“You should ask her out” Kaia encouraged as they walked back to Aubrey’s house.
“Who” she asked looking up confused.
“London” she cried “she’d be perfect for you.”
“Oh no” shaking her head her blond curls bouncing. “We’re just friends.”
“So” raising an eyebrow at her.
“So we don’t see each other like that” Aubrey said turning and walking away.
“Liar” Kaia hissed running after her. “I’ve see the way you look at her when you think no one else was looking.”
“You’re just guessing,” she objected.
“I’m not blind” Kaia insisted “i’ve seen you. I’ve never seen you look so dreamy eyed over anyone.”
“I have not” she protested as color darkened her cheeks.
“Ask her out and find out” she urged ignoring her friends’ protests.
“This is ridiculous” she huffed crossing her arms and walking away. “She isn’t interested in me.”
“I think you protest too much” Kaia said causing Aubrey to stop and stare at her.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“If you didn’t have feelings for her this wouldn’t be so hard. You’d just ask her out to prove me wrong.” Crossing her arms she stared down her friend.
“Alright I will” she snapped “if only to get you to shut up.”
Smirking “how much do you bet she’ll say yes?”
“I’m not betting anything” she walked faster “we’ll go out as friends and that’s it.” Pulling her phone out she found London’s number. “Hey” she greeted breathlessly as her heart tried to push from her chest. “I was wondering if you’d like to meet up tomorrow for lunch?”
“Yeah okay” London’s voice was subdued in her ear “the resort?”
“It’s the only place I can afford” Aubrey giggled nervously.
“It’s a plan then” London agreed “I have to be home by five though. Mom goes to work at six and I have to be here for Dad.”
“I’ll have you home in plenty of time” Aubrey assured her. “You need help sitting with him?”
There was a pause while London thought about the offer. “No I don’t think so. Dad and I will just watch a movie or something. I haven’t been spending enough time with him.”
“Alright I’ll meet you in the lobby at 2 o’clock.”
“Um” London cried before Aubrey could disconnect “tell Kaia she’s invited too.”
“Okay” Aubrey agreed watching her friend standing nearby “I’ll tell her.”
“Good” London her growing excitement could be heard in her voice “I know how much you like her.”
“I do not” she cried turning red as Kaia raised an eyebrow at her.
“but I thought you were friends” London cried.
“She is. We are. I thought you meant….” she squeezed her eyes shut “Never mind.”
“I’m sorry if I offended you” London was quick to apologize.
“You didn’t” she assured her “I misunderstood. See you tomorrow.”
“What did you misunderstand” Kaia asked was she put her phone away.
“Nothing” she mumbled wishing she could crawl under a rock somewhere.
“How was lunch?” Phoenix asked London as she sat down in a chair beside him.
“It was…okay” she sighed face crinkling into a frown.
“Did something happen?” he asked quick to see the frown and hear the hesitancy in her voice.
“Well…not exactly” shaking her head as if that would clear her thoughts.
“Why don’t you tell me about it” he suggested.
Pulling at her fingers nodding “it’s kind of embarrassing.”
“If it’s bothering you I’d like a chance to help.” He waited watching her, hoping he wasn’t putting too much pressure on her.
“Well um” biting her bottom lip she hesitated. Drawing in a breath she continued “what do you do if you think a friend likes you?”
“Likes you as a girlfriend” he asked.
“Yeah I guess” she squirmed beneath his scrutiny.
“Do you like them back?”
“I don’t know” she slumped forward resting her elbows on her knees. “I never considered it before. They were just my friend. I knew she was into girls but I thought she liked someone else.”
“Does it make a difference” he asked hoping to draw her out. “Do you like girls?”
Turning to glanced out the window. The ocean was a calm serene blue. A sharp contrast to the feelings churning inside her head causing her stomach to somersault. “I don’t know. I liked Micah. I liked holding his hand and kissing him was fun. I also find girls attractive and sometimes I wonder what it would be like to kiss them.” She turned to look at her dad “shouldn’t I be attracted to one or the other? I’m so confused.”
He watched her a moment giving her question the consideration it deserved. “Not necessarily” he began noticing her shoulders sag “I’m sorry if that confuses you even more. It’s not easy trying to figure things out sometimes. My suggestion is not get hung up on trying to put a label to your feelings but to allow yourself to feel.”
“But all my friends seem to know what they are. Why am I so different?”
“Have you ever considered you might be bi” he asked.
A tiny crease formed between her eyes “that’s someone who likes both boys and girls right? I never thought about it before. I guess I could be.”
“You don’t have to figure it out all tonight” he reached over taking her hand “you have plenty of time.”
“All my friends are pairing off and I…” she leaned into him “It was nice going out but after everything that’s happened I don’t know if I’m ready. I don’t even know who I am anymore.”
Kissing the top of her head “sweetie take all the time you need. There’s no race or time limit. There’s nothing that says you have to have all the answers right now.”
“Thanks Daddy” she smiled up at him. “What movie do you want to watch?”
“Me” he winked at her “I thought it was your turn to pick the movie.”
“I said…” laughing she picked up the remote “let’s see what Netflix has to offer.”
“Or we could watch our favorite” he grinned at her “Tangled.”
“Dad” she smacked his arm playfully “you already had it picked out.”
“Of course” he chuckled “I was hoping you’d want to watch it with me like you used to before you got too old for it.”
