Posts tagged “Protective

Chasing Truth: Chapter 9

Posted on 15/08/2014

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Weeks passed, marked by tours during the day and nights with Tyler. The more time she spent with him, the more she liked what she saw. He kept her charmed and laughing, effortlessly wiping away the stress and strain of packed days. They went swimming, biking, and hiking. They lied out and watched the stars. He cooked for her. Amid the sandcastle competitions, movie choosing ceremonies, and the hilariously competitive game nights, spending time with him became the highlight of her day and she was looking forward to their night together.

Unfortunately she was currently stuck cleaning up from a late diving tour with Keon. She peeked into the boat to see how much equipment there was and glanced down at her watch.

“Got another date with the resident wannabe?”

“Actually, yeah. Are you going to be a brat about him forever?”

Keon hadn’t softened his stance about Tyler since their first time out together. The times Tyler stopped by the shop he alternated between ignoring him and watching him like a suspected thief. Then there were the snarky comments. She chalked it up as the protectiveness of a man who was like a brother to her and ignored him most of the time. Tonight his attitude bothered her.

“He’s a good guy, Keon. Really. He hasn’t even tried to kiss me, let alone make any type of move. You can relax.”

Tyler was the perfect gentleman. He never pushed or went beyond holding her hand , a hug, or a playful wrestle. She hadn’t dated since her freshman year of college and hadn’t missed it. She didn’t want to get into another relationship, but with Tyler she found herself not only willing to, but also wanting to.

Every outing with him was fun. It was more than that though. He made her feel cherished. He was always caring and considerate. He was an amazing listener and whenever she brought something to him he knew when to help her work through it and when to just let her vent. He was honest, some might even say to a fault, but she liked that about him. He never left her wondering what he was thinking. A smile curved her lips.

She glanced at her watch again.

“I just don’t like the vibe I get from him.” Keon passed her two tanks before grabbing two of his own. “He’s a stranger.”

“Have you tried actually getting to know him?” It wasn’t like Keon to act like this. Sure he was always a little overprotective but she expected the animosity to have faded by now. She frowned back at him as she unlocked the shop and preceded him inside.

“Just be careful, alright? We don’t know a ton about him.”

“You know me. I’m always careful.”

The sound of Tyler’s truck pulling up cut off whatever else he planned to say. They went through the required equipment checks before returning them to their proper place. Mari took one last look around the shop to make sure everything was in place.

“Go ahead. I’ll lock up.”

She raised a brow.

“Go ahead before I change my mind. Just remember what I said.”

She smiled and kissed his cheek. It was more than him letting her leave a little early. This was his way of trying to show his support of whatever made her happy and they both knew it.

“Thanks, Keon.”

The passenger door was already open when she walked out. She hopped in and leaned over to give Tyler a hug. He knew her schedule almost as well as she did and had taken to picking her up and helping her wind down after full days of work. Tonight he drove her down to the beach to enjoy the stars over her favorite order from Joe’s Shack.

“You’re getting really good at this.” She popped a piece of shrimp into her mouth.

“We’ve been doing this for a while now. I’d like to think so.”

She nudged him and stole one of his fries, drawing laughter from him.

“And no matter how well I think I ordered, you always find something of mine you want.”

“The fact that it’s yours adds a different flavor to it.”

She said it with a straight face, but couldn’t maintain it when he stared at her in amused disbelief.

“Finish your food, woman.”

When she finished her dinner he took her hand for a stroll down the beach. A soft smile touched her face and she inhaled the rich ocean scent. Tyler and the beach. It didn’t get much better than this. It would be very easy for a woman to get used to being the center of his focus.

“What are you smiling about?”

She cocked her head to the side and her smile widened. “You.”

“Ah sweetheart, you don’t look at a man and tell him something like that.”

“You asked a question. I’m just being honest.”

He gently tugged her to a stop, water lapping over their feet. “A man could really like the look of you,” he murmured as he trailed his fingers down the side of her face. “And I’m only being honest.”

“Oh yeah?” she challenged with a smile.

“Yeah,” he breathed seconds before he leaned in. “If you don’t want this, now’s a good time to stop me.”

He was so close the words were practically said against her lips. Without realizing it, she brought her hands up to grip his arms when he cupped her face.

“I don’t see anyone stopping you.”

