Posts tagged “novel

Her Champion: Chapter 28

Posted on 15/08/2013

street

“I’m not ignoring you. I’m just not in the mood to talk to a jerk.” She pushed at the swing, focusing her attention on the spotted moon.

“I’m a jerk because I said something you didn’t want to hear?”

Tamar scoffed. “If you came out here to continue arguing, you can leave.”

He lifted both hands. “I’m just trying to figure out what makes me a jerk so I don’t make the mistake again.”

She placed one foot on the ground to slow down and turned to him with a frown. “You honestly have no idea what you did? Or are you trying to placate me?” Annoyed that he was just sitting there, Tamar pushed to her feet and walked a few feet away, wrapping her arms around herself.

“I made a guess but you got all snappy. Just trying to figure it out,” he reiterated casually as he pushed off the pole to follow her. “I don’t placate. We have a problem, we fix it. We’re not going to dance around each other and sugarcoat stuff. Say what you mean and mean what you say. So again, what’s the problem?”

Exasperated, Tamar threw a scowl at him over her shoulder. “Fine then.” She turned to face him. “My problem with you. Easy. You take on more than you should. You act like you can save the world and yet you’re drowning. You behave like you have the strength to do everything but you don’t. It pisses me off.” She swallowed hard, pressing her nails into her arms. “What good will all this be when you can no longer be there for Crystal… because you’ve worn yourself out trying to be Superman.” Blinking the tears away, she glared up at him. “How do you expect me to trust you when you can’t trust me?”

“Not more than I should. Maybe more than is comfortable, but not more than I should. She and my mom are my top priority. If making sure they’re taken care of means some extra work on my part then that’s what it’s gonna be. I can do this, Tamar. I’ve been doing it. I can and will be there for them until they don’t need me. There aren’t any other options. None of this is about not trusting you. How many times do I have to tell you that?”

Tamar shifted uncomfortably, wanting desperately to argue with him. His words spilled over, allowing her no room to question or challenge him.

“Do I want to talk about all the details?” Dylan forged on. “No, but it’s not because I don’t trust you. It’s because if I want to focus on the situation at all, I want to spend the time working out some other options not talking about how ‘unfair’ it is that I go head to head with Nick because for now Crystal has to stay there.”

Tamar shook her head. “I can’t and won’t accept that. I’m sorry but I won’t.” She clenched her jaw. “On top of championing your sister and mother, you’d want to add my issues to your plate? And then you get upset when I want to figure it out myself?” She pushed out a shaky breath. “If you’d rather figure out this problem with your father and Crystal on your own, don’t bother standing up for me in school. It’s the same principle, isn’t it?”

“It doesn’t take up every second of every day. I have more than enough time to be there for you.” The more Dylan talked, the more he felt like he was losing his logic. “No, it’s not the same principle. You keep trying to come back to that and I already told you where I stand when it comes to that. It hasn’t changed. I don’t want you exposed to the violence. Nobody’s going to hurt me on campus.”

She eyed his features shrouded in the dark and heaved a deep sigh. “Talking to you is like I’m talking to a brick wall. You’re stubborn and impossible.” She walked around him, starting up the path toward the house. There was nothing she could do to get him to hear her out and the realization alone was enough to break her heart. Tears stung her eyes but she was able to keep it down, walking slowly to regain her composure.

Dylan grabbed her hand to stop her progress. “Stop walking away from me, Tamar. If there’s a problem, we fix it,” he reminded her.

Annoyed, Tamar wrenched her hand from his hold. “Stop saying that like it’s true. What are we fixing? You’re calling the shots and you want me to say ‘yes sir’ because you’re right? No, I won’t do it because you’re not right. Not by a long shot.”

“Then tell me where I’m wrong. Don’t write me off and walk away. That tells me you don’t think it’s worth it, you’re done with me. And if that’s where you’re at with it then say it now.”

Frustration frothed inside her as she spun around and glared at him. “Done with you? Can’t you see me? Can’t you hear me?” Tamar rushed toward him, seizing him by his shirt. “Look at me clearly and say that again. Can’t you see me standing here, begging you to let me help? That I’m not just some girl that giggles at your lame jokes and make your blood boil with my kisses and my touch. That I’m someone who loves you and wants to be there for you in every way? That I’m wanting to ease your pain and really help you?” Tears blocked her vision of him and disgusted with herself more than him, Tamar shoved at his chest and started to turn away. Choking against the sobs that rose in her throat, she glared up at him. “I really don’t like you right now. Seriously, you’re not my favorite person at this moment.”

He was reaching for her, pulling her into him even as most of her words faded until only one phrase began to echo in his head. I’m someone who loves you. Nothing else she said penetrated and honestly, none of the rest of it mattered. Dylan struggled with the pure depth of that word yet embraced hearing it from her. He couldn’t manage more than a rough whisper. “Tell me again, pretty girl.”

