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Stream of Consciousness Saturday: “You’re/Your”

Time for another Stream of Consciousness Saturday post. Today’s prompt was “your/you’re/yore” I’m almost finished with the plotting for Defending the Heart, but it was a couple other characters who jumped into my head this morning. I didn’t think I’d be writing their story yet. but, they’ve convinced me it need to move up in the line. I don’t have any of it plotted yet, but I did write out some parts of scenes in my head one day while we were on the motorcycle. So, there’s that.

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You’re really going to do this?”

Terrall ran one large hand over his head while he held the phone to his ear. He felt the bristle of the hair growing back in. Not shaving it all off again might be the hardest part of deciding to change himself. “Yes, Mother,” he said, trying to hold on to his patience. He should have known better than to answer the phone when he saw her number. “We’ve already discussed this.”

“I still do not see why you won’t just come home. You don’t have anything to make up for.”

Only because your sense of entitlement is too large to let you see it. “You know exactly what I need to make up for, Mother. I would have done it seven years ago, if you hadn’t pulled all those strings.”

“Well, did you really think I’d just let my baby boy rot in a jail cell?”

He moved his hand down to grip the back of his neck. “I deserved to be there, Mother. That’s the point you’re not getting. I didn’t deserve everything I got when someone else-”

“Enough, Terrall,” she said, her voice sharp. He knew better than to argue with her when she took on that tone. “You’ve brought enough shame on us by that public spectacle last summer. Now, you’re back in that backwards town. It is only asking for trouble.”

“Lieutenant Berman  has given me an opportunity here. He could have just written me off after what happened. Instead I have a chance to give back. I don’t see why you have such a problem with that.”

“If you bring more shame to us-”

“I don’t see what could be more shameful than me walking away when I left one person dead and the other broken.” Doren likely wouldn’t like being described that way, but hopefully it would get his point across. “Nothing I do will make that right, but I can at least do everything I can to balance the scales a little. I’m doing this, Mother, no matter what you say about it.”

There was a sharp sound then…nothing. He pulled the phone away from his ear and looked at the screen. Yeah, she’d hung up on him. Not all that surprised, he clipped it back onto his belt.

“Parental expectations can be hell, can’t they?”

He spun around, his gaze latching onto the woman standing a few feet away on the sidewalk. She looked familiar, but he couldn’t place why. “You eavesdropping on my conversation?”

One corner of her mouth tugged up. “I just stepped out of the store there and caught the last part. I don’t know what it was about, but I understand disappointing your parents.” He didn’t like what he saw flash through her eyes, but he didn’t know how to make it go away. Then, she was sticking her hand out. “Jess Amadeo. Haven’t I seen you around?”

He gripped her hand in his much larger and darker one. “Terrall Shreeve. I haven’t been here in over a year, and I don’t live here.”

“Strange. I thought you looked familiar. Well, I have to get going, but maybe I’ll see you around. Hope you can work things out with your mom.”

“Thanks, but that’s unlikely.”

She smiled at him then turned and walked away. Well, maybe there was more than one reason to stick around here for a little bit.

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

I may have trouble with this one. Drunk driving is one thing I have trouble finding any sympathy for. And yet, somehow, Terrall has burrowed his way in. So, I guess we’ll see if he can find any redemption.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Concentration

Today’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt is “concentration”. Haha, this is funny. I can’t even concentrate enough to get through this intro. ;p Maybe once I get started on the fiction, it will come better. The thing with Gabe, Lora, & Erik that’s referenced here hasn’t actually happened in Break on Me(and may not, we’ll see), but this would take place sometime after that story and before Erik’s own story. The first line popped into my head, but I wasn’t even sure who said it until I started writing.

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“You’re so totally messing with my concentration.” Gabriel ducked his head as the pencil his brother had been tapping against the desk came flying toward his head. “Was that really necessary, Chris?”

“You’re just being a grump ’cause Lora’s out of town.”

“You’re nuts.” Except he wasn’t. Lora had been out of town, tying things up at her old job and packing her stuff up before she moved up here, for three days. Two more days, and she’d be back. But, he was getting antsier the more days that went by without seeing her.

“If you just need to get laid, I’m sure Erik-”

“Enough,” Gabriel growled. “That was a one time thing. Lora and I are in a committed one-on-one relationship. Erik’s the one who took that step back, so just-”

“Easy,” Chris said, holding his hands up. “I was just joking.”

