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Posts tagged ‘Hang On’

Story a Day: Day 5 – “Friendly Warning”

I took my insulated cup of coffee and headed down the hallway to my office. That was probably being generous. It was meant to be a nursery, right off the master bedroom. But, that wasn’t ever going to happen. Or at least not for a long time.

When I’d dropped him at the airport the day before, Ian had told me not to work too hard while he was gone. I’d wanted to go with him, but I had this project to finish for a client. And after a month of thinking he was dead, his parents deserved to spend some time with him. Just him. Even with those arguments, he’d still tried to convince me to go along.

Maybe next time, I’d go with him. But, for now, I had work to do.

I flipped on the light and headed toward my desk. But, I froze when I saw the black letters scrawled across my whiteboard on the other side of the desk. What the hell?

I looked harder at it even as I thought maybe I should have mainlined the coffee. I hadn’t slept well the night before. Ever since almost losing Ian, I had trouble sleeping when he wasn’t there. But, no, I didn’t think I was imagining this.

Whatever happens, don’t die. See you Monday.

What the hell? I shook my head, read the words again and let out an exasperated laugh. Did he actually think that was funny? He was the one who had almost died. Now, he was joking about it.

No, I realized after a moment. That wasn’t his writing. And I’d been in here just before we’d left for the airport. The board had been blank then. Hadn’t it?

I was almost sure of it. And now a shiver skittered down my spine. Who could have gotten in here to leave this for me? The deputy was still locked up, and I hadn’t thought the note was threatening until I thought of him.

I snapped a quick picture of the message and attached it to a message to Ian. Did you do this?

It only took a few minutes for his response to come back. No. Get out of there.

Shit. That’s what I was afraid of. But, I didn’t know who– I turned at the cackling sound from the doorway and saw my little brother, Connor, standing there, laughing his head off. “What are you doing?” I demanded.

“Your face,” he said, still laughing. “It’s priceless.”

“Did you do this?”

“It was a joke,” he said, “I thought you’d laugh. You laugh when Ian does stuff like that.”

Because Ian didn’t have a cruel bone in his body. “It’s way too soon, Connor. It hasn’t even been two weeks since I found out Ian wasn’t actually dead.” I grabbed the eraser for the board and swiped it over the words. “Get out. Go home.”

“I’m sorry, Aid,” he said as he turned from the doorway. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

That didn’t make it hurt any less. I waited until I heard the front door slam then dialed Ian’s number. “Are you safe?” he asked as soon as he answered.

“It was Connor, the little shit,” I told him. “I didn’t realize he stayed here last night.”

Ian let out a quick laugh. “Sometimes I wanted at least one sibling. Then, I met your crazy brothers and sisters. Maybe being an only child really was better.”

I laughed and sank into my desk chair, letting it spin toward the window. “I miss you. It hasn’t even been a day.”

“I know,” he said softly, as if he was thinking the exact same thing. “But you should have seen Mom and Dad. The relief on their face when they saw me. Like they hadn’t believed I was actually still alive until they saw it with their own eyes.”

I knew that feeling. I wouldn’t have believed it either, if I hadn’t seen him myself.

“My plane gets in Monday morning,” he said. “Will you be there to pick me up?”

“I wouldn’t be anywhere else,” I told him. “I can’t wait until you’re back.”

“The feeling’s mutual,” he said. “Don’t let those wood nymphs in the basement get you before that.”

I laughed at the joke he’d made up when this had all started for us. Was it any surprise I’d fallen so hard for him?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ian and Aidan just don’t want to leave me alone. And I’m perfectly okay with that. 🙂 I still have to finish the original short story that started this(“Hang On”), which is where the joke about wood nymphs started. That’s one of my side projects(I’m up to 11 now) that I add at least 100 words a week to. Eventually it’ll get done.

Story a Day: Day 3 – “The Plan”

I’m skipping today’s prompt again. Ian and Aidan are still being demanding. And there was some curiosity about what happened after Monday’s story, so I figured I could offer you some of that.

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I wiped my hands on pants before walking into the store. Ian was going to put his plan into play today. And he was counting on me being there. I couldn’t let him down. I’d seen the deputy’s car parked out front, so this was likely where it would go down.