No sooner than she said the words, he took her lips in a strong kiss. It was a shock to her system. He never did anything in half measures and this kiss was no different. She was on the tips of her toes, meeting him in the hungry kiss. He drew her in tighter until she was flush against him and her arms locked around his neck.

It was every bit as intense as the man holding her. She didn’t want it to end.

“I was afraid of that,” he murmured when he finally pulled back.

She rested her forehead against his shoulder and felt his fingers comb through the loosened strands of hair.

“Afraid of what?”

“You. Wanting more if I had a taste.”

She lifted her head to look into his eyes. He smiled that crooked smile she was coming to love.

“Just being honest.”

She smacked his chest lightly and then smoothed her hand over the fabric there. “Yeah, well if it makes you feel any better…I want more too.”

He groaned softly. He pressed a kiss to her forehead, her nose, and finally her lips. She melted into his hold with her lips clinging to his. Kissing with Tyler was more than it ever was with anyone else. She wanted to sink in and never come back up.

“Easy.” He was breathing hard when he ripped his mouth from hers. “You could kill a man.”

“Same goes.”

He pressed his forehead to her and laughed breathlessly. “Yeah, we’re going to do this. You’re mine, sweetheart.”

“You weren’t sure up until now?”

He laughed again. “Don’t be cute right now.”

“Sorry, I’ll see what I can do about turning that off.”

She barely got the last word out before he kissed her again.

“I’m trying to find some control,” he murmured against her lips. “Help me out.”

“Sorry.”

He stole one more kiss before he pulled back, grabbing her hands and squeezing.

“Let me get you home.”

“Scared?”

“Out of my mind.”

She laughed and let him turn her back toward the truck. When his arms wrapped around her waist she nestled into him. They walked back up the beach like that, laughing and teasing each other as they went.

He helped her into the truck and stilled, his eyes on something in the distance. She settled into the seat and frowned up at him. All signs of amusement left his face. His eyes were hard and his jaw set as he scanned the night.

“What is it?” she asked, trying to find whatever held his attention.

“Nothing.”

He gently swung her legs into the truck and closed the door with a smile. With more look out at the road, he climbed in and drove off.

By the time he pulled up to the house, she was exhausted but still reluctant to leave him. He surprised her when he opened his car door. Usually he pulled up to the guesthouse, waited for her to get inside, and then left. He was helping her down from the truck when she found her tongue.

“What are you doing?”

“Walking you to your door.”

She studied him, but he seemed as easygoing as he was earlier. Whatever bothered him before, he was over it now. She searched through her pack for her keys and came up with them just as they reached the door.

“Get inside, sweetheart.”

“I’m going. Thank you for tonight. I needed that. Somehow you always seemed to know.”

He kissed her temple. Then her cheek. “You’re welcome. Go.”

She grinned up at him. “You really like me,” she teased.

“I don’t know why. You’re a brat.”

“You like my mean streak.” She stroked a hand over his cheek. “Goodnight Tyler.”

He turned his head to kiss her palm. “Goodnight sweetheart.”

She reluctantly pulled away and unlocked the door. He was already backpedaling toward the stairs.

She couldn’t resist one last tease. “Still scared?”

“Shaking in my boots, baby. Lock up.”

She nodded and shut the door, waiting. A knock sounded against door and she burst into laughter. She turned the lock.

“Better?” she asked the door.

“Brat.” And then all she heard were his footsteps and the truck starting back up.

 

<< Chapter 8 || Chapter 10 >>

Chasing Truth: Chapter 7

Posted on 01/08/2014

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Mari glanced down at her watch as Keon steered the boat back to the shore. It was her final tour of the day and she was cutting it a little close meeting up with Tyler. Tours had a habit of being a little unpredictable that way.

“Why are you in such a hurry?” Keon asked watching Mari jump out of the boat to tie down the moment they reached the dock.

“I’m not in a hurry. I’m just not as slow as you.”  She knotted the rope quickly and reached up to help their customers out.

The teen girl beamed at her before heading off to the shop before her parents. Jeremy was manning the counter and would take care of checking the equipment back in. Satisfied, she reached into the boat for her bag.

“Take care of the equipment clean up for me? I’ll handle tomorrow’s.”

