Sex: Well, duh…
Note: This is a continuation from my story, ‘I Dare You’, which you will need to read for this one to make a whole lot of sense.
If you’d like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com
Green eyes blinked open, then quickly squeezed shut as a sharp bolt of pain lanced through her shoulder into her arm and chest, nearly leaving her breathless. She gasped for air, which made the pain even more acute.
“Easy, Cal. Just take it easy.”
Cal tried to turn her head to the right, where she heard a familiar voice, but even that attempt left her feeling dizzy and nauseous with pain. Keeping her eyes closed, she swallowed, then took a deep breath.
“Where am I?” she managed, her voice raspy, throat dry from disuse.
“You’re in St. Peter’s in San Diego.”
“Yeah, sweetie. I’m here.”
Cal felt a gentle touch on her other arm. “How did I get to San Diego? Why am I in the hospital?” She tried to take mental stock of her body, but could barely feel anything. Except the pain. She could feel nothing below the waist.
“You were flown here a week ago. How much do you remember, Cal?” Ty sat next to his sister’s bedside, where he’d kept a near constant vigil since it had all happened.
“Paige. I was in her room. We were packing her a bag.” Cal could see Paige’s blue eyes before her mind’s eye. A soft smile spread across her features, but quickly disappeared as pain pushed it away. Jesus, she hurt everywhere!
“Yes. Look, Cal, we’ll talk about this later, okay?” Ty rose, placing a soft kiss to his sister’s forehead. “I’ll be back a little later this afternoon. I need to get going to work and Tracy will be here, okay?”
“Tracy? I don’t know a Tracy.”
“My wife. I love you, Cali. Don’t you go anywhere, ‘k?”
The blonde nodded. “Can’t seem to get my legs to work, so I wouldn’t worry about me running off just yet.”
Cal’s eyes slipped closed again, causing her to miss the pained look on her brother’s face. “Okay.” Squeezing her toes affectionately through the thin hospital blanket, Ty left the room. He ran into his wife halfway down the hall. She hugged him and placed a lingering kiss on his lips.
“You okay?” she asked, reaching up to palm his cheek. She had been so worried about her husband of four years. He looked so tired, and she knew it was because he wasn’t sleeping. When she could drag him away from the hospital to sleep in his own bed, he was awakened by nightmares. Some were from that day, but she suspected many were not, but rather from a time long before she knew him.
Ty nodded. “She’s awake. For now.”
“Okay. Jamie is with my mom,” Tracy explained.
“Okay. See you later.” One final kiss and Ty was gone. Tracy sighed, heading into Cal’s room. The events of the past six months had been crazy. Ty came to her one day and said he was ready to find Callahan. He’d been trying off and on throughout the years, but he’d only done what he, himself, could. Now he was ready to hire a professional. He’d hired Burt King, a private detective, who had immediately set about trying to reunite what was left of the Cullen family.
Tracy entered the room, smiling as she remembered that magical day. She’d been at home with their son when Ty had burst through the door, nearly in tears of joy.
“He found her!” he bellowed, waking Jamie and making him cry. Ty didn’t care at that moment as he grabbed his wife, holding her close, whispering into her ear, “He found her. He found my Cali.”
Ty had been given Cheryl’s phone number, and he’d called it, but only after trying to dial several times, his hands shaking so badly that Tracy had taken over. He’d spoken for long hours to the caseworker, getting a history of Cal, and where she’d been, what she’d been through. Ty had laughed, he’d cried, and he’d made arrangements to talk to April Marquez.
Ty had decided on the surprise approach, as he wasn’t sure what to expect. He had been afraid that if he called Cal, let her know he was looking for her, she’d split. He didn’t know if she was angry with him, or even wanted to see him. He had been so worried that she’d feel he’d abandoned her, which though he hadn’t, Ty still felt acute guilt over. He’d been 15, and helpless, but still, he felt he should have been able to do something.
Tracy ran a gentle hand through the small blonde’s hair, marveling at how much their lives had changed, how much her husband had changed. Ty was a good man, always had been, but there had always been a darkness in his eyes, a sadness that nothing could elevate- not even the birth of his son. He loved Jamie with everything in him, but Ty just wasn’t complete somehow. Until now. Tracy had seen a light in those green eyes that lifted her heart and made it sing. She hadn’t gotten a chance to get to know her sister-in-law because she’d been in a near coma when she’d first laid eyes on her, and had been in and out of consciousness ever since, but she loved her already, just because of what her reappearance in Ty’s life had done for him
“Hey, sweetie,” Tracy said softly, unsure whether Cal could hear her or not. “I brought you some chicken noodle soup, homemade by my mom. You’re in for quite a treat. The nurses said it would be okay, and good for you.”
Cal’s head rocked from the left to the right, facing Tracy, but her eyes remained closed. The redhead studied the face, so much like Ty’s. however, Cal’s features were delicate, her hair much lighter blonde than Ty’s strawberry blonde. Their body types were different, however. Where Ty was tall and lanky, Cal was shorter, compact, with a powerful body.
Getting ready for a long wait, Tracy dug out her novel from her bag and got comfortable.
The door. It’s close, very close. She can see the car just beyond. Her hand is firmly in Cal’s, ready to walk out into the day, and into an unknown future.
A cry, somewhere behind her. Was that her mother’s voice? Suddenly, big as day, her father appears, face filled with fury. Shotgun raised, aimed fired-
“Cal!” Paige shot up, hair stuck to her face with a layer of sweat, her chest heaving as tears prickled at the backs of her eyes. Looking around, she realized that she was in the dark bedroom of her school flat, her flatmate, Susan, asleep across the room. Paige swiped a hand across her eyes, feeling the abundant moisture gathering there.
Taking several deep breaths, she climbed out of bed, looking out the window. The quiet streets of London were spread out below. A few cars buzzed by, the streets gleaming with the earlier rains.
“Paige? Are you alright?” Susan asked, sleepy eyes trying to focus on the dark figure against the windows. The brunette turned to her.
“Yeah. Go back to sleep, Susan.”
“Are you quite sure?” Susan sat up, her long, blonde hair hanging in her eyes. “You’ve had horrible night terrors for months now.”
“I’m sure. Just a bad memory.”
“Do you want to talk?”
“No. Go to sleep, Susan. I’m going to make myself some tea. I’ll be back to sleep in no time. Sorry I woke you.”
Susan watched as the lovely American walked out of the room, softly clicking the bedroom door closed behind her before she flicked on the hall light.
Paige filled the teapot with water and set it on the stove, turning the knob until it was the temperature she wanted. Leaning back against the counter, she hugged herself. Susan was right- Paige had been having the horrible dreams since she’d arrived, more than three months ago. Every night it seemed, she had to re-live it all over again. The pain and anguish in Cal’s face, and the blood…
The brunette brought a trembling hand to her face, closing her eyes as she tried to get the image out of her mind.
