Posts tagged “Protection

Chasing Truth: Chapter 40

Posted on 10/04/2020

Get-Out Guide: Walk through a garden at night and see local artists

The moon illuminated the quiet path Mari and Reese strolled along. Friends talked them into watching the outdoor movie starting soon. Granted, it didn’t take much convincing. Reese was always invited to something as the islanders extended their friendship. Mari never let him turn down an offer.

“You know, I’m not sure Sakina is going to let you go when it’s time. You might be more popular than me now.”

“That’s impossible.”

“I wasn’t the one who got invited tonight.”

He muttered something under his breath she knew he didn’t mean. It made her giggle. She couldn’t say what she expected when she learned he was staying with her. She enjoyed his company. He often made her laugh. The way he fit in with her friends made it even easier to have him around.

She was distracted from her thoughts when she saw the woman standing at a cart a few feet ahead. Her giggle morphed into a broad grin.

“Oh! Felicia is still open!”

Reese rolled his eyes. “Let me guess. You need one to watch the movie.”

“Well, duh. Hurry, go grab us slushies before she starts closing down.”

“C’mon.”

“You go ahead, I’ll be right here.” She stopped at the edge of a storefront. “I want to keep an eye out for the others.”

He hesitated. “Stay where I can see you.”

With thumbs up, she repeated, “Right here.”

He jogged to the stand.

“Cherry and grape mixed!” she called after him.

He shook his head, but he lifted a hand in acknowledgment.  Laughing to herself, she stepped back toward the side of the building and craned her neck in search of her friends. They would give her a hard time if they showed up late with slushies, but it would be worth it.

Her heart shot into her throat when an arm snagged around her waist as a hand covered her mouth. Someone dragged her back behind the cover of the building. She dug her fingernails into his wrist, clawing at the skin. He kept dragging her backward. She bit the hand at her mouth and violently jerked to break free. Her chest grew tight when his arm still didn’t loosen. She tried to drop her weight in a desperate attempt to slow him down.

Someone darted to her side, but she couldn’t get past the fear flooding her to make them out. She kept trying to rip free from the man’s grasp. He grunted. Suddenly she was thrust forward. She collided with someone before she lost her footing and sank to her knees. Quick footsteps thundered behind her. Scrambling unsteadily to her feet, she tried to run. The edge of the building was in sight when someone grabbed hold of her arm. She swung around, leading with her fist. It was caught in a firm grip.

“Mari. Mari! It’s Reese. I’ve got you. He’s gone.”

It took a moment for his voice to penetrate.  She collapsed into his arms, gasping for breath. Tremors racked her body. Reese’s hands stroked over her arms in brisk motion.

“I’m fine. I’m fine.”

She repeated the words to make them true while she fought for calm she didn’t feel. She was with Reese. Nothing happened to her. She was fine.

“Look at me.” The command in his tone couldn’t be ignored even in her panicked state. She pulled back just enough to lock onto his warm brown eyes. “I have you. He’s gone. You’re safe.”

“I’m safe. You have me.”

“That’s right. Just breathe.”

She nodded like a bobble head. Reese’s steady focus calmed her and gradually her breathing evened out.

“Good girl.”

She buried her face in his chest. His arms closed around her. Warmth enveloped her, bringing with it the feeling of safety. She was safe. He wouldn’t let anything happen to her. He just proved it.

“Mari? Reese? Is everything alright?” Felicia called.

“She’s good,” Reese called over his shoulder. He didn’t move from behind the shelter of the building. “It was just a robbery attempt,” he told Mari quietly.

She swallowed hard and nodded her understanding. They both knew it was more than that. He didn’t fight her when she pulled free to rub her hands over her face. He stayed close to her side as they walked back in sight.

“She’s okay,” Reese assured Felicia who was jogging toward them. “It looks like someone tried to rob her.”

Felicia sucked her teeth in annoyance. “That happens around here sometimes, during tourist season especially. Are you okay, Mari?”

Mari cleared her throat. “I’m fine. It shook me a bit. I know better. I should have been paying attention, but I was thinking about that slushy.”

“The one Reese dropped when he shot over here. Goodness, I’ve never seen anyone move so fast.” Felicia smiled up at Reese. “Thank you for taking care of our girl. Let me get you both slushies.”

She bustled back to her cart before Reese could say a word.

“Mari? What’s going on?” Leilani called as she and the others approached them from farther up the street.

“Someone tried to rob her,” Reese answered for her.

“I wasn’t paying attention. Reese scared him off. I’m fine.”

“What?” Leilani asked.

“Just now?” Julia added.

“Where did he go?” Keon demanded already angling away from them.

“Who was he? What did he look like?”

“It was probably that guy Leo said was hanging around his shop.”

“I didn’t get a good look.”

“Or that one near Laney’s!”

“Guys-” Mari tried to interject.

“Which way did he go?”

“Somebody call Garrett!”

Mari groaned at mention of the island’s sheriff. “Guys! Guys! Hey!” she yelled over them. “I’m fine. The only real problem was Reese dropping my slushy, but Felicia’s bringing me another one. So, again, I’m fine. And I was looking forward to seeing this movie. So, if everybody could just move along, that would be great.”

She beamed at Felicia and held out her hands eagerly when she approached with the drinks. “You’re a queen. Thank you.”

Julia rolled her eyes, but in spite of her concern for Mari, Leilani couldn’t muffle her giggle.

“See,” Mari said after a long sip. “Perfectly fine. Now let’s calm down and go enjoy the movie.”

