Posts tagged “bonding

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 >>

Samina’s Chance: Chapter 17

Posted on 01/04/2015

farmersmarket

Gabriel didn’t know what angered him more; that Jeremiah had gone back to find Odetta or the fact that the woman in the blue dress wasn’t Odetta. The feeling of falling one step behind Jeremiah choked his pride as it always did ever since their younger days.

Pushing aside the troubled feelings, Gabriel sat up as Deidre sauntered into the study. She held out a glass of fresh beet juice for him to drink. Ignoring her stern gaze, he quietly accepted the drink and gulped it down.

“I just don’t see why you couldn’t at least offer to take them to the airport.” Deidre snatched back the empty glass. “And you didn’t bother calling. Honestly Gabriel, what is the matter with you? This isn’t like you.”

Without a word in his defense, Gabriel returned his attention to his miniature S.S. ocean liner ship.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d think you two didn’t like each other anymore.”

Gabriel rolled his eyes. “Don’t be so dramatic, Deidre. I’ve just been busy.”

“Too busy to comfort your friend mourning his dying aunt?” She gestured to the pile of unfinished models on his desk. “Is this what you call being busy?”

“Deidre, enough,” he growled, adjusting a stubborn piece on the tiny reel.

Deidre hissed with disdain. “You’re wrong for this, Gabriel, and you know it.” Muttering under her breath about his stubborn pride, she stormed out of the study.

Gabriel lowered his hands, staring blankly at the model ship in front of him. His wife’s nagging words, poking at his pride and guilt for the growing resentment toward Jeremiah.

Suddenly, a faded image of a morose Jeremiah standing beside him in front of an open grave, flashed in his mind’s eye. After their college graduation more than three decades ago, Jeremiah accompanied him to a mutual friend’s funeral. Though they were still not on speaking terms after a full-blown brawl between them, they still came together, both sporting identical bruises on their faces. A willowy female stood between them, her head bowed in deep sorrow.

Gabriel frowned at the image of the willowy woman who wept bitterly. This woman was Odetta Chance, his college sweetheart and the cause for the fist-fight with Jeremiah.

The doorbell rang loudly and he blinked out of the daze. Deidre’s voice filled the silence as she greeted their daughter Samina and ushered her in.

“Hey dad.”

A gentle smile crossed his lips as Samina peeked into the study. Gabriel stood and walked around the desk to welcome his first daughter.

“What a fine surprise,” he said, gathering Samina into his arms. He placed a kiss on her forehead and led her back to the desk, ignoring Deidre’s pointed stare.

“Everything okay?” he asked as she took the seat on the other side of his desk.

Samina hesitated answering until she settled in the chair across his desk. “Yeah…”

His brow furrowed at the fatigue plain in her voice. “You sure?”

“Hmm, I’m fine.” Samina flashed him a smile. “See?”

He merely arched his brow, unconvinced.

With a sigh, Samina lowered her gaze to the model on his desk. “Started another one already?” Her long fingers traced the smooth line of a pond sail boat.

Gabriel smiled as she gently lifted the boat in her hands. “Remember that one? Took us the entire night to complete.”

“I remember. Mom was annoyed.”

“She’s always annoyed.”

Her smile turned wistful and she placed the miniature boat on its stand.

His heart sunk at the forlorn expression on her face. “Nothing yet?”

She merely shook her head solemnly, eyes riveted to the unfinished boat before them.

“Don’t worry.” He reached over the desk and took her hand in his. “These things take time. Remember that God’s timing will never match ours. And his ways are not our ways.”

“Sometimes I wish it was…” Samina’s voice hitched as a sob caught in her throat.

Gabriel looked at her face that seemed unreadable at first glance. She was trying so hard to act unaffected by her sudden unemployment. Ever since she was a child, he found Samina quite hard to read unlike her siblings, her reserved nature resembling his own. But this father knew when she held back tears. Like now.

“Sam,” Gabriel began tenderly, coaxing Samina to look up. The telltale glimmer in her eyes made his heart ache. “It’s okay to be disappointed about the way things are happening… but don’t doubt God’s love for you. Believe that he has only the best for you.”

Samina sniffed back tears, staring at the patient love in her father’s eyes.