She turned, startled to see Susan standing next to her, a hand placed on her arm. “Talk to me, love.”
With those softly spoken words, Paige fell apart, finally allowing herself to grieve. She turned to her flatmate, her sobs rocking both their bodies. Susan hung on, allowing her new friend to get it all out, hoping that maybe this time Paige would be willing to talk and let her in. She knew they hadn’t been acquainted for very long, but Susan wanted desperately to be Paige’s friend, and be there for her. After all, they had four years to go. She had the sense that the brunette needed a friend right now, someone to confide in.
After long moments, Paige managed to get herself back together and under control. She pulled away from the tall blonde, wiping her nose and eyes with a dish towel she’d grabbed from the sink. “I’m sorry,” she muttered, taking several deep breaths.
“Don’t you dare apologize. Come.” Susan took Paige’s hand and led her to the small living space, gently tugging the brunette until they were both sitting on the sofa. “Talk to me.”
“there’s no room for argument here, Paige. You’re obviously terribly sad and hurting, so tell me why.”
Paige sniffled and nodded. “Okay. But you have to promise to not tell anyone.”
Paige began her tale, starting that very first day she’d seen Cal in the bathroom, until the part where Claire’s parents told her own.
“Oh no,” Susan murmured, no doubts where this was leading.
Paige nodded. “Well, Cal was leaving to go live with her brother in California, and I was going to go with them. My father,” the brunette’s voice broke, her body dissolving into sobs again. “trespassing,” she whispered.
Susan felt her heart break, able to form ideas of her own of what must have happened. She knew what her own father would do in a situation like that. There was little to no room for understanding in the world she and Paige came from. “Oh, Paige,” she whispered. Her friend only cried harder, solidifying Susan’s suspicions. “I’m so sorry, Paige,” she said softly, rubbing the crying girl’s back in small, soothing circles. “You loved her,” a statement.
Paige nodded. “Yes. I did. Do.”
“Shipped you off here, did they?”
“Yes.” Again Paige wiped her face on the towel she’d brought with her. “They made me leave high school early.”
Paige smiled through her tears. “I just keep seeing it all over again, Susan. My dad’s shot gun, it was awful.”
Susan accepted Paige’s form as the brunette fell over against her, head resting on her shoulder. “So sorry.”
Paige was amazed at how much better it felt to get it all out, everything that she’d had to keep bottled up inside since the day it had all happened. That very afternoon her father had personally driven her to O’Hare, making sure she boarded the plane, which would whisk her off to another land. He said not one word to her, nor her to him. She was still shell-shocked. She had been torn from Cal’s side so quickly, her father’s car passing the ambulance on their way out.
Her thoughts and Susan’s quiet comfort were interrupted by the shrill whistle of the teapot on the stove. Susan insisted she stay where she was, the Brit fixing them both a cup of tea.
“Did the constable do anything?” Susan asked as she resumed her seat.
Paige shook her head. “My father owns half that town, Susan. Hell, half the state. It was boiled down to self-defense. End of case.”
Susan clicked her tongue as she shook her head. “That’s terrible. But, I suppose one way to look at it is you’re away from him now. You can start anew here, Paige. Try and see the positive.”
“I’m trying. I really am.” The brunette ran a hand through her hair. “It’s so hard. I feel guilt eat at me everyday, like I should have done something.”
“What could you have done, really? From the story you just told me, your father was determined to make your relationship with Cal falter. One way or another. Determined men like that rarely ever fail, Paige. That’s why our fathers are the successful men they are.”
Paige nodded with a heavy sigh.
Cal sat in her chair, looking out into the dark, stormy day. The neighbor pulled up into their driveway across the street, and she watched, mildly interested as she tried to juggle carrying her child on her hip and bags of groceries that hung from her free arm.
“Hey, Cal. Do you need anything?” Tracy asked, wiping her hands on the dish towel. The blonde shook her head. “Are you sure? I’m heading to the store to help my mom soon.”
“I’m sure, Tracy,” Cal said, her voice quiet, dead.
“Okay.” The redhead, placed a gentle kiss to the younger woman’s cheek, then got her two year old son ready to go with her.
“Tracy?” Cal murmured, her sister-in-law at the door, shrugging her purse onto her shoulder, Locke holding her hand as he waited to go see his Nana.
“Can you bring Locke over, so I can hug him goodbye?” Cal gave the redhead a sheepish look before looking away, unable to take the pity she saw shining in those brown eyes.
“Of course. Come on, son, Aunt Cali wants to say goodbye.”
The toddler ran as fast as his short legs would allow him, doing his best to climb into his favorite aunt’s lap. She helped him up, a smile lighting her face. Tracy stood back and watched, trying to keep her emotions in check. The only time she’d seen Cal smile in the month she’d been home, was when interacting with her nephew. She loved watching them, but at the same time, it broke Tracy’s heart. She watched as her twenty-two month old wrapped his arms around Cal’s neck, brown eyes studying Cal’s face, giggling as she made funny faces at him.
“Alright, you two,” Tracy said, reluctantly interrupting. Her mother was waiting. “We have to go, honey. Tell Aunt Cali goodbye, Locke.”
“Bubye, Aunt Cali,” the toddler said, accepting the nearly bone-crushing hug she gave him.
“Bubye, sweet boy.” Cal watched as the boy climbed off her lap and ran to his waiting mother. With a final wave, he and Tracy were gone.
Left alone again, Cal turned her attention back to the window. The sky was gray, even the neighbor’s car was gray. Perfect. Sighing heavily, she adjusted the blanket Tracy had arranged around her shoulders earlier.
She glanced around the room, noting the brightly decorated Christmas tree in the corner, wrapped gifts of all shapes and sizes gathered under it. She noted the string of Christmas cards Tracy had taped around the archway leading into the kitchen. Cal had long stopped hoping for a certain sender a long time ago. Six months. That’s a long time.
Looking away in disgust, she made her way down the hall, tugging open the door that would lead to her sanctuary. Carefully, she maneuvered her way into the getup Ty had wired for her, making it easier for her to get around. Reaching the bottom of the stairs, the blonde made slow progress to her rooms, which Ty and a couple of his friends had turned into her own mini apartment. She had everything she’d need, all of it made easy to get or do.
Cal noticed one of Locke’s toys on the floor. The smile was instant as she reached down and picked it up, holding it to her gaze. She hugged the furry creature to her chest, sighing as she looked over at her bed. It looked so inviting. It only took a moment to decide.
“There’s my boy!” Ty exclaimed as his squealing son ran into his open arms. He picked the toddler up, flying him high in the air. Locke spread out his arms for the familiar game. Finally Ty wrapped him in a strong, protective arm, kissing Tracy on the lips. “And, how’s my girl?”
