Posts tagged “conflicted

Samina’s Chance: Chapter 45

Posted on 26/05/2015

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Deidre had one last moment of rebellion as she took in the too-brilliant smile Ezekiel gifted her daughter. He started to pull back Samina’s chair, intent on sitting beside her. Topher was rounding the table to sit by Jeremiah.

“Uh, Zeke,” she spoke up, ignoring the warning in Sheena’s glare. “Why don’t you sit by your father?”

Topher stopped short. Samina’s eyes flew to his.

Jeremiah snorted, pulling his chair out. “No need for that, Dee. The kids are fine where they are.”

“Indeed,” Sheena clipped out with a stiff smile on her lips.

Deidre clenched her jaw and squinted at her friend.

“Actually, Topher,” Gabriel spoke up, gesturing to the chair on his left. “Come sit here so we can get acquainted.” He met Deidre’s gaze and offered her a half-smile.

Deidre blinked at his wary smile and though they had much to settle between them, she answered with one of hers.

Jeremiah raised a brow. “What’s with the musical chairs? He’s fine where he is.”

“Ooh, musical chairs!” Beulah cooed as Ezekiel helped her onto her chair, boosted up by a cushion or two.

The adults shared a chuckle, Topher catching the gentle smile Samina cast on Ezekiel’s little girl before he looked away. Deidre didn’t miss this and lifted her stubborn chin. “I insist. Ezekiel?”

The man noticed her raised brow and his knotted in consternation. “Uh, well…”

Karen sighed and nudged Ezekiel aside. “I’ll switch with him, no problem.”

Obadiah frowned at the now-empty seat by him. He glanced over at Topher. “Let’s sit together. You play basketball?”

Sheena pouted. Deidre preened as Ezekiel trudged to the seat across from Samina. Gabriel and Jeremiah glanced at each other and smirked.

Topher smiled as he moved to take the empty seat. “A little.”

“You look like a basketball player,” Karen said. “You’re tall enough.”

“He’s not that tall…” Adelaide muttered and all eyes turned to her. She shrugged her bony shoulders nonchalantly, although her critical gaze swept over Topher. At the mature age of nine, she could read people very well. She knew when her father was unsure or nervous. Like now, fidgeting in his seat, with his jaw clenching and unclenching. All because the tall stranger made Auntie Sammie stare like he was the only person in the room. Immediately she didn’t like this guy.

Then he turned to look at her. “You’re right, Adelaide. I’m not that tall.” Topher gave her a smile that almost blinded her.

She blinked.

He winked and she felt her cheeks warm.

Adelaide looked down. “Laide…” she mumbled shyly.

Both Ezekiel and Samina gaped as Adelaide furtively glanced at him through lowered lashes. Samina raised both brows. So Topher’s exuberant charm extended to reserved adolescents also?

“Maybe you’ll join me and a couple of guys later for a game or two?” Obadiah asked, taking a sip of his water. “We’d love to have you on our team.”

Gabriel cleared his throat before Topher could answer. “Let’s say a prayer first. Some of us are starved.”

Ezekiel sought Samina’s eyes after the quick prayer but she dutifully kept her head bowed for an extra minute. He smiled. Her devotion for God was incredible. His heart warmed with pride that she could be his one day.

Leaning into Karen, Beulah giggled as Karen wiped a smudge of mashed potatoes from her cheek. Ezekiel smiled but Karen purposely avoided looking his way.

“So, yeah you will?” Obadiah nudged Topher just as he began to eat.

Jeremiah chuckled. “Obad, let the man eat first.” He winked at Topher before cutting into his ribeye steak.

“I thought you were heading back to Canada…” Samina spoke softly, finally lifting her gaze to his.

Ezekiel frowned. Sheena and Deidre both raised brow at her forlorn tone. Gabriel leaned into his seat.

Topher paused at cutting his own steak and looked up. “We will… Any day now.”

Feeling the full attention on them, Samina lowered her eyes. “I see,” she answered stiffly and remained quiet.

Jeremiah frowned. “Nadine, how is she?” His gaze skittered over Gabriel’s face, noting the tension between his eyes.

Topher kicked a shoulder. “She’s on the mend.”

“I should visit her before you two leave.” He gave Topher a smile and returned to eat his food.

“Why Canada?” Gabriel spoke softly.

Topher took his time chewing, mulling over the question. “Nadine said my fath—Maurice worked there.” He shrugged. “I guess he prepared a place for her there.”

