Tag Archive | Rory McAlister

Chapter 29 – Glimmers of Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jogging alongside her “what’s your hurry.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stepping back “we should go.”

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Was that today” he teased.

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

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

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

“I thought a picnic lunch would be better.”

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

***

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

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

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

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

“What for” Aubrey demanded.

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

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“Harsh” Aubrey muttered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Divorce” Kaia asked looking at her.

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 28 – Shattered /

Chapter 28 – Shattered

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Reality sucks” Hannah enthused.

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Maybe I should talk to him” Hannah suggested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I should have done something” he protested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She was with friends” Benjamin repeated grinning.

“Aubrey and London” Eddie asked hopefully.

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

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

“Dad” he cried “where have you been?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 27 – Parents Worst Nightmare /

Metamorphosis – Chapter 13 – Confirmation

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Tom bounced up from the couch where he and Rory had been discussing the restaurant. For some reason he felt somewhat guilty about discussing it with someone else other than Faye first. “Do you need any help” he offered as he watched Eddie and Faye come in with bags of groceries each.

“Nope we’ve got it” Eddie said kicking the door shut behind him.

“Daddy” Hannah cried running into the room arms spread wide.

Putting the bags down Eddie bent to pick up his little angel. “Did you miss me” he asked her.

Hannah nodded her head like a bobble doll. “Missed you” she mumbled pressing little kisses on his cheek.

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“I guess you did” Eddie laughed squeezing her tight. He was going to enjoy this moment because he knew it wouldn’t last long.

“Down daddy” she whimpered a little before struggling in his arms.

“Alright down you go” he said kissing her round little cheek before setting on on the ground. He looked up to find Faye watching him, a gleam in her eyes that hadn’t been there before. “What” he asked feeling a self-conscious under her scrutiny.

“You” she waved a hand at him “you’re amazing.” She had never known either of her parents ever dropping what they were doing to pick her up or talk to her when she came running to them for attention. They had always put her off in preference to what they were doing. She had always known something else was more important than her.

Shrugging his shoulders he started to put the groceries away. “Hannah knows that no matter what she’s free to come to either Rory or I when she wants. Now that she’s discovered she can run it’s never for long.” He sighed a little “they don’t stay little for long.”

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“Little girls always need their dads” Faye said “even when they wish they didn’t.” She looked up as Tom put a comforting arm around her. She leaned into him taking what he had to offer instead of brushing him off.

“So this is where the party’s at” Rory said joining them. He bent to help Eddie put the food away. “Did you tell her yet” he asked.

“Tell me what” Faye asked moving enough to look up Tom.

“Did you call Uncle Gene” Eddie asked turning from the refrigerator.

“Yeah I did” he said. He could feel all of them watching him. “The restaurant can be ours if we want it. There’s just one problem” he looked down at Faye “Gino is also interested in buying the restaurant. Uncle Gene will never sell it to him but …..”

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“But he has enough power and influence to make sure no one ever goes there. He could shun us from the culinary world for good,” Faye cried.

“I wasn’t even thinking of that!” Tom exclaimed, hitting his forehead with the palm of his hand. “That complicates things further. I was going to say that Uncle Gene doesn’t mind selling us the restaurant. There’s a clause in the contract that says he can sell it to us for any price, even a $1.”

“That’s great news,” Eddie said. “Isn’t it? Uncle Gene will help you fight off Gino.”

“It’s not that. I feel bad not giving him anything for it. It’s like he’s handing down the business to me, without me really earning it,” Tom said with a frown. “That’s not how Faye and I want to do it.”

“We’ll purchase it at the going price,” Faye said in a determined fashion. “I have a stash of money saved up and it is pretty sizable. I’m sure your Uncle could use the extra money too. Not to imply anything.”

“He’d never let us buy it for asking price,” Tom said. “There’s not only that, but you’re right. Your dad hates the Bennett’s. This whole thing puts a target on us.”

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“So?” Rory asked, raising a brow. “Just because you shoot the target, doesn’t mean that you’ll hit it. I think you can call your celebrity friends and stand in solidarity against Gino and people who try to ostracize you from the industry.”

“He’s my dad,” Faye surmised. “Is there no way to….” Her voice trailed off. “I know there is no way to keep his pride in tact and mine as well.”

“He’s fighting you too hard, Faye. I know you love him, but he’s toxic. He’s only hurting you, and I’m tired of seeing that man make you cry. I won’t stand back and let him do it anymore,” Tom said. “So, you tell me what to do. I’ll do anything.”

“Can we sleep on it?” Faye asked, with a forced smile. “I uh…there’s something I need to do first. If you don’t mind.”

