy ok?” two little voices asked in unison.

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Staring transfixed at the closed bathroom door Ramsey had a sudden idea come to mind. Putting the twins down he took a step towards the door when it opened he asked “are you alright?”

“Yeah” came the shaky reply. Bruce looked outside towards the waterfall before saying “when we move we’ll need a place with at least 4 or 5 bedrooms.”

“Why so many?”

“Well you said next time it was my turn…” Bruce swallowed “I know we didn’t plan on having another baby so soon.”

“You’re pregnant,” Ramsey stepped forward gathering Bruce into his arms. Bruce nodded against his chest melting into his arms. “That’s why you weren’t more upset about moving.” Things started to fall into place like his unusual cravings, the increased appetite, the sudden vomiting. “I guess I get to experience the pregnancy from the other side this time.”

“You’re not mad?” Bruce asked looking up at him.

“Of course not,” Ramsey assured him. Turning to the kids who were not watching cartoons “guess what guys? You’re going to have a little brother or sister.”

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They looked at each other before the girl grinned asking “why?”

“Because your daddy is pregnant,” Ramsey told her.

He watched her blues eyes narrow in thought but it was her brother who asked “how?”

Chuckling under his breath Bruce said “that’s all yours.”

“Thanks a lot,” he mumbled “your dads love each other and that love made a baby.”

The twins looked at each other giggling as they got off the couch. Approaching their parents they demanded “we want to see the baby.”

Kneeling in front of them Bruce said “you have to wait until the baby’s finished growing inside my tummy before you can see them.”

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“Did we grow in there too?” came the next unexpected question.

“You sure did. Right here,” Ramsey rubbed his stomach.

Shaking her head “-” we’re too big.”

“You were a lot smaller than” Ramsey told her. They looked at each shrugged walking off already losing interest in something they didn’t understand.

When they were alone again Ramsey turned to Bruce “you said them, why?”

“Um” his hand absently rubbing his stomach “um the doctor said he heard multiple heart beats.”

“Multiple?” he asked feeling faint “twins?”

“If we’re lucky,” Bruce sighed “it could be triplets maybe even quads. I won’t know until my next appointment.”

Quads Ramsey could feel the blood rushing to his ears “we’re both getting fixed after this.”

Introducing Teasha and Zacheriah Ferris:

***

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Henry and Ria ran into the house stopping long enough to give their dad a quick hug before running to see their little sister. “I take it your parents are here,” Rory stated looking up from the computer here he was working on the lyrics for the bands new songs.

“I would assume so since the twins are here,” Eddie went to the door to find his parents unlocking their trunk “what’s all this?” he asked somewhat dismayed.

“Just some stuff for Hannah,” his mom replied standing up to give him a hug.

“Mostly stuff Ria has out grown,” Casey added.

Looking into the trunk Eddie said “most of this stuff is brand new dad.” Shaking his head “please don’t tell me you bought all this stuff. Hannah has more than she needs now.”

“It’s a grandparents prerogative to spoil their grandchildren,” Lynn told him.

“Yes but,” he turned pleading eyes on his dad “what about the twins? Aren’t they going to get jealous of all the attention their sister gets?”

“Not at all dear,” Lynn said unperturbed.

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Casey shook his head “son don’t argue with your mom. I’ve learned a long time ago it doesn’t pay.”

They lingered outside until Lynn went inside with multiple packages. “Dad this has to stop. I don’t want the twins becoming jealous of their sister. It’s bad enough they can’t live with us.”

“They’re not being deprived,” Casey assured him “once Lynn accepted them they’ve become as much hers as you did.”

“I just wish…”

“I know son but we both know why it isn’t possible. Amber’s lawyer’s will never let it happen. At least this way you still get to see them and be part of their lives. If they went to Amber’s parents we’d never see them.” Casey pulled his son close “I promise we’re doing all we can for them.”

“I know dad I’ve never doubted it. It’s just sometimes I feel like I’m being punished for what wasn’t even my fault.” Shaking his head he tried to push his feelings aside “if this is what I can expect on a random visit what will Christmas be like?”

“I’ll talk to her I promise,” Casey assured him.

“Dad let’s be honest here,” Eddie gave him a severe look “mom isn’t the only culprit here.”

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Cheeks flaming red Casey shook his head “no she’s not. Are you and Rory going to have anymore?”

A sad far way look overshadowed Eddie’s happiness “I don’t think so dad. The doctor’s warned me against having anymore children. Hannah was a difficult pregnancy and we’re lucky to have her. Any other pregnancies would be extremely high risk for both me and the baby. I won’t put Rory through that.”

“What about Rory? It doesn’t have to be you,” Casey suggested concern lacing his words.

Shaking his head Eddie replied “Rory can’t have kids dad. He doesn’t have the right equipment.”

“If you need money for the procedure I’ll be happy to loan it to you,” Casey offered.

“No dad. We considered it but the risks are to high,” Eddie looked towards the house then back at his dad “I appreciate the offer. We have Hannah and that’s all we need.”

After his parents left that evening Rory sat on the floor playing with Hannah “I think she’s going to be a musical prodigy. Listen to her play. She’s already picking out her own melody.”

“I think you’re biased,” Eddie told him with a smile.

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“I am but she’s my little girl,” Rory lifted into the air “she’s perfect just the way she is.”

Following Rory into Hannah’s room Eddie watched his husband put their daughter to bed.

“Good night princess,” they told her together before turning off the light.

Slipping his arms around Eddie “I suppose you’re parents brought up kids again?” Rory asked.

“They did,” Eddie sighed.

“If you want i could have the surgery,” Rory offered as they sat on the couch together “I know how much you’d like to have more kids.”

Shaking his head Eddie nuzzled his nose into Rory’s warm neck “I don’t need more kids. I have you and Hannah.”