Gabriel nodded, his features solemn, thoughtful.

Jeremiah sighed but didn’t say anything else. No doubt the two friends thought of their dead friend and all they’d missed over the years.

Again, Topher’s gaze collided with Samina’s. She offered him a smile, albeit wobbly and unsure. This time, he just stared back instead of looking away, sorrow plain in those striking grays of his.

She swallowed hard as her heart skipped a beat. Oh how lonely he looked, even surrounded by people. How she wished to reach across the table and grab his hand and—

“So Zeke,” Deidre spoke up. “How’s house hunting?”

Samina’s face lit aflame and she broke eye contact instantly, mortified that she’d forgotten where they were.

“We saw a purple house!” Beulah piped up, flashing her toothy smile. “Daddy said we’ll buy it.”

Ezekiel smiled indulgently. “I said we might, Bumblebee…” His warm gaze skittered over Samina before returning to Deidre. “We’re working on it.”

Samina dipped her chin, training her eyes on the steak and potatoes on her plate. Her heart was hammering in her breast and she would’ve held a hand to her chest if not for the hawk-eyes trained on her.

The lunch ended with no incidents and the men stood from the table, grunting their appreciation. Topher quietly stacked his dish over Obadiah’s. Deidre brushed his hands aside. “You’re a guest. We’ll take care of it. Go watch the game with the men.”

“Nadine’ll have my hide if I let you clean up after cooking. I’ll do it.” Topher granted her a smile that warmed all the women’s hearts all over. Even Sheena couldn’t help but grin.

Obadiah wrinkled his nose but followed suit, stacking a few plates and trudging after Topher to the kitchen.

“What a nice young man,” Deidre cooed, openly admiring the broad-shouldered man standing by the kitchen sink. “He’s not afraid to do housework. He’ll make a wonderful husband.”

Sheena snorted at her pointed words and folded her arms.

The rest of the men grunted. “And what are we, chopped liver?” Jeremiah countered good-naturedly, nudging Gabriel on the shoulder.

“Maybe I’ll marry him,” Karen teased as she wiped Beulah’s cheek.

Samina frowned as a pang tingled her insides. She avoided her mother’s eyes.

“You’re too old!” Adelaide protested, the adults chuckling softly.

Sheena laughed a bit too loudly and gathered her oldest granddaughter in a hug. “I think you have competition, Karen dear.”

Karen grinned audaciously at Adelaide’s blazing eyes challenging her. “Is that so?”

“You’re too young.” Ezekiel smoothed a hand over Adelaide’s puffy hair. He glanced once at Topher and Obadiah, his brow drawing a frown that persisted long into the evening.

Hours later, Samina trudged out onto the driveway beside him, smiling as Beulah and Adelaide raced to their car. She drew in a breath as Ezekiel’s fingers sought hers. Glancing once at his shadowed features, she noticed the absent smile on his face and stopped short. “Hmm?”

Ezekiel grabbed her other hand, lacing their fingers together as he came to stand before her. “You alright, Sam?” The pad of his thumbs brushed her palms.

She avoided his perceptive gaze even under the dim light of the half moon. “Uh-hmm…” was all she could muster for even if she wasn’t okay, there was no way she could disclose the reasons for her jumbled thoughts. It wouldn’t be fair to him.

He inclined his head closer, attempting to peer at her face. She held her breath, only releasing it when he leaned away. “I would kiss you if not for the faces pressed against the front window of your house.” He chuckled as Samina jerked her face up. “Oh, who cares?” Ezekiel leaned forward and planted a peck on her lips.

Samina jerked back, more surprised than she should’ve been.

He raised a brow, smile unrepentant. “What?”

She drew in her lips as his eyes focused on them. No doubt her parents, his parents, her siblings and Topher watched them from the window. Her stomach did a somersault, stealing away her breath. Topher. What if he saw? What would he think?

Ezekiel tugged one hand free and brushed back stubborn tendrils of hair that tickled her cheek. “I hope I’m not moving too fast for you… am I?”

Samina just stared as he tucked the hair behind her ears, his fingers brushing the skin of her nape. She stiffened her shoulders. “And if you are?”

He raised a brow, fingers paused. “I am?”