“Of course I don’t mind,” Tom said. “Do what you need to, but please. I beg of you, don’t keep secrets. Alright?”

“I’m not,” Faye replied, shaking her head. “I don’t want you to get hurt either.”

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Faye left the room taking the small brown bag Eddie had given her earlier. She had to know. She couldn’t put if off any longer. Closing the door behind her she leaned against it taking in several deep breaths. Too much was happening at once. It was hard to imagine that it had just been yesterday they had gotten off the plane.

Her hands shook as she took the pregnancy test out of the package. Reading the directions carefully she made sure to follow them precisely, not that she didn’t already know how it worked, she just needed the mind numbing task. Something to focus her mind on besides her dad, the restaurant and even what she was doing right at that moment.

She splashed water over her face. She couldn’t be pregnant. She just couldn’t be. They had been careful. She scowled at the test and it’s positive results. She couldn’t deny it anymore. She was pregnant. She was going to be a parent. A mom. She was going to be sick. She rushed to the toilet and emptied her stomach. Rinsing her mouth out she pinched some color back into her cheeks.

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She joined Eddie in the kitchen. He was busy chopping the veggies they needed for the recipe she wanted to try. He looked up “are you ok?”

“I’m fine” she sighed picking up a knife joining him “nothing that nine months won’t cure.”

“So you are” he didn’t finish his question “When are you going to tell him?”

“I….”

“Tell me what” Tom asked walking into the kitchen.

“That we should take your uncle up on his offer” she said giving Eddie a warning look not to say anything.

“I thought you wanted the night to think about it” Tom said sounding as confused as he looked.

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“I changed my mind” she turned back to her task explaining to Eddie what she wanted to do and the adjustments she wanted to make to the recipe. “There’s a lot of things we need to discuss first before like what kind of cuisine to serve. The clientele the restaurant already has. I’ll want to see the existing kitchen and sous chefs before we make any definite decisions.”

“Great” the worry in Tom’s eyes vanished as he listened to her “I’ll arrange all that with Uncle Gene. I’m sure he can arrange for us to see the restaurant before we make any decisions.” Sniffing the air he said “that smells good, what is it?”

“Just a little recipe I’ve wanted to try” she said evasively.

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Eddie lifted an eyebrow at her but didn’t say anything until Tom wandered out of the kitchen. “I recognize this recipe. It’s one of your dads. I think your dad’s worried that you’re going to be the next great chef and he’s doing everything he can to make you think you’ll always be in his shadow.” He stirred the contents on the stove “my advice to you is don’t let  him. Let him know you’re someone to be reckoned with.”

“Do you think I can” she asked an unusual not of vulnerability in her tone.

“I know you can” Eddie said giving her a reassuring grin. “Besides you have us cheering you on.”

Chapter 12 – Preparations / Chapter 14 – Baby Talk

Metamorphosis – Chapter 11 -Acceptance

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Before Eddie could say anything else the door behind them opened and Tom walked out. Tom stood up facing his brother “Faye and I will be going into town later. We need a few things from the store for a recipe she wants to show me tonight for supper.”

“That’s great” looking towards Faye who was nodding in agreement “maybe we could all go together.”

“No” she cried “I mean you need to stay here and call your Uncle. If we’re going to open our own restaurant we need to get things rolling before my dad can stop us.”

“But I thought” he glanced at Eddie “I thought you were going to call.”

“I was but it would be better if you made the call” Eddie glanced at Faye “after all it’s your idea. Plus I’d love more time with Faye.”

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Tom looked between his brother and Faye a frown forming between his eyes. He had a feeling something was going on between them. Not that he didn’t trust them it was just unusual to see his brother so relaxed around someone. “Obviously you don’t want me tagging along” Tom scratched his head “I won’t ask any questions but I’m dying of curiosity.”

“You make sound like we’re keeping secrets from you” Faye teased moving closer to him. “You don’t have anything to worry about. Eddie just helped me see things differently.”

Sliding his arm around her trim waist he grinned down at her. “As long as your happy” he grinned.

“Oh I’m more than happy” she reached up stretching on her toes to tenderly kiss his cheek.

“I don’t know what Eddie did but I like it” he winked at her “I hope you’ll let me in on the secret sometime.”

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“We will I promise” she assured him. “Eddie when do you…” her voice faded when she realized the blond as no longer on the porch with them. “When did he leave?”

