Chasing Truth: Chapter 49

Posted on 26/06/2020

Calories in a Glass of Wine

Mari was practically coming out of her seat by the time she and Reese arrived at Julia’s place. She dreaded dancing around the truth with her best friends, but she was excited to be able to bring them in at least a little. She needed their insight.

Her leg bounced restlessly while she waited for Reese to open her door. She hopped down the second he did and just barely restrained herself to keep pace with him. They were walking up the pathway when the door swung open to reveal Leilani. She didn’t come out.

“I knew it was you. I checked out the window and again out the peephole,” she rushed to say since she knew she wasn’t supposed to open the door until Reese was actually at said door.

Reese shook his head. Mari just grinned. Leilani latched onto her arm the moment she was within reach. 

“You can have the living room, Reese. We’re not going to watch TV and this way you’re between us and the door,” Leilani continued as Reese closed the door. “We’ll be in the kitchen.”

“Is anything that comes out of the kitchen going to be edible?” he called after them teasingly.

Leilani turned to stick her tongue out at him but didn’t stop herding Mari to the kitchen. Julia stood at the stove, frying fish when they entered. Leilani let go of Mari to retrieve a wine glass, which she filled generously.

“Okay, spill,” Leilani prompted and handed Mari the glass.

Mari laughed, settling onto the nearest stool and taking a sip. “Well, at least I got wine first.” Leilani’s mock glare made her laugh. “It’s nothing that extreme. Really. Things with Tyler have been…off lately. I don’t really know how to explain it. Things don’t feel the same anymore.”

“Feel the same like how?” Leilani pressed. “Like you  don’t feel the same way about him as you used to or the relationship feels different?”

“I…both? The relationship feels different, distant almost. I think that’s affecting how I feel.”

Julia cut straight to the heart of the matter. “You’re having second thoughts.”

Mari dropped her head to stare into her wine. “Yeah. Maybe it’s just me and I’m imagining things being different, but…” She hated lying to her friends, but this was the closest to the truth she could get. She lifted her gaze. “I was kinda hoping you two could pay attention when he comes back. You know, tell me if I’m just being crazy.”

“I’ve never known you to just be crazy,” Julia said as she laid fish onto a plate.

Leilani glanced toward the doorway before leaning forward. “How much of this maybe has to do with you spending all of this time with Reese?” she whispered.

“I don’t know,” Mari groaned. “That’s part of the whole problem. At first, everything seemed simple. Things with Tyler were great. They changed some even before I met Reese, but when he showed up, things got even more complicated. I wasn’t expecting to interact with him at all. And then when he stayed, I wasn’t expecting to actually enjoy talking to him or anything. I was just planning to put up with him so Blake wouldn’t hassle me.”

“But now it’s more?” It was a statement from Julia, not a question.

Mari opened her mouth to deny it, but there was no point. Julia and Leilani knew her too well. 

“You two have gotten close over the last couple of weeks,” Julia continued. “Nothing that crosses the line, but he fits. You two fit in a way Tyler never did.”

“My life is out of control,” Mari whispered as she buried her face in her hands.

“So take back some control,” Leilani suggested. “End it with Tyler.”

“I can’t just end a relationship with a guy I’ve been seeing for months just because I think another guy is attractive. Reese doesn’t even live here. This wouldn’t even be a discussion if he and I weren’t attached at the hip these last few weeks. He’ll go home and this…this will wear off.”

“You don’t believe that, do you?” Leilani chided softly. “Maybe the closeness got you here faster, but it’s not just going to go away. It’s not like you’ll never see him again. If nothing else, he’d be back whenever your dad visits and there whenever you visit him.”

Mari waved off her words. “He doesn’t even like me that way. He’s here doing a job. That’s it.”

Julia snorted while Leilani rolled her eyes. 

“Oh, please. He totally likes you.”

Julia checked the doorway before approaching the island. “There are things he does because he’s here to keep you safe, but there are things he does that don’t fall into that. He almost always brings you your food, even when we’re just in the house. When he calls you Ellie, it’s not because he’s trying to come off as a close friend. He caters to you in ways that have nothing to do with protecting you.”

“We were talking about Tyler,” Mari protested weakly.

“And now we’re talking about Reese,” Leilani returned without hesitation. “Allie really likes him. She told mom Raoul does too and that you guys had a great time camping.”

“They like him because he’s keeping me safe and they know that,” she pointed out.

“Mari, stop being deliberately blind. He would have been perfectly capable of coming here and pretending to be a friend without ever getting as close to you and people that matter to you as he has. We’ll pay attention when Tyler comes back. You know all you had to do was ask. You’re not going to be able to sort out things with Tyler if you can’t be honest with yourself about what’s happening between you and Reese though. Start there.”

Wisdom imparted, Julia turned back to the stove to finish preparing dinner. Even Leilani found nothing else to add.

Be honest about what was happening between her and Reese? Now that the girls laid it out, it was harder to ignore. It had already been hard enough to dismiss before today. 

Mari drained the rest of her glass. It was going to be a long night.

