Posts tagged “Party

Chasing Truth: Chapter 3

Posted on 04/07/2014

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Mari hadn’t laughed so much in months. Her shoes had long since been kicked off as she was swung up into countless arms and danced across the cool grass. It had truly taken a village to raise her after her mother died and many of the men who twirled her around had cherished her and treated her as their own daughter.

She squeezed Paul tight as she pulled back from the last dance.  In those rare moments between dances, she reminisced and caught up with old friends. Women she went to high school with were enthralled by her tales of college. Children that once barely reached her knees now wrapped their arms around her waist and proudly recanted their adventures in mischief. The longer she spent out in the torch lit backyard, the more settled she felt. This was home. This was family.

Food had been shoved into her hand at some point. She strongly suspected it was Todd who’d done it but she didn’t complain. She was tearing the last bit of meat from her rib bone when Mayor Iago nudged her.

“You look like you’re having a great time.”

“I am but I’m probably going to sleep for a week after this.”

He chuckled. “I expect we’ll be seeing you back on the waters tomorrow afternoon if not sooner.”

She beamed and sucked barbeque sauce from her pinky. “Todd says he’s got a group tomorrow. I figured I tag along and show him how to do it right.”

“I don’t know,” Raoul teased handing her a cup of his famous punch. “The boy’s gotten good while you were off with those books of yours.”

She snorted but eagerly took the offered cup while he took her plate. “I don’t care how good he’s gotten. Really Papa, it’s Todd.”

“Well if it weren’t for Todd we wouldn’t have the pleasure of your charming company,” Todd chimed in innocently. He grabbed her cup and took a long sip, hastily offering it back with a grin.

She snatched the cup and elbowed him in the stomach both at the offense and his reference to the near drowning. “That’s about the only thing you’re good for and since that particular skill of yours hasn’t been needed in over a decade, why do we still keep you around?”

“You’re always so caring, Mari. I don’t know how I survived all this time without you here to keep my self-esteem up.”

“You had Jules. She’s the sweetheart.”

Julia snorted and Todd turned the full power of his grin toward Rylee who was concentrating on ignoring him.

“I do seem to remember a certain sweetheart. I don’t think it was Jules though.”

Whatever was going on between them, and it seemed there had been since her last visit, Todd wouldn’t be put off for long. Mari shook her head and decided to spare her friend. For the moment at least.

“What’s the lineup for tomorrow?”

Todd reluctantly pulled his gaze back to her. “A three hour diving expedition at eight. I figured I’d take them down to Pleasure Valley. That’s followed by a two hour hiking trip at one.”

Her eyes gleamed at the nickname she gave one of her favorite diving spots. She nodded. “I’m definitely in. For both. You can keep the lead. Just consider me part of the tour.”

“Oh no, if you’re coming I’m putting you to work.”

“And everyone knows you don’t know how to do anything but guide,” Iago added.

She laughed into her cup as she raised it for a long sip. Her eyes closed as she savored the explosion of flavors. Even though Raoul gave her the recipe when she turned 18, there was nothing quite like the way he made it. She dipped her head for another sip and paused. Her eyes locked with a man she’d never seen before talking with Leo, an old school friend.

He was partially hidden in shadow but the lit torches danced light over him. He was taller than Raoul, which gave him a good four inches on her.  His jaw was clean-shaven, highlighting the sharp angles and planes of his face. His shirt hung open to reveal a plain tank top beneath stopping just above his cargo shorts and sandals. If she hadn’t lived on the island for most of her life, she’d have mistaken him for a native. Impressive.

He continued to talk with Leo but those serious brown eyes never left her.

She knew better than to pose her question in front of the men who watched out for her since she was a child. She leaned into Julia and Rylee, casually stepping back from the men.

“Who’s the guy talking to Leo?” she asked into her cup.

Julia turned her head to find Leo and frowned. “New guy. He got here about a month ago. Name’s Tyler. Why?”

“Just curious. I recognize just about every face except for his.”

“That’s funny. The only face he seems to see is yours,” Rylee pointed out beaming.