“Looks like a hurry to me.” Keon looked past her and she knew from the frown forming Tyler had shown up.  “What’s he doing here?”

“I’m taking him hiking.”

“We’ll double up.”

“It’s not a tour.”

Keon jumped out of the boat and folded his arms across his chest as he stared at her. “Then why are you taking him hiking?”

“Because I want to go and he wants to tag along. I told you years ago to stop wearing that Superman shirt. It’s really gone to your head.”

“Mari-“

“Keon, relax. It’s hiking. He’s just a guy.”

“Where are you hiking?”

She stared at him.

“Where?”

“I don’t know. Maybe Pa Nali or Rocanda. I’ll call when I get in,” she added over her shoulder because she knew that was what he was looking for.

“You better!”

She slid her arms through the straps of her bag and walked up to Tyler, checking him out as she came closer. She noted the boots he wore and the pack on his back. She couldn’t help but smile in approval. So he wasn’t a complete amateur.

“You might at least be somewhat prepared for this.”

He waved at Keon before turning to follow her to the truck with a smile that flashed straight white teeth. “I hear you’re pretty tough so I thought I’d bring my A game.”

She eyed him over her shoulder. “We’ll see if it’s good enough.”

He reached around her to open the door to the truck. She hesitated and looked at him in surprise. When he only continued to smile, she leaned in to drop her bag in the back and climbed in.

“Want me to follow you?” he asked through the open window.

“Might as well hop in.”

He didn’t hesitate, rounding the front of the truck to climb in. They didn’t say much as she cranked up the truck and headed up the beach. She could feel him looking her way. Without looking she knew it was the intense look he’d given her at the party. Strangely it wasn’t unnerving, but thrilling.

“You don’t just guide because it’s the family business,” he started casually.

She grinned over at him. “Is it that obvious? I love it. Always have. Getting paid to do it is just a bonus. Having your dad for a boss isn’t half bad either.”

He laughed. “I’ve seen you with him so I believe that. Someone mentioned he’s actually your uncle?”

She nodded. “He’s my mother’s brother. She died when I was younger and he took me in. I’m surprised anyone mentioned it. I was pretty young when she died and even before that I was always Raoul’s girl. ‘Raoul, that girl of yours broke my window.’ ‘Raoul, would you get your little girl?’ ‘Raoul’s girl is at it again.’ We spent a lot of time in parent teacher meetings and the principal’s office. On the plus side, I got very good at saying ‘I’m sorry’.” She took her eyes off the road long enough to look at him. “But you already know I was the resident troublemaker. What about you?”

He shrugged. “I lost both of parents at an early age and ended up staying with a family friend.

That made her smile. “So you have your own Raoul.”

His answering smile was faint. “Yeah, you could say that.”

She pulled off of the road and drove a short way down the spotted dirt road mostly covered with grass. She came to a stop a few feet away from the tree line and threw the truck in park. Reaching into the backseat, she grabbed her bag and hopped out.

“This isn’t the toughest trail, but it’s one of the harder ones. I have no clue about your level of expertise.”

He rounded the hood of the truck and joined her on the path up to the trees. “I’ve been on a few difficult trails, but this is a good start. I’ll trust your guiding.”

“Just let me know when you want to turn back.”

“Having the Snake Whisperer on the trail with me makes me feel safer. I’ll be able to handle it.”

She snorted and brushed low hanging branches out of her way. “I don’t know why since that means I can tell them exactly where to strike.”

He laughed. “You’ve got a mean streak. I like it.”

She glanced over her shoulder at him with a curious smile. “Yeah, you seem like the kind of guy that would.”

“Do I now? What kind of guy is that?”

“I don’t know. You come to me asking to hike the trails most people are afraid to try. And that’s after you’ve heard about me setting snakes loose for fun. I have to think you like a little…sass.”

He caught her hand from behind, lifting it to help her balance as she continued forward along the narrowing trail.

“I guess that’s a fair conclusion. Maybe I was just looking for a reason to spend some time with the pretty guide who makes me want to grab hold of life again.”

She stopped as the trail widened and whirled around so quickly he nearly ran into her. He caught himself, stopping right up against her with their hands still locked above their heads.

“I do all that? In one meeting?”

“I knew about you before you even set foot back on the island, but once I met you? Yeah. You’re kind of hard to live up to. Makes a man want to live a little more.”

