Posts tagged “lunch

Chasing Truth: Chapter 26

Posted on 13/12/2019

Gage’s gaze flicked over Tyler’s head when Blake and Mari walked closer. Tyler spun around. His glare softened and he left the porch to join her, ignoring Blake and Gage both. He came straight to her, his hands cupping her cheeks as he pressed his forehead to hers.

“How are you holding up?” he asked gently.

Her eyes closed against her will. He had an agenda. His focus was Blake. Except right now it wasn’t. Right now, it was her and in that moment she found it hard to keep reminding herself he was using her.

“Not bad,” she answered just as softly. “It went better than I thought it would.”

“That’s good, sweetheart. Really good.”

She opened her eyes to look into his. 

“I didn’t know you were coming,” she murmured for his ears alone.

“I wasn’t sure how you’d feel after you spent some time with him. I wanted to be here in case you needed me,” he returned.

She wanted to believe that and a part of her did. The other part whispered he was only playing the role he’d chosen before he ever met her. He lifted his head to press a kiss to her forehead before his hands dropped from her face. A second later he caught one of her hands in his.

“You want to introduce me to your father?”

In all honesty, Mari’s answer to the question would have been no, but it wasn’t a true question. Squeezing Tyler’s hand, she turned to Blake. 

“Blake, this is my boyfriend, Tyler. Tyler…this is my father, Blake.”

The warm man she’d started getting to know over the course of the morning had disappeared. In his place was a cool distant one. Tyler offered his hand with a faint smile.

“It’s good we’re getting to meet you.”

Blake took the offered hand and shook it briefly before letting go. 

“Tyler,” he returned noncommittally.

Mari bit the inside of her cheek and looked at the ground as awkward silence fell.

“Gage? Let everyone in, why don’t you?” Allison suggested from inside the house. “We can be civilized and have lunch.”

Gage snorted, but he stepped out of the doorway and back into the house. Blake followed him inside, leaving Mari and Tyler alone for a moment.

“Well. That went great,” Mari muttered.

“Most dads don’t like their daughter’s boyfriend,” Tyler said without a hint of discomfort. “Hey, it’s going to be fine. Let’s have lunch and get to know him.”

“I’m not so sure about him and Raoul sitting down together either,” Mari admitted in a mumble while she shuffled obediently behind him. 

Tyler didn’t let go of her hand as they went in. Everyone had found a seat around the table, including the man from earlier that morning, Reese. Tyler pulled out her chair for her before claiming the one beside her. 

There was more silence as Allison and Raoul brought salad and fish to the table. 

“I don’t think we were introduced,” Tyler said to Reese as he reached over the table to offer his hand. “I’m Tyler, Mari’s boyfriend.”

“Reese,” he said simply with a short handshake before his attention returned to the food at the center of the table. 

“Are you her brother?”

Mari bobbledd the salad bowl, dropping it back down on the table. Her eyes shot to Reese and bounced to Blake. She hadn’t even considered that. 

“No, I’m not Mari’s brother.” 

The calm matter of fact way he said it left no doubt in Mari’s mind he was telling the truth. She relaxed and picked up the bowl to add salad to her plate. 

“Sorry, Sweetheart,” Tyler said with a smile at her. “I didn’t mean to catch anyone off guard, but can you blame a man for being curious?” He looked back at Reese. “You and Blake must be pretty close for you to come with him to meet his daughter for the first time.”

“We are,” was Reese’s simple answer.

Neither he or Blake elaborated.

“I didn’t mean any offense, just trying to understand everything that’s happening here,” Tyler assured as he prepared his own plate. “This is a lot for Mari and I might think of some things that she doesn’t.” He shrugged his shoulder and accepted the bowl from Mari. 

Reese’s focus slid to her then. “Somehow I think Mari has it under control.”

A smile tugged at her lips and she ducked her head to hide it.

“Mari manages to get a lot of things under control,” Gage echoed and there was enough of a smile in his voice that Mari’s head jerked back up.

She stabbed her fork in his direction. “Whatever it is you’re thinking of saying, don’t you dare.”

“What’s a reunion without some stories? You didn’t tell Blake about the time you and Jules staged your mutiny?”

“I was only eleven! And I never said I started it!”

Raoul was all too happy to pick up the tale. “Mari was grounded, you see,” he told Blake after he swallowed a bite of fish. “No playtime with the girls, no guide trips. School and home. Looking back, I’m not sure if her punishments were worse for me or for her,” he murmured with a smile. 

“I had a tour late one afternoon so she stayed after school until I could come pick her up. There was a little clubhouse some of us had built for the kids. By the time I got to the school to get Mari, the three musketeers had about six of their classmates and they were all barricaded inside.”

