Posts tagged “relationship

Chasing Truth: Chapter 35

Posted on 22/02/2020

Image result for moonlit starry night beach

      Mari opened her eyes when she felt the truck come to a stop. The sun would be rising before too long. She was beyond grateful she didn’t have to worry about going to work.

“Are you awake over there?” Tyler asked as he unbuckled his seatbelt and reached for hers.

“Barely,” she murmured with a smile of contentment.

“Hang tight. I’ll come around and get you.”

“You don’t have to,” she protested, but he was already getting out of the truck.

She blinked up at him sleepily when he opened her door and stuck his head in.

“Wake up, party girl. We have our own private party to get to.”

He took her mouth in a slow kiss that assaulted her senses. When he pulled back a moment later, she blinked far more slowly. He leaned back and looked beyond the truck.

“Hey, man. It’s late. Mari’s not working tomorrow. Why don’t you head over to Raoul and Allie’s for the night?”

Mari’s eyes widened and she swung her legs out of the truck.

“Tyler!”

“What?” he asked with a glance. “We could use some privacy.”

She shoved him back to give herself some space to get out of the truck. “That is so inappropriate!”

Tyler sighed and kept her boxed in against the truck. “Sweetheart, I haven’t had time alone with you since your dad left. We could use it.”

“Well, maybe we should’ve had that conversation before you tried to kick my guest out on your own.”

Tyler’s eyes narrowed and he turned his head as Reese approached.

“You know, you haven’t said why you’re even still here,” he said to Reese. “You’re not close to Raoul and Allie. You’re definitely not close to Mari. Why are you still here when her dad is gone?”

“Can we not do this right now?” Mari protested.

Besides, Tyler knew why Reese was still there. Then again, he wasn’t supposed to. The whole mess made her head hurt and she wasn’t in the mood to sort through it all after a long night of drinking and dancing.

“No, I think that’s a question that deserves an answer.”

“You’re not in a position to demand answers,” Reese said simply. “Come on, Mari. Let’s get you inside.”

Tyler caught Mari’s arm before she could leave his side. “Answer my question.”

Reese focused on Tyler’s hand around Mari’s arm and she could almost feel him losing his hold on his easy demeanor.

“Answer the question, Reese. Why are you here? It doesn’t make any sense.”

“Let her go.”

Tyler didn’t let go and Mari knew if she didn’t intervene it was going to become a much larger issue. She gently pulled her arm free.

“Seriously. I’m not doing this tonight. You can question Reese another time.”

“You should want to know those answers too, Mari. Something about this doesn’t feel right.”

“The only thing I want to know tonight is how soon I can fall asleep when my head hits the pillow.”

Reese stepped between her and Tyler the moment she passed him. She held onto the railing as she climbed the few steps to the front door.

“Mari,” Reese called warningly when she would have opened the door.

She sighed. He didn’t explain. Just the way he said her name was enough to get his point across. Reese always wanted to look through the house before she went inside. She still wasn’t used to it and he scolded her every time she forgot. She folded her arms across her chest and leaned against the side of the house.

“Why isn’t she allowed to go in the house?” Tyler challenged.

“You need to head home,” Reese told Tyler simply.

“You need to tell me why you’re still here and why my girl isn’t allowed in her own house without you.”

Reese stared at him.

“Tyler, just go please,” Mari asked. “You’re ruining a really good night.”

He held Reese’s gaze a moment longer then looked past him to Mari. “Go on inside, sweetheart. Reese and I are just going to talk a little longer.”

Reese turned on his heel and jogged up the steps to open the door for Mari. “Right inside,” he told her softly even though she could see the anger building in his eyes.

She accepted the dictate wordlessly, standing just inside the house as Reese stood in the doorway and turned back to Tyler who’d followed.

“I’ve asked you to leave. Mari has also asked you to leave. You want to do that. Now. The next request will come from the sheriff.”

“What are you hiding, Reese?”

“Mari, call the sheriff.”

Mari groaned and grabbed Reese’s shoulder to look over his arm where he had the entrance blocked. “Tyler, for goodness sake, just GO.”

Tyler rubbed a hand over his head. “I’m asking questions you know make sense, Mari. The fact that he’s not willing to answer should tell you something, but I’ll leave it alone for tonight.”

“Thank you.”

Reese remained in the doorway, watching until Tyler got back in his truck and pulled out of the yard. Only then did he step inside and close the door. Mari stayed in her spot at the door while he did his customary walkthrough of the house.