Gabriel smiled, squeezing her hand gently. “Whether it’s your job… or your future spouse, it’ll work out for your good.” He nudged her hand when she rolled her eyes. “Trust me, I know.”

Samina pulled her hand from his, tucking it under her armpit. She lowered her gaze. “Dad, please. I’m not even thinking about marriage.”

“For now or forever?” He didn’t like the resignation in her voice.

She leaned forward to study the boat, tracing the miniature rudder. “Haven’t seen this one before. Is this new?”

Gabriel tamped a sigh and looked down at the boat. “Not really. Just haven’t had much time to work on it.” He watched with bemusement as Samina fished through the pile of loose pieces. “Wanna give your old man a hand?”

Samina smiled gently. “You don’t have to ask.”

In the quiet secluded corner of the hospital stood a gazebo overlooking a fish pond and a small garden. Nadine had spotted the miniature paradise from her window one morning. Upon Topher’s arrival at her room during his lunch break, she asked for his company to investigate the grounds.

As Topher wheeled her down to the garden, Nadine surveyed the bright flowers lining the path. Her wheelchair was parked by the iron-wrought bench under the gazebo and once Topher helped her to stand, Nadine touched the cherry blossoms draped at the opening. “They overdid it a little…”

“Hmm?” Topher mumbled, watching a dragonfly hover a cluster of flowers planted on the ledge.

“Everything. The gazebo’s a nice touch though…” she paused to breathe in deep.

Topher eyed her warily. “Be careful.”

Nadine rolled her eyes. “Relax. The air out here isn’t as bad as back home.” For measure, she inhaled in deeper, exhaling with a blissful sigh.

“Still…” He watched the serene expression on her face and swallowed the rest of his words. If she was happy and comfortable, maybe he could rest easier.

“I’m fine.” Nadine cleared her throat and Topher leaned closer. She held up a hand to him and peered down into the fish pond. “I wonder if anyone’s gone fishing in there.”

Topher smirked, staring into the murky water. “Hope not.” He stretched his limbs, grunting as the tension eased off his taut muscles.

“How are the lovebirds? When’s the wedding again?”

“Sooner than you think. In the next few weeks.”

“Good. I should be right as rain by then.” She watched the dragonfly flit from one flower bed to another. “Wedding preparations going well?” she asked casually.

Topher shrugged. “Besides the stress of trying to get things done on time, yeah.” He didn’t bother bringing up Ada’s agitated nerves or Samina’s troubling absence.

Nadine scoffed lightly. “I can imagine. That Ada girl seems high-strung. Downright neurotic.”

“She was only nervous because you were giving her the third degree.” He squinted at her. “You promised to be nice.”

“I was nice,” Nadine countered, flicking at the dragonfly. “Is it a crime that I want to make sure my boys are taken care of?” At Topher’s pointed silence, she peered up at him. “By the way, when do you plan on making me a grandmother?”

Topher gave her a sideways glance. “Impatient, aren’t we?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Nadine tilted her stubborn chin. “I’m not getting any younger waiting on you.”

Reminded by her debilitating condition, he quickly averted his gaze before she noticed. The thought of Nadine’s time slipping away made him reconsider his priorities. Presently, marriage was becoming a higher priority than building his career. It didn’t help that Jaxson’s upcoming nuptials spoke of the thrills of finding one’s mate.

Aside the stress of wedding plans, Jaxson was content and excited to spend the rest of his life with Ada. Topher caught himself wondering if there was someone that would make him feel just as content.

Suddenly, Samina with her striking features and shy smile flickered in his thoughts. Topher sat up, his heart doing a little back-flip. His lips curled in a smile. “Might be sooner than you think…”

Nadine chuckled low, pulling Topher’s attention to her. She had a knowing smile on her face. “She seems nice.”

Topher arched a brow. “What?”

“I like her.” Her eyes danced with mirth. “Maybe she’s a little aloof and shy. But it’s good that she can cook a mean Cajun dish. Means I won’t have to worry you’ll be taken care of.” She wriggled her brows and poked a bony finger in his side.

He frowned, wrapping a hand around her thin wrist. “Nadine… No one said anything about Samina.”

Nadine gave him a pointed stare. “You just did.” She laughed at his strangled groan.

<<Chapter 16 || Chapter 18>>

  

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