Posts tagged “secrets

Chasing Truth: Chapter 51

Posted on 24/07/2020

Café 29 - Cheekwood Estate & Gardens | Nashville, Tennessee

Janey’s cafe was packed. The party was in full swing. Sakina’s inhabitants always found something to celebrate. Leo quickly turned Tyler’s return into one of those reasons.

“I don’t know, man. I got worried you might not come back.” Leo grinned at Mari over his cup. “Then again, I should’ve known better. You’ve got some strong motivation.”

Mari rolled her eyes but leaned into Tyler’s hold. 

“You’ve got that right,” Tyler said with a smile that rivaled Leo’s. “I missed my girl. I’m always going to come back for her.” His last words were delivered as he looked into her eyes and squeezed her shoulder.

His words were far too serious and she needed to lighten the mood. “Promises, promises,” she teased. 

“I’m back, aren’t I? I’ve proven myself.”

“Just like a man. You do something one little time and want all the praise.”

“Take it back, woman.” He shook her, making her laugh and burrow into his side. 

“And there’s the fragile ego.” She wrestled free, laughing even harder.

“I’ll leave you to handle that,” Leo said patting Tyler’s back. “We’re going to get a game going later though. Be ready.”

Tyler nodded even as he caught Mari around the waist. “I’ll be ready.”

Mari tipped her head back to look at him. “Can your ego handle two losses?”

Her laughter was swallowed by his kiss. It wasn’t gentle. Hungry. Deep. Fierce. Definitely not gentle. Weeks ago, she would’ve been lost in that kiss. Now, she had to force herself not to wonder if Reese was watching and, instead, concentrate on kissing Tyler back. His hand cupped her neck with his thumb tracing along her jaw.

“Are you being a brat because you missed me?” Tyler asked when he finally lifted his head. 

“Maybe.”

“I’m not planning on leaving you again for a while.”

“Good,” she murmured and leaned into him once more.

He pressed a kiss to her forehead as he pulled his phone from his pocket. Again. He’d been doing it for half of the evening. 

“Is everything okay back at home?” Mari asked, covering his hand at her hip with hers.

He looked up at her. “Yeah. Sorry about that.”

“Good. Then put this down,” she encouraged, taking his phone and setting it on the table beside her bag, “and come dance with me.”

She caught his other hand and pulled him toward the makeshift dance floor before he could protest. He glanced back at his phone even as she kept tugging him along.

“No one’s going to take it,” she promised. “C’mon, you were gone for forever. I need attention.”

“It felt like it,” he agreed. Pulling her in close, he walked them into the crowd of dancers. “Missed you. Too much. I’ll give you all the attention you can handle.”

“You’re making an awful lot of promises tonight,” she taunted again. 

Her laughter died as he brought them to a stop, claiming her mouth again. Distance definitely seemed to have made Tyler’s heart fonder. He was touching or kissing her since his return to the island. She hadn’t been prepared for that when she promised Reese she could handle it, but she had no choice but to go with it. She returned the kiss before slowly drawing back even as she draped her arms over his shoulders.

“Show me your best moves.”

The crooked grin she once adored peeked out. “Challenge accepted.”

No sooner than he said the words, he swept her up in a dance. They danced to so many songs, she lost count. Finally, the tempo of the music slowed and he drew her close. 

“How’s that for best moves?”

“You did alright,” she said a bit breathlessly as she rested her hands against his chest.

“Brat.” He dipped his head, intending to kiss her. 

“Yo, Tyler! Game time!” one of the men called out.

Tyler dropped his head farther, pressing his forehead to Mari’s.

She heaved a dramatic sigh. “Go on. I knew I couldn’t hog you the whole night.”

“You’re so generous,” he praised with a quick peck to her lips. “Be right back.”

She waved him off and wandered toward the tables where food and drink were set up. Reese stood nearby in conversation with Raoul. His gaze rested on her. He was discreet, but she knew she was never out of his sight. With a flash of a smile to assure him all was fine, she snagged a plate to fill with desserts. 

She bit into a brownie as she made her way over to Reese just as Allie was pulling Raoul away. She waved to them both then focused on Reese. Her brow wrinkled at the coolness of his expression.

“Are you having fun?” he asked.

“Janey outdid herself. We’re going to need a to-go plate.” She offered her plate to him.

“No thanks.”

She didn’t lower the plate. “Seriously. Try something. You’ll hurt Janey’s feelings if you don’t.”

“Janey’s?” he challenged so softly she almost didn’t hear it. He picked up a cookie, though, and she had to bite her lip to hide the smile.

“You know, we didn’t finish our conversation the other day,” she found the courage to say.

He paused with the cookie at his lips. “This isn’t exactly the time for that,” he said and took another bite.

“I guess I’m just wondering if we’re going to find the time.”

They locked eyes. 

“Hey you two,” Julia called as she and Leilani approached. 

Mari bit back a frustrated groan. When she turned to face her friends, Reese caught her arm. She glanced back at him.

“Yes, we’ll find time.”

This smile was impossible to hide and she nodded in relief. He let go just as Julia slung her arm over Mari’s shoulders. She drew Leilani with her, pulling them into a small huddle.

“What’s up?” Mari asked and popped the last of her brownie.

“You guys should come over. Tonight. I have some interesting stories to tell.”

Mari paused mid-chew before she forced herself to swallow. Reese’s gaze was steady on Julia. 

“What did you do?” Mari hissed.

“Something you’re going to be very grateful for. We meet at my place once the party’s over.”