“Are you sure?” Rory felt him nod against his chest “you know I’d do anything for you.”

“I know that. It’s still no reason for me to expect you too though” Eddie reached up stroking Rory’s hair “you know I like your hair like this.”

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“Are you saying you didn’t like my signature hat?” Rory asked in mock seriousness.

“I didn’t say that,” he protested knowing Rory was only teasing him.

“I was thinking we need a vacation a honeymoon….”

“A honeymoon?” Eddie said in surprise “we’ve been married for three years it’s a little late.”

“It’s never too late,” Rory said rolling him over onto the couch “I found the perfect resort. It even has a daycare we can take Hannah to.”

“It’s not much of a honeymoon if we’re taking the kid,” Eddie mumbled against Rory’s mouth.

“Shush,” Rory said kissing him “she’s the reason we didn’t go on a honeymoon in the first place. As I recall you barely got through the ceremony without getting sick.”

“Don’t remind me,” Eddie groaned “that’s what I get for not waiting until the wedding night.”

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“What can I say I’m irresistible,” Rory looked into his dark brown eyes and smiled “I really would do anything for you.”

“I know,” Eddie told him pulling him on top of him “I’d love to go to this resort with you.”

“Great,” Rory said moving to button Eddie’s shirt “first I think a little practice is in order.”

“You’re incorrigible” Eddie gasped a Rory’s hand slid inside his shirt caressing his skin.

“You love me anyway,” Rory said removing Eddie’s shirt and sliding his hand towards his waist.

“I’ll love you for always,” Eddie confirmed seeking Rory’s mouth sealing his words with a kiss.

Introducing Hannah Bennett:

 I’ll be opening up a request for sims to pair up with the next generation of kids so stay tuned for more information.

Chapter 20 – Three Little Words / Hannah – Chapter 1 – Honeymoon Part 1

Eddie – Chapter 20 -Three Little Words

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“Aren’t you moving a little fast?” Rory grumbled following Gayle into the kitchen.

“Don’t go all big brother on me,” she chided.

“He can’t help it,” Eddie smiled up at Rory as he handed him the dirty dishes “it’s just who he is.”

“You make it sound like a bad thing,” Rory muttered taking the dishes while his eyes followed Eddie.

Giving Gayle a hug Eddie said “congratulations. I’m so happy for you.” Turning to Rory he reached up to stroke his face “it’s not a bad thing. It’s one of the things I love about you.” He turned before Rory could respond or become uncomfortable.

Rory stared into the sink listening to the sound of Eddie’s laughter as Gayle instructed him to join Trent in the living room while she did the dishes. “You can join them,” she offered once Eddie had left the room.

Shaking his head Rory smiled at her “no I want to help…” He fell silent letting his hands soak in the hot dish water.

“Is something wrong?” Gayle asked as he stood there oblivious for several minutes.

Shaking his head as if waking from a daze “how do you know Trent’s the one?”

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“I love him,” she replied saying the three words Rory was so scared of with so much conviction that Rory envied her. Turning to face him she smiled “Rory I understand more then most why it’s so hard for you tell Eddie you love him. Your parents taught you to distrust love and those who said it.” Sighing she pushed him from the sink “I’m not my mother and neither are you. We can choose to be whoever and whatever we want. I choose to let Trent into my life. I know I might get hurt.” Looking up at him “I refuse to let that keep me from losing out on something wonderful.” She washed a few dishes while Rory stood there watching her deep in thought. “When Trent walks into the room my heart skips a beat and when he’s gone it’s like someone has taken the sun. I don’t know how to describe it but it’s something I don’t want to live without.”

“It’s like he chose me,” Rory mumbled in a low gravelly voice raw with emotion “from the moment I met him I knew he was different from anyone else I had dated before.” Laughter from the other room drifted to them “that’s the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard.” Rory glanced at the floor feeling self-conscious something he hadn’t felt in a long time.

“You love him don’t you?” Gayle asked keeping her voice low and her eyes on the dish she was washing. As his silence lengthened she glanced up seeing him staring into space, cheeks a rosy pink. “Tell him” she squeezed his hand “don’t let your parent’s mistakes become yours. You’re better than that.”

***

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Bruce went to retrieve Ramsey’s wallet from the dresser to pay the pizza delivery guy. He was about to put it back when a small picture caught his eye. Pulling it out he felt his lungs tighten as he tried to breathe.

“Honey did you get the…” Ramsey’s voice drifted away catching sight of the picture Bruce was holding.

“Where did you get this?” he asked eyes riveted to the blond in the picture.

“We’ll talk about this later,” Ramsey told him taking the money from Bruce’s tightly clenched hand.

Bruce heard Ramsey as if from a long distance. His attention glued to the photo. The boy in the photo had been all smiles, eyes sparkling, happy. It had been so long since Bruce had felt as carefree as the person in the picture was. Was that why Ramsey carried that picture? A tear trickled down his cheek unnoticed. He jumped when a gentle touch wiped the tear away and he looked into the concerned eyes of the man he was living with. The man who had quickly become the center of his universe. Bruce turned away from him unable to bear him looking at him. He knew he wasn’t what Ramsey wanted or needed. All he was really was a burden with all his neediness.

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“Don’t do this,” Ramsey spoke softly trying to cover over the hurt he felt at Bruce’s rejection “don’t shut me out.”

“I’m not,” Bruce cried his voice loud almost angry. Sighing he ran a hand through is hair “at least I don’t want to.” He wiped at his eyes in an attempt to cover up the tears. The picture slipping from his fingers drifting to the floor.

Bending Ramsey retrieved the picture and replaced the photo in his wallet. “The pizza is getting cold,” he put a hand on the blonde’s shoulder “let’s go eat.”

Sniffling Bruce followed Ramsey into the kitchen. The pizza sitting on the counter waiting for them “you must be tired of always having to cater to me,” Bruce observed the undertone of anger still in his voice.