“She’s tired.” Tracy stepped out from behind the counter, straightening a few shelves of books. “You’ve got to talk to her, Ty,” Tracy said, meeting her husband’s eyes. “I think it’s getting worse.”
Ty sighed, putting the boy down. Locke ran off to chase his Nana’s cocker spaniel. “I’m not sure what to do. Maybe if she talked to someone…”
Tracy shook her head. “She’s too stubborn, Ty,” she grinned, smacking in the belly. “Runs in the family. I think she needs you.”
Ty nodded. “Okay. I’ll try tonight. Come on, Locke. Time to go,” he called out, hugging his wife and kissing her goodbye. “See you at home.”
Ty hollered his greeting, followed by that of his son, as they entered the house. The only response was the muted music coming from the floor vents. He quickly made himself and Cal a sandwich, then carried their meal and Locke downstairs.
“Hey, Cal?” he called out, knocking on the closed door that led to her portion of the basement. At the command to enter, he pushed open the door, setting his son down, who quickly ran to his aunt, still lunging on the bed. “Hey,” Ty said, setting her sandwich down on the table next to the bed. “Thought you might be hungry. I know you didn’t eat much for breakfast, and know you, didn’t even bother with lunch.”
“True enough,” Cal said, eyeing the sandwich. She wasn’t hungry.
“Listen, Cali,” Ty began, pulling a chair up to the side of the bed. “Can we talk for a minute?”
Cal rested her head back against the headboard, eyeing her brother. She could hear Locke rummaging through the toy box that was kept in the other room for him. He spent so much time with his aunt, carrying toys back and forth made no sense.
“What’s on your mind, Ty?”
“You.” Ty met her gaze with a frank one of his own. “I’m really worried about you, Cali.”
“There’s no need, Ty. I’m not going to try and off myself or anything that stupid. Been there, done that.”
Ty felt his stomach clench. They had yet to talk about some of Cal’s experiences in the years they’d been separated. Though he wanted to understand, there was a part of him that didn’t dare want to know. “Sweetie, you’re already dying,” he said softly, reaching out to take her hand. It was pale and cool. He tried to hold her gaze, but she refused, pulling her hand out from between his large, warm ones. Cal turned her head away, arms crossing over her chest. Ty’s head fell, shoulders slumping.
“Damn it, Cali,” he said to the floor, then looked up again at his sister. “Please stop shutting me out. Don’t leave me, Cal. You’re all the family I got, and goddamn it, I’m not going to lose you!”
Cal heard her brother’s plea, but the heavy weight of anger and profound sadness held her tongue.
“Okay,” he whispered, slapping his hands on his thighs before pushing up to his feet. “Come on, Locke. Let’s let Aunt Cali rest.”
The boy looked up at his father, then over at his aunt, indecision written all over his tiny features.
“Go ahead and take him,” Cal said, still refusing to look at her brother. “I want to sleep.”
Nodding, Ty grabbed his son up in strong arms, the door clicking softly closed behind them. Cal eyed the door then the sandwiches, neither touched, before banging her head softly against the headboard behind her. Squeezing her eyes and fists, the sting of fingernails digging into her palms. She opened her eyes, looking down along the length of her stretched out body, socked feet laying over to the left.
“Fuck,” she whispered, pounding her fist into the bedding next to her hips. “Fuck! Fuck, fuck, fuck!” Panting heavily at the anger that raced through her body, Cal reached over, grabbing the paper plate loaded with the two sandwiches, she launched them at the wall, watching in satisfaction as they fell to the ground, bread, meat, pickles and mayonnaise.
Susan took Paige by the hand, leading her quickly through the throng of party-goers. It had taken every little bit of persuasion she had to get her friend to go with her. Paige would much rather lock herself in their flat, studying, than enjoy London’s night life.
“Almost there,” the blonde called over her shoulder. Paige said nothing, simply trying not to be pulled off her feet. Her friend’s much longer legs could eat up a hell of a lot more ground than Paige’s own.
As she followed, the brunette glanced at a few people they passed, a few getting her interest, but most just blending into the blur that was the disco. She hated discos, and hated the fact that she’d given in to Susan finally. She’d managed to avoid accompanying her friend for almost an entire year. But, nooooo, she’d given in and agreed. Now she was stuck. She didn’t bother to respond to Susan’s assurance they there were almost ‘there’, wherever ‘there’ was.
Suddenly they were outside in the late summer air, on a back patio. People stood around talking quietly, some smoking cigarettes. Paige didn’t recognize anyone, but soon she was being led again. Susan finally stopped in front of a small group of people- three girls and two guys.
“Everyone, this is the American I was telling you about. Paige, this is everyone.”
The brunette gave a small wave, then shoved her hands into the back pockets of her jeans, looking around for an escape route.
“I’m not much into these things, either,” one “of the guys said, taking a deep drag from a cigarette before tossing the butt off into the darkness, it’s cherry burning bright until it sizzled in a small puddle from the day’s rain. “Too much rubbish, if you ask me,” he continued. He grinned, dimples framing his mouth. “James Wilburn.”
Paige nodded acknowledgement. “Paige, the American.”
James threw his head back, rich laughter erupting from his chest. His longish, dark hair fell into his eyes with the movement. “Great to meet you, Paige, the American. Care for a beer?”
“Uh, sure. Sounds good.”
Susan glanced over at the two, a smile gracing her features.
Cal growled low in her throat, bringing the heavily weighted bar down behind her, pushing it up then bringing it down in front of her. She exhaled as she pushed the bar up into its final resting position. Sweat dripped into her eyes as she shook her head, trying to shake long bangs out of her eyes.
Corbin Tumash glanced at the weight meter of the machine, impressed. “You’ve done well, Cal,” he complimented, straddling the weight bench next to the machine the blonde had been using. “How are those protein shakes working out that I gave you the recipe for?”
Cal nodded, dabbing at her face and neck with a towel. “Good. They taste like shit, but seem to be working wonders.”
“Just be careful. I saw your stats. Don’t let your body fat get too low, Cal. You are a woman. You need to keep it steady.”
Cal shrugged indifference.
“Well I’m headed home. See you Tuesday.” The big black man patted her on the back then headed to the men’s locker room. Cal stayed where she was, her breathing finally calming as she twisted the top off her water bottle. Downing half the bottle in one swig, she swiped her arm across her mouth then blew out a breath. She pulled herself off the machine and made her way to the next. She wasn’t ready to quit yet.
Cal felt good as she made her way up the walkway to Ty and Tracy’s house, the deep, groaning engine of her ride pulling away from the curb behind her. She managed to pull the door open, and stopped in her tracks as she entered the living room. Ty and Tracy sat on the couch, a third person sitting in the recliner, long legs spread out, deep, rumbling voice conversing.
“Oh, no fucking way,” Cal mumbled, trying to hurry toward the basement door. Ty ran after her, stopping her with a firm hand.