Mari pinched the bridge of her nose even as she tried to guess at what Julia might have to share. 

“We’ll be there,” Reese promised.

Of course they would.


<< Chapter 50 Chapter 52 >>

Chasing Truth: Chapter 30

Posted on 17/01/2020

“He’s staying at the house with Raoul and Allie?”

Tyler had shown up with food in tow not long after Reese had left. He claimed he wanted to feed her a home-cooked meal after a long day, but she suspected it had more to do with her hanging up on him.

He seemed calm enough about her news Reese would be staying behind for a few days, but it didn’t take a genius to anticipate how poorly he was going to take the news of exactly where Reese would be staying. She rolled her shoulders as she drew in a breath.  

“Actually he’s staying with me.” 

Tyler stopped stirring. The spoon clanged against the pot as he turned to face her fully. She tried to shrug casually.

“It’s just for a few days and I have a decent couch.”

“Why is he staying here, Mari?”

“Just to keep an eye on me for a little while. That’s all. You know, make sure nobody tries to use me to get to Blake,” she said pointedly. 

There wasn’t a single trace of shame in his expression. “And he has to stay here? They’re staying with Raoul and Allie now. He can keep staying there.”

Mari folded her arms across her chest. “This is what you wanted, isn’t it? You wanted Blake to care about me so you could use that. Well, he cares enough to leave somebody behind for a few days. Get over it.”

“That doesn’t mean he needs to sleep here.”

“How is he supposed to be here for me over there?”

“It’s not exactly across the island, Marielle,” he growled. “Why are you so eager to have him stay here?”

Mari stared at him with her mouth open before she gathered herself, anger sweeping in over the disbelief. “Are you serious? Think about why you’re here, Tyler! He’s already said he has enemies and the vibe I’m getting is that they wouldn’t think twice about using me. You’re using me. So excuse me if I’m okay with having somebody here to help make sure nobody else gets to, especially if they’d plan on doing it by hurting me.”

He held his glare for a moment longer before he sighed and held his arms out. “C’mere.”

“No. Finish dinner. I’m hungry.”

He caught her by the arms and gently tugged her into him. She didn’t unfold her arms or soften her stance at all. 

“I’m sorry,” he murmured against her temple. “I just don’t like the idea of him here with you. I’m a little jealous. Take it easy on me, please?”

“Jealous about what?” she grumbled to his chest with her arms still folded. “I don’t even know the guy and he’s not interested in me. He’s doing a job.”

“A man would have to be dumb and blind not to be interested.” He pressed a kiss to her head. “I get that you’re scared. This is scary. I wouldn’t let anything happen to you.” He leaned back and angled her away so he could look at her face. “You know that, don’t you?”

She stared at his forehead. “Your attention is divided.”

He gripped her chin, demanding her focus. “It’s never that divided. I have a job to do, but I care about you. Your safety is important to me. Blake can leave whoever he wants, but I’ll be seeing to your safety.”

Her arms slowly dropped to her sides. His thumb stroked over her bottom lip.

“I heard what you said. You gave me an in I needed to Blake, yes. I can’t deny that. But I am not using you.” 

The emphasis on his words softened her further. 

“I know it’s hard to separate what I have to do from our relationship, but I need you to do that. I care about you in a way I’ve never cared about another woman in my life,” he confessed on a whisper. “I want you clear of all of this so we can focus on building us, making this permanent.”

Her eyes rounded as she echoed, “Permanent?”

“Permanent,” he confirmed and sealed the word with a deep kiss. “You don’t need to say anything now,” he said when he lifted his head. “I just want you to know where I’m going with this, with us.”

Still in shock, she nodded weakly. His smile widened and he stroked over her bottom lip again.

“Have you thought about getting your dad a gift? Something to mark your first time meeting him, that reminds him of you when he’s not here?”

Her eyes lit up. “That’s a really cute idea. It hadn’t crossed my mind, but I think I will pick up something before he leaves.”

“I have good ideas every now and then. I don’t want to have them too often or you might start expecting things from me.”

With a quick kiss to her forehead, he turned back to the stove. “Now stop being distracting and let me get you fed.”

Instead of backing off, she wrapped her arms around him and leaned into his back with her chin propped on his shoulder. 

“I know this hasn’t been easy. I haven’t been easy. Thanks for sticking with me through this.”

He laid a hand over hers and squeezed. “Trust me, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.”

Content, she held on for a moment longer before she pulled away to get drinks from the fridge. It was after Tyler had bowled soup for both of them and they’d settled at the table that she felt something vibrate. Tyler grabbed his phone and glanced at the screen before lifting it to his ear.

“Hey, man. What’s up? You’re interrupting dinner with my favorite lady,” he said with a wink at Mari.

She rolled her eyes, but the smile was there.

He frowned, moving the phone away from his mouth. “Sorry, give me a minute to take this call, sweetheart. Go ahead and eat.”

She nodded, watching him retreat into her bedroom to finish his conversation. It was all too easy to wonder who was on the other line, what the call was about. He had a job to do, she reminded herself. He wasn’t supposed to have shared about that job either. He would need to check in and get updates. Secretive calls were a part of that. She’d decided to trust him. She needed to do that.

No sooner than she came to that conclusion, he was walking back out of the bedroom. 

“Everything okay?” she couldn’t resist asking.

His crooked smile curved his lips. “Yeah, everything is just fine.”

She mirrored his smile. Yes, things were fine.

<< Chapter 29 Chapter 31 >>

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