“What?” Blake asked laughing and forking more salad. 

“We called for them to come out. They had something pushed up against the door. What was it?” Raoul asked looking at Mari.

“It may or may not have been an old log,” Mari muttered to her plate. “We all sat on it and leaned on the door.”

Reese choked on his food, unable to hold in his laugh.

“Oh, it gets better,” Gage promised.

 “They’d all brought snacks and water bottles. They were prepared to wait us out, you understand. Because they weren’t coming out until I agreed to take Mari off punishment and let her go to the dance that Friday.”

Blake threw his head back as laughter shook his body. 

“It was the last dance of the year!” Mari exclaimed in her defense.

Her words only drew more laughter from the table. 

“What happened?” Reese prompted Raoul.

“Oh, they were serious. Other parents started arriving to pick up their kids and they were still inside.”

“I can still hear Yuri now. ‘Raoul, that girl of yours is a bad influence. Get her under control’,” Mari mimicked with a laugh.

“Eventually I had to give in. I told them if they came out I’d see about letting Mari go to the dance. Of course that wasn’t good enough. The little rascal yelled through the door I had to promise I’d let her go before anybody came out.”

“So did you get to go to the dance?” Tyler asked her.

“Yes,” Mari grinned. “But guess who was a chaperone?”

The entire table burst into laughter. Even Reese chuckled. Tyler rested his arm on the back of her chair and leaned in.

“Wow, I always knew you were a tough one, but you’re a little manipulator too?” He teased.

“Hey! You’re supposed to be on my side.”

“Ellie could sell a shell to a crab,” Gage said fondly. 

“Did she tell you about the festival?” Allison asked as she poured a glass of water.

Blake glanced at Mari. “No, she didn’t.”

“We had other things to talk about,” Mari mumbled.

Allison launched right in over Mari’s words. “We have a festival here each year that’s a celebration of all the unique talents here on the island.”

“I heard of it,” Tyler said. “It’s a pretty big deal around here. Different arts, food, music, you name it.” 

“She started it when she was 16,” Allison said proudly.

Tyler’s head whipped around. “What? You?”

“We were bored.” She shrugged and took a drink. “I said something to one of our teachers about how there was never much for us to do and she told me if I was that bored I should plan something myself. She definitely didn’t think I would or that it would turn into what it did. It was mostly meant to shut me up.”

“Though why she thought she’d ever accomplish that, the world will never know,” Allison teased.

Mari smiled back at her. “Clearly it was a lost cause. Keon and his friends had a decent band back then. Joe could be talked into providing food in exchange for our labor on a busy night. A lot of people around here have talent they like to show when they have a chance. The first year it was really nothing more than a high school hangout night. Janey let us use her patio seating and we set some stuff up on the beach too.”

She cut up her fish with a smile. “We started doing it every few months or so, but then Mateo asked if his son could come play. Then Cheyenne insisted she wasn’t too old to come out and sing. More people started saying they wanted to come do something. So we just picked a day and said that’s when everyone could come. That next year somebody reminded us we’d done it and asked if we were going to do it again. So we did. Every year it just kept getting bigger.”

“She still plans it,” Raoul added. “Even when she was away in school, she got the logistics down for it.”

“It’s always a good time and these days pretty much the whole island comes out so it’s a good opportunity to spend time with everyone.”

“Modest,” Reese noted with a smile. “If that’s what you could do as a bored teen, I’m worried about what you can manage as a grown woman.”

“Ahh, see what you started Gage? You’re going to scare them off.”

“Come on now, there were plenty of other stories we could have told. I could have told Keon’s favorite story.”

“Okay! Okay!” Mari laughed and shook her head as she stuffed her mouth with her last bit of food.

“Well now I have to know who Keon is and his favorite story,” Blake said as if it were law.

“Gage, you are a menace,” Mari groaned.

“Keon Greco,” Raoul filled him in. “Mari’s honorary older brother. Mari was always convinced there wasn’t anything she couldn’t do. One of the island boys was teasing the girls, saying none of them could swim to the sandbar.”

“Oh boy,” Blake murmured with a knowing smile. 

“Exactly. So ten-year-old Mari gets it in her head that she’s the girl that’s going to make him eat his words. She gets, oh I don’t know, about maybe halfway out by the time somebody comes to get me. By the time I get down to the beach, Keon’s got an arm around her and is bringing her back to shore.”

It was amusing now, but at the time Raoul had been filled with fear. 

“I just got a little tired,” she said defensively. “I was catching my breath. Nobody told Keon to come play lifeguard.”

