Friday, July 29, 2011


Bekah grasped the white pharmacy bag with the receipt stapled to the front and pursed her lips as Ryan stood grinning just inside the doorway. Holding up his index finger, he produced a second bag from behind his back- a bigger one that filled her nostrils with a slice of heaven. She inhaled deeply, recognizing the smell of fried rice and eggrolls.

“Chinese?” she asked and he nodded.

“I hope I struck gold with this. Please don’t tell me you’re not a Chinese fan.”

“I’m not.”

His smile must have smacked a hole in the floor when it hit. Although Bekah wasn’t sure what the heck she was doing with this guy, especially after everything that had happened today, she found herself grinning at his curled under lip and his knit brows. She’d picked up on his ornery sort of playfulness at the bowling alley and guessed he might be nice to have around- once in a while.

“OK, so I like Chinese,” she said. “You’re seriously trying to suck up to me, aren’t you?”

The spark returned to eyes the same color as his brother’s and he leaned in a little as he whispered, “You’d better believe it.”

Geez, she even smelled mint on his breath- another hint that he fully intended to impress the heck out of her- and all she’d done was wash her face, brush her teeth and comb her hair. No make-up, but that didn’t seem to faze him, just as it hadn’t the day he’d whistled at her in the school hall.

She waved for him to follow her toward the dining room, thankful that Alice had already been by with more vodka. Her mother would scream, no doubt and Shields might even have a cow, but the vodka had loosened her up enough for this visit and the pain pills would fill in after the vodka wore off.

Nix the throbbing in her broken knuckle, the throbbing in her mind and throbbing in her heart- though all three were still mildly detectable, the main problem she faced now was…standing right next to her, setting the bag on the table and gazing at her as flirtatiously as Ralph used to. The lust was just too obvious.

Or maybe it wasn’t lust, but…something.

Her chest bounced and a hiccup filled the room as loud and as obnoxiously as if she’d belched. If Dan had been standing here, she might have felt slightly embarrassed, but Ryan…just as she instantly knew he would, he laughed.

“Feeling OK tonight?” he asked. “Or do you need one of those pain pills right away?”

She shook her head profusely. As much as Teacher and Mommy worried, she was far from suicidal. “Not at the moment…I have a secret, see…”

He leaned in expectantly, cocking his head to allow her to whisper that secret into his ear. “Please tell, I’m listening.”

“I can’t because you’ll tell your brother.”

“Who me?” He pulled back, his hand resting defensively against his chest. “Trust me, I’m not telling him anything you don’t want him to know. He’s nosey enough, Woman, do you think I’m crazy?”

Had he just called her ‘Woman?’ What, was this a common pet name used by the Shields men?

“Not sure,” she said. “Maybe a little crazy.”

“You may be right there.” The way he narrowed his eyes and fell momentarily silent told her he’d probably guessed her secret. “So, tell me, Miss Rose, does your secret have anything to do with spirits?” He lifted his hand in a tipping motion toward his mouth- she guessed to communicate the drinking sort of spirits.

Laughing under her breath, she reached for the bag and pulled out the first box of Chinese food and sank onto a chair. She wanted to offer him a pop from the fridge, but suddenly the pumpkin in the center of the table seemed to have morphed into three. And then back to one.

“Does that laughter mean yes?” he asked and she strained to remember his question.

Oh, about the spirits.

She pinched her fingers together. “Maybe just a tad. Had to, Ryan. The pain was just too much.”

“Yeah, I guess it would be.” Sliding out a chair, he seated himself next to her, wiped his chin against his shoulder and then turned to her with one hand planted on his knee. That pose made him look older, like maybe he belonged in his brother’s shoes- and even the concern she found in his gaze gave her that impression.

Oh, no, do I detect a ‘Dan Junior?’

“Trust me,” he said. “I’m not exactly perfect when it comes to alcohol, but this might not be a good idea right now.”

“Your brother’s rubbed off on you that much, huh?”