Shrugging Tom shook his head “I don’t know. I guess he thought we needed some privacy and went inside.” He lead her over to one of the chairs on the porch. Sitting down he pulled her into his lap making her squeak in a way that her previous Ferrari persona would never have done. “Are you sure you’re alright” he asked “you did just vomit all over my brother’s kitchen floor.”

“I’m fine” she leaned into him resting her cheek on his shoulder. “I’m glad we came here” she murmured softly in his ear “I’m sorry I almost ruined it yesterday.”

“Hey no looking into the past” he poked his fingers into her side tickling her. “You already apologized. Don’t keep beating yourself up about it.”

“I won’t I promise” she snuggled into him. “Tom can I ask you something?”

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“You can ask me anything” he assured her.

She sat up gazing into his eyes “do you think I’ll be a good mother?”

“Of course” he said without thinking.

“No I mean it” she held his face between her hands “do you think I’ll be a good mom?”

There was something in her eyes that told him she didn’t want an easy answer. “Are you worried that you’ll be like you’re parents? Is that why you’re asking me this?” He paused watching her eyes shift. There was  a sadness in her eyes. A sadness put there by her parents never being there when she needed them. Never having their support. Never knowing if they truly loved her. She was just another pawn to be used. Like now with the reality show offer Gino called about. “I think you’re not your parents. I think you know how it felt like to not have supportive parents that you’ll do whatever it takes not be be like that. I know you. You’ll put your all into being the best parent you can be just like you put it into being one of the chefs in the world.”

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“Yeah but…” Faye looked down at the ground with a look of fear and vulnerability. “I know I’m not my parents, but what if I fail anyway? What if my best isn’t good enough?”

“Parenting is a team effort,” Tom replied, stroking her back lovingly. “You won’t be doing it on your own. And of course, we’ll fail. I know it’s not something you’re really used to, but us regular people make mistakes.”

She hit his arm. “Hey, stop that. I make a whole lot of mistakes. Like, listening to my father all this time.”

“You think that was a mistake? Because if it was, then we’d never have met. You wouldn’t have been able to grow as a person.”

“But maybe I wouldn’t have been this way to begin with,” Faye cried. “I might have been happy and loving and….everything I’m not.”

“I just saw you with Eddie, being happy and loving. You’re everything you say you’re not. You’re absolute perfection and I’m not even just saying that,” Tom said. “I love being with you, because it’s never dull. You always surprise me, and I love when you make these self realizations, one at a time. So, to put it short….I think a kid would only help us grow. Why? Do you maybe want one?”

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“I…yes. I really do want a little you running around. I think it would be so cute. A blonde little boy toddling around…grabbing for everything.”

“I would like one too,”  Tom replied. “A little girl who looks and acts like you. Maybe with a little less attitude but, we can work on that.”

“Baby!” Faye cried. “You love my attitude and you know it.”

“I do. But, you should still try to be nice with my family, okay?” He pinched her nose. “Love you, muffin.”

“I do not want to be compared to a muffin!” Faye cried. “Call me something good like a…puff pastry!”

“It’s not as romantic,” Tom sighed, helping his girlfriend stand up with him. “Let’s go inside.”

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They came inside to find Eddie writing a list of things they needed from the store. He glanced up with a smile “you ready?”

Nodding Faye reached up to leave a soft kiss on Tom’s cheek. “I’ll see you later. We shouldn’t be long.”

“You better not be” he teased pulling her close “you know how much I hate us being apart, my little apple dumpling.”

“Ugh don’t call me that” she laughed moving away from him.

“What’s wrong with that” he demanded with a wounded expression “you told me not to call you muffin.”

“Apple dumpling is even worse if that’s possible” she shook her head at him. “Eddie help me out here. Would you want to be called muffin or apple dumpling?”

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Eddie’s eyes darted between them. “Um neither” he said with an apologetic look to his brother.

“I think you can do better Tom,” Rory said joining them in the kitchen. “So what’s the plan for the day?”

“Well Eddie and I are going shopping” Faye announced taking Eddie by the arm and leading him towards the door.

Glancing at his brother in law Rory said “looks like it’s just you and me this afternoon. I know Eddie any trip to the store is always longer than he plans.”

Despite his teasing tone Eddie explained “it takes so long to get the right produce. It’s not my fault that it takes  me a while to find quality produce.”

“And I appreciate it” Rory assured him. “Before you go did you find your uncle’s number so Tom can call while your out?”

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“Yeah I wrote it down over there” he waved towards the notebook he had been using for his list. “Good luck” he called as Faye pulled him from the house.

“I’m going to need it” Tom mumbled as he got his phone out. Now that he was going to put his idea into action he was being overwhelmed with doubt.