“Now, this has gone on long enough, Cali,” he said, looking her in the eye. “Max came to talk to you.”
“Let go, Ty,” Cal growled with warning. She glared at the hand that stopped her.
“No. Not this time,” her brother said, shaking his head. “Someone’s got to get through to you, and you won’t listen to me or Tracy. I’m tired of watching you die.” He gave her a pleading look, voice softening. “Please, Cali. Please talk to him, listen to what he has to say. Please. I’m begging you with everything in me.”
Cal looked into her own eyes, seeing the torture that lay in their green depths, torture she’d put there. Sighing, she looked away, starting off into the kitchen, her jaw muscle throbbing. Finally she nodded, allowing the warm embrace.
“Thank you, Cali. Thank you.”
Ty stood, walking back to their guest, leaving the blonde to squeeze her eyes shut with dread. She heard the loud, heavy footfalls of her old boss come up behind her.
“Hey, kiddo,” he said, bending down to hug her.
With a heavy sigh, she pulled open the basement door. “Come on down. Make yourself comfortable,” she said as they entered her domain. She dreaded the lecture she sensed was near, though she admitted to herself, grudgingly, she was glad to see Max.
The older man folded himself into a chair, watching and waiting as Cal got herself settled on her bed. His eyes grazed over heavily muscled arms and a very flat, muscled stomach hugged tightly by the tank top she wore.
“Become a little buff, hmm?” he observed, a bushy brow raised. The blonde shrugged.
“Gives me something to do. An outlet. Besides, it helps.”
Max nodded in understanding, bringing one leg up to drop his ankle over his other knee. His size sixteen wiggled as he organized his thoughts in his head. “So,” he began, clasping huge hands on his other knee. “What’s going on, Cal?”
“You. Your brother is very worried about you. Your filled with rage, taking it out on him and Tracy. Hell, by the size of your guns, I’d say you’re taking it out on the machines, too.”
”Max, I’m not a child, and I’m certainly not your employee anymore.”
“No, but you are my friend, and I care about you, Cal. A great deal.” He dropped his foot to the floor, leaning forward on his thighs. “Why don’t you tell me what’s really going on.”
Cal glared at him, shaking her head. “Don’t think for a moment that you can come in here, a year and a half later, swing a mighty fist and a bible and make everything okay.”
“Well, I haven’t started pounding into anyone yet, and God has stayed upstairs. Got anything else?” He sighed, sitting back in the chair, which creaked under his weight. He was in no mood for this childishness.
Cal looked away, feeling unfamiliar stinging come to her eyes. She’d locked all her emotions up for a long time, now. She wasn’t entirely sure how to release them, nor did she want to. But, damnit, there sat Max, a man that she knew saw right through her. He always had. Words slipped past her lips unchecked, surprising them both. “She hasn’t even written.”
The words were so soft, so utterly child-like, Max almost missed them. When he figured out what, or rather, whom, the blonde was talking about, he latched on. “So this is about Paige.”
Cal turned angry eyes on him. “I don’t want to talk about her.”
“You brought her up, Cal. She hasn’t written you. No contact at all? Phone call? Email?”
“Nothing. That’s okay, though,” Cal’s smile was twisted, dark. “She’s off in the wonderful world of the fucking rich and heartless. She’ll get hers.”
Max was deeply disturbed by the venom in her voice. “Has it ever occurred to you that maybe she can’t communicate with you?”
Cal cast suspicious green eyes on her friend. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, word has it that her daddy whisked her off to that fancy school faster than you can shake a stick. Maybe she doesn’t know where you’re at. Maybe she doesn’t know how to contact you. Did that ever cross that muscle-addled brain?”
Cal chuckled despite herself at Max’s obvious disdain for her new physique. It quickly faded as her thoughts once more turned dark. “Bullshit, Max. I don’t believe it. Her slummin’ days were over. She probably got over there and is fucking every girl and guy in the entire fucking place.”
“Callahan!” Max was angry, leaning forward in his chair once more. “What’s the matter with you? Haven’t you got more respect for Paige than that? Do you really believe those horrible words? My god, girl. Never would I believe that you were ever in love with her.”
Cal turned surprised eyes on him. “You knew?”
“Everyone knew,” he said kindly, engulfing her hand in his. “I may not agree with it, Cal, but I saw how she changed you. Made you a better person than you ever believed yourself to be.”
Cal looked away again, not wanting to hear those words. They were tearing at her defenses, and she didn’t want that; she’d spent a year and a half perfecting them, rebuilding everything Paige had managed to knock down and fortifying it.
“Cal, she reached in there and she woke you up, made you human and a damn good friend and person. I believe she taught you how to love. That can never be wrong. Even so,” Max said, raising a long, thick finger. “everything has its time and its place. I think your time just may be over with. But even so, Cal, you can take her with you, carry her in your heart.” He place a hand over his own barrel chest. “She will forever be part of you. But, Cal, don’t let what you two had go to waist.” His eyes scanned over the petit body lying on the bed. “Everything will have been for naught.” He met moist green eyes, pleased to see she was listening. “You’ve got two people here, well, three, who love you so much. Your brother, a damn good man, is up there,” Max pointed at the ceiling, “beating himself up daily, trying to figure out what else he can do, what he’s missed. He is so worried about you, Cal. Don’t do this to him. To Tracy. To yourself.”
“I’m afraid,” Cal whispered, her emotions finally getting the better of her.
“I don’t know how to live, how to continue on after this…”
“Cal,” Max groaned slightly as he moved from the chair to the side of Cal’s bed. “what happened to you is tragic, a horrible thing that should never have happened. But guess what?”
“It did. Now it’s time for you to tell fate to kiss your lily white, and move on. You’ve got to take what life gives you and make it work for you, not against you. Reach out to others, help them, help the world to understand.”
Cal sniffled, angry at herself for her show of weakness. She brought a hand up, swiping at her cheeks. A large, gentle hand stopped her.
“Let them come, sweetheart,” he whispered.
Max gathered Cal into his arms, rocking her gently. “You haven’t allowed yourself to grieve, have you?” At Cal’s head shake, the big man sighed. “You need to. Grieve for all that you’ve lost so you can move on to what you’ve gained.”
Cal let herself go, let it all go, and cried for what seemed like hours, Max’s arms never faltering, nor did his soft words of comfort and encouragement. Finally she felt herself calming, the tears drying and her eyes burning. Pulling gently away from the big man, she sat back against the headboard, trying to dry her face.
“You okay?” he asked, using the sleeve of his own shirt to dab at her face. She nodded, a small smile curling her lips.
“Anytime, my friend. What say you we go on up and join Ty and Tracy, hmm?”
Cal shook her head. “No. I need some time. I need to think.”
Max nodded his approval and understanding. “Okay.” He placed a gentle kiss on her forehead then left her alone. She rested her head back, staring off into space. She thought about what Max had said, then let her thoughts wander in a way she hadn’t allowed herself in over a year.
