Tag Archive | Zane Koehler

Glitter – Chapter 5 – Everything Nice

325

“Daddy” London glanced up from her desk where she was working on her homework. “Did you need something?” She had seen him straining to reach something that was just out of his reach on the floor.

“My pillow” he said sitting back with an irritated scowl. “It fell out of my chair” he attempted to reach for it again stretching as far as he could. His fingers scraped the edges of it but no dice.

Moving quickly London retrieved the pillow. “Is that better” she asked placing the pillow behind his back. She watched him for a moment looking for signs of discomfort.

“Do I pass inspection” he asked catching her watching him.

Instead of answering London threw her arms around him. “I love you Daddy” she cried squeezing him tight.

“I love you too sweetheart” he reciprocated attempting to mask the pain her unexpected hug ignited.

“Daddy” she sounded worried “are you ok?”

324

“Sure I’m fine” he lied giving her a huge grin that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “You don’t have to lie to me to protect my feelings” she reprimanded him. “I can tell you’re in pain.”

He gave her a quizzical look “you can?”

“Yeah it’s in your eyes” she touched his skin around his eyes “you’re all tense right through here.”

“Sorry” he apologized “I am in pain. The air is too cold and humid around here.”

“Do you your pain meds” she inquired “I can get them for you. Mom showed me how just in case.”

“No not yet I can manage” shaking his head rueful “at least until Mom gets home.”

“Are you sure” she asked her voice taking on a tone he knew she picked up from her mom. “The best way to manage pain is to nip it in the beginning before it gets too bad.”

323

Looking at his daughter he nodded in agreement. It was amazing this grown up little person was only ten years old. She spoke about pain management like it was a normal everyday topic of conversation. He supposed it was for her. “If you know where Mom keeps it then I’ll take some.” He regretted the necessity of needing a gatekeeper on his own meds; especially his ten year old daughter. Unfortunately it was necessary after he had inadvertently taken too many when one of his other meds affected his memory and he couldn’t remember when or how many he had taken. It was a scary time for all of them.

Without hesitation London went to retrieve the meds for her dad. Returning she held out a glass of water along with a couple of pills to him. “Take these Daddy” she instructed.

“Thank you sweetheart” he murmured accepting her offerings. It was depressing to think how fast his little girl was having to grow up because of him and his condition. He wanted her to have a normal life not one that included taking care of him.

322

“Don’t be sad Daddy” she gave him a grin “I like helping. I’m going to be a doctor one day. I’m going to make sure no one else has to be in a wheelchair.”

“Don’t you want to be something more exciting” he asked feeling guilty for robbing her of her carefree childhood. It reminded him too much of how he had joined the military thinking that was how he could honor his father who died for his country. He didn’t want London feeling obligated to follow a course she thought he wanted her to do.

“What could be more exciting then helping people” she asked “I love you Daddy. I like helping you. I hope one day I can help other families not have to go through what we do.”

The conviction in her soft spoken voice was enough to ease his conscience. He knew her goals could change as she got older but so far it hadn’t wavered since she was old enough to know what a doctor was and why her daddy was permanently attached to a chair with wheels.

***

321

Late that evening Teasha joined Phoenix in their room. “How did she take the news” he asked.

“As well as could be expected” she gave him a tired smile.

“I suppose she hates me now” he mumbled looking away.

Silently Teasha crossed the room. Gently she knelt beside his chair holding his face. “Our daughter loves you. She understands this will help you.”

“But” he blinked back frustrated tears as they rolled down his cheeks. “She shouldn’t have to sacrifice her happiness for my health.”

320

“She’ll see her friends every summer” Teasha assured him “she’ll be ok.”

“She’ll have to go to a different school” he said “she likes it here. I just don’t think we should uproot her from everything she knows.”

“I agree it’s going to be difficult and it’ll take time to adjust but we have to do this. Believe me when I tell you she’d rather have you than any of the things she’ll be giving up in the move.” Stroking is face remembering the way it once was so full of life. “You’ll see this will be good for all of us.”

“I hope so” he leaned his forehead against hers. “I just don’t want her hating me because of this.” Closing his eyes he knew all too well how difficult it had been on his family to move every few years. Being an army brat meant moving wherever his dad was stationed at. His younger brother resented each and every move. Phoenix didn’t want that for his daughter. He never wanted to see his daughter looking at him the way his brother looked at their dad.

“She won’t” Teasha assured him. “She loves you. She wants you to be healthy. She’ll understand why we need to move. You’ll see it won’t be as traumatic as you think.”

319

A soft knock on their bedroom door interrupted them. “Come in” Teasha called squeezing his hands hoping to reassure him.

“Mom. Dad” London murmured as she entered their room. Her eyes were red rimmed “are you sure we have to move?”

“I’m afraid so” Teasha said “I know it’s going to be difficult to leave your friends behind but it’s the best thing for Daddy.”

London lifted her eyes up before stepping forward. “Why can’t we move to Isla Paradiso? It’s an island too. Why does it have to Sunlit Tides?”

“That’s a good question” Phoenix said looking towards his wife. “We asked the doctor for suggestions and he suggested Sunlit Tides maybe Isla Paradiso could be a possibility. What do you think?”

318

“I think it’s worth looking into” Teasha agreed “we already have a houseboat on the island so moving there wouldn’t be too bad. Plus London knows a few people there already so it wouldn’t be like starting over.”

“Thanks Mom” London sighed with relief “I’d go anywhere if it meant helping Daddy but if it could be somewhere we already know than all the better right?”

“We’ll check into it” Teasha assured her. She moved to her daughter drawing her into a hug “I love you sweetie.”

“I love you too Mommy” she squeezed  her arms around her mother’s neck. Next she approached her dad “Daddy I love you too” she leaned in close kissing his cheek “I hope you know that.”

“I do” he nodded thankful that she had come to them with the suggestion they hadn’t considered. He hoped the doctor would think it was a good alternative.

***

306

A few months later they were sitting on the deck of their houseboat enjoying the evening breeze coming in off the ocean. “Are you ready for school to start” Teasha asked her daughter sitting across from them.

“Yeah I guess” she shrugged “I wish I knew someone in my close. Justice at least is in the same school along with Unity.”

“Justice will be in middle school sweetie” Phoenix pointed out.

“Oh” she sighed “you’re right. I thought we’d be in the same school. I guess it’ll just be me and Unity then.”

“Unity is in fourth grade isn’t she” Trinity asked leaning against the railing.

“Yeah a year behind me” London turned towards her dad who was busy lighting a fire to roast marshmallows. “Unity says I need to decide who I want to be my boyfriend before school starts. How do I do that if I don’t know who my options are?”

“She said what” Phoenix choked on the words “you’re way too young for boyfriends.”

305

“I’m ten Daddy not a baby” she rolled her eyes “what do you think Mom?”

“Well” Teasha glanced at her husband who was still glaring into the fire. “I agree with your father. You are too young for boyfriends.”

Standing she dramatically stomped her feet. Rolling her eyes she announced “I knew you wouldn’t understand.”

“Understand what” Teasha demanded “and before you answer cut the attitude or you can go to your room.”

“Fine” she sighed “a boyfriend gives you status. Someone to do your homework with. Someone always to be your partner for in group activities in class or projects. It’s not like we’ll be doing any gross mushy stuff.”

“Oh a friend” Teasha said relieved.

“Does it have to be a boy” Phoenix asked still stuck on boyfriend.

304303

“Argh” she cried stomping towards the door “Why do I even bother. Why do you insist on asking questions when you know you won’t like the answers. All I want to do is fit in. I’m the new kid. The one on one wants to be friends with.”

“I don’t think that’s a good enough reason to get a boyfriend” Phoenix persisted watching her slam the door shut but did little to keep her from eyesight.

Looking at the fire Teasha laughed “I guess we get to eat all the smores.”

“I guess so” Phoenix agreed “thanks for backing me up. I know you didn’t think it was a terrible idea like me.”

“No not terrible. Just too soon” she sighed “I was hoping not to have to deal with boyfriends and hormones for at least another year or two.”

“A year” he gasped “I want her to be my little girl longer than that.”

302

“We have no choice” she sighed sitting on his lap “she’s growing up and boyfriends are going to be a part of the package.”

Wrapping his arms around her Phoenix sighed “I’m not ready for this.”

“Do you think I am” she teased giving his cheek a quick peck “we’re getting old.”

“Speak for yourself” he said giving her a tender kiss on the lips “I’m planning on being young forever.”

“Keep telling yourself that when you see all the kids tomorrow at the resort.” She leaned her head on her shoulder “the teenagers out number the kids now.”

“For tonight let me pretend we’re still as young as we were back in college” Phoenix grinned at  her.

“Alright” she conceded taking his hand and watching the moon rise over the ocean.

***

316317Smoothing the wrinkles on her dress London mumbled “I’m a mess.”

“You shouldn’t have let Justice talk you into racing him” Unity giggled.

Temperance nodded linking arms with Unity “I think someone has a crush.”

Unity’s eyes grew large “do you like my brother?”

“No” London’s cheeks grew hot as both younger girls giggled at her.

“Good” Aubrey said joining them “you can dance with me instead. I promised Daddy I wouldn’t dance with any boys.”

“Oh” London bit her bottom lip “I was hoping to dance at least once with Benjamin and Justice.”

“Good luck with that” Temperance giggled “Jason has already been bugging Benjamin to dance with him.”

“Does Jason like Benjamin” Aubrey asked.

315314

Shrugging Temperance nodded “he acts like it. It’s kind of cute in an annoying sort of way.”

“Don’t go to thinking you need to be annoying to get Justice to notice you” Unity advised turning to London “I guarantee that won’t work. Justice doesn’t like clingy people. At least that what he says.”

“Did the older boys bring dates” Aubrey asked. They all knew she was referring to the three teen boys Christopher, Noble and Loyal.

“They’re too busy mooning over Dakota and Montana” Temperance giggled “they’re gorgeous and older.”

“Which means” London asked.

313312

Giggling Unity said “which means the boys are out luck. I mean my brothers are cute but they’re doofasses.”

Pointing towards an older man pushing his way through the crowd of people Aubrey asked “who is that guy?”

“He’s not supposed to be here” Temperance said turning to Unity with concern.

Unity shook her head “he promised he’d be good or I wouldn’t have told him.”

“Who is he” London asked repeating Aubrey’s question.

“That’s Zane” Temperance frowned “Unity’s other grandpa.”

“Oh” the two girls nodded wide-eyed. They had all heard about Graham’s first husband but neither of them had seen him before.

311310

“Hey Gramps” Noble said cutting him off from going any further.

“Out of my way” Zane said straining to see Graham through the milling guests.

“He doesn’t want to see you” Loyal said joining his twin. “Why don’t you leave before you make a scene.”

“He’s my husband” he snapped attempting to go around the boys.

“Ex husband” Noble corrected “has been for almost fifteen years.”

“He didn’t know what he was doing” Zane protested “this is ridiculous to keep me from the resort we built together. I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“Says you” Loyal snickered.

“We’ve see you talking to old man Hollis” Noble added “if you really cared about Grandpa like you claim you’d have cut all ties with that creep.”

“Mr Hollis has done a lot for me” Zane protested.

“Sure he has” Loyal agreed “like having you beat up.”

“Ruining your marriage” Noble added.

309

“All so he could get his grubby little hands on our resort” Charity said joining her sons. “Boys I’ll take care of this.”

Nodding Loyal said to Noble “you stay. I’ll go get Dad.”

Zane eyed the boys with distaste “they act like I’m the enemy or something” he complained.