“Never” Ramsey replied taking Bruce’s hands leading him to the couch the pizza forgotten. “I want to take care of you. I want to be here for you when you’re having a difficult time coping with things. I want to be here for you, to help you even if that means I order pizza so that you having something to eat. Lord knows I can’t cook.” That last part brought a temporary smile to Bruce’s face.

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“What about you?” Bruce asked gazing into Ramsey’s eyes “I know you want more than I can give.” Bruce moved to get up gazing out the window towards the breath-taking view outside their apartment window. It was one of the things that drew him to this apartment when he and Ramsey were looking for a place together.

“What do you think I want from you?” Ramsey asked gently redirecting Bruce’s gaze back to him.

“I don’t…” he closed his eyes unable to take the look of concern in Ramsey’s eyes. Taking a deep breath he wanted nothing more than to pretend he didn’t know what Ramsey wanted. “To be a fully functioning adult,” he blurted holding his breath expecting Ramsey to offer some sort of argument disagreeing with him.

To his chagrin he found himself being drawn into a hug. Ramsey’s arms felt warm and safe around him. Several minutes passed in silence while they listened to each other breathe. Bruce’s breath tickled the sensitive skin along Ramsey’s neck moving his hair. “Do you really want to know what I want?” Ramsey asked the man he cradled in his arms.

Nodding Bruce pulled back swallowing the lump in his throat giving Ramsey a look like he was about to face a firing squad. “I” he began as his throat tightened choking him. This was it. Ramsey was going to break up with him. Move on with his life with someone who didn’t need so much.

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Stroking the blonde’s hair Ramsey gently pulled him close tenderly kissing his lips hoping his actions would be evidence enough that he meant what he was about to say. He pulled back when Bruce emitted a high-pitched mewling sound. He wanted nothing more than to hold the man he loved until all of his fears melted away. To kiss the bad dreams away. To snuggle with him until he was assured of his love for him. Abruptly Ramsey took his wallet out. Fished around for the picture that started all of this. Holding it out so that Bruce could see it “this is what I want.” The picture shook in his trembling fingers. His voice vibrated with all the repressed emotions pent-up inside him.

Bruce’s eyes were riveted to the picture Ramsey was holding. A young blonde. All smiles. Bruce couldn’t remember the last time he smiled like that. Moving his eyes from the picture he found Ramsey staring at him intensely. “I don’t,” licking his lips afraid of what Ramsey was going to say to him “I don’t understand.”

“This” indicating the picture he was carefully returning to his wallet “is what I want. I want to see you smile again. I want to see your eyes sparkle like they were in this picture. To hear you laugh.” Holding his partner’s face lovingly between his palms “I want to see you happy.” This time when he moved to kiss him he was met with the same fervor he had. The same need and desire.

Pulling apart breathing hard Ramsey gasped “I love you.” He noticed the flicker of doubt in the blue eyes he adored. Pulling Bruce close “I know you don’t believe me yet I can see it in your eyes. I’ve hurt you. I know that.” Kissing his hairline his voice low  and soft “I promise I’m going to prove this is real. I’m not going anywhere.” Stroking the blonde’s hair Ramsey sighed “this is where I belong. Right here with you by your side.”

Bruce felt like he could melt into the warm embrace of the man he adored and lost his heart to him for the second time. The month’s leading up to this moment already forgotten, a thing of the past “I love you. I’ve always loved you,” he murmured finding himself saying the words he thought he’d never be able to say again.

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“I don’t need you to say it,” Ramsey said brushing Bruce’s hair back “I haven’t earned it yet.”

“You don’t have to earn it when it’s freely given,” Bruce asserted snuggling into Ramsey’s arms “I love you and I’m sorry I didn’t say it sooner.”

Ramsey sighed peppering tender kisses all over Bruce’s face “there’s no need to apologize.”

Smiling up at his lover Bruce’s eyes held a hint of a sparkle “dad’s going to want that picture back. It’s one of his favorites of me.”

Shaking his head Ramsey chuckled a little “it’s ok he gave it to me.”

***

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Elyse gave Liono a piercing look “what are we doing here?” she asked the question as soon as she stood up from the taxi.

Liono smiled like the cat who ate the canary “do you remember what we discussed?” he asked taking her hand.

She took his hand, eyes shifting from his exuberant face to the house they were standing in front of. “You better not have done what I think you did.”

“What do you think I did?” he asked keeping his eyes fixed on hers.

“If I remember correctly I told you I’d consider living with you if you had a place of your own,” gesturing towards the house “I didn’t mean for you to go out and buy house.” Giving him a penetrating stare she asked “did you buy this house?”

“I did,” pulling on her hand he dragged her forward up the driveway and into the house. “Wait until you see the inside. You’ll love it.”

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Rolling her eyes she let him drag her into the house. It had the open floor plan she liked even if it were a little small. He turned to her expectantly when he had shown her everything. “Its nice” she admitted.

“What do you mean its nice?” he demanded “it’s better than nice.”

She could tell she had bruised his ego but she couldn’t just change her opinion because he wanted her to. Sighing she crossed her arms “the bedrooms are too small.”

“It’s a starter home,” he crossed his arms a wounded expression upon his face.

Touching his arm lightly she smiled up at him “you did ask what I thought of it. I’m telling you. It’s not what I imagined our first house would be like.”

“You did say you’d live with me if I had my own place,” his tone stubborn unreasonable.

Shaking her head laughing “I meant a place without Milo or Jillian. I didn’t think you’d go and buy house without me.”

“Does that mean you like it?” he asked his voice less resentful more hopeful.

“It’ll do,” she told him as he drew her close.

“Does that mean you’ll move in with me?” he asked his voice husky with desire.

“Yes” she smirked pressing her body into his as his lips crushed hers with desire. Separating for a moment she said “next time we buy a house we do it together.”

