Posts tagged “family

Chasing Truth: Chapter 49

Posted on 26/06/2020

Calories in a Glass of Wine

Mari was practically coming out of her seat by the time she and Reese arrived at Julia’s place. She dreaded dancing around the truth with her best friends, but she was excited to be able to bring them in at least a little. She needed their insight.

Her leg bounced restlessly while she waited for Reese to open her door. She hopped down the second he did and just barely restrained herself to keep pace with him. They were walking up the pathway when the door swung open to reveal Leilani. She didn’t come out.

“I knew it was you. I checked out the window and again out the peephole,” she rushed to say since she knew she wasn’t supposed to open the door until Reese was actually at said door.

Reese shook his head. Mari just grinned. Leilani latched onto her arm the moment she was within reach. 

“You can have the living room, Reese. We’re not going to watch TV and this way you’re between us and the door,” Leilani continued as Reese closed the door. “We’ll be in the kitchen.”

“Is anything that comes out of the kitchen going to be edible?” he called after them teasingly.

Leilani turned to stick her tongue out at him but didn’t stop herding Mari to the kitchen. Julia stood at the stove, frying fish when they entered. Leilani let go of Mari to retrieve a wine glass, which she filled generously.

“Okay, spill,” Leilani prompted and handed Mari the glass.

Mari laughed, settling onto the nearest stool and taking a sip. “Well, at least I got wine first.” Leilani’s mock glare made her laugh. “It’s nothing that extreme. Really. Things with Tyler have been…off lately. I don’t really know how to explain it. Things don’t feel the same anymore.”

“Feel the same like how?” Leilani pressed. “Like you  don’t feel the same way about him as you used to or the relationship feels different?”

“I…both? The relationship feels different, distant almost. I think that’s affecting how I feel.”

Julia cut straight to the heart of the matter. “You’re having second thoughts.”

Mari dropped her head to stare into her wine. “Yeah. Maybe it’s just me and I’m imagining things being different, but…” She hated lying to her friends, but this was the closest to the truth she could get. She lifted her gaze. “I was kinda hoping you two could pay attention when he comes back. You know, tell me if I’m just being crazy.”

“I’ve never known you to just be crazy,” Julia said as she laid fish onto a plate.

Leilani glanced toward the doorway before leaning forward. “How much of this maybe has to do with you spending all of this time with Reese?” she whispered.

“I don’t know,” Mari groaned. “That’s part of the whole problem. At first, everything seemed simple. Things with Tyler were great. They changed some even before I met Reese, but when he showed up, things got even more complicated. I wasn’t expecting to interact with him at all. And then when he stayed, I wasn’t expecting to actually enjoy talking to him or anything. I was just planning to put up with him so Blake wouldn’t hassle me.”

“But now it’s more?” It was a statement from Julia, not a question.

Mari opened her mouth to deny it, but there was no point. Julia and Leilani knew her too well. 

“You two have gotten close over the last couple of weeks,” Julia continued. “Nothing that crosses the line, but he fits. You two fit in a way Tyler never did.”

“My life is out of control,” Mari whispered as she buried her face in her hands.

“So take back some control,” Leilani suggested. “End it with Tyler.”

“I can’t just end a relationship with a guy I’ve been seeing for months just because I think another guy is attractive. Reese doesn’t even live here. This wouldn’t even be a discussion if he and I weren’t attached at the hip these last few weeks. He’ll go home and this…this will wear off.”

“You don’t believe that, do you?” Leilani chided softly. “Maybe the closeness got you here faster, but it’s not just going to go away. It’s not like you’ll never see him again. If nothing else, he’d be back whenever your dad visits and there whenever you visit him.”

Mari waved off her words. “He doesn’t even like me that way. He’s here doing a job. That’s it.”

Julia snorted while Leilani rolled her eyes. 

“Oh, please. He totally likes you.”

Julia checked the doorway before approaching the island. “There are things he does because he’s here to keep you safe, but there are things he does that don’t fall into that. He almost always brings you your food, even when we’re just in the house. When he calls you Ellie, it’s not because he’s trying to come off as a close friend. He caters to you in ways that have nothing to do with protecting you.”

“We were talking about Tyler,” Mari protested weakly.

“And now we’re talking about Reese,” Leilani returned without hesitation. “Allie really likes him. She told mom Raoul does too and that you guys had a great time camping.”

“They like him because he’s keeping me safe and they know that,” she pointed out.

“Mari, stop being deliberately blind. He would have been perfectly capable of coming here and pretending to be a friend without ever getting as close to you and people that matter to you as he has. We’ll pay attention when Tyler comes back. You know all you had to do was ask. You’re not going to be able to sort out things with Tyler if you can’t be honest with yourself about what’s happening between you and Reese though. Start there.”

Wisdom imparted, Julia turned back to the stove to finish preparing dinner. Even Leilani found nothing else to add.

Be honest about what was happening between her and Reese? Now that the girls laid it out, it was harder to ignore. It had already been hard enough to dismiss before today. 

Mari drained the rest of her glass. It was going to be a long night.


<< Chapter 48

Chasing Truth: Chapter 47

Posted on 05/06/2020

A sandy path through the sand dunes to a beautiful beach with an ...

Reese was silent during the walk from the beach back to Mari’s place. Only once the house was in sight did he speak again.

“Pack a bag for the night when we get inside.”

She hesitated to question him, but the order made no sense. “Where are we going?”

“Raoul’s.”

He said no more as he led the way inside to complete his normal inspection of the house. Certain the house was as they left it, he gestured her toward the bedroom. She hurried inside to gather what she needed. Her mind raced the entire time. Reese was clearly angry with her. Blake was guaranteed to be as well. Raoul would be upset she hadn’t told him the truth.