“You are” Noble growled.

“That’s enough” Charity chided him even she was proud of him for standing up for Graham. Turning her attention to Zane she said “Dad you promised you wouldn’t come. Not today.”

Zane craned his neck trying to catch a glimpse of Graham in the crowd before someone warned him he was there. He wanted to see his face without the perpetual frown that his presence always brought on. “I love him. I had to be here. To make him understand….”

“It’s too late for that” Charity shook her head “leave him alone. He’s happy shouldn’t that be enough to convince you he’s moved on with his life.”

308

“I need to talk to him” he entreated her like she hadn’t said anything “to explain why I did all of this. I did it for him.”

Putting a hand up Charity signaled for him to stop. “No dad. You did it for you. Daddy would have been happy running the dog shelter you had before you sold it and borrowed money to buy the resort. Daddy never wanted to it. That was all you. It was you who went to the one person you knew Daddy hated, Donnie Hollis. You took his dirty even though you knew how much it would hurt Daddy.”

“Do you really think I would do something like that to intentionally hurt him” Zane asked. “I wouldn’t do that. If I had known I’d have done things differently.”

“Somehow I don’t believe you” Charity shook her head sadly hugging her arms tight around herself. “You knew he’d be devastated once he found out or you wouldn’t have felt the need to lie about where you got the money.”

307

“That’s not….” he stopped as a hand came down heavy on his shoulder. Turning he looked into the serious disapproving eyes of his son-in-law.

“Mr Koehler it’s time for you to leave” Ryan said firmly “we don’t want to hear anymore of your lies.”

“I” he swallowed looking into his daughter’s eyes “I’m sorry” he mumbled turning and allowing Ryan to escort him from the property.

Chapter 4 – Sugar and Spice / Chapter 6 – Summer Jobs

Advertisements

Glitter – Chapter 2 – Snips and Snails

182

“Ity I can’t believe it” Hannah giggled as they walked into the living room together.

“What” the other girl asked as if she didn’t already know.

“You. A mom” Hannah flopped onto the couch “of twins.”

“You make it sound like a bad thing” Charity accused.

“Oh no” Hannah gasped “ it’s not that. You’ll be a wonderful mother. It’s just we’re getting old. We’re no longer the kids getting into trouble together. Soon we’ll be the parents chasing down the kids making sure they’re not getting into things they shouldn’t be.”

183

“Put like that I’m not so much a mom but a fun sucker” Charity tossed a pillow at her best friend’s head. “Just wait until you one.”

“What” she asked innocently “a fun sucker?”

“A mom” Charity giggled “you don’t become a fun sucker until they’re older.” The thought sobered them both up a little. Giving her friend a serious look she asked “what’s wrong?”

Hannah’s shoulders rose and fell “I keep thinking about my half siblings.”

“Are they still blaming your dad for what happened” Charity asked. She knew Eddie would never hurt anyone intentionally.

184

“Yeah” Hannah’s voice was flat. “They think Dad should have fought harder for them. They don’t seem to understand that he couldn’t. He wasn’t strong enough. Then as they got older it seemed cruel to separate them from Grandma and Grandpa.”

“I know Nana” Charity stroked the long blond strands “I’m sorry.” She knew how much Hannah had longed to be accepted by her half siblings but the older they became the more her half siblings resented her.

Wiping her eyes Hannah sniffed “I’m alright. It’s Daddy I worry about. He’d really like to have a relationship with them and his grand kids.” Shrugging she continued “that’s never going to happen with the way things are.” Charity bit her bottom lip as an idea came to her. Hannah shook her head as if reading her friends thoughts. “That’s never going to happen. At least not any time soon.”

“Why not” she said “then our kids could grow up together.”

“We’re not ready for kids yet” Hannah protested.

185

Charity gave her a long inquiring look before saying “are you sure it’s we and not him?”

Hannah stared at the floor a little too long to just deny it. She could feel her friend’s eyes watching her. “Donovan wants to wait until we’re a little more settled before thinking about having kids.”

“You could always have a little accident” Charity suggested.

“No I couldn’t do that. Not on purpose” she shook her head adamantly rejecting the idea. “Although I am hoping he’ll change his mind after seeing your two bundles of joy.”

“I knew there was an ulterior motive to your visit” Charity shoved her friend from the couch.

186187

“Hey” she protested “your husband is getting a free computer upgrade thanks to our visit.”

“You’re right. I’m sorry” Charity said contritely helping her up.

“You should be” tugging on Charity’s hand pulling her down to the floor beside her.
“Ow” she cried rolling over on the floor “be careful.”

Sticking her tongue out Hannah ignored her friends threats until they both had to get up to tend to the hungry cries of twins.

***

“I know what you’re doing” Donovan said stopping to look at the ocean.

“What am I doing” she asked coming to a stop beside him.

Taking her hand he squeezed it tight. “This visit…” turning he peered into her green eyes. A brilliant shade of green, a little pensive and full of concern no doubt wondering what he was going to say next. A smile lit up his face alleviating the concern if not the sadness. “Ryan didn’t need my help with the computer upgrade.”

“Of course he’d day that” Hannah protested “he’s a guy.”

“Meaning we don’t ask for help even when we need it” he asked quietly. He let her hand go slowly turning away. His attempt at a lighthearted mood evaporating to dark.

“Donovan” she called out to him helplessly. She could see the tenseness in his shoulders. “I didn’t mean that….” She bit her bottom lip as he turned to face her. Looking a million years older than he was. “I’m sorry” she said moving towards him.

191

“No I’m the one who should be sorry” his voice was low. “If I had listened to you we wouldn’t be where we’re at.”

“Where do you think we’re at” she asked running her hands along his chest and around his waist.

He snorted softly “I ruined everything. Our relationship. Marriage.” His voice choked “I almost went to prison.”

He tried to turn away but she wouldn’t let him. “Don’t push me away. I love you.” She brought her hands up to cradle his face “remember our vows? I promised to love you in good times and in bad times.”

“But” he wasn’t ready to let it go yet “because of me there’s been more bad times than good.” He couldn’t quite bring himself to look her in the eyes yet.

“Listen to me” she cried “I don’t want any more of this kind of talk. You made a mistake.”

192

“If I had listened to you it could have been avoided” he attempted once again to turn away from her.

“I’m done arguing with you about this Donovan” she sighed “it was avoidable yet. But it was still a mistake.”

“I didn’t keep my promise” he buried his toes in the loose sand. “I shouldn’t have been doing what I was doing.”

“What were you doing” she asked him softly her eyes watching him closely. For the past year he hadn’t been able to say it. To admit it. If they were ever going to get beyond this point he had to say it.

Lifting his chin up. The sorrow in their blue depths was almost as bad as being physically hit. “I was hacking. I thought I was helping and it was all a set up.” He gulped letting her draw him close. “I’m so sorry. I should have listened. I should never have broken my promise.”

She could feel the wetness on her bare shoulder from his tears. It had been a difficult year. Not knowing if he’d get off. Fearing the worst. “I love you” she said her voice firm and determined. “I won’t let the past destroy our future.”

193

Sniffing he pulled back enough to gaze into her eyes. A glimmer of hope brightened his eyes. “Do you mean that?”

Nodding she giggled squeezing him tight. “You’re mine and your stuck with me. You’re everything I ever wanted and I want to start a family with you.”

“Ah that’s why we’re here” he smiled down at her the ghost of his old self shining back at her. “You’re hoping I’ll change my mind….”

Giggling as he lifted her into his arms she squealed “is it working?”

He lost his balance falling on top of her into the sand. Catching himself with his hands he hovered above her breathing hard. “What if I say yes? Do you really want to have kids with a guy like me?”

She lay in the sand silently contemplating his question. When she saw the troubled retreat in his eyes she wrapped her legs and arms around him forcing him to face her. Instead of answering right away she brought her lips up to meet his. Pulling back just enough to say “Yes you silly man I want to have kids with you.”

***

194

Giggling as they walked past the resort office Donovan stopped. “I promised Ryan I’d take a look at the computer system we set up to make sure it was running smoothly.”

“Ok” she smiled brightly up at him shoving him a little towards the door. “I’ll see you later for supper then.”

“It’s a date” he leaned down to kiss her. Just as their lips brushed against each others the door opened and Zane stumbled out. His face was pale like he was about to throw up. They watched in horrified silence as he weaved an unsteady course towards the lobby door. “Maybe I should follow him” Donovan suggested taking a step after him.

“Don’t worry about him kid” a harsh voice announced behind him making them both jump.

Turning they came face to face with a grizzled unpleasant sour face of an elderly man. “Donnie Hollis” the man held his hand out to Donovan “I could use a man like you with your computer skills.”

Donovan stared at the man’s hand like it were a poisonous snake. A sinking feeling opened up inside his stomach. Yet another person recognized him from his picture in the papers “I don’t do that anymore.”

195

“Pity” the older man commiserated “I had a job lined up just for you.” Glancing over his shoulder he smirked “such a disappointment.”

Hannah followed his gaze. Mr Hollis was standing there, chalky white and every bit as shaken as his husband had been when he stumbled past them. “The resort isn’t for sale” she informed the old man.

“Everything’s for sale if the price is right” he shrugged dismissing her. “Your family isn’t in a position to bail anyone out.”

“You” her eyes grew wide as she realized what he was referring to. “It was you who set Donovan up. You wanted us to be financially strapped with legal fees so you could what? Make more trouble here so you could take control of the resort again.”

“You my dear have a shrewd mind beneath those golden locks” he moved to pat her head.

Shaking his hand off she walked past him into the office leaving Donovan behind to deal with him. “Your not welcome here” he said hoping the man would get the hint and leave.

196

Shrugging Donnie Hollis handed the younger man a business card. “Call me when you change your mind. Someone like you never fully leaves the thrill of hacking behind for long. I could make it worth your while.”

“I don’t do that anymore” Donovan glared at the old man without acknowledging the offer that was made.

“In case you change your mind” Donnie said tucking the card inside the elastic waistband of Donovan’s shorts. “Call me” he said walking away with the stride of a man who knew he had won.

“Is he gone” Charity demanded as Donovan walked into the office.

Closing the door behind him Donovan nodded “yeah for now.” He leaned against the desk “what’s going on? I thought he gave up trying to buy the resort after the last time.”

“Well my so-called grandfather hasn’t given up…” her voice faded as she jumped up and ran to Graham’s side. He was slumped over clutching his chest. “Daddy” she cried watching his complexion change from chalky white to ghastly green.

197

“Can’t believe….” Graham swallowed finding it difficult to breathe “can’t believe….he’d do that….to me.” He took several gulps like he was finding it painful to talk. “I…I thought” his eyes rolled up inside his head as he slid from Charity’s arms to the floor.

“Daddy” she screamed clutching at him as he slipped from consciousness.

“Call 911” Donovan ordered being the first one to come to his senses. “I think he may be having a heart attack.” Kneeling on the floor he checked for a heartbeat. Finding none he ripped the man’s shirt open, buttons flying everywhere. His long ago CPR course came to mind as he found the spot to begin chest compressions.

“No” Charity sobbed “that’s his favorite shirt.” She attempted to tug the remnants around him. “You’re hurting him” she cried noticing what Donovan was doing.

“Hannah a little help here please” he shouted “get her out of here. She doesn’t need to see this.”

198199

Startled out of her stupor Hannah wrapped her arms around her best friend. “Come on sweetie let’s go outside.”

“I can’t leave him” she protested “he needs me.”

“Donovan and Ryan will take care of him” Hannah assured her. “You want him to get better right?”