Mari rolled her eyes but hints of red stained her cheeks. She drained the rest of her punch and tossed the cup into the trash. No sooner than it left her hand, she was swept up in yet another dance and the new guy turned native was forgotten.

Several dances, races, toasts, and hugs later, people slowly began trickling from the Drake estate and Mari walked up to the house sandwiched between Raoul and Allison.

“Thank you for this. I didn’t realize how much I needed it.”

“Of course you did,” Raoul said with a knowing smile. “I don’t care how old you are. It’s always going to be my job to look out for you.”

“And you do the best job. Even when I’m a brat.” She grinned just thinking about the time she and the girls were busted at a party after saying they were spending the night at each other’s places. Then there was the time she and Julia were suspended for loosing snakes in the cafeteria. Her grin widened as the list grew in her mind. She hadn’t been an easy child. “I love you guys.”

“We love you too,” Allison assured.

“Now go on and get some rest. If Todd has his way, he’s going to work you to the bone tomorrow.”

She beamed. “And I can’t wait to show him how much I haven’t forgotten. Goodnight.” She kissed both of their cheeks before disappearing up the stairs, working up ways to mess with Todd on the trail the following morning.

 

<< Chapter 2 || Chapter 4 >>

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Chasing Truth: Chapter 2

Posted on 27/06/2014

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Mari dragged straight brown strands from her face to tame them into a ponytail just as a knock sounded against the bedroom door and Allison stuck her head in with a warm smile on her face.

“Mari, you’re going to make Raoul think you snuck back out to the ocean.”

It wasn’t a far-fetched idea, but she missed her friends. She could tolerate being the center of attention for a few hours to spend time with everyone again. She smiled at Allison.

“You’d think he invited the mayor or something the way he’s carrying on.”

Allison laughed, picking up Mari’s sandals and setting them before her. “Didn’t he tell you?”

“He did not invite Mayor Iago. Please. Doesn’t he have any restraint?”

“When it comes to his precious Mari? Definitely not. And of course he invited Iago.”

Since Raoul and Iago had been friends for years, it wasn’t all that surprising. Still, she made a note to tease him as she hugged Allison. Because she knew Raoul and his hesitance to share anything that wasn’t good, she took the opportunity to get information from her.

“How are things really, Ally? Since I’ve been gone?”

Allison’s smile softened as she brushed a wisp of hair from Mari’s forehead. “You worry about him nearly as much as he does about you. Things are good. He cut down on the number of tours he does. Todd comes out and does a few for us sometimes and he’s hired another guide.  Business is still good. He’s missed you of course. I don’t think he has as much of a heart for it when his favorite guide isn’t with him. Having you home will be good for him.”

Mari thought that over as they descended the stairs, arms looped around each other. The words assured her that what she read on Raoul’s face was truth. He was still healthy and happy.

A soft breeze blew music, chatter, and laughter into the house through the open back door. The homecoming celebration was well underway.

“Everything’s fine. Now go enjoy.”

Allison pulled her arm back and nudged her forward but before she could step outside, she was swept up into strong arms. Todd lifted her clean off her feet and spun her around before drawing her close.

“The little runaway has found her way back home.”

Pearly white teeth flashed at her from his wide grin. She ran her fingers over spiked black hair. He was built like Raoul, lean but strong. There was inner strength too though; strength she’d counted on more than once.

“Tell me why I thought I missed you?” she challenged even as she hugged him tightly. “That mouth of yours is still too smart for your own good.”

“It has to keep up with my brain.” He pulled back to give her a thorough appraisal and a frown stole over his face. “You’ve lost weight.”

“I’ll put the lost weight and more back on being here with Papa and Allison. Don’t worry.”

“Mari!”

She didn’t have to turn to know the footsteps racing across the deck to the house belonged to Rylee Phillips. She turned just in time to meet the flying tackle hug. Laughter and air were forced out of her as she stumbled back, embracing the hug. Rylee was shorter and smaller but her grip around Mari’s waist didn’t show it.

Looking over her head she saw Julia Malloy standing just inside the door with her trademark smirk that was just an inch wider than usual.

And there, in that moment, Mari was complete.

 <<Chapter 1 || Chapter 3>>

  

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