Posts tagged “Concern

Chasing Truth: Chapter 48

Posted on 12/06/2020

Spy shop' surveillance gear cheaper than ever, but you get what ...

Mari’s life was a mess. Her boyfriend was using her to spy on her biological father. Her bodyguard was upset with her. Her surrogate dad was annoyed she kept the truth from him. Her biological father was more than likely wary of her now. Her friends were completely in the dark about everything happening. All of that and she was still no closer to discovering what kind of life Blake led. She blew out a harsh breath as she slouched down on the couch in Raoul’s living room. Her phone chimed twice, drawing her attention to the group chat she had with Julia and Leilani.

Leilani’s text was first. What r u & Reese up to 2nite? Let’s do something fun. 

Beach tonight? Or Joe’s? Julia’s response was immediate.

Mari looked up from her phone when she heard the front door open. Moments later, Reese came into view. The tight line of his jaw wasn’t reassuring given he left earlier to check her place for bugs.

“You found something,” she guessed while setting her phone to the side.

“Anything sensitive or not public knowledge is only discussed here. That includes any of your conversations with Blake. You’ll continue to take calls from him there, but never discuss anything of consequence. You need to keep your conversations normal. Are we clear?”

Mari anxiously thought back on all the things she said at home. What did Tyler know that she hadn’t actually told him?

“Mari?” Reese prompted sharply.

“You don’t need to snap. I’m not the one who missed the bugs.”

She almost missed his wince. His eyes skittered away from her. “I had to work hard to find them, harder than anyone would in a standard check. Tyler is…advanced.”

Mari tugged at her ear. She tried to ignore the guilt creeping in. He had missed the bugs, but his clear shame over it made her feel awful for pointing it out. Shame wasn’t a look she ever saw on him, wasn’t something she thought she would ever associate with him. It made him more human even as it freaked her out about Tyler. How good did he have to be to get bugs past Reese?

“We’re clear,” she murmured in answer to his earlier question. It wouldn’t be hard. She was unlikely to ever forget Tyler was listening in. “I was just trying to think of anything he might know because he had my place bugged.”

“Did you come up with anything?”

She hesitated, but she shook her head. “Not that I can think of. I’ve been pretty careful about saying anything to anyone, but I’ll let you know if anything comes to mind.”

He nodded. She rubbed at her arms. Knowing Tyler bugged her place left her unsettled. He preached trust to her, yet he didn’t trust her enough not to listen in on her conversations. The complete violation of her privacy only made it harder to move past. She squeezed, moving her thoughts from Tyler’s underhanded methods.

“Jules and Leilani texted,” she told Reese when he said nothing else. “They want to hang out…I need to tell them the truth.”

“No.”

She blinked at the whip in his voice. “Reese, I grew up with them. They know me. They’re going to be able to tell something is off with me.”

“If you can’t move forward like normal, then we’ll call this off now. I’ll take you to Blake and we’ll figure out the rest.”

The firmness of his words left her stunned before frustration started to bubble up. “I’m not saying I can’t pretend with Tyler. I’m telling you two women who’ve known me my whole life will probably get a clue that something is off. If we tell them what’s going on, they can help with Tyler.”

“Julia has never liked Tyler. Leilani would struggle to keep a secret, let alone act like everything is normal.”

“My point exactly! Well, not about Lani. Jules being her skeptical and critical self wouldn’t concern Tyler. Neither would her watching him. Lani is friendly and she likes Tyler. He wouldn’t think twice about her being around either. They can help.”

“This is not a negotiation.”

She stared up at him as it dawned on her she didn’t really know this man. He joked with her, spent time with her family and friends, and even shared some of his past. She was never in true opposition to him though. She never saw the stone-faced man in front of her now. He was not a man she wanted as an enemy.

“Okay. Telling them the truth isn’t an option,” she said slowly. “They could be extra eyes on Tyler though. Your focus is on protecting me, which is great. I’m all for that. It just means you can’t be as proactive about dealing with Tyler. I could say things feel different lately. I can ask them to pay attention when he’s around, see if they notice anything different. If he does anything sketchy, they have a chance of seeing it because they’re looking for it. I won’t tell them any more than that, just that I’m having second thoughts about him and our relationship.”

He stared at her. It took sheer will not to shrink under the force of it.

“You do understand you are not in control of this situation, right?” he asked.

She bit back the bitter response on the tip of her tongue. She lost control of everything when she met Tyler. It was beginning to piss her off. Telling Reese he was just the latest dictator in her out-of-control life wouldn’t win her any points with him.

“Yes,” she said, “but I’m not wrong. Think about it, Reese.”

He sighed, dragging a hand over his head. “You tell them you’re having second thoughts about the relationship. They’ll ask why. You tell them he’s been distant lately and it’s making you rethink. That’s it. Nothing more. Understood?”

She gritted her teeth. “You don’t have to talk to me like I’m a child. I heard you just fine.”

“This isn’t a game, Marielle. The wrong decision could mean somebody gets hurt or killed. From now on, we’ll be on the exact same word of the same sentence on the same page because we can’t afford not to be. I’m not going to sugarcoat anything for you.”

“Got that loud and clear.” She grabbed her phone and rocketed to her feet. “We done?”

“There isn’t room for temper tantrums either.”

Her nostrils flared as her nails bit into her palm. “Anything else you’d like to dictate while you’re at it?”

“You kept the truth from me.” The softness of his voice was a warning, sapping some of her ire. “Time has been wasted. I’m still working to get up to speed in a way that doesn’t leave your father or you exposed. You already made my job hard. Don’t make it harder.”

Guilt and frustration were an ugly combination. “I said I was sorry.”

“That doesn’t change anything about the situation. What I need from you is for you not to work against me or let emotions get the best of you. That won’t end well for either of us.”

She sucked in a deep breath. “Okay.”

“Good. We’ll meet the girls at one of their places. I want you in a controlled environment tonight.”

“I’ll call them now,” she said as she rounded the couch to retreat to the patio. She hesitated at the door. “For what it’s worth, I really am sorry. I’m not trying to make this hard, but it’s new territory for me.”

Then before he could respond, she slipped out the door to call her friends.

<< Chapter 47                        Chapter 49 >>

Lighthouse, Chapter 14

Posted on 27/06/2016

Darah and J.R. stood in front of the hospital bed while Hana perched beside a cranky L.J. Obed who glared at the couple before him. A tick jumped in his tight jaw as he eyed their joined hands before lifting his gaze to J.R. “Raju, what is the meaning of this?”

“Meaning of what?” J.R. drawled softly.

The elder Obed shifted his gaze to the girl and his lips thinned in disapproval. “Who is this… child?”

J.R. sighed. “She’s not a child, and her name is Darah.”

L.J. arched a gray brow. “She looks like she barely just graduated high school.”

Darah choked on a laugh. “Oh wow…”

L.J. squinted at her. “Is something funny here?”

“I get that a lot but really sir,” Darah ignored J.R. squeezing her hand a bit too tight and met the older man’s disapproving eyes. “I’m twenty-five years old, twenty-six come September.”

He sniffed and turned his attention back to J.R. “And what is she doing here?”

“We were together when we heard the news,” J.R. answered dutifully, loosening his grip on Darah’s hand. “We need to talk, Father.” He glanced pointedly at Hana.

Hana nodded and stood, only to be stopped by L.J.’s hand on her arm.

“You stay.” L.J. instructed Hana and then looked to Darah with his brow arched. “Since this is a family discussion, please leave.”

“Babu—”

“Not a problem,” Darah said breezily and slipped her hand from J.R.’s. She flashed the older man a grin and spun on her heels, exiting the room.

“Cheeky little…” L.J. muttered, and Hana fought a smile.

“Did you really have to do that just now?” J.R. scowled. “That was completely unnecessary.”

L.J. snorted. “I won’t stand to be disrespected in my own hospital room.”

Hana cleared her throat and rose. Her eyes volleyed between the two glaring at each other, both forgetting she was still there. “You two should talk. I’ll be just outside.”