“Deal” he murmured leading her into the bedroom.

***

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Jillian cuddled into Milo on the couch “this is nice” she kissed his neck “we can do whatever we want whenever we want.”

“Mmm hmm” he said somewhat distracted eyes glued to the TV screen.

“You’re not even paying attention to me” she pointed scooting to the other end of the couch.

“What?” he asked tearing his eyes away from the screen “I’m sorry did you want something?”

Reaching for the remote she turned the TV off. She eyed him a moment half daring him to turn it on again. To her relief he didn’t. He only smiled at her as he closed the gap between them “you were saying something about being able to do whatever whenever we want, right?”

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She nodded as he leaned over her capturing her mouth with his in a passionate kiss that would have brought stars to anyone less grounded in reality than she was. As his lips continued to work their magic on her she ran her hands down his back letting her fingers linger on his waist slipping under his shirt. She felt his hands slide down her body to rest on her hips. Moaning she wanted this but she didn’t want to be distracted from what she needed to tell him. She put her hands up to his chest pushing him away from her.

“Hey what’s the big deal?” he asked running a hand through is long hair, confusion written all over his face. “I thought…” frowning he got up from the couch ” never mind it doesn’t matter.”

“Milo please come back” she entreated him.

It was on the tip of his tongue to demand why he should. He was so tired of her mood swings. One minute she was hot the next she was cold. One minute he couldn’t keep her hands off him the next she was pushing him away. Sighing he walked slowly back towards the couch “alright I’m here. Now what?” he couldn’t keep the irritation from his voice.

“I’m sorry” she gave him a contrite tearful look “I know I’m all over the place emotionally lately.” Taking a deep breath before continuing ” there’s something I need to tell you.”

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He gave her a sullen stare while a hundred different scenarios played out in his head all ending with her breaking up with him.

Biting her lip she blurted “I’m pregnant.” She looked down at her hands clasped tightly in her lap.

“What?” he gasped as if he didn’t understand what she just said as if maybe she was speaking another language.

“I’m pregnant,” she repeated.

The silence lingered between them. Unsure what he should do or say he reached for her hand “I guess we better start house hunting.”

“I guess we should,” she squeezed his hand a small smile playing across her lips.

***

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“Come on let’s go for a walk,” Rory suggested getting up from the blanket.

Groaning Eddie resisted his efforts to get him to move “I’m comfortable right here.”

“Come on you won’t regret it,” Rory held is hand out “please” he begged looking towards the horizon hoping he was timing this right.

Gazing up at Ramsey’s outstretched hand Eddie took it “alright you win.”

Smirking Rory put an arm around him as they began to walk along the shoreline. The sky turning colors as the sun began its slow descent in the sky. Stopping Rory turned to him the light casting a warm glow in his eyes. He reached a hand out to stroke Eddie’s cheek smiling when the blonde leaned into his caress. “I…I love you so much.” Rory gasped aloud shocking both of them with his admission. “You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to say those words to you.”

“Rory you don’t have to…” Eddie began unable to disguise the smile spreading across his face in delight.

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“Shh I want to say this,” Rory broke in his voice deep with emotion “I should have said this a long time ago I let fear get in the way. For the longest time I thought love was a dirty word. A word used to manipulate people. A word used to inflict pain on others.” He took a deep breath “I realize now I’ve been running. Running away because I was afraid of getting hurt.” He knelt on one knee “you taught me what love is. What it can and should be. I don’t want to live my life without knowing love or having you by my side.” He took out a ring. Holding it up to Eddie’s stunned delight “will you marry me even though I might not say I love you as often as I should.” He slipped the ring on Eddie’s outstretched hand “I promise you that I will never stop trying to show you everyday we’re lucky enough to spend together, to the end of time how much I love you.”

“Yes, yes, yes I’ll marry you a thousand times over,” Eddie jumped into Rory’s arms wrapping his arms around him “you don’t have to tell me you love me when I can see it in your eyes. I feel it in the way you always make me feel safe. The endless hours you’ve spent on my couch just so I could sleep when you got none yourself. You’ve shown me there are more ways to say I love than merely saying the words.” Their mouth’s crashed together sealing their love in a hot sensuous kiss that left them both breathless. “Let’s go home,” Eddie suggested leaning against Rory “I need you tonight.”

Looking deep into the depths of Eddie’s brown eyes. He could sink within their depths and be happy “are you sure?” he asked cradling Eddie’s face between his hands.

“I’m positive” he turned placing a soft kiss on the inside of Rory’s hand “I want this. You.”

“Alright,” Rory nodded gently embracing him peppering Eddie’s face with soft tender kisses “let’s go home.”

Chapter 19 – Aftermath / Chapter 21 – Life Goes On

Eddie – Chapter 19 – Aftermath

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Amber crossed her legs hiking her skirt up a little higher. Catching the young blonde police officer’s leering gaze she smirked. “Like what you see?” she purred.

Clearing his throat loudly in the bare gray interrogation room he averted his eyes. She gave him an admiring wink leaning over the table “do I look like the kind of girl who needs to drug someone to sleep with them?”

Dumbly he shook his head mesmerized by her light innocent blue eyes. She ran her tongue along her lower lip as she kicked one shoe off. Moving for foot underneath the table until it nudged the officers knee “you and I could have a little fun while we wait…”

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“Err,” he swallowed watching her as if he had suddenly become a trapped frightened antelope facing a hungry lioness. He jumped as the door banged open and his partner joined them.

Looking from his skittish partner to the doe eyed girl the older man had no doubts what was happening. Jerking his head towards the door he barked “out.”

His young partner looked like he wanted to say something but visibly changed his mind slinking from the room. Once the door closed with a resounding thud behind him the older man glared down at the young woman in front of him. She reminded him of a slow loris he once read about, cute but deadly.

***

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Elyse attempted a smile to comfort her best friend since kindergarten. No matter what she came up with she couldn’t disguise her own bewilderment over what had happened. How had they been so blind?

“What did we miss?” Jillian asked as if picking up on her friends thoughts “we were best friends since we were five. The three musketeers. Why didn’t we see what kind of monster she had become?”

“I keep asking myself the same thing,” Elyse shook her head. She couldn’t help but wonder how things could have been different if they had been more observant. Maybe they could have gotten her help before things had gotten so bad.

“She was different since she went to college….” Jillian sighed getting up to pace around the room “if we had only done something when we noticed the change. If we had maybe Bruce wouldn’t have been hurt.”

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“It’s not our fault,” Elyse told her “we couldn’t have known what she was doing.”

Shivering Jillian turned sorrowful eyes on her friend “I know. It’s just … I can’t help but think of all the things that bothered us about her behavior and we glossed over it. Found excuses for it.”

“I know,” the dark-haired girl agreed “it’s always easy to look back and see all the things we missed. We can’t beat ourselves up over it. She was good at covering up her tracks.”

“I know we couldn’t have known,” Jillian wiped at her eyes sniffling a little “I just can’t get the image of all those guys out of my head.”

“Neither can I,” Elyse whispered hoping Liono and Milo would come soon.

***

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“Do you think it’s a good idea leaving him alone like this?” Milo asked glancing back at Bruce who was staring out the window. “It’s only been a couple of weeks since…” his voice faded unable to verbalize what almost happened right in their own apartment.

“He’s a big boy,” Liono shrugged “he doesn’t need us babysitting.”

“I know,” Milo sighed uncertain what to do. If he hadn’t agreed to the double date with Liono that night it could have been him in Bruce’s place. All he had to do was look in the mirror to confirm he fit Amber’s type. The news had been filled with pictures of all the other guys that had fallen victim to her wiles, at least the ones that had come forward. It made his stomach turn to think about it.

“It’s not your fault,” his friend told him his voice sounding harsh in his ear.

“Don’t you think I know that?” Milo growled jerking away from him. Sometimes Liono’s insensitivity got to him “have a heart he’s our friend.”

Putting his hands up “I’m sorry” Liono apologized “you know how I hate situations like this.”

“Yeah I know,” Milo sighed his friend would never change. Liono wanted to fix things and if he couldn’t fix it he ignored it. “I think we should stay…”

“Guys you know I can hear you right?” Bruce called from the window “just go. I’ll be alright.”

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“Are you sure?” Milo insisted knowing if he were Bruce he’d never want to be alone again.

“I’m sure,” Bruce tried to keep the fear he felt from making his voice quiver “I have to be alone sometime.”

“You heard him,” Liono said grabbing his arm and pulling him from the apartment.

“I don’t think he should be alone,” Milo yanked his arm away “it’s too soon.”

“Which is why I took the liberty of calling Ramsey,” Liono told him chuckling at the irritated shocked look Milo was giving him “I may be an insensitive ass but I do have a heart. He’s my friend too.”

“Shouldn’t we at least wait until Ramsey gets here?” Milo asked relieved that Liono had thought ahead and asked Ramsey to come over. Sometimes he forgot the guy could be relied upon in a pinch. He’d never leave a friend in need.

Leading Milo to the elevator “five, ten minutes tops. Bruce will be ok in that amount of time. He does need to learn to be alone.”

“I guess,” Milo sighed as he got into the elevator still feeling like he was abandoning his friend.

***

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The silence of the apartment became oppressive falling around him like a thick blanket. He hated this room as his mind conjured up half formed images of half remembered events. Turning from the window shivering from more than the chill in the room.

Turning his back on the view of the city behind him. He walked shakily to his room. All he wanted to do was curl up in a hole somewhere and cry. Maybe if he cried enough tears the pain would go away.

The sudden loud knock on the door sent his heart racing at a break neck pace. His mind jumping back in time to that fateful night he had opened the door to find Amber smiling up at him. Another knock had him scurrying into his room and squeezing himself into a tight ball on the floor. Covering his ears muttering “please go away. Please please go away.”

Using the key Liono had given him Ramsey let himself in when no one came to let him in. “Bruce” he called opening the door. Silence greeted him. Standing inside the kitchen he heard muffled sounds that seemed to be coming from a room off the living room. Going in that direction Ramsey kept his eyes open calling Bruce’s name as he entered the room. He stood listening to the cries that coalesced into tangible words.

“Go away,” Bruce mumbled over and over. His hands covering his ears as he rocked back and forth on the floor.

Dropping to his knees Ramsey sat awkwardly on the floor unsure what he should say or do. Mentally kicking himself for his oversight. He should have called first. Warned Bruce that he was coming over. He hadn’t meant to frighten him. “Bruce” he said his voice coming out in a low hoarse whisper.

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At the sound of his voice Bruce lowered his hands looking up “I don’t want to be here anymore.”

“Alright,” Ramsey said “we can go some place else.” He moved to get up wondering where they could go. A movie. A restaurant.

Grabbing Ramsey’s hand the blonde shook his head “please I…I don’t like it here. I want…I want….”

“What do you want?” Ramsey asked settling back down on the floor “we’ll do whatever you want.”

Bruce looked into the concerned eyes of his ex. With a small sigh he looked down at his hands in his lap. “I want to go home,” he murmured. Home where his siblings would welcome him back no questions asked. Home where his dad would tell him everything would be ok. He could rely upon his family to be there for him no matter what. He didn’t have that here. Ramsey had saved him that night but he didn’t want him. The only person he had was Eddie and Eddie had his own problems to deal with. He couldn’t dump all of this on him. “I have no one,” he whispered tears streaming down his cheeks.

“That’s not true,” Ramsey insisted moving closer to him “you have your friends, Eddie and” he swallowed afraid of the admission that almost slipped from his lips.