She bit her lip against the second smile forming. Smiling seemed hard not to do aroudn him.

“Yeah? Maybe I can help you with that.”

“I think you can.”

They stared into each other’s eyes until Mari pulled her fingers free and turned to continue the hike. He kept up with ease, proving he did have some experience with trickier trails. Before she knew it, they’d been on the trail for nearly an hour and were nearing her favorite part of Rocanda.

Minutes later the trail opened into a wider clearing just before the steep drop off the cliff. She inhaled deeply, approaching the edge.

“This is worth the hike,” Tyler said mirroring her thoughts.

“I love it up here. It’s just too advanced of a trail for most tours.” She smiled, fingering the soft petals of one of the vivid yellow and green flowers decorating a bush. “See these? I’ve never seen them anywhere else on the island. Just here. They remind me of the pinwheels I used to beg my mom to buy so I could stick them all over the yard and watch them spin in the wind.”

“You sat still long enough to watch them?” he asked nudging her.

She laughed. “If I could get her to buy enough, I’d crawl through them to look at each one. But sometimes, yeah, I would lie in the grass and just watch them and she’d stretch out there with me. That’s probably why she’d give in and get them.”

He plucked one of the flowers free from the bush and fit it into her hair. “It fits you.

Her lips twitched in an irrepressible smile and she reached up to brush a hand over the flower. “Thanks. Do you mind if we stay a little while? I don’t make it up here very often.”

He shrugged off his pack and set it down. “I’m yours for the rest of the day.”

He was true to his word, spending the next two hours doing anything she wanted. They climbed a tree so she could show him one of the best views of the island. His awestruck appreciation showed her another side of him. They hiked through some of the jungle off the barely established path and the longer they walked and talked the more Mari found to like.

“So tell me something about Tyler. The whole island already knows my story, but I haven’t heard much about you.”

“There’s not a lot to tell. I told you a family friend raised me. He was a decent guy. He was better than anyone else I might’ve ended up with. He taught me a lot.”

This was a man who listened while someone spoke. She could tell he wasn’t a big fan of talking about himself, but he was willing to answer her questions.

“Are you two close?”

“We don’t spend as much time together as we used to, but we’re still close. He’s all the family I’ve got so we try to get together as much as we can.”

She smiled at that. Family was important to her. It was nice to hear Tyler felt the same way about his own.

They finally circled back to the clearing and lazed about just enjoying the scenery. She rolled onto her stomach and took a long drink from her water bottle, studying him all the while.

“So why’d you come to Sakina?”

“I needed a change of scenery. Job burnout. A friend vacationed here once and recommended it.”

“What do you do?”

“I used to work security for a private organization. Now I’m a beach bum.” He looked around them. “Soon to be a hiking bum it looks like.”

She laughed and told herself his words were not a subtle reference about spending time with her going forward. It also occurred to her private security had paid well if he could afford to come to Sakina and do nothing. “Hiking and being a bum don’t seem to go together.”

His crooked grin was endearing. “That’s true. We’ll have to come up with another term.”

She could talk to him for the rest of the night, but if they didn’t leave soon they ran the risk of trying to hike back down in the dark. When she mentioned as much she noticed she wasn’t the only one who got to her feet reluctantly. He helped her into her backpack and gestured for her to lead the way back down.

By the time they returned to the shop so he could get his car, the sun had already set and the lot was empty. Tyler leaned back in his seat and angled his head to stare at her. Her brow furrowed in question, but a smile peeked out too.

“What?”

“Just looking at you. I had a good time today.”

She ducked her head while she tried to fight the blush she knew was stealing over her cheeks. “I did too.”

“Does that mean I’m good enough to go hiking with you again?”

His grin was adorable and impossible not to respond to. “I guess you make the cut.”

“Making the cut with you is the highest compliment from anyone else.” He reached out to adjust the flower in her hair, his fingers lightly brushing over her cheek for the briefest of moments. “Goodnight, Mari. Let me know when you make it home.”

“I will.”

She watched him get out of the truck and into his own car. She smiled when he flashed his lights at her. She waved and headed for home, her thoughts on the man who made her feel as comfortable as an old friend and yet as excited as a middle school girl with her first crush.

 << Chapter 6 || Chapter 8 >>

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