Posts tagged “plans

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 >>

Homecoming, Chapter 24

Posted on 09/03/2016

Though she enjoyed the extra attention, Joselyn was beginning to miss her mother. The Teka women and Yelena had done all they could to keep her occupied through the night and half the morning but Joselyn had noticed her mother’s absence and began crying.

Yelena kissed the wet cheek of her inconsolable granddaughter and bounced her on her hip. “Just a little longer, cariño.”

Darah stifled a yawn. “He’s been in there a long time.”

“They’ve got a lot to talk about,” Phoebe answered, giving the teenager a smile. “If you’re tired and ready to leave, take Abe home with you.”

Darah snorted. “Like he’ll leave without you. I’ll stay and come back with Bart and Geri.”

Phoebe shook her head but didn’t have time to protest when Abe strolled back to the bench, phone in hand. “J.R. dropped off your in-laws back at the house, said they were reasonably subdued.”

“It’s an act,” Yelena muttered begrudgingly. “Those two have been deceiving people for years.”

Phoebe clucked her tongue in disapproval. “I just cannot believe that isn’t illegal.”

“No one had the guts to rat them out,” Yelena answered, bouncing Joselyn when she whimpered for her mother. “Our parents didn’t understand the danger of get-rich-quick schemes, and by the time we discovered, it was too late.”

“But if they planned to receive governmental money illegally, shouldn’t the government get involved?” Darah asked Abe, earning quizzical looks from everyone. She frowned. “What? I’m not a child anymore.”

Abe snorted. “Didn’t think you heard a thing we said while you were busy staring a hole into J.R.’s face.”

“I was not!” Stained cheeks against her light complexion betrayed embarrassment. “Don’t lie!”

“But am I lying though?”

“You are, big liar!”

Phoebe bit a laugh and averted her attention to Joselyn who was now staring from brother to sister. She smiled wistfully and looked up to Yelena watching her. “They’re always like this.”

Yelena merely nodded and watched the exchange between the siblings.

“Well, you’re too young to like anyone,” Abe grumbled, pocketing his phone.

Darah sputtered. “Like who? That old man?”

Phoebe’s giggle escaped. “Darah, he’s only twenty-five.”

“Like I said, he’s old.” Darah scowled and crossed her arms.

“But that’s just a few years between Bart and Junior, Darah.”

Abe scowled at his wife. “Don’t encourage her, Phoebe.”

Phoebe gave her husband a dimpled smile. “She’s old enough to like anyone she wants, darling.”

Darah scoffed. “I said I don’t like him.”

“Good,” Abe replied. “Because you’re not allowed to like anyone until you’re thirty.”

“Thirty?!” Yelena, Phoebe and Darah exclaimed, gaping at Abe.

The door of Geraldine’s room opened and everyone turned to see Bart stepping out. A pensive expression tightened his features as he closed the door.

Abe walked over. “What did she say?”

Bart looked up at his brother and then glanced over his shoulder to the three standing there. He frowned. “Where’s J.R.?”

“He dropped off Geri’s in-laws at home.  Left early because of a court case tomorrow. What did she say?”

He exhaled a harsh breath. “It’s bad.”

Abe put a hand over his brother’s shoulder. “Breathe.”

“I am breathing.” Bart’s voice shook.

“Breathe again.”

Bart closed his eyes briefly and drew in a breath, releasing it slowly.

“Barty?” Yelena spoke at Abe’s shoulder. When the brothers looked her way, she gestured to the door. “May we go in?”

“Please do,” Abe said, steering Bart to the side so the mother and child could enter the room. Once the door was shut, he returned his attention to Bart. “You okay?”

“No.” Bart sighed heavily and his eyes swung back to Abe. “I’m angry.”

“What did she say, Bart?”

Bart swallowed hard. “Their business isn’t just a family business. It’s got investors, local and federal. Even high officials are benefitting from slave labor. Geraldine mentioned a meeting the day he… pushed her down the stairs.”

Phoebe gasped inwardly, attracting her husband’s alarmed gaze. She waved him off. “I’m fine. What kind of meeting, Bart?”

“Investors coming to collect.” Bart shrugged. “He didn’t have enough money to give them, so they threatened to oust him for his fraud. Maybe the fool thought to siphon from the government and they got rid of him.”

This time it was Darah who gasped. Phoebe pulled her close, though her attention remained on the two men. “You’re saying his death might have not been an accident?”

“Greed killed him,” Bart grumbled, a scowl forming. “A business like that should be done away with. Slavery in this day and age? Unbelievable.”

“Then don’t we still have slavery since lots of people are in debt here too?” Darah piped in, earning a solemn look from her sister-in-law. “What can we do for Geraldine? Her evil in-laws won’t leave her alone.”