“Don’t look so worried. Gene will know if anyone does” Rory moved to the sink “I better get these dishes done or Eddie will be livid when he gets back and his kitchen isn’t pristine.”

“Oh sorry” Tom mumbled as he keyed in the number “I kind of got distracted.”

“At least you cleaned up the vomit” Rory said running the water “that’s something at least.”

Chapter 10 – Denial / Chapter 12 – Preparations

Metamorphosis – Chapter 10 – Denial

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“Oh, why don’t we just run our own television show there and compete with my father’s huh?” Faye asked sarcastically.

“Not a bad idea,” Rory said, still munching on some food. “We’ve got a lot of high profile people in this family that could help. I’m in a band. Caleb does music too. Gene preforms. You, Eddie and Tom cook.” Rory held his fork up. “Don’t look at me like that, Eddie. I’m just saying why not go big and take down his entire brand?”

“Sim Star is so toxic,” Tom agreed. “It makes a mockery of talented people. We should take it down. Could we really run our own show?”

Faye and Eddie looked at each other, both nauseous with the idea of putting themselves in the spotlight.  “I turned down my Father’s offer for a reality show, Tom. Why would I want to bring that sort of attention into my life?”

“It’s on your terms this time,” Tom said. “Anyway, we’re just teasing. One step at a time. Here, let me help clean up this time.”

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Tom stood up and began gathering dishes.  Faye realized the nausea from before hadn’t been from Rory’s suggestion that they run a TV show but because of something else. Her hand rested on her stomach. She looked around wildly, trying to find a way out of this situation. She felt the need to vomit but didn’t want Eddie to think it was because of his cooking. What was it?

“I uh…” But it was too late. Vomit flew out of Faye’s mouth and onto the floor beside her. She was horrified.

“Are you okay?” Tom asked, rushing to her side.

Eyes wide, she rushed from her seat and out into the cold fresh air. They were having a nice conversation and here she vomited right on the floor of Tom’s brother’s house. This had never happened before. She had an iron stomach. Faye Ferrari didn’t get sick because of food.

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Eddie swayed a bit on his feet. He could hear Rory saying something he couldn’t hear over the rushing in his ears. He had to get away before he too added his own vomit to the mess on the floor. He rushed towards the door following Faye outside.

Rory stared after him laughing softly “I knew that was coming.” Turning to Tom he asked “which do you prefer vomit or dishes?”

Dragging his eyes from the door he grimaced at his brother-in-law. “I should check on Faye” he stammered. He’d never seen Faye become so ill so quickly before.

“Eddie will take care of her” Rory assured him “she’ll be ok. The best thing we can do is clean this mess up.”

“I guess” he sounded unsure “I really should check on her.”

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“Trust me right now she won’t appreciate you hovering over her” Rory said “give her a chance to get some fresh air then you can check on her.”

Tom nodded trusting the older man. “I guess I’ll take vomit duty” he grabbed a roll of paper towels to clean up most of the chunks before getting the mop out.

“I’d have taken dishes” Rory chuckled lifting Hannah from her highchair. “I’ll be back to help. I don’t want Hannah getting into that mess.”

Nodding Tom only half listening as he went to look out the window. He was reassured finding his brother and Faye talking on the porch.

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“This is so much better” Eddie breathed deeply of the cool fresh morning air. Kneeling beside Faye who was sitting slumped over like a discarded doll “are you alright?”

“I’m so sorry” she mumbled hiding her face behind her hands. “This has never happened before.”

“It’s alright” he assured her. Tentatively he put a hand on her shoulder.

Looking up, her eyes red from crying “I don’t know why I’m so emotional. I’m never like this.” Sniffing she dragged a hand across her eyes drying the tears. “I promise it wasn’t your food. It was delicious. I wasn’t lying about that.” She felt the need to reassure the soft spoken man. She didn’t want him feeling bad or worrying he had given her food poisoning.

“How long have you been feeling like this” he asked sitting beside her.

“I don’t know. It’s been coming on so gradual” she closed her eyes thinking “last night I was nauseous. Now this. I don’t know maybe I have the flu.”

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“Or it’s something else” Eddie said. He looked out across the yard remembering back to right before he learned he was pregnant with Hannah.

“What do you mean” Faye asked him staring at him refusing to acknowledge that she knew what he was getting at.

Eddie fumbled with his hands, not wanting to upset the girl even further but also trying to find the right words. “Don’t say it,” Faye mumbled. “I can’t be pregnant. That’s impossible.”

“You and Tom haven’t…?”

“Oh, we have,” Faye said. “But I can’t be pregnant.” She shook her head, hoping to will the possibility away with sheer thoughts alone.

