Posts from the “Chasing Truth” Category

Chasing Truth: Chapter 30

Posted on 17/01/2020

“He’s staying at the house with Raoul and Allie?”

Tyler had shown up with food in tow not long after Reese had left. He claimed he wanted to feed her a home-cooked meal after a long day, but she suspected it had more to do with her hanging up on him.

He seemed calm enough about her news Reese would be staying behind for a few days, but it didn’t take a genius to anticipate how poorly he was going to take the news of exactly where Reese would be staying. She rolled her shoulders as she drew in a breath.  

“Actually he’s staying with me.” 

Tyler stopped stirring. The spoon clanged against the pot as he turned to face her fully. She tried to shrug casually.

“It’s just for a few days and I have a decent couch.”

“Why is he staying here, Mari?”

“Just to keep an eye on me for a little while. That’s all. You know, make sure nobody tries to use me to get to Blake,” she said pointedly. 

There wasn’t a single trace of shame in his expression. “And he has to stay here? They’re staying with Raoul and Allie now. He can keep staying there.”

Mari folded her arms across her chest. “This is what you wanted, isn’t it? You wanted Blake to care about me so you could use that. Well, he cares enough to leave somebody behind for a few days. Get over it.”

“That doesn’t mean he needs to sleep here.”

“How is he supposed to be here for me over there?”

“It’s not exactly across the island, Marielle,” he growled. “Why are you so eager to have him stay here?”

Mari stared at him with her mouth open before she gathered herself, anger sweeping in over the disbelief. “Are you serious? Think about why you’re here, Tyler! He’s already said he has enemies and the vibe I’m getting is that they wouldn’t think twice about using me. You’re using me. So excuse me if I’m okay with having somebody here to help make sure nobody else gets to, especially if they’d plan on doing it by hurting me.”

He held his glare for a moment longer before he sighed and held his arms out. “C’mere.”

“No. Finish dinner. I’m hungry.”

He caught her by the arms and gently tugged her into him. She didn’t unfold her arms or soften her stance at all. 

“I’m sorry,” he murmured against her temple. “I just don’t like the idea of him here with you. I’m a little jealous. Take it easy on me, please?”

“Jealous about what?” she grumbled to his chest with her arms still folded. “I don’t even know the guy and he’s not interested in me. He’s doing a job.”

“A man would have to be dumb and blind not to be interested.” He pressed a kiss to her head. “I get that you’re scared. This is scary. I wouldn’t let anything happen to you.” He leaned back and angled her away so he could look at her face. “You know that, don’t you?”

She stared at his forehead. “Your attention is divided.”

He gripped her chin, demanding her focus. “It’s never that divided. I have a job to do, but I care about you. Your safety is important to me. Blake can leave whoever he wants, but I’ll be seeing to your safety.”

Her arms slowly dropped to her sides. His thumb stroked over her bottom lip.

“I heard what you said. You gave me an in I needed to Blake, yes. I can’t deny that. But I am not using you.” 

The emphasis on his words softened her further. 

“I know it’s hard to separate what I have to do from our relationship, but I need you to do that. I care about you in a way I’ve never cared about another woman in my life,” he confessed on a whisper. “I want you clear of all of this so we can focus on building us, making this permanent.”

Her eyes rounded as she echoed, “Permanent?”

“Permanent,” he confirmed and sealed the word with a deep kiss. “You don’t need to say anything now,” he said when he lifted his head. “I just want you to know where I’m going with this, with us.”

Still in shock, she nodded weakly. His smile widened and he stroked over her bottom lip again.

“Have you thought about getting your dad a gift? Something to mark your first time meeting him, that reminds him of you when he’s not here?”

Her eyes lit up. “That’s a really cute idea. It hadn’t crossed my mind, but I think I will pick up something before he leaves.”

“I have good ideas every now and then. I don’t want to have them too often or you might start expecting things from me.”

With a quick kiss to her forehead, he turned back to the stove. “Now stop being distracting and let me get you fed.”

Instead of backing off, she wrapped her arms around him and leaned into his back with her chin propped on his shoulder. 

“I know this hasn’t been easy. I haven’t been easy. Thanks for sticking with me through this.”

He laid a hand over hers and squeezed. “Trust me, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.”