And if not, I’d keep my eye on him throughout the day, ready to step in as soon as Ian needed me.

The deputy was leaning against the front counter, flirting with the cashier. Fury flashed through me. Not only was she barely out of high school, and way too young and innocent for him, but he’d just tried to kill my best friend a month ago. And here he was acting like nothing had happened.

He’d been really good at that over the last month. Even leading the initial search for Ian. Everyone had been fooled. Even me. So maybe a little of that fury was aimed back at myself.

The door opened again, keeping me from doing something that would ruin Ian plan. And very possibly land me in a jail cell. That would help with this situation. So, I started to move down the aisle, keeping the deputy in my line of sight.

It was easy for me to recognize Ian as the man who had just entered the store, even in that heavy jacket, the collar up as if to block out the wind, and his hat pulled down to shade his face. it was all in the way he moved. But, I doubted the deputy had spent as much time watching him as I had.

He nodded to the cashier then moved down the aisle next to mine. He hadn’t said a word, but the deputy’s gaze followed him, the space between his brows furrowing. So maybe he had noticed something. Good. That was all part of the plan.

I watched until the deputy pushed away from the counter and headed for the door. Once he was gone, I slipped to the endcap and met Ian there. Out of sight of the cashier, I pressed a quick kiss too his lips. “I think it’s working,” I said. “He looked confused, but I think he assumed he was imagining things.”

“Good,” Ian said. “A little longer, and he’ll think he’s losing it. You have to keep playing the grieving boyfriend, though, or he’ll catch on before we’re ready.”

And that was the hardest part of the plan. I’d never been a good actor or liar. But, I was going to do my best. And hopefully we’d drive him to a confession.

***

A week passed, and Ian got braver about walking around town. I kept my distance while still keeping an eye on the deputy. And I could see the shift in his demeanor. Jumpier, constantly looking at reflections in windows and over his shoulder. His eyes darting back and forth whenever he came out of  building. And he didn’t look like he’d slept at all since that first sighting.

He looked haunted. And I couldn’t be more pleased.

My part wasn’t as hard to play as I thought it’d be. Ian stayed away from me, worried we’d be caught otherwise. So, sometimes it still felt like I’d lost him. No one seemed to suspect I knew he was still alive.

Now came the hardest, and most dangerous, part. Actually confronting the deputy. And we had to do it with an audience, or none of this would have been worth anything.

We waited until the diner was at the busiest of the day. We wouldn’t even have to draw him here. Word got around quick enough in this town. He’d hear someone who looked an awful lot like a dead man was eating right in the middle of town.

I had already taken a seat when Ian walked in, without any attempt to hide his hair or his face. I could hear the shocked whispers, and I just barely held in a smile. He came straight to my table, smiling as if he didn’t notice people staring like he’d just risen from the dead.

he leaned down and kissed me then snatched the menu out of my hands. Just as he had every time we’d had lunch together here in the last year. Before that, only the kiss had been missing.

The waitress came over, but she could only stare a him. “Anna,” he greeted her. “I’ll have my usual. I’m sure Aidan will, too.”

Her mouth opened and closed several times then she scribbled down our usual orders and hurried back toward the kitchen. A few people had already left the diner, so I was sure word would be spreading both ways along Main Street. The sheriff’s office wasn’t far, so I didn’t think this would take long.

Sure enough, Anna had just delivered our drinks and side salads when the door to the diner swung open and the deputy walked in. His eyes were red-rimmed, with heavy bags hanging under them. It was the most color on his face. Then, his eyes met Ian’s, who gave him a smirk and a little wave.

I wasn’t quite sure if it was anger or fear that made the deputy’s eyes widen and his nostrils flare. But, he strode right over to our table. “What the hell is the meaning of this?” he asked me, not letting his gaze go back to Ian. “Who is this, Aidan? You never said your boyfriend had an identical twin.”

“He doesn’t,” I said. “You know perfectly well that Ian is an only child. His parents were devastated to hear they’d lost him.”

“Was,” the deputy said. “he was an only child. Because he’s dead now.”

“That’s funny,” Ian drawled. “Because I feel very much alive.”

“You aren’t,” the deputy shouted, finally turning to him. “You’re dead! I killed you. There’s no way you could have survived that fall.”