When he returned from the bedroom, he checked out the window once more.

“He’s gone,” she confirmed quietly.

He turned back to her with hard eyes.

“Does he make a habit of grabbing you like that? Using his body to prevent you from doing things?”

Mari waved his questions away as she toed off her shoes. “He’s not abusive. He just gets jealous.”

“What happens when he gets jealous, Marielle?”

The way he said her given name teased at something in her.

“Reese, get off it. There’s no issue here. He just doesn’t like you.”

“Why is that?”

“You’re a man I haven’t known since I was four and you’re staying at my place. That’s all it takes for him. Add in he’s asking questions anyone would ask based on what he knows and you’re not answering. Of course he doesn’t like you.”

She stretched her arms above her head as she walked toward her bedroom. “You are going to have to come up with something, by the way. Because he’s not going to let it go. But that’s your problem, not mine. I’m not getting in the middle of it again,” she warned over her shoulder.

“I didn’t ask you to this time,” he reminded her quietly.

She stopped at the door. “He wouldn’t have left without me saying something. What would you have done then?”

“I would have called the sheriff like I said. You asked him to leave and he stayed for a confrontation. I don’t like that aggression.”

“You’re here to protect me from anyone who might use me against Blake, not my boyfriend.”

“I’m here to protect you from threats.”

“Tyler isn’t a threat.”

He said nothing. She threw her hands up in annoyance. “You can’t just not say anything.”

“Go to sleep.”

“Do not start trouble with Tyler,” she said firmly.

“You should be giving Tyler a warning. Not me.”

Her brow wrinkled. He wasn’t entirely wrong.

“Men,” she muttered in annoyance and headed for bed. She would sort them both out later.

<< Chapter 34                                                        Chapter 36 >>

Chasing Truth: Chapter 32

Posted on 31/01/2020

“Are your friends usually on time?”

She glanced over her shoulder at Reese who stood in the doorway to the living room. Julia and Leilani were coming over to hear all about how her visit had gone with her father. The moment she’d texted them her father was gone, they’d arranged for the girls’ night. It was as much about seeing how she was doing as it was curiosity about the man they’d never met.

“They will be tonight. It’s been a few days.”

“Be careful about what you share tonight.”

She turned back to her laptop where she was reviewing the schedule for the next week of tours. “I don’t know enough to share anything threatening, so that should make it easy.”

“Mari.”

He didn’t say anything else, so she reluctantly turned her head again.

“That’s for your safety as much as it is his.”

She sighed. “I hear you.”

“Good. I’ll be with your uncle. Lock the door when I leave and after they get here.”

She nodded because they’d already covered how the night was supposed to go. Setting aside the laptop, she followed him to the door and locked it behind him. She hadn’t figured out exactly how much she was going to share with her best friends, but Reese agreeing to give them some time alone gave her some freedom.

Ten minutes before they were supposed to show, she heard banging on the door. Laughing, she closed the laptop and set it on the table before answering the door. Leilani drove her back through the doorway with the force of her hug.

“Stranger!”

Mari laughed harder as Julia followed them inside with bags from Joe’s in hand.

“It’s only been a few days.”

“A few days too long!” Leilani countered immediately.

“I missed you guys too. Man, that smells delicious.”

“You’re absolutely right,” Leilani agreed with a huge grin as they moved toward the table. “Let’s hurry up and load up on food goodness. Then we’ll be ready to hit you with all of the questions.”

It took longer than the girls wanted to get the food unpacked and pile their plates because it was Joe’s. Everyone’s eyes were too big for their stomachs when it came to Joe’s. They finally moved to the living room to get settled, though. Leilani folded her legs up on the couch, balancing her plate on her leg as she leaned forward.

“Okay. Now tell us everything.”

“I don’t even know where to start,” Mari admitted.

“Umm, I don’t know. Maybe the beginning?”

Julia grinned around the bite of her food. “I have to agree with her on this one.”

Mari took her time dipping her calamari in sauce. “So. He came. Obviously.”

“Janey said she saw you on the beach with a man she’d never seen before,” Julia noted. “I assumed then that was him.”

“It was. He showed up and honestly, I had no clue what to say when he did. He knows how I feel about the beach, the water. He suggested we head out there and, somehow, that made it easier. We talked.” Mari cupped the sides of her neck and let her head drop back. “What I share with you can’t leave us. You can’t talk to your parents about it, Keon, nobody. You can’t go trying to do any research on your own.” She looked pointedly at Julia. “I’m calling for sister silence on this one.”