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“I don’t have you” Bruce cried too over wrought to keep his feelings in check. “It hurts too much to see you and know that you don’t want me. To know that I’ll always be eclipsed by Eddie. I can’t do it anymore. It tears me up inside. I just want to go home. Pick up the remnants of my sorry life.”

Ramsey stumbled to his feet feeling as if he had been sucker punched in the gut. Leaning against the wall he closed his eyes grimacing as if he were in physical pain. “You can’t go,” he pounded his fist into the wall “not now. Not when I’ve finally figured out what I want.” He turned to Bruce kneeling beside him he gently cupped the blonde’s face between his hands “I want you.” Licking his lips he peered into the other man’s blue eyes “I know I don’t deserve it but I’m asking no I’m begging for a second chance.”

Bruce wanted to melt into Ramsey’s arms and become lost in his concerned adoring eyes. This was everything he wanted yet it didn’t seem enough. “What about Eddie?” His mouth spoke the words aloud even though he didn’t want to know the answer. The answer that would make or break him “I can’t go through this again…I just can’t.”

Taking a deep breath Ramsey found himself saying “Eddie has Rory. I’ve known that for a long time. I didn’t want to accept it.” He leaned in closer until his lips brushed against the blonde’s. He inhaled deeply filling his senses with the man’s scent. “I love you.”

Before their lips connected Bruce pulled away looking deep into Ramsey’s eyes. He wanted to believe him. He wanted to be swept up in the moment. What was life without a little risk? He thought as he leaned forward allowing Ramsey to finish the kiss he started. He’d take that risk.

***

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Rory stretched trying to relieve the tight muscles in his neck and back. Eddie glanced over at him than just as quickly away. This had been going on for the past couple of weeks. Rory hung his head rubbing the back of his neck. The silence between them was growing insurmountable.

Sighing Rory broke the silence “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” He turned pleading eyes toward Eddie sitting on the other side of the couch. “Why can’t I say what you need me to say?”

Shaking his head Eddie got to his feet walking in circles like a restless animal. “What do you think I want you to say?”

“To say I love you,” Rory said his eyes fixed on Eddie as he paced.

“It doesn’t matter,” he muttered hugging his arms around himself.

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“It does,” Rory insisted “I’m sorry I’m defective. All my life my parents said they loved each other. I believed them. Then all these years later I find out I have a sister I never knew. All the times they said they loved each other were lies. They lied to me. Claiming they loved me. Saying they gave my sister away to protect me.”

Moving away from the window Eddie knelt beside Rory “that wasn’t love.” Reaching up he brushed back Rory’s hair loose now that he wasn’t wearing his hat.

“I don’t know what love is,” Rory mumbled staring at his feet refusing to look at Eddie.

“You do,” Eddie told him “you just don’t know it.” Crawling into Rory’s lap Eddie continued “you’ve been there for me and continue to be there me. I don’t know many people who would be that patient.”

“I even sleep on your lumpy old couch that’s too short for me,” Rory attempted to joke. He couldn’t believe this gentle timid man was still willing to put up with him. To put his heart on the line for him “I don’t ever want to be without you.” Rory said giving voice to his thoughts “I wasn’t whole until I met you.”

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“Neither was I,” Eddie said in a small voice “not that I’ll ever be completely whole…”

“Don’t say that,” Rory held his face between his hands “don’t ever say that. What Amber did to you wasn’t your fault. Your perfect the way you are. I’ll spend the rest of my life proving that to you.”

“Even when I jump at my own shadow?” he asked looking deep into Rory’s eyes seeking reassurance.

“Even then,” he nodded “although you probably won’t need it now that Amber is in jail for good.”

Eddie sighed in relief. All those unexplained occurrences of finding things moved around, curtains open when he knew he had closed them. The feeling of someone watching him. The slashed tires. The broken door. Amber confessed to doing all of them. A shiver ran through him as he realized how close she had been to him all along and he never knew it.

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Rory pulled him close “she can’t hurt you now. Not ever.”

“Why? Are you planning on sleeping on my couch forever?”

“Well I’d prefer not,” he watched as Eddie’s cheeks flamed “we have plenty of time for that. That’s not what I meant anyway.” He sighed realizing thanks to what happened to Bruce it seemed all of Eddie’s insecurities had resurfaced. “If you need me to sleep on your lumpy couch that’s what I’ll do.”

“No” he mumbled in a small hesitant voice. Looking up he took a deep breath “the bed’s big enough for two.”

 Chapter 18 – Consequences / Chapter 20 – Three Little Words

Eddie – Chapter 18 – Consequences

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Exiting the elevator the girls combined gasps alerted the guys that something was wrong. “Stay here,” Liono commanded as he and Milo went to inspect the damaged door. He and Milo exchanged worried glances as they moved cautiously towards the door.

“What the hell happened here?” Liono demanded.

Shrugging Milo crept closer to their apartment. What reply could he give? He wasn’t here when it happened. How was he supposed to know what happened? He glanced back towards the girls who were standing anxiously by the elevator. Turning back to Liono he nodded towards the door “I hope Bruce is ok.” He could tell by the shift in Liono’s stance and nod he had been thinking the same thing. “Should we call the cops?” Milo asked.

Liono stared at the damage. If Bruce wasn’t hurt he was going to make the guy pay for the damages. If he was hurt Liono would still make him pay for the damages. He’d just be nicer about how he told him. “Did you hear that?” he asked Milo.

Nodding “it sounded like someone crying.”

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“We better tell the girls to call the cops,” Liono said taking charge again and giving commands. He waited until Milo came back from his errand before entering the apartment.

“The police should be here in a few minutes,” Milo informed him.

“Uh huh” he grunted stepping over the ruined door.

Grabbing his arm Milo hissed “you’re not going in there.”