<< Chapter 48

Chasing Truth: Chapter 43

Posted on 01/05/2020

Buttermilk Pancakes Recipe & Video - *Video Recipe*

Banging on the door startled Mari out of her sleep. She blinked rapidly as she threw her covers back and hopped out of bed. Reese strode toward the door from the kitchen, beating her there. He moved the curtain to the side with a finger and then opened the door.

“Where’s Mari?” Tyler demanded as he pushed his way inside.

It was just Tyler. Mari dropped her head back and rubbed her hand over her eyes while she tried to slow her heart rate. He cupped her arms and tugged her into him.

“Leo said he heard something about somebody trying to rob you. Are you okay? Why didn’t you call?”

“It happens sometimes. It wasn’t a big deal. Reese was with me.” The words came out without thought.

Surprisingly, he didn’t turn to look at Reese. Instead, he kept his concerned gaze on her. “Yeah, but it probably shook you up a little. I’m sorry I wasn’t there.” He stroked his thumb over her cheek. “You look like I woke you.”

“It’s okay,” she mumbled. “Just let me get some-”

Reese returned from the kitchen and offered her a mug. Pleasure pulled a sleepy grin from her as she accepted it.

“You’re a king among men,” she breathed before she drank some of the coffee.

“Breakfast will be ready soon.”

“An angel even,” Mari said continuing her praise.

Reese shook his head, but she saw his smile before he retreated to the kitchen again. Tyler caught her elbow and guided her to the couch. She sank down onto the cushion gratefully and inhaled more of her coffee.

“I’m glad you’re okay, sweetheart.” He settled in with one arm draped behind her.

“Really, it wasn’t a big deal and it was late-ish. It wasn’t worth bothering you over.”

“You’re never a bother.” He leaned in closer. “I know Reese is leaving tomorrow. We should take a trip up to Rocanda to get away for a little while, spend the night.”

Mari ducked her head, tucking a curl behind her ear. “Actually…”

Tyler caught her chin and gently turned her toward him. “What’s the matter?”

“I’m staying a little while longer,” Reese answered for her as he rounded the couch to hold out a plate.

Tyler’s jaw tightened as he glanced over at Reese. “That so? Seems like a long time to be away from home.”

Mari bit her lip as she reached over Tyler to take the plate.

“It’s been a nice change of scenery,” Reese answered simply.

“Well, I’m sure you can understand Mari not entertaining you every minute you’re here enjoying the scenery.”

“She knows all the best sights.”

Reese didn’t wait for a response before he walked back to the kitchen. Mari focused on her pancakes until the silence between her and Tyler stretched into discomfort. She peeked at him and found him watching her thoughtfully.

“I wanted the trip to Rocanda to have some one-on-one time before I leave.”

“Leave?” she echoed as her head came up. Had he found something on Blake?

“I need to head home for about a week. Everything’s fine, but the man who raised me needs me to help him take care of a few things.”

Mari smiled as her tension eased. That definitely wasn’t Blake-related. “I get that. You’ve got to be there for family.”

His fingers traced over her shoulder. “I would’ve liked for you to come with me and meet him, but it looks like you’ll have company for a while longer.”

“Yeah.” She didn’t expect it, but relief ran through her at the ready excuse. “Maybe I can go with you next time.”

“Plan on it. And see what you can do about ditching your friend for a night. I want that time with you before I go.”

She nodded wordlessly.

“Mari.” He waited until he had her eyes again. “Do I need to be worried about Reese?”

Her brow furrowed. “What do you mean?”

“I mean him staying here, the two of you spending a lot of time together, him wanting to stay longer.”

Her eyes narrowed in understanding. “I wouldn’t cheat.”

“That’s not what I said. You’re beautiful, Mari. You’re funny and anybody is guaranteed to have a good time with you. It’s easy for a man to get caught up in that. It’s easy to start developing feelings for someone you spend a lot of time with. You wouldn’t cheat, but that doesn’t mean I don’t worry you might be showing me the door when I get back.”

Her frown softened. “It’s not like that with Reese.”

“I’ll take your word for it. Just…don’t let him get comfortable, okay?”

“Stop worrying.” She patted his cheek and turned back to her food. “When do you leave?”

“The day after tomorrow. I figured the sooner I go, the sooner I can get back. Sakina is home now. I’ll miss being away. I’m really going to miss being away from you.”

She smiled as she finished off her plate. “You’ll be back before you know it, but I’ll miss you too.”

He leaned forward to kiss her. “I’ve got to get moving. I’m helping Leo today. I just came by to check on you after what he told me.” He kissed her once more. “Let me know about tomorrow.”

“I will,” she promised.

He smiled and stole another peck. “I’ll call you when I get home.”

“Sounds good.”

She watched as he pushed up from the couch and walked to the door. He hesitated with his hand on the knob, then turned back toward her.

            “Maybe the timing’s not right, but what I feel for you…it’s different. I like it and I think this is going to take us somewhere special.”

A soft smile curved her lips. “I like special.

Flashing her a charming grin, he let himself out of the house.

<< Chapter 42                                    Chapter 44>>

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