Chasing Truth: Chapter 51

Posted on 24/07/2020

Café 29 - Cheekwood Estate & Gardens | Nashville, Tennessee

Janey’s cafe was packed. The party was in full swing. Sakina’s inhabitants always found something to celebrate. Leo quickly turned Tyler’s return into one of those reasons.

“I don’t know, man. I got worried you might not come back.” Leo grinned at Mari over his cup. “Then again, I should’ve known better. You’ve got some strong motivation.”

Mari rolled her eyes but leaned into Tyler’s hold. 

“You’ve got that right,” Tyler said with a smile that rivaled Leo’s. “I missed my girl. I’m always going to come back for her.” His last words were delivered as he looked into her eyes and squeezed her shoulder.

His words were far too serious and she needed to lighten the mood. “Promises, promises,” she teased. 

“I’m back, aren’t I? I’ve proven myself.”

“Just like a man. You do something one little time and want all the praise.”

“Take it back, woman.” He shook her, making her laugh and burrow into his side. 

“And there’s the fragile ego.” She wrestled free, laughing even harder.

“I’ll leave you to handle that,” Leo said patting Tyler’s back. “We’re going to get a game going later though. Be ready.”

Tyler nodded even as he caught Mari around the waist. “I’ll be ready.”

Mari tipped her head back to look at him. “Can your ego handle two losses?”

Her laughter was swallowed by his kiss. It wasn’t gentle. Hungry. Deep. Fierce. Definitely not gentle. Weeks ago, she would’ve been lost in that kiss. Now, she had to force herself not to wonder if Reese was watching and, instead, concentrate on kissing Tyler back. His hand cupped her neck with his thumb tracing along her jaw.

“Are you being a brat because you missed me?” Tyler asked when he finally lifted his head. 

“Maybe.”

“I’m not planning on leaving you again for a while.”

“Good,” she murmured and leaned into him once more.

He pressed a kiss to her forehead as he pulled his phone from his pocket. Again. He’d been doing it for half of the evening. 

“Is everything okay back at home?” Mari asked, covering his hand at her hip with hers.

He looked up at her. “Yeah. Sorry about that.”

“Good. Then put this down,” she encouraged, taking his phone and setting it on the table beside her bag, “and come dance with me.”

She caught his other hand and pulled him toward the makeshift dance floor before he could protest. He glanced back at his phone even as she kept tugging him along.

“No one’s going to take it,” she promised. “C’mon, you were gone for forever. I need attention.”

“It felt like it,” he agreed. Pulling her in close, he walked them into the crowd of dancers. “Missed you. Too much. I’ll give you all the attention you can handle.”

“You’re making an awful lot of promises tonight,” she taunted again. 

Her laughter died as he brought them to a stop, claiming her mouth again. Distance definitely seemed to have made Tyler’s heart fonder. He was touching or kissing her since his return to the island. She hadn’t been prepared for that when she promised Reese she could handle it, but she had no choice but to go with it. She returned the kiss before slowly drawing back even as she draped her arms over his shoulders.

“Show me your best moves.”

The crooked grin she once adored peeked out. “Challenge accepted.”

No sooner than he said the words, he swept her up in a dance. They danced to so many songs, she lost count. Finally, the tempo of the music slowed and he drew her close. 

“How’s that for best moves?”

“You did alright,” she said a bit breathlessly as she rested her hands against his chest.

“Brat.” He dipped his head, intending to kiss her. 

“Yo, Tyler! Game time!” one of the men called out.

Tyler dropped his head farther, pressing his forehead to Mari’s.

She heaved a dramatic sigh. “Go on. I knew I couldn’t hog you the whole night.”

“You’re so generous,” he praised with a quick peck to her lips. “Be right back.”

She waved him off and wandered toward the tables where food and drink were set up. Reese stood nearby in conversation with Raoul. His gaze rested on her. He was discreet, but she knew she was never out of his sight. With a flash of a smile to assure him all was fine, she snagged a plate to fill with desserts. 

She bit into a brownie as she made her way over to Reese just as Allie was pulling Raoul away. She waved to them both then focused on Reese. Her brow wrinkled at the coolness of his expression.

“Are you having fun?” he asked.

“Janey outdid herself. We’re going to need a to-go plate.” She offered her plate to him.

“No thanks.”

She didn’t lower the plate. “Seriously. Try something. You’ll hurt Janey’s feelings if you don’t.”

“Janey’s?” he challenged so softly she almost didn’t hear it. He picked up a cookie, though, and she had to bite her lip to hide the smile.

“You know, we didn’t finish our conversation the other day,” she found the courage to say.

He paused with the cookie at his lips. “This isn’t exactly the time for that,” he said and took another bite.

“I guess I’m just wondering if we’re going to find the time.”

They locked eyes. 

“Hey you two,” Julia called as she and Leilani approached. 

Mari bit back a frustrated groan. When she turned to face her friends, Reese caught her arm. She glanced back at him.

“Yes, we’ll find time.”

This smile was impossible to hide and she nodded in relief. He let go just as Julia slung her arm over Mari’s shoulders. She drew Leilani with her, pulling them into a small huddle.