Content, she held on for a moment longer before she pulled away to get drinks from the fridge. It was after Tyler had bowled soup for both of them and they’d settled at the table that she felt something vibrate. Tyler grabbed his phone and glanced at the screen before lifting it to his ear.

“Hey, man. What’s up? You’re interrupting dinner with my favorite lady,” he said with a wink at Mari.

She rolled her eyes, but the smile was there.

He frowned, moving the phone away from his mouth. “Sorry, give me a minute to take this call, sweetheart. Go ahead and eat.”

She nodded, watching him retreat into her bedroom to finish his conversation. It was all too easy to wonder who was on the other line, what the call was about. He had a job to do, she reminded herself. He wasn’t supposed to have shared about that job either. He would need to check in and get updates. Secretive calls were a part of that. She’d decided to trust him. She needed to do that.

No sooner than she came to that conclusion, he was walking back out of the bedroom. 

“Everything okay?” she couldn’t resist asking.

His crooked smile curved his lips. “Yeah, everything is just fine.”

She mirrored his smile. Yes, things were fine.

<< Chapter 29

Chasing Truth: Chapter 29

Posted on 10/01/2020

“When is he leaving?”

Mari sprawled out on her bed with the phone tucked against her shoulder. The day had been fun, but it had also been long. Exhaustion made her eyes heavy.

“In a day or two,” she told Tyler absently.

 “I didn’t expect him to leave so soon. Then again I didn’t expect him to come out here at all. Have you made any plans to stay in touch? Visit?”

She lifted her shoulders in a small shrug even though he couldn’t see it.

“Not really. Nothing solid anyway. I mean, I guess I assume we’ll talk on the phone at some point. This whole thing was just…a lot.”

There was silence from Tyler’s end for a moment. “I get that. Confirm with me once you know when he’s leaving for sure.”

Mari opened her eyes to stare at the ceiling. “Have you been doing…whatever it is you were planning on doing?”

“I thought we agreed you were going to let me worry about that?” he prodded gently.

“It was a simple question.”

“Then yes. Now will you let me know when he’s leaving for sure?”

Mari pinched the bridge of her nose and let her eyes close again. “Yeah.”

Before she could get comfortable and wrap up the call with Tyler, a knock sounded on the door. She sat up with a groan.

“I’ve gotta go. Somebody’s at the door.”

“Who is it?”

She pushed up from the bed and padded over to the door to look through the peephole. A smile tugged at her lips when she saw her father standing there.

“It’s Blake. I’ll talk to you later.”

Ending the call without waiting for a response, she opened the door. 

“I’m surprised you aren’t passed out,” she greeted with a tired smile.

“I was close,” he admitted. “I had something I wanted to discuss with you though.”

Curiosity raised her brow as she stepped back to let him inside. He sat down on the couch and she curled up on the opposite end with her elbow propped against the back. 

“What’s on your mind?” 

“I want Reese to stay here with you for a little while.”

Mari straightened immediately. “Why? He’s your bodyguard.”

“I would feel more comfortable if someone was here to keep an eye on things for a little while.”

She didn’t dig too deeply into that, instead choosing to focus on him. “If Reese is here with me, then who’s with you?”

“I have other people I can count on if I need to.”

“But Reese is the one you brought here, which means he’s the one you trust the most.”

Blake paused with his lips parted before he gathered himself. “I can see you’re planning to be difficult about this.”

“I’m bringing up valid points. If you want to call that difficult, then fine.”

He heaved a heavy sigh. “Yes, Reese is the one I trust the most, which is why I want him here with you for a few days. Just in case. I don’t expect any trouble, but I don’t want to take unnecessary chances with you either.”

She paused thoughtfully, turning over his words. He wasn’t expecting any problems. That was good and she couldn’t deny the relief filling her knowing that. This was just another part of him being careful.

“Okay, I’m not saying no to that. I’m saying I’m not sure Reese is the one who should be the one staying with me. And you said a few days. How long exactly are you planning for someone to stay here?”

“A week or so.”

“That’s a long time to be without your guy. Gage could just stay. People know him here, are used to him so there wouldn’t be anything to explain. If Reese stays, we have to explain who he is somehow.”

“Calling him a family friend should be enough. Gage has already been here for a while. He has some things he needs to see to.”

“Does Reese know this is your plan?” she asked curiously. “What does he think about it?”

“You know, when I pictured this conversation, I saw you bowing out to my expertise and accepting my already-made plans.”