“Why not?” Eddie asked. “Is it something biological preventing you from having a child?”

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“No!” She shook her head. “I just can’t have a baby. It just wouldn’t be right,” She said.  

Faye let those words ruminate in the air. It was something she had wanted to tell Tom. No babies. Ever. Her genes were not to be passed down to anyone. The Ferrari genes were tainted. She believed in that wholeheartedly. She wasn’t a perfect individual. On the outside sure, she was beautiful and her skills in the kitchen were unmatched. But it was just that, the outside. On the inside she was rotten to her core. Selfish, afraid and arrogant. Whatever she touched got destroyed.

It didn’t matter that Tom’s amazing genes would be passed down. It didn’t matter that he was donating the Bennett traits, kindness, understanding, compassion and patience. It didn’t matter when her mother was pregnant.

Carly was as sweet as pie and Faye still got the short end of the stick- the Ferrari namesake, signature brown hair, tan skin and ability to cook like no other. She could command the attention of whoever she had wanted when she walked into a room. She could turn heads and stun people with her brisk attitude, no nonsense ways and skill under pressure.

None of that mattered though. Because a person like that was shallow. Looking at Eddie beside her- he wasn’t as confident as she was. He wasn’t as aggressive. He was well off but he didn’t dress the part. He was what she would want her child to be like. Compassionate, caring, smart, intuitive…

“I can’t raise a child,” Faye whispered. “I’m not mother material. I’m afraid I would be just like my father. Or my mother for that matter. For all of her good traits, she was never there. They were both so busy that growing up I couldn’t do anything but stay in the kitchen.”

 

95

“That sounds like a failure on their part. But look at you now,” Eddie said with a smile. “You’re successful.”

“Successful but empty,” Faye said. “This child…” She placed a hand on her stomach. “If I open up a restaurant with your brother, or run a show or whatever…if I choose to keep my fame, I can’t raise this baby as it deserves to be raised.”

“Why not?” Eddie asked. “Rory is doing it. He’s on tour a lot, makes music, but always puts Hannah first. You have Tom to help. If you don’t want to give up cooking, having a child won’t be in the way. Keep cooking. But instead of doing it for yourself, you’re doing it for them.”

“Is that why you write now?” Faye asked.

“For Hannah,” Eddie said. He smiled at Faye.  “Listen, you’re not a product of your environment or your genes for that matter. You know that, because you took the next step to come here with Tom. You’re making an effort. You have Rory and I, and Tom. Hannah would love a cousin to play with too.”

“Tom would make a good dad,” Faye said, thinking about him holding a toddler in his arms. It brought a smile to her lips. “And they would have a cousin to play with and not be alone. I quite like that idea too.”

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“Take a test to be sure,” Eddie said. “And if it’s positive, don’t be too afraid to raise that child. Raising a child will always be scary. I’m still scared when Hannah cries in the middle of the night. That will never go away, but if I let those fears consume me, she would suffer.”

“I have to work on it,” Faye said with a sigh. “But I want to be a good mom. I really do.”

“Then be a good mom,” Eddie said with a grin. “You can do it.”

Faye could feel herself returning Eddie’s grin. Her hand holding her still flat stomach. “I never thought I’d be happy over the prospect of becoming a mom. I …. Thank you!” She threw her arms around him in an uncharacteristic display of affection and joy. She could almost feel the shackles of the past falling from around her like she was shedding her cocoon that she had been living in.

“You’re welcome” Eddie squeezed her tight “now we just need an excuse to go into town. I’m guessing you don’t want to tell Tom until after you have the test results.”

“Oh no” she shook her head “I don’t want to get his hopes up.”

Chapter 9 – Pressure / Chapter 11 – Acceptance

Metamorphosis – Chapter 9 – Pressure

110

The sun shone on Tom’s face, making him groan. “Close those curtains babe,” He murmured burying his face into his pillow. He didn’t even know if they were open at all, and he didn’t feel the bed beside him shift. Turning over, he noticed Faye standing by the window with the curtain pulled back and her phone up to her ear.

“Oh shut up, dad! You have no right to even make such claims. I will not be coming back to Sim Star Chef so go and bank on someone else,” Faye said angrily. “Ok, fine. Sim Star Whatever. Doesn’t matter to me regardless. I’m not going back to some television show that you produce… You’ve got some nerve saying that…”

Tom watched with interest as Faye curled the floral print curtains into her hands. She hadn’t even heard him before, had she? She was enraptured into her own world. Her father’s world. He frowned. What the hell did Gino want now?