Nodding she presented a tear streaked face to her friend. “Nana what will I do without him? I can’t lose him.”

“You’re not going to lose him” she grabbed the distraught girl forcing her to look at her. “Repeat after me. You’re not going to lose him.”

Dragging her eyes from her father Charity repeated “I’m not going to lose him.” She fell forward into Hannah’s arms sobbing on her shoulder.

***

200

An hour later they were sitting inside the white sterile walls of the hospital waiting room. Charity jumped up expecting to see her father’s doctor. Her expectant face crumbled upon seeing Zane walking into the waiting room. “Get out” she screamed. “You have no right to be here.” She jabbed a finger in the air pointing towards the door he just entered from.

“He’s my husband” he mumbled “I love him.”

“How dare you” she shouted needing someone to vent her feelings on. “You can’t say that and do what you did.”

Ryan crossed the room to go to her side. Slipping an arm around her he whispered in her ear. Turning she scowled at him “no I won’t sit down. He shouldn’t be here. It’s because of him that Daddy’s here.”

“You don’t understand” Zane cried reaching for her.

201

Flinching she stepped away from his touch. “No you don’t get to talk your way out of this. You took money from the one man Daddy truly hates.”

“What was I supposed to do” he cried “let his dream of running the resort go up in smoke?”

“The resort was never Daddy’s dream. He only did it for you. You convinced him that running his own resort would prove that Donnie had no hold on him.”

“That’s true” Zane insisted.

“Don’t you get it” she cried “It means nothing. The man he hates most was the man you borrowed the money to buy the resort with. You kept on borrowing money when things started going wrong. Donnie was probably maneuvering things so that the resort would fail so he could come in and scoop it up for little to nothing.” She glared at Zane crossing her arms “how could you betray Daddy like that?”

“What difference does it make where the money came from?” Zane persisted “I borrowed it because I wanted Graham to be happy. I love him. He needed to know he could be a success. I made that happen. The resort will a success.”

202

“Don’t you dare take credit for Daddy’s hard work.” She nuzzled into Ryan’s arms seeking comfort and support.

“I worked just as hard as him” Zane persisted.

“You spent the money” Charity contradicted. “I remember the arguments. I used to think Daddy was wrong always asking you where the money was coming from. Now I understand. You couldn’t be trusted.”

“You’re blowing this all out of proportion” Zane shook his head sounding more calm than he looked. “When Graham is better he’ll see I was right. He’ll forgive me like he always has. That’s what married people do.”

203

Charity shook her head clutching at Ryan’s shirt. “That’s not how marriage works. You don’t go behind your partners back and take money from a person you know they hate. You don’t put them in a position to lose everything. You don’t betray them like that and expect to be forgiven.”

“You don’t understand” Zane shook his head “you’ll see. Things will be the way they’ve always been.”

“Come on sweetie let’s get some air” Ryan gently kissed her cheek “he doesn’t understand the magnitude of what he did.”

“I know and that makes it all the worse” she let Ryan him guide her outside.

Chapter 1 – Honeymoon’s End / Chapter 3 – Puppy Dog Tails

Hannah – Chapter 37 – Letting Go

502

Ryan set his duffel bag on the tile floor. He craned his neck to look around the resort lobby. He had hoped to see Charity as soon as he walked through the doors. He had wanted to see her eyes light up the way always did when she saw him. He wanted to see her lips twitch with barely contained amusement. Most of all he wanted to feel her slim firm figure in his arms.

“Ryan” Charity’s voice asked behind him.

Turning slowly he waved self-consciously at her. “Surprise” he announced as she jumped into his arms.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?” she laughed as he twirled her around.

“It wouldn’t have been a surprise if I told you” he reluctantly set her down. His eyes drank in every nuance of her appearance. “You look different” he said breathing in the fresh mango scent of her shampoo.

A slight frown creased her brow “different how?” she gazed up at him.

“Where’s your hat?” he asked after a moment of silently gazing into each others eyes

“It’s too hot” she shrugged as if that was sufficient.

“I miss the hat” he teased running his fingers through her soft tresses.

Pulling away from him she said “I can go get it if you’d like.” She giggled as he pulled her to him. This time he brought his mouth down on hers, smothering any reply she might have made.

***

“Zane” Graham put a restraining hand on his husband’s shoulder. Zane turned towards him a baffled bewildered look in his eyes. Graham smiled shaking his head “she’s not a little girl anymore.”

Zane growled deep in his throat. “She’s my little girl” he took a step forward.

Clutching at his arm Graham guided Zane away from the happy oblivious couple. “She’s a grown woman in love.” He watched as his words sank into his husband’s conscience.

“But I….” he glanced over his shoulder “I’m not ready” he mumbled sounding defeated.

“Whether it’s now or twenty years from now” Graham chuckled a little “we’d never be ready.” He nodded towards Charity who was unaware of her parent’s distress. “She’s happy. Ryan’s a good boy. We’ve known him since he was a little kid. We couldn’t ask for anyone better for our daughter.”

Zane let out a strangled sigh “I still don’t like it.”

Shaking his head Graham at a loss at what else to say. “You don’t have to like it. You just have to tolerate it.” He brought his hands up to hold Zane’s face still. “Whether you like it or not Charity is in love. That boy is in love with our daughter. I will not have you spoiling this for them.” Graham still had memories of his father’s displeasure in the face of any small triumph he had. It was either not good enough. Not appropriate. He was too young. His father didn’t approve. He would not have that for his daughter.

“I’ll be nice” Zane conceded like a small child being made to apologize.

“Promise?” Graham prompted.

Nodding Zane mumbled “I promise.”

“Good” Graham smiled kissing his husband lightly on the lips “I knew I could count on you to do the right thing.”

“Yeah sure” Zane smirked “I still don’t like it.”

***

Two weeks later Ryan and Charity were strolling along the beach towards sunset. He held her hand marveling at how right it felt inside his. He turned to smile down at her when he found her gazing up at him. “What?” he asked reaching over to tuck a stray strand of hair behind her ear.

Shaking her head slightly she leaned her cheek into his palm. “I don’t want you to go home” she murmured.

“It’s only for a little while” he stroked her cheek “we’ll see each other again. Classes will be starting in a few weeks.”

“I know…it’s just” she sighed turning away from him. She hugged her arms around herself staring into the setting sun. The ocean slapped against her ankles. “Will you….” she turned around her words lost as she put a hand to her mouth a wordless cry escaping.

“Marry me” Ryan finished her question a huge earnest expectant grin on his face. He held up a ring, the last of the sun’s rays glinting off the heart-shaped pink diamond.

Tears gushed from her eyes as she nodded in response to his question unable to formulate coherent words. She held her hand out to him. He took her trembling hand, kissing the top of it with his firm soft lips. “Charity Hollis I love you. I’ve loved you since the moment we met. You let me be your protector when you didn’t need to be protected. You are one of the strongest women I know. I love that strength.” He slipped the ring onto her finger. Caressing her hand between both of his. “I love the moments when you let that strength slip and show me the vulnerable little girl you keep hidden inside. The moments when you look to me for answers you could find yourself. The times when you let me be your hero.” He stood up still clasping her hand “I want to live the rest of my life with you by my side.”

518519

“Yes” she cried throwing herself into his arms. “Yes I’ll marry you.” She peppered his face with light feathery kisses. She brought her hands up to hold his face while he held her securely in his arms. “Ryan Milton you used to infuriate me when we were kids. Always trying to protect me. I thought I didn’t need protecting. We grew up and I came to rely on your steady loyal support. I never knew how much until it was gone. I was lost without it. I was lonely.” She pressed her lips to his before adding “I wanted nothing more than to run into your arms and beg you to take me back. I’m sorry I ever believed anything that woman said about you. It was never your fault.”

“That’s all in the past” he carefully guided her down to the cool damp sand as he wrapped his arms around her. “From this moment on is what’s important. I’m yours. Your mine.”

She leaned into him “I like the sound of that.”

“Good because that’s the way it’s going to be from this moment on.”

***

539540

“Your dad doesn’t like me” Donovan whispered in Hannah’s ear.

She giggled looking across the room where her parents were comfortably snuggling in each other’s arms. “Of course he does” she contradicted him.

“Then why does he keep glaring at me?” Donovan asked his nose nuzzling into her sensitive skin beneath his ear.

She closed her eyes enjoying the sensual way his warm breath caressed her skin. “He’s not glaring” she moved in his arms before either of them could get carried away “that’s his over protective daddy look.”

Donovan glanced over her shoulder. “He has that look every time he looks at me.”

Shrugging she kissed his cheek oblivious to the glare her dad was giving them. “Relax his bark is worse than his bite,” she nodded towards her dads on the nearby couch. “They like you; otherwise they would have us sitting in between them.”

Donovan looked across at Rory’s serious no-nonsense face before replying, his voice losing all of his former playfulness. “I don’t like that look at all.”

541

“Don’t worry” Hannah giggled as she took his hand “daddy won’t let him hurt you.”

Donovan relaxed a little reassured by her words. “Maybe we should just watch the movie” he suggested trying to move away from her when Hannah put a restraining hand on his shoulder.

“We don’t have to do that” she shook her head “give them time.” She indicated her dad’s with a nod “they’ll get used to it eventually.”

He gave her an uncertain look before settling back into her arms. “I feel like I’m taking my life in my hands.”

“Don’t be so melodramatic” she chided “if dad wanted you dead he could have left you under your car.”

He shivered a little remembering how helpless he felt pinned beneath his car. The thought that still haunted his dreams was whether he was the type to do whatever it took to survive or whether he’d give up and wait for death. Thankfully he hadn’t had to find out.

***

542543

Rory grunted rubbing his side where Eddie’s elbow made contact. “What was that for?” he demanded looking down at his husband.

“You know why” Eddie retorted his eyes on the TV despite having seen the movie a hundred times before.

“I honestly don’t know what you mean” Rory protested shooting the young couple a glare as the boy nuzzled his daughter’s neck. A low growl built up inside him.

“Down boy” Eddie squeezed Rory’s knee.

“I’m not a dog” Rory grumbled.

Chuckling a little Eddie crawled into his husband’s lap. “I can’t see the TV” Rory complained.

544

“You’re not watching” Eddie said reasonably as he put his hands on either side of Rory’s face to keep him from watching their daughter. “Leave them be” he instructed firmly.

Rory resisted the urge to break the tenuous hold Eddie had on him. He heard the firmness in Eddie’s voice. “I’m sorry” he mumbled “I miss being the center of her universe.”

“I know” Eddie agreed “I miss that too.”

The sadness in his husband’s voice made Rory want to wrap Eddie up in a protective cocoon. “I haven’t been very helpful have I?” he asked contritely after realizing how difficult this must be for his husband.

“No not really” he shook his head slightly “but you’re forgiven.” Eddie leaned forward placing a kiss on Rory’s nose “you’ve been distracted.”

“I’m sorry” he repeated berating himself for not seeing the pain Eddie had been in. “I’ll do better. I promise.”

545

The corners of Eddie’s lips turned upwards, “thank you” he murmured. “That means a lot to me. Hannah will appreciate it too.”
“She better” he grumbled “I just want her to be happy.”

“Then trust her” Eddie advised “Donovan loves her. He’s as protective of her as you are of me.”

Rory glanced over his daughter. This time without the glare of distaste. He sighed sadly “I miss our little girl coming to us to solve her problems.” He squeezed Eddie tightly in his arms “I don’t want to share her.”

“If you refuse to share we’ll lose her forever” Eddie said gently “don’t force her to choose. It’s not fair and we’ll lose.”