Gabriel ran his hand over his face. He usually would have known that. Maybe more than Lora being out of town had him antsy. Considering they were still living under the same roof, Erik was doing a damn good job of avoiding him. It was awkward now, but there was no way Gabriel would ever ask him to leave. Not unless he knew Erik had a place, and he’d be okay on his own.

And that had been part of the problem. Erik didn’t want someone taking care of him. Didn’t want to share, either, which Gabriel couldn’t blame him for. He’d known that wouldn’t be a long-term arrangement.

“What about you?” he asked, needing to get his mind off this. “You seen Reagen again?”

“Every damn day,” Chris muttered. “This town isn’t big enough. And she’s still with her girlfriend, so you can let it drop.”

“Fine,” Gabriel said, doing just that. He could sense his brother was more upset about the situation than he’d admit. So, he’d let it go. He was getting better at doing that.

He turned back to his desk and tried to get back to work, but his concentration was completely shot by now. “Come on,” he said, standing up and grabbing his keys. “Let’s cut out early and grab some lunch. We don’t have much going on, so I doubt Dad will mind.”

“Not like he’d fire us if he did. Just give us that disappointed look.”

Gabriel laughed, for what felt like the first time in days, and headed for the door. “Sometimes I think that’s worse.”

Teaser Tuesday: JuNoWriMo Edition

So, next month(which starts tomorrow! Eek!), I’ll be participating in JuNoWriMo once again. I love doing these monthly writing challenges(if you haven’t figured that out by now). I’m not only working on one project for this, though. I actually have 6 different on-going projects right now(that doesn’t count the 3 that are in active revisions) and will be working on all of them during the month. For today, I’ll share a short summary and the last few lines I have written.

Protecting the Heart(BC Security #2):

Declan Portor, who has spent most of his life protecting others, is brought back to his first client, but saving her a second time could cost his own life.

His throat went thick at that, and he glanced back at Eva. He hadn’t been doing a great job of helping them. Barely staying one step ahead of trouble. He was going to have to change that. But Eva was smiling at them, like that thought wasn’t even bothering her. She trusted him, and he had to make sure he didn’t betray that by letting either of them get hurt.

“Can you read them to me? I think I’d like to know more about this Nighthawk. As long as he doesn’t fly around my apartment anymore.”

But, Dani grinned at him and put the rest of the books down. “I can do better. I made up a story about him. I can tell you that one.”

Declan settled back on the couch and gestured for her to climb onto his lap. He glanced back at Eva again, worried she wouldn’t like that. But, she was still smiling at them. “I’m listening,” he told Dani, bringing his attention back to her and trying to make sure his eyes stayed open.

***

Ready When You Are(Hunter Family #3)

Kelan Hunter has never quite fit, but just as he feels he may have found someone who accepts him as he is, they face blackmail and threats and are left wondering what will become of their lives.

There was that desperation again, and it tore at Kelan’s chest. “[xx], there’s nothing wrong with you. No matter who you’re attracted to and who you aren’t. Have you talked to your parents about this?” He certainly didn’t want to be the one to out the boy to them if they didn’t know already. But, someone should know what he was going through. Kelan hadn’t had anyone at that age, and he still hadn’t known just what he was then. Maybe if he’d talked to someone else, it would have saved a lot of years of questioning himself, though.

***

Paint Me a Picture(Gilbert, CO #4.75)

Artist, Rylan Stevens, wants to give single mother, Kirsten Matthews, and her daughter the life they deserve, but just as they get started, someone from her past returns.

Rylan took the hand Kirsten offered and let her lead him back to her bedroom. He’d seen the fear go through her eyes when he’d said he wanted everything. Was she really afraid of him? She had to know he would never hurt her. Not even once. So, it had to be something else.

He turned to her as they stepped into her bedroom doorway. He slid one hand up her neck to cup her cheek. “We don’t have to do this,” he told her. “We don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.”

“I wouldn’t have invited you over if I didn’t want this, Ry,” she told him. “That’s not what scares me. I know it doesn’t have anything to do with you. It’s all me.”

***

Shed Some Light(Gilbert, Co #5)

When his brother is apparently framed for a crime he didn’t commit, Carlos has to turn to the one woman who could save or ruin them both.

Tereza grabbed her bag from the seat beside her and hurried out of the car. She was already running behind. She’d wanted to have a chance to stop and see Brent before the hearing. See if he would be at least a little more cooperative than the last couple meetings they’d had. But, her car hadn’t wanted to start, then after it finally had, she’d gotten stuck in traffic. She’d realized she wouldn’t have time to stop by the jail and get to court in time.

Like it would have done any good anyway. Brent refused to help her help him at all.

She slammed her car door shut and walked as quickly as she could without losing her footing on the icy parking lot. The last thing she needed was to show up in court with a sprained ankle. She did slip a couple times, but thankfully managed to not fall. Thankfully the sidewalk had been shoveled and salted, so she was able to move at a brisker pace once she hit it.

***

Break on Me(Kurztown #4)

Gabriel Saranno wants to honor his friend’s memory with his father’s latest construction project, but when that friend’s sister gets involved, with the project and him, he doesn’t know if he can hold on to a promise he made.

His house for dinner? Why had Lora agreed to that? Being alone with Gabriel Saranno had to be a mistake. A huge one at that.

But, still, instead of calling him, or at least the office since she didn’t have his personal number, she stood in her closet, trying to decide on an outfit to pack. They were just going over the presentation to give to the town at the next council meeting. It’s not like it was a date.

So why did she have to agonize so much over the choice?

“You’re being ridiculous, Lora,” she muttered. “Just grab something, so you can put the rest of your shit in the bag. You don’t need to impress Gabriel.” Not like she’d ever been able to anyway.

***

In the Moonlight

When Yasmin Reisner inherited her great-aunt’s house, it comes with more than she expected; an alleged ghost, a relentless realtor, and possibly the love of her life.

“I’ll see you in the morning then, Ms. Reisner.” She turned away,  but I reached out and put a hand on her arm. She stopped and waited for me to say something.

“It’s Yasmin,” I reminded her. “I told you to just call me Yasmin.” I didn’t need the formality.

“Yasmin then,” she said, and her smile nearly knocked my legs out from under me. “I’ll see you in the morning. I hope you have a more restful night.”

I watched her walk away and highly doubted that would happen. But, I might get some good dreams out of it. And I’d still call that a win.

 

Looking forward to working on all of these. Anyone else participating in JuNoWriMo this year? Any other writing challenges you like to participate in?

Story a Day: Day 31 – Reasons Upon Reasons

The last day of Story a Day, and today’s prompt was to “Go Big”. Taking everything we’ve done this month and put it toward something new. This takes place shortly after “Put the Brakes on“.

Gabriel opened the door, not sure he’d ever been this nervous. Which was rather silly. It was Lora. His friend’s little sister. Who he’d talked to enough times through the computer. No screen, or thousands of miles, between them now, but it didn’t have to be any different.

And then he saw her. Gabriel imagined she thought the outfit was professional, and he was sure it was. But, it clung to every curve, giving him just a taste of what was under it. Stop it, he scolded himself. She was here for business, and he’d promised himself he wouldn’t let his thoughts go there. He’d made a promise to Aaron, and just because the man wasn’t here to make sure he’d keep it didn’t mean Gabriel would go and break his word.

“Come in,” he said when she looked at him curiously. He must look like an idiot just standing in the doorway, staring at her.

She stepped inside and let out a little shiver as she slipped off her sweater. “I thought it was warm when I left the bed and breakfast. I would have grabbed a coat, too, if I’d realized the temperature had dropped so much.”

He couldn’t say he was too disappointed that she hadn’t. Then, he reminded himself, again, that he wasn’t going to think like that. “We’ll get you warmed up,” he said and hung her sweater on a hook by the door.

He caught the way her eyes darkened as the words slipped out of his mouth. Shit. He hadn’t meant it like that, but now he couldn’t stop thinking about it. “Roommate threw some soup in the slow cooker this morning. House has smelled amazing since I got home.” Which had been fairly early since there wasn’t much to do, even in the office. And he’d needed to clean the house up anyway.

Her face tilted up, her nose twitching as if smelling the air. “You’re right,” she said, “it does smell good. Is it ready?”

“He said it would be whenever we wanted to eat.” Had he told her who his roommate was? He couldn’t remember now, though he wracked his memory for it.

“Is he joining us?”

“I don’t think so.” Actually Erik had made it pretty clear he wanted to be anywhere but near them tonight. And he knew his roommate had reasons upon reasons for that.

Gabriel led her into the kitchen. “Have a seat,” he told her. “I’ll get the bowls.”

He took a moment to draw and release a few breaths as he took the bowls out of the cupboard. Being here with her shouldn’t be dragging this response from him. They were going to eat and go over the proposal. That was it. And yet, this felt awfully close to the panic he’d found himself fighting off nearly daily when he’d first come home. He hadn’t dealt with that for a while now, though. He’d thought he was over it.

“Gabe, you okay?” Lora asked from over by the table.

He drew in another breath and said, “Fine,” on the exhale. And he was. This wasn’t a typical panic attack. It had felt like it at first, but the feeling was changing. Still, he breathed through the feeling as he dished out the stew Erik had made then cut a few slices of the bread he’d brought home.

When he carried the first of the bowls to the table, she still looked vaguely concerned. “I could have helped you with that. I should have. Your hand-”

“It’s fine,” he said, almost snapping the words. Even though relief nearly flooded him when she did. His father and brother nearly refused to acknowledge that anything was different and he had to make certain accommodations because of it. Having someone note it without acting like nothing had changed was a relief.

She jerked back, and he winced. “Sorry,” he said. “It’s been a little rough. Had an argument, I guess, with my roommate. Did I tell you who that was?” He rubbed at the side of his head, it was aching a little. Like it always did when he felt a small detail escaping from him. The blast had done more than take part of his arm, though most of the time the other issues didn’t affect him as much.

“Yeah,” she said, that curious look on her face again. “You’d said Erik was living with you.”

He cringed at the way she said that. But, she had to know. If they were going to be working together, she’d hear what everyone else in town said, so he should set her clear now. “We live in the same house, yes,” he said, testing his words carefully. “People may tell you there’s more going on, but that’s really all there is.” Except those few times. But, he wasn’t going to mention those. It wasn’t anyone else’s business how they both managed to cope late at night.

“I never thought any different,” she told him, still with that slightly curious look on her face.

Of course she hadn’t. Aaron had known, but he’d never told anyone. Not even his sister, despite how close they’d been. He turned and grabbed the other bowl of stew, but before he had turned back, Lora was reaching around him for the bread. He had to stop and take a breath, calming himself at the feel of her so close.

By the time he’d set his bowl on the table, Lora had taken a tub of butter out of the refrigerator and was heading back. It was like she belonged there. No. He couldn’t think like that. She didn’t belong here, not with him.

But, when he looked up after taking a bite of stew, she was watching him. He couldn’t exactly say what the look encompassed, though. Some curiosity, certainly. He was acting strange. He knew it, even as he couldn’t do anything to stop it. But, there seemed to be something else, too. He dropped his gaze again before he could think too much about it.

He couldn’t let himself go there.

But, she reached across the table and laid her hand over his. As if she knew the thoughts were bouncing around in his head, and that touch was the one thing that seemed to slow them down. How could she know that, though, when he’d never told anyone else? Still, there was something there between them. He couldn’t deny it, even if he’d never act on it.

He owed his old friend that much at least.

 

SOCS/Story a Day: Day 21 – Put the Brakes on

I combined my Stream of Consciousness Saturday post and Story a Day entry again today. The SOCS prompt was to use brake/break somewhere in it. And for Story a Day, it was to use the opening line: “Huh!” he said. “I never would have thought that would fit in there.” The next line came right to me and apparently I had these two in my head because it just rolled right out from there. I’ll probably end up fitting this in to the Break on Me WiP later on. Warning for mention of suicide.

“Huh!” he said. “I never would have thought that would fit in there.”

“That’s what he said.”

Gabriel looked over at his roommate and shook his head. “You are terrible, Erik.” But, he couldn’t be taken too seriously when he couldn’t wipe the smirk from his own face. “Can you grab a few of those papers over there. I’d like to have this place cleaned up before Lora gets here.”

“Who is this girl anyway?” Erik asked as he moved to help. “I haven’t seen you on a date since you let me move in.”

Gabriel was sure this could be a touchy subject, but as much as he’d like to put the brakes on it, it would be better to iron it all out now. He and Erik hooked up sometimes, late at night when neither of them could sleep. But, there was never more to it. He was afraid he hadn’t made it completely clear there never would be. He might be sexually attracted to me, but he’d only ever been in relationships with women. He didn’t see any of that changing. Even if Lora wasn’t here, he didn’t see him and Erik ever dating. He just hadn’t found the right way to break that to the other man.

“Erik, look-”

Erik waved a hand at him. “Don’t, Gabe, really. I know how things are. It’s fine.”

It wasn’t, though. He could see it in the tight lines of Erik’s shoulders as he turned to pick something else up. He’d never seen what they were doing as something shameful or even really a secret. Just because you didn’t tell everyone a thing didn’t make it a secret. Just private. And he had finally told his dad. And his siblings. They were the only ones who really mattered. It had gone better than he’d expected. He’d never been too worried about his siblings. Chris had been dating Susan when she realized she might love another girl–turned out she did. And he’d taken that well enough. His father had been the real surprise, but he never should have doubted him. He’d been worried about how it would affect them all working together, as much as what it would do to the family.

“It’s really not you, Erik. It’s me. I’ve told you. I might be attracted to men, but I prefer women.”

“I know,” Erik shouted, throwing the remote he’d picked up across the room. “God. Can’t you ever just let anything drop? I said it was fine.”

But, it wasn’t and neither was Erik’s sudden burst of temper. But, Gabriel stood where he was. When Erik got like this, it was better not to approach him. This wasn’t even about the conversation they were having. Gabriel knew that, even though Erik wouldn’t admit it. It had a lot more to do with the fact Gabriel was still pushing about Erik going to talk to someone.

Gabriel drew in a breath and let it out again before going to pick up the remote. “I’m sorry. I just wanted things to be clear.”

“They’re perfectly clear to me. You don’t have to worry about that or me.” Gabriel watched as Erik drew in several breaths, apparently trying to calm himself.

Erik might think he didn’t need to worry about him, but Gabriel did anyway. “I’ve lost one friend because he refused to seek help after he came home. I don’t want to have to bury another.”

“I’m not Aaron,” Erik spit out. “I’m not going to kill myself.”

“I don’t think he thought he would, either. Not until it got to be too much.” He drew in a shuddering breath. It always hurt to talk about Aaron. Every damn time. And speaking of…”Her name’s Lora,” he said, answering Erik’s earlier question. He watched him process and try to catch up to the change in conversation. “And it isn’t a date. She’s only here because of the project the company is working on. And,” he added, glancing away, “she’s Aaron’s sister.” Just as much reason that he couldn’t go there.

Erik shifted away at that. “So, she probably already hates me.”

“What would make you say that? She doesn’t even know you.”

“Her brother did. And he made it perfectly clear what he thought of me. I wouldn’t doubt he told her. Weren’t they really close?”

“Yeah. But, you don’t know she’s like that. She never agreed with everything he thought. She does have a mind of her own, you know.”

“Right. Well, I think I’ll make myself scarce until she’s gone anyway.”

Gabriel watched Erik stalk away then let out a sigh. That hadn’t gone well. Hopefully his meeting with Lora would go better. He just needed to finish getting this place cleaned up.

Story a Day: Day 18 – Perfect Coincidence

Today’s prompt was to write a story based on a painting. I used one of the examples on the Story a Day page for the prompt. The two girls in this aren’t quite the same as in the picture, but I used more the idea of it for this. And this will fit perfectly into where I’m at in Break on Me. Love when that works out.

Lora headed out of the bed and breakfast and looked both ways as she reached the sidewalk. It shouldn’t be too hard to find her way around this town. She’d grown up in what she thought was a small town, but this one beat even that. And she’d spent the last year and a half in a town several times larger. How did people even live in a place like this?

She shook off that thought and headed down the sidewalk. The mechanic who had brought her car in the night before had dropped her off at the bed and breakfast, but he’d told her how to get to the garage so she could see about her car. It shouldn’t be hard to find it. And everyone seemed to have already shoveled the snow that storm had dumped on them. She’d grown up in the opposite corner of the state, where it wasn’t normal to see snow at the beginning of November. But, since she’d moved up this way, she’d learned it was here. Something else to get used to. Like living in a world without Aaron.

She pushed away thoughts of her brother. He was part of the reason she was here, but the grief wasn’t going to help at all. She’d found it best to keep it locked away in its own box until she had time to deal with it. She’d had enough people tell her she shouldn’t feel the way she did, since he’d done it to himself. That didn’t change the fact she’d lost the last of her family. She hadn’t fought those battles in his head, so she couldn’t say why he’d ended it all. She only knew she still missed him.

She was just passing the parking lot that seemed to house a grocery store, with a couple gas pumps next to it, a hardware store, and on the other side a diner. She’d have to remember the diner and check it out later. It seemed like a lot of those places were dying out, being replaced with Subways and other chains.*

She saw two women heading away from the diner, coming right toward her. Though neither seemed to see her. One had her head bent slightly, her hands moving with her words. The other woman tipped her head back slightly, dragging her hands through auburn hair, then let out a laugh. Lora couldn’t stop watching them. Something about this interaction struck her. Then, the first woman took the other one’s hand and pulled her a little closer, going up on her toes until she could put her mouth on the other woman’s lips.

Oh. Lora did turn away now. Not because she felt there was anything wrong with that. But, it seemed a little intimate for her to watch. But, then they were walking toward her again. She really should keep walking. Her toes were already starting to feel a little frozen in her boots. Yet, these two seemed perfectly comfortable in their jackets, no gloves or hats as they walked arm in arm now.

She saw the name sewn on the jacket the shorter woman wore. Kurztown Auto Repair. The same as what had been on the side of the tow truck the night before. Well, that was just a perfect coincidence, wasn’t it? “Excuse me,” she said, stepping forward.

Both women turned toward her, the auburn-haired one eyeing her warily. But, she saw the other woman squeeze her hand, and she didn’t let go of it. “What can we do for you?” she asked, her voice light.

“You work at the garage?” she asked, gesturing to the name on the jacket.

She kept smiling and nodded at Lora. “I do. Name’s Kendall Gosslar, most people just call me Ken, though. What can I help you with? You need your car brought in?”

“No. Actually, it should already be there. I went off the road in that storm last night, and uh, Doren I think was his name, brought me into town. I just, well I thought you could help me find my way there. He gave me directions, and this place is small enough, I’m sure I could find it. But-”

“It’s too cold to be out here wandering around hoping you find your way,” Ken said, still smiling at her. “And Doren isn’t the best at giving directions, no matter his talent at working on cars. I have to get over there anyway. You can walk with me.”

The other woman was still studying Lora. “You’re the one Jarrett found. The one Doren went out in that storm for.”

She almost thought she heard some judgment in those words, but she had to be imagining it. “Yeah, but it’s not like I planned for my car to skid off the road and get stuck. You know them?”

“It’s okay, Sue,” Kendall said, squeezing her hand and pulling her in closer. “They both came home last night.”

The woman–Sue, Lora filed the name away for future reference–drew in a long breath then nodded before focusing on Lora again. “They’re my brothers,” she said. “I just…I worry. But, Ken’s right. They’re fine, and it wasn’t your fault. I’m sorry.”

She understood worry. She’d worried about Aaron every day he’d been deployed. Even most days he was stateside, hearing too many stories about training accidents. She’d thought that was over when he’d left the Army. It had only gotten worse, though.

Kendall turned into Sue and kissed her again. Lora turned away, her face warming a little. “I’ll see you after work, right?” Kendall asked the other woman.

“Yes.” From the corner of her eye, Lora saw Sue reach up to caress Kendall’s cheek. “I’ll come by the garage when school’s out.”

Lora waited until Kendall joined her and started off down the sidewalk. “So, your girlfriend’s a teacher?”

Kendall stopped and turned to look at Lora, her eyes wary for the first time. “Yeah. You got a problem with that?”

“Nope,” Lora said, shoving her hands in her coat pockets. Even with gloves on, the cold got through to them. “Just making conversation.”

Kendall’s shoulders relaxed, and she fell into step beside Lora again. “Sorry. We had some problems in town because of our relationship. She almost lost her job because of it, but neither of us are willing to hide anymore.”**

Lora actually thought it was kind of amazing that someone could love enough to take that kind of risk. She knew not everyone would see it the same way. And she wasn’t sure what else to say, not wanting to put her foot in her mouth again. So, they walked in silence until the garage was right in front of them. Kendall took out a set of keys and unlocked the door to the front office. “Doren lives in that house right behind the garage,” she told Lora. “He’ll be in soon. Saying good-bye to his girlfriend, too.”

Lora looked in the direction she’d gestured and saw the man from last night with his arms around a darker girl. She looked away again, once more feeling almost like a voyeur. Kendall must have seen the blush in her cheeks because she let out a soft laugh. “Come inside,” she said. “I can start some coffee, and you can get warmed up. Doren will be over soon.”

“Thanks,” she said and wandered into the office. But, this gave her too much time to think. About Aaron, how he would have reacted to the moment between Kendall and Sue. Though she didn’t really know, but she knew his opinion about homosexuals–and women– in the military. She’d never agreed with him on either point, but the arguments had gone round and round.

Then, her thoughts wandered to what she was really doing here. Would she see Gabriel? She shook away that question. Not likely. She hadn’t seen him since Aaron’s funeral. She’d made sure of that. She’d lost her brother, but she didn’t need someone else who treated her like a little sister. Just because he shared a last name with the company she was consulting with didn’t mean anything. Even in a town this size, she could probably avoid him.***

Feeling a little better after convincing herself of that, she accepted the cup of coffee Kendall handed her and waited to see if she’d be able to drive her car away from here this morning.