“Yeah, so what? Tom did change me. Do you have a problem with that? Because I don’t care what you have to say… Oh? Do whatever, I don’t care!” Faye hung up the phone angrily and tossed it at the wall, an unbound anger rising within her.

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“What’s wrong?” Tom’s soft voice broke her from her reverie of violent thoughts. “Your dad wants you to be on TV again?”

“Sim Star is all that’s ever on his mind these days. He wants me to be on some reality show with him. A camera following me and him around everywhere we go.” She frowned, trying not to show Tom the tears forming in the corner of her eyes. “He said that if I don’t do the show with him and basically abandon you and the Bennett family that he will take away my restaurant in Monte Vista.”

Tom’s brows furrowed. “He can’t do that. It’s your restaurant. You worked to make it what it is today.”

“Sure he can. The lease is under his name. He bought it and signed for it. I didn’t do anything but cook in it,” Faye said. “I built that place up from the ground. When I got it, there wasn’t even a stable menu! The decorations were gaudy and the staff was terrible.”

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“Let him take it,” Tom said. “People who are a fan of your food will follow you anywhere.”

“Follow me where?” Faye asked. “Anyone worth anything in the culinary industry knows not to go against my father and hire me somewhere. Besides it’s not the same as running my own business.”

“I’m not saying that,” Tom said, waving her off. “I’m saying we open a new restaurant for you. You have some money separate from your father, right? I have some money set aside. I’m sure Eddie has some insight on this. He’s really business savvy now that his books are getting popular.” Tom was sitting up on his knees chatting excitedly. “We can do this, Faye.”

She shook her head. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea. I don’t want you to have to invest any money into this and my father will no doubt slander our business. He’s be doing it to your family for awhile now.”

“Like we’re scared,” Tom said. “My family isn’t afraid of anything. Let that man come, and watch what happens. We’ll kill him with kindness and take all of his business.”

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A knock on the door stopped Tom short. “Er…I don’t want to barge in, but I made breakfast…” Came Eddie’s nervous voice through the door. “I would really appreciate it if you guys ate with us this morning. If Faye is feeling better that is.”

“I’m going to ask him about it,” Tom muttered, standing up to get the door. “At the breakfast table.”

“Tom, no!” Faye shook her head. She had never had to ask for help before from anyone besides her father and it was embarrassing.

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Tom quickly threw some clothes on before taking Faye’s hand. “I know this is difficult for you. Your father didn’t make asking for help easy but it’s time you see what a real family can do for each other.” He pulled her close gently kissing her forehead “trust me we can do this.”

Faye clutched at his shirt, her fingers stretching the material as it balled in her fists. Leaning forward breathing deeply she nodded. “I’ll try” she murmured.

“That’s all I ask” he rubbed her back trying to reassure her that no matter what she could rely on him. “Come on babe let’s go eat.”

Smiling to she took his hand allowing him to escort her to the breakfast table. “It smells delicious” she gave Eddie a grin as the entered the dining room. She could see by the way he relaxed his almost ramrod posture that her words had reassured him enough to relax.

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“Thank you” he waved a hand towards the table “I hope you like crepes.”

Sitting at the table she turned to Eddie “you didn’t have to go to all this trouble.”

“It wasn’t any trouble” Eddie sat down beside her as Rory walked into the room carrying Hannah.

“Eddie is being modest” he said putting Hannah in her highchair. “He’s worried over the menu for weeks. Probably from the day he found out you and Tom were coming to visit.” He leaned over kissing the top of Eddie’s head “don’t let him fool you into thinking this was all thrown together at the last minute.” His voice and eyes was full of the pride he felt for his husband’s accomplishments.

“You shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble” Faye murmured.

“I just hope it tastes as good as it looks” Eddie gave her a self-deprecating smile watching as she took her first bite.

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“It’s delicious” she said “I couldn’t have done better myself. You’ll have to give me the recipe.”

After everyone had started eating Tom looked over at Faye before asking “Eddie do you know whatever happened to Grandpa’s restaurant?”

“I’m not exactly sure, why?” Eddie asked wiping strawberry remnants from Hannah’s face.

“Well Faye and I were discussing the idea of opening our own restaurant” Tom informed him.

“As a chain to the restaurant Faye has in Monte Vista” Rorya asked.

“Not exactly” Faye looked down at her plate “I may not have the restaurant much longer. It’s..”

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“Let’s just say Gino is making ultimatums and we’re looking for alternatives” Tom explained.

Faye looked up at him eyes full of gratitude that he hadn’t ripped her father apart, not that Gino didn’t deserve it. “We were hoping that you might be able to give us some business advice.”

