Posts tagged “secrets

Chasing Truth: Chapter 28

Posted on 03/01/2020

Mari woke up with Tyler’s arm wrapped around her waist and her cheek to his chest. She drew in a deep breath, inhaling the clean scent of him in the darkness. Tilting her head back she studied his soft sleeping features. He was a handsome man. His crooked smile always teased one from her. She could look into his hazel eyes all day. 

She hadn’t lied to him. She wanted to trust him, was trying to do that. He was giving her reason to as time went on. They’d started on a lie, though, and she couldn’t forget that no matter how much she wanted to. She really did want to. It would make everything so much easier. 

He stirred, his hand tightening on her hip as he blinked away sleep. A slow grin crossed his face as he shifted his head to look down at her.

“Good morning, gorgeous.”

She didn’t fight the answering smile, hoping it didn’t look as conflicted as she felt. “Good morning, handsome.”

“How’d you sleep?”

“Good. You might’ve had a point about spending the night,” she teased as she stretched.

Her alarm went off moments later signaling it was time to get ready. 

“I’ve got to get going,” she murmured sleepily.

“I’m sure Allie’s breakfast will help with that,” he teased. “I’ve got to head out too. I told Leo I’d help him out today.”

With a kiss, they rolled out of their respective sides of the bed and got their morning started. When they walked out of the house together an hour later, Tyler slid a hand around the nape of her neck.

“Have fun today.” His thumb stroked over her skin as he looked into her eyes. “You know you can always call me if you need me, right?”

Her lips kicked up in a grin. “I know.”

“Good.” His murmur ended with him kissing her.

“You’re not staying for breakfast?” she asked when he pulled out his keys to jog to his truck.

“I think it might be better if we don’t shove the boyfriend in Blake’s face,” he said with a wry grin.

“You’re so smart. How did I get so lucky?”

He laughed and winked before ducking into the truck.  Still smiling, Mari took the path leading up to the house to meet Blake and Reese.

The scent of food reached her even before she let herself inside. She stopped just inside the back door to take in the scene in the kitchen. Gage was seated at the island with a coffee mug at his lips. It was a familiar sight over the years, but now his brother sat beside him. Her father. A part of her still had trouble believing it, but there he sat laughing into his own mug. 

Gage was watching her with heavy emotion moving in his eyes. He’d probably noticed her the second she walked in. He lifted his cup in greeting which immediately drew Blake’s attention. His laughter morphed into a genuine grin he made no attempts to hide.

“Good morning, Mari.”

She smiled her greeting as she rounded the table to wrap her arms around Gage’s neck and press a noisy kiss to his cheek. It never got old. 

“Morning, Old Man.”

Gage chuckled. “Well, Blake must be ancient then.”

She hesitated for just a moment before she wrapped her arms around Blake in a similar gesture without the kiss. 


He grabbed her arm and held on. His voice was husky when he repeated the greeting.

This man cared. There was no faking his emotion and it seemed she was faced with it at every turn. Visibly moved, she straightened just as Raoul entered the room. His smile was gentle.  She took the plate from his hand and leaned in to kiss his cheek. 

“Mornin’, Papa. Please say Allie’s making pancakes.”

“Pancakes are too heavy. Omelets.”

“I mean Allie’s omelets are nothing to turn your nose up at, but her pancakes?” Mari groaned appreciatively as she set the biscuits on the table. “Maybe tomorrow.”

She slid past him to Allison at the stove.

“Morning,” she sang as she grabbed two plated omelets from the counter to set in front of Gage and Blake. 

Her attention went to the empty seat Reese had occupied the day before. “Where is Reese?”

“He’ll be down in a moment,” Blake assured without a direct answer.

Shrugging it off, Mari settled into her chair as Raoul came out with more plates and Allison followed with pitchers of water and juice.

“What’s on the agenda for the day?” Allison asked. 

“Well,” Mari started with a look in Blake’s direction, “I’m assuming I shouldn’t be planning to parade you two around town and introduce you to everyone.”

There was an edge of worry in Blake’s smile. “It would probably be for the best to avoid that this time around.”

“Agreed,” Reese said firmly as he strode to the table. 