“Someone could be hurt in there,” he wrenched his arm free and stomped into the apartment sure that Milo would back him up.

***

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Gayle gripped Trent’s hand as they walked through the hospital doors. Her eyes darted around the emergency room. People of various shapes and sizes littered the chairs waiting for their turn. Trent tugged on her arm as he walked past them oblivious to their stares. “He’s already in a private room” he whispered in her ear. He led her towards a different set of doors “just keep walking” he told her as an agitated grumpy middle aged woman yelled at them “visiting hours are over.”

“What if she comes after us?” she asked as she let Trent guide her to a nearby elevator.

“She won’t” he told her confidently “that would require her leaving her enclosure. Once she does that she’ll be mobbed by half a dozen tired, grumpy, angry people who have been waiting way too long to be seen.”

“What are we going to do once we get up there?” she asked in a breathless whisper.

Looking around the empty elevator Trent pulled her close “why are you whispering?” His normal voice sounding too loud in the enclosed space of the elevator.

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Slapping his chest “I didn’t want to be overheard,” Gayle laughed at the absurdity of it all.

“By who?” Trent smiled down at her “we’re in an empty elevator.”

“I’m not used to sneaking around hospitals at night,” she told him as the elevator came to a stop and the doors slid open.

“And you think I am?” he asked grunting when she elbowed him in the side.

She gasped upon exiting the elevator and coming face to face with a couple of hospital security guards. Leaning close to Trent she whispered “now what?”

***

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Rory glanced over at Eddie who had been silent and staring trance like out the window. Taking his right hand from the steering wheel Rory held it out to him palm up. “It’s going to be alright,” he said hoping to instill confidence. The corners of his lips quirked up when Eddie took is offered hand in his.

They drove the rest of the way in silence. Rory rubbed his thumb up and down the side of Eddie’s soft hand offering what little comfort he could. Pulling into a parking lot near the police department Rory asked “do you have enough money to cover the bail?”

“I think so,” Eddie mumbled turning to get out of the car.

Walking around the car Rory took Eddie’s hand “if you need more I can help.”

Blinking at his offer Eddie asked “why? You don’t even like him.”

“It’s not a matter of me not liking the guy,” Rory shrugged feeling his cheeks flush “You do. I know you well enough to know you wouldn’t have let him near you if you didn’t trust or like him.”

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While he knew Rory’s assessment of him was true Eddie could feel himself withdrawing inside. Had he let his insecurities dictate how he interacted with the people around him? Sighing he wondered if he’d ever be whole again or if that one disastrous point in time would forever color his future, holding him back from the things he wanted. Looking over towards the foreboding building he said “you don’t have to worry about Ramsey.” He wasn’t sure why he said it just that he felt it needed to be said.

“I’m not concerned with that right now,” Rory assured him putting an arm around him “let’s worry about getting Ramsey out first then we’ll worry about everything else.”

Nodding Eddie knew Rory was right. He disliked the thought of being in a tug of war again. If only Rory would have accepted his declaration of love so many weeks ago he wouldn’t have to worry so much now. Taking a deep breath Eddie walked across the street and into the police station.

“Can I help you?” a tired over worked voice asked from behind a partition.

“Err” Eddie mumbled overwhelmed by the activity going on around him.

Stepping forward Rory announced “we’re here to post bail for a friend.”

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“Take a seat kids this will take a while,” the man waved them over to a row of chairs obviously dismissing them.

Balking at the man’s attitude Eddie shocked not only himself but Rory too who stood beside him. “We’re not kids that can be dismissed until your ready to deal with us.”

“Look sunny,” the man pointed a finger at him ready to launch into some tired refrain about respecting authority

“No you look here,” Eddie shouted shrugging off Rory’s restraining hands “you arrested my friend on trumped up charges and I want him out.”

“Eddie please,” Rory tried to dissuade him from going any further.

“No I will not just sit down and do as I’m told” Eddie shouted “I have one friend in the hospital another in jail. I will not just sit and wait.” Turning to the officer “I want to talk to your superior.”

***

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Ramsey paced his small cell. He should be used to being locked up by now. It wasn’t his first time although it was the first time he didn’t deserve it. He felt the sting of being wrongfully accused and wondered if the truth would ever come out or if they’d take what looked like a slam dunk. He wanted to scream that he shouldn’t be in there. He didn’t deserve to be locked up in this stinking hell hole. He needed to be at the hospital begging for Bruce to forgive him, to give him one more chance.

An image of the young blonde blue eyed male with the infectious laugh that never ceased to bring a smile to his face. Why had it taken something like this for him to realize what his feelings were? Why had he clung to Eddie for so long? What had he been so afraid of?

He banged his head against the cool steel bars. A scream was building deep within him. What if he was convicted? His fingerprints were all over the glass and bottle. He hadn’t given a thought about what it would look like to anyone else. Who would drug someone then bring the evidence with them? Seeing Bruce so out of it, so sick had scared him. Scared him more than anything ever had and he’d seen quite a bit in his young life. His dead beat dad had left him in the back rooms of every seedy bar he could in order to drink himself to oblivion. Ramsey had learned quick how to survive on his own.

***

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Milo followed Liono into the apartment. Heart pounding he had the fleeting sensation that he was walking into a trap. The crying increased in volume and intensity. It seemed to him like the crying was forced, fake. He glanced over at Liono who at the best of times had little to know patience for weeping women. At his father’s funeral Milo recalled Liono had patted his weeping mother’s shoulder mumbling a few heartfelt words. He had been relieve when Milo had arrived and he could pass her onto his shoulder letting her tears soak into his best friends suit instead of his own.

He was pulled from his recollections by Liono’s loud demanding voice “what are you doing in here?”

“I came…looking for….Milo” the girl managed to say through hiccups and sniffles.