“Me” Eddie asked eyes growing large at the idea anyone would think he had business smarts.

“Yes you” Tom nodded “you have a successful business as a writer. I’m sure you can help us. At least get us going in the right direction.”

“Alright” Eddie nodded “is that why you were asking about Grandpa’s restaurant?”

“Yeah” Tom nodded “I thought if it was still in the family that we’d have a firm foundation to start from.” Taking Faye’s hand he continued “I was thinking it might be something Gino wouldn’t be able to slander or run into the ground.”

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“I think Uncle Gene might know more about the restaurant” Eddie said “I could give him a call he should at least be able to point us in the direction.”

Faye’s eyes widened. “Dad hates Gene Bennett. Something about Sim Star Idol.”

“You didn’t watch it?” Tom mused. “I figured it’d have been part of the family business.”

“Ha! Leisure activities? Not for a Ferrari. Mom let me watch it sometimes but I never watched it completely through. But I know my father hates him and Caleb Gray.”

“The Grays…” Eddie mused. “Ah, Gene talked a lot about Caleb Gray. I think they’re still friends. Maybe he’s the celebrity endorsement you need.”

“Oh! That’s right!” Tom nodded enthusiastically. “We see if grandpa’s restaurant is still in the family and then we rebuild it to fit our new brand. When that’s complete, we get some celebrity endorsements!”

Chapter 8 – Apology / Chapter 10 – Denial

Metamorphosis – Chapter 8 – Apology

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For a moment she pulled back then let him pull her from the room. Apologizing wasn’t a common everyday occurrence for her or any Ferrari for that matter. She was sure her father never did it.

They entered into the living to find Rory sitting comfortably in the living room playing his guitar. “Where’s Eddie” Tom asked looking around a worried crease between his eyes.

“He’s in the kitchen” glancing up his unfriendly eyes raking across Faye. “He’s worried about what to cook.” He didn’t add that his worry was mainly the seldom satisfied girl standing in his living room.

“Can I see if he needs any help” she asked moving towards the kitchen.

Rory stood up like he was going to follow “if you upset him more than you already have…”

“I won’t” Faye said hastily “I promise I won’t. I want to apologize for the way I’ve been acting. I do appreciate everything you’ve done for us in letting us stay here.” With that she turned and walked away but she didn’t miss the look of astonishment that took over Rory’s face

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She entered the kitchen to find Eddie carefully gathering ingredients. “You have excellent mise en place skills” she complimented him.

Her voice made him jump almost sending the ingredients he had gathered to the floor. “Thank you” he stammered looking up at her “that’s what my instructors at culinary school told me.”

“You went to culinary school” she asked moving in close to observe him better.

“Yeah before life got complicated” he looked up at her a shy smile spreading across his face. “Would you like to show me how the Ferrari do things?”

“You wouldn’t mind me cooking?” she asked somewhat surprised.

“I see Tom told you about my phobia” he murmured. He looked to the floor before meeting her eyes. “It’s my kitchen. I know what’s in here.” He moved aside inviting her to join him “besides Tom trusts you. I think I can too.”

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A big smile grew on the girl’s face. Trust was something seldom earned. She trusted her staff in her restaurant, she trusted her best friend Sonny, and she trusted Tom. There was no one else she thought she trusted, so Tom’s brother saying he trusted her was amazing. The idea that one’s trust could be dependent on the trust of another? Unheard of to her.

“Thank you for your trust. You don’t know how much that means to me.” She reached over him towards the sink and began to wash her hands. “Uh, we have to be sanitary first.”

“Of course,” Eddie agreed. While he was washing his hands, Faye set up the cooking utensils. “Now let’s make an organic sauce with cilantro and basil.”

“Sounds good,” Eddie commented. “What will we use the sauce for?”

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“Pizza,” Faye said with a smile. “Just because I’m a world renowned chef doesn’t mean things have to be complicated.  Oh, and I got us a bottle of the finest red wine I could find. Feel free not to drink it. I won’t be offended.”

Faye began to mix the sauce and then let out a small laugh. “Also I just love making pizza because it’s what really made me love Tom.”

“I saw the episode,” Eddie said with a small smile. “It was all real?”

“Yeah. I love him, truly I do.” She bit her lip and then whirled around to face Eddie. “What does family mean to the Bennett’s? Kids, marriage- the whole nine yards?”

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Eddie set his knife aside a moment considering her questions. “Wow I never thought about it before. It’s more than kids and marriage. Don’t get me wrong. Those things are important but it’s not what makes a family.”