She looked over her shoulder at Beulah bouncing in the backseat, a frowning Adelaide wagging her finger in protest. One corner of her lips lifted in a wry smile. “I don’t know.” Her mother questioning if she was ready to be anyone’s mother plagued her thoughts more today than before. Although she loved Ezekiel’s daughters, Samina wondered now if she really could step into the role of stepmother. Her chest tightened.

“Sam…” Ezekiel’s gentle voice drew her attention. His smile was missing. “You know I won’t force you to do anything you don’t want, right? You know I respect and love you, don’t you?”

Samina searched his face, knowing the lines of his face that she’d memorized over the years. This was the face of the man she’d loved for all her adolescent life. She’d dreamt of being his wife, the mother of his children. Could she give up this chance just because of a passing fancy?

Ezekiel squeezed her hand, a ghost of a smile twitching his lips. “You do, don’t you?”

“What?”

He smirked. “Love me too, right?”

Samina bit the inside of her cheeks. She did, didn’t she? Breaking eye contact, she leaned into him and pressed her forehead against his shoulder. “Yeah…” Topher was just a passing fancy. He’d leave town and she’d never see him again, and her conflicted heart would finally settle on what it really wanted. Ezekiel. Right?

An hour after Topher left the house with Jeremiah and Sheena tailing, Samina sat up in her seat and gaped at her parents. “What did you just say?” There was no way she heard him correctly, yet her heart pounded violently.

“We’re going camping,” Gabriel repeated, not breaking eye-contact.

“With everyone.” Deidre grinned from ear-to-ear, though not as keen on adventure as she was on potential time to set her plans in motion. “Jeremiah and Sheena are fine with it and Ezekiel will take time off since he’s the CEO of his company. The girls will love it too. Finally some summer time fun.”

Karen shrugged. “It might be fun, Sammie.”

Not really. Samina shook her head adamantly, missing the conspiring smile shared between her mother and sister. “Okay, camping with the Dames family is fine… But why is Topher invited?”

“Why not?” Gabriel frowned. “This trip was planned with him in mind.”

Her heart flipped over. If her father came up with the idea, there was no way she could protest now. Samina groaned inwardly.

“Before he and Nadine leave the country,” Gabriel continued. “It’ll be good for us to connect with him. Let him know he’ll always have family here.” His Adam’s apple bobbed, his eyes glistened with unshed tears. “I’d like to do this, Samina. And I want you all to be there too.”

Obadiah smiled approvingly. “I’m with you Dad. Topher’s cool.”

“Isn’t he?” Karen grinned in reply, folding her arms. “It’s a great idea, Dad.”

Deidre rubbed her husband’s back. “I’m sure Nadine will appreciate you making amends this way… His parents would’ve too.” She met his eyes and gave him a smile.

The odd man out, Samina quietly struggled with this charitable act. How could she spend a weekend in the company of two men who made her heart and mind constantly confused and bothered? Pushing out a breath, Samina slumped into the seat.

Ezekiel was just as conflicted, except he openly rejected the idea. “I can’t afford to go camping. We’re in the middle of a negotiation deal.” He scowled, tossing a pair of rolled socks into the duffel bag. “Like whoever came up with this inconvenience?”

James smirked knowingly from where he stood, watching his best friend grow more agitated. “Inconvenient because you’ll have to trust me completely to figure things out on my own, or inconvenient ‘cos you’ll have to date Samina under watchful eyes… or is it something else?” His lips twitched as his friend’s face darkened, fully aware of the new dilemma. Another man in contest for Samina’s heart.

“All of the above.” Ezekiel forcefully shoved a pair of cargo shorts in the bag.

James sputtered in laughter and once Ezekiel hurled him a warning stare, he snuffed it out quickly. Clearing his throat, he schooled his features. “And what makes you think this guy’s worth your concern?”

Ezekiel frowned. “I don’t know… I just… do.” He rolled up a jacket and shoved it into the bag. “It isn’t just the way he looks at her that makes me mad. It’s…”

“You’re worried that your jealously is warranted.”

It was times like this that Ezekiel wished his long-term friendship with James wasn’t so strong. The man could read him too well.

“Samina loves you, Zeke. She always has. Just because some guy passes her fancy doesn’t mean her feelings for you will change.” James smirked. “You gotta give it to her, man. For how many years, she’s only ever loved you.

Ezekiel swallowed hard. He should’ve been warmed all over at the thought of Samina loving him for so long. He should’ve been strengthened with confidence that this Topher fellow wouldn’t make her waver. But he was worried. He really was.

“That’s the problem…” He met James’ concerned gaze. “I don’t think this is just some passing fancy.”

James rolled his eyes. “Then you better step up your game.” He nodded when Ezekiel raised a querying brow. “You never really had to try winning Winsome over. She only had eyes for you, lucky son-of-a-gun.” He shook his head incredulously. “I don’t know why. I’m better looking.”

“Your modesty’s pretty impressive too,” Ezekiel answered dryly.

“Isn’t it?” James flashed him a grin. “In any case. If this guy’s making Samina’s heart waver, you’d better show her why it shouldn’t.”

Ezekiel frowned. “What are you suggesting?”

James snorted. “I can’t spoon-feed you forever. Woo her.” He raised both bushy brows. “The right way, this time.”

The right way… Ezekiel bit the inside of his cheeks, brow drawing a frown in deep thought. Was there a right way to win Samina’s heart completely?

Nadine eyed Topher warily. “So you’ll go then?”

He silently traced lines on her wrinkled palms.

With his head bent, she could only stare at his stubborn curls and imagine him as a boy, asking for permission to play with friends till sundown. Nadine pushed out a sigh. “Is this really what you want?”

Topher nodded.

Even without looking at him, seeing deep into his solemn gray eyes, Nadine knew he wanted this. He was curious about his father and who knew him best were his only friends, Jeremiah and Gabriel.

“And even if you see Samina…” Nadine paused when his fingers stilled. Her heart ached, recalling the solemn way he told her about Samina loving another. “Won’t it hurt being close to her?”

He didn’t lift his head once, didn’t answer with a grunt or a sigh. And Nadine knew then why he said yes.

More than knowing about his father and mother, Topher realized that this would be the only time he’d see Samina before leaving for Canada. He’d resigned in himself, most likely after the lunch at her place, to let her go. It was in his eyes when he came home that evening; that he’d decided to give her up.

Nadine lifted her free hand to his head, the soft curls of his head tickling her palm. She didn’t need to say a word and he didn’t ask for it. This was the only way she knew to comfort him. To comfort a man who had given his heart away.

<<Chapter 44 || Chapter 46>>

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Samina’s Chance: Chapter 37

Posted on 11/05/2015

bouquet

Samina eyed Karen warily as she adjusted the flower brooch over her shoulder. She noted the tightness around her sister’s mouth and the concentrated wrinkle in her brow.

Since that night, Karen hadn’t mentioned the surgery and even Obadiah steered clear from the topic. And although she’d asked for space, she didn’t like the pointed silence or evasion.

At least one of them could’ve asked what would happen next, if the surgery had cured her completely, because she too wondered at every dose of hormone pills. Waiting for the report from her post-op check-in wasn’t the easiest thing to do.

She fidgeted and Karen hissed, causing her to stiffen.

“This brooch is tricky so if you don’t want either of us pricked, stand still.”

Samina nodded and snuck a peek at Karen’s face. “You’re… still mad?”

Karen rolled her eyes and sighed. “What do you think?” She frowned, tugging on the strap of Samina’s gown. “Honestly, what was Ada thinking? Not only is the color of this dress blindly atrocious, it doesn’t fit her theme.”

The corner of Samina’s lips twitched a smile. “Don’t let her hear that.”

Karen grunted, adjusting the brooch pin to secure the strap. Then her brown eyes slanted over Samina’s face. “How is it?”

Samina kicked her other shoulder. “It’ll do.”

“No. I mean…” She pointed her chin at Samina’s face. “Your nasal septum okay?”

Samina blinked. “My what?”

Karen frowned. “I heard they make an incision there… for the, y’know.” She lowered her gaze to the brooch pin. “Did it… hurt?”

Regret choked out her words. She’d been incredibly wrong to keep this from her family. “I…” she croaked out.

Grabbing her shoulders, Karen scowled. “Stop crying. You’ll ruin your makeup.” She thumbed a tear from Samina’s cheeks.

“I’m sorry…” Samina sniffed back the tears.

“Sorry for what?” She dabbed at Samina’s eyes, frown still present on her brow. “Keeping your surgery a secret or ruining the makeup?”

“Both.” Samina choked a soft laugh.

Karen offered her a half-smile, eyes gliding over her face. “I’m mad that you hid away as if you don’t have a family, Sam. I won’t lie and say I’m not.” She squeezed Samina’s shoulder. “But I’m glad that you’re okay.”

Samina nodded, pulling Karen into an embrace. She closed her eyes, resting her chin against Karen’s shoulder. “Thank you…”

Karen patted her back gruffly, before pulling back. “You sure you don’t want to take someone else to the wedding?”

She knew exactly who she referred to, another topic they both avoided. Everything was still so new and confusing with Ezekiel. Bringing him to the wedding seemed unusual. Strange.

“Not that I mind coming since Jaxson has some fine friends.” Karen’s bright smile pulled Samina out of her reverie.

“Well then…” Samina smiled in return. “That settles it.”

Karen’s smile then waned. “Besides, it’s best that I come instead of Ezekiel… Y’know, for Topher’s sake.”

Samina’s smile dropped as did her heart, plummeting to her stomach. Topher. Without her permission, his detached expression and cold words stayed with her ever since that strange night, nagging her every time she responded to Ezekiel’s texts and spoke to him over the phone.

Due to her maid-of-honor duties occupying all her free time, she didn’t get a chance to see Ezekiel… or Topher. The best man who’d assigned himself as her partner-in-crime was notably absent. Jaxson had mentioned he was busy with Nadine, but Samina knew better. He was avoiding her.

A tug at her frilly sleeve pulled Samina’s attention back to the frown on Karen’s face. Her chest tightened, fearing that she’d offended her sister again.

“Let’s go before Ada throws a fit.” She pulled Samina to the door, grabbing both their purses and the car keys.

Surprisingly, Samina breathed a sigh of relief as the bouquet sailed over her head, the crowd erupting in cheers as Myrtle, Ada’s older cousin, caught the bouquet. She caught Karen’s eyes across the room and grinned.

Karen rolled her eyes but smiled anyway.

Though she wanted to be married, for some reason, catching the bouquet in Topher’s presence seemed almost disrespectful. Inadvertently, she scanned the room and immediately caught Topher’s hooded gaze focused on her.

Her face warmed at his open perusal and she quickly looked away, adjusting her sleeve.

“I aimed too high,” Ada bemoaned, draping a bare arm over Samina’s shoulders. “But I’m so glad Myrtle caught it or I’ll never hear the end of that.” She wriggled her brows, face lit with joy and excitement.

A surge of jealously filled Samina’s lungs, arresting her rebuttal. She shook it off quickly and offered Ada the brightest smile she could. This was her best friend’s day and she was going to be happy for her.

Then the song came on. The crowd cheered in recognition at the melody and Ada grabbed Samina’s hand, tugging her closer to the dance floor. “Find your partner, Sam.” She winked audaciously and Samina wished she’d been honest with Ada about Topher.

Jaxson sauntered over just as the singer’s voice crooned out the first word. Grabbing Ada by the waist, he pulled her close just as they’d rehearsed.

Samina’s pulse jumped at the second beat, their cue was next. As Jaxson and Ada circled the room, the crowd roared in cheer and Samina’s cheeks warmed in anticipation for Topher to reach for her.

Just then, a hand slid around her waist and Samina’s heart skipped several beats as Topher pulled her into his arms. She stumbled against him and glanced up quickly at his chiseled features. One corner of his mouth was slanted in a smile.

Heat surged through her veins and she lowered her gaze. The music changed and Topher released her to move to Jaxson’s side, as they rehearsed.

“This is how we do it!” The crowd sang along, feeling the energy of the song.

Though her feet moved with the rhythm and she danced in step with Ada beside her, Samina could only see Topher, his bright smile and svelte form moving as if he had no cares in the world.

Ada hooked an arm under Samina’s, grinning at her. “Smile, girl!”

Samina could only muster a wobbly one, tears stinging the back of her eyes. Was he that unaffected by her? Or was he merely deflecting?

The song changed yet again, a slow melody. Ada released her arm and moved to the center, where Jaxson waited for her.

Samina held her breath, knowing what was next.

“Cos I’m your ladyyyy…” The women shout-sang along with Celine Dion.

Topher shifted his gaze to Samina, his smile waning.

And you are my man…”

Samina swallowed hard and stepped forward, meeting him in the middle of the dance floor. Her heart skipped a beat as he pulled her close. She almost sighed in the strength of his arms.

Then he sighed, grabbing Samina’s attention to his face. He wore a rueful expression that made her start, stepping on his foot.

“Sorry…” they both said together.

She frowned, fingers curling over his shoulder. “Huh?”

His lips curled in a half smile. “I’m sorry.”

Her gaze met his, seeing regret there.

“I didn’t take your news as well as I should have,” Topher continued, his deep timbre and the unexpected apology rocking her off-kilter. “Friends should celebrate each other’s good news and I didn’t. I’m sorry for my appalling behavior.”

Samina couldn’t swallow the hardened lump in her throat.

He tilted his head slightly, beseeching her with his striking gaze. “Forgive me?”

The tears at the back of her eyes tingled at the gentle cadence of his baritone. Samina jerked a nod. “I’m sorry too…”

Topher smirked. “For leading me on?”

Her eyes widened.

Topher laughed softly. “I’m kidding.” His smile remained, gentle, forgiving, warm.

Samina relaxed in his arms for the remainder of the dance.

Karen met her afterwards with a glass of water and a bemused expression. “How curious…”

Samina paused from taking a swallow of the refreshing liquid, parched. “Hmm?”

“For a moment there, one could forget you’d broken his heart.” Karen shook her head. “He must really like you, Sammie…”

Cheeks aflame, Samina gulped down the drink, eyes moving to where Topher congratulated his best friend with a one-arm hug and a pat on the back.

“Well since he’s available, you don’t mind if I dance with him?” Karen wriggled her brows and sauntered across the dance floor toward Topher.

Watching Karen poke Topher’s shoulder and he turn to greet her, Samina felt her stomach clench in protest. She swallowed the water, troubled to silence.

How curious indeed.

Jeremiah heard him before he saw him. His shoulders tensed and he squinted into the distance, marking the spot.

“Funny seeing you here…” Gabriel muttered, coming to stand to his right.

He swung the club, watching the golf ball sail and hit the net kilometers away before landing on the green. Then he glanced over his shoulder.

Gabriel stood with his arms folded, no golf bag in sight. In fact, his friend wore jeans and a dress-shirt, hardly golf-appropriate. His face was hard as stone, all business like. “Let’s talk.”

Jeremiah smirked dryly, lowering his club. “You’re done avoiding me?”

Gabriel narrowed his eyes at him. “Ezekiel turns 33 next month, right?”

He raised a brow, tugging off his gloves. “Since when do you care about that stuff?”

“Answer the question, Jeremiah.”

He scowled, growing increasingly tired of Gabriel’s shifty moods. “Yes, so what? Did you come here to start a fight? I rather your silence that this.” He tossed the gloves on top his golf bag and bent over to unlace his shoes.

Gabriel turned to face him. “That day… in your car.”

Jeremiah’s fingers paused. Cold frisson shot down his spine.

“Why?”

He looked up, stunned to silence at the pain etched in Gabriel’s weathered face. It was as if they were back in college, standing on that grass still wet with dew.

“Why was Odessa in your car?”

Jeremiah scowled darkly, connecting the dots. “You’re crazy.” He left his shoes on and grabbed his bag. Anger surged through him as Gabriel blocked his path. “Move.”

“You didn’t tell me what happened.”

He gritted his teeth, fingers squeezing the bag. “Move!”

Gabriel barely flinched at Jeremiah’s bark. “I didn’t give you a chance to explain yourself but I want to hear it now.”

Jeremiah scoffed. “After thirty-four years, you want to hear my side now?”

Gabriel’s jaw tightened, his patience waning also. “You had thirty-four years to tell me the truth and you didn’t. Sounds like a guilty man, if I ever heard one.”

Knowing the other golfers were now staring their way, Jeremiah checked his anger and shook his head. “Forget it, Gabe. I know you’ll always believe what you want to. Move out of my way before I make you move.”

For a second, Jeremiah wasn’t sure Gabriel would move. Resentment practically oozed out of the man’s core, heat blazing in his eyes. This man was sporting for a fight and if he gave Gabriel one reason, another searing punch would land on his jaw. With the tension between him and Sheena these days, he couldn’t afford to fight with Gabriel… even if he wanted to.

Then Gabriel stepped aside.

Air gushed out of Jeremiah’s lungs and his shoulders relaxed. He pushed past Gabriel, eying the glowing exit sign a few feet away.

“Keep running like you always do,” Gabriel’s taunting voice called in the silence. “Just like you were in high school, you’ll always be a coward.”

Jeremiah’s footsteps halted.

<<Chapter 36 || Chapter 38>>

  

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