Julia laid her fork on her plate and Leilani lost her playful expression. They looked at each other. Only twice before had they invoked the “sister silence” they’d created when they were children. Never had it been Mari to ask for it.

“He’s been gone your whole life,” Julia said slowly. “We talked and we figured that probably meant there was a pretty serious story, so I can’t say we’re surprised.”

“I talk. A lot,” Leilani told them what they both already knew and they laughed. “Sister silence.”

They each pressed two fingers to their lips, drew x’s over their hearts, laid a hand there, and then all linked pinkies before lifting their hands together to touch.

“He wouldn’t tell me the full story, but he’s connected to something that’s dangerous. That’s why he sent my mom away when I was a kid. He wanted us safe. When Mom died, the danger hadn’t gone away and he knew how close I was to Raoul, so he let Raoul raise me. He kept his distance all these years for the same reason.”

“You have no clue what he might be involved in?” Julia asked curiously. “I know you. You would’ve pressed for more.”

She hesitated. She wanted to tell them the truth about Tyler and his suspicions. This was the perfect opportunity and they could give her another perspective. They would second-guess her though, especially her continued involvement with Tyler. She was also afraid of what would happen if Tyler or whoever he worked for found out they knew. The fear made her settle for a modified version of the truth.

“I don’t know what to think. He didn’t give me a lot to go off of, other than when it first started they seemed to think it was going to be temporary. It turned into something permanent.”

“Do you think maybe he was involved in something bad, for like quick cash or something? And then he maybe got trapped?” Leilani asked breathlessly.

Mari shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know. That could fit for sure. He seems like a good guy, but isn’t that what everyone says about bad people when they find out they’re bad? ‘He was such a nice guy. He volunteered on the weekends, mowed the neighbor’s grass’? Besides, I had only had two days with him. They were good, but that’s nowhere near long enough to judge a person’s character.”

Julia’s brow wrinkled. “What are the other possibilities? He’s said whatever this is isn’t going to end, right?”

“Basically. Nothing I’ve managed to come up with has been the kind of story you want to put together about your father. That he was fun, sweet, and really seems to care for me didn’t make those thoughts any easier.”

“But the time with him was good?” Leilani asked hopefully.

“It was. I wasn’t sure what to expect. There were definitely some awkward moments, but most of the time was good. He was really interested in getting to know me. He and Raoul got along with no issues. We got to do a few things together.”

Mari’s food grew cold as she shared story after story about the times she had with Blake. Julia and Leilani clutched their stomachs in laughter and more than once Leilani tried to wipe discreetly at her eye. By the time Mari shared the stories Blake told her of her mom, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. All three of them had loved Miranda. Sharing the stories with her best friends about her was like sharing them with sisters.

      “Outside of the worry about what he’s involved in, I…I liked him. So even though it’s not likely, I’m really hoping he’s not some horrible criminal and the story is just more complicated than I can put together on my own.”

“That’s good at least. I mean obviously, it’s complicated and it would suck if he turns out to not be a great guy, but at least he’s a good dad.”

Leilani made sense in a complicated way, so Mari nodded.

“So, what happens now?” Julia asked.

“We’re going to stay in touch. Talk on the phone, plan another visit sometime in the future. I guess we’re kinda taking it day by day and slowly getting to know each other.”

“That’s a good plan.”

“Yeah, well I’m going to need help keeping a hold on one day at a time because sometimes I really want to get ahead of myself and freak myself out thinking too hard.”

“That’s what we’re here for.”

Mari stretched her legs out in front of her before she grabbed her plate and pushed out of the chair. “I let my food get cold running my mouth,” she complained.

Julia and Leilani looked down at their plates. Julia blinked in disbelief.

“You always tell a good story, no matter what it’s about. Nobody can distract me from conch fritters. Nobody.”

Mari fist pumped in triumph, making Julia shove her playfully as they returned to the kitchen to warm their food. It felt so good to kick back with her friends and get everything off of her chest over amazing food. She hadn’t realized how much she needed it until that moment.

“Hey, how did Blake like Tyler?” Leilani asked.

Mari chuckled softly. “He had the typical dad response. He put up with him because he had to, but didn’t make much or any effort to get to know him. Granted, I think getting to know me took priority. Still, I think it’s safe to say he wasn’t a big fan but I don’t think he’d be a fan of anyone.”

