Posts tagged “Connection

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>>

Chasing Truth: Chapter 36

Posted on 28/02/2020

Image result for ringing cell phone

Mari adjusted her bag on her shoulder while she stood on the porch waiting for Reese to complete his walk-through of the house. They’d had a great day of tours, but she was ready to wind down. No matter how many walk-throughs he did, he never found anything. She didn’t expect today to be any different.

From inside, she heard the distinct ringing of the phone Blake left her. Only knowing Reese would immediately lose all friendliness if she went in before he cleared the house kept her outside waiting.

He met her at the door a few moments later, holding out the ringing phone. She smiled and quickly answered it.

“Hey, Blake.”

“My Mari. How are things on the island?”

“We’re living the life over here. We just got back from work. Work being hiking and scuba diving for a few hours. I could eat an octopus.”

Blake chuckled as she dropped her bag by the door and kicked off her shoes. “You have the better end of the deal, that’s for sure. Appetite and all, except maybe hold off on the octopus.”

“That’s the best part.” She hesitated for a moment. “It’s good to hear from you,” she confessed dropping onto the couch. It wasn’t the first time he’d called since he left, but he sounded more relaxed.

“I’m glad you feel that way, but I’m feeling jealous. Reese tells me you all threw a nice welcome party for him. If you keep it up, he’s not going to want to come home and then what am I going to do?”

Mari laughed and kicked her sock-covered feet up on the arm of the sofa as she stretched out. “I had nothing to do with that. I was just along for the ride. It was one heck of a party, though. We’ll have to throw you one when you come back.”

“From what I hear, I’d be a fool to turn down that offer. I know it probably hasn’t been comfortable having someone you don’t know constantly in your space, but it’s made it easier not to worry as much.”

Mari lifted her head in an attempt to catch sight of Reese who was making noise in the kitchen. “He’s not half bad,” she admitted dropping her head back down. “We’ve been getting along.”

“That’s good. Reese can be easy that way. How are Raoul and Allie?”

“They’re fine. Raoul came hiking with us today, so we had a good time together. We were talking about doing a camping trip after Reese leaves. Allie says it’s not good manners to drag guests camping.”

Blake laughed. “Reese wouldn’t have a problem with it.”

“Allie does. Can’t be rude. So we’ll wait.”

“Allie’s word is law.”

“She’s the only normal one in the family, so we trust her judgment on stuff like that.”

They both laughed. When it naturally tapered off, Blake continued.

“And Tyler?”

Mari’s guard went up. What else had Reese shared besides news of the party? “He’s fine.”

“You never did say how long you’ve been seeing him.”

“Some months now.”

“So it’s serious then? He treats you well?”

Mari sighed and sat upright. “If this is about last night, you can just change the subject.” As soon as she said the words she felt his tension.

“What happened last night?”

Mari’s eyes shot to Reese who was standing at the island. He smirked and raised a brow, clearly understanding her predicament. She’d just told on herself when he hadn’t.

“Nothing,” she mumbled.

“It was enough for you to mention it. Did Reese leave out something he should have told me?”

“No, because there’s nothing to tell.”

“Marielle.”

She wrinkled her nose. “Is that the dad voice? Really? I’m too old for that to have any effect.”

“Are you?”

“Yes,” she said firmly.

He fell silent. She shifted on the sofa.

“It wasn’t a big deal,” she finally said in exasperation. “The boyfriend doesn’t like a strange man in my space. That’s all. Let it go, Blake.”

He was silent for a few moments. “I’ll say this and then I’ll let it go. That man better not ever harm a hair on your head.”

He didn’t need to reiterate he meant it. She could feel the sincerity of his words and it warmed her.

“I’ll make sure he understands.”

“Good. I have to go now. I’ll talk to you soon. Be safe.”

“You too. Talk to you soon,” she echoed.

She swung her feet back to the ground to sit upright on the couch as she ended the call. Reese walked over and offered her a plate of warmed up leftovers. Accepting it, she leaned back into the cushion.

“You’re pretty handy to have around.”

He smiled and claimed the armchair with a plate of his own. After a few bites, she glanced over at him.

“You didn’t say anything to Blake about last night.”

He didn’t respond. She sighed and added the question.

“Why?”

“I’m here to protect you. I saw something I didn’t like. You assured me it wasn’t an issue. I decided to accept your judgment until I see reason not to. I’m not here to report your every move to Blake and I wouldn’t cause tension between you two unnecessarily.”