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

*Diner in my hometown, that this is modeled after, actually has been replaced with a Subway

**Events that happened in Love Who You Love

***Hahaha. Keep telling yourself that, Lora.

A-Z Challenge: Z is for Zachariah Sarrano

Z

Tissue Warning: Apparently I’m going to end on a sad note. I had to fight tears a couple times while writing this one, so you’re warned.

“Hey, Boss!”

Zachariah Sarrano glanced down from his position on the roof at the shouted words. One of his men held his thumb and pinky beside his head. Damn phone. He didn’t want to talk to anyone until they were done putting on this roof. “Take a message,” he shouted back.

“Sounded important.”

He didn’t bother cursing again. Just part of being the boss. He hoped to pass that responsibility off to his sons as soon as they could join him full-time. They already worked for him during summer vacations, but he certainly wouldn’t let them up here until they had more training. He thought Gabriel would handle the office work well, or at least better than Chris. That wasn’t saying much, though. His second son was practically a copy of himself.

He made his way across the roof and down the ladder then unhooked his harness. None of them worked on the roof without one. He made sure of it. “Who is it?” he asked Matt as they started toward the trailer that served as a temporary office when they were on a job site.

Irritation shifted to worry when Matt didn’t answer him. Zachariah looked over at him, but Matt wouldn’t meet his gaze. “I think you’d better just take the call, boss.”

Yeah, there was nothing good about this.

He stepped into the trailer and yanked up the receiver Matt had laid on the desk. “Sarrano Construction.”

“Is this Zachariah Sarrano?”

“Yeah. What is this about?”

“There’s been an accident.”

***

This could not be happening. It just could not. He hadn’t been given any details over the phone. Just that Marleen and Lyndsey had been taken to the hospital after being pulled out of the car. His hands shook, and he laid on the horn again. Where the hell were those boys?

Finally they came out of the house. Not in any hurry at all. Damn it. He’d told them to be ready when he got here.

“What the hell, Dad?” Gabriel said when he opened the front door of the truck. “I was going to go pick Brittany up in a little bit. I had to call her and cancel our date. Chris rushed back from Doren’s. What was so damn important?”

“Don’t swear at me, Gabriel,” he said, pointing a shaky finger at his older son. “I don’t care if you did just turn seventeen. Your mom and sister are in the hospital, so I don’t want to hear any of it. Just buckle up.”

Both boys fell silent at that, and Zachariah pulled away from the curb. They’d barely made it out of town before Chris asked, his voice wavering, “What happened?”

Zach’s hands shook on the wheel, and he tightened his grip, wishing that would steady him. “I don’t know. Exactly. There was an accident, and they were both taken in. That is all I know.”

Neither of the boys spoke after that, but Gabriel did put a hand over his when he set it on the gear shift. They pulled into the parking lot at the hospital, but suddenly he wasn’t sure what to do. They needed to go inside, of course, but he couldn’t make himself open the door. “Come on, Dad,” Gabriel said. “I’m sure Mom’s going to want to see you.”

That kicked him back into gear. He led the way into the hospital and up to the desk. “How can I help you?” the receptionist asked.

“My wife and daughter should have been brought in. They were in an accident.”

“Names?”

“Marleen and Lyndsey Saranno.”

She typed the names in–he had to spell Lyndsey’s as always–and he thought something passed through her eyes. But, she looked up at him again, and her face was blank. “Have a seat, Mr. Saranno. Someone will be out to talk to you.”

There was too damn much pity in her voice for that talk to be anything he wanted. “What happened to them?”

“I can’t tell you. Just go have a seat.”

But, he couldn’t sit. So, he paced. He stood at the window and stared out. He crushed a water bottle Chris had gotten him from the vending machine. When he couldn’t handle the crinkling of the plastic, he tossed it into the trash without even opening it.

“Mr. Saranno?”

He turned to look at the weary-looking man who stood only feet away from him. Something in his eyes…Zachariah’s legs nearly went out on him. “No,” he said. “Don’t tell me that. They aren’t-”

“Dad,” Gabriel said, stepping up and taking one of his arms. “He hasn’t told us anything yet. I’m sure they’re going to be fine.”

“Your daughter is going to be fine,” the doctor assured him. “She suffered a broken arm and a few other bumps and bruises, but she’ll heal.”