Even though she didn’t want to be anywhere near him, Tamar couldn’t stop herself from melting in his arms. She scowled. “Tell you what, you overgrown bully? Didn’t you hear what I just said?”

“That you love me. Say it again.”

Her resolve crumbled and she turned her face into his chest. “Oh Dylan, I do. I really really love you.” Her heart was beating so fast, she could barely catch her breath. “I hurt every time you do this to me but I can’t turn away from you. Even when you do this to me, it only makes me want you more. Love you more.”

He slipped his arms from around her to cup her face and tilt her head back. “It’s not to hurt you. It’s to protect you because I love you more than I ever let myself love anybody. That means something to me.”

Tamar’s face warmed at his confession, her entire body tingling. He loved her. She closed her eyes and leaned against him. “Can’t we compromise or something? Isn’t that what people who love each other do? Why can’t I protect the man I love just like you want to protect me?”

There was only one right answer but that didn’t make it any easier to give it. “I can give a few inches.”

She lifted her narrowed eyes to him. “As many inches as I’ll give you.”

“Don’t give too many inches then,” he teased.

Tamar only rolled her eyes and rested her head against his chest, fully spent.

“Is that an agreement?” He lowered his head to kiss the top of her head.

“I’ll need some convincing.” Her fingers trailed up to rest between her cheek and his chest.

“I think I can manage that but let’s get you back inside first.”

Sighing in protest, Tamar hooked an arm around his waist and let him lead her down the sidewalk toward the house. “We’ll figure it all out later. We don’t need to talk about it tonight.”

“You sure you wanna wait?” he asked wrapping his arm over her shoulders.

“There are other things to do besides talking.” Tamar smirked up at him, her heart skipping a beat at his handsome face under the moonlight. “I have the mind to take care of you and that’s what I’ll do. We’ll talk tomorrow.”

“That so?” He stole a quick kiss. “Guess I’ll just have to go along with it then. I wouldn’t wanna ruin your plans.”

Tamar rolled her eyes as they walked up the stairs to the front door. “In a way, you almost did. It’s a good thing I’m a forgiving person.” She slipped away and scurried ahead of him to her bedroom. Thankfully, Crystal had returned to her room and the bowls were nowhere in sight. Walking to the bathroom, she pulled out a box from under the sink and walked back inside the room. Dylan was standing by the door and she smiled, patting the spot beside her on the bed. “Lie down.”

He sat down on the bed, carefully stretching out but eying the things she’d brought with her. “You said take care of me, not use me as practice for school work.”

She grinned mischievously and gestured to him. “Lie down.” Flipping the top of the case, she pulled out a clear vial. “Peppermint,” she said and pulled out another. “Or Rosemary?”

“Neither.” He caught the look on her face. “Peppermint. How would I explain walking around smelling like a flower?”

Tamar raised a brow, untwisting the bottle cap. “You’ll take a shower later. Besides, you’re sleeping with me, so only I’ll know you smell like a flower.” She eyed his shirt. “Take that off, please.”

“Bossy little thing. I kinda like it,” he admitted with a grin as he sat up and tugged his shirt over his head.

“Of course. . .” she paused to take a deep breath, holding back a cringe as she took in the dark spots marring his chiseled torso. Tamar bit her bottom lip, closing the vial. Her fingers moved to touch the splotched bruises scattered along his breastbone and she clucked her tongue. “Change of plans.” She stood and then hesitated, looking back down at him. Her eyes swept over his face and with a soft sigh, Tamar planted a kiss on his temple before turning away to the door. “I’ll get some ice for that.”

“I don’t need ice,” he argued half-heartedly, knowing she’d get some anyway. He wished he could’ve spared her from having to see the aftermath but all he could do was deal with it now.

Within a minute, she shuffled back into the room with an ice pack. Perching beside him, Tamar eyed his bare chest and shook her head solemnly, biting her tongue against what she really wanted to say. It wouldn’t help matters anyway. “This afternoon, I made pie and even lasagna to feed you. Then I was thinking we’d lay around and watch movies, and I’d give you a massage.” She tentatively pressed the ice pack on one of the bruises, her eyes steady on his face. “I’d planned to confess my feelings for you over ice-cream kisses and all, but this is okay too.” With her free hand, she held one of his up to her lips. “It’s bad timing but I love you, Dylan. And I’ll always be here for you.”

He sucked in a breath as the coldness penetrated his skin. “You gotta admit, this story will be more interesting for the kids.” His smile faded almost immediately once he looked into her eyes. “I love you too, pretty girl. Even if I don’t say it, it means somethin’ knowing I can count on you to be there.”