She looked at him a perplexed expression of her face. “What do you mean? Isn’t family the ones you’re related to?”

“Yes but it’s more than that” Eddie sucked on his bottom lip as he thought about what he wanted to say. “People can be family without being related. Family is more of a feeling. It’s a safe place. A place where you can be yourself. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be yourself.”

“I never thought of if that way before” she voice was full of wonder “is that why people who are blood related may not act like family? I mean, when I’m with my dad I always feel like I have to be the best. Be perfect. I can never be me.”

 

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“It’s sad but true that the people we’re closest to may not be the family we need” Eddie commiserated with her. “I’m sorry you never had a chance to feel that kind of unpressured belonging with your dad. It’s a great feeling. Our dad always encouraged us to be who we are. He had dreams for all of us but he always just wanted us to be happy.” He picked up his knife to continue chopping veggies for the pizza.

They worked in silence for a while until Faye glanced over at him. “Do you think I could learn to be a good member in your family? Tom says I’m an acquired taste. Does that mean I won’t ever fit in?”

“I think you’re well on your way already” Eddie assured her. “If Rory could do it I’m sure you will too.”

“Rory didn’t fit in with your family either” she asked glancing towards the living room to make sure they weren’t being watched.

117

“Let’s just say Rory made about as good  an impression on Tom as you did on Rory” Eddie smiled at the memory.

“You mean Tom hated him” Faye stated “he never told me that.”

“Well they like each other now” Eddie set aside the veggies and watched Faye finish up the sauce. “When they met Rory and I had broken up and I was devastated by it. Tom had come to stay with me for a while. He’s a good guy to have around. There’s nothing he won’t do for those he loves. That’s something you’ll have to get used to if you intend on becoming part of this family.”

Assembling the pizza Faye couldn’t wait to get Tom alone to discuss everything she and Eddie had talked about. She had so many questions. Her stomach growled. Food first she thought.

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Setting the pizza in front of Rory, Faye took a step back and bit her lip. She was hoping he’d love it. She knew it wouldn’t be enough to win him over, but it would be a start. “Smells good,” He commented and a sigh of relief washed over Faye.

“Thanks,” She said quietly. Tom looked up at her and winked. She felt the butterflies in her stomach grow just watching him, and then…a sudden wave of nausea hit her. She grabbed the back of one of the chairs and shut her eyes tightly.

“Faye!” Tom moved to stand up but she held her hand up. “I’m alright. Just a bit nauseous…uhm…can I be excused?”

“Do you need to lie down?” Eddie asked. “Tom can bring some food up to you.”

“It’s okay. Really, I’m just a little lightheaded. A lot happened today.”

“Eddie’s right. Go lay down.” Tom stood up and joined her side. “No one will mind if you sit upstairs.”

“Your health comes first,” Rory agreed. “Don’t worry about us.”

“Ok…” Faye gave in. “But Tom, you can stay down here and eat with your family. I don’t mind.”

“No, it’s alright. I want to be with you,” Tom said.

“Please,” She begged. “Have dinner with your brother and his husband. I know you’re excited to catch up with them. I won’t halt this any longer. I just need to lie down for a bit. I’ll be okay.”

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Tom watched Faye as she walked away a worried frown creasing his brow. “She’ll be ok” Eddie assured him.

“Are you sure” he asked nibbling on his slice of pizza “she didn’t look well.”

“I’m sure” Eddie sounded sure of himself.

Rory glanced up at him “you don’t think…” His voice faded away when Eddie shook his head. Luckily for them Tom didn’t seem to notice. “Let’s not let this wine go to waste” Rory refilled their glasses “this pizza is delicious.”

I’ll have to remember her technique with the sauce” Eddie sipped on the wine “she combined ingredients I didn’t think paired well. I’m glad to find out they married well.”

“Kind of like us” Rory teased winking at his husband.

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“Stop” Eddied chided him “you’ll make our guest uncomfortable.”

“I don’t think our guest is paying any attention to us” Rory waved a hand in front of Tom’s face.

“What” he blinked looking around the table with a slightly dazed look.

“Why don’t you go on up and check on her” Rory suggested “Eddie and I will will clean up.”

“If she’s already asleep I suggest you let her sleep” Eddie said as Tom got up to follow Faye upstairs.

By the time Tom opened the bedroom door he found Faye curled upon her side sound asleep. He moved around the room getting undressed. He crawled into bed careful not to disturb her. She murmured and turned to him in her sleep. He stroked her hair as he drifted off  to sleep himself.

Chapter 7 – Confession / Chapter 9 – Pressure