Ryan chuckled. “Yes and no. He has more than I’ll admit to his face.”

“Why’s that?”

“It’s a guy thing. You know, pride and all?” He winked. “Dan’s a good guy but I don’t agree with everything he says…so I don’t want to inflate his ego.”

“Ah. Definitely a guy thing.” Or not- she’d been the same way.

“I do agree that I need to knock it off with the drinking...and I do get a little worried when my friends start using it as a crutch.”

“It’s not a crutch.” Liar. “I just…I was in a lot of pain.”

“Were you the other night, too?”

She gawked. “He told you about that?”

“Yes, but actually my sister did first. Dan always tells her stuff before he tells me. They’ve always been like twins, even though she’s two years younger.” He snatched the second box out of the bag and Bekah opened hers- a trickier feat than usual with the splint on her right middle finger.

Nice that Shields liked to confide in his sister, but what exactly had he told them? Whatever it was, it couldn’t have been too bad or Ryan probably would have steered clear.

Shuffling her fork blindly into her food with her left hand, she admired Ryan’s squared jaws and handsome profile and slumped a little in her seat. Where the heck was all this leading and would she regret letting this dude help her tonight?

Deep down, she knew she’d only agreed because of Dan. The connection that getting close to his brother lent her.

But Ryan was charming enough on his own, she guessed.

Charming? Did you just think of him as ‘charming?’ You are drunk off your butt.

Drunk and tired. The Vodka always relaxed her, seemed to slow down her mind. Brian’s green eyes weren’t blazing in her brain every few seconds and the shock of literally knocking the snot out of him didn’t seem so horrid.

After all that time, wishing and wishing she could strike that creep, she’d felt like crap after she’d finally done it.

It was Shields’ fault, she guessed. He’d gotten her thinking about how she’d sinned and how people’s sins effect other people. What might have caused Towers to do what he’d done…what might have happened to Brian…?

She shook her head. All that nonsense was supposed to have disappeared down the hatch with the Coke and vodka.

Ryan opened his plastic silverware and tossed the wrapping aside as he glanced at her. “To be honest, I’d hoped to kiss you tonight. I don’t think I should take advantage, though. I might wind up with a black eye later on and that wouldn’t be fun at all, my pretty.”

Bekah snickered. “I’m not that easy drunk or not, Ryan. If you tried to kiss me tonight, I’m sure you’d regret it.”

“Oh, is that a fact?”

She wasn’t sure, actually. Smelling his cologne and feeling so relaxed by the alcohol, she feared she'd cave in his arms in an instant. It had been a long time since she’d dated anyone and she’d never dated anyone like him. Like his brother, he held a certain something. But it wasn’t the same something. They were alike but different and definitely both hot in their own ways.

Finally, she answered, “Only one way to find out, I guess.”

Why had she said that? Suddenly, she remembered the feel of Ralph’s arms around her waist and the way he’d pressed his lips against hers. He was sort of a tough biker type, so she’d been surprised by his gentleness.

What kind of a kisser might Ryan be? Maybe that’s what she needed was a good, long kiss, something to top off the alcohol and keep her fuzzy-brained for hours on end. If she were sober, she guessed she’d be sitting on the opposite side of the table from him, completely aware of how cute he looked in that white pullover but determined to keep her distance.

Yes, keep your friggin distance, you imbecile. You don’t need more of this craziness in your life, you’ve got enough!

She imagined Bugs Bunny chewing a carrot and saying to her cautious side, “Nyaaah, shaddup!”

Her breathy laughter swallowed by the palm of her hand, she looked to Ryan to find him smirking, having drawn a little closer so that his yummy cologne still managed to creep through her fingers and tickle her nose.

“Was that an invitation?” he asked. “Because I’m game.”

It took her a few seconds to recall her dingbat statement: “Only one way to find out.”

Her hand muffled her reply. “Already?”

He nodded and she could hear him swallow. “Just a kiss. Nothing more.”

“Are you sure about that?”

