Posts tagged “Safety

Chasing Truth: Chapter 42

Posted on 25/04/2020

Mari stared at the blue digits of her clock. 1:42. She would have sworn when she crawled into bed she would sleep like the dead. Every time she closed her eyes for too long the memories came rushing back though. She couldn’t forget the hard unyielding arm around her waist as she was dragged farther and farther from Reese or the fear of not knowing what horrible things the man intended to do to her.

She rolled onto her back, rubbing at her eyes. Sand could have been in them as gritty as they felt.

“Mari.”

She jolted upright to find Reese in the doorway of her bedroom.

“There’s no trouble,” he said immediately.

Her shoulders slumped as she dragged a hand down her face.

“C’mon.”

She wasn’t getting to sleep any time soon. Even if there was a chance, her tiredness was no match for the curiosity for what he had planned. She tossed the covers back and got out of bed. The TV cast a soft glow over the living room. The light spilling over from the kitchen gave away Reese’s location. The sound of kernels popping made her smile.

Moments later the kitchen light cut off and Reese reappeared with a bowl of popcorn and drinks in hand.

“We just watched a movie,” she heard herself say even though she didn’t mind.

“You haven’t been still for more than 10 minutes since you went to bed so we’re watching another one.”

She didn’t have a rebuttal for that. She sat down onto the couch. He set their drinks on the coffee table and joined her.

“Blake’s just as bad as you,” he grumbled. “If I get another message from him, I’m just going to send you to him and be done with it.”

She grinned. She should probably feel guilty, but she liked knowing Blake cared enough to be worried. Reese’s mock annoyance amused her.

“You guys get along really well. I never did hear how you met.”

He arched a brow. “I’m a nice guy so how did I get caught up in all of this?”

She shrugged and tried to stifle her laughter as she scooped popcorn from the bowl. “Basically.”

“Someone I used to work for knew Blake. He pointed me in his direction when I needed more work.”

Mari leaned forward as she reached for her bottle.

“My mom had me young.”

It was a fight not to jerk around to face him. It was the most personal thing she ever heard him say. She made herself casually sit back and pop the top off the bottle.

“Her parents weren’t the supportive kind so she made her own way. My father was around for a while. He got himself killed when I was eight and it was just the two of us after that.”

She blinked at the hardness in his voice. “That sucks.”

“It did since we lost what bit of income he was bringing in. He wasn’t a bad father, but he wasn’t a good one either. His death wasn’t much of a loss outside of what we lost in money. I started doing little things here and there to make a couple of dollars, kept doing it as I got older. By the time I met Blake, I’d picked up a lot of different skills. He had a job I could do and he paid well so I took it.”

He snagged his bottle and took a long draw from it. “He taught me a lot and he did it without making it hard. There came a time when I had to choose if I wanted something different or if I wanted to stay. In the end, I chose to stay. Blake always made that worth it.”

She heard what he didn’t say. Blake became a father to him. She and Blake were bridging the gap now, but they would never get those years back. She should have resented Reese, but she couldn’t dredge up the bitterness. They…fit.

“I’m glad you had him.”

His gaze shot to her at the soft-spoken honesty. She tossed a handful of popcorn into her mouth with a smile. The soft sounds of the TV drew her attention and she snuggled into the couch.

“He changed my life,” Reese admitted a few moments later.

She tipped her head up and found his eyes on the screen.

“I’d have made it. I knew a lot of about survival by then and I had my mama to think about. I’d have been a different man though. I wouldn’t have liked becoming that man.”

If she thought about it, she would have hesitated. Since she didn’t, her hand covered his and squeezed.

“Then I’m really glad you had him and you got to become a man you like. My friends and I like that man too.”

A smile tugged at his lips. “You guys like everybody.”

She scoffed. “Definitely not true. We’re nice to everybody, but that doesn’t mean we like everybody. And you know Jules.”

He chuckled. “True.”

“So just accept the compliment,” she said rolling her eyes before giving her attention back to the TV.

“For what it’s worth, it’s been a long time since I’ve felt as comfortable as I’ve felt here.”

She beamed and squeezed his hand again. No more words were needed and they let the storyline of the movie they’d barely noticed draw them in.

Mari stirred and opened her eyes. She didn’t remember closing them. Through half-opened lids, she could make out Reese’s blurry features. They were moving. She only half registered his arms around her, holding her to his chest.

“Go back to sleep,” he encouraged quietly.

She was going to protest for the sake of protesting, but her eyes were so heavy. She dropped her head back down and sank into sleep once more.

<< Chapter 41                                                            Chapter 43 >>

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 >>

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