He held Mari’s gaze and she found herself wondering just what had delayed him coming down for breakfast.

“Right,” she carried on, “so I figured I could show you guys the caves. They’re pretty cool and there are some really great spots if you know where to go.”

“And of course you know where to go,” Blake said fondly.

Mari beamed as she cut into her omelet. “Of course. It’s a bit of a hike so fuel up.”


The journey to the caves was one hilarious trip and became even more so once they started exploring. Mari slowed to take a long sip from her water bottle, fighting not to laugh while Reese taunted Blake about not being able to keep up in his old age. 

If Tyler hadn’t already asked the question, she would’ve wondered if Reese were Blake’s son. The two clearly had a strong friendship despite the difference in age. They’d made her feel included though, not the outsider looking in. It was Reese as much as Blake and while they hadn’t had much to say to each other, she appreciated him making that effort.

Blake fell back into step with Mari, muttering under his breath. She lost her fight with her laughter then, drawing a glare from him.

“Not you too.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Her smile was pure innocence until she ruined it by laughing again. 

Blake continued his muttering until easy silence fell between them.

“I’ll have to leave soon,” he said into the quiet.

“How soon?” The question shot out before Mari had a chance to decide if she wanted to ask it.

Reese moved farther up ahead of them, curving around the corner. 

“Within the next day or so.”

For once, Mari bit her tongue against the words eager to snap out. Two, maybe three days he’d given her and that was it. Her mother was gone. Her father was leaving. She knew the anger rising in her was irrational. He’d told her his first day he could only stay for so long. He was going to jump on a plane though, and something in her feared she wouldn’t see him again. She kept putting one foot in front of the other. She’d lived her entire life without him. She could keep doing that without a problem. 


The words she’d been holding in whipped out as she whirled around to face him. “So? What’s next? You leave and then what?”

“I told you that would be your choice,” he reminded her slowly. “You should take some time and think about that, about what you really want. We don’t have to answer that question right now.”

“I know what I want.  I want more than two days of my life with the man who fathered me! I don’t need to think about that.”

Her words echoed throughout the cave, mocking her loss of control. She would’ve been more embarrassed, but Blake couldn’t quite hide his relief. 

“I need to go home, Marielle. I told you this wasn’t well planned. I want more than two days with my beautiful daughter, but I need that time to be in a way that’s safest for her. That means I need to go home and make plans that give us both the time we want.”

She sucked in a deep breath as she wrestled her emotion back down. He grabbed her shoulders before she could turn away from him. 

“We’re going to stay in touch. This won’t be the last time we see each other. We’re just going to be smart about it. Tell me you believe that, you believe me.”

She met his hard gaze for a long moment before the tension left her shoulders. “I believe you.”

Tension slid out of him too. “We’ll make this work.”

She marveled at the words because, after only two days, she believed him. 

<< Chapter 27 Chapter 29 >>

Samina’s Chance: Chapter 42

Posted on 19/05/2015


The morning after, Samina and her siblings stepped out onto the porch, still dumbfounded. Having spent most of the night yelling at each other, their parents retreated into separate areas in the house. Their children felt strange leaving them alone and for once, all three agreed to stay and keep watch, just in case one of them did something drastic.

Stifling a yawn, Obadiah fondled the keys in his pockets. “I can’t believe it.”

Karen blew out a breath, hands to her hips. “Topher’s mom was Dad’s girlfriend.”

Samina cringed at the implications of this revealed truth. She hadn’t been able to sleep, replaying Gabriel’s dismay as he realized Odetta Chance was dead. As if he’d lost something very precious to him.

“Mom won’t let him live this down,” Karen continued. “And for once, I… I feel bad for Mom.”

Samina frowned. “What do you mean?”

Her brow furrowed with concern. “Samina, do the math. Topher was born in 1971. Mom and Dad got together a year before you were born.”

“1975,” Obadiah supplied gently, his grave gaze riveted to Samina’s face.

“Thanks, genius.” Karen rolled her eyes, and then grew solemn.

Gabriel’s stormy eyes and the look of horror on Nadine’s face appeared in her mind’s eye. Samina swallowed hard. “What are you saying? That Topher’s our… brother?” The word left a bitter taste in her mouth and she grimaced. No way.

Karen and Obadiah exchanged worried glances.

No way! Her stomach flipped over. Samina shook her head. “Dad wouldn’t do a thing like that.” She scowled at their dubious expressions. “Impossible. Dad loves Mom. He wouldn’t do this…” she trailed off, replaying her mother’s outrage over hearing about Odetta.

“Samina, listen–”

“Topher is not my brother.”

Karen folded her arms across her chest. “I know it’s disturbing to hear that Dad could’ve fathered another child somewhere, but think about it—“

“Enough.” Samina stepped off the porch, turning away from her siblings. “I said no!”


She spun on her heel and stomped back to the porch, holding her hand out. “Keys. Now.” Her face was hard as stone, though her heart was beating so fast.

Karen stopped Obadiah’s hand from extending the keys. She squinted at Samina. “Just because Mom and Dad are too distracted to scold you for keeping your surgery a secret, doesn’t mean you get to act like a brat.”

Samina scowled darkly. “Keys. Now!”

Stone-faced, Obadiah shrugged off Karen’s hand and dropped the keys onto Samina’s palm. “Don’t be like—”

She spun on her heels and stormed off, head spinning. Tears were in her eyes as she reversed onto the street and drove away.

Topher, her brother? Samina shook her head, dispelling the disturbing thought. As she entered the highway, her mind summoned an image of Topher’s bright smile lighting his handsome face. Her belly turned in anguish.

Moments later, she sat in a parking lot as the tears continued to fall unrestrained. Samina rested her head against the steering wheel and struggled to take a breath.

She recalled the first time they met; at Jaxson’s graduation where his curious, laughing eyes swept over her. Back then, she’d gotten goosebumps under his flirty gaze and was irked by it. Her heart had been devoted to Ezekiel for so long that any other man invoking feelings in her was akin to betrayal.

Treachery to Ezekiel. To her heart.

She’d fought against her keen awareness of his contagious energy. Now that she was officially dating Ezekiel, she fought against a stronger feeling toward Topher and settled with being his friend.

If Topher was her brother…

Samina drew in a harsh breath and looked up to the sign above the building of St. Luke’s hospital. Tears welled up in her eyes. By now, Topher and Nadine were probably on their way back home.

Still something stirred her to move, to step out of the car. Her feet walked without permission down the parking lot, into the building, up to the receptionist desk. Her mouth formed words, inquiring of a Nadine Chance. Her heart skipped a beat as the nurse replied that the patient was on the fifth floor, thudded violently as her feet moved toward the elevator.

She gripped the railing as the elevator began its slow ascent, summoning another memory of her and Topher standing in this chamber, both silent in their sorrows. The tears continued to fall; her heart began to ache as she imagined his despair, his loneliness.

If Topher was her brother… What I am going to do?

Topher grimaced as the resounding gong clanging against his temples. He closed his eyes against the nausea that trickled down the back of his throat. “Nadine, please.” If he hadn’t taken a seat by her bed, he would’ve been knocked off his feet from the dizzy spell.

“Serves you right,” Nadine growled, noisily stirring her bowl of oatmeal. “Who told you to drink?”

Topher groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose, clearing the dizziness before he lifted his gaze to hers. She looked fit to be tied, her features taut with disapproval. He pushed out a withering sigh and looked down, wincing. Everywhere hurt.

“You’re not a boy who needs coddling, Christopher. And stop your mindless sulking, I won’t stand for it.” Nadine snorted.

Though lightheaded, Nadine’s cutting barbs pushed him to stand. He needed to escape. “I’m going for a walk.”

“Fine,” Nadine clipped out, glaring at him. “And stay out until you’re done sucking your thumb. You’re driving me insane.”

“Like your disposition is any better,” Topher muttered under his breath, dragging his feet to the door.

“What did you say?!”

Topher cringed, jerking the door open. “Stop yelling, for goodness’ sake—” He pulled open the door and inhaled sharply.

The woman who haunted his thoughts since the Bread café stood on the doorstep of the hospital room.  He almost forgot to breathe, beholding her somber brown eyes. That rebellious thought of pulling her into his arms drifted into his heart and he swiftly squelched it, clenching his jaw. Hardening his stare, he finally spoke. “What are you doing here?”

Her well-shaped mouth twisted with uncertainty, her chocolate gaze swept over his face.  “I…” she floundered weakly.

Topher steeled himself against the longing to hold her.

“Boy, close that door!” Nadine’s gravelly retort was cut off by a racking cough.

Alarm ringing in his head, Topher jerked around and hurried to Nadine’s side.

Clearing her throat, Nadine gasped in a breath. “Oatmeal…” her hand hovered over her mouth, her eyes moving past Topher to the door. Then her brow drew a frown. “What is she doing here?”

Topher stiffened at her icy tone, and then recovered with a casual lift of his shoulders. Satisfied that Nadine was alright, he grabbed the bowl of oatmeal, collected Nadine’s spoon and placed it on the bedside table.

Nadine’s frown didn’t ease up but she did wave Samina over. “Don’t run away. Come here… What do you want?”

Topher snuck Samina a glance, finding her head bowed as she shuffled to Nadine’s bedside, opposite him.

Nadine eyed her warily.

At Samina’s silence, both Nadine and Topher exchanged a wary glance. Then Nadine blew out a breath. “Sit down. It doesn’t look like you’re just making a hospital visit.” She turned to Topher. “Go take your walk while we chat for a bit.”

Topher hesitated, not sure Samina could handle Nadine’s agitated personality. Even after thirty-four years of being with her, her sharp tongue still wounded him.

“Go on, boy.”

With one quick glance at Samina’s downturned face, he sighed and stepped back from the bed.

Then Samina found her voice. “Actually… I’d like to speak with both of you.”

Nadine caught Topher’s eye over Samina’s head and raised a brow. Topher shrugged wordlessly and moved back to Nadine’s bedside.

“Speak, then,” Nadine mumbled, arranging her bedcovers.

Samina bit her bottom lip and finally looked up. At Nadine. “I…I came to ask a question…”

Nadine narrowed her eyes, her lips pursing. “Go ahead.”

Without warning, his heart skipped a beat and tripped into a run.  In the brief silence following Nadine’s directive, Topher gripped the sideboard of the hospital bed, waiting Samina’s words.

“Well? I’d like to hear this question before the day’s over.”

Samina stiffened. Topher grimaced.

“Did…” Samina croaked out, grimacing. She cleared her throat and began again. “Is my dad his father?”

His heart stopped beating. Nadine’s eyes widened, both gaping at Samina.

Then she shifted her forlorn gaze to his face and he mourned all over again. Now that she knew of their convoluted fate, there was nothing more to say.

“Who told you that?” Nadine hissed.

Samina shifted her eyes to Nadine, brow bent in a deep V. “Is… he?”

Nadine scoffed a forceful laugh. “That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

Topher saw Samina’s shoulders sag with relief. He whipped his head to Nadine, stomach clenched with unease.

Nadine scowled up at him. “Gabriel, your father?” She coughed a bitter laugh. “What rubbish. You two are nothing alike.”

He would’ve rubbed his ears just to make sure he heard correctly. “But the picture. You told me—“

Nadine rolled her eyes. “I said your father was in the picture, not that Gabriel was your father.” She scowled darkly. “Thank God he’s not. No offense to you Samina, I’m sure your mother’s a lovely woman.”

Topher couldn’t stop staring at his aunt’s darkened features, his erratic heart thudding violently. The side-effects from the last night’s mistake didn’t help any, his head throbbing painfully as it tried to grasp all he’d heard.

Samina placed a hand over her chest, as if trying to catch her breath. He frowned at the relief eased over her features, and felt a pang in his chest. Did she really not want to have anything to do with him, even if it was blood-relational?

“I think you better tell me everything, Nadine,” he said as firmly as he could.

Nadine frowned. “Right now?”

He raised both quelling brows.

“Where would I even begin?” Nadine mused gently, leaning back against her pillow, lifting her eyes to the ceiling. “I guess from the beginning…”

<<Chapter 41 || Chapter 43>>

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