Blake’s laugh shook his body. “Just a little tired?”

“That’s what I said.” She couldn’t fight her smile though. “And if you meet Keon he will tell you that story at least five times. It’s his claim to fame around here.”

“I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear I had to go down to the school a couple of days later because she and the same boy got into it,” Raoul finished off.

“Not surprised at all.” Blake’s gaze was warm on her. “Fierce about your pride?”

“No,” she denied at the same time Raoul, Gage, and Allison all agreed.

More laughter spread around the table. 

“She kept an old man young. I never knew what each day would bring, but I knew she’d manage to make me laugh somehow.”

“We certainly had our hands full with her,” Allison agreed affectionately. “Even by the time I came around, she was still a little firecracker. Never a dull moment.”

“I appreciate the two of you gave her an environment where she felt safe to be that way,” Blake said. There were still traces of amusement on his face, but his eyes were serious as he spoke to Raoul and Allison. 

Mari’s breath caught. She couldn’t deny she’d been worried about how Blake and Raoul would get along. To hear Blake thank him…something in her melted. The silence that fell around the table this time was a comfortable one. 

“I heard you do a lot of the tours here on the island,” Reese said to Mari a few moments later.

Her face lit up. “Yeah, it keeps me active and busy. I’ve been doing it since I was young. This place is gorgeous and there’s nothing like getting paid to show it off. The boss isn’t too bad either,” she said with a grin at Raoul.

“Maybe you could take Blake and I out tomorrow and show us around?”

“I’d like that,” Blake chimed in. “A chance to see you doing what you enjoy.”

She beamed at them. “That would be fun. Let’s do it.”

Blake’s expression softened as he watched her. “Good. Now let’s hear some more stories.”

<< Chapter 25 Chapter 27>>

Samina’s Chance: Chapter 44

Posted on 21/05/2015

southerncharms3

They met under the passageway between the two stairs in the church lobby. Samina couldn’t help but smile at the radiance on Ada’s face, her mocha skin sun-kissed from her honeymoon in Monterrey Bay. The two friends embraced for a brief moment before Ada leaned back to study her friend’s face.

Samina’s smile remained, eyes sweeping over Ada’s warm features. “You look radiant.”

“Thank you kindly.” Ada’s winking smile waned a little. “And you look tired.”

“Thanks…” Samina muttered, dropping her hands from around Ada. She didn’t need a reminder of Topher’s rebuff just hours ago. Avoiding Ada’s probing eyes, she scanned the lobby for sign of Jaxson.

“Don’t bother. He stopped by the hospital to see Nadine.” Ada’s brow furrowed. “I thought they would be back in Edmonton by now. Any idea what happened?”

Samina shrugged. “How will you get home if he took the car?”

Ada arched a brow at Samina’s deflecting. “We drove separate cars.” Her smile was wry. “I’m still getting used to all of it, to be honest. Me, a married woman.”

“Ada, please…” Samina refrained from rolling her eyes. “You’ve been practicing your new last name long before you got engaged.” She smirked when Ada nudged her shoulder.

“Anyway…” Ada smacked her lips. “Now that the wedding is done, I can concentrate on you and Topher.”

Samina scowled. “Don’t bother.”

Ada cocked her head. “What—“

“Aunty Sammie!” a girl’s shriek halted Ada’s words and turned their attention to a young girl tearing across the lobby, puffy pigtails flying as she ran.

Seeing Beulah’s toothy smile invoked Samina’s and she bent at the waist, arms open. “Oof! Hey Beulah.” She planted a kiss on the girl’s temple and lifted her head to see Ada squinting at her. Clearing her throat, she looked down at the adoring eyes of the five-year-old beaming at her.

“Papa and Laide are coming,” Beulah announced, showing off her smile. One front tooth was missing and the sight endeared her to Samina.

Pushing aside every troubling thought of Topher, she caressed Beulah’s soft cheek, then lifted her eyes to Ezekiel and Adelaide headed their way.

Laide greeted both women with a polite hello, though she reserved a shy smile for Samina. Ezekiel winked audaciously at Samina, drawing a querying stare from Ada.

“We’re coming to your house, Aunty Sammie!” Beulah proclaimed, grinning wide.

Samina met Ezekiel’s eyes and he nodded, though his smile was wry. “My parents are already on their way to your place.”

“Oh?” She frowned, anxiety nipping at her. “For what?”

Ada’s gaze bounced between the two of them, brow creased with confusion.

“Lunch.” He kicked a shoulder, his knowing eyes skimming over her. “With the girls there, I’m sure everyone will behave.” Then he smiled. “We’ll stop by the house first though, so you’ll have to hold it down till I get there.” His gaze twinkled with mirth. “Think you can handle it?”