“We’ve gotta expose them for what they are,” Bart answered without hesitation. “One word about reporting them and the government might cut ties with them too.”

“I don’t think it’s that simple, Bart.” Abe sighed heavily. “If their son wasn’t reason enough to cut ties, what could one woman’s testimony do?”

“Not just one,” Bart muttered, holding up a beat up phone. “Twenty.”

Abe frowned. “What?”

“Before asking for a divorce, Geraldine had received support from families who like hers had been subjected to slavery by debt. After the husband died mysteriously, the families suddenly wanted to rescind their testimonies.”

“They were afraid of the government coming after them?”

“No doubt.” Bart sighed heavily. “She and Yelena sought out the widows and disabled war veterans to get their support. Her in-laws caught wind of her ideas and threatened to take her unborn child…”

“Those demons,” Phoebe hissed. “They should pay for their crimes.”

“They will,” Bart vowed. “Which is why I must speak with J.R. now.”

“He won’t be able to do much from American soil,” Abe cautioned, handing his phone to Bart.

“But he’ll point me in the right direction.” Bart collected the phone and strolled back into the room, closing the door.

Phoebe shook her head in awe. “Doesn’t he remind you of someone?”

Darah frowned. “Who?”

“Abe.” She smiled at her husband who turned at the sound of his wife’s voice. “When your parents died, he took full responsibility of you all without hesitation, just like Bart is doing now for Geri.”

“For one who vehemently avoids dramatic situations, he’s doing pretty well,” Abe added, walking up to them. “Even if he had a slow start.”

“He’s in love,” Darah said with a grin.

Abe arched a brow at his sister. “And what do you know about love? Don’t even consider any of that until you’re old enough.”

Darah rolled her eyes and Phoebe giggled, nudging her husband to relax.

Geraldine was released early the next morning and since her in-laws still resided in her home, she didn’t hesitate accepting Phoebe’s offer to recover fully at their house.

J.R. rushed to the Teka home after his case the next day. He wore a blinding smile that encouraged everyone once he entered the house. “We’re in luck.”

Everyone sat up, waiting with baited breaths.

He carelessly took the empty spot beside Darah but none of them noticed, too distracted with the news he brought. “A friend of mine from law school has an uncle whose cousin’s wife’s brother is a civil lawyer in Peru.”

The entire house sat in silence, mulling through the complicated triangle.

“I spoke with him yesterday, the lawyer, and he said he can help us.”

“Oh good,” Phoebe breathed out, everyone’s shoulders sagging.

“I’ll be flying over during the weekend to meet with him.” His eyes moved over Geraldine. “He wants to meet with you and your mom. He thinks we can go to court once he’s heard the full story and gathered the evidence needed.”

Geraldine looked to Bart who placed a hand over hers and turned to face J.R. “Can I come with them?”

J.R. hesitated, having not planned for more than three to accompany him on this short trip overseas.

“Maybe you should stay,” Geraldine spoke up, attracting everyone’s attention. She had eyes only for Bart. “I want to do this and come back to you free.”

Bart didn’t look thrilled. “We can come back with you free even if I go.”

Geraldine shook her head. “You’ve got things to prepare for.”

“Things…?” Bart frowned.

Geraldine looked over his shoulder at Darah, giving her a pointed stare. “Important things.”

“Oh right!” Darah shot to her feet. “I forgot. We’ve got a wedding to plan.”

Bart blinked at Geraldine who smiled. “Wait, what?”

Geraldine smiled. “When I come back, Bartimeus, let’s get married.”

“Wait, are you proposing to him?” Clement asked with a smile in his voice.

Phoebe and Darah grinned from ear to ear. Abe sat watching Bart with a perturbed expression.

Bart’s eyes widened. Geraldine squeezed his hand. “Well, Mr. Bartimeus Teka, is that a yes?”

“No.” Then he tugged his hand from hers, expression unreadable.

Phoebe and Darah gasped. Clement groaned as Bart stood and stormed off.

Abe and Clement exchanged glances, then stood and went after their brother.

Phoebe moved to take Bart’s seat beside Geraldine who looked like she’d been punched in the gut. She placed her hand over the woman’s shoulder, not knowing what to say.

Hands at her hips, Darah scowled. “That overgrown fool.”

“It’s okay,” Geraldine managed to say. “It’s fine.”

Phoebe heaved a sigh.

Geraldine sighed also. “We’ll be ready to leave.”

“Geri, no!” Darah protested with a shout.

Ignoring both Darah and Phoebe, she stared at J.R. who looked uncomfortable in his seat. “When can we leave?”

<<Chapter 23 || Chapter 25>>

%d bloggers like this: