Posts tagged “unrequited

Lighthouse, Chapter 12

Posted on 20/06/2016

When the door opened and J.R. stepped out of the car, Darah actually took a step back. She hadn’t expected him to respond to her usual goading. His face was unreadable though from the look of his taut jaw, he wasn’t too happy with her choice of words. She took another step back when he walked the length of his car to stop in front of her.

But instead of reaming her for calling him names or being disrespectful, J.R. just stared at her with those piercing dark eyes of his. She shifted the weight from one foot to the other, staring at him, waiting for him to say something.

Then he sighed and shook his head. “You have no idea what you’re doing, Darah.”

She scowled instantly. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Exactly what I said.” His dark gaze swept over her face, studying her and finding her inadequate.

She squeezed her fingers into fists. “What does that mean?”

J.R. blew out a breath, his gaze unwavering. “The minute I decide to treat you like an adult, you prove me wrong.”

Darah stiffened, his words echoing her brothers’ sentiments. Surprisingly, him saying it hurt more than she’d anticipated. It was obvious that her brothers would never see her as an adult, having raised her since she was twelve. But J.R.? She clenched her jaw. “I’d say the same for you since you’re the one running away. Like a coward.”

His eyes narrowed. “I am not running away.”

“Oh really? So you hiding in the pharmacy was what exactly?”

J.R. frowned. “You…”

“Yes, I saw you.” Darah put her hands on her hips and tilted her chin. “Someone might think I was forcing you to make the wisest choice here.”

He arched a brow. “I’m afraid to ask you what that choice might be.”

“Get married, duh.” Darah didn’t miss a beat. “You need to get married to please your dad, and my reason is obvious, of course.”

J.R. nodded without blinking. “Of course.”

Darah relaxed a little. Maybe she’d worn him down enough and he would actually consider—

“The problem is you thinking this is the wisest choice, or only choice for that matter.” J.R.’s gaze swept over her face. “Let’s ignore the fact that I have other sponsors who with the right persuasion could continue to fund the center. Let’s focus on you first.”

Darah frowned, not liking where this was going. J.R. was annoyingly analytical and had probably analyzed her situation even before knowing the full details. The most annoying part would be that he’d be close to the truth.

“Where’s the father?”

She huffed loudly to distract him from the stiffening of her shoulders. “Not this again.”

“Yes this again.” His brow furrowed. “Why you think I’d be a better candidate than the biological father is beyond me.”

“Maybe because you are.” Her cheeks warmed when he blinked at her. “I-I mean anyone besides that jerk would be a good candidate. Don’t get weird.”

“You proposing to get married in the first place is weird.”

Darah eyed him curiously. “Tell me the truth, J.R., what are you scared of?”

He arched a brow. “I’m not scared of anything, Darah.”

“Then why are you so bent on rejecting me?”

J.R. frowned. “I’m not rejecting you.”

Darah nodded, careful to look unfettered. “From day one when I told you how I felt—“

“You were young.”

She scowled. “I was eighteen! And before you start your rubbish talk about me being a minor, there are many eighteen-year-olds who got married right after high school.” Darah studied his indecipherable features, frustrated that even after ten years she couldn’t read what he was thinking. “Just be honest, you can’t handle me.”

Both brows shot up, eyes wide momentarily before J.R. slipped that mask back on. He let out an incredulous laugh. “I can’t handle you…?”

Darah tilted her chin. “You’re scared that I’ll be too much for you.”

J.R. smirked. “You have no idea.”

Her cheeks warmed as he stared with his hooded gaze. The heat traveled down her body and she bit her bottom lip. Her pulse quickened when his gaze dropped to her mouth.

“Does the kid know he’s gonna be a father?”

His words doused the heat from her body and she blew out a breath. “What’s this fascination about the father? I already told you he’s a nonfactor and should therefore not be mentioned.”

J.R. frowned. “That’s now how any of that works, Darah. Whether or not you want to accept it, the child’s biological father has an equal right to custody and could cause—”

Darah held a hand. “If I wanted legal advice, I’d have asked for it. Since I didn’t, keep it to yourself.”

His dark brows furrowed. “You’ve been ignoring me for years but the moment you’ve got the family on your case, I’m the first you thought to call?”

She then closed her mouth and folded her arms across her chest. “You’re insinuating that I need you to rescue me?”

He arched a brow. “Don’t you?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, I can handle my brothers just fine.”

“Still, raising a child on your own’s tougher. So tough you’re actually contemplating getting into a loveless marriage with just about anyone.”

She scowled. “You’re not just anyone! Stop acting like we’re strangers. I’ve known you for years.”

J.R. eyed her warily. “In any case, I won’t marry you.”

Darah stiffened visibly but recovered quickly with a smirk. “Alright.”

“Maybe one day I’ll explain—”

“Dude, it’s fine! I’ll be a fool to ask you again.” She spun on her heel and started for her car.

“Darah, wait—”

Her eyes stung with unshed tears and Darah slammed the car in frustration. After all these years she should’ve been immune to his snobbery towards her. No matter what she did, no matter how many years passed, he’d always look at her through the same lens as her brothers. She would never be anything more than immature, impulsive, quick-tempered and childish.

Sniffing back tears, Darah turned on the engine and reached for her seatbelt. Better to leave before he saw her crying and cement his jaded view of her. She would show him just how mature she was.

Her eyes drifted to his car, to him standing by the open door. He was on the phone, his back facing her.

Looking away, Darah snorted and dragged the seatbelt over her chest. “I’ll show him.” Her eyes drifted back to him. He didn’t enter his car to leave, instead leaning against the car. His back was bowed slightly as if he’d just received bad news.

She put the car in reverse, knowing he couldn’t leave until she did. The sooner she left, the sooner she could be away from such embarrassment. Her foot remained on the brake, eyes watching him.

His free hand moved to his head and remained there.

Darah quietly put the car in park and watched him. She hadn’t witnessed that frazzled pose from J.R. before. Something wasn’t right.

Then J.R. lowered the phone from his ear and rested his head against the car door.

She pressed the car horn. J.R. didn’t turn around. She huffed a breath and unbuckled her seatbelt. She pressed the horn again but J.R. refused to acknowledge her. Pushing the cardoor open, she stuck her head out. “What’s going on?”

He didn’t answer, didn’t lift his head.

Darah frowned, stepping out of the car. Her pulse quickened as she made her way to him. She stopped right behind him and put a hand to his bowed back. His body was taut and not just from his toned physique. She shook him slightly.

He jerked as though just realizing she was beside him, and shifted to face her.

Darah’s eyes widened at his glistening gaze. “A-are you crying?”

J.R. blinked to clear the haze and looked past her. “My father…”

Her pulse jumped and her hand clutched his shoulder. “What happened?”

“He collapsed.”

“My God. Where is he? Why are you still here?”

J.R. shook his head, dazed.

Darah dropped her hand from his shoulder. “What hospital is he? Who’s with him?”

He just stared past her.

Clearly the news was grave or he would’ve said something. She’d never seen J.R. look so lost and it scared her. But the longer they tarried in the parking lot, the less time they’d have to reach his father.

Darah grabbed his wrist and tugged him toward her car. “Come. I’ll drive.”

“I’ll call once we arrive,” Darah said over the speaker in the car.

“J.R., we’re praying for your dad. Don’t lose heart, dear.” Phoebe spoke out, aware that J.R. was seated in the passenger’s seat of Darah’s car.

“Stay strong, brother,” Abe piped in.

J.R. didn’t answer to either and just stared out the window.

Darah glanced once at him and then reached for the phone. “Okay, let’s talk later. Bye.” She disconnected the call and sighed. “Don’t worry. I hear St. Luke’s a good hospital.”

He still didn’t answer and Darah looked his way, noting his taut jaw. “Are you worried?”

“Can we just not talk?” his voice was gravelly as though his throat was tight with holding back tears.

Darah nodded. “We could—“

“Thanks.”

She sighed and faced the road once more. They were only a few miles from the hospital but to Darah, and maybe even J.R., it felt like they were too far. She pressed on the accelerator.

“Don’t speed.”

Her lips twitched and she raised her foot slightly. Even in his frazzled state, he still had a mind to worry about her. She squeezed the steering wheel and said a quiet prayer for J.R. and his father, not knowing what happened except that his father collapsed at home and was rushed to the nearest hospital.

Minutes later, Darah pulled up in front of the hospital’s front. “Go ahead. I’ll park and come find you.”

J.R. grunted his reply as he unbuckled his seatbelt and quickly exited the car.

Darah watched him race for the sliding doors into the hospital lobby. She sighed and drove toward the parking lot. Her phone rang just as she pulled into a parking spot and she groaned, reading Bart’s caller ID. “Yeah?” she answered on the third ring, stepping out of the car.

“What hospital?”

“St. Luke’s. But I don’t think he wants all of us there.”

“We’ll be there in an hour. Gotta put the kids in bed first.”

Darah slung the bag over her shoulder. “Abe and Phoebe coming too?”

“Is that even a question to ask? Stay with him until we get there, then we’ll switch off.”

“I’m not leaving him.” She stepped onto the sidewalk. “Stay with your family.”

Bart was quiet for just a moment. “I’m not going to read into that now. We’ll be there shortly.”

Darah rolled her eyes as she crossed the walkway to the hospital entrance. “Yeah okay. Gotta go.” She disconnected the call before her brother changed his mind and hurried through the sliding doors to find the emergency ward and J.R.

She found him standing beside a doctor dressed in scrubs, a nurse and another woman dressed in street clothes. Eyes on J.R. alone, she meandered over, catching the tail end of the doctor’s words.

“… to monitor his vitals.”

J.R. dragged a hand over his tousled hair and Darah fought reaching out for his hand. “How long?”

The doctor, a white-haired gentleman of Arab descent, raised his bushy brows. “…long?”

“He means how long has it been this way?” the willowy woman dressed in street clothes asked, and for the first time, Darah noticed how close she stood beside J.R. and the hand she placed on his back. “It doesn’t make sense that Uncle L.J. would be in such a poor state.”

Although the woman referred to J.R.’s dad as Uncle, Darah stiffened when J.R. heaved a sigh and the woman rubbed his back. Clearing her throat, she stepped forward, attracting everyone’s attention. She gave them a smile. “Is everything alright?”

The doctor and nurse exchanged curious glances.

J.R glanced once at Darah before nodding at the doctor. “She’s with me. When can I see my father?”

Darah noticed the willowy woman’s hand drop from J.R.’s back and fought back a smile. It wasn’t appropriate in this case. She watched J.R.’s profile and had to hold herself from reaching for his hand.

“Since he’s stable now, I’ll have Nurse Wells get you signed in.” The doctor glanced once at Darah. “Family for now though.”

J.R. nodded and blindly reached for Darah’s hand. “That’s fine. She’s my fiancée.”

Darah wasn’t sure who gasped, her or the woman standing by J.R.’s side or both. All that mattered in that moment was J.R.’s hand gripping hers. She swallowed the gasp and squeezed his hand back.

<<Chapter 11 || Chapter 13>>

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Homecoming, Chapter 18

Posted on 17/02/2016

Turned out Phoebe had a feeling she was pregnant before the dry heaving that lasted deep into the night. She confessed to a dazed Abe that she’d known of her condition weeks ago but was too nervous to mention it, just in case it didn’t work out.

Long after the two youngest had gone to sleep and Clement retreated to his room, Geraldine watched as Abe enveloped his wife in his arms and cradled her against his chest. When Abe pressed a kiss to Phoebe’s forehead, Geraldine tamped a longing sigh and looked away, gaze colliding with Bart’s.

His lips were pursed, eyes squinted in clear suspicion.

She looked down at her phone and grimaced. “Oh man. I better get going…” She stood from the chair propped near the couple’s bed.

Phoebe peeked from around Abe’s arms and gave Geraldine a weary smile. “Thank you Geri…”

“Congratulations. I’ll check on you tomorrow,” she said to the couple and stepped around Bart to the door. Hearing him tell her to wait, Geraldine hurried from the master bedroom and out of the house.

Bart caught up to her before she reached her car. She yelped when he grabbed her by the waist and pulled her into his chest. Face aflame, she nudged at his arms. “Let me go.”

“What’s your rush?” he drawled out, unaffected by her hands shoving at his chest.

“It’s midnight and I have to go to my kid. Let me go!”

The raised inflection in her tone made him release her, though his fingers parked on her hips. Under the flickering streetlamp, she could see his brow was furrowed in consternation. “Now what’s with you?”

She avoided looking at him. “Nothing. I just have to go.”

“I’m not stopping you.”

Heat coursed through her and she stepped back. “Goodnight then.” She turned on her heels to go.

“Let’s get married.”

Her footsteps stalled from rushing off and she spun around. “What?”

He didn’t blink, didn’t move. “You heard me.”

She gaped at him. “What on earth for? My in-laws already think we’re getting married, and once they’re gone, we don’t need to pretend any more.”

“This isn’t pretend for me, Geraldine. I want to marry you.”

His words felt like a sucker punch in her gut, stealing her breath.

Bart moved toward her, frowning when she took a step back. He paused. “What are you doing?”

Geraldine regained her composure. “What are you doing? This isn’t part of the plan.”

He squinted at her. “What plan?”

She gritted her teeth. “Bartimeus–whoa, stop there.” She inched backward until her back was pressed against her car. “I said stop, you stubborn oaf.”

He only smiled wickedly, coming to stand directly in front of her.

She could barely breathe at his proximity–this insufferable man. “What are you doing?”

Bart placed his hands on either side of her shoulders, resting his palms against the car windows. “Stopping you from running away again.”

“A-again?” Her pulse tripped when he lowered his head. She turned her face away. “Bart, stop this.”

“Stop what?”

She glared at his shoulder. “I have to go home.”

“And you’ll go home when I get my answer.”

“I already told you there’s no reason for us to get married, Bart.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

“You didn’t ask. You said–”

“Marry me, Geraldine.”

She squeezed her eyes shut; fighting the warm shivers that traveled down her arms. “No.”

“Stop mumbling. Look at me and give me your answer.”

Geraldine forced her eyes back to his shadowed features. It hurt to look at him. “I said no.”

Bart leaned away and dropped his hands. She didn’t need the streetlight to know what her answer did to his handsome face. “So what, I’m good enough to be your pretend husband but not enough to be the real thing? Is that it, Geraldine?”

Her chest tightened in regret. “That’s not it, Bart.”

“Isn’t it? Then why–”

“I can’t marry you.”

“You can’t or you won’t? Speak plainly because I’m tired of your games.”

She frowned. “This isn’t a game.”

“Right.” Bart snorted in disgust and took a step back. “Goodnight, Geraldine.”

“Bart–”

“You left three years ago because you weren’t sure of my feelings. I’m telling you now that I—”

“Stop!” she shouted, her voice echoing in the quiet neighborhood. A lone dog barked in protest and she dropped her head. “Please don’t.”

Bart heaved a sigh. “Fine. It’s late. Get going.”

At the sound of his footfall retreating, Geraldine looked up. “Please don’t make this more complicated than it already is, Bart. They’ll be gone in a week and we can get back to our lives.”

He paused and turned to look at her. “I hear you. Go home, Geraldine.”

When he didn’t turn away, Geraldine had no choice to leave. She didn’t want to fight with him and it seemed like he didn’t want to either. There was much to say but she couldn’t bring herself to say any of it without sounding like a crazy person. With a nod, she turned away and ducked into her car.

Bart muttered a curse under his breath as she eased the car from the driveway and drove away.

“Nice going, Big Bro,” Clement drawled from the porch.

His face darkened. “Go away.”

His brother’s footfall sounded on the steps. “You pushed too hard, y’know.”

“So you’re the love expert now?” Bart turned to Clement, more annoyed than he expected. Somehow, he’d imagined Geraldine’s pretty eyes welling up with tears and a wobbly smile on her pretty mouth before she flung her arms around him and kissed him with gratitude.

“Sometimes you need an outsider’s perspective to point out your screw-ups.”

“Remind me to do the same with you,” Bart drawled, sweeping past Clement up the stairs.

“Geri’s got a whole lot of hurt, Bart. You have to be careful.”

Bart paused in step and turned to his brother. Before their fake engagement, Geraldine had spoken jadedly of romance, but he was certain she had feelings for him.

“She obviously cares a great deal for you,” Clement continued, kicking a pebble. “No woman would allow you to kiss her like that if she didn’t.”

“What’s with the lack of privacy? We’re not some peep show,” Bart groused, only mildly annoyed.

“It’s expected. Abe and Phoebe barely got alone time before they got married. Even now, they have to ask for permission to get away for a weekend.” Clement shook his head. “Unreal.”

Bart felt a flush at the thought of marrying Geraldine. The more he thought about the idea, the more he liked it. But how could he get her to see it his way?

“Even if you’re the better choice, being forceful like her family was about marrying that jerk isn’t gonna work for your benefit or hers. You’ve gotta be firm about your feelings yet gentle in your approach.”

“Gentle in my approach?” He sought Clement’s gaze.

“Take a lesson from Abe. Remember she did have the hugest crush on him.” Clement chuckled when Bart scowled. “What I’m saying, Big brother, is you gotta learn the art of push and pull.”

“Push and what?”

Clement walked up to his brother and clamped a hand on his shoulder. “The Art of Seduction.”

Bart eyed him warily. “And you want to be a missionary?”

“Missionary, not priest. Now come on.” He nudged Bart toward the door. “Let’s get started if we’re gonna get you married.”

Geraldine sat in the car long after she arrived home from Bart’s house, trying to calm her unsteady breath. She put a hand over her heart and closed her eyes. “Stop it… stop it.”

It scared her how hard her pulse was racing because it only happened whenever Bart gave her that impish dimpled smile of his. She shook her head to clear the image of his grin and leaned forward, pressing her forehead against the steering wheel.

“You can’t or you won’t?” Bart’s question echoed in her ear.

She squeezed her hand against her racing heartbeat. “I can’t…” Even if she wanted to, she couldn’t marry Bart. It was better this way.

A tap on the passenger window made her jump in her seat. She turned and quickly rolled down the window. “Mama? What’s go–?”

“Shh.” Yelena gestured to the sleeping baby in her arms. “Open the back door.”

Dumbly, Geraldine did as her mother said and glanced over at the front door. “Where are they?”

“I don’t know and I don’t care,” Yelena muttered while strapping Joselyn in her seat. “Once I came home, I locked me and Jozy in your room.”

“What?” Geraldine gaped at her mother; she’d gone home hours ago.

Yelena slid in beside her granddaughter and closed the door. “We can’t stay in the house while they’re here. I don’t trust them to leave without trying anything funny.” She and Geraldine peered down at the child whose head lolled back and forth.

A cold chill trickled down Geraldine’s spine and she gripped the steering wheel. “They can’t take my baby. I won’t let them.”

“Good.” Yelena adjusted Joselyn’s head. “Let’s go back to the Teka house–”

“No!”

“Shh!” Yelena put a finger over her mouth and frowned at her daughter. “What? Why?”

Heat infused her cheeks and Geraldine looked at Joselyn sleeping undisturbed. “They don’t have space,” she said lamely, fumbling with her hands.

Yelena snorted. “They have a couch and Joselyn can stay with the youngest girl, Darcy…”

“Darah,” Geraldine sighed heavily. “Mama, that’s not a good idea.”

Yelena smiled. “It is. I already called Barty and he said they’ll make room.”

Her eyes widened in alarm and she gaped at her mother. “You did what? When?”

“Just now. He called to see if you’d made it home yet and when I shared my concern, he invited us to come back. They’re probably making space in the house now. Let’s go, Mija.”

<<Chapter 17 || Chapter 19>>

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