Thinking back to that day, she closed her eyes, trying to get it back, as much as she could remember. She had been so nervous, hurrying up to Paige’s bedroom, which she had to find on her own, as the woman at the door had only pointed. It was a huge house! Finally she’d found the right door. Cal smiled, remembering how surprised Paige had been when she’d opened her door to find the blonde standing on the other side.
Cal felt fresh tears stinging behind her lids when she concentrated on Paige’s face, on the obvious love she’d seen shining behind those incredible blue eyes. They’d left the bedroom, then… then….
“Damn it,” Cal whispered in frustration. She just couldn’t remember! Everything was fuzzy at best. Though, somewhere in the echoes of her heart, she heard Paige’s voice, “Don’t leave me, Cal! Please, no! Not now!” Or words to that effect. Where had Paige gone? Undoubtedly to England. But why had she disappeared? Yes, she had heard what Max had suggested, and this may be true, but still.
Cal wiped her eyes again, blowing out a breath. Answers she’d never have.
Paige fingered the sleeves of the jacket, feeling the touch denim material under her fingertips. She couldn’t keep the wistful smile from her lips as she stroked the sleeve.
“Like that?” James asked, coming up behind her, resting his chin on her shoulder. He heard the soft sigh and wondered.
“No. It just reminds me of… something.”
“If you want it, love, I’ll get it for you.”
“No.” Paige turned, placing a small kiss on his lips. “Let’s go.” She grabbed his hand, leading them out of the store and on toward the theater where their show would start soon. The brunette glanced over at her boyfriend of eight months a few times during their stroll. She was often confused where Jimmy was concerned. He was her best friend, and they spent endless time together, but somehow, even so, it just didn’t feel the same. He was handsome, gorgeous, really, and funny and kind and gentle and generous- all the things she should want. But… she sighed. She didn’t know what the but was.
“Look at that bloke,” Jimmy whispered as they sat in the dimming theater, waiting for the show to start. A couple were walking up the aisle, trying to find their seats. “He looks as though he’s got a walrus in his trousers.”
Paige looked at the man in question, and sure enough, his crotch was huge. She giggled, as did Jimmy. “Either that or he’s pretty excited for the show to start.”
James chuckled, bumping her shoulder with his. “Lucky girl he’s got then, ay?”
Paige shrugged. I guess.
“Reminds me a it of Robert, I suppose,” he muttered, speaking of his long-time friend and recent flatmate.
The lights flickered and then the curtains slid open, the show beginning.
Paige unlocked the door, James following as she flicked on the lights to the flat she shared with Susan. Tossing her coat to the couch, she headed toward the kitchen to put on a pot of tea.
“Did you enjoy the show, love?” James asked, getting them two cups from the cupboard. He leaned against the stove, arms crossed over his chest. Paige nodded.
“I did. It was really good.” She glanced over at him, seeing that look in his eyes. She felt compelled, or was it obligated, to go over to him. He took her in his arms, bringing their lips together. As the kiss deepened, Paige thought she felt something deep inside, allowing Jimmy to palm her breast.
James led them to the couch, gently lying Paige beneath him. He kissed the beautiful woman, trying to clear his mind and focus on her. He closed his mind’s eye, banning images to enter. He brought up Paige’s face, images of her eyes, glorious body… soon an interloper emerged.
Breathing heavily, James pulled away, his heart pounding, and his manhood hard. But it wasn’t for Paige. “Bloody hell,”’ he muttered, sitting at the other end of the couch. He ran a hand through his hair, the shaggy strands falling into disarray. Paige also sat up, part stunned, part relieved. She was worried that they were actually going to go through with it this time. She’d felt James’ excitement against her thigh, felt the differences in his kisses.
“I’m sorry, Paige,” he said, voice small.
“It’s okay,” she said softly. “We can try again at another time…”
James shook his head, glancing over at her. “I don’t think so. I feel like such a bloke. I care so deeply about you, Paige. You’re my best friend.” Paige kept his gaze, waiting for more. James shook his head again. “I just can’t do this anymore.”
“Do what?” she asked when there was nothing more forthcoming. “What’s going on, Jimmy?” She scooted over to him, taking his hand in hers. She sensed he needed a friend and confidante, all the things they were to each other.
“It’s Robert,” he said slowly, eyeing her.
“What about him?”
“I.” He sighed, laughing nervously. “I can’t get him out of my bloody head! Paige,” he turned toward her, their knees touching. He took both her hands and looked deeply into her eyes. If Paige didn’t know better, she’d think he was about to propose. “As I said, you’re my best friend. What if, what if I told you I thought I might be gay?”
Paige burst out laughing, a weight of ten tons falling to the floor. James studied her, surprise in his eyes. He certainly hadn’t expected that reaction. “Oh, Jimmy,” she crowed, throwing herself into his arms, where she was quickly caught. “Me, too,” she whispered. She could feel his laughter rumble through him and into her. Finally she pulled away, looking into his eyes. They were both grinning like fools at the other.
“Why didn’t you say anything? All this time?” he asked, eyes bright as though he’d just unwrapped a new toy.
“Why didn’t you?”
Jimmy laughed, nodding. “Point well made, my love. Oh, Paige,” he sighed, throwing himself into the couch. “What shall we do?”
“Hell, we should just get married,” Paige snickered. “Save us both. Your mother won’t kill you, and the guys will leave me alone.” James looked at her, eyeing her carefully. Paige began to feel nervous. “What?”
“That’s it,” he whispered, slowly sitting up. “That’s bloody it!” Suddenly he jumped off the couch, bouncing Paige in the process. He fell to one knee, taking both her hands in his. Paige stared at him like he’d lost his mind. “Marry me, Paige. Let’s do it. Let’s really do it. It would save both of us, love. I won’t lose my father’s money, and yet we can both be true to each other. Plus,” he said, moving back to the couch. “I want to go to America, Paige. When we finish school, I want a chance to live my own life, without the eye of the Van Buren’s over my bloody shoulder every minute.”
“Green card for real,” Paige grinned. James nodded vigorously.
“Come on, Paige. Let’s do it! Be my wife?”
Paige couldn’t keep the smile off her face. She had no desire to find love- she already had. So, why not have good companionship, instead? “Okay.”
James whopped as he took the brunette in his arms, swinging her around the small room.
Tracy hummed softly to herself as she folded the last of the laundry. She glanced over to the floor where her son was happily chatting to himself as he played. She was surprised to see the basement door open, and Cal appear.
“Hey, Cal,” she said with a bright smile. The blonde gave her a small, shy wave. “what are you doing all dressed and looking good?”
“Well,” Cal said, making her way to the living room. She ran a hand through her hair. “I was thinking that maybe today I could head down to the store, you know, help your mom out a little.”