Her cheeks warmed at his husky confession and she laughed softly, lowering her gaze to his chest. It would take time before she’d get used to someone other than Bekah or her parents loving her. All the same, she was dancing for joy inside that Dylan cared so deeply for her. “In better circumstances, I’d compliment you on your physique. . . Hard work does pay off nicely, Sinatra.” She switched hands, moving the ice pack to another dark bruise.

“Hey, take it easy with that thing will you? And I don’t see why you can’t compliment me now. No need to hold back.”

Tamar laughed, easing the ice pack off his skin. “I already mentioned it. Don’t fish for compliments when you know already how attractive you are.”

“Never hurts to hear it again.” He settled into the bed, watching her through hooded eyes. “You’re really somethin’ else. You know that?”

Her fingers trailed along the length of his long torso, lips lifting in appreciation over his smooth, cool skin. “You like it,” she said, her voice low and teasing. Then her smile waned a little, gaze flickering to his. “Does it hurt a lot?”

“Nothing that won’t ease up in a few days. I’ll probably feel stiff. Need to work that out. You’re worryin’ again.”

<<Chapter 27 || Chapter 29>>

Her Champion: Chapter 27

Posted on 13/08/2013

metropolis

“Maybe.” She walked into the room and stopped just before the bed until he freed one of his hands and patted the mattress. With a sigh, she obediently sat down. “I didn’t want to bother you.”

“Do I look bothered?”

His eyes were still closed and he’d slipped his other hand back beneath his head. “No.” She fell silent and drew in a deep breath. She turned to face him. “Dylan, I want you to press charges.”

“No.” Simple and immediate. He still didn’t open his eyes.

“Dylan–”

“No.”

“Would you  just hear me out?”

“No.”

“Fine, then I’ll tell Tamar and you can listen to her.”

His eyes flashed open then to lock with hers. This time his answer was nothing more than a bitten off growl. “No.”

Bekah found Tamar humming as she scooped vanilla cream on top warm pie slices into three serving bowls. She pushed away from the wall and strode over, arms folded across her chest. “This isn’t a one night thing, is it?”

Tamar swallowed the end of her tune and smiled sweetly at her cousin. “I thought you were sleeping?” She nudged her itching ear over her shoulder and placed another generous scoop on the second bowl. “Change your mind about ice-cream?”

“No, thanks.” Bekah eyed the three bowls and smirked wryly. “You can’t save everyone, Tamar.” She turned to face her cousin, her lips drawn in a stern line. “She’s not like you were. She’s got Dylan to protect her. Offering her a place to hide from whatever they’re facing only makes you more vulnerable.”

Tamar lifted the spoon. “I think you should let me handle this.”

“Oh yeah, like you’re handling your own issues?” Bekah narrowed her eyes at Tamar glaring at her. “Be mad all you want, but you can’t be anyone’s hero when you’re struggling to save yourself.” She sighed, patting Tamar’s shoulder. “Just think about what I said,” she said softly and stepped away from the counter.

“If it’s about the rent, I’ll take care of it,” Tamar said in a frigid tone.

Bekah clenched her jaw, her back to Tamar. “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that stupid statement. Go be with your friends and we’ll figure it out tomorrow.” Snorting in annoyance, she walked back to her room.

Tamar scowled as Bekah’s door closed firmly, shutting off her protest and she angrily shoved the spoon back into the ice-cream carton.

“Well it’s either me or her. You can’t just keep fighting him, Dylan! When is it going to stop?”

“That’s not for you to worry about.”

“Well I’m worried! And for you to tell me not to when I have sit there and watch him hit you is stupid so stop it!”

Dylan rolled over carefully to look into her eyes. “You’re scared. I understand and I’m doing everything I can to get you out of there, okay? I just need-”

“This isn’t about me!”

“You know why I won’t press charges. We’ve been through this. I need you to be patient while I get this sorted out.”

“I can go to a foster home for a year, Dylan.”

The moment she said the words he turned back onto his back and focused on the ceiling.

“You can’t just shut down. We’re talking about a viable freaking option.” Her words were met with silence. “C’mon Dylan. All it takes is one wrong hit, one wrong fall. I don’t want to take that risk anymore. It’s not worth it.”

Tamar pinched the bridge of her nose to ward off the ensuing headache. Bekah’s voice kept echoing in her head, nagging her. Shaking her head, she straightened and placed the three bowls onto a plastic tray. Satisfied that she’d given the siblings enough time to catch up, Tamar walked back to her room. Crystal’s muffled voice slowed her steps and her brows drew in at the urgency she picked up from the girl’s low-pitched tone. She gripped the tray and slowly retraced her steps, leaning against the wall facing Bekah’s closed door to wait.

“You don’t make that decision,” Dylan finally said.

“What part of ‘you could die’ aren’t you getting?”

“My answer is no, Crystal. That’s not changing.”

“No amount of discomfort is worth your life!”

“Not your decision.”

“I can make it my decision.”

