Posts tagged “Conversation

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 >>

Chasing Truth: Chapter 20

Posted on 31/10/2014

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It was time.

Mari couldn’t put it off any longer. She’d made the decision and she needed to let the others know. There was no use in dragging it out any further. She parked at her place after work and was getting ready to head to the main house when she found the stuffed toy jaguar holding a single green and yellow flower from the Rocanda trail.

She steeled herself against the emotion threatening to rise. First it was the pinwheels and now this. As always, everything Tyler did was specific to her. The time he granted her was definitely coming to an end. That was fine. She’d made more decisions about him during her tours that day too. She would deal with him later. For now she picked up the stuffed animal, trying not to hold it to her chest as she started across the grass.

When she opened the back door Allison was at the stove stirring what smelled like cabbage in a pot. Gage sat at the breakfast bar with a laptop in front of him, focused on it as if it held the answer to all life’s questions. Raoul was seated beside him, playing with his hands without any real thought.

He looked every minute of his fifty-four years. She didn’t want to see that, didn’t want to acknowledge how all of this was affecting him too.  She had her hands full dealing with her own thoughts and emotions. She couldn’t handle his too.

She shut the door behind her and just stood there. Allison turned at the sound and offered a tentative smile. She didn’t miss Raoul and Gage’s eyes on her either.

“Hey Mari. Will you join us for dinner?”

Given she hadn’t eaten a full meal all day she didn’t see a reason to turn her down. “Dinner would be good, but make it to go though. Today was a long day.”

Allison’s smile weakened as she nodded. Then her eyes landed on the stuffed animal in Mari’s hand.

“From Tyler? I haven’t seen him around much lately.”

Raoul jerked to attention then as if the same had just occurred to him. Mari shrugged off the question as she came farther inside and spun one of the stools at the bar around to take a seat.

“Things have been busy.”

She saw the raised brows at that. Truthfully, “busy” never kept her and Tyler from finding a way to spend time together before, but given the tension over news of her father she didn’t expect them to push. She was right.

She set the toy on the table and leaned her chair back on two legs. Her eyes swept over Raoul and Gage.

“I made a decision about my father.”

Both men tensed as if bracing for what she would say next. Gage closed his laptop and angled to face her fully.

“Let’s hear it,” he encouraged with a smile.

“I’ll meet him,” she said on a rushed breath. “I’m not promising anything after that, but I’ll do that much.”

Raoul seemed frozen for a minute before he nodded slowly. “Okay. Okay.” He swallowed hard. “I don’t want you to feel pushed into this, Mari.”

Gage whipped his head around to stare at him. “I don’t think she’s been pushed at all,” he said before looking to Mari. “Do you feel like you’re being pushed?”

Mari let her chair thud back to the ground on all fours, unsure of what to say. She felt pushed by her conversation with Tyler and knowing what he wanted. She felt pushed by the years of unanswered questions. She felt pushed by the vague answers Raoul had given about a man who supposedly loved her.

Raoul ignored Gage’s question and focused solely on her. “I told you I thought Miranda would want this. That wasn’t a lie, but it was a low blow. More than she would want that, she would want you happy. If this is going to make you unhappy, don’t you force yourself through it out of some sense of obligation to her. And there’s risk to this. I kept the truth from you for your safety and if you do this…there could be risks associated with that. You have to know that before you commit to a decision.”

“What kind of risks?”

“Raoul,” Gage warned.

“There are…dangerous elements associated with your father. People could try to hurt you or take you to get to him.”

“Why? And why didn’t you lay all of this out before?”

“Because it’s complicated!” he snapped stunning her. “And I’m constantly being reminded it’s not even my story to tell you! I don’t even know all of the story! I just know enough to know it could be dangerous! That my little girl could get hurt! So I have to try to protect you and give you want you want at the same time!”

Gage’s brow drew down in a furious V and he braced his hands on the edge of the island as he pinned Raoul with a hard stare.

“Is this about her…or you?” he asked.

Raoul flinched. Allison came to the table to set a foil-covered plate in front of Mari before she stood at her husband’s back.

“I deserved that,” he acknowledged and reached up to cover Allison’s hand on his shoulder. “This is about what you want and need, Mari. Whatever choice you make I can live with, I will live with. But I still want you to make sure you’re making the right choice for you.”

“Papa…” she whispered.

His hand tightened visibly on Allison’s as tears filled his eyes. Mari shoved out of her chair to go to his side, wrapping her arms around him. He turned into her. His hold was fierce, but she had no protest. It had been the two of them struggling to build a life in Miranda’s absence. For years, it had been just the two of them and he’d been the only father she’d ever known. And he was hurting.

“I’m sorry I pushed so hard,” she said quietly into the hug. “It doesn’t change this. Us. Nothing ever could.”

He shook under her words. They stayed just like that, taking shelter in one another.

“Our world already changed once,” she reminded him. “We survived. We’ll do it again.”

He laughed softly and turned his head to press a kiss to her temple. “I’ve given you everything I can. The choice is yours to make.”

Mari hesitated as she slowly pulled out of his arms. She looked at Gage before looking back to Raoul. Finally she pushed out a breath.

“I told myself I would do it for Mom, because she would want that. And that’s true, but I need to do this for me too. I’ve had questions and me being mad isn’t worth not getting the answers. So I’ll meet him. Not for Mom. Not for him. Not for anybody else. I’m doing it for me. Risks and all.” She squeezed the back of her neck as she rose from the table. “So like I said, set that up and give me a little warning. At least a day.”

Gage’s shoulders dropped and a small smile played at his lips. “You always were wise beyond your years.”

She shrugged then grabbed her gift and lifted the plate up toward Allison. With a faint smile of thanks, she backed up toward the door. “Thanks for dinner.  I’ll catch up with you guys later. Just…let me know when you know…something.”

“Goodnight Mari,” Allison returned with a gentle smile as she let herself out of the house.

It was done. The only thing left to do was wait for word from Blake. Just because she made the decision didn’t mean she was ready for the outcome though. She needed to use that time to pull herself together and prepare for that.

She crossed the yard on the little path leading back to her place and ducked under the branch of the willow tree. The moment she was free of the tangling vines she froze in her steps, squeezing the stupid stuffed animal in her other hand. Tyler sat at the bottom of the stairs leading up to her place with his elbows braced on his knees and his hands clasped in front of him. They looked at each other in silence before he eased to his feet. He didn’t move toward her though. He slipped a hand into his pocket and waited.

Taking a deep breath, she gave up on a quiet night in and walked out to meet him.

 

<< Chapter 19 || Chapter 21 >> 

  

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