Tracy almost dropped the pair of socks she was folding. “Oh, Cal, mom would love that.”
“She wouldn’t mind?” Cal asked nervously.
“No! Not at all! I’ll call her now and tell her you’re coming down.” Tracy wouldn’t have looked more beautiful with the radiant smile that split her face. Cal chuckled, taking the excited bundle that threw himself at her.
Cal moved around the backroom, figuring out how Maryon had everything set up and situated. She held a computer printout in her hand, trying to figure out where the books on it were hiding. She cursed softly as the sleeve of her jean jacket got caught on a nail sticking out a bit too far in an old fixture, taken to the back to hold overstock.
“Tangled, are ya?” Ty asked, amused as he watched. His sister glared up at him. He backed off, hands raised in supplication. He didn’t’ even bother to offer to help, as he knew with Cal, that was a mortal sin. She needed to do what she could herself. “Tracy sent me with some dinner for you and Maryon. Figured you might be hungry by now.”
Cal glanced at the container he held in his hands. She could vaguely smell the fragrant contents. “Potato soup?” she asked hopefully, finally freeing herself.
“Ohhh, now that’s where it’s at!” Cal grinned, and Ty was charmed. All he could do was stare. “What?”
Shaking his head, Ty waved it off. “Just let me know when you’re ready to come home, okay?”
The blonde nodded, snatching the tub of the thick stew from his hands. “Okay. Now go away, let me work.”
Ty stepped back, watching as his little sister went back to finding the books she’d been sent for, never allowing the tub of her favorite soup out of her sights. He couldn’t keep the pride from shining in his eyes. Maybe, just maybe he was going to get his sister back.
Cal felt good as she helped a few customers, taking it slow as she was trying to learn the computer system, and mostly keeping to herself back in the office. She wasn’t ready for a great deal of social interaction just yet. Nor did she want to see anyone’s pity.
Maryon’s store reminded her somewhat of working at Max’s store, though she had to admit, it was nice not working for God. She actually found herself laughing and joking with a customer or two. Maybe rejoining the world wouldn’t be so bad after all.
The bells of the cathedral rang true and clear over London. The happy newlyweds raced out of the ancient church, amongst a flurry of cheers and thrown rice and confetti. Paige blinked a few bits out of her eyes, hearing James’ giggles next to her. She held his hand tighter, happier than she thought she’d be on this day. He looked at her, all smiles and deep gratitude. The brunette knew that if things had been different, and her heart hadn’t been taken a long time ago, Jimmy would be the one she’d want to spend the rest of her life with.
The Rolls-Royce wait for them at the curb, the uniformed chauffeur opening the back door. James helped keep Paige’s train off the ground as she ducked into the back of the luxury car. Their families and friends cheered after their car headed down the street, headed off to the incredible, EXPENSIVE reception that had been planned by the Harris and Van Buren families.
“Do you think we’re crazy?” James asked, Paige’s hand still firmly clasped in his. She glanced at him, nodding.
Her new husband leaned over, placing a soft, loving kiss on her cheek. “I do love you, Paige,” he said softly. “If only things were different, hmm?”
“I thought about that, too.” Paige rested her head against his jacketed shoulder. She truly loved James, he was her best friend. If she had to get married to a man, she couldn’t have chosen better.
Silk bunting covered everything that would hold still, beautiful crystal and china lined the tables, awaiting the guests to be served by the tuxedoed wait staff. A forty piece symphony played in the corner, guests milling about, welcoming the new couple.
Paige and James stood side by side as they welcomed their well-wishers. Paige saw her parents enter, and tried to keep tabs of where they were. She had no desire for them to be able to sneak up on her. A s it was, she hadn’t wanted them there at all, but the wedding was on their dime, so she had no choice. Besides, she had something she wanted to say.
She hadn’t seen or spoken to them since that day at the house, almost three years ago. She didn’t want to see them again., and after today, she never would have to again.
The evening went off without a hitch- everyone had fun, dinner was wonderful, the musical entertainment outstanding. It was time for the bride and groom to take their place in the middle of the dance floor to perform their first dance as man and wife. For all intense and purposes, they looked to be terrifically in love as James gracefully led his beautiful bride around the floor.
“You look so stunning today, Paige,” he said.
“Thanks, Jimmy. As do you. Robert would be a fool not to fall head over heels for you in your tails.”
“Well, good thing we didn’t invite him, than, isn't it?” Paige chuckled, gazing lovingly into James’ kind eyes. “So, for our honeymoon suite, do you want the bed or the couch?” Again, Paige was laughing, charming the onlookers. If only they knew just what they were talking about.
As the evening began to wind down, Paige knew she had to make her move. She saw her parents standing with another couple, talking and congratulating themselves for owning half the world. Paige squeezed James’ hand, then released it, walking over to Douglas and Bernie Harris.
“Mother,” she said, getting the older woman’s attention. Bernie’s dark eyes focused on her daughter, features softening.
“You look beautiful, Paige,” she said, her voice quiet, remote. She honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. She never told her daughter that she’d been sending money to Ty Cullen to cover the cost of his sister’s injuries.
“Thank you.” Paige kept it formal. “I’d like to speak with you both for a moment.” Douglas turned at his daughter’s voice, then dismissed the other couple, giving his full attention back to the brunette. Paige took a deep breath and continued. “First off, thank you both for today, it’s lovely. Second of all, I’d like to say goodbye.”
“Goodbye?” Douglas asked, glancing over to his wife to see if she knew what his daughter was talking about. She didn’t meet his gaze. His marriage had grown even colder over the past couple years.
“I no longer wish to see either of you. I think after everything that’s happened, it’s safe for me to say I don’t want people like you in my life.” She turned to her father, who’s blue eyes were already beginning to burn. Even angry, his eyes were still dead. “And as for you, I no longer have a father. He died the day he murdered an innocent girl, and the heart of another. I know you got off Scott free for what you did, and I want you to know that I think you should be spending the rest of your life in prison. Just like the one you’ve put your wife in, and the one you had planned for me.”
Bernie watched, mouth open in shock. Her gaze shifted to her husband, concerned over what he’d do. He straightened his bearing, eyes boring into Paige’s. He reached out, snagging Bernie’s hand in his larger one. “Let’s go,” he growled, yanking the woman after him.
Paige watched, her heart pounding in her chest, stomach roiling. She missed the look her mother gave her over her shoulder, as she was tugged out of the building. Her mind was working, an idea forming. Something she should have done long ago.
Another summer was gone, leaving in its wake windy days and threatening clouds. Cal looked out one of the windows in her small apartment, bringing the comb through the short, wet strands of her hair. She watched the world outside her sanctuary, smiling as she watched a woman walked by her Great Dane.