She maneuvered her way out of the room and immediately spotted Darah leaning against the opposite wall, her arms folded across her chest. She managed a smile that easily slipped when Darah turned away. “Hey, hold on.”

Darah paused in step and turned to face her, brows raised expectantly. “Yes?”

Hana strolled up to her. “Sorry about Uncle L.J., he’s naturally grouchy.”

Darah shrugged. “It’s whatever.”

Her eyes swept over this young woman, J.R.’s fiancée, and was curious about their relationship. They seemed polar opposites, especially after witnessing Darah’s impetuous behavior with J.R.’s father just now. But maybe the ‘opposites attract’ theory applied to—she shook out of the thought, not wanting to entertain such foolishness.

“I was on my way to the restroom,” Darah spoke up. “Can I go now or you’ve got something to say?”

Hana swallowed a laugh. This girl was cheeky indeed. She nodded. “Yeah, I need a potty break too.”

Darah didn’t reply and just turned around. Hana fought a smirk and followed her down the hall toward the bathroom.

L.J.’s scowl darkened the minute Hana left the room. “Where did you find such an outrageous girl?”

“I would rather discuss why I’m just now finding out you’re in this hospital bed.” J.R. folded his arms across his chest.

“You tell me. I was unconscious this whole time,” L.J. replied brusquely. “Imagine my surprise waking up in a foreign place and seeing that insolent chit—“

“Father!”

L.J.’s scowl slipped in surprise at J.R.’s raised tone. He studied his son’s brooding expression and then sighed, his narrow shoulders drooping. “I know you have questions.”

“And I want answers.”

L.J. nodded, now somber. “I’ll try to answer as much as I know.”

“How long have you known about the cancer?”

L.J. blinked in surprise. “They told you?”

J.R.’s lips thinned. “How long?”

His father lowered his head. “A year and a half… almost two now.”

The silence prompted L.J. to lift his head and read his son’s expression. Anger marked J.R.’s furrowed brow and tightened his facial muscles. “Son, I…”

“And when did you plan on telling me?” J.R. asked, his tone low and uncharacteristically steady. His brow furrowed deeper. “When you had one more day to live? Or maybe when I’d receive another call from the hospital?”

L.J. lowered his head so he wouldn’t read the pain displayed in his son’s dark eyes. Regret and shame gripped his throat from answering.

“Th-that’s why you retired early, isn’t it?”

L.J. closed his eyes.

J.R. choked on a dry laugh. “Th-that’s why y-you’re so hell-bent on g-getting me settled, i-isn’t it? Y-you’d kn-nown all that time y-you wouldn’t live for much longer.”

The stutter had returned, indicating J.R. was quickly losing control of his emotions. All because of him.

L.J. sought his son’s face and his stomach dropped at the sight of tears swimming in J.R.’s angry eyes. He sighed and reached out a hand to his boy. “Beta…”

J.R. took a step back, glaring at his father. “H-how could you do this?”

The accusation in J.R’s eyes was worse than the words themselves. L.J. frowned. “If I could’ve prevented myself from getting cancer I would’ve, Raju.”

“You should’ve told me!” J.R. roared, eyes flashing with rage.

L.J. inadvertently flinched. J.R. cringed and L.J. instantly regretted it.

“I-I can’t do this.” J.R. took a step back and another, ready to run. He spun toward the door.

“Raj–!” L.J. groaned when J.R. slammed the door behind him and he covered his face.

Not a moment later, the door opened and he looked up, stifling another groan when an alarmed Hana hurried in.

“Uncle,” she rushed to his side and reached for his hand. “Are you okay?”

L.J. looked past her at the door. “Raju, please go to him…”

Hana paused in counting his pulse. “He’s with Darah, don’t worry.” She ignored his growl and squeezed his hand. “For now, you need to calm down or the nurse will come in—”

Nurse Karen Wells stepped in and gave both a smile. “Good, you’re awake. Just in time for your checkup with Doctor Yancey.”

L.J. dropped his forehead against Hana’s shoulder and groaned, unaware that Hana and Nurse Karen exchanged a cautious smile.