Milo forced back a groan upon hearing her voice. Amber was the last person he expected or wanted to see. The double date with Jillian had opened his eyes. There was something about Amber that made his skin crawl. “Where’s Bruce?” Milo asked her holding his hand over his mouth and nose as the putrid stench of stale vomit assaulted in sinuses.

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“I….I don’t…know,” she sobbed throwing herself into Milo’s arms.

Reluctantly Milo patted her back. The cold calculated look in her blue eyes didn’t go unnoticed before she resumed her sobs. “Ramsey crashed through the door like a mad man.” She ran her hands up and down his back leaning her head on his chest. “It almost seemed like he was jealous. I was so scared.” She looked up at him tears streaming down her cheeks. She almost looked as scared and innocent as she pretended to be “it’s not my fault that Bruce preferred me to him is it?” she asked hiccuping to effect “I would have preferred to have spent the evening with you.”

Milo was saved from coming up with a response when a couple of police officers entered through the broken door.

***

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“Visiting hours are over,” the guards deep voice boomed in the silent hallway.

Trent wrapped an arm around Gayle’s waist “we’re going up to the third floor waiting room.”

“Family of the accident victim brought in a few minutes ago?” the security guard inquired.

“That’s right,” Trent nodded without blinking. He hoped Gayle would play along or at the very least keep her mouth shut. He watched the guards eyes move from him to Gayle and stop.

“Alright you’re free to go,” the guard said satisfied they were who they said they were. “Next time just inform the receptionist why you’re here. It’ll save us all a headache.”

“Hopefully there won’t be a next time,” Gayle said giving the guards a weak smile.

Once the guards had walked away they made there way to the waiting room. Turning to Trent she asked “what was that all about?”

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“What?” he asked feigning innocence.

“You know what,” she slapped his hands away from her walking towards a chair in the far corner of the room.

Following behind Trent slouched into a chair “I wanted to make sure we got in here.”

“Was it necessary to lie?” she asked deciding to let him squirm a bit.

“Excuse me,” a woman’s voice interrupted him.

Turning her attention from Trent she gazed up at the young nurse who had approached them. “Yes can I help you?”

“Are either of you related to Bruce Van Winkle?” she asked.

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“No” Gayle replied shooting a look at Trent “we’re friends of his.”

“Oh that’s too bad,” The nurse turned to walk away “he’s been asking for his cousin.”

“He’ll be here soon,” Trent informed her “Eddie asked us to come until he got here.”

A brief smile crossed her tired face “that’s good.” She turned to walk away “please let me know when he arrives.”

Gayle glared at Trent “you just couldn’t help yourself could you?”

“It’s not exactly a lie. Their families are related.”

Rolling her eyes she turned away from him staring out the window.

***

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“It’s your lucky day” an officer announced approaching Ramsey’s cell “you made bail.” The door opened allowing Ramsey to exit through it. As he walked past the officer the man snickered “you’ll be back.”

Not if I can help it Ramsey muttered under his breath. Once Bruce woke up this would all be cleared up. He tried to ignore the cat calls from the other inmates as he walked past their cell doors. He wasn’t coming back he told himself firmly despite the little voice of doubt that kept asking questions. What if Bruce didn’t wake up? What if Bruce is confused and can’t identify who drugged him? A hundred different scenarios played out in his mind.

Collecting his things he felt the hostile gaze of the man who had arrested him burning into his back. He squared his shoulders refusing to show the man any sign of weakness. Was he getting soft he wondered. There had been a time in the not so distant past that a few hours in a cell wouldn’t have left him feeling so jumpy. Exiting the door he looked up to find Eddie and Rory waiting for him. A sharp pain like a knife twisting in his guts took his breath away. At that moment he realized that at no other time in his life had he so much hanging on the line. Marching up to Eddie he demanded “how is he?”

“I don’t know,” Eddie stammered unsure of himself and Ramsey’s demanding tone.

“I need a ride,” Ramsey said walking towards the outside door.

Shrugging Rory took Eddie by the arm and followed Ramsey from the police station.

***

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As the officers took Amber’s statement the others listened. Milo shook his head murmuring “that doesn’t sound like something Ramsey would do.”

“He wouldn’t need to,” Jillian agreed coming to stand by Milo’s side.

“What do you mean?” one of the officer’s asked.

“It was Ramsey who broke up with Bruce,” Liono explained “Bruce would have taken him back if Ramsey had asked him to. If anything Bruce would have been the one to have a jealous fit not Ramsey.”

“Are you calling me a liar?” Amber demanded spit flying from her mouth.

“Well…yeah I guess I am,” Liono said “why would you just sit in here after a jealous ex-boyfriend had smashed in the door? At the very least you should have called the cops.”

Elyse nodded in agreement “your story is full of holes.”

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One of the officers who had stepped back from the group to receive a dispatch came back into the room. Approaching his partner he whispered in his ear so that no one else could hear. Their demeanor’s changed as they turned their attention back to Amber. “Did you know there’s a warrant out for your arrest?”

“That’s just a stupid misunderstanding” she told the officer batting her eyes up at him.

“Then why did you flee the country abandoning your children with your victims parents in the process?” The officer stepped forward with handcuffs at the ready “not so stupid now is it?”

Eyeing them in disbelief that soon dissolved into hatred “what victim? He wanted it.”

“He wanted it so much you had to drug him” the officer clicked the handcuffs around her wrists “Your fingerprints were on the bottle that was used to deliver rohypnol to you second victim.”

“You have no proof that I drugged Eddie or Bruce” she shouted struggling against her restraints.

“No we just have hospital records from both victims” The officer bent down and stared into her face “I wonder if they were your only victims or if there were others.” Looking over at Milo then back at her “you definitely have a type. If there are others I’m making it my duty to find them.” Turning to his partner he said “read her her rights.”

 Chapter 17 – Wind of Change / Chapter 19 – Aftermath