Moving away from the window, she made her way into her bedroom, looking into her closet, trying to decide what she wanted to wear to open the store today. Maryon had decided to go into partial retirement about a year ago, and Cal had happily stepped up to take over the managerial duties. She loved it, loved the store, and loved the clientele. Once in awhile Ty would even let her bring her 6 year old nephew with her. Locke would sit on the floor, pouring over books for hours. As it was, she still had a mess to clean up from her weekend with Locke. She figured she enjoyed playing Matchbox cars as much as he did. And their Play-Doh dates! Oh, that was where it’s at.
Cal smiled at the memory, knowing full well she had the colorful child’s clay ground into her carpet in at least three places. She finished getting ready, making her way out into the cool day. Secured in her car, which Ty and Tracy had shocked her with a car last summer. It was used, but they’d had it modified for everything she may want or need. Hell, even a six cd disk player.
Cal granted as she reached up as far as possible to shove the metal lattice gate up.
“Can I help you with that?”
Cal turned to see the familiar blonde standing next to her. The woman was a regular at the bookstore, her blue eyes twinkling. “Oh, uh, I’ve got it. Thanks.”
“Alright.” She stood back, waiting for Cal to unlock and open the door. “Mind if I come in with you, or should I wait until you’re officially open?”
“Well, I should make you wait, but, you seem to be a loyal customer, so…” Cal held the door open for the woman, noting how nice she smelled as she passed her. Cal locked the door behind them, turning to head toward the counter. The blonde chuckled.
“You’ve got me locked in ,” she noted.
Cal chuckled, starting up the cash register. “That I do.” She watched as the blonde walked over to the counter, leaning over on her arms. Her cleave was pushed up to beautiful effect. “So, I was wondering, do you carry anything by DS Bauden? I’ve heard she’s good.”
Cal studied her for a moment, knowing full well Bauden was a lesbian author. She looked into blue eyes, reading the message loud and clear. “Not here, but I highly recommend her novel, ‘Tomahawk’d’.”
“Very.” Cal grinned. Message received. Message returned. Loud and clear.
“Hello, my love,” Jimmy said, placing a soft kiss on Paige’s cheek, as she sat on her bed, books sprawled all around her. She was studying for her last finals before graduation. “You got post from your mum.”
“I don’t want it,” she said absently, working vigorously on a math problem.
“This, I think you do.”
A postcard was tossed into her vision. She noted the big water tower from her hometown on the front. Curious, she plucked it from the comforter. She leaned back into her husband as he sat behind her. She could smell newly applied cologne wafting to her nose. “Going out?” she asked, glancing at him over his shoulder. He grinned.
Paige rolled her eyes with a groan. “I’ll be camping out at Susan’s tonight, right?”
“I’m sorry,” he said, hugging her from behind, resting his chin on her shoulder. “It’ll be lovely when we can afford more than a one bedroom flat.”
“Indeed. Or until your libido calms.”
James snorted., planting another loud kiss on her cheek. “Don’t see that happening anytime soon.”
Paige turned the postcard over, seeing her mother’s small, neat handwriting. The message was very short and to the point: Your friend is not dead. Look in California.
She sat there, stunned, re-reading the short missive, then turned to look at James. He met her gaze, eyes smiling.
“I don’t understand,” she whispered, afraid to think it meant what she thought it meant. Her husband plucked the card from her fingers.
“I think it means your young Callahan may be in California, Paige.”
“But she…” she cut herself off, thinking back to that day. “I thought she…”
James closed his eyes, hugging his best friend tightly. He didn’t have to wait long for the tears. Cupping the back of her head, he let her cry, whispering words of love to try and calm her. “You know, I was actually going to talk to you about this at dinner, but I may as well tell you now. Carver Crop. Has given me three destination to chose from for the job, Paige.” The brunette pulled away, looking up into Jimmy’s eyes, her own bright blue from her tears. “Chicago, Boston,” he smiled, “or L.A.” He chuckled, as yet again, he found himself with an armful of crying Paige. “We’ll find her, love. We will.”
Cal held her growl in check, jaw muscles pulsing as her anger began to build. “Honestly, Laura, I’m okay. Really.” Her smile was forced, and almost painful as her teeth pressed together.
“Are you sure, baby?” the blonde asked, leaning over her dinner guest’s chair. Her hands were still in Cal’s lap, where she’d arranged her napkin.
Cal snatched the napkin from questing fingers. She knew Laura had tried to turn it into a seduction, but their entire evening together, and many over the past few months, had been Laura trying to do everything for her. Including folding her damn napkin in her own damn lap. And as for the seduction part, Cal wasn’t so sure she was ready for that. No one had seen her naked since… well, since. She just wasn’t ready, and didn’t think Laura was the woman she wanted to get that vulnerable with.
Feeling the seated woman stiffen, Laura pulled away. “I’m sorry, Cal.” She walked the table and sat across from the book seller. She felt foolish, trying to be cute and sexy, but it had failed miserably. Unable to meet the fierce green gaze of her companion, Laura placed her own napkin on her lap and began to pour herself some wine, raising the bottle and her brows in silent question. Only at Cal’s nod did she pour her some. Laura had planned for the night to be one of seduction, and hopefully some great sex. She knew Cal was a little tiger, and had no doubt she would be in bed, too. But, now she wasn’t so sure.
“So, how did the sale go down at the store?” Laura asked, keeping her tone light.
Cal nodded as she sipped from her glass. “It went well. I wasn’t so sure, but Maryon was right. It was a good way to get rid of the old stock she had on NASCAR.”
“She sure had a lot of those, didn’t she?”
Cal shrugged with a small chuckle. “Well, her son is a driver in the amateur realm, so she always tried to keep that stuff around. Problem is, the general public could care less that her son is Jason Matthews.. I mean, who’s that?”
Laura chuckled, dishing some steak and potatoes on her plate. Very true.” They sat on in awkward silence. Finally the taller blonde spoke. “Look, Cal, if I overstepped my bounds, I’m sorry. I honestly didn’t’ mean to make you mad.” She met Cal’s gaze.
“It’s okay. I shouldn’t have gotten so bent out of shape. I know you meant nothing by it.” The blonde sat back in her chair, sighing. “Listen, this is very hard for me to admit, but I’m going to. There is a lot in life now that I can’t do so easily on my own, so anything that I can… well, I’m pretty possessive and territorial.”
Laura nodded, understanding perfectly. “I’m sorry. I guess I just want to do any and everything for you that will help. Guess I wasn’t thinking of in those terms.”
“Very few do. What they see as help, I see as treating me like a child. I’m not a child.” She saw her dinner companion shake her head in agreement.
“I do hope you’ll forgive me and give me another chance. I didn’t know, nor did I know to ask.”
Cal studied the other woman, noting the way the flames in her fireplace danced off the golden highlights, as well as turned her blue eyes more of a golden gray. She had to admit that she was attracted to Laura, she just wasn’t sure, somehow. Maybe she’d try.