“Man, Tyler is really striking out,” Leilani said ruefully. “Keon is still not a fan. I kind of thought maybe he would warm to him after a while.”

“At least he’s not as openly rude anymore. He manages not to insult him when Tyler picks me up from the shop.”

 “What wonderful progress. Do you like him anymore than you used to?” Leilani asked Julia.

“I don’t dislike him.”

Leilani snorted. Julia ignored her.

“Well, I like seeing you happy,” Leilani told Mari with a smile. “I think we can all admit he helps with that.  He watches you, you know? When you guys are together and you’re talking to other people or doing something. He watches you with this little smile on his face that says he likes seeing you be you. I like it.”

A knock on the door drew their attention. Before Mari could even start for the door Leilani was striding from the kitchen.

“We finally get our first girls’ night in forever and somebody has the nerve to knock on the door? It’s probably Tyler. Don’t let my food burn!”

 “You can’t just-” She stopped midsentence after yanking the door open. “Umm…hi. Can I help you?”

“It’s not safe to open the door without knowing who’s on the other side. You should be careful. My name is Reese. I’m a friend of Mari’s.”

Mari groaned at the sound of that voice, drawing Julia’s attention.

“A friend of Mari’s?” Leilani echoed in a voice meant to carry. “Why don’t you come inside?”

Seconds later, Leilani appeared with Reese behind her. Her eyes were wide in a silent demand for answers and Julia’s grew just as big when she spotted him. They stared accusingly at Mari. She nibbled at her bottom lip.

“Oh. Yeah. I forgot to mention. Umm, a family friend is in town for a little while. Reese, this is Leilani and Julia. Call her Jules or she’ll abuse me. Lani, Jules, this is Reese.”

They stared at her a moment longer to make sure she knew she would pay for leaving Reese out of her storytelling. They turned back to face him.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Reese,” Leilani said genuinely. “Welcome to Sakina.”

“Thank you,” Reese said with a gracious smile before he focused on Mari. “I take it this isn’t quite winding down yet. Raoul warned me you three could talk all night and never run out of things to say.”

“He wasn’t wrong.”

“You’re welcome to stay,” Leilani offered and jerked to the side when Julia elbowed her.

Reese pretended not to see it although Mari was certain he hadn’t missed it.

“I wouldn’t want to intrude on girl time. I’m sure I’ll have the chance to talk with you before I leave the island.”

Mari checked the time, surprised and yet not that so much of it had passed. It was always like that when they got together.

“Another hour or so?”

“That works. Have a good night, ladies.”

“You too.”

He smiled and let himself back out.

Leilani held her silence for all of three seconds after the door closed. “Who is Mr. Delicious?” she asked in a stage whisper.

“He’s a friend of Blake’s.”

“A same age friend? Because he looks closer to our age. And in case you somehow missed it, he is one fine man. Really fine. Super fine.”

“I’m dating someone, remember?”

She deflated. “Oh. Yeah.” She perked back up immediately. “Wait. You asked for more time. Is he staying here? Mari, Tyler is going to lose his mind!”

“He already did. He got over it.”

“He might have let you think he got over it. It needs repeating. The man is fine. No way is Tyler okay with him staying here.”

“Tell us about him.”

Julia’s prompting shifted the focus away from Tyler.

“He and Blake are really close. He pays attention. To everything and I mean everything. You could probably tell looking at him, but he’s in great shape. He’s got a good sense of humor.”

Mari shrugged and met Julia’s focused stare. She didn’t disappoint, cutting straight to the heart of the matter.

“Your dad is worried. That’s why he’s here.”

“He’s…being cautious. I don’t think he’s truly worried.”

Leilani’s mouth twisted up as she let go of Reese’s looks and the implications of his presence hit her.

“I’ll be telling everyone the same thing I told you guys. He’s a friend of the family visiting for a while. It’s not a lie. There’s just a reason for the visit.”

Leilani sank back into the couch and rubbed at her temple. “Your life has literally turned into a movie. This is crazy.”

“You’ll be careful,” Julia said pointedly. “We all will.”

Mari nodded. It was important for her to tell her friends as much of the truth as she felt was safe, but she didn’t want them to worry either.

“Reese will be around, sticking close. Just try not to embarrass me, please.”

“Hey, I’m never an embarrassment,” Leilani protested.

Julia burst into laughter and dodged Leilani’s swat. The night quickly devolved into amusing stories and endless teases. It was perfect.

<< Chapter 31     Chapter 33 >>

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