She scraped her rice together. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

They ate together with Mari recalling highlights from their day and laying out the plans for tomorrow. She was taking their plates to the kitchen when she heard the knock on the door. She kept walking to the sink as Reese went to see who was there.

“Tyler is here.”

Mari set the dishes in the sink and joined Reese at the door.

“Meet me out back on the deck,” she told Tyler over his shoulder.

He nodded and he went back down the steps before Reese closed the door.

“He and I need to talk, so if you could give us some privacy, that’d be good.”

He studied her. “Don’t leave the deck.”

“I can work with that.”

“Then I’ll give you privacy.”

 Trusting him at his word, she walked out the back door to the deck where Tyler leaned his elbows against the railing. She stepped up beside him, bracing her hands there and looking out.

“Hey, sweetheart,” he greeted softly.

“Hey.”

“I’m surprised your bodyguard didn’t come out with you.” He looked her over when she shrugged and sighed. “You’re upset with me.”

“Annoyed. I’m annoyed. This whole thing is already messy enough without you picking unnecessary fights with Reese. In case you’re confused, last night was an unnecessary fight.”

“Everything I asked him was fair, Mari. You know that. We don’t know anything about him or your father for that matter. You trust him too easily. I don’t like it.”

“Asking questions was one thing, but you let that turn into a big standoff. It didn’t have to get that serious.”

“Maybe I pushed too hard, but what I said stands. You don’t know him.”

“He hasn’t done anything, Tyler.”

“Well, forgive me for not wanting to give him the opportunity, either. I promised you I would keep you safe.”

“I don’t need to be kept safe from Reese.”

“You don’t know that.”

“If he was going to do something, he’s had plenty of chances.”

“Since he has unrestricted access to you, he doesn’t have to be in a rush either.”

“The same thing could be said about you.”

He stiffened before he shoved off the railing. “Is that what you think?”

Mari hung her head and heaved a sigh. “No,” she told the deck.

“Look at me and tell me that’s not what you think,” he demanded grabbing hold of her arm.

Turning into him, she lifted her head. “I said no. I shouldn’t have said that. This is just…a lot.”

Tyler glanced toward the house before looking back at her. “If you’re having second thoughts about this, now’s the time to tell me.”

“Of course I’m having second thoughts,” she hissed. “There’s a man I’m just getting to know living with me. I’m trying to get to know my father over phone calls. And you…”

His eyes glittered. “I what?”

“You’re making all of that even harder to deal with! I’m living it day in and day out and you just keep pushing without telling me anything. I don’t even know what you’ve been doing since this all started.”

“We agreed-”

“I know what we agreed to!”

“Keep it down,” he ground out with another look at the house.

She slid her fingers into her hair and resisted the urge to tug on the curls. “Look, I-”

He cupped her face and took her mouth in a ruthless kiss. Her lips parted in shock. He dove in, pressing her against the railing as he assaulted her senses. She gripped his arms to steady herself, but emotionally she was reeling. She gave herself over to the kiss, leaning into him and the passion of it.

Moments later, he tore his mouth from hers. Their heavy breathing seemed to echo around them.

“I told you I wasn’t going to let this come between us.” His mouth was still close enough his lips brushed hers when he spoke. “I meant that.”

She closed her eyes. “Tyler…”

He kissed her again, gently this time. “We’re taking tonight. You and me. Alone. We’ll talk about this and then we’ll focus on us.”

Her eyes closed. She was tempted and she knew the absolute wrong thing to do in that moment was point out she needed to clear it with Reese first. She lifted a hand, stroking her thumb over his cheekbone.

“We could use that,” she agreed quietly. “I need to take care of a few things here then I’ll come to you.”

“I can wait.”

Reese’s reaction last night told her everything she needed to know about the likelihood of him accepting her plans with ease. She didn’t want Tyler waiting and making it harder. She shook her head.

“I’ll come to you,” she repeated.

“I’ll hold you to that. It’ll give me time to get some things ready for you.”

“Perfect. Go ahead. I’ll call when I’m on my way.”

He kissed her one last time before he smiled and jogged down the stairs to the deck to disappear around the side of the house. Mari rubbed at the back of her neck. Now she just had to sell Reese on the whole thing.

<< Chapter 35                             Chapter 37 >>

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