Samina hitched her chin. “We’ll be fine.”

Ada squinted as Ezekiel and his daughters walked away. She folded her arms and turned to Samina. “Explain.”

Picking at her cardigan, Samina sighed. “Our fathers got into a fist fight.”

Ada scoffed incredulously. “First off, I was asking about Ezekiel, but this is even more bizarre. Why were they fighting?”

Samina hesitated replying. No doubt Topher would tell Jaxson about their twisted fate, which he would then relay to Ada. She chose the easier topic. “What about Ezekiel?”

“You two looked a little too cozy right there.”

Samina shrugged. “Sure. We’re dating.” For some reason, acknowledging this felt odd.

Ada’s eyes grew wide as saucers. Her mouth grew slack. “What?” she eked out. Then she shook off the shock, her brow furrowing. “What about Topher?”

“What about him?” Samina knew she sounded surly but Topher’s last words still affected her. She sighed, snuffing out the irritation. “Look, we’re not meant to be. He’s…” she shrugged, at a loss for words.

“He’s what?” Ada eyed her carefully.

Samina adjusted her purse on her shoulder. “As you heard, there’s a crisis I have to avert, so let’s talk later. Greet Jax for me.” She spun on her heel and started for the door.

“This isn’t over, Sammie!” Ada called after her.

Waving over her shoulder, Samina hurried away before she said something regrettable.

Although Deidre and Sheena chatted freely while prepared the lunch, their husbands sat on opposite ends of a sofa, watching the televised basketball game in stony silence. Obadiah sat between them, stoically watching the game, though he was on referee duty.

Samina bit her bottom lip as one of their favorite players scored a three-pointer and neither cheered or high-fived each other as they usually did on game days. She glanced over her shoulder at the two mothers. “Shouldn’t we do something?” she frowned at their indifferent expressions. “Wasn’t this supposed to be a reconciliatory lunch?”

Deidre rolled her eyes. Sheena offered Samina an assured smile. “They’ll loosen up once there’s food in their bellies. Come help me cut the pie.”

Breathing out a sigh of resignation, Samina moved around the counter to unwrap the sweet-potato pie.

Karen swept in behind her. “I’ll do it. Go sit down.”

Samina’s face heated under Karen’s pointed stare. “I’m fine.”

“Go…” she nudged Samina aside and grabbed the knife.

“By the way, Sheena, did you know your son and my daughter were conspiring behind our backs?” Deidre snapped a celery stick in half. Samina cringed at the heated glare directed at her.

Sheena chuckled softly. “You mean with them dating?”

Deidre whipped an accusing glare to Sheena. “After what we talked about, you went behind my back?”

“Really, Deidre?” Sheena sprinkled the cheese into the salad bowl. “Can we stick to what’s important right now?” She pointed her chin at their husbands.

Mumbling an incoherent but unfriendly reply, Deidre snapped a few more celery sticks with gusto. Sheena tossed Samina a wink.

Just then, the doorbell rang. Samina drew in a breath and moved to the door. “I’ll get it,” she announced for everyone’s benefit and pulled it open. Her heart stopped beating. Her eyes widened at the sight of a somber Topher stood in the doorway.

What was he doing here?

“Who is it?”

At her mother’s loud inquiry, Topher’s striking gray eyes bounced off her face to over her shoulder.

Samina’s fingers curled around the doorknob.

“For goodness’ sake, Samina.” Deidre was now by her shoulder and she nudged her aside. Her eyes widened in surprise. “Topher?”

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Wells…” Topher replied, his deep timbre hesitant.

Samina snuck a glance over her shoulder and stifled a groan. Both Gabriel and Jeremiah were now on their feet, eyes riveted to the open door.

“P-please, come in.” Deidre stumbled back, stepping on Samina’s foot. Topher stepped in.

Samina held her breath as his gaze paused in the direction of the two men, his father’s friends, and his face hardened slightly. She clocked Jeremiah’s look of shock and Gabriel’s surly expression.

“Well I’ll be…” Jeremiah breathed incredulously. He took a step forward. Topher’s shoulders stiffened as Jeremiah came to stand before him. “You’re Odetta’s boy.”

Topher swallowed hard. Then he looked Jeremiah in the eye and replied. “And you are Mr. Dames.”

Jeremiah shook his head, gaze glistening with revelation. “Please call me Uncle Jeremiah.”

Surprise flickered on Gabriel’s face before it was snuffed out completely in a scowl. “Uncle? Don’t you mean father?

Sheena inhaled sharply. Deidre glared at her husband.