“I know” he leaned his head forward resting it on Eddie’s forehead “I wouldn’t do that to her. I love her too much.”

“Come on” Eddie climbed off of Rory’s lap. He held his hand out silently waiting for Rory to take it and follow him from the room.

***

“Where are they going?” Donovan asked his brows knitting together in concern.

“They’re giving us some alone time” she said with satisfaction. “It’s a good thing.” She moved into his lap. Smiling she ran her fingers through his red hair “now I know why daddy prefers sitting in dad’s lap.”

“Why’s that?” he asked unable to read the glint in her green eyes.

“It’s so much easier to do this” she leaned forward laying claim to his lips.

He jerked away from her “what if they come back?”

Don’t worry they won’t” she grinned grabbing his face between her hands “now hold still.”

He let her draw him close covering his mouth with hers. All he could think about was they way she felt grinding against him. He wanted to give in to his animal instincts. Fear that her parents would walk in on them held him back along with something else. Respect. Respect for the girl who was driving him crazy. Respect for her parents. In the past he wouldn’t have cared but he hadn’t loved any of them.

549550

As her kisses became more passionate and insistent he pushed her from his lap. “You don’t know what you’re doing to me” he panted in apology.

“If you wanted me to stop all you had to do was ask” she complained as her cheeks flared a brilliant shade of red.

“I didn’t want you to stop” Donovan explained “I wanted so much more but I ….” He bit his lip “what you and I have. I want it to be more than just a fling. I want…”

She snuggled into him taking his hand “yes” she asked expectantly “you want what?”

He turned towards her “I want forever. I can’t imagine my life without you. I don’t want to imagine life without you.”

Her eyes looked troubled “what are you saying? You’re not leaving are you?”

“No” he hastily assured her “I’ll never leave you voluntarily. I’ll go kicking and screaming if anyone tried to make me leave you.”

551

“I’ll protect you” she said her voice solemn.

He smiled at her comment “I know you would.” He gently wrapped a strand of her long blonde hair around his finger. “I love you. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. I hope one day to prove to you that I’m good enough for you.”

She shook her head than took the hand that had her hair wrapped around uts finger. “There’s nothing to prove. You’re the one I want now and always. You’re a good kind-hearted person who would do anything for his friends. I love that about you.” She smiled at him “I may wish your methods were a little more orthodox but I can’t fault you for your motives.”

“Do you really mean that?” he asked eagerly almost bouncing on the couch cushion beside her.

“Yes I do” nodding her head vigorously. “You don’t know how happy that makes me to hear that.” He threw her arms around her “it almost makes me want to ask…”

Pulling away to look into his face she repeated “almost makes you what?” She watched the almost embarrassed way he looked at his hands.

“I have nothing to offer you” he hung his head.

552553

“I wouldn’t say nothing” she said gently tilting his chin up “you have all I’ll ever need.”

“What?” he asked giving her a miserable look.

“Love” she said simply “that’s all I need.”

“It’s not” he contradicted her his tone a little more up beat.

“It’s a place to start” she asserted “I don’t need much. Just you. That’s all that really matters isn’t?”

“Put like that” he grinned leaning in close “how can I say no?”

“You can’t” she smirked knowing she had won the battle.

Chapter 36 – Not Afraid / Chapter 38 – The Truth Comes Out

Hannah – Chapter 32 – Missing You

284283

Ryan stifled his instant irritation at having his baby sister follow him around the house like a lost puppy. Every time he moved he stumbled into her. “Why don’t you go outside and play?” he asked.

“Will you come with me?” she asked eagerly tugging on his arm.

“Not right now” he tried to shove her towards the door.

“Just go outside with her” Trent suggested “she’s missed you.”

“Fine” he groaned.

“If you don’t want to, don’t bother” his sister cried running to her room. A moment later her door banged shut.

“Ryan would it have killed you to spend a little bit of your time with your sister?” Gayle asked.

“I was….” he looked from one parent to the next. Their disapproving, disappointed looks speaking volumes. “I was waiting for a text from Charity,” he mumbled looking down.

282281

“Charity would understand you needing to spend time with your family” Gayle pointed out. Crossing her arms she leaned on the wall “honestly Ryan you’ve barely said two words to any of us since you’ve been home.”

“She’s a pest” he complained.

“She’s your sister” Trent asserted “she may seem like a pest now but you’d miss her if something ever happened to her.”

“Yeah I know” he rolled his eyes “I don’t need a lecture. It’s just….why did you have to wait so long to have her.”

“It wasn’t by choice” Gayle said averting her eyes.

“Or lack of trying” Trent continued getting up to put is arms around his wife offering what comfort he could.

“I wanted a large family” Gayle explained as tears shimmered in her eyes “You came so easily soon after we were married.”

“We assumed it would be just as easy next time around” Trent squeezed her shoulder “we were wrong.”

280

“I had almost given up hope when we finally had Faith” Gayle gave her husband a grateful look.

Ryan looked down at his phone smiling as a text came through from Charity. He felt his parents disapproving frown as he responded back. Looking up he demanded “what?”

“Aren’t you going a bit fast?” Trent asked.

“Fast” he repeated. He couldn’t his his astonishment. “I’ve known her practically all my life.”

“Then she’ll understand you need to spend time with your family.” Trent said trying to be reasonable. Glancing down at his wife of twenty years he said “son your mother and I understand how important Charity is to you….”

Gayle smiled up at him “we know this is all new and you want to spend every moment you can together…”

Ryan could hear the but hanging in the air as he asked “then why are you upset with me?” He glanced down to respond to the text he just received.

“Because there is such a thing as too much” Gayle gave her husband a pleading look.

279

“Ryan you don’t want to smother the poor girl” he chuckled a little when that had his son tilting his chin up in defiance.

“I’m not” he protested “Charity hasn’t complained.”

“Nor will she until she can’t take it anymore” Trent said “girls tend to do that.” He grunted in pain as Gayle elbowed him. “What?” he asked looking down at her with a mischievous grin.

“That’s not true” Gayle shook her head at him “Ryan you do need time apart. Have you been out with your friends since you’ve been home?”
He took a moment to think about the past few weeks. “Hannah was over a couple of days ago.”

“Try a couple of weeks ago” Gayle corrected “she left after a couple of hours of watching you text Charity. I want you to think about something. Before Hannah left she said she felt like she had lost her two best friends.” She stepped forward placing her hands over his his stilling his fingers as they flew across the keyboard. “If Hannah’s feeling that way imagine how your family feels. You’re in the room with us but your mind is elsewhere.”

“Fine” he grumbled putting his phone away resisting the urge to take it out when he felt the familiar buzz alerting him to a new text. “Whatever” he muttered throwing himself into an empty chair.

“Look honey” Trent pointed towards their son “isn’t it heart warming how much he wants to spend time with us?”

Ryan rolled his eyes wondering how long he’d have to wait until Charity gave him the all clear to come to Isla Paradiso. He couldn’t wait to see her again. Texting was great but it didn’t compare to be being able to see and hold her in his arms.

***

264

“Honey can you put that thing away?” Zane asked with a petulant tone.

“Don’t you remember what it was like when we first met?” Graham asked “it felt like we couldn’t get enough of each other.”

“I still feel that way” Zane smirked as his husband crawled into his lap.

“Get a room” Charity mumbled peering up from her phone display.

Chuckling a little Graham moved to the couch beside Zane. “Is this better?” he asked innocently.

“Much” she mumbled fingers flying over the keys as she typed.

“Charity can you put that thing down for a few minutes?” Graham asked “we haven’t had a chance to really talk since you came home.”

“What do you want to talk about?” she asked setting her phone on her thigh.

Her parents exchanged glances. Graham took a deep breath before asking “are you mad at us?”

260261

“Why would I be mad?” she reached for her phone to respond to the text she just received.

“Stop deflecting” Zane reached across the coffee table snatching her phone from her hands “Ryan can wait.”

“It’s called multitasking not deflecting” she hugged her knees to her chest sulking.

“It’s deflecting when you use this” he waved her phone in the air “as a means to keep from talking to us.”

“Whatever” she mumbled refraining from rolling her eyes.

“Wipe that look from your face” Zane snapped.

Charity gaped at him. It was plain to see she had no clue what face she had made that had so irritated him.

Graham glanced from his husbands face to his daughters. Sighing he said “sweetie are you mad at us for not telling you about your mother?”

Charity dragged her eyes away from Zane. She could see by the way Graham sat tense on the edge of his seat that he was anxious over her reply. It mattered to him whether she was mad. The simple answer was “yes” she snapped her mouth shut as soon as the angry word escaped her lips. She hadn’t meant to say it out loud. Her pink haired father seemed to shrink in on himself. “Daddy please” she pleaded “you have to understand. This total stranger came up to me with papers proving she was my mother. I didn’t know what to believe.”

263

“I’m sorry” he sounded miserable “I hoped she wouldn’t track you down when she knew we couldn’t pay.”

Zane patted his hand “sweetie you dad and I didn’t want you to feel you’re mother only wanted to find you for the money she might be able to exploit from us.”

She nodded feeling miserable for the pain she could see in their eyes. “I didn’t want to believe you kept her from me all this time.”

“But you still wanted to know her” Graham added “I understand that. Every child wants a relationship with their parents if they can have one.”

She nodded “all she wanted was money though.” She jumped to her feet feeling trapped. Before she could go more than a few steps strong arms engulfed her.

“I’m sorry” Graham held her smoothing her hair “it’s awful to realize that someone only wants you for what you can give them.”

She could feel his heart beat beneath her hand. “I’m sorry. I should never have listened to her.”

She felt the warm comforting arms of her other dad as he came up behind her hugging both of them tight. “It’s alright sweetie. You have us. You have Ryan.” Charity could hear the terse way he said Ryan’s name.

“Don’t you like Ryan?” she asked fear gripping her heart. “I thought you liked him.” She didn’t want to have to choose between her parents and her boyfriend.

262

“Sweetie” Graham chuckled “your dad is never going to like any boy who takes you away from us.”

“You’re my little girl” Zane said with the same petulant tone he had used earlier “I don’t want to think about anyone taking you from us.”

“Ryan wouldn’t do that” she insisted “we’re going to run the resort together.”

Stepping back Graham grinned at her. “Are you planning our retirement already?”

“We’re not that old yet” Zane protested.

“I never said that you were” she watched as Zane put an arm around Graham. “It’s just when you are old you won’t have to worry about anything. Ryan and I will take care of you.”

Looking at Graham Zane winked “I don’t know about you old man but I feel all warm and fuzzie.”

Ignoring his husbands antics Graham took Charity’s hands. “You don’t have to worry about us. I want you to be happy. Pursue your dreams. You don’t have to tie yourself down to the resort just because you think that’s what we want you to do.”

“It’s not that daddy” she smiled at him “I want to take over the resort. I love it here and I want my children to love it as much as I do.”

***

278277

Feeling somewhat lost without his phone Ryan wandered into the backyard. His little sister was sitting motionless on one of the swings. “Hey kiddo” he leaned on the swing set watching her.

“Go away” she sniffed running a grubby hand across her eyes.

“Hey” he murmured dropping to his knees beside her “I’m sorry.”

“So” she kicked her toes into the loose sand “am I supposed to forgive you now?”

Taken slightly off guard Ryan sighed “yeah I was kinda hoping you would.”

276275

Grabbing the chain as she swept past him Ryan stopped her forward momentum. “I know I hurt you. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”

She gave him a disbelieving look. “Yeah right” she jumped from the swing. “Did you think calling me a pest wouldn’t hurt my feelings?”