“How on Earth did you come up with that scenario?” she asked, laughing in disbelief.

“I still can’t figure it out myself,” he admitted with a chuckle.

“I want to talk to him about it myself. Alone.” Because she had a feeling Reese wasn’t keen on the idea of letting Blake head back without him either. 

Blake considered her and she wondered what he was thinking, what he would say.

“I don’t want you any closer to this mess than you already are. I considered when I brought Reese that it might bring you in more than I wanted. It would be better if you let me keep as much distance between you and my life as I can.”

“It’s too late for that. At least with Reese. He’s been here this whole time. I know who he is. We’ve talked. Trying to go back now doesn’t make any sense and if he’s going to be staying here for another week, it’s definitely not avoidable. I want to talk to him.”

“You’re a very hard woman to argue with.”

“So don’t,” she suggested with a grin.

Shaking his head, he pushed to his feet. “I’d like to settle this tonight if possible. I’ll send Reese to you now if that works.”

“That’s fine.”

He turned for the door then hesitated. He turned back a moment later.

“May I have a hug?”

The quietness of the question, almost as if he feared her rejection, melted Mari. She unfolded from the couch and wordlessly wrapped her arms around him. He pulled her close. She thought she felt the gentle press of his lips to her thick curls. A soft sigh escaped him and he squeezed her before letting go.

“Thank you. I’ll send Reese over now.”

“You may want to give him a fair warning in case his expectations are anything like yours were,” she teased.

His laughter shook his body and widened her smile.

“I think I’ll do that.”

He walked out the door then, leaving Mari still smiling. She settled back down on the couch. Meeting her father and spending time with him hadn’t gone anything like she imagined. She hadn’t expected to like him, to joke and laugh with him. She wanted a chance to build a real relationship with him and yet Tyler’s accusations sat in the back of her mind. If Blake were the criminal Tyler suspected he was, that would change everything. There was an inch of worry, of doubt that maybe it wouldn’t, though. She wasn’t sure what to do with that. 

There was a rhythmic knock on the door before Reese let himself inside and pulled her from her thoughts.

“I’d prefer you keep this locked,” he said closing the door and tapping it.

She bit back a smile. “I’ll remember that.”

“Good. Blake said you wanted to talk.”

“Yeah. Has he run this little babysitting plan of his by you?”

Reese’s gaze went carefully blank as he came farther inside. “We’ve discussed me remaining here for a few days after he leaves. Precautions are smart.”

“I won’t deny that and I’m definitely not saying I’m able to handle anything that might come up, but I think I’d feel more comfortable if he didn’t break pattern by leaving his right hand guy behind.”

Reese blinked and she continued on.

“I suggested Gage stay on for a few days if he’s truly worried or he can send someone else to stay with me although I understand the less people who know about me, the better.”

He continued watching her with that steady gaze. “Do you have a problem with me staying?”

She waved the question away. “It’s not about you. It’s about who you are to him. You’re not just a bodyguard. I don’t have to know everything to see that much. To me, it just seems like maybe someone would want to take advantage if he was running around without his usual guy.”

He tipped his head to the side as he studied her.

“It would be nice to get to know him before something happened to him,” she mumbled looking down at her hands as she locked her fingers together.

“You care,” he acknowledged. “And that’s good. Blake knows how to be smart and careful. Gage will travel back with him most of the way to make sure there aren’t any issues.”

Mari frowned thoughtfully. She couldn’t find fault with that plan. There was no doubt that Gage could be trusted with his own brother’s safety.

“Well.”

He laughed. “Any other objections or concerns you want to share while I’m here?”

“This isn’t going to be a lockdown situation or anything like that, right? I still go to work, hang out with my friends, do all the stuff I normally do with no problems?”

“Right.  You just do all of those things with me.”

“And when my very nosy, super-in-my-business best friends ask me who you are? Or anyone else for that matter?”

“I’m a friend of the family visiting for a while. Stick to the truth.”

He was clearly a friend of Blake’s who was indeed her family so he was right. 

“We keep it simple then.”

“Simple’s best.”

She nodded and rubbed the palms of her hands over her thighs.

“Mari.” Reese waited until she looked at him. “There shouldn’t be any issues. If there are, I’ll be here to handle them.”

She blew out a breath. “Yeah, I’ll be counting on that.”

<< Chapter 28 Chapter 30 >>

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