Zachariah’s shoulders sagged. Maybe he’d imagined it all. His mind was playing tricks on him. They were all going to walk out of here together. As a family.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Sarrano.” He looked up at the doctor, his eyes narrowing. But, he’d just said Lyndsey would be fine. Of course, Marleen would be, too. Why was he sorry?

“Your wife. She didn’t make it here.”

He almost hit the floor, but the doctor reached out and caught him. Gabriel grabbed his other side and helped him into a chair.
The doctor was saying something else, but he didn’t hear anything else. Marleen was gone. What was he supposed to do now?

***

“Dad?”

Zachariah lifted shaking hands to his face. He was sitting in his dark bedroom, not answering his son’s call. He’d done this too many times over the last couple months. He just wasn’t sure if he could handle facing them. If it wasn’t for work, he may not leave this room at all. Some days he couldn’t even manage it for that.

Gabriel wasn’t giving up this time, though. “Dad, you can’t just stay in here. Mom’s gone, but the rest of us aren’t.” He pushed the door open but thankfully didn’t switch on the light. “Lyndsey thinks you hate her because she’s the one who survived. Chris is drifting, even Doren is worried about him. I…I don’t know what to do. We need you, Dad.”

Zachariah squeezed his eyes closed even tighter. His family was breaking apart right now, and he didn’t know how to fix it. His chest ached every day, like part of him had been scooped out and thrown away.

“Where are they?” he finally asked, his voice hoarse.

“Lyndsey’s in her room, finishing her homework for tomorrow. Chris…well, he said he was going to Doren’s. But, he called me a little bit ago wondering why he never came over after church.”

Church. He hadn’t even realized it was Sunday. God, Gabriel must have been taking them, because Zachariah certainly hadn’t been doing it. Just how much had his eldest been doing for the younger two? More than was his responsibility. That was for sure.

“Call him and tell him to get back here. I’ll talk to Lyndsey. And order us some pizzas. We’re all having dinner together today.” They’d need to do more than that to keep this family together, but it would be a start at least.

Zachariah walked slowly up the stairs to his daughters room. He knocked briefly, but when she didn’t answer, he nudged the door open. “Lynds? Gabriel said you were up here.”

“Go away.” Her voice was even rougher than his and filled with tears.

It killed him. Still he was tempted to do as she asked. Most of the time he gave his children what they asked for, within reason, but he thought it would be worse to do that now. So, he pushed the door open and stepped inside. She wasn’t doing homework. She was laying on her bed, the pink of her cast laying overtop the stuffed elephant she held against her. The elephant Marleen had given her when she’d been in the hospital for meningitis a couple years earlier.

“I said to go away.”

“I’m not going to leave you, Lyndsey.”

“You don’t even want me to be here.”

He sat on the edge of her bed. “Of course, I do. I love you.”

“No, you don’t. You wish she was here. That we could have switched places.”

He’d cried at the funeral but not again since that day. Now, tears were rolling down his cheeks. “No. I mean, yes, I wish your mother was still here. I’ve loved her since I was Gabriel’s age. But, no, I don’t wish you’d died instead of her.” He moved closer to her, so he could run a hand over her hair. “I would have been heartbroken to lose you, too.”

“You won’t even look at me.”

He could hardly even look at anyone these days. “You look just like her. You know that?”

Lyndsey nodded. “That’s what everyone’s always said.”

“I haven’t handled things well. I’m sorry for that. We’re going to find our way through this, though. I had Gabriel order some pizza and go to find your other brother. We’re going to start with having dinner together.”

“He’s been doing my hair for school. Did you know that?”

“Gabriel?” He hadn’t even thought about it. Marleen had always handled that kind of stuff. It wasn’t even on his radar of wondering about.

She shook her head. “Chris. They’ve both been trying to do whatever they can to help. I know you’re sad, Dad.”

Sad didn’t even begin to cover it. But, that didn’t matter. Gabriel was right. They were still here, and he couldn’t just ignore that while he wallowed in his grief. His children still needed him, and he couldn’t let them down.

“Come on,” he said. “We’ll all eat dinner together, then I’ll see if I can help you with that homework.”

She rolled her eyes, but got up off the bed with him. “I already got it done, Dad. You don’t have to worry about that.”

Well, at least it was one thing he didn’t have to worry about it.

Note: Chris showed up in Love Who You Love, book 3 in my Kurztown series. And he told me about the family dinners his father had instituted after Chris’ mother’s death. I also just finished outlining Gabriel’s story. And even though he often comes off as the more fun-loving brother, he does step up to take responsibility when needed.

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