“What’s up?” Mari asked and popped the last of her brownie.

“You guys should come over. Tonight. I have some interesting stories to tell.”

Mari paused mid-chew before she forced herself to swallow. Reese’s gaze was steady on Julia. 

“What did you do?” Mari hissed.

“Something you’re going to be very grateful for. We meet at my place once the party’s over.”

Mari pinched the bridge of her nose even as she tried to guess at what Julia might have to share. 

“We’ll be there,” Reese promised.

Of course they would.


<< Chapter 50 Chapter 52 >>

Chasing Truth: Chapter 50

Posted on 10/07/2020

“What are you working on?”

Mari glanced up from the notebook where she was planning out the tour schedule at her dining room table. Reese stood with his hands in his pockets a few feet away, just outside of the hall. “Schedule for next week,” she murmured as she looked back down.

“Schedule yourself off.”

“And why would I be doing that?”

“I talked to Blake.”

Mari lost all interest in the schedule then.

“We had to adjust the timeline to account for some other things,” Reese continued. “He’ll be able to get out here in another two to three days.”

“Really?” she asked, unable to hide her excitement and not trying to. “How long is he going to be able to stay?”

“We don’t know that yet. A couple of days maybe.”

“Oh. Well, I don’t need to be off the whole week then.”

“You want to be on the schedule if it happens he can stay longer?”

“Okay, maybe you have a point. The whole week it is.”

She balled up the paper she’d been working on and tossed it to the side. She drew lines on a new sheet and started reworking her plans. A few moments later she registered Reese hadn’t moved from his spot and was still watching her.

“Did you still want to walk the beach today?” he asked

“Yes,” she returned immediately without looking up.

“You need to come now then. I don’t want you out once it starts to get darker.”

“Seriously? First, you completely wreck my scheduling and now you’re rushing me?”

“So you don’t want to walk?”

She glared at him. 

“I’ll meet you at the door,” he said simply and turned away.

Muttering to herself, Mari pushed back from the table to go in search of her shoes. He was at the door as promised when she walked into the living room with her sandals. As usual, he walked out first. She waited obediently for his all-clear before she joined him outside. Only once the door was locked did they start walking. Neither of them spoke until they started down the path to the beach. 

“Do you think he bought it?” she finally asked.

She’d wanted Reese to remove the bugs immediately once he told her about them, but he warned it would tip their hand and he could use them to his advantage if he left them in place. Given their plan now, she could admit he was right.

“He wants Blake and he asked you more than once about his plans to come back,” Reese answered.
“He’ll bite.”

She blew out a hard breath. “I still haven’t worked out whether that’s good or bad.”

“It’s not for you to worry about.”

She snorted at the easily delivered words but didn’t waste her time arguing with him about it. They continued on in silence as sand slowly replaced gravel and the sea breeze danced over their skin. 

For once Mari’s focus wasn’t on the water or how good it felt to be walking on the shore. She kicked at the sand. 

“Are you going to be mad at me forever?” she asked her feet.

Silence. It stretched out for a moment. Two. Hesitantly she peeked at him from the corner of her eye.

“I’m not mad at you,” he said what felt like an hour later.

“If this is you not mad, I’d hate to piss you off,” she mumbled.

His soft huff of amusement sent hope flooding through her.  “I have a job to do. Two jobs. Protect you and protect Blake. I’m trying to protect Blake from a distance and I’m behind the curve on a threat. I have to focus right now.”

She thought that over and admitted to herself he wasn’t wrong. 

“I’m not happy you kept that from me, but Blake and I were strangers to you. I understand why you did it.”

Mari’s feet brought her closer to him even as she bowed her head in relief. Her arm brushed against his as they kept walking. Nibbling at her bottom lip, she forced herself to look up at him. 

“Thank you. Your friendship means something to me,” she confessed quietly. “And maybe that’s me assuming we’re friends, but I feel like we are after spending all this time together and I don’t want to lose that.”

“It’s not you assuming. I-“

The sound of her ringtone cut through his words. She clenched her teeth to bite back the groan wanting to rip free. What had he been about to say?

He was looking at her expectantly now though so she pulled the phone from her pocket. They both looked down at the screen. 

Tyler calling.

Reese nodded in encouragement and she swiped her thumb over the screen to answer.

“Hey, Tyler.”

“Hey, sweetheart. How are things going?”

“They’re good. Reese and I are just walking the beach.”

“I should’ve known,” he teased. “I was just calling to let you know I’m wrapping things up here. I’ll be home in a couple of days.”

“That’s great! I can’t wait to see you.”

“I can’t wait to see you either. I miss you. I’ll let you know as soon as I have my ticket.” He paused for a moment. “Dad’s calling so I gotta run. Just wanted to let you know. See you soon.”

“See you soon,” she echoed before ending the call.

“When’s he coming?”

“Two days.”

Reese nodded. It was what they wanted. Almost more than that, she wanted to know what he would have said if Tyler hadn’t chosen that moment to call. The moment was lost now though. Reese was already pulling out his own phone to confirm the rest of their plans. He was focused. She needed to be too.


<< Chapter 49 Chapter 51 >>

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