They sat on the couch, Cal watching the flames, Laura watching her. She ran a hand over the book seller’s arms. “I love your arms,” she murmured, noting the definition even through Cal’s shirt. “You don’t plan to get any bigger, do you?”
Cal shrugged, glancing down at her own body. “I don’t know. Guess it depends on how bored I get.” She grinned, Laura didn’t return it.
“Be careful- you’ll end up looking like a man.”
“I hardly think I’m headed in that direction,” Cal chuckled, though she was slightly annoyed. Laura fingered the three button that were undone on Cal’s Henley. She moved in closer, winding the fingers of one hand into short, blonde hair.
“Your hair is so soft,” she murmured, leaning in close to inhale. “Smells good, too.”
“Thank you.” Cal could feel a slight rush of heat to her lower belly, though it was dampered by indecision and the feeling of inadequacy she couldn’t shake.
“You want to know something?” Laura whispered in her ear, tongue flicking the lobe quickly. She smiled when she felt Cal shiver. “I’ve wanted you since the moment I laid eyes on you at the store. Though you were so beautiful, sexy as hell.”
Cal’s eyes slipped closed at the hot words in her ear. Before Cal knew what had hit her, she had a lapful of feisty blonde. Her hands went reflexively to her hips, Laura moving them sensuously as she got settled.
“Can you feel me?” she whispered hotly. At Cal’s nod, Laura moved in, pressing her lips firmly to Cal’s in a heated kiss. Cal was really starting to get into it, heat puddling between her legs when Laura began t squirm her hand up under the blonde’s shirt. Cal stopped her cold, her own hand slapped down on the adventurous one.
Laura left Cal’s lips, exploring the blonde’s neck with her lips and tongue. “Don’t be shy, Cal,” she murmured, fingers trying to move out fro under Cal’s. She was roughly pushed away.
“I said no.” Cal looked into startled blue eyes, her own green angry. “Why don’t you listen to me?” she asked, hackles raised. She almost had the feeling that Laura had little respect for her. She was whole, damn it!
“I…” for the second time that night, Laura felt like an asshole. Slowly she moved off Cal’s lap, taking a deep breath to regain her normal heartbeat. “Wow. Guess I can’t stop pissing you off.” She stood, walking to the window, arms hugging her own body. She turned hurt eyes to the still sitting blonde. “You may want to try and be a little nicer with your wants, Cal.” With that, she headed toward her bedroom, door slamming with a resounding thud. Cal could let herself out.
Sighing deeply, she got herself situated and then headed out into the cold San Diego January night.
“It’s open!” Cal called out, using the remote to turn off the TV. Her front door opened, Ty and Locke wandering inside. The rambunctious 6 year old ran over to his aunt, quickly crawling up into her lap. “Hello, little fella,” she cooed, kissing the top of his head. He reclined back against her chest, head resting against her shoulder. “Wow, Ty. I think you’ve killed it,” she murmured, eyeing her brother.
“Shopping for his mom for Christmas will do that to a lesser man.”
Cal rolled her eyes, resting her cheek against the top of the boy’s head. “Did your dad poop you out?” she asked the lethargic boy. He nodded solemnly, making her smile. She watched as her brother sat in the recliner adjacent to the couch, where she sat.
“I must say, I was mighty surprised to find you home on a Friday night so early, little sis.” He leaned back, crossing an ankle over his knee. He noted his sister’s rueful grin. “Uh oh…”
“Yeah. Uh oh.” She stroked her nephew’s hair as she turned her full attention to Ty. “Just wasn’t meant to be.”
“I don’t know.” Cal sighed, glancing out the window. “Looks nice out there today.”
“Unh uh.” Ty sat forward in his seat, eyeing the small blonde. She chuckled.
“Okay. I’m not sure who blew it more- me or her. I don’t know. She was just… trying too hard, I guess.”
“Is that a crime? I mean, jeez, Cal, at least she was trying.”
“I know. But at the same time, don’t you think if it was right, I could overlook that? I mean, have more patience with it? With her?” These had been the questions plaguing the blonde since the night before. “I think that maybe I’m just not ready.”
“Cali,” Ty said softly, meeting his sister’s gaze dead on. “It’s been four and a half years. Don’t you think it’s time?”
“I can’t put a clock on this, Ty. If my heart isn’t there, my heart isn’t there.”
“True.” Ty took a deep breath, deciding it was time. Regardless of what he’d been asked, his loyalty was to Cal. “What if, hypothetically of course, Paige came back into your life?”
Cal blinked several times, trying to figure out if she’d heard right. “What?”
“Yeah. What if Paige were to wander back into your life. Would you still be heart-closed?”
Cal looked away, unable to take the scrutiny of her brother. She felt her heart skip a beat at the name, which she had banned from her mind a long time ago. She shook her head, looking back at the man sitting so close, green eyes hard. “That’s not fair, Ty.”
“Why not? It’s just a question, Cal.”
“She doesn’t exist to me anymore, Ty. Paige may as well be dead.”
Ty was surprised by that. He sat back in his chair, eyes wide, mouth slightly open. “I see.” Okay, so maybe it wasn’t time.
“No, over there.” Paige dropped what she was doing, hurrying over to James before they had a huge disaster on their hands. Taking the top two boxes from his ridiculously high pile, she led the way toward her bedroom, grunting as she placed the two heavy boxes on the floor. “My god, how were you carrying all that?”
James also grunted, lying his load next to her smaller one. “Pure brilliance on my part, love,” he grinned, placing a quick kiss to her cheek, then hurrying out the door.
Paige rolled her eyes, turning to the mass chaos, which was her bedroom. She chewed on her bottom lip, hands on hips, as she tried to form a plan of attack.
The house the Van Buren’s had bought was in a small subdivision of Los Angeles, Paige refusing to live in the City of Angels. She had managed to land a job with Pate Brokers, while James would start with the DuPont Chemistry Labs the following Monday. The three bedroom bungalow was beautiful, and just spacious enough that the two could live their own lives without losing touch with each other. Paige would be eternally grateful that she would no longer have to make other arrangements for the night when James decided to entertain for the night. She also was glad to be back in her own country. She loved England, and felt a certain kinship with London now, but all in all, it wasn’t home.
Paige and Jimmy had been back in the country for two months, living in a hotel until everything came through on the house. The entire time, James had been after her to try and find Cal, but the brunette had drug her feet. She was afraid in many ways- afraid of her mother’s words being a lie, and afraid of her mother’s words being true. What would Cal’s reaction to her be? Would she be happy to see her? Angry? Indifferent? Any of the above, other than happy, would break Paige’s heart. Ignorance, after all, is bliss.
She began to search through boxes, putting the odd item away, when she came across the postcard from her mother. Almost like Fate was trying to tell her something, give her the hint. It was a hint Paige didn’t’ want. With a heavy sigh, she put the postcard away. She’d try later. Later, once they were settled into the new house.