“I wh…” he shrugged cheeks burning as he stared at the ground. “I’m sorry. What else can I say?”

“That wasn’t even the worse of it” she crossed her arms “you ignored me. Do you know how that made me feel?”

Ryan shook his head shoving his hands into his pockets. This was worse than anything his parents could have said to him. “What can I do to make it up to you?” he asked as the silence hung between them

“Jerk” she grumbled “I wanted to yell and scream at you.”

“I deserve it” he said quietly without moving.

“It’s no fun if you just stand there and take it” she took a small step towards him tears making her eyes water. “I really missed you Ry.”

“I missed you too” his voice gruff as he fought back tears.

“Liar” she gave him a severe frown.

“I did” he declared “I really really did.”

“Words are cheap” she said lips twitching “you need to prove it.”

“How?” he asked closing the gap between them.

“Dinner and a movie” she said glaring up at him.

“Its a date” he held his arms out to her. With a giggle she ran into them.

***

268

Later that night Ryan lay on his bed. His phone pressed to his ear. “Sorry”he murmured “my parents confiscated my phone.”

“So did mine” Charity giggled “I guess we have been over doing it a little.”

“I guess” he agreed sighing “I miss you.”

“I miss you more” she grinned “what can we do about it though?”

“I was thinking….” he bit his lip suddenly afraid it wasn’t a good idea.

259

“About what?” she prompted after his silence continued longer than expected.

“Maybe I could go there for a couple of weeks?”

“What about your family? Don’t you want to spend time with them?” she asked.

“It’s a couple of weeks” he rolled his eyes “besides we’re adults. We don’t even have to come home for the summer if we don’t want to.”

“That’s true” she said hesitantly.

266

To Ryan’s ears she sounded distant and sad. “Don’t you want me to come?”

“Of course I do” she cried “it’s just…”

“Just what?” he demanded sitting up.

“I don’t know if my dad’s are ready for me to be dating seriously yet” she admitted.

“Is that all?” Ryan could hear the bitterness in his voice “do you want to break up?”

258

“What?” she cried “of course not. Don’t be ridiculous.”

“So I can come” he asked again.

“See if Hannah will come to” she requested “it might make my parents happier if it were a group thing.”

“Alright I’ll ask” he promised giving in “can I still come if she can’t come?”

“You think she won’t?” she asked panic rising in her voice.

265

“I’ll ask. That’s all I can do” Ryan said trying to ease her anxiety “she’s in the same boat we are.”

“At least my dad’s know you” Charity laughed softly “I don’t envy Hannah having to introduce Donovan to her dad’s.”

“Especially Uncle Rory” Ryan laughed as he thought about Hannah “I wish her luck.”

“She’s going to need it” she agreed “tell her to come. She’ll need us if Donovan’s visit goes bad.”

“I’ll do that” he promised “Charity….” He swallowed audibly, heart beating fast in his chest. His palms felt clammy as he fought for air “I love you.”

Silence greeted his proclamation. After a moment she said “I love you too.” Her voice stilling his panic and wildly beating heart.

Chapter 31 – Harsh Realities / Chapter 33 – Where Is Here?

Hannah – Chapter 10 – A New Adventure

screenshot-983screenshot-984

Eddie watched his daughter while she packed the last few items she was taking with her in a box. He was proud of her and all of her accomplishments. Now it was time for him to let go. She glanced up and smiled “why such a long face daddy?” she asked bouncing to her feet.

“I miss you already,” he told her. He took a deep breath promising himself he wouldn’t cry in front of her. He’d save the tears until after she was gone.

“Daddy it’s going to be alright,” she threw her arms around him “I’ll be home for holiday’s and most weekends.” She knew she was going to miss her parents as much if not more than they would miss her. She just wanted the freedom to skip a weekend every so often to hang with friends or whatever.

“I know sweetie,” Eddie squeezed her back fighting back the inevitable tears “are you sure you don’t want your dad and I to help you move?”

“I’ve got it covered,” glancing at the time “Ryan will be here in about five minutes to load the last of my things into the truck.” She smiled sweetly up at him “don’t worry daddy I’ll be alright. I can take care of myself.”

screenshot-985

His heart broke a little inside. Where had the years gone? Why couldn’t she have stayed a little girl forever? Too choked up to speak Eddie nodded pulling her close. Kissed her cheek murmuring “I love you.”

“Love you too daddy,” she stepped away tears shimmering in her green eyes “I need to tell dad good-bye.” She rushed to the door afraid if she lingered she’d burst into tears and together they’d have a flood.

Looking up from the magazine he’d spent the last several minutes flipping through pages without seeing one of them, Rory stood letting it slide to the floor. “All set?” he asked as Hannah approached him.

Nodding she hurried across the room throwing her arms around him “I’m going to miss you so so much.”

Smoothing her long blond hair Rory kissed the top of her head “I’ll miss you too.” He took a deep breath as his chest tightened. No matter how long he knew this day was coming he still wasn’t ready. Wasn’t ready to watch his little girl walk out the door a young woman.”I love you so much sweetheart.” He hugged her tight wishing he could keep her with him just a little longer.

screenshot-986

A knock at the door announced the arrival of her ride. “That will be Ryan,” she said pulling away from him. Turning she dabbed at her eyes fighting for control.

“Uncle Eddie,” Ryan said as he came inside the kitchen “is Hannah ready to go?”

“She’s just saying goodbye to Rory,” Eddie told him trying to muster up a smile “she has a few more boxes in her room.” He led the way to her room.

Whistling softly Ryan shook his head “where is she planning to put all this stuff?”

“Knowing her she’ll be storing some of it in your room,” Eddie told him eliciting a groan from his nephew.

“I kind of figured that but she could at least ask,” Ryan groaned picking up the first box “what does she have in here? Rocks?”

***

screenshot-987

Eddie stood beside Rory waving as their daughter drove away to start her own adventure without them. “Hey,” Rory said softly turning to Eddie noticing the silent tears as they coursed down his cheeks “she’ll be back.”

“I know. It’ll just not be the same,” Eddie tried to walk away. Before he could do so Rory’s strong arms pulled him close holding him tight.

“Tell me what’s wrong?” Rory asked his voice soft undemanding. He knew there was more to it than just missing their daughter. It wasn’t what people liked to call empty nest syndrome either. Something serious was bothering his husband. He had spent too many years married to the man not to recognize the signs.

“College. She’s going to college.” There it was out in the open. The problem. The worry. The past. The memories. The turmoil. The upset. The end of normality. The start of a nightmare that had taken years for him to come to grips with. “What if?” he choked on the words unable to give voice to his fears.

Words failed him. What could he say? That nothing bad would happen to their little girl? He couldn’t. Life was too unpredictable. Rory wrapped his arms around Eddie holding him tight. He could feel the tremor run through his husband’s body. He longed for something he could say or do to ease his pain and fears. There just weren’t words. No platitudes that could ease Eddie’s fears and Rory didn’t want to give empty promises. “Whatever happens in the future,” Rory said finally finding the words “we’ll be there for our daughter. She’ll never be alone. She has good friends. People who won’t abandon her. Who will look out for her.”

screenshot-988screenshot-989

Eddie sniffed listening to Rory’s soothing words letting them calm his fears, his worries. He rested his head on Rory’s chest listening to the steady beat of his heart. Thump, thump, thump rhythmic, soothing. As long as he had this man by his side he could do anything. “Thank you,” he murmured “you’re right. I was letting my imagination runaway with me.”

“That’s what I’m here for,” Rory tilted Eddie’s chin up “I love you.” It still came as a shock to him how easy it was to say those three little words and mean them. It was hard to imagine how close he had come to never knowing this feeling. Never knowing what it meant to love and be loved. He had almost lost it all.

He looked longingly into Eddie’s deep brown eyes. The same eyes he had looked into twenty years ago and lost his heart. This time was no different. “Eddie you have no idea how much I love and adore you.” He brought his mouth down to tenderly kiss his husband’s soft lips that yielded to him.

Leaning weakly against him Eddie ran his fingers up and down Rory’s back “I have a pretty good idea” he said pressing his body closer to Rory’s.

Moaning Rory pulled him closer as if he wanted merge their bodies together. “You know I think I have the same effect on you,” Rory smiled cheekily down at him.

“Let’s go inside and do something about it,” Eddie replied as Rory lifted him up. Eddie wrapped his legs around his husbands waist. As Rory fumbled for the door Eddie pressed his mouth against Rory’s his tongue exploring, tasting insistent until the door closed behind them and they fell to the floor.

***

screenshot-991screenshot-992

Charity glanced around her room one last time. Her mind on all the fun times she had within those four walls. The various transformations her room had gone through over the years. From baby pink to deep purple with tones of black to the current relaxing blue. She was going to miss it. Her dads. The islands. Her friends the few she had here.

Closing the door she found her parents waiting for her. Zane smiled holding his arms out wide. She giggled as she ran to him and he lifted her up into a bear hug. “I love you daddy” she said kissing his cheek.

“I love you too sweetie,” Zane told her with an easy smile.

Turning to Graham she could see the sadness in his eyes despite the smile he had plastered on his face. “I’m going to miss you too,” she told him squeezing him tight.

Graham’s arms curled around her small frame holding her tight. If he could he’d never let her go. Breathing in deeply he released her “love you baby girl.”

Standing on her toes she stretched to kiss his cheek “love you to dad.”

screenshot-994screenshot-993

Clearing his throat Graham asked “you have everything?”

“I think so,” she shrugged “if I’ve forgotten anything I’ll get it next time I’m home.” Her breath caught in her throat it was going to be months before she saw them again. The thought made her heart ache. She had never been separated from them for more than a few hours a day for school.

“If we don’t hurry you’ll miss your flight,” Graham said turning to practicalities.

“She could always take a later flight,” Zane pointed out a little too hopeful to have a few extra hours with his daughter before she left on the plane.

Despite Zane’s proposal to the contrary Graham hustled them from the house to the airport. “Let us know when you arrive,” he told her.

“I will” she promised looking down at her boarding tickets. This was it. It was really happening. She was no longer a little girl. She was a full-grown adult. A college student. Glancing towards her parents. Zane’s woebegone face made her almost regret not signing up for classes at the local college.

screenshot-995

She might have done just that if Graham hadn’t sat her down and made her admit what she wanted to accomplish with her life. It led her to choosing a school on the mainland that offered the classes that would help her accomplish her goals. It would be harder. In the end the reward would be something she and her parents would both be proud of.
She walked a few steps towards the long queue to get through security. She stopped and turned waving to her parents. The two most important men in her life. They had loved her. Molded her into the person she was today. She didn’t know how she could stand to be away from them for so long.

She ran back to them throwing her arms around them both “I can’t do this.” she cried.
Kissing her forehead Graham peered into her eyes “of course you can. Your dad and I are so proud of you and everything you have accomplished so far. Now go follow your dreams.”

Nodding she walked backwards a few steps loathe to lose sight of them. She bumped into someone, turning to apologize she lost track of them. She turned scanning the crowd but couldn’t find them. With a heavy heart she joined the line through security.

It wasn’t until she was seated on the plane, forehead resting on the window that she felt the first pangs of homesickness. As the island disappeared below her the first tears trickled down her nose. This was really happening she thought. She was on her own now.

***

screenshot-996

Donovan scowled out the window. His duffel bag clutched in his lap to keep it safe from being trampled. An overweight middle-aged man with a receding hairline snored like a jet engine beside him. There was no way he was ever going to be able to sleep with all that noise. If he had to go to college why couldn’t he have gone to the one in his home town? Why had his mother insisted upon this particular one?