Both Topher and Jeremiah turned to face him, wariness in Topher’s, confusion in Jeremiah’s.

Samina bit her bottom lip and squeezed her fingers together. It made sense now, her father’s anger. He’d believed all these years that Jeremiah had stolen Odetta and that she’d given birth to his son. That Topher was Jeremiah’s kid.

Then Jeremiah burst into laughter. Gabriel growled and started for his friend’s throat.

Samina shot forward just as Topher placed a hand between the two men, barring Gabriel from reaching for Jeremiah’s collar. She glanced up at Topher’s tense features.

“Dad, please,” Samina beseeched her father as she stood at Topher’s side.

Gabriel halted in step, taken back.

Hysteric laughter waning, Jeremiah shook his head and wiped at his eyes. “You’re a fool, Gabriel. A big fool.” He waved a hand over Topher. “Are you that blind with resentment not to see the resemblance?”

Deidre covered her face, stifling a groan.

Samina quickly moved to her side, perturbed at how Deidre trembled against her. “Just listen…”

Gabriel frowned up at Topher, confusion and wariness etched in his face. Then something eased the tension in his furrowed brow as realization hit. His brown eyes searched Topher’s face. Then he drew in a measured breath. “Maurice.”

Jeremiah nodded, dropping a hand on Topher’s arm. “Odetta and Maurice eloped. The day you saw us, she was asking for my help to tell you because she was too scared to hurt you.”

Deidre stiffened. Samina squeezed her shoulder. When Deidre ventured to look at her, Samina offered her a smile.

Gabriel dropped his head, touching a finger to his temple. “I don’t… understand.”

“Maurice and Odetta were married, Gabriel.” Jeremiah didn’t bother hiding his impatience. “She’d tried telling you for months that she wanted to break up, you were too focused on your thesis to notice she was unhappy.”

Topher finally turned to Samina, eyes narrowed in slits. “Is this why you summoned me here? To make things clear for everyone?”

Samina bristled at his accusing tone. She could feel the weight of everyone’s eyes on her and hitched her chin at him. “I… I didn’t summon you.”

He squinted at her, his jaw tight as stone. “Check your phone.”

She scowled. “What are you insinuating—?”

“Uh, sis…” Karen interjected with a contrite expression as she stepped forward. “I texted him.”

“Why would you–?”

“Wait,” Obadiah cut in. “So he’s not our brother then?”

All eyes bounced to him. Gabriel scowled. “What on earth would give you that idea?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Deidre folded her arms, stepping one foot closer to Gabriel. “Perhaps the fact that you act shady every time Odetta or Abbeville is mentioned.”

“That’s because you always get upset when I mention anything about my past,” Gabriel growled, frustrated.

“What woman wants to hear about her husband’s past loves!?”

“People, please!” Sheena called over the noise. “Enough already. This isn’t about you guys anymore, but about Topher.” Samina held a deeper respect for the older woman as she offered Topher a warm, welcoming smile. “We’re just about to eat. Will you join us?”

Samina held her breath.

Topher breathed a sigh. “If that’s okay with you…”

“Of course it is!” Jeremiah slapped his shoulder, smiling. “Maurice, your father, was our best friend. Isn’t that right, Gabe?” he slanted a pointed glare at Gabriel.

Gabriel blew out a breath and jerked a nod. Samina felt sorry that he’d been blindsided on every turn; back then and even now. “Yeah…” He managed a weak, distracted smile. “Join us.”

All breathed a sigh of relief and started for the kitchen when the doorbell rang. Samina moved around her mother and pulled open the door.

“Aunty Sammie!” Beulah screeched with delight, wrapping her arms around Samina’s waist. Laide snuck around them inside. Then Beulah disengaged and moved around Samina, lunging into her grandfather’s arms.

Ezekiel raised a brow as his father introduced his youngest granddaughter to the stoic, formidable gentleman standing beside him. He turned to Samina with a crooked smile. “What did I miss?”

“Don’t ask.” Samina offered him a weak smile and turned. She stiffened as her gaze collided with Topher’s.

Oblivious, Ezekiel draped an arm around her shoulder and pulled her closer. “We don’t have to hide anymore, do we?” he whispered in her ear.

Her frozen tongue couldn’t form an intelligible response as Topher’s eyes narrowed briefly before he turned away to give Beulah one of his rare smiles. Her stomach did a somersault and not from the light kiss Ezekiel pressed on her forehead.

In silence, Samina watched Ezekiel saunter over to greet Topher, her heart pulsing violently in her throat.

What am I going to do?

<<Chapter 43 || Chapter 45>>

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