“I’ll never be too old for it” she assured him giving him a peck on the cheek. “I hope you and mom know how sorry I am for everything.”
“We know” he draped an arm around her shoulders “we love you very much. We hope in the future you’ll come to us when you’re feeling too much pressure.”
“I will. I promise” she snuggled into him “I love you both so much.”
“I think that went well” Tanner mused as Montana walked with him to his car.
Looking over her shoulder, she saw her parents watching from the porch. “I hope so” sighing she looked up at him.
Lifting his hand he brushed her hair back. Gently looking into her eyes “what makes you think otherwise?”
Shrugging she looked away. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s nothing but….” she bit down on her bottom lip.
“But what” he pressed “I’m not going to stop asking until you tell me.”
“My dad’s have never been this accepting of any of my boyfriends before. They had all been the typical preppy good boy type.”
“And I’m none of those things” his lips quirked up.
“I think you’re a good guy” she stood on her toes placing a soft kiss on his lips. “I’m not so sure my dad’s think so.”
“Would that be a deal breaker” he asked twirling a strand of her bright red hair around his finger.
Leaning forward she rested her forehead on his chest. Closing her eyes she listened to the sound of his heartbeat. Lifting her chin up “I’d like to say no. I just don’t know until I’m faced with it.”
“You’ve never gone against their wishes before” he stated peering into her troubled blue eyes.
Shaking her head sighing “I’ve always been careful not to upset Daddy. He’s…fragile.”
“I got that impression” he wrapped his arms around her “I’m sure he’ll understand. He wants you to be happy.”
“Oh he does” she nodded against his chest “more than anything.”
Squeezing her tight he lifted her chin upwards “then you have nothing to worry about. You don’t have to be like this.”
“Like what” she demanded.
“You don’t have to be afraid of how I’ll react . I know your family is important.” Gently he cradled her face between his hands “if you decide you can’t be with me I’ll go away. You’ll never have to see me again. I promise I won’t pressure you to choose me over them.”
“It isn’t fair” she cried blinking at him surprise “why can’t I have both?”
“I don’t know. Why can’t you” the question startled both of them.
“Daddy” she gasped eyes shifting between the two most important men in her life.
“Sir” Tanner nodded towards the older man half expecting to be told to never come back. Despite what he’d just promised he wasn’t sure he’d be able to neve see her again.
“Relax” Zach admonished him his voice shaking a little reminding him how much he wished people didn’t scare him the way they did. Turning to his daughter “sweetie I’d never make you choose between me and someone you love. You’re old enough to make those decisions without me. If Tanner is who you want to be with I’ll accept that. I thought I had made that clear already.”
“I know but…”
“You don’t have to worry about me” looking to Tanner he inhaled deeply. “Don’t hurt my little girl. She and her sister are my two most precious treasures in the world.”
“I won’t sir” he vowed thinking it would be worse confronting the almost fragile timid man than it would be Waylon if he ever failed to keep his promise.
“Looks like disaster has been averted” Dakota announced turning from the window.
“We’ll see” Waylon grumbled watching as the young couple and his husband stood talking.
“Dad” shaking her head at him “it’s going to be okay. Daddy didn’t faint upon sight of him. It’s a good thing. Tanner’s a good guy.”
Somewhat nullified Waylon turned from the window. “What do you girls have planned for the rest of the day?”
Macy took Dakota’s hand. “We’re going for a walk along the beach.”
The look in the girls eyes had Dakota giggling. “Yeah don’t wait up for us.”
Raising an eyebrow Waylon thought better of asking what she meant by that. It wasn’t so long ago that he and Zach were young and in love. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do” he admonished them knowing they would.
“Daddy” she protested “I already know what you did when you thought we were asleep.”
“Don’t embarrass him,” Macy pleaded.
As she made to reply the door opened and Zach stepped inside. Slapping her mouth shut she let Macy pull her outside onto the deck. She could never say what she was about to say in front of Zach not if she ever wanted him to be able to look her in the eye again. Holding hands they walked towards the waters edge waving at Tanner as he left and Montana made her way inside the house.
“That went better than I thought it would” Macy said turning to look at her girlfriend.
“I’m glad it all worked out” she agreed looking over her shoulder “daddy seems to be accepting it better than Dad is.”
“You spend a lot of time shielding him don’t you?”
“We do” she sighed turning to face her “it’s habit. He’s been through so much. People in general scare him.”
“That’s understandable from what you’ve told me” she tugged on her hand “let’s talk about something else.”
“Like what” she asked following her along the beach.
“Us” turning to peered into the blonds crystal blue eyes that always reminded her of a China doll. Grinning she bent down the sand cushioning her knee “I love you Dakota. I hope you feel the same way about me and agree to be my wife.” She held a ring that caught the late afternoon sunlight.
“What no declarations of rainbows and sunshine” she teased holding her hand out for Macy to slip the ring over her finger.
“Can’t promise what I can’t deliver” she pointed out. “I love you. I promise to do my best to keep that love alive. To always be there to help and comfort you.”
“Sounds good to me” she smiled holding her hand up. “Love is a difficult thing to hold onto. My parents told me that once. I believed them. I’ve seen them struggle and cry on each other’s shoulders.” Giving Macy a penetrating stare “I want that with you. Come what may.”
Macy slipped an arm around her “I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”