The second she walked into the living room with her bag he hustled her out of the house to Raoul and Allie’s. They were in the living room watching TV when Mari and Reese let themselves inside. Raoul glanced over his shoulder, saw Reese’s face, and immediately reached for the remote to turn off the TV.

“What is it?”

Mari cupped her arms, trying to avoid Raoul’s gaze while Reese explained the truth about Tyler.

“I want to keep her here tonight while we dig into Tyler. We don’t want any surprises. I need to make another sweep of the house for bugs before I take her back too.”

“You don’t even have to ask,” Raoul said the second Reese finished.

“I appreciate that. I’ll give Blake a call now.”

He retreated into the kitchen, leaving Mari to face her surrogate parents alone.

“I told you I had a bad feeling about him,” Raoul grumbled predictably. “Why didn’t you say something?”

Mari threw up her hands. “What was I supposed to say? Hey, the guy you’ve been warning me about is actually a spy here to investigate the father everyone’s pretending they don’t know?”

“Yes!”

She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, and you would’ve had a heart attack.”

A weak laugh slipped from Allie even as tears threatened to fall. Raoul immediately wrapped his arm around his wife even as he glared at Mari.

“You both are nothing but trouble.”

The worry was plain in Raoul’s eyes despite his teasing words. He upended his entire life for her when her mother died by taking her in. She put the same look in his eyes many times in their life together, but was starker now. Fear was woven into the worry because the risks were far higher. She hated she was the cause of it and hated even more she couldn’t change it.

“Speaking of trouble,” Mari said forcing a lighter tone, “you gave Reese your steak recipe?”

“Are you serious right now?”

“Yes! He’s not even family.”

Raoul stared at her before muttering, “It’s not like you were going to do anything with it.”

“Not an excuse!”

“Mari,” Reese called.

She turned to see him in the doorway of the kitchen holding his phone up. Knowing she couldn’t delay the talk, she forced herself not to drag her feet as she crossed the room to him. She took the phone from him and walked into the kitchen. Reese wordlessly followed.

“Hi, Blake,” she answered hesitantly. She was braced for any possible reaction. Except for the one she got.

“Thank God he didn’t hurt you,” Blake breathed. “All I can think about is the things he could’ve done before I even met you. My security failed you. I’m sorry, Mari.”

She blinked, slowly letting out the breath she was holding. “It’s not your fault. He was here before I even got back from school. There was no reason to think he was here for me.”

“We should’ve looked harder when he started getting close to you.”

“He didn’t hurt me. I’m fine, and so far, it’s worked out okay.  I’m…I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner.”

“I was a stranger,” he said in quiet understanding that smoothed out her remaining tension.

“You’re taking it easy on me, but I’m glad. So…ummm…what exactly are you going to do now?”

“Figure out who Tyler is and what he wants. You’ll break up with him. I don’t care what excuse you come up with. Use whatever works best. You’ll know.”

“I can’t just randomly break up with him. He’ll know I told you.”

Reese was immediately beside her and reached for the phone. A quick press to the screen put the call on speaker.

“Blake, that’s a risky move.”

“That’s why you’re there.”

“I’d really rather not go risky,” Mari interjected before Reese could speak. “And besides, I don’t really know anything about what he’s doing. If I stay with him, I could find out more about what he’s planning so you have warning.”

“No.” Blake’s rejection was sharp and immediate. “I want you safe and out of his reach.”

“He’s going to be suspicious if I break up with him and that might make him do something stupid. That’s not me being safe. And there’s really no way to be out of his reach on the island.”

“Reese will keep you safe until we have Tyler under control.”

“So I was trying not to point this out, but it’s not your decision to make,” Mari finally said bluntly. “You can’t make me break up with him.”

“He’s using you.”

“And now I get to use him back.”

“Petty revenge is not worth risking your life,” he ground out. “What happens when he turns on you? Because eventually he will. You’re a means to an end.”

She shot Reese a quick look from the corner of her eye. “Like you said, that’s what Reese is here for. You don’t even know who he is yet and I’m assuming you guys looked into him already. You need as much information as you can get and you know it.”

“I don’t like it.”

“Noted.” She hesitated before she made herself push forward. “I think we need to talk about your life and what exactly it is that you do. The time to protect me with ignorance is over. Knowledge is protection now.”

Reese stiffened.

“No, it’s even more important now Tyler believes you don’t know anything,” Blake said.

“Obviously, I’m not planning on telling him or I wouldn’t have warned you. I need to know what I’m dealing with.”

There was a long silence. It was so long she thought he would deny her. Then she heard him sigh.

“You may be right, but that is not a conversation for the phone.”

“I don’t think you should come to Sakina right now,” she blurted out in protest.

Tyler was gone, but she had no clue what he was doing or planning.

“We’re in agreement there. I don’t want any other eyes drawn to the island. Reese will bring you to me.”

Mari’s brow jumped. “I’ll be coming to where you live?”

“We’ll work out the details. You’ll just need to pack and be ready when Reese says it’s time to go.”

“I can manage that.”

“Then I’ll be seeing you soon. In the meantime, stick close to Reese and listen. Don’t make me regret doing this your way.”

“For someone who just started doing this father thing, you got that part down pretty fast,” she complained.

“How,” Blake started on a soft chuckle, “in the middle of all of this mess can you still manage to make me laugh?”

“It’s a talent,” Mari said with a shrug, but her eyes were on Reese. His lips twitched and a seed of hope took root he wouldn’t hold this against her forever.

<< Chapter 46                              Chapter 48 >>

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