The rest of the room fell silent at his words. But, the deputy didn’t seem to notice. He kept ranting even as a chair scraped across the floor. Then, the sheriff was right behind him, pulling his arms behind his back even as he took out a pair of handcuffs. His face looked haggard as he hauled one of his own men off to jail.

As soon as they were gone, the atmosphere seemed to suddenly lighten again. Then, people were crowding around their table, everyone talking at once. Some laughing and slapping Ian on the back. He just looked across the table at me. “I’m going to have to explain why I basically faked my death and took so long to come forward.”

I reached over and cupped his cheek. “it’s okay. Whatever happens, we’re together now. No one will pull us apart again.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

AWWWW. 😉

 

Story a Day: Day 2 – Ian

Today’s prompt wasn’t bringing anything to mind for me, so instead I decided to write a little bit from one of yesterday’s characters. Everything else I’ve written for them has been from Aidan’s POV, so I decided to do a little something from Ian’s.

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I was still running the man’s words through my head as I scribbled a note for Aidan. The call had been a surprise. I still wasn’t sure exactly who it was, though the voice had almost seemed familiar. But, those words.

I have information about your boy, Aidan. It getting out could be dangerous for him. Meet me tonight at the top of the trail, and I’ll lend you a hand.

I still wasn’t sure if it was a threat or more of a warning. But, I wasn’t willing to let anything happen to him. Not now that we’d finally worked through everything and were finally together. Well, even if that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have wanted anything to happen to him. But, especially not now. I’d almost lost him once, but I hadn’t let go then. I wouldn’t this time, either.

He’d probably be home soon, so I grabbed my hiking boots and a light jacket and headed outside. I needed to be gone first, otherwise he’d insist on going too. But, I wanted to know what we were facing before I let him know there was even something wrong.

I knew what people thought of me. That my head was in the clouds because I came up with fanciful scenarios. I came up with most of them because they made Aidan laugh. It didn’t mean I didn’t have a firm anchor to reality. Or that I wouldn’t do whatever it took to protect the man I loved.

I made it to the top of the trail and looked around. No one was there. I really hoped this wasn’t just an elaborate prank. if it was, I was going to be really upset. And how would I explain to Aidan why I was back already when my note said I’d gone climbing.

That was stupid anyway. He’d wonder why I’d gone alone. Why I’d gone so late. And why I’d gone when the weather was so likely to turn nasty. He’d probably come up after me, and that wouldn’t do any good.

I should have just ignored that phone call, like I usually did with a number I didn’t recognize. But, it had been local, so I’d assumed a friend had changed their number. I turned around and headed back for the trail. I’d just go back home and tell Aidan I’d changed my mind. The conditions weren’t good for climbing anyway.

I wouldn’t do that,” a voice called out. “Not if you want your boyfriend to keep living.”

That froze me in place. It was the same voice from over the phone. I was sure of it. “What do you mean?” I asked as I slowly turned. I recognized him as soon as I saw his face. A deputy with the county’s sheriff’s office. He was always strutting around town like nothing could ever touch him.

And now he was sneering at me. “I’m not stupid. I know the reason he broke my sister’s heart. I don’t see why shacking up with you was worth that.”

“He went on two dates with her,” I told him. “It’s not even like they were in a committed relationship, and he cheated. And he broke it off weeks before we ever-”

I didn’t see the blow coming, not expecting a man his size to move so fast. I stumbled back from the impact, one of my feet sliding in the loose gravel at the edge of the trail. I scrambled for purchase, knowing if I slipped here, I’d go right over. And no matter what I’d said in my note to Aidan, I hadn’t brought any climbing equipment.

But, the man advanced on me, grabbing the front of my jacket in his fist. “Better than killing him. As long as you’re gone, he’ll know what it’s like to have his heart as shattered as hers was. Otherwise I might have had to kill him, too.”

Then, he shoved, and there was no way for me to get my footing again. There was nothing below me but air. I grabbed for the rocks and felt skin rip off my hands. I barely even had time to think, I’m sorry, Aidan, before pain wrenched through me. Then, darkness wrapped around me, and there was nothing else.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Uh oh. Doesn’t look too good for Ian, does it? Of course, if you read yesterday’s story, you’ll know some of what happens next.

Story a Day: Day 1 – “The Dead Friend”

I pulled into the driveway but wasn’t ready to go back into the house yet. Not with so many memories still fresh in my mind. Too many that I had made with Ian in that house.

I still didn’t understand why he would have gone climbing on his own.

And now we’d just buried him. I wish I could bring him back so that I could yell at him for breaking my heart this way.

But, even I knew that wasn’t possible. Ian would have been the one to come up with scenarios about raising the dead, but I just didn’t have it in me. Especially without him. So, instead, I walked down the short driveway to grab the mail that had come in while I was gone. It was mostly bills, but a single postcard caught my attention. I recognized the picture on it. Ian had always collected postcards from the places we’d gone. This was one we’d sworn to make it back to one day.

That wasn’t going to happen now. We’d searched for over a month after he left a note that he was climbing. I hadn’t been able to identify the body they’d found, no one could, but he’d had the bracelet I’d given Ian for his birthday just a few weeks before he’d gone missing. I guess that was enough for them to declare him dead.

I flipped the postcard over, and my hands shook so hard the rest of the mail fell to the driveway. I ignored it as I read the words on the card over and over.

Aidan,

I’m not dead. Meet me Tuesday at 8 at our spot.

Ian

No, no, no. This couldn’t be right. But who would play a trick like this on me? I’d just buried my best friend, the man I’d finally admitted I loved the year before. And now someone was trying to convince me he was still alive. Who could be so cruel?

I managed to gather up the rest of the mail and walk up to the house. But, my hand was still shaking too much to put the key in the lock. I dropped down onto the porch swing, but even that held so many memories with Ian. I stared at the words on that postcard and did what I hadn’t let myself throughout the whole funeral.

I cried.

And I decided there was no way I was falling into whatever trap whoever sent this had planned.

***

Tuesday night, 8 p.m.

I finished hiking up to mine and Ian’s favorite spot. It had been dark for more than an hour by this point, so I’d needed a flashlight, but I was here. No matter what I’d told myself since getting that postcard. I knew it was stupid.

Ian was dead. He couldn’t be here.

Still, I found myself calling out to him. “Ian,” I called, choking on his name. “I’ll have you know, if you are here, I’m going to kill you for what you’ve put me through.”

There was a rough chuckle from the shadows to my right. “I’m really getting tired of people threatening me with that.” He stepped into the light cast from my flashlight, and it fell from my hand.

He dashed forward and caught me before I could fall. “You’re dead,” I gasped. “We buried you today.”

“I’m sorry,” Ian said, “I had to. Or he would have come after me again. But, I couldn’t hide from you anymore. It was killing me. But, if he finds out I’m still alive, that’s just what he will do.”

“Who?” I demanded.

“Come on, and I’ll tell you a story.”

He led me to a little cave in the side of the rock I hadn’t even known about. “I don’t even know who that man was I put the bracelet on,” he said. “He was already dead. I just needed to get people to stop searching for me before any of you actually did stumble on me.”

I punched his shoulder. “We wanted to find you, though. I thought you were actually dead. I’ve been grieving for you, and you’ve been camping out here the whole time? I’ve come up here almost every day since you went missing.”

“I know,” he said, his voice barely more than a whisper. “And I wanted to come to you, but I couldn’t. If he knew I was still alive, we’d both be dead.”

“That doesn’t make any sense. I don’t even know who would want to hurt you.”

He wove a story that was hard to grasp, let alone actually believe. But, he had proof which made it difficult to call him a liar. “What are you going to do?” I asked. “You can’t just keep living out here.” And if everything he said was true, we couldn’t go to the authorities either.

“I have a plan,” he said. “It’s dangerous, and it could see me actually dead. But, if it works, I’ll be able to come home again. But, I’ll need your help, Aidan.”

“I’m in,” I said without hesitation. I’d do anything to keep him with me. No mater the cost.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is my fist offering for the year’s Story a Day challenge. This is connected to one of the side projects I’m currently working on(if you follow my twice-weekly check-ins, you may recognize the characters from “Hang On”). Not saying this is what will happen to these characters in the future, but it’s a possibility.

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