Mari started walking. Slowly the group began moving down the sidewalk with her. Reese relaxed in step beside her. She let the conversation and Reese’s nearness blunt the edge of fear she could still taste. She was safe now and they had a movie to watch. She would deal with the rest later.

<< Chapter 39 Chapter 41 >>

Chasing Truth: Chapter 37

Posted on 06/03/2020

      Reese was sitting on the couch with his eyes on the TV when Mari let herself back into the house. He glanced at her before turning back to the game. She settled into the armchair, trying to think of the best way to approach him about her newfound plans. There was no good way to start, especially since she was certain his default response would be to deny her. She blew out a quiet breath.

“Why don’t you just say what’s on your mind?” Reese asked the TV.

She wasn’t going to get a clearer opening than that. Gathering what bits she’d already pieced together in her head, she launched in.

“I need some one-on-one time with Tyler. No babysitter. We’ll stay inside at his place. That way there’s no danger, no exposure.”

He didn’t look away from the TV, not even when she fell quiet.

“Was that your idea or Tyler’s suggestion?” he asked finally.

“Does it matter? I want to spend some time with him.”

He nodded like he had the answer to his question. “Has he told you what his problem is with me?”

“I already told you. He gets jealous.”

“From the moment he realized I wasn’t your brother? You don’t see that as extreme in any way?”

“What are you getting at, Reese?”

“I just asked a question.”

“He didn’t have a problem from the moment he found out you weren’t my brother. He had a problem when Blake left and you stayed. Wouldn’t you if you were in the same situation? A man neither you or your girlfriend know is all of a sudden staying with her?”

“It started sooner than that, Mari. If you think back, you’ll see that. Have him come back over here and I’ll give you privacy like earlier. Problem solved.”

She considered countering his words, but getting him to agree to her evening plans was more important than the issue between him and Tyler. “He’s already setting things up at his place.”

Not to mention changing the plan now would be a clear sign to Tyler that Reese was interfering. She didn’t want that headache.

“I’ll be leaving in a few days. Can it wait until then?”

“Not really.” She needed to hear what Tyler had been up to when it came to Blake.

“Another night at least then.”

“Okay, I’ll put it like this. I’m not asking. You’re here to protect me and that’s great. I appreciate it, even if you haven’t actually had to protect me from anything. I don’t need protection from Tyler, so we’re going to enjoy a quiet night alone. Tonight. You get the night off. I’ll call Blake for you if that makes it easier, but this is happening.”

His head turned then and, if she wasn’t mistaken, there was just a hint of amusement in his eyes.

“You really need that time alone, do you?”

She folded her arms across her chest, trying to keep a leash on her rising annoyance. “Yeah, and I could use some space from you too.”

His face didn’t change. Neither did his tone. “Do we have a problem?”

She almost wished he would’ve snapped at her or gotten upset. His even-keeled response made her feel guilty. He’d been easy to get along with, even amusing to talk to. Her arms dropped.

“No. I didn’t mean that. What I really meant was I could use some time that feels normal, when I can forget that my biological father felt the need to leave a man here with me for my safety. I can do that alone at Tyler’s.”

“I can understand that,” he allowed. “The fact Blake felt that need is why I’m reiterating it’s only a few more days and asking you to wait.”

“We haven’t had any issues, Reese. No one has even looked at me funny. I’m not saying go home early. I’m asking you to let me have a normal night.”

He leaned back without a word. She wanted to push, but there wasn’t much left to say she hadn’t already pointed out.

“I’ll take you.”

“Just-” Mari pressed her lips together as his agreement sank in. He was saying yes!

“That works,” she said as she unfolded herself from the chair. “I’ll be ready to go in about 30 minutes.”

She showered quickly and hastily packed a bag. She didn’t think Reese would change his mind, but she didn’t want to risk it either. She slid her feet into a pair of sandals and threw the bag over her shoulder.

Reese stood at the window with his hands in his pockets. His head turned at her entrance.

“Is your gun in that bag?”

She blinked hard. “Umm…no.”

“I’d feel better if you took it with you. Just a simple precaution.”

She hadn’t expected him to give in at all. If he wanted her to take the gun with her, she would, even though she wouldn’t need it. She retreated to her bedroom without protest and removed her gun from its case.

He preceded her out of the house and waited for her to get into the truck before getting in on the driver’s side. They rode in silence. For the first time, it felt awkward. Mari struggled to fill it, but couldn’t find the right words, so she settled back in her seat and watched the scenery. Occasionally she’d give some direction until they turned onto Tyler’s street. Reese pulled into the yard she directed him to, putting the truck in park.

“You have my number on that phone?”

She nodded as she lifted her bag from the floor. “Tyler can take me to work in the morning. I’ll meet you there.”

“I’ll pick you up here.”

“That works too,” she agreed easily. Her hand gripped the door handle before she hesitated and turned back. “I promise we won’t go anywhere. I know this isn’t easy for you. Thanks for agreeing.”

His only acknowledgment was his nod. Mari accepted that and opened her door. Tyler was standing in his front door when she hopped out of the truck. With a quick wave to Reese, she strolled around the hood toward Tyler. She waited for the smart remark about Reese dropping her off. It never came. Tyler took her bag from her fingers, leaning in to kiss her firmly.

“Come in. I’ve got a great night planned for us,” he promised against her lips as he took her hand and guided her inside.

<< Chapter 36                        Chapter 38 >>

%d bloggers like this: