Posts tagged “Confusion

Chasing Truth: Chapter 44

Posted on 15/05/2020

Mari reclined in the grass with her head propped up on her hands while she studied the stars. The entire day was nonstop fun. With Reese’s departure delayed and his assurance he didn’t mind, Raoul and Mari got their camping trip.

The hike up was hilarious. She and Allie spent half of it lamenting the delayed maturity of men as Raoul and Reese clowned around. They spent the other half joining in the antics. It didn’t take long to pitch camp, and playfully barking orders at Reese made it all the more fun. They canoed on the lake before enjoying a lazy swim. When the sun slipped away and the moon came out, they gathered around the fire for dinner and S’mores followed by stories.

Mari was utterly content. She could watch the stars until she drifted off to sleep right there.

Reese’s smile partially blocked her view of the night sky. “Comfortable?”

“Come look at the stars,” she encouraged with a matching smile.

Stretching out beside her, he mimicked her pose.

“I talked to Blake this morning,” she said telling him something she was certain he knew.

“He was happy to hear from you.”

Her smile widened. “It’s still kinda hard to believe sometimes, you know? That I can just pick up the phone and talk to him. It’s real, though, and we’re slowly getting to know each other. It made me think. The other night you said you chose to stay with him. You never did say why.”

He didn’t immediately respond.

“I’m getting to know him for myself,” she continued with her eyes still on the sky, “and I’m enjoying that. You’ve been close to him for a long time though. I want to see him through your eyes.”

More silence. Just when Mari started to plead her case further, he spoke.

“Where I grew up, there were a lot of examples of guys that weren’t so great. That made it easier to spot ones that were. Blake stood out like that. He was fair. He kept his word. The times we worked together, he was focused and willing to pull his weight. When it came to work, that was really all I needed. When things would get slow sometimes, I found he could be funny. The first time he told a joke, I just looked at him in disbelief.”

She giggled at the image he painted.

“When I was 19, my mom was hit by a car.”

Mari’s laughter died a quick death.

“Hit and run. I was on my way to work when they called. I called Blake to tell him I was on the way to the hospital. She broke her leg, had a concussion, and needed stitches. Blake showed up and told me to let him know if I needed anything else. I didn’t think about it at the time. I just thanked him for coming and he left.”

He freed one hand to rub it over his head. “She had insurance, but it wasn’t much. I asked about the bill, knowing it was going to set us back, but it was already taken care of.”

“Blake,” Mari whispered with a smile.

“Blake.”

“He was there when you needed him.”

“The support he gave us then was more than any boss would be expected to give. He didn’t hesitate to do it, didn’t wait around for me to ask for help. He just saw what needed to be done and he did it. I could make money anywhere. Having somebody I could trust to have my back if I needed it? That was harder to find. That day, he stopped being just somebody I worked for.”

“I think that would have changed things for anybody.”

“The man you’re getting to know is the same man I know. He’s open with you. He can be him without needing to be anything else to you. It’ll come.”

“Thanks. For that and for sharing. That was personal for you, but it gave me exactly what I was looking for.”

She couldn’t reconcile that Blake was the man Tyler was accusing him of being. The sounds of the night filled the silence between them. With Tyler visiting his father, she trusted nothing would happen with Blake and that gave her time to get to know him without pressure. More and more, she was beginning to wonder if Tyler was wrong. There could be another explanation.

The man lying beside her had the answers. He was too close to Blake not to know one way or the other. He would never tell her, though, and to ask would give him questions of his own. She sighed.

“So,” she prompted to distract herself. “How would you rate your first camping trip so far?”

“It’s been pretty fun. There’s this woman, though. Man, tough camp leader.”

She pulled one arm from behind her head to push him. He chuckled softly as he rocked with her touch. “There are a lot of beautiful places out here and I can see why you and Raoul bring in so much business. You’re both naturals.”

“Okay, now you’re just trying to make me squirm,” she teased. She couldn’t quite hide the flush of pleasure.

“Hey, you asked for my opinion. I was just giving you my answer.”

“Thanks.” She turned onto her side and pushed up on her arm to stare at him. “Today has been absolutely perfect. Thank you for telling Allie I wasn’t strong-arming you.”

“Much. I told her you weren’t strong-arming me much.”

Her head tipped back with her laughter. “Get some rest. Your tough camp leader has plans for the morning.”

Reese sat up with a sharp salute. “Ma’am, yes ma’am.”

She was still laughing when she pushed to her feet and headed to her tent.

<< Chapter 43                                    Chapter 45>>

Lighthouse, Chapter 16

Posted on 14/07/2016

Jeremy Stanley was nervous. He couldn’t stop the beads of sweat forming along his brow and down the bridge of his aquiline nose. Couldn’t help his shallow breathing or the shiftiness of his amber-colored eyes. His fingers constantly found themselves raking through his already-tousled locks and he caught himself stammering over simple words meant to respond to a question addressed to him.

“Cat got your tongue?”