The obese man turned in his sleep, his head lolling on Donovan’s shoulder. He couldn’t keep the disgust he felt from showing on his face. With effort he kept from shoving the man way from him. He promised his mom he’d stay out of trouble. He squirmed trying to find a better position in his cramped seat. Pushing against the boulder beside him he groaned. If only his mom hadn’t found out about his computer hacking. He would have had enough funds for a plane ticket.

He let his mind wander for a moment to the luxury of a first class ticket. Room to spread out, to stretch his legs. OMG what is that stench he thought bringing a hand to pinch his nose closed wishing he could burn his nasal passages from ever having to smell again. He coughed as another wave of noxious fumes enveloped him. Eyes watering he tried to crawl over the immobile blockade in his path. No matter what he tried he couldn’t get past the man.

People in the surrounding seats began to stir complaining of the stench assaulting their nostrils. A strange gurgling sound emanated from the sleeping man as more fumes engulfed them. Gagging Donovan couldn’t keep the bile down anymore as he heaved all over the man next to him.

screenshot-997screenshot-998

To Donovan’s astonishment and relief. The people around him applauded as the large man woke up in a huff and lumbered to the front of the bus. Leaving behind a trail of vomit in his wake.

A grandmotherly type older woman came up beside Donovan and helped him clean up the seat asking him “are you ok young man?”

“I’m fine ma’am,” he couldn’t hide his grin “I’m just sensitive to strong scents.”

She giggled “he was rather odoriferous.”

He chuckled feeling better now he had the seat to himself even if it reeked of vomit. It was still better than toxic gas. He leaned his head against the window wondering what college would be like. If he’d meet anyone interesting there. Mostly he wondered if he’d be able to keep his promise to his mom. Would he be able to resist the urge to continue his computer “activism”. He felt he was doing some good giving money back to the people treated the worst by unfair business practices. Did he really want to stop?

***

screenshot-999

Waylon sighed laying back on the bed he’d chosen in the room he was assigned in the dorm. He stared up at the ceiling wondering why anyone would go through the effort to texture it. It seemed to be an awful waste of time and effort for something most people never noticed. His stomach churned as his mind started to wonder who he’d be sharing the room with and the rest of the dormitory. He started to have doubts about coming here altogether. He should’ve have just gone to the local college in his hometown.

He could still have lived with his Uncle and Aunt as they had tried to convince him to do. He could have helped them on the farm, taken a few classes. They just didn’t understand why he wanted to be so far away from them. It wasn’t them but the tragedy that haunted him. All he could think about were all the unanswered questions. Why did his dad start the fire that killed all his family? Why had he been spared? He hated the pity in the neighbor’s eyes as they looked at him. The kids all stayed away from him. He was different. Cursed. His Aunt and Uncle tried but they couldn’t fill the void when his heart had disappeared into it.

If only he had answers to the whys in his life he might be able to move on. A part of him died that night. A part of him still belonged in that fire. He felt like cold ash surrounded by smoldering embers. The embers of that night still burned within him keeping the nightmare fresh and alive.

Growing restless he left his room hoping a little exercise would silence his inner voice. He changed into comfortable workout attire and set to work. Sweat poured off his body as he pushed his limits and his muscles began to burn from the exertion. He could hear voices filtering up from downstairs as others started to arrive. Happy, carefree voices from the sounds of them that both excited him and filled him with dread. Breathing hard he gathered his things and headed towards the showers stalling for time before he had to meet any of these people he would be living with.

screenshot-1000

He let the hot water massage his tired muscles soothing and relaxing them. He could pretend he was the only person there until the unmistakable sound of the bathroom door opening and a stall door opened and shut. He couldn’t escape the fact that he wasn’t alone any longer. As much as he wanted to avoid it he knew he had to go out there and meet his roommate.

He waited until he was alone in the bathroom before getting out of the shower to get dressed. He finger combed his wet hair and left. Walked downstairs to his room. As he approached his door it sounded like everyone was inside his room. Great his roommate was the popular type.

He hesitated outside the door debating whether or not to go inside. Taking a deep breath he opened the door to find the room filled with girls and boys all laughing and talking. A girl with dark reddish hair turned with a smile to greet him “you must be the roommate.”

“Err,” he mumbled unsure what to say. He moved to put his things away when he stopped stunned. A gorgeous blond was sitting casually on his bed. Waylon felt his pulse quicken like he was still working out. For the first time since he got there he hoped he’d be accepted and make friends.

Chapter 9 – Monday / Chapter 11 – He Likes Me, He Likes Me Not

Hannah – Chapter 4 – Slumber Party

screenshot-541

The following summer Eddie and Rory went back to the resort where the girls got reacquainted with each other. Eddie spent much of that summer working on his mermaid book and was in the process of starting a visual novel for preteens to enjoy. After some discussion Eddie was able to talk Rory into buying a summer home in Isla Paradiso where they could both spend a couple of months writing without interruption other than the beautiful island, good friends and their daughter. Before they knew it five years had passed.

“Ity do you think your parents will change their minds and let you come to my slumber party?” Hannah asked a couple of weeks before her eighth birthday.

“I don’t think so Nana,” she bit her lip “they might feel better if it were here instead.”

“What difference does it make whether it’s here or my house?” Hannah asked confused.

Shrugging Charity fell silent not wanting her best friend to be disappointed “my parents just worry about me and they don’t like the idea of their being boys there.”

screenshot-542

“I wanted you to meet all my other friends,” Hannah sighed this was the first time they were celebrating her birthday on the actual date instead of waiting to go home so they could have all her friends there. She had done everything she could think of to convince her dads to have her birthday party now so that Charity could be there this time. Now Charity’s parents were being stupid. “Hey I know,” she bounced up and down excitedly as an idea came to her “I’ve got it.”

“You’ve got what?” Charity asked giggling watching her best friend jump up and down like she had eaten jumping beans.

“I’ve got an idea” Hannah clapped her hands “I know it’ll work. It just has to work. We should have it here that way your dads can be here and they’ll know the boys aren’t bad.”

“I never said that,” Charity protested.

“You didn’t have to,” Hannah laughed happy with the solution she had come up with. She did however omit the fact that she had overheard her parents discussing this very same idea when they thought she wasn’t there. Frowning she asked “do you know what co-ed means?” It was a word her parents had used and she didn’t know what they meant by it.

screenshot-543

Shaking her head Charity put a finger to her mouth thinking “maybe it has something to do with boys. They didn’t have a problem until they found out there were going to be boys at your party.”

“Why would boys make a difference?” Hannah made a face “boys are gross anyway. They’re only coming because I’ve known them all my life.”

“I don’t think boys are gross,” Charity confided in her friend “my dad’s are boys and I like them.”

“Dads and boys are different,” Hannah said giving her friend her sage advise.

“Oh” Charity nodded accepting that Hannah knew what she was talking about even if she herself didn’t see the difference. There had to be one if Nana said there was.

***

screenshot-544

After going home Hannah was watching her favorite TV show. Her parents were snuggling on the couch behind her. She couldn’t help but think she was pretty lucky to have two parents who loved each other. She had been at Divia’s house once and her parents were yelling at each other. Divia had given her such a miserable look that she felt like putting her parents into timeout for causing her to look like that. She made a point to ask Divia over to her house at least once a week to give the poor girl a break from her parents fighting all the time.

She tried to concentrate on her show Hannah smiled. She couldn’t wait to see all of her friends again. The slumber party was going to be epic. If, she thought, if Charity was allowed to come. “Dad” she said when a commercial was on “what’s wrong with boys coming to my party?”

“Who said it was wrong?” Rory asked her.

“Charity said her dad’s won’t let her come to my party because there will be boys there,” she explained “you did tell them they’re all nice not like normal boys right?”

screenshot-545

“We did,” Eddie said hiding his smile “how would you feel if we had the party at the resort instead of here?”

Rory gave him a sharp concerned look “I thought we weren’t going to mention that until we knew for sure.”

“I know but,” he sighed looking at Hannah’s hopeful look “it’s not for sure but Zane is trying to convince Graham into letting the party take place at the resort. Would you mind Hannah if we had it there?”

“I don’t care where the party is as long as Charity’s there,” she told him turning her attention back to the TV with a huge grin. Phase one complete she thought, now it was up to Ity to complete phase two.

***

screenshot-546

Charity covered her ears. She didn’t have to see a calendar to know it was the first of the month. Her parents were arguing again, like they always do when the bills were due. It was the only time they did argue and she was lucky it wasn’t worse. Her parents got along fine except when it came to money.

“Daddy,” Charity said when they had become quiet for a while. She hoped they were done with the bills for the month so that things could go back to normal.

Graham looked down at his little girl “what is it sweetheart?” he always had a ready smile for his daughter no matter how hectic or bad things were.

“Hannah’s birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks…” she turned pleading eyes on him “I really really want to be there.”

“Charity we already gave you our answer, no,” Graham told her firmly “now quit asking.”

“She’s my best friend,” she cried “I need to be there.”

screenshot-547

“Charity what did I just tell you?” Graham asked his temper rising. He looked up as Zane moved towards their daughter to comfort her wearing the same hurt look Charity had.

“Sweetie why don’t you go to your room,” Zane told her gently taking her hand and leading her to the door “I’ll talk to your dad.”

“You have my answer,” Graham said crossing his arms tired of how Zane always gave into Charity’s every whim.

Charity glared at Graham before opening the door and running to her room.

They stood glaring at each other listening to their daughters sobs as she slammed the door to her bedroom. “Why do you have to be so stubborn?” Zane asked “can’t you see how important this is to Charity?”

Graham turned his back on his husband “I don’t see what the big deal is” Zane said. He hated talking to Graham when he was being unreasonable “it’s just a bunch of eight year olds. What do you think will happen?”

screenshot-548

“It’s not just this party,” Graham sighed “it’s the one after that and the next one and the next one. Than they’re all sixteen and boys will be hanging all over her and…”

“That’s going to happen regardless of whether or not she goes to this party,” Zane said with a smile “it’s just a fact of life. Kids grow up. One day we’ll even be grandparents.”

“I know,” Graham said turning around to face his husband “I just want her to stay a little girl forever.”

“So do I,” Zane held his arms out for his husband to snuggle into him “can I tell our daughter she can go to the party?”

“Only if it’s here,” Graham sniffed “I want to be sure nothing happens.”

“Alright I’ll let Eddie know,” Zane said glad the party was settled for now. He couldn’t wait to see Charity’s face light up when she found out.

***

screenshot-549

Grabbing Charity’s hand Hannah led her up to a group of kids, “everybody this is Charity. Charity this is everybody.”

“What do I do now?” Charity whispered to Hannah “they’re just staring at me.”

“Say something,” Hannah told her.

“Like what?” Charity swallowed audibly as one of the boys stepped forward with a smile.

“Hi I’m Ryan,” he extended his hand.

She took it feeling as if everyone was watching her “hi I’m Charity.”

“I know Hannah told us,” he continued to grin at her “I’m Hannah’s cousin so you can come to me if you ever need anything.”

screenshot-550

“Thank you,” she looked around for Hannah who had been beside her but was now no where in sight.

“Would you like to play a game?” he asked.

“We could play cops and robbers,” a blond boy with light blue eyes suggested.

“She doesn’t want to play that, do you?” a girl with red hair said “that’s a boys game anyway.”

“We’re not playing house,” another boy piped up with.

“We’re not playing trivia either,” Hannah said joining them “Vincent and Divia always win.”