The two sat in silence, facing the brick wall that separated the hospital garden from the bayou. Bullfrogs and crickets croaked in unison, deafening the silence.

Then Darah sighed and peeked from the corner at J.R.’s profile. “Did you two fight?”

J.R. merely snorted and looked down, the sole of his loafer scraping the cement.

She arched a brow. “You two resemble each other. He’s practically an older version of you with the thick hair, tanned skin, dark eyes.”

“It’s the only thing similar between us.”

Her lips twitched in a wry grin. “Unfortunately.”

J.R. jerked his head to gape at her. “What does that mean?”

Darah shrugged. “Just that he’s more expressive than you. It’s refreshing to know not all Obed men are the same.”

He raised a brow. “I don’t see what—“

“I wish you’d be more expressive about your feelings, J.R.”

J.R. sighed and looked away. Darah sighed also and turned her eyes back to the fence.

“It’s not that easy…”

Darah rolled her eyes. “Actually it is. When you’re angry, you show anger. When you’re happy, you show joy or laugh or at least smile. You have a great smile when caught off-guard.”

J.R. didn’t respond and Darah scoffed aloud but didn’t say anything else. She needed to pee again. Pushing to her feet, she started for the door.

“I’m angry.”

Pausing in step, Darah turned around to his lonely figure. His broad shoulders were bowed in defeat, his thick hair streaked with moonlight. Her fingers itched to thread through the strands.

He heaved a sigh and she quickly refocused her attention on him. Her feet shuffled back to the bench they’d once shared and she lowered herself beside him. Peeing could wait.

“I’m scared too.”

Her gut clenched tight. Her eyes traveled up his profile and rested on his furrowed brow. She could only imagine the pain he faced at the thought of his father facing a terminal illness.

“But mostly angry.” J.R. leaned forward, rested his elbows on his knees and buried his face in his hands. “And scared and confused. I don’t know what to do.”

The catch in his voice made her scoot closer until their hips touched. When J.R. didn’t scoot over, Darah released the breath she’d been holding and placed a hand on his back. “What scares you the most?” she asked softly, not knowing what else to ask.

“I-I don’t…know.”

Darah ran her palm over his back in a soothing motion. “I think you do, J.R.”

He was silent for a long while that Darah was afraid she’d pushed him too hard. He wasn’t very good at expressing his feelings, so of course expressing fear for his father’s health wouldn’t be easy to share.

Then she heard a sniffle and her hand paused in motion. Darah willed the bullfrogs to quit their pesky croaking so she could hear it clearly. Then she saw J.R.’s hand swipe under his nose, and she gaped.

The muscles in his back twitched under her hand and Darah bent forward. “Wait, are you crying?”

J.R. cupped a hand over the visible part of his face. “No.”

She frowned. “You are crying.”

“No, I’m not.” He shifted away then, causing her hand to fall.

“J.R—!” Darah pouted when he stood abruptly and started for the door. She quickly jumped to her feet and hurried to him, wrapping her arms around his waist. He froze. She laced her fingers together and rested her cheek against his back, listening to the rapid beat of his heart. He was agitated with worry or fear for his father, and she only made it worse by goading him. “Oh Jay…”

His muscles twitched against him; and Darah knew from nights she’d held Eli after a terrible nightmare that J.R. was holding back tears.

“Let it out, J.R.,” she said gently. Unlacing her fingers, she moved her open palm to his left breast, to where she could feel his racing heart. “Stop giving yourself a hard time and let it out.”

A garbled moan escaped his throat and Darah felt his body bow slightly.

Darah cringed as he choked on a held-back sob. Her other hand wrapped around his narrow waist and the other patted his chest, silently encouraging him to release the tension from his chest.

J.R. choked on a sob and it wasn’t long before he began to weep bitter tears.

Exhaling a breath, Darah pressed her face against his back, allowing his sobs echo against her body also. If only she could take away his pain, she would. For now though, she’d be his rock and his comfort. Closing her eyes, she held him tight while he cried like a baby.

<<Chapter 13 || Chapter 15>>

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