Dylan closed his eyes once more, trying to fight the way his throat seemed to close up. “Trust me,” he croaked. “That’s all I’m asking.”

“It’s not about trust. It’s about wanting you safe.”

“Trust me to keep myself alive, to handle this.”

She hugged her knees to her chest and said nothing.

When the voices eased into silence, Tamar balanced the tray on her forearm and knocked on the door before sticking her head in. “Sorry, the cream’s melting so I’ll just put it in here and come back later.” She ducked inside and perched the tray on top of her desk. Then picking up one of the smaller bowls, she turned and started for the door.

“You can stay,” Crystal assured her quietly. She doubted she’d get any kind of agreement out of Dylan anyway.

Tamar glanced warily from sister to brother before settling on the bowls on her desk. “Then, let’s eat the dessert before it goes to waste.” She smiled and gestured to the tray.

Dylan considered passing but he knew how hard Tamar was working to make him feel better. The last thing he wanted to do was be a jerk. He rolled over once more and reached over for a bowl. “Thanks, Tamar.”

Tamar nodded and tilted her head to Crystal expectantly.

Crystal grabbed a bowl and studied her ice-cream in silence for several seconds. “How do you get through to someone who’s bent on protecting you without concern for the cost to themselves?”

At first, Tamar didn’t respond, thinking Crystal was still carrying on her conversation with Dylan. Then she peeked up at the young girl and frowned, considering the question. Her face fired, wondering to herself if Crystal had overheard her and Bekah. “It depends…” she started, poking the dessert with her spoon. “Depends on the person’s intentions. Why they are doing the protecting in the first place.” She turned the spoon in her bowl. “I mean, if they’re just trying to help and they care a great deal for you, what’s the crime? You should just accept the help, even if it’s risky.” She bit her bottom lip. “Maybe by trying to protect you, they’re saving themselves too.”

“I should accept the help? Even if it means they might die in the process?”

“Enough,” Dylan warned before Tamar could respond.

“Die?” Tamar echoed and blinked at Dylan’s sharp response. She frowned. “Why would I. . .” she trailed off, her heart plummeting to her stomach as the siblings exchanged dark looks. She quickly realized the question wasn’t addressed to her and suddenly wished it was. “Who could die, Crystal?” she asked softly, dreading the girl’s response and the direction her frazzled thoughts wandered. Her eyes slowly moved over Dylan’s bruised face and she suddenly couldn’t breathe.

“Nobody’s going to die. Crystal’s being dramatic.”

“I am not being dramatic. He could hit you in the wrong spot. You could fall and your head could hit something. That’s real. Not dramatics.”

Tamar gripped the bowl in her hand, their voices roaring in her ears. “Wait a minute,” she snapped to quiet the voices. She turned to Dylan. “Is it your father? Is he the one that could…” she swallowed against the hardened lump lodged in her throat. “Kill you?”

“Crystal is just worked up. It’s not going to be an issue, pretty girl.” He complemented his words with a charming smile.

Tamar’s face instantly hardened at the smile. “Don’t do that,” she said in a low voice. Tears welled up, trailing down her cheeks and she angrily swiped at them, frustrated that her attempt to be strong for them was being foiled by her crying. “Stop acting like it’s nothing. Can’t you do at least that?”

Dylan dropped his head back. “Don’t cry, Tamar.” He could deal with a lot of things right then but he couldn’t handle the tears. “I’m not acting like it’s nothing. I’m telling you both that I’ve looked at this from every angle and I need you to trust me to do the right thing.”

She snorted. “Trust you when you can’t trust me? Does that make sense?” She placed the bowl on the table and folded her arms across her chest. “Your entire face is saying everything you’re not. There’s a monster out there putting you both in harm’s way and you’re trying to tell me everything’s fine? That you’ve got it all figured out when you haven’t? Tell me, do you even believe that?” Her heart was racing, her mind telling her to shut up but she couldn’t. The fury from Bekah’s earlier words and the hesitation and blatant distrust in Dylan’s eyes provoked her to continue. “What exactly, Dylan, is the right thing to do?”

“This has nothing to do with trusting you. Things aren’t perfect but they’re under control because I’ve made them that way. The right thing to do is keep Crystal in an environment where I have access to her, can protect her until I can get her somewhere else. Anything that needs to be done to achieve that is what’s going to be done. No discussion necessary. Whether the two of you like it or not doesn’t matter. That answer your questions?”

Tamar’s lips pursed, her arms tightened around her. “Not even. All I know is you’re being a jerk.” She turned to Crystal and swallowed hard. “I’m sorry but it’s true.” Shaking her head in disgust, she spun on her heels and stormed out of the room, feeling more helpless and confused than when she first walked in. Almost bumping into Bekah standing open-mouthed in the hallway, Tamar pushed past her and stomped out of the house.

<<Chapter 26 || Chapter 28>>

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