“We can’t help it if we’re smart,” a girl with blue hair said staring at her shoes.

screenshot-566

Biting her lip in thought Charity grabbed a pillow from the pile she had helped her dads bring into the daycare area in preparation for the slumber party. Squeezing it tight she wondered if she should do what she was thinking or if someone would get mad at her. Nothing ventured nothing gained she thought as she hurled the pillow at Ryan’s head shouting “pillow fight.”

There was a mad dash as everyone grabbed a pillow and started hitting each other. Graham came running into the room to see what all the screams were about. What he found were seven eight year olds laughing and screaming while being beat senseless with pillows. His eyes searched the crowd until he found his daughter.

Charity was ducking behind one of the boys who seemed to be taking the brunt of the attacks. Listening closely he heard the boy say “I’ll protect you my queen.”

A blond little boy with glasses sneered back saying “impossible. We have captured the princess. It’s only a matter of time until you surrender.”

“I will never surrender to the likes of you,” the dark-haired boy shouted back “Stand back and prepare to meet your doom.”

“Urgh,” another blond boy yelled falling theatrically to the floor holding a hand to his heart “I’m dying, dying, dying.”

“Yeah die already,” Hannah said stepping over him. The boy went through a spasm before finally lying still, his tongue hanging out. “I’m free at last,” Hannah smirked in triumph “prepare yourself evil king to feel my wrath.” She screamed as she charged the group taking the fight to them.

***

screenshot-551

Graham walked out of the room shaking his head. Noticing his smile Eddie asked “how’s it going in there?”

“Fine,” he laughed “they’re playing some sort of mid evil drama with pillows instead of swords.”

“That’ll be the boy’s influence,” Trent said with confidence.

“Or the girls,” Gayle added “I’m sure Zach suggested cops and robbers. Then the pillow fight began as some sort of compromise.”

“You’re probably right,” Rory nodded. Turning to Graham “were all the kids playing?”

“I think so,” he thought back “I didn’t see anyone sitting out or off by themselves.”

“Good” Rory sighed “Divia and Vincent are good at isolating themselves and burying their heads in books. I want to make sure everyone is having a good time.”

screenshot-552

“I don’t think we’ll have to worry about them sleeping tonight,” Zane said approaching the group of parents “they’re going to wear themselves out.”

Nodding Eddie said “they’ll go until they drop which is why we don’t have many slumber parties.”

“It’s not the kids who can’t handle it,” Trent explained to the combined shock on Graham and Zane’s faces “it’s the parents who can’t handle it. We stay up just as late as the kids. One kid or another will get homesick and want to go home.”

“Or one of them will have a stomach ache from eating too much,” Gayle added.

“Or they get into an argument and you have to play referee,” Eddie put his two cents in.

“So you now see why we’re all grateful that you volunteered to have the slumber party here,” Rory laughed adding “we can all get sleep while you two get to stay up all night handling child sized emergencies.”

“Is it too late to change our minds?” Zane asked as the others shook their heads at him. He glanced over at Graham who looked somewhat stunned “honey it’s going to be alright. I’m sure it won’t be as bad as all that. We can handle this.”

***

screenshot-553screenshot-554

“Vince what’s wrong?” Teasha asked sitting on the floor beside him.

Wiping his eyes he held out his mangled glasses “my parents are going to kill me.”

“It’s not that bad,” she told him “they’re just glasses.”

“I can’t see without me glasses,” he sniffed “they cost a fortune and I just got them after breaking the last pair.”

Taking the glasses from his hands “maybe they can be fixed.” Walking over to her twin brother she asked “can you fix them?”

“I can bend them back into shape but I can’t replace the missing lens,” Zachariah told her “if you can find it. I’ll pop it back in.”

screenshot-561

Standing on a chair Teasha clapped her hands to get everyone’s attention “Vinny lost a lens for his glasses. I want everyone to look around for it and be careful so you don’t step on it.”

Six kids got on their hands and knees to scour the floor. Vincent sat with his feet propped up so he wouldn’t step on it in his temporary blind state. He could see fuzzy colored shapes moving around on the floor but he couldn’t tell who or what anything was. He jumped when he heard Charity’s excited voice shouting “I found it.”

They gathered around Zach as he tried to fit the loose lens back into the eyeglass frame. “It’s no use,” he whined “it won’t stay. It just pops right out.”

“What if you make the hole smaller?” Ryan suggested.

“I need pliers to do that,” Zach rejected the idea “besides the hole is the right size. We just lack glue to keep it stuck there.”

screenshot-555screenshot-556

“What about glue?” Divia asked.

Nodding Zach said “that might work,” turning to Charity “do you have any?”

“In the craft area maybe,” she moved to that part of the daycare “come on guys help me look.”

Thirty minutes later they had pulled every box out of its shelf and the contents were strewn all over the floor. “All we have are these,” Hannah showed Zach the glue sticks they found.

“That’s not going to work,” Zach told the group “we need something like super glue. You know the stuff that glues your fingers together.”

screenshot-557

Several heads nodded all turning to Charity. “Oh no we can’t leave the daycare area,” she protested “we promised we wouldn’t.”

“This is an emergency,” Hannah told her “Vince can’t see without his glasses.”

“Plus his parents will shoot him if they find out he broke another pair of glasses,” Teasha informed everyone.

“They cost oodles of money too,” Divia added.

“We have to help him,” Ryan put a hand on her shoulder “We understand if you don’t want to break your promise to your dads. Don’t we guys?” The group all nodded in unison “why don’t you stay behind and stay with Vincent. I’m sure he’d like some company.”

screenshot-558screenshot-559

Charity considered his offer before shaking her head “you don’t know where anything is. I know all the short cuts and hiding places.” She walked towards the door “you don’t all have to come. Probably better if you don’t.”

“You can’t go alone,” Ryan protested “I’ll come with you.”

“No I’ll come,” Hannah objected “she’s my best friend.”

“Hannah as much as I want you to come with me you should stay here,” Charity told her “you’re the best liar in the group. We need you here to cover for us.”

“Oh alright but I’m not a liar. I prefer story teller” she agreed even though hated seeing Ryan go in her place.

***

screenshot-562

Charity led Ryan past the front desk as quickly as possible as that was the most likely spot for them to get caught. Luckily a group of four rather drunk adults with yipping dogs made them rather invisible to the beleaguered receptionist.

“Wow you own this,” Ryan looked around the resort with interest “this is so cool.”

“Do you really think so?” she asked. She had never thought about owning a resort as being cool before.

“Yeah. Your parents are home all the time. My dad travels a lot on tours and when he is home he practices with his band a lot. It’d be nice if my parents were always around,” he told her.

“It’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” she told him “my dads notice everything. I hardly ever get away with anything.”

screenshot-563screenshot-564

Ryan shrugged his shoulders “I just wish my dad was home more that’s all.”

Charity went into her parent’s office “I know I saw some glue in here,” she whispered despite knowing her parents were downstairs. “You look over there. Be careful not to mess anything up.”

Nodding Ryan began searching. “I found it,” he shouted in triumph.

“Not so loud,” she scowled at him. She took the glue from his outstretched hand “come on let’s go.”

“Were we missed,” Charity asked slipping into the room.

screenshot-560

“Nope they didn’t even check on us,” Hannah told her wishing she had a chance to use her well thought out story as to where Charity and Ryan were.

“Did you get the glue?” Vincent asked his voice squeaky with anxiety.

“Sure did,” Ryan beamed.

They gathered around to watch Zach glue the lens in place. “We just have to wait until the glue dries,” he told them “otherwise Vincent should be able to see again.”

“Yay,” they all shouted together feeling good about their accomplishment. The glasses were fixed. The frames sat lopsided on his face and glue had run down the sides but Vincent could see and that’s all that mattered.

Chapter 3 – Honeymoon Part 3 / Chapter 5 -Bad Day Part 1

Hannah – Chapter 3 – Honeymoon Part 3

screenshot-435

“Morning sunshine,”Rory greeted Eddie from the other side of the bed. Leaning over he kissed his husband “are you ready for one more adventure before we go home?”

“Where to this time?” Eddie asked shoving aside his regret that this was the last day of his honeymoon. Tomorrow it was back to the same old grind.

“I thought we’d do some zip lining in the mountains to a remote waterfall where we could do some skinny dipping. He brought his hands up to caress Eddie’s chest and toned abs moving lower.

“Keep that thought,” Eddie said scooting from the bed “if we’re doing any or all of that than I need all the energy I can get.”

“Eddie don’t be cruel, come back and help me out,” Rory pleaded his eyes twinkling with mischief.

“Take a cold shower,” Eddie laughed over his shoulder “trust me I’m in as much pain as you.” He left their room grinning to check on Hannah.

screenshot-437screenshot-438

“Morning princess,” he was greeted with a good-natured giggle.

“See Ity today?” she asked him.

“You mean Charity?” Eddie asked forgetting Hannah’s name for Graham’s daughter.

“Ity,” she giggled happily.

“Yes” Eddie laughed with her giving her a quick peck on the cheek “do you like her?”

“Yes,” she beamed “my friend.”

He envied his daughter her ability to make friends so quickly. Even when he was her age he found it difficult to make friends. He hoped she’d always have that ability as she got older. “Let’s get you dressed so you can see your friend,” he told her.

***

screenshot-439screenshot-440

Exiting the elevator he walked past Zane at the front desk. He tried to ignore the sour expression that the man seemed to reserve just for him. He doubted things would ever change between them. Zane refused to see him any other way than the flirt crazed idiot he last saw in France several years before.

Shaking his head Eddie entered the daycare. Letting Hannah’s hand go to the excited squeals of another toddler, Graham’s daughter. “Nana,” the girl called happily giving Hannah a hug.

“Looks like our girls are going to be good friends,” Graham spoke behind Eddie startling him.

“Seems like. Too bad it’ll come to an end when we go home tomorrow,” Eddie murmured moving towards the door.

“Who says it has to end?” Graham asked earning himself a severe glare from Zane who had followed Eddie into the room.

screenshot-441

“Eddie’s right,” Zane told him putting his arms around Graham “it’s not like we’re all friends and hang out regularly.”

“We could be,” Graham muttered looking from one man to the other than back to Zane “there’s nothing for you to be jealous of. I love you. I married you. You bought me this resort. We have this beautiful little girl.”

“And Eddie has me,” Rory said coming up behind Eddie nuzzling his neck “there’s no way I’m letting him get away.”

“As if it were that easy,” Eddie smiled up him “there’s only one person for me.” He ran his fingers through Rory’s hair “there’s no one I’d rather be with than you.”

Kissing Eddie’s full lips despite his reticence for PDA Rory looked up giving Zane a smirk “you have nothing to worry about. Eddie’s with me and I trust him completely. He’d never go after someone; especially if they’re married.”

screenshot-442screenshot-443

“I’d like us to be friends” Graham repeated.

“I’d like that but” Eddie looked up at Rory “what do you think?”

“For you and our little princess I can put up with just about anything even this jer…” he grunted as Eddie’s elbow jabbed him hard in the side. “Ok ok I’ll try but it won’t be easy if that clown keeps giving you a hard time.”

“He has his reasons,” Eddie murmured grateful that Rory was so willing to come to his defense.

“No he doesn’t” Rory grumbled unwilling to let it go “he’s judging you on things you did in the past. He doesn’t even know you or the things you’ve been through.”

screenshot-444

Taking his husband’s hand and leading him a little ways away so they could talk in some sort of privacy. “Isn’t this a little like the pot calling the kettle black? You did the same thing to Gayle.” He put his hand up to cover Rory’s mouth to forestall any comments Rory might make “once you let go of the past you were able to let your sister inside and now you argue like siblings.”