He closed one eye, appearing to think it over. “Yes. Because I don’t take advantage of drunken girls. I’d seriously hate myself in the morning.”

“Good boy.”

His smile small and pretty darn cute, if she did say so herself, he reached for her hand, pulling it down so that it remained tucked neatly inside of his. As he drew closer, the thumping in her chest became more pronounced and she was surprised by how much she’d missed a guy’s touch. She’d shoved the guys away after Towers, but before that whole pain in the butt fiasco, she’d been a flirt. Playful and willing to kiss any cute dude who was interested.

In short, she’d been bad. However, she’d never slept around like Alice did.

Ryan’s breath rushed against her mouth just a second before their lips connected. She shuddered and caught her breath when he pulled her close enough to feel his pounding heart.

Wow, he was bold. And a dang good kisser.


Ryan released her slowly, except for sweeping his hand into her soft hair. She’d washed out the curls and hadn’t even bothered to put on any make-up, which he found downright hot. Where he came from, the women were always encouraged to keep their “faces” on, hair styled like a celebrity’s, straightened up and moussed up or else curled with smooth perfection. They almost always wore tight, little clothes that showed off nothing but skinny, little bodies- no chest to speak of.

Rebekah was nice. Curvy. Intensely cute with big, warm eyes and a tough attitude to counter her aura of complete sweetness. Nice contrast, as his father would say, only Ryan meant it in a different way. Oliver had always used the phrase to refer to either a blond woman’s tan or to comment on a busty woman’s waist.

To Ryan, a beautiful girl who could defend herself, breaking her knuckle in the process and not even whining about it, won the trophy of the month.

He leaned closer to her, noting the absence of any perfume and kind of liking it. She wasn’t ashamed to let her mask down and be herself, unlike so many of the fakes he and Dan had dated, Denise being the first plastic bombshell to pop into his mind.

Of course, Dan knew nothing of Ryan’s short-lived fling with Denise and he intended to keep it that way. Not that it mattered, because those two were history.

Close to Rebekah’s ear, he inhaled deeply and managed to pick up the faint scent of her shampoo, smiling when she trailed her good hand up his arm and into his own, short coif. Maybe, despite being a bit topsy-turvey with too many ‘spirits,’ she felt as comforted by his touch as he felt by hers.

No sense shattering this big bang of a start by taking her to the bedroom. As it was, he figured she’d regret the kiss, but he hadn’t been able to resist it. As soon as she’d said, “only one way to find out,” he’d lost it, his temperature hotter than the Texas sun and his stomach dancing with fireflies. He might not have been granted a second chance to kiss her- the pretty girl from a rough neighborhood with a real heart.

Yeah, he could tell a lot about her already, not just based on what he’d seen but what he’d heard from Dan and how she’d treated Allie. Though the girls had spoken little, Rebekah had managed to keep even the slightest inkling of shock from her expression as she’d shaken Allie’s hand.

So, she’d acquired a bit of a drinking problem in the midst of what appeared to be mild depression. Ryan doubted her state of mind had dipped as far as Dan thought- she just didn’t strike him as the kind of girl to keep letting life push her over, but he could have been wrong.

Maybe his hormones and his desire for a normal, yet not-so-normal girl had allowed him to be fooled. But like that dude from the movie Shallow Hal, he didn’t care what everyone else perceived her to be, as long as she maintained her not-so-plain, tough girl image while in his presence.

No daintiness here, thank God, and according to Dan, her tongue could run away with her. Ryan had laughed when he’d confessed to being called a ‘nerd,’ among other things, which made her all the more appealing because it took guts to speak that way to a teacher.

But he suspected she already knew that she was only half right. Maybe Dan worried too much and could be an incredible stick in the mud, but he’d pulled himself together a lot better than Ryan had. At least he’d abandoned his stint with booze and women, while Ryan still struggled, for the most part with the booze.