His shifty gaze swung to the shorter of the two men that stood before him, their dark eyes gleaming with evil intent. Recalling a picture of Darah with her brothers, he silently identified this shorter one as Bartimeus Teka. With the same tawny-brown skin boasting russet undertones, this brother resembled Darah although her skin was smoother—

“Let’s make it simple, since you’re finding it hard to compute.”

The deeper voice of the other one sent shivers down Jeremy’s back and he stood straighter, his gaze shifting to Darah’s oldest brother, Abe. He swallowed hard, recalling from Darah’s countless anecdotes that this was the man who had raised her since she was twelve after their parents passed in a tragic accident. In other words, he was practically Darah’s father and from the hooded look on his face, he didn’t like Jeremy.

“Why were you lurking around my house looking for my sister?”

“That’s the same question I asked,” Bart muttered, eyes unwavering.

Jeremy would’ve laughed if not for the steely glares pinned on him. Darah had mentioned Bart was the funniest of her brothers while Abe was stern. He sobered, clearing away the good memories of his relationship with Darah. This wasn’t the time for nostalgia. The fact that they’d herded him from the first house to this one, away from witnesses, meant they didn’t want to entertain. He had to get straight to the point and leave intact.

Staring up at the eldest brother, he stood a little straighter and finally spoke. “She and I have some unfinished business.”

The two brothers blinked and then Bart’s lips curled in a smile that made Jeremy’s stomach tighten.

“Unfinished business?”

Jeremy’s gaze shifted to Abe who had spoken and nodded. “Yes.”

“What kind of unfinished…”

“Of course he’s implying, albeit a wrong move, that it’s none of our business,” Bart cut in. “Anything that concerns our sister is our business.”

Jeremy kept his face straight. “I understand.”

Bart nodded. “So tell me again how you know my sister.”

“We’re… classmates.”

Bart and Abe snorted dismissively. “Okay classmate,” Bart continued, eyes gleaming more dangerously. “What urgent business do you have with my sister that you can’t request over the phone?”

Jeremy hesitated and the two brothers arched a brow. He cleared his throat. “I… lost her number.”

“That sounds like a lie, buddy.” Abe took a step forward and Jeremy had to fight himself from taking one backward. These brother-wolves would tear him apart if they smelled fear on him.

Jeremy shook his head. “It’s my bad. I got a new phone and—”

“Ey ey,” Bart held up a hand. “Save your lame excuses for someone with no sense. Just give us your message and we’ll relay it to her.”

He tamped down a sigh of frustration. “Or you could give me her number and I—”

“Not happening,” Abe said, taking yet another step closer.

Jeremy swallowed an expletive as his foot shifted back. The brothers’ gazes sharpened and they both took a step toward him.

The doorbell rang then. Jeremy held his sigh of relief until Abe rolled his eyes and turned toward the door. Bart remained standing with his guarded stare fixed on him. Jeremy’s gaze drifted over Bart’s shoulder as the door opened, watching a lithe yet broad-shouldered tanned-skinned man stroll in. His brow raised as the man’s stare swept over him once before settling on Abe.

“How is she?” Abe inquired and the newcomer eyed Jeremy before nodding in silence.

Attention perked, Jeremy stepped forward only to be barred by Bart.

“Where you going, buddy?”

Jeremy heaved a frustrated sigh, losing his patience. Ignoring Bart, he met the newcomer’s wary stare. “Do you know where Darah is? I need to speak with her.”

Bart stepped into Jeremy’s line of sight and gave him a crooked smirk. “Not until you speak to us.”

“This is ridiculous!”

“What’s ridiculous is you thinking I’ll allow you to harass my sister.”

The newcomer stepped away from Abe and was at Bart’s side, hand on his shoulder. His thick brows were bent in a V, features tight in disconcertment. “Bart, calm down.”

“How can I calm down when this guy’s acting all arrogant—?”

“Let’s hear him out,” the newcomer said in a steady tone and he squeezed Bart’s shoulder before facing Jeremy. His brow furrowed deeper and his lips tightened. “You must be Jeremy.”

“I am. Where’s Darah?”

Both brothers snorted. The newcomer sighed. “You’ll meet Darah once we come to an understanding.”

Jeremy refrained from stomping his feet in rising agitation. “What understanding? I already told them I’m a classmate and I need to speak with her. It’s really urgent.”

The newcomer arched a brow. “Classmate? Is that all?”

As both brothers glanced at the newcomer, Jeremy felt cold frisson running down his spine. “W-what?”

“You heard me.”

“J.R., what does that mean?” Abe asked, walking up to Bart’s other side.

Cursing himself for not pre-empting this type of confrontation, Jeremy inadvertently took a step back. “What did she say?”

J.R. merely stared at him in silence.

Features twisted in anger, Bart cracked his knuckles. “So this is the fool that got her in this mess?”

Alarmed, Jeremy shuffled backward. “W-wait, what are you talking about? What mess?”

Abe scowled darkly. “You have some nerve coming here—but then again, it’s a good thing you’re here.” He closed the distance and seized Jeremy by the collar.

<<Chapter 15 || Chapter 17>>

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