“You’re right but that guy gets on my nerves,” Rory mumbled still not happy. He looked up and frowned “he’s still looking at you wrong. I don’t like it.”

“I can take it and so can you,” Eddie chided him “for Hannah’s sake won’t you at least try?”

Rory’s frown melted as his face broke into a smile “when you look at me all doe eyed I can’t think straight.” He sighed “yes I’ll try for Hannah’s sake. I don’t want to be the one to break up a budding lifelong friendship.”

Taking Rory’s hand Eddie led him back towards Graham and Zane. Zane’s face was less combative if not friendly. Graham nudged him “we’ve agreed to let bygones be bygones.” Zane paused for effect than added “but if you ever flirt with Graham you’ll have to …”

screenshot-445

“Deal with me,” Rory finished for him nostrils flaring “Eddie would never flirt with anyone but me. You don’t have anything to worry about.”

“His track records says otherwise,” Zane grumbled.

“What happened to putting the past behind us?” Rory mocked bristling.

While their husbands bickered back and forth Eddie looked to Graham shrugging “if we come back next year will you be able to put up with those two idiots fighting all the time?”

“Can you?” Graham asked watching Zane warily “he’s been under a lot of stress lately.”

screenshot-446

“Rory feels the need to defend my honor,” Eddie explained “I don’t have the heart to tell he doesn’t have too.”

“Do you ever wonder about what might have been?” Graham asked him watching Eddie closely.

“I used to,” Eddie told him honestly “but we had our chance Graham. We had something undefined but we both didn’t want it bad enough to fight for it. With Rory that’s different. I almost lost him once I won’t let that happen again. I won’t look back if it means I’ll lose what I have.”

“I feel the same,” Graham said even if he felt like mourning for what might have been. “I don’t want to lose Zane anymore than you want to lose Rory.” He glanced over at Zane “who knows our husbands might become really good friends one day.”

“Stranger things have been known to happen,” Eddie laughed shaking his head.

***

screenshot-447

“Daddy,” Hannah tugged on his pants leg.

“What is it sweetheart?” he asked kneeling down beside her.

“Daddy mad,” she pointed towards Rory “makes Ity scared.”

Looking towards the other little girl Eddie smiled gently at her “I’m sorry sweetie,” Eddie said as large tears filled her eyes.

“Daddy tell story,” Hannah demanded.

screenshot-448

“What story do you want to hear?” he asked her glancing up at Rory and Zane wondering if they were planning on arguing all day.

“Mermaid” she looked at him with her pretty green eyes.

The eyes that looked so much like her dad’s that Eddie knew he couldn’t tell her no anymore than he could tell his husband no. He sat on the floor crossed legged. Hannah and Charity crawled into his lap “are you sure you want the story about the mermaid?” he asked his daughter “I thought it was our special story.”

“I’m sure” she nodded her head vigorously until he thought it might fall off “Ity wants story too.”

Smiling Eddie gave into her request “once upon a time a beautiful mermaid with long golden hair lived alone under the sea…”

screenshot-449

“Why?” Charity asked looking at him intently.

“She was sad,” Hannah told her “tell her daddy how sad Arti was.”

“She fell in love with a handsome merman who didn’t love her…”

Charity blinked “bad man.”

“Bad man,” Hannah repeated “he made her go live all by herself. Isn’t that right daddy?” Hannah turned to look at him for confirmation.

screenshot-450

“That’s right sweetie the bad merman didn’t want to see or hear her again,” Eddie continued. It wasn’t how the story went but he was letting Hannah direct where the story went. It reminded Eddie of his dad’s Choose Your Own Adventure books he found once. Turn left go to this page turn right go to this page. Each choice something different happened.

“Why?” Charity asked again.

Graham laughed “that’s her favorite question.” He sat on the floor joining them “I’ve never heard of this story before. Zane has gotten a lot of Little Mermaid paraphernalia since Charity has become obsessed with them.

Eddie shook his head as his cheeks started to burn “I made the mermaid story up based upon some research I did on mermaid folklore. I began to tell them to Hannah as bed time stories.”

“You should write a children’s book,” Graham told him “maybe even a whole series. They’ll fly off the bookshelves in stores everywhere.”

screenshot-451

“Do you really think so?” Eddie asked somewhat surprised.

“Of course I do,” Graham said “little girls love mermaids.”

“I…” Eddie started to say he had a book offer when he was interrupted by Rory saying “see what I’d tell ya?”

“Now you decide to stop arguing,” Eddie mumbled looking up at his husband.

“What did you tell him” Zane asked. The first civil question in the past four weeks since they arrived at the resort.

screenshot-452

“That he should write a book,” Rory informed him “he has an agent interested in signing him for a book series.”

“He seems to have a couple of fans already,” Zane waved a hand towards the two little girls in Eddie’s lap, “if it means anything, I say go for it.”

Eddie hugged the girls in his lap before setting them on the floor since story time was over. Zane stuck a hand out to help him up. Eddie hesitated before taking it asking “did my husband beat some sense into you or something?”

“Something like that” Zane mumbled “I’m sorry for the way I’ve been acting. If you still want to be friends I’m willing to try.”

Smiling Eddie glanced at Rory who winked and nodded at him. Graham was smiling at Zane happy with his changed attitude. “Apology accepted,” Eddie smiled in return.

***

screenshot-453

“Eddie we have to go or we’ll miss our reservation,” Rory said trying to usher him out of the room.

“That’s my cue to leave,” Eddie told Graham. Bending down he said “give daddy a hug goodbye.”

“Bye daddy,” Hannah said giving him a hug.

“Be a good girl,” he told her while she walked off to join Charity.

“Come on Eddie,” Rory said impatiently “this isn’t the first time we’ve left Hannah.”

“I know,” Eddie mumbled following him to the taxi line “I’m just emotional today.”

screenshot-454

Rolling his eyes Rory asked “when aren’t you emotional?”

Standing beside the taxi Eddie crossed his arms “I’m not going.”

“I’m sorry,” Rory apologized.

“You’re just saying that to get me to go,” Eddie muttered.

“Yes and no,” Rory conceded “babe it’s our last day here. I just want to enjoy it with you.”

Relenting Eddie let Rory pull him into the taxi. When they were seated Eddie turned to his husband “for that comment your going to have to do a lot of groveling to get me to forgive you.”

screenshot-463

“You will even without the groveling,” Rory said confidently leaning into Eddie to steal a kiss. He found himself face planting Eddie’s palm. “What the…”

“That’s not groveling,” Eddie turned to stare out the window. Several minutes passed before he asked “where are we going?”

“You’ll see when we get there,” Rory assured him amusement in his voice.

They drove for another fifteen minutes. Eddie soaked in the sights sighing deeply “I wish we could stay here.”

“Why?” Rory asked “to be closer to your boyfriend?”

Eddie stared at him for several long silent moments before cracking a smile “it certainly would make things more convenient.”

screenshot-462

Laughing Rory asked “what gave me away?”

“Your eyes,” Eddie told him taking Rory’s hand “they were twinkling like they always do when your up to something. I knew than you weren’t being serious.”

The taxi came to a stop at the top of a breath taking view. Eddie breathed in deeply feeling at one with the surroundings. “It’s beautiful” he said as Rory came up behind him.

“I know something more beautiful,” he whispered in Eddie’s ear.

“Like what?”

“I’m holding him,” he left a trail of soft kisses along the back of Eddie’s neck.

Almost purring Eddie closed his eyes wishing they were somewhere private where they could finish what he and Rory started earlier that morning in their room. “If you don’t stop your going to have to take me back to the resort,” he gasped as Rory nibbled on his ear.

“Why would I do that when there are perfectly good trees over there for cover?” Rory murmured undaunted by the stares of others as they walked past.

“Rory please not here,” Eddie’s voice pleaded even as his body flushed with desire. If he listened to his bodies wishes he’d let Rory do whatever, wherever, whenever he wanted.
Alert to Eddie’s sensitivities Rory came to his senses and released Eddie blushing when he became aware of his where abouts. “Sorry,” he mumbled his cheeks burning as he watched Eddie adjust his clothes. “Sorry,” he repeated shoving his hands in his pockets.

“At least I know my husband still finds me desirable” Eddie smiled impishly up at him before quickly walking away.

“Not that way,” Rory said grabbing his hand “we’re scheduled for the zip line.”

screenshot-458screenshot-459

Panic coursed through Eddie’s body as his heartbeat fast “I thought you were joking when you mentioned that this morning.” he tried to back track towards the waiting taxis “I think I want to go back to the resort.”

“This will be fun” Rory assured him as they approached the zip line operators. “He’s going first,” Rory told them “that way he can’t chicken out.”

Once Eddie was in his harness waiting for his turn he turned back to Rory “I don’t want to do this,” panic in his voice and eyes.

“Trust me you’ll enjoy it,” Rory told him “remember how much fun you had surfing?”

“Yeah” he said hesitantly “that was only after I stopped imagining being eaten by sharks.”

“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” Rory laughed at him.

screenshot-460screenshot-461

“That’s what everyone says until the rope breaks and you plummet to your death,” Eddie walked to the edge then backed away “I can’t do this. Let’s go back to the parking lot. We can have all the hot passionate public sex you ever wanted. Just don’t make me do this.”

Rory ignored the snickers from the operators as he responded to Eddie “as tempting as that is I’m going to have to say no.” Rory had no idea how scared Eddie was until this moment. Offering to have public sex was a strong indicator of how stressed Eddie was over the situation.

Eddie gave one last desperate look back at Rory before jumping off the platform screaming “if I die I’m going to kill you.”

***

screenshot-464

Later that evening Rory watched Eddie limp around the room packing things for their return trip home. “You could help,” he grumbled growing tired of Rory watching him hobble around the room.

“I tried but you shooed me away,” Rory told him unruffled.

“You weren’t doing it right,” Eddie complained.

“What does it matter how it’s put in the suitcase as long is it fits?” Rory asked.

“I have to fit all these souvenirs in them,” Eddie told him “we bought way too much stuff.”

screenshot-470

“You not me,” Rory was quick to point out “you’re worse than a bunch of teen girls on a shopping spree.”

“I am not,” Eddie said indignantly.

Getting up Rory took Eddie’s hands “we have some unfinished business to take care of…”

“But I…” he looked at the open suitcase “I’m not done packing yet.”

“Finish in the morning,” Rory said kissing his soft full lips “I’ve wanted to do this all day. I can’t wait any longer.” He unbuttoned and removed Eddie’s shirt.

screenshot-471screenshot-472

“I really shshould…” Eddie’s voice grew hoarse turning into a moan as Rory ran a hand across his chest. Rory’s lips marked a trail down his neck, to his chest sending all thoughts running for the hills as Eddie gave himself over to the magic of Rory’s touch.

Rory undressed him down to his boxer’s saying “I should have done this earlier when you offered instead of making you go through with zip lining. Than you wouldn’t have gotten hurt.” He swept Eddie from his feet and carried him to the bed.

“This is better” Eddie said watching Rory undress in front of him “more private.”

“But less exciting,” Rory said crawling over Eddie on the bed.

“I like less exciting” Eddie murmured as their mouths met in a hot passionate kiss. Rory’s weight came down on top of him weaving his magical spell on him “I love you so much,” he murmured. Rory’s only response was to take him to all new levels of intimacy that left his head spinning and his lungs gasping for air.

Chapter 2 – Honeymoon Part 2 / Chapter 4 – Slumber Party