As for the women- he’d been so sick of the rich snobs form his parents’ clubs that he’d gone haywire once they’d moved to Columbus, hitting bars with a fake ID and marveling over the wild and tasty morsels who’d dance about the floor and pull him by the collar to nice, dark corners. Talk about a fiery high. For a while, he thought he’d died and gone to Heaven, but like with any drug, the high had worn off, leaving him with nothing but emptiness and a desire to find someone who truly fit.

Maybe Rebekah would be the one.

Reaching for her arms, he gently pushed her hands into her lap, taking a few moments to admire her chest and waist in that tight t-shirt. If she hadn’t been drunk…

Nah, not yet. Too soon and he’d promised Dan he’d behave. Not that he always kept his promises, but this was an important one to keep. He’d sensed that Dan’s concern for this particular student had been on the rise and what exactly that meant, Ryan didn’t know. Resisting all those pretty eighteen-year-olds who batted their lashes at him day by day couldn’t be easy, and Rebekah appeared to be acutely different from most girls her age.  So it made sense that she’d stand out to a square like Dan.

Just something about the way she carried herself. And then her forwardness had no doubt become an intriguing challenge for a guy who was used to barking orders to younger siblings.

Ryan laughed inside because Dan needed to be challenged as much as possible. At only twenty-flipping-four years old, he acted like he was going on fifty, like the weight of the entire universe rested on his shoulders and that he was expected to fix any wounded bird that landed on his lap.

Well, he couldn’t ‘fix’ anyone. According to Dan, only his God could do that, yet he kept trying in his own might. With Allie, with Ryan, and now with his students.

What exactly drove him to act that way? At first, he’d guessed their father's controlling nature had rubbed off on Dan; but when he’d begun trying to convert Ryan and Allie to “Christ,” not to mention all of the sacrifices he’d made to pull them out of Indiana and establish them far away from the Supreme Power Monger’s presence, Ryan knew something deeper had grabbed a hold of his brother.

Maybe a god, maybe something else that Dan didn’t even understand.

Enough of that. Ryan had spent many hours trying to figure out his older brother and always ran into a brick wall. He supposed the whole mental exploration had begun again because…Ryan frowned and squeezed Rebekah’s hands, careful not to press too hard on her injury.

She raised her head, revealing half closed eyes and a little smile that spoke more of her intoxication from alcohol than from their kiss.

Man, she was troubled and here he was brooding about his brother. No matter how much he feigned ignorance of the truth,  he knew it already:  Dan was his rival here.  Rebekah’s lingering gazes in his leather-clad brother’s direction had spoken volumes at the bowling alley.

Dan was most likely attracted to her, she was attracted to him. Their relationship may have been taboo at the moment, but that wouldn’t last, especially if she bowed under his brother’s influence- toward soberness, toward faith, whatever else.

Ryan would try to steer her from the alcohol if their relationship survived past this night.

But what would happen then? Did he dare take a chance when his brother was his main rival? His muscle-bound, smart as hell brother whose care for others could easily win any girl’s heart?

His stomach churning, he released the pretty girl to pick at the broccoli and the carrots dispersed amidst the fried rice in his Styrofoam plate.

“Ryan?” she whispered softly, her head on his shoulder deflating the steam that had begun to build inside of him.

He exhaled slowly and asked, “Yeah, Rebekah?”

“I need to go to sleep.”

He smirked, not at all surprised. “Go for it. I’m not moving.”

Ch 15:


  1. There is a certain something about the Shields brothers, isn't there?

    I like Ryan... he's troubled and faulted and flawed. I think it could be easier for Bekah to connect with him.

    I don't know... I guess we'll see... Dan does need competition... for later... ;)


  2. I like this comment, especially right now. Next chappie, you're going to see Dan's more faulted and flawed side- his agitation. He's letting things get to him too much, I think.

    Currently, I think Bekah can relate to Ryan easier, but it's Dan's constant striving to do better that will ultimately entice her, I think. Ryan is a little slower at progress, having relied on his older siblings and his inheritance too much. He's